Ice cream and Coca Cola are Healthier Choice foods

From ‘Healthier choice label: Call for more clarity’, 9 oct 2017, article by Linette Lai, ST

Even as the Health Promotion Board (HPB) looks to further tighten a scheme that labels some food products a “healthier choice”, experts say more can be done so that people do not mistakenly think all these foods are outright healthy.

The Healthier Choice scheme, with its trademark red pyramid label, now applies to 3,500 products – a tenfold increase from when it was launched in 2001. The label can even be seen on ice creams, soft drinks and frozen french fries.

One in five food products bears the Healthier Choice label.

What consumers really need is not a ‘Healthy’ or ‘Healthier Choice’ label, but the ‘Healthiest’ choice. When it comes to beverages, that would usually be water. HPB should be sticking the label on water coolers everywhere. Instead they’re allowing companies to claim the label for aspartame-loaded drinks like Coca-Cola Zero and Light. In other words, that red pyramid has become a marketing gimmick for Big Food. If 100 plus has it, then the folks behind H20 will fight for it too. If McDs has it for a McMuffin, then so would KFC for Popcorn chicken porridge.

It’s like telling you to opt for frozen yogurt in place of ice cream, when the really healthy thing to do would be to eat a fucking green apple. By opening the floodgates to desserts, sauces and curry mixes, the red pyramid becomes meaningless. Having a label-free sinful meal occasionally is a better deal than eating ‘Healthier Choice’ snacks, gravies and strawberry milk every other day. You force yourself to feel good about it, even if your kale-contaminated taste buds and tummy tells you otherwise.

HPB should seriously streamline the options. With every cheese, coke and frozen wantons cutting fats and sugar in order to be awarded Healthier Choice labels, it’s going to make it more stressful on consumers who would like to actually ENJOY their food once in a while. You end up overeating on mediocre stuff and you still die miserable anyway, seething with regret that you didn’t binge on that tub of Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream after a breakup because the red triangle label on the shitty potong next to it was screaming ‘NO! Bad Consumer! Diabetes!’ in your face.

If taken at face-value without really being mindful of our food choices, the Healthier Choice pyramid, like how the ancient Egyptians built it, is more a symbol of your road to an early grave rather than the food-group categorisation it is supposed to represent.

 

 

 

 

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MRT 20 hour disruption blamed on water pump

From ‘NSL train disruption: Malfunctioning water pump system to blame for flooded tunnel’, 8 Oct 2017, article in Today

A malfunctioning water pumping system allowed rain water to build up in the train tunnel near Bishan MRT station, which resulted in a massive disruption along the North South Line (NSL) at the weekend.

In a statement released on Sunday (Oct 8) evening regarding preliminary investigations into the disruption, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) noted that water had entered the tunnel through a portal opening near Bishan MRT station, where aboveground rail tracks make the transition underground.

It said that under normal circumstances, accumulated rainwater in the adjacent storm water sump pit would have been siphoned off by a system of pumps.

But as the pumping system had malfunctioned, rainwater overflowed from the storm water sump pit into the tunnel opening, and accumulating at the lowest point of the tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations.

Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water.
Yet, to attack the hard and strong,
Nothing surpasses it.
Nothing can take its place.
– Tao Te Ching, chapter 78, Lao Tzu

Another day, another breakdown, another lesson on MRT systems learnt the hard way, another cog to blame other than the management, the regulator or the ministry itself; Signal fault, track fault, cable tie fault, sump pit fault, portal opening fault, heavy downpour fault. Screw you Acts of God. Screw you all.

Just this July, a water leak was determined to be the culprit behind the double whammy breakdown leaving 200,000 commuters stuck. Even during the post-mortem of  the infamous Circle Line breakdown in 2011, the deterioration of a DC cable was ‘exacerbated by the presence of water in some cable pits’.  Are we in such a rush to become a Smart Nation that we’ve stupidly forgotten to attend to the very basics of water seepage prevention?

Kudos to the bus drivers and engineers for fixing the problem and their ‘all-out tireless’ work (according to state media). Trust Minister Khaw Boon Wan to guilt-trip us all for our constant complaining by citing tales of heroic, soggy courage, of our brave men and women knee deep in floodwater in the muggy dark of a tunnel as a diversion from his Ministry and SMRT leadership’s incompetence. How dare you call this the WORST BREAKDOWN in the HISTORY of the MRT, news media? All you do is sensationalise with your ‘facts and figures’, sitting in your dry cosy offices while our staff work their butts off!

Speaking of the minister, though he should really be wading with torchlight in cute yellow boots to inspect the damage with our tunnel heroes, he’s actually in Panama as we speak, according to his conspicuously silent Facebook page. Maybe he’s busy gathering tips on water management.  As the palindrome goes: A man, a plan, MRT still breaks down anyway.

