[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Sunday, February 26, 2006

[You mean you don't know the National Anthem]
This would have made a lot of sense during National Day or Racial Harmony Month (now, instead of day, we have a whole month dedicated to it okay).

I mean, you don't know how to sing the National Anthem correctly after all these years in school?

A disabled student and ex-NKF ambassador wrote that many Singaporeans do not know the national anthem and what the words mean. And so, the national anthem:

Mari kita rakyat Singapura
Sama-sama menuju bahagia
Cita-cita kita yang mulia
Berjaya Singapura
Marilah kita bersatu
Dengan semangat yang baru
Semua kita berseru
Majulah Singapura
Majulah Singapura

What I can tell you is the the title means: Onward Singapore. And I hope Jeremy is listening because this is what I learnt in school. The rest of the translation is as follows:

Come, fellow Singaporeans
Let us progress towards happiness together
May our noble aspiration bring
Singapore success

Come, let us unite
In a new spirit
Let our voices soar as one
Onward Singapore
Onward Singapore

Some background information was that the national anthem, together with the national flag and the state crest, reflect Singapore's identity as a nation. It echoes the enduring hope and spirit of Singaporeans to make progress. It rallies us together to succeed. Written in the wake of nationalism during 1956-57. Its composer, the late Encik Zubir Said, had written it on the basis of two words, "Majulah Singapura" which means "Onward Singapore". It was launched on 3 Dec 1959 together with the national flag and the state crest, at the installation of the new head of state, the Yang di-Pertuan Negara. Upon Singapore's independence in 1965, "Majulah Singapura" was adopted as the republic's national anthem.

Now, it leads me to wonder what the school teaches these days.

Students film themselves having sex? Now didn't the IT lecturer discuss the wonders of technology?

I know it is not your fault that the phone got stolen. Please be more careful next time. Come on, they don't invent portable hard disks that can store the video. Better still, do you know that you can record it into a cd or dvd?

I bet you do. You are an IT student!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

[Foreign diplomacy]
If you read today's Straits Times, you would have known that many grassroots leaders would be going to Kota Tinggi today.

We were known as the Singapore Delegation.

Or course, as Minister George Yeo was with us on the journey, we had outriders and police cars creating road blocks for the entourage to pass the streets of Johor. And lining the streets of the kampong were the residents who waved while we passed in the buses. Outside the residence of Malaysia's Foreign Minister roads were blocked so that guests could alight.

Every time the sirens were heard, someone important arrived. Joining the celebrations was also the Chief Minister of Johor, who arrived in a cool jet black mercedes.

It was my first time attending a Malay wedding (having lived in multi-racial Singapore for over 23 years) so I didn't know what to expect. It was a little culture shock. And it seems that Malays would always pray before they do anything - before lunch, before a speech - or is it meditation from the holy book?

I actually witnessed a surprising thing at Datuk Syed Hamid's house. Logs of different shapes and sizes were at the backyard. And then, I realised that they actually used firewood to cook! And he has a cool Volkswagon spacewagon - with a super personalised number plate too.

His house also has a sprawling garden. And they their grassroots leaders were present too. At an address, the Datuk made special mention of the food that was specially prepared by his grassroots leaders.

Even though Minister had to attend to state matters - the funeral service of the late S. Jayaratnam - we had tight security all the way. You can imagine double the number for Minister's car when he came back to join us after the funeral.

And when Datuk joined us on a visit to Crocodile World at Teluk Sengat, the entourage just got bigger and bigger and bigger. Crocodiles have huge mouths too, I digress. We also managed to get up close with a 100-year-old crocodile.

The fun ended at Johor Lama, where Channel NewsAsia's Johnson Choo did his piece-to-camera with all of us in the background. Joining us was the family of the Datuk as well as his grassroots leaders.

I just can't wait till we reciprocate their efforts and invite them to our sunny isle Singapore.

