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Latest News: 19 January 2021

1. Construction sector forecasted to recover in 2021, driven by public sector projects

A moderate recovery in construction demand is forecasted in 2021, bolstered by public sector demand; numerous “major” infrastructure projects are to be awarded this year in construction contracts worth between S$23 billion and S$28 billion, according to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). 

This is up from the S$21.3 billion awarded in 2020. 

The Government will contribute approximately 65 per cent of this year’s overall construction demand, amounting to between S$15 billion and S$18 billion (as opposed to the S$13.2 billion worth of public sector projects in 2020). 

These projects will mainly be of major public housing and infrastructure, such as the Integrated Transport Hub at Jurong East, the Jurong Region Line, and the Cross Island Land. 

Additionally, there will also be approximately S$6 billion worth of smaller public sector projects such as cycling paths and upgrading works. 

However, private sector demand is not expected to recover just yet as investors are “likely to remain cautious”, according to National Development Minister Desmond Lee. Instead, private sector demand is projected to fall within S$8 billion to S$10 billion. 

In the medium term, the construction sector’s growth will be supported by public sector developments including public housing, transport, and healthcare infrastructure. These projects will contribute S$14 billion to S$18 billion each year. 

Stronger recovery is expected over the next five years, with early forecasts that construction demand may further strengthen to S$25 billion to S$32 billion between 2022 and 2025. 

Meanwhile, the Government will continue working with industry partners to ease the labour crunch caused by challenges in bringing in new foreign workers. They will also push for the adoption of digital technologies to improve the industry’s resilience in the long-term. 

2. New guidelines introduced for financial institutions to combat risks of cyberattacks

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has issued a revised set of guidelines for financial institutions to better mitigate cyber risks. This includes requiring them to have strong oversight of their third-party service providers and technology vendors. 

The new guidelines apply to banks, payment services companies, as well as trading and insurance firms.

These guidelines are announced amid a spate of cyberattacks globally. 

Under the new measures, it is stated that financial institutions “should assess and manage its exposure to technology risks that may affect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the IT systems and data at the third party before entering into a contractual agreement or partnership.”

Additionally, they should also ensure that third-party and open-source software codes are subject to review and testing before integrating them into their own software. Cyber exercises should also be conducted regularly to stress test their cyber defences. 

A chief information officer and chief information security officer will also need to be appointed and held accountable for managing cyber risks under these new measures. 

This is on top of additional guidance on the roles and responsibilities of the board of directors and senior management of financial institutions. It is also stipulated that the board itself should include members with relevant knowledge to provide effective oversight of cyber risks. 

Firms are expected to observe these guidelines and it will be a part of the risk assessment of financial institutions by the MAS. 

3. Singapore’s exports rebounded 6.8% year-on-year in December 2020

Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) rebounded by 6.8 per cent year-on-year in December 2020. This is the first positive print for NODX in three months and follows a 5 per cent drop in November 2020.

The rebound was boosted by a rise in shipments of non-electronic products; specifically, there was a 5 per cent year-on-year increase in the shipment of non-electronic goods (as compared with a 5.3 per cent decline for the segment in November. 

Specialised machinery was one of the largest contributor to the increase, having risen by 30.9 per cent. This is followed by non-monetary gold (14.5 per cent) and measuring instruments (21.4 per cent). 

Meanwhile, electronics also grew from a low base a year ago, having risen 13.7 per cent year-on-year since December 2019. This follows the 4 per cent decline in November. 

In the electronics segment, integrated circuits, personal computer parts, and diodes and transistors contributed the most growth, rising by 15.7 per cent, 33.8 per cent, and 16.5 per cent respectively.

By country, exports to Singapore’s top markets mostly rose in December. However, exports to China, the European Union, Indonesia, and Japan declined. Meanwhile, exports to the US, South Korea, Taiwan, and emerging markets grew. 

Overall, total trade fell by 0.3 percent in December on a year-on-year basis, as compared to a 7.3 per cent drop in November 2020. This can largely be attributed to the decrease in oil trade and lower oil prices. 

4. Americans give back to the community to mark Biden’s inauguration as president

As part of the events leading up to the inauguration of United States President-elect Joe Biden on 20 January, a group of Americans living here in Singapore distributed over 400 care packs to needy families living in a rental block. 

The distribution drive, held on 18 January, was part of a National Day of Service in the US that was organised by the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) for Mr Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

It was the first such initiative to be organised outside of the US in collaboration with the PIC. The local event had been organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and the American Association of Singapore (AAS).

The care packs were purchased with about S$10,200 which had been donated by Americans living here; they consisted of rice, Milo, detergents, and toiletries. Distribution was carried out by about 35 volunteers, including AmCham’s staff and board, and members of AAS’ leadership. 

The annual day of service falls on Martin Luther King Jr Day, a federal holiday in the US. It was first observed in 1986 in memory of the civil rights hero. Since 1994, Americans have been encouraged to commemorate the day through acts of service.

Including this day as part of Mr Biden’s inauguration activities follows the actions of former president Barack Obama’s, who observed it as part of his 2008 and 2013 inauguration activities. 

5. Gusty winds in Singapore normal at this time of the year

Gusty winds were recorded on Monday, 18 January, with weather experts attributing this to the northeast monsoon surge. According to them, strong winds are not unusual for this time of the year.

According to the Meteorological Service Singapore, wind speeds reached a high of 49.3kmh at the Admiralty weather station. Generally, high wind speeds also result in strong gusts. 

The current strong high pressure system in China is creating a surge of northeast winds over the South China Sea, which is responsible for the windy, cool, and rainy conditions that Singapore has been experiencing. 

It is expected that these blustery winds will last for as long as current conditions over China persists, which is predicted to be just a couple of days. 

The strongest winds typically occur during the northeast monsoon in January in February. Under normal conditions, winds in Singapore are generally light, with surface wind speed of less than 2.5 m/s. A northeast monsoon surge can see mean speeds of 10m/s or more. 

