Sunday 25 October 2009

iPhone-crazy? Not so kid-friendly apps in Apple's online store

Everyone seems to be a little iPhone-crazy these days.

When M1 announced two weeks ago that it will be the second telco to sell the hot Apple gizmo in Singapore, it was big news.

When I mentioned to a colleague that I was succumbing to the hype and considering getting the iPhone, she went into a rage. She threatened that if I set my iPhone to have the same ringtone as hers, she would take my iPhone and pee on it.

When I said I haven't even decided to get the iPhone, much less what the ringtone would be, she said she couldn't care less and reiterated her urination threat. She was that possessive about her ringtone.

Like I said, iPhone-crazy.

But even precluding the fear of my telecommunication device being doused with my colleague's DNA, it is unlikely that I will get the iPhone anytime soon.

For one thing, I've recently already recontracted with my mobile carrier. Plus I have little desire to pay data charges.

Actually, all I really wanted was to replace my old second-gen iPod Nano that I lost a while ago.

So what I did do?

I decided to get the closest thing to an iPhone I could get without a contract - the iPod Touch.

Why I chose it over the new iPod Classic or Nano, which now comes with a video camera, can be summarised in one word: games.

I figured when I'm not using the iPod Touch, I could let my children download free games onto it after their exams.

So to try it out, I went online to see what's available in Apple's Singapore Apps Store. I browsed my way to the "Entertainment" category and my eyes popped out of my head.

Mixed in together with such kiddy apps like Kitty BubbleWrap and Burping Pillow were somewhat more adult titles, specifically Bikini World, Blonde Bikini Girls, Asian Boobs, A+ Japan Busty, 1001 Sex Life Stories, Alexis Texas Strip Tease, Body Sushi - Sexy Match-Up Game, Naughty Hotties: Video To Go, Asian Hot Sexy Model Premium Series #1 Free and Pocket Girlfriend.

What if I hadn't found this out before I let my kids log on?

Where was the parental warning? It was only after I clicked on the adult app that I got the message: "You must be at least 17 years old to download this application."

By then, my children would've been exposed to more semi-clad oversized chest than I was comfortable with. They have already been traumatised enough by my moobs.

Why can't the adult apps be segregated into a "Mature" category that I can tell my kids to avoid?

That was when it hit me - I should've bought my kids a PSP instead. For sure, there would be no danger of my colleague going No 1 on it.

- Published in The New Paper, 25 October 2009

UPDATE: Apple Removes Some Adult Apps (23 February 2010)

Sunday 18 October 2009

I want to be 'up in arms' over PSLE maths paper too, but...

Every few years it seems, parents are “up in arms” over how ridiculously hard a Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) paper is.

This year, it was going to be my turn. My oldest child took the PSLE two weeks ago.

I’ve never been “up in arms” before. I was looking forward to it. I even started working out.

And right on cue last week, parents were up in arms over this year’s PSLE mathematics paper.

One parent complained in the AsiaOne forum: "My son was so sad and lost his confidence when he finished the paper.

"Why make it so tough for kids in Singapore? Every year, we hear about how PSLE Maths kill the children's confidence and drain them so much that after the paper, they would lied flat on the bed."

Another one wrote: "My daughter cried the moment she came out of the school gate after the Maths paper.

"I understand that even if the question is super tough, it is still a 'fair exam' as all student are subjected to the same question.

"However, the issue here is what is the rationale for setting questions far beyond a reasonable level ... and if this is 'fair' to a kid."

I want to join in this indignation, but...

Okay, there’s no way I can say this without sounding like I’m bragging even though I’m not, but here goes: My son thought the PSLE maths paper was easy.

Not “so-so” or even a non-committal shrug, which is how he usually communicates nowadays. He actually used the word “easy”. And he's not that good a student.

At first, I was somewhat relieved that this could be one of those years when the Ministry of Education decided not to kill the children’s confidence – then I heard about the complaints that the exam was too hard. Was this the same exam that my son took?

So I asked him if he was sure the maths paper was easy. “Yes!” he snapped, annoyed by my incredulity.

Now I’m really worried. Why can’t he lose confidence like the other kids?

The trouble with my son is that in the past, whenever he thought an exam was easy, he usually did worse than expected. And when he thought the exam was tough, he did surprisingly well, possibly because he was less complacent.

Unfortunately, as parents, we can’t really gauge whether a PSLE paper is actually “too” difficult.

Usually, someone would cite an exam question that most educated grown-ups couldn’t answer to show how unfairly difficult the paper is for the children.

