Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Calm before the Storm

There's a rumbling recently in Singapore. A small yet persistent background noise that is almost too soft to hear, but not quiet. A gentle noise that you can almost ignore if you try hard enough but try as you might you still know it's there and it inevitably it creeps back in.



It seems more and more people are putting a voice to their frustration across a whole range of issues here in Singapore. From foreign talent and the huge number of debates and online blogging on the issue to the education system within Singapore and pretty much everything else in between. It seems nothing is taboo and the voices of criticism are slowing rising. When I compare Singapore today to the Singapore I first knew 18 years ago it's a very different place.

So what's changed?

Gen X has grown up and Gen Y is not far behind. And their voices are definitely getting louder. These generations have had a much broader exposure to the world, a wealth of information at their finger tips so to speak and unparalleled ability to connect in the growing world of the internet.

It must surely come as no surprise therefore that the MDA is looking to license sites that provide news stories about Singapore in what many see as the first step in an attempt to limit these same voices, an attempt that the MDA has denied. It has the power of course to restrict access to certain sites (as we've seen already in the recent case of the website Ashley Madison), so there's no doubt it has the ability to block any wayward sites that break these new licensing agreements too. Only time will tell how it will actually implement it's policies in this area.

It seems as though more and more fingers are pointing at the government to change, to represent the people as much as it does the country and not to make it's citizens feel so disfranchised and marginalised. And while those voices may only appear as a ripple for now, even a tsunami has humble beginnings.

"Daring S'pore vice-principal speaks up" was one of the headlines that greeted me this morning with respect to vice-principal Pushparani Nadarajah, who was responding to speakers and teachers’ discussions of making every school a good and has been quoted as saying "How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it)." The headline in of itself says so much, not only about the perception of the climate here in Singapore, but also about how people are finding their voices and speaking out. Although that said, there’s already some quite mumbling online about the future of said Vice Principal as a result. Watch this space on that one I guess.

Indeed there are now many places to turn too on the internet where these voices can be found from "The Real Singapore" with it's often probing commentary to my own personal favourite "The Heart Truths" a blog to keep Singaporeans thinking by Roy Ngerng. Indeed the amount of research and material offered in Roy Ngerng's posts on a wide variety of topics is staggering and very well presented. I highly recommend you take the time to pay it a visit.

It seems people have grown up and can no longer be fobbed off with anecdotes, they are finding their voice and if the last general election is anything to go by they are not afraid of using it.

Maybe we’ll even see another change to the GRC setup. In the last election held in 2011 the current government won slightly over 60% of the overall vote yet still managed to take 81 out of 87 seats. From that result it was clear that the GRC system did not seem to reflect the way people voted, a fact that has not been lost on the voting population.

The next general election in 2016 will prove to be very interesting. Of course all the signs are that it would take a monumental shift to force a change in government which on the whole is unlikely to happen. Although, that said, if the government doesn't listen a little more to the voices of it's own citizens it will be an interesting election to watch.

Yes there's a gentling rumbling in Singapore.


Saturday, November 02, 2013

Dear Anonymous

Let me begin by saying I like many Singaporeans applaud your efforts, but I hope they do not backfire on you. The Singapore government will not take your threats lightly and as I'm sure you know will bend over backward trying to uncover who you are to shut you down.  In the end they may even tighten internet restrictions further blaming your efforts for the need to do so in an attempt to ensure public opinion is swayed against you.



I know many Singaporeans share your views, but Singaporeans in general tend not to voice those opinions much since they know that they will have very little effect and many are scared of what the potential backlash might be if they do. Maybe that last statement isn't as true today as it has been in the past but it's still an undercurrent that remains. It will be interesting to see on the 5th of November how many people wear red and black, although in truth I'm not expecting these silent voices to become any more visible.

The Singapore Government may have it's faults but then what government doesn't. It's true that they have done a good job as far as the country is concerned but in doing so they have, as many people would argue, neglected the needs of it's own citizens. Indeed there are many posts around the internet on how Singaporean citizens are starting to feel like second class citizens in their own country not only as a result of the Governments stance on foreign talent but also as a result of it's clear favouritism to PAP supporters. Let's not forget Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's open admission that PAP wards are favoured for HDB upgrading exercises for example. "Between the people who voted and supported the programme and the government, and the people who didn't, I think if we went and put yours before the PAP constituencies, it would be an injustice" he is reported as having said to 1,200 students who were attending a Ministerial Forum organised by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Students' Political Association.  Just one example of many that could be drawn from.

You've taken the Straits Times to task over the mis-reporting of your own message. Although at the same time I doubt they will take you seriously given that they have been known to stand by their reports and reporters regardless of how factually correct or incorrect a report may have been. The media in general is out to sensationalise, it makes for better reading after all. And the words "media controlled state" have been used many times in reference to Singapore by many sources.

You've also left a message for Mister Lawrence Khong (assuming it's a real message from Anonymous). I have always found his views laughable and I find it hard to believe that any sane individual can actually believe some of the rubbish he comes up with, or that he has the nerve to attempt to interfere with social policy.

But let's get back to your original message and the rationale behind it which was to "protest the implementation of the internet licensing framework". Your protest is noted, but lets face it that framework is going to go ahead regardless.

You then go on to say that "We demand you reconsider the regulations of your framework or we will be forced to go to war with you. For every single time you deprive a citizen his right to information, we will cost you financial loss by aggressive cyber intrusion." Again lets face it, there is going to be no reconsidering of the framework based on those demands. It's simply not going to happen.

