Can Professors Think?

Can Asians think?

Kishore Mahbubani’s thinly-disguised plug for his latest book has some noteworthy points. (It was an op-ed piece entitled How the Western media gets the Korean crisis wrong published in The Straits Times on May 13th. Google for it.)

However, I can’t help thinking that the ex-career diplomat’s piece is also an unwarranted broadside against Singaporeans. For someone who once wrote Can Asians Think? he infantilized his readers by implying that Singaporeans are cerebrally-challenged. His lecturing tone was condescending and irritating. Just look at some of his phrasings. For example: “Let me ask my fellow Singaporeans a simple question…” and “Let me conclude with a simple piece of advice to my fellow Singaporeans.” I find his choice of words annoying at best. That style is best used for dealing with some non-Asians, especially American deplorables who have very short attention spans and not too many grey cells to rub together. Ironic then that he used the same style of the very media he was warning against.

Well, my dear Professor Mahbubani, let me just say this in as simple a manner as possible: no matter how useful your tips are for the rest of us, patronizing and belittling-sounding exhortations are repulsive and insulting and can result in them not heeded.

If more old-school highbrow haughty pompous asses and self-proclaimed luminaries hiding behind the shadow of the late Lee Kuan Yew think and behave like Mahbubani did and get their way, and continue to talk down to the masses, we will recede back into a nanny state which we have all started to slowly crawl out from. Singaporeans shouldn’t be told want to think.  We have enough of arrogant individuals in our country who are self-congratulatory, unrepresentative, unresponsive and complacent – members of the vulgar elitism; the self-serving establishment that Prof Kenneth Paul Tan – who works in the same school as Mahbubani –  wrote about.

We have survived a tumultuous past and we have been discerning and smart enough to know our way. We have transitioned from Third to First World, not because we are idiots; complex, difficult questions do not stymie us, so a little respect is in order, my dear Professor.

Not only that, the prof is actually wrong; if you read the papers, and use the Internet intelligently, you will notice that more Western media than Mahbubani probably realizes are of the same view that he seems to claim sole ownership of; so what’s he crowing about? Where’s the original thinking expected of no less an achiever than a professor?

By the way, Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan is emerging as a very thoughtful though at times forceful writer. He’s a bit of a busy-body and a know-it-all as well as quite a loudmouth but he could be trumping (sorry) the prof, hence, the latter’s perceived need to be more forthright. Professional survival instead of professional advancement – sounds like North Korea, no?

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A JT Cooke

JT Cooke is a legend among American pipe makers; his waiting list is at least three years long. Happy to acquire a brand new one recently:

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One More Bang

A true collector can never have enough S Bangs; since my first Bang, I’ve added several to my cache. Pictures of a couple can be found somewhere in this blog. The one above shows my latest Bang.

According to the system introduced by Svend Bang in 1970, Bang pipes for the US market are stamped with year and number codes and the personal stamp of the carver. The number is not a grading stamp – it just indicates which pipe it is.

For example, 9736 with the stamp PH would indicate that it was the 36th pipe made by Per Hansen in the year 1997

There are no grade stamps on US pipes – all S Bangs are high grade.

Why aren’t S Bang pipes carved by the man himself?

Well, Svend Bang himself tried carving pipes but eventually gave up. Until his retirement in 1983 he has always hired some of the best craftsmen to craft high grade pipes. He passed away in 1993.

Most Bangs bound for the European market are stamped with letters to designate the grade in the following ascending order:

Black blast, Tan blast, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C and, very rarely, you might find a D.

The pipe shown above is a C. Price: €1.530,00/-.

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Inhospitable Hospitals

Hey, don’t bankrupt my parents!

You know the country is totally fucked up if people are stealing milk powder from supermarkets.

Milk powder companies spend millions courting hospitals and incentivizing them to plug their brands. They do this by cash donations and all forms of sponsorships ranging from financing hospitals’ dinner-and-dance parties to underwriting their shuttle bus services.

It seems like a win-win situation for both the companies and the hospitals. But consumers suffer because prices shoot up. These marketing costs rose 42.4% between 2010 and 2014, an increase which has been passed on to consumers.

Yes, milk powder gets stolen from supermarkets.

And desperate mothers go all the way to Malaysia to buy them.

Unlike the safety concerns which drive mainland Chinese south to Hong Kong in search of milk powder – an unquenchable demand which led to the territory imposing a two-can limit on visitors – Singaporeans travel north to find respite from the escalating costs at home.

Even for a country known for its high cost of living, the rate of increase in the price of milk powder has been eye popping. The average price of a tin has shot up 120% in the past decade, making it among the most expensive in the world, outstripping even Hong Kong.

