Sunday, June 26, 2011

A letter to my MP

This is a letter I wrote to Mr David Ong, the Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC which I sent today.

Mr David Ong (
Member of Parliament
Jurong GRC

Dear Mr Ong,

Re: Pavement cyclists and Pedestrian safety.

I am one of your constituents living at Blk 203 Bukit Batok.

I noticed that the Park Connector project from Bukit Batok to Jurong East is nearing its completion. The track is completed and signage has been mounted.
This will make travelling between the towns much more pleasant and perhaps safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

After mulling over the issue for some time, I would like to offer some of my personal feedback, not just specifically on the Park Connector (PCN) but on pedestrian safety and cyclists in general in Bukit Batok.

I do not own a car and neither do I cycle, so I am basically a pedestrian. Unless I take the bus or the train, I usually move about Bukit Batok on foot. The most difficult thing about walking in Bukit Batok is the danger posed by pavement cyclists. I must clarify that I am not against cyclists per se.

Unlike Tampines New Town where cycling on pavement is legal, cyclists in Bukit Batok technically still come under Rule 28 of the Road Traffic Rules (1981) where it is prohibited to ride on the pavement. 1st time offenders can be fined $20 for the traffic offense.

Officially under the Road Traffic Act (Chap 276, Sec140), bicycles are considered as vehicles and are required to be ridden on the road abiding to all the relevant traffic rules and regulations.

But in reality, the majority of cyclists in Bukit Batok ride on the pavements. Many of them do this due to their fear of being on the road with other bigger vehicles, for their own personal safety, or simply due to the fact that they are ignorant of the cycling prohibition rule.

I have seen cyclists showing utter disregard for traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, riding along shop corridors and even taking their bicycles onto escalators. Then there are those who constantly ring their bell to impose their ‘right of way’ along pavements, never mind the safety of pedestrians.
With all disregards to etiquette and rules by cyclists, pedestrians like me are most vulnerable on the pavements.

Even waiting at a bus stop poses a great danger to commuters.
The way our road pavements are designed, the path leads right through the bus stop shelter.  Many years ago, a raised floor or bollards prevented bicycles from accidentally going through a bus stop but these were removed to make it more user-friendly for the physically challenged. 
The downside to this is that it became a boon for cyclists who now have an unhindered ride straight through without consideration for commuters’ safety.

The new PCN along Bukit Batok Ave 1 is a prime example.
Even though the PCN cycling section detours behind the bus stop shelter, cyclists routinely disregard this safety path and continue to cycle through the bus stop. Some even without slowing down at all despite signs that say “Dismount and Push” which are completely ignored.
Bukit Batok Ave 1 Park Connector

The other thing that I await in trepidation is that under the Jurong GRC 5-year plan, there is a proposal to build a new Bicycle Park at the Bukit Batok MRT station south end.

From the preliminary sketch plan, you can see that the exit from the Bicycle Park leads out onto, and connects directly to, the pedestrian pavement and not to the road.  This is an implicit open invitation to cyclists to ride on the pavement itself.
It seems it was designed to benefit cyclists without considering pedestrian safety. Something is not right here.

(Copyright Jurong GRC Town Council) - Scanned picture used for example.

Can I suggest that before you launch the PCN officially, and before you build the Bicycle Park, a bit more thought be given to the safety of pedestrians?

We need a more holistic approach to the whole matter.

Besides just building the infrastructure for better connectivity, we need to educate the public, the pedestrians, the cyclists, the motorists and other road users.
Once a suitable PR or education programme is completed, we should then enforce basic rules and regulations for its proper usage.

In the area of educating the public, we can start with some sort of awareness programme in schools, in commercial places and factories within Bukit Batok.
Many of the offenders are foreign workers who may not be aware of the pavement restriction.

For motorists driving through Bukit Batok town, consider signage to warn them about giving space to cyclists (who should be educated to ride on the road instead). It’s all about courtesy to each and every road user.

I am not suggesting that enforcement of Rule 28 be heightened immediately. This will only result in more accidents for cyclists if enforcement takes place without education and thus will serve no beneficial purpose.

