Saturday, April 29, 2006

Play time for our politicians

There's simply no running away from news on GE 2006. It's in the paper, on the TV and in the internet. Political flyers have been left at my doorsteps. Everywhere I turn, I see photographs of candidates, both the PAP and the oppositions, their smiles beaming on the posters hanging on almost every lamp post by the side of the road from where I live.

And then there is that little lorry with loud speakers on its back, blasting away PAP propaganda in our four official languages. I had almost forgotten about its existence, having voted only twice (or was it once?) in all of my 40 odd years. But I saw it again yesterday and today in Simei where I live. It just went back and forth, back and forth like a broken toy on the road in front of my block. There was no waving politician on board. In fact, there was no soul on board, other than the driver, the loud speakers and two flapping PAP flags. How impersonal, I'd thought. What was worse was that I couldn't even make out the message that was being blasted. It was so loud it sounded rather muffled.

Like Chun See, I'm not much into politics. GE time is just full of wayang and rhetoric. I told my wife to avoid eating out at the hawker centres and the coffee shops this week. Why? To avoid running into politicians and their entourage making their rounds, shaking hands and making small talk. I want no part of it. Come on, why do these politicians suddenly appear only when GE is near? Where were they when you need to talk to them? Granted, not every MP is like that. The then MP for Simei, Mr David Lim, used to show up at the estate coffee shops, talking and mixing with residents, young and old. I remember I had just shifted to Simei, and it was not even election time. He came across as affable and sincere. Then he resigned and Mr Lee Yock Suan took over. The latter was inactive. The difference between the two men was stark.

No government in the world is perfect, lest of all Singapore. Everyone of us has our beef with the gahmen, including me. But this notwithstanding, I feel that Singapore would not be where she is today, without the PAP, and credit must be accorded to our fore father MM Lee and the other leaders around his time for their foresight and courage in steering Singapore from a 3rd world country to a 1st worth country within a span of 3 decades. I'm happy to say that the PAP has at least put a "human face" in the PAP. This came about when SM Goh adopted a "consultative style" of governance when he was the Prime Minister. Happyily, PM Lee has also appeared to be rather warm and approachable, if the dialogue he has with fellow Singaporeans on national TV is any indication.

Looking at the reports on the various rallies, it seems that the LUP (Lift Upgrading Programmes) is fore most in the mind of many heatlanders living in older and mature HDB estates. The PAP candidates have promised them lifts to stop at every floor if the residents vote for them. I'm not exactly comfortable with this dangling of carrots by the ruling party to gain votes. After all, opposition and the ruling party, are we not ALL Singaporeans? Why should the opposition constituencies be made to suffer? And what about that group of people in these constituencies that support the PAP?

Having said that, I think it's necessary to have an opposition to keep the PAP in check. Unfortunately, the opposition parties in Singapore are in such a sad state of affair. With the exception of Chiam See Tong, the characters of most other opposition figures leave much to be desired. Of course, the man of the moment must surely goes to the Workers' Party's Mr James Gomez who allegedly tried to caste doubt on the integrity of the Election Department. He's issued an apology which the PAP has said lacks sincerity. Well, politic, as they say, is a dirty game. We're mere audience in this game played out by the big boys. Let the wayang begin ...

Category: Gahman

Monday, April 24, 2006

Solicitation? Or just teenage angst?

I may be over-reacting, but I worry for our kids.

Yesterday, I received an anonymous sms from a stranger. Now, mother (and fathers, too) always tell the kids never ever talk to strangers, be it SMS or the MSN via the Internet. Well, the only difference here in my encounter is that the kid was not me. The other party was, or claimed to be. I can't be sure. Anyway, our exchange in the SMS goes something like this:

Kid: hey. i changed my number to 90xxxxx. take note & thanks (:
Me: Aduh. Who is this?
kid: Justina. lol
Me: Oh dear. I have a friend called Justin. But not Justina. Did you just change sex? Sorry but I have no recollection.
kid: aha. no. 'm pure female. then you're probably not who i think you are. nevermind then. sorry for disturbing you x=
Me: It's ok. Misdirect SMS happens all the time. Hope you're not offended by my joke. Cheers
kid: aha. only if you're not disturbed by my smses. take care then (:
Me: Not at all. Still trying to figure out who, though. Hee.
kid: I think we don't know each other. unless you're 15 x=
Me: Haha. Then definitely wrong number. My friends are all much older. Ok nice knowing you. Take care.
kid: somewhat flattering I guess. aha. thanks. I'm so sorry I'm 15 then. I don't like it either. lol
Me: The young can't wait to grow up, and the old will give anything to get back their youth. The irony of life. What's wrong with being 15?
kid: it's tradition of d young I guess. to complain about everything (: but d thing that sucks most about being 15, one more year before i can watch NC 16 movies (x
Me: NC 16 movies? Is that very important?
kid: nope. tsk. darn my shallow-minded, materialistic & superficial teenage brain -.-

