How to survive a terror attack?

With the recent spade of attacks, we came to understand that the world is no longer safe. An attack can happen anywhere at anytime. It is not a matter of will it happen, but when it will happen. As human beings, at the very least we could do is to ensure our own survival for the sake of our loved ones, if not for ourselves. Singapore, although safe, is not invulnerable to attacks. We have vigilant authorities and efficient policing, but there is a reason why the Singapore government did not send combat troops to the middle east. We probably would not want to get ourselves involved in the conflict. We abide by this “If you have nothing better to do, don’t find trouble” rule and thus able to avoid many conflicts. Regardless, Singapore’s stand is still against terrorism and this probably increases our danger.

Note that I’m writing this from the point of view of a Singaporean boy.

Nevertheless, be it Singapore or elsewhere, be it going home from work or travelling in Europe, if there is an attack, do something to survive. There is always this excuse that when one is under shock, he freezes like a kangaroo in a spotlight. So apparently, this is a good enough excuse so that the victim of a gun attack or a pedestrian car accident can be spared the blame. Or rather, it is an excuse for lazy people not to equip themselves with survival skills. You know what? When you panic and you don’t know what to do, you die. When you stop there in your tracks like a kangaroo in spotlight, you die. Worse, because of you, others could die. Period. Excuses? Do they mean anything when you feel your last breath fading out?

So, if you would like to at least increase your chances of survival, listen. Now, I am assuming you are not in direct fire or bomb blast. If that happens, you probably won’t have the chance to execute any action. My advice would just be to reflect on your life in the few seconds you leave this world.

1. Take cover

I remembered my platoon commander in command school telling us this: “The Singaporean lady who was killed in the Mumbai attacks could have survived if she had undergone military training and knew this thing called ‘take cover’.” As we don’t know the exact sequence of events for that case, we can’t judge. However, in the army, the first thing we trained for a fire movement as a recruit was to take cover. Well, actually that’s the second thing to be specific. The first action we were trained to do was to prone once contacted. Thereafter, move to the nearest cover swiftly. This is called a reaction. It is actually a human instinct to cower when you sense something dangerous coming towards you. So put that instinct into action and go down, instead of standing there and becoming a target board. Of course, depending on the situation, finding the nearest cover instead of dropping down is the best option. By cover I meant something that can stop bullets at the minimum. A small flower pot is not a cover. A curtain is not a cover. Get behind a concrete wall or a door thick enough. A wooden door is probably not going to stop bullets, much less a partitioned wall. If no solid cover is available, your next best option is to conceal. Although a bullet will tear through a curtain, if the assailant doesn’t spot a target, he probably will not fire. So your next best option would be to keep out of sight and pray that you don’t get hit by a stray bullet, and that the assailant doesn’t have x-ray eyes. While you are hiding, keep still. The human eye is very sensitive to movement, even towards shadows. This is part of the principle of cover and concealment which I used to teach.

At your hiding or cover, take in new information as much as you can. Every single piece of information is useful. The direction of fire, the number of assailants, what kind of weapons are they using, the number of dead bodies, the nearest exit…and before I move on to escaping, what if an assailant comes your way?

Skip to part 3 if you can’t fight, don’t have to fight, or fighting will not be an option for you. However, let me just say that you must make fighting an option in the worst case scenario to preserve your life.

2. Attack

If you sense the assailant approaching, you have two choices. One, stunned like a vegetable and get killed. Two, take him off guard by attacking first and if you’re capable or lucky, grab a kill. If not, the worst is to be killed (Which you will end up with choice one anyway). So the obvious course of action would be to attack that fucker.

If you are visual with the assailant, take note of his attire and position. Look out for any other weapons besides the rifle that he would probably be holding. Look around you for any object you can use as a weapon. A chair, a book, a pen, whatever. The moment he approaches your location, strike him with whatever you have on the head several times (assuming he is not wearing a helmet of course). He will be disorientated for a few seconds, and this few seconds determine your odds of survival. Position yourself at his 10 or 2 o’clock position to avoid being in the line of fire.

DISARM HIM! While striking, remove his hand from the trigger with your free hand. If his weapon is slung, your goal now for the next 5 seconds is to prevent the discharge of the weapon. Using the other hand, grab the barrel or the body of the gun, smash the butt of the rifle into his head to continue his disorientation, all the time controlling where the barrel is pointing at. If you are trained in firearms, and fast enough, locate the magazine release button and drop the magazine. You will probably not have time to eject the chambered round, so if possible, just discharge the last round away. If the weapon is not slung, grab the barrel with one hand (pointing it away from you) and the back body/butt with the other, and rotate the butt upwards to pull it away from his grip, at the same time hitting his mouth if possible. This method is a certain way to wrestle a weapon out of the assailant’s grip. You can add a kick to the groin while you do that. If it is a pistol, it should be much easier. Grab the slide, slide it backwards and hold it there to prevent discharge while pulling the gun away and striking him multiple times with your other limbs. For more methods, watch YouTube videos on defending yourself against guns. And remember, whatever you do, your goal is to control the weapon and get away from the line of fire.

If you are unable to disarm the weapon, which is most likely the case (because you have no idea what the parts of a firearm are), hit him with whatever you have got. Aim for the groin, the throat and the eyes. Remember to control the direction of the weapon. It is okay to stick your fingers into his eyes because you would want him dead anyway. It would be a bit gross, but at least you don’t die. If you notice any dagger or pistol at any part of his body, aim for that weapon after disorientating him. It is also worth to note that he would probably be attempting to withdraw that weapon too.

Now, this may all sound complicated and you only have that few seconds to execute. Especially for the untrained ones, how is this possible? Just remember that the only way to win a gunman is to go close to him (There is a reason why ranged characters in games usually have lesser hit points you know), get out of the line of fire, and subdue him. Or you die. Yes, we are civilized people living in a civilized society, but terrorists don’t talk civility with you. They don’t negotiate with you. So, get that “Killing is wrong” mindset out of your mind and make them die for their cause, which they gladly would. Can any average Joe do it? The trained terrorists could probably incapacitate an average Joe in a few seconds, but we are not talking about a fair fight here. Use your intelligence, leverage on objects, be vicious, take him by surprise and survive.

You will not get charged for murder for killing an armed terrorist who is on a killing spree. If you do, the authorities are fucked up.

If you succeed in incapacitating or killing the assailant, your next step is to establish an escape plan.

3. Get the hell out

After taking cover and you realise you are able to escape without confrontation, plan your escape route. The general rule is to get away from the source as far as possible. If the terrorists are concentrated in one location, without saying, go in the opposite direction. It is likely that the terrorists will come in from all available exits that leave you unable to get out without facing them. It really depends on the location you are at. So the best way to do this is to already know the layout of the location before the attack actually happens. This is one of the basic survival skills that you ought to learn if you want to survive. Really, nothing is worse than staying alive but knowing you are going to die soon because you don’t know the way out. For example, at a shopping mall, there are bound to be emergency exits especially where the sign points to the toilets. Basement carparks are exit points for you too. The main goal while you are moving to the exit point is not to get detected. Leopard crawl if you have to, jump over obstacles if you have to. Similarly, grab something that you can use as a weapon in case you are met with a confrontation. Go back to 2 if that happens.

If you are able to subdue an assailant, grab his weapon for self-defence. However, if you do not know how to operate a firearm, forget it. It is not as simple as pulling the trigger.

While escaping, throw out any unnecessary burdens like your bag and take off high heels if you are wearing one. Getting cut on the feet is much safer than making noise with the heels and getting shot after that. You have to be quiet and fast, in other words, stealth. A nickname I used to be called in secondary school because I can disappear and return without anyone noticing. Once you are out of the danger zone, get to the nearest law enforcement officer and discard any weapon you are holding in case they see you as a threat.

Recap

Once alerted, get down and get to the nearest cover available. Fight back if you have to, and escape intelligently.

Playing dead?

This would be a risk you have to take. A smart terrorist who aims to take as many lives as he can will put another bullet into your head if he suspects you may be alive. Now you are really dead. Well, if the injuries you sustained are such that you are better off playing dead than escaping, then you will probably make a convincing corpse and be spared that last round. It is also a good idea to cover yourself underneath a pile of bodies provided you are able to breath. Remember to smear some blood on yourself too.

