Category Archives: AntiAlvin

Word clouds: PAP manifesto vs WP manifesto

I learnt how to use to create word clouds today and thought to compare the PAP Manifesto 2011 with the Workers’ Party Manifesto 2011. Can you spot the differences?

PAP Manifesto 2011:

Wordle: PAP Manifesto 2011Workers’ Party Manifesto 2011:

Wordle: Workers' Party Manifesto 2011I generated a word cloud from the PAP Manifesto 2006 too:

Wordle: PAP Manifesto 2006Just for the sake of comparison. 🙂 It is interesting that certain words in the WP manifesto have not appeared at all on the PAP manifestos.

Strange, tasty fruit (黄晶果) from a Bukit Timah garden

Pouteria Caimito, abiu, or 黄晶果
Pouteria Caimito, abiu, or 黄晶果

*I am correcting this blog post following feedback from my father-in-law’s friend. Thanks for sharing, uncle!

My father-in-law brought home a few of these bright yellow specimens a couple of days ago. They were gifts from a friend – he had lovingly cultivated an abiu tree for a many years and it was harvest time.

I didn’t manage to see the tree or take pictures of the fruit (that’s more Alvin’s thing) but I could not get the unique taste, smell and texture of the fruit out of my mind. The pictures here have been taken from other websites and I hope I have done them justice by linking them to their owner sites.

I would describe this golden fruit as a pudding pod. You halve it and scoop out the jelly-like, milky flesh with a spoon. There are only one to four long, black seeds in each fruit, each covered in a slimy membrane.

Instant pudding
Instant pudding

My mum-in-law believes that this fruit is not available for sale anywhere because it is highly perishable. It has to be consumed within a few short days after harvesting and turns brown within seconds of cutting it open.

Finally, with accurate information, I managed to find this elusive fruit on Wikipedia. Check it out. It is widely grown in parts of South America, southern parts of China and Taiwan, it seems, and belongs to the Sapotaceae family.

Yesterday, I tried looking up information about it on Google but came up with nothing until I tried its alternative Chinese name: 黄金果。

Another similar-looking fruit is grown mainly for ornamental purposes and does not seem to be fit for eating. The Solanum mammosum is of a different species altogether it seems!

Tittyfruit or 五指茄
Titty fruit or 五指茄

Solanum mammosum is also known as Nipplefruit, Titty Fruit, Cow’s Udder, or “Apple of Sodom”. The Chinese name is 五指茄。

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张震岳 [Unplugged] LIVE in Concert @ Esplanade

zhang zhen yue

Last Saturday, I paid $90 per tix to watch a show that was less enjoyable than his (FOC) school concert. WTH. Sat at the third circle, first row, 10 minutes late and didn’t feel like I missed anything at all. In fact, didn’t feel the energy of a live performance at all throughout the 2-hour concert.

A-Yue performed an exhaustive list of songs, old and new, popular and unpopular – the irregular pacing of the song sequence did nothing to liven a concert that could have been more satisfying if he had just bothered to pick up the guitar placed on stage, in front of him the whole time. Famous for being reticent – or rather, a euphemistic way of saying that he’s not a savvy performer – A-Yue truly tested the devotion of his fans and their love for his music.

The saving grace, however, was MC Hotdog‘s brief performance. I had fallen back into my cosy seat, yawning and dozing off, when this madman (in a good way) swaggered onstage, cracked lame jokes and sang rude songs. Even A-Yue seemed to warm up a bit more after MC Hotdog came on.

The problem is, I guess, that A-Yue is a tad too lonely when he’s singing by himself. Give the man some company, and he’ll be fine.

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Lydia Sum (沈殿霞) passes away at 60

Lydia Sum, well-respected Hong Kong comedienne, passed away at around 8am on 19 Feb 2008. She lived 60 good years, spending the last two battling liver cancer.

Lydia Sum

The veteran actress had part of her liver removed in 2006 and was hospitalised in 2002 to treat a bile duct inflammation. 36 gallstones were extracted. She had been suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure as well.

According to Hong Kong media reports, Lydia was undergoing kidney dialysis and consuming expensive traditional Chinese medicine, which set her back by tens of thousands. She was in and out of St. Mary’s Hospital the past six months, with each hospitalisation period a media fest for the local paparazzi.

She was also criticised by the media for wolfing down food inappropriate for her consumption during her illness. Early last November, she ate a number of 大闸蟹 (fresh water crabs), subsequently fell into a coma and rushed to hospital. Most recently, she was warded in the intensive treatment ward at St. Mary’s.

Lydia Sum was wheeled onstage to receive the TVB Grand Award at the 40th TVB Anniversary Awards in November 2007. She had appeared to be in high spirits, dressed in a pink suit, her signature wig and plastic black-framed glasses. She gave a rousing speech when she was handed her award, saying that she would fight her sickness to the finish.

She first joined the entertainment industry at the age of 12, and proved to be a natural with the camera at her very first audition. That successful audition sealed her fate with the entertainment industry for the rest of her life.

