Monday, 4 February 2013

Married in Haste, Repent at Leisure

Hark!  Do I hear the pitter, patter of little speed daters? Or maybe the aftermath of speed dating?  I am a great believer that nothing worthwhile happens in a hurry, even raising the birth rate in the Republic.

But the pace of everything in Singapore is just that much faster than many other parts of the world and so it comes as no surprise to learn that a masquerade ball, organised by the Social Development Network (SDN), has broken a world record for having the most number of singles participating in a speed-dating activity in one place.

One is reminded of the 1693 quotation by William Congreve who said "Thus grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure: Married in haste, we may repent at leisure."

Old William would clearly not have approved of speed-dating, but England in the 17th Century was not desperately trying to boost its population.


A recent White Paper by the government suggests that Singapore's population could could well hit 6 million by 2020.  Most Singaporeans' would much prefer that this growth occurred through an increased fertility rate amongst native born Singaporeans, rather than the import of foreign nationals who threaten to swamp the indigenous culture of modern Singapore.

Compounding the planners' misery is the knowledge that Singapore's population is an aging one; a trend that is global and not confined to the Little Red Dot.

Singapore’s first cohort of baby boomers turned 65 last year reports Bloomberg, and its number of elderly will triple to 900,000 by 2030

Enter stage left, Eric - the Elderly Rehabilitative Interactive Companion robotic dog. Eric's battery-driven role in life is to help the elderly stay active and ease the boredom on therapeutic exercise.

This is not the first example of warm, furry robotic motivating and entertaining the elderly.  The Japanese were amongst the first to trial this approach and they have a high-tech baby seal called Paro which was originally developed in 2003.

The inventors claim that their robotic animal "allows the documented benefits of animal therapy to be administered to patients in environments such as hospitals and extended care facilities where live animals present treatment or logistical difficulties. Paro can learn to behave in a way that the user prefers, and to respond to its new name"

Who would have thought that Furby would have morphed into something like this?

Maybe the answer lies in the invention of a speed-dating robot which can relieve the mother-in-law  and government pressures that many younger Singaporean women face.
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Sunday, 27 January 2013

I Love Char Kway Teow!

Says it all really - get the shirt here

Tipping Points and Point Scoring

Two things caught my eye this morning.  The first was the convincing win by the Workers Party in this Punggol East by-election.  This was called by the PM after the former Speaker of the House was caught having an extramarital affair and had to resign his post and his electoral duties.

What is interesting about this result is that this is not what one might term a traditional "workers" electorate; it is largely middle class and populated with well educated voters. Not, if you will, the home of the "working classes". I use this term advisedly as the middle class works just as hard as anyone else and especially in Singapore where long hours are the norm.

The result was a resounding victory to the Workers Party who secured 10.8% more of the vote than their nearest rivals, the ruling PAP.  Even the normally reserved Straits Times is wondering if this result is a tipping point in Singaporean politics?

Their Opinion Editor,  Chua Mui Hoong, says "The WP is now firmly entrenched as a serious challenger to the PAP in the battle for votes".

The rather hackneyed term "tipping point" also applies to the ongoing campaign to stop the Bukit Brown cemetery being turned into an eight line highway.  The 23 tropical acres are also very popular with nature lovers and joggers. It also happens to be the biggest Chinese cemetery outside of China.

As the Voice of America reports, "The ornate tombstones of many famous Singaporeans, some who are now immortalized in the city’s street names, reside at Bukit Brown Cemetery. But they might not rest in peace for too much longer."

It comes as no surprise that this plan has angered many Singaporeans.  Not just those with relatives who will be exhumed should the plan go ahead, but also those who value the country's heritage; what remains of it in the rush to modernise.

Source: All Things Bukit Brown

Sociologist Terence Heng describes the cemetery as a kind of material anchor for the Chinese Diaspora.

But just like the legendary King Canute, stopping the tide of progress has proved to be an impossible task despite the vocal and social media-savvy opposition to the project. They have however managed to create a wonderful online tribute and record and an online petition is being widely circulated.

There are very few traditional cemeteries left in Singapore.  I referred to the Yin Foh Kuan Cemetery in an earlier post but I wonder if its days are also numbered?
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Friday, 25 January 2013

What A Pack Of Dicks!

If there is one thing I enjoy about the Aussie culture it is their irreverence and preparedness to poke fun at one another.

