Saturday, 9 January 2010

One Country's Misfortune is Another's Political Mileage

There are some quarters in Singapore that would be looking at the unfortunate religious tension in Malaysia as an 'opportunity' instead of the sad social dilemma that it is. Rest assured that the references will be made to highlight how 'good' things are here by comparison.

Now, if only such comparisons can extend to issues like welfare...

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Monday, 28 December 2009

...of Road Accidents and the New Year

I would imagine our multi-million dollar government to approach the current issues somewhat like this...

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Thursday, 24 December 2009

CNA Teaches You How NOT To Use The Word 'Immolate'

I always thought the word immolate meant to set oneself on fire but apparently Channel NewsAsia knows better. In a report (reproduced below) mildly entitled 'Best friend unable to stop woman from taking own life' - when the fact of the matter is that a desperate old lady who was saddled with debts due to her gambling (addiction?) committed suicide - Shaffiq Alkhatib wows us with his command of the language by bombastically inserting the line "...shortly before she self-immolated".

Unless the poor lady made 'a deliberate and willing sacrifice of herself by fire', it should be just 'immolated' which, at the simplest interpretation, means killing oneself by fire. Mind you though, even using the word 'immolated' is a bit of a stretch as the connotation of the word is that some form of sacrifice was involved - unless the woman was sacrificing herself to the loanshark gods.

Typically, a situation where the word 'self-immolate' would be appropriate is when a devotee sets himself on fire for his god. And whilst we may see people commit suicide by setting themselves on fire, not all is self-immolation. An abused wife who can no longer take the torture and burns herself is different from a wife who burns to exonerate herself from an accusation of adultery (both types of cases do exist in South India).

Well, coming back to the story itself, I wonder why the gambling issue is being glossed over yet again. Whilst CNA focusses on the non-issue of the woman's friend not stopping her from committing suicide, the Straits Times chose to (obediently?) focus on the loanshark problem - i.e. illegal money-lending (where the government doesn't get a cut of the market). At least, Kushwant Singh of the ST had the guts to call it as it is - 'Gambler sets herself ablaze'.

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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Suicide Note But No Reason?

In today's issue of TODAY, an article reports on the sad case of a man who committed suicide at home (reproduced below).

source: TODAY

Apparently, a suicide note was found but the report claims that the cause of the suicide is unknown. This is rather confounding as the man admitted to his gambling habit in the suicide note. The fact that any half-wit would naturally make the connection between gambling and money woes, combined with the ease with which the mainstream media here often make ludicrous leaps of logic to make a host of misleading assertions, raises an eyebrow (two even) towards the contradicting headline.

If a suicide note is not to offer some semblance of a reason, then I don't know what is. Quite obviously, the man in this case was a gambler in money trouble, out of a job in these uncertain times - and it is not difficult to make such a suggestion in the report. When one considers how sensationalism drives our mainstream media, it is a surprise that such a suggestive angle was not employed in this article.

On closer inspection though, it seems the fact that a suicide due to gambling would be negative publicity for the soon-to-be-unveiled Integrated Resorts - which would explain the ambiguity in clearly alluding to the cause. Again, we notice selective reporting from the mainstream media that serves propaganda.

On a separate note, the reporter for this story, Ansley Ng, seems to have been watching too much American sports programmes - there is no 'had beat' in British English, only 'had beaten'.

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Comic Strips on Singapore Politics

Thought about a few issues that have plagued Singaporeans for years and came up with these...

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Friday, 18 December 2009

Article on Speak Good English Not Walking The Talk

It's always interesting to spot mistakes, but priceless when the context makes them so much worse...

source: Straits Times

advice [ədˈvais] (noun)
suggestions to a person about what he should do

advise [ədˈvaiz] (verb)
1 to give advice to; to recommend
2 (withof) to inform

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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

First Attempt at Creating a Comic Strip

Discovered a good piece of software today called Bitstrips that facilitates creating comic strips online - including unique characters, and started playing around with. Well, here's introducing the Singapore Skeptic then....

Debuting in a brand new comic strip, the Singapore Skeptic gets a taste of democracy, Singapore style...

Disclaimer: I was more preoccupied with creating the comic strip than thinking of a witty storyline!

Anyway, please provide feedback and share your first impressions with me, thanks.

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Thursday, 19 November 2009

NTUC: Union or Members’ Club?


trade union

Organization whose membership consists of workers and union leaders, and whose principal purposes are to (1) negotiate wages and working condition terms, (2) regulate relations between workers (its members) and the employer, (3) take collective action to enforce the terms of collective bargaining, (4) raise new demands on behalf of its members, and (5) help settle their grievances. Trade unions are generally classified as: (a) Company union that represents interests of only one firm and may not have any connection with the trade union movement. Also called house union, a company union is often a bogus one and generally illegal. (b) General union that represents workers from several firms from the same industry. Also called industrial union. (c) Craft union that represents skilled workers in a particular field such as carpentry or welding.


The latest furor stems from an annoyed Mr Khoong who wrote in to the Straits Times Forum page to ask for more sensibility on the part of the NTUC in giving out ‘NTUC vouchers’ (I'm assuming this means NTUC FairPrice department store vouchers) to NTUC members who worked at his firm.


Indeed it seems odd that the NTUC, which represents the interests of entire industries, would act in such an alienating way towards some workers. Would not the non-members be in equal difficulty and feel neglected - even though it may be ‘their fault for not becoming a member’? Conversely, when the NTUC calls for workers and employers to be ‘Cheaper, Better & Faster’ does it only address the members then?

In any case, a grand show of (blind) loyalty to the NTUC led an enthusiastic Mdm Chow to reply in today’s Straits Times Forum with a chiding retort extolling the benefits of being an NTUC member.

Mdm Chow is indeed right as well that Mr Khong ‘missed the point’ that he ‘would have been better off joining the union from day one’. Indeed, the manner in which the NTUC went about giving out the vouchers seems more for the purpose of ‘punishing’ the non-members for their lack of support than to ‘bring joy’ to members. Why else would they so openly ostracise and belittle some workers when a more discreet process would have resulted in the same level of joy for the recipients whilst avoiding the bad aftertaste for others?

The key to addressing the aforementioned furor seems to lie in understanding what it means to be an NTUC member – it certainly affords many privileges such as shopping discounts, special entertainment packages and occasionally, NTUC FairPrice department store vouchers to supposedly help with financial difficulty. This is not unlike other clubs, societies and organisations which gather groups of people and offer them bulk discounts and privileges of all sort.

What the NTUC does not do though is remonstrate any employer for poor practices, organise large-scale negotiations, draw up firm and specific guidelines that champion workers’ causes, or lobby for widespread change in labour practices. In fact, the description on the website of what the NTUC exactly does is quite vague and generic – except for all the wonderful membership privileges it can offer.

For example, it is comical that ‘What We Do’ according to the NTUC includes what workers ought to be, what government and industry players ought to do and what mindset Singaporeans generally should adopt. The only real commitment on this particular webpage seems to be on improving on their recreational facilities and raising money for charity.

screen capture of

Legislatively, the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) already handles the whole gamut of labour matters (even mediation), which makes the NTUC’s involvement in shaping the climate for workers largely ceremonial. What we do observe, however, is a top-down approach where the NTUC, helmed by CEO Lim Swee Say (who is also a Minister ‘kosong’), tells workers and employers to be ‘Cheaper, Better & Faster’ and belts out such ‘hits’ as 'Upturn the Downturn' (see below) to placate the increasingly struggling masses.

Meanwhile, suggestions for radical changes are typically met with the reiteration that the system currently in place is the best - instead of any due consideration for the feasibility or potential benefit in implementing such changes (see Halimah Yacob’s reply to ‘Give women the right to ask bosses for flexi-work' for an example).

Thus, the situation needs to be understood in the proper context and where the NTUC’s actions may have seemingly caused non-members unhappiness, this sentiment is in fact unfounded. Taking into consideration that the average member who was a ‘member from day one’ would have paid thousands of dollars in membership fees over the years, receiving a $300 shopping voucher is still a net loss. The non-members in the case cited would have in fact (rightfully) saved those thousands of dollars and spent the money on things they wanted to instead of (being forced into) just buying more groceries and tidbits.

The NTUC should be allowed to behave as the exclusive members-only club that it is and should not be confused with a union that protects or champions any particular cause, or one that ensures that any worker who is suffering is accorded the necessary financial support. Only then can the action of proudly offering some workers vouchers (never mind if they need it or not) whilst overtly ignoring others (even though they may be in real financial hardship) seem not inappropriate at all.


Saturday, 7 November 2009

Why Changing Headlines is Bad...

Recently, the Head of Editorial Systems at SPH remarked in an ST blog post that some bloggers "jump up and down ... when an SPH website changes a headline". Well, although I don't have the habit of doing any physical body movments when I'm typing out a blog post, he may have felt that bloggers like me are nitpicking on the ST due to the sheer volume of ridiculous faux pas it makes in spite of it being "the most widely read newspaper in Singapore" that "strives to be an authoritative provider of news and views" - ST's own claims.

True to form, over the last 2 days, the self-censorship over the Minitor's comments continued to bring out the 'headless-chicken' behaviour at ST. A report carried on Friday (6 November 2009) reported on the China Premier's press briefing before his trip to Singapore and was titled "Controversy is 'normal'", referring to Minitor's earlier comments at an event in the US.

However, the same report appears at a different URL with the exact same text but is dated 7 November 2009 and carries the more vague title "MM's remarks normal".

If one were to read the article, however, what is referred to as 'normal' is actually the controversy and furor - not Minitor's remarks. Thus the 'updated' version of the article is incorrectly titled and is plainly misleading - how can this be a 'correction' by any stretch of the imagination? Unless 'correction' is a pseudonym for 'self-censorship'.
THE recent uproar among Chinese netizens over Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's call for the United States to remain engaged in Asia to balance China is 'normal', the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

"It is not surprising to see all kinds of comments on his views appearing in the newspapers. That is normal." - Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue
Based on the callousness with which the aforementioned Head of Editorial Systems at SPH makes his observation with regard to taking issue with such senseless changes, it would seem that the ST sees this as part of the journalistic process.

The problem is that changing a headline makes it difficult to trace, hard to cite and is just downright unprofessional. Journalists and media organisations who claim to be credible should research the material thoroughly, make a decision on the text and title, and then stick by it. Changing the material after publication (whether online or otherwise) suggests ineptitude at best - something that an "authoritative provider of news and views" should not be.

Remember the friend who keeps changing his handphone number for god-knows-why? Well, it's equally annoying when today's article cannot be located tomorrow because of the title-change. And just as you would want to slap the friend who justifies the change by saying he liked the new phone number better than the former, frustrated readers are metaphorically slapping the ST's unsavoury behaviour by pointing this out on their blogs.

And since ST is now aware of the 'smoke' (i.e. bloggers "jumping up and down") it should consider putting out the proverbial fire by improving its journalistic integrity rather than be "the most widely read newspaper in Singapore" that only knows how to fan away the smoke.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Evolution of a Straits Times Headline

Recently, there has been some furor over our Minitor's (i.e. short for Minister Mentor) comments:
"The size of China makes it impossible for the rest of Asia, including Japan and India, to match it in weight and capacity in about 20 to 30 years. So we need America to strike a balance."

- MM Lee, 29 October 2009
addressing a "stellar cast of
the US capital's political and business heavyweights
(who) turned out to honour him,
including three US Presidents
who sent messages in writing or via video"
Apparently, The Shangaiist reports that people in China are not thrilled with the allusion and mistrust with condemnation flowing from netizens (harsh) and the mainstream media (mild) in China alike.

Perhaps, Minitor's "surprise that Beijing put on a major military display of home-made weapons at its 60th National Day earlier this month" added fuel to the angry sentiments? Or perhaps it was his observation that a "blue-water fleet with aircraft carriers cannot just be to deter foreign intervention in a conflict between Taiwan and the mainland", addressed to the same crowd at the US-Asean Business Council's 25th anniversary gala dinner, and reported in a separate article entitled "US-China competition yes, but conflict? No".

However, what interests me is the way the headline changed for the first article - which is symptomatic of ST reports these days on sensitive issues. For example, a report on the Malaysian Insider quotes Minitor's words above but attributes the ST headline as "MM Lee urges the US to retain role in Asia to balance China".

But if one were to search for this report, the result is a report mildly titled as "MM calls on US to retain key role in East Asia" - which is only reproduced in full on the PMO's website.

The development of the headline does not end there however, and if you were to visit the ST webpage that carries a snippet of the story now, the headline is a nondescript "MM: US key in East Asia".

