Monday, 11 November 2019

National Steps Challenge: Is this the real reason e-scooters are banned on footpaths?

Well, that was sudden.

Last Monday, the Government decreed that e-scooters would not be allowed on footpaths from the next day.

It’s not as if there were Select Committee on E-Scooters On Footpaths hearings where Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam grilled a Foodpanda rider for six hours about Operation Coldstore. A Ban E-Scooters On Footpaths Bill wasn’t tabled in Parliament, debated, voted on and passed into law.

At least the Government prepared us for the fake news law that is the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act earlier this year.

Not so with this.

You know how when you look out for vehicles while crossing the road, expecting it to be safe when you reach the sidewalk, only to be surprised by a speeding e-scooter that almost hits you.

The banning of e-scooters on footpaths is like that e-scooter that almost hit you on the footpath – it sort of just came out of nowhere.

It is the e-scooter riders’ turn to be hit by something they didn’t see coming, and they’re not liking it.

That’s one thing millennials can’t dismiss with a glib “Okay, boomer.”

But why now? Why the short one-day notice?

When the new 10kmh speed limit for e-scooters was announced in September last year, it wasn’t implemented until five months later.

When the Government introduced UL2272 as the new standard for personal mobility devices (PMDs) in September last year because of all the PMD-related fires, PMD users originally had until the end of next year to comply. The deadline was later brought forward to next July, all of which seems rather pointless now.

So what’s the rush with the footpath ban?

Instead of an immediate ban with an advisory period until the end of the year, why not start the ban next year so that everyone has more time to adjust?

I have a theory.

The National Steps Challenge Season 5 started on Oct 26. Ten days later, we have the footpath ban.

Coincidence? Maybe not.

The National Steps Challenge is the Government’s attempt to get us off our asses and move around more by rewarding us for every step we take up to 10,000 a day.

The Government is even giving you a nifty Fitbit knock-off you can wear on your wrist to count your steps.

You could even take a picture with Pokemon at the mega roadshows where the free fitness trackers were distributed.

What is the point of the Government spending all that effort and taxpayers’ money to encourage you to walk more if you are just going to scoot around on your damn e-scooter?

Or sit around waiting for your food to be delivered by e-scooter instead of using your own two feet to get your bubur cha cha or bubble tea with brown sugar or whatever?

People may also be afraid to go for a walk because they don’t want to get hit by Ah Boy on an e-scooter.

Having PMDs defeats the whole purpose of the National Steps Challenge, which lasts until April.

Ergo the timing of the ban.

It could also be because of the elderly cyclist who tragically died after colliding with an e-scooter in September.

And Tan Tock Seng Hospital reporting an alarming 70 per cent increase in PMD rider injuries in two years.

And the horrific viral video of a e-scooter rider crashing into a three-year-old girl in a Boon Lay void deck last month.

Perhaps the ban shouldn’t be so unexpected after all.

Is it too late to meet Pikachu?

- Published in The New Paper, 11 November 2019

Monday, 14 October 2019

Inspired by Alfian Sa'at, I wrote a poem called McDonald's, You Did Not Have My Pyjamas

Dear McDonald’s,

Look what you made me do.

Last Monday at exactly 6pm, I opened your app to order the $24.90 McDelivery Night In bundle that included loungewear (which is just a McFancy way of saying “pyjamas”).

But all I got was this message: “The service is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.”

So I tried again a few seconds later and got the same message. So I tried again. And again. And again for the next few hours.

I had flashbacks to April when I was traumatised trying to book the Avengers: Endgame advance tickets online.

At 6.55pm, you posted on your Facebook page:
“Thank you for your overwhelming response. We’re experiencing high traffic to our McDelivery website and app at the moment.

“Please bear with us as we work to get it back up as soon as possible.”
That was no help.

After about three hours of clicking repeatedly, I was finally able to order the set on the website, but only the women’s jammies were available. The men’s set was sold out.

And because I didn’t want to go through all that for nothing, I ordered the women’s. I should mention here that I am a man, not to be overly binary about it. So I didn’t get what I wanted.

Inspired by award-winning writer Alfian Sa’at’s poem, Singapore, You Are Not My Country, I decided to write you a poem to let you know how I feel:

McDonald’s, you did not have my pyjamas
McDonald’s, you did not have my pyjamas at all
You are surprising McDonald’s, promo-starved McDonald’s, sold-out McDonald’s of two-piece loungewear in Big Mac-and-fries print.
You apologise, but without compensation, without placating, without Mayor McCheese,
but through your Facebook page,
through your 40 Days of Thank You 1-for-1 deals
and that white chocolate strawberry cream pie I swear
is working voodoo on my body fat percentage.