Let's be honest, no country or government is going to let itself be held to ransom, and any such ransom demand will be dealt with by the full weight of the many resources (internal and external if need be) at it's disposal. I have no doubt as I post this such action is already underway and it will lead to the inevitable conclusion. The only question is how long it will take.

I'm sure I'm not saying anything that you don't already know.

Although that said let me also add that your efforts have not gone unnoticed by the many Singaporeans who happen to agree with you. But you are fighting a war that you cannot possibly win. And while many may see your actions as supporting a silent majority, according to some proclaiming war against the Government could actually contravene the penal code, and the possible penalty for that in Singapore could be as extreme as death.

The message is clear, somethings are worth fighting for. It's an important message for anyone to understand and one that I believe many Singaporeans (if the flurry of tweets and Facebook post are anything to go by) have heard.

I guess we won't really know until 2016 how well that message has been understood.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Project Ara and Phonebloks

Phonebloks, a concept phone that is built from detachable bloks that allows a user to switch out components as and when they want, looks set to become a reality. In what Motorola calls Project Ara, the advanced Technology and Products group is working with Phonebloks creator Dave Hakkens on an "endoskeleton (endo) and modules" with a timeline to a Module Developer's Kit (MDK) release by the end of 2013.



If it works out it will probably be the most significant innovation for mobile phones this century. Hakkens has described his design as a "phone worth keeping" -- with the ability to upgrade piece by piece and (hopefully) never experience obsolescence again. As new and better bloks are developed you simply swap out the component blok on your phone for the new one. And if you don't need a camera on your phone then you could use a bigger battery blok to take up the space and so on.

It means that as there are new developments in the industry you no longer need to change your whole phone, instead you just change or upgrade the related blok. And if companies get behind this development it means you will have a much wider choice of what components you want to use making your phone truely personal.

Motorola says it was already working on what it’s calling Project Ara when it bumped into Hakkens. Project Ara is designed to be a “free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones,” says Motorola.

“We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software,” writes Motorola, adding that it’s goal is “to give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it.”

For more information you can follow Phonebloks online and join the growing community of over 381 million people world wide who think that this is an awesome idea!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

FCBC and MOM

One of Singapore's biggest independent churches has been ordered by the Government to compensate a female church worker fired because of her alleged adulterous relationship.

She complained to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in September 2012. In August 2013, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin decided she was "dismissed without sufficient cause". He ordered the church to compensate the woman's salary and maternity benefits of $7,000.



The ministry said that it looked into the complaint and found that the woman was "dismissed without sufficient cause within six months of her delivery date" and that the church did not give her the salary and maternity benefits she was entitled to under the Employment Act.

Recently it would appear that the church in question has told The Straits Times that it plans to file papers on Wednesday seeking a High Court judicial review of Mr Tan's decision. A judicial review is when an applicant takes a public authority to court to seek redress of a particular decision over which the applicant feels aggrieved.

The church says it wants the case reviewed as it believes Mr Tan acted unconstitutionally in interfering with how the church manages its own affairs. And forgive me if I laugh out loud at this point.

While the church in question can hire and fire who it wants and for whatever reason it wants it does not have the right to do so in a way that over rules any secular laws that protect an individual. And the day when a church has the effrontery to challenge a secular law is a very black day indeed.

While everyone is free to follow the religion of their choice, no religion should ever think that it is above the law or that it has the right to influence any secular law or policy. As a religion do what you are there to do, nurture the souls of your congregation and do so in quiet humility and modesty.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Singapore House Prices

Recently a colleague in the office mentioned she and her husband were looking to buy an apartment. I thought I'd see if I could help them out as if there's one thing I love its renovation planning. I seriously think I missed my vocation on that one. Anyway I started my search and lets face it its been a long time since I looked at property. I was totally shocked!. What the hell has happened to house prices in Singapore!.



Suddenly 3 bedroom condo's even way outside of the CBD area are priced over $1 million to $1.6 million. How the hell is anyone suppose to afford their our property at those ridiculous prices! And why are they so high? I mean seriously it's on the verge of ridiculous!

All the so called cooling measures simply have not worked because the people who are buying up apartments have the money and don't mind spending it. House prices are so damn high now that the average Singaporean cannot afford it. And yes I know the government is doing it's best to ensure that everyone has their own home. From HDB to Executive Condo's and with the whole approach to CPF usage. But the price of condos in general in Singapore is just crazy and Singapore citizens are being literarily priced out of the market.

I seriously think that the government needs to start to rethink its strategy because the bubble will burst at some point and when it does there's going to be hell to pay, and a lot of people hurt financially in the fall out. It is inevitable and anyone who thinks otherwise is not living in the real world. And when it happens the majority will no doubt just cut their loses and run (after all they can afford to) and it will be the Singapore citizens who are left holding the can at the end of the day.

So here's my solution and it's pretty simple and straight forward. If you are not a Singaporean Citizen then you should have pay an additional 25% investment tax. Many countries already have an investment tax in place and its there for exactly this reason, to prevent external influences from driving up prices. It would be an instant way to cool down the market.

But I'm not sure now if its' already too late. I think any hard measure the government adopts at this stage could very well be the cause of the market taking a nose dive. But I also think that that needs to happen and its better if it happens sooner (and in a controlled manner) rather than later (in some sort of panic reaction).