I decided not to respond after that. When I related this to BAGUS, all of them have their interpretations of my encounter:
a. The only rose among the thorns commented that I was "leading her" on which is nonsense of course!
b. Victor said it was obviously a solicitation.
c. VT added that they way the "kid" changed the topic from her being 15 years old to her unhappiness at not being able to watch NC16 until she's 16 sounded rather fishy.
d. MJM said blatantly that I should have called the number immediate and asked "how much?" He then quipped that maybe it was a guy pretending to be a girl.

What do you think? Did I read too much into the SMS exchange? I hate to think this is a solicitation as suggested by Victor. But you could see how the conversation could have led to something unthinkable and unlawful (think statutory rape). Being a father of two, I fear for our kids if this is truly the work of a kid with some hidden agenda, more so when she mentioned she's "materialistic". Sex sells, and the sale of sex provides materialism.

Is this what the kids are up to behind the parents back, despite what we parents warned them about the dangers of talking to strangers? Technologies have advanced our lives to a level that was unimaginable years ago. The Internet and mobile phone technology connect people in a flash. But therein lies the danger, too. Especially if it involves our kids. We parents really can't afford to be too lax.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

What's wrong with being a Civil Serpent Servant?

Ok, so my cover has been blown, all thanks to Victor. I'm not an advertising guy I claimed to be. I'm really just a humble servant - a civil servant, that is, in the public sector.

I didn't set out to deceive all, and if I did, there was no ill-intent. There's a reason why I withheld that information, and it's all because of stereotyping.

I heard a certain DJ making a swipe at civil servants once on the radio. He said something to the effect that he once applied for a job in the public sector (if my memories serve me right, it's the teaching profession) but was glad that he was not shortlisted, thus saving him from a fate worse than "death". It was very insensitive of the DJ for making that statement which I found rather hurtful. Sometimes, the DJs forget that they have a social responsibility to the public and they should stop perpetuating falsehoods and half-truths when they make comments in their radio show. Needless to say, I stopped listening to his programme altogether.

So, what does it call to mind when you think of a civil servant? Honestly?

An image of a man, rigid and inefficient, and not being able to think out of the box? Sometimes, he's painted as a "skiver", hence the term "civil serpents". Other times, he's often seen as a nerd and a square.

Nothing is further from the truth. These days, a civil servant can be hip, cool and what one would term a "metrosexual" in today's context of a modern (and vain) man. Just look at Victor, who exudes charm and intelligence wherever he goes. And you can rest assured that Victor is one of the most productive workers we have in our office. That DJ in question should do a reality check around him instead of perpetuating an out-dated image of a civil servant in the comfort of his studio.

I've always wondered about the origin of the term "civil servant" though, a term I personally find rather unflattering and condescending. Did it originate from the colonial days? When the whites ruled? Or did it come about because when you serve the public (we're taking about the public service after all); you're really serving the country?

People used to say that the public sector is an "iron rice" bowl. This statement no longer holds true. Jus look at PSA, the HDB and SIA (ok, so they're are semi-government, but you get my drift).

Nonetheless, I like the stability that the public sector brings. You can say this is one of the fast dwindling perks of working in the public sector. I was working in a publishing firms for 4 years prior to joining the public sector. And I witnessed the harsh reality in the private sector when my manager was sacked at exactly 5pm on the day he returned from his holidays in Penang. Then it happened again to one of the junior staff. It was unnerving for you were never sure if you were next in line. Better to call it quits; and I did.

Still, this is not to say that the pasture at the public sector is always green. Under-performers have been asked to leave, and we are subject to the same kind of office politics one sees in the private sector. It's a dog eats dog world, public or private sector. But having worked in the private sector before, I think I'm able to appreciate my employer more than those of my colleagues who joined the public sector immediately upon graduation from schools. Some of them whine a lot about the office policies and regulations. Sometimes, I think a stint at the private world would do them good.

Another downside is the civil servants' bonus. The whole world will know how much you're getting. Each year comes June, that amount will be splashed on the ST. Not that I'm complaining, but that makes great conversational piece at social gatherings. My aunts would ask, "Woa, the gahmen giving you all 3.5 months bonus hor? Should buy me dinner ahh". Or my mum will "grumble" about how "little" bonus I give her and remarks, "Got 3.5 months bonus, how come never increase MY bonus this year?"