McDonald’s, what is this “high traffic” on your website?
There are so many pyjamas fans,
You should’ve anticipated the demand.
McDonald’s, I assert, you did not have my pyjamas at all.
Do not thank us for “our kind understanding”,
I am not afraid of your mascot
although the clown is scarier than It and Joker.
And how can you call yourself a restaurant,
you terrible hallucination of queues for Hello Kitty dolls,
My Melody food holders and McGriddles hoodies?

That was as far as I got.

Writing poetry was harder than I thought, even when I didn’t have to rhyme. Props to all poets.

I give the Ministry of Education permission to reprint my poem in future literature textbooks and welcome the Education Minister to quote it in Parliament when your failure to have my pyjamas is brought up for debate.

Yes, I know you started taking pre-orders for the “loungewear” on Friday, but the estimated delivery is the end of next month.

By then, I (and the rest of Singapore) would’ve moved on to the next craze, like KFC underwear or who knows what. Yes, I do want my crotch to smell like fried chicken.

What’s the point of me posting pictures of me in McDonald’s pyjamas on Instagram in a month’s time when no one cares about McDonald’s pyjamas any more?

And I’m not going to pay double for the men’s jammies to some opportunistic reseller on Carouhell.

So what did I do?

I posted pictures of me in the women’s pyjamas.

I was that desperate. Gotta do it for the Gram.

I got 16 likes.

Even though the clothes are supposed to be “free size”, the top is a bit snug around my manly shoulders. The shorts, however, are so small that if I tried them on, I would’ve castrated myself. That’s because, if you need reminding, I am not a woman. Hear me rant.

Look what you made me do, McDonald’s.

You turned me into a cross-dresser for 16 lousy Insta likes.

- Published in The New Paper, 14 October 2019

Sunday, 6 October 2019

The problem with Tommy Koh's 'Third World' comment: Did he actually say it?

The headline:
Tommy Koh laments that Singapore is a First World country with Third World citizens
What a great quote!

But if you read The Straits Times report carefully, Prof Koh isn't quoted as saying that at all.

The report on the Singapore Bicentennial Conference starts with the sentence:
Veteran diplomat Tommy Koh laments that Singapore is a First World country with Third World people.
But it's not clear whether Prof Koh actually used those words or the reporter was paraphrasing him.

"Third World" is not mentioned in the article again.

Considering how ST has gone to town with the line, I wish the paper had reported the exact quote.

What Prof Koh did say was:
"I am more critical of Singaporeans than of the Government. Many of our people don't give a damn for the environment when they should. Many of our people are selfish and unkind. Just look at the way they drive."
Even in ST's follow-up report "Singaporeans are Third World people? Public figures react to Tommy Koh's comments", nowhere is Prof Koh quoted as using the term "Third World".

Instead, it's someone else, Singapore Management University sociologist Paulin Straughan, who is quoted as saying: "We can't really have a First World Country with Third World behaviour."

So it may appear that ST has put the words "Third Word" in Prof Koh's mouth. Is it (dare I say it) fake news?

Because if he did say it, it would be a rather undiplomatic thing for a diplomat to say, especially to Third World nations.

What does "Third World" mean anyway?

Here is an explanation from a website called World Population Review:
What is a third world country? Recently, third world countries can be defined by high poverty rates, economic instability, and lack of basic human resources compared to the rest of the world.

The term “Third World countries” was first used during the Cold War. This term was used to describe countries that were not aligned with the Communist Bloc or NATO or that were neutral. This term was first used to categorize countries into three groups based on their politics and economics.

During the Cold War, the United States, Canada, South Korea, Japan, and Western European nations and allies were categorized as First World countries. Second World countries included China, Cuba, the Soviet Union and their allies. Third World countries typically had colonial pasts in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the terminology of the “three worlds” has changed somewhat. Today, the term Third World is used to describe a country that is not developed as much as other countries and faces economic, social, political, environmental and other issues. This has led to some confusion as to how the term was originally used.
Despite the confusion, people still tend to use "Third World" to mean poor countries and "First World" to mean rich countries. I haven't heard or read anyone use "Second World".

This would mean that what Prof Koh supposedly said was that Singapore is a rich country with citizens who behave poorly like they're from a poor country.

The problem with this is that it equates being poor with poor behaviour, which I find offensively elitist.

And that is why I hope Prof Koh didn't say what The Straits Times said he said.

For me, Third World will always be this reggae band: