And a Moretti for my Birthday

One can never have enough Moretti pipes so I was absolutely delighted when Izuan presented me one – a giant olive chubby – as an early birthday present:

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A Moretti Birdseye Pipe

Marco did it again! Here’s my latest acquisition of yet another masterpiece by him:

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More Pipes by Lee von Erck

Since being gifted with one on my 60th birthday, I am now the proud owner of several of Lee von Erck‘s pipes; here are three more I commissioned:

An extremely fine grade pipe in von Erck’s Emperor range.

A couple more of von Erck’s pipes – notice the beautiful honeycomb-like effect on the one in front.

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Another Storm in a Teacup?

On January 11th, a male driver offered a ride to a female student from United World College of South East Asia as it was raining that day.

On January 16th, a female bus attendant on a school bus from Tanglin Trust School had noticed a male student wearing the uniform of Tanglin Trust School walking towards the school.

As the school bus was going to the same school, the female bus attendant offered the student a ride.

Both rides were declined but it caused a kidnap scare.

Social media went on overdrive.

Schools issued warnings, security was heightened, parents were alarmed, students were frightened, and the two kind-hearted souls were hauled up by the cops who after exhaustive investigations were convinced that no harmful intent was meant. The police also said they have clarified with the Tanglin Trust School student that no person had alighted from the school bus to persuade her to board it.

Then news emerged that a senior school student from Dulwich College heading home from school was approached in the vicinity of Farrer Road. The student, understood to be a boy, also declined the offer of a ride.

The cops are also investigating another incident in which a female student from Nexus International School was approached by two men in a vehicle at Old Holland Road on her walk home from school.

So far there have been no updates on these two incidents.

A retard wrote to the press saying it was surely no coincidence these offers of free rides happened only to international school students.

He pronounced in a most Churchillian manner: “The fact that only students from international schools were involved in those incidents leaves many wondering whether it was too much of a coincidence.” Nut thinks he’s a data scientist or what? He’ll have better luck as a tea-leaf reader.

The rumor mill went berserk.

Home Affairs and Law Minister commented yesterday (January 22nd) that “We need to be careful of spreading untrue stories and unnecessarily alarming parents.”

“Some media reports have called them ‘kidnap scares’,” said Shanmugam. “Media reports have said that the van occupants in one of the incidents had gotten out try to persuade one of the students to get into the van.

“That is untrue. The van provides transport services for the school, takes students to and from the school.”

Fake news huh?

Shanmugam said the authorities have investigated both incidents “thoroughly” and interviewed the people involved.

“There were no kidnap attempts,” he declared.

“It is important for young children to be taught to be careful when approached by strangers. At the same time, we need to be careful of spreading untrue stories and unnecessarily alarming parents.”

“Certainly, we should teach our children not to get into any vehicles with strangers,” he added.

Before the minister weighed in, several others have already expressed their opinions.

The Straits Times wrote on January 20th that “A child should never take up a stranger’s offer of a lift in their vehicle, even on a rainy day.”

It claimed: “That was the resounding verdict of sociologists, support groups and Members of Parliament, who were commenting on a series of recent incidents here that raised the specter – albeit briefly – of kidnapping.”

It quoted warnings from two members of parliament.

Jurong GRC MP Tan Wu Meng said it is “better to be safe than sorry,” adding: “While Singapore has a lower crime rate than many other countries, it’s important to remain vigilant.”

Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo said children may not be able to fend for themselves, adding: “While most people are kind and well-meaning, there might be the odd chance of perpetrators with nefarious intent.”

The Straits Times also said “Sociologists said the drivers in these cases – even if they had good intentions – should have known their actions were startling.”

The paper interviewed two sociologists.

Yup, fantastic journalism – interview a couple of MPs and a couple of sociologists and say a child should never take up a stranger’s offer of a lift in their vehicle, even on a rainy day and claim that was the “resounding verdict” of sociologists…and members of parliament.

My resounding verdict: Pulitzer Prize potentials Straits Times journos are not. Perhaps that’s why most times the paper pats itself on its own back by creating awards that it dishes out to its own reporters.

