All your grass are belong to Robo-cutter

All your grass are belong to Robo-cutter

I was invited to check out a demon­stra­tion of this machine called the “Robo-Cutter” and I got really excited because, WTF, it’s a robot that cuts grass, right?

No it wasn’t what I expected — there wasn’t any arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence about it, and it couldn’t deploy itself auto­mat­i­cally where it sensed the grass was tall. It was really just a remote con­trolled grass-cutting tractor.

I put my dis­ap­point­ment aside, and spoke to the per­son who was head­ing the demon­stra­tion, Mr Neo Say Hwee of Ho Eng Huat Con­struc­tion Pte Ltd.

He had pur­chased the Robo-Cutter for some­thing close to $100,000. Close to half of it was sub­sidised by the Employ­ment and Employ­a­bil­ity Insti­tute (e2i), which has a grant called the Inclu­sive Growth Pro­gramme (IGP).

In one fell swoop, Mr Neo cut down on his reliance for cheap for­eign labour, which was utilised in land­scape main­te­nance tasks for the old grass cut­ters. The Robo-Cutter can now do the equiv­a­lent job of half a dozen masked men (grass-cutting nin­jas), while using only one trained operator.

While I don’t have the exact num­bers to crunch, I think that while the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to tighten the sup­ply of cheap for­eign labour, com­pa­nies like Mr Neo’s will still stride for­ward when grants like IGP are applied judi­ciously to help inno­v­a­tive addi­tions, like the Robo-Cutter.

More impor­tantly, the employ­ees trained to oper­ate these smart machiner­ies will be able to be paid more. The job is also made eas­ier and safer as they are able to oper­ate the machine from a dis­tance under the shade, low­er­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of heat and other injuries.

This, I think is the best way to go about the increas­ing required wage. A manda­tory min­i­mum wage level with noth­ing else is just going to see com­pa­nies like Mr Neo’s being forced to pay more for grass-cutting nin­jas, and the costs inevitably will be passed on to their clients.

Unfor­tu­nately, many main­te­nance con­tracts in this par­tic­u­lar sec­tor are still mired in old terms and require­ments. They restrict com­pa­nies’ abil­ity to take the leap and inno­vate, like how Mr Neo has done with his company.

Con­tracts still stip­u­late how many per­sons are required to do the job, and buy­ers tend to want a dis­count when you tell them you are going to use fewer men. Worse, some may be shocked and not want to award you the con­tract when you tell them you are going to use a robot and one man.

Terms need to be changed. Buy­ers need to know that the essence of the con­tract is in whether a job can be done well and quickly, regard­less of how many peo­ple are used. With the labour sup­ply crunch sev­eral indus­tries are fac­ing, it will make the most sense to do this, and make the best use of every worker by giv­ing them the best work oppor­tu­ni­ties and do the best to reward them once the job is done in a safer and more effi­cient way.

As you can see, it takes an effort in con­cert — the buyer, the con­trac­tor and the worker have to change the way things are done in order to move this along, in order for all three par­ties to benefit.

When I’ve worn my other hat as a small busi­ness and start up con­sul­tant, I’ve heard excuses like “I dowan to take Gah­men money sekali got strings attached”, or “Cus­tomer don’t want to change con­tract”, even when pre­sented with really, really attrac­tive grants and cash incen­tives which have no strings attached (unless you think that “strings” include pay­ing taxes).

It is exas­per­at­ing. If these com­pa­nies don’t revisit the oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able now to ben­e­fit every­one, they’re going to be in for a rough ride when they’re left behind, while the early adopters reap the ben­e­fits of a trans­formed economy.

It is timely this National Day (the one before the Big 50) that we pay heed to these steps and not just wish for it to hap­pen. We need to work towards this trans­for­ma­tion. The buck stops with everyone.

Proposed Structure

Pro­posed Structure

Not too long ago, I insti­tuted a paper­less pol­icy for my office — I have another hat I wear as a start-up and com­pany con­sul­tant — where, as far as pos­si­ble, I’d force my clients to go paper­less as well.

There is no rea­son to get some­thing printed out on paper when the elec­tronic ver­sion was and is the orig­i­nal doc­u­ment of author­ity. For exam­ple, an ACRA (Account­ing and Cor­po­rate Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity) con­fir­ma­tion on a suc­cess­ful reg­is­tra­tion of a com­pany is sent via email, and there is absolutely no need to print it out to make it any more successful.

