Sunday, March 26, 2006

Foreign Sports Talent Scheme

The table tennis team has done Singapore proud by winning 4 gold medals at the Commonwealth. Our sports officials are jubilant. The Straits Times sports editor declares “This is a vindication of the Foreign Sports Talent scheme”.

Nowadays, I don’t follow the sports news very closely. But, recent events in Melbourne have attracted my interest. Especially, I note the dismal performance of the Netball team in comparison with the peddlers. So I would like to share some thoughts. But it’s personal and should not be taken too seriously as I haven’t been following the debate about the FSTS closely.

I don’t like to pour cold water, but I must confess I have not been terribly excited by the excellent performance of the table tennis team because I understand a large number of them are not native Singaporeans. I must admit I could be behind time in this aspect.

Anyway, out of curiosity, I casually asked my family members what they thought of the FSTS, and these are their views.

1) My Kayaker Son. (He is captain of the ACS (I) kayaking team and fighting fish enthusiast)

He thinks that if the foreign athletes were brought in when they were still of school-going age, and educated in our schools, then it was alright. Otherwise, it would be like going to Thailand to buy the best fight fishes and entering them in a local competition and winning all the top prizes – it would not be very fair. If you bought the good quality fish fries and raised them up yourself then it is still acceptable.

2) My youngest daughter who hates sports. She thinks it’s alright. “After all Singapore likes to win wat”.

3) My teacher wife.

But then what about the local athletes like your kor-kor (elder brother). They train so hard and make many sacrifices to reach the top. What if the government says, our kayakers simply have no hope to compete against the Australians. Let’s bring in some foreign talents to represent Singapore. Wouldn’t that be very cruel to our own Singaporeans?

Incidentally, I am also somewhat puzzled by the remarks of one sport official who was interviewed on television last night. He said something to this effect. “Nowadays, our athletes are more competitive and compete to win.”

I find myself asking; “You mean the previous athletes like Patricia Chan and Water Polo teams were not ‘competitive’?”

Thursday, March 23, 2006

My Stamp Collection - Part 2

Today, I am going to show a few more stamps of ‘extinct’ countries. But to make it more interesting, I will draft my post in the form of quiz questions. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I like to test the younger Singaporeans about history and heritage-related stuff. I usually ask those above 40 not to participate – in order not to embarrass them. Haha.

So here goes …

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By the way, anyone remember our former PM's frequent exhortations to build a 'rugged society'?

Question No. 1 What was Singapore’s National Day - before 1963 that is?

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Did you know that we were regarded as a 'state' of Malaya, like Johore or Penang?

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Question No. 2

What was Sabah known as before they joined Malaysia?

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Notice that they printed the words Sabah over North Borneo?

Question No. 3

Vietnam was a colony of which European power before independence?

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In case you are not able to read the small print, it listed countries like Togo, Tunisia, Upper Senegal, Niger, Upper Volta, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna Islands and many more.

Question No. 4

What was the name of this country? What is it known as now?

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Looks like stamp collecting can be quite educational for of history and geography. Maybe some of the young friends reading this blog will be interested to take up this hobby and even form a stamps club in your school.

Monday, March 20, 2006

My Stamp Collection

Layyoong’s interesting post (Snail Mail) about the Singapore Philatelic Museum reminded me of the time when I used to collect stamps as a hobby. I guess that was probably in the 1960’s. She will be surprised to learn that not only nerds, but uncouth kampong boys also liked to collect stamps. I think we were introduced to this hobby by our more civilized cousins, the Ngs.

Fortunately, I was able to locate my old stamp album and so I can share some photos with you.

Flipping through this old album of mine, I realized that our world has changed a great deal in one generation. Many of the countries in my album do not even exist today; or have since adopted other names. For example:

Aden and Ceylon

Sarawak (before Merger)

And even Malaysia at a time when we had to sing the Negara-ku.

I particularly liked stamps from Hungary. I recall being fascinated by a set of diamond shape stamps and pestered my father to buy them for me. I think it was quite indulgent of him to blow 20, 30 cents for a packet of just 4 or 5 stamps that had no practical value.

I also remember exchanging stamps with one Indian boy who used to come around to our kampong every afternoon to peddle home-made kuehs which he carried in a basket. This boy studied at Bartley School and lived in Bartley Road area: which means, he had to walk about 2 to 3 km one-way just to sell a few dollars worth of kuehs. I wish he is reading this blog.

I also remember 1 silly incident. Once, I saw some beautiful stamps in a magazine and I place the mail order for them. On receipt of the stamps, I was supposed to make payment via postal order. Because I was too ‘swaku’ to know what was postal order, I did not make the payment until I received a stern warning from the vendor. I immediately, packed the cash in an envelope and sent it to England.

Even though I stopped the hobby in secondary school, I still have the habit of cutting out stamps from foreign countries. For example, whenever our domestic maid receives a letter, I would ask her to cut out the stamps for me. Consequently, I have a whole box of cut stamps from Sri Lanka, Philippines and Indonesia.

When I was working in the National Productivity Board in the 80’s, the staff regularly received offers to purchase First Day Covers. I never could resist putting in my order.

Question is, Now what do I do with my stamp collection? How much are they worth today?

Maybe I will just leave that problem to my grandchildren

Monday, March 13, 2006

Oldest Cat on the Blog

I notice that many Singapore bloggers liked to put up pictures of their cats ( Example). I too have some pictures of my family cat, Mimi. I dare not say she is the prettiest but I am pretty certain that she is the oldest; at least her photos are.

You see, Mimi was the our cat we kept back in the 1960’s to early 70’s when we lived in our kampong in Lorong Kinchir. I mentioned and showed a photo of her when I blogged about our kampong dogs during the Chinese New Year holidays (as part of the celebration of the Year of the Dog).

Mimi liked to sleep in warm places. One of her favourite places was on top of our television set. Often our visitors mistook her for a stuffed cat. One visitor got a shock she awoke and moved.

She also liked to sleep on our beds. No matter how much we tried to kick her off, she would climb back; until we gave up. Those days, some of our school buddies liked to visit and stay overnight in our kampong house. One night, my brother’s good friend, Raymond got a shock when Mimi jumped up and snuggled between his legs in the middle of the night.

Mimi was more fortunate than our last dog Barney. When we moved out of our kampong in 1974, we had to leave Barney behind in the care of our cousins. But we brought her along to our new HDB flat at Farrer Road.

Initially we had some problems with her and she kept defecating in our living room. But later, we managed to train her to do her business in the toilet floor; and on the grating cover too. Wasn’t she smart.

Unfortunately, when she became too old, we had to bring her to the vet’s to have her put down. But all in all, I would say she had a pretty good life for a kampong cat.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Toys Were Us (3): Kledek – By Chuck Hio

My friend, Chun See has labeled me a ‘weapons expert’. So today I will teach you a simple game that is somewhat less violent. It’s called kledek. 2 to 5 persons can play this game.

1. Draw 2 parallel lines on the ground at a distance of about 10 to 15 feet apart. One line is the starting point and the other is the target point.

2. Each player, get yourself a piece of flat, round stone of about 2 inches in diameter. Our time, we usually used broken cement.

3. Standing behind the start line, try to cast your stone as near to the target line as possible. The one nearest is the winner and the one furthest is the loser.

4. As a penalty, the loser must carry the winner piggy-back from the start line to the target line and back. The last will carry the first, the second last carries the second and so on.

5. Next the winner will throw one of his slippers to a distance of 10 to15 feet away, and challenges the loser to throw his slipper to hit the winner’s slipper.

6. If he accepts the challenge and succeeds, the ‘punishment’ is ended. If he misses, he has to carry the winner for another round and the same thing is repeated.

7. If the loser chooses not to accept the challenge, then the winner will throw his second slipper to try and hit the first slipper. If he succeeds, then the loser has to carry him for another round, and the same thing is repeated. If he misses, the ‘punishment’ ends.

For the girls who find piggy-ridding too unladylike, they can pull ears instead.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Toys Were Us (2): “Lastic” – By Chuck Hio

Hi, my name is Chuck. I am an old friend and business associate of Chun See's. Today I want to share with you (especially the younger ones) about a toy that I used to make and play with during my childhood days. Unfortunately, I don’t have Chun See’s skills in blogging. So I will ‘tumpang’ this article in his blog.

