Spain Won UEFA EURO, Again

It was the red versus the blue, the Horde against the Alliance.  I wasn’t too sure about the outcome.  Spain could not beat Italy in the quarter-final.  Spain had to go into penalty shootout against Portugal in the semi-final.  I began to have my duda: Can Spain score at all with this new formation?

Image courtesy of UEFA official website

Cynthia and I are happy with the results of course.  We have plenty of Spanish and Spanish learning friends in Singapore.  We have visited Spain twice.   Photographs of last year’s visit are still … in process but you can view the pictures taken on our 2009 trip here.  We practically love everything Spanish.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I may finally get Cynthia into watching Formula One now that the Spanish fever is burning higher than ever.

It was just last weekend when Spanish F1 driver Fernando Alonso won the European race that took place in Valencia, Spain.  At the end of the race, he was meant to cruise to the podium.  Instead, Alonso stopped his Ferrari at the grandstand, with a Spanish flag on his hands, and he paid tribute to the Spanish fans.  Such emotion he was in, it was as though he has won the Championship (which is still a long way to go).  Alonso is a big fan of Spanish football.  I bet he is delighted about the UEFA win.  With the economy black hole Spain is in today, her people could really use some good news.

Some say Spanish football is boring.  Some say watching Formula One is boring.  For some strange reasons, I find either very exciting to watch.  I enjoy seeing how the Spanish football team set up the attack by slowly inching towards the goal through their accurate passing.  There is great teamwork involved and the Spanish team has sufficient star power as well.  To me, the experience of watching football and F1 is similar.  Both take one and a half hour to watch.  The first 5 minutes of a football match is as exciting as the opening laps of a F1 race.  Thereafter, the pace settles down.  Draw in a match to me is like a pole-to-podium-finish in a race.  There ain’t many goals in a typical football match.  Just like F1, there are only one or a few overtakes that truly matter.

Four years ago when Spain won UEFA, I doodled a picture of Torres.  And we enrolled ourselves into a Spanish class shortly after.  This year, I will be doing neither.  Cynthia is still practicing her Spanish.  In fact, her blog entry on this very topic written in Spanish is published faster than mine!  As for me, I will stick with my Spanish guitar.  She needs some love.

Will “Happy Feet” The Emperor Penguin Reach Home Safe?

What a coincidence.  Those who have read my manuscript submitted for the Golden Point Award writing competition would be in awe by the similarity of how my story begins and the recent media sensation in New Zealand.   I can assure you that my idea is original.  The first draft of my story was written in June 17th.  The Emperor Penguin that found his way to New Zealand was rescued on June 23rd (I think).  Anyway, I had no prior knowledge of such news.  Cynthia said it was a premonition.  I don’t think I am that magical, beyond the realms of Warcraft.  It is a pure coincidence.  And I better make sure that I shall append a small clarification note if and when my story is published.

No one knows why a 3.5 years old Emperor Penguin ended up in New Zealand.  The nearest iceberg – a natural habitat of an Emperor Penguin – is 2,200 km away.  The locals named him “Happy Feet”.  Under the care of Wellington Zoo, Happy Feet has recuperated, well enough to be freed into the ocean.  When I met my New Zealand colleague this morning, I shared with him the happy news.  He was surprised that I am in touch with New Zealand news.  I was surprised that he too is passionate about Happy Feet.  How do you reckon Happy Feet can find his way home, I asked.  Magnetic fields, he answered.    How nice if we could tell directions by sensing the invisible force eh?  Some creatures are oh so smart.

In order to track Happy Feet’s whereabouts, the New Zealand scientists have glued a tiny satellite signal transmission device onto his back.  You too can follow his progress in real time like I do (click here).   I do not know how this story would end.  A few hours ago, there was hardly any update.  So I asked myself, is he still alive?  As of now, Happy Feet seems to head somewhat south.  It looks as though there is still much distance to cover.  Some netizens fantasize if Happy Feet would find his family.  I doubt if we will ever know.  And I have watched enough animal channels to know that the living condition can be harsh down south.  All of a sudden, I wondered: Would it be better if we don’t know his whereabouts at all?  Just take it for granted that he is off to a better place?

Too late for that.  I think I am glued to that website for quite some time.

Doctor And Nurses’ Tips On Eating In Singapore Food Courts, Radio DJs And Audiences’ Take On Love and Medals

It was food poisoning, my doctor said to me.  I was not surprised, judging at the symptoms I have since last night.  Where did you eat, he asked.  It was a food court at Sim Lim Square where I had mutton soup, I answered.  The food court is merely a block away from where the clinic is.  My doctor suddenly seemed enlightened and said, “Ah, yes.  I had a few bad experience eating there.”

