MSO tackling the problem of uneven grass patches

From ‘Government looking to coordinate grass-cutting services in public spaces’, 10 Dec 14, article in CNA

The Government is looking into consolidating grass-cutting services in public spaces. The Municipal Services Office, set up in October, said it is acting on feedback to better coordinate public services for residents.

…The Pang Sua Park Connector in Choa Chu Kang is a popular spot for many, but some have noticed that grass in the area is not evenly cut. Grass-cutting services for this strip along the park connector is managed by NParks. However, across a drain, such services for the plot of land is managed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). The uneven length is due to the agencies having different schedules for grass cutting.

Ms (Grace) Fu said: “(The person who raised the issue) felt it is sometimes a little bit strange where certain parts seem to be cut well, not the others, and also because some parts that are not cut frequently enough, it actually affected his experience of the park. So I think that we should take such feedback seriously, and we are looking for areas where we can systematically resolve issues rather than just do it on a case-by-case basis.”

The first order of business for the newly formed MSO is not handling difficult neighbours in a HDB estate, who should clean up collapsed trees or who should catch mynahs, but to tend to ugly looking grass patches because someone complained that his ‘park experience’ was affected by differing lengths of ground foliage  (#firstworldproblems). As a Garden City, having a uniformly green landscape is top priority, of course. You don’t want to instill mass panic in the general public by giving the impression that the drought is upon us once again because some patches look sparser than others. I suppose some people are more concerned about the state of the nation’s grass than their own public hair. Your wall-punching, Teo Chee Hean-dissing, nuisance neighbour from hell can wait, even if it takes 5 years. Grass takes precedence.

In the past, there’s nothing more terrifying than uncut, 1m long grass. People were afraid of snakes lurking within them, or you could step on dogshit without knowing it. Most of the time, however, our problem lies not with the grass itself, but the people paid to trim the green to maintain this tidy ‘park’ atmosphere. Grass-cutters were blamed for propelling rocks onto unwitting passers-by or cracking car windows, or even almost amputating legs off with their deadly hand-held cutters. When we get pricked by a stray twig that sprang wildly off those whirly blades of death, we curse contractors for employing reckless foreigner grasscutters or using a tool that would make them as hazardous as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and we curse them again if they’re not doing a proper job ensuring that not one blade of grass is taller than the other,  because we’re so used to seeing soothing, homogenous open spaces that the thought of one weed of lallang hanging out of place is enough to send us into cataleptic shock. Like when you order ice kacang and only one side of the slope has condensed milk but not the other.

In the meantime, uncles are running riot with their electric scooters, joggers are breaking their ankles tripping over protruding stones, and nobody’s picking up that fishball stick straddling the MRT track and park connector. Some people just don’t like the idea of the grass being greener on the other side, I guess. Next on the agenda, coordinating the management of fallen leaves so that we won’t have a situation where we have neat piles on one side of the pavement, and an unsightly orgy of scattered leaves on the other.

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Julien Blanc banned from entering Singapore

From ‘Pickup artist Blanc denied entry into Singapore’, 26 Nov 2014, article by Yvonne Lim, Today

Self-proclaimed pick-up artist Julien Blanc will not be allowed to enter Singapore, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

The decision was made following a petition by a Singaporean woman to bar Mr Blanc, who recently made headlines when his visa was revoked in Australia, from entering the Republic.

In a joint statement today (Nov 26), the ICA and MSF said that Mr Blanc will be denied entry, especially if he was here to hold seminars or events that propagate violence against women or to participate in other objectionable activities in Singapore.

“Blanc has been involved in seminars in various countries that advised men to use highly abusive techniques when dating women. Violence against women or any persons is against Singapore law,” the statement said.

