Category Archives: News

On Najib

Little Johnny stole a sweet from his papa. His papa said, “Come on, Johnny, own up. You stole my strawberry sweet, right?”

Little Johnny replied, “No, papa, I didn’t steal you sweet. I really don’t know where your sweet went.”

Papa said, “Johnny, come here. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue.” Johnny did so, and lo and behold, there was the fresh reddish stain on his tongue.

Papa retorted, “See? All the evidence. That red stain is obviously from the strawberry sweet. No other sweet gives off a stain like that. You took my sweet didn’t you?”

Little Johnny denied, “No, papa. The sweet that stained my tongue was actually a gift from a very kind alien who visited my room in a UFO last night. Don’t believe, ask my favourite bolster. He met the alien too and even spoke to it. In fact, you can ask all the toys in my room — my toy soldier, my toy train, my toy rabbit — they will tell you the same thing. The sweet was a reward to me for being such a good boy, obeying my parents, and not telling lies!”

Papa said, “Little Johnny, stop lying. You are making up one lie after another and trying to cover up with bigger and bigger lies. Why don’t you just admit that you stole my sweet and say you are sorry?”

Little Johnny said, “Papa, stop nagging. If not, I will disown you as my daddy and replace you with the neighbour Tim’s daddy”.

Papa was aghast. “You are saying you don’t want to have anything more to do with me? I’m going to call mama and all your brothers and sisters and the neighbours here as witnesses so that she can also hear what you said.”

Little Johnny replied, “You are all not allowed to come together like that. I will call out the big bad wolf from the Red Riding Hood storybook on the bookshelf to come alive to eat you all up. In fact, you should be thankful because you can’t find your sweet. Your teeth are all rotting, you have diabetes…. sweets are bad for an old man like you. You should be grateful to whoever it was who took your sweet. And it wasn’t me, OK?”

Open Letter to McDonald’s Singapore

Dear McDonald’s,

I urge you not to hold any more of such campaigns in future. This episode has lead to an ugly chain of events because of this Hello Kitty soft toys.

1. People who wanted to eat McDonalds only are forced to join the long queues before they can buy their food and eat.
2. People fight and quarrel with each other and McDonalds staff just because they cannot get their soft toys.
3. People waste food after getting the soft toys. They buy the food for the soft toys, not for eating. In the end, these people throw the food away, lead to tons of food wastage.
4. People bought more soft toys than they needed and deprive those real collects who only need 1 or 2.
5. People who brought in large quantities, holding the supplies, deliberately sold these sets at ridiculously high prices in the black market, to those real collectors.
6. Why do MacDonalds allow one person to buy more than one in the first place? It should only allow one person for one soft toy in the first place.
7. Why did McDonalds allow people to queue for the soft toys in the first place before the time starts to sell the soft toys? Leaving those who wants to buy food only into confusion, whether to join the queue or form another queue for food only? The latter may leave some accused of cutting queues instead. McDonalds should have allowed queuing after the time promotion starts.
8. What is the rationale and business nature of McDonalds in the first place? It’s selling food, not soft toys. McDonalds should ensure quality food and service, not come up with such promotions that bring its service and quality of food to another lower level.
9. Why did McDonalds puts its front line staff into such crazy promotions at such late wee hours at nights and early mornings to deal with various kinds of absurd requests? Shouldn’t it be a company that takes care of the rights and benefits of their staffs instead? Should be the starting time for the soft toys fixed at timings like 9am to 9pm only instead? Which is more manageable by the staff because the absence of the working crowd.
10. Shouldn’t McDonalds stop the promotion completely once fights breakout and once and for all cease the promotions to prevent further of such misbehaviors of such people which affects other people who really want to eat in the restaurant and affects other shoppers around the outlets?

Thus I am completely disappointed with McDonalds this time as it is more focused on selling soft toys more than food, and the quality of food and service go down with this promotion, which is simply irrelevant to the company nature of business.

