Archive for Rants

Random Discourse – MRT Breakdown

One of the most dreadful error messages for any first level IT support person to see may perhaps be: “unknown error”. It usually comes with almost no other information to allow them to start looking for solutions or to identify the fault. That might as well be what the technical chaps at SMRT are feeling right now.

Since I don’t work for the SMRT nor have any knowledge in operating a mass transit system, I couldn’t really say what the “fault” is. But as any keyboard warrior do I am free to make speculations about what I think could be “wrong” with it. First of all, the system was planned in the 70s and it went into operation by the mid- or late- 80s. It was planned for a population of 4 million at a point of time where our population is slightly above 3 million. The population today is 5.5 million which means proportionately, the MRT system is about 35% over-capacity. It would have been better if there wasn’t the effort to remove bus services which could have complemented the service. Heavier and over-loaded trains simply requires more power to move up to speed, not to mention an increase in wear and and tear of components – e.g. rails, and carriage wheels.

Next, replacement trains are heavier than their predecessors. Which means it also requires more power to move them. And finally, to increase the frequency, more trains are put into service with an upgraded signal system. That also means the system now draws more power than before. So, for a keyboard warrior like me, it was of no surprise that the power system “failed” and “crashed” the MRT system on July 7th with an “unknown error”.

But of course all of these are just my personal speculation, and I take it that the power utilisation requirements have been thought about way before the plan to replace the old trains and to increase frequency were put into place. If not, then someone really have to commit hara-kiri as this is definitely NOT acceptable! And whoever responsible can use the Padang for this public spectacle. We can all crowd-source for the money to pay for a top-grade wakizashi, even a $11,000 one.

Speculation aside, if the well-paid elites are going to expect some of us lesser mortals to live with this, then they should start looking at dealing with some of the issues that happened during a train breakdown regardless of a major one like the July 7th shutdown, or one of those disruptions between several stations. The reason being, there would be far less frustration (if not anger) when there are quick, and preferably equally cheap, alternatives to continue on our trips when such crap hits the fan.

For starters, bridging services only looks good on paper. But there is a lead time before the bridging service is brought into place to start serving affected commuters. Even when in place, it is not as efficient as the MRT itself because it is subjected to weather and traffic conditions. It is also a real waste of resources to standby buses as a contingency for a disruption. Those buses may be barely adequate for a localised breakdown at a particular section, but are there enough buses to service the entire line in the case of a major shutdown like the one on July 7th? Try and imagine if the big water pipe between Singapore and Johor had burst, and then we try to keep up with the water supply by running water trucks.

Next, the bus system is going to be overwhelmed. Everyone who has experienced a train disruption knows just how bad it will be because the buses running more or less parallel to the MRT tracks will be packed, and in some cases none of those may even be heading to the destination! On July 7th, every bus is so packed people has to step out into the bus bays to force buses to stop so they can board. I was told that even Orchard Road and Scotts Road were closed to traffic as a result of the bus congestions. Can we imagine if this had happened in the beginning of the day where a large part of the workforce cannot turn up for work in time? Or that this happened when we need to mobilise our NSmen to prepare for war?

We simply cannot have a public transport system where everything leads to the MRT. A friend who stayed near Sembawang had considered taking the Circle Line to Bishan but dropped the idea because there are no connecting buses from there to his area. The buses which are available are either at Novena Station, or further up at Yishun Station. Now tell me about that “an MRT Station too far” feeling. In fact, when the East-West Line came back online, it doesn’t help this friend at all either because even taking the train to Jurong East is meaningless as a quick check showed us that it takes a ridiculous 3 (three) different buses before my friend gets anywhere near home. Something has to be done to put the complementary bus services back, regardless of the profitability of the transport operators. If SMRT and SBS-Transit believe those routes to be unprofitable, then open them to private operators and allow those operators to charge a reasonable price on the routes.

Lastly, taxis. When the bus system is overwhelmed even the taxi system does not escape unscathed. The booking app gets timed out and SMS booking goes without response. It is not surprising since I often noticed that the cell signals hardly even stay stable at H+, much less 4G even when not overwhelmed. When large concentration of users suddenly utilised the local telco’s less than optimal data networks around certain locations, we will experience all the “first world problems” at one go, which only adds to our anger and frustration because we don’t even have a pressure valve to release our anger on social media. (I don’t even want to talk about apps utilising services like Uber, since one chap complained about his $124 fare after using it.)