In 1970, the government banned all foreign ‘hippies’ from entering Singapore because they cause ‘social pollution’. Drugs and nudism aside, these deviants were also known to sport long hair and shaggy beards, though they may hold degrees in economics, electronic engineering or even pharmacy (which explains the drugs).  Legendary Japanese musician Kitaro was barred from entering Singapore in 1984 for his flowing mane and looking like a wandering ascetic. We have zero tolerance against convicted junkies, such as Australian journalist Peter Gerard Llyod in 2009, members of wacky religious cults, like the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, or the Moonies (1983), and especially IMF/World Bank activists, who may pose a ‘security threat’ to our peaceful nation. Yet, we’re exceedingly accomodating to ruthless, corrupt African dictators with health problems like Robert Mugabe.

Julien Blanc isn’t a hippie nor is he even half as cool as Kitaro. A self-professed PUA (pick up artist) inspired by Neil Strauss’ notorious dating book ‘The Game’,  he evangelises ‘dating’ advice and charges the aspiring ladies’ man $67 USD to get a ‘GF/F-buddy’, among other predatory skills in his ‘PIMP’ programme, like ‘destroying her Bitch Shield’, and overcoming ‘Approach Anxiety’. Singaporean men are not known for being smooth with the ladies, but give us credit for debunking modern Casanovas who specialise in making women submit to their brand of animal magnetism with physical restraint and chokeholds, because that’s what you need to resort to if you’re an ugly, desperate twat. Still, I doubt Blanc would actually sexually assault anyone here without having the police clamping down on his unquenchable mojo. The only ‘dangerous’ idea he seems to be propagating is that one can make a living out of being a complete, unabashed jerk.

Blanc’s banned not because of any risk of ‘social pollution’, nor is he here to turn Singaporeans against the PAP 0r make us worship some charismatic loony messiah, but because this proud country has no room for a prick of this magnitude. On second thought, maybe we should let him in for a day or two, lure him into a nightclub and then into a torture chamber full of AWARE members waiting to dig their sharpened heels into his bloated manhood.

Nuisance neighbour not opening door for Teo Chee Hean

From ‘Hand wringing over neighbour from hell’, 24 Nov 2014, article by Joyce Lim, ST

The authorities have drawn a blank in efforts to deal with a nuisance neighbour who is said to have plagued a Pasir Ris block for more than five years. Residents of Block 612 at Elias Road claim Mr Liew Chien Siong, 33, is responsible for round-the-clock noise, leaving items dangling dangerously outside his flat and assaulting a neighbour’s son.

Two households even plan to move out because of the noise. Numerous complaints have been made to the Housing Board, Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council and police – to no avail.

“Even when our MP Teo Chee Hean came, he also refused to open his door,” said Mr Ismail Jan, 64, who lives in a unit above Mr Liew’s. He told The Straits Times that Mr Liew, who lives alone on the second storey, bangs on his walls and ceiling at all hours with what sounds like a solid object. He added: “Police came but said they have no authority to force open the door. I don’t know how long I have to suffer this.” All three agencies told The Straits Times they have received complaints but have been unable to contact Mr Liew.

Mr Siew Wen Chang, property manager at the town council, said it “manages only common property” and therefore the HDB and police must deal with the occupant as “the noise is within the flat”. In August, the town council cordoned off an area below the unit after it spotted a blind dangling outside the kitchen window.

The neighbour from hell is yet another example of PM Lee’s proverbial fishball stick analogy. The police can’t barge in guns ablazing and the town council won’t do anything about this ‘internal noise’ even though everyone else has been terrorised by it for 5 years, to the point that even the building’s structural integrity needed to be checked after all the banging and shaking. To show that they’re genuinely concerned for public safety, the town council even placed a token barricade in case Mr Liew’s dangling blind turns into killer litter. I don’t see such special arrangements for residents with potted plants hanging precariously form their window ledges. Why stop there, how about giving away free mufflers for distressed neighbours? Or maybe a pirate’s eyepatch just like what some of our ‘relevant authorities’ wear on a daily basis?