First a bit of background about myself. I was born in 1960 and grew up in a kampong that is located at the Hill View area off Upper Bukit Bukit Timah. Like Chun See, I have fond memories of the games and pastimes that we enjoyed as kampong kids. Those days, we kids have to design and make our own toys.

One of those toys is the catapult. We called it the ‘Lastic’. I will explain to you how we make the lastic but please just learn this for knowledge only; and do not go and make one and do naughty things with it. It can be turned into a pretty nasty weapon.

Step 1:

Select a good tree branch. Look for a tree branch that has a Y-shape. The 2 arms should be roughly of equal size. Chun See says he and his friends used to make their lastic from the Sendudok, or Singapore Rhododendron, but I prefer the Tembusu tree which was easily found in our kampong. The Tembusu wood is stiffer and stronger and thus provide a more sturdy frame.

Step 2

Trim of the excess materials but leave sufficient length of the arms to be tied together with a binding wire. Trim off the bark.

Step 3

Roast the branch over a fire for about 10 to 15 minutes to remove the sap. We usually placed the it over 2 bricks and build a fire with dry twigs.

Step 4

Untie the arms. You will find that the arms now will retain a beautiful curved Y-shape. Now we can trim off the excess lengths from the arms.

Step 5

Get 2 strips of rubber of about 8 to10 inches long to form the slings. We usually cut them from the inner tubes of bicycles.

Step 6

Cut a small rectangular piece of leather and make 2 slits at the ends.

Step 7

Tie one end of the rubber strip to the lastic arm and the other to the leather. Use rubber bands to fasten them.

Step 8

Repeat for the other arm and there you have your completed lastic.

What do we use the lastic for? We used it to shoot at toads, birds and fruits. For practice we shoot at lamp posts and tin cans. Chun See says he used his to shoot at his neighbour’s pigs which roam into their compound. For the ‘bullet’ we used small stones or pebbles. Sometimes we even use glass marbles, but it is a bit expensive.

I hope you have learnt something new today. Again, I want to stress. This catapult can be quite dangerous. Please do not make it.

Acknowledgement: My special thanks to the management of Cititech Industrial Building for permission to chop off one of the branches of their many Tembusu trees.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Tragedy Lies in Waste

In his book Youngblood Hawke, Herman Wouk wrote these words:

Death is only a sadness.
Tragedy lies in waste.

Although he was referring to the death of a young man, I think his remark applies to some extent to all living things. Those of you who are nature or animal lovers will find what you are about to read a tragedy of no small proportions.

Ever since I took up brisk walking as an exercise, I have frequently walked past a huge piece of vacant land not far from my home. Can you guess where this place is by looking at the pictures below. (Hint: This area used to be heavily wooded. A narrow and winding road once ran through it)

A short stretch of the old road still remains, though not in use

A narrow winding side road used to link to this temple

Give up? It is called Old Holland Road. It joins Ulu Pandan Road to Upper Bukit Timah Road.

About 7 or 8 years ago, they cleared this huge swathe of land – apparently for a housing project – and since then it had been lying vacant. Every time I walk past this place, I feel a certain sadness because I am reminded of Mr Wouk’s words. I think of all the hundreds, maybe even thousands of trees and shrubs which provided a habitat for countless insects, birds, lizards, snakes and squirrels that have been needlessly destroyed.

I am also reminded of an animated movie called Watership Down . Anyone of you remember this rather sad movie? It was produced in the late 70’s. The story was about a family of rabbits which were forced to leave their homes because the field they lived in was being developed for a housing project. The movie’s theme song, Bright Eyes, sung by Art Garfuunkel was also one of my favourites.

But an even greater tragedy happened here slightly more than 20 years ago. I wonder how many of my readers remember the rape and murder of a Catholic Junior College student who was jogging along this lonely stretch of road. I believe this case has not been solved up to this day. Let’s pray that the long arm of the law will catch up with the wicked perpetrator of this evil deed some day.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

Footnote: I hope none of this girl’s loved ones are reading this blog. In case they do, I apologize for stirring up sad memories.