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Monday, June 27, 2016


Claire Chung and I had the same reaction to this article from The Guardian - The Dispossessed Voted For Brexit. The only difference is that Claire Chung expressed it better than I could.

After reading The Guardian's piece, I read the piece by Tharman Shanmuguratnam. I cannot seem to paste the link so I have copied it herein below.

In essence, both Claire Chung and Tharman Shanmuguratnam say the same thing in different words. When pushed beyond their endurance, those Singaporeans who do not get to share in the benefits of globalisation will vote so that no one wins (including themselves).

It becomes a sort of class war. In war, people are prepared to get themselves hurt in order to hurt another. People risk their lives in order to kill others. In the Brexit vote and the 2011 voter backlash against the PAP, the dispossessed in Britain and in Singapore were prepared to hurt their own livelihoods in order to hurt those who have benefited greatly from the influx of immigrants. The voter mentality in 2011 was clearly, "I am already suffering. Let me stir shit around and everyone will suffer together. There will be a period of change and uncertainty. However, when the chips fall again, they may fall in my favour."

I think Singapore is so blessed. 

2011 could have been our version of a Brexit thanks to an entire generation of Ministers who (for years and years) bent to the will of the top civil servants. 2015 could also have been our version of a Brexit but for the fact that we do have very high calibre men and women in cabinet (and in the Workers' Party) today. After 2011, a new cabinet worked hard and showed an ability to bridge the gap between the voters and the Civil Service. Hence, when it came to 2015's G.E., people were already starting to feel cared for and understood.

Globally, why do Politicians and Civil Servants Tend to be Out of Touch With the Dispossessed?
Firstly, people like Jo Cox and David Cameron are of a vastly different socio-economic class than the dispossessed. They see the macro view but cannot FEEL the desperation of the dispossessed. Top politicians and top civil servants are not ordinary. If they were, they would not be in those echelons of their careers.

Rich people shop at classy supermarkets where new immigrants never go. Ordinary people shop at Shop and Save where a loud-mouthed PRC woman literally pushed my trolley out of the queue and replaced with hers. Rich people relax at country clubs where new immigrants go to mow the golf course and wash the toilets. Ordinary people relax in the country's public parks where new immigrants also relax, but differently. Rich people drive. Ordinary people MUST take public transport along with new immigrants.

I sometimes do my groceries at Shop and Save. I get irritated by these rude and aggressive PRC aunties who seem to think I am invisible. I have stopped going to Pasir Ris Park because it is now crowded with non-Singaporeans who do not respect the park. I have long stopped going to the public swimming pool ever since I saw a PRC father encourage his son to stand and pee into the pool. I was even irritated by a clearly PRC-imported payment system at a food court at Changi Airport. I had to go and top up my card before I could pay the different hawkers for the food. One day, I squatted down to examine the petals of some fallen flowers at the park, only to be rudely yelled at because a Singaporean cleaner thought I was squatting down to take dump right under the tree! The poor cleaner must have had to clear up excrement from under a tree in the past. 

By now, I have developed an intense irritation for these immigrants who do not possess the same social habits as I do. 

They come here. They benefit from our education system. They take our generous overseas and local scholarships and at the first chance they get (I speak from personal experience), they want to leave to go to the United States even before their bond is served. Clearly, if you evolve in a different socio-economic class and go to different public spaces in Singapore, you won't feel this irritation. Clearly, if you do not need a scholarship to get through university (here or abroad), then you would not also feel this irritation.

The top civil servants that dictate policy do not feel this irritation. In their leisure and for their work, they do not have the same interactions with the new immigrants and do not frequent the same spaces as these new immigrants. Politicians who bend to the will of the civil servants also feel nothing, unless they have been walking the ground with empathy... which (thankfully) they have been doing  in Singapore for quite a while now.

