Public servants using Workplace by Facebook

From ‘All public servants in Singapore to use Workplace by Facebook by 2017’, 10 Nov 16, article by Irene Tham, ST

All public servants in Singapore will be using Workplace by Facebook to communicate with one another on their mobile phones and tablets, marking yet another first for Singapore among governments in the world.

Workplace by Facebook, a professional edition of the popular Facebook social networking tool, has been rolled out to 15 public agencies. It is in use by more than 5,300 public officers.

The plan is to get all 143,000 public servants from all agencies on board by March next year (2017), said Mr Peter Ong, head of the Public Service Division. The decision was made taking into consideration factors such as security, cost and ease of use.

…The use of Workplace by Facebook follows the Government’s move to delink public servants’ computers from Web surfing, first reported in June, to prevent leaks from work e-mail and shared documents amid heightened security threats.

Based on pricing info on Facebook’s website, costs for the service for all 143,000 public servants is estimated at around $154,000 per month.

If this was meant to be the deal sweetener in exchange for Internet separation (incidentally, also another First in the World), then why does it leave such a sour taste in the mouth? For such a new platform, this move to expose officers’ internal worksharing and personal data like a wretched slut to Facebook, an organisation not exactly known for keeping user data confidential, is horrifyingly premature, especially  coming from the same folks who researched long and hard before pulling the plug on the Internet for work computers.  Yes, Facebook will save us all from the bogeyman that is Internet Separation, an era of darkness that we dread more than 4 years of Trump Presidency.

As it is with the current Internet access, not many bother to ‘collaborate’ online through the Cube portal. With $154K out of the pocket every month, what makes the civil service think that officers would play around with Workplace when they’ll be busy struggling with dual devices once Internet separation sets in? If I need 2 minutes to send a link from a second device to my own work email, where do I find the time to log in Workplace and ‘Like’ that highly informative article that my boss just shared on his/her timeline? And I have to do this on MY phone? In between Whatsapp group chats and Youtube? Yikes.

In 1 year, the same amount of money that we willingly ejaculate all over Mark Zuckerberg’s Face (book) could have been used to beef up our cybersecurity while keeping the Internet as we know it intact. If not, at least it could send people off to an island villa work retreat – food and transport included. Public officers are barely recovering from a prickly slap in the face. This is the Government pouring calamine lotion on a fistful of dollar bills and rubbing the wad all over the wound.

 

Jetstar making inflight announcements in Singlish

From ‘Confirm plus chop: Jetstar to go Singlish for National Day’, 1 Aug 2016, article by Wong Pei Ting, Today

In-flight announcements on Jetstar Asia flights flying into Singapore will be made in Singlish on National Day this year, and this time it is not a prank.

So don’t be surprised if you hear the cabin crew saying “make sure your seatbelt kiap tight tight” or “cannot smoke anywhere hor”. The Singlish lines were first cracked as part of a joke on the eve of April Fool’s Day this year, but they will be used on flights following “an unprecedented number of requests from passengers and fans on social media”, the airline said on Monday (Aug 1).

…“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking ah! Weather along the way is quite swee. But just to be safe, please kiap your seatbelt tight hor. Thank you and enjoy your flight,” it went.

Incidentally, the Singlish version of ‘fly aeroplane’ is completely different from the literal form. As a one-off publicity stunt, Singlish on a Plane is probably harmless, provided the captain doesn’t confuse passengers with ‘Eh siao liao, the left wing pecah already, very jialat leh!’ when disaster strikes. By then, the joke isn’t funny anymore. To foreign ears, the cutesy use of ‘kiap’ or forced ‘lahs’ may raise a smile or two, but to Singlish veterans, there comes a point when it just seems, for lack of a better word, “bo liao”.

If Jetstar keeps it restrained and limits the use of Singlish to non-essential communication, it’s unlikely that their reputation would go down the longkang.  Just don’t expect Singapore icon SIA to follow suit. Passengers have complained that flight attendants spouting Singlish were a disgrace to international travellers. Yes, our very own Singapore Girl is forbidden from speaking the local tongue, and was bred only to articulate with the same eloquence as our television newscasters, or befuddle passengers with a chapalang of fake Western accents that make Singlish more intelligible in comparison.