Yet, every sin­gle audit firm (and their staff) that I know insist on pho­to­copy­ing or print­ing these things, because they need to ver­ify the document’s authen­tic­ity and orig­i­nal­ity. This is what I will never under­stand. But since they’re doing a job for clients of mine (and they’re paid by my clients), I can’t do much except charge them 10 cents for every page printed.

Then there was this client who insisted on hav­ing paper invoices sent to him even though he had com­put­ers and a work­ing email account, because he claimed that IRAS, ACRA and his audi­tors required him to col­lect and keep orig­i­nal paper invoices.

So I told him that IRAS and ACRA had no such rule, and “keep­ing of accu­rate records” did not mean that they had to be paper records. He dis­agreed, and ter­mi­nated our ser­vices for another provider who hap­pily gave him as much paper as he liked.

There are so many tools avail­able to SMEs to keep every­thing accu­rately and safely stored in the cloud that there really is no excuse these days to keep files and reams of paper in the office. With this year’s intro­duc­tion of FAST inter­net bank trans­fers, post­ing a cheque to pay for a bill is becom­ing a mere excuse to pay that bill late®.

Detrac­tors point to the dan­gers of online fraud as a rea­son not to adopt elec­tronic trans­fers, even if it’s clear that it’s eas­ier to forge a cheque than to escape the var­i­ous elec­tronic trails that pre­cede and fol­low an inter­net bank­ing transaction.

So, I actu­ally made this “Paper­less Pledge” a year ago, and despite get­ting fired by one client, I’m deter­mined to keep this pol­icy intact. I’m glad to even report that I’m look­ing for ways to ter­mi­nate my hire-purchase of my office mul­ti­func­tion printer because we now use it so infrequently.

If you’ve got a sim­i­lar pledge to mine, let me know, and together we can help plant trees instead of killing them. This is just a small choice to make — whether you print some­thing out or not — but it can make a world of difference.

Make a wish and take the Pledge for Change with me and Kleenex Sin­ga­pore — You can sub­mit your pledges on Kleenex Singapore’s Face­book Pledge App (https://www.facebook.com/kleenexsg/app_283737521804501). For every 20 wishes placed on the Kleenex Wish­ing Tree, a real tree will be planted.

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When I was in kinder­garten, I told my friends I was born on the moon, because I was con­fused by what my mother and rel­a­tives told me.

The Apollo 11 mis­sion had landed on the moon about three hours after I was born, and the excite­ment was such that my mother said she was asked by the doc­tors and other peo­ple if she’d name me after the mis­sion or parts thereof.

I could’ve been Neil, Arm­strong, Eagle, Colum­bia, Apollo or Eleven. I don’t think Sea of Tran­quil­ity was in the mix.

But I remem­ber really believ­ing I was born on the moon, and always dreamt that by the time I turned 30, there’d have been real bases built on the moon for peo­ple to, you know, visit and stuff. (I was a big fan of Space 1999).

But it’s been 42 years since the last man walked on the moon. Maybe it’s time we went fur­ther.

 

And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express were taken off the shelves by The Chief Librar­ian Tay Ai Cheng because they were not “pro-family”, which is now the same thing as anti-gay and anti any­thing other than “1 father + 1 mother + 3 or more chil­dren (if you can afford it)”, as stated in the com­plaint by Teo Kai Loon.

Please, all who are on the side of com­pas­sion and even san­ity, nobody is forc­ing you or your fam­i­lies to be pro-gay or gay. Nobody is ask­ing you to pro­mote teenage preg­nan­cies. Nobody is ask­ing you to pro­mote sin­gle parenting.

But I beg you to wake up and look around you. These things hap­pen. Please SUPPORT, not PROMOTE, teenaged, sin­gle, wid­owed par­ents and what­ever is left of their fam­i­lies! These books are part of a com­mu­nity life­line for chil­dren who through no fault of their own, have been labelled “illegitimate”.

You don’t have to bor­row these books if you or your chil­dren don’t need these sto­ries. But don’t deprive oth­ers who do, and for cry­ing out loud, Tango Makes Three is a true story.