The Met Service has said on Friday that Singapore can expect fair and occasionally windy conditions on a few days in the latter half of January.

 

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Culture Local Reel Singapore Top Picks Web Series

Portraits of Singapore (Episode 7) – Singapore Street Photography

Street photography (also known as candid photography) is free and unconfined. But how can you make these “candid photographs” tell a story?

Follow our THG photographer Malek Roslee as he journeys through Boat Quay capturing stills to create a series of photographs that tells a story, edited with Adobe Lightroom’s amazing HSL Colour Tool. Watch the video for more pointers from him.

 

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Asia Culture Design International Lifestyle News Popular Singapore South East Asia

Revamped Mahjong Designs Offend Many Chinese, Here’s Why.

A trio of ladies in Texas formed a company, The Mahjong Line, to sell revamp mahjong tiles because the “venerable game needed a respectful refresh“. These exorbitant tiles, ranging from USD325 to USD425, received flak from the Chinese community for being culturally insensitive.

How were the mahjong tiles revamped, exactly?

The company released five sets of mahjong tile designs, most of which look nothing like the original game that many Chinese are familiar with. For instance, the bamboo symbols, which represent the strings (索, sǔo) that ancient Chinese copper coins were strung on, are replaced with meaningless patterns of the word, ‘BAM’.

It even features a clueless chicken, whose ignorance may mirror that of the three founders in The Mahjong Line.

The Mahjong Line

There are neither traditional suits of stones that represent 筒 (tóng), which represents a coin with a square hole in its centre, nor suits of characters that represent 萬 (wàn), which means 10,000. Instead, messy lightning bolts and bubbles adorns the tile faces.

There are even inexplicable bags of flour with croissants, pretzels, and cupcakes, none of which bear relevance to the Chinese culture.

The Mahjong Line

The eight bags of flour above are meant to replace the eight traditional flowers used in mahjong. The original flowers can be used in a variety of way in the original mahjong game. It can be akin to a Joker in card games, as a wild card to complete certain tile sets or combinations, or earn extra points.

The eight original flower tiles are also meaningful, with four tiles representing the four seasons: winter (冬天, dōngtiān), spring (春天, chūntiān), summer (夏天, xiàtiān), and fall (秋天, qiūtiān), and four more representing the four Confucian plants: bamboo (竹, zhú), chrysanthemum (菊花, júhuā), orchid (蘭花, lánhuā), and plum (梅, méi).

It is unclear what the bags of flour represent.

In the original mahjong game, there are also honour suits that include directional winds and arrows that are derived from the ancient imperial exam, archery, and Confucius’ cardinal virtues.

In the honour suit, there is a tile named red center (紅中 , hóng zhōng), which connotes the passing of an imperial exam, a hit in archery, and the Confucian virtue of benevolence. This has been replaced by a devil (yes, an actual red horned devil).

The original green tile on wealth, (發 fā) representing an archer releasing his or her draw and the Confucian virtue of sincerity has been replaced with a kid, dressed up as a knight, with eyes unstrategically shielded by a cooking pot.

The blue tile on whiteboard, (白板, bái ban) meaning freedom from corruption, a miss in archery, or the Confucian virtue of filial piety, has been replaced with a banal soap and several unimpressive bubbles. There are even Whoopie cushions to complete the set.

The Mahjong Line

Were people pissed, and did the company apologise?

Many Chinese were offended with the unnecessary and insensitive mahjong tile refresh, and their unhappiness were evident on social media. One critic, Jeremy Lee, wrote that the chinese culture is “not some cheap coloring book that can be filled-in and be ‘made pretty’ by the standards of privileged teenyboppers”.

A Chinese-Canadian graduate student in Toronto, Yuelin Ge, posted an open letter, stating that she is “beyond disappointed in the atrocity”, and asked if her culture was “too boring for (the founders) and not trendy enough”.

As part of the company’s PR efforts, an apology was stapled on their website and the photo of the three founders were swiftly removed. The founders “recognise (their) failure to pay proper homage to the game’s Chinese heritage”, and understand that “using words like ‘refresh’ were hurtful to many”. 

Despite being “deeply sorry” and determined to not “ignore or misrepresent the origins of the game” and knowing that there are “steps to take as (they) learn and grow”, the firm has chosen to continue selling all five mahjong sets.

“We stand by our products and are proud to be one of the many different companies offering a wide range of tiles and accessories for the game of American mahjong,” one of the founders, LeGere, said in a statement.

“That being said, we take full responsibility that in our quest to introduce new tiles we unintentionally recreated an experience shared by many Asian Americans of cultural erasure and are working to correct this mistake.”

Is the tile refresh really culturally insensitive?

While games evolve with time and adopt new values as they are embraced by different communities, this mahjong tile refresh reveals the pattern of Asian culture and artwork being continuously gentrified or used as fodder to market and upsell new products. In the process, the actual cultural origins may be ill understood, dismissed, and even ignored.

By drawing their own distinctions between “American” and “Chinese” mahjong, the founders may have subconsciously used the difference to sell culturally inappropriate mahjong sets to the “American” audience. By taking the liberty to define the game on their own terms, the founders showed a disregard of the cultural nuances in mahjong.

Not every Chinese is offended.

“People are free to do their own adaptations and styles of mahjong. Even when we play the game with different people, there are different rules. Some play with joker tiles and even spirit animals. This is why we always confirm the house rules first whenever playing with new friends.” Miranda (not her real name), a 26 year old Singaporean mahjong enthusiast remarks. She plays mahjong on an average of once or twice a week.

When asked about the various mahjong renditions, Miranda explains that “most Singaporeans remove the extra tiles in the mahjong set because the different variants are not popular in Singapore. But there are actually many different play styles and rules.”

“In this globalised environment, whatever is popular will travel, and it will definitely change along the way.”

Mahjong is more than just a game.

Beyond the cultural significance of each tile face as described above, mahjong is more than just a pastime. This could perhaps be easier explained via a pivotal scene in Crazy Rich Asians where the protagonists were playing a high-stakes game of mahjong.