Calling the taxi operator’s call center is even worse, as a caller is put on hold for long periods before an operator even gets to him. And after that, the caller may actually even get a “no cab is available” response, which means he has to go through the same process again.

Really, things are not pretty for us lesser mortals on the ground level. If the elite expects us to swallow this bitter pill of semi-regular breakdowns, then it is high time they consider giving us something soothing to go down with it. It is useless for both Minister Lui and the Prime Minister to be just “extremely concerned”. Because as long as the efficiency of the other components of public transport are not taken care of then they will constantly be facing howls of demand for hara-kiri. Or would they only wake up when things to come to a head where the pitchforks come knocking in the polling box?

Random Discourse – Amos Yee

The biggest news this week must have been the slapping of Anus Amos Yee. The slapping brings to mind something my father said to me a few decades ago before I was given a spanking:

Better I hit you today, instead of people outside.

I am sure quite a number of people of my age would have heard that when they are disciplined by their parents. It is old style disciplining and one that’s probably disapproved by many educators today. Many years later, I still have not fully comprehend that comment. I used to think that he meant to say that at the very least, he won’t beat me to death or that he will not beat me as heavily as a complete stranger. But this slapping has given me a deeper understanding – it would have spared me a public humiliation at the hands of strangers. I would have felt sad if my kid was beaten up by others in public. For people from my generation, corporal punishment seem to work. After all, most of us didn’t end up as the posterboy for someone to spit on, or to curse our names.

Regardless how we felt about Amos Yee’s cockiness or his attitude, and even if some may actually feel “shiok” seeing the chap get slapped, I believe most of us do not approve of the actions of the assailant. The public slapping is a great insult to law and order. Even more so because it was done outside the courts and to a minor. No one should be allowed to take the law into their own hands, or there will be a day people start killing murder suspects before they are sentenced.

Anyway, here’s a few things I have thought about this whole case:

  1. Some people said Amos Yee turned out the way he is because he is talented and he did not have the avenue to express himself and to develop his talent. He turned into what he is because of the way of Singapore’s education system is and what not. Seriously? Just simply because the chap has acted in some movies and got award for what he did? He’s hardly some kind of child prodigy or someone very talented. He may simply be very skilled in video making, but that’s hardly genius or talent. I have my own complaints about Singapore’s education system too, but this wouldn’t be the case for me to voice them.
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  3. No one can help feel that the entire case was politically motivated even though it is spinned by the main stream media as a reaction to the impingement of religious sensitivity. My guess was that if the whole case was presented as one whereby a boy is charged for his less than flattering remarks about the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore would look rather stupid to the world. So well, it was more convenient to let the Christians take the “blame”. I was glad when a Christian counsellor offered to stand in as bailor (before he requested for a discharge of that responsibility) to show that Christians are not as vindicative as the media has portrayed us to be. Seriously, there’s enough of things for people to pick on Christianity, and Christians can do better with one less accusation about bullying or persecuting a boy!
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  5. A particular opposition politician whom I chose not to name has even said that the slapping showed that it was politically motivated and in response to Amos Yee’s comments about the late Lee Kuan Yew. He asserted that because the person has said “Sue me! Sue me!” after the slapping definitely suggested that. Going by that argument, if the person was motivated in response to the comments about Jesus Christ, would he then have said “Cruify me!” instead? When my friend pointed out the absurdity of this politician’s comments, I had almost choked on my cup of 3-in-1 coffee. My suggestion to this politician… go put $30,000 where your mouth is, and offer to bail the chap out.
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  7. I heard from a friend an exile had called the charges on Amos Yee an example of Singapore’s lack of Freedom of Speech. Really? I think there are better examples to use to criticise Singapore on this matter. But in general I believe everyone is always free to say whatever they want in Singapore, but there’s nothing to guarantee freedom from a reaction – such as someone pressing charges, making a police report or even throwing a punch. Those reaction maybe unwarranted, unjustified or even criminal, but it is the risks everyone must consider before opening their gap. Call if fear or self censorship for all I cared, but I ain’t the chap who is going to be the object of the reaction so go ahead and exercise that precious freedom. But I guess one can later seek donations online and then earn a vacation to a Scandinavian country after that…
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  9. Lastly, it is my considered opinion that this whole case has been blown way out of proportion. When I consider the disparity in the application of the law on similar douchebags like Jason Neo and Amy Cheong, what Amos Yee has done was nothing compared to a particular Edz Ello. At least Amos Yee wasn’t cursing our entirely country or calling for us to be killed and taken over as a separate province of a foreign nation. Thus, Amos Yee deserved nothing more than a stern warning, and asked to publicly apologise. To charge Amos Yee while letting those two go scot free is in my opinion a great miscarriage of justice. That said, I was relieved to know that Edz Ello will also be charged, though why the main stream media isn’t following up more closely on that is beyond me. I was also understandably annoyed by the troll of a former Nominated Member of Parliament who actually called for the release of Edz Ello and the charges to be dropped while he called for the same laws to come down harshly on Amos Yee. With this level of double standards (if not gross hypocrisy), all I have to say to this ex-NMP is: Calvin-nabu kani-nabu la!