According to my doctor, he gauges the hygiene factor of a local food court by the cleanliness of the toilet as well as the availability of hand soap.  If the hand soap is constantly run out, there is little hope that the hawkers would have their hands washed properly after [peeing and pooing] (he used a Chinese dialect that I am not familiar with, but I got the essence of what he was trying to say).  Next time when I visit a food court in Singapore, the first thing I shall do is to inspect the toilet.  If a doctor does it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t.

There was no one in the waiting room, so we took time to chat.  I do not have friends who is a doctor and I am not sure what ticks them.  OK, I have a distant relative who works in the emergency room.  We talked about shattered bones of the motorists and his unpredictable yet predictably long working hours.  That time, I wanted to veer the conversation away from the bones and onto, say, how do surgeons have the time to find love?  But he went on and on about bones and more bones, blood and more blood.  It is true.  Singapore is a terrible place for motorists.  I am still at awe at the courage or what not that some cyclists exhibit when they insist on wanting to share the same space with the local drivers.  It only takes one tiny mistake of a driver to potentially paralyze a cyclist.  I don’t even feel safe walking inside a car park.  I often remind Cynthia, “Never, never trust the Singaporean drivers.”

Ironically, I am one.

At the reception counter, while waiting for my medicine to be concocted, I chatted with the two ladies behind the counter.  I am not sure if they are receptionists or they are nurses.  After that bloody toe operation – bloody as in literally bloody and not in a swearing sense – I am convinced that they are capable to take on the role of a nurse too.  On the same topic of food poisoning, one said, “These days, we have increasingly more Chinese nationals working in a food court.  They are not as hygienic.  Stay away from their food.”  Another one added, “For me, I only eat boiled food like fish soup from these stores.  At least the food is cooked right in front of my eyes.”

I hate to stereotype.  But I think they both spoke wisdom because numbers do rule our world.  The challenge to me is, unlike some of my friends, I cannot tell a local man from a Chinese national.  Maybe a PRC girl to a local girl.  But that is a different story.

Before I left the consultation room, my doctor and I talked about the recent surge in flu cases.  He commented that people here do not cover our mouths when we cough.  I commented that in Japan, the sick ones wear masks when they are sick.  Do you know what he said?  He advise people to wear a mask in the office if someone near them is sick.  If we do not have the decency to refrain from spreading the virus, at least do our part to lower the chance of getting infected by others.

This doctor speaks wisdom.

*     *     *     *     *

I am a big fan of the Backseat DJs Maddy Barber and Cheryl Miles.  Their chemistry works out to be better than my initial expectation.  Yesterday’s topic was on Team Singapore (athlete) and our reliance on foreigners to win medals.  One guy from Team Malaysia (the football captain I think) commented that we would not have won the first leg of the World Cup qualifying match against Malaysia if we do not have foreigners.  The debates went on.  Cheryl and Maddy were patriotically defending our foreign talent policy.  One caller dialed in and said, “Medals should only won by born and bred Singaporeans.  No foreigners should be in our national teams.”

Upon hearing that, I felt a brief moment of exclusion.  13 years I have been a Singapore Citizen.  But no matter how many years I clock, I can never be a born and bred Singaporean.  In this hot topic of foreigners versus the locals, I often find myself stuck in the middle.  Not too long ago, I was a foreigner.  Within the Singapore community, we have Citizens and Permanent Residents (Is PR considered as foreigners?)  And within the citizen category, we have born and bred Singaporeans and the immigrants.  My wife from Indonesia has been a PR here for 10 years.  My sister is a relatively new PR from Hong Kong who now has a baby (I often tease her that she is a PRC).  My niece is born in Singapore.  Her father – my buddy – is also a born and bred Singapore.  My mother-in-law who is visiting Singapore is on a 5 years long time social visit pass.  My mother too has the same pass.  The line is blurred.  Regardless where we are in this foreign-ness spectrum, we have contributed to the society just as hard, riding through SARS and a few recessions, the current inflation and yet another round of election together with the born and bred locals and the semi-foreign residents.

Hack.  We eat the same food.  And I may need to pop by my bathroom one more time before I am done writing this entry.

 *     *     *     *     *

A few days ago, there was love in the air.  One caller dialed into Maddy and Cheryl’s radio show and shared with them and the audience her dilemma in love.  6 years she has worked and now she is 26.  6 years she has dated this guy and it is only recently when she discovered that he has been married all along.  This sounds so wrong  How did she not know, how did this guy’s wife not know, and how could he love two at the same time – all these years?  Personally I feel that it is cruel for a guy to rob a girl 6 years of her prime dating life with a lie.  Personally I also feel that Maddy and Cheryl are too cheerful as Aunties Agony.  I, on the other hand, can be a good candidate for Brother Agony.  Because I have a soothing voice, because I am a patient man with a pair of good listening ears, and because I am morally flexible.