Honestly, I have no idea which of these 3 headlines appears in the print edition - please let me know if you do - but the question is whether this is a really necessary exercise. In all 3 cases, the story is exatly the same and the factual accuracy of the headlines remains solid, so why the need to change? This is a question we all need to ask ourselves when reading ST's reports.


Tuesday, 27 October 2009

ST's Typos Get Grander

I just came back after a week in Phuket to an interesting email from a buddy showing an abysmal error right in the top-middle of Saturday's front page. Unlike previous errors which occurred primarily within the article text, this was in a prominent highlight strip referring to an article inside the paper for that day.

spotted by Mr Lim Wei Teck

Where other mistakes seem to have been a result of logical oversight, this appears to be due to blatant laziness (of writer, editor, intern and even the printing staff) in checking the material.

Perhaps this is the reason (i.e. allowing gross mistakes to run in the paper) why the ST was ranked higher this year (133 from 144 last year) in the Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders?

Well, in any case this speculation is more plausible than Zaqy Mohamad's suggestion that it is "because of the media diversity here, with mainstream media going online (that) creates pressure for media agencies to provide better-quality work." By the way, the index measures the level of press freedom only and not the actual quality of press.

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Monday, 12 October 2009

ST's Word of the Day: Refridgerators

I chanced upon a good article entitled Wacky ideas to go green penned by Ms Ho Ai Li, the Taiwan Correspondent to the Straits Times, that discussed the environmental sensitivity of the Taiwanese as compared to Singaporeans. What caught my eye though was the overly-juvenile oversight of spelling 'refrigerators' as 'refridgerators' (see below).

Of course it's obvious that the word 'fridge' interfered with the longer word 'refrigerator' here but still, this is something I would hardly expect from our self-proclaimed 'best-of-the best' ST journalists. In fact, it's rather incredulous how both the writer and editor missed a mistake which we would chide our secondary school students for.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Straits Times and its Stupid Polls

As usual, another pointless straw poll was conducted and reported in the Straits Times today entitled 'Foreigners welcome, say teens' which comprised asking 100 random (one hopes) youngsters a few questions on their perception of foreigners in Singapore. Then, as if the extremely small number of 100 wasn't already silly enough, this group was inextricably further divided into 2 age groups (13-18 vs 19-24) to arrive at (one can only assume) a positive angle for the story.

Of the innumerable problems with the interpretation of the 'findings', the one that calls for a big fat "what the..." is clearly the age groups selected as categories. The definition of teen (i.e. teenager) is a person in their teens (meaning 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 AND 19, inclusive), so there is no logical reason to separate 19 from the group classified by ST as 'teens'.

original source: Straits Times

Perhaps it is because without this senseless separation of the sample size, the headline would read 'Foreigners NOT welcome, say young Singaporeans'? If we look at the portion circled in red above, not having these silly categories (i.e. 13-18 vs 19-24), causes the findings to show that a clear 38% of respondents felt that immigration rules
should be tighter and only 25% wanted to keep them as they are with another 25% wanting them to be relaxed.

Well, going by the way ST's been throwing out these ridiculous polls, I guess it would be alright then to quote TOC's polls which regularly receive 200+ votes each. So, for example, we could say 93% of the blogosphere was not quite impressed with the PAP's National Day Message or 83% of the blogosphere rated MOM's performance as 'poor' or 'bad' (see poll results below).

source: TOC

source: TOC


Thursday, 30 July 2009

What an Elaborate Way to Keep us in the Dark, Temasek

Frankly, it has been super-annoying to make sense of the latest figures from Temasek. A lot of questions and head-scratching has been going on and honestly, I just wanted to ignore all the crap and tried hard to suppress the indignity of being treated a fool by my own government. But thanks to being tagged in a Facebook message (*looks at Seelan*) - the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back - I began making sense of the latest statements from Temasek Holdings (a.k.a. the bermuda triangle of taxpayer money).

What I have gathered is as such:

26 August 2008 - Temasek announces its performance for Financial Year (April 2007 to March 2008) and reports that its portfolio value increased 13% from S$164 billion to S$185 billion (source: Temasek Review 2008 & Temasek Holdings)

August 2008 - Annual Temasek Review defines the VaR as a 'statistical model that estimates the potential loss on a portfolio for a given confidence level ... for a 12-month period at an 84% confidence level (and) is derived using a Monte Carlo simulation based on three years of price data'; and estimates the theorectical figure for 2008 to be S$40 billion - as compared to S$24 billion for 2007 (source: Temasek Review 2008 & Temasek Review 2007)

10 February 2009 - Senior Minister of State for Finance, Lim Hwee Hua reveals in parliament that Temasek's 'net portfolio value at 30 November 2008 was S$127 billion', however AFP's request for confirmation of that figure from Temasek goes unanswered (sources: Singapore Parliament & AFP)

28 May 2009 - Minister for Finance, Tharman Shanmugaratnam corroborates Lim Hwee Hua's version by declaring in parliament that the 'full year accounts to end March 2009 have not been audited, but the picture should not be fundamentally different from what I have described as equity markets globally showed no major change as at end March 2009 compared to end November 2008' (source: Singapore Parliament)

29 July 2009 - CEO of Temasek, Ho Ching shares in a speech at a forum that the estimation of the VaR at S$40 billion 'has turned out to be so, and more' (source: Institute of Policy Studies)

So, essentially, nobody is lying about the figures - but they aren't telling the complete truth either. The 'magical' S$40 billion thrown up yesterday is merely a theoretical figure derived from a (purely) statistical estimation.

My speculation is that if the value of the losses was less than the November 2008 figure of S$58 billion (S$185 bilion - S$127 billion), Temasek would have used this opportunity to trumpet this positivity. Therefore, the very fact that no actual figure was mentioned and a wholly-theoretical number was relied upon instead (when concrete figures would be available to the CEO by now) suggests that the losses might very well be GREATER than the recorded S$58 billion.

Of course, a nice capital injection from Temasek's only shareholder, the Singapore Minsitry of Finance could mitigate that value nicely, just like it happened in 2008 - '(p)art of the increase in portfolio size came from a net fresh capital injection of S$10 billion from our shareholder as part of its asset allocation rebalancing' (source: Temasek Review 2008) - which would mean the portfolio increase was actually S$164 billion to S$175billion (6.7% growth) + S$10 billion.

Well, I'm waiting for Temasek Review 2009 which should be out sometime next month to get the actual figures - and all the creative accounting it will contain. I'll be sure to keep you all informed on what I find then but in the meanwhile, don't make too much of the magic S$40 billion figure - focus on the S$58 billion instead as it's closer to the truth.


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Want to be High-Class, Don't Make Silly Spelling Mistakes NUSS

The other day I received an unsolicited mailer from NUSS (National University of Singapore Society) offering a discount on their Graduate Club membership. First of all, I have no idea why they would send unsolicited mail aimlessly when they are an exclusive club and why they would, of all places, choose to target a block that is predominately filled with 3-room flats.

The price to join was indicated as S$4,000 - apparently this is a bargain compared to their tariff rate of S$10,000 - which I am sure that Singaporeans tightening their belts in this recession like me would be heartened to consider. Unfortunately, the fine print looked at me disgustingly - 'only open to graduates from local & recognised foreign universities', so there was no chance for a pariah like me.

But just as I was about to put the mailer onto my 'recyclable' stack, I realised something rather odd. Apparently, when you are high-class there is a different spelling system and "price incresses" instead of "price increases" (see image below).

Or... it could very well be that a society/club that has no issues with mass-mailing gloss-finished postcard mailers to households who are unlikely to qualify and/or afford their memberships couldn't be bothered to hire a professional proofreader.

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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Joke of the Day - Asking Sales Staff to Put Heart into Work

MyPaper published an article yesterday by 'uncle' Geoff Tan who must be either disillusioned or has a mischievous streak. 'Uncle' Tan called on sales staff in Singapore to put heart into their work, even if it goes unseen and I actually laughed out loud at the suggestion - bearing in mind that it is almost impossible to get staff to put in a decent enough effort even with monetary incentives in place.

source: MyPaper

Here was someone who was appealing to service staff's intrinsic motivation to do a good job and serve regardless of recognition - well, good luck with that then. The root of the problem is not whether local service staff want to be intrinsically motivated or not but whether they can afford to be. When the average service industry worker has a mountain of debt to repay and little time outside of work to spend with his or her family, can we really be surprised when staff look irritated the moment shoppers enter 5 minutes before closing time? Contrast that with a foreign worker who would be looking forward to just dinner and bed after work, and the implications are obvious.

The Singapore climate breeds (usually immediate) punitive action against mistakes and nonchalance towards average-to-exemplary performance as a rule of thumb, so this in itself will kill any motivation to get one's hands dirty - let alone putting in any heart. Give our foreign talents 10 years' worth of the Singapore treatment and rest assured they'll give the same suspicious look at a Singapore shopper as to whether there is ITB (i.e. intention to buy).

Well, it's easy when you're an eagle sitting atop a tree in the jungle to criticise the rats scurrying below for their lack in appreciating the beauty of the clouds and the sky. After all, 'uncle' Tan is 'a senior vice-president of the SPH marketing division and the general manager of SPH NewMedia for Zapcode' - my, my, what a mouthful.

Besides, you just don't doubt a bald guy who comes complete with pony tail and earring, do you?


Friday, 10 July 2009

Reading Between the Lines of Local News

I know, I know.... I promised to be more regular and frequent in updating my thoughts here, but projects keep falling on my lap - again, this is not a bad thing and I'm grateful to be gainfully-employed. The training industry is definitely picking up and demand is rather strong - which explains why I am mostly training/lecturing these days instead of writing/editing.

Anyway, I did a quick scan of Singapore-related news on Google News this morning and a meddley of interesting articles with equally-interesting implications caught my eye. I simply had to share my take on these reports - if you could call them that, so here's my round-up of the day:

1) NSF arrested for rash act
ST reports that the driver of the Land Rover which killed another soldier has been arrested. Well, it certainly seems to me that the authorities have quickly arranged for a scapegoat to be slaughtered to appease the public - which leads me to wonder what systemic shortcomings are going to be overlooked until the next time something like this happens.

2) NUS undergrads cry foul over internship

A simply useless article that tells me that NUS Law students (well, at least one) are a bunch of whining, spoilt brats who's idea of solving a problem is to bitch about it to the press. So SMU has emerged as a credible spoiler of the monopoly that NUS had - tough.

It really begs the question as to the quality of these students (at least this one) in overcoming adversity. In any case, the difference between a 'standard' law firm and a top-tier one is that at the former, you earn something like $3,000 a month doing real work whilst at the latter, you can rub shoulders with high-brow clients and earn (much) more.

The article also hinted at how clueless and out-of-touch people at the top can be when the dean, Tan Cheng Han, addressed how students are 'fixated on getting internships in the large firms' by revealing that "as a law student, I personally did not spend any time as an intern in a Singapore law firm. I valued my precious vacation time and spent it on student activities and sports." I'm sure you did Prof Tan, but when was this?

1987 Singapore and 2009 Singapore are totally different worlds - in case the recession has not (read: never will) hit you.

3) 7 years jail for $2m theft

I remember being intrigued by this heist - impressive for such an incident to happen in a country predominately full of sheep. Of course, I was relieved to find out that the thief who dared was a Malaysian - which restores my faith in the inactive-by-default Singaporean. It is amazing to me how fast they dealt with the case though - April 12 incident, Jul 9 sentencing - a speed which I have hardly ever seen in our judicial system. In fact, I have personally witnessed the simplest of cases being dragged out for a year instead.

Perhaps the efficiency here has to do with the fact that the guy managed to catch Certis Cisco (which is a 'wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings', by the way) with its stained underwear around its ankles? What makes the prosecution timeline even more impressive is that the guy initially fled to Malaysia before being caught - overseas fugitive cases should typically take longer to settle/investigate.

Well, when David Rasif is still at large with $12 million in stolen wealth, I am bewildered how the '$2 million man' was quickly despatched to prison. Oh wait, Rasif ran away with some dumb sucker's money, not the government's...

Source: Getty Images

4) Lawyer struck off rolls

Speaking of Rasif, one of his (supposed) partners in crime - another lawyer who is in prison right now, was removed as a practising lawyer in a 10-minute 'hearing' presided by the 'Court of Three Judges'. So, in essence, everyone spent probably hours preparing/organising for what seems to be a pre-arranged decision.

Next time, just send a letter and dispense with the wayang lah, thanks.


Monday, 8 June 2009

Man-in-the-street Paying Back Temasek Losses?

I called my friend when news broke that civil servants will not be receiving their mid-year bonus and asked him how he was coping. He replied half-jokingly that it was to be expected because the government had to recoup their investment losses somehow. I found that to be an interesting take on things and laughed together with him (me laughing harder of course as he was the one who suffered the real monetary loss).