So that about sum up what I think of this whole issue…

Random Discourse – Farewell to Lee Kuan Yew

I left home at about 10am this morning and made my way to Tanjong Pagar MRT station, because I know I had woke up too late and if I go to City Hall there won’t be a place where I can get a good view of Mr Lee’s cortège going by. So Shenton Way near AXA Tower or the MAS Building was the best bet, as it is a non-residential area which is generally empty on weekends. Furthermore, the early birds would have gone to the place where the procession will begin anyway.

I had to do this, because I had not been able to find time over the week to go to Parliament House and pay my respects. It was the least I could do to send off Singapore’s most famous son. It was my last chance to pay my respects.

It started raining almost immediately after I stepped out. That did nothing to help my spirit, and had only caused me to feel even more despondent. I had never considered what are the implications of a post-Lee Kuan Yew era and when I was young and foolish I believe I had even said, “Big deal if he’s gone? The earth will continue to revolve around the sun!”

So what happened between the years? I do not really know. Perhaps, I have finally learn to appreciate my country as it is, or understood why my mother was very appreciative of the achievements of Lee Kuan Yew and the rest of Singapore’s founding fathers.

And so I stood for 2 hours in the rain along Shenton Way across from the MAS Building. The rain subsided for a brief moment, and then it hit us again with full force. I saw umbrellas overturned when strong gusts of wind hit the crowd. It was heartening to see those standing beside extend their umbrellas to provide temporary cover to those who are struggling to set their umbrellas right again. I saw policemen who are on duty drenched all over, while they stoically performed their duties to maintain order and keep the public from the road and traffic. I saw some people got their flag the wrong way, and those on the other side of the road gesturing at them to get it right. I overheard two friends joking about their wet underwears and reminisce about how that had only happened during their NS days, and a mother telling her bored-looking child to enjoy the rain. I saw people look out for each other and apologises when water from their umbrellas drips onto the next person in line. I saw some people shivering in the cold, and yet no one turned to leaave. It was a moment we united as one people, and for a really looooooong time I have not seen such unity. For once, we are just Singaporeans. It was good that there was rain, because I wouldn’t know what to do with the tears that suddenly ran down my cheeks.

Though the logical mind tells me that the rain is nothing but just normal precipitation, I couldn’t help but wondered if the heavens has wept for the passing of the first among our founding fathers, or whether it was a test of our resolved as a people. I heard discussions among the crowd about our first National Day Parade, and how the rain has fallen on the parade that day. The pioneer generation did not run then and neither did we. I felt a little less despondent, and I thought to myself:

“This is the spirit. We will be alright. Singapore will be doing alright.”

For we must, because there is no better way to honor the memory of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

At around 1pm, the cortège came and shouts of “Lee Kuan Yew!” and “Thank you” rang out around me. It was all too brief to indicate the passing of an era.

As I watched it disappeared round the corner to Keppel Road, I bid my last farewell to Mr Lee.

Majulah, Singapura!

Current Affairs – The Passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew

When I woke up on the morning of the March 23rd 2015, I thought my radio-alarm had gone bonkers. The usual chatter of the morning DJs on the bilingual 883jiafm station was nowhere to be heard and there was music going on without end. For the next few

minutes I turned the dial on the radio, trying to get my familiar morning broadcast back.

After some time I finally heard a human voice. It was the DJ of one of the Malay stations. While I have no idea what she was talking about because I do not understand Malay, I could hear the terms Lee Kuan Yew, PAP etc. It suddenly dawned on me, that one of Singapore’s Founding Fathers has passed away while I slept.

Even though his death has been discussed, it still came as a surprise. There’s a number of us who had noticed that the vitality had slowly drained from the man after the death of his beloved wife. It was as if the furnace has suddenly burnt out, and the red hot iron within has begun to cool. Even so, a friend and I had wished that he would be able to there to witness this year’s National Day Parade, as we sincerely believed that he should be there to share the joy of the SG50 celebrations. It was with deep sadness, to know that our wish will never be fulfilled.