Given how crazy the weather has been and is going to be, and how SMRT is still cocking things up despite repeated, useless fines, maybe what we commuters need is not mandatory digital literacy programs, but basic swimming lessons. Or emergency canoes in train tunnels.

It’s much more fun to say ‘raining cats and dogs’

From’ Time to improve standard of English here’, 2 Oct 2017, ST Forum

(Joe Teo Kok Seah): In my interactions with my fellow Singaporeans, I have come to realise that, by and large, people are adamant about using Singlish and are not accustomed to conversing in proper standard English.

They feel that Singlish is far more intimate and effective.

It is not uncommon to find people confusing expressions like the “first floor” with the second storey. The first floor or the first storey is the ground floor.

I have also been met with stunned and perplexed countenances when I use phrases like “a quarter to five” or “a quarter past five” instead of 4.45pm and 5.15pm.

Singaporeans have been exposed to crude English for decades. It is time for us to start speaking proper English. One way to do this is by tuning in to BBC news programmes.

I also learnt many useful English phrases from the British sitcom Mind Your Language, which was telecast in Singapore in the 1980s.

One can learn much better when the process is intermingled with humour and is stress-free. We should endeavour to use more English idioms as part of our daily interactions.

Idioms add life and verve to speech and writing. Without them, the English language would be very bland. For example, describing the weather as “raining cats and dogs” is much more fun than saying that it is “raining heavily”.

Having a good working knowledge of the more common English idioms is essential and critical for effective communication.

Blimey, this old chap thinks our English is ‘half-past six’. One can imagine him ‘running for the hills’ when conversation with the lay Singaporean isn’t as hoity-toity as he’d hoped. Or perchance he’s just making ‘a mountain out of a molehill’.

There is a fine line between idiom and cliche, and saying raining cats and dogs doesn’t make you a more vivacious speaker of the language than someone who says it’s raining heavily, or better still – The rain outside is heavy AF. English Idioms are as old as the bible and dotards. Modern slang is hip, dynamic and gets you connected.

I, too, grew up on Mind Your Language, though what most people remember it by is not Mr Brown’s essential lessons on nouns, verbs and prepositions, but the racist stereotypes that would draw uncomfortable laughs by today’s standards. A thousand apologies (head bobbing) comes to mind. Sleazy Italian? Flirty French? Commie Chinese? Check.

As for first floor vs ground floor, this is a case of Singaporeans switching unwittingly between American and British English. This phenomenon was observed by English professors even way back in the early eighties, when admittedly it is ‘impossible to maintain a British standard of lexicon and syntax’ because of the influence of American pop culture. People still say sidewalk instead of pavement. Eggplant Aubergine. Ass vs arse. And don’t get me started on the pronunciation of words such as ‘lieutenant’. Even Brits and getting corrupted by their American counterparts as we speak, and vice versa.

What English needs to be is clear, simple and concise. Why use ‘stunned and perplexed countenance’ when you could say ‘confused faces’. Or waste mental arithmetic deciding if it’s quarter to 4 or ten to 7? Or ‘by and large’ instead of ‘generally’?

To each his own. Not every nail that sticks up must be hammered down. Let’s not push the envelope but let sleeping dogs lie.

 

 

 

Reserved Presidential Election is the Right Thing to Do

From ‘Reserved Presidential Election would cost votes but is the right thing to do’: PM Lee, 29 Sep 17, article in CNA

PM Lee Hsien Loong knew that the reserved Presidential Election would be unpopular but went ahead with it, as he strongly believed it was the “right thing to do“, he said in a dialogue session held last Saturday (Sep 23).

“Did I know that this subject would be a difficult one? That it would be unpopular and cost us votes? Yes, I knew,” he said at a People’s Association Kopi Talk held at Ci Yuan Community Club.

“If I do not know that these are sensitive matters, I cannot be in politics. But I did it, because I strongly believe, and still do, that this is the right thing to do.”

Mr Lee acknowledged that there was “some unhappiness” following the reserved election. “I can feel that; you do not have to tell me,” he said.

Three Malay candidates came forward to contest this year’s reserved election. while all of the candidates in the 2011 election were Chinese. Although businessmen Mr Mohamed Salleh Marican and Mr Farid Khan did not qualify, resulting in a walkover, they would not have come forward in an open election, Mr Lee said.

“So why didn’t they come? Because they knew that in an open election – all things being equal – a non-Chinese candidate would have no chance,” he said.

When the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, they knew it was – to put it mildly – an unpopular decision but to them it was the ‘right thing to do’. When the Nazis embarked on ethnic cleansing and conducted vile experiments on Jews for the advancement of science, they too strongly believed that it was the right thing to do. When Darth Vader ordered the destruction of the planet Alderaan by the Death Star…You get the point.