So I seriously hope that McDonalds will not hold any more of such campaign and will not sell any more merchandise related to Hello Kitty in future. And focus more on quality of good and service instead.

Thank you.

No More Kiva Donations in Singapore

It sucks that PayPal users like me can’t use my funds to lend to people who need it more than I do.

Dear Brian,
We regret to inform you that as PayPal Pte Ltd does not have a remittance license, payments from PayPal users in Singapore to Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) and charities registered outside of Singapore have been discontinued from 31 March 2013. As such, the payment that you’ve recently sent to Kiva has been reversed, and the money will be returned to your credit card or PayPal balance depending on your payment method.We would like to reassure you that PayPal users in Singapore will continue to be able to support locally-registered NPOs and charities. Our users in Singapore will still be able to use PayPal for faster, safer commercial transactions for purchases of goods and services online and on their mobile devices.
In light of the recent changes in our service to our users in Singapore, we have created a webpage to address concerns and questions you may have at: You can also contact our customer support team by logging into your PayPal account and clicking on ‘contact us’ at the bottom of the page.

We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused. We thank you for your ongoing support and will continue to enable secure commerce anytime, anywhere and any way.

The PayPal Team

Here’s my Kiva progress thus far!
Not too shabby contribution towards the Carnegie Mellon Kiva team 😀 From 4th place to sitting pretty at 2nd now! 😀

The great taste of shark’s fin soup

Epic write-in from a certain Paul Chan at


WHILE I appreciate Associate Professor Thomas Menkhoff’s concern for shark’s fin traders (‘The cluster effect and shark’s fin trade’; last Wednesday),

I disagree that artificial shark’s fin can ever replace the real stuff.

Honestly, and in fairness to shark’s fin soup lovers, environmentalists should take the trouble to understand why diners are drawn to the dish.

I love it because the taste can be described only as heavenly – a gift from the gods.

Artificial shark’s fin made out of gelatin has not been able to replace the genuine stuff despite years of efforts.

Added to that is the cultural link: Shark’s fin has been on the Chinese menu since the Ming Dynasty more than half a millennium ago.

The exponential surge of the world’s population has put a strain on ocean resources. It is natural that shark populations have shrunk due to loss of their feeding habitats.

Large-scale fisheries have also depleted global fish stocks, and made sharks an unfortunate by-product of its exploitation, by killing them in the search for other fish like the blue-fin tuna.

So let us be clear about who is to blame for the significant depletion of the world’s shark populations. It certainly isn’t shark’s fin soup lovers like me.

Paul Chan


And some epic comments…

Please try eating it by itself without boiling it in any broth, then say again if the taste is a gift from the gods? And which god is it that allows innocent creatures to be slaughtered for the sake of “show thy wealth”… yes, it’s NOT the taste that creates the demand for fins…. it’s the need for some to show that they can afford it. If it’s the taste, just have a bowl of the broth, the fins are as tasteless as your fingernails.
Does it hurt you to stop eating it? Cos another whole innocent living creature will have to die, just to make u another bowl. We are wiping out entire species to tantalize our tastebuds with tasteless & nutritionless cartilage?!?!
I’d seriously consider the intention of this god of yours.

You sure luv that bowl of heavenly shark’s fin soup, don’t you ? A grand feast will be incomplete without such a grandiose dish, would it ? And no Thomas Menkhoff from the other ‘side’ is going to shake you off your Ming dynasty based tradition to believe that ‘environmentalist’ hype, could he ? You’re right, that’s half a millennium tonnes of ‘heavenly shark’s fin soup’ eaten, isn’t it ? Don’ tell me, you’re probably more ‘blue’ than those Ming porcelains, eh ?

Keep your ears and eyes firmly shut. Don’t let them play with your mind, sir. Enjoy your bowl of ‘heaven sent shark’s fin soup’, concentrate on every spoonful of this delicacy, as them fins slide down your throat and titillate your taste buds, bringing such addictive pleasure to generations before you. Do that sir, and do it quietly.