What I have just written is not a 100% survivor guide, it is just to help increase your chances of survival. I am not a survivor of an attack, neither do I claim to be a pro at such events. I am not Liam Neeson. Let me just say that I have a strong will to survive, and I will eliminate any threat that stands in my way to do so. Do you feel me too? If you do, start doing things that increase your chances of survival like being more aware of your surroundings. Play such situations out in your head, prepare yourself mentally so you know what to do when it actually happens.

At the end of the day, you have tried your best to survive. The rest, leave it to God.

Message on the NUS orientation saga

Warning: Offensive material, especially to persons I am targeting

NUS is in the spotlight again, after receiving media coverage about indecent acts during orientation camps. With regard to this, netizens are fueling the fire by spreading rumours be it true or untrue and taking this opportunity to slam NUS. As a graduate from the school, I think I should say some words of fairness.

To the netizens who attribute every indecent act that occurred in an orientation of a “tertiary institution” to NUS, you are no different from the people who cry terrorist at every Muslim they see. Get your facts right, find out the exact school of that particular photo or video. If you are wrong, you look dumb.

To the netizens who say things like,

“NUS students study so much but no brains.”

“So NUS students are like that.”

“NUS is a disgrace.”

“Thank God I did not enter university.” (Yes, thank God because we wouldn’t have to deal with idiots like you)

If you have no constructive comments, you just made yourself look stupid and uneducated by saying such things. How about stop generalizing? How about saying things like, “Thankfully the main bulk of our students are sane enough.” Sure, there are bound to be troublemakers and jokers everywhere. That doesn’t mean all of us behave like that. Sorry to burst your bubble but it seems like you guys have an inferiority complex. You don’t have to say things like, “To think it is Asia’s top university.” If you are better than us NUS students, you give constructive comments, period. Please do not slam the whole school to make yourself look superior but in fact you appear inferior to us.

To the organizers/seniors who are responsible for this nonsense. Seriously, I have no other word except, stupid. There isn’t a need to even debate about what activities constitute as decent or not. This is common sense. If you think the activity plays at the borderline, then stop it. Freaking dunking freshies into the pool of water isn’t okay. Asking whose semen you would like to drink isn’t okay. Much less the simulated rape-scene. THIS IS FREAKING COMMON SENSE ISN’T IT? I was talking with my friend and wondering why my faculty did not have such problems. Business School doesn’t have such nonsense because we use common sense. I was shocked that the incident blew so much out of proportion that even O-week had to be cancelled, just because of the few of you jokers who spoiled the fun for the incoming freshies.

*When I was a councilor for my faculty camp, we had this girl who refused to hold hands with her “secret pal” (we didn’t have sitting on laps by the way). And so be it, although it was awkward for her partner. We didn’t force her, we didn’t ostracize her. And then we had this perverted guy who on the other hand, loved holding his partner’s hand so much he began to caress her hand. We separated them for the rest of the “SP” activities and allocated them to seniors who became their new “SP”. Well the female senior had to sacrifice herself slightly. This is what you seniors are supposed to do; to protect the freshies and as much as possible, keep things discrete.

To you seniors who are responsible, I have to say the netizens’ words are not unfounded. “Study so much but no brains,”this is for you. You didn’t think of the consequences before you act. This will be your downfall sooner or later, if you still do not realise your errors.

To the kids who complain. University is a place for young adults to grow up. At the age of 19-21, if you can’t even think for yourself, please go back to secondary school. Why give consensus when you feel uncomfortable about it? Afraid of being ostracized? Is being ostracized worse that getting your modesty outraged? No senior is going to grab you by your neck and force you to get dunked. If there is, he or she is going to get into deep trouble. They know that and they won’t force you. You know girls always use the same excuse to avoid going into water, be it true or untrue — my period is here.

Okay say, you are really really afraid of being left out. Then, weigh the severity of the activities. Things like simulated rape scene are out of the question obviously. I don’t understand how you can even give consensus to do it, unless of course you don’t mind doing it. IT BLEW MY MIND. Things like pole-dancing forfeits, not that bad right? How did pole-dancing forfeits become sexualized? I am not against complaining. In fact I think we should raise nonsense activities to the school. Indecent activities got to stop, but what constitute indecent activities? Think before you complain.

Did I experience uncomfortable moments? Yes I did. When I was a freshie, the seniors followed this tradition of waking us up in the middle of the night and conduct the initiation, which was smearing everyone with condiments, creams and food products as we went through an “obstacle course” with our eyes blind-folded. It stopped after my year though. Yes it was uncomfortable, but at the end of the day (or rather at sunrise), no one was hurt (I don’t think anyone was hurt), people who wanted out opted out, all was well. This activity could be considered a form of ragging I guess, but hey, life doesn’t always give you what you want. Yes this is university, where you will learn that life doesn’t adhere to your wishes. If you are able to take part in decent activities that make you uncomfortable, then congratulations, you have made it out of your comfort zone.

To parents who say stuff like, “I am considering twice about sending my child to NUS (because of such acts).” Erm, I don’t know to laugh at you or to cry for your child. As a parent of the previous generation, you should have more wisdom than me and therefore, I shouldn’t even have to explain myself. These acts probably happened only in a couple of faculty camps and you want to deprive your child the rest of the wonders the school can offer? In light of this incident, by the time your child enters NUS, he or she will probably be surrounded by bodyguards. So rest assured, in safe hands. Gosh.

What if your child was the perpetrator? Will you defend him/her or call the police on him/her? Think before you criticize the children of others please. Fancy saying such stuff like, “Oh start paying for your school fees if you are old enough.” Where is the link. If you think we are not old enough, blame the parents! Since the parents are the one “paying for tuition fees”, blame the parents for not bringing up their kids well! And of course, indirectly you are blaming yourself as a failed parent.

To the media. I believe your reporters and journalists are well-versed in writing. If you can censor the race of a rapist in your news to maintain racial harmony, why can’t you make this saga a little milder? You have something against NUS or what? Don’t say shit like giving truthful accounts or whatsoever. The Singapore media is already infamous for heavy censorship. Boosting readership by sacrificing your own national university’s reputation isn’t a very wise thing to do. Looks like you don’t feel for your fellow countrymen. So sad.

Lastly to everyone. NUS is a university. We do not have form teachers or discipline masters to maintain the discipline and order of the undergraduates. Stop asking the school to babysit the students because it doesn’t solve the problem. What can the school do? As young adults, undergraduates are supposed to be responsible for their actions and learn to plan activities appropriately. Tell me, how can the school strike a balance on this? It can’t! It heavily relies on the maturity of the seniors to make camps appropriate for freshmen. Otherwise, we get what happened today; cancellation of the entire orientation. So who is responsible? Every single one of the undergraduates involved. Seniors are responsible, so are the freshmen, for their own safety. Tell the senior they are going overboard. Tell your fellow OGL to stop his rubbish ideas. Nobody will ask you to fuck off. The university staff is not free to babysit us for 24 hours.

We were not there, we don’t know what actually happened, and we don’t know whether the claims were exaggerated. To those who make noise but have know idea what went on, sorry but SHUT THE FUCK UP. You have no business poking your nose into this matter and adding more fuel to the fire. You can tell the undergraduates, “Study so much but cannot think.” How about I tell you, “Only know how to make noise but talk without thinking.” So chill people, let the school decide the next course of action, and please stop condemning NUS.

What do Singaporeans speak? (Part 1)

Recently, I came across this Taiwanese talk show about English spoken by people from different countries. There was a Singapore representative who claimed to understand Singlish… well because I guess he is a Singaporean? But the moment he spoke, I could tell that he probably lived in Taiwan for many years because he lost his supposedly Singlish accent. He spoke with a little Taiwanese accent. I was wondering whether he was aware of that.

People from all over the world do not understand the Singaporean culture. Singapore is a multi-racial country, with each race having their own so-called mother-tongue as defined by the government (Read the next paragraph). You have heard about Singlish, that it is a form of distorted English, but do you think that we only speak Singlish? So I thought about writing, from my point of view, what we Singaporeans use on a daily basis.

