Tuesday, 11 May 2021

You've seen the page 1, but what was inside the paper that day? Here's The New Paper's 1997 General Election polling day coverage

You have probably seen this image of Workers' Party secretary-general Pritam Singh holding up a copy of The New Paper page one in Parliament yesterday.

Pritam Singh clash with S Iswaran over funding, editorial independence of SPH's new media entity

Posted by AsiaOne on Monday, May 10, 2021

Here's a close-up of the page:

It's from 2 January 1997, the day Singaporeans cast their vote in the 1997 General Election and more than a decade before I joined the paper.

This image of the TNP page one has been circulating online long before yesterday, but no one ever showed what was actually inside the paper. A case of judging a book by its cover perhaps?

I was curious enough that I found these pages from that day's TNP in the NLB online archives.

Sorry, I didn't look up the football pages.

To recreate more of that 90s vibe, here are the No. 1 songs that week in the US and UK.

The New Paper editor at the time was PN Balji, who ironically wrote this commentary for Yahoo:

"The government, the biggest stakeholder in the media business, needs to relax its vice-like grip on The Straits Times....

Posted by Yahoo Singapore on Monday, May 10, 2021

Monday, 3 May 2021

Coronavirus pandemic: How Bloomberg and a bunch of Harvard nerds jinxed Singapore

Dear Bloomberg,

Let me first say, I’m not a superstitious person.

But I can’t help but notice a pattern – and not the badminton kind.

Someone saying something good about our MRT usually results in something bad happening to our MRT.

I wrote a column about this back in 2015.

Early that year, SMRT won some Global Risk Award for “delivering value through risk management” in London. The presenter was actress Joanna Lumley, star of Absolutely Fabulous.

The award was followed days later by a spate of MRT-related incidents that included a fire, a man walking on the tracks and a girl getting her leg stuck in the platform gap.

Which made the award absolutely ironic.

Months later, then SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek boasted about that and another award during the company’s annual general meeting, saying: “These external endorsements are important signals that we are on the right track in bringing the group to higher levels of excellence in every field.”

This was followed mere hours later by what was described as “possibly the worst MRT breakdown Singapore has experienced”, affecting the East-West Line, North-South Line and more than 250,000 commuters during evening rush hour.

Can you detect a pattern here?

Praising our MRT jinxes it.

Want more evidence? How about something more recent?

In March, Transport Minister (though not for long) Ong Ye Kung was at the ground-breaking for the new integrated train testing centre in Tuas.

The centre will be able to test different trains and rail systems at the same time without disrupting regular passenger services.

Get the latest news delivered to you on Telegram: https://t.me/TheStraitsTimes

Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, March 17, 2021

In his speech, he acknowledged: “No matter how hard we work and try, the occasional disruption in any engineering system will unfortunately be quite inevitable.”

But he could not resist working in this tiny brag: “Today, the Mean Kilometres Between Failure, or MKBF, of our MRT network is over 1 million train-km. This is a great encouragement and source of pride for the team, and we will do what we can to maintain it."

Even this sliver of self-congratulation was enough to rile the rail gods as in less than two weeks, commuters suffered train service disruptions on two consecutive days.

The train service disruptions today and yesterday happened on different lines and for different reasons, says LTA.

Posted by CNA on Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Land Transport Authority called it “very unfortunate and frustrating”. I call it karma.

MKBF should stand for MRT Keeps Breaking - Fuck!

But what is more troubling is that like a virus, the curse appears to have mutated into new deadlier strains to spread beyond the MRT.

Let me take you back February last year at the beginning of the pandemic.

Singapore was averaging fewer than 10 new coronavirus cases a day. We thought we were doing so well.

A bunch of Harvard University researchers described Singapore as “a gold standard of near-perfect detection”.

But in two months, we were averaging up to 1,000 new cases a day, mostly migrant workers. We were no longer doing well.

One news headline read: “From ‘gold standard’ to ‘cautionary tale’.” Those damn Harvard nerds jinxed us.

Fortunately, the numbers have come down since then with zero new cases in the community on most days over the last few months. We didn’t even cancel Chinese New Year.

Then last week, it happened again.

We were doing so well that you declared “Singapore is now the world’s best place to be during Covid” as we overtook New Zealand in your latest Covid Resilience Ranking.