Unlike the way Tampines estate is trying to resolve their problem, my opinion is that we should tackle the problem at its root, i.e. teach cyclists the correct manner of safe cycling on the roads. Make Bukit Batok town a bicycle friendly estate but we should tackle the problem head-on rather than spend money on creating parallel bicycle tracks. Bicycles belong on the road, thus cyclists and motorists should be made aware of this.  In the absence of a national awareness programme, let our constituency take the lead.

We can educate motorists to give space to cyclists by putting up signage like “Look out for cyclists”, “Give 1.5m space” “Cyclists ahead”, etc.
There are some motorists who actually believe that cyclists should be off the roads. They should be educated to share the roads in a safe manner within Bukit Batok.

We should educate cyclists to ride safely on the roads, keep left, observe traffic rules, use safety gear, etc. I know of many cyclists who are completely ignorant of the fact that pavements are off limits. This is partially due to the very lax enforcement by the authorities, which seem to have a live and let live attitude instead. But we are sending the wrong message with this attitude.

We should educate pedestrians too. Even to give way to recalcitrant cyclists, as there will always be those who will ride on pavement for their own selfish safety as against riding on the road. Though it’s wrong, they prefer to accept the risks without considering the danger to others.

I remember when I took my driving tests decades ago; the emphasis was always “Pedestrian First”.  Their safety is of utmost priority, even when they may be in the wrong like jaywalking or crossing against their favour. Flesh against metal is a no win situation.

I appreciate your time in reading my rather long feedback.  For everyone’s safety, I believe that sustained and persistent education, coupled with the proper facilities you have built, will result in a safer environment for all in Bukit Batok.

I remain,

Yours faithfully,

James Tann

I attached a sample video of a safe cycling programme.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nyan Cat is meaningless?

You say you can't understand the Nyan Cat video in the last blog?
Just a waste of 3-1/2 minutes of your life? No purpose at all?

OK, maybe the best explanation comes from Molly from Rocketboom.
After she explains the Nyan Cat meme (and Vocaloid) to you perhaps you would care to listen to the latest vocaloid clip as well below. Enjoy.

I really like this vocaloid version of Honey with an all star cast of anime characters.
(Much better than the original Mandarin version by Cyndi Wang!)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vocaloid (ボーカロイド Bōkaroido) is a singing synthesizer application, developed through a joint research project between the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain and Yamaha Corporation, who developed the software into the commercial product "Vocaloid".
The software enables users to synthesize singing by typing in lyrics and melody.

Vocaloid is becoming the de facto voice in robots being developed in Japan.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chain email and parlor tricks

You've all probably received it once or many times before - Chain letters.
Except now, it's via email. 

Make x copies, forward it to xx people, put your name at the bottom... sent it within 3 days, 7 days, 2 hours...or else... accident,  bad luck, doom doom doom..... Do it and get God's blessing, fortune etc etc etc.
It's amazing how people fall for these things so easily.

I received an email in response to one of my earlier blogs. 
This was on how the mind perceives things. 
Can you read this?

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a ttoal mses  and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istief but the wrod as a wlohe.

The above passage was an internet meme that went viral many years ago which was later debunked as nothing more than a parlor trick, much less as research from Cambridge. 

If it was true then you should be able to read this easily...
Bblaaesl pryleas pnmrrioefg sllaimy aeoulltsby dvrseee clbrpmaaoe tteenmrat.
See? Not so true right? If you still want to try, the first two words are 'baseball players"

The problem with the internet is that people tend to believe what they read, especially if it's from someone they know or with a big name attached as  the 'source'.

By the way, here's the latest meme making it way around the www. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Have your bloody steak and eat it

There's one local website which I visit only if I am totally bored or really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
This is the so called 'citizen journalist'  site called Stomp by The Straits Times.
I make cursory visits to this site as it's nothing more than another tabloid just like The New Paper, which I place in the same category.
Stomp seems to attract ridiculous and stupid postings more than anything else; and mostly by gripers and whiners with replies from readers tending to be downright rude or vindictive.

Anyway, recently there was a complaint by someone who apparently went to a neighborhood food court and ordered a medium-rare steak.
What he got, in his opinion, was a raw steak which the chef had refused to re-cook it for him.
Hence, complain to the world via Stomp. Details here if you want to know the whole boring story.

This was his serving as photographed by him (taken off the Stomp site)

How do you tell if your steak is cooked the way you want it?
I was taught a neat trick by a friend who worked as a cook in a restaurant some time ago.
Use this simple method which he said was used by the cooks themselves.  

1. Press the steak with your finger to gauge the firmness.
2. Compare the firmness by pressing the fleshy 

part of your palm just below the thumb.

3. Make an 'O' ring with your finger
Medium Rare



Well done.

This is not a foolproof method, so take it with a pinch of salt.
The cooks' experience counts for a lot.
And please, don't go fingering your dinner in front of your guests.

Some people get queasy when they slice into their beef and see blood oozing from the meat.

Well, surprise, surprise!  
The red juice that's oozing from the meat is NOT blood.
The liquid is actually mostly water containing a purplish colored protein that's found in meat tissue called myoglobin. When exposed to air, it turns bright red. 
That's why meat has a reddish colour. 
It's not from the blood which is only in the veins or arteries and is usually darker in colour.
But as it looks like blood, most people assume it to be.

Bon Appetit

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Led down the garden path

Led down the garden path is an idiom, meaning deceived someone by giving him or her the wrong information.

In the English Language, there are some phrases or sentences that are also known as garden path sentences. It’s not actually used to deceive anyone but that the way it is written makes the person THINK in a certain way which will lead up to a dead end initially.

The horse raced past the barn fell, which I wrote in my previous blog, is one such garden path sentence.

The reason for the confusion is that our minds think logically when we read and we put together words as they form.
In other words, we are conditioned to think in a structured manner.
When we come across a garden path sentence, we get stumped because it does not make sense as we build the image in our heads.

Try this for example,

The cotton clothing is made of grows in the USA.

Doesn’t make sense the first time, right? 
Read it again……
still doesn’t make sense?

That’s because your mind is reading it as ‘cotton clothing’.
Now try reading it again as ‘The cotton’ instead. Get it?
As in...The cotton (clothing is made of) grows in the USA.
You were just led down the garden path!

I first learned about this language quirk when I was reading a Charlie Brown Snoopy cartoon. The cartoonist Charles Schultz quoted a Bible verse from the Book of Jobs: “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards”.  I couldn’t understand it at all for a long time and when I finally did, it appeared so simple that I kicked myself for my own lacking.

So don't feel bad if you can’t figure out The horse raced past the barn fell.

Here’s something else you can try to see if your mind fools you every time, or if you believe you are as smart as you think.

Read this….


How many letter ‘F’ can you find in the above sentence. Count them and compare the results below… No peeking till after you count. Ok? It’s not a trick.

How many Fs did you find?

If you found 2 - you need your eyes checked. Use the above chart.
If you found 3 – you are just average and normal.
If you found 4 – you are above average.
If you found 5 – you are good.
If you found 6 – you are a genius.
The answer is 6.
If you didn't get 6, go back and re-count.
There are really 6 Fs in plain sight and this time you'll laugh at yourself.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The horse raced past the barn fell.

Youth is one of those awkward words in the English language, especially the plural form.
Is it youth or youths?

I was raised in the old school where we were taught that collective nouns are always without the s in the plural, e.g. children, but I accept that language evolves.

The word youth has morphed from my time to todays' internet era.
Youths is readily used nowadays, especially in newspaper reports.
I guess because of a new generation of reporters and journalists.

Though it sounds awful, youths is a correct form of the plural. It really depends on how it's used.

However, 1 group or a person is still youth and you don't say a group of youths.
If there are 2 or more groups, then you can refer to them as youths. e.g. the youth of Singapore and the youth of Malaysia but the youths of Singapore and Malaysia.

Awkward, right? ha ha.
Never mind, just use whatever you think is right.
The easiest way to differentiate is to see whether the persons/group can be counted (youths) or not (youth).

Still don't get it?  The sadistic me is enjoying this!
Wait till you get to garden path phrases like The horse raced past the barn fell or The army push bottles up the enemy.
Then you'll really be scratching your head.