Me, a thief? But I am behind bars

[Published on 5 May, 1997]

A Danish robber thought he had the perfect alibi in a string of burglaries --
he was in jail.

But police discovered he slipped out regularly by night to burgle houses
and shops.

The man, 29, who is serving a prison term for armed robbery in
Jyderup, west of Copenhagen, was found out when guards searched
his cell and found stolen goods worth 40,000 kronor.

"He managed to push apart the bars of his cell and leave the prison,
which has no surrounding wall but an exterior fence," police said.

He replaced the bars carefully on his return.

In court, he denied that he had committed at least seven burglaries.

Taxing time

[Published on 3 April, 1997]

Their predicament may have evoked international sympathy, but the
plight of the hostages held inside the Japanese ambassador's residence
in Lima for 105 days apparently holds little sway with the tax man.

The Peruvian tax office said the roughly 50 hostages who are Peruvian
citizens will have a month after their release, whenever that is,
to pay their 1996 income taxes.

Peruvians must file their 1996 returns by April 2, but people inside the
besieged residence need "a period that allows them to comply with the
filing of their annual tax statements", the statement said.

Slow down! Cows and cheeses ahead

[Published on 14 July, 1998]

Radar cameras around Geneva are being done up ostentatiously in fancy
colours and painted to look like Swiss cows and cheeses as a way of alerting
drivers to their presence and getting them to slow down on the road.

"The idea is to provide a hint for drivers because the radar is intended to
be preventive rather than repressive," said the police spokesman.

One speed trap has a board painted to look like a black-and-white Swiss cow,
while another has been made to look like a large yellow Swiss Emmenthal
cheese full of holes.

"The equipment has a preventive role and we have no interest in hiding it.
Our aim is not to collect as many speeding fines as possible but to ensure
safety," the police chief said.

Jamming allowed

[Published on 9 Nov, 1997]

After a cafe was fined $2,000 for allowing jam sessions on its premises
(which the authority deemed 'illegal'), the prohibition was relaxed
following a review of licensing conditions.

Licensees can now apply for a waiver of this condition if audience
participation is necessary for the entertainment that is provided
in the outlets, such as jazz entertainment and magic shows.

So if you feel like joining in a spontaneous jam session with musicians
playing in a pub, go ahead.

But first check that the entertainment outlet has official permission
for audience participation.

Hats off to a brave new House

[Published on 6 June, 1998]

Britain's House of Commons, often accused of living in the past,
plans to take another step into the 20th century this week by getting
rid of its "top hat" regulation.

Two collapsible opera hats are kept in reserve at either end of the
panelled chamber for use by members who want to catch the speaker's eye
and raise a point of order during a vote.

The custom dates from the 19th century, when all MPs kept their hats on
during debates, only removing them to speak.

The Parliament's modernisation committee recommended that the regulation
should be scrapped.

It observed that "this particular practice has almost certainly brought
the House into greater ridicule than almost any other, particularly
since the advent of television".

The government and opposition agreed that the hats would have to go.

Cartoon Caption Contest, 22 June 2008


Many readers played on the 'budget airline' or 'extra legroom' concept.
Here are some who didn't:

The winning entry:

"I told you it wasn’t a typo when
your boarding pass stated ‘WINGDOW SEAT’."
- Alvin Yee

The shortlisted ones:
"Should have read the fine print when they offered
a $200 discount if I bring my own seat."
- Enson

"The result of snoring loudly in the plane."
- Sherlyn Lee Chen Sing

"Oh my god! What is the pilot doing outside?"
- Mak De-Shun

"Well done, our new stick-on hairpiece
pass the test with flying colours."
- Teng Hong Beng

"Sir, our airline's motto is 'Now everyone can fly'."
- Nadarajan Packirisamy

"When I requested for a window seat, I didn't know
I need to specify which side of the window I want!"
- Angela Teh

And my personal favourite:
"Oei, you are blocking my view!"
- Ong Eng Hui

Cartoon Caption Contest, 15 June 2008


This is the winning entry:
"Sorry, your mail has been returned
due to insufficient postage."
- Ang Keng Cheng

Here are the shortlisted ones:
"At last, the verdict from ICJ --
this island is mine!"
- Jasbir Singh

"Don't look now, but you've been followed."
- Peggie Khoo Cheng Paik

"Oh no! I wrote this 10 years ago!"
- Annie Liu

Free funerals

[Published on 4 Jan, 1998]

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (MBA) will provide
free funerals for poor Thais as part of the Chuay Thai
(Thais Help Thais) scheme to help the less fortunate during
the economic crisis.