Just how high can house prices go before it's too late. Or maybe its too late already. I have to admit that the price of property in Singapore is starting to scare me because that bubble is getting awfully big and is really not sustainable in the long term.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sun Ho China Wine & Mr. Bill

Lots and lots of news around the City Harvest Church in the papers and online these days as the trial continues. The trial of course centres on Church founder Kong Hee and other senior Church members about the alleged misuse of more than $50million of church funds through sham bonds to fund Sun Ho's (Kong Hee's wife) album.



It was a project the City Harvest Church called the "Cross Over Project" aimed at attracting more people to the Church through the aforementioned album. An album that alas (or luckily) never made it to full production. There are two songs that are available to watch on YouTube, China Wine and Mr. Bill and both are just plain terrible. I mean really really bad. Watching Sun Ho sing Reggae is painful but the lyrics and music are even worst. With lines like "I want to kill Bill, If I have to I will Kill Bill", yeah right on, that's so Christian.

It's laughable that any sane person could even remotely believe that this "Cross Over Project" would ever deliver. Anyone who thought that this was a good idea or a good investment is without doubt not firing on all cylinders (or has more money than sense as the saying goes). And 700K for Kong Hee's air flights alone in one year. Come-on people, wake the hell up. This was nothing more that a man who loved and would do anything for his wife, and had the opportunity to indulge her in her chosen profession. Sadly, her reggae like approach to this particular album is nothing short of atrocious.

But don't take my word for it. If you haven't seen them (and everyone has to watch them at least once to see how really bad they are) the links are below for you enjoyment (and obviously that was me being overly sarcastic).

Sun Ho's Youtube Videos (warning may cause gag reflex)
China Wine
Mr. Bill

The fact that the church in question is reported as having 33,000 followers is equally insane. I mean what the hell is wrong with people, and why would any sane person think they can buy their way to heaven. I mean seriously, God is about spiritual wealth and not material wealth but that material wealth seems to have drawn many to this Church with their tithe and God will return you tithe 10 fold kind of rhetoric.

Forget your dot.com's I"m half tempted to start up my own church, it seems to be where the money is these days.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Gear Fail?

Samsung released their much waited smart watch named the Galaxy Gear on the 4th of September, delivering on it's promise to launch a smart watch into the market and putting to bed all the rumours about what it will look like and how it will function.



The Galaxy Gear boasts (if that's the right word) a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED panel with a resolution of 320 x 320.  A 800MHz processor and a 315 mAh non-removable cell running Android 4.3. The wrist strap has a built in camera (a nice touch) designed to capture low-res shots and 10-second 720p videos, and includes a 1.9-megapixel BSI sensor and an auto-focus lens. It also comes with Bluetooth 4.0, an accelerometer and gyroscope, 4GB of storage and 512MB of RAM.

And while it's clear they went all out with those somewhat impressive specifications, unfortunately for Samsung they forgot the most important element, the design. While the specs may sound impressive the upshot of all that is we are left with something that looks about the size of a small brick. Indeed I felt so astonished at this utter failure on their part in this one aspect that I even fired off an email to the company with the tag line ... DESIGN IS EVERYTHING.

It's only going to look half way decent on the largest of wrists which means that most people will pass it by so this is destined to be a potential flop for Samsung. You'd think they'd have learnt already given Apples success and the the markets noise on their plastic phone coverings that DESIGN IS EVERYTHING, but alas no, it would seem this well placed piece of advice has fallen on deaf ears.

Why they would let something this clunky and so not wrist friendly out on the market is anyones guess, but if they were aiming to knock some of the wind out of Apples announcements later in the month they have totally failed there ... and then some.

Clearly no-one on their design team thought about the visual aesthetics that such a wearable piece of technology needs to embrace, or if they did they decided to chuck that out the window in order to fit all of those specs into it. And while we love the specs, the packaging leaves a lot to be desired.

So learn this lesson well Samsung because the market is not going to give you many more chances.

DESIGN IS EVERYTHING!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Singapore Citizen

At 11:15am on the 3rd of July 2013, I became a Singapore Citizen. I have spent 17 years of my life on this small island and have fallen in love with the place many times over during those years. It's a city that never really sleeps, that is always changing, growing, and becoming something more as it continues to evolve.



The people here are truly amazing and I count among them many good friends and acquaintances whom my life would no longer be complete without. They have become in many ways my extended family and involved me in their lives to such an extent that I considered myself Singaporean many years ago.

I have been called "SingMoh" a phrase cobbled together by my friends (a combination of Ang Moh and Singaporean) as I have proudly told to many taxi drivers over the years. For those who ever hear that phrase repeated in conversation well now you know where it came from, almost 14 years ago if memory servers. And with my newly acquired citizenship I have finally completed the transition from AngMoh to SingMoh to Singaporean. And I really can't imagine myself living anywhere else ever again.

Many people have asked me why I have given up my Irish citizenship as Singapore does not allow dual citizenship. But after being here for so long for me it's logical progression. I have lived here too long and absorbed so much of asian culture that I don't think I can ever return to the west. And while some people here in Singapore might want to do just that (for the grass is always greener) for me I think of it as a step backwards.

Singaporeans say what they mean and mean what they say. And while many could say that their own cultures do the same, in reality the practise of that simply phrase tends more towards plastic in many other countries.

Singaporeans have an honesty and strength of character that is uniquely Singaporean. I can leave my bag on a table and go and order some food and it will still be there when I get back. In other countries if I tried the same it would only be a matter of time (in Ireland probably measurable in seconds) before someone did a runner with it.