One caller quickly dialed in and shared her friend’s story in air.  It was on her friend’s wedding date when the groom did not turn up.  Instead, the groom’s wife called and told her friend that the groom has already been married.  This blows in so many different dimensions.  I could not even fathom on what the groom was thinking, or trying to do.  Imagine the disappointment and humiliation the bride had to bear.  Fortunately, this sad, sad story has a good ending.  Her friend is now happily married with kids.  Her advice to the first caller was: move on and there are better things in life await.

That is not the end of the story.  A third caller dialed in and shared his story on air.  One day, his friend called and asked to meet up and have a cup of coffee, 2 in the morning and in Geylang (note to overseas readers: Geylang is a residential area, and inside, there is a tiny red light district).  I am glad that I do not have friends who call me 2 in the morning for a cup of coffee in Geylang.  My wife would not be happy about it.  So, the third caller did meet up his friend.  They chatted from two to four in the morning and across the street, at the entrance of a love motel, he has spotted his girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) emerged from the motel with his best friend!  Woah.  That sucks even to think about it.  Again, the sad, sad story also has a good ending.  He is now happily married to a different girl and they have kids.  Same advice he gave to the first caller.

*     *     *     *     *

Looking back, fair or not fair, I think it is good to have experienced what it is like to be a dumpee.  Because we dumpees get to relate to some movies that dumpers just don’t get it.

Google+ > Twitter + Facebook

My Google+ invite came in a good timing.  I am seldom an early adopter when it comes to technology.  I have yet to install a webcam for my computer.  When I first signed up for Google+, I was curious, in a healthily skeptical way.  The timing was good because as CNN has recently reported, some of us just need a reboot.  Facebook has served its purpose.  I have had a fun time interacting with friends whom I know, ‘friends’ whom I do not know online.  There has been a lot of time investment in building my social network.  Despite the good time I had, there is some discomfort in using Facebook.

Top of my concern is privacy issue and the lack of control over who should see the stuffs I write and the stuffs others write about me in Facebook in a micro level.  I could set up groups and fiddle with the access control.  But in real life, that is hardly practical.  For instance, I could say, none of my acquaintances are allowed to tag me into their pictures.  What if there is this one acquaintance who has this one great photograph that I wish I could have been tagged?  Or I could say, all my good friends are able to tag me into their pictures.  What if there is this one picture that I really do not wish to be tagged in spite of the good intent?  Sure I could remove the tag.  But most of the time, it is too late.  Do I want my  friends to be aware of my recent activity in participating in some of the political debates over other Facebook pages or the walls of my friends?  Some interactions are meant to be segregated.  I could tweak the security setup in Facebook to handle the situations as mentioned and more.  However, balancing being too open and too close in Facebook is never easy.

Then comes Google+.  It took me a while to set it up and get used to the way how G+ works.  Once I got through the initial hurdle, the first thing I notice is that friends in my circles are really my friends (hence the reboot).  Friends who I know of and am interested in reading what they share online.  I have complete control over how each of my message is shared – publicly, to a set of circles, or even down to the individuals.  Do I want to disallow resharing of what I write in G+?  Do I want to disable comments?  The decision is all mine to made, at the point of sharing, based on the circumstance.

The second thing I notice is that G+ promotes a more causal networking.  Let’s say I find an interesting topic and I participate in the discussion.  And I happen to like some of the comments one person has made.  I find him interesting and wish to hear more about what he shares on a regular basis.  In Facebook, I would need to add him as a friend.  But is he really a ‘friend’?  If I was him, would I want to confirm such a request?  In G+, I can add people into my circles.  They will be aware of my action.  But it is up to them if they wish to add me into theirs and potentially see some of their more private sharing.  In most cases, it does not have to be so.  I could be interested reading more about how Jenson Button feels before and after the race.  And what sports he does when he is not racing.  But I don’t think Button would have the time to read what I share online.

Just an example.

That brings up to the second part of this entry: Twitter.  I read that some start to complain having an extra social network to follow the same set of people and hear the same thing.  Yet another place to broadcast or promote their online presence.  To me, it is never an issue.  I use Twitter to follow news and gossips.  I use Facebook to keep track of what some of my friends do.  Once Google+ is open for business for the celebrities and company profiles, I suspect I would drop Twitter.  Because it is so much easier to zoom into the topics of my interest in G+ via circles.  The quality of sharing in G+ seems higher too because there is no limit in characters and we are free to edit the messages and comments after they are published.  As for Facebook, it may take longer for me to transit out of it because most of my friends are still clinging onto what may not seem broke to them.  I still occasionally drop by Facebook.  But the majority of my activity is on G+, for now.