It's been said that the public sector won't make millionaires out of public servants. Maybe that explains the high turn-over rate in my office. But you'd be surprised at the number of them who made a U-turn and rejoined us.

Quit my job and give my best shot to get my millions "outside"? I don't think so. I don't need a million, and I'm contented with my pay package. Besides, I can always try my luck with Toto for my first million ;-))

Category: Office

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The power of prayer

Thank you all for your prayers.

My mum is still in the ICU but is making good progress. The operation went smoothly. She was to be transferred to a general ward, but the Doc ordered her to stay for another day in the ICU when she started vomiting out the food she ate and complained about giddiness. We were assured, though, that is quite normal for patients who have had by-pass surgery.

My Dad, so used to having her around at home, was kinda depressed. I brought him along to visit my mum, who was conscious and spoke to us a little. That sort of cheered my Dad up.

The road to recovery is a long one. But praise the Lord, my mum is recuperating. She can look forward to holding and cuddling her fourth grandchild comes June!

The power of prayer and the words of comfort, reassurance, encouragement telling me to think positive.... All these from people whom I've never met like Evan, "It's my life story" (sorry but how do I address thee?), Chun See, and Frannxis. And yes, my good pal Victor and Alex, and BAGUS, too. Good bless all you kind souls.

James 5:13-16 ... confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

Category: Personal

Monday, April 17, 2006

The fear of mortality

If, and when my turn comes, I'm not sure if I have the courage to face what my mum's going through right now. As it is, she's scheduled to undergo a by-pass surgery tomorrow morning. I brought her to the hospital today and she's made to go through an endless round of pre-admission test to make sure she's fit for the operation tomorrow.

You can say my mum is a walking time bomb. Her arteries are 95% blocked. She could suffer a heart attack any time. So the sooner she has the operation, the better in keeping the disease at bay.

We spent much time trying to reassure my mum everything's going to be ok. She's always been afraid of hospital, and blood. We know she's scared to bits, and deep down inside, so are we, me and my siblings. But this operation is something that my mum, and us, have to go through together.

The hospital is such a depressing place to be, and like it or not, that's the place we gonna be as we grow old, one time or the other. The one that she's staying, SGH is really in need of some major overhaul. The false ceilings are all dirty and worn-out and the hospital looks as if it's in need of a new coat of paint which is currently a dreary light green. Why can't they paint the room a cheery pink? Studies have shown that colours do have an effect on the mood of the patients and how speedy they recover from their illnesses.

Please do keep my mum in your prayer.

Category: Personal

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A matter of face

So, there'll be no scenic bridge after all.

What was that all about?

Were our neighbours contemplating to grant us access of their airspace in the bridge negotiation? Were they seriously thinking of selling us sand? I thought they said NO and went ahead with the piling work for their side of the bridge anyway. And now we hear Pak Lah has ordered the bridge construction axed because the rakyat is against the use of Johor airspace by the SAF.

Oh well, let's give our neighbour face. The truth is always hard to swallow, is it not? News reports that Johor is a city of car-jackers drew lots of hues and cries from our neighbours who think we are trying to drive tourists away from the state (and they forget that we Singaporeans form the bulk of the tourists). Even our leader was asked to apologise for having said that car-jacking was rampant in Johor years ago. It's like saying, what is true and ugly, we don't want to hear. Hmmm... it reminds me of the Class 95 advert, in which the proud father chooses to listen to the "good comments" made by the tennis coach of his son, and shuts out the negative ones. Can't relay blame them Malaysians. Many of us are like that. We can't handle the truth. Because the truth hurts.

Truly, our neighbours have the propensity to leave our leaders looking perplexed with each of their whimsical move. This is not the first, and it won't be the last. The scenic bridge may never materialise. But perhaps our leaders and that of our neighbours' should build another bridge, a bridge to affirm our bilateral ties, and may peace pervail in this part of the earth.

Category: Musings

Friday, April 14, 2006

爸 爸 哭 了

It's 清明节 or Qingming Festival. To us Chinese, this is the time for the young and old to come before their ancestors, sweep the tombs or the niches in the temple, and offer food to the ancestors. It's a yearly tradition and the rites are important especially to the elderly.

I don't really bother much about such matters for I've always considered myself a Christian. Ok, perhaps I'm not really a practicing Christian, and I'm not proud of this fact. But that's for another post, another time.

My mum has never troubled me to fetch her to the temples, knowing how I feel about such things. But this year, she did, and only because my Dad has problem walking far. They used to take a cab, but because the temple is located in a private residential belt, flanked by terrace houses on both side of the road, they have problem hailing a cab back, unless they walk a distance to the main road.