As a Chinese Singaporean, 3rd generation, let me tell you that I don’t even know what my native language is. My English is definitely stronger than my Mandarin, although I grew up speaking Mandarin even before formal education. My parents are Chinese-educated, I speak Mandarin to my family, relatives and Mandarin speaking friends. Does that make my native language Mandarin? Then again, my parents grew up speaking Hokkien, so technically, my mother-tongue is Hokkien, isn’t it? Speaking of which, besides able to have a simple conversation with Hokkien-speaking people, I am quite handicap in this mother-tongue. Why? Blame the government for banning the usage of Chinese varieties in media and discouraging families to do so. The government declared that as the Chinese race, our default mother-tongue is Mandarin, which I called BS (Although I do understand the reasons for this policy). I learnt English since kindergarten, or as far as my memory could take me back, and have been using it ever since because English is the medium of instruction in our schools. Does that make my native language English? I came to a conclusion that I have no native language. Just fluent English and fluent Mandarin, and some conversational Hokkien and Cantonese. Also, I do not claim to be 100% proficient in the languages because even native speakers make grammar mistakes.

Let’s move on to proper, based on my personal opinions. As a Chinese Singaporean, I use English and Mandarin to communicate on a daily basis. These two languages can be further divided into:

  • Standard Singapore English (SSE)
  • Colloquial Singapore  English (Singlish)
  • Standard Singapore Mandarin (SSM)
  • Colloquial Singapore  Mandarin (Singdarin)

When do I use SSE and SSM? When I am speaking to non-Singaporeans, simple. SSE follows British English as we were once their colony. However, we are a mix of people from different cultures, so naturally, we did not inherit the British accent. In fact, in the above four variants, the lack of accent defines what we call the Singaporean accent. I would say that SSE has a neutral intonation and Singlish has a distinct flat intonation. When I say neutral I meant we do have rise and fall in pitches where appropriate but without the distinct British or American accent. When I say flat, it is literally, the same tone throughout. SSM follows Standard Chinese as used in China, in terms of grammar, phonology and vocabulary (although some words might differ due to cultural differences). Singdarin is the Chinese version of Singlish, with a mix of words from other languages and screwed up grammar.

Standard Singapore English

To the layman, SSE does not differ from British English in terms of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. However, I believe linguists can identify subtle differences in the choice of words or way of phrasing sentences. The most obvious difference would be our accent. Like I said, we Singaporeans have a fairly neutral accent. Note that this accent is very different from Singlish. I use SSE in formal situations like presentations and to speak to foreigners who obviously do not understand Singlish. I am using SSE to type this out too, or at least I hope I am.

Colloquial Singapore English (Singlish)

A brief background on the origins of this. Let us take for example Switzerland, another multilingual country with many official languages. If you somehow introduce Mandarin as the working language to Swiss, what would you get? Yes, you will get Germandarin, Frenchadrin or Italianadrin. Then you have like a Swissadrin or something.

Singapore was not an English-speaking country. We have a majority of immigrants from southern China, where Mandarin was not even spoken, at least not during my grandparents’ time. We have immigrants from southern India, where many varieties of the Indian language are spoken. We have our own native inhabitants of this region, the Malay people. When English was introduced to Singapore by the British, do you think everyone gets formal English education? In order to communicate, Singaporeans (wait, was Singaporean even a nationality back then?) learnt on the job. That was how Singlish was born, communicating using broken English and words borrowed from one’s own language. After Singapore gained independence, there was this period of experimentation with the education policy that caused many people, including my parents to sink into a limbo. There were Chinese stream schools and English stream schools. Mandarin was used as a medium of instruction in Chinese stream schools. This further fueled the development of Singlish. It wasn’t until the 1980s or 1990s that English was declared the medium of instruction in schools. By then, Singlish has already matured. I still remember adults in the 1990s pronouncing Milo as “beelo”. This was how screwed up English was in Singapore. As a kid, we follow the adults.

As a Singaporean, I feel comfortable using Singlish in a conversation with a fellow Singaporean. Why? Because there is this notion that using Standard English would appear too formal, which is the context when we do use SSE.

On the technical side, Singlish is mostly spoken in Mandarin grammar, because of the huge Chinese population that contributed to the development of this language.

For example, “Later we go lepak, can?” 

This would mean, “Can we laze around later on?” and it is derived word to word from Mandarin, “等一下(later)我们(we)去(go)休闲(lepak/laze),可以吗(can)?”

Sentences endings are taken from various Chinese varieties and Malay. Some examples below.

Lah(la), leh, lor, from Hokkien, or the Minnan variety.

  • “Just give me lah, talk so much!”
    • “Lah” used as a command, “Just give it to me! And spare the unnecessary words.”
  • “No la, I only want to scare him.”, “Okay la, we go lor.”, “Can one lah, don’t worry.”
    • “Lah” used as a softener and an assurance.
    • “Lor” used as a submission.
  • “Sorry la, talk to me leh. Don’t like that diam diam.”
    • “Leh” as a request, “I am sorry, please talk to me. Don’t stay silent this way.”

Meh, from Cantonese. Interrogative.

  • “Eh, raw leh. You like that eat ah? Can meh?”
    • This means, “Is it alright for you to eat it raw?” 

Sia, from Malay “sial”.

  • “Wah the girl so chio sia!”
    • Envy and emphasis, “Wow, that girl is so pretty.” (Over here, the=that and vice versa. In Singlish, English grammar is not important as long as the message gets across)

This post is not meant to teach Singlish, so these few examples would suffice. I could post Singlish lessons though.

Please, do not try to use them without actually knowing how to use them. Singlish has its own beauty in that the context must be understood to comprehend the sentence ending.

Lastly, Singlish shares its roots with Manglish, or Colloquial Malaysia English. They are very similar but both Malaysians and Singaporeans will be able to tell them apart.

  • A difference could be the more frequent addition of Malay words and
  • Another difference could be the choice of words, such as pon (Singlish) and ponteng (Manglish) which means to play truant.

And yes, we do understand each other even though the choice of words may be different.

This post is getting long, so I will have part 2 talking about SSM and Singdarin.

There you go, Singapore English is not as screwed up as you think. Singlish is used among Singaporeans and we do code-switch between Standard English and Singlish. There will be Singaporeans who may be unaware that they are using Singlish or using a very flat intonation. Let them know politely and they will switch to Standard English, at least for the younger generation who are more educated (sorry old folks, this is a fact).

Regardless of outside opinions, I am somehow proud that we have this form of identity, that we Singaporeans feel more connected using Singlish especially outside the country.

 

Wisdom teeth extraction

Today is the fifth day post-surgery and I am feeling fine. I will document everything I can remember from the first day I decide to remove them.

I went for a regular dental check-up and asked (again) about the complications of wisdom teeth. As mentioned in my previous post, the dentist told me I could keep them if there are not causing me and problems. On the contrary, my right lower wisdom tooth was causing me problems, from 3 years back. 3 years ago, the same dentist told me that I could wait and see. After waiting and seeing for 3 years, I decided that enough was enough, food getting stuck there was just so irking. He referred me to Dr. Sylvia Tay in Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital.

As someone who never had any major dental stuff done before, besides baby tooth extraction, I was naturally afraid of this. I went to Google Dr. Tay and found out that she has many good reviews from patients whom she had done the surgery on. Then I found out that you could opt for general anaesthesia (GA), so you wouldn’t have to experience the surgery itself. Funnily, what I find interesting about GA wasn’t the escape from the surgery experience, but the feeling of getting knocked out. I always wondered what is it like to faint. In order to go for GA, one should be removing all four wisdom teeth, to justify for the time, money and risks.

Basically for GA, as drugs are used to induce unconsciousness, there will be risks of other complications including death, however rare. You are not allowed to eat 8 hours prior to the administration of GA, to prevent complications (maybe nausea?).

I went for a check-up with Dr. Tay to assess my condition before making a surgery appointment. Dr. Tay was very professional and she said that my surgery would not be a difficult one. I opted for GA when I saw her registering me for LA (local anaesthesia). It was much more expensive, but I did not look at the price difference. As I chose GA, I had to remove all four at once. I made my appointment, 2 August 2016.