Friday, February 24, 2006

[Porn stars and superstars]
Well, just waiting to go to work and wait is a few hours, so I'll blog.

Let me explain first why I have not been blogging.

As you know, Monday was the largest thing in the whole of the People's Association - our annual workplan seminar. And yes, we have been asked to improve our service standards and image. And thereafter, it was back to work, and a late night.

Then the next few days, I was learning how to react to chokes, administer CPR, learn bandaging at the compulsory three-day first aid course.

Tuesday night was spent helping out at a Meet-the-People session, and it was also a late night.

Wednesday night, was spent in the office clearing some work, then boss asked me to go through the actvity list for the last calender year. Another late night.

And yesterday, I went to attend a DJ Workshop at my workplace and had a chat with the Zaobao reporter who came to cover the workshop. It was also a late night.

Then tonight, although I am off, I have been asked to go back to office to cover a colleague. And that (you know what I am going to say next) is going to be another late night.

Okay, so back to the topic.

We know that famous NYP video. We know the famous stars, Tammy and Alex (as one blog puts it). It had so much publicity generating that I had to see it. But please don't ask me how I managed to watch it, and nope I won't even distribute it. All I can say, the video is pretty sexed up - in fact three different types too.

Some reliable sources even provided photos of the lovely couple - one of them even shows the guy wearing a nightdress (presumebly his girlfriend's). another is lovey dovey kissing pose. And another, presumably, taken on a holiday trip.

So while SP has it's own stable of stars, Singapore Idol Taufik Batisah, Jocie Guo, Kelly Poon, Silver Ang, Ivy Lee, Lincoln Khoo, winning band 3-dash-1 and that Malay singing competition winner.

NYP has it's own fair share of stars too. Porn Stars, that is, unfortunately. Think the lecturer and student controvesy. And the latest oh-so-unfortunate Tammy clip. Aspiring porn stars can apply.

So much said, I just wonder why the big fuss about the video. then again, it shows the power of the Internet.

Now, who says we need The New Paper when we have such interesting news on the Internet?

Reporters even had to ask bloggers for information.

Anyone aspiring to be the next Wendy Cheng or Tammy can consider this method.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

[Play and play]
I really don't understand why. But maybe it's their style. And maybe, their way of preparing the people.

It gives you the kick, just like predicting the winning 4D numbers.

Now, I really trust my journalism lecturer, who was a former journalist, editor, that you will be surprised if you read between the lines of your daily newspaper.

Just like the Ministers who are the actors in a play, the media plays the role of delivering the script.

Some observations over the last few months:
1. I believe the PM will go for sooner rather than later - SM Goh
2. I will contest in the upcoming elections - MM Lee in Dubai
3. I guess it won't be so soon. Well, February is budget, so I guess it will be after the budget - A coy PM Lee
4. It will happen in the next 3 quarters - Wong Kan Seng

And then seasoned election-watchers predict that it would be held on a Saturday. And some say during the school holidays.

With the goodies announced during the budget, I guess it's probably soon.

One thing's for sure, it's on everybody's lips.

People come up to me and smile and say: "Elections coming mah!"

Well, I just smile back.

However, something seems to puzzle me. The goodies will be given sometime in May and there are still some GRCs that will announce their upgrading plans in March. A hot date is March 18 but would it happen that soon?

Only time will tell.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

[We, Me, Them & It]
I went for a very interesting course today.

Although the trainer was interesting and the title of the course was interesting, what struck me most was particularly his style of delivery.

Titled "A word in your ear...", it was conducted by this ang moh guy, John Simmons, who has written several books on business writing or writing for business.

He used several 'in your face' examples.

I quote one:
What does this sign at a traffic junction mean:
Pedestrian Casualty Reduction Signal Timings Experiment

I guess it is pretty difficult to decipher the meaning. But simply put in not so cheem English it just means this:
We changed the timing of the lights to avoid accidents.

Now, this was one of the several examples Mr Simmons used to illustrate the use of English in our daily work.

Now consider this example in a lift:
Warning. If the marked capacity on this lift is exceeded, there is a specific danger it may fall down the lift shaft.

What a mouthful. The person who last steps into the lift and causes it to fall down the lift shaft may not evn know the reason till he finishes reading the whole sign. By then, it would be too late.

Mr Simmons, who is also a writer of several poems also showed how opposites, charged with meanings, grab the attention of the reader. In the phrase 'forceps and stone', he shows how it describes the passage of life from cradel to grave in a short and sweet manner.

Another memorable example to illustrate brevity is when he read a poem of the song "Yesterday" written in a different form. It turned out to be hilarious and difficult to comprehend.

The strategy or the presentation of his ideas (which I liked) followed a BBC program, Desert Island Discs. Guests on the program choose eight compact discs they would bring onto a desert island and they have to explain why they like a particular song in the disc.

So in between talking, Mr Simmons pauses and plays a song. And he explains why he chooses that song and relates it to his pointers.

And so, in short, his eight pointers on how to a write a good piece are:
1. Be curious. Be a traveller not a tourist. Be open to possibilities.
2. Listen to your own words as you write. And try to make others listen to your words as if to a wonderful new language.
3. Set and accept constraints. Welcome them particularly when constraints are the brief.
4. Put yourself in your reader's place. Imagine the lives of your consumers. Show compassion to them.
5. Words appear in a context of sound, vision and memory. Make deliberate use of these associations.
6. Edit, edit edit. But know you have to stop.
7. Transform the most unpromising materials. Not even lists need to be boring.
8. Bring your personality to work. Put it positively in your writing.

He also explains how to use humour in writing. One such example was illustrated by the text on a fruit smoothie bottle. First, a shock tactic was used, then in small text it says that it was just a little joke. Smile. Another example was how email writing could be lively conversations.

For his parting shot, he says he ends with not a word in your ear, (like in the title of the talkie) but many, many words of wisdom.

And, yes, I was definitely inspired. Bring it on. This would probably inspire me to write a nice poem using one of his styles.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My role at the Chingay@Hougang is to take care of a group of grassroots leaders. I was in-charge of the crowd control of the arrival and departure for the VVIPs - namely George Yeo, Dr Ong Seh Hong, Cynthia Phua, Mayor Zainul, Yeo Guat Kwang and Eric Low...

It was an uphill task (literally cause they had to make their way up a little humpy ground). It was great to have two CISCO officers by my side to clear the crowd.

Reached the event site around 5pm and then started snapping away - my adviser wanted me to take photos of the publicity banners for the event as well as the backdrop with his huge photo and Allan Wu, 958's Carine Ang and Maia Lee.

Half an hour later, residents started spilling into the site. Some even made themselves comfortable by sitting down a la picnic style at a slope opposite the stage. By 7pm, the whole place was more crowded that a mosh pit of a MTV award ceremony. Except for the red carpet which was heavily guraded by the leaders.

At around 8.15pm, the first bus arrived. Out came several reporters and they were led by me to the interview area - Minister was going to be interviewd by Channel NewsAsia.

Edmund Chen, who was with his sister, was also present at the welcome area with the lion dance troupe. Meanwhile, Maia Lee, Allan Wu and Carine Ang were entertaining the crowd. 15 minutes and a split second later, Minister and the rest of the advisers from the Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, make their way through the crowd on the red carpet.

And as Minister and Eric Low reveal the scrolls on stage, pyrotechnics get activated and they send smoke everywhere. Then comes the crunch - the exit of the VVIP contingent. The other grassroots leaders then make way, while I direct the media and VVIPs to the interview corner.

When the interviews are done, I follow them to the waiting bus and make sure that all have boarded safely. It is a good thing that it went pretty smoothly except for the exit part - anyway, I shall ask Minister how he found the way the crowd control was done when I see him the week after next. Let's hope he gives an honest reply so that I can improve.

After the VVIPs board the bus, floats blaze down Hougang Ave 5.

And happy and delighted residents grab the opportunity to get up close and personal.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

[Floats parade]
Okay. I got criticised by Kenny Sia. I shall blog the proper way with proper p-u-n-c-t-u-a-t-i-o-n. Apparently, he is pretty slowed down by the ... that I put after each sentence.

In a bid to improve, I shall mind my Ps and Qs here.

Caught a bit of the floats parade just now. The funny things is this: though the flyer states 7.00pm, floats only started the drivepast at the serangoon area close to 8pm. Perhaps the delay was due to the incessant rain at that time.

One of the many ways to know that floats are just round the corner is to listen to the surroundings. When the floats go by, there is loud music and the sounds of the traffic police scooters (I think they are called outriders). And cheers by residents who stand by the road to catch a glimpse. I heard a rousing applause too.

Because I have a little viral infection on my foot, I limp to the corridor when I hear the commotion and catch the last few floats pass me by. I was just in time to snap a few shots.

The next time you see the procession of these 12 floats would be on chap ngoh meh. They will blaze down the Aljunied and Hougang area. And leading the pack will be our Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo. Plus lots of exciting fringe activities.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

[what a way to party]
the difference between organising and being invited is a very big difference... orgaising means you have to be on duty where your boss wants you to be... means staying in the not so hot spots and ushering people... being invited means you have the means to wander around and see what you want to see...

and so, i present the istana garden party...

the routine starts when you enter the gates of the istana... then you go through the necessary security checks...

the journey begins...

you then take a mini bus up the pathway, a long and winding road, into the bowels of the istana... there, the majestic building awaits.... as you alight, you end up at the foot of the building and can only wonder what is inside... then slowly, mps and ministers stroll out... and click and flash, and smiles and crowds...

and one important thing to carry around is a camera... so you can capture the magnificent scenery and ambience...

when i arrived, i saw transport minister yeo cheow tong... then george yeo strolled in... and mayor zainal...

then slowly, other ministers arrive...

then the prime minister comes from the garden suddenly taking everyone by surprise.... then in a matter of seconds, he is surrounded by hoardes of people...

and then, our senior minister arrives...

and when the president's car strolls onto the driveway, the prime minister is ready to greet him... simultaneously, minister mentor walks past the president and heads towards the carpark with some seven bodyguards in tow in an array formation... now, that is cool...

then when the action dies down at the top, you head down a flight of stairs to the garden for food... and also group photos with your fellow grassroots leaders with the respective mp or minister...

the food was served under a large tarpaulin tent... with several interaction areas marked with yellow numbers...

so i went over and volunteered to help my senior manager with some hougang photos.... several groups could be seen around the various 'celebrities' at the istana...

and then, some photos of the surroundings...

and the istana at night...

and yes, this is a yearly affair for some several thousand grassroots leaders...

Friday, February 03, 2006

[lunar new year hot topic]
the hot topic at kembangan-punggol's lunar new year dinner tonight was not the yusheng you see below that was tossed minutes after the guest of honour's grand arrival...

Photo credit: www.ephraim.blogspot.com

when the go ahead to toss was given, the grassroots leaders and i tossed so high until my hand was covered with strands of yusheng ingredients... what an ordeal... but it was delicious....

Photo credit: www.ephraim.blogspot.com

it was a pretty ordinary sit down dinner.. but i must say, the entrance of the guest of honour was superb... lion dance followed by george yeo, his aides, staff and grassroots leaders... it was an entourage of close to 20 people....

and there were more about 70 tables... well at least, one of the largest numbers was 70... and that was my table number... in case you were wondering, a greater number does not mean that the table was not in a hot spot... the only tradeoff was that we had to contend with the screens for the 'live' feed for the show... anyway, i digress, who wants to watch the performance? all i am interested in was the abalone and delicious soup... in case you are wondering, we were just two tables away from the vip tables... the had probably around 4 vip tables...

Photo credit: www.ephraim.blogspot.com

in his opening address, foreign affairs minister george yeo emphasised the need for singapore to stay united harmonously... he also commended grassroots efforts for maintaning racial harmony within the constituency and talked about the improving unemployment rates and promised to help those in need...

Photo credit: www.ephraim.blogspot.com

he remained coy when asked about the general elections but touched on the hot topic of the scenic bridge that malaysia was planning to build...

in a report by channel news asia, mr yeo said, "Our friends from Malaysia are coming down this weekend for the bilateral games between the two foreign ministries; we look forward to having discussions with them. Syed Hamid (Albar) has clarified the Malaysian position yesterday, so we'll see what they'll say and we'll try to achieve a win-win position for everybody. It's important to have discussions on the basis of good neighbourliness and goodwill."

and so all eyes and ears are peeled to see how far discussions will go and how the 'scenic bridge' will turn out to be - a crooked one or straight one, we'll just have to wait... only time can tell....

Thursday, February 02, 2006

[the first and last]
as you know, my camera conked out... yes, again.... during the first few days of the lunar new year...

however, i tried to revive it and still managed to get a blurry shot, one of the last few shots, of the festivities at the esplanade park...

yup, it was the annual river hongbao thingy... and what a silly idea to visit on the second day of the lunar new year....

Photo credit: www.ephraim.blogspot.com

super crowded lor... someone get me an oxygen mask....

i digress...

work already exposes me to huge crowds... i nearly did crowd control at last year's ndp... a good thing there were frontline people to deal with the crowd... and of course the freebie wars... so, natuarally i want a break from that... and retire to the comfort of my room....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

[more goodies]
channel news asia reported yesterday that political watchers predict that, no it's not the date, the next ge will likely be fought upon bread and butter issues...

Some four years later, political watchers say such issues will still form the backbone of the upcoming contest, due by June next year.

then today, the straits times reports that jobs have been a steady figure, if not increasing still..

i shall not speculate if that is an election ploy....

The past years saw numerous initiatives to improve the people's lives and to shore up the economy.

Last June, the ComCare Fund with an annual budget of over S$10 million was set aside to help the needy.

Soon, more measures will be announced as part of Workfare to cast a wider social safety net for the lower income families.

There are also programmes to redesign jobs and re-skill older workers so they can stay employed.

oh gosh... hougang is an area with all of the above... just pray that the over 900 people who applied for ComCare don't flood the cc again the next time round...

the channel news asia report ends with three begging questions - when is the election; what are the electoral boundaries; who are the new candidates?

we'll just have to sit and wait because only one man knows the answer...

the funny thing about my work... i'm practically not in the office at times...

just last week, i was off the whole week... though i did pop by just to check email...

and then, i am still on lunar new year holiday mood this week... i cleared my off for the last two days... and stepped into office for two hours today to finalise my script for a dinner tomorrow... yup, it's a low budget production and so, the emcee, okay master of ceremonies, is yours truly again...

so for the fifth time, i'll be saying this phrase:
"ladies and gentlemen, please rise for our guest of honour, mr eric low siak meng, bbm, adviser for hougang grassroots organisations"

not that i don't like to say that... it's just the stagnant feeling... but, for once, i'll be on stage... hmmm... interesting cause this is the first time on home ground, just a stone's throw away from my office...

then for the whole month, i'll practically be out of the office... simply because, every week, i'll be on course... in fact, i have four courses, minimum half a day, maximum three days.... so i'll practically be 'out of office'....

also, i'm pretty tempted to join power98's radio workshop... it's a steal, at $280, and does some good for society too... reason being, the course fees go towards a worthy cause - for charity... i have two more days to think about signing up...

meanwhile, i'm looking forward to my four dinners in a row... and also looking forward to meeting our prime minister again... hope to have a little chat with him... and maybe ask him about the elections... i am just kidding...

food for thought: if george yeo's house is really big, then pm's house is bigger....