Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

New Aggregator The Singapore Daily

After the demise of IS, another aggregator blog has appeared - The Singapore Daily. Got "ChioBu" some more. Innovative. Maybe we can finally get an online citizen tabloid heheh. Reading EDMW is getting really tedious.

I'm still stuck in a project, don't think we can meet the deadline. Isn't that how it is always... Will try and write something as soon as I can.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Thoughts On The National Day Rally Speech 2007

I'll leave the praises to the official mouthpieces. Here are my thoughts on some of the changes announced by the PM, and some things I feel the he should have addressed.

Increasing Cost Of Living

One glaring issue that he did not address was the problem of increased cost of living. I was very surprised that he chose to avoid this topic as it is one of the main reasons why the aging population and the less well off are having problems (so much for million dollar salaries). I believe one often overlooked reason why our cost of living has gone up so much recently is our foreign talent and immigration policy. Like Beijing and many other rapidly growing cities straining under the weight of increased population, the influx of foreigners have a direct impact of on the demand and hence the cost of limited resources. One obvious example is the transportation system. Without land to build wider roads and more flyovers, our roads are struggling to cope with the increasing number of cars, buses and taxis needed to move people around. The effect? Bus fares, taxi charges, train ticket prices, ERP gantry charges all go up, typically to cover the costs of tackling increased demand.

Widening Rich Poor Divide

Although the PM has announced a 4th university to bolster opportunities to climb out of the poverty trap, it is a poor substitute for much needed assistance for the less fortunate/well off. Not everybody is made for academic exellence, and adding more degree holders to the workforce could have the net effect of pulling down salaries for this group of workers.

CPF Changes

Adding an extra 1% will not be enough to tackle the cost of living after retirement. Moreover, the majority of our CPF is locked in our houses and will not earn interest. If you have used your CPF to sevice your housing loan and have subsequently sold the property you will know who has to pay for that CPF interest lost while it was locked in the loan. You. And if you can't afford to pay back the interest lost, the amount is written off so effectively you did not earn ANY interest on your CPF, none.

Retirement Age

Increasing the retirement age is not the magic bullet to tackle an aging population. The people who will probably benefit most from this are mainly company executives, managers, doctors, lawyers, accountants etc. That is, the people who are least likely in need of help during old age. The remaining majority of the aged might likely find themselves working for very little pay doing something they might not be interested in. Life is fast approaching the end and the last thing I want to do is something that I am not interested in.

Compulsory Annuity

I don't like to be forced into buying anything and I am aghast that the PM is forcing Singaporeans to buy a financial product from private businesses. These products are sold by private insurance companies for profit and I don't like being forced to enrich the CEO's and Board of Directors of these companies. Some people might like the idea while others might not. But if you make it compulsory that means the people that don't like the idea don't matter. What happened to education and providing options? If I've made it this far in life I probably deserve the right to choose how I spend my money for my remaining years.

Political and Individual Freedom

We have not progressed much in this area since day one and the PM has continued to not live up to his promises made during his inaugural speech as a PM. Freedom gained from the British and Malaysia have been replaced with subtle oppression in the name of national security and economic progress. A recent example here, and what some observers say about our version of democracy.

All in all, it seems to be business as usual in the City of Possibilities.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rock Still Rulez

I think this is a good article about being middle aged. I had a good laugh, I especially like this bit about music:
Young people get genuinely offended when reminded of the cruel fact that, musically, they well and truly missed the party. It must be hard to have your era defined by Duran Duran or Oasis or the Arctic Monkeys. One ought to avoid being too smug about this. Feign an interest. Don’t, whatever you do, make the mistake of introducing them to your playlist. They will discover it for themselves. The only interesting musical development of the past 25 years is hip-hop. Engage with it, it has moments of brilliance. But don’t play it in the car with the windows wound down.


And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all is one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hunting Kids To Save A Few?

Amidst the uproar from the fledgling anime community in response to ODEX's attempt to extort money from kids downloading fansubs aka RIAA a couple years back, I can't help but feel that Big Brother is being used to crush the very children its suppose to protect.

probably sums up the feelings of everybody whose been following the saga.