Shortly thereafter, I learnt about the Medisave Minimum Sum increase which registers the largest jump of $11,000 from the previous year as compared to a relatively modest $4,500 to $6,500 year-on-year increase in each of the preceding 5 years. Was inflation really THAT exceptionally bad in 2008/2009 as compared to 2007/2008?

source: CPF Board

Then today, I learnt that house owners now have to top-up any shortfall into their CPF accounts should they sell their flats below valuation. In a nutshell, what this means is that if you had bought your flat in 1999 for say $300,000 using money from your CPF account, you would technically 'owe' $300,000 + 2.5% CPF Ordinary account interest x 10 years. That works out to $375,000 that needs to be returned to your account (assuming you bought your flat WITHOUT taking any loans). You would therefore need to sell your flat for above $375,000 before you can even think about 'earning' a profit from the sale.

Consequently, if you sell your flat for anything less than this value, you can't even dream of seeing anything in cash - everything goes into the CPF account. Apparently, when you sell below the valuation (valuers are HDB appointed and IRAS licensed, by the way), you are obligated to top-up the difference between sale price and valuation back into your CPF account as well. This was reportedly 'enforced loosely' - until now.

When sale prices are naturally heading southward and people in difficulty are finding themselves forced to sell their flats cheaply to save themselves, it is a mystery to me why the authorities would put such folks in a catch-22 situation - if they keep the flat, they wouldn't be able to service the loans; and they can't sell their flat either because they would be obligated to come up with cash to make up the difference (which they obviously don't have).

Any which way I look at this, it seems as though only the CPF/HDB coffers will benefit - if the top-up is made, the actual financial loss of the sale is borne by the house owner (who forks it all out in cash), and if there is a default in the housing loan repayment, HDB can simply repossess the flat and resell it for a (handsome) profit.

So, that brings me to ask the question, "who stands to benefit the most" and the answer seems to be an obvious CPF/HDB/Civil Service which invariably leads back to the same coffers (more or less) - Ministry of Finance, which in turn finances Temasek Holdings.

In any case, it sure doesn't look as though the man in the street is in anyway a better position to deal with the current difficult financial situation - in fact, it just got worse.


Thursday, 7 May 2009

Uniquely Singapore: One Low IQ Boy vs Two Low EQ MPs

It's a bad time for Singapore and Singaporeans, no doubt; everybody's tightening their belts - not to mention those who have no metaphorical belts to tighten in the first place. And just to break the monotony of the current recession, we have the Ultimate Fighter (Singapore version) to enjoy.

In one corner we have a disgruntled, physically and mentally troubled youth who is in the midst of seeing his mother suffer physically, financially and emotionally. And in the other corner, two well-fed politicians who could hardly comprehend what life is like for a truly-poor person. A match certainly heading for catastrophe, one would imagine.

Round 1 - Fight!

The young man can no longer stand seeing his mother almost-grovelling to survive - over several months and being rejected unceremoniously at that, duly loses his cool and acts rashly by throwing a chair at a door. Minions being minions, overreact, restrain the youth and call in the Police. The Police seeing a politician in power being involved decide to throw out commonsense, and err on the side of absolute application of the law - they track down the young man to his home and arrest him.

The politican does nothing (although a mere, "it's ok, let's forget about it" from her would have ended the incident right there and then) and possibly feels that the youth deserved what he got.

Round 2 - Apology? No Thanks!

Being poor and legally-helpless, the young man subsequently writes a rudimentary apology (which exemplifies his 'low IQ') to another politician delivered by his mother. This politician (exemplifying her low EQ) simply waves away the apology and practically declares he deserves his present predicament - in not so many words.

Now the youth faces possible jail time, has no way of paying any fine if imposed, and will have an even harder time getting a job (which is what MP Cynthia Phua claims she was trying to do in the first place). The mother will have yet another added problem weighing down on her - as if she doesn't have enough as it is.

MP Lim Hwee Hua feels the 'violence' "is not justifiable in any circumstance" but the probable fact that she has not suffered extreme financial difficulty herself disqualifies her from making that very judgement call. Perhaps in an ideal world; perhaps high atop an ivory tower, that statement may hold true - not in this case.

An educated person with access to the internet can blog about his or her frustrations; a healthy person may choose to vent it out on a soccer field or basketball court. This young man probably did not have these options and it was nothing more than an outburst aimed at no one - I dare say he probably chose an area where he would specifically not harm anyone with his actions.

At the end of the day, the boy can say his low IQ is a disability. Can the politicians say the same of their obviously-low EQ?

No prizes for guessing the winner(s)

Note: BTW, what's up with SPH's reporting? In the TNP report, it says the boy will be reporting back to the Police but in the ST report (another here), it says he will be attending court (both giving 12th May as the date). Also, in case the above links expire, a version of the TNP report is being carried by Singapore Enquirer.


Wednesday, 15 April 2009

New And Old Citizens The Same?

Don't be mistaken that there has been nothing to write over the past month that I've been missing. On the contrary, it was frustrating to see so much happen yet not have the time to pen down my thoughts.

Well, today I read about how we should learn from Western culture and adopt their hospitality practices to welcome and integrate our foreigners (TODAY article). What raised my brow was that this advice (decree?) was offered by our Minitor (Minister+Mentor - to save space) who, at one point in time deemed western (specifically American) cultural influences as 'decadent' - as described in the excerpt below from the book Cultural Politics and Asian Values: The Tepid War by none other than Dr Michael Barr (bio with picture) who has written extensively on our founding father.

Personally, I feel a tad annoyed with the suggestion that, "There is no difference between race, religion, new or old citizens." Really? How about the 2 years and annual 14-day-disruption-to-lifestyle that 'old' male citizens have to sacrifice serving National Service? Now, I'd call that one helluva big difference, wouldn't you? A difference that can be markedly witnessed when 'old citizens' apply for jobs, no doubt.

And what's up with referring to natural-born-Singaporeans as 'old citizens' anyway? First of all, many will just assume it's in reference to senior citizens which would add unnecessary confusion. Second, the connotation is that existing Singaporeans are no longer relevant or useful - not unlike how our elderly Singaporeans are typically referred to (and treated).

Granted, the Minitor (for clarification: pronounced as 'Mini-taur') was addressing a largely China-based crowd at an event for a niche audience and made these remarks in Mandarin - so it could have been coined for the target audience or the meaning may have been lost in the translation. Nevertheless, it is disappointing to read such labelling of those who call this place home (in good times and bad, mind you) and makes me as an 'old citizen' upset yet again for being Singaporean (through no fault of mine).

Uniquely Singapore, I hear you say?

In come the new...................and out go the old?

sources: (left) daylife & (right) flickr


Thursday, 12 March 2009

Does 'Not Unhappy' = Happy?

With all the internet chatter among Singaporeans on how train commuters have to constantly enjoy the whiffs emanating from fellow passengers' armpits on a regular basis - so much so that one can recognise and identify a fellow commuter by smell (are you nodding your head? Eww!) - I was surprised to read the headlines '90% of Singaporeans happy with level of graciousness' (carried in TODAY as well) and '1 out of 10 Singaporeans unhappy with current level of graciousness' in today's local news.

source: IMETRO

If the reports are to be believed only a mere 1 in 10 Singaporeans are unhappy with the standard of graciousness and CNA goes as far as making it sound as if the other 9 declared that they were happy. But in actual fact, the survey conducted by don't-know-who which was commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement, polled only 502 Singaporeans (nationality by whose definition?) and only half of them actually said they were happy. So, apart from the 50-odd folks who plainly said they were unhappy, there were about 200 who DID NOT SAY whether they were happy or unhappy.

So it is misleading to suggest '90% are happy', isn't it? Once again, we get a lesson in how to have fun with statistics by using a sample size that is 0.0125% of the population and making incredible assumptions to make an erronous sweeping statement.

The reports also indicate that those polled ranked Singapore fifth in a list but stops short of letting us know exactly how many were in the list of choices. For a 500-respondent survey, I wouldn't be surprised if the list only had 5 options to begin with - i.e. Singapore is placed last! Let's see if more information comes along - perhaps the Singapore Kindness Movement will publish the exact/full survey findings on its website (Note: link may be broken/down).


Friday, 27 February 2009

Exclusive Interview With Mas Selamat Bin Kastari

One year on and we catch up with the (in)famous 'Limping Terrorist', Mas Selamat Bin Kastari. In a secret interview held at an undisclosed location, the star of such hits as Toilet Break shared his thoughts on THE escape, his plans and his upcoming projects...
G (Interviewer): So it's been a whole year and the authorities in Singapore are still searching the boots of budget cars and the storage compartments of motorcycles, hoping to find you. What do you think?

MSK (Mas Selamat): Eh, betul ke [Note: is that correct]? Bike box also they search ah? I am not THAT good lah - how to hide inside such a small space.

If I do, I just call my brudders activate 3 Bangla [Note: Bangladesh Nationals who are illegal immigrants], hide in 3 different cars of sama-sama [Note: same] brand and then tip off ICA. When they get the first Bangla, they will search high and low for the specific brand and let other types go without checking much.

So I will hide in another type of car driven by one pakcik and makcik [Note: Uncle and Aunty] with groceries - simple. Maybe if I boring-boring, wear disguise also can jalan [Note: go] through lah!

G: Interesting tactic. So was that how you left Singapore?

MSK: Oi! Nice try.... Who say I already left? Singapore government ah? Not so safe if narrow down further right. That minister [Note: Wong Kan Seng] already tembah [Note: shoot] he narrow down to 2 possibilities, you still want me to reveal further? Cannot lah, must jagah [Note: protect] a bit. But can confirm that the minister was spot on with his predictions sial!

G: Ok, ok, just trying our luck there to help the Singapore authorities, sorry. Well, since they have narrowed it down to 2 possibilities - one of which is where you actually are - within a short span of just one year, how safe do you feel about your status?

MSK: Correct also lah. They quite fast bring down to just 2 possibilities - a bit scary. I think one more year, become one possibility already - confirm. Then must lebeh jagah diri [Note: extra protect] myself to not get caught. Hopefully they narrow down to the wrong one, then a bit safe. Otherwise Selamat must Jalan [Note: run] again, hahahaha.

G: You seem quite upbeat and confident that even if they narrow down to the one correct possibility of the 2, you can still evade arrest. Why is this so?

MSK: Ya lah, no problem. They already kalang-kabut [Note: confused] the other time, use all their manpower, dogs, army - still cannot find me. I think my tactics can tahan [Note: withstand] lah. I use toilet paper and extra clothing already can bypass everyone.

G: So what are your plans moving forward?

MSK: Good question man. My Toilet Break episode is still an icon and macam I am the most 'published' man in Singapore sial - heard my posters are still pasted at many locations. More like 'In Memory' lah - they want everyone to remember about my success ah? Sure as hell doesn't look like it is meant to alert anyone....

One thing I learn from Singapore is to market knowledge and experience to other countries so I am now conducting workshops on 101 Ways To Escape With A Limp. Quite popular and a lot of people join in - criminal biasah [Note: normal], terrorists and even civil servant also. Maybe the civil servant want to jagah their rice bowl so want to learn where are the lubangs [Note: loopholes].

My rates are reasonable for everyone but of course got a special discount if member of Terrorist Organisation lah - cannot forget my brudders and the past.

G: I see. Sounds like the whole episode has been a blessing in disguise for your 'career'.

MSK: Yah, definitely! Now, no need to worry about money matters already - set for life. Really, it is so good that I decided not to hantam [Note: hit] Singapore already lah. Don't think they will learn anything anyway - old people kena 'export', poor people asked to go [censored]-spider, you think they really care if people die? Like that, seriously no point attacking lah.

Who knows, if business picks up, maybe I anonymously pledge some money for my own capture lah, hahahaha. That one will be kelakar [Note: funny] seh! Maybe I do for second year anniversary, so can keep my semangat [Note: spirit] going - good for business also.

G: Interesting ideas you have. But nevertheless, you are still on many a Wanted List around the region and maybe even Interpol will be looking for you. In any case, you can never go mainstream with your business development. Any thoughts on that?

MSK: True also. Too bad I cannot anyhow say 'sorry' like that minister... what's his name.... Wan Kosong? [Note: Wong Kan Seng] ... and continue with my own thing macam [Note: like] no problem. But I really like the PM style - diam-diam [Note: quiet] for dunno how long then come out and tembah [Note: shoot] one 'what to do'. Class lah, that one.

As for my business, no problem lah. I am in niche market and with celebrity status, I just need to wait for people to come. Aiyah, even that minister [Note: Wong Kan Seng] don't have photo on his wiki page ok!