 

The last major train­ing exer­cise I was part of was held in Shoal­wa­ter Bay, Queens­land. On the night before the end of the exer­cise, (which was also an assess­ment known as ATEC that deter­mines whether a com­bat unit is fit for oper­a­tions) the com­mu­ni­ca­tions radio in my armoured fight­ing vehi­cle crack­led with a higher than usual urgency. Our vehi­cle com­man­der pleaded with us to keep quiet so he could lis­ten better.

When some­one yells or screams into a radio comms, what­ever mes­sage that per­son is try­ing to send is usu­ally dis­torted and gar­bled, and because you don’t know what it is that is mak­ing the per­son so fran­tic, it tends to scare you a little.

All we could hear was fran­tic yelling on the radio com­mu­ni­ca­tions — some­thing about “No Duff”, which was code for “Not Sim­u­lated”.

We worked out that one of our tanks had over­turned. And when that hap­pens, chances of injury to the crew are likely to be high. There is a vehi­cle over­turn drill which we prac­tice before every exer­cise, but we had been on the move for over 36 hours and this had been our battalion’s final mis­sion in the assess­ment. We were exhausted and car (tank) sick and more likely to slip up.

We pan­icked a lit­tle in our vehi­cle, not know­ing if the crew of the tank was ok. There was a bunch of us that night who were from my orig­i­nal NSF unit, and who must have had flash­backs of an exer­cise in 1989 where one of our unit mates was killed when his vehi­cle overturned.

That exer­cise was halted, for about 12 hours, before our com­mand­ing offi­cer explained that as oper­a­tional sol­diers, we had to carry on. We stayed on and trained in Thai­land for the next 2 weeks.

You never for­get some­thing like that — and I remem­ber being unable to con­trol my trem­bling even when it was finally announced that the tank crew was safe because they’d just man­aged to duck into the com­part­ments as it flipped over.

The other mem­o­rable moment of the exer­cise was when my com­pany com­man­der calmed everyone’s jan­gled nerves that night by call­ing over the comms: “Two-Niner to all sta­tions Two-Niner, if your Zulu (Armoured Fight­ing Vehi­cle) dri­vers or com­man­ders are tired, I will stop and let you rest! I promise you! We will fin­ish this mis­sion safely! …Two-Niner, out!”

To my broth­ers in the 46th Bat­tal­ion, Sin­ga­pore Armour Reg­i­ment (1989–91) and 433rd Bat­tal­ion, Sin­ga­pore Armour Reg­i­ment (1999–2008), I’m proud to have served along­side you. And, even as eras pass and doc­trines change, here’s to every sol­dier, sailor and air­man of the Sin­ga­pore Armed Forces.

Happy SAF Day.

Ex Wallaby 2005 - Somewhere in Queensland

Ex Wal­laby 2005 — Some­where in Queensland

Ex Crescendo 1989 - Somewhere in Thailand

Ex Crescendo 1989 — Some­where in Thailand

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Pink Dot is a family event

Pink Dot is a fam­ily event

I am hon­oured to have been invited to speak at this year’s Pink Dot as part of a new seg­ment called “Com­mu­nity Voices”. This is what I said:

When I was in sec­ondary school I was among the for­tu­nate few to have friends who were gay. Some of whom I knew were gay before they knew or cared to admit.

My father was the most con­cerned, of course, and told me he was wor­ried that I would get affected or influ­enced — in his own words, “you spend so much time with him, you become a gay then you know”.

I said, “Pa, look at me, I can’t dress to save my life. I wish I could be influenced”.

Then came National Ser­vice, the 2 and a half years that was meant to make men out of boys. Inter­est­ingly, it was also where I learned how brave my gay army mates were, and how they stood the tallest among the fight­ing men in my com­bat unit.

Not only did they endure the phys­i­cal duress of train­ing, they took the insults — being called Chow Ah Kua, Bapok, Fag­got — any deroga­tory term for a gay man, daily. It was only after my unit became oper­a­tional that the tables turned somewhat.

The best GPMG gun­ner was gay. 2 of my company’s best pla­toon sergeants were gay, and the guy that broke another soldier’s leg dur­ing unarmed com­bat was one of those Chow Ah Kuas.

These NS boys were tor­tured and I can­not begin to imag­ine the tor­ment they must have endured, hav­ing to hide and deny who they were.

