MyRepublic Down Again; What is IDA going to Do?

Death knell for MyRepublic?

Death knell for MyRepublic?

MyRepublic was down on May 19th from about 6am to about 5pm.

According to MyRepublic this was due to problems at the Jurong West Internet Exchange.

Feedback from other subscribers indicates that for many, their connectivity or lack thereof have been down for days, not hours. See for yourself by going to MyRepublic’s Facebook page or Twitter account.

This is not a one-time occurrence and is clearly unacceptable. Internet connectivity is an essential part of modern day life. Internet access should be as ubiquitous a service as electricity, water, gas, or even the old wired phone system.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore should elaborate on how it intends to deal with this. As a tax-paying citizen and a fee-paying subscriber, I believe I am entitled to know.

I talk with God every day but I have major problems trying to reach MyRepublic. I gave up after listening to elevator muzak and canned sales pitches for almost 45 minutes. This seems to be the typical experience of subscribers trying to dial in. I left a message on its website but have not gotten a response.

I wondered if I should be contacting OpenNet instead.

Fiber broadband customers shouldn’t have to wonder each time the internet becomes inaccessible if it’s their router, or MyRepublic or OpenNet that is the culprit or even which organization to contact when outages happen.

To compound end-users’ frustrations all of these organizations pride themselves as innovative, people-centric customer-focused game-changers and other such puke-inducing clichés.

I wasn’t surprised when I read in today’s papers that business owners are abandoning OpenNet in favor of SingTel.

This is a so-called first-world country with third-world level of service and efficiency.

Posted in Unforgiven | Comments Off

The Day Discernment Died

Eurovision2014

A bearded transvestite from Austria – the country that produced Josef Fritzl – has won the Eurovision Song Contest 2014.

I never thought I would live to see such a day.

But then, nothing surprises me anymore.

The last time an Austrian with comical facial hair made such a big impression across Europe was in 1939.

Pervert!

Sure, Austria has produced Mozart and Freud too, but too bad, people remember the monsters better.

No wonder Europe is in deep shit!

Posted in Unforgiven | Comments Off

From Debauchery to Virtuousness: Brunei Regresses

His Gaudiness.

His Gaudiness.

He lives in a 1,788-room palace and on his 50th birthday he paid Michael Jackson US$17 million to perform.

His brother is infamous for having been embroiled in notorious scandals that would give even Giacomo Casanova a red face, including naming his luxury yacht “Tits” as well as facing allegations of maintaining a high-priced harem of Western paramours, if Jillian Lauren’s book Some Girls: My Life in a Harem is to be believed.

Last week, apparently under the influence of his very own Gríma Wormtongue (in the form of Malaysia’s leading Islamist opposition leader Nik Aziz), Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei introduced hudud – an Islamic penal code that calls for death by stoning for crimes such as adultery.

Most of the laws will also apply to non-Muslims.

Celebrities including Virgin group founder Richard Branson have vowed to boycott a hotel chain linked to Brunei’s sultan after he introduced a controversial Islamic penal code in his country.

“No @Virgin employee, nor our family, will stay at Dorchester Hotels until the Sultan abides by basic human rights,” the British billionaire posted on Twitter.

Others who have called for a boycott include comedian Stephen Fry, TV host Sharon Osbourne and comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

The US group Feminist Majority Foundation said it had also pulled its annual Global Women’s Rights Awards, co-chaired by Jay Leno and his wife, from the Beverly Hills Hotel, part of the Dorchester group of hotels, in protest.

I seriously doubt if the boycotts will cause a dent in the Sultan’s finances but at least the point is made.

Isn’t it ironic that self-appointed custodians of our conscience often themselves lead the most depraved of lives?

Once a person’s virtuousness is seriously called into doubt, he loses his authority as a moral leader.

I am reminded of those sick Catholic priests. It was just revealed that the Vatican has defrocked 848 priests over the past 10 years, and doled out lesser punishments to another 2,572 accused of raping and molesting children. There is a very special place in hell reserved for such monsters and their ilk. May these wolves in sheep’s clothing burn in hell for all eternity!

Posted in Unforgiven | Comments Off

Plug Pipe Tobacco

Rummaging through the drawers of my escritoire the other day I came across some pipe tobacco in plug form. Interestingly enough, two of the packages show price tags in Malaysian Ringgit. I must have purchased them in Malaysia eons ago!

