Saturday, January 11, 2014
So I was surprised and somewhat disturbed by a report online that revealed that 2 doctor-inventors, apparently citizens of Singapore, had given up their legal fight over intellectual property rights they claimed over an app (Mobile First Aid Post) with Singapore's Ministry of Defense (Mindef). According to one of these inventors, the reason for giving up was that they did not have enough money to continue the legal action. If this were true, it is disturbing fact indeed. It is claimed that Mindef had "three sets of lawyers" and that in a war of attrition, these inventors couldn't win, and perhaps even if they did win, it would be a pyrrhic one.
The thing I find disturbing is why would Mindef, a public institution that exists at the pleasure of the electorate, and funded entirely by tax payers, could find it necessary to engage an army of lawyers to defend itself? What is the justification for this? Yes, the case might involve IP issues across different countries, but is it that complex as to warrant the legal firepower employed? I am not siding with one or the other party in the case. I do not know enough beyond what has been reported about the case.
But I am concerned about why, as a taxpayer, so much of my money is being spent on this legal tussle, and against its own taxpayers - people who feed it, at that. Mind-boggling sometimes, the things that go on.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Just what is wrong with some drivers in Singapore anyway? They act like they own the road, and if you give them a plane, they'd likely feel, and yes, act like they own the skies too. So what is the reason for this rant? After all, Singapore drivers, or at least enough of them, have been known to be an impatient lot. Well I got a taste of that today.
You see, I was crossing the path that leads into a carpark in a building. It was a small entrance, no barrier and good only for a car to enter at any one time. The width of the passage (I wouldn't even call it a road) was so narrow, about 4 strides wide, that one could be forgiven to miss it as a passageway for cars. As I was crossing it, a car honked at me. It was obviously attempting to drive into the pathway into the building. I was obviously annoyed, and would have thrown a rotten egg at it if I had one then. However under the circumstance, restraint is the better part of valor and I let it pass. But I got to wondering why the driver can't even overlook an obvious unintentional instance of "trespass". No, let me correct that. I wasn't trespassing. I was just using a public facility. The road didn't belong to me, nor for that matter, to the driver of the car. So what right had he/she to honk his/her horn at me? Absolutely no right of way nor right of reason. In fact the driver can be accused of threatening a member of the public. What if I had not heeded that horn? If we follow the logic, he/she would have to get out of the car to take physical action - a threat if ever there was one. If you think I am exaggerating, then think again. What good would honking at me accomplish anyway? The only rational reason I can think of is the driver just takes pleasure in shocking and frightening me. Now why would anyone do that? I wasn't threatening the driver in any anyway, nor obstructing him/her, intentionally. In any case, it would take me at most 4 seconds to cross the path. Can't wait? Must fight? Easy to act thus when you are behind the wheel. Bloody coward.
Obviously courtesy, kindness, graciousness, consideration are not part of the driver's vocabulary, nor mental makeup. They say what goes around comes around. Let the driver beware that the same medicine will be doled out to him/her one day.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
So I was amused when Minister Khaw reported his ignorance. I wonder how young his "young activists" are. Is this another case of being fed the wrong and/or outdated information from the ground or being out of touch in the first place, or perhaps both?
Yes, I agree with Minister Khaw that couples, while waiting for their flats could get married, rent an apartment, get a head start in making babies, and then move into their newly minted HDB BTO (whatever) castle. But the argument against this has always been that the money spent on "non-recoverable" rental could have gone into payment for/investing in a HDB apartment, so why spend when you can invest, right? This was exactly what my fiancee and I thought when we embarked on our marital journey more than 20 years ago. From the wisdom of the young activists I see that nothing much has changed all these many years.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
The point is that the PDPC, as CASE puts it, "has back-pedalled and diluted the intention of the DNC (Do Not Call) registry". The PDPC has now allowed for SMS and Fax messages sent by businesses, or whatever entity, to bypass the DNC restrictions so long as there is an "ongoing relationship" between the business and its customers. How does one define "ongoing relationship" anyway? If we adopt the PDPC's understanding of the term, it can be used to define ANY number of transactions between a business and it customers, even "one-night stands". It will be no stretch of the imagination that a business can stalk a customer simply because the PDPC has given its blessings. The PDPC says that an organisation that breach any of the data protection provisions in the PDPA may be liable for a financial penalty of an amount not exceeding $1m. But how can such violation be proved and acted upon if the exceptions and exemptions can be made post-PDPA?
I am in no way suggesting that businesses that engage in direct marketing be banned. By all means communicate with your customers in whatever way that customer chooses provided that he has explicitly and clearly given consent. Now, anything beyond that is ambiguous, and laws are not meant to be ambiguous, are they? It appears that in Singapore, when the government jumps into bed with businesses, a murky broth can surface, to the extreme discomfort of the people to whom it has given its word to care and protect.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Ms Bertha Henson, who appears to be helming the BN, is not unknown in the journalistic circles in Singapore. According to her bio that can still be found online, she has been with Singapore Press Holdings since 1986, holding various positions such as Acting Editor of the New Paper and editor in charge of journalism training programmes of English and Malay papers.. I don't personally know her, but her body of work suggests that she is no lightweight in journalism circles in Singapore.
