27 July 2014

How to help more NSmen pass IPPT: Learn from CPF

Dear Chief of Army,


I mean, good morning, sir!

Or good afternoon, sir!

I don’t know what time you’re reading this, sir!

You don’t know me. I “retired” from national service eight years ago after turning 40.

I just want to write you about the new Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) format you unveiled last week.

As you may know, the response has been mixed. I, too, am not sure how I feel about it.

On the one hand, as a former NSman, I feel cheated. Why didn’t you all introduce this “simpler” IPPT format earlier?

Like maybe 30 years ago, before I enlisted.

You know how much I suffered as a recruit because of the chin-ups?

I can still remember the rusty chin-up bar outside our barrack on Pulau Tekong.

And when I say “rusty”, I don’t mean like a nice even coat of rust.

I’m talking about prickly barnacle-like growths of rust that cut into the palms of your hands as you gripped the bar to pull yourself up.

So the number of chin-ups you could do was determined not so much by your upper body strength but by how long you can endure the pain caused by the hand-eating rust barnacles.

And now you’re dropping chin-ups from the IPPT, along with the broad jump and the shuttle run.

Is that fair? Shouldn’t the younger generation suffer like we did?

On the other hand, as a father of a teenage boy who will be enlisting in a couple of years, I’m relieved he won’t have to suffer like I did.

And I want to thank you for that.

You’ve said that the main aim for the change in the IPPT was “to have a simpler format” that NSmen “can train for”.

What I take that to mean is that you’re sick of so many NSmen failing their IPPT.

(And NSmen are also sick of having to go for remedial training after failing their IPPT.)

The hope is that the new format will reduce the number. I have a suggestion to help reduce the number even further.

One problem many NSmen have with the IPPT is that the older they get, the harder it is to pass.

You have compensated for this by lowering the passing criteria for older NSmen.

But that may not be enough.

My suggestion is to make the IPPT like the Central Provident Fund.

No, I don’t mean organise a forum on the IPPT where the finance minister is interrogated by a blogger who is being sued for defamation by the prime minister.

And I also don’t mean make the IPPT scoring system complex and difficult to understand like the CPF because you’ve already done that.

Kidding! The new IPPT scoring system is much easier to figure out than the CPF – but that’s what I want to change.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the new system, to pass the IPPT, you need a total of at least 51 points with at least one point from each of the three IPPT stations.

The maximum points you can get is 50 points from the 2.4km run and 25 points each from push-ups and sit-ups, making it a total of 100 points.

When you’re young, you’re likely to exceed 51 points easily.

But as you grow older, the points get harder to come by.

So my idea is that when you’re in your 20s, you can set aside a percentage of your excess IPPT points in what I shall call the Central Points Fund.

The purpose is to save these points to help you pass your IPPT in your old age.

And when I say old age, I mean after you hit 30.

So when you’re 30 years old, you can withdraw from the Central Points Fund – but only if you have reached the Minimum Sum to be set by a secret IPPT committee.

This will incentivise you to earn more IPPT points when you are in your 20s to ensure that you will reach the Minimum Sum (which will be raised every few years to keep up with inflation).

Of course, you don’t have to withdraw from your Central Points Fund after hitting 30 if you don’t need to.

In fact, you’re encouraged to leave your IPPT points in the Central Points Fund so that they can earn interest, which is pegged to the prevailing market rate.

This will also prevent you from squandering your points on gambling and a second family in Batam.

But rest assured that these are your IPPT points. The Government can’t take them away and invest them in another army in another country.

And when you die, you can even leave the points to your sons to help them pass their IPPT during their NS. (If you have only daughters, too bad. Maybe they’ll sign on.)

The only thing you can’t do with your IPPT points is use them to pay for a flat or pay medical bills. Okay, two things.

But what is important is that with this Central Points Fund scheme, I believe we can further reduce the number of NSmen failing their IPPT, especially the older ones.

Thank you, sir, for considering this humble suggestion I have offered.

It’s the least I can do after you’ve saved my son from the hand-eating chin-up bar.

Yours sincerely,
S M Ong

- Published in The New Paper, 27 July 2014

EARLIER: 2.4 to become 3.2? I couldn’t even run 1.5km

20 July 2014

Germany had Nazis, we have... NLB?


That was the one-word headline for The New Paper report about Germany rolling over Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final over a week ago.

I almost felt sorry for Germans despite their victory.

It has been almost 70 years since the end of World War II and we are still referencing a military tactic Nazi Germany used during the war.

That’s barely a hop, skip and a panzer division from evoking Hitler again. Tanks for the memories, Fräulein.

And evoking Hitler is something you don’t want to do or you may be forced to apologise like Malaysian politician Bung Mokhtar Radin did. That’s the guy who tweeted “WELL DONE.. BRAVO... LONG LIVE HITLER” after Germany’s semi-final blitzkrieg.

Everyone knows who Hitler is. I don’t even have to mention his first name. He’s like Shakira. One name is enough.

But I wonder how many non-World War II history buffs really know what a “blitzkrieg” is, apart from it sounding German.