Crazy Rich Asians

By folding a winning hand and revealing that she chose to lose on purpose, Rachel (Nick’s girlfriend) showed Eleanor (Nick’s mother) that she loves Nick enough to put his future ahead of her own, that family comes first and that she is self-sacrificing. In this sense, she displays endearing Chinese values, despite being an American.

These apt cultural subtleties could not have come across should the mahjong scene be replaced by a game with another origin, say, poker.

At the end of the day, mahjong is not merely a game and holds within its tiles cultural value that has been passed down for centuries.

 

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International News Singapore United Kingdom

COVID-19 Updates: Opening of Campsites and BBQ Pits, Less Pigeons at Food Centres

Second year of Covid-19 pandemic may be tougher than the first: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic might be tougher than the first, looking at how the new variant of the virus is spreading.

“We are going into a second year of this, it could be even tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues we are seeing,” Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies official said.

In its latest epidemiological update, WHO said that five million cases were reported last week, which could be likely due to a letdown of defences during the holiday season.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, said: “After the holidays, in some countries the situation will get a lot worse before it gets better.”

Amid growing fears of the more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain but now entrenched worldwide, governments across Europe on Wednesday have announced tighter and longer coronavirus restrictions.

How effective is a single vaccine dose against COVID-19?

The United Kingdom has just announced that due to the current strain on its healthcare system, coupled with the possibility of delays or shortages of vaccine supply, the country will be delaying the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

UK citizens who receive the first dose of the vaccine will now have to wait up to 12 weeks for their second dose, as opposed to the recommended three to four weeks.

The decision, naturally, has sparked concerns regarding the effectiveness of delaying the second dose. But how effective would it be if one were to only receive one dose of the vaccine?

For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, data published by the company in December has shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is roughly 52% effective after the first dose. Out of 36,523 participants in the phase three trial – the final stage of testing where people either received two full doses, 21 days apart, or a placebo – who had no evidence of existing infection, 82 people in the placebo group and 39 in the vaccine group developed COVID-19 symptoms.

However, this early protection comes with some important caveats. First, the protection doesn’t kick in until at least day 12 – until then, there was no difference between the two groups. Secondly, one dose is still significantly less protective than two. The latter is 95% effective at preventing the disease after a week.

Moderna

According to a document the company submitted to the FDA, the Moderna vaccine can provide 80.2% protection after one dose, compared to 95.6% after the second (in people aged 18 to 65 – it’s 86.4% in those over 65). As with the Pfizer vaccine, all participants in the phase three trial received two doses of the vaccine or a placebo within a single set time period, so it’s not yet known whether the immunity from a single vaccine would continue, or drop off after this stage.

As such, to answer the question of whether it’s advisable to skip the second dose of the vaccine, chief executive of Pfizer Albert Bourla has said that it would be a “big mistake” to do so, as it almost doubles the amount of protection one gets.

Meanwhile, Pfizer and BioNTech themselves have already urged caution on the grounds that their data ends at day 21, and “there is no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days”. It’s possible that the protection people seem to have will suddenly drop off after that point.

Furthermore, the body also takes time to develop immunity against the virus, so getting the first dose doesn’t mean that one is fully protected against the virus either.

All travellers to S’pore to take PCR test on arrival from 25 January

Amidst the worsening pandemic situation around the world, Singapore will be tightening its border restrictions from 25 January onwards. All travellers, including Singapore citizens and permanent residents will be required to take a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon arrival in Singapore.

This comes on top of the current requirement, where all individuals arriving in Singapore will have to serve a stay-home notice (SHN), and undergo a PCR test after 14 days.

In addition, all returning Singapore citizens and PRs from Britain and South Africa will be subject to an additional seven-day self isolation at their place of residence after their 14-day SHN. This regulation will kick in from 18 January. They will be tested at the end of their SHN, and again after they have completed their seven-day self-isolation.

The Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) has also stipulated that newly arrived foreign workers from the construction, marine, and process sectors will also need to take a PCR and serology test when they come to Singapore.

To protect themselves, short-term visitors will also need to have travel insurance to cover the costs of their medical treatment in Singapore should they be suspected of having the virus.

Those applying to enter Singapore under the air travel pass and reciprocal green lane arrangements will need to have minimum coverage of $30,000 for their COVID-19-related medical treatment and hospitalisation costs in Singapore, from 1 February.

Public campsites & BBQ pits to reopen on 20 January

Good news for those who have missed camping and having BBQs, the National Parks Board (NParks) has just announced that campsites in parks (including Pulau Ubin) and BBQ pits will reopen from 20 January.

However, those who are looking to do so will have to make an application online via AXS. In addition, a five-metre distance should be observed in between tents, and there can only be a maximum of six campers per tent.

For BBQ pits, group sizes should not exceed eight people, and all BBQ activities should stop by 10.30 p.m. More information can be found on the NParks website.

Circuit Breaker led to change in pigeon behaviour

A new NParks study has found that feral pigeons spent more time foraging during the Circuit Breaker, revealing that food availability affects the reproductive cycles of the birds.

“The results suggest that by limiting food resources islandwide, it would likely result in an eventual decline in the feral pigeon population,” said Dr Soh, a senior researcher for wildlife management research at NParks.

The study came about from Dr Soh’s initial observations during his trips to the supermarket during the Circuit Breaker. “The circuit breaker provided an unprecedented opportunity to examine pest bird responses to an islandwide reduction in human traffic and food.” This opportunity was previously not available, he said, and thus this is the first such study in Singapore.

Researchers thus identified four types of locations where pigeons were known to gather, and conducted surveys at these areas islandwide.

The data, as well as information collected from surveys done before and after the circuit breaker, was then analysed using statistical tools. The results showed that pigeon numbers fell the most significantly at open food centres, where dining out was not allowed during the circuit breaker.

However, more pigeons were observed at refuse collection centres, where less frequent cleaning was done during the circuit breaker due to restrictions in place, as well as urban green spaces.