Fast forward one month later, I was already regretting my decision. I cannot not eat for 8 hours prior to the surgery! My surgery was scheduled at 11.15am, so I am not supposed to eat after 3am?? That will kill me. I was still thinking of how to ask the hospital when they called me to inform me that my appointment time was push back a little. So, I made use of the opportunity to ask for a new quote for LA. The price of GA amounts to $2,785 and not fully payable by medisave. LA on the other hand, amounts to $830 per side. That was about $1k cheaper! Of course then, I switched to LA, thinking that the surgery wouldn’t take too long anyway. My appointment dates were set at 4 July and 21 July.

Day 1 – Surgery

My surgery was set at 2pm and I arrived at about 1:50pm. Procedures were fine except that I had to wait a couple of times and the nurses repeatedly confirmed my name and identity number.

At around 2:15pm, I was led to the surgery room. In the middle of the room lay the typical dental chair, but with more apparatus and it looked more hi-tech. I was asked to take off my glasses and slippers, and lay down on the chair as the nurse lowered it. A nurse confirm my identity again before Dr. Tay came to me, armed with anaesthetic. Dr. Tay was very professional in the sense that she told me every single action that she would be conducting and what I would be feeling. Above that, she did not attempt to calm me down because I was sure my anxiety was quite obvious. Two nurses were assisting her.

Dr. Tay applied a numbing gel to my inner cheeks and gums and allowed it to settle for a couple of minutes before injecting the anaesthetic. While she was preparing the jab, I was busy thinking whether I should swallow my saliva or not (I did swallow a lot) because the gel was in my mouth. Not expecting multiple injections, I cringed at every point the needle made contact with my gums. Gradually, I felt nothing. She confirmed the anaesthetic worked by doing something to me and asking if I felt anything. I continued to struggle with my saliva, even worse now that I can’t feel my mouth.

Then, a blanket was placed over my body and a similar one with a hole big enough for the mouth was covered over my face. Let the extraction begin.

Dr. Tay said, “Now you will be feeling some tugging and pulling.”

Me: Mmmm

Within 10 seconds, she told me, “The top tooth is out.”

Ahh, great. I knew it would be easy as it was straight.

Then came the nightmare. I wasn’t really bothered about the pain; I couldn’t even feel anything. After about 2 minutes cutting my lower gums (I was sure she was doing that), she told me that I will feel some vibration. That was when the nightmare began. She used a friggin mini chainsaw on my tooth!! A minute in, suddenly I felt a sharp pain, not the kind of pain like the jab, but a kind of pain that goes into your bone. As if needles are inside your bones. I endured for another few seconds before giving up. I made some noises and she was like, “Do you feel pain?”

Me was like, “Urgghh…”

She stopped for a while and I guessed she injected more anaesthetic? Not sure, but I couldn’t feel it again. After what seemed like another 5 minutes, she told me it was out. Dr. Tay applied something to the wound and made me bite a piece of gauze. That was it. I was expecting stitches but no. The apparatuses were stripped off me as fast as they were put on. I sat up, put on my glasses and my teeth were brought in front of me in a transparent ziplock used for tablet medicine. I looked at my watch. 2:35pm.

I was led to a waiting room, bleeding profusely and swallowing my blood. After a few minutes, a nurse brought me to a smaller room to watch a short video on how to care for the wound. She changed my gauze after the video and told me to wait outside where the counter was. My name was called and I was given the prescription, which I had to go down to the pharmacy to pick them up myself. Another appointment for a review was also arranged.

I waited for about 30 minutes at the pharmacy because I don’t know why they were so inefficient. After receiving my medication, I took a pain killer immediately so that I would not have to feel the pain when the anaesthesia wears off. Mother took a cab home with me.

The rest of the day was just me struggling with the bleeding, and swallowing more blood. The anaesthesia affects my outer cheeks and even until the corner of my right eye. I couldn’t feel much until about 8pm at night. As the anaesthetic wears off, I felt what Dr. Tay told me: numbing of lips and chin. Apparently the surgery damages a nerve that allows your lips and chin to feel. I could already feel where the anaesthetic originally affects, but not my right side lip and chin. This lasted till the next morning.

The first thing I ate was a banana, at about 5pm, mashed into bits. It was actually quite good. As I had the gauze still on, I couldn’t chew, so the easiest way was to swallow. I was also craving something sweet then. My dinner was porridge, obviously and I took 1 hour to swallow it all. I delivered the food carefully to the opening of my throat or to the left side so that it would not touch the gauze. Took antibiotics and one corticosteroid (only two) given to me.

When it was bed time, I had to brush my teeth. That was the first time I saw my wound. I brushed my teeth as usual and got extremely careful when I reached my wound. By that time, the bleeding had slowed to like 1 drop per 2 minutes kind of rate? There was still blood when I rinsed my mouth, but it was fine to the point I wouldn’t need the gauze anymore. In total, I used 5 gauze. You can change less frequently as the bleeding slows down. The last change I made was a 1 hour gap. I propped myself up to sleep in case I wake up with a bloody pillow.

 

Day 2

I woke up with no more numbing on my lips. The painkiller was working well, for I did not feel pain at all. Further, my cheek did not even swell, so I consider myself lucky. Brushing teeth in the morning as usual, carefully. I had soft-boiled eggs and Japanese natto for breakfast. Rinsed my mouth after every meal with the mouth wash provided. Took my antibiotics and the second corticosteroid to prevent swelling and inflammation.

Continued with porridge for lunch. Went out for a movie with my friends and even had popcorn (kind of used my saliva to soften them)! I guess it wasn’t that bad after all.

Dinner was back to normal meal.

I stopped taking pain killers after the first one as it wasn’t pain.

All was well…

Day 3

Selamat Hari Raya!

Ate natto and soft-boiled eggs for breakfast again. Today with a cereal bar to test my biting strength.

Continued with my medications, minus the pain killers.

Day 4

I felt well enough to go for my part-time work. Had noodles for lunch.

Dinner with friends was Japanese abura soba.

It happened before dinner. Either the pain killer effect ran out (of course it must have run out after the second day) or it is just the process of healing, but my lower right gum starts to hurt. Not super pain, but a throbbing ache. An ache that can make you feel gloomy. That was how I felt even though I tried to interact with my friends. I endured until I reached home and quickly popped a pain killer. The effect took about 20 minutes and I was well again. I looked at the pain killer packaging and saw… $21 for that pack of 7 tablets. That makes it $3 per tablet! No wonder it was so effective.

Day 5

Today, I was able to eat normally, with some occasional bouts of throbbing ache.

That’s all, will update again.

Should you extract your wisdom teeth?

Yes I finally got one side out, after contemplating for three years.

Before I forget this traumatic experience, I should probably document it down first. But even before that, let me share some personal thoughts about wisdom teeth.

So just a quick background of my wisdom teeth. The eruption of the teeth were in the order as follows:

  1. Right lower
  2. Right upper
  3. Left upper
  4. Left lower

The time period between the eruption of the first to the last one was about 3 years. I am turning 25 in December. Both my bottom teeth were impacted. The below x-ray was taken in mid-2013.

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Left is right and vice versa.

And this was taken in mid-2016.

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As can be seen from the x-rays, my upper teeth were growing down straight and I wouldn’t want to have them removed. In fact, I was so afraid of teeth extraction that I would not have wanted to extract any. On the other hand, it would be kind of a pity to remove my otherwise straight top teeth.

In 2013, my dentist advised me as such. If I were able to take good care of my wisdom teeth and brush them properly, it shouldn’t affect me much. Unless they really bother me, it would be fine to leave them there. Really, the debate on whether removing wisdom teeth would be beneficial, is still on going. The current consensus is, it is better to remove it early before it gives rise to further complications in the future.

Now, the question is, what complications could arise? Please do not put all your trust in the so-called dental experts and pay money just to suffer. You have a brain, take in knowledge and think for yourself. After all it is your mouth, your teeth. I can’t believe there are still people out there blindly believing that all wisdom teeth do is to create trouble for you, and removing them is like the smartest solution you could ever think of. NO.

Read this two short articles here talking about unnecessary extractions:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/blogs/lookout/rogue-dentist-30-crusade-against-wisdom-teeth-removal-105243007.html?ref=gs

http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/skip-that-surgery-most-wisdom-tooth-extractions-unnecessary/

I cannot tell you the statistics, but I believe most wisdom teeth extractions are unnecessary.