If I put a bayonet to your head and force you to name things associated with Germany, maybe you’ll come up with Oktoberfest and a few car brands.

But the first thing that comes to mind will always be Nazis. And no amount of beer and fahrvergnügen can wash that away. By the way, I don’t recommend mixing those two together.

Like Germany, Singapore has a similar image problem. Both are perceived to be cold and efficient.

At least they have Oktoberfest. What do we have? ZoukOut? Not any more if Zouk closes down.

But Singapore is famous for really just two things – caning people and banning chewing gum. (Sorry, Merlion.)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the caning of Michael Fay.

It has been two decades since Singapore made international news by giving the US teen four strokes of the rattan for spray-painting a few cars and other offences, but the rep stuck.

Even Weird Al Yankovic, who just released a new album and a bunch of viral videos last week, dedicated a whole verse to the incident complete with caning sound effect in a song called Headline News back in 1994.

There’s a new music video called Singapore & Malaysia by Asian-American comedy duo Fung Bros where our country is introduced as “In Singapore, caning is a widely used legal form of punishment” and someone sings, “Heard they can’t chew gum.”

The rest of the video is mostly about food and plays like an extended commercial for Ayam brand.

Like the video, we like to tell people that chewing gum is not actually banned in Singapore, although the import of chewing gum is (with certain exceptions), but such nuance is usually lost on the rest of the world.

We may not be Nazi nazis, but we’re nazis against graffiti and chewing gum.

But lately, Singapore has also become well-known for other things after making international news at least three different times in the last two weeks.

First was the anti-gambling ad where the kid’s dad clairvoyantly bet the kid’s savings on the eventual winner of the World Cup.

Then came the National Library Board (NLB) saying it will pulp withdrawn copies of the gay penguins children’s book And Tango Makes Three.

And finally, news of the Media Development Authority banning the gay wedding Archie comic book last week makes three.

So in the eyes of the world, we’re no longer just nazis against graffiti and chewing gum. We’re also nazis against publications with gay stuff who happen to have an awkward penchant for predicting World Cup winners in our anti-gambling ads.

I was a little upset that a panel called Humour Is Serious Business at the Central Public Library was cancelled last Sunday after the participating writers pulled out in protest of NLB removing the books.

Why wasn’t I invited to be on the panel? I was very available.

Do you see the prominent orange word in all caps at the top left corner of this page you’re reading?

What does it say? That’s right – “HUMOUR”.

So I think I’m more than qualified to be on a panel called Humour Is Serious Business.

I’m going to boycott NLB just for not inviting me.

No, on second thought, I’m going to borrow a random book from the library, return it a day late and to top it off, not pay the 15-cent fine. That’ll teach ’em.

I’m sorry if it may appear like I’m going all nazi on the library, but my feelings have been hurt and you just can’t unring the gay wedding bells.

So what if NLB has now said it won’t destroy the books and will reinstate them in the adult section?

All the world will remember is, there goes Singapore again, banning more shit.

Last Tango In Paris was banned. And Tango Makes Three was withdrawn. Is Tango & Cash next?

(That’s the 80s movie where Sylvester Stallone wears glasses to look smart.)

We’re just gay for banning stuff.

Let’s say against all odds and reality, Singapore makes it to the World Cup in four years and beats Brazil 10-0, what do you think the headlines in foreign newspapers would be?

How about “Singapore ban Brazil from goal”?

Or maybe just one word.


- Published in The New Paper, 20 July 2014

14 July 2014

Sorry, World Cup fans, today is not a holiday

This picture surfaced online yesterday.

The message reads:
My fellow Singaporeans, I Tony Tan Keng Yam, President of the Republic is declaring a Public Holiday on the 14 July 2014 to allow Singaporeans to have a chance of watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina.

At the same time, this allows all Singaporeans to bond with their family members, neighbour and friends to make Singapore a much more bonded society. I have discussed this with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and he agreed with me. With that, all Government offices will be closed on 14 July 2014. I wish you all a happy holiday.

Best regards,
Tony Tan
President of the Republic of Singapore
I believe some Singaporeans believed this to be the real thing. I'm sure many wish it were.

I'll go out on a limb here and say it's not.

But I guess Andy's father can give himself a holiday.

As a result of this picture, my last blog post about schools starting later today because of the World Cup final has received about 3,000 page views from people googling "tony tan keng yam declare public holiday today", "14 july singapore holiday" and other variations.

A screen cap of my stats is below:

As you can see, someone even searched "malaysia world cup public holiday".

Please disregard the two hits for "ann kok porn".

The President's Office has since released this statement:
It has come to our attention that there is a letter circulating on mobile and online platforms in the name of President Tony Tan Keng Yam declaring today (July 14) a public holiday. We would like to clarify that the President’s Office did not issue such a letter.

Public holidays are announced by the Ministry of Manpower...
Well, at least now that the World Cup is over, we can stop cheering on foreign talent and focus on celebrating ourselves for National Day.

And go back to arguing over gay penguins.

EARLIER: World Cup final: Late school start is for Andy or Andy's dad?


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