Also, Osama is impressed with my strategies so maybe got one lubang [Note: opportunity] from his side as consultant coming up. Like that, can go Saudi or Afghanistan macam [Note: like] Foreign Talent seh. Not bad for a 'Mat' fella right?

By the way, ask Jack Neo if he want to do movie on my escape lah - he can call it Toilet Sure Break or something. But must pay royalty one...

G: Hahaha, yet another enterprising idea. Too bad you can't join politics in Singapore. With your popularity, poster-reach and iconic reputation, you can be a great Minister of Home Affairs! What better person to take charge than the man who exposed all the frailties of the arrogant system?

MSK: Thanks for the compliment man! You like macam angkat [Note: curry favour] me because I agree to this interview sial... Anyway, politics maybe not for me. If got problem and I go into the toilet, dunno if anyone will trust me to return.

G: That's a good point Mas Selamat. Well, we're coming to the end of this chat and would like to pose you a final question. What do you think will happen if you do get arrested and brought back to Singapore?

MSK: Sure habis [Note: finish] one. They will lock me up and throw away the key sial. Not to mention throw one big, fat wayang to trumpet their success to the world - even if I were to be overseas and be caught by some other country's authorities and sent back.

I expect they will put their best-of-the-best officers to 'look after' me and have dedicated officers to watch me round-the-clock. But one thing's for sure - they have to give me a Toilet Break...

G: Ahhh, I see. A man who can escape from a toilet, will always have an opportunity! Happy Anniversary, you 'Limping Terrorist'.

MSK: Thanks lah, nice to be remembered. Let my fans in Singapore know every time I go toilet and hear the tap running always remember that wonderful day lah. Brings a tear to my eye and a twitch to my limp...
Mas Selamat remains a fugitive and anyone who does not doubt the authenticity of this interview really needs to check themselves into IMH - good news, they now have a bigger budget!


Saturday, 21 February 2009

Does ST Selectively Overlook Some News?

My web browser's 'Home Page' is Google News and everytime I open my browser, I get to glance at a few headlines. Well, today the title HIV rates soar among gay men in Asia caught my eye and I wondered what bad things the world had to say about it - and how Singapore could benefit from this bad press to lambast the gay community.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was actually a report that highlighted the predicament of gay men in seeking treatment for HIV/AIDS and how it is a vicious cycle of the mainstream condemning the particular community which consequently keeps its members from coming forward - which in turn results in the speread of the virus going unchecked among them.

Indeed, it was a good report with regard to a HIV/AIDS seminar that was held in Hong Kong a few days ago and espoused the need for public education and proper support for the gay community instead of forcing it into hiding.
The seminar heard how Australia managed to keep its HIV epidemic contained within its gay and bisexual male communities through public education and knocking down discriminatory laws.
And just as I was wondering how the press in Singapore could sugar-coat this to fit into the appropriate suggestive article condemning the 'problem' of being gay, I read this gem as well.
Some countries in Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia and those in South Asia still have in place anti-sodomy laws, which are formidable barriers to people getting treatment and help, and they frustrate efforts at disease prevention, experts said.
"If (sodomy) is criminalised, it is a problem for doctors. What does the doctor do when someone comes in with an anal problem? He can get into trouble with the law because he is treating someone breaking the law."
I laughed to myself and now look forward to how our Mainstream Media will spin this. Quite obviously, out of over 100 reports on Google News with regard to this piece of news, not one is by a Singapore-based news agency. Even Bernama of Malaysia has a report out on this - albeit diluted to exclude reference to the limiting laws on sodomy.

I searched the ST and CNA websites directly and wasn't able to locate any report on this as well. I wonder if they will conveniently 'overlook' this news but anticipate a report that quotes just the figures (there HAS been a rise in HIV/AIDS cases among the men of the gay community) and then goes on to bash the community, and expect Andy Ho to be the best man for this job.

Now let's see what happens...

I discovered that representatives from Singapore were in fact present at the conference, which makes it all the more puzzling/amazing that our dear Mainstream Media did not cover it (source: World Health Organization and Hong Kong's Department of Health).


ST Going Out Of It's Way To Bullshit The Masses?

I just love the way the system squeezes tighter when faced with adversity. With almost every inhabitant on this island convinced that there will be an election in the near future, our dear ST continues to waste its space (Note: arguable what waste is, of course - some saying the whole paper) with elaborate and obvious reports to suggest (tell) otherwise.

Even as CNA was spotted updating its Elections Website with 'Elections 2009', ST pushed through with a painfully (IMHO) crafted report (if you could call it that) on Friday, 20th Feb 2009, to let us know...well, actually nothing.

It starts with a definitive statement...
VETERAN MPs from the ruling party said yesterday that the absence of a key indicator - the deployment of new faces to constituencies - suggests that a general election is not imminent.
...and then goes on to include a disclaimer and contradict itself in the second paragraph:
Although the People's Action Party (PAP) said previously that it has identified and selected a number of potential candidates, the MPs contacted have not seen any, or many, sent out to get grassroots experience and a feel of the ground.
So, the candidates have been selected already, yes? And if they have been selected, they would already have been sent on the ground right - meaning to say that they've got the grassroots experience?

Also, how can there be 'not any' and 'not many' in the same sentence? That's like saying, for example, "I don't have ANY (=none) sweets or MANY (=some) sweets" - which does not make any sense. You either have some OR none, NEVER both.

Next, a sound bite from the now (in)famous you-are-lesser-mortals Charles Chong is thrown in...
'Usually at each election, the Prime Minister retires a third of each cohort. So you would expect to see a lot of new faces at grassroots activities,' said four-term MP Charles Chong.
...and of course the fact that, under the circumstances, staff renewal would hardly be a factor is not pointed out. This stating-the-obvious sound bite is then followed by another seemingly-casual yet cryptic one by a seasoned politician/lawyer Inderjit Singh:
Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh agreed about the importance of giving potential candidates time on the ground so they can be assessed.
'I wish if they were ready, they would send in the new faces, because I've not seen any so far,' he said, with a laugh.
He himself was sent to work with grassroots groups in 1994 prior to being introduced at the 1997 election.
'It is rare for people to be parachuted in to stand without being put through the paces at the grassroots level,' he said.
So, with his own example, we can clearly infer that potential candidates would be put on the ground years in advance. And naturally, with him being a seasoned pro, any potential candidate would not be a 'new face' as far as he is concerned, now would it.

Basically, this sound bite tells us the general observations that candidates must have enough time on the ground and that it is rare for anyone to be pushed in without undergoing this process and taking into account these points, this sound bite has, in fact, zero informational value in the context of whether an election is around the corner.

Next, the report points out that no one at PAP has been instructed to get ready (according to the handful of MPs queried).
Another factor is the readiness of party branches, and the establishment or re-activation of election committees, led by MPs and staffed by PAP branch activists. These ensure that organisational, logistical and other needs are at the ready should an election be called. Joo Chiat MP Chan Soo Sen, Nee Soon Central MP Ong Ah Heng and Mr Singh all said their committees had yet to be re-established.
Well, it could be a typo error or error-of-flow by the reporter but this paragraph quite plainly does not actually tell us if the PAP election committees were re-activated, just that they have not been (read: do not need to be?) re-established. Of course, no mention was made of the grape-vine fact that various civil servants have been asked to go for ballot-counting briefing/training in recent months.

Contrastingly, the next few paragraphs talk about how ALL the opposition parties contacted (except the Workers' Party, who did not respond) are gearing up for an election, with one opposition politician suggesting specifically that it could be "as early as June".

And the creme-de-le-creme of this ST report was the last few paragraphs where someone higher up the food chain was approached for a sound bite - Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean:
"In any case, for the PAP, we're always working on the ground. Whether there'a an election or no election, we're always there and serving the people."
Asked if he thought there would be an election, Mr Teo, who is PAP's second assistant secretary general, said: "That's purely speculative. I don't think I want to contribute to the speculation."
Well, if one intends to squash speculation, he would say a definitive 'No' or 'Yes'. The minister here has obviously declined to 'contribute to the speculation' - which is effectively a 'maybe' answer. I would think my ruling government would want to tell me if there is or isn't an election instead of refusing to inform.

Well, if anything at all, this report serves to inform that an election is just as likely to happen as it is unlikely to within the near future - which is where we were at before this report appeared, isn't it?

For a more reasonable/sensible/honest analysis and discourse on whether an election in Singapore is probable in the next few weeks, we will have to turn to our neighbours to read The Malysian Insider - how disappointing to have to go foreign to read local.


Using Sarcasm To Teach English - Survey Findings

As promised, I present the findings of the survey here. Thank you to one and all who contributed to the preparation of this report.
This paper explores the feasibility of incorporating sarcasm into teaching through a limited research into teacher-perceptions. Firstly, by using the findings of research in neuroscience and language studies in relation to sarcasm, inferences are drawn to support the use of sarcasm-based lessons. Consequently, utilising the quantitative opinion of 46 education practitioners of English Language out of 62 respondents who participated in an anonymous online survey, this paper arrives at the conclusion that there is indeed strong support and good potential for such an approach. This paper recommends further research into this issue and advocates the use of sarcasm-based lessons (an example of which is annexed) in teaching.
And here is the excerpt of the analysis and discussion portions of the report.
Response Analysis
63% of the respondents rated themselves ‘3’ or above on a scale of 5 when asked how sarcastic they considered themselves to be and when queried on the frequency with which they encountered sarcasm in the classroom, only 39.1% gave a rating of ‘3’ and above. However, a higher percentage (55.6%) of the 18 Secondary School teachers gave this rating, which suggests that this may be the level where student sarcasm is the most outward in a classroom setting. Similarly, more from this group (72.2%) rated themselves as relatively sarcastic in nature with the Junior College cohort registering the strongest at 83.3%.
Among all the respondents, 5 offered qualitative responses for the open-ended question and these were largely related to the classroom management rather than language acquisition – which was to be expected. However, one respondent did explain that he or she had previously used advertisements employing sarcasm in a classroom lesson.
Unsurprisingly, 91.3% of the respondents reported that they had never conducted a lesson incorporating sarcasm with only 4 individuals indicating that they had. Overall, 69.6% were open to using a sarcasm-based lesson plan themselves whilst 78.3% felt that it could be effective (rating of ‘3’ and above). The response from the Secondary School teachers was the most encouraging, with 94.4% rating the potential success of a sarcasm-based lesson as ‘3’ and above and 83.3% of them registering their support to incorporate such a lesson plan into their own teaching.
Interestingly, there was a 16.6% inverse correlation between age and self-assessment of sarcasm, a 24.2% inverse correlation between age and perception of student sarcasm, and a 14% inverse correlation between age and estimation of success of a sarcasm lesson. This translates into the indication that the older the teacher is, the lower they rate their own level of sarcasm, the less sarcasm they experience (or choose to experience) from their students, and, naturally, a higher level of scepticism towards the use of a sarcasm-based lesson.
The survey response was encouraging and the majority of the respondents felt that they would consider using a sarcasm-based lesson plan. Although the majority had not employed using such a lesson plan, they were nonetheless confident that such a lesson could achieve its objective. From the breakdown of the responses, it can further be noted that, at the very least, the Secondary level may be the most receptive to such an approach.
The data suggests that Junior College teachers, although rating themselves more sarcastic than their peers at other levels, feel that a sarcasm-based approach may not be suitable (or necessary) for their students and were generally less supportive. This unexpected finding could be due to the fact that Junior College students are typically less brash and more timid than their counterparts in Secondary School.
This paper however, concedes that due to the low number of respondents from the ITE, Polytechnic and tertiary institutions involved in the survey, no concrete inferences can be drawn for these teaching levels.
As this study was specifically aimed at a general investigation across all levels, the preliminary findings suggest that a closer look at the teacher responses of each level may be warranted. A larger study comprising increased sample sizes of each teaching level would certainly shed more light on the receptiveness of using a sarcasm-based lesson and establish if the Secondary School level is indeed the most suitable for this purpose as the survey results seem to suggest.
Nevertheless, this report is satisfied that its objectives have been met – namely, an awareness of such an approach was made known to at least hundreds of practitioners, the applicability of sarcasm as a language acquisition tool was demonstrated using existing research literature, and finally, a sample of the willingness of teachers to adopt such an approach was obtained.
It is hoped that the research that was undertaken in this paper can be further developed to make inroads into this area of limited research and be thence consolidated with other parallel research in the fields of neuroscience and psychology such that an instructive direction can be given to education practitioners on the use of sarcasm-based teaching (an example is attached as Annexe C).
The full report is also available for those interested which contains a sample lesson plan on using sarcasm to teach Context. Also, should anyone be interested to cite this report, the (APA) citation should be as below.
Gangasudhan, 2009. Using Sarcasm As A Tool For Language Acquisition. Research Report (Specialist Diploma), Singapore Polytechnic.