Collection

Plug tobacco is basically large pieces of tobacco leaves that are layered on top of each other and pressed into a block, or plug.

Here’s a picture of a stick of plug that has been cut into smaller pieces:

Plug

It can seem like a real hassle to prepare, but it is really not difficult at all and it adds to the fun that the whole pipe-smoking ritual brings. To prepare it, all you need is a sharp knife, although the purists among us might insist on using a proper plug cutter like this one here:

Cutter

In any case, you want to either shave off some of the tobacco or slice the plug into flakes before filling your pipe and smoking it.

When cutting plugs, always cut the plug downwards and against the grain of the tobacco leaves. This way you will get some of all of the different tobaccos used in the blend and can then savor the flavor that the blender has intended for you to enjoy.

Posted in Thank You for Smoking | Comments Off

Why Do Condo Ads Show Local Women with Ang Mo Men?

RupertWendi

Losers.

Pirelli tires’ most coveted product isn’t one of their tires but their yearly calendar.

It features partially-clothed girls in sexy poses.

What has tires got to do with semi-nude models?

Absolutely nothing.

So why the girls?

Sex sells!

Images – especially in ads – attract certain audiences; for example if you wish to sell to women, make sure your ads have pictures of babies.

So why do local condominium ads in print and on TV often feature youngish Asian women with ang mo men?

What are developers of such properties trying to project and portray?

Due largely to government policies to infuse “foreign talent” into Singapore, there is currently an over-proliferation of foreigners here. Many Singaporeans complain that they feel like strangers in their own country. The anti-foreigner sentiment has already reached an alarmingly feverish pitch. There are too many mainland Chinese running around thinking they are more superior than us, and young women from China are causing havoc to marriages here. Also there are already too many Indians from India who look down on Indians born in Singapore and there are too many white trash “escapees” from Hong Kong still acting like colonial masters – yes, the FILTHs (those who Failed In London, Tried Hong Kong), and now trying Singapore? So with many Singaporeans resenting foreigners because they think these outsiders are taking away their jobs and encroaching into their living space are these condo builders bent on rubbing this negative stance in by alluding to the perception that these foreigners are fucking our women too?

I have nothing against inter-racial marriages (read an earlier post I wrote about it here) but, seriously, the robber barons of today would do well to take care not to piss off Singaporeans even more. Our government is already doing an excellent job with that. There is no need for you to help them. Please don’t add fuel to fire.

Your glamorous ads may appear clever and smart but they are not working, I’m sorry to tell you.

Unless your ads appeal to and resonate with the aspirations of the average Singaporean, you are going to fail miserably and you are going to look like just another douche bag who sucks up to the descendants of ex-colonizers. Didn’t your parents or grandparents suffered enough under those bloodsuckers who conquered their countries and robbed them blind?

Companies ought to exercise responsible leadership by taking steps to prevent fanning the flame of xenophobia.

Bodies who are supposed to be watchdogs of advertising appear to be sleeping, as usual.

These are the same buffoons who allow ads in our local media trying to convince the clueless that they can lose weight, re-gain lost hair, enlarge their busts, get laid even if they are ugly losers and make money using the internet while they sleep.

Posted in Unforgiven | Comments Off

The Visit

NUH

I found his bed.

Large room. Eight patients. Ceiling fans. No air-con.

Almost couldn’t recognize him.

But there he was. In bed 20. Dressed in hospital garb whose brownish color must have been chosen by someone very miserable and whose wish must be for others to be even more miserable. Or was it to match the drapes?

His hair appeared matted. Well, he has been lying in bed for a week, what did I expect?

His hair color that awful shade that happens while one’s hair is transitioning from black to white.

Unshaven, stubble on his chin.

Looking distant and dreamy.

“Fourth Uncle,” I touched him gently on his arm as I addressed him respectfully.

He seemed a little startled, then he smiled when he realized it was me.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Not so good,” he said. Then he sighed.

“What time’s your op?” (I was told that his surgery would be at 1 pm.)

“Three o’clock,” he said, then he sighed again and shook his head.

“Not to worry,” I assured him, “it’s just gall-stones; probably key-hole lah, my father had the same surgery before. And after they’re done, they’ll give you the stones in a bottle, you know.”