As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. There are no good or evil men in this world, just men with what they believed were ‘right’ intentions. But this is what we’ve come to expect of a dominant party anyway, a smiling Nazi-nanny pushing divisive policies for our own good, and deciding for the nation how multiracialism should be handled, even down to the ‘right-ness’ of the stuff we read on the Internet.

Yet, history has proven, by the PM’s own admission, that HE and his PAP COULD BE WRONG.

In 2011, PM Lee said sorry to the nation, admitting ‘mistakes’ made that included overzealous foreigner intake and problem gambling as a result of the IRs.

‘And if we didn’t quite get it right, I’m sorry but we will try better the next time.’

When the next election comes around, given the ‘political cost’ of this unpopular PE, I wonder if he would apologise again – that they didn’t get it right at all. That they should have trusted the Chinese majority race, that we should have been given the dignity of casting our votes, that the ONE survey that the PAP likes to quote justifying the reserved PE (because Singaporeans, particularly the Chinese, are inherently racist who prefer to vote for a president of the same race), is a flaming pile of horse-shit.

If someone who was NOT from some prestigious institution had come up with a casual survey with the same results, he or she would have been hauled up for sedition and threatening racial harmony.  If someone who’s NOT the PM said stuff like ‘all things being equal, you being non-Chinese would have no chance’, he’d be branded as a straight out racist. The walked over candidates Marican and Khan threw their hat in the ring because they believed they could make a difference, not because they had no Chinese threat to deal with. Implying so is an insult not just to their ability, but to the idea of equality altogether. Also, has anyone wondered why it’s called CIMO and not MCIO or ICOM?

Let’s say I’m hiring a head waiter for a Chinese restaurant. My executive chef is Chinese,  my marketing director is Chinese, even the dishwashers are Chinese. ‘All things being equal’, fluency in Mandarin included, it shouldn’t matter if I hire a non-Chinese to do the job. The only reason I decide to hire MIOs only is because it’s better to have at least one non-Chinese on my team to placate my racist non-Chinese customers.

No sir, it’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the far-right thing to do too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween hanging dummy glorifying suicide

From Halloween display of hanged woman taken down at *SCAPE after criticism, 27 Sep 17, article by Vimita Mohandas, CNA

A Halloween display showing a mannequin hanging from a tree at *SCAPE has been taken down in the wake of criticism that it was “distasteful”. The female doll, with long hair and a blood-soaked gown, had been tied on a tree near outdoor stalls at the youth-oriented hangout along Orchard Road.

Some netizens complained that it glorified the idea of suicide.

A post on the Facebook group Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family said the display was “extremely disturbing and done in very bad taste and traumatising to children”.

It urged people to write in to the National Youth Council CEO David Chua, who is the chairman of the board of directors for *SCAPE.

“In view of the rising suicide rate and prevalence of suicidal thoughts among young people, the image of a person who appears to have hanged herself being used to promote fun Halloween activities would surely trivialise the issue of suicide among young people,” the post said.

It added that it might encourage youth to attempt suicide “especially during this examination season where many already face stress, anxiety, or even depression”.

scape-insta

Yes it’s a disturbing display which could easily cause public alarm if viewed from a distance, but kids are not going to see this and suddenly think it’s cool to inflict harm unto themselves. Why? There are at least 13 reasons Why. 

People can find a bone to pick anytime when it comes to Halloween scares. 6 years ago, a Halloween Horrors event scheduled at the Night Safari was axed by management because it was not family friendly. More recently, a fake memorial wall to commemorate victims of a fictional shopping mall disaster was criticised for being ‘very inauspicious‘ in light of the Hungry Ghost festival.

Our Transport Minister Khaw would have cringed at events that were held in a mock-up MRT train wreck because they put the SMRT’s reputation in a bad light, though it’s exactly the kind of scenario that would occur in train stalled in a tunnel by a signalling fault during a zombie apocalypse. Moreover, paying money to get spooked out seems a bit – masochistic, no?

The only thing scaring the shit out kids taking their exams this year is not creepy clowns peeking out of longkangs nor bloody pontianaks hanging from trees. It’s when the goddamn MRT breaks down on the first day of the PSLE.

Should the good folks at the Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family ever decide to host a Halloween party of their own, this below is the only costume that you’re ever allowed to wear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malay and Indian food less healthy than Chinese food

From ‘War on diabetes: Changing eating habits of Malay, Indian communities an uphill task’, 25 Aug 17, article by Wong Pei Ting, Toh Ee Ming, Today

For Malay food vendor Aida Manapi, 50, the tastiest ayam penyet (smashed fried chicken) must be crispy and glistening, and there is only one way to cook it — “deep fried”.

And when it comes to roti prata, no one serves it by being stingy on ghee (clarified butter), said stall vendor Senthilvel Vedachalam, 43.