Low-income families would now be able to save thousands of
baht spent on cremations at 40 designated Buddhist temples
throughout the capital.

Low-income families usually take loans with high interest rates
to organise funerals.

Taxi! (Part 1)

The why-no-taxi-when-you-need-them problem is not unique to
real life situations, as my cartoon characters find out...

THE LEGAL BIT: All cabs here are coloured randomly and
any resemblance to any taxi operator is purely coincidental!

Taxi! (Part 2)

Passengers can cause problems to taxi drivers too...

THE LEGAL BIT: All cabs here are coloured randomly and
any resemblance to any taxi operator is purely coincidental!

Mussel power

[Published on 6 Jan, 1998]

New Zealand scientists are synthesising a protein produced
by mussels in the hope that it will lead to the closing of
human wounds without stitches.

The protein forms the strong natural glue that sticks
the shellfish to rocks.

A chemistry team from Auckland University is investigating
the protein, secreted by a gland in the mussel's "foot",
which gives it its sticking power.

It was hoped the substance could be used in medicine to
glue human cells and tissue. If the body did not reject
the protein, stitches might become obsolete.

Unlike stitches, the adhesive would not need to be removed.
The protein would break down and disappear.

Baa, baa, bright sheep

[Published on 29 March, 1997]

Sheep that glow in the dark are the latest idea by farmers
to stop attacks by foxes.

Spring lambs are being painted with a phosphorescent spray which
charges up by day and glows at night. The spray also emits a
foul taste designed to revolt even the most ravenous predator.

"It is a form of severe aversion therapy for the foxes.
They will quickly come to associate the lights with a terrible
taste," said a spokesman for the spray manufacturer.

Why I'll never use MasterCard

When Singapore Post got wind of me mailing T-shirts and books to donors,
it called me up and asked if it could help by sponsoring the postage.
Since my employer SPH had began taking care of the mailing,
I thanked SingPost and did not take up its kind offer.

During the Great Singapore Sale, a major credit card company launched
"Shop For A Cause Night" to give 20 people a chance to buy gifts for their
favourite charity.

Granted, Thien Nhan doesn't belong to any charity -- but I thought it still
worth a shot to submit my entry and raise fund for the kid.

Unfortunately, nothing came out of it.
Otherwise, it would have been priceless.

HK 1997

In June 1997, I was sent to cover the handover ceremony
when Hong Kong was transferred from the United Kingdom to
the People's Republic of China. The Tan family tagged along...
and here are their misadventures in the fragrant harbour:

3 days before the Handover

[Published 28 June, 1997]

China's Public Security Minister made an inspection tour of the
southern city of Shenzhen abutting Hong Kong, calling for
stricter patrols along the border. He inspected the border
checkpoint at Lo Wu, and urged police officers to double their
efforts ahead of the handover of Hong Kong to China.

China has more than 10,000 policemen deployed along the border
with the territory, said a Guangdong province security chief.

"I can assure you Hong Kong will not be flooded with illegal mainland
immigrants either before or after the handover," he said.


2 days before the Handover

[Published 29 June, 1997]

Hong Kong is affected by problems in neighbouring Guangdong Province,
where rapid economic growth has widened the gap between rich and poor
and sparked a sharp rise in thefts and violent crimes. Many Hong Kong
residents fear that if illegal immigration from Guangdong were to
increase after the handover, law and order in Hong Kong will deteriorate.

1 day before the Handover

[Published 30 June, 1997]

Hong Kong is not the end of China's unification story.
Macau reverts in 1999. But Taiwan will remain the more elusive prize -
greater than even Hong Kong.

Indeed, Deng Xiaoping is believed to have proposed the
"one country, two systems" formula in the early 1980s originally
with Taiwan in mind.

Day of the Handover

[Published 1 July, 1997]

A welcoming parade for the Chinese army and the release of
10,000 homing pigeons were among scores of activities to celebrate
Hong Kong's July 1 return to Chinese sovereignty.

The events ran alongside the official ceremonies which included
fireworks and a midnight flag-changing ceremony,
attended by hundreds of international VIPS.

After the Handover

[Published 2 July, 1997]

Oh, behave!

[Published on 10 Dec, 2006]

One man lay slumped on a sofa, his shoes off and his feet up
on a coffee table, as he flipped through a book.

Another man whipped out a pair of tweezers and
nonchalantly plucked at his stubble, dropping
tiny hair strands on the newspaper he was reading.