A 900g tin of Similac Stage 1 milk powder costs about HK$298/- (S$53/-) in Hong Kong, but will set parents back about HK$330/- in Singapore, that’s 60 Singapore dollars! Another report revealed that in Johor Baru, a 1.8kg tin of Similac Stage 4 formula sells only for RM100/-; about S$32/- or 40% cheaper.

Hospitals sleeping with suppliers is nothing new. Drug companies do it all the time too. Even companies manufacturing replacement body parts reward hospitals and surgeons for using their products. For example, if a surgeon uses knee implants from certain manufacturers, he gets incentivized. Some are even given expensive free trips to exotic destinations each time a certain brand of implants is used.

The word “incentivize” is a corporate-jargon non-word meaning “motivate,” and was coined in 1968 by public relations and marketing practitioners, the spin doctors, who deny it of course. Some ten years later, it was shortened to the equally annoying verb “incent.” Unfortunately, both are recognized by both Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary. While “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” let’s call a spade a spade. “Incentivization” is a form of bribery, make no bones about it. (No pun intended.)

When the medical profession makes compromises, and loses its moral compass and hence its objectivity, patients suffer in the long run, in more ways than one. Colluding with companies with deep pockets divert patients to treatment that may not be the best or the most affordable option for them. Ditto formula milk powder.

Worse, some claims touted by milk powder companies are fraudulent and border ambiguously on the extravagant, if not misleading. A case in point is the “Gain IQ” tag used for a popular brand of milk powder. The selling point translates into “intestinal quality” if you look closely at the label. Parents hoping to raise geniuses will be drawn to that brand.

Hospitals should be brand agnostic.

However, one cannot expect the medical profession to regulate itself; a well-informed and educated public and detailed inquiries such as the recent one conducted by the Competition Commission of Singapore on the murky dealings between milk powder companies and hospitals would help towards the emergence of an enlightened and discerning nation of consumers.

The relevant watchdogs should also be more vigilant in their roles and take preventive measures to ensure that the gullible and less knowledgeable do not fall victim to over-hyped claims.

Milk powder is milk powder. In my time, we grew up on sweetened condensed milk, probably considered extremely unhealthy in this day and age; but we all survived. Not only that, some of us even became doctors.

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There are More Mercenary Doctors than you Realize

The medical profession has more shenanigans than you would ever imagine but when a member of the public wrote to the press recently in a letter entitled Critical for private medical providers to change their ways, a doctor responded with his own letter entitled Errant doctors hurt their own reputations.

The doctor who wrote this seemed to be operating in la-la land.

It is a fact that doctors do send their patients for unnecessary tests and procedures and even surgeries, in addition to other forms of mischief they commit. (A 66-year-old doctor was just being charge for raping and molesting a patient, and this wasn’t the first such case here.) Instances of patients being shuffled from pillar to pole for a series of tests and procedures seem to be increasing. Anecdotal evidence supports that, just ask your family members, friends and friends of friends. My bad back has probably financed many doctors and their families and their numerous overseas vacation trips and after all these years with all kinds of treatment, no relief is in sight. Some HR department heads of companies I consult with have had to plead with their company doctors to go easy on referring employees for unnecessary tests and procedures.

The doc who wrote the letter said that because patients are smart and knowledgeable, errant doctors’ behavior would be curtailed. However, doctors are in authority positions and their opinions carry weight, making them insidiously influential. If the Internet tells me my heightened palpitations are normal but a doctor – an authority figure who is medically-trained – suggests that I spend a thousand bucks for a heart scan at his friend’s clinic, just to be sure, I would spend that money. The fact that Medisave can be used for such tests lessons the pinch financially, leading to a proliferation of unnecessary tests and medical procedures being conducted. Since it doesn’t really hurt my pocket, let’s go do that test, just for peace of mind – that’s the mentality. This is compounded by the fact that very few doctors today are good clinicians – they would rather send patients for tests, letting machines do the diagnoses.

The good doctor also mentioned that doctors form a close-knit circle and this would prevent professional misconduct. The fact that doctors form a close-knit circle is the very reason why gullible patients are not necessarily protected from unscrupulous ones. Let’s face it, some doctors today are practicing medicine not because it is a calling or because they are passionate about healing. It’s mainly about money, prestige and social status. Trust me, I’ve met a few of those – completely money faced, and totally lacking in EQ, interpersonal or communication skills and bedside manners.  One of these can come to you and be all sweet and friendly because they have a request, and the next day ignore you when you pass them in an empty hallway. So, retards like these and the unprincipled ones cover up for one another, and, in the end, patients suffer.

Exploitative conduct among other professions do not always end in iatrogenic outcomes, but bad doctors can result in patients being worse off.

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Going to Hell in a Handbasket

Ju-on?

Those born in 2015, on the occasion of Singapore’s 50th year of independence, were bestowed with the Baby Jubilee Gift.