Such traditional methods of cooking or serving Indian and Malay favourite dishes, along with mindsets that they have to be cooked in a certain way for best results – have made it difficult for many hawkers and home cooks to change the way they prepare these dishes. For them, unlike Chinese dishes, one cannot produce a healthier, yet still tasty ayam penyet or roti prata by simply using less oil, salt or sauce.

In a related article back in 2010, even medical experts pointed to Malay food as a key reason for the burgeoning rate of diabetes and obesity among the community. Endocrinologist Lee Chung Horn also described Malays as ‘gregarious people’ characterised by social assemblies that revolve around fatty foods. The article above seems to suggest that toned down Malay and Indian dishes would be less enjoyable compared to Chinese food with their ‘bland’ porridges and soups, but that doesn’t explain why the queues for untampered char keow teow (with pork lard) are always longer than other stalls which put healthier choice stickers up on display.

Inevitably, the focus is always on hawker fare, food so rich and so close to our heart it’s often blamed for slowly destroying it. But that would be too simplistic an explanation for the diabetes epidemic. Due to our hectic, stressful lifestyles, it’s often challenging to prepare and indulge in homecooked meals, where one could at least regulate the amount of sugar, salt and fats, whatever race you are. Still, most of us don’t eat hawker food every day, we tend to go for variety across all cuisines, and articles like these also tend to avoid mentioning fast food for some mysterious reason. I would want to know if eating 1 Mcflurry is worse than a chendol, for example.  Of if a chicken chop at the ‘western’ stall is a healthier option than Spicy McChicken.

But if you’re talking about Chinese food being healthier than Malay/Indian food, here’s a quick rundown with a few shockers. References here , here and here.

  1. If you’re choosing between beef rendang and char kway teow, you could have 2 servings of the former and still take in less calories than the mother of all fatty foods. (312 vs 744 kcal)
  2. Roti prata vs Ang Ku Kueh? The Indian breakfast wins – minus curry I suppose (209 vs 240kcal)
  3. Goreng Pisang or Tau Huay? Of course the deep-fried banana anytime. (197 vs 317 kcal)
  4. Cantonese pork porridge with century egg has more cholesterol than mee rebus (370 vs 206g)
  5. Bak Chor Mee has more total fat than Mee Goreng ( 22.7 vs 20.4g )

Being accused of  gastro-racism aside, the fact of which race is more diabetic compared to the rest seems as clear as day, but putting the blame on some generic heritage foods alone without an assessment of other lifestyle habits may mislead some into preferring the wrong foods as ‘healthier’ alternatives, without controlling for hidden carbs/fat/salt in beverages or condiments. Further, just because something has less calories doesn’t mean it has more ‘nutritional value’. Take carrot cake vs nasi lemak as a single meal for example, the latter packed with more essential nutrients and fibre if you include fish, cucumber and egg. If we take this obsession with calorie counting and sugar content too far, we may neglect our B and C vitamins, calciums and omega-3s.

The adage ‘eat in moderation’ never seemed to cut it with me, perhaps ‘Eat Less, Move More, Occasional Treat, Screw Macs’ may be a personal mantra that could work in the long run.

‘Passion made Possible’ reflecting the Singapore spirit

From ‘Move over YourSingapore, it’s now ‘Passion Made Possible’, 24 Aug 2017, article by Rumi Hardasmalani, Today

The Republic will now be marketed overseas to potential investors and visitors as “Passion Made Possible”, under the “first unified brand” for the country launched by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Economic Development Board (EDB) on Thursday (Aug 24).

The brand was the result of “qualitative and quantitative research with close to 4,500 respondents on what Singapore stands for”, involving residents, industry stakeholders, and international audiences in Singapore and across 10 countries, the agencies said in a press release.

According to STB and EDB, the respondents felt the themes of “passion” and “possibilities” best reflected the Singapore spirit. “While ‘possibilities’ was strongly associated with Singapore as a destination, the ‘passion’ to strive was what drove these possibilities,” they said.

Passion Made Possible sounds like the title of a self-help book for couples to have more sex. And the cover would look something like this:

So in that context, yes, given our dismal birth rate, this new slogan is the impetus for us not to soar to greater heights, or make the world our oyster, but to make more babies.

We have passionate people doing the nation proud, the Schoolings and the Nathan Hartonos, but we also have individuals who, despite their dogged pursuit for excellence or for a worthy cause, get snubbed because of political sensitivities. Think Sonny Liew’s award-winning The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, or the Pink Dot conglomerate, who to nobody’s surprise, didn’t make the cut for the ‘gritty’ hipster promo video. Even our latest National Day Song rouses as much passion as one responds to a soggy teabag in a dirty cup.

The previous incarnation, Your Singapore, was criticised for ‘courting disaster’. 7 years on, ‘PMP’, seems to contradict a previous report that Singapore is the least emotional society in the world. So what do you call an automaton with passion? A fucking Ultron that’s what.