Are the authorities AFRAID of some guy who goes around dressed in army uniform and quite clearly a nutcase? Is he a soldier gone rogue trained by some secret militia with the ability to despatch an entire SWAT squadron if it had to come to that stage when tactical infiltration is the only resort? The HDB really ought to roll up their sleeves and flex some legal muscle instead of going around roping in mediators to possibly try and talk some sense into this menace to society, or at least get staff from IMH to assess if he needs to be tranquilised or put in a strait jacket. Now that Liew’s snubbed even the DPM himself, it will be utterly useless sending down inspector, social worker, MSO officer, or even the goddamn Chief of Army to put a stop to this potentially violent madness. Short of slipping a smoke bomb under his door or getting the CIA to go undercover as pizza delivery boys, HDB may want to consider the more rational tool of EVICTION.

In 1980, exactly such a tough stance was taken against any family who ‘persists in encouraging or supporting acts’ of housing block vandalism. A man who threw a VCR out of his window was evicted by HDB in 1984, in addition to being jailed a month for killer litter. You could even get kicked out of your HDB flat if you sublet your room to Thai prostitutes, or engage in ‘religious activities‘ such as setting up an entire temple or a cult seance within your house. If we were back in the 80’s, Mr Liew would have been booted out long before Teo Chee Hean even needed to step in. Instead of banging walls all day long, he’d be out there roaming the streets longing for a wall to even lean on. Has HDB, gasp, gone SOFT over the years? That it would allow someone to play a ‘Greatest Accordion Hits’ CD at full blast 24 hours a day without serving even a warning letter?

Probably not. Just 2 years ago, a HDB bully got an eviction notice, with full endorsement from Minister Tan Chuan Jin, for abusive acts of spitting, soiling laundry and vandalism. In 2013, a dog-crazy woman was evicted because her pets’ piss and shit caused a massive stench and were barking all night long. What will it take for HDB to use the whip of justice on Liew? For a distraught neighbour to go bonkers from the noise and start attacking Liew with a chopper? Or will we have to send in the artillery and wrecking ball to coax him out of his demonic fortress, at the risk of collateral damage? Will we be forced to demolish an entire building to eliminate one man-sized cockroach?

Now that TCH made his move but failed, it’s unlikely that another minister or MP will up the ante and make our DPM look bad. Maybe it’s time to send in THIS guy, who’ll probably do a better job than some shitty barrier underneath a window.

UPDATE: Liew was eventually arrested under section 7 of the Mental Health Act and referred to IMH for psychiatric assessment (Mental health check for Pasir Ris neighbour from hell, 28 Nov 14, ST).

Tuition in Singapore is a billion-dollar industry

From ‘$1 billion spent on tuition in 1 year’, 9 Nov 2014, article by Theresa Tan, Sunday Times

Singapore’s tuition industry is now worth more than a billion dollars. The latest Household Expenditure Survey found that families spent $1.1 billion a year on tuition – almost double the $650 million spent a decade ago and a third more than the $820 million spent just five years ago.

The Department of Statistics, which polled more than 11,000 households between October 2012 and September last year, released the latest survey in September. The average household spending on tuition rose from $54.70 a month 10 years ago, to $79.90 in the latest survey.

The department told The Sunday Times that along with spending more, there were also more households in the latest study – 1.2 million compared with 993,000 a decade ago.

Some parents are known to pump in almost $6K a month on tuition for their kids. That’s more than what the average household spends on food ($1188/mth), transport($811), clothes/shoes ( $156) and recreation, including holidays, ($292) COMBINED in 2012-2013 (12 interesting trends about Singapore household income and spending, Sep 18, 2014, ST). Now a billion dollar industry that has naturally spawned copycats and scammers,  this amount speaks volumes about how tuition has taken precedence even over some of the bare necessities of life for some Singaporeans. We are no longer just a Tuition Nation. We are tuition JUNKIES.