For this coming Australia Day one their most iconic entrepreneurs, Dick Smith, produced a tongue-in-cheek video. Here it is.


It all seems a fairly innocuous, albeit full of innuendo, piece of humour. Quite amazingly the Ozzie media censorship board (Commercial Advice Board to be exact) has given it a rating that makes it unsuitable to screen in prime time; talk about political correctness!

Not surprisingly Dick Smith is irate and is seriously considering legal action. The irony is of course, that as result of this P.C. action, the ad will get a lot more exposure through the digital world than it ever would have in a few slots associated with a national news programme.

Perhaps the last word should go to Dick himself who has said,

"I think it's harmless, it's good fun and these people should reverse their decision and on Australia Day let me run the damn thing. They're talking about beeping it out and I said 'No'".

I have to agree as a little humour goes a long way and long may it remain so.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The World is Treating Me Bad - in Singapore?

"The world is treating me bad, misery"  So said the Beatles in 1963, but it comes as somewhat of surprise to learn that the sentiment is alive and well in Singapore.

An excellent article in the South China Morning Post questions why both Singapore and Hong Kong are, despite their wealth, so unremittingly miserable?

I have to say that I never found it so but according to a December 2013 Gallup poll, Singapore leads the pack as Asia's most miserable place, ranking rock bottom in the poll of 148 nations and territories. Only 46% of those surveyed felt positive about the place.

The methodology of the poll is somewhat flawed I feel, as Gallup has tried to standardise a basic human emotion "happiness" across many different cultures and ethnicities and each interprets the term differently.

The time and place when the poll was conducted would also have a bearing. Ask a group of Singaporeans commuters waiting for a late MRT train in the sweltering sun if they are "happy" and the result will be resoundingly in the negative.

Ask the same group in the Robinson's Sale when they have snaffled a bargain then they could express an entirely different sentiment. Happiness is a very subjective thing.

The article went on to quote a teacher in Hong Kong, Alan Lo Tzee-cheng, who believes that that local populace are "too focused on achieving material success, which made them unhappy".

"Money and competition about making more money than others penetrate all parts of people's lives. Their education, the way they raise their children, what they eat. Even to go shopping can be an emotional trial" he went on to say.

I guess only Singaporeans themselves can say whether or not this applies as much in Singapore? Certainly the material occupies many peoples thoughts but I am not convinced that this by itself would be the cause for so much misery.

Yeoh Lam Keong, vice-president of the Economic Society of Singapore, believes the survey has pin pointed something important - that Singaporeans work some of the longest hours globally and have a very poor work-life balance. "They are overstressed and do not have enough time for family and recreation."

As the gap between the wealthiest and poorest Singaporean grows wider so does the range of feelings. The wealthy get happier and the poorer Heartlanders less so. Hong Kong is experiencing something similar.

Chua Kheng Kok, Asia Pacific president of Mary Kay says "I find Singaporeans more envious of each other and therefore less happy." She may well be right, but wanting and getting "more" of something doesn't necessarily equate to "happiness" in one's life.

Achieving the 5C's ( car, cash, credit card, condominium and club membership) may be one mark of success in Singapore but it should  not the only one that society or the education system promotes.

As for me, I find music raises my spirits so here is the Beatles' rendition of the song I mentioned above (and keep smiling!)

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Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Singapore MRT Mousepad

Singapore MRT Mousepad
The Singapore MRT Mouse Pad - get yours
Travel on Singapore's MRT ( Tube / Underground) in complete confidence.  Ideal for new employees in the country and those travelling to Singapore.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Halimah Yacob to become Speaker?


Mdm Halimah Yacob
Minister of State, Ministry of Social and Family Development
MP for Jurong GRC
Wonderful news if it proves to be true. Of all the politicians during our time in Singapore Mdm Halimah Yacob was one of the most impressive.

Today Online reports that should she get the role it would be the first time that a woman would assume the office, which is behind only the Prime Minister and President.

It will be great to see a Singaporean woman achieve such a high office.

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Sunday, 6 January 2013

Today's Art - Waitara River Mouth Drawing

Waitara River Mouth Drawing
Roger Smith, 2013
Copies of this drawing (as a print) are available here. Prints on archival heavyweight matte paper are fade-resistant and have a 90+ year archival rating.