Speaking of whom, it would be fun to see our CNA anchors breaking into Singlish as part of the festivities. Just watching Cheryl Fox reading a story in Singlish for 3 minutes would be far more entertaining than the entire Red Lions-less National Day parade.

No playing of chess at common areas

From ‘Poster banning chess did not reflect intentions: Marine Parade Town Council’, 14 March 16, article by Loh Chuan Junn, CNA

The poster put up by Marine Parade Town Council (MPTC) banning chess games at common areas did not reflect the intentions of the Town Council, MPTC said on Monday (March 14).

The clarification came after a picture of a poster stating “No Playing of Chess at Common Areas” caused a stir online when it was first posted on social media on Sunday (Mar 13), with some people questioning how “rowdy” a game of chess could be to have caused the ban.

…Responding to Channel NewsAsia’s queries, a spokesperson from the Town Council admitted that the content of the poster was not clear, and that there was no ban on playing the game.

“We acknowledge our oversight for the content of the poster which does not reflect our intention well,” said MPTC. “As such, we would like to apologise for the wrong context of our poster.”

I wonder how much time and effort was spent making the chess poster, when in fact the game that’s causing all the fuss is actually draughts/checkers, or colloquially known as ‘dum’, a word that describes perfectly the thought process that goes into the creation of such a notice. Firstly, they got the game wrong. Nobody plays classic Western-style chess in public anymore and aristocrats don’t live in HDB flats. Second, by specifying chess you set yourself up for cheeky retorts like: ‘So does that mean poker or mahjong is OK?’. What about having a Magic cards gathering, or ping bloody pong? No chess? No problem. Unleash the Go! set.

The real problem, though, is not so much the noise, but when a dum gathering turns into a makeshift gambling den. One player reportedly lost $30,000 over a week. Still, if you’re a die-hard gambler, what better way to get your fix through a battle of wits instead of praying to the gods for lucky numbers. I would rather experience the clatter and commotion of a dum match than the annoying squeals of a casual handphone game, or the pontianak mating calls that pass off as karaoke singing. Board games like dum are also an entertainment source for sore-loser drama. We all know of that one petty friend who flips the board over whenever he loses a match, ruining the party for everyone. You can’t vent your frustrations on your precious phone.

Like void deck football, the image of uncles crowding around a grandmaster duel looks set to be a thing of the past. A couple of generations down the road and the concept of a game that requires you to move physical tokens, instead of swiping pixels on a screen, would be, tragically, an unfamiliar one. Gone too would be the ‘terrazzo tables‘, an icon of the senior citizen’s corner where Chinese chess enthusiasts gather, and in its place metal barriers and naggy posters telling you to shelf your activities and just stay at home while dementia gradually kills you. If all else fails, there’s always Fish Hunter at the arcade. Yes, you’ll spend the rest of your dying days gawking at digital fish instead of engaging whatever’s left of your brain.

Not all hope is lost though. If you can’t kick a ball around or have a dum tournament in your own void deck, I’m sure town councils would be perfectly happy turning the space down there into a library outpost, but they probably have to ban reading newspapers because of the noise generated from all the page flipping.

Nikon awarding prize to photoshopped aeroplane entry

From ‘Photographer whose viral altered photo won Nikon Facebook contest apologises for his ‘mistake”, 31 Jan 2016, article by Chew Hui Min, Sunday Times

The photographer behind an altered image that won a contest on Nikon’s Facebook page has apologised.

Chay Yu Wei had been awarded a prize for his black and white photo showing an aeroplane flying overhead, framed by a ladder. Scores of derisive comments and sarcastic memes were then posted on Nikon’s page, with many saying the photo was digitally manipulated.

In an Instagram post late on Saturday (Jan 30), Chay apologised for his “mistake”, saying that he added the plane into the picture “just for fun” and that he crossed the line by submitting it for the competition.

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Ni-Con’s winning photo

You don’t need a forensic analyst to tell you that the winning image is doctored. You just need a healthy dose of skeptism and know how to zoom. Instead of apologising for his act of fraud, Chay could have played this up as a deliberate prank to expose the contest judging process, that anyone, with the right tools and time on his hands, can fool the ‘experts’ into regarding a piece of crass forgery as a genuine masterpiece.

