Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tiffin story

Nicked this from Straits Times

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March 30, 2009

5% off meals if you bring own container

By Goh Yi Han

IN THE past, many Singaporeans would carry along their own tiffin carriers when they bought food from street hawkers.

Now, foodcourts in Singapore are helping to revive the practice of using one's own containers for takeaway food.

Most local chains already charge customers an extra 10 or 20 cents for takeaway food in plastic microwaveable containers. This is to cover the extra costs incurred by stallholders.

However, at least one operator is now offering a discount on food purchased if patrons provide their own containers.

Banquet Holdings, which runs the Banquet chain of halal foodcourts, gives customers a 5 per cent discount if they supply their own containers. This promotion is available at most eateries owned by the company, including more than 10 Banquet foodcourt outlets located across the island.

'This is a step that we have taken in order to persuade our customers to be more environmentally friendly,' said a company spokesman. It also saves money for the company, which does not have to spend as much on buying and storing disposable cutlery and containers.

And at least one educational institution is of like mind.

From this month onwards, students and staff at the National University of Singapore (NUS) are being encouraged to use reusable containers for takeaway food. It is a joint project by Students Against Violation of the Earth, which is a standing committee under the NUS Student Union, and two university offices.

Project leader Ong Wei Tao, a third-year social work student, said the 'Project Box' campaign is aimed at reducing the use of disposable containers in the school's foodcourts. This would benefit consumers, vendors and the environment, he added.

Environmental organisations have welcomed the move.

'There are benefits to avoiding the use of disposables,' said Mr Howard Shaw, the executive director of the Singapore Environment Council. 'Plastic containers are made with non-renewable resources. It's a terrible waste for a product to be manufactured for a single use of less than half an hour.'

It is an uphill battle though. Despite Banquet's efforts, customer reactions have been mixed.
Salesgirl Winnie Choy, 36, said: 'Disposable containers are more convenient - after eating, you just throw the box away.'

Ms Samsiah Siron, 49, who is unemployed, said the throwaway boxes cost only 10 cents each and she 'can reuse them many times'.

However, Mr Shaw cautioned against such reuse. Studies have shown that these containers cannot stand up to such usage as they are not made for this purpose. Constant exposure to heat could cause toxic plastic compounds to leach out, Mr Shaw said.

Other foodcourts are, for now, not actively encouraging customers to use their own containers.
'If a patron should suffer food poisoning, it would be difficult to ascertain the cause: the patron's own wares or the stall involved,' said a spokesman for Horizon Food Mall.

The National Environment Agency said that while food establishments must maintain sound hygiene standards, members of the public should also take personal responsibility and use only clean containers for takeaway food.

Second-year NUS business student Meryl Lee, 20, agreed. 'In our parents' time, there weren't any problems with hygiene when they used tiffin carriers. Besides, I would actually feel safer using my own containers than the crockery at cafeterias, which has been cleaned by other people.'

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Think of the children -- perhaps Fred should

News last week -- OK, old news -- that 'Sir Fred' had his house vandalized.

OK, I do not condone vandalism. But it was the editor of the Business Times, I think, according to a little video clip on a news site that says, "Look, Sir Fred is a private citizen now. You may not agree with his pension and all that, but that was in accordance with his contract, etc. Think of his children. He might now have to move his children to another school because of this act ...."

Think of the children. Think of the children. Think of the children.

I thought of the children and wonder if Fred the Shred ever thought of the children when he acted in those (now generally considered) despicable ways not only with his bank business (the mismanagement of it) but also with his pension (the sheer audacity and greed), etc.

Did he think of the children -- other people's children -- when he made those corporate decisions that led to his eventual downfall?

I think of two children in particular: my son's classmate and his sister will now have to leave their private schools to go to a state school because their mother has been made redundant. "Tough!" you may say, "Do they not have any reserves they could turn to?"

That is another story. The point is there are thousands of children like these up and down the country because some people in positions of influence did not think of the children.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Letter ... Spirit ... Law

I've just despatched a letter to my local council to appeal for a 'Penalty Charge Notice' (PCN) for making a prohibited right turn into the High Street.

Forty-six (46) days after the alleged contravention we were sent this PCN. There were several things not correct about this PCN and in my view unenforceable. Basically what happened was there was a blaze of publicity about how our local High Street has reopened to traffic in both directions.

Yippee! we said, and at the next opportunity drove into it to celebrate. The shops here have had a dire time since they closed the High Street more than ten years ago. We believe in supporting 0ur local shops and so wanted to spend some money there.

We followed the road markings to keep right and came to a point where we realized that as we were neither a bus nor a push bike we were not permitted to 'turn' onto the High Street from this direction. By this time it was not possible to do anything but make that prohibited turn. Which is when the cameras caught us, but there were also no signage to warn us that cameras were in place to enforce traffic regulation.

But what's the point in flying huge banners that say 'the town is now OPEN' and not let people drive through? How else does one access the High Street then?

I checked out the signs yesterday, on foot, and found that there was ample signage alright, but these were "strategically" (ahem!) placed so that motorists are sure to miss them if there were vehicles parked for loading, if you are following a bus, etc. Was this a ploy by the Council to fleece her residents.

Sure I (my husband, actually) made an illegal turn, but only because he was misled, misled and misled again. So if they were going by the letter of the law, we have no case. But if they consider the spirit of the law, we might just get the notice cancelled.

But of course this is Inggerlund, where the letter of the law stands: So an MP claiming expenses (effectively to pay off the mortgage of his parents' home, which I suspect was originally his home) even when these expenses are unjustifiable but allowed, is OK because it is according to the letter of the law, even when the spirit with which this was done is hardly justifiable.

I wonder if Mr McN, MP, knows how many of his constituents commute to Hammersmith every day to work. And what good is having an MP who is a minister as he is not allowed to do very much because of his position in government?

Bah!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

999 - previous calls

I had put my baby in the push-chair. Had to go back to the kitchen to clean my hands. Looked across the road and saw the side door to my neighbour's house flapping about.

Strange. I knew they were away. I had been given the keys to go water the plants and did once. Why was the door open?

I wheeled baby over, unlocked the door and stepped into their house to the scene I want to but cannot forget.

My Brazilian neighbour (now a court interpreter) is the most meticulous housekeeper. She even irons her underwear. Everything has its own place.

What I saw was dirty footprints on the carpet, drawers left open, some garden tools and the door still flapping about. Clearly someone had broken in.

I locked the door, got the baby back into the house and phoned 999. I was hyperventilating. The police operator kept telling me, "Calm down, calm down. Take a deep breath."

I was so angry, so cross, that someone had broken into my neighbour's house while it was 'in my care'. How is she going to feel when she comes back to this mess?

I then phoned another young mum (we met at a 'baby group') who wisely said, "Make yourself a cup of sweet tea." I didn't know sweet tea had such a calming effect.

The police did come and questioned me and secured the house. The scene of crime people came and dusted for finger prints. A couple of days later we arranged for a baby-sitter to come to keep an eye on our baby while husband and I went over to clean up. We positioned a cupboard door in her hall way such that we could stick up a note to warn her of what happened before she saw the main mess.

They could have phoned, but didn't. We also didn't want to spoil their holiday. So they found out when they came back. We quickly arranged to have a security alarm installed in our home. The picture of my friend's home all messed up -- violated -- made me want to puke.

Then she had so much trouble claiming insurance, etc. Such hassle.

A few years ago while my son (probably five years then, I think) was at a drama class I went to the nearby shopping precinct to do some shopping as I needed food. I saw what appeared to be a 'pack' of teenagers hounding another young, very scared looking teenager.

A pack of about 15 youths (at least) were following this young man. They had their shoulders hunched, making menacing sounds and scenes from Lord of the Flies came to mind.

When I stepped into M&S I saw that they had begun to run after this chap. I feared for his life and whipped out my phone and called 999. I watched from the safety of M&S and then the quarry ran into a shop opposite. He must have asked for help as someone quickly locked the doors and kept the other baying youths outside.

I was on the phone describing what I saw to the operator. I do not remember what the outcome of that call was. I cannot believe young people can behave like that. But clearly they do.

I had to finish my shopping and get on with life. I trust that the young man was safe and given some protection by someone.

Then the next 999 call was at the same shopping precinct. A punch-up, and some blood. Everyone thought everyone else would call the police. But nobody did. So I did. (See earlier post.)

Maybe my phone number is black-listed now!

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Monday, March 02, 2009

999 - "only for life and death calls"?

This was the sequence of events:

6.50pm: Son and I returned from his 'Sung Vespers' service at school chapel. I noticed that a small car was parked just left of our boundary fence. There were four young people in there. I've lived long enough in this part of the world to know not to stare too hard at strangers. We just sort of averted our gaze and walked on and hurried into our house.

c7.20pm: Loud music from the parked car started filtering in through our double-glazed windows. I was busy and ignored it and hoped that it would go away.

7.40pm: Music was getting louder. I looked up the local police station website to see what I should do. It is a nuisance, but not an emergency, so I wanted to find a non-999 number to ring. I didn't spot it, but spotted an email form I could use. I filled it in, expecting answers "within three days" as published. As I wrote the folk started tooting their horn as well. Things were getting a bit raucous (spelling?).

I then went to another section of the website and found the non-emergency number and rang it. I was put "in a queue". I waited. And waited. And waited.

Looking out of the window I saw that two of these young people were out of their car and on our premises. I was starting to shake as I was getting nervous.

Husband interrupted, "Who are you calling?"

Me: The non-emergency number.

Him: Call 999.

So I did. When I got to speak to an officer I was shaking even more. By this time I suspected that they were smoking something illegal.

Told the officer the information (above). The noise was getting louder as the four got less inhibited.

Do you have their registration number? No, I'm too scared to go out to look.

Are you sure they are smoking something illegal? No, but they are smoking something.

They are smoking something, but it could be cigarettes? Yes. (If I went out for a sniff I could usually tell having lived in Amsterdam for a year. But I felt unsafe and very nervous.)

You say they were on your premises, what do you mean? They had come onto my front drive and messing about.

OK, we'll get someone to pop round to check.

This was now past 8pm.

Meanwhile a kind person on the Met Police website has replied to say "this is a non-emergency, you could call this 0300 number ..." I replied to say, "Actually I had already called 999 because they had entered my premises ..." This person later replied again to say the 999 number is "only for life and death calls".

We were two happy taxpayers because a patrol car did pull up. I watched from my darkened bedroom as the police officers searched the individuals and the car. You could tell one or two in the group were not very happy at all as someone threw a plastic bottle onto the road. The male officer picked it up and put it on the roof of their car. (We found even more rubbish on the kerb early this morning.)

Eventually they dispersed the group. Don't know exactly why the folk were told to clear off but the car was locked up and left there. The police left. The little car was moved by the morning.

My suspicions are (1) the driver was too drunk to drive and/or (2) the car was not properly insured. At this point I felt vindicated that the police saw fit that these people were not allowed to drive the car away.

Was I right to call the police over something so trivial? Noisy young people outside your house smoking and drinking and making a racket? Is it a "life and death" situation that warranted police attention?

In normal circumstances, I would say the answer is "no". But would it be "life and death" if these young people were allowed to drive off, hit a tree, kill someone, themselves perhaps, or worse, the sole breadwinner of a family of five returning from an afternoon shift? Would I sleep better at night knowing that I didn't bother the police with a "nuisance" complaint only to "free them up" to deal with the consequences of my non-action?

What if there was damage to my property and my husband went charging out to remonstrate with them, gets punched, knocked his head onto the hard ground and [you fill in the details, there's enough news of this nature lately] ... would that be "life and death" enough for the police?

Should the police be doing things to prevent a "life and death" situation rather than mop up the spills, clean up the operation after someone has, tragically, died?

I personally feel that most police officers would rather err on the side of caution and prevent unnecessary tragedies that could be avoided simply by defusing the situation.

What do you think?

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