Humans kill for food, fashion, sport, etc because we CAN – including cannibalism in tribal societies before laws intervened – un-needing of additional reasons/justification.

Isn’t it ironic that the slightest cruelty to species designated as pets merits legal punishment – while daily slaughter of ‘meat’ animals go unpunished when it is even more cruel?Ideally – possibly in the next century – cell-multiplied meat production would obviate slaughter. Then only would I eat meat – too late for me – with relish and a clear conscience.”Humane slaughter” is an oxymoron in some sense – designed to assuage the conscience of some meat eaters, right? Like painless execution via drugs in some nations and states of the US.

No one should impose his belief on others, no matter which group he belongs to.

If you like to eat shark’s fins, eat lor. But do not criticise those who believe they should save the shark.

If you find it cruel, then don’t eat lor. Don’t preach your belief & make it sound so cruel.

Since we have 2 different groups, the shark will reproduce just enough for consumption.

In Polite and Vehement Objection to ‘Singaporeans Too Weak? LOL’

Ever since PTE Lee Rui Feng Dominique Sarron passed away in an unfortunate training incident, there has been a flurry of discussions and comments. I watched first with interest, then frustration, and then finally anger. Anger that we’ve trivialized the issue. Anger that we are doubting our own in defending our home. And anger that we perhaps do not appreciate the work and sacrifice our citizen soldiers do.

It is my duty to speak out for them.

I am a Company Commander (OC) of Bravo Company, 14th Mono 4SIR, a sister battalion of 3SIR. Although I do not know the soldier personally, I can understand the loss of a soldier. Because the soldiers we have are the toughest, most motivated and most committed bunch of people I know. The things they’ve done, just like the things countless soldiers have done before, nobody will understand until they’ve been through it.

Just take the smoke grenades. My soldiers don’t just throw one. They don’t throw a few. In an urban break-in fight, they throw a BARRAGE of smoke grenades – all coordinated to create a huge smokescreen to disorientate the enemy and provide some concealment. What for? Because in a real battle, they will be charging in the face of deadly bullets, fired by enemies entrenched behind windows and mouseholes. Without fear, but with courage of a warrior. The smokes give them a fighting chance to survive. We train as we fight. Is this weak?

Our unit just came back from an training stint overseas. Part of it, was a 8-day outfield evaluation. 8 days, 3 missions, all out in the field. 1st mission – 30km tactical walk in one night, up and down undulating terrain, carrying packs up to 15kg. And at the end of it, at daybreak, violently and aggressively assaulting an objective. No rest right after that. Transit to 2nd mission of defence. 2 nights. Little sleep, watchful eyes, valiantly defending what we have captured. And 3rd mission. 20km. Mountain hook. Climbing an altitude of 500m. And then down. And at daybreak, violently fighting, again.

And in a Battalion of 500-odd soldiers, number of soldiers who gave up or fell out due to injuries? ZERO. BIG FAT ZERO. All of them had the look in their eyes. Is this weak?

And these doesn’t happen overnight. In 2 active years, they train hard for this, so that they can walk, they can last, they can fight. And in the 2 years, they do more than just train.

In Homeland Security, for 4 weeks over Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year, Chinese New Year, while the rest of us celebrate, our soldiers stood guard in Jurong Island, Changi Airport and Sembawang Wharves. Live 5.56mm rounds in magazines. Live 7.62mm rounds on MGs, mounted on patrol vehicles. With watchful eyes, they deterred any aggressive action in the economic and strategic centres of our country. And 24/7 our citizen soldiers are always there. Is this weak?

Our soldiers participated in bilateral exercises with our neighbours, promoting friendly relations and peace. They stood shoulder to shoulder with professional armies, and guess what? Our citizen soldiers impressed. Is this weak?

Our soldiers went on standby. In short notice, they will be weapons drawn, ammunition loaded, vehicles out, ready to respond to any call of duty the nation requires. Yes, Mas Selamat and a Tekong robber was probably the highlights in the last decade. But do we want more to happen? Are we glad our soldiers can respond, even to the smallest threat to our nation? And 24/7, citizen soldiers stand by, ready to respond, while the rest of us sleep. Is this weak?