All this despite PM Lee’s assertion that the PSLE is not the be-all and end-all in 2012, and after the Ministry ceased announcing top scorers in the exam. This year, PM Lee again reiterated that there’s ‘too much tuition’ going on in Singapore, quite the understatement really. In 1981, tuition was already a million-dollar ($52 million) goldmine, with parents spending up to $125 a month. A 2009 survey revealed that 85% of students between 13-19 spend FOUR HOURS per week on tuition, that’s excluding hours spent on CCAs.  The number of tuition/enrichment centres also jumped from 750 in 2012 to 850 this year. And that’s counting only those registered with MOE (Tuition seen as ‘necessity’ for students to do well, 2 Sep 2014, ST), and excluding private tutors.  How many are out there under the Ministry’s radar operating out of a house in Lentor? How many are earning big bucks like millionaire super Physics tutor Phang Yu Hon? ( The other lucrative subjects taught by super-tutors are JC economics, Math and General Paper). If you’re an aspiring tutor aiming to bank on this national addiction, you’ll never get anywhere teaching Geography or, god forbid, Literature.

In fact, there are so many centres business owners have to resort to bad spelling to differentiate themselves, like Beautyful Minds . Some are not even just ‘classrooms’ anymore. We have ‘STUDIOS, HUBS, LABS and MUSEUMS’, and there are centres that even decide the career path of your kids before they complete primary school, like Little Professors. Or those that promise to groom you into a business powerhouse through ‘leadership skills’. Some parents even go out of their way to attend courses themselves on how to get their KIDS to ace the PSLE. You’d be a total disappointment to your tuition-happy parents if you grew up to be a ‘hawker-preneur’, boy.

But it’s not just the traditional subjects (Mandarin, Maths, Physics) that require tuition. We have tuition for pre-school,  tuition for sports, and tuition for ABACUS. I mean, who needs a calculator or a smartphone if you have magic BEADS to perform your daily practical arithmetic, like finding out how much Mommy spends a month sending you to enrichment classes, or counting the number of precious hours of your miserable life slipping away when you could be out there in the sun learning how to ride a bike or knowing what flowers really smell like. Or if you’re the kind who actually begged your parents for tuition, the hours wasted in that useless institution known as SCHOOL.

‘Lau Pa Sat’ in Tamil can be used to curse people

From ‘STB to correct Lau Pa Sat and tighten translation process’, 7 Nov 2014, article by Chew Hui Min, ST

The Lau Pa Sat sign which was incorrectly translated has been removed and will be corrected, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said in a statement on Friday. STB also said that it will tighten the process of translating its brown signs, which indicate tourist attractions or landmarks.

“We had notified the operator and they had taken immediate steps to remove the sign and work on correcting the translation,” Ms Ranita Sundramoorthy, director of attractions, dining and retail said in the statement, referring to the erroneous Lau Pa Sat sign.

She added that the board will ensure the new sign is checked by language experts. A photo of the sign, which translated “Sat” as “Sani” or Saturday in Tamil, was being circulated on social networks. The word can have a negative connotation, and can be used to curse people.

Mr Samikannu Sithambaram, president of the Singapore Tamil Teachers’ Union, told The Straits Times on Thursday that the mistake could have come about because the translators thought that “Sat” in Lau Pa Sat was a truncation of “Saturday”.

SAT you, STB

SAT you, STB

Notice that this brown sign has Chinese, Tamil and Japanese on it, but no Malay. Contrast the selection of languages with other tourist attraction ‘brown signs’, such as East Coast Park, which has Malay, Japanese but no Tamil. There are inconsistencies elsewhere. Sri Krishnan Temple has no Malay or Japanese, while Little India has Malay, Chinese, Japanese but not Tamil. The image next to the Lau Pa Sat text doesn’t look like Lau Pa Sat at all, more like the Supreme Court dome. Why didn’t anyone spot this glaring error instead?

According to ST, the Tamil translation for ‘Sat’, or ‘Sani’, is also a reference to ‘Satan’, the only diabolical connection to the Lord of Darkness being that Lau Pa Sat is owned by food court conglomerate Kopitiam. Other Tamil speakers from the ST FB page were quick to clarify that ‘Sani’ refers to the planet ‘Saturn’. This isn’t the first time STB made a mess of their promotional material, summoning the Devil or otherwise. In 2002, the Hungry Ghost Festival was translated in Chinese to ‘HUNGARY Ghost festival’.