Anyway, sociologist Paulin Straughan was quoted by The Straits Times as saying: “The sad truth is – it is not odd for adults to stop and offer assistance but because of our heightened awareness of security, we now perceive kind gestures as threats.”

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said: “While one may have good intentions, the fact that one is a stranger, as well as being an adult in a position to be able to cause harm, would mean that one would likely be misunderstood.”

Based on what Straughan and Tan Ern Ser said, The Straits Times surmised that “sociologists said the drivers in these cases – even if they had good intentions – should have known their actions were startling.”

“Startling” indeed.

Talk about putting words in peoples’ mouths.

But the third MP The Straits Times interviewed seemed to make the most sense.

Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam said: “There are many kind souls out there and we shouldn’t discourage kind acts. We also need to teach our children about kindness.”

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser added “If it is raining and the student is running in the rain without an umbrella, it would be helpful to offer one, though not a ride.” Yeah right, keep loads of umbrellas in your car, you bleeding hearts. Soon, the umbrella business will be going through the roof. Buy stocks in umbrella companies please.

While many people found it hard to believe there was no ill intent in the recent cases, a few said there was no issue in accepting a lift from well-meaning strangers and will continue to do good themselves.

It is normal human instinct to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

A voice of reason came from a sales manager by the name of Kevin Lee, who said some people may genuinely need help, adding: “Rather than seeing someone get stranded because of the rain, I would offer them a lift if I can.”

I believe part of the problem, apart from the media’s sensationalism-style reporting – no choice, paper sales dwindling – and no prize for guessing which paper first used the word “kidnap” – is the lack of integration between the expat community and the local populace.

First off, the penalty for kidnapping in Singapore is death, if the victim is hurt; kidnapping very rarely happens. It was occasionally attempted by foolhardy criminals beyond stupid – who should stick to their day jobs as circus clowns – who almost always got caught and had to face the full brunt of the law. Look at those two shitface cretins who tried to kidnap the mother of Sheng Shiong’s boss – they probably can’t tell the difference between their asses from holes in the ground. And what are they doing now? Polishing the bars at Changi. One of them even asked for the death sentence. Well, you can’t fix stupid.

One lesson – in my humble opinion – to be learned from this international school “kidnapping” scare is that as long as expats and their children do not integrate and mingle with the majority of society there will always be mistrust and suspicion.

Even the best intent may be misinterpreted as diabolical. Once I opened the door for a Caucasian landwhale only to have her glared at me as if I was Najib and scolded me with a snarl “You don’t have to do that just because I am a lady” to which I retorted “I’m doing this not because you are a ‘lady’ but because I am a gentleman.”

Fucking bitch.

This is the dilemma today’s society faces – while many are quick to condemn some for being un-caring, non-chivalrous, cold-hearted and callous, acts of kindness can, on the other hand, be rejected because of people’s wary nature. I don’t blame people for being cagey because many expats come from countries where crime rates are extremely high and just walking along quiet streets at night tantamount to courting personal disaster and inviting death.

My personal dilemma is this: the next time it rains cats and dogs should I be heartless and ignore the poor shivering little kid on the street, soaked and drenched by the heavy downpour and go on my merry way and enjoy my nice cozy warm drive or do I stop to offer a lift and risked being hauled to the police station, given the third degree and subjected to morons on social media labeling me a pedophile, a child molester, a child rapist, a monster, pervert, a potential murderer and serial killer and Lucifer incarnate with “nefarious” intent?

Principals of international schools – other than sitting on their fat asses penning warning letters and circulars –  have important roles to play in fostering better community relations and promoting cross-cultural understanding. The scare begs the questions “How many students in international schools have friends who are Singaporeans?” and “How many expat families socialize with Singaporeans?” While recent discussions have focused on national “class divide” we must also not ignore the “them” versus “us” phenomenon prevalent in foreigners’ relationship with locals. Joint activities between international and Singapore schools is perhaps a good place to start. Otherwise some locals will always think that foreigners are wicked (after all didn’t they come and steal our jobs and lord over us and snatch our husbands and fuck our women?) and some foreigners will always think that the natives (aren’t they restless, weird and inscrutable?) are very likely to run amok anytime beneath the cool superficially friendly exterior. Bonding and intermingling may enable us to sense and intuit people better.