Hence, top civil servants and politicians make decisions and form their perspectives from the trade data that they are educated enough to understand. The daily social interactions with irritating new people who are aggressive and grasping to the point of ruthlessness and callousness are not part of Jo Cox and David Cameron's experience. Arguing to Remain because of what the trade data says is not wrong. However, the heart rules decision-making as much as the head. It is no use saying that those who voted Leave were stupid and could not understand the bigger picture because clearly, those who did understand the bigger picture, did NOT FULLY understand the daily stresses (that engender hate) ordinary people go through when they interact with new immigrants.

Everybody is Right But No One is Entirely Right
Everybody is right. The trade data is correct. However, the feelings of ordinary people of (1) being aggressed and (2) being put upon and (3) being pushed out and (4) being dispossessed are also valid data for political decisions. These were the same feelings that engendered so much hate that the French people beheaded Marie-Antoinette. It was this same hate that motivated Jo Cox's murder. Problem is, people stand on 2 sides of the divide and can only see from their own perspective.

That is why politics in so many countries are polarised.

If British lawmakers had ensured that the benefits of globalisation also reached the poorest British people (who every day needed to interact with new immigrants and therefore bore more than their fair share of the burden of integrating new immigrants), then there would not have been so much hate that a beautiful and talented woman like Jo Cox would have had to die... and Brexit would not have happened.

Reading into French history, King Louis XVI (Marie-Antoinette's husband) did try his best to reform policy but he could never push reform through because the nobles rejected all attempts at reform in order to hang onto their own profits. Similarly, in Britain, USA and Singapore, it is the large corporations and business owners who reject reform in order to hang on to their profits.

A way must be found to redistribute the benefits of globalisation better despite what powerful corporations and business owners say. Corporations exist for profit. If the government listens only to them, then policies would fail to consider important HUMANISTIC aspects of living together harmoniously as one people.

In any case, it is all about balance. Wealth must be redistributed and social inequality reduced to the point where people do not hate the wealthy. However, it wouldn't do to redistribute wealth to such an extent that it dis-incentivises hard work and personal effort. It wouldn't do to be so HUMANISTIC that the country loses jobs and trade.

Thank Heavens Singapore Came Through 2011's Elections Quite Well
Brexit could have been us except that LKY left behind such a stable government that whilst badly rocked, did remain and it CHANGED. LKY left behind a team of intelligent and honest people who (after 2011) began to put ears to ground and became strong and robust bridges between voters and the civil service.

It wouldn't do to let top civil servants call all the policy shots because the Civil Service is the repository of past wisdom and in governance, the past is not enough to predict the future. Methods and policies of the past may not work for present times. If no one bridges the voters and the Civil Service, then policies will increasingly become irrelevant because the present is ever dynamic and very different from the past.

I do hope that watching Brexit unfurl will bring greater unity to Singaporeans. Perhaps the high socio-economic classes (top civil servants and politicians) will understand the intensity of the hate involved when Singaporeans of the lower socio-economic classes come into constant abrasive contact with new immigrants. Perhaps the low socio-economic classes will see the realities of trade data and how it affects them.

A middle ground develops and polarisation of views is prevented.

Nobody Wins In a Brexit
Finally, Boris Johnson realises that he has scored a pyrrhic victory. See HERE. Quite an interesting checkmate where everyone is a loser. Over on USA, Brexit would give people some pause before they vote for another dumb blonde.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rodent Faced Kids

I have come to the realisation that I have rodent-faced kids.

Don't get me wrong. My kids are not ugly. At least, I don't think so. Since they're my kids, I admit that for many years, I very much believed from the bottom of my heart that they were the most handsome and the most pretty of all the children I had ever met. Then again, I also understand the meaning of the expression, "only a face a mother can love".

To stop me from staring distractedly at them and commenting with a dreamy smile,
- You are so pretty, you know. I made a pretty baby.
- You are so handsome you know. I made a handsome baby.
... my kids finally told me their nicknames. Nicknames, as we all know, are given to one by peers. Peers have absolutely no bias of any sort. They pick up on something salient and exaggerate it... and voilà! A nickname is born.