Do not be mistaken. Our training is tough. There are always risks involved in training to fight. To say we can erase the risks is to say lets train a paper tiger, an Army with no aggression, an Army that cannot last, an Army that cannot defend. But what we do is to mitigate and minimize these risks. Have the safety systems in place. Train progressively. Condition the body. And most importantly, take care of our people. But the risks will not disappear. This is the cost our society needs to pay for its own defence and survival. Are we prepared to continuing saying yes, or hide behind our cowardice and pray someone will save us one day?

Are there near-misses, definitely. I was in Officer Cadet School before this, training Officers, training leaders. The training is tough, because we need to ensure these young boys can lead, and these young boys will never give up in adversity. I will always remember G, who collapsed during training despite our watchful eyes. I will never forget the safety rover speeding and swerving through traffic to get him to a doctor. I will never forget his eyes opening and closing, his speech slurring, his body shaking. I will never forget holding his hand, keeping a strong face, and keeping him awake. I will never forget in desperation to get him to respond, I recited the Officer’s Creed. And I will never forget, in his semi-conscious state – he repeated – “I am… an Officer… of the Singapore Armed Forces… My duty… is to lead… to excel… to overcome… I lead my men… by example… I dedicated… my life… to Singapore…” 

G commissioned, became a Platoon Commander, and was a great leader of men. Is this weak?

G, yes, Officer Cadet, but he’s not the only one with such determination. Our mono-intake soldiers – yes, some of them will try to fake injuries, malinger their way out of training. But most – I have to watch them closely not because they are faking, but I have to watch them closely, because despite injuries, these soldiers want to push on. The L9 (undeployable in field) soldier asking me whether he can go outfield. The soldier who sprained an ankle during soccer, with his leg in a cast, apologized to me for not able to train. The soldier, who on the eve of flying for overseas training had stomach ulcers and internal bleeding, asked me whether I can force his discharge from hospital so that he can fly. The soldiers, with back, knee, ankle injuries, that I have to force to sit out. There any many more stories. Is this weak?

Of course, we have our Jeremy Kos. Read it here ( His logic is impleccable. Why serve so hard, when you may injure yourself? Do the bare minimum, serve the two years. Flawless logic. But let me ask you, when the first shot is fired, who do you want on the frontline? Our Jeremy, who I suspect, in his flawless logic, will save his own skin first, ‘staying alive and injury-free’, or my dear G, who I suspect, with bullets lodged in his thigh, shoulder and a sharpnel to his neck, will continue to fight on. Who do you want defending your country?

That is the nature of National Service. We train hard for something we hope we never have to do. But if the button is pressed, we’d better be ready.

But why are they so silent? Why do they not speak up? Why do they allow themselves to be insulted by the minority? Because they are professional citizen soldiers. They serve, so they do not boast. They do what the nation requires of them. They, our citizen soldiers, go on with their duty, 24/7, most of the time. All they ask for, is that their leaders take care of them, their families and girlfriends a little love, and the nation a little appreciation.

George Orwell says – “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Are my soldiers ready to do violence if need be? I bet my life they are.

What is worrying is that these are not career soldiers, signed on for life. These are citizen soldiers, young 18-year old boys. These are our very own people. When we talk “the Army”, its not regulars like us, it is these NSFs, and NSmen. Our friends, our brothers, our sons, our fathers, our boyfriends. Has our society lost their appreciation for them? Has our society forget what they have done? Has our society – worryingly – lost the will to defend itself?

PTE Lee’s passing is sorrowful. But lets take his passing as an awakening – an awakening to appreciate what our citizen soldiers have done for us for the past 45 years. That there are sacrifices made, be it time, effort, or sometimes – life.

Do share this, to speak out for our citizen soldiers. We all know with social media, the noisiest wins. We can allow the vocal minority to belittle all the sacrifices – including PTE Lee’s life – or we can be united, be loud, and be heard. Write your own story and experience, like he did ( With NSmen like him, I’m confident our citizen soldiers will continue to defend what we call home.

Most of us will die while doing meaningless stuff. But he died while serving his country. Its not what we lived for, but what we die for.


For PTE Lee Rui Feng Dominique Sarron. Rest in Peace.

Why Are Smart People Usually Ugly?

Why are smart people usually ugly? I get this isn’t always the case, but there does seem to be a correlation. Attractiveness doesn’t predict intelligence (not all ugly people are smart), but it seems like intelligence can be a good predictor for attractiveness (smart people are usually on the ugly side). Keep in mind, I have nothing against people who are really brilliant, I’ve just always wondered.

The answer: They’re not.

Oh, how the Explainer loves a false premise. When it comes time to assemble the year-end list, he’ll always give extra credit to questions that are predicated on blatant untruths. In 2010, for example, someone wanted to know why athletes never sneeze. In 2009, a reader asked, Why is it always funny to put something on your head as a pretend hat? But this year’s winning question isn’t merely ill-posed; it gets the truth exactly backward.

The idea that an ugly face might hide a subtle mind has attracted scientific inquiries for many years. At first, scientists wanted to know whether it was possible to read someone’s intelligence from the shape of his face. In 1918, a researcher in Ohio showed a dozen photographic portraits of well-dressed children to a group of physicians and teachers, and asked the adults to rank the kids from smartest to dumbest. A couple of years later, a Pittsburgh psychologist ran a similar experiment using headshots of 69 employees from a department store. In both studies, seemingly naive guesses were compared to actual test scores, and turned out to be accurate more often than not.

Many such studies followed, and with consistent results: You can learn something about how smart someone is just by looking at a picture. But scientists couldn’t figure out where that information might have been hiding in the photographs. The Ohio researcher said that some of his subjects were “greatly influenced by the pleasant appearance or smile, but for some the smile denotes intelligence and for others it denotes feeble-mindedness.” The author of the follow-up in Pittsburgh wondered if the secret of intelligence might not be lurking in “the lustre of the eye.”

While some researchers pondered this question, a Columbia University psychologist named Edward Thorndike made another, related discovery. In 1920, Thorndike published his theory of the “halo effect,” according to which subjects, when asked to describe someone’s various qualities, tend to “[suffuse] ratings of special features with a halo belonging to the individual as a whole.” If they were describing the person’s physique, for example, along with his bearing, intelligence, and tact, they would assign high or low ratings across the board. Later studies confirmed that the halo effect could arise from a simple photograph: If someone looks handsome, people tend to assume that he’s smarter, more sociable, and better-adjusted, too.

Now there were two findings: First, scientists knew that it was possible to gauge someone’s intelligence just by sizing him up; second, they knew that people tend to assume that beauty and brains go together. So they asked the next question: Could it be that good-looking people really are more intelligent?

Here the data were less clear, but several reviews of the literature have concluded that there is indeed a small, positive relationship between beauty and brains. Most recently, the evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa pulled huge datasets from two sources—the National Child Development Study in the United Kingdom (including 17,000 people born in 1958), and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the United States (including 21,000 people born around 1980)—both of which included ratings of physical attractiveness and scores on standard intelligence tests. When Kanazawa analyzed the numbers, he found the two were related: In the U.K., for example, attractive children have an additional 12.4 points of IQ, on average. The relationship held even when he controlled for family background, race, and body size.

From this, Kanazawa concluded that the famous halo effect is not a cognitive illusion, as so many academics had assumed, but rather an accurate reading of the world: We assume that beautiful people are smart, he argues, because they are.

The story does have some caveats and complications. First, a few other studies have come up with different results. A recent look at yearbook photos from a Wisconsin high school in 1957 found no link between IQ and attractiveness among the boys, but a positive correlation for the girls. Another researcher, Leslie Zebrowitz of Brandeis University, noticed that the looks-smarts relationship applies only to the ugly side of the spectrum. It’s not that beautiful people are especially smart, she says, so much as that ugly people are especially dumb. Then there’s the fact of Kanazawa’s having gotten into trouble last spring for asserting—using the same dataset and similar methods to those described above—that African-American women are objectively “far less attractive” than whites, Asians, or Native Americans. (He later acknowledged some flaws in his analysis.)

So, getting back to the original question, the bulk of the evidence suggests that smart people are not “usually ugly.” In fact, the opposite seems to be true: Either smart people are more beautiful than average, or dumb people are more ugly (or both). And while no facial features within the normal range could ever be that useful as a predictor of intelligence, people can perform better than you’d expect from random chance using nothing more than a head shot.

All of which leaves one great, unanswered question. If smart people tend to be good-looking, that might explain the halo effect. But what led our questioner to get things backward and assume that smart people were ugly? And why are there so many like-minded others, asking the same question—or its inverse—around the Internet? (Here’s one, and one more.) Aren’t we all familiar with the archetypical nerd, who is both ugly and smart? At the opposite end, what about all those beautiful, airheaded women and beefy, brainless men we see on television? Could the person who wrote in with the 2011 Question of the Year be succumbing to a bias that hasn’t yet been documented in the lab—a sort of halo effect in reverse, a “horns effect,” perhaps?

Ugly geniuses aren’t uncommon in history, of course, and while these anecdotes tell us nothing about the population as a whole, the memory of people who were famously hideous and brilliant might have an outsize influence on our judgments. Jean-Paul Sartre, for example, was short, bespectacled, and wall-eyed. (“I cannot even decide whether [my face] is handsome or ugly,” says one of his characters in Nausea. “I think it is ugly because I have been told so.”) Ancient sources tell us that the great philosopher Socrates had thinning hair, flared nostrils, widely-spaced eyes, a thick neck, slobby shoulders, and a pot belly. Ludwig van Beethoven was ugly and smelled bad; Abraham Lincoln’s face struck the poet Walt Whitman as being “so awful ugly it becomes beautiful.”

In addition, Kanazawa points out that a closer look at the data reveals an interesting fact: The very ugliest people in his dataset are dumber on average, but they also tend to be the most diverse when it comes to intelligence. That means that if you’re at the low end of the spectrum for looks, you’re more likely than anyone else to be at one extreme end for IQ (either very dumb or very smart). If that’s the case, then it might provide another reason why Sartre and Socrates types stick out in our minds. We know (consciously or not) that ugly people tend to be a little dim; but at the same time, there are more brilliant brutes running around than we might expect.

For his part, Kanazawa rejects the notion of the horns effect—he doesn’t believe the smart-and-ugly stereotype exists at all. (Indeed, it has never been shown in the lab.) Instead, he says, we may be assuming that smart people are nerdy, and that nerdy people tend to lack social skills. Since people with social skills are attractive, there could be an indirect link between at least one kind of “attractiveness” and intelligence. But if you’re looking at pure “beauty,” as measured by rating photographs or measured facial features, then intelligence and looks go hand-in-hand.

Bonus Explainer: Why might intelligence and looks go hand-in-hand? There are a few different theories. First, it might be that some common genetic factor produces both smarts and beauty. Or maybe there’s a combination of genes that make people both dumb and ugly. Kanazawa thinks it’s the former, arguing that intelligent men have tended to rise to the top of the social hierarchy and select beautiful women as their mates. Their offspring, contra George Bernard Shaw’s supposed quip, would have had both traits together.

Another theory holds that certain environmental factors in the womb or just after birth can produce both facial disfigurements and cognitive impairments on one side, or facial symmetry and high intelligence on the other. A third suggests that attractive children are treated better, and receive more attention from their caretakers and teachers, which helps to nurture a sharper mind. It’s also possible that smart people are better able to take care of themselves and their looks.

Reposted from Slate

Explainer thanks Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics, Joshua Knobe of Yale University, Alina Simone, author of You Must Go and Win, and Leslie Zebrowitz of Brandeis University.