Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Honk honk

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

Buy rent marry

Minister Khaw Boon Wan has made me feel young again. In a blog post on Boxing Day 2013, he admits to being outdated, that his assumption that people get married first and then get a home is no longer valid. Instead he appears to have been caught off-guard when told by his YOUNG Sembawang activists, that Singaporeans now buy an apartment first before getting married. I don't know how young his young activists are, but this is certainly not news to me. I have been married 21 years. I remember that one of the first things I proposed to my fiancee (now my wife) was to put in an application for a HDB apartment. It was like dowry, except that it is shared by the couple - both fork out their CPF monies.  Marrying and renting just wasn't "on the cards" for us. We were young, just starting out on our careers, and didn't make a pile of disposable cash. So every dollar was valuable, which we would rather put away for tomorrow than spend it today. And so it was for my generation then. The received wisdom then was to head on over the HDB, not the ROM, to get married. And that was more than 20 years ago. At that time, Singapore was not exactly awashed with available HDB apartments. I had to ballot for mine.

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

Murky Broth

Of late, for every 10 SMS messages that I have received, 8 o f then begins with the qualifier <ADV>. Needless to say, I have become very annoyed with these unsolicited messages. SMS is not like Email. Its something that you would want to check in on because it is more immediate and the person who sends it probably wants to get your immediate attention. Nowadays when I fish out my phone to check my SMS, I often only do one thing - delete the SMS. Its ridiculous. I have to pay to receive something that I never asked for. Some might even call this cheating. Its really getting on my nerves, the same reason why I NEVER answer my handphone calls when the number is one I do not recognise. Experience tells me that 10/10, that call is a telemarketing call, or a call to sell my house, or someone suggesting that I protect myself, my family, my house, my car, and yes, even my dog. Now I have nothing against people selling insurance. They perform a vital advisory service and I have benefitted from such advice. If on the off chance it is a call from someone I know, that person will call back. But this SMS spam is not so easy to deal with. You don't have spam filters that email systems have that will send them to the trash bin immediately. You become a virtual hostage to unwanted and uncalled for messages. But what is upsetting is that  it appears to have the blessings of the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC). As far as I can tell, everyone except the self-interested stakeholder businesses are up in arms and crying foul.

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

I want curry

Friends, Singaporeans, countrymen (and that includes countrywomen), lend me your ears. I write not to bury the dying but to comment on those who would seek to muzzle the tongue. I speak, of course, of the Breakfast Network (BN) ceasing to publish because it does not want to play ball with the Media Development Authority's (MDA) requirement for it to register itself. This, so I read, includes the onerous task of filling up a registration form. But more than this, the Breakfast Network, if appears, refuses to list its group of editors and occasional writers (this last was corrected by the MDA as not a requirement) by name. We learn that by refusing to comply, they will have to shut their doors, errr...website, including their Facebook page.

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

Reflective Glass

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.