And while I'm not saying there is no crime in Singapore, the level of crime is still far below anything else I've witnessed in many other countries I've travelled too. I guess it has something to do with the way people respect each other here even strangers, a respect that can be a double edged sword if you fall the wrong side of it.

So I've learnt to be more tolerant as a result, to listen more, to understand that my own view of life, my own perspective is just that and everyone has their own view and is entitled to it. I've learnt to respect those views more and more over the years and let them shape and change my own as a result. And I like to think that Singapore has made me a better person for that.

For me Singapore is less of a country and more of a community, and while I will always be proud of my Irish heritage I have to admit that I am equally as proud to be called a Singapore Citizen.


Sunday, August 04, 2013

Vibease (one for the ladies)

Nothing like a good giggle first thing in the morning and this little gem of an article on yahoo definitely hit the spot. It's called Vibease and is from a Singapore-US startup company who are currently seeking funding on Indiegogo to bring this product to market. What is it, well you may ask. It's a wearable bluetooth connected vibrator for the ladies that connects to a corresponding phone app giving you control over all the settings.



"Vibease brings your fantasy to life, creating a multi-sensory experience. Your pleasure doesn't need to be solely imaginative anymore", as according to the advertising blurb you will be able to link this little pink device to things like audio books. Yes you can now listen to something like 50 Shades of grey and have this device pulse at key moments so that you can "enjoy every second of the journey all the way up until the exciting intense conclusion". The brains behind this device have also "created a library of audio stories that will usher you away into an exciting world of fantasy".

That's right ladies you can now enjoy 50 Shades of grey all over again without lifting a finger (so to speak).

But wait there's more. "With the Vibease Intimate App, long distance relationships just might become people's preference. The Vibease Intimate app allows your partner to control the vibrations from anywhere in the world. It doesn't matter if your partner is in the office or in another country, you can still have your intimate moments. Distance doesn't matter". Yes that's right, now your partner can get you off no matter where you are. For the adventurous among you that means dinner with the in-laws might be a whole new and not to mention novel experience.

One of the lines in the about section reads "We believe the world will be a better place when women can have orgasm as much as men do" which (sorry ladies) was a little bit surprising giving it's factual inaccuracy. I mean it's not as if men have the capability to have multiple orgasams, after all we need a little time to recharge so to speak.

Yes I'm sure this little device will be in big demand if for no other reason than the novelty factor, after all it would make those boring train journeys just a little more fun and bring a few smiles to faces at the prospect of going to work on a Monday morning. Or how about those boring office meetings, indeed the possibilities are endless.

As for me, I'm going to keep a close on on this produce because if they ever bring out something similar for the guys I'm so going to be first in the queue to get one, after all, why should the ladies have all the fun.

For the more curious among you you can read more about it HERE.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Breaking free from the iPhone

Yes, I've done it at last. I've got so bored with Apple's pace of innovation and their inability to get the iPhone to where it should be after 6 iterations that I decided to jump ship and go swimming in the Android market instead. And I have to say what was waiting for me there was a pleasant surprise.



I opted for the Google edition of the Samsung S4. And while I have to admit that it took me a couple of days to get use to the interface, I was pretty much blown away with what I found. Everything that Apple has locked down on their iPhones is open on Android. I can download launchers and change the themes on the phone in seconds. I can create my own notification bar and decide what toggles and even application shortcuts I want in there as well (yes application shortcuts in the notification bar). I am free to design and build my own interface and put widgets on any page I want and more, much more in fact.

I upgraded the Chrome browser and ran into errors and at the touch of a button was able to roll back to the previous version. That alone is an awesome ability. I can set and tweak so many things at an individual application level it's unreal.

Yes it is a little more technical I guess, but you know what that's not a bad thing as for the first time in years I am in charge of my phone and not the other way round. And the surprising reality of that simple statement is I hadn't realised it until I had made the switch to Android.

Freedom!

Yes I am at last free from the stupid restrictions that Apple build into the iPhone iOS that has millions of people jailbreaking their phones to add all of the tweaks that they want to have on there to make their phone do what they want it to do.

Freedom!

I can't believe how blind I had become to the Apple iPhone release cycle, eagerly waiting for the next iPhone to hit the market like so many others. Even now people are starting to talk about what new trend the iPhone 5S is going to bring such as fingerprint identification (something thats been tried and failed in the laptop market years ago, so much for innovation). And for the first time in years I find myself not caring in the slightest.

Freedom!

Yes, my contacts, itunes library and photo's have already been synced to my new Samsung S4 google edition phone and I'm loving it. And since this particular model has a built in infra-red port I've also thrown away pretty much all of my remote controls and use my phone to control everything in my home now (yes that's right, my phone is now my remote for all my home devices, you did read it correctly)

In my opinion I have to say that I firmly believe that Android has pulled ahead of the iPhone in several areas already and that iPhone is starting (and struggling) to play catchup to the Android market (something I'm equally sure many Android fans will say was always the case)

Yes, in your face Apple ...... I'm free of the iPhone at last.





Friday, July 19, 2013

One Singapore

August the 9th approaches and for Singapore that means time to celebrate National Day. As always to welcome the event there will be a spectacular show, fireworks and of course a new national day tribute song. There are many national day songs that have stood the test of time (such as Home by Dick Lee for example) and are still being sung today, so with all of that experience you'd expect them to get better each year, alas it seems that the reverse is happening.