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Saturday, 14 February 2009

Isn't It about Time We Took Our Business Elsewhere?

I've noticed something recently. Many people have forwarded me various email messages talking about the unhappiness with the way things are being run on Singapore Inc. And what's more interesting is that these people are not from the same pool of 'disgruntled' friends but are, in fact, unique individuals who have nothing else in common other than knowing me. Even casual acquaintances who are not even on the mailing list of my blog entries have passed on these criticisms to me.

It seems that people all over are discontented with the disconnected government whose lack of actual concern for its people has never been more obvious than in these trying times. Today, the only legitimate leverage it had - an over-performing economy - has metaphorically gone up in smoke and it has nothing else but 'trust' and acronyms to offer. Is it any surprise that a government that ran this country like a well-oiled corporation is now helter-skelter when the gears are falling off the machinery?
I was always told that the Singapore economy was 'super strong' and was the envy of the world.
Good, good.
And I needed to pay for it with my civil liberties?
Err.. ok...
But now? There is no more of the 'undeniable financial security' that our government bragged about. There is no more of the "Look here, we've done well, take this dividend *insert whatever subsidies here* and STFU about our takings (salaries), ok!".

Well, the beautiful Singapore Inc is now falling apart faster than you can say 'Ponzi' and the saddest part is that we don't really have a country to fall back on. Where other countries let the businesses do the business and the government takes care of the people, our government has been (mostly) running the businesses and left the caring of the people to 'market forces' such as filial piety, passionate volunteers and philanthropists.

I am scared, no doubt. But it's not the financial crisis that worries me but the fact that without the stellar performance of our economy, we have almost nothing else. Everything has been about money - not about welfare, patriotism, sentiment or (spiritual) ownership - and when you take that sole element away, then there's nothing much left, is there.

That takes us to my point. When you go to an establishment and get incompetent or unsatisfactory service, what do you do? Don't you take your business elsewhere? Even if that alternative may seem slightly inferior or untested? Well, I was fine with an exorbitantly-remunerated government because they delivered but that is no longer the case. I'm afraid that the 'social contract' has been broken - the government has not held up its end of powerful economic performance year-in-year-out.
What's that?

How about the decades of flawless performance, I hear you say?
Well, I've been taught (by this very government's philosophy) that past-performances and sentiment don't count for anything here. I've been taught that you only get to call the shots if you have money-related performance to brag about. So, right now, it's hard to take the 'management board' of Singapore Inc seriously. Without that "we've done well" halo hanging over their heads, I am not able to accept my government's display of (sudden) moral authority.

I (still) hope and desperately want Singapore to be a country - where there is humanity and inevitable flaws, instead of just Singapore Inc - a heartless but perfect machine. Maybe there is no better time than the present for that change to happen with all of us living with incompetency anyway?

As each day passes, I find myself thinking more and more about how Ms Sylvia Lim could lead Singapore as a country with Mr Siew Kum Hong running MOH, Mr James Gomez guiding MTI, Mr Low Thia Khiang heading MOM or Mr Chiam See Tong taking care of Foreign Affairs - perhaps then Singapore will become a country of citizens instead of an island of workers?


Sunday, 25 January 2009

My Dear Government, Why Do You Treat Me So?


As a (second class) Singaporean, I am deeply saddened today to discover
that my government is trying to enact changes to the law that will effectively give itself (too much) power in controlling the freedom of normal Singaporeans in using their camera-phones or video cameras to capture protests, acts of activism and such on film.

My friend alerted me to this by exclaiming that
"Will recording or filming of events which are considered illegal in law now itself be considered illegal?"
and I responded by saying
"I think the issue is with the 'live' streaming of films and not video recording per se. It would not be feasible to ban the recording of illegal events altogether because this would effect media reporting as well..."
He then replied with further information saying
" seemed to say that this amendment was going to give powers for police to confiscate the cameras or stop the filming of protests by people who were not journalists by profession."

I thought to myself, this was quite alarming and distatseful if it were to be the case - but I still did not believe it could be true. So I went searching for the original documentation on these changes and relied on the Singapore Statutes Online and the Films (Amendment) Bill as posted on the Singapore Parliament website.

Of the 3 changes that have been proposed in the bill (a local copy on my server, just in case), 2 are merely cosmetic changes (IMHO) which allow for an advisory board to influence decisions (section 4) and paraphrasing the section to allow for more comprehensiveness (Section 26).

The (shocking) point of contention, however, for me is the 3rd proposed change
which refers to the definition and interpretation as per the provisions under the Films Act (Chapter 107), Section 2:
2-(2) For the purposes of this Act, a film is directed towards a political end in Singapore if the film —

(a) contains wholly or partly any matter which is intended or likely to affect voting in any election or national referendum in Singapore;

(b) contains wholly or partly either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter, including but not limited to any of the following:

  • (i) an election or a national referendum in Singapore;
  • (ii) a candidate or group of candidates in an election;
  • (iii) an issue submitted or otherwise before electors in an election or a national referendum in Singapore;
  • (iv) the Government or a previous Government or the opposition to the Government or previous Government;
  • (v) a Member of Parliament;
  • (vi) a current policy of the Government or an issue of public controversy in Singapore; or
  • (vii) a political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body.
2-(3) For the avoidance of doubt, any film which is made solely for the purpose of

(a) reporting of current events; or

(b) informing or educating persons on the procedures and polling times for any election or national referendum in Singapore,

is not a party political film.
After (and not if) the changes have been implemented, this section will read as follows (changes in red):
2-(2) For the purposes of this Act, a film is directed towards a political end in Singapore if the film —

(a) contains wholly or partly any matter which, in the opinion of the Board, is intended or likely to affect voting in any election or national referendum in Singapore;

(b) contains wholly or partly references to or comments on any political matter which, in the opinion of the Board, are either partisan or biased; and any "political matter" includes but is not limited to any of the following:
  • (i) an election or a national referendum in Singapore;
  • (ii) a candidate or group of candidates in an election;
  • (iii) an issue submitted or otherwise before electors in an election or a national referendum in Singapore;
  • (iv) the Government or a previous Government or the opposition to the Government or previous Government;
  • (v) a Member of Parliament;
  • (vi) a current policy of the Government or an issue of public controversy in Singapore; or
  • (vii) a political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body.

The most critical change of all is Section 2-3(a) which changes from
'reporting of current events' to '...reporting of news by a broadcasting service licenced under any written law'. This in itself places anyone filming an 'illegal event' who does not have a press pass in the cross hairs of the authorities (which include the Police) who, under Section 34 of this act, can search and seize any film and equipment used.

Subsequently (upon conviction) such equipment and film 'shall be forfeited and shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of in such manner as the Minister may direct' as well.

I am deeply saddened that in the proposed Bill, where explanations and justifications were provided for all the changes, this critical change was explained away as the expansion of the original list without referring to the change in terminology - ayone can report on current affairs but only a select few may be part of 'a broadcasting service licenced by any law'.

It seems as though this telling change is being sneaked in without any forthright explanation. Honestly, I cannot accept the change or the manner in which it has been included. As far as I am concerned, it is truly a sad day for Singapore as a modern city when (and not if) this section comes into play.

Then, not only will protesting be illegal, so will filming it. My God! What's next? Turning your head to glance becomes an offence? Or will reading the placard/banner/t-shirt lead to being indefinitely detained under the ISA?

*This article has been featured*

*This article has been featured*


Sunday, 11 January 2009

Of Dragons And Shopping Centres...

Am I the only one who finds the (alleged) donation of a hanged murderer's kidney to a rich tycoon a little bit too convenient? The plot of this story is quite incredible and worthy of a drama movie, IMHO.

1) Rich tycoon convicted of buying organs gets an unexpected second chance
2) Cold-blooded murderer turns good at moment of death

However, the obvious doubts that come to my mind are:

a) Since a rich man with abundant wealth at his disposal that enables him to make all sorts of clandestine arrangements if he so wishes, is involved, AND who has been convicted of buying a kidney, to boot; shouldn't the authorities look at this very closely and find out if any compensation was (or will be) made?

b) The 'one-eyed dragon' was obviously a person of ill-repute (as far as reports in the press portray him) and someone who was trying to stay alive (evidenced by his appeal for clemency). Isn't it (too) extremely remarkable for such a person, who couldn't care less about someone's life (ie. the person he murdered) to turn around and be suddenly altruistic at the moment of death (allegedly without any coercion)?

c) Why did the 'dragon' choose the tycoon anyway?

Under these circumstances, it is hard not to think that the tycoon who has demonstrated that he is not beyond using his wealth to try anything and everything, might have offered some sort of compensation in order for the murderer's 2 young children to be well taken care of.

I wonder if 2 or 3 years down the road a trust fund is set up for the children, would that be illegal - or explained away as an act of altruism? Or can the law be circumvented to suggest that it is not an offence to provide compensation to the dead donor's family?

Unless there is some form of disclosure to address these doubts and concerns, there is no way to rectify these negative speculations, is there? I , for one, cannot accept things at face value and cannot simply take the word of the tycoon, or the family of the donor.

Honestly, I would like to see some investigation being done that exonerates the tycoon of this speculation and also the legal undertaking by both parties that any money that may be handed over from the tycoon to the donor's family will be seized. Only then can there be fairness to all those un-tycoon kidney patients who equally desire to live. Otherwise, this episode only demonstrates that those with money at their disposal are 'more equal' than others, doesn't it?

Now, There's a Little Bit of Dragon in Tangs

*This article has been featured*


Thursday, 8 January 2009

How Stupid Do You Think I Am? No, Seriously...

I received this poster on the new EZLink card in an email today. In it, there was a proclamation that no deposit was necessary. Naturally, I thought to myself - huh, how could they sustain this without a card deposit in money-mad, errr... greedy, errr... profit-driven Singapore.

Then, on closer inspection, I discovered it was the TRAVEL DEPOSIT they were talking about. Ohhh... The $5 'cost-of-the-card' fee still applies but the $3 holding amount is no more? Good news then.

But what? I have to maintain a $3 minimum balance now? That means on the old card I can still travel with 10 cents' value but now I need $3.10 instead? So in effect, the $3 Travel Deposit STILL applies lah - it's just that it will be reflected in the actual stored value (ie. gives you the impression you have more money than you are actually allowed to use)...

So, basically, for the old card, you go to the counter, hand over $15 and receive your card with a stored value of $7, ALL of which you can use for travel. Now, for the new card, you go to the counter, hand over $15 and receive your card which SHOWS $10 but of which you can use only $7. The difference is whether you SEE the $3 Travel Deposit or not.

Sheesh! Come on EZLink, don't spin this as a gimmick. Just say it as it is - $3 Travel Deposit Now Changed To $3 Minimum Balance. Don't insult my intelligence with crap notices like these, ok?

But wait, there's more! (*like a late-night informercial*)

This $3 minimum balance only applies for MRT travel? The minimum balance for bus travel fluctuates depending on where I get on and where the service ends? Wow, this just gets better doesn't it.

Now, I would like to see how many commuters are going to be left stranded when they change buses only to discover that they don't have enough value left to take the next bus and continue on their journey...

Happy New Year Everyone

*This article has been quoted*


Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Survey on Using Sarcasm to Teach English

As some of you might know, I am pursuing a post-grad Specialist Diploma in English Language Teaching at Singapore Polytechnic. Well, as part of the course requirements, I am to conduct a small research exercise, and I have decided to explore the possibility of designing lessons that incorporate sarcasm as a teaching tool.

As part of the research, I am conducting a survey to find out how many English language teachers are aware of using sarcasm as a teaching tool, whether they have done so, and, if they would consider using a lesson design provided to them that uses sarcasm to teach.

The survey is a 9-question MCQ one, and will take probably 30 seconds to a minute to complete. I would like to ask all those who have taught English Language at any level to attempt the survey and humbly request all of you to forward this email to others as well. The survey can be accessed at the following link:

I am aiming for about 100 responses at least but if I can get more, then it will make the data look that much more impressive. As part of the research I'll be creating sample lessons designed around the element of sarcasm, and I will share them on my blog (as well as the results of the survey, of course) for everyone and anyone to use as necessary. I sincerely believe a lesson that employs sarcasm as part of the design can be incredibly fun - for both the teacher and the students, whilst being very effective as well.

Thank you so much for the help, take care, and Happy New Year!

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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Another Act of Defiance? Images of Kangaroos Plastered Indiscriminately...

Gosh! It's been over a month since I last updated - I really need to be more regular than that. Also, sorry for the site being down for the last few days - apparently traffic had exceeded the monthly bandwidth limit (not necessarily a bad thing).