I’m not sure if Tamil is notoriously difficult to translate, but getting lost in translation has haunted Tamil linguists for more than a century. In 1940, a slogan on signboards campaigning for people to grow their own vegetables for ‘health and victory’ was read as ‘Unless you grow vegetables we shall lose the war’. Or maybe that was secretly intended to serve as war propaganda to rally Indians into amassing combat rations for our comrades. A Malay song in 1952 titled ‘A yoyo Ramasamy’ riled some Indians because it translated into derogatory lyrics describing labourers who ‘drink toddy and get intoxicated’.  In 1989, a multi-lingual No-smoking sign on a TIBS bus was slammed because it contained a nonsensical Tamil word. You also don’t see Tamil subtitles for English movies on national TV, or hear any of the PMs in the 60-year history of the PAP speak a single full sentence of it during their National Day Rallies. It can be a problem too if you even attempt to anglicise Tamil. Some years back Bread Talk were accused of mocking the race and language by naming one of their creations ‘Naan the Nay’, which probably has the same racial connotations as someone mocking Mandarin with ‘Ching Chong Ching Chong’.

But it’s not just STB who deserves Hell for their laziness in translation. NHB made a more humiliating mistake previously by translating Bras Basah in Chinese to the literal ‘bras’ (undergarments) on their Night Festival website. They soon made a ‘clean breast’ of it and fixed the atrocity. I wonder if STB has a brown sign for Sim Lim Square. Now if that were translated into Satan’s Square because of its reputation of scamming tourists out of their hard earned money and forcing people to get down on their knees and wail to the gods, they wouldn’t be that far off.

MBS food court chicken rice stall infested with cockroaches

From ‘NEA to take action against Marina Bay Sands stall for cockroach infestation’, 11 Oct 2014, article in CNA

The National Environment Agency (NEA) will be taking enforcement action against a chicken rice stall at the foodcourt at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) for cockroach infestation.

In a statement on Saturday (Oct 11), NEA said it has found cockroach infestation at the stall in the 1983 – A Taste of Nanyang foodcourt. The foodcourt has voluntarily closed since Tuesday evening (Oct 7) for cleaning and pest control treatment, in the wake of customer complaints and photographs of cockroaches that went viral online.

…The 1983 – A Taste of Nanyang food court is located at the South Promenade of The Shoppes at MBS and is run by Koufu. Other branches can be found at Changi Airport Terminal 1, JEM, Republic Polytechnic, ITE Ang Mo Kio and the Nanyang Technological University.

When Facebook user Kovit Ang posted his image of a troop of five roaches ready to attack pieces of fried meat, he did weight-watchers all over the country a huge favour. Now if you find yourself having a ridiculous craving for chicken rice between meals, it helps to recall that horrific photo, feel the surge of bile up your throat, and switch to an apple and a protein bar instead. But before one tars all Food Republics, Kopitiams and Koufus with the same brush, remember that one of the reasons why food courts exist is because people wanted to avoid pests like stray mynahs and, in the case of the recently shut down Ghim Moh Market, rats living in up to 71 burrows.

Not much is mentioned about the significance of ‘1983’ in the Koufu website other than a story that suggests the origin of nasi lemak at Malacca Street. It wasn’t that far from ‘1983’ when Singapore had its very first ‘food court’. Scotts Picnic in Orchard, established in 1985, was supposed to be an ‘upmarket’ hawker centre, where patrons could eat in air-conditioned comfort. A string of food halls with the same dining concept and similarly snazzy titles (Food Paradiz, Food Palace) followed suit, but within 3 years owners were reporting slumps in takings, with complaints that the air-conditioning made oily smells cling to one’s office attire. This despite attempts to install roman columns and chandeliers or employ a live DJ to spin the latest 80’s hits.