Things are ever so slightly bet­ter these days. There’s this civic event right here that cel­e­brates and affirms the right to love, regard­less of ori­en­ta­tion, even if some peo­ple don’t, and even if there is an unjust and uncon­sti­tu­tional piece of leg­is­la­tion that doesn’t.

My hope is that it doesn’t stop here. And I will sup­port this cel­e­bra­tion and affir­ma­tion until it becomes a right under the laws of this oth­er­wise dynamic country.

I say this because my fam­ily and I count our­selves the luck­i­est peo­ple. It’s not because we prob­a­bly have more gay friends than straight ones. But it’s because many of our gay friends have shown us the abil­ity to sus­tain love above all man­ner of obsta­cles, objec­tion, ridicule.

And more impor­tantly, they love my wife, my son and myself for who we are.

We are with­out doubt blessed by their friend­ship, and our fam­ily can­not do with­out their love.

I am glad that we are rais­ing our son amongst friends who share the same fam­ily val­ues. That two peo­ple can love each other regard­less of gen­der, gen­der iden­tity or labelling.

If this is the “gay lifestyle”, then my fam­ily and I will whole­heart­edly pro­mote it.

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Our Food Patriot K.F. See­toh still hasn’t wiped the foam from his mouth from rant­ing about food blog­gers, which is why I’m telling you now, I’m not a food blogger.

I don’t know how to write about food except to tell you I like it or not. But there’s a chance I might like a restau­rant or cafe sim­ply because the peo­ple who run it are nice, and are pas­sion­ate about the things they make.

But there are places where we would prob­a­bly have avoided if we looked closer before mak­ing a reservation.

Sat­ur­day after­noon offered one such place. We’d dri­ven past it sev­eral times, and the loca­tion had once been a Swiss-German restau­rant we liked. So I made a reser­va­tion, and picked up the fam­ily to go there for lunch. It looked like a pretty hip place from the out­side, with the raw, dis­tressed metal and glass and cement finishes.

Plus, it served ribs and wine, because from the name, you’d know it did. But once we opened the door and got in to be seated by the very friendly and atten­tive wait staff, we knew we were in trouble.

First, they piped-in Kenny G! In place of what you’d expect a hip rib joint to play! Sec­ondly, we were the only peo­ple in the restau­rant apart from the staff.

Then, when we asked for rec­om­men­da­tions, the (really friendly and atten­tive) waiter obliged by giv­ing us this, his only sug­ges­tion: “If you don’t mind spicy, then you should try our spicy pork ribs”.

Thank good­ness for the Kenny G muzak, or else we might have had our brains working.

Then came time for us to dabao what we couldn’t fin­ish. We were told, “Take­away con­tainer is 50c”. There would have been com­plete silence at that moment if not for Kenny G.

We found the food to be pretty ‘meh’ con­sid­er­ing the price, but don’t rely on me to tell you, because like I said, I’m not a food blog­ger, and maybe they’re bet­ter known for their wines.

Good Review

Good & Bad Review

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No I’m not going to teach you how to pro­nounce Roy’s sur­name. The title is just writ­ten in the style of Roy Ngerng’s attention-seeking blog post titles.

Now that Roy has ‘been Davin­dered’ and taken down the alleged offend­ing blog post, applied to be an NMP, and raised ques­tions from dozens of my friends who are none the wiser about what hap­pens to our CPF money, I thought it might be timely to address some of the questions.

In 2011, some of my friends and I had a web­site called ‘You Say I Say Who Con­firm’, and we wrote about stuff that were slightly con­tentious, but we never got Davin­dered. Take for exam­ple, this post I wrote about the CPF. It basi­cally says the same thing Roy said, and you can get all this infor­ma­tion from var­i­ous Gov­ern­ment websites.

But, you can­not and should not impli­cate the PM or the Gov­ern­ment and accuse them of steal­ing from the pop­u­la­tion.  You’re not doing the rest of us a favor by doing so, although the “hard truths” should be made bet­ter known to us — and like I said, most of these ‘truths’ are — you just have to scour the Gov­ern­ment, GIC and Temasek sites.

The only real area of con­tention is where Temasek Hold­ings says out­right that it “does not man­age CPF money”. That’s not a lie, but only because by the time the monies in our Fund is in Temasek’s hands, it is no longer in the form of CPF Funds.

