Friday, August 29, 2014

Barking Dogs Don't Bite

When we adopted a rabbit from the SPCA, we were told to pay for the spaying and neutering fee, on the understanding that a neutered male rabbit will live longer. Also, altered rabbits are supposed to be calmer, more loving, and dependable once the undeniable urge to mate has been removed. All we remember was that the poor creature was sad and forlorn for at least a fortnight. You would be sad too if your family jewels were surgically nipped off.

The Housing Board recommendation to some Ang Mo Kio dog owners about debarking noisy canines seems to have upset some animal lovers. The Action for Singapore Dogs organisation claims on their Facebook posting that "This is an extremely cruel and painful procedure of removing the vocal chords which can cause constant physical pain." Sounds a thousand times more scary than the Isis "FGM edict" hoax in Iraq about enforced female genital mutilation.

Charlotte McGowan, a dog breeder for over 40 years, provides some alternate perspectives at her "Myths and Facts" presentation about debarking (bark softening):
Q: Does debarking remove the dog's ability to bark?
A: No. Debarked dogs continue to bark. What debarking does is to lower the volume of the bark so that it does not carry for miles around.

Q: Is this a "cruel and barbaric procedure?"
A: No.  People with little or no experience raising naturally noisy and talkative breeds may tell you this. People with breeds like Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties) can tell you that this procedure is simple and that it saves lives of dogs that might otherwise be dumped in the pound for their barking. Debarking is a more simple procedure than removing the uterus in spaying or removing testicles in neutering.

Q: Do dogs suffer emotionally from debarking?
A: It is a huge myth to suggest dogs are emotionally disturbed by debarking. Debarked dogs can bark. Even if reduced sound comes out of their mouths, they don't seem to notice at all! Debarked dogs that are not being constantly disciplined for barking, in fact, tend to be much happier dogs!

Before you join the throngs of unhappy people who go on the internet to research additional viewpoints - satisfied people don’t have time to go on the internet, we are told - consider the relative lack of reaction when the minister tried to debark the vociferous online voices. It is a sad day when the activists pay more attention to barking dogs than complaining citizens yapping for the return of their CPF.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Their Gods Must Be Crazy

News like this is enough to turn any one into an atheist. First we have this wife of a mega church pastor cavorting semi-clad in a music video to win more converts, and giving geishas in general a black eye in the process. For the record, real geishas do not provide pleasures of the flesh. They are highly skilled professionals, traditional female entertainers dedicated to performing various Japanese arts such as classical shamisen music, dance and games, appreciated for their subtlety, strength, and grace.

There's nothing subtle about the females travelling to the Middle East to offer up themselves as sex objects for the insatiable Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq. Not just the 3 Malaysians mentioned by Malaysian Insider, Sunni women from Australia and the United Kingdom are also participating in the Jihad Al Nikah  (Arabic: جهاد النكاح‎, often translated as Sex jihad or Sexual jihad), draining the energies of the combatants who probably need it more on the battlefield. It's enough to give the comfort women of World War II a bad name.

Apparently it started after the fall of the town of Mosul, and people were ordered to send their unmarried women to jihad for sex. Note the unabashed request for virgins - these nuts should kill themselves and collect their entitlement of 70 unsoiled maidens in the after life. During WWII businessmen shipped willing prostitutes overseas to service the troops. It was only when the supply ran out that local females were "recruited" to staff the pleasure barracks. Cruel as it may be, at least the Japs didn't invoke a religious entity to justify their atrocity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Lament For Education

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are two glaring examples of how to be successful without benefit of a university degree. Forbes magazine published a list of college-dropout billionaires on March 11, 2009 and noted that the average net worth of billionaires who dropped out of college, $9.4 billion, is approximately triple that of billionaires with Ph.D.s, $3.2 billion. Then again, what is the purpose of education?

John Goodlad ("In Praise of Education", Teachers College Press, 1997) wrote that educational stimuli stirs and prods the maturing individual to engage in a process or self-transcendence from narcissism to identify with and assume responsibility for humankind and for all species of flora and fauna on which humankind's own survival depends. Quite a mouthful to say that it's better to stop and smell the flower bouquet than swipe the free toothpicks from a restaurant table.