The food court idea was meant to be an improvement of the existing hawker centre infrastructure, a culinary ‘renaissance’ so to speak, for the busy office worker in the heart of town. Today, with a near patriotic resurgence of hawker culture, these places have been reviled by food lovers all over, not so much for the hygiene or stubborn oily smells, but because it’s the only place where you’ll get charged $8.50 for chicken rice, cockroach or no cockroach, that tastes mediocre, if not downright terrible. There are exceptions, of course, though seeing a Hokkien Mee seller in a food court wearing a straw hat doesn’t mean the dish is any good.

Food guru Dr Leslie Tay is all too familiar with how the food court subletting system compromises the quality of one’s cooking, himself declaring that he would never visit such a food court if he could help it.  Koufu Sentosa has even found itself listed on Lonely Planet, the nadir of the evolution of the food court from hawker centre upgrade to campy tourist trap. The operator has even masked its hydra arms in various guises, calling its Star Vista branch in Buona Vista ‘Kitchen’, among others including ‘Gallerie’, ‘Rasapura’ and the ultimate, ‘GOURMET PARADISE’. The only thing ‘nostalgic’ about 1983’s Taste of Nanyang after this roach incident is how it suddenly reminds you of the conditions on board the overcrowded boats our migrant forefathers arrived in, like in ‘The Awakening’.

But if you’re a Koufu devotee and still believe that the cockroach incident in an iconic building is an isolated incident simply blown out of proportion, maybe this photo below, snapped at Koufu HDB Hub Toa Payoh circa 2011, will change your mind not just about the franchise, but chicken rice forever.

The menu at Koufu has gone beyond ‘exotic’

Cisco officer found dead in Changi airport toilet

From ‘Cisco officer found dead in Changi Airport toilet’, 5 Oct 2014, article in Today

A Certis Cisco auxiliary police officer was found dead in a toilet at Changi Airport. The deceased, Lance Corporal Mohana Singam, was discovered at 10.50am today (Oct 4) with single gun shot wound at a toilet in Terminal 1 of Changi Airport.

According to Certis Cisco deputy assistant commissioner Chua Chuan Seng, the 34-year-old Malaysian was on duty and had worked with the company for 7 years.

The last incident of a Cisco officer found dead from a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound was in 2013, when the body of a Malaysian woman was found in the toilet of the SUPREME COURT. Another Malaysian victim was found in the loo of Vivocity in 2011. One officer had his own service revolver turned on him by a former CISCO staff with fatal results, while another murdered his wife before doing himself in, possibly over what the Chinese papers reported as a ‘love triangle’.

Then there were the close calls. In 1998, one was jailed for a month for firing her weapon in a fit of jealous rage (Cisco constable jailed a month, 3 July 1998, ST).  Which leaves one to wonder what kind of procedures are in place to keep deadly weapons away from ‘unstable’ officers with domestic issues for the sake of their own, but more importantly, public safety. There’s no doubt that we need our CISCO men and women armed, just not ‘dangerous’, or susceptible to blunders like letting your gun come into possession of an untrained person and playing with it like a toy.

CISCO, or the mouthful that is Commercial and Industrial Security Corporation, was established in 1972 and promoted with awkward fanfare in the ST with the headline ‘Cisco Kid will ride Shotgun in Singapore’. In the article, Home Affairs Wong Kin Len mentioned that these CISCO ‘kids’ will be house detectives, dressed informally in ‘HAWAIIAN SHIRTS’ in department stores and are willing to be your ‘hired gun’. 3 years later, a CISCO guard got into an argument and scuffle with a CID detective which led to the former getting SHOT IN THE FACE. In 1978, one such ‘hired gun’ almost killed a cashier when his sterling went off in a bank. Maybe ‘KID’ was the wrong word to use then.

The logical alternative for CISCO wardens if you don’t want them to blow their brains out in public toilets would be the Taser gun, a nonlethal weapon currently deployed by the SPF to incapacitate miscreants like the violent drunk or naked, amok loonies. It not only makes you look as cool as Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, but deters anyone from using it for suicide as no one wants two needles stuck in the head followed by a prolonged, excruciating writhing, not to mention a relatively high chance of survival.

A stunning beauty

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