The bot­tom line is this. Although it is in the inter­est of national secu­rity that cer­tain aspects of our mon­e­tary reserves are not divulged, there should still be more trans­parency regard­ing how our sav­ings are invested.

Mean­time, if you’re not sure what Roy said, here’s what I wrote in 2011:

What Do They Do To Make Our CPF Grow?

I imag­ine the top ques­tion at the top 10 fre­quently asked ques­tions page of the CPF Board would be “What the heck does the CPF Board do to my money to be able to earn 2.5% — 5% inter­est in an age where banks seem to want you to pay them to keep your money”?

But it is not. It isn’t even an FAQ accord­ing to the Board. Does every­one know some­thing I don’t?

So where does the money go? How does the Gov­ern­ment guar­an­tee us what they call “risk free inter­est” of 2.5%? What is risk-free interest?

We’re told that it doesn’t go into GIC for them to invest in UBS and then get annoyed about a rogue trader los­ing $2bn. (And you never hear about rogue traders mak­ing bil­lions, as you can imag­ine they would, had their coins landed the right side up).

We’ve also been told (Temasek Hold­ings FAQ No. 8) that it doesn’t go into Temasek Hold­ings for them to post a 10-year net profit and then spend the last three years fight­ing off alle­ga­tions of bad invest­ment deci­sions because they lost 31% of its hold­ings in the 2008 finan­cial crisis.

So where does the Board put the money? Under a col­lec­tive prover­bial pil­low wait­ing for the CPF Fairy to pay out 2.5%? Or do they put our money in local banks, sav­ing us the trou­ble of doing that our­selves and earn­ing a pit­tance in inter­est on our own?

Or does our CPF Board, by strength in sheer num­bers, get a fab­u­lous deal from our friendly local finan­cial banks that allows them to guar­an­tee us this “risk free” return of 2.5%?

Accord­ing to the Accountant-General’s Depart­ment, there are these things called Spe­cial Sin­ga­pore Gov­ern­ment Secu­ri­ties, which are bonds issued only to the CPF Board to, in the Accountant-General’s Department’s own words, “meet the invest­ment needs of the Cen­tral Prov­i­dent Fund”. The AG-D also states that “The invest­ment of CPF funds by the Gov­ern­ment relieves the CPF Board from tak­ing on the invest­ment risk of a fund man­ager to con­cen­trate on its pri­mary role as a national social secu­rity institution”.

In other words, our Gov­ern­ment bor­rows our CPF money, guar­an­tee­ing the Board at least 2.5%, and in exchange, takes on the risks of a fund man­ager, and log­i­cally, the ben­e­fits as well.

In addi­tion, the money that the CPF Board lends to the Gov­ern­ment is put into this thing called the Gov­ern­ment Secu­ri­ties Fund, where they are blended on high set­ting for one minute together with pro­ceeds from invest­ment returns, other secu­ri­ties issuances and sea­soned to taste. Once that’s done, voila! You can no longer call it CPF money per se, and can there­fore con­fi­dently tell every­one who asks, that 1) CPF money is not invested in Temasek Hold­ings, 2) CPF money is not invested in the GIC.

The other stuff I gleaned from the AG-D’s doc­u­ment was that the Sin­ga­pore Gov­ern­ment doesn’t have any exter­nal debt. The only peo­ple they owe money to are the peo­ple they gov­ern. The Gov­ern­ment also owes every other nation on this planet zilch, noth­ing, or as the aunty who runs the kopi­tiam across the street would say, jilo. And that prob­a­bly has some­thing to do with the fact that we have AAA rat­ings across the board from Fitch, Moody’s and Stan­dard & Poors, although log­i­cally, even if we dropped an A or two, it wouldn’t mat­ter to the Gov­ern­ment because they can tech­ni­cally still bor­row money from the CPF at 2.5%.

So, how do we answer the burn­ing ques­tion that is also not on the CPF Board’s Top 10 FAQ list, “How safe is our CPF money?”

As good as gold? As safe as houses? Solid as a rock?

We’d need a whole lot more infor­ma­tion to be able to get some­thing defin­i­tive. But still, on a hunch and some good old fash­ioned agak-ration, I think it is.

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Redemp­tion is a dif­fi­cult thing. You know when you’ve done some­thing wrong and you’re think­ing of what you can do to make things right and it never seems to be adequate?

