Friday, July 29, 2016

Farewell to STU General Secretary Edwin Lye

From 1 August 2016, while you start your daily routine, history would be made.

For the first time in Singapore's history, a senior Trade Unionist will start work in the Employers Federation. The Vice President of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and General Secretary of the Singapore Teachers' Union, Mr Edwin Lye Teck Hee, would leave the labour movement and join the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).

The average Singaporean would probably see it as an ordinary switch in career. Casting your sight beyond Singapore, you would realise that it didn't make much headlines only because this is Singapore, where the Government, Employers and Unions enjoy a constructive relationship. This trust and collaborative relationship is otherwise called "Tripartism", and often cited as Singapore's National Treasure.

Indeed, if hashtags were a measure, Tripartism is so rare globally that in Instagram, you find mostly photos from Singapore with #Tripartism.

How else would cross-posting of public officers and trade unionists, and senior trade unionist receiving a SNEF award and becoming an Employer representative be imaginable?  In most countries, getting trade unionists and employers to sit together would be already too much to hope for. International Labour Organization's Director-General Guy Ryder once said, "Singapore tripartism passes the essential test of good results." 

It seems it really passed the test.

Photo with Edwin on his last day in STU office

It has been 10 months since I got seconded to the Singapore Teachers' Union. Learnt a lot from Edwin on proactive Industrial Relations and Union operations. Edwin has always been an open and patient Union Leader who takes the effort to explain the historical context and thinking behind any actions taken, and does so with great clarity.

Here's wishing Brother Edwin all the best on his new role at SNEF!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hari Raya Aidilfitri 2016

The month-long Hari Raya celebration is coming to a close. I always find it a blessing to be in Singapore where we not only get to celebrate our own ethnic festivals, but we also observe or, most of the time, participate in other ethnic celebrations. And as we get to know more about the traditions and cultures of another ethnic group, each year's festive celebrations carry a different experience.

Beyond the extensive *bling bling* Hari Raya light-up decorations lining the street from Eunos MRT Station all the way to Geylang Serai, it is the practice of traditions and cultural interactions that define the festival and which are what makes Hari Raya unique in Singapore.

Globally, a series of attacks threatened to undermine the sacred month for Muslims. These include the Orlando nightclub shooting, Nice attack, Atatürk Airport attack in Turkey and the suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia at the end of Ramadhan. In some parts of the world, the religion came under assault in the wake of the attacks. 

In Singapore, this year's Hari Raya happened to fall in July, the month of Racial Harmony celebrations. In form and/or in substance, Singaporeans are reminded by the world around us that the social fabric could very well be ruptured if we do not continue to safeguard racial and religous harmony.

I am fortunate to be able to participate in a series of activities during this period.

On 22 June 2016, Eunos and Kaki Bukit Grassroots Advisers and Grassroots Leaders joined Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and residents of The Leo Dormitory in breaking fast (Iftar). It was my second time visiting the Dormitory, the first being an introductory visit before the Dormitory went into operation in 2014.

Ambassadors, appointed among the residents, assist in organising various activities for the residents of diverse nationalities. The month-long Iftar (break fast) is one such activity that the residents plan and execute themselves, with support from the Dorm's management.


In keeping with tradition, when communication technology was not as advanced, drum was sounded to inform the neighbourhood that it was time to break fast. 


Group photo with fellow Grassroots Leaders

On 25 June 2016, a brigade of motorcycles roared off to make over beneficiaries' homes, as part of the annual Ramadhan-on-Wheels (ROW) project by the Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM).


The same morning, Tabung Amal Aidilfitri (TAA) Trust Fund held its disbursement exercise at Eunos Community Club. Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli graced the event and presented cheques to Malay Muslim Organisations and beneficiaries. One of the ways that TAA Trust Fund collects its zakat (alms) is through the collection boxes located at Geylang Serai as well as shops across the island. The zakat collected in 2015 is disbursed to recipients in 2016.

These programmes encapsulate the spirit of Ramadhan, in assisting the less well-off among the community and sharing the festive joy with them.


On the same evening, Eunos CC Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC) and TAA Trust Fund jointly held the Majlis Iftar. The speaker was delivering a message in Bahasa Melayu when I heard "Hidayah". Turned over to Eunos CC staff Hidayah who was just beside me, and innocently told her that the speaker had called her name. Found out that in arabic language, Hidayah actually meant "Guidance".

To learn culture, it's always best to plug yourself in the midst of it. Also learnt about the significance of Ramadhan to Muslims that evening. Ramadhan is more than just a month-long of cleansing the physical body through fasting. It also involves the cleansing of the mind and soul, and a time of reflection. 


Fast forward to the eve of Hari Raya on 5 July 2016, where residents at Eunos Vista (Zone '7' precinct) organised the annual Kenduri together with neighbours. 

While we can sit back and LIKE neighbourliness stories posted online, such as the Sembawang family who break fast annually together with their neighbours along the corridor, we can also initiate or participate in such activities. I, for one, would set a goal of organising next year's Chinese New Year event with neighbours, and reach out to 2 Muslim families to open their house for their neighbours at Eunos Division next year! 

Had the best Mee Siam I ever eaten

Jalan Raya to a neighbour's place on 9 July 2016. I met Shaikh through grassroots activities. He is one of the Eunos Heights Community Gardeners, and I always joked that he had the best view of the happenings in the garden from his bedroom window. Had the pleasure to makan the awesome dishes plus the desserts, all made by the family. Enjoyed the catch-up and got to know more about the talented and hardworking family.



Yummy!

A week later, had the opportunity to taste Malay cuisine again at fellow grassroots volunteers Jamal and Latifah's place. The Malay wedding at the void deck right opposite their block provided music and songs for our ears.


My Hari Raya "celebration" culminated with Muhibah Raya, organised by Eunos CC MAEC. Besides Sufie Rashid who dazzled the audience at the Hari Raya dinner, Aljunied GRC Grassroots Advisers Chua Eng Leong and Shamsul Kamar also peppered the programme with light-hearted entertainment. 


The key ingredient to racial harmony and social cohesion is the social capital and trust that exist across the ethnic communities. The People's Association grassroots movement consciously create platforms to bring people together. It is a never-ending process and we will always agree more can be done. One day, race and religion will see no boundary. Till then, let's take the initiative to appreciate each other's culture and be the catalyst to strengthen our unique social fabric.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Life of a Father Alone at Home on Paternity Leave with Baby - 3 months with Baby YC

What better way to celebrate your son's 3rd month than bringing him to ICA and collecting our passports (mine renewed; his new) together?

Taking Baby YC's passport photo was vastly challenging, and it is not just because I no longer have white walls (passport photos require a white background) at home. He had became a sinister to our phones. When the phone was on our hands, it meant reduced time on him, and he was definite that this is a zero-sum game.

Fortunately, we found a cupboard which was white. My wife held him to his upright sitting position, leaning on the cupboard, and used her hands to support his pendulating body. 

Lesson #1: Never use a lagging Samsung phone with limited storage space when your wife has an iPhone. But which I did. With each lag after each shot taken, it was frustrating. Lucky for me, out of the spam shots, there was a few to choose from.

Baby YC looked very stunned on one, and had a smirk on the other. We chose the latter. And that printed photo on the passport never failed to make my family laugh each time we look at it. The ICA Officer was also smiling when she checked out Baby YC's face with the passport photo.

Here's the contented YK Junior trying to beat my travel records. I am sure he will.

Baby YC has a passport!
Don't ask me where's the missing sock

In days leading to the 3rd month milestone, my wife had to return to work from her maternity leave for 3 weeks due to a major work event. My mother and I took turns to take leave to be home to tend to the little one. That is what Paternity Leave is for.

Taking the same bus to work together after a long long time


Spending an entire day with the little one exhausts me to the last bit of my battery. It also gave me a chance to experience for myself how my wife had to manage caring for our son single-handedly when the confinement nanny left.

The typical day usually starts on an exceptionally high note. Baby YC wakes up gleefully, giving us his best smiles and laughters almost every morning. It is like he had received his full dose of charging and he is ready for the day.

Sunbathing. Showering. Feeding. Nap.

And the window opens for me to clear as much work as possible on my laptop. If I am lucky, I have 1.5 hours to settle some of the urgent matters. If not, I will be pacing around the entire home with Baby YC in my arms until he falls into sleep. If I succeed in transferring him to the bed, hurray. Most of the time, Walk. Sleep. Repeat. Because my arm beats a Dunlopillo.

In fact, I think my walkabout had probably worn off a nanometre of flooring. And my right biceps are probably thicker than the left.

Give me my drumsticks! Nom nom nom...

If only milk bottles came in the form of a baby's fist. At first, Baby YC struggled to place his fist on his mouth. The fist would fly up, go one big round, and might miss the mouth. After a while, he mastered the skill. And there goes snacking on his favourite "drumsticks" (as my Mother coins them). The cutest thing is he also likes to share and feed his Father with these "drumsticks" when I'm near.

One day, few days after Baby YC turned 2 months of age, he started to pay attention and connect eyes-to-eyes with us. It is an amazing thing. He would look deep into us and send love straight into our souls.

The afternoon programme features Mozart music, storyreading, and talking. Baby YC has started to experiment his vocals, though I have given up after repeating "Papa" to him for the umpteenth time. He makes the sound that resembled "Uncle" (more like Angkor) and "Al Gore" (does he even know this is Election Year 2016?). He enjoys being talked to and reciprocates with blabbers (speeches). Children's books are getting more sophisticated. Some left me deep in reflection after reading them out to Baby YC. 

In this month, several unbearable news of bad things happening to other 3-month-old and 2-year-old bothered me, and I believe many parents. Shan't share the negativity. Thankfully, such news were balanced by postings shared in the U Circle of Dads Facebook group and other pages that were useful to pass time and for me to gather some inspiration and energy to sustain the day.

Baby YC dreads being ignored. Attempts to leave him in the bouncer so that I can read some emails failed when he realised someone is around but not talking to him. When I flashed out my phone for a quick check, he would be casting his pitiful eyes on the device. 

He dreads being placed on the mattress, but is surprisingly reasonable and accommodating if I were to rest beside him. He would keep kicking me, while staying peaceful, while I doze off for a while.

The maternal grandfather finally met Baby YC alongside his official visit to Singapore with his delegation. My sister-in-law had also just delivered to a second son. Excited to bring Baby YC to Vietnam to meet his cousins.

Although I often tell friends and colleagues, even my wife, that I so look forward to returning to work, some part of me want to be part of my son's growing up, every day and every moment. I was reminded, when I was lamenting the tireness to someone, that my son will be growing up very fast and this will be a phase of his growth that I will come to miss in due time. 

And indeed. It had been 3 months since I first saw my son.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Was Trump Pence logo designer inspired by The Purge?

2 highly anticipated events happened in July 2016.

One of them is the third instalment of the movie - The Purge: Election Year, which was released on 1 July 2016.

5 minutes into the scene, this logo came out on the screen. I thought it looked very familiar.



The second highly anticipated event was 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump's announcement of his Vice Presidential running mate. The official announcement also revealed the Trump-Pence campaign logo, which soon was dropped from Donald Trump's Facebook and website due to various reasons, including obscenity.

Uncanny semblance to The Purge logo?



And that is why it is unfathomable that the Trump-Pence logo turned out to be so similar to The Purge's. Was the designer hoping to leverage on the "brand consciousness" of movie sequel?

It didn't help that even the acronyms are the same - Trump-Pence / The Purge.




Friday, July 15, 2016

6 Games that should GO the Pokémon GO way

If you are fathoming why Pokémon GO is appearing on your news feed every hour of the day, it is not only because Pokémon GO has become the biggest mobile game in the history of the U.S., but it has health benefits, yet can kill you, get you terminated from your emloyment, make you rich and turn people into zombies.

Wikipedia describes Pokémon GO as "a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic and published by The Pokémon Company as part of the Pokémon franchise."

Augmented reality is a fusion of virtual reality and real life. Merging "location-based" with "augmented reality", the world has truly become a borderless playground. Next, with devices like Samsung Gear VR and Google Glass, very soon you will be in your dream world.

I am hoping that Niantic or any other game companies would be inspired by the successes of Pokémon GO to introduce greater disruption to the gaming industry. And if so, they should really be making the following 7 games the way of Pokémon GO!

1) Second Life GO



This is the closest you can get to experience what's it like to be in movies such as Avatar and Surrogate. Besides, a Second Life GO will also help many singles find their life partners and for virtual shop merchants to interact physically with their customers. Oh hey! Perhaps Second Life GO will really give you a chance to live your life as a sociable human being!

2)Counterstrike GO



Laser tags and paint balls will be clichés with this game. It could probably encourage the use of more virtual guns then real ones, and at the same time get you running around and prepare you for terrorist attacks.

3) Resident Evil GO



Get your chance to be amidst the Walking Dead. Resident Evil GO version will bring gamers out of Raccoon City and into the neighbourhood. Makes good for Halloween celebration too! 

4) Warcraft GO



Some games require deploying your troops/orcs to mine for resources. If we can use the influence of gaming to augment thrash and litter into ores, wouldn't we have clean beaches and streets?

5) Final Fantasy GO




Seeking enemies to fight to gain experience to level up your character? Explore and who knows you might find a chuckaboo, beyond potions and power gems.


6) Super Mario





With this game, you will have plenty reasons to jump and squat, and shed those weight. We'd never know, maybe we'll find people in the sewers collecting their "coins".

That said, some games should never be made into location-based augmented reality ones, i.e. no-GO:

X) Grand Theft Auto


Quite self-explanatory

X) World of Warcraft


Beating the hell out of augmented creeps in the street can be scary. Think "The Purge".


X) Daytona


Let's keep this in the arcade


Any other games that should GO?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Have we forgotten how to celebrate success?

I spent my Saturday evening watching a cultural dance performance. The hall was packed with family members and friends of the dancers. The dancers had taken months to plan and rehearse to put up the show. They had a tight timeline. Their dance costumes were all tailor-made to the individual and to suit the dance segment. With the time and resources ploughed in, there is no way but to pull it through successfully.



Sounds like a project that you are working on? Hold on, something's not.

As soon as the dancers and instructors take their bow, and the curtains close, they broke into huge cheers of euphoria. As they leave the stage to their families and friends, they were greeted with flower bouquets and group hugs. Keep that feeling you have of that celebratory mood in your mind. 

Now, when was the last time you felt this way when you celebrated your team's success or at any of the previous "appreciation sessions" you have attended? 

Have we forgotten how to celebrate Success? 

4 things to be mindful of in truly celebrating your team's success and making appreciation sessions work 


1) Don't Make Celebration a Chore 


Imagine completing a project that has expended the team's energy, just to be assigned to organise or turn up with duties at the post-project appreciation session. 

If it sounds like it turns you off, it definitely turns the team members off. And you end up with team members infecting one another with the do-it-for-the-sake-of-doing, it's-not-my-KPI, what-am-I-doing-here mood. 

If the celebration is worth it, make it simple and spontaneous. It need not always be the team leader planning and executing the celebration. The people persons/extroverts in your team might have terrific ideas on how to celebrate. Set a budget, be open to ideas and contributions from team members. At times, you do need to acknowledge that the team might really not be in the mood for an elaborate celebration, If it's a work project that you are celebrating, you might also want to consider the profile of the team in determining whether you should hold it during work hours or off hours. 

2) Determine the purpose of the Celebration 


Is there any one you would particularly like to spotlight for his contributions to the team? Remember to consult other members in your team to eliminate "blind spots". You won't want someone to walk away feeling that he or she contributed equally or more than the person you spotlighted. 

Keep the agenda simple. Keep the atmosphere positive and celebrate the successes. You can choose a different occasion to pinpoint errors and mistakes. 

3) Never entirely outsource the organising of the appreciation session 


Because no one knows the team better than you do. 


4) Focus on celebrating 


Avoid conducting official debrief during appreciation sessions. Spare a thought for the note-taker. The official element in the programme might also set the tone for the session. 


This post was first published on https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/have-we-forgotten-how-celebrate-success-yoong-kheong-fong

Friday, July 08, 2016

My Powered Pleasure Craft Driving License (PPCDL) Journey

It all started from my first jetski experience with colleagues at a teambuilding trip. Throttling amidst the choppy waves, going full speed and getting the feeling of being thrown up and down; enjoying a short reprieve, from the hustle and bustle on land, out in the middle of the waters - those were addictive and something I look forward to doing again.

But in Singapore, you need a Powered Pleasure Craft Driving Licence (PPCDL) in order to operate a jetski, or any other pleasure craft less than 24 metres in length, legally. We'll come to the point on what is a "pleasure craft" later. First, in order to obtain a PPCDL, you need to fulfill the following:
  1. You must be aged 16 years and above;
  2. Complete an approved PPCDL course (theory and practical) at any of the PPCDL approved centres by the Maritime Port Authority (MPA)
  3. Be certified by a medical officer that you have passed an eyesight test and are not physically handicapped
  4. Pass the PPCDL Examinations (Theory and Practical), conducted by the Singapore Maritime Academy 

PPCDL Approved Centres:

  • Changi Sailing Club
  • Marina Country Club
  • One Degree 15 Marina Club
  • Raffles Marina
  • Republic of Singapore Yacht Club
  • SAF Yacht Club
  • Singapore Police Force Aquatic Club
  • Singapore Polytechnic
  • Singapore Powerboat Association
  • Water-Venture (Changi)
A price comparison online showed that PA WaterVenture (Changi) had the lowest fees. You can log onto the onePA portal to search for available dates.

A search on Groupon yielded an even cheaper option (slightly below $200 for weekend) at Marina Country Club (at Punggol), with training provided by Maritime Education and Training Services Pte Ltd. The Groupon offer is not always available.

Some would prefer to have their PPCDL course conducted near the PPCDL Practical Examination site at Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC), to have a feel of the actual water conditions in the area. For us, we took the Groupon deal at Marina Country Club and signed up for refresher course at RSYC just before the Practical Examination.

PPCDL Theory Lesson

On 27 February 2016, My Brother and I turned up at Marina Country Club for our 1.5-day PPCDL Theory lesson, taught by an ex-Naval Officer. We were given each a course book, that would accompany us very closely till the Practical Examination. At the end of the course, we were given usernames and passwords to log into the training provider's website to download ten-years series of questions and other materials.

It was a huge load of things to remember - from the Rules of the Road (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea), MPA Regulations, symbols and shapes, map reading, terminologies, colours and sounds. But it was also an eye-opener to a new maritime literature for me - including the beacons and lighthouses at and around Singapore, and the names of many islands in Singapore.

One advice given to me by the instructor was that I should not be telling the PPCDL Examiner that the purpose of me having the PPCDL was to jetski, as that would give an impression that I might be reckless and risk-seeking. Gulp.

Now I can watch Titanic, The Finest Hours and Captain Phillips with a much deeper appreciation of the lingos chanted by seamen. 

Practical Lesson

A week later, we found ourselves back at Marina Country Club on a Saturday morning, enthusiastically waiting for our first ever drive on sea.

Similar to Driving Licence practical examination, the PPCDL Practical Exam is also on a demerit point based system. Clock 20 demerit points = immediate failure.

Besides pre-drive equipment and boat checks, PPCDL trainee would also be tested mainly on unberthing, boatmanship and safety, man overboard drill and berthing during the PPCDL Practical Exam. There is also a face-to-face session with the Examiner, who would ask theory questions thereafter, before passing or failing the trainee.

Wefie with Instructor Terence

Man Overboard!