This year, $3.45 million will be spent on baby gifts for babies born last year.

The money is from the tax we pay.

Honestly this money could be better spent. These babies did nothing to deserve any gifts. They were fortunate to be born into an era of great peace and prosperity in the right country. If at all, appreciation should be bestowed on those who have survived – many with great hardship – the last 50 years, especially the earlier years of tumultuous, and sometimes, even violent change.

The People’s Association says that the gifts are designed “to bond our communities and celebrate families.” There are far less costly and financially-driven ways to achieve that. Besides, incentivizing people by way of gifts only fosters a reward-driven culture and creates short-lived superficial outcomes. So no gifts, no bonding? Bonding amongst communities must be based on a genuine need to collaborate and to live in harmony; it must come from the heart, and best nudged by education, not by handling gifts to people and in the hope that they will bond.

Add this to the long list of stupidities committed lately by this great and wonderful country called Singapore.

We’re going to hell in a handbasket, let me tell ya!

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Pang Sua Pond? Approach with Caution!

Right name, wrong place..

Serious board meeting late last week.

Men and women who control billion-dollar business empires in attendance.

Suddenly one man seemed to be convulsing, his body reverberating.

What happened?

What happened was he happened to take a quick peek at his smartphone and saw this headline:

“Bukit Panjang’s Pang Sua Pond now a wetland park.”

He thought it said Pang Sai Pond.

In Singapore’s most commonly-spoken Chinese dialect, Hokkien, Pang Sai Pond means “Pond for Defecating” and in Singlish – which is a bastardized version of English most people here speak when they communicate informally –  it would simply mean “Pond for Shitting.”

When he shared it, after we showed concern for his quivering body – he was actually trying to stifle his laughter – he showed us the headline.

It took 20 minutes for the very serious board meeting to be restored to order.

What the heck is it with Singapore names?

Is there a conspiracy to make the names here appear lame and funny?

We have Nanyang Technological University with its acronym NTU which reminds people of NUT and we have Singapore University of Technology and Design with its acronym SUTD which at first glance looks like STUD and now SIM University, formerly known as UniSIM will now be known as Singapore University of Social Sciences, acronym SUSS.

If there’s humor in these acronyms, I fail to see it.

I see us as a laughing stock instead.

We claim to be number one in just about every damn thing but when it comes to names, we are a long road away from being smart about them.

Some years ago, some retards in high places commissioned a name consultant for advice on a new name for Marina Square, and those cons came back, kept the fat fee, and said “Nothing wrong with the name, let it stay.”

And we once even held a naming contest for our budget terminal at Changi and the winner of the contest was some idiot who named it “Budget Terminal.”

What the fuck?

I am sure there’s a historical reason for it, but who in his right mind would name a pond Pang Sua Pond?

Must be graduates of NUTS or STUDS who didn’t waste too much brain power to SUSS it out.

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Making a Mountain out of a Molehill

Bigotry in the name of religion is still bigotry.

The movie Beauty and the Beast started its run in Singapore on March 16th.

Prior to that, the National Council of Churches warned parents about the movie and its possible influence on their children who watch it.

At the same time, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore cautioned that parents must discern and reflect with their children on whether the lifestyle portrayed in Beauty and the Beast is consonant with the teaching of Christ. The parents, exhorted the Archdiocese, must explain the implications and the consequences of such a lifestyle for themselves and society.

Yes, these comments were made even before the movie was screened here. Did members of the NCC and the Catholic Archbishop had prior access to the movie and have actually watched it themselves to evaluate its contents?

The movie has caused a stir in some countries. Russia banned it from anyone below 16 years old. Malaysia wanted to cut a part showing a gay moment, leading to Disney withdrawing the movie from Malaysia altogether. After the buffoons in Malaysia and their decision snowballed into international news, the country finally relented and has now agreed to allow the movie to be screened. Yup, the retards next door seem to have a penchant for creating global headlines.

I was invited to the movie on March 17th and you can bet I was looking out for that one gay moment.

I found out that, at the end of the movie, LeFou, the sycophantic sidekick to Gaston, the film’s conceited asshole of a villain, pairs up with another man in a blink-and-you-miss-it moment at a dance. The other man was in woman’s clothes due to a curse put on him by the enchanted wardrobe, Madame de Garderobe.

Yes, the entire uproar is over an extremely short moment – about two seconds –  that will likely be missed by most people anyway, and certainly by most children, who has a far shorter attention span than adults.

Plus, it definitely cannot be considered an “exclusive gay moment” – a phrase that has been carelessly bandied about –  because in the scene, lots of other couples are shown dancing in the same scene. To be exclusive, the cinematography must exclude, and the camera must zoom in and focus exclusively on LeFou and the other male for an extended period of time. This did not happen. Also, that short scene, meant to provide comic relief, can hardly be interpreted as an endorsement of any “lifestyle.”