Well, no, I’m not talk­ing about that kind of redemp­tion. In our uniquely Sin­ga­pore par­lance, “redemp­tion” usu­ally means you get rewarded for your loy­alty to some kind of con­sumer brand or product.

StarHub is one such brand, and if you’ve been a cus­tomer long enough, you’d know that for every dol­lar you spend on your StarHub ser­vice — like your mobile sub­scrip­tion, cable TV or inter­net con­nec­tion, you’d have earned points for them.

These points would then qual­ify for “redemp­tion”. This is where things used to be dif­fi­cult. You’d go to the Rewards site, scroll through how many prod­ucts you can redeem for your num­ber of points and end up maybe only get­ting some voucher to redeem again against your next phone bill or something.

How many of you have signed up for some telco, earned loy­alty points and gone to the rewards web­site JUST ONCE AND THEN GIVEN UP NEVER TO RETURN AGAIN?

GOT, RIGHT? WAH LAO EH! I’ve been a StarHub cus­tomer for more than a decade, and I’ve never redeemed any­thing. Or at least any­thing that I remember.

But, that’s about to change as StarHub relaunches its new StarHub Rewards web­site at www.starhub.com/redeem

I recently checked out the web­site and they have a much wider range of items to redeem. After all those years of painful phone bills, I’ve actu­ally accu­mu­lated quite a few points. Dammit, if these could be exchanged for real cash, I’d be a bit richer.

But if you look at the site, you’d see it’s not that bad. They have a good range of adult and kid-friendly rewards. I might con­sider a short stay at a hotel on Sen­tosa, a din­ner at a big-name (got sign­board) seafood restau­rant, and see­ing as how expen­sive aquar­ium tick­ets are and how per­sua­sive a five year old boy can be, I might cash in for a two adult, one child reward.

Bet­ter yet, it’s now even eas­ier to redeem your hard earned points because you can get it off your mobile devices and tablets too.

Come to think of it, you may want to use your points for friends’ birth­day presents. Just ‘cos you used points to get them stuff doesn’t mean that the thought didn’t count.

This is a reward site that is finally seri­ous about giv­ing you some­thing for your loy­alty. If you have points, BBBMTL!

Fol­low my twit­ter feed @miyagi for more exclu­sive treats from StarHub Rewards.

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I had great fun at the last minute pop-up Talk­ing­cock In Par­lia­ment 3 organ­ised by Colin, Yen Yen and oth­ers on Sat­ur­day evening. There was a great vari­ety of speak­ers any­howly hum-tumming what Mother Tongue means to us because it’s been any­howly hum-tummed into our lives.

This is what I said:

My Hokkien mother spoke no Man­darin, was edu­cated in ACS in Malaya, and my father taught him­self Eng­lish, but spoke Hainanese mostly. Although most days you couldn’t tell which he was speak­ing. Older Hainanese men have accents as thick as the slab of but­ter in your kaya toasts.

But my father spoke just enough rub­bish for peo­ple in Aus­tralia to lump him together with other East Asians and he scored a job as a trans­la­tor with the Japan­ese Olympic team in the 1956 Mel­bourne Games.

That did not end well. He was fired before the clos­ing cer­e­mony because a Japan­ese boxer was taken to hos­pi­tal for an emer­gency appen­dec­tomy he didn’t need to have. He had sim­ply tried to tell my father that he needed to lose some weight to get down to the weight class he was sup­posed to com­pete in. That’s my father. Acci­den­tal pio­neer of weight loss surgery.

My mother, a slightly bet­ter Eng­lish speaker, joined my father in Aus­tralia and together they lived there between 1957 and 1965. That’s a lot of time for them to pick up enough Aussie slang to scold my sib­lings and I with.

So my early child­hood years were marked by my par­ents’ Aussie nick­names for me, which were all pre­fixed by the word “bloody”. They called me bloody fool, bloody idiot, bloody nong, once in a while, bloody bas­tard, before they realised the impli­ca­tion of what they were call­ing me, and retracted it and instead called me a bloody chink.

I have a five year old son and some­times when he whines or whinges about some­thing, my wife would tell him, “Use your words, Kai”. And he would com­pose him­self, and make his request known in a full sentence.

My mother was slightly dif­fer­ent with me when I was a kid. If I whined or whinged, she said, “Bloody Chi­nese boy can­not speak eng­lish prop­erly issit?”

I under­stand now that they were scarred by their expe­ri­ences Down Under, and passed on that anx­i­ety to their kids.

So that’s my her­itage. Out­castes of empire, speak­ing in the tongues of the for­mer con­victs of our for­mer colo­nial mas­ters. It’s a rich her­itage, full of stolen riches.

So you can imag­ine I wasn’t sur­prised when I dis­cov­ered just last week, that our National Her­itage Board is the gov­ern­ing body of the Speak Good Eng­lish Move­ment. I’m actu­ally work­ing on this year’s Speak Good Eng­lish launch. Direc­tor of Speak Good Eng­lish? Is Eck Kheng here? Move­ment nochet launch this year, so this event not counted hor?

Let me say that I strongly sup­port the speak good eng­lish move­ment. I have one every morn­ing. Usu­ally after break­fast. And my fam­ily doesn’t let me bring the news­pa­pers in with me.

Eh… It could have been worse. I could’ve demon­strated what a Speak Good Eng­lish Move­ment sounds like.

Last week, I read about our Air Force and how they out­foxed Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts in war games, although I don’t believe they used the word outfoxed.

We all know that our Armed Forces have had this advan­tage over the years. I mean, come on lah, which other mil­i­tary can boast hav­ing march­ing com­mands in Malay, instruc­tions in Eng­lish, and at one time really had a pla­toon that spoke only Hokkien?

And they say the US got drones, we also have! How many did you see in the Young PAP video? That video? It was sup­posed to be a secret weapon, to be used when our ene­mies are mak­ing their way to invade us. We will jam their net­works and the video would be trans­mit­ted to all their smart­phones and tablets, so when they watch it, they’ll U-turn and go back because, wah lao, really? This is the prize? Dowan lor.

There were three bids for this defence weapon. This was one of them. The other two were of course the STB ad and the Singtel nip­ple ad.

“Honey, look! You know the expen­sive seafood din­ner we had last night? We really got screwed, I’m even pregnant!”

Ten years ago, I was in a reservist In camp train­ing — see that’s another word that’s been ingrained. 20 years after chang­ing the term to NSman, we’re still call­ing it reservist. You call up some busi­ness to look for some­one, and they’ll say, “oh, got reservist, won’t be back until next week”.

I think we love the word reservist because we really don’t want to be on the front line. We’re reserved. Of course, my ten year cycle has long since been com­pleted, so I’m an even more reserved reservist.

So any­way, this was in 2004 and we were still tran­si­tion­ing from the old con­ven­tional ways of war­fare to a post 9–11 Al Qaeda-JI doc­trine. We had train­ing to tell us that it was no longer ok to clear a room with grenades and put our weapons to full auto to fin­ish the job. We had to look out for civil­ians and enemy combatants.

So part of the train­ing pack­age con­sisted of being shot at from a sim­u­lated HDB block, and being shot at from a sim­u­lated mar­ket. The sec­ond round got worse. We got grenades thrown at us by a sim­u­lated preg­nant woman played by one of our own reservists on Attend B excuse heavy lifting.

We didn’t know how to react. We were tired, hun­gry and get­ting frustrated.

As we ran up one last HDB stair­well we encoun­tered a sim­u­lated cou­ple in close embrace, just as you would in real life, only this time it turned out to be a terrorist-hostage sit­u­a­tion. Our train­ing kicked in. We trained our weapons on the party and opened negotiations:

Our sec­tion com­man­der shouted: “Ter­ror­ist har? What the fuck you want, you nin­abeh chee­bye motherfucker?”

The sim­u­lated ter­ror­ist replied, “er…. I want an air­line ticket”

Because we are a con­sid­er­ate 3G army, our sec­tion com­man­der asked him, “air­line ticket? Chee­bye what airline?”

The ter­ror­ist con­sid­ered this quickly and shouted his pref­er­ence, “Emi­rates!”

Some­thing snapped in my sec­tion com­man­der. He flicked the safety catch on his SAR-21 to full auto and opened fire, emp­ty­ing his mag­a­zine of 30 rounds of blanks as he screamed. “Emi­rates hah? SQ not good enough for you is it? Nabeh! Limpehshootjiliaphorlisee!”

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