No, these two were not relaxing at home. They were
at the public library -- and if one peeved library user had
got his way, they would have been sent for etiquette classes.
The said library user wrote to a newspaper saying
uncouth acts such as people resting their feet on chairs,
fiddling with their toes and nose-picking were common
in libraries.

Apart from the fact that such actions are inconsiderate
and rude, he wondered whether they were hygienic.
A visit to four public libraries found plenty of proof to
illustrate his point.

Library users, both young and old, were spotted sticking
their fingers into their ears, removing the wax and
flicking it onto the floor.

Others scratched their toes and armpits. Many were
fond of taking off their shoes and putting their feet up.

When approached, most of them saw nothing wrong with
their actions. The man with the tweezers said grooming
his stubble in public was a habit he had indulged in for
the past 10 years.

Another reckoned he was being courteous by taking off
his shoes before putting his feet up. He said, "To me,
the library is a homely place. Maybe those who don’t like
what we do should be given a separate area of their own."
The National Library Board (NLB) says that in 2005,
there were more than 20 letters in various newspapers
complaining about the lack of library etiquette among users,
a threefold increase from the year 2004.

NLB spokesman said it was difficult for library staff to police
library users who, for example, picked their noses. But staff
and volunteers do tell users not to remove their shoes.

Following this report, NLB commissioned yours truly to
come up with two "I LOVE MY LIBRARY" posters to encourage
good etiquette in libraries.

However, only one is displayed in NLB premises:

The second poster is not used because NLB is unsure about
library users' reactions upon seeing it.

To make your trip to my blog worth your while,
I shall now show you the poster that is otherwise banned from
the public eye:

So... would you mind if NBL puts up this poster?
Leave your thoughts in the "Comments" section.

Top surname

[Published on 28 Nov, 1997]

Point a finger at any Chinese Singaporean and you are likely
to get someone named Tan. According to the Department of Statistics,
one in 10 Chinese here is a Tan.

The Tans are the most numerous. Next in line are the Lims,
with the Lees coming third.

But because figures are based on anglicised surnames, it does not
take into account that a surname spelt as Chan may well be the same
as Tan - but spelt differently due to different pronunciation of dialects.
Tans and Lims are very common in Singapore because they are
common surnames in China's Guangdong or Fujian provinces,
where most Chinese immigrants here originated.

Li, spelt Lee here, on the other hand, is the most common surname
among the Chinese in China and Taiwan.

Traditionally, Chinese observe a strict rule of not marrying
someone of the same surname. It also makes sense in terms of genetics.

But a Tan need not worry that a tenth of the Chinese here are
already ruled out as potential marriage partners.

Couples may have the same surname but are probably
very distant in blood ties after hundreds of years, especially those
in different dialect groups.

Hotels --> Residences?

[Published on 31 Aug, 1997]

Hotel in the downtown area will have to remain hotels and
cannot be converted to condominiums or other uses,
following a new government ruling aimed at ensuring that
there will be enough hotel rooms here.

The Singapore Tourist Promotion Board's tourism blueprint,
Tourism-21, set out a strategic plan to achieve a target of
10 million visitors by 2000.

2,750 hotel rooms had already been lost after several
applications to convert hotels to residential and other uses
were approved by the authorities.

Although the Government would continue to release land parcels
for hotel developments, there may not be sufficient hotel rooms
to cater to the 10 million visitor arrivals if the trend
of hotel conversions remained unchecked.

Wash to unlock

[Published on 29 Dec, 1998]

A Frenchman's mission to ensure better hygiene among
restaurant staff has inspired him to invent a toilet which
locks users inside unless they wash their hands.

People are trapped within the toilet until they put their
hands under the sink taps for at least 10 seconds in the
"Ten plus" toilet designed by Mr Jacques Robaey.

He set about constructing a hygienic water closet after
watching a television report a month ago which revealed
that a dish of peanuts put out by staff in a Paris bar
contained traces of urine from various individuals.

Singapore Education

[Published on 28 Jan, 1997]

The Suzhou Singapore International School (SSIS) offers
Singapore's bilingual educational curriculum to expatriate
children living in Suzhou and in neighbouring cities.

Rice stealer

[Published on 5 Jan, 1998]

Farmers in the Thai province of Surin, hit hard by the
country's economic crisis, now have to contend with
"rice bandits" who steal their harvests in broad daylight.
The perpetrators, who arrive in motorcades of trucks
and farm tractors, enter barns and fields where the rice
is stored, tie up farmers and their families, load rice
onto their vehicles and drive off.