 

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Local News Singapore

Surf’s Up in SG: Wave-Riders Hitting the Water at Changi

Surfing the Waves at Changi Beach

Despite the gloomy air-con weather that has graced Singapore this month, many surfing-enthusiasts hit the waters on the Changi beach coast this week, in pursuit of waves and wind.

The surf spot, located off the Changi beach coast, near the National Service Resort Club has been popular among avid surfers for decades but has never attracted quite as much attention as it has this week. About 80 surfers, with children among them, were spotted in the sea at Changi beach at around 4.30 pm on Wednesday, hoping to catch the best possible surfing conditions available in Singapore.

The pandemic’s impact on surfing

Singapore may not be a renown surfing spot, but travel restrictions due to the pandemic have created a surge in the number of locals picking up surfing and other water sports.

The waves spotted off the coast of Changi beach on 13 January barely went over a metre in height. But this was enough to catch the attention of desperate surfers, who have likely been grounded in Singapore for the better part of the past year. Several surfers who have had their boards dry since last March when travel restrictions and social distancing measures kicked in have missed the sport enough to find comfort in the waist-high waves that graced the coasts of Changi.

Mr Michael Lim, 45, who represented Singapore in the 2019 SEA games, noted that he would typically travel to Indonesia or Malaysia fortnightly to surf. But thanks to COVID-19, the Changi coast is the best training environment available to him at the moment.

Even though the waves were too small to perform water barrel stunts on, they were sufficient for some brief breaking, allowing avid surfers to scratch their year-long surfing itch. The gentler water conditions also made a safe environment for children to pick up surfing.

Making waves in SG

Waves are formed by energy passing through the water, such as when wind scoops up seawater over large expanses of ocean, causing it to move in a circular motion. Their size depends on the topography of the seafloor, as well as the wind condition.

Large waves are nearly unheard of in Singapore, and it is rare to have waves high enough to surf at the eastern point of the island. The recent spate of wet weather and stronger winds have caused white caps to appear during the low tide. The waves at Changi coast are only expected to last one to two weeks despite the northeast monsoon season in Southeast Asia, leaving local surfers little time left to enjoy riding the white caps.

Singapore’s surfing community

Given the lack of high-calibre waves in Singapore, surfing is a niche sport and an expensive hobby for locals. Travelling overseas is often a requirement for surfers to experience greater waves and learn surfing beyond the beginner’s level. The Surfing Association Singapore (SAS) is thus responsible for sanctioning local wave-riding activities and organizing surfing events abroad.

Founded in 2011, the SAS is recognised by the International Surfing Association (ISA) as the National Governing Body for all surfing activities, which include Shortboard, Longboard and Bodyboarding, StandUp Paddle (SUP) racing and surfing, bodysurfing, and wake-surfing among others.

To further develop surfing in Singapore, the SAS formed the first national surfing team to represent Singapore in the 2019 South East Asian (SEA) games, held in the Philippines. It was the first time surfing was introduced as a sport in the SEA Games, and Singapore sent six athletes to compete in all shortboard and longboard for both men and women categories.



The dangers of the local surf spot

While the rising popularity of the sole local surf spot bodes well for the sport’s development in Singapore, too many visitors could also affect the ease of preserving the surf spot.

Mr Khairul Anuar, a member of the Surfing Association of Singapore who has surfed there for many years, also worries that the newcomers may be unaware of the possible dangers. The surf spot happens to be located at the mouth of a large drain, with rip currents that can sweep people out to sea. Dangerous wildlife such as stingrays, stonefish, and jellyfish have also been spotted in the area.

Weather forecasts also predict on-and-off rainy days in Singapore throughout the rest of monsoon season, with thunderstorms hitting most areas daily and the temperature falling as low as 24 degrees Celsius. The rainy weather also means fewer chances for surfers to get back in the water, as it signifies a higher frequency of lightning alerts restricting surfers to staying on the shore.

Surf etiquette and social distancing

SAS has thus released a statement highlighting surf etiquette rules for the general public to bear in mind.

Surfers are required to wear leashes attached to their boards to avoid runaway boards from injuring anyone. They should always look out for someone else paddling for the wave they intend to ride and are reminded not to drop in on another surfer, as it is a sign of disrespect for other surfers.

Beginner surfers should never surf beyond their abilities and are reminded to stay aware of their environment. On the other hand, more experienced surfers should keep a lookout for strong current, and ensure that kids and beginners around them do not attempt to ride dangerous waves.

It’s easy to let our guards down now that we’ve entered Phase 3. But social distancing measures are still necessary to ensure a safe environment for our surfers. As per the social distancing regulations, surfers are limited to eight pax in a group, keeping two metres apart from each other as well as three metres away from other groups, with no intermingling allowed.

To preserve the surf spot, visitors are also reminded to keep the beach and ocean clean by not littering and to park vehicles at a proper car-park.

Conclusion

Although the waves will only be here for a fleeting moment, the discovery of the surf spot has been serendipitous for many local surfing-enthusiasts. The surprise arrival of waves has brought local surfers much comforting joy, igniting their passions to tide them through the travel ban.

 

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Culture International Popular Singapore

Forget Ghosting, These Are The Dating Trends To Know (And Try) In 2021

Even in the best of times, dating can be a complex (and complicated) dance to learn. Throw a life-upending global pandemic into the mix, along with strict safe distancing mandates and skyrocketing stress levels, and you’d think looking for love would be the last thing on our minds. Well, think again. Because it turns out ’rona isn’t the only thing in the air – so is romance.

The data on dating

Indeed, many dating sites and apps – probably the only pandemic-proof means of courtship – have witnessed a surge in new users since the onset of COVID-19 and the ensuing implementation of lockdown measures. The Match Group, which owns dozens of popular apps like Tinder, Hinge, and OkCupid, reported an 11% gain in average subscribers year-over-year while Bumble registered a 70% spike in video calls between March and May of 2020, and The Inner Circle saw a 116% uptick in messaging over that same period.