Why did a judge see fit to force ISP's to release the names of customers on the basis of ODEX's accusations? Who is benefiting and who is being hurt? Instead of sending Cease and Desist letters to these kids, ODEX has gone straight for the bank by demanding money from children.

Aren't laws enacted to protect the weak? Why are we hunting down our children to keep a company, who is obviously struggling to keep up with the times, afloat?

Big Brother watches, but to hunt children just for the sake of a few? Aren't we going a little too far this time?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Singapore 42nd National Day Parade

While we are told to marvel at the grandeur and extravaganza of the coming show put up to mark our separation and reluctant independence, I wonder how much of precious money and resources were consumed to build from scratch a floating platform and spectator stands at the Marina Bay. Aaron says that such rituals are probably necessary in our context and he is probably right. If you look at other more advance countries you will notice that National Day is usually observed privately . Singapore counts itself amongst countries like North Korea and China that celebrates National Day in opulent spectacle bordering on farcical excess. The colourful costumes, precision exercises and dance, military show, all serve to engineer and postulate the perception life, identity, cohesion and strength into an otherwise fragile nation state.

The day when we see no need for such parades is the day we should truly celebrate.

The master when it comes to parades, North Korea

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Young PAP Nicholas Lazarus Rails On Gays

Like I said to Aaron, views like these should never be buried! 35 year old (no, really!) Nicholas Lazarus, a young People's Action Party member, has some pretty strong views on gays. Just in case the charming post is removed, let's put it up for posterity. C'mon Nicky boy, be proud of what you are! Years from now, you'll thank us cos your kids can read about what daddy is really like!

On 28th July, Nicholas Lazarus wrote on the YPAP blog:

Saturday, 28 July 2007
The Alternative Vision for Singapore (and I mean Alternative!)
Posted by Nicholas Lazarus at 12:06 PM

With all this talk about legalizing homosexual acts, I was just pondering what would happen if such acts were indeed legalized.

Imagine men walking hand in hand with other men down Orchard Road, kissing, fondling and making out.

For that matter, imagine all that taking place on the MRT.

Instead of teachers dealing with boy-girl relationships, teachers would have to deal with boy-boy relationships.

Then, you might have the homosexuals all over Asia descending upon Singapore to flaunt what they cannot in their own countries.

Something to think about for the future of Singapore.

More goodies from Nicky boy on 29th July as he spewed more froth when flamed for his piece:
Nicholas Lazarus said...

Leaving aside my religious views on this matter, I am against any change of law/policy on homosexuals because:

1. They threaten the social fabric of the nation. Their ways represent an alternative for which we should not accept as being mainstream.

2. They cannot procreate and thus cannot produce offspring for our nation.

3. They cannot serve as soldiers because instead of serving alongside our men in green, they are more keen to sodomise them.

I do not accept the notion that homosexuals are "creative" and thus we need homosexuals to make our nation more "creative". There is no evidence to suggest that homosexuals are any more or less creative than heterosexuals.

If an analysis is done, they seem to bring more problems than benefits.
29 July 2007 17:17

I can't wait to hear his religious views!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More Starhub Woes

Further signs of Starhub struggling to manage its overspending on acquiring the rights to broadast the English Primier League. ESPN Starsports (ESS), the sports channel that has been broadcasting premier league matches on Starhub's cable network, has failed to reach an agreement on fees this season. ESS obviously decided that it will not overpay for Starhub's mistake.

Analysts had earier predicted that bids for the rights to broadcast the EPL from ESS, Singtel and Starhub would top S$150m. However, Starhub shocked everyone when it won the competition with a whopping S$246m bid. Starhub has apparently been struggling since to try and recoup from its miscalculation. Much to the ire of its subscribers, it raised cable charges by $4 across the board, then hammered its sports channel customers by almost doubling rates from $15 to $25 a month. Starhub probably tried to do the same to the fees it charges ESS. Like many unhappy customers who reportedly cancelled their sports subscription subsequently, ESS chose not to bow to Starhub's demands. So now Starhub will either have to spend more money to broadcast the games on its own, or find someone else willing to cough up the money to buy the games off its shoulders. There are unconfirmed news of a Dubai group considering a deal.