The rustic feel of Marina Country Club

Even though the steering wheel of a boat mirrors that of a land vehicle, the key difference in driving on land and on sea is that while you can step on the brake pedal and stop a land vehicle, there is no brake pedal for a boat. The boat continues to drift. To come to a complete stop, you would have to engage reverse gear to halt the drift. 

Another difference is that it is much easier to drive straight on a road, but on sea, you have to cast your sight afar and constantly adjust your steering wheel to stay the course.

Brother at the helm

Nice sea view for these new HDB dwellers

After practising several rounds, the post-lunch activity was to take turns at the wheel to drive ourselves to the waters near Pulau Ubin.


Punggol Beach

Our Vigilant Police Coast Guard

Pulau Ubin

We were glad to meet some of our course mates and learn from them on their reason why they were studying for PPCDL.

  1. To volunteer for the Waterways Watch Society
  2. Fishing Trips
  3. Canoeist trying out something new


PPCDL Theory Examination

We booked our PPCDL Theory Examination on 29 March 2016. The theory examination is within Singapore Polytechnic.

In order for us to take the theory examination, we needed to present the following:
  • Letter of certification by Medical Officer that we were not handicapped and passed the eyesight test. That costs us consultation fee of about $25 each from our Family Doctor, who must have not encountered PPCDL trainees coming to him for a long time
  • The training certificate issued by the approved training centre (We nearly had to miss the test because we couldn't locate one of our certificates, until I realised the 2 pieces were stuck together!)
  • NRIC

The ten-years series questions were useful in aiding revision of the PPCDL Theory. Some questions were tricky and required some thought process. The verbal sparring with my Brother just before the exam also helped. 

To pass the PPCDL Theory Examination, one needs to achieve at least 26 out of 30. My score was

27 out of 30!

We've passed!

PPCDL Practical Handling Examination

Chee Lee, my Brother and I found ourselves back to the sea on 14 May 2016 at RSYC, which is just beside the test site at Poly Marina. Due to my miscommunication, we had mistakenly booked 2 x 1-hour slots, from 9am to 11am. And our Practical Handling Examination was at 11am.

The long break, coupled with the birth of my son and the preparation of his first month's celebration, threw me back to pre-PPCDL days. The refresher, booked through the same training centre (METS), was greatly beneficial, especially with the very experienced instructor who fed us with tips and advice on how to remember the equipment and boat check procedures among others. 

The water condition was definitely much choppier than that at Marina Country Club, but not as severe as what our Practical lesson instructor who advised us to avoid booking an examination in the period of May to July due to the water conditions.

We thought we were late at 11.05am but the Examiner was still patiently waiting for participants. After a briefing, we were divided into pairs or trios. Since my Brother and I both registered as a group, we had the luxury of being paired up together.

Moments before our turn, my mind went blank. I recalled telling my Brother that he could decide if he wanted me to go first, get penalised and he could benefit from the observations since I was lost; or he could go first if he were ready. He decided to go first, and how sleek he was. After his pre-ops check, my mind was revived and I smoothly completed my checks.

Brother went ahead first while my mind continued refreshing

When it was my turn to take over the steering wheel, the worst thing happened. It rained. The first question from the Examiner was, "Anything else you want to do before unberthing?" Thanks to Chee Lee's previous reminder, I confidently turned on the lights.

The choppy waters caused my boat to slightly "kiss" the berth when attempting to berth. Fortunately, it was not so serious as to qualify for an immediate failure. A second chance in berthing redeeemed me.

After the Practical Handling Examination, we were led to the outside of an office where we waited for our turns to be interviewed by the Examiner face-to-face, one-on-one on the Theory aspects.

Caught in the rain but still elated with the first-time PASS

And so if you were still following me, according to MPA's definition,
Pleasure craft means any craft which is intended for use within the port exclusively for sport or pleasure purposes, but does not include any craft which is used to carry passengers on sightseeing tours within the port for which each such passenger is charged a separate and distinct fare.
Hence, a jetski is a pleasure craft.

On the same night, we promptly applied for the Powered Pleasure Craft Driving Licence via the Marinet portal!

Achievement unlocked :D