Closer to home, local company Paktor experienced a 10% increase in subscribers last year, with users in Singapore spending nearly 10 times longer on the app as compared to pre-COVID times.

All that to say, despite the odds and obvious hurdles, romance is still alive and kicking.

Yogas Design/Unsplash

The importance of social connection

We are, after all, inherently social beings, hardwired to interact and connect with others. Research has shown that the social support of family and friends (and of course, significant others) is key to our health, happiness, and overall wellbeing, which has made the disruption of social activities on account of COVID-19 that much more keenly felt.

Inundated by waves of loneliness, anxiety, and uncertainty in the wake of a still-raging pandemic, it’s perhaps only natural that we should seek out the comfort of company and the metaphorical safe harbour of a stable relationship through which we might just manage to weather the storm.

The pandemic positives

What’s more, according to Dr. Helen Fisher, a renowned biological anthropologist and chief scientific advisor to Match.com, the pandemic is “changing the courtship process in some positive ways”, not least because it is “forc[ing] singles to return to [a] more traditional [form of] wooing: getting to know someone before the kissing starts”, thereby helping them to “select a truly appropriate mate”.

In consonance with Dr. Fisher’s statement, Bumble and OkCupid recently released their predictions on the dating trends that are set to define the year ahead, and, as opposed to 2020’s questionable “fleabagging”, “retroshading” and “glamboozling” practices (among others), it looks like 2021 is finally heading in a more positive direction, at least on the dating front.

So, whether you’re happily self-partnered, getting back into the game, thinking of taking the plunge or otherwise, here are the dating trends to keep on your radar in the year ahead.

IB Wira Dyatmika/Unsplash

Advodating

From the Black Lives Matter demonstrations to the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and Thailand to the watershed elections in Singapore, America and beyond, 2020 was undoubtedly a year of significant political and social unrest, with ramifications that have spilled over into the new year and, in turn, into the realm of romance.

Drawing on current data from the millions of answers to its matching questions, OkCupid found that some 41% of millennial women and 48% of Gen Z women identify as activists, giving rise to what is now known as “advodating”, where people meet and bond with their partners through a shared passion for advocacy on social and political issues – it seems birds of a feather really do flock together!

Slow dating

“Slow dating” does exactly what it says on the tin: taking the time to get to know the other person and to build a deeper connection with each other before deciding if you want to move things forward, instead of jumping headlong into a relationship (or a hook-up, depending on your preference).

Thanks to quarantines and contact restrictions, people are not only less likely to rush into meeting up IRL, they’ve also had more time to think critically about what they’re looking for in a relationship. A staggering 84% of OkCupid users think it’s important to establish an emotional connection before a physical one while 55% of Bumble daters are now taking longer to move a match offline, an approach that will surely continue to gather steam in the coming months.

Hardballing

Among the many lessons we’ve (hopefully) grasped in the extraordinary year that was 2020, it’s that we don’t have the time or the energy to mess around anymore. Enter the “hardballing” trend, which is all about knowing what you want, going for what you want, and not settling for anything or anyone less than what you want. After those long, lonely months spent under lockdown, Bumble found that 46% of its users are now seeking something more serious, while 38% are feeling more confident about saying what (and who) is or isn’t right for them in their dating lives. You know what they say, honesty is the best policy!

Astrolove

“Hey baby, what’s your sign?” That used to be the kind of cheesy, cringeworthy pickup line that would land you in the no-go zone. Not anymore, though, because it appears romance could actually be written in the stars. It’s called, rather aptly, “astrolove”. Or simply put, when people determine their dating compatibility via their zodiac and/or star signs.

According to several dating apps, the use of astrology in navigating relationships is on a rapid rise. Research by Plenty of Fish shows that 37% of its users would take dating advice from their horoscopes over that of their friends and family, and 22% would cancel a date if they discovered that their star signs were incompatible. Bumble, meanwhile, noted that users who added the zodiac badge to their profiles enjoyed a 53% jump in their chances of matching.

Fun fact: it seems the stars are aligned for Leos, as they’ve gotten the most matches out of all the signs in the past year.

Nastya Dulhiier/Unsplash

Thunberging

In the same vein as the aforementioned “advodating” trend, “thunberging” (as coined by OkCupid in homage to Greta Thunberg) refers to the prevailing phenomenon in which a “passion for the planet is becoming a steamy subject and a topic to bond over” in online dating. OkCupid reports that roughly 85% of both millennial and Gen Z subscribers are concerned about the environmental crisis, with mentions of “climate change” increasing by 240% in user profiles over the last two years. Who would’ve thought that eco-anxiety could play a part in matchmaking?

Wilder-dating

Urged to #stayhome so as to help flatten the curve, we all spent far too much time staring at the same four walls day in and day out. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that more and more people are turning to outdoor adventures as the way to (re)kindle the romance. Dubbed “wilder-dating”, this means it’s time you put those candle-lit dinners and movie nights on the backburner, and bust out your sneakers, roller-skates, bicycles et al. instead.

Everton Vila/Unsplash

Bonus: We’re Not Really Strangers

Not sure where to start when it comes to breaking the ice and building a bond with your potential partner? Consider playing a round of We’re Not Really Strangers, a card game designed expressly to encourage vulnerability and to foster meaningful connections.

The game itself is simple – choose a card from the deck and read out the words printed on it – but the questions are quite another matter. Posing thought-provoking queries such as “What about me is hardest for you to understand?” and “What lesson took you the longest to unlearn?”, We’re Not Really Strangers digs deep beyond the surface of one’s persona, thus empowering us to understand others (and ourselves) better. It even comes with the disclaimer of “Warning: Feelings May Arise”.

Favoured by celebrities including Zendaya, Hailey Bieber, Noah Centineo, and Penn Badgley, the game arrives in various editions and expansion packs, from “Honest Dating” to “Self-Reflection” to “Quarantine”, so you’ll have no shortage of ways to spark a sincere emotional dialogue with your SO. Try it – if you dare.