In the end, it is still common sense that will prevail.

Unfortunately, as Voltaire has said, common sense is not so common.

In the meantime, you may wish to know that all my kids possess advanced martial arts training and qualifications. They can incapacitate a grown man in three seconds.

And in these days of global trust deficit, they also own rain coats and carry umbrellas.

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A Scourge Invading Singapore

A grown man riding an e-scooter – besides looking fucking ridiculous, this retard must be harboring a death wish, overtaking a bus in heavy traffic.

Electronic bicycles, e-scooters and personal mobility devices kill, get it?!

Every other day we hear of accidents involving electronic bicycles, e-scooters and personal mobility devices. Yes, personal mobility devices – what a glamorous term for shitty little platforms on wheels used by losers and cretins whose parents never gave them attention when they were kids.

About 110 such accidents took place between January and September last year, involving 90 injuries and four deaths.

Of these accidents, about 30 were on public paths involving pedestrians and PMD users.

The rest took place at public road junctions when PMD riders were crossing the road, and on roads when they were illegally riding parallel to vehicle traffic.

And on January 8th the press reported that every week, about three accidents involving users of PMDs occur on public roads and paths. Three a week!!!

This despite Land Transport Authority issuing more than 1,700 advisories to cyclists and PMD users for unsafe riding behavior last year. What’s the use of issuing advisories when LTA doesn’t have the balls to send enforcement officers to yank these killer machines off our public thoroughfares? LTA is a joke so far – just look at issues related to our MRT.

Blood is on the hands of those idiots sitting on the Active Mobility Advisory Panel who recommended that PMD riders share footpaths with pedestrians. I bet none of those elitist clowns on the Panel walk on footpaths.

As a nation, Singapore should re-think the use of such devices. And don’t get me started on electric chargers for these devices catching fire and gutting an entire house, something that has actually happened.

In the last National Day Rally – the one that he did not faint – our beloved Prime Minister painted a stark picture of the diabetes situation in Singapore. He encouraged everyone to go for regular medical check-ups, eat healthier, and to exercise more. (S Iswaran, are you reading this?)

The use of electronic bicycles, e-scooters and PMDs can remove the exercise component of our daily lives and take away what little chance there is of us being physical in a manner that can be beneficial to our health.

Some may think that it is necessary to make the first- and last-mile connections in our daily commute a convenient one, and some are conned into believing the government bullshit about the nation’s need to go car-lite,  hence the rapid growth in the use of electronic bicycles, e-scooters and PMDs, and lately of bike-sharing schemes.

But wheeling yourself to the train station or bus stop? Aren’t you just being frigging lazy? Moreover, the use of such devices run counter to the healthy nation we are trying to build. Instead it contributes to a more sedentary lifestyle and consequently may result in the exponential growth of illnesses related to such a lifestyle. What’s wrong with walking? What’s wrong with using your legs? Must you be “transported” everywhere you go? Did our government build all those “park connectors” for brain-damaged morons to ride these killer machines on? And in Singapore, everyone knows it’s more expensive to be sick than to just die. Yup, it’s cheaper to die – you do it once and you’re done with it. But if you get hit by one of these machines and become incapacitated for the rest of your miserable life, it’s an agony worse than instant death.

I see no reason to use any mobility device to move me from my house to the MRT station or bus stop and back, in fact, my walks to and from these places are very often the only exercise I get in the day, and despite excruciating pain from a bad back, I persist in walking and have learned to enjoy the walks and to benefit from what little exercise I get from them.

We all know already that electronic bicycles, e-scooters and PMDs often cause danger – and even deaths – to pedestrians, as statistics have clearly shown, and bicycles from bike-sharing scheme strewn all over the place are an eyesore. (Now that’s another story.) Is there really a need for us to promote the use of such devices just because they are trendy in some countries?

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Off the Grid

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Bare Essentials

If even Mark Hamill had to scrounge the trash bins for discarded cigarette butts to smoke, isn’t the future of us mere mortals doomed for sure?

Bare essentials? More like dire straits.