Thus it came as a surprise that the erstwhile establishment figure is now fighting a battle with the media supremos in Singapore. For now, she appears to have given up the fight. When a hundred pound gorilla wants to block your way, you don't rush head-on. You'd only damage your brain, with nothing much else to show for it. This is the first time I have heard of this altercation, and about the Breakfast Network. So I do not know if the BN will spout nonsense, or offer a credible voice on and about Singapore. I don't even know if it will be aligned with the powers that be, or the ones on the other side of the political divide, or even be a fence sitter. But one thing is certain - it operates within the sphere of social political commentary and she has written about things that may have caused the authorities to squirm in their seats. You see, the authorities don't like to squirm, if they can help it. In any case, a voice has been silenced. The MDA insists that it is not muzzling the voice of Singaporeans. It says that so long as certain rules are complied with, you can proceed to put out commentary and write about Singapore all you want - short of defaming people and engaging in too much negativity that may cause foreigners to think that Singapore is going to the dogs.
Now if Ms Henson had just restricted her website to issues of cooking in the kitchen, she would have been able to spew some oil and add some spice and honey when discussing her cooking in the kitchen. Then we can all have a party.
See: Media bias
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Singapore is amazing. There is perhaps no other country on earth where the response to a major riot on its streets is a call for restraint and reflection on what Singaporeans could have done better to prevent such violent behavior. After all no Singaporean deliberately provoked the Indian foreigners to bring out such violent behavior. Yet some are earnestly suggesting that Singapore could have done more to integrate them into our society, to our way of life, our docility even. We cannot understand why these foreigners reacted so violently for after all, they would have been in Singapore long enough to appreciate that we don't settle grudges this way. We defer to the law and the courts but more often than not, we talk things out. Sure there are people who will resort to violence, but on this scale? We don't fight on the streets or otherwise cause trouble. Those who do know that they will be courting trouble with the authorities. This is probably why Singapore has not had a street riot in more than 40 years.
Yes, Singapore will, and has thrown the book at the perpetrators of this riotous disturbance, but at the same time, it is willing to look into this issue more deeply to discover the underlying reasons for this behaviour, which included the willful act of destroying police vehicles, an ambulance and fire truck. Were the police action too provocative? Judging from the large numbers of policemen that were injured one would have thought that the police was not tough enough. Yet that is one of the things that are being discussed, not how long a jail sentence the rioters will likely end up with, or if they will be caned. Many speculate that they will be deported. Perhaps Singaporeans prefer not to speculate for we have been told more than once that the case is before the Courts so we should not comment or speculate.
Singaporeans have a right to be angry but most of us are in a more reflective mood. Perhaps this is just as well and, true to our nature, we will talk, discuss and analyse, and then move on to the next incident. We don't really like to demonstrate on the streets, unlike a neighbouring country, where you wonder what the people do for a living besides march on the streets.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Mr Hri Kumar, erstwhile MP for the Group Representative Constituency (GRC) of Bishan-Toa Payoh insists that the Workers Party make clear its stand on the issue of Muslims wearing the tudung. He claim!s that the PAP is clear on this, that it has taken a clear stand. He accuses the WP of avoiding taking a clear position on the issue. I don't think there is anything wrong with this stance. After all, they are practising the wisdom of the ages:
"A politician is an animal who can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears on the ground" - H.L. Mencken
"Practical politics consists of ignoring facts" - Henry Brooks Adams
"A politician should have three hats. One for throwing into the ring, one for talking through, and one to pull rabbits out of if elected" - Carl Sandberg
"Politics, n. Strife of interest masquerading as a contest of principles" - Ambrose Bierce in the Devil's Dictionary.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Having said this, I do not think that defacing the government's websites will cause a change in policy. nor is it the right thing to do because this strengthens the government's position that one cannot allow unfettered use of the internet media to push an agenda, which is what this law is for. Furthermore disrupting these websites will only prevent government employees to complete their jobs. Delays will only create a backlog of work and inconvenience people's access to services that some may depend on for their livelihood.
Bringing down websites, or disrupting their normal functioning is no different from breaking and entering a house and defacing the property. If the Messiah thinks that he/she is bringing salvation and freedom to internet users, I for one beg to differ. There are certainly other ways of making the point These alternatives may take a longer time to produce results, but like Nelson Mandela, reasonable people will agree with a sensible position, if not today then some time later.