But this is hardly a reliable indicator because as an educated grown-up, I can’t even do my daughter’s homework – and she is in Primary 4.

“Didn’t you go to university?” she would sass me.

“Yes, but I got only a basic degree in journalism,” I would retort. “Not a PhD in primary school maths!”

“Then what are you good for?” she would ask.

I wonder that myself.

As for my son, I can’t do anything about his PSLE now, except wait for next month’s results and cry then.

And in two years, I’ll be doing it all over again with my daughter. It will be my last chance to be “up in arms”. I have a feeling she won’t let me down.

- Published in The New Paper, 18 October 2009

Sunday 11 October 2009

Revenge of a nerd who doesn't care about football

For over a week now, there has been a surprising spring in my step and a blissful smile on my face. Why is that?

Is it because of the ongoing one-woman teen soap that is The Ris Low Show? At least it’s easier to follow than the other long-running telenovella earlier this year called The Aware Saga.

In that one, there were too many characters to keep track of and let’s just say they weren’t exactly beauty queens. Plus Ris is funnier. Insert your own “boomz” joke here.

But no, the erstwhile Miss Singapore World 2009 is not the reason for my good cheer.

There’s a word for what I’m feeling – it’s called “schadenfreude”. I can't pronounce it, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word of German of origin means “pleasure derived from the misfortune of others”.

In this case, the “others” are the football fans in Singapore and their “misfortune” is SingTel winning the broadcast rights for the English Premier League.

Oooh, just typing that line sends a tingle of delight all over my body. I’m going to type it one more time just to get that feeling again.

SingTel won the the broadcast rights for the English Premier League.

Oooh, there it goes again! Shiok, man!

As you may have guessed, I’m not a football fan. And to a non-football fan, football fans can be a rather overbearing lot. Obnoxious, even.

This obnoxiousness was abundantly demonstrated in the aftermath of the Singtel news. All that whining. All that over-weaned sense of entitlement. Why so drama? Bipolar, is it?

“I already have StarHub set-top box. Now I have to pay for a mio TV box too? Oh, woe is me!”

Cry me a river.

Some fans are even arguing that the Government, in the form of the Media Development Authority, should step in to protect their interests.

Who do they think they are?

We pledge ourselves to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality – not on reasonable subscription rates for the sports packages.

Even without the latest Singapore population census report on hand, I can safely say there are more non-football fans than football fans (though maybe not in The New Paper newsroom).

But given the Sturm und Drang (yes, German again) over the SingTel news, you would be forgiven if you thought the vocal diehards outnumbered the quietly apathetic.

I suggested to a particularly emo Liverpool fan I work with who lives in Bukit Panjang that he could watch the S-League on TV for free .

He yelled at me: “Who cares about local football!”

Oh, that reminds me, please send my best wishes to Dollah Kassim.

He’s a reminder of a bygone era when Singaporeans actually cared about football played by Singaporeans - rather than how much we have to pay to watch it played by wealthy foreigners in a faraway land.

The Singapore football icon is in the hospital after suffering a heart attack – a couple of days after the SingTel announcement.


- Published in The New Paper, 11 October 2009

UPDATE: Dollah Kassim dies

Monday 5 October 2009

Tie a Yellow, Silver & Pink Ribbon round Ris Low

If you go to the official Miss World website, you will see no mention of Miss Singapore.

However, on the "Miss World 2009" Wikipedia page, you can find the names of all the 90 delegates from around the world - except, of course, for one.

Instead of a name for Miss Singapore World 2009, there are three letters: TBA. Maybe they stand for "The Boomz Attack".

Oh, Ris Low, what have you wrought?

Many have opined that the convicted credit card fraudster, who has also been accused of murdering the English language, should not be allowed to represent Singapore in December's Miss World pageant because she would "tarnish" our country's reputation.

What reputation? You mean "Disneyland With The Death Penalty" where you can get flogged for spraying graffiti and chewing gum?

Heaven forbid, our nation's integrity be compromised by a 19-year-old diploma student with a declared penchant for animal prints.

Last week, a New Paper reader wrote in to suggest that the dethroned Miss Singapore World could instead be "Miss Yellow Ribbon" and a role model for other young ex-offenders.

It's an incredibly enticing idea, partly because it conjures images of all those vintage low-budget babes-behind-bars B-movies with lots of catfights and shower scenes.

Imagine Ris bitch-slapping another female prisoner and then they rip each other's clothes off and then the prison guards turn the water hoses on them — hot.