It is still early to say if Google+ will be a success.  I certainly welcome a break from Facebook and have the opportunity to approach social networking in a fresh new way.  If you want a Google+ invite, you may drop me an email.

Circle me at

I Am Ready To Vote

These two weeks have been tiring, from Nomination Day to the eve of Election Day.  I have not attended a single rally.  But I have spent much time watching the recorded videos on YouTube, reading publications from both the mainstream and the alternative sources.  I feel as though my politico-meter has shot up from zero to red hot in merely days.  Almost every day, I would wake up at least once in the middle of my sleep thinking about how I shall cast my vote, with vivid dreams still pulsating refused to fade.

Voting can be emotional.  It is because deep inside, there is this love for our country and our people.  During this election period, rifts can be seen from the discussions revolving around citizens and the foreigners, the born-and-bred Singaporeans and the new citizens, and among those who vote for status quo and those who vote for change.  Rifts that I hope will be mended after tomorrow.  As an immigrant who has been a Singaporean since 1998, where do I stand?  I love this country and the people, hence the decision to settle down and contribute.  To assume that I would vote for the ruling party blindly – as all new citizens would do – may not be a valid claim as raised by the alternative voices.  Why?  I was brought up in Hong Kong where districts are drawn with defined boundary, whereby votes were cast onto an individual.  Here in Singapore, the boundary of the constituencies is redrawn by the government in every election.  Many constituencies are represented in groups and instead of picking who are best to represent us, we have to pick the team as one package.  From where I come from, freedom of speech is valued.  Here, there are guidelines to follow.  Including what the political parties can and cannot do on Cool-off Day (today).  When I compare what I read from the mainstream media, versus what I read from the alternative sources, I have started to doubt what I have been reading all these years.  To sum them up, as a voter who has not decided on which party to vote for, I am not blinded by the picture I have originally fallen in love with.  It is clear that the barrier for alternative parties to enter into Singapore political scene is unfairly high.  To that extend, my kudos to the alternative parties that stand up and challenge the status quo.  You have my deepest respect.

Singapore as a whole is not doing badly, objectively speaking.  We have come back up from a technical recession fairly quickly.  We have good growth this year, despite the global financial challenge.  Most importantly, our country is strong and our diplomatic relationship with the rest of the world seems good.  Better than those days when we have to constantly worry about the water issue, and to deal with criticisms from our neighboring countries.  Singapore is indeed more vibrant in the past five years; and the landscape has improved.  Our country draws envy from the foreigners; some eventually wish to settle down and contribute.  Foreigners like I once was.  I do not have a lot of complain about the government but a few.  I feel that the growth of our population has outpaced the expansion of our infrastructure.  That is bad planning.  I do not have much confident on our national security, despite the heavy budget we have put aside for defense.  Cost of living has outpaced the wage increment, which increasingly makes me worry about my retirement.  And I still feel that we should have kept GST low.  The members of parliament should be more visible on the ground rather than once in five years (in my case, I have not seen any MP in my life before, except during the media events).  There should also be more, much more credible alternative voices in our parliament rather than one that is dominated by one single party – a system that I doubt would be sustainable in a long run.

When I watched some of the speeches made by the alternative parties, I am surprised by the talents we have.  Some moved me to tears.  These are just words, you may say.  I beg to differ.  To be able to speak with such sincerity and conviction requires the individual to have true passion and the experience of being on the ground engaging ordinary people.  Without such, the speech would feel like a scripted speech, watching the person making that speech would feel like watching a parrot talks.  And you can tell who have been walking the ground, who have not.  Some of these speeches touch my heart.  If we have a system whereby voters can pick-and-mix candidates from different parties, I would want to see some of these talents from the alternative parties to be voted into the parliament.  As of now, we can only pray for some miracles to see some of these faces in our parliament.

Come this May 8, we may wake up to a government with no representatives from the alternative parties.  I highly doubt if there would be a political tsunami, like some may have speculated.  There may be more alternative voices getting voted into the parliament.  But anything less than a critical mass would merely be a status quo.  We would be politically dormant for five years and the awakening process would kick in again, for two weeks.  Unfortunate for me, I am not from a constituency that makes headline.  The contest is less than lukewarm.  I do not think how I vote would matter to the final picture.  The previous ruling party for my constituency will continue to rule.  Hence, it is easy for me to say that I am ready to vote wisely, and bravely.  But I am not going to say just that.  I am ready to vote with my clear conscience.