Then I didn’t know what else to say.

So I continued: “I myself may have to go for an op soon, to fix my slipped disc. Major surgery this one, brutal, like killing pigs like that.”

He made a face, winced.

I did a quick scan of the room and spotted a chair at the foot of his bed.

“Let me grab that chair,” I told him just as he said “Hey, sit down lah” to me.

“You’re off today?” he asked and I nodded my head.

“Where you work now?” he wanted to know. I told him I was with this company for 10 years but just left a little over two years ago. “Doing bits here and there now,” I added.

My Fourth Uncle, my father’s youngest brother, known to be a quiet man (albeit often seen with a frown and a thousand-yard stare) but who could be a bit of a character in his youth, and me his nephew – apparently we didn’t know what to say to each other, other than polite superficial chitchat.

I had heard that what he has been saying lately doesn’t always seem to make sense, that he may be gravely ill, that a couple of weeks ago, he went “missing” – walked out of his home one evening, only to return the next morning and couldn’t really explain where he went. Early signs of Alzheimer’s?

I have also heard that things are not that great between him and his wife.

From my dad and my third uncle, I hear stuff about our extended family.

Nothing really alarming of course.

But a lot of sad stories, nevertheless.

A couple of aunts are not doing too good apparently.

I learn of the family from my father and my third uncle, from the talk of concerned old men with hearts heavy for the clan, especially for the plight of the less fortunate ones among us.

“Your father is really healthy,” said Fourth Uncle somewhat wistfully. He seemed to imply “And look at me, I’m his youngest brother, but I am a wreck.”

“Yes, my father is 83 and doing fantastic for someone his age,” I responded, “and he has two balloons in his arteries you know, yet he still loves to eat fat pork, pork leg and all that unhealthy food. Cooks a huge pot each time and wallops the whole thing all by himself.”

“I have retired,” he said. And he shook his head again. “Damn boring. More than 10 years with SMRT. Nothing to do now.”

“Well, you have to get out of the house,” I suggested, “my father has lots of friends he visits with and he’s always up and about. He keeps active.”

After a while I asked “How old are you now, Fourth Uncle?”

“71.”

“You know what, Fourth Uncle? I’m 57. Can you imagine? I am 57 now. Unbelievable! Time flies huh? My mum has passed away for 21 years already. And I have a son who just went into National Service and one more going in June.” My words came out in a torrent, perhaps to stem the flow of silence that I was somehow anticipating.

“Wah, two in NS in the same year?”

“Yup. What to do, government stupid what,” I said, putting on a show of being indignant.

He didn’t respond to my dig at our government.

Agonizing silence.

I almost wanted to cry.

Two relatives, but we were like strangers.

Fourth Uncle, who used to stay with us, who ate with us, who had meals with us every day.

My parents were the first to leave the farming village or kampong near Tuas in Jurong to move to “town.” Soon many of the relatives who left the old homestead to seek their fortunes downtown would stay with us. My third uncle stayed with us first, but only for a short stint. Then came Fourth Uncle, as well as a brother of my mother. There was also an older relative called Uncle Hong, a great raconteur. My father used to joke that our house was like a community center! Every night my mother would cook lots of food, the men would talk animatedly on top of their loud voices and I would pretend to do my homework while listening to their conversations. The lessons learnt were more invaluable than what my textbooks and primary school teachers were trying to teach me at that time. Those learnings stay with me till today.

During the speechless interlude my thoughts wondered to another time and another place.

My memory flashed back to a time when, as a kid, I would go with my parents to visit my grandparents in the kampong during weekends. I recalled how during one of those visits Fourth Uncle, who lived with my grandparents before coming to stay with us later, coached me to shout something to Ah Tee who lived in a house nearby. The result was that shortly after, Ah Tee came running with a huge basket of ripe, juicy red jambu (Syzygium malaccense) for me to eat. But it was Fourth Uncle who then proceeded to devour almost the entire basket of jambu, juice dripping down his chin, while I watched and salivated.

Fourth Uncle, who liked his pet birds. Cages of pet birds.

Fourth Uncle, whom I often bullied when I was a child. During one visit, I even jokingly chased him with a kitchen knife, forcing him to hop onto his bicycle to dash to the kampong store in record speed to buy me a ballpoint pen I had demanded he give me.