We’re Not Really Strangers/Instagram

Categories
Local News Singapore

Latest News: 18 January 2021

1. Chinatown hawkers go online in pilot online store to boost sales of festive goods

With the pandemic dampening the usually bustling festive season and the Chinese New Year Bazaar cancelled for the year, 20 hawkers in Chinatown selling food, decoration, and apparels for Chinese New Year are going digital for the first time on a pilot online store. 

It is hopeful that this online platform will help drive sales in the lead-up to Chinese New Year as well as increase footfall in the area. More stalls may come onboard the e-store depending on the success of the project.

Customers who place orders via the e-store can collect them from Chinatown complex or have them delivered from 1 to 10 February. 

The platform is run by Chinatown Complex Hawkers’ Association (CCHA) and students from the Institute of Technical Education College Central’s School of Design and Media. 

It is part of the Double Happiness programme, an initiative by the CCHA and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board, which aims to promote hawker culture and Chinese New Year traditions. Double Happiness will run until next Sunday, 31 January. 

Other initiatives in the Double Happiness programme include daily Facebook Live streams about festive traditions and hawker culture, guided tours of Chinatown Complex, and workshops such as hongbao (red packet) holder making.

Artworks can also be found at Chinatown Complex to create a more vibrant environment including a trick-eye mural by local artist, Biddy Low. 

For more details on the Double Happiness programme, do check out their website here

2. 2020 General Election ballot papers and other election documents have been destroyed

The ballot papers and other election documents used in the 2020 General Election were destroyed on Saturday, 16 January at the Tuas South Incineration Plant. This is part of the process to ensure the secrecy of the vote, as stipulated by the law. 

Representative from the different political parties in Singapore were present to check the seals on the ballot boxes and ensure that they were not broken. 

Prior to the incineration of the documents, a box was opened to retrieve a copy of the register of voters for polling district PN23 of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC that had accidentally been sealed in a box containing ballot papers. 

The Elections Department had previously announced that the box will be opened at the Supreme Court to retrieve the register for the purpose of preparing the list of electors in PN23 who did not vote at the election.

Under the Parliamentary Election Act, sealed ballot boxes must be kept in safe custody for six months after the poll and can only be opened during this period “for the purpose of instituting or maintaining a prosecution or an application to invalidate an election”. 

For the six-month period, the documents had been kept in safe custody at the Supreme Court vault. 

3. Singapore Heart Foundation launches female CPR manikin vest for CPR+AED training

The Singapore Heart Foundation (SHF) has launched a female cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) manikin vest, allowing those who take CPR courses to be able to practise the emergency procedure on female physiques. 

The vest was launched in conjunction with National Life Saving Day 2021 and has been described as the “first of its kind”. It was designed to be able to fit on most CPR manikins in the existing market. 

The vest will be used in the Foundation’s CPR+AED (automated external defibrillator) training programmes. It will also be distributed to around 60 accredited CPR+AED training centres. 

Previously, CPR+AED training was typically taught with CPR manikins of a male physique. As a result, trained lifesavers are primed to be familiar with performing CPR on males as compared to females. 

A 2020 survey done on CPR+AED commissioned by the SHF and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) revealed that 6 per cent of respondents were fearful of being accused of molest as a deterrent to performing CPR on a stranger. 

Having a female CPR manikin vest will thus allow participants to practice doing chest compressions around the female breasts and learn how to paste the AED pads without exposing the women’s chest.

4. M2 World Championship begins today, 18 January, at Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure 

Esports fans can look forward to an action-packed week as professional gamers battle it out in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) at the M2 World Championships! 

The event is held over seven days, from 18 to 24 January, at Shangri-La Singapore. The US$300,000 (S$398,250) prize pool has drawn 12 teams from Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Philippines, Cambodia, and Myanmar. 

The matches can be watched online at the comfort of your home. However, there is also the option for esports enthusiasts to gather and catch the championships on the big screen at Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure. 

Tickets start from $15. Beyond just gathering with like-minded gamers, attending the event at Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure will entitle you to in-game items such as 200 hero fragments and 200 magic dust. 

Additionally, there will be mini-tournaments and live draws during the event, and you stand a chance to walk away with limited editing RSG M2 jerseys. 

Tickets can be purchased at www.rsg.gg/mvp. Unfortunately, VIP passes have been sold out at the time of writing. 

5. Lionel Messi sent off as Barcelona lose Spanish Super Cup to Athletic Bilbao

Lionel Messi was given the first red card of his Barcelona career as they lost to Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final. 

In the final seconds of extra time, Messi lashed out at goalscorer Asler Villalibre, an incident that was spotted by the video assistant referee (VAR). The referee had initially missed the clash but dismissed Messi after viewing it on the VAR. 

Barca had initially scored twice through Antoine Griezmann, but Oscar de Marcons and Villalibre both scored in the final minute. Inaki Williams eventually scored the winning goal. 

With this red card, Messi could now be banned for at least four domestic games, with Super Cup suspensions carrying over to league and cup matches. 

The 33-year-old had only been sent off twice before, both for Argentina — on his international debut against Hungary in 2005 and in the 2019 Copa America third-place play-off against Chile.

 

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Categories
Local News Singapore

IPS Forum: “Imported” Chinese Privilege, Religion, and Other Discourses

Year on year, the Institute of Policy Studies’ (IPS) runs its annual flagship forum, Singapore Perspectives. In its 19th year running, this year’s forum was called Reset”, and relievingly, it wasn’t just about Singapore recovering from COVID 19. 2020 was a loaded year for socio-political discourse in Singapore, with GE2020 challenging the fabric of society, amongst many of the other social arguments that had happened.

news_IPS_1
Mothership

Rejected challenges against Section 377A, the Parti Liyani case, and the dehumanising treatment of migrant workers in Singapore leading to massive COVID 19 clusters only scratch the surface of what reigned in social conversations. Cancel culture also reared its head, whether ugly or not, with brands dropping Xiaxue for her derogatory views, and a certain yacht business deciding to shun trans people during its planning of an LGBT-themed event.