Some would argue that throughout the movie, LeFou’s mannerisms and adulation of Gaston are an indication that Disney attempts to “normalize” homosexuality, but being effeminate does not mean that one is gay any more than being a Pope makes you a Catholic or being a church-goer makes you a Christian. From my personal experience, and from my up close observation for several decades, I for one, can be 100% sure, that some church pastors themselves are not even Christians and some who are, are hypocrites of the worst kind. Some, not all. You know who you are, and God knows your heart. So don’t give me this “holier than thou” horseshit. Enough said.

Malaysian Censorship Board chairman Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid even claimed that there is an earlier scene when LeFou pulled up his shirt to reveal a love bite on his tummy.

However, publicists for the movie deny there is such flashing of a love bite.

Malaysia’s deputy home minister, Nur Jazlan Mohamed weighed in, declaring that “the elements portrayed in the movie will influence us.” I suppose for someone whose IQ score is probably smaller than his shoe size, they would indeed!

Morons like Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid and Nur Jazlan Mohamed living life on government payroll should perhaps focus their energies on finding the lost Malaysia Airlines MH370 instead of scrutinizing people’s tummies for love bites. How perverted is that?!

To create a scene – pardon the pun – over a Disney musical is akin to brewing a proverbial storm in a teacup.

Yet, sadly, this is enough for the movie to be lambasted and for Russia’s decision to screen it only to those above 16 and for Malaysians who were almost denied opportunities to enjoy this entertaining motion picture, to now watch it under a rating of PG13, which means they can only watch it with “parental guidance.”

What a frigging joke!

The world is already proliferated with brainless government leaders – look at a small country like ours with millionaire ministers, many of whom are scholars with impressive university degrees, yet we can’t fix our taxi problems – and all we need are retarded religious leaders chipping in, stirring shit.

Religious bodies, more than any other organizations, should get their perspectives right and while they may not approve of the practices of some segments of the population, they must strive to aim for inclusiveness, acceptance and tolerance – qualities stressed by our leaders as crucial for the building of a harmonious nation.

Please note that I am NOT a gay activities, nor am I an anti-religion zealot; I am NOT like that piece of shit named Amos Yee. I just feel that religious organizations should not drive a wedge between people they deem to be different versus those they consider to be normal. To be honest, the fact that there are thousands of Catholic priests all over the world accused of child sex abuse hardly qualifies the Catholic Archdiocese to make grandstanding and sanctimonious statements about morality.

The same need for some self-examination goes for Malaysian officials who should perhaps focus on efforts to find that missing plane as well as to reduce the number of sex crimes and what seems to be increasing cases of incest in their own country, a concern raised even by ex-strongman Mahathir Mohamad.

Peaceful members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and questioning) community live and work among us. These people already have enough problems of their own. To cast aspersion on their “lifestyle” is to imply non-acceptance and infer that they should be condemned, and what will such thinking lead to ultimately? Public lynchings? This is not only out of touch with today’s reality and is so so wrong! Surely this cannot be what religions and government officials teach. Indeed, what are we teaching our kids? Are we telling our children to shun LGBTQ people?

Let’s not be the beast in Beauty and the Beast! More importantly, the stance taken by the Catholic Archdiocese and the National Council of Churches also runs counter to Singapore government’s vow that the section of the penal code called Section 377A will not be enforced.

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Ban the Shit out of Everything!

Here’s a real killer.

A letter to The Straits Times on March 16th says “Smoking while driving also raises risk of accidents” and another letter to the same papers on March 14th says “Make it illegal to smoke in vehicles.”

I have not heard of smokers causing traffic accidents.

Perhaps anti-smoking Nazis should take a look at other shit – like alcohol.

Alcohol consumption is even more deadly than smoking because alcohol is ingested into one’s body straightaway, and the harm it can cause is almost immediate – drink driving can kill, but smokers are unlikely to cause vehicular accidents after a smoke.

If the retards who write to newspapers really care, they should also not ignore issues like trans-fat, sedentary lifestyles, unforgiving attitudes, kiasuism, racism, ageism, terrorism and religious extremism  – all deserve to be in the spotlight.

Instead of being keyboard warriors, they should come together and co-labor to remove harmful habits from our lives and not suggest knee-jerk reactions like calling for bans.

Issuing you a call for the already draconian government to ban whatever deemed undesirable is a dangerous thing.

Next, they’ll be going after your butter, your char kway teow, your barbeque, your marmalade and your Coca-Cola.

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A Hulu Pipe

For the Chinese, hulu or the bottle gourd or calabash is a symbol of prosperity, abundance, good health and longevity; which is the reason why on my 60th birthday, JQ presented me with a reverse calabash briar pipe made in the shape of a hulu.

Thanks, JQ!

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