This years mid-tempo National Day song is called "One Singapore"  and is sung by Sing A Nation, a choir comprising 68 Singaporeans from all walks of life. The melody (sic) was composed by music director Elaine Chan, and the lyrics (sic) by theatre doyenne Selena Tan.

Having listened to it all I can say is that it's really bad. The lyrics alone are terrible I mean really terrible, including the rap in the middle of the song that it so infantile and misplaced that I struggled to understand why. And while the music (and I am being kind to the midi like soundtrack by labelling it as music) may be mid-tempo and have a good beat that's about all I can that's good about it.

The whole thing reminds me of a cheesy song that's been made up by aspiring "Glee" wannabe school children for a school play with the accompanying cringe worthy factor that such a song brings to mind.

Comments range from "belongs on the Kids Central channel" to "68 Singaporeans can't save this song" to others about "comas" and "bleeding ears" have already been made, and those are some of the kinder ones.

I think what they need to do is a "Eurovision" style contest. Invite people to submit songs. Create a television show around it and let the members of the public vote for the song that they think should be chosen. There are many talented Singaporeans out there who can do a whole lot better.

In the meantime here is the song with the accompanying (and equally cheesy video). Feel free to drop off a comment if you feel inspired, oh and watch out for those gag reflexes!.

Click here to listen to "One Singapore"

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Apple Watch (or not)

I have to admit that I've been waiting for Apple to get their act together and produce a wearable device. The closest they came to that was the iPod Nano 6th generation, although the 7th generation totally closed that chapter which was a real shame.



Still, if the many concept art works to be found online are anything to go by, what Apple are supposedly working on could look rather damn cool. Of course, since it's Apple I really am expecting it to lack all of the functionality that I personally would want in a wearable device. And since it's Apple I'm pretty sure that I won't be disappointed in my assumption. Lets face it, its taken them nearly 5 generations of the iPhone and 7 core releases of their iOS to get even close to what people want, and even still it's not there yet.

So what can we expect. Well, I'm guessing (assuming the rumours are true of course) it will have a bluetooth link to your iPhone and if they do it right (which of course is going to be debatable) then anything that can appear in your notification centre on your iPhone should appear on the watch display. Of course that's what I expect, so chances are there will be some limitations in the 1st generation (sic) watch as its rushed to market and no doubt users of applications other than the default SMS app could be left out in the cold as a result. Total speculation on my part of course, and I'd love to be proven wrong.

But personally what I want is for the Apple watch to be able to connect to my iPhone and a pair of bluetooth headsets (i.e. for the Apple watch to allow 2 simultaneous bluetooth connections) with a pass through so that I can listen to music at the same time without the need for cables. Without that functionality, it's just really a watch and regardless of what pops up on its display you are still going to have to take your iPhone out of your pocket to respond (or to answer a call for that matter), well unless they build in a earphone jack which would look totally stupid and defeat the purpose of a wearable device to be begin with.

This one piece of functionality is the one that would set it apart from the other wearable watch devices out there (make no mistake there are several of them out there already) and make it a must have gadget at least for me. That would be the only reason for me NOT to switch from the iPhone to an Android device.

Of course since I'm ready to be disappointed I doubt I will be greeting the eventual release of any watch from Apple with any fanfare.

Instead, let me just say that my Samsung S4 Google edition is already on order.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Singapore Hail Remixed

After a week of haze, the promise of rain brought hail to various parts of Singapore, from Jurong to Bukit Batok, and Choa Chu Kang.

Many People sent photos and even videos of the tiny ice pellets that rained down in various parts of the island. And while hail storms are not common in the tropics, it is the first time that Singapore has seen hail since March 2008.



So it comes as no surprise that many were excited to witness such an event. And while there were many uploads to youtube to capture the event none was more to fun to watch than the interview given by Gandhimathi Muthusamy from Jurong West.

The surprise and delight on her face as she tells her story to the Channel News Asia reporter (who just made the surprise and excitement more evident by being so stone faced) stood out like a ray of sunshine as did the wonder in her voice as she explained what experiencing the hail was like in true Singapore style.

I remember thinking at the time that it was a prefect clip to autotune, that effect where you layer a vocal or a video clip to music bending the vocals to fit the music used. And no sooner had I thought about than the very next day one was released by Fallen Superhero (real name Mohamed Yahya),  a brilliant effort that has already received over 375,000 views at the time of writing. And one that saw him get a one page spread in the The New Paper (a local daily newspaper) on Monday 1st of July.

In his own words, "Madam Muthusamy said it in a way that only Singaporeans could understand. You wouldn't hear someone else say it fell from the sky like grapes. Such a strange metaphor" he went on to say that "I did not alter her reaction and I hope people can appreciate it as a creative video and not see it as an insult. Well personally speaking I like many think that it was a brilliant piece of work and applaud the effort.

In response to the video Madam Muthusamy has said she was "very excited and very shocked because now I'm famous already, everyone knows me already".

You can find the links too it below (I recommend the youtube video)

Singapore Hail Remix on Youtube
Singapore Hail Remix on Soundcloud

The Edward Snowden Conspiracy

The name Edward Snowden is fast becoming one of the most searched names on the internet with a lot of stories in circulation. I'm certainly not going to go into them all here but enough to say that he is responsible for blowing the whistle on the alleged information gathering activites of the USA recently. An allegation that probably has seen a gaggle of paper shredders been burnt out due to sudden surge in usage.