I am not strongly against cha-ching ($$) for dentists, but a good dentist wouldn’t advise you to remove them in order to cha-ching ($$) their accounts. Like I said, my dentist told me the choice is mine, and if they weren’t affecting me in any way, it was fine to keep them there. So why spend the money unnecessarily and trade for a few days of pain?

Complications?

The only risk that comes with wisdom teeth is the risk of decay due to food getting stuck and either it is too difficult to clean or the person is just too lazy to clean properly. This decay would probably affect the molar next to the tooth. So the questions we ought to ask ourselves, like in the second article, would be.

  1. Is my wisdom tooth infected or painful in anyway? 
  2. Were they causing me any sort of problems whatsoever?
  3. What is the self-assessed risk of decay in the future?

If your answer is no, no and none, then just leave them as they are.

Personally, my answer for my right side wisdom teeth was no, a little, and medium. Hence, I made the decision to remove. How did I assess my own risk? Take a look at the x-ray again. The right bottom tooth (aka the left side of the x-ray), was already half protruding out, and through these three and a half years it was out, food gets stuck after every meal. I knew the risk of decay, so I took extra care to floss and brush properly. It was still healthy after 3 years! However, sometimes tiny particles of food may continue to get stuck there even after brushing and I could taste the rotting smell. It was bad. There was an obvious risk of decay.

The right upper tooth also caused me some problems when it first grew out. I kept biting my own cheek, but as time passed, it stopped. Straight as my top tooth may be, I still went ahead to remove it with the bottom one because although skeptical, I trust the dental surgeon’s experience that without an opposing tooth, the top one could hurt my gums.

There you go, I removed my right side wisdom teeth.

Am I gonna remove my left side wisdom teeth too? I had of course scheduled another appointment to remove, but right now, I will be cancelling that appointment. I am going to keep my left side wisdom teeth because my answers to the questions above are: no, no and none.

 

And of course, I never want to go through another traumatizing extraction again. Read about it here.

Creation vs Evolution

By voicing out my inner thoughts on this topic, I know that I am treading on dangerous waters. However, I just can’t figure out the need for a constant debate on this topic: it has to be either creation OR evolution. What’s wrong with integrating the two?

Before I get started on this, let me make it clear that I consider myself a freethinker and I attempt to reconcile the beliefs of different religions. I express my thoughts in a way that no religion is superior to any others.

Now the idea of this Creation vs Evolution thing is particularly exclusive to monotheistic religions I believe, especially Christianity. No hard feelings on that, it’s true. Every single time I read an article or hear a view on creation, it has to be something that debunks the possibility of evolution on accounts of observations that coincide with biblical quotes. Seriously, what’s wrong with you guys?

On the other hand, evolutionist tells you that nature rules, and it does some magic called natural selection which determines what kind of mutant a species becomes. And because of this, God cannot be the creator of human beings because we, like Pokemon, can evolve and we evolved from apes. Apparently, all things evolved from a single organism which somehow managed to come to life just like that.

I understand from the creationist point of view that things are too perfect in this world to just poof, appear. How can the universe be created without an intelligent design? How did the universe come to existence just because something that did not exist decided to explode? Even Stephen Hawking acknowledged this mystery:

“We do not know how DNA molecules first appeared. The chances against a DNA molecule arising by random fluctuations are very small.”

Your argument is valid, with what I observed too. Nature, this convenient word is being used as an excuse to reject the existence of God. But God is nature, nature is God.

I understand from the evolutionist point of view that God creating humans out of thin air is just absurd. Not just man, but other living beings. Traces of evolution is argued to be observable in nature. However, evolution itself is such a long process that might not even be visible through generations after generations. So yes, evidence have shown that evolution is not only possible, but highly likely. Stephen Hawking acknowledged it too:

“The process of biological evolution was very slow at first. It took two and a half billion years, to evolve from the earliest cells to multi-cell animals, and another billion years to evolve through fish and reptiles, to mammals. But then evolution seemed to have speeded up. It only took about a hundred million years, to develop from the early mammals to us. The reason is, fish contain most of the important human organs, and mammals, essentially all of them. All that was required to evolve from early mammals, like lemurs, to humans, was a bit of fine-tuning.”

Does that reject the existence of God and creation? Yes, and no. It rejects the creation by God as depicted in the bible. Humans did not appear from a wave of God’s magic wand. However, can creation still exist in light of the theory of evolution? Absolutely.

Get the bible of out this debate and it makes sense. If biblical quotes are brought in, then the topic is no longer creation vs evolution. It is Christianity vs Atheism. I don’t want to discuss religion matters. If creationists were to support their argument, use common logic and observable facts, as what evolutionists do, like just get on the topic of intelligent design. Stop bringing in the bible when it does nothing to convince evolutionists. It’s like speaking Russian to me when I know nuts about it. Not everyone reads the bible, so stop putting those quotes on them.

The one thing that I don’t understand is why this two views cannot exist in harmony? Pope Francis said, and if I may quote him again here:

“Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

Okay, so there are actually people who see what I see, albeit not many probably.

Recently I read this great article explaining the odds of finding life forms in the universe based on statistics. The conclusion was that life is thriving all over the universe, but intelligent life could be extremely rare. The author asks Christians something that goes like: “If life forms were found outside Earth, would it change your religious beliefs? Does it change your beliefs in creation?”

I don’t understand. Does the author thinks that Christians believe God created life only on Earth? What’s wrong with God creating life on other places? Must it be God created life on earth vs evolution in nature? Besides for the fact that the author made some convincing arguments, he doesn’t see past the “God created life on earth” barrier.

Why can’t there be intelligent design that allows for evolution? Why must there be the two extreme views of 1. God and creation, and 2. No God and evolution? How about 3. God, creation and evolution?

Isn’t it simple? Like how you build stuffs in minecraft or simcity. What if the universe is a software created by this guy we call God. Is there a possibility that He inserted codes for what determines the laws of the universe and life? Even AI today are already programmed to beat humans in chess. If God is omnipotent, evolution is not only possible, but part of his “software code”. The reason why most creationists fail to consider this possibility is because of their utmost faith to the bible. The belief that humans are descendants of God, as well as the intimate relationship God has with our world (specifically planet Earth), prevents a wider perspective as I had just illustrated. I am in no position to criticize these beliefs, but if you want to talk about intelligent design as a topic by itself, close your holy book for God’s sake (literally). As a Chinese, I don’t bring in the Pangu creation myth and exclaim that the universe was created by this huge giant who broke out from an egg-like stone. I fully understand that it is a metaphor for creation. There was curiosity about the origin of the universe long ago, and different civilizations penned down their own stories. What makes the bible special (in explaining creation) in any way then? Genesis is not in any way superior than the Greek’s creation myth. We are way more advanced right now, and if we were to investigate intelligent design, we do it without fancy stories.

Also, be clear of what you are talking about. Some disillusioned ones solely believe that God just created earth and humans. Others with a wider mind trusted that God created the universe. It makes a difference to the scope of discussion. The topic on intelligent design agrees with the latter one. If you are talking about the former one, go back to immersing yourself in your fancy story.

What’s more, the universe being “God’s computer program” not only provides explanation to creation (of the universe) as a metaphor by itself, it accounts for the universal laws that we can observe around us. As biological beings, we go through birth and death. It is a law of the universe. Even stars live and die. How about the constants we learnt in math and physics? Planck’s constant? Gravitational constant? The ancient Chinese have already acknowledged the laws that exist in this world, as written by Lao Zi (a philosopher) in Dao De Jing:

“人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然。”

Man obeys the laws of the Earth, the earth obeys the laws of the heavens, the heavens obey the laws of the Way, the Way obeys its own laws. 

And note that although this is a Taoist philosophy, it has nothing to do with religion. It is a fact. Taoism started as a philosophy, not a religion if that helps to explain.

Speaking about creation, stars, planets and life didn’t just poof, appeared. This only happens in Harry Potter’s world. While there may be a creator, creation needs to make sense. You don’t just say “cake” and cake appears right? You make the freaking cake and it takes time.