Pair all of that with Black Lives Matter spurring a long conversation on Chinese Privilege here, and you’ll mostly have the themes that made the crux of IPS’ forum this year, consisting of panelists who… well, seem to have lived in the US a fair bit, discussing Singapore.

Chinese Privilege is… “intellectual scarcity”

Different panelists had varied opinions on the relevance of the term “Chinese Privilege” to Singapore, although they mostly seemed to vocalise that the term was not useful, and that it does not have the same relevance to Singapore as the term “White Privilege” does to America. Sangeetha Thanapal, the creator of the locally-used term has spoken about its use as a conceptual anchor.

Some panelists proposed that Singapore should perhaps rely on the terms already existent in our discourse. Associate Professor Daniel Goh, deputy head of National University of Singapore’s sociology department said that “in terms of concepts, the usefulness of ‘Chinese privilege’ is not there because we already have concepts to describe these things”.

Another panelist, Professor Joel Kotkin, a presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University in the United States, pointed out that the US has plenty to learn from Singapore’s model of multiculturalism.

With that said, he also shared his view that the term of “white privilege” is “absurd”, backing his point up by noting that the term does not reflect the complexities of identity, since some minority groups like Asian Americans have more education and income than some white people.

Another panelist, Mei Lin Fung, who has been living in the US for decades now, said that the idea of Chinese Privilege agitated her. She said that imposing the US concept of white privilege onto Singapore demonstrates a lack of thinking, with the right answer being to engage in dialogic society.

“People are much less concerned about people’s privilege if they are moving upwards. But if you’re not going upwards and then you can blame somebody else then I think it’s a real problem… I know even in Singapore, there are poor Chinese, there are Chinese who are struggling, particularly immigrants,” said Kotkin.

Reports do not indicate a directly opposing viewpoint on the IPS forum.

Other issues, as discussed at IPS forum

The concept of a dialogical society, as mentioned by Fung, was touched on by Mohammad Alami Musa, Head of Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. He proposed that a dialogical society could be the antidote to social polarisation in Singapore.

He also questioned where the lines between religion, politics, and state should be drawn, citing these as problems that society would have to deal with in years to come. To elaborate on his point, he cited potential escalations around people with no religious affiliations being allowed to provide their opinions on issues of the public.

“People of no religion… are going to want to have a seat at the table, because they believe that even without religion… (they) have the wisdom and this moral sensibility to contribute to public reason and morality,” said Mr Alami.

To further add on to what he thought could cause religious groups to become tense, he also identified that sub-groups are exerting a stronger presence in requesting recognition from the state around issues such as racial and social justice, sexuality, xenophobia, and economic nationalism amongst other things.

Topics that arose from Environment and Sustainability forum of Singapore Perspectives was the need for “green recovery” and how countries are looking at furthering economic growth alongside environmental goals, among other topics like sustainable jobs and energy.

Part of the IPS’ annual Singapore Perspectives event, “Reset” takes place over four days. The first session took place on 12 January 2021, followed by 14 January, and the last two will be held on 19 and 25 January.

 

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Categories
Culture Local Singapore

Normal is Relative: How My Parents Lived Separate Lives

No topic is more talked about than relationships. Society has its views on every type of relationship there is, especially marriage. What’s right. What’s proper. What’s normal. And there’s the rub. In the context of relationships in general, what exactly is ‘normal’, and why do we allow ourselves to be influenced by someone else’s definition of ‘normal’? Normal is relative, for each and every one of us.

Having witnessed my parents’ marriage take on some unimaginable twists and turns, I’ve come to believe that if you let others’ opinions and biases (unconscious or otherwise) influence you, your relationship can’t grow into a ‘normal’ that works for you and your partner, and more importantly, a ‘normal’ that allows you to be true to yourself.

A different kind of relationship

From a young age, I realised that my parents’ relationship functioned very differently from those of my friends’ parents. I remember wondering why this was so, but it didn’t really upset me, probably because I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider in school and amongst friends. So if I’m on the fringe, it seemed completely logical that my parents would be too.

My parents’ romance began like a rom-com. My father first caught a glimpse of my mother on a public bus and from that moment, he just knew she would be his wife. Even if it meant eventually convincing her to leave her fiancé (who was a friend of his) for him. From the day they got married, there was an imbalance of give-and-take, with my father doing most of the taking. Generous to a fault, my mother sacrificed her savings to see him through law school, establish his law firm, and even secure the first family home. But perhaps the biggest sacrifice she made was giving too much of herself.

For many years, the imbalanced give-and-take was my parents’ normal, along with the embarrassingly loud arguments, the spontaneous disappearances of my mother which usually lasted a few days, and the long silences that eventually broke with my mother asking my father if he’d eaten (fill in time-appropriate meal) yet.

Conditioned to a new normal

As with so many things in life, people become conditioned. And so my siblings and I became so conditioned to this sense of normal that we were absolutely dumbfounded when our mother asked for a separation. It shook me to the core. I felt like I didn’t know my mother. Why, after all these years, was this normal now not ok with her? (I was 16 then, happily immature and ignorant, you must understand.)

As if to further confuse their children, they continued to live in the same house, share the same friends, yet to them, they “lived separate lives’”. The next life-changing chapter for us as a family centred around Dad migrating to Australia. What was so incredible about this was that he made the decision while on holiday with friends. During this same holiday, he also purchased a house. And returned to Singapore to inform my mother of his decision and her need to migrate with him because he needed her to pay for half of the house. Oh, and as for us kids, we were to stay put, seeing as how we were all (young) adults and needed to build our own lives.

Despite having to give up the family home she loved, move to a country she barely knew, co-purchase three houses in Australia in total because Dad was very fickle, she grew into yet another new normal with him. And together, they transformed themselves and their marriage. They entered a different phase of Becoming which stretched well over 20 years. In this time, I observed how my parents grew to become true companions to one another – loving, loyal, and emotionally open. Thinking back on this, I suppose it dissolved a fair bit of cynicism in me. Perhaps some relationships just go through more phases of normal than others.