Lydia Sum, Nov 2007
Lydia Sum at the 40th TVB Anniversary Awards in Nov 2007

Locally, audiences would not be unfamiliar with her starring role in the sitcom Living With Lydia. Her co-stars remember her as a jovial person who always put friendship even before a working relationship. Her professionalism as an actress is also beyond par. However, she was a notorious chain-smoker and voracious eater.

Lydia Sum is considered one of the most influential icons in the Hong Kong entertainment industry. She had acted in more than a hundred TV serials and hosted the popular variety show 欢乐今宵 for three seasons.

You can read more about this on omy and watch the vodcast here.

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Heng Hwa Bun

Have you ever heard this joke: Majority of the world population is made up of Indians and Chinese, so eventually everyone will marry someone of Indian and/or Chinese blood, and then our general skin colour will just be brown?

Well, in Singapore, majority of the Chinese are Hokkien, and my theory is that everyone will eventually end up marrying a Hokkien person. Alvin is Hokkien, but there is a slight distinction, as illustrated by this bun.

heng hwa bun
The Heng Hwa 生煎包 from Food Republic, VivoCity

It may look just like any other white-skinned bun, but if you look closely, you’ll notice that it’s fried on one side (hence the “生煎”), and there’s a saucer of dipping sauce. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Heng Hwa (兴华)bun.

It contains a surprise in every bite. It’s neither a veggie bun nor a meat bun – there’s a bit of everything inside it, even vermicelli and mushrooms. Dip the bun into the concoction of chopped garlic, vinegar and green onion before savouring it – the skin will melt in your mouth.

Alvin’s paternal grandpapa is Pu Tien Heng Hwa (莆田兴华), a minority Hokkien dialect group. The part of China where they live, people are poor and can’t afford to eat meat all the time. They are an agrarian society that lives near a river and make do with whatever they can glean from their land. Resulting in a clever cuisine that uses a combination of simple ingredients to produce complex tastes. Very different from Singaporean Hokkien fare.

Apparently I don’t know very much about the geography, history of Alvin’s people, so I shall stop here now to avoid embarrassing myself. Maybe I will do some more research when we next eat more Pu Tien fare. If you are familiar with the Channel 8 news anchor 黄秀玲,you may be interested to know that she shares Alvin’s dialect. You can read about her cooking Pu Tien bee hoon, a Chinese New Year staple, here.

So now you know Alvin’s not just any Hokkien. 🙂

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Life is…

mr shit

Life is shit.

Which couldn’t be more true for Alvin right now, as he’s guarding a tower close to a cesspit that churns every hour or so and belches a stench that could only be 99% butane.

But I guess it can’t be, because his comrades can afford to light the hourly cigarette without blowing up the entire place. Butane is flammable, right?

So it’s probably ammonia. Every molecule of air within 10m radius of that sewer is permeated by ammonia.

But Alvin doesn’t live by the cesspool, and with any luck, the sewer won’t leave any permanent damage to his well-being when he finishes reservist. Yes, he’ll be coming back to real life, and guess what, continue to live in the churning pit of crap that is life itself. What better way to learn why, than to have a sobering one-on-one one-hour lesson with one’s insurance agent?

I met with mine on Monday. Let’s call him Casey for convenience’s sake. He had wanted to update me on a few developments, most significantly involving the Government’s decisions on our Central Provident Fund.

He said, from 1 April 2008 onwards, unless you have more than $20,000 inside your Ordinary Account, you won’t be allowed to use those savings on investment plans.

Of course, if you have $25,000, it means you can only use up to $5,000 on investments.

Bottom-line: Come 1 April 2008, anybody who wants to invest their CPF Ordinary Account money must have $20,000 as minimum retainer.

My curiousity was piqued. There has to be a reason why the Government is passing this new rule, right?

Yes, Casey said, because in case you need to buy a flat, $20,000 would definitely come in handy for part of the down payment.


So, if I put my money in an investment plan, I can’t drag and drop it back inside the Ordinary Account and buy a flat, right?


There it was. The catch.

Casey explained, if I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, I could calculate how much I needed for flat-buying, leave it inside the Ordinary Account, then use the rest for investments.

Was I planning to get a flat soon? What sort of flat am I thinking about? We had no exact figures, but say I’m thinking of a flat that costs $300,000 – you need to put 15% as downpayment – which meant –$45,000 – which translated to –

$22,500 that my spouse and I would each have to fork out – which worked out to, for me –

44.47 months/3.7 years of work, not considering increments and bonuses.

Thinking about this gives me a bellyache. I’d only worked for about, what – a year at most?

Without looking at my CPF Statement of Account, we calculated that I was definitely in deficit. Of at least, um, I forget how we actually arrived at the figure: $10,000.

Although I was obviously unable to invest any Ordinary Account funds, Casey was unflappable. How about investing the money in the Special Account, then? And how about a sound financial plan to manage my salary?

I laughed. I couldn’t believe there was anything to manage at all, my salary being so meagre, as the astute reader would probably have guessed by now. (If you need help, 22% of our gross salary goes to CPF per month.)