My beliefs? Putting religion aside, part of my mind do believe in intelligent design. What I mean is God designed the universe, let it off in a Big Bang and leave it there for itself to develop. So there you go, we have God (or Nature if you prefer that), creation, and thereafter the universe is allowed to evolve based on His rules. So yes, I don’t subscribe to the beliefs of God’s Kingdom or the likes of it. As a non-christian, the bible to me is a book of reference to live well as a person and to find your own meaning in life. To take it literally? I have to be mad.

Lastly, actually it doesn’t matter what stand we take. We don’t need to know creation or evolution to live a fruitful life.

 

Entering NUS Business School?

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Yesterday would probably be the last time I help out at an NUS Open day for Business School. Yes, because I will be graduating in less than 2 months!! Recalling this post which was written two years ago (here), I am glad that I am still able to contribute to the decision making of university prospects, with over 7000 views to date. 

And now, with two more years of experience, let me try to dish out more of my honest views as well as provide some guidance to the prospects.

How happy am I?

I recall a parent asking me this question: “How happy are you in this course?”

Honestly, four years in university still constitutes a large portion of my life (1/6 as of now). I can’t be always happy and I definitely was the least happy during my second year. Right now, I am happy not because I like my studies, but because I’m graduating soon 🙂 

That might sound discouraging. Haven’t I once felt enjoyable during these four years? Yes I did. Mainly due to activities outside academic and a handful of modules which I truly enjoyed. However, the majority of school work were really dull and just not for me. Hear hear: NOT FOR ME. I didn’t mean it won’t suit others. On a side note, I am a really chill person; I can probably forget to go for an exam and not blink an eye. I’m just not an academic person especially towards things unrelated to math and science. Which comes to my next point.

Why the heck did I choose NUS Business School? There are definitely a lot of you out there like me; Excelling in math and science but you just hate, you just freaking hate to practice countless of questions in order to secure that A in the exams. Yes, I wanted to try something new, something unrelated to what I know I can do, to challenge myself in another field. Did I regret my decision? No. No I don’t because I never know what will happen if I had accepted NTU Aerospace Engineering with Business minor, if I had accepted NUS ME or NUS MSE. Yes, I changed my choices two times during NS. I don’t regret entering NUS Business School because I wouldn’t have met the people whom I cherish now, the mentors who guided me, the friends who been through shit with me… I don’t regret it because I am a different person now from what I used to be before I entered university. I don’t regret it, because I wouldn’t have gotten my current job offer if I took a different path (I should probably write a separate post on this: How to get a job without internships).

And my complains about the school? Rest assured, for I will do the same thing be it NTU or SMU. It’s just my view that there is something wrong with the Singapore education system, and that why I learnt more, had more fun and had slacker classes during exchange. 

The Curriculum

I have teenagers coming up to ask, “Can you tell me more about what this course is about?”, “I don’t know much about business..”, “What do you all study?”

In short, we study how an organization run and how to keep it running. Be clear, it is how to make money for an organization, not how to run an organization, and definitely not how to create an organization. You don’t expect to graduate from business school to become a CEO of an MNC. There are generally 3 kinds of students in business schools: 1. Those who want to climb up the corporate ladder. 2. Those who want to be entrepreneurs or businessmen. 3. Those who do not have the slightest idea what they want to do with their life. Which one do you belong to?

There are aspiring entrepreneurs of course, but there is only one core module called “entrepreneurship”, that turns out to have more negative reviews. You see, business school has nothing to do with whether or not you want to be your own boss. You learn the skills that the school teaches you, and you decide for yourself if you are ready or if you are cut out to be your own boss. Please do not expect to enter business school and create a start-up company because you have “marketing skills, people skills, business analytics blah blah..”. A computer science year 1 who is proficient in Java, Python and C++ will own you quite badly. That is precisely my point about why I felt that most of the classes were not value-adding! Or rather, do we even know what we learnt? Can those skills even be applicable? I’m digressing a little here, but yes my point here is that in business school, we learn basic skills that can somehow contribute to the operations of a company when we first enter, and thereafter everything is about experience, be it promotion to the top management or starting your first venture.

Coming back to the curriculum. There have been quite some changes to the NUS curriculum from the time I was a freshmen. Let me do a quick pitch before going into details in case TLDR. As a year 1, you only have to think about 1 elective for each semester because you will be allocated 4 modules each semester and you cannot choose. You have all the time in your university life to figure out what modules to take in year 2 and year 3 and what specialization etc. If TLDR, you can leave now.

Typically, one module in NUS weighs 4 modular credits (MCs) and a semester’s workload is 20MCs or 5 modules. So for a business undergraduate without honours, we should complete 120MCs in order to graduate in 3 years or 6 semesters. 20/120 of these are university-level requirements (ULR), which are considered electives, but they are not free-to-choose electives. Rather, you have a choice from a list of modules. So, there are 5 of these ULRs that you have to take in order to graduate. 88/120 of these are programme requirements aka business modules. 64MCs or 16 mods out of these are core modules, which in short, are modules that you can only reject to take if you come from polytechnic with exemption or you quit the school. The next 24MCs or 6 mods are 6 other business modules (you can choose) which most people use to specialize in one of the four (Finance, Marketing, Management and Supply Chain). Yes, you have to use 6 modules to do one specialization. Lastly, the remaining 12/120MCs are your fun tickets (Unrestricted Electives). Use them to take interesting modules or something that can pull up your CAP. 

How about the honours programme? As you should know by now, one additional year equals an additional 40MCs, or 10 modules. For the honours student, we have to do something called the Field Service Project (FSP) which is like a consulting project to a real company with real problems and you have to try to solve them with real solutions. That is where you would likely apply your wealth of skills. The FSP is worth 8MCs or two modules. Next, the thesis, or we called it Honours Disseration (HD). The good news is HD is not compulsory! I’m not going to talk about it because I have no idea what it is about besides lots of research. So in order not to do it, we have to do three level-4000 modules (level-1/2/3/4000 are just the module codes.). There you have 20/40MCs now. Good news about being a BBA honours students is that we have 5 more fun tickets to use, bringing it to a total of 8! Hence, some students will use 6 of these to do a second specialization. As for me, I used 7 of these to learn 3 languages. How cool is that right. 😀

Is doing honours worth it? It really depends on the individual. If the job you want to get into looks at honours for starting pay, and you really mind that increment, by all means. Some students do not want to graduate “too early”, while some still have no idea what they want in life to graduate in 3 years. Some students feel that the audit and marketing industry looks more at experience than honours degree. It is important to note that the requirement to enter honours programme is lowered from 3.5 to 3.2, which means more people are able to do it. And this also means that it is less valuable isn’t it? Is CAP 3.2 easy to get? I’m not ashamed to share. I screwed up my first semester (My worst semester) with a couple of B- and a C+. My CAP was 3.3.

Student Exchange Programme

Are there opportunities to go abroad? Some asked. Actually most. This is probably the best faculty for overseas experience. Take a look at FASS and Engineering where the sheer number of students can probably stomp down the whole Mochtar Riady Building. They have limited slots for exchange and it is competitive to get in. NUS Business School? I think the BBA office will probably ask me to tone down my opinion, but I really feel that as long as you are eligible for (CAP 3.0 I think?), and you want, and you can afford to go for exchange, you are guaranteed to go (Condition: you don’t mind going anywhere). Note that this is just my opinion only! Because really, I haven’t met anyone who didn’t go for exchange, not because they were rejected. In most cases for these people, they either do not want to go for exchange or they refuse to open their minds to other countries/schools after failing to get their choices. Having said all these, I am not saying that you are guaranteed the school or country of your choice, like I said as a condition. There are limited slots for every school and you will need to compete with your peers. However, there are just so many schools that you will probably not mind going to Budapest if you can’t make it for Manchester. Let me stress again that in NUS Business School, everyone has a very high chance of going for SEP if you plan it properly. 