Anyway, I was out last Friday to have dinner with our friends and whilst parking at Suntec City, I saw something so vile and disgusting, it riveted me. With the latest decree being that images of Kangaroos are clandestine and representative of all things vulgar (evidenced by the persecutio.. err, I mean prosecution of the 3 activists recently), I was certainly appalled at the anti-establishment behaviour of the Suntec City Management.

Here they were, plastering the pillars of the carpark with images of kangaroos all over! This can only mean that they are implying that the pillars of our society are corrupt! How could this go unpunished? Especially when the 3 activists were jailed for merely illustrating their opinions.

Oh, the outrage...

I hope the authorities will shut down the Suntec City basement carpark immediately, cordon off the area and issue a cease-and-desist order on Suntec City so that they can do the morally correct thing and change all these obscene images to that of the Merlion.


Monday, 24 November 2008

The Game of Sabotage

As for the second workshop I conducted just last Friday, the objective was to create awareness of the different types of audience one can encounter when giving a presentation and how he or she can handle them. Faced with only a 30 to 45 minute timeslot, I decided to keep the workshop simple and incorporate as much elements into a single activity as possible.

For the purposes of their understanding, I limited the audience-type to 4 broad categories (Hostile, Hijacker, Heckler, Impatient). I began the lesson at a relatively fast pace and started with the activity first. I asked the students to 'sabo' 2 of their classmates to read out a passage (incidentally about having enthusiasm in presentation). Once this was done, I passed around Index Cards (my favourite tool) to all the students with 4 of them having instructions to roleplay the 4 audience types and the rest being blank cards to keep the 2 readers unaware.

I asked the reading of the passage to begin and as it progressed the audience 'reacted' according to their roles. The readers managed to complete their task successfully and I asked them to point out the interfering audience members and the corresponding type that they were. I then asked these 4 roleplaying members of the audience to read out the justification for their behaviour (all plausible explanations of redeeming value) that were indicated on their index cards and asked the 2 readers if they felt as strongly about these disruptive individuals. Unsurprisingly, they were not as annoyed (albeit in a light-hearted manner) having known the reason behind the behaviour.

I then proceeded to the second round of the exercise which entailed inviting the 2 'sabo-ed' students to nominate one of their classmates to re-read the passage. The students once again had a fun time selecting the next 'victim' who duly took up his position. The students were again passed around index cards but this time, the instruction was targetted at all the students in order for them to act as a group.

Once the student began reading, I signalled from behind the reader for the class to either go "OHHH!" or start applauding. Although the student reading was caught off-guard by the reaction of the audience, he nevertheless maintained his composure and completed the task. I talked to the reader and confirmed with him that although he was expecting some interruptions as in the previous round, he did not quite expect the whole class to react.

I then proceeded to explain to the class the value of awareness, preparedness and focusing on the positives when identifying various audience-types. Finally, to reiterate the learning objectives as well as to assess their level of awareness, I furnished a simple worksheet to them in which they were to offer reasons that could explain the behaviour of the 4 audience types that were identified earlier. Each student was asked to complete the worksheet individually and all were collected. It was apparent that the students had been put in the right frame of mind and the following is a snapshot of one student's response that represents the class'.

Although this was hardly an in-depth workshop (limited due to the short amount of time), the essence of the lesson was communicated quite effectively and the students enjoyed their time in spite of it all being rushed (completed in 35 minutes).

In any case, I will be following up this workshop with another supplementary one in January for the same class, so this will give an excellent platform to extend the subject matter in detail.

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The Analogy Exercise

Well I conducted another 2 workshops at Singapore Polytechnic over the last 2 weeks and thought of sharing the lesson approach as several of my readers mentioned that they benefitted from the description of the previous workshop (Index Card Lesson) that I conducted.

As most of you might already know, I engineer creative lessons which get the students engaged in a fun activity, and these 2 latest workshops were no different. For the second workshop in the series (the next one after the Index Card Lesson), the objective was to inculcate the awareness and importance of structure when preparing presentations for clients.

The students needed to understand that not everything in the documentation ends up in the presentation and consequently also needed practice in sieving out the vital information to be presented as well.

After some thought, I came up with a simple idea that could help the students assess their projects in a different perspective whilst addressing the above needs. I created an activity in which the students would explain their project using an analogy. The basic premise was that the students would need to consider their project details and extract the key points to be translated into a description of a sport.

The analogy would limit the amount of info that could be brought over from the project specifications into the sport elements and it would also give the students an opportunity to visualise their projects in a different context.

I scaffolded the task, giving a structured example for their understanding of what was to be done and then allowed their creativity and sense of adventure take over. The students did not disappoint and the following are the analogies as presented by the 5 groups of students (click on image to read the students' work).

The students had a good time preparing the analogies and then the fun experience of sharing their analogies (lots of laughs here). And as can be clearly seen from the descriptions, they were able to think out of the box and produce quite interesting analogies overall.

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Monday, 17 November 2008

Excuse Me, Are You Deceased?

I subscribe to a survey portal called AIP Online Surveys where I do a few surveys occasionally when I am invited to, after which they give me some reward (using a points system). Well, I have encountered quite a number of errors - of grammar, language, and even logic at times - over the years but today's is the most hilarious that I've come across - so far.

A survey about 'Lifestyle', the questionnaire asked general questions on how often I travelled, my age (2 times - ??) , and familiarity with brands of cars, among other things. However, the question that really blew me away was the following, which I can only assume was asking if I was a widower. But before I arrived at this conclusion, the first thing that popped into my mind was - "how can a deceased person be taking this survey?"...

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Friday, 7 November 2008

The 'Index Card' Creativity Lesson

I conducted a workshop at Singapore Polytechnic today on incorporating visuals into presentation and, as part of the workshop, I produced an activity to get the students to create visual representations of issues close to their hearts. As the activity was well received, I thought it would be useful to share the idea with everyone.

Basically, the concept was inspired by a blog I read fairly regularly entitled Indexed. Adapting that idea of reducing various issues onto index card visuals, I got the students to group together and come up with the visuals on index cards supplied to them. After a bit of hesitation, the students really got going and came up with the following visuals...

Group 1 (above) included students who were quite lateral thinking (front row is an indicator perhaps?) and they used rulers to draw their graphs. The Venn Diagram (Enjoy Life) was interesting and the second visual was quite straightforward (age/maturity) - which I suggested could be turned into a bell curve to suggest that after a certain age, you become less mature (senile). The first visual above (trouble/women) was indeed humorous but as we discussed, all of us realised that it could be interpreted as (a) more women would translate into more problems, and as (b) when there is more trouble, you'd need more women to solve it!

Group 2 (above) included 3 quiet male students and they came up with pretty straightforward visuals on the facts of life (hair mass, drug addicition, travelling time, saying the wrong things).

Group 3 (above) comprised good-natured students who were more extroverted and naturally, their visuals reflected their off-beat humour. Interestingly, the trouble/teacher visual was similar to the trouble/women visual of the earlier group. Likewise, the interpretation that more teachers would be required when there was more trouble was suggested as an alternative here as well.

Group 4 (above) obviously explored the depth of the task and produced some creative visuals that told stories. Although the first visual seems abstract and arbitrary, the student was able to justify his creation by suggesting that it represented himself exorcising the evil elements of society. As for the other 2 visuals, the level of frustration and meaning was evident in their detail.

Group 5 (above) was relatively enthusiastic about the exercise and asked a few questions before embarking on their preparation. Notably, the theme was to communicate to the teacher/tutor the difficulties in getting to class (first visual - crowded train, 8pm timing) and to preferably keep lessons short (second visual - attention span/length of lecture). The final visual was an interesting play of using equations to 'logically' suggest that studying would lead to failure!

All in all, the students enjoyed the exercise and watching one another's creations being showcased (a Visualiser was used to flash the index cards on-screen). At the same time, the overall class response as each visual was flashed showed the students how some of the visuals did not create the intended impact, others were open to interpretation, and a few were remarkably funny, poignant and meaningful.

After everyone had a hearty laugh at the series of index cards, I linked back the lesson to the fundamentals of selecting visuals which had been discussed before the activity was conducted. Thus, the students were able to appreciate how these points came into play through the process of the activity.

I find that this activity can also be used to elicit thoughts, frustrations, opinions and ideas as it forces students to think of the relationships involved in various issues. Although this exercise was conducted in relation to a topic involving the use of visuals in presentation, it can just as easily be used as a means to generate content for a specific issue or agenda.

A point to note though is that for lower level students who may not understand how to reduce issues into such visual relationships, there might be a need to do 2 iterations of this exercise - a first round where they will learn how to create this type of visuals (by making mistakes and learning the process), and then the second round proper where they can incorporate creativity and purpose into the exercise to produce meaningful visuals.

Well, have fun using this little exercise and do leave a note here to let me know how it went for you, cheers!

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Halimah Gets Featured In Sunday Times

I was meaning to include a note about my wife's appearance in the Sunday Lifestyle a couple of weeks ago (on a good friend's birthday, in fact) and so here it is. Well, she was featured in the section Singapore Cooks for her Vegan Briyani recipe and the report included quite a large picture of her as well. Needless to say, I am extremely proud of her.

More lovely pictures of her culinary works of art are available on her blog, and if you like, you could also support her online vegan bakery (as good as the real thing, by the way).

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Friday, 17 October 2008

A Lesson In Statistics From ST

Wow, it's been a month already - how time flies when you're having fun.

In today's Straits Times, I came across an article on Page 2 of the Home Section that raised my eyebrows - 1.44 Million Read ST screamed the headline (note: this link will be dead if you're reading this more than a week after this entry was made - so you can read the PDF snapshot of the article here). I thought to myself, so 1.44 million readers actually bothered to contact ST to tell them so, not bad. I was further intrigued to find out how this feat of contacting 1.44 million people was done - especially since I was not contacted myself about this, and duly read the article.

Well, what actually happened was this - the Nielson Media Index 2008 was released yesterday or the day before. This Index uses a 'face-to-face survey' of 4,700 persons over the age of 15 to gather information and subsequently reports this finding (ie. how many feel this, how many agree with that etc.) through the Index. And in this Index (which I can't find and suspect must buy to read), the ST was quoted as being read by 39% of those surveyed - ie. 1,833 of the 4,700 persons said they read the ST.

Apparently, in last year's report (Nielson Media Index 2007), this percentage was quoted as 37.9%. So, using 39% - 37.9% = 1.1%, the real difference between the 2 years would be more or less 52 persons (1.1% of 4,700). However, this percentage could have also been reached if there had simply been more total respondents to begin with - ie. 1,833 of 4,836 = 37.9%. So, if there had been just 136 more persons surveyed last year as compared to this year, this 'increase' would not be an increase after all.

Interesting right? It gets better. The 1.44 million figure is 39% of 3.69 million 'consumers' (roughly 80% of the population since the survey was only for those aged 15 and older). The actual corresponding numerical figure for this 39% is 1,833 persons, which means each person in the survey acted on behalf of 784 other 'consumers'. Therefore, the '105,000 more readers' translates to just 133 real survey respondents.

Hey, the actual numbers don't seem as impressive, I hear you say? Well, that's the idea, isn't it? Instead of reporting the facts outright, the suggestive figures were reported glamourously. Any survey is only indicative with nothing to laud about, and even though 4,700 persons may very well be a large sample size, it is only representative of 0.12% of the intended target (that's LESS THAN ONE PERCENT mind you).

What would have been a better approach (better for the independent understanding of the reader that is) would be stating the respondent size (4,700) followed by just the percentage and/or respondent figures for each category (eg. 'ST readers comprised 39% or 1,833 of the respondents' and so on). Extrapolating the figures is for dramatic effect only and therefore should have been limited to a one-liner somewhere in the middle of the article.

Well, this concludes the lesson from ST. Remember, now you can just find any 100 strangers at Orchard Road, give them a sweet or freebie, then ask them to answer the question "Do you think I am a nice person?", collate the figure (which would be a 'yes' for almost all), get an official figure on shoppers at Orchard Road from somewhere (which should be in the millions), and finally proclaim, 'XXX is Liked by Millions of Shoppers at Orchard Road!' - ie. 90+% extrapolated to cover that official figure on shoppers.

I sincerely hope to find the Nielsen Media Index and have a look at it and also study the methodology used. But I am pretty sure that no one in the 4,700 respondents was a homeless person, an old aunty or uncle wiping tables, a person serving jail time, or a person at IMH. But of course the 1.44 million figure includes such persons by default.

Well, if anyone can point me to the source of these findings, please inform me so that I can update this entry with that information, thank you. In the meanwhile, do have fun manipulating statistical figures to make yourself look good.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Singapore Reality in Hell Boy 2?