Except Ris went on probation, not to jail, so all that slammer stuff doesn't quite work.

Still, there's no denying the unique cachet and trashy mystique of a teen beauty queen with a criminal history. She's beautiful — and baaad.

Instead of trying to cover it up, Ris could've been upfront about her troubled past from the start and used it to her advantage as a platform for her Miss World campaign.

While the other contestants mouth platitudes about world peace, human rights and blah blah blah, our Miss Singapore can go up there and say in her exotic Ah Lian accent: "I'm here to represent those who have made mistakes in their lives and should be given a second chance to succeed — because I'm one of them. And if you don't let me win, I'll boomz you."

Wait, isn't she bipolar as well?

That means she can also represent sufferers of brain disorders. She can be Miss Silver Ribbon.

Yes, there is actually a Silver Ribbon Coalition, whose mission is to promote awareness of the problems faced by the mentally ill.

Hey, why not just give Ris a hat trick by making her Miss Pink Ribbon too? She qualifies because Pink Ribbon promotes breast cancer awareness and she has breasts.

And what perfect timing because this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month - plus World Mental Health Day is this Sunday.

So who needs Miss World when Ris can be Miss Yellow, Silver and Pink Ribbon all rolled into one?

And somewhere out there, someone must be producing a women's prison movie with a role for her in it. One can only hope.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 October 2005
hello mister I just want to say that what you wrote about that Ris person on the new paper today was hella funny! But to be honest, i think that anything criticizing Ris is hilarious. xD so to sum it up, YOUR COLUMN VERY BOOMZ .

TinkerHell raddxcore

Sunday 4 October 2009

Not sure how much hongbao to give for wedding dinner? Don't give!

“Don't try to make money from your wedding.”

This was the advice from a wedding consultant in last week’s Straits Times report about wedding hongbao.

The advice was flagrantly unheeded by Christopher Lee and Fann Wong, whose sponsored wedding was telecast live on Channel 8 a few days later. They could've sold tickets.

The couple’s matching outfits were supposedly inspired by Bollywood, but were more Bolly-wouldn’t.

I didn’t attend “The Wedding Of The Year” because presumably, my invitation was lost in the mail. On the bright side, I didn't have to worry about the hongbao.

According to the wedding consultant, a guest should “give at least 30 to 50 per cent more than the cost of his dinner”.

If I followed this guideline for Christofann’s bejewelled Shangri-La Hotel affair, I estimate that the hongbao alone would cost more than my own wedding and possibly my parents’ combined.

The first celebrity wedding I ever attended was that of pre-PCK Gurmit Singh and his wife Melissa back in the mid-’90s. The dinner was held under a giant tent on Fort Canning Hill. Since it was outdoors, I wore shorts and sandals.

Actually, that’s not true. I would’ve worn shorts and sandals even if it was indoors in Shangri-La Hotel. So Christofann may have dodged a bullet there.

I remember at Gurmit’s wedding dinner, Pyramid Game host Darryl David and his date were assigned to my table, but then he quickly found an excuse to sit somewhere else, perhaps repulsed by my bare knees and naked toes. I tried not to take it personally.

I remember going up on stage during the dinner in my shorts and sandals, and making a funny speech, except for the part about Gurmit’s mother, which Gurmit didn’t find funny and told me so. He didn't seem to mind the shorts and sandals though.

What I don’t remember is how much I put in the hongbao. Wait, did I even give one?

According to the wedding consultant again, it would be “impolite” to “under-give”. So sometimes I sidestep this problem by not giving a hongbao at all.


Usually, people are so shocked by my shorts and sandals that they forget about the hongbao. I have no face to lose.

I understand giving a hongbao as a form of congratulations, but not as compensation for the cost of the meal - or worse, a donation.

Aren't the bride and groom working adults? Why is it on their wedding day, they suddenly turn into a charity case?

If they can’t afford to hold a big fancy wedding dinner at the Marriot, then maybe they should do it at McDonald’s. I love the fries!

If I invite you to my wedding dinner, all I want from you is that you arrive on time, enjoy yourself and the food, and don't insult my mother. Hongbao, long pants and shoes are optional.

But I probably wouldn’t invite Darryl David though. Nothing personal.

And if I myself don't ever to a wedding dinner invited again, well, I'll try not to take it personally.

I forgive you, Christofann.

- Published in The New Paper, 4 October 2009

UPDATE: Wedding hongbao market rates 2015