Of course it is rather scary if you think about it. There's been no shortage of conspiracy theories about governments prying into peoples personal affairs and a number of hollwood movies have been made on the premiss, but this is the first time that we have gotten a glimpse into these allegations in a real world sense.

The repercussions for the USA if these allegations are proven true will be very interesting to watch. It has in the past (and since the allegations) publicly made stands on its information gathering activities which are (as is to be expected) very differnt from the allegations made. And of course if we consider that what is made public is not the complete picture (after all it would be naive to think that Edward Snowden had access to every inforamtion gathering activity of the USA) the outlook for the USA is looking very bleak indeed.

I wonder how much wheeling and dealing is happening behind the scenes to smooth the many ruffled feathers is this little game of espionage?

And if any of the allegations are proven true (which lets face it is not likely to happen since damage control has most likely already been put in place) it will beg the question is the USA alone in this type of activity? No doubt there has been a few scratch our back and we'll scratch yours moves already played out in the preverbial corridors of power.

How many other countries have ears and eye's in places they shouldn't?

Yes we are living in a much scarier world these days. The information age has it's benefits it has to be said and all of us would struggle to give up using the internet or our various smart phones. But is the ultimate price going to be worth it?

And of course if there was no truth in any of these allegations why is the USA going through such lenghts to get their hands on the person in question?

It would seem he has not very many places left to hide so I'm guessing we can expect a few more reveals yet before this game is played out!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Pink Dot 2013

June the 29th 2013 passed for many as just an ordinary day. Here in Singapore it was the day on which the annual Pink Dot event was held at Hong Lim Park, an event that saw a record breaking 21,000 people in attendance and for the event itself to become the second largest LGBT-affirmative event in Asia in five years, behind the annual Taiwan Pride Parade in Taipei ....


.... Organised by a pool of Singaporean volunteers, Pink Dot campaigns for diversity, inclusiveness, and works to foster understanding for the basic human need to love and be loved, regardless of one╩╝s sexual orientation. From it's early beginnings in 2009 it has seen attendance swell from 2,500 to 21,000 this year and clearly highlights the change in attitudes on the issue here in Singapore.

The event was perfectly timed and to coincide (either by design or chance) with the Singapore National day rehearsals and as the national day helicopter flew past trailing a huge national flag behind it everyone there stood up to sing the national anthem. It was a very touching moment indeed.

This years three-hour event featured a concert by Singaporean artists, speeches by the three Pink Dot ambassadors – popular TV host and actress Michelle Chia, well-known sports commentator Mark Richmond, and acclaimed theatre director and Wild Rice Artistic Director Ivan Heng – and culminated in a giant pink dot formation after dusk with the crowd holding pink LED lights. 

During the dot formation, prominent Singaporean pop icon and singer-songwriter Dick Lee made a surprise appearance to lead the crowd in singing Home, a song he wrote and familiar to many Singaporeans as a National Day song and also the theme of the event this year.

It's unclear yet what this means for the general LGBT movement here in Singapore. Section 377a still remains on the books, with an appeal case pending the outcome of which is by no means certain. But one thing it does highlight is Singaporeans attitudes are changing as more and more people stand up for the freedom to love and for Singapore to be a more inclusive society.

And with Hong Lim Park struggling to hold those that attended this years event, Pink Dot 2014 will be an interesting event to watch!

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Facebook LIKE Scam

It's really annoying when people post those emotional images, videos or status updates that prompt people to like or comment on them. The posts usually contain some sort of promise, like “if you type ‘MOVE’ into the comments section, watch what happens to the image,” or “my sister has downs syndrome, like if you still think she’s beautiful like I do.” These types ....



.... of viral posts are actually a form of a Facebook scam called “Like Farming.” So people need to read on and wise the hell up.

These posts work by slowly gathering likes for a Facebook page, usually full of innocent content like famous quotes or heart wrenching emotional photos. However, the true purpose of these pages is often to gain enough traction in Facebook’s algorithm to begin appearing in users’ news feeds.

And of course once you "like" something you’re not only sharing the content on your wall so all your friends can see it (which by the way is becoming extremely irritating) but you’re also automatically subscribing and giving permission for future newsfeed updates to site owners. This happens EVERY time and ANYWHERE you Like something.

The owners of the page can then post advertising and links that reach a much wider audience because of the groundwork they've laid by collecting likes. They can link to whatever products or sites they wish, including products that they may receive a commission on or even to identity-stealing malware. And since you've “liked” the page, you're now accepting anything the owners want to post in your feed, including those annoying advertisements. And of course you've also just given them access to some of your personal information too.

Congratulations!

In some cases the page, with all of its well meaning "like" fan base, is sold off giving the new buyer access to a whole group of people for very little effort. In fact believe it or not there is an emerging market for buying Facebook likes. And if you think that's insane then don’t take my word for it, go ahead and do a search for "buy Facebook likes" and see how many pages you get.

So if you see a post in your Facebook feed that ……

- shows a photo that tugs at your emotions asking you to "to like or comment if you care"
- challenges you with a "99% of people get this wrong" message followed by some stupid maths equation
- promises "For every like so and so will donate $1" to some cause or other
- promises "We are going to give away such and such to 5 people who like this post"
- asks you to “enter the first word you see” from a grind of random letters
- asks you to “name a fruit beginning with the letter A” or something equally word related

…… then avoid it like the plague since the chances are it is a part of this "Like Farming" scam.