Double Degree/Double Major/Minor

I have already answered this in my post two years ago. Major and Minor are course outside of the home faculty, in this case, outside of business. Can you take 2 Majors? 10 Majors? Yes you can if you can afford to. Should you take double degree? My take at this point, no. Unless you can justify yourself why you should. “More options in the future” is not a good enough reason. Let’s say you have a DD in BBA and Law and you enter the legal industry first. You don’t expect to quit 10 years later and try to find a managerial job in Unilever because you have a BBA degree. They’ll probably hire you as their legal advisor or throw you to start from an associate. You should understand by now that a degree gets you your first job and then experience is all that matters.

Incidentally, I took this new module: BSP 4515 Managing Social Networks in Markets and Organizations last semester and yes we learnt from case studies that in most cases, networks get you your first job and career progression. It was one of the modules I found enjoyable. So to current BBA undergraduates, do consider it. I got an A for that, but not because I was good, I think. As a new module, there were only 6 students (no bell curve) and my professor was probably too kind to us.

Yup, if you are still considering between the 3 schools, read my previous post here. Good luck for your applications~ Apologies for spelling or grammar errors because well.. I don’t really care if there are errors.

Lunar New Year 2016

The time has come again, to visit relatives, to eat and experience the festive mood. It is however, not at all to my liking. Things changed ever since my grandparents left. Of course, as we grow older, the fun moments that we had can never come back. Every Lunar New Year beginning from 7 years ago gets boring every year. It seems just like a normal day now. Besides for the fact that the radio plays New Year songs almost every single minute.

The time has come again for me to reemphasize my stand. That the Chinese New Year actually begins on Lichun, this year being 4 Feb 2016, 1748hrs. The reason is simple. A year is 365.25 days long, and the Lunar calendar only finishes the year with about 355 days or 385 days on leap years. Then, the Chinese came up with the ingenious Solar calendar. The Solar calendar follows the Earth’s orbit around the Sun in accurate degrees of reference (e.g. Vernal Equinox: 0 degree, Summer Solstice: 90 degrees). Lichun (Beginning of Spring: 315 degrees), is determined to be the start of a new year thousands of years ago. Yes, Chinese New Year was celebrated on Lichun before 1913, before the then-president of the Republic of China changed it to follow the Lunar calendar.

Hence, yes we are correct to call it the Lunar New Year because it follows the Lunar calendar, but to call it the Chinese New Year.. well I guess in today’s context, since all Chinese celebrate it on this day, it would be right too?

I have previously posted a long explanation about why Lichun is the start of the new year, but it seemed too complicated even to me now. (The original post: https://themysterycross.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/today-is-not-the-year-of-the-horse-not-yet/) So I will do a short summary here.

  1. The Chinese calendar has two parts: Lunar and Solar. Lunar is in accordance to the moon period. Solar is in accordance to Earth’s revolution, commonly left out.
  2. The year follows the Solar calendar (for obvious reasons); a year is defined by one revolution of the Earth around the Sun. Lichun is marked as the first solar term.
  3. Chinese New Year was celebrated on Lichun before year 1913.

Hence, the Year of the Monkey has already begun on 4 Feb 2016.

Microsoft security scam (Singapore)

First of all, happy new year to all!

The purpose of this post is just to add on to the already saturated web illustrating such incidents. Yes, I picked up a phone call tonight from a scam syndicate claiming to be from Microsoft security.

The story goes:

I received a phone call at about 8pm asking for my father and “the owner of the windows computer in my house”. The caller was an Indian lady with her strong accent. The background was a little noisy and it didn’t sound like an office. I got suspicious and asked who she was and her attitude wasn’t excellent at all. She claimed to be from “Windows”, and wtf? What kind of “window” are you from? Tinted? Shaded? Tempered? Well, the call wasn’t for me anyway so I told her my dad was out. She couldn’t even get the name of the company right.

After my parents came home, she called again and this time my mum picked up. I was eavesdropping and heard her pathetic attempts to try to convince my mother the rubbish she didn’t even know what she was trying to say. She kept repeating that my “Microsoft licence” is being illegally used. I didn’t know that there is such a thing called “Microsoft licence”, and she claimed that the entire household shares the same “licence”. Then, my dad took over the call and screamed at her saying that she is accusing us of using fake products. The only Microsoft product my entire household shares is the Microsoft office which we bought it legally. My dad kept telling her not to accuse us and that what we are using is legal. And he slammed the phone down. She must be crying to her mama after that.

Now, that is actually not the best way to deal with it though. He didn’t understand her fully, but my dad doesn’t give a flying fuck whether you are the Queen or the President. If you are an asshole, he treats you like one. His signature moves are shouting at bank employees for screw ups to his accounts. I guess I took up that hot-tempered genes but with more self restrain.

So a few minutes later, the phone rang again. This time I was determined to find out what the hell is happening. A man was on the line this time. He sounded like a Filipino, but he could have been an Indian. Anyways, not a Singaporean, nor a Singaporean Indian. He thought I was the person who “scolded” his colleague. He demanded to know why I had “abused” his colleague. It took me no time to convinced him that was my father and apologized on his behalf and that I want to know what was going on because my parents’ command of English is not great.

This faggot repeated the same situation and explained that my household’s “Microsoft licence” is being used by a third party. Logic ran through my mind. Wait up, if each PC that runs on a Microsoft operating system has a unique licence, how is it possible that the entire household runs on the same one?? The other thing that the entire household shares is our internet connection! Thus he went on to “cover up” by saying that yes, the licence runs through the internet. Well go eat your own shit. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that it is rubbish. I continued to play with him and without me asking, he volunteered to “show me” that the licence can be checked. I asked him through which computer, and he said any one will do. So I brought out my laptop and asked him what’s the next step.

“Look at the bottom left corner of your laptop,” he said. “Do you see the key C-T-R-L?”

In my mind I was like fuck you, fuck your ancestors. Are you testing my intelligence? Seriously??

Me: “Yes”

Him: “What’s on the right side of it?”

Me: “Fn key~”

Him: “And then the right of it?”

Me: “Windows key????”

Him: “Okay I want you to press win+r quickly together, What do you see?”

Me: “Don’t waste my time. Tell me what to type.” (It was obvious he wanted me to bring out the run box and he thought I was a computer idiot)

Him: “Okay, type CMD. What do you see?” (That brings up the command prompt)

Me: “The command box????”

Him: “Do you see at the top it says Microsoft Windows….”

Me: “Yes and?”

Him: “At the bottom of it, the copyright?”

Me: “And then?”

Him: “And do you see the blinking cursor at the next line?”

Me: “I know my shit, what do I key in?” (I was seriously getting impatient with his naivety)

Him: “Type A for Alpha, S for Sock, S for Sock, O for Oscar and C for Cat” (What?? He really think I’m as stupid as him)

Instead of keying into cmd.exe, I did a google search immediately and the scam alerts appeared.

Him: “What do you see?”…”What do you see?”…”Have you typed assoc?” He kept repeating it because I was doing my google search and wasn’t actually keying into the prompt. 

Me: “I’m going to call the police right now because this is a scam.”

Him: “Who told you this is a scam? How do you know this is a scam?” (He panicked and kept interrupting my words)

Me: “I am not going to talk to you further and I am going to hang up!”

I had to shout because he raised his voice and kept talking. And I slammed the phone down. The calls kept coming but nobody answered and my mother disconnected the wire eventually.

Advice I would like to dish out to avoid being scammed.

1. Verify the authenticity of the caller. 

Using common sense, why would an authority call on a darn Saturday night about privacy issues unless it is really important? Since when did the Singapore authorities outsource “security officers” to foreigners? If such licencing issues were involved, it would most likely be my ISP calling or the media authorities such as IDA. In severe cases, the police. Fancy identifying themselves as “Windows security officers”?? I help you secure your window, want?

Sadly, my home phone does not have a caller ID, but they were most likely calling from overseas anyway. It is easy for anyone to take the yellow pages and call the “owner of the house”, so do not let your guard down even if they can identify your name. The background noise of the calls sounded much like a call center. A scamming den.

2. Do not be intimidated

Get the situation clear. Even if you did flout the law and an authority calls up, you should still stay calm and verify the situation. What if the authority turns out to be fake and you get blackmail instead? Until I verify that this was a scam, I kept my mind open as there is still a possibility that it could be a genuine call. Hence, I had to calm that fucker down and talked nicely. Subconsciously, when he mentioned that he was “a security officer”, and demanded to know why my dad “abused” his colleague, and that the call was “recorded”, my mind took a double because he sounded serious.