An evolving relationship

When they decided to return to Singapore to live out their “last lap” as they liked to put it, I thought we would all finally ease into a quiet, no-more-surprises sort of normal. But a few years after their return, Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and my parents’ marriage went through yet another transformation. Dad grew into a role he was, for most of his life, unfamiliar with – that of a caregiver. His purpose in life was to make Mom smile every day and to never let her feel like she was going through this stage alone. The last nine days of her life as we went through palliative care with her were the most painful for Dad. But seeing him so remorseful and broken, I knew he had become a person, a husband, and a father whom I now have absolute respect for.

I couldn’t begin to delve into just how relative ‘normal’ is to each of us without sharing the story of my parents’ relationship. Some may have given up reading this story halfway through, concluding that the relationship was toxic and my mother was crazy to stick it out. Whatever your perception of normal is, that – all those ups and downs and painful challenges – was what normal was for my parents. But they chose to find a way to work with this normal, without becoming despondent, unloving or bitter. And from there, they continued to finetune what normal meant to them, as a couple and as individuals. I doubt they ever worried about what others thought of their marriage, or maybe they did but ultimately, they didn’t give a damn.

Whatever your normal is, I sincerely hope it leads or has led to a healthy relationship and a happy you.

 

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Categories
F&B Lifestyle Local Popular Singapore

Home-Based Baking Business Thrives During Circuit Breaker; Goes Brick and Mortar

The Backstory

“I’ve always had a passion for baking and cooking, it’s just that academics always got in the way.” Thanks to the Circuit Breaker, Charmaine Hui, was finally able to realise her dream of opening a cafe that sells her handmade baked goods.

“I [initially] came back to Singapore for Chinese New Year, but I ended up being here for 10 months because of the Circuit Breaker, so I thought, I’ve graduated, and I don’t really wanna just sit at home and watch K-dramas, so I thought that I would just bake. Another reason was because my dog passed away in March in Hong Kong, and I couldn’t send her off; I wanted to do something to distract myself.”

The idea of starting her home baking business came from her friends and relatives — recipients of her baked goods. “I baked so much, because of the time we were at home, so I had to share them with my friends and relatives. They were the ones that encouraged me to start a home baking business.”

Before long, business began to boom. “The response was really great. I was quite overwhelmed because I never thought that people would be so supportive. After a while I thought, you know what? I can’t manage this on my own anymore.”

Needing more people to help with expanding her thriving business, she enlisted the help of her family friend, Xuan Xin, to share the load of opening the business. “I took a barista course to gain some knowledge about coffee beans, and how to operate a manual coffee machine, and I went to learn latte art as well,” she says.

The cafe

Bakeaholic is located in the heart of Sembawang, at The Brooks II, a newly built residential area. Although the location may not be the easiest to find, that doesn’t stop fans of Charmaine’s baked goods from travelling down to try out the cafe’s offerings.

Claudia Tan/TheHomeGround Asia

Claudia Tan/TheHomeGround Asia

Although her business has expanded considerably, Charmaine is still in charge of the baking process and ensures that all the items are of a high quality before she brings them out onto the display counter. “All our bakes don’t contain preservatives with as little sugar added as possible, and they’re made fresh every day.”

Claudia Tan/TheHomeGround Asia

When asked about the origins of her creations, she says that most of the baked goods are based off what she and her family enjoy, as well as inspiration from her travels. “I’ve been to many places, and I’ve also had a lot of great food, so I like to modify and make it my own. There isn’t like a recipe that I follow online [per se]. It takes time, experience and a lot of taste testing, a lot of research and development to get things done.”

Claudia Tan/TheHomeGround Asia

When THG visited Bakeaholic, we tried a small sample of what they had to offer at that time, which included their Sea Salt Dark Chocolate brookies, which are sold at $12 for a small bag (65g), and $23 for a large bag (145g), as well as their banana walnut loaf, which goes for $3.50 per slice and $34 for the entire loaf. Both items are made without the use of preservatives, and ingredients that are sourced by Charmaine herself.

Claudia Tan/TheHomeGround Asia

The banana walnut loaf was soft and moist, with just the right amount of both flavours that complemented each other.

However, the item that stood out was the Sea Salt Dark Chocolate brookies, which is what one could describe as the perfect marriage between a brownie and a cookie — very slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The amount of dark chocolate used is also just right, not too sweet, and also nicely balanced with the sea salt flavour.

As for the beverages, Xuan Xin shared that one of Bakeaholic’s specialties is their matcha, which contains mulberry properties that are anti-oxidant, help to improve blood circulation, and burn fat — all without compromising on the familiar taste of matcha that everyone loves. The matcha drinks are available in a few variations — the good ol’ iced or hot matcha ($5 for hot, +$1 for iced), sparkling matcha ($7), sparkling matcha yuzu ($8), matcha affogato ($8), and matcha latte ($6, +$1 for iced) — so there’s definitely something for everyone.

Being a coffee lover myself, I also tried their iced latte ($7). The drink contained just the right amount of espresso and milk and was a lovely addition to the sweet baked goods.

Apart from offering delectable baked treats and drinks, the cafe also has a kitchen that serves up entrees such as all day breakfast ($10.90–$15), pizzas ($12–$15), and salads ($8–$12).

Future plans

Although she has already accomplished her dream of opening a cafe, it doesn’t stop there for Charmaine, who reveals that she intends to expand her business in time to come. “[Expanding] is definitely the long term goal, maybe even a franchise. And because I do miss Hong Kong, I do hope that I can start something there, maybe expand there as well.”

Claudia Tan/TheHomeGround Asia

To check out Bakeaholic Cafe’s menu items, visit their website at cafebakeaholicsg.com, or follow their Instagram page, @bakeaholic_sg.

 

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