Regardless whether we hated or loved Lee Kuan Yew for whatever he has done in his life, there is no denying that he will be one of those who deserved credit for the Singapore we inherited today. We have inherited a Singapore we can all be proud of. It might not be perfect, but it is a place we can call home. A place where I can walk the streets late into the night and still feel safe.

I grieved for the lost of Singapore’s most famous son, and we may perhaps never see another one like him again. The only way we can honor his memory, is to take Singapore to even greater heights.

Rest in peace, Mr Lee. You have fought the good fight.

一路走好。

Random Discourse – The money in my CPF account is my money. Period.

Read this in a Channel News Asia article that got reposted one time too many on my Facebook feed:

In relation to the use of CPF money, we have heard proponents who say that the CPF monies is theirs. “It’s our money, it’s in our account, it’s our retirement money. I want it out, I will spend it anyway we want.” Fine. Is it our money? Our CPF savings are enhanced and forced CPF savings which are accumulated through our own deferred consumption, through co-payment by our employers and through top-ups from public funds. Is it really my private money? Do I have the right to spend it the way I would spend my own salary? I’m not entirely sure.

I know at the end of the day, that because I’m not the only person contributing to the fund, I cannot be the only person to call the shots as to how I am going to spend it. At the very least, I have a moral obligation to spend it wisely. Why do I say that? Because if I’m not judicious in my spending at the end of the day, who’s going to maintain me in my twilight years – the state? Who? Ultimately it means someone else is bearing it right, another taxpayer. So if I’m not judicious and I’m arguing this is my money, I’m not going to be responsible in my use and if I argue this is your money, you use it anyway you want – I’m not responsible as a citizen. – Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Chia Yong Yong

I can see the point she wants to put across – i.e. we need to be aware of the extra cost society have to bear when some people used their retirement funds irresponsibly. But if she wants to emphasize on personal responsibility, Chia Gong Gong Yong Yong has used the worst way to put it across and it completely drowned out the point she is trying to make. Really, she has no need to gild the lily (or what we Chinese would have said – 画蛇添足).

First of all, does it make the money in my CPF account any less my money simply because the employer co-paid part of it? As far as my employer is concerned, the current 16% they are contributing to my CPF is a part of my gross salary. Simply put, my gross pay (pre-CPF deductions) is actually 116% of what is stated in my payslip. So in reality I am actually saving a bit more than 31% of my real gross salary into the CPF. It is preposterous for Chia to argue that because a law makes the employer pay the employee $11.60 instead of $10 an hour, that extra $1.60 does not belong to employee when he only took home $8.

Next, it is ridiculous to argue that because there will be some people who are irresponsible in using their money, we thus deny those who are in need a greater flexibility in withdrawing their CPF Funds. Is she even listening to what the Workers’ Party (WP) was proposing? Had the WP been arguing for unrestricted flexibility in CPF withdrawals, she would have a reason to caution against it. But in this case, she should have just shut up and said nothing instead of pandering to the PAP.

Even if the WP had suggesting unrestricted flexibility in CPF withdrawals, there was no need for all that nonsense about co-payment and public funds top-ups as well. I have mentioned earlier the argument that the co-payment part is not my money has no feet to stand on. As for the top-ups, they are pretty much nothing but a drop in the ocean. In fact, I suppose some people wouldn’t care if they aren’t getting any handouts either. Sure, someone can argue about how much more some other policies directly or indirectly contribute to “growing” that money in the CPF, but realistically I doubt any of that money comes in the form of tax revenue bore by all taxpayers. In other words, I do get what Chia really wanted to say. But I would still say a big f**k you anyways for the elitist way she put it. (It really doesn’t help that this photo usually came attached with the articles linked to what she said. That derisory smile on her face almost make me want to smash her face in.)

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It is my considered opinion that the NMP system should be abolished. Since NMPs did not contest in any elections, they have no voter support to lay claim and they are thus hardly democratic. All of the present 9 NMP seats should be folded into the NCMP system increasing it to 12 seats. NCMP seats will be assigned to the top 12 losers (even PAP candidates who lose). In the event the “losers” is from a Group Representative Constituency (GRC), the political party which lost that contest will nominate one candidate from the team to take up the seat. Hopefully, since they would hope to become elected MPs in the next General Election, they would exercise some caution in what they say. And even if they are ‘talking cock’, that would be far better than some unelected, nominated lackey who seems to be suggesting that some of the money in my CPF account does not belong to me.