Grab and Uber have drastically reduced the costs of my daily commute. It is now at a conservative estimate of S$30 daily, that is, if I am in Singapore every day. 30 bucks a day is around 900 bucks a month. If I have a thousand bucks a month, that basically pays for transportation alone and there’s no cash left for any purchase of any kind. When I turn 65, a thousand bucks a month is also what I’ll probably get from CPF payouts.

In the meantime, there are people who go on social media and boast about how they stuff their faces with caviar and lobster; yes, the same narcissists who hang on to their air miles for dear life instead of redeeming a couple of cheap air tickets for their cash-strapped parents. (Happened to someone I know.) I’ve known of spouses who receive multiple paychecks but horde them all for themselves and dispense a trickle at a time to their jobless other halves; yes, the same people who are educated beyond their intelligence and who go around talking about how much they love you, and throwing money away unashamedly and audaciously buying crap in your face, while you have to think twice before you sit down at the food court for a three-dollar bowl of noodles.

Long story short: if you don’t have your own stash of cash at the end of your working life, you are fucked royally. In this day and age, a thousand bucks a month doesn’t go far. A few years down the road, with inflation and all, it’ll be worse. If you harbor the Panglossian notion that your kids are going to support you in your old age, you must have attained the height of naiveté. It’s wisdom you ought to have acquired at this age, my friend, not naiveté. Nowadays kids tend to behave as if you are not even there! If you are banking on the hope those who declare undying love for you are going to bail you out, it’s time you wake up. No, they are building their own nest eggs, and you are not necessarily part of that future! Count yourself lucky that bones are thrown in your direction. Rejoice and praise the Lord when you get the chance to eat the scraps off their tables. I know what I am talking about, because I see this happening in the lives of a few people I know. For an example, click here.

People can’t be trusted anymore. It hurts when its’ your loved ones.

In order to trust someone, their actions and words must be synchronized. When there is no synchronization, I am reminded of people who say “Food here is horrible and portions are small” when they are unhappy with an eatery. Isn’t that a contradiction? If the food is horrible why are you complaining that the portions are small? You must have eaten the whole lot, and if they are horrible, why did you even eat the food?

When people see contradictions and sense that someone does not mean what they say, or do things contrary to their promises, trust will be lost. Many parents, for instance, trust their children to do the right thing and when they disappoint – despite all the right upbringing – we continue to love them. Family is everything, right? But the milk of your human kindness can go sour when kids turn douchy – when they think they know more than you, when they snap at you and are rude to you, when they think because they are legally adults, they can do whatever they want, tattoo their bodies or whatever, stay out till dawn, don’t even tell you where they go or what’s happening in their lives and block you from viewing their bragging and preening on social media.

Because, my friends, in the end, it’s all about money. You may not agree, but yes, at the end of the day, it all boils down to money. As long as you are a walking ATM, your kids will love you. That’s what many parents say. All the rest is pure bullshit. Talk is cheap, isn’t it? Who can’t talk and declare undying love? Even between husbands and wives, in the end, it’s about money.

I cringe when I hear people swearing eternal love. All these cheap talkers and human detritus should be euthanized. Better yet, kill yourself. Really – seriously – make the world a better place by killing yourself.

Save the rest of us the trouble.

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My Absolute Crap

Not worth the papers they are printed on.

I just dumped My Absolute Darling, literally trashed it into the bin. I gave up reading after a couple hundred pages despite universal critical acclamation – “must-read book of the year” and all that crap, accolades probably planted by the publishing company and its paid shills (incentivized reviewers). First off, a story of a nut-case of a gun-obsessed father sexually and physically abusing his 14-year-old daughter is not a subject matter I am fascinated with. Of course, fans will say this story is more about the daughter’s growing independence etc. To me it is a crock of disgusting crap that should have never seen the light of day. That’s saying a lot for someone who has read some of the best books of the world in several languages and who is the owner of several hundred thousand books, including some rare, limited first-editions.

When I buy books, I usually buy two copies – a hardcover for my library and a paperback to read and pass around.

Both have been thrown into my trash bin, or as they say, in England, more accurately, my wastepaper basket.

Yes, some publishers tend to churn out crap, and these scumbags, like the local firm Graham Brash, who have nothing but money – instead of readers’ interests and edification – in their minds, would eventually go the way of the dinosaurs.