The lack of proper updates during the past 3 weeks is largely due to the current projects on my plate coupled with the preparation of the necesary administrative details with regard to the release of my new book.

Well, recently I had the chance to watch Hell Boy 2 and although the movie itself was not that fantastic, an idea struck me when I saw one scene where the characters spoke a fictional language. The scene itself dealt with an issue somewhat similar to Singapore's political climate and I naturally felt it would make for some good satire.

Basically, the idea bore out of the ERP-Hitler Spoof that was circulated around not long ago. I managed to get a clip of the original scene and went about creating a 'Singaporean perspective' of the scene. I do think it makes for a good laugh and hope you agree. Of course, you might simply find this lame and if so, I'm terribly sorry.

I do hope you enjoy this at least somewhat and perhaps I will have a chance to do more of the same - it's pretty fun to create...

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Sunday, 24 August 2008

The 'Unofficial' Police Handbook

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you my first book - The 'Unofficial' Police Handbook. 3 years in the making - on top of my other projects, I have completed my 60-page insight on the elements of being a Police Officer. Meant to be both readable and informative to the layman whilst being exciting to fellow officers, I sincerely hope that it is accepted by one and all.

The E-Book preview contains the Preface, Chapter 1 and Chapter 9 (closing chapter) in full, so I hope that it gives a good overall indication of how good (or bad) the book is. After much research, I have decided to price the book between S$8 and S$10 - depending on the final cost of printing and marketing. However, I will be taking pre-orders for the book at S$7 a copy with the print release date set on (or before) 1st October 2008. Please drop me an email via the email link on the left or drop me an SMS at 90602206 to place your orders.

I encourage everyone to read the preview first and decide for yourself if it is worth your money to buy and read it. As those who know me would attest, it is not my style to ask anyone to 'support' this endeavour by buying the book for the sole reason of knowing me. I only ask the small favour of adding your opinion of the preview in the comments section of this entry - be they good or bad.

Front Cover

Back Cover

click icon for e-book preview

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Monday, 4 August 2008

Singapore Dissident Goes Awry?

As my 'regular reads' list on the left column testifies, I (used to) enjoy reading Mr Gopalan Nair's entries regarding the state of Singapore politics. I chanced upon his blog at least a year or two ago and have been reading his thoughts regularly, long before the ongoing debacle in Singapore occurred.

Although I felt it was unnecessary for him to come into Singapore and invite trouble in the first place, I felt that is was either a case of extreme silliness or political bravery - and very possibly a potent mix of both. I was not sure if his motivations were personal or patriotic but was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt notwithstanding.

As most of my readers know, I was formerly in the Police Force for 10 years and was attached to the Central Police Division for the duration of my career. For a major part of those 10 years, I was doing much work at the Little India vicinity by way of various assignments. I was therefore naturally tickled when Mr Nair chose to stay at the Broadway Hotel along Serangoon Road upon his arrival and even more intrigued when he was arrested for Disorderly Behaviour within that jurisdiction.

I immediately checked with Mr Nair's version on his blog, Singapore Dissident, and he claimed to have been followed and persecuted. I thought perhaps some ISD officers had been tracking his movements which led to the scuffle and subsequent arrest. However, a few days later, I happened to chat with one of my ex-colleagues and was told that he was actually arrested by 'normal' officers who were doing routine plainclothes patrol that night. In fact, some of the officers who arrested him are known to me personally.

I was informed that these officers did not know who Mr Nair was until he was brought back to the Police station. I have no reason to disbelieve this as I know that the officers involved are not that much interested in the (opposition) political climate - unless of course they are tasked to perform duties with regard to 'demonstrations', in which case they curse and swear.

That being the case, it is very highly probable that Mr Nair WOULD NOT have been arrested had the officers recognised who he was. I am certain that he was not singled out and had, on his own accord, invited trouble by banging on the bonnet of the Police car. In usual cases (from personal experience as well), Police Officers try to give the benefit of the doubt to abusive drunkards simply because; a) they are more of a nuisance than being criminals, and; b) they are a handful until they sober up - being a nuisance from arrest to lock-up till they eventually sober up. Not to mention, somewhere along the line, they will throw up (ie. vomit) and compound matters for evryone involved.

In Mr Nair's case, the level of tolerance would have been (much) higher had the officers known who he was from the beginning of the incident. Of course, this is not to say that he would not have gotten himself arrested anyway with his antics eventually. I would even go as far as to say that he must have been extremely violent and aggressive to have 'forced' the officers into arresting him.

Personally, I feel disappointed that he would choose to provoke officers and invite trouble for himself. In his latest entry regarding the ensuing court case, he also speaks of the court officials being reluctant to identify their full names. Although I find this immaterial to the matter of the case itself, he mentions the investigator, Mr S Vickneshwaran, using a false name, S Vicki. I have personally known this officer since 1995 and he has always gone by the name 'Vicki'. In fact, there is only one officer 'Vicky' in the whole of Central Police Division (more so for 'S Vicky') and it is definitely not a 'completely false name' as alleged by Mr Nair in that entry.

At best, he is nitpicking with regard to this issue and, at worst, he is intentionally disrupting proccedings with a sideshow. I am again disappointed with this behaviour which he could and should avoid. As things progress, I find that, overall, he is drumming up things unnecessarily and then claiming to be persecuted.

These officers are restricted by the OSA (Official Secrets Act) and will not be able to defend themselves directly unlike Mr Nair who can post everything on his blog. Although I am not fond of things as they are in Singapore, I refuse to just stand by and watch my friends and ex-colleagues, who are honest tax-payers themselves, and who perform their jobs with dignity and honour, be subjected to such unfounded accusations and baseless distortions of the truth.

The purpose of this post is to let everyone see the other side of the coin with regard to the Disorderly Behaviour incident involving Mr Gopalan Nair. The facts stated herein are as good as hearing from the officers involved themselves, thank you.

Mr Gopalan Nair (left) & Rochor NPC (right) - Where I Was Last Posted


Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The 'Checker' Goes National (well, sort of)

Some pleasant news today. The local free distribution bilingual read entitled My Paper has run a small story in today's issue about the Excel utility I created to check the suffix of NRIC/FIN numbers (see previous post). It's on Page 4 and I've uploaded the full PDF version of that page here for those interested. The article itself appears as below and is written by Ms Koh Hui Theng, a very nice and friendly journalist.

Later in the morning, I also received an SMS from a stranger asking where to download the utility. This person had searched online and came across my profile with my contact number and duly messaged me. Wow, I am quite touched that what I thought was a simple and insignificant thing turned out to be so helpful and useful to others.

Once again, I am thankful to th
e moderators of for choosing to feature this and My Paper for running the story as well. Special mention goes to all the commentors and reviewers who helped me to improve and correct the shortcomings of the 'checker'.

The ICA responded to the article to clarify that their iCheck was not the same as my NRIC Checker and attached below is their official reply that appeared in the 29th July issue of My Paper

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Monday, 7 July 2008

NRIC & FIN Number Suffix Checker

I am always having to deal with a lot of NRIC numbers in the course of my volunteer work with SINDA as a Centre Administrator at Pioneer STEP Centre. On one occasion recently, I was faced with one applicant who had entered his NRIC suffix incorrectly and I couldn't get through to the parent to verify.

Naturally, I turned to the internet for help and came across a few reverse-engineering findings of the algorithm used to calculate the suffix of our NRIC numbers. Whilst there is an 'exe' file for checking NRICs, I felt something non-intrusive such as an Excel document would be better. So, I have created one which can do the job and thrown in the checks for FIN numbers as well.

So here we go, the NRIC/FIN number checker

Licence is free to use (of course) but do credit the source of this particular creation (me) and I would appreciate if the contents were left unchanged, thanks.

For those interested, all the identification numbers use the Modulo 11 Checksum algorithm with the NRIC S-series corresponding to the FIN F-series (each uses a different set of suffix letters). The NRIC T-series just shifts the letters by four spaces from the S-series as does the FIN G-series from the F-series.

Finally, a word of caution. NRIC and FIN numbers are sensitive information and I do not endorse the use of this document for criminal, illegal or any non-genuine purpose.

After a call I received from one 'less than satisfied customer' who used the NRIC Checker, I realised that the following information is necessary. Please do not save the file at any point. There are formulas within the Excel document to calculate the values and display the appropriate suffix. However, if the cells with the formulas are altered, then obviously the checker will not function as it should.

If you find that the suffix is no longer being displayed whilst in use, simply close the file - click 'No' when asked to save the file - and then reopen it to try again. If at all the Checker does not seem to function at all, then delete the file completely and download a fresh copy to try again.

I have verified the file integrity and am certain that it works accurately.

Update ++:
As the comments section show, I was advised to protect the document in order to avoid problems for users - which I have duly done. So for those with the Midas Touch with regard to messes, well this should solve the problem. The only cells that can now be accessed in the protected state are the cells where you would need to enter the digits of the NRIC/FIN number, enjoy (hopefully).

Update +++:
From the kind contribution (see comments) of a reader, Nighthound, the 'checker' now includes vehicle registration numbers as well!

This entry has also been featured on the highly-popular so I guess I'm a little (in)famous now, hahaha. Thanks to the moderators jseng and Agagooga for approving this post as worthy.

Update (Bug Fix):
Take note that there was a bug in the original checker such that the suffix 'I' and 'J' (S-series) would not appear, with the corresponding suffix letters for the other series affected as well. Due to an alert from Nighthound, I was able to correct the errors and the latest file appears on this blog. I truly apologise for the oversight and humbly ask anyone who finds any further bugs to either email me or leave a comment here, thank you.

Update (Bug Fix 2):
Not really a bug fix but more of an upgrade. From Kervin's advice (see comments below), I have incorporated an error check such that when more than one digit is input into one box, there is a message asking to check.

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Sunday, 8 June 2008

Mas Selamat NOT In Nirwana Gardens Resort, Bintan, Indonesia

With the hectic lifestyle we lead, Hali and I decided to get our minds off and focus on the wider national issue of the fugitive Mas Selamat (MS). We mooted the idea to our good friends, Jai and Charu, who's marriage anniversary was just around the corner. Having applied for leave during the weekend of 1st June right up to their anniversary date of 3rd June, they were more than happy to join us on our mission.

So, a week before the intended departure, we looked up Holiday Bagus, which was offering packages for the Indra Maya Villas at Nirwana Gardens Resort. We spoke with the very helpful Faridah there and within the next few days, secured a 3D2N package to the sea-view villa, Blowfish 4, with complimentary breakfast for 4 persons on 2 days, and inclusive of ferry tickets to and fro, for the price of S$1,480 nett.

No Sign of MS at Bintan Ferry Terminal

The weekend arrived soon enough and a quick 45 minute ferry journey from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on the Indera Bupala later, we found ourselves being received by the Nirwana Gardens staff at Bintan Ferry Terminal. Another 15 minutes on the road in a mini-bus found us arriving at the Mayang Sari reception which handles the check-in for the Indra Maya Villas.

At about 4.30pm (SG), we were watching the view of the sea from the living room of our villa with a private swimming pool in between. We searched the villa itself thoroughly and while there was a set of complimentary drinks in the fridge, complimentary tea and coffee sachets in the kitchen and a complimentary fruit basket in the living room, there was so sign of MS. Our friends searched the extravagant main bedroom as it was their anniversary weekend and we took charge of the second bedroom which was quite simple in layout by comparison - no luck finding him there as well.

No Sign of MS Swimming in the Sea

'Elevated' Search of Shoreline

Spacious Living Room

The Main Bedroom

Sunken Bath Outside Main Bedroom

Second Bedroom

We then decided that the next best thing to do would be to search the swimming pool and all 4 of us jumped in. Our preliminary search revealed no traces as well. After scanning the sea view whilst soaking ourselves in the pool, we decided to search other areas of the resort. We all had a quick shower - separately of course - and jumped into our 'fast response buggy' (standard issue for each villa) to continue our search for MS.

False Alarm: Foot Spotted is My Own

5 minutes later, we arrived at the Kelong Restaurant and decided to search there. In order not to seem out of place, we ordered a seafood dinner that included plain rice, fried rice, steamed Garoupa, Tom Yam soup, chilli chicken with water-chestnut, a beancurd dish, and a vegetable dish. Although the dinner was sumptuous, it wasn't a stellar spread and the price of S$109 nett was a tad pricey, to say the least. Unsurprisingly, MS was nowhere to be seen there and we left for the villa to prepare our next course of action.

The Kelong Restaurant

Acting Naturally Inside

Once we were back in our villa, we decided to keep our minds focused by watching an action film on the DVD player and discussing our lives. As Charu was not feeling well (but the most committed to this mission among the 4 of us), we decided to have a good night's rest at 1.00am (SG).