Along with the recent hoopla over another attempt at the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble, we were just tempting fate.

You and I know what happened next.

Recovered migrant workers at a dormitory tested positive for Covid-19. A cluster emerged at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

On Saturday, we had our first Covid-19 death since March. Those days of zero new community cases are over.

Our Prime Minister even warned of another circuit breaker.

From “world’s best place to be during Covid“ back to square one.

See what you did?

You jinxed us like those Harvard nerds did last year.

I guess we won’t be topping your damn Covid Resilience Ranking this month.

Thanks a lot, Bloomberg.

- Published In The New Paper, 3 May 2021

Monday, 19 April 2021

I got the Moderna vaccine because I didn't know I could choose by vaccination centre

Dear Ministry of Health,

I am sort of a healthcare professional. Or at least used to be.

I was a medic in the navy during my national service and used to vaccinate shiploads of servicemen. That was hundreds of pricks. I mean the injections. The jabs were mostly for tetanus, rubella and hepatitis.

I became rather proficient with a syringe. I had good reviews.

So I am more accustomed to giving injections than getting one.

I wanted to share this fun fact about myself with the young woman giving my first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to show that I can relate to what she was doing.

She probably wouldn’t care, although that hasn’t stopped me before. Otherwise, this column would not exist.

But there was a long queue at Hong Kah North Community Club and I did not want to hold up the line with my reminiscence of injecting seamen 35 years ago.

The young woman was pretty deft with the needle too. Maybe even better than I was. It was over before I knew it. I barely felt the prick. It was like nothing.

The pain only hit me the day after and it hit like a sumbitch.

My left shoulder felt as if it had been punched by shiploads of servicemen. The rest of me was also out of sorts.

But I was fine by the next day, although I still feel a lingering ache in my left shoulder even now when I exercise, two weeks after the jab.

My wife, who had the injection at the same time as me, had the same side effects except maybe a little worse. She also had headaches.

She blamed the Moderna vaccine we were given because her mother, who is in her 90s, reported only minor side effects after getting the Pfizer vaccine.

Before you Pofma me, I should clarify that clinical trials for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown that younger adults tend to report more frequent and severe side effects than older people.

So my wife is wrong to blame Moderna for her suffering. She should blame being younger than her mother.

But despite all the unpleasant side effects, I am still glad I had my shot.

You know why? Because I got a free box of 50 disposable masks and small bottle of water out of it. Woo-hoo!

That is how you get more Singaporeans to go for vaccination – free stuff! Why aren’t you advertising this?

I later found out that a friend who went to a different vaccination centre didn’t get anything. So not everyone gets freebies.

It was only after our injections that we discovered you had published a list indicating which vaccination centre administers the Pfizer and which the Moderna vaccine – but not which centre hands out free stuff.

If we had known earlier, my wife would have chosen the Pfizer one since the Pfizer vaccine is supposedly 1 per cent more effective than Moderna.

That 1 per cent makes all the difference to her.

Don’t you find it funny that even for vaccines, people also care about brand name now?

When I was injecting seamen in the navy, I didn’t know whether the vaccine was from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson or Dettol.

I didn’t know if anyone had a blood clot or a microchip tracked by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates implanted in them after getting vaccinated.

Nowadays, we seem to know so much about the Covid-19 vaccines and yet not enough.

Back then, I just made sure to expel any air bubbles in the needle before sticking it in to avoid accidentally giving someone an air embolism. Hopefully, I didn’t kill anyone.

I can’t wait for my second dose to get more free stuff.

- Published in The New Paper, 19 April 2021

Dear Mr Ong

I do understand your articles are meant not to be taken seriously. And I must say that it is humourless most of the time. There is also a lot of creative writing in your articles. However, I wonder where the boundary line is, as far as use of improper English is concerned.

You mentioned 'don't profma me'. Don't you think that the way you write has a great influence on the readers, especially those who are young and impressionable and those who have little or no proper education in the English language?

I have also seen a lot of others using 'whatapps me,' 'pm me', 'dm me', etc The list goes on. Could you possibly be one of those who are encouraging the use of improper English?

With regards
LEE Thien Poh Steven

Okay, boomer.