Having alighted my parents at the entrance of the temple, I drove on looking for a parking space. When I returned, my dad was standing at the entrance, and with tears brimming in his eyes, he told me that was where the urns of my paternal great-grandmother, her brother, both my maternal grandparents urns are being kept. He went on to tell me that he was not sure if he would be able to pay respect to the ancestors next year. Putting my arm around him, I told Dad not to think so much and that he would live past 90.

I remember my maternal grandma, who passed away more than two decades ago. Unfortunately, I have no recollection on my great-grandma, much less memories of her brother, and have very faint memories of my granddad. So perhaps I'm quite devoid of any feelings towards them, unlike my dad.

I love my Dad. The only time I saw him cry was when my grandma was at her deathbed. But I wasn't quite prepared for his display of grieves today. I think he's also worried for my mum's operation next week.

Category: Personal

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A cuppa a day ...

First, a little brain-teaser. Can you spot a little man in the sea of coffee beans?

According to the "experts" (read doctors), if you spot the man within 3 seconds and 1 minute, your right half of the brain is developed. If you spot him within 1 minute and 3 minutes, the right sight of your brain is functioning slowly and you need to eat more protein.

Woes to you if it takes you more than 3 minutes to find that little man, for the right half your brain is a mess. You are advised to look for more such exercises to make that part of the brain stronger.

Ok, I confess - it took me more than a minute to figure out that little fella. But I have reasons to believe this brain-teaser is flawed. It just did not add up. Why do I say so?

Well, we all know that the right side of our brain has a lot to do with how creative we are. And the truth is, in my circle of friends as far as BAGUS is concerned, there's none as creative as me. Since young, I am good with my hands. In school, I did very well in Arts. During courtship, I made personalized cards, wrote love poems for my Slim Lady who, quite the opposite, ALWAYS bought me cards off the shelves. At home, I'm usually the person who does up the house, buying cushions and doing the furnishing to make the home cozy. Comes festive time, be it Christmas or the Chinese New Year, I'm the one who put up all the decorations. Oh, my creativity is not confined to my home. At work, I think up "creative" ways to solve problems, and write "creative" e-mails to my bosses and fellow colleagues.

So how could I have taken more than a minute to solve the puzzle???

"Dr" Victor who passed the brain-teaser with "flying-colour", said I should eat a bag of coffee beans to increase my protein intake. Victor really knew how to make my toes laughed. Protein from a bag of coffee beans? I told Victor perhaps he needed the protein more than I, and suggested a source of protein that is "unprintable" here. I have no choice but to deduce that what transpired between Victor and the brain-teaser was nothing more than a fluke.

But what do I know? I just read an article that extols praises on the benefits of caffeine. It claims that caffeine acts as an antioxidant that rids our boides of free radicals. Caffeine also helps to shield us against heart disease and cancer. Indeed, a study done in the US has linked coffee consumption to a reduced risk of colon and liver cancer, Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's disease. But it adds that one should drink not more than 2 cups daily. Too much of a good thing, as we know, is bad, unless the thing in question is $$$. LOL.

But we can never be sure what the experts, the doctors and the scientists say. They are back-flippers, if you know what I mean, quite known to be "fickle-minded" when it comes to what is good and not good for us mere mortals.

So Victor, I'm not sure about protein, but how about a cuppa to keep us all free of diseases?

Category: Musings

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Of old-age, sickness and destitute

When it rains, it pours. This just about sums up what's going on in my life right now.

The past weeks, I've been busy hunting for a nursing home for my father-in-law. In his mid-60s, I don't exactly consider him a destitute. The home is a last resort that ensures 24-hour care for the Slim Lady's father who is on tube-feeding after having suffered a stroke years ago. That was a difficult and painful decision, chosen and unanimously agreed upon by the Slim Lady and her family. Still, my father-in-law is a lucky man. He has a 2nd wife who goes to the home to take care of him almost everyday. Other old folks are known to have been dumped in the home by their children who hardly make visit thereafter.

Then my mum is scheduled for an open-heart surgery sometime this month. She's been complaining of chest pain and difficulty in breathing for the last few months. A series of test at the hospital confirmed our worst fear. The three main arteries of her heart are 95% blocked, no doubt due to diabetic, and largely, smoking which she had picked up when she was in her teen.

My dad is suffering from hernia, among other ailments. But surgery has been ruled out because he refuses to give up smoking which causes his persistent cough. The doctor has told us that as long as my dad is coughing, there's no point going through the surgery. Coughing exerts the muscles in our stomach and that will cause a relapse of the hernia. My dad just lets it be.

There's a Chinese saying that goes, "家有一老,如有一宝" (An oldie is like a treasure in your home). I agree whole-heartedly. Sometimes, we do not treasure what we have in our midst, until it's too late.

Category: Personal