The next morning, before heading to Mayang Sari's Spice Restaurant for our buffet breakfast, Hali and I decided to sweep the perimeter of the pool to make sure there was no breach of security. Apart from some clandestine squirrels and lizards mating, everything else was perfect.

Perimeter Sweep

At the Spice Restaurant, the buffet breakfast was adequate but not quite what we expected. Some continental fare such as chicken sausages, french toast, croissants and potatoes, as well as local Asian fare such as Nasi Lemak, porridge and chicken rendang were noted in the spread, though some sparrows were observed sneaking in to snatch unattended pieces of cake along the buffet line.

A heavy downpour appeared before we could finish our breakfast and we held back from continuing our search slightly due to this. However, within one hour from the start of the rain, the sun was up and the beach was back to its original condition. We surveyed the beach area in front of Mayang Sari and also the nearby Nirwana Gardens Resort Hotel vicinity which had some wildlife exhibits of eagles, an owl, a vulture, some crocodiles and some pythons among others. Jai and I also took the time to strategise using a life-sized chess set whilst at the Resort Hotel.

Heavy Rain Hindering Our Search

An Hour Later, Pristine Beach

Underwater Search

Jai Had the Better Strategy

Resort Hotel Patrol

We returned to the villa after this recce late in the afternoon and decided to investigate the beach directly in front of the villa. We literally left no stone unturned in our search and pored over hermit crabs on the relatively virgin beach and drifted through the nearby foliage as well. When we returned from this expedition, we felt that some pool-searching would be a good idea and we jumped in couple-by-couple till sundown.

Searching the Rock Face

Horizon Vigil

Practising to Spear in Case MS Tries to Run

Going Right Up to the Water to Check

Leaving Our Mark to Intimidate MS

Keeping Watch Till Sunset from the Pool

We then decided to proceed to the Aryan Thai Restaurant for the night time search operation and was invited by a posh ambience within. The prices looked comparable to that of the Kelong Restaurant's menu and we were happy. However, when the dishes arrived, we realised that the portions were ridiculously small, and by comparison, were only half of what we were served at the Kelong Restaurant.

Although the food was rich and relatively authentic Thai cuisine, the portions were disappointing and all of us felt quite cheated. We wondered if MS had a hand in this deceit, but it seemed unlikely that the staff were in collusion with the fugitive. We made a mental note to order room service later should we become hungry and left the posh diner S$121 nett poorer.

More Expensive Dinner but only Half Filled

Back at the villa, we watched another movie until around 11.30pm (SG) when Hali and I suggested that we proceed to the Calypso bar, which was at the end of the jetty off the Kelong Restaurant, for a surprise check there. We arrived shortly before midnight with no sign of MS there. We ordered a drink each, played a few rounds of UNO and watched the huge collection of stars as we crossed into Jai and Charu's wedding anniversary date after midnight. Soon after, as the bar was about to close, we brought our drinks back to the room (special request) to finish and retired for the night thereafter.

Celebrating their 8th Year Anniversary at Calypso

On our second morning, the routine had been set and soon, we had our breakfast ritual completed at the Spice Restaurant. The spread was worse than the previous day and the replenishing was slow. After breakfast, we decided to scout the beach off Mayang Sari thoroughly for any signs of MS swimming or sunbathing. Our scouting, of course, included wading in the water as it came crashing onto the shore. After this search, we also ventured to The Viewpoint which offered a good vantage point overlooking the Mayang Sari chalets but MS could not be sighted there as well.

Border Patrol Duty

Checking Splash Safety

Confirming Splash Safety

Panorama of Mayang Sari

As it was hot, upon returning to the villa, all of us could not help but dip into the pool to make one final sweep. Although the checkout time was 12pm (INDO), we endured with our search until 11.55am (INDO). Unfortunately, before we could shower and pack up, the staff were already at our doorstep waiting. They waited several minutes for us to finish packing and we finally left our villa at about 12.30pm (INDO).

Not MS in Disguise

The checkout process at Mayang Sari was a breeze and the return back to Singapore was a mere (sad) formality. No doubt, we wished to stay on and keep searching for MS but alas, we had to return to our daily commitments in Singapore. Nevertheless, having established that MS is not at the Nirwana Gardens Resort of Bintan, we strive to return regularly to ensure that he does not make his way there in future.

The Staff Made to Wait Also Asked to Take Last Photo

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Saturday, 24 May 2008

Negotiating With Starhub - A Successful Case Study

I have been using Starhub services for quite a bit of time now and it has not always been smooth-sailing. There have been times when the reception totally disappeared and I had to wait for an hour or so to get it back - I believe this was the time they were migrating from 2G to 3G. Then, there are times when my internet connection goes ridiculously slow (more often) and/or totally dies (a handful of occasions). Usually, this throws my schedule haywire - my work is highly dependent on internet connectivity, especially when the customer support can only offer me a cryptic "it may take anything from a few hours to a day" followed by "our technicians are looking into it now".

I have taken all this in my stride because - to quote the now (in)famous words, "what to do. it has happened". The only service from Starhub that was not affected in all these years was the CableTV - and then it happened.

I am a fairly avid soccer fan. I watch the major competitions and reasonably follow the major leagues (English, Spanish, Italian, German). Naturally, for the World Cup in 2006, I took up the offer to pay an additional S$10.70 to receive the coverage by Starhub. Similarly, for the Euro 2008, I intended to take up the offer as well.

However, unlike 2006, this year I did not receive a mailer to inform me to sign up for the S$10.70 promotion. And by the time I got around to visiting the Starhub website to check, I realised that the promotional period (early bird thing) had ended, and I would only be able to enjoy the coverage at double the cost - S$21.40. With prices everywhere going up, I saw no reason to pay double for the privilege of watching Euro 2008.

Nevertheless, I wanted to find out what Starhub could do for me - a loyal customer who has a credit balance (ie. Starhub will have to return me money if I terminate) in his account to the tune of about S$500. Thus, I dropped them a feedback query through their website as follows.
I was awaiting the letter from Starhub offering the EURO 2008 coverage at $10.70 (as for the World Cup in 2006) but did not receive any notification. I have just realised that the special price offer expired on 12 May 2008 and it would now cost me double the amount to take up the coverage. If Starhub is inclined to offer me, a loyal customer of several years who has a CREDIT balance of over $500 in his broadband account with it, the preferential rate of $10.70, then I will be keen to take up the EURO 2008 coverage package, otherwise I will forego the opportunity to watch the competition, thank you. - 22/05/2008 2:06:37 PM
I didn't think much of it and felt that it was pretty much a case of either wanting to indulge me or not, and so was slightly annoyed with the unfeeling 'standard' response I received 24 hours later.
Thank you for your e-mail of 22 May 2008. We regret to inform you that the early bird offer for the Season pass has ended on 12 May 2008. We wish to inform you that you can sign up for STARHUB UEFA EURO 2008™ Season Pass at $21.40 now and stand a chance to win a HubStation daily. This promotional contest will end on 31 May 2008. If you have any questions on our services, please e-mail us at this address or fax in to +65 6725 1603. Best regards, Wong Boon Chai, Customer Affairs. - May 23, 2008 2:10 PM
As if I did not know this already. I thought it was quite clear that I acknowledged the fact of the matter and the question was would Starhub be willing to bend over backwards (a bit) for me, a loyal customer. Such replies certainly deserve a sarcastic response, so I shot one back the moment I read the reply.
Thank you for your reply. In my initial query to you, I acknowledged that I am fully aware of the expiry of the early bird promotion on 12 May 2008. It was wonderful of you to notify me this notwithstanding. Please confirm if a mailer was sent out to me, which was what I was looking out for to begin with. As my contention is that I was not duly informed of the promotion, I am not prepared to pay $21.40 (or, in other words, double) now for the opportunity to watch Euro 2008.

If I am counted as one of the valued customers of Starhub, then some arrangement should be made to recognise this 'value'. After all, we are talking about an amount of $10+ which to a large company like Starhub is surely an insignificant price to placate a loyal customer of several years - customer since 2000, Hub Club member, and, a total of 4 mobile lines, one fixed line, CableTV & Broadband for my residential address.

If no effort is taken on the part of Starhub, then I will take it that this is how it views its customers and consider switching to a competitor at the next available opportunity. I am disappointed that Starhub does not value its customers and will let my friends and family know as such, thank you. - 23/05/2008 4:14:18 PM
Of course, in most cases, such a response would invite hostility but, in this case, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from another Officer, Lim Song Yee, within 15 minutes of sending the email, to inform me that after further review, Starhub would give me the promotional rate of S$10.70 after all. I was quite happy to take up the offer which was confirmed in writing not moments later via email.
Thank you for your e-mail of 23 May 2008. We refer to our telephone conversation earlier. We wish to inform you that we have made an exception and added the STARHUB UEFA EURO Season Pass to your subscription as you have requested. The early bird charge of $10.70 (w/GST) will be shown in your next invoice. You will receive the acknowledgement letter with the channel details at your service address. If you have any questions on our services, please e-mail us at this address or fax in to +65 6725 1603. Best regards, Lim Song Yee, Customer Affairs. - May 23, 2008 4:40 PM
At the end of it, a happy resolution was reached (like Pedra Banca but without the drama?) and I applaud Starhub for getting it right. However, the point of the matter may be that individual officers within the same organisation may react very differently to situations and where the first officer offered a very unsatisfactory response, the second officer managed to get the job done extremely well within a mere half hour. Accordingly, I ended the correspondence with Starhub with some kind words.
Thank you indeed for the pleasant surprise of your call. I am not sure how and why Mr Wong (the initial officer who emailed me) could not exercise the initiative and decisive action that you so clearly displayed in the first place, but nevertheless, I appreciate your prompt resolution of the matter in a mere half hour from my reply. Sincerely, I do feel appreciated as a customer and Starhub can certainly look forward to my patronage for years to come. Accordingly, if you require a testimonial with regard to this incident for any internal or corporate purpose at all, feel free to request for one from me - I will be more than happy to provide you with the same.

In the meanwhile, I would like to go on record as saying that it is staff such as you, Mr Lim Song Yee, that can bring an organisation like Starhub further forward. Thank you for the experience and I now look forward to relating this positive occurrence to others - and to watch Euro 2008 as well! - 23/05/2008 5:06:54 PM
I guess the purpose of relating this incident is for some of you to be inspired to push ahead with demands, complaints and seeking resolutions in spite of not much success; and also to help others determine if Starhub's service and support is reasonable enough - good luck and good night.

image source:


Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Glasnost Project Suggests BitTorrent Blocking By Starhub

The Glasnost Project which is a study by some German researchers on broadband networks released a preliminary report on 15th May 2008 of the findings with regard to the manipulation of BitTorrent traffic. The report was based on the 8,000 people from all around the world who have participated thus far, of which 70 'brave souls' were from Singapore.

The results were nothing surprising with 9 ISPs from USA practising blocking behaviour of BitTorrent traffic. However, what is very surprising is that our dear Starhub is the biggest culprit outside of the US who blocks BitTorrent traffic. Out of the 70 users from Singapore who participated in the test, 45 were using a Starhub connection with 26 of them being blocked. The rest of the Singapore-based users' traffic provided by 5 other ISPs was not blocked.

Overall, in comparison to the whole world, Comcast of USA was found to have blocked 491 out of 788 connections (62.3%), Cox of the USA was found to have blocked 82 out of 151 connections (54.3%) and Starhub was found to have blocked 26 out of 45 connections (57.8%). That means Starhub is quite possibly the second or third 'worst' ISP in the world to use as far as BitTorrent file transfer is concerned.

image source: P2Pnet
(reproduced from original source)

Essentially, these findings do fit nicely with anecdotal evidence from various Starhub users who often complain that their BitTorrent downloads are not as fast as when compared to users of other ISPs who are downloading the same file at the same time.

What surprises me though is that the local media do not seem to have picked up on this in the last week with no reports to be found on the local scene. Inversely, the results have been reported and/or discussed in renowned international media outlets such as The New York Times and The Inquirer. I think this is a relatively important issue (some have called this a scandal, in fact) that should be discussed openly with some (if not a full) explanation provided. If Starhub is indeed blocking BitTorrent activity, then what other interferences could there be in our online experience, I wonder.

Granted I could just pose this question to Starhub directly, but as any Starhub customer will tell you - the prices may be comparatively cheaper as far as their services go but when you pay relative peanuts, you get relative monkeys - their customer service is absolute rubbish most of the time.

Hence, I would rather post here for all to see and think for themselves whilst waiting for the momentum to (hopefully) build up before Starhub finally answers publicly. Well, isn't that how our corporations like to handle things anyway - right after the shit hits the fan?

Footnote: Temasek Holdings has a 56.97% 'deemed interest' in Starhub.

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