We briefly evaluated my monthly expenses and I told him that I’d been out of work for half a year before I got employed recently, so the current breakdown was not accurate, having to catch up with loans and all. He said he understood and said we should probably give it three months, as a regular spending pattern should be apparent by then.

As for the Special Account, only 5% of one’s gross salary goes into it. If my Ordinary Account were in deficit, I shuddered to think of the dregs inside my Special Account. The minimum amount required for investment planning is $1,200.

Before we parted ways, I promised to check how much there actually was inside my CPF accounts, and let him know by the end of this week whether I had the gumption to invest my Special Account funds.

I learnt from Christopher Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness that the American IRS has long hands that will reach into your bank account and deduct income tax owed to the government if you don’t file your taxes. In Singapore, likewise, the Central Provident Fund has insidious hands.

You think the moment you receive your first paycheck is a time to celebrate. You feel CPF’s firm handshake and mistake it as a congratulatory gesture, for in truth, it was really saying, “Welcome to the Circle of Life. Welcome to the Circle of Shit.”

After struggling to clear your tertiary education loan for about four years, you heave a sigh of relief, only to discover, to your chagrin, that you have to empty your CPF in order to buy a living space as attractive as a shoebox. Then you pay, pay and pay to repay the housing loan, and then you pay some more when –

When your own kid goes to university.

There must be something omniscient about CPF, for when I reached home, I received notice that, as at 31 Dec 2008, not only did I still owe more than $22,000 for my education loan, but also more than $500 worth of interest.

I need to take a shit. Maybe, if I could clear my system, I’d be able to decide whether or not to invest those funds.

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Why did Miss China win?

Miss China Zhang ZilinPR photo from Miss World website
Picture from AP (R); Zhang Zilin’s PR photo from Miss World website (L)

Miss Zhang Zilin (张梓琳), native of Hebei Province, China, has won this year’s Miss World crown. Why do you think she’s won?

Flatchested Miss China
Picture from AFP

This year’s Miss World 2007 beauty pageant was held at the beauty crown cultural center in Sanya, Hainan, China, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007. Do you think it was because she stood at advantage on home soil?

Check out runner-up Micaela Reis of Angola (L) and second runner-up Carolina Moran Gordillo of Mexico. Third World countries may not have the highest GDPs, but boy they have beauties. Check out Miss Angola’s boobs!

On the other hand, Miss China has almost none.

No boobs

Why would the judges favour a flatchested girl?

She is very tall though. Standing at 1.83m, Miss China dwarves even the other contestants.

Speaking of which, here are some of the other finalists:

The other Miss World contenders
Picture from AFP

“Miss World contestants from left, Jennifer Guevara Campos of Puerto Rico, Vivian Charlott Burkhardt of Grenada, Christine Reiler of Austria and Deborah Priya of Malaysia applaud after they nominated into top 16 semi-finalist during the Miss World 2007 beauty pageant. -AFP”

And here’s our Miss Singapore. Sigh. Poor thing. I’m sure she’s a cutie that guys at the gym or the bar would make a beeline to chat up, but she ain’t ever going to win.

Miss Singapore Roshni Kaur Soin
Miss Singapore Roshni Kaur Soin

And here are the Miss World champions from years 2006 and 2004.

Miss World 2006Miss World 2004
Miss World 2006, from Czech Republic (R); Miss World 2004, from Peru (L)

It’s often the Aryan (blonde hair, blue/green eyes) look or the exotic Latina look that has won over judges. But why Miss China this year? Could it be because –

Beijing Olympics 2008
Beijing Olympics 2008!

China’s a rising superpower and will crush your country if you don’t let their baby girl win?

For the past 57 years, China has not even come close to championship at a global pageant such as this. Could it be a sign of World Domination? First Miss World, then the Universe.

Remember the days (those were also the days we believed no Singaporean would ever make it to the stardom in the pop music scene) when we would watch a pageant like Miss World and sigh, “We Asians are not tall enough,” or “Look at those cans on Miss Georgia, she’s a shoo-in,” or “That Latina has gorgeous eyes!”

But this Zhang Zilin girl seems to glow. Beside her, everybody else looks pudgy, listless and insecure.

Beach babe

Before the pageant, this Beijing Technological University graduate was a secretary and part-time model. She has catwalked with supermodels on designer fashion shows and had a part to play in the very high-profile Fendi show at Beijing’s Great Wall this year in October.

Fame has its price though. Her contract with her agency has it in black-and-white that she’s not allowed to get attached, and that she must handover every cent she earns from modelling (and I’m guessing the prize money from the pageants as well) for them to manage. (Now you understand why she has two jobs.)

In an interview after the contest, she said that she will brush up on her English and start on her (token) Miss World visits to parts of the Caribbean, Europe and South Africa. With the Beijing Olympics coming up and China in the centre of attention for all the right and wrong reasons, I don’t think she’s going to be forgotten as soon as the other Miss World champions.

A beautiful walking propaganda machine. How convenient, China.

Why do you think she’s won?

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