Under the Parks and Trees Act, felling of a tree larger than one meter in girth carries a penalty of up to S$50,000/- and any breaches under the Wildlife Act has the same hefty penalty plus a jail term of six months.

The public became aware recently that 4.5 hectares of forest were cleared by mistake. The fact was kept under wraps by officials initially. If someone didn’t raise the alarm, the public would never have known.

My amateurish research shows that as many as 2,500 trees can be planted in a hectare. So how many trees in that 4.5 hectares? You do your math and please don’t forget that logging also means the destruction of wildlife habitats.

Satellite images of the area have revealed that forest-clearing activity started as early as March last year.

JTC has the overall responsibility for the site; its spokesman said the mistake was discovered only last month.

Fantastic, right?

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said while investigations are being carried out, everyone should refrain from speculating about what happened “until the facts are clearer.”

The most prominent local newspaper, long known as the government’s mouthpiece, did an article on the subject. While the tone was disguised as educational, many readers felt that it was designed to downplay the catastrophe.

In the meantime, Lee declared: “We will not hesitate to take the necessary actions should any party be responsible.”

Good, does that mean you will assume accountability, get fired and go to jail?

If you do, I’ll salute you, because you will be breaking new ground as the first minister of the PAP government to personally assume accountability for the fuckups of his ministry. (Not like that other minister, that much-loathed shortass, who seemed to have seized this fiasco as an opportunity to practice his oratory and to milk it for political capital, resulting in some people asking “Cui bono?”)

NOTE: JTC stands for Jolly Tree Cutters, er I mean, Jurong Town Corporation.

Fucktards falling asleep at the wheel.

Long story short, that was basically what happened.

Nuff said.

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Lovely Birthday Gift

Very blessed to be lavished with so many lovely gifts from family members and thoughtful friends.

A Castello from David stands out!

Read about Castello here, here and here.

Read about David here and here.

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Holy Cow! I’m 64 Now!

I turned 64 yesterday, and my mind immediately thought of a song by The Beatles that was popular in the late 60’s:

When I’m Sixty-Four

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

You’ll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine forevermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

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Please Stick to Stroking Pussies

Some MPs (Members of Parliament) are clearly retarded. Without gerrymandering and the harebrained GRC (Group Representation Constituency) concept, many of those retards will never get elected into Parliament.

And don’t get me started on NMPs (Nominated Members of Parliament)! The NMP scheme was cooked up by the government to give the impression that contrary views are being heard. This was politically useful during those days when there were no opposition members of Parliament. Every year, a new batch of NMPs will be put into Parliament. (Ordinary citizens can nominate themselves.) Every year when this happens, it is worth remembering the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a given task are prone to overestimate their ability at that task.

Put simply, humans are notoriously incapable of objective evaluation of their competency levels.

The cognitive bias was first identified by psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in a 1999 study.

With politicians, intellectual humility is an aberration, not the norm. Many of their “solutions” then lead to the Cobra Effect, a term used to describe a situation where the solution to a given problem makes the problem worse.

I looked at the nine NMPs just sworn in last month and when I saw a couple of names, I shook my head. (I have worked with one before, and I know people who have had unpleasant experiences with a couple of others.)

I also shook my head when I heard an MP – a real MP, not an NMP – some time ago, asking for smoking near windows or in balconies of homes to be banned.

(Yes, many Singaporeans still harbor the spastic mentality that if they dislike something, the government should just ban it.)

Sure, the government must constantly be seen to have the interests of citizens at heart. A Government Parliamentary Committee’s call for a ban on residents smoking at windows or balconies of their homes – to lessen the effects of second-hand smoke on neighbors – is purportedly, a recent example. It shows that the government cares. Hallelujah! Pwaise the Lward!

However, decisions pertaining to health matters should and must be science-based.

Despite all its supposedly noble intentions, government officials have to support and substantiate the numbers they arrive at when establishing the harmfulness of second-hand smoke. MP Louis Ng, (shown stroking a pussy in the photo above) chairman of the GPC for Sustainability and the Environment, said 383 people in Singapore died due to second-hand smoke in 2016. “That is about one person dying every day. We must do something,” he said. Was he previously the headline writer of tabloids, I wonder? These numbers are said to be obtained from the WHO study Global Estimate of the Burden of Disease from Secondhand Smoke 2016.

I have looked and found difficulties locating the numbers cited. The understanding is that this study is based largely on estimates using data provided by the countries themselves. Why does Singapore appear not to have our own research showing the same numbers, since all the data used in the WHO study is supposedly provided by the Singapore authorities.

Data integrity is in question here.

It is also important to delve into the emotive, if not, practical reasons, why people smoke at windows or balconies.

They do so because they want the smoke to be blown outdoors. I don’t believe there are people who do so because they intend to deliberately blow smoke into their neighbors’ homes. This is also why people choose to barbeque at their balconies, not in their living rooms with all windows closed.

Banning smoking at windows and balconies to prevent smoke from drifting to neighboring houses forces smokers to smoke indoors with windows closed. This would result in family members suffering from increased exposure to indoor second-hand smoke.

(Research done on second-hand smoke exposure has always defined it as living at home with a smoker or smokers.)

Several official websites, including that of the American Center for Disease Control, states that long term exposure to second-hand smoke at home increases the risk of lung cancer by 20% to 30%. Common sense tells us that if this was remnant smoke that has travelled a distance from a neighbor’s home, the risk would probably drop to an insignificant level. (That is likely why no research has been done on the increased risk of exposure to second-hand smoke outdoors.)

Long-term exposure to second-hand smoke indoors would by far be more harmful than exposure to second-hand smoke outdoors or from smoke wandering in from a neighbor’s house.

In any case, Ng seems to be trying to smoke us as he embarked on a crusade to be an anti-tobacco Nazi, never mind infringing on the rights of people.

In Parliament, he said that while a ban on smoking at windows and in balconies might seem intrusive, there were already laws in place to police (italics/emphasis in bold mine) people’s behavior at home, such as Section 27A of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, where one cannot walk around nude, even in private while exposed to public view. He wrote “Being naked in your own home doesn’t kill your neighbor but second-hand smokes could.” Sensationalism at its best. Ng has missed his true calling. The National Enquirer and UK tabloids beckon!

Given the current technology, and the privacy laws of the country, it would be challenging to track down smokers who deliberately blow smoke into their neighbors’ homes without deploying rather draconian or intrusive methods. Does Ng prefer to live in a police state? Does he expect police SWAT teams and elite crack teams from our armed forces to break down doors and raid homes in surprise attacks? Also, ill intent must be proven in a court of law. And of course, such blitzkriegs and lightning raids and storming of people’s homes would affect the privacy of innocent neighbors and must be taken into consideration. Of course, Ng doesn’t seem to care about these things. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?

Smoking is already prohibited in more than 32,000 locations, including covered common areas right up to the doorstep of homes.

What more does Ng want?

Yes, whiffs of smoke emanating from a neighbor’s house are unpleasant, smelly and annoying indeed. But what’s unpleasant, smelly and annoying is no less unpleasant, smelly and annoying than fumes from motor vehicles, the widespread public burning of incense during the Chinese seventh or “ghost” month, or a neighbor cooking curry or frying pungent belachan, or loud music from a Malay wedding or creepy sounds of religious rituals performed at wakes and funerals. Banning the source of such unpleasantness is hardly a move that is science-based, nor does it foster the cultivation of a society that should be tolerant and understand the idea of “live and let live” which is the glue that has held Singapore together thus far.

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The Kiseru

A woodblock print believed to be from around 1785 and 1790.

Tobacco entered Japan in the Momoyama Period (1568-1600) through the Portuguese.

It was smoked using a bamboo pipe with a fine metal fitting on either end. It is called a “kiseru” which literally means “smoking tube.”

A typical kiseru.

The kiseru is traditionally used for smoking a tiny serving (about 25 mg) of kizami, a finely shredded tobacco resembling hair.

My friend Kyozaburo Tsuge smoking a kiseru.

It is said that the bowl is tiny because tobacco used to be an expensive luxury in Japan. Production of kizami ceased in 1979 but limited production restarted as there was still a market for the traditional tobacco. (In recent years, there is a renewed interest in smoking and collecting kiseru pipes.) Currently, kizami is being made by only one company in Japan. Interestingly enough, the other company making kizami is a Belgian one.

Because each kiseru is basically a rod with metal ends, extremely long kiseru could be carried as weapons, especially by the gangster-like Kabukimono samurai of the Edo period.