The variety and ingenuity of the people behind these “Like Farming” scams is never ending and while some of the images and posts made by them have a basis in fact, the majority are pure fabrication. But they all have one thing in common, ALL of them without exception follow the same “LIKE” or “COMMENT” format because they need you to do that in order to gain access to your information and through your actions to gain access to your friends.

I could go on but I think the point has been made and if after reading this you ignore these pieces of advise you only have yourself to blame.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Singapore Haze

The haze is back over Singapore thanks to a stack of fires in Indonesia with locals there being accused of using fire to clear land for cultivation. The effect of the haze is the worst in recorded history with the pollution index (PSI) reaching as high as 401 on the 21st June, almost twice the recorded previous high. And while Singaporeans shelter behind their N95 masks ....



.... Indonesia has accused Singapore of acting "like a child" over acrid smog from forest fires in Sumatra that has triggered the city-state's worst environmental crisis in more than a decade.

"Singapore should not be behaving like a child and making all this noise," Agung Laksono, the minister coordinating Indonesia's response, told reporters. His comments came as an emergency meeting hosted by Indonesia's foreign ministry in Jakarta and attended by the chief executive of Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA), Andrew Tan, got under way.

Of course people are going to make noise, in case you hadn't noticed they can't breath properly. And let's just skip over the fact that a PSI reading of 401 is extremely hazardous to health. What do you expect people to do carry on as though nothing is wrong.

What an idiot! .

And as N95 masks fly off the shelves quicker than they can be restocked and newspapers report that conditions are likely to be with us for sometime due to prevailing winds and the continued dry season in Sumatra, at least some Singaporeans are finding their sense of humour.

And while it may not chase the haze away these youtube "haze "parodies of some well known songs might bring a smile to your face.

Here's some links to my personal favourite song parodies! 
Haze (Parody of "All I have to do is Dream")
The Ex-Factor presents  - Hazy
This is Haze (a Parody by GAG)
Haze gets in my Eyes (a Parody)

And if anyone knows of any more let me know!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

No More Blaire Witch!

This is a heart felt plea to all those film makers in the world. The Blaire Witch project was a novelty and nothing more. It was also totally unwatchable, and while it may have spanned a gaggle of similar style movies they are also just as unwatchable. I mean seriously do you really expect ....



.... me to spend money to go to a cinema and watch what could have been a good story totally destroyed by shaky camera footage. Just trying to watch it gives me a headache. 

Honestly it's over already, give it a rest, bury it where lost footage is suppose to be buried and don't bring to the light of day again.

 If you need this type of a gimmick to sell your movie then lets face it, it just really can't be much good since the emphasis is on the gimmick and not the movie.

 So please please dear film makers of the world, no more lost footage movies ... without exception they totally suck!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Kenneth, Gary and 377a

Reading through all the comments on the recent verdict with respect to the repeal of section 377A I was surprised at the number of ugly comments that people had left. I know people are entitled to their opinions, but there were many that were just rude and plain offensive.

It made me take ....



....a step back because this is not a reflection of the Singapore I know.

Most seemed to be religious in nature, and while everyone is entitled to follow the religion of their choice they have no right to push that belief on anyone else. Any relationship between a person and their God must be a purely personal one. And it's clear from most of the comments that many don't even understand the issue to begin with.

Many talked about the sanctity of marriage, which has nothing to do with the repeal of 377a. And of course the heterosexual community are doing enough by themselves to tarnish that already without any help. I was going to put up some examples of that but really the list is pretty endless already so there's not much point. All you have to do is read the news any day of the week and you'll find something there.

Many talked about acts of public sex between 2 guys, which has nothing to do with the repeal of 377a, in fact even if 377a was repealed there are already laws that cover that regardless of gender or sexual orientation. I think some people believe that if the law is repealed that couples will be making out on every street corner, which is totally idiotic of course.

Many talked about protecting their children and about how the repeal of 377a will send them the wrong signal. I can understand that from a parents perspective, after all what parent would want their child to be gay given the stigma, abuse (verbal and physical), hate and bigotry that they would have to endure for simply being themselves. No one would wish that on a child.

Others were so warped you wonder how those comments came from a sane individual in the first place.

And yet throughout all the many comments in the same vein as those above many of those same dissenting voices talked about how it's alright to do what you want in private. And that is the very core of the challenge to 377a to begin with and the reason both Gary and Kenneth took this matter to the courts in the first place.

Section 377a states "Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years".

So here's my solution for the ongoing debate. Since this is about 377a being a law that focuses on a specific minority then lets just simply remove the word "male" and make it an all inclusive law that focuses on "gross indecency" by anyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation. That way everyone is subject to the law equally. Then we can leave it up to society to define what it means by the term "gross indecency".

And since both oral and anal sex where decriminalised for the heterosexual community in 2007 that by default means those are already considered a social norm and at least in private would not be considered "gross indecency". Maybe that's a solution everyone can be happy with.

After all, as its stand 377a is a very specific law that according to many articles online, in the newspapers and by senior ministers will no longer be enforced which on the whole makes it pretty useless.

Meanwhile as Gary and Kenneth get ready to file for their appeal they have launched a plea to the public to raise funds for the challenge ahead. Their target of $50,000 was reached in a record 18 hours and at the time of writing stands at $92,000 and growing. That alone speaks volumes for the support the have.

If you would like to contribute to their cause click here

And so is it right or wrong, should they have even begun this challenge? The problem with that question is there's no right time to begin this kind of a challenge. It will always be seen as controversial in the eyes of many. And yet at a time when many countries in the world have already taking steps to legalise same sex marriage one has to wonder just how far behind them Singapore is willing to allow itself to become.