I have been trying to purchase a book from Graham Brash but repeated phone calls and emails have gone unanswered.

Maybe one copy is not good enough money for them to be bothered?

Maybe they have gone fart?

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Texting

While the first text message was sent on December 3rd, 1992, it was Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen who first conceived of the idea eight years earlier.

Since then texting has taken off in a big way.

The country that sends the most text messages is the Philippines.

The Philippines is known as the text-messaging capital of the world.

Already in 2007, Filipinos sent 1 billion text messages daily.

Even the central bank governor sends monetary policy statements via mobile phone and an increasing number of consumers use their handsets for banking and bill payments.

For the estimated 8 million plus Filipinos who work overseas, texting is the main method of staying in touch with family back home. Text messages are also an important political tool in the Philippines and were instrumental in the overthrow of President Joseph Estrada in 2001 by alerting people to rallies. (Cellular or mobile phones were also instrumental for the Arab Spring uprisings.)

Texting through SMS and all other platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat, etc is now very common, especially more so in Asia, where lots of business communications are done through such chat programs and apps. With WeChat for example, even financial transactions can be made.

WeChat was first released in China in 2011, and by 2017 it was one of the largest standalone messaging apps by monthly active users, with over 980 million monthly active users (902 million daily active users). It has been called China’s “App For Everything” because of its many functions and platforms, and lauded as one of the world’s most powerful apps.

In China, users who have provided bank account information may use the app to pay bills, order goods and services, transfer money to other users, and pay in stores if the stores have WeChat payment option.

WeChat Pay is a digital wallet service incorporated into WeChat, which allows users to perform mobile payments and send money between contacts.

As of March 2016, WeChat Pay had over 300 million users.

In Asia, texting using apps like WhatsApp and WeChat appears to be the preferred way of electronic communications – unlike SMS, it is free (all you need is Wi-Fi or have access to mobile data), it takes away the hassle of having to pen emails, and apps like WhatsApp and WeChat are interactive (with chats incorporating live video) occurring in real time. There are entire months when I don’t make or receive a single phone call, but texting happens very frequently every single day.

Does it encourage sloppiness (which in turn promotes poor communication and sometimes bad behavior)? Not at all, if you have a good smartphone and become adept at texting as you do it more frequently.

With Singapore’s drive towards a cashless society, texting programs and chat apps as well as other mobile phone apps will be utilized for payments of basic necessities as well as major purchases. Such payment methods are being rolled out right now.

Interestingly enough, The Guinness World Records accept SMS records, and the message it provides is: “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.”

The SMS message has to be accurately typed for any attempt to be recognized by the Guinness World Records. To qualify for the Guinness record, no autocorrect or predictive text features are allowed to remain switched on.

In Singapore in 2011, Jeffrey Teo succeeded to type all that in 23.40 seconds. Teo is the fourth Singaporean to have achieved an SMS Guinness world record. Using a keypad phone in 2008, Jeramy Sng Gim, clocked 41.40 seconds typing the same message. In 2006, Ang Chuan Yang broke the world record in 41.52 seconds and in 2004, Kimberly Yeo set the world record in 43.2 seconds.

If I am not wrong, some of the phones used were those old-fashioned button or keypad phones, not smartphones.

Ong Eng Huat, President of Singapore Book of Records, said “SMS texting at that kind of speed requires discipline and training and Singaporeans have been so consistently best in the world.”

So, you see, it’s not that difficult at all. If you avoid old-fashioned button phones and use WhatsApp or WeChat on a smartphone, it’s rather easy, quick and not so tedious.

By the way, today, the fastest time attained is 17.00 seconds and was achieved by Marcel Fernandes Filho of Brazil.

But it’s not all just for fun; texting can help save lives.

In the US, a country slow in the use of texting, Nancy Lublin founded Crisis Text Line in 2013 and today, it has over 3,700 counselors who have exchanged 56 million messages with people in crisis.

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Moretti Axe Effect Pipe

The quest for Moretti pipes continues! Here’s what Marco, the famous carver, refers to as an “axe effect” pipe – a real beauty – and is my latest acquisition:

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