Fourth Uncle, the joker who once took my hand, placed it on his butt and farted into it.

Fourth Uncle, whose surprisingly, soft, tender side we all saw when he was courting his wife.

I felt odd, sitting next to him, looking at this oldish man whom I can hardly recognize and with whom I was now trying so hard to connect, or rather, to re-connect. After so many passing years, have we exhausted our conversation topics?

Two of us have lived a total of 128 years so far and we have nothing to talk about?

More moments of awkward silence.

Each of us in our own thoughts.

Neither of us had anything more to say, it seemed.

It was uncomfortable.

He sat up.

“Very warm,” he muttered. Tiny beads of perspiration formed on his forehead.

“Is there anything I can get for you, Fourth Uncle?”

He shook his head.

“Not allowed to eat,” he said, “operation later.”

“Is your doctor young or old?”

“Middle age, but lots of young fellas around,” he said, with a disapproving expression on his face.

“Yeah,” I said, “some of these young ones damn arrogant some more.”

“Yeah,” he nodded. Then, a slight shake of his head.

More silence.

I spotted bottles of chicken essence on his bedside table, and I thought I also noticed a couple of bottles of bird nest in a plastic bag. Typical stuff Singaporeans of the older generation bring to those in hospitals, along with Jacob biscuits. Indication that some of the aunts must have visited.

Suddenly I felt a tinge of regret, perhaps I ought not to have visited empty-handed.

As if to assuage my guilt, I again asked Fourth Uncle, if there was anything I could get for him and assured him that I was more than willing to do downstairs to the stores to purchase for him whatever he might need.

“No need,” he pushed back.

We both continued to contemplate in silence.

At that point in time, I thought I had a moment of epiphany.

I thought there was actually no need for words. The blood flowing in our veins is the same blood.

We are family.

Showing up and being there in person was more important than meaningless talk, right?

But truth be told, my heart was grieving.

How do relatives grow so far apart, I wondered.

Didn’t they say absence makes the heart grow fonder?

After a while, afraid that we might both start to squirm with awkward discomfort, I told him in the gentlest possible way “I’ll make a move now to let you rest. Now, make sure you rest well, ok? And don’t worry about anything ok?”

My Fourth Uncle nodded his head, and with sad eyes looking at me, he said “Thank you for coming.”

I got up to go.

“Thank you for coming,” he said again.

I walked away feeling gloomy. Melancholia hung over my head like a dark cloud.

He didn’t need to thank me.

Visiting him was the right thing to do. It was my duty as a junior to visit an elder.

But he thanked me.

Not once, but twice.

I felt so inadequate, shameful and despondent.

I thought of someone I know who couldn’t stop boasting about living it up in a single suite in Mount Elizabeth Novena and dining on lamb shank, making even hospital stays seem like glamorous fun, as if he was on a cruise on the Queen Mary.

But my Fourth Uncle, a decent man who worked hard his whole life to provide for his family, was in a public hospital, stuck in a humid and putrid 8-bedded ward without air-conditioning. I bet he hasn’t tasted lamb shank in his entire life.

And I, a smug, conceited, unfilial and absent nephew, was more preoccupied with my own wretched feelings.

Posted in Places in the Heart | Comments Off

Our Own Pipe Tobacco!

Epicur

The pipe forum I belong to now has its own tobacco!

It’s Epikur! It’s a  full Virginia plug made for us by a very reputable blender located in Kendal, in the South Lakeland area of the North West of England. The company has been manufacturing snuff and pipe tobacco since 1792. (I was fortunate to visit its factory in 2011.)

Posted in Thank You for Smoking | Comments Off

Tsuge Bamboo Sandlasted

After the Ikebana, another masterpiece by Kyoichiro Tsuge to my Tsuge collection:

TsugeSandblasted

Posted in Thank You for Smoking | Comments Off

Customer Service Level in Singapore has Reached a Record High?

MiddleFinger

Recently I read that The Institute of Service Excellence at the Singapore Management University has released the 2013 full-year results for the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore, which indicated that customer service level in Singapore has reached a record high.

Caroline Lim, Director of ISES said, “Three straight years of improving national customer satisfaction levels is very encouraging.”

She’s got to be kidding!