Smelly Boy is Master Splinter.

The Daughter is Naked Mole Rat.

At least, Smelly Boy's nickname speaks of some gravitas and if looks were missing, at least that rat had influence. After all, Master Splinter is boss of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Hence, the name conveys a sort of grudging respect... "Hey Mate, you're ugly, but you're ok. Ya know what I mean?"

Naked mole rat? Naked! Will you look at that rat... all splayed out!

Ohhhhh... my poor children. I think I must have gone overboard with the milk feeding. My kids' small faces and small jawbones simply have no space to fit all those teeth. Thank heavens for dentists and braces. In a few years time, I will have good looking children. Meanwhile, every month, one or the other needs porridge every meal for 3 days.

Ohhhhh... my poor children!

I wonder if I am rodent-faced too. No, no... I don't wanna know. Please don't come and tell me. Some things, like IQ and being rodent-faced or not, are not necessary to know. This said, if the kids are rodent-faced, it must come from me. This is because I think The Husband is ever so
handsome, especially when his eyes narrow and a half smile appears on his face during moments of deep thought. He looks like some badass cowboy about to pull the trigger of his gun. Heeheehee! Then again, I know I am biased because I even think The Husband's burgeoning paunch is very appealing indeed.

I am quite sure that in a few days time, I will be made to take down this post.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Litte Disagreement With A Nurse

I had a little disagreement with this nurse at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. I maintained that the entire group of nurses working in that ward were angels. For some reason, she did not agree. I wonder why because if someone called me an angel, I would immediately agree. Wouldn't you?

Anyway, she disagreed because she thought that I was an angel.

Ohhhh... this angel of nurse doesn't know what a bitch I can be when I put my mind to it... and sometimes I don't even need to put my mind to it because I am a NATURAL.

**Pose** **Pose** **Pose**
Ok. Ok. Ok. Being a bitch is nothing to be proud of I know except when The Husband gives me his thanks for defending his children and our family's emotional wellbeing.

On some personality assessment or other, it was found that Petunia respects competence. Incompetent people irritate me. Competent people who are sloppy to the point of incompetence, irritate me even more. I found the nurses at KTP Hospital extraordinarily competent at...

- distracting me from the pain of my injection (it was nice to feel like a toddler again). They had fabulous bedside manners...

- administering all manner of the nursing interventions I required so quickly that they were over before I realised...

- maintaining a stream of gentle and informative chatter about what they were doing to me.

Best of all, they did all of it with a sincere caring heart. I wanted to reject breakfast because I did not know what they would be serving and was afraid that it would be bread. I cannot take bread because I am celiac. Another nurse offered to go to the pantry to check what breakfast was being prepared. 

I feel so blessed that I live a mere 5 minutes drive away from people who ENJOY sayang-ing patients like they were toddlers. At my age, it has been a long time since anyone has spoken to me in the dulcet tones people use with toddlers.

I like!

However, that was not all!

I had to have an injection. The lady (Nurse Phyllis) who jabbed me, said something that put me in awe of her. It was after my jab and someone had to press on the puncture in my skin. Nurse Phyllis said, "For the first 5 minutes, I want to press. I am like that. You may not know how to press properly."

See how much PRIDE this very mature lady takes in her work? The quality she brings to her work is fused with her self-concept - "I am like that!" These four words speak a lot.

These nurses deserve to be treated with respect. They respect their craft and the mission that comes with it. This is so rare in Singapore where respect is given to those who wear the trappings of wealth and status. Would we be a happier society if people took pride in their work (and were respected for it) instead of for the money they earn?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gluten Free Pizza Dough

Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca starch
3/4 cup almond meal (I use my leftovers from making almond milk)
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
3 teaspoons yeast
4 teaspoons xanthan gum
6 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Wet Ingredients
2 eggs
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Water (all liquid ingredients together should be 3.5 cups)

(1) Mix all dry ingredients together. Mix well.
(2) Mix all wet ingredients together. Mix well.
(3) Throw all into the mixer till you get the following consistency.