The journey of education, he said, is endangered by alternatives lushly advertised in travel folders that offer more and earlier self-gratification for less discipline and sacrifice. We see that in our variant of meritocracy, where an 18 year old has his path to obscene wealth chartered by the type of scholarship he is anointed with. Never mind if the skillset calls for obfuscation and dereliction of accountability, the legions of minions can always be counted upon to be exploited to the hilt.

The contention that education is a moral endeavor is a frightening prospect for these people. Goodlad cites the British philosopher John White, who believes there are moral positions that should be made available to everyone in a democratic society, such as fairness, caring, justice, equality and community. Tragedy is a leadership populated by amoral individuals.

It is obvious that education has been corrupted to lesser ends than guiding the delicate process of self transcendence. No wonder the discussion of education is tainted by discourses of starting pay and competitive salaries. Society has no room for ruminations about higher aspirations when the earthy needs of affordable housing, transportation and job security are not met.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coming Of (electronic) Age

Finally, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs, "The Singapore Story" and "From Third World To First", are now available in electronic book format. In the author's note to the eBook edition, Lee wrote, "It is my hope that the experiences of my generation find relevance with a generation that grew up with digital literacy and technology."

Lee once said he will call it a day when the retelling of his experiences and stories can fit into a thumbdrive. Capacities for thumbdrives are now in the order of gigabytes (GB), yet the nonagenarian was last seen leading a team for the Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in the 2011 elections. Maybe they were trying to physically squeeze two hard cover volumes into a tiny solid state device. It may sound ridiculous, but we are dealing with folks like his son who recently declared that the "human society was not designed with the Internet age in mind."

The eBook format takes the wind out of that argument. The 2 volumes of Hitler’s Mein Kampf take up only 1 megabyte (mb), 7 books of the Harry Porter series add up to 6 mb, and the Oxford Complete Works of Shakespeare occupy only 7 mb of disk space. Even “The Untold Story of Mao” by June Chang and Jon Holliday, which includes 1780 pages of text and photographs, require only 6 mb of storage. It is doubtful all of Lee’s books can even fill up a 2 GB thumb drive.

Produced and sold under licence from Singapore Press Holdings (who else?) which owns the publication rights, the memoirs started retailing at $34.99 each from major e-book distributors from Monday 25th August. It's cheaper online. But you can't use it as an expensive door stop.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Not My Job

This is plain disgraceful demeanor. Barely a week has passed since her great commission, and the minister is already shirking her responsibility and redefining her own job description.

The Prime Minister had made it crystal clear at the nation wide broadcast her million dollar portfolio was a bao-kar-liao assignment - that's dialect for "all encompassing" or "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink". Right off the bat, of course she should expect her phone to be ringing off the hook. If the PM decides to dedicate expensive prime-time television to a fishball stick instead of housing, transportation, health care or immigration issues, it has to be a national priority, right?

Grace Fu begs to differ. By her own definition, the newly launched Municipal Services Office (MSO) is not a "catch-all body, but for complex cases" only, a direct insinuation that a fishball stick does not deserve national attention. Never mind that past attempts to address the "tai-ji" malaise in the system has failed miserably. There was the "Zip-in-Process" (ZIP) initiative in 2000, "No Wrong Door" approach in 2004, "Walls Coming Down" promise in 2006, "First Responder Protocol" improvement in 2012, and the new "Department of Public Cleanliness" set up in 2013. But when a member of the public called the NEA about a serpentine intruder in October 2013, he was asked whether aforementioned snake was slithering in a public park, or in a building, and whither direction it was heading for. If the snake could talk, they would probably quiz it and ask if it preferred to be attended to by NParks, PUB, AVA or the friendly neighborhood police.

Here's how Grace Fu envisages her scope of responsibility: "So, if one knows who to call, of course he can just call the number. But if he doesn't know who to call, I'm hoping to see if I can make it easier for them." Think of it as a high class call center girl, with a compensation package to drool for.