In science, the equivalent of winning a photo competition is having your paper peer reviewed and published in a renown journal. In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal tricked the scientific community into accepting his gibberish-filled parody paper as the real thing. It was titled, excruciatingly, ‘Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity’. So, even the top minds in experimental physics can be fooled, not to mention a Nikon judging panel. It still takes considerably more effort, though, for a scientist to write a sham article, than for an amateur photographer to Google image ‘Airplane shadow’ and paste it in his ladder photo with a PicArt app.

Judging the authenticity of a photo is one thing, yet assessing contestants in a beauty pageant is another. Take the case of the ‘Miss Korea 2013‘ profile montage, which had doubters crying foul about a farcical combination of plastic surgery and Photoshopping. If Miss Universe today confessed to having a double-chin reduction previously, I doubt anyone would go all Steve Harvey on it. Not that people still watch Miss Universe anyway.

Attack of the Cloned

Some photographers go to ludicrous extents to get their winning shot without any digital chicanery. A birder was fined $500 for animal cruelty when he tied a baby tern’s legs to a bush so that he didn’t have to skulk around and leopard-crawl in camouflage to remain undetected. A UK wildlife photographer was stripped of a 10,000 pound prize for getting a tame Iberian wolf to leap over a fence.  You could also con innocent minds into believing that your cat is a selfie queen, that she could pick up a smartphone, switch to reverse camera, frame the image and press the snap button. This would win top prize on ‘World’s Funniest Animals’, no doubt. Opposable thumbs? Screw that.

This incredible, controversial image of a frog riding a giant beetle below continues to raise eyebrows. This is the GOLD standard for all you wannabe photo con-artists out there.

If Chay had HIRED A PLANE to fly over that specific spot in Chinatown, or got a crane on top of a building to dangle a model plane over him, then he’d probably get an A for effort, despite the cost of these alone exceeding far beyond the price of a goddamn trolley bag.

In some instances, judges are forced to play spot the difference when investigating frauds. The 2013 winning entry for National Geographic was disqualified because the creator shopped out a PLASTIC BAG from his photo. Which raises the question of how much ‘image refining’ is too much. When does a minor artistic nip/tuck become a gross act of fraud? For all we know we may be placing so much emphasis on the crappy plane image that we miss out other finer details that may potentially kick Chay’s photo out of any photo contest. Maybe he edited out a protruding screw on the base of the rung without anyone knowing.

The viral plane photo, generating comedic meme gold aside, is also a social commentary on how EVERYONE, to some extent, tweaks their shared photos to get the perfect image, whether it’s manipulating hues with filters, cropping out anything that gets in the way of the composition, distorting the context to make an image newsworthy for a Stomp website, or posting an old (but real) photo of a rainbow during LKY’s funeral to stir up emotions. All this just for a fling with Facebook fame, to feed our insatiable hunger for Likes and Shares, or a $169 Nikon trolley bag.

SG50 bringing the nation together

From ‘Singaporeans  felt SG50 brought nation together:Poll’, 28 Dec 15, article by Tham Yuen-C, ST

More than 80 per cent of Singaporeans polled in a survey said they felt that the celebration of Singapore’s 50th year of independence had brought people closer, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Speaking at an interview earlier this month, he said the SG50 Programme Office had been doing monthly surveys since November last year to gauge people’s feelings towards SG50.

People were asked if they knew about SG50 and whether they were excited about it, among other things. The polls showed growing interest and participation in the activities organised for the occasion.

Needless to say SG50 was a success, and we had loads of fun thanks to our Government pumping millions’ worth of freebies and promotions into the festivities. But to say it ‘brought Singaporeans closer together’ based on a snap poll seems quite a stretch. I wonder if those surveyed included the same folks who disappeared overseas for holidays during the long SG50 weekend. Have we forgotten that our Speaker of Parliament even had to urge Singaporeans to stay home instead? Maybe we answered ‘Yes we’re closer now’ out of firstly, gratitude, and secondly, guilt, without actually thinking about what unity means.

To cap an awesome year, we have Adam Lambert performing for the grand SG50 send-off. Thanks to this guy, our supposed unity was tested as two camps embarked on an all out petition war, which some international observers called a ‘cultural divide’.  Not all of us were unanimously happy about the SG50 bonus payout either, with some complaining that the rewards weren’t fair to everyone. When Amos Yee bashed LKY and Christianity after his death, we saw another case of ‘us vs them’, those who supported Amos, and those who wanted to give him a slap across the face. So despite all the feels we have for the country and a newfound reverence following the passing of a great leader, there remain issues that continue to divide people no matter how many free concerts and goodie bags you give them: Sex, religion and money, the same stuff that rip the closest of families apart.

But maybe these are just minor defects in the tapestry that is our Singapore. We can’t all agree on the same things. We may complain about how useless the SG50 goodie bag items are, condemn the local movie 1965 as the worst film of all time, or whine about trivial things like not getting tickets for a free BBQ, but when it comes down to a ballot of even greater importance, the GE, most of us seemed to agree that the PAP are doing pretty fine after all, and our ship is being steered by the right people, for better or worse.

It has been a year awash with sentiment, coupled with a very significant death and a climate crisis inflicted upon us by an incompetent neighbour who blames us for not being thankful for their supply of fresh air on non-haze days, so it does FEEL like we’ve bonded as countrymen, in suffering against a common enemy and in mourning of a god-king figure. It just SO HAPPENS to be SG50. Whether this will keep us united, however, we’ll have to wait and see over the coming years. Unity isn’t measured by how loudly we sing the national anthem, it’s how we behave in little situations with little acts of kindness towards your fellow Singaporean. How many of those who felt ‘closer’ were willing to hug a complete stranger but still refuse to say hello to their neighbours? We know we’re united if we don’t need the Government do give us money or holidays just to express it.

If we wake up one fine day and realise we have something similar to what the Malaysians call a Bumiputera-only mall, then all this talk about SG50 bonding and togetherness is a big fat $10 million illusion. If we see a foreigner pinned under a bus and we do nothing, then we know we have failed. If we lock ourselves in our houses in fear of getting caught in a racial riot, then the Singapore as we know it is doomed.

Color Run powder and the risk of cardiac arrest

From ‘Any danger if it is inhaled?’, 4 July 2015, ST Forum

(Ace Kindredzen Cheong): I am relieved that the powder used for the Colour Run in Singapore is different from that used in Taiwan, which caused a fire that has left at least two dead and hundreds injured (“Colour Run to continue in S’pore”; Thursday).

However, I wonder if the powder used in Singapore will trigger allergies and irritate the eyes and skin. Worse yet, will it cause cardiac arrest if inhaled?

Already, there have been cases of sudden deaths due to cardiac arrest during running events in Singapore. Will the powder increase this risk? The event organisers, police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force should ensure that such powders are safe for use, other than being non-flammable.

While Chinese cities like Shenyang have cancelled the event under direction from ‘government agencies’, it seems like we’re going ahead with the ‘Happiest 5k on the Planet’.  The inaugural 16,000-strong race went without a hitch in 2013, and close to 20,000 participants graced the 2014 event. Other than tens of thousands of stained white shirts being sent to the incinerators, there appeared to be little bodily harm that came out a festival inspired by the Hindu ‘Holi’. During the same period, a man died while running a powder-less, ‘normal’ marathon. No one has asked for 42 km marathons to be cancelled over the risk of unexplained death.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t minimise the use of potentially hazardous materials if you can help it. The organisers have assured us that the powder has been tested for inflammability and successfully passed ‘the required EU standards’. On their Facebook page, they tell us that smoking is prohibited during the race, and that they use no electrical devices to douse runners with the stuff, though that doesn’t rule out the possibility of a freak ignition happening if a rainbow dust cloud gets zapped by a stray bolt of lightning. I doubt the EU can put such a scenario to the test. The fun people at Color Run encourage you to run in the rain, though.

As with all foreign particles, including baby talcum powder, coloured powder may well irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and most Material Safety Data Sheets about seemingly harmless corn starch that I browsed through online do alert users about its irritating nature. So you may complete the run teary-eyed, slightly coughing, or take the next day off because of a dye-induced facial rash, but otherwise happy as a lark, which makes running the tiny risk of ‘high pressure corn starch inhalation’ – a life-threatening accident, mind you – worth it. After all, there are considerably more dangerous recreational activities out there that involve jogging; you could break your ankle stumbling over a stone in Macritchie Reservoir for example.

The Color Run’s track record of no exploding-powder casualties speaks for itself, but what we lack information in is its impact not on human health or happiness, but the environment. Where does all the dye go after being washed off, for instance? In a cruel twist of irony, it was the Taiwanese EPA (Environmental Protection Administration) that had a legitimate concern about Color Runs contaminating the soil, groundwater and rivers in 2013. Maybe NEA would want to look into what happens during the clean-up process, lest we all end up drinking chendol-coloured Newater.

Not sure about sudden cardiac arrest, but you may not come out of the Happiest 5K smiling from ear to ear after your phone dies from exposure to green dust.

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SEA games carnival ping pong table copying artist’s work

From ‘Quirky ping pong table at SEA games carnival resembles work by Singaporean artist’, 6 June 2015 article by Mayo Martin, CNA.

A circular ping pong table at the South-east Asia Games Carnival for children at Sports Hub which bears a striking resemblance to a famous artwork by a Singaporean artist has prompted criticism online.

Cultural Medallion recipient Lee Wen has said he was unaware of it of the table at the Sports Hub. His own interactive artwork, titled Ping Pong Go-Round, has the same circular features, which allow for multiple players. Variations of it have been shown in different exhibitions and fairs such as his solo retrospective in 2012 and last year’s Art Basel Hong Kong. Most recently, it was part of an exhibition of Singapore artists at the ArtScience Museum.

…“I’m trying to find out who’s in charge and talk to them to ask them to stop exhibiting until they settle with me,” he added. “It’s good that they picked up the idea but it’s as if they didn’t think it has been done before. I think they should at least talk to me. I’m thinking of asking for some compensation in terms of artists rights because according to one lawyer I’ve talked to, it’s probably an infringement of copyright.

…The ping pong table in question, called 300° Table Tennis, carries the logo of Atos, a French technology firm appointed by the organising committee to manage the information technology for the Singapore games.

While it forms a “C” and Lee’s work is a complete circle, the latter said his artwork could easily be manipulated and rejigged so that users could enter the central space.

Lawyer George Huang was quoted by the ST (‘Horseshoe shaped ping pong table by SEA games organiser similar to artwork by artist Lee Wen, 5 June 2015’) as saying that Lee’s ping pong table is ‘very simple’ and it’s possible for anyone to come up with the same design independently. Well, everything is obvious on hindsight, George.

According to IPOS, ‘artistic works‘ may be protected under copyright law, but the ‘idea or concept’ of the sport of table tennis isn’t. So what happens when the worlds of art and sport collide and you have an exhibit that’s viewed as ‘artwork’ in a museum, but can also easily pass off as a fancy variation of a traditional game at a sports carnival? If I’m an artist and I put up a ‘performance’ involving a badminton racket with a chapteh instead of a shuttlecock, do I have a case if someone makes it an actual Olympic sport? What if I put people in ridiculous sumo suits and make them play touch rugby? Or captain’s ball. On trampolines?

Ping Pong Go Round isn’t JUST about bouncing balls to one another, of course. The artist himself uses the analogy of a ‘dialogue‘ between players on opposite sides, like a circular conference table. In other reviews, it’s described as a re-invention of the game in the context of ‘contemporary possibilities’. Meaning, instead of playing against one person you could easily switch to another, or play against both simultaneously. There’s not much room to manouevre if you’re in the inner hole with other players, though. So much for ‘broader dialogue’. I could add some crazy rules to the standard gameplay and make it a new sport, or work of art, if I want to. Like playing across 2 table-lengths, playing with two balls simultaneously or you’re only allowed to hit the ball with your batting arm behind and around your back.

Still, It’s a refreshing change from what we usually associate with ‘performance art’, which incidentally was once banned by the NAC in 1994 after someone snipped his pubic hair in public. Lee Wen himself is famous for his ‘Yellow Man’ work as an emphasis on his Chinese ethnicity, where he painted himself yellow from head to toe and described it as ‘wearing a full body mask’, a possible inspiration for the phenomenon known as ‘zentai’ today.

To the layman participating in this ‘interactive artwork’, it’s just crazy ping pong joined in a circle, and probably as fun and innovative as other insane sports mash-ups like roller-frisbee, hockey-golf, basket-polo or bubble-soccer. You’re not going to get inspirations on how to improve your next meeting with the bosses. But hey, ART man.

UPDATE (13 June 15): Sport Singapore acknowledged Lee’s work and has made a goodwill payment, hence resolving the issue amicably.