Note the strands of gluten like dough. Don't hesitate to add more water to get this consistency.

You have the right consistency when the dough hangs off the dough hook like so. See those gluten-like strands?

(4) Line a tart pan with oiled parchment paper. Oil a separate piece of cling wrap.
(5) Divide the dough into 4 parts and place onto 4 separate pieces of parchment paper (cut to fit the tart pan plus some).
(6) Lay the cling wrap over the dough and press with your fingers into the round shape of the tart pan. Gluten free dough is wet and sticky. It will stick to the rolling pin. Hence don't roll. Press it out using a piece of oiled cling wrap.
(7) Let rise for 2 hours or double in volume.

Round shaped dough pressed in a tart pan and then removed.

(8) Pre-heat a pizza stone in an oven of 150 C, for 20 minutes.
(9) Gently lift 4 corners of the round dough flat dough and lay gently onto the hot pizza stone.
(10) Bake at 150 C for 20 minutes.
(11) The pizza crust is ready for your pizza toppings. Gluten free doughs are fragile and collapse easily. If you do not pre-bake the dough, it will never rise because the weight of the pizza toppings will prevent rising.
(12) Gluten free doughs are fragile and wet. They need longer cooking times at lower temperatures to cook through.

If you get the consistency right, the dough can be made into an artisanal loaf with big holes and a fluffy crumb.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Celiac Friendly: Rasa Sentosa Shangri-La Hotel

The last thing I expected to see at a local hotel was a Gluten Free Corner at the breakfast buffet. The Rasa Sentosa Shangri-La is a really thoughtful hotel. The breakfast buffet not only had a gluten free corner, it also had a long toddler sized buffet table where little ones could serve themselves like big ones do. It made me smile to see a fridge with an array of baby purees. Even the pre-verbal have buffet choices!

Just outside the restaurant, there was a kick ass big tree house, all of 3 storeys tall (with fireplace too).  The morning servers lead the sleepy kids to their seats with giraffe and lion hand puppets. No wonder every table at breakfast had kids!

At dinner, every dish in the dinner buffet was labelled for allergies (gluten, nuts and dairy). How thoughtful is that?!

When I decided to order from the à la carte menu, the Executive Chef Jeno Friedl actually came out to chat with me about which dish I could eat and which I could not. Then, he assured me that he would ensure that my dishes would be prepared according to strict protocols to prevent gluten cross-contamination. The desserts on the menu were all gluten-y. So the dear man made me a flourless chocolate cake.

Actually, earlier in the afternoon (when I did not know he was the Executive Chef), he had found me perched precariously atop a wooden fence. I was stuck in some tree branches whilst trying to climb the fence to get back into the hotel. You wonder why Petunia (at her mature age) is still climbing fences?  Frankly, I wonder too.  Anyway, this nice chef handed me down from the fence. Nice man!

To me, this celiac friendliness is an unbeatable competitive edge that the Shangri-La has over all other hotels on Sentosa Island. They have proper kitchen processes to deal with allergies. The entire kitchen and wait staff are trained to deal with allergy suffers.

Most hotels don't care. Some hotels, which are way more expensive that the Shangri-La, don't care. So please, fellow celiacs, spread the word! Here is a hotel you can eat at safely.

Best of all, I ate a meal that was as good as Taberna Luque, Cordoba. There are so few safe places for me to eat in Singapore that I would probably bother to drive to Sentosa just to eat stuff that Jeno Friedl prepares. If you stay the night and eat the breakfast buffet, whether celiac or not, you MUST eat the appam. It is the BEST appam ever!

Chef Jeno Friedl

Garden Salad

Mixed grill

Flourless Chocolate Cake with a melty centre.

Director Food and Beverage, Kamal Silva. He was the
one who put in the baby food and added the gluten free section. Such a
clever man to create a niche competitive edge for his hotel!