Singapore is keen to attract big businesses to it's shores, and many of those same businesses are becoming more vocal in their support of LGBT inclusion. Many already have written into their HR policies that they will not discriminate based on sexual orientation, and many have already included the same staff benefits for same sex couples as their heterosexual counterparts. In fact inclusion and diversity are the new words in these businesses who are trying to set themselves apart from their competition to attract the best talent. And potential employees are more and more looking to a companies inclusion and diversity policies as it speaks volumes about the company they plan to work for.

So … will Kenneth and Gary's challenge succeed, probably not. At the moment it has to be said that Singapore is a conservative society. But the fact that the challenge has been raised is just as important as it shines a spot light on an issue that ultimately will need to be resolved ....

.... and if nothing else they deserve our applause for that.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Forever and ever .... Blind!

I normally tend to steer clear of any posting on religion, but this time I feel the unbridled urge to comment on the recent flurry of activity of one Pastor Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church. You see Pastor Khong ....



....wants it illegal to be homosexual in Singapore and has already made a plea to the government not to overturn Section 377A, which criminalises sex between consenting gay men. Pastor Yang Tuck Yoong of Cornerstone Community Church also jumped on the bandwagon and called for the church to "get herself into battle-footing, and be battle-ready" adding that "This war is winnable and the church will arise victorious".

This recent activity of Pastor Khong and Pastor Tang Tuck Yoong is of course in response to an appeal to challenge Section 377A which was heard in court on February 14 2013 and was filed after two men who have been partners for 15 years said the law entrenches “stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people in society”. Judgement has been reserved.

It's taken some time for me to get this comment out there simple because with all the noise, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) pointed out that the High Court is due to hear two cases on the constitutionality of Section 377A, and public comments about the issue could be deemed as sub judice “if the statements are calculated to affect the minds of the courts hearing the case, the minds of parties who are concerned in the case itself, or if they amount to public pre-judgment of the case, and there is a real risk of prejudice”

“All parties are therefore advised to refrain from making any public comments on these matters that are sub judice, pending final determination by the courts. (The AGC) takes a serious view of any statements which are sub judice and will, if necessary, act to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.”

I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their beliefs, even Pastor Khong and Pastor Tang Tuck Yoong, but they do not have the right to impose those beliefs on others through legislation. Religion for me has always been a private matter between a person and their God and it has always irked me when individuals take it upon themselves to try to impose those religious views on a wider society. I am reminded of Matthew 6:5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others."

Many share the same (in my opinion) misguided view as both Pastors but just as many do not. For example, the Faith Community Baptist Church is reported as having a congregation of 10,000 followers, much less than the number of people who turned up at Pink Dot 2012 to celebrate the freedom to love.

Interestingly it's amazing how silent these religious zealots where when the Singapore government repealed Section 498 in 2007 which criminalised adultery. "Thou shall not commit adultery". One of the 10 commandments and yet not a whimper when this bit of legislation was taken off the books. The same silence also greeted the decriminalisation of oral and anal intercourse between heterosexual couples. As for the Prime Ministers reported comments on 377a in the Asian Correspondent “Why is that law on the books? Because it’s always been there and I think we just leave it.”

Well, it would seem that doesn't apply equally to all laws now does it.

No doubt if the government makes no changes to 377a, which is highly likely, after all Singapore is nothing if not a conservative society, the same misguided people will shout out "victory" from their pulpits and pat themselves on the back as they proclaim a win for God.

But let's be clear here, any victory will be short lived. Singapore WILL repeal section 377a .... eventually. It is INEVITABLE. At the time of writing this both England and France have legalised same sex marriage and you can rest assured that more will follow. As they do Singapore will not want to be left behind clinging onto an archaic law, a law that it has already been quoted in the public domain "it will not enforce".

I could go on and on here but instead I'll leave you with a poem I wrote many years ago which sums up my own personal feelings on this issue. Enjoy!

For Ever and ever .... Blind 
You make me sorry to be a member of the human race,
and loath though I am to admit it the world would be a better place,
if God stopped it for a second and took it in his care
to give you all the option of getting off right there.

You preach tolerance and loving yet you yourself have none.
Your morals are double standards, you use religion like a gun.
And though no blood is ever drawn from the weapon that you wield
your words, akin to poison, foul the air I breath.

You blindly follow doctrine and expect others to do the same,
and cast those out that don't conform, those that go against the grain.
You are trapped in your mortality seeking salvation for your soul
and you justify your actions saying this should be my goal.

The inquisition is long gone but you keep the fires ablaze,
history conveniently forgotten, you continue to fan the flames.
You walk this world blindly, though you think your eyes open wide,
so pompous in your belief that God is always by your side.

After all how could he not be, for you live life by his law,
where bigotry and discrimination are concepts you ignore.
You preach love and understanding even though you fail the same,
Isolated from reality, you only have yourself to blame.

So don't quote me from your bible, I've evolved beyond that you see.
For God is in my heart which is the only place he needs to be.
You can shout out from your pulpit, let fire and brimstone fall,
I've heard your petty speech before, unimpressive all in all.

My wealth is beyond your measure and far beyond your ken
you who strive to place your shaky values among the hearts of men.
And as this world progresses, it is you who will be left behind,
Forever walking backwards, forever and ever ..... blind.

Copyright © Barry Smyth, all rights reserved