Let us be civil and reasonable. Right thinking people who make poor decisions will realise the error of their policies and come around. If they are not right thinking, they will likely be bumped off in the next General Elections. If nothing. the weight of reason and the force of history will convince them to repent, one day. In meantime, affected parties like Yahoo News may just have to pony up the cash and continue to report without fear of losing their money or favouring anyone. We look to such as these to carry the banner. For the rest of us, we just have to move off-shore with the belief that truth cannot long be muzzled by time, place or coercion.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Saturday, October 19, 2013
In Singapore, we like to wayang. The latest show we want every business to put on is that they must show fairness in their recruitment advertisements. This means that the ads cannot contain words like 'fresh graduates', 'Permanent Residents', 'foreigners', 'women', etc. You just shouldn't, not can't, be too specific in who you are looking for. The exception is the word 'Singaporean'. Now this is allowed. It's the golden word. The mother of all words. I don't know what our HR professionals must be thinking. I for one think its ridiculous. Its plain and simple stupid. Even our highly educated senior government ministers are singing the same tune. I am calling this a wayang because you can don't use those words in the ads, but when the recruiter shortlists applicants for interviews, only specific people will be invited, no? Looked at another way, you are giving false hopes to people. The more job seekers do not get replies, the more demoralize they will get.
Thus this policy causes people to waste a lot of time writing in when they aren't suitable to start off with, and wasting recruiters' time having to sift through a larger than necessary pile of applications. The result will probably be no different from employers' original intentions anyway. I am sure we have something more meaningful and productive to occupy our minds.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
SBSTransit reportedly plan to install internet access points in it train stations so that commuters can surf the internet for free. But the caveat is that once you get onto their trains, you are on your own. No internet signal will be available inside the train. In this case, you will likely have to switch back to your 3G or 4G data plans.
If this is the case, I find this exercise a waste of time and resource. No commuter wants to stay a second more in the station if he has a choice. The shorter the wait for the next train, the better. So who really would benefit from the free Wi-Fi? And even if the WiFi proves useful, it will be short-lived and ultimately useless.
It appears from reports that the real reason for this largesse is data collection more than anything else, This can be quite sinister, especially when the user is not informed of what is going on behind the scene. But maybe I am reading too much into this. Maybe the train company has nothing but good intentions. But as it stands, this is really a half-baked idea.
Go the full distance, I say, just like what Hong Kong and Japan have done. Make whatever you invest in useful to your customers.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Over the last year or so, the Singapore government has scaled back on the once highly generous policy of giving out various types of employment permits, which has caused the population to swell to unacceptable levels - in terms of exceeding public infrastructure capacity (read crowded trains/buses, skyhigh property prices and crowded public places (eg. Little India)).
The other bugbear is the unease that locals feel when they are served in restaurants and shops. More often than not, they are greeted by foreign-sounding English speakers. Some speak in barely comprehensible English, like yesterday in a hardware store. This local Chinese woman (you know she is local because she spoke in unmistakable Singaporean English) asked about a product she was looking for. The sales assistant was obviously a non-local Chinese, very likely China Chinese, judging by his incomprehensible English and intonation. Needless to say, the woman asked for someone else whom she could understand in English.
Granted this has been happening for some time now. But can we not have some patience in these encounters, I wonder? No matter what one thinks of foregners in our midst, at least you cannot but admire these people who are trying hard to learn the language. In this instance he could have switched to Chinese, as another sales assistant did when he conversed with me. But he bravely attempted in whatever English he knew. Admittedly his English was atrocious, but I could still understand some of what he was saying. Frankly all it would require is just clarify whatever is not clear. My father could not speak a full sentence in English, but he worked for the British for well over twenty years though obviously not in a position that required constant conversation in the language. It is incredible how arrogant we Singaporeans have become. We are bilingual, but never use this ability to bettter understand foreigners in our midst. Sometimes I really wonder what all those years of learning in the rigorous Singapore education system has produced?
One must admire those who try, and help them become better in that process of learning. Isn't this what we would want our teachers to do for us and our children?
Friday, August 09, 2013
Oh no no no, I am actually older than 48 this year. But my country celebrates its 48th year of nationhood. I suppose it is also its independence day. Just the other day, some of my older friends reflected on how, in their lifetimes, they had sung 'God save the Queen' when Singapore was a colony of Great Britain since its founding in 1819, 'Negara Ku' during its short time as part of the Malay federation (also known as Malaysia) from 1963 to 1965, and thereafter 'Majullah Singapura' since separation and independence.
My father was counted among this generation. He probably sang another national anthem of the country of his birth. My mother reminded me how my father loved Singapore. He would always make it a point to have the national flag flying from his house's window come this time of the year. I suppose Singapore gave him the peace and stability to raise a family of 5 boys even though he never earned much. Then again, we never needed much more. He was a good father, faithful husband, and loyal Singaporean.
Some would say his generation is dying out. Today we have more people lambasting the government at every opportunity, justifiable or not. But this is not necessarily bad. It's just that other things beyond mere survival has taken over. Most of us own our houses, some even have 2 or more. We have jobs, and healthcare is first rate, if only somewhat pricey. We have become more vocal. The good and the bad has come out of this. Those who act irresponsibly get whacked, as they should. Some in power don't deserve their pay, and they have answered for their incompetence. Probably a few more should face this punishment. It is probably only a matter of time.
On the whole, this country just works. Anyone denying this should try staying elsewhere. You never know what you miss until, err, you miss it.
As a person who has grown up all his life singing only one national anthem, I say 'Majullah Singapura', hopefully forever.