Barbarians in out Midst

Invited people to a soirée recently – a time of piano music, champagne and caviar and the replies I’ve gotten convince me that Singaporeans need to seriously attend some etiquette classes.

I indicated that only those who CANNOT make it let me know.

But there were a few who disregarded that, cluttering my inbox unnecessarily, creating confusion.

The declines were particularly bad.

One said “Sorry, got to make a living.” It sounded like a rebuke to me. It sounded like “I am working hard to earn some money while you have the gall to organize parties.”

Another said “Cannot attend medically.” As if showing up would kill him. Honestly I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say; I can only guess that he is not able to attend for medical reasons. Like I give a fuck if you are an alcoholic.

And there were some who didn’t make a pip squeak, they didn’t send regrets and they’re not likely to turn up anyway. An inexperienced party organizer would be stumped with his catering plans due to the behavior of such retards.

Now I know who to strike off my future guest lists.

Singaporeans should learn how to accept an invitation and how to decline one graciously.

Sending regrets is particularly tricky and it’s something people should learn how to do with grace, finesse and class.

Third world behavior has no place in the first world country.

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Another custom-made Baki

It is always a joy to receive a meerschaum pipe from Fikri Baki – no one carves meerschaums like him.

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Starbucks at Jurong Point on Sunday June 25th

Sign was ignored; Starbucks not enforcing it, so a library atmosphere is the result.

She didn’t even buy a drink but it looks like she intends to hog this place all day, depriving paying customers their seats.

If you own a cafe but non-paying cretins plonk themselves in the seats, use your electricity to charge their electronic devices and stay all day without paying, would you like it?

Why can’t students study at home? In my youth, I did my homework using the light from streetlamps and my dad, who was a student during the Japanese Occupation hid in smelly chicken coops, surrounded by chicken shit and studied using the illumination from candles.

Hey, you shit-for-brains, what’s the use of all these studying when ultimately, you end up as a retard with all kinds of fancy paper qualifications – oh yes, and certifications too – but have zero EQ, zero interpersonal capability, zero communication skills, lack basic courtesy, and are a completely insensitive prick?

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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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