3. Protect and educated yourself with the necessary knowledge

Kidnap scam? Know the whereabouts of your family and always keep in contact. Lottery scam? I wonder if anyone is still stupid enough to fall for that. Thus, scammers now move into computer scams, where many only know how to use but do not know how to troubleshoot. If you are not a fan of computers, at least know that Google is your best friend. Google is legal, Google is powerful and Google is fast.

Be clear of every single step that you are asked to do if you were to go ahead to further verify the scam. Think of the possible implications before clicking anything. Even a friend can get you to reveal sensitive information if you blindly follow instructions. Although I knew that by typing “assoc” into the command prompt, there were not yet any implications, I refused to go further as the fucker was wasting my time.

I got this from another source (Hebrides Weather Facebook page):

“So, this is how it works;

They ask you to sit at your PC and click START > RUN > then type “CMD” (command) into the RUN box. This opens up a black box on the screen, which older PC users may recognise as the DOS window.
In the DOS window they ask you to type “ASSOC” and hit Rtn and a long list of stuff comes up on the screen.

They ask you to look near the bottom of the list for the letters “CLSID” and explain that this is a unique identification number known only by the manufacturer of the operating system.
They then read out a number and ask you if it matches the one on the screen in front of you, which of course it does.
The complete line looks like this: ZFSendToTarget=CLSID\{888DCA60-FC0A-11CF-8F0F-00C04FD7D062}
and they read out this number: 888DCA60-FC0A-11CF-8F0F-00C04FD7D062

This is all to get your trust and make you think that they are a support company and that they have the information about your computer, they don’t, this number is the same on every Windows based operating system released in recent years.

I don’t know what happens after this but I have read elsewhere that they are trying to get you to allow them remote access to your PC via the likes of LogMeIn or other means. This could be for various reason like charging you for the “work” they have done or installing software on you PC.

I managed to keep them on the phone for 16 minute, making out I was trying what they were asking me to do, but when they ask me to enter “ASSOC” into the DOS window I kept saying that nothing happened and that I could just see the cursor flashing and nothing else. After they talked me through another route to the DOS window and being told to type “ASSOC” into the window again, I again said nothing had come up.

She was starting to loose hope and then I said “These commands do work on a Linux operating system don’t they? As all my PC’s are Linux, not Windows.” To which she said “No this is only for Windows” and hung up!

So, be warned if you get a cold call like this, don’t do as they ask you. Ask them to tell you what your IP Address is and who your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is, I bet they don’t, or can’t!

The best thing if you not sure is to just hang up but if you want to end the call politely then the best thing seems to be telling them that your PC runs Linux or MAC.
I kept them on the line as long as possible because I figured that if they’re speaking to me then they’re not scamming someone else.”

There you have it.

I’m surprised that this was written in 2012. Nearly 4 years and now they turn their guns on Singapore? So they think Singaporeans are easy to scam? I hope not. Then again, if lottery scams are successful, this business could be thriving so much such that they can expand their operations to Singapore. Stay safe everyone.

Paris and Beirut: The innate discrimination

I woke up yesterday (Saturday. 14 Nov 2015) to a friend’s post on Facebook that said: Stay safe, friends in Paris.

I knew something must be wrong and went to google “Paris”. I spent the next 30 minutes reading about the attacks without getting out of my bed. I felt bad for the victims and their families, and spent the rest of the day keeping track of the updates. A year ago, I was about to head to Paris for a 5-day trip while on exchange in Budapest. What if it happened last year? What if I was caught in that situation? At that point in time I was only wary of pickpockets and scammers, never considering the possibility of a terrorist attack.

This morning, I woke up to see a whatsapp message that said: “I wonder how will changing a profile picture help”.

So I went on to Facebook and saw, unsurprising, a huge wave of newsfeed announcing the overlay of the French flag on individuals’ profile picture. Then I saw an read an article about the unfairness towards Beirut. Why no one gives a fuck about Beirut? What was there no Facebook safety check for Beirut? Why are countries not displaying the flag of Lebanon on their landmarks? Why are people not changing their Facebook profile picture in the colours of Lebanon?

This is the sad truth. There is no equality in the world. Also, the theory of “monkey see, monkey do” applies and it all started with the media and how they portray the severity of an incident. I gave some thoughts about why this discrimination exists.

1. Reputation of the city

Paris is famous. Or rather, France is a country few in the world would not know about. The language of romance? French. The city of romance? Paris. The Eiffel Tower? Paris.

Beirut? What country does it belong to? Since young, the only thing about Lebanon that I know is the red and white flag with a Christmas tree look-alike in the middle. Shame on me I can say, for I thought my geography was quite good.

What if we bring attention to another two cities? Singapore and Baku. Does anyone even know the existence of Azerbaijan, if that matters? How about Tokyo and Yerevan? I meant no offence to any of the cities mentioned, but I am trying to illustrate a fact that most people fail to acknowledge. There are parts of the world that people don’t give a shit about and something needs to be done about this discrimination. But what?

2. People get numb to the same thing

While I wouldn’t say Paris is safe, for I still condemn pickpockets, it is still certainly safer than Beirut. I wouldn’t say Paris has excellent order, because you can jump over the gates of the metro like they are installed for this purpose, and the station staff doesn’t give a flying fuck about it. The everyday life in Paris is still more orderly than Beirut. We can still walk the streets of Paris knowing that we won’t die the next second all of a sudden. Attacks in the Middle-East countries are so frequent that people get numb hearing about them. It becomes normal. Why would the media make a big fuss out of something that is normal? This is human nature. We cry when a tragedy happens, but we gradually get used to it and become numb towards it. Does anyone still keep track of the news on MH370? Does the media still report about it regularly? NO.

3. Monkey see, monkey do

There must be a trigger for every event. Even newton’s first law agrees with it. If Facebook made the overlay the flag of Lebanon, will people use it? Of course, but people will ask, why no France?

“All my friends have changed their profile picture, so should I”. “All the other countries have the French colours on their landmarks, so should I”.

If the USA lit up the colours of Lebanon on the statue of liberty, would other countries follow suit? No doubt they will. Or, no they won’t. In any case, France is still more popular than Lebanon, so it is natural that the latter gets forgotten.

4. Our social network

On average, what is the possibility of someone in the world having a friend in Paris or in Beirut? I cannot calculate, but I can say with 100% certainty that the possibility for Paris is higher. Just take my country, Singapore for a comparison. Do the universities in Singapore send students on exchange to Beirut? Do Singapore companies have operations in Beirut? Maybe? But unlikely. Why would I care about Beirut when my friend is in Paris? This is the mindset we possess, sadly. But it is logical! Just like how people in Middle-East wouldn’t give a hoot about Paris because they have loved ones in Beirut. This number is sadly, much lower than the one in Paris. Paris is much more internationalized than Beirut.

The world is unfair

Face it. There are two sides to a coin. No one’s face is perfectly symmetrical. On this issue, as much as people feel bad discriminating, they don’t realise it. Imagine the thoughts of the Facebook manager who authorized the use of the safety check button: “Oh God, why did I not consider about the attacks on Beirut? Now I have to answer to all these complaints.”

Although “I didn’t think about it” is not a good reason, it just happens! Caused by the 4 reasons as illustrated above.

What’s more, the occurrence of the incidents one after another certainly sparked this old debate of discrimination. This is not new, for it happened during the Charlie Hebdo incident. It always happens when a tragedy occurs in a first world nation and the whole world is mourning for that country while no one looks at the third world nations’ daily tragedy. Stop comparing. It never ends.

Perhaps we can stop blaming the world about this discrimination. Stop blaming Facebook. Have a look at ourselves. How much do we care about the sufferings of others? Just because Parisians are first world citizens like us, we should show more concern? I mean, yes of course this is human nature! I am ashamed to say this, but this is the sad truth. As much as I feel bad for the people in Beirut, for the people who are suffering in Middle-East, for the children dying from hunger in Africa, I do not have extra capacity in my life to care. I have my own life to live. So I really admire people who sacrifice living their own dream to help the people suffering. Maybe they have the resources, maybe they have the resolution. Maybe, in the future I will care.