These pipes were known as Kenka Kiseru, meaning “fight pipes” and are parts of Shikomibuki or “hidden/trick weapons.”

On every first Sunday of September, since 1954, a Kiseru Festival is being held on Mount Kaba-san, in a place called Ishioka of the Ibaraki region. During this event, managed by the Kabayama Shrine, a large kiseru 2.5 meters long and weighing 60 kilograms is being carried from the worship hall on the mountain to the main Yamagami hall where Shinto rites are then performed.

Men hauling a huge kiseru.

The giant kiseru is filled with smoking kizami.

I hope to participate in this Festival one day. It’s on my bucket list!

And I will bring along my favorite kiseru, which is a very unique pipe made with some kind of peach kernel and a twisted bamboo stem. The mouthpiece is made of horn.

I have many kiseru pipes, but this is my favorite.

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The Empty Nest

“Where’s my pain? You met her in the waiting room.”

A friend, a retired pastor, was chatting with me and I learned that all his kids are grown and are now no longer living with them.

“Great,” I said, “now you and your wife have more time together!”

He responded “No, we end up quarreling all the time.”

This coming from a pastor – one of the few good ones and not a parasite like many others.

The empty nest can throw us off-kilter. Growing older with less stuff to do and becoming grouchier (for me, it’s largely due to physical pain caused by a bad back) add to the volatile mix. I don’t want to end up being a complaining, bitter old man to whom small things appear big and big things (like lose weight, get a haircut, exercise more, eat less carbs – all big things in my wife’s perception) are often not addressed.

That empty nest can lay bare more fundamental issues and differences. Ironically these differences were the qualities that usually attract people to each other when they were courting. But as people age, tolerance levels can go down and what was once sweet and cute can appear irritating after having spent decades together. Buried resentment and unresolved anger can rear their ugly heads. So conversations can turn grating but I try not to have the last word. However, I often cannot remember to put brain into gear before engaging mouth. That and my sarcasm and tone can be tough for my wife, making life with me quite unbearable at times. Outside the home, because of what I do for a living, people expect me to be wise and witty and to be a superlative raconteur of enthralling tales. I made the mistake of thinking my wife expects that of me. I realized that no, though her title may be “She Who Must Be Obeyed” I don’t have to be wise and witty at home, and definitely don’t have to “perform” for my dear wife, who has accepted me – warts and all – a long time ago. I just have to be myself – the good side, that is – and not speaking will not cause anyone to suspect that I have become dumb, that the cat has got my tongue.

I’m thankful we are both still working – she more and me less, much less, (last year I made a princely sum of only S$5,800/- and I still haven’t’ been paid, by the way) but at least we are not at home all the time tearing each other into shreds.

It’s a good thought for today, Valentine’s Day.

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Napoleons Amongst Us

He always had to be ahead of the pack, never mind the fact that they are elders above him. He would bulldoze his way to the front and “take charge” so as to bask in the limelight.

Typical short man syndrome. A problem of the vertically-challenged.

This attitude cascades down to his entire family. Each family member places himself or herself above other people – the daughters are the worse – seriously believing that they know best, that other people are all idiots and that their family is the only one who truly knows anything, that it is only their family who holds the monopoly on wisdom. Thankfully, not all of them are as short as him.

Toxicity will spread from one generation to another. When the patriarch croaks, his kids and their kids will perpetuate the toxicity.

One big happy family, all behaving like pricks with impunity.

All strutting around like little Napoleons.

Mental dwarfs, intellectual midgets.

A sad sight to behold.

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Want Some Ass?

Jian Qing gave me two boxes of candies made from donkey-hide gelatin.

Donkey-hide gelatin has been a valuable and prominent part of traditional Chinese medicine. This ancient remedy is called “ejiao.” Historical Chinese medicinal texts prescribed donkey-hide gelatin for a variety of conditions such as bleeding, dizziness, insomnia, dry cough and for yin deficiency.

Although ejiao is one of the oldest and supposedly most potent forms of traditional Chinese medicine, very few people outside China know about the ejiao cure-all. In fact, some Westerners may be skeptical of the way it’s made: soaking and stewing a donkey’s hide until it becomes gelatin, and then using it in a number of ways.

For years, ejiao was only within reach of China’s most elite; Tang dynasty (618 – 907) concubines were known to eat it regularly, and Qing dynasty (1616 – 1911) emperors gave it as gifts.

In Dong’e county of Shandong province, where the best ejiao first originated, there are now 100 factories which produce ejiao-based products, and the largest, Shandong Dong-e E-Jiao, employs 10,000 people, around 5% of the entire county’s population. It is also a publicly-listed company on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

Of course, animal lovers are up in arms. “World’s donkeys being decimated by demand for Chinese medicine,” screamed a headline in The Guardian.

Other reports claimed that tens of thousands of donkeys go from Egypt to China, that donkeys are being stolen and brutally slaughtered for their hides, etc. PETA even released “eyewitness footage” showing baby donkeys being bludgeoned to death with sledgehammers or killed by having their throats cut. Er, how do you steal a donkey?

A study by a British charity dedicated to protecting donkeys says soaring demand in China for ejiao has left the global population of the animal “in crisis.”

In April 2011, the founder of the same charity named an orphaned donkey foal after Prince William in honor of the Prince’s then upcoming wedding to Catherine Middleton. The founder said at the time, “It’s a real honor to have Prince William with us and I can’t think of a better name for him, thus to mark the occasion of the royal wedding.”

You get my point.

Yup, donkeys here, donkeys there, donkeys everywhere.

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Second-rate Politician, First-rate Pig

A political party put him up as a candidate but he has never won an election; in fact, he lost a couple of times.

Then they ditched him.

Despite that, he was brushed off with seats on numerous boards, sinecure jobs and fancy titles. (The party takes care of its own.)

He claims to be active in church but won’t hesitate to tell explicit jokes about sex, even in the presence of women. He keeps up a holy facade but is a closet alcoholic and a philanderer who has been caught in the act before by his wife. Wanting to benefit from his connections, sycophants, ass-kissers, cock-suckers and brown-nosers surround him and offer him expensive gifts and even fetch girls for him to grope. He is more self-interested than public spirited.

Imagine if he had actually won an election. He would have reaped so much more rewards and benefits. More swill in the trough for him to feed on.

Don’t preach to me about being corrupt-free. Don’t talk to me about being a Christian leader. Don’t lecture me on morality.

Scumbags like you disgust me to the bone.

One day you’ll step on your dick and all hell will break loose.

(NOTE: All bottom feeders, meaning scavengers, disgust me. They are just freeloaders.)

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Lobotomy by Mac Baren

Yesterday, Colonel Dr Michael W Harrison, Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, presented me with a tin of Mac Baren HH Rustica. (“HH” refers to Harald Halberg, who founded the company in 1887. The Rustica was released last year.)

Nicotiana Tabacum is the species of plant that includes all of the tobaccos we’re familiar with – Burleys, Virginias, and Orientals. But there’s another “sister species” – Nicotiana Rustica, which is a species native to the Americas. The English settlers found Rustica tobacco in North America in 1607 and saw the native Indians smoking it in clay pipes.

Since the nicotine content of this plant is unusually high, it wasn’t popular. Today you can only find enthusiasts smoking this in Eastern Europe, and some countries of the Middle East and in some parts of Asia.

Mac Baren used a new process to make this very potent tobacco palatable. The tobacco leaves are sun-dried and thus retain their natural sugar. Per Georg Jensen, Mac Baren’s master blender then added Dark Virginia and Burley for balance. The outcome is then hot-pressed into flakes. This allows the tobacco flavors to combine optimally and to mature through a light fermentation.

Despite all these measures, the HH Rustica still has a very high nicotine content, and is one of the strongest, if not the strongest tobacco in the Mac Baren range and is certainly one of the strongest pipe tobaccos in the world. If you like Mac Baren’s HH Bold Kentucky or if you are a fan of Gawith Hoggarth’s Dark Bird’s Eye, Kendal Dark, Dark Flake, Brown Bogie or Black Irish, you may enjoy this. Otherwise the aftereffect would feel like you’ve had a lobotomy.

I recommend that you eat a hearty meal and use a small pipe before trying this. This is probably the most extraordinary tobacco in recent years and is an absolute pleasure.

By the way, Mac Baren HH Rustica is a Limited Edition offering of only 7,100 numbered 3.5 oz. tins, and when they’re gone, they’re gone!

(Photo above shows tin #1102. The tin Colonel Harrison gave me is tin #4851.)

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