I’ll leave it to textbookish academics in their ivory towers to convince you but I for one am not convinced.

Customer service is not just conducting surveys, interviews, or focus groups with random tourists and local consumers. (By the way, typically, tourists from the west are more “generous” in their rating of service levels here.)

Customer service – good or bad – is what I experience the moment I step out of my house. Measuring customer service levels is barely scratching the surface of national consciousness. It has to do with our national psyche. What confronts me is usually symptomatic of something way deeper. Attempts by organizations like ISES are at best, superficial.

Do my neighbors greet me? Do their kids offer to help carry my stuff? When I call for a cab, do I interact with a warm, helpful human being or do I listen to recordings of mechanical voices? When I phone my bank, do I tear my hair out because getting to speak to a human, or one located right here without a Filipino or Indian accent, is near impossible? In crammed, narrow aisles of the supermarket, do staff insists on getting their way, rudely cutting across my path, instead of stepping back to let me go first? On the roads, do motorists exhibit courtesy? Do cyclists stop demonstrating that they harbor death wishes? Do pedestrians stop jaywalking? In a restaurant, do staff insist that I pay for tap water even if my total spend is 500 bucks? Do I get asked about the dessert I want while my companion is still eating? Do they give me one – just one – toothpick when I ask for toothpicks? At the food court, do grouchy cleaners use the same foul-smelling, blackened rag to wipe my table as they clear away other diners’ plates and bowls, often plates and bowls filled with used tissues? (Why do people do that, throw used tissues into their used plates and bowls?) In a retail store, do sales people with bad halitosis breathe down my neck and follow me everywhere I move and quickly re-arrange merchandise I’ve touched, giving me the impression that I am nothing but a major irritation in their lives and that they can’t wait to go back to their Facebook updates?

Customer service level in Singapore has reached a record high?

Yeah right, and pigs fly our fighter jets.

Posted in Unforgiven | Comments Off

Is the E-pipe Here to Stay?

E-pipeThe Health Sciences Authority said on Monday that three individuals have been fined about S$100,000/- in all for selling illegal electronic cigarettes, or battery-operated gadgets that simulate cigarette smoking.

In Singapore, e-cigarettes are currently prohibited under Section 16 (1) of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, which is enforced by the HSA.

More than 5 million people globally are said to die every year from the consequences of smoking. That is one death in ten. 70 types of carcinogens from tobacco are blamed for 90% of all cancers.

E-cigarettes (or e-cigars or e-pipes) would seem to be the answer, right? I mean, there’s no second-hand smoke, they don’t smell bad, and so far no credible scientific study has proven that e-smoking is harmful. E-cigarettes contain none of the carcinogens, such as tar and arsenic, present in regular cigarettes because they contain no tobacco.

Wrong! Many in positions of power are up in arms against e-smoking.

The World Health Organization and the US Federal Drug Administration are planning to officially classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products. WHO wants to reduce tobacco use by 30% by 2025. It’s determination to stop e-cigarettes is therefore incomprehensible.

I can only think of three reasons:

One, e-smoking may lead to smoking the real thing. But nothing has proven that this is the case; in fact the reverse is true – e-cigarettes now outsell nicotine patches.

Two, the vapor-producing liquid that is the main ingredient of e-smokes may be harmful and addictive. Sure, so is sugar, so is salt, so is excessive sex, so is beer, so is red wine and so is a one-party government, if you get my drift. And the contents of these liquid vials can be quality-controlled to ensure that they cause minimal harm or contain zero nicotine.

Three, e-smoking products may overtake the sale of real tobacco products, causing the government to lose shitloads of revenue. If the government can ban chewing gum but is reluctant to ban tobacco products altogether – despite scare tactics and years of campaigns to castigate smokers – it can only mean that it is greedy for the lucrative revenue that the taxes on such products bring. (Plus a total ban would be seen as yet another draconian decree and would alienate voters even more.)

In any case, it is already clear that whatever health risks may emerge in studies of e-smoking, they are vastly less lethal than traditional smokes.

The risk of getting more people addicted to something relatively harmless is well worth taking, given the opportunity for curbing dramatically the world’s single-most-harmful voluntary activity, says The Economist.

Now, WHO, FDA and HSA, put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Posted in Thank You for Smoking | Comments Off