In addition to the EPL fiasco, Starhub has also failed in its attempts to launch the I-mode network here and is still struggling to penetrate landed property households. Will we see Starhub CEO stepping down soon? Looking at things, a golden handshake for its CEO might be the best thing for Starhub going forward.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Game Over For Checkers

What would happen if two of the best checkers players in the world met and both played the perfect game of their lifes? A draw, according to scientists. After 13 years and 500,995,484,682,338,672,639 moves later, 50 computers have come to the conclusion that a perfect game of checkers cannot be won or lost but will inevitably end in a draw. Scientists say that this is proof that the best player can't count on executing a cunning move to win, but can only hope not to make a mistake to lose a game.

Talk about an anticlimax...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

How The Internet Has Changed Me

Then: I read Sports, Home News, World News, Life Section, Finance Section (in order)
Now: I read Sports, World News

Then: I watch CNA before I sleep in bed
Now: I watch Taiwanese variety on Channel U before I sleep in bed

Then: I know Ministers by their full name
Now: I refer to Ministers by their acronyms

Then: MIW is what you use when you go overseas
Now: MIW is a swear word

Then: I like porn
Now: I'm tired of porn

What about you?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Marrying Venus

Aaron Ng tries to tackle a question from a friend - when does one know if its time to marry someone. Is there such a thing as being too early, or too late?

The best answer is - there's no good or bad time to get married (if you ignore the fact about one's biological clock). You will KNOW in your heart if you've met someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Marriage is not logical. Trying to rationalise it is like trying to understand women. (Insert exemption clauses... Note to self: check personal accident insurance.)

If you have doubts about marrying someone, then he/she is obviously not the ONE. Yup, I believe in the ONE theory. Its the only logical explanation for someone making such an irrational decision, marrying someone.

I'd better stop here or else I'll be sleeping in the living room tonight!

So my answer - if you have to think, don't do it!

Friday, June 22, 2007

退后 Step Back

I think 周杰倫 Chou Jie Lun aka Jay Chou is one of the few Chinese singers that has actively and successfully incorporated Chinese musical elements into contemporary popular Chinese songs. From the Er Hu to traditional normadic and even religious melodies, he has frequently managed to weave complex tapestries of music, one that I feel is especially relevant to the modern Chinese pop culture. And when it comes to love songs, nothing beats one that is written in Mandarin (ok, I might be a little biased =). One of my favourites from 周董 is 退后 Step Back. I've tried to translate the lyrics in a way that best retains the "Mandarin-ness".

Step Back
Music: Jay Chou
Lyrics: Devon Song

The sky, so gray, like it just cried
Leaving you did not bring more freedom
The soured air, smells of our distance
The heart wrenching end, like breathing, unstopping

In the drawer, a yellowed diary
Pressed dried, our memories
That smile, like summer
Our past, with passing time, forgotten
A love that lacked oxygen
Careless tears are unnecessary

I know you and I were not at fault
It's just we forgot how to step back
Promises given, begetting sincerity
But time plowed their emptiness

I know you and I were not at fault
It's just that letting go would be better
The most beautiful love can only continue in memories

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Spidey's Web Unravelled

Although Peter Parker might have been the first to create an "advanced adhesive compound" that allowed him to swing from building to building, researchers in UCR have found a way to synthetically produce dragline silk, the web spun by black widow spiders, which is incredibly strong and extensible. Not only will it allow someone to hang upside down from a ceiling, its properties can be used to make lightweight super strong body armour, micro sutures and even a new line of high-tech Nike Spidey sportswear.

Coincidently, the research was funded by the US Army (think dragline stormtrooper exoskeleton), which goes to show again that the best inventions usually come from the worst of intentions.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Nicola Tesla

Although the transfer of electricity through the air has been mooted for over a hundred years, a team from MIT has successfully demonstrated the theory by lighting up a 60W bulb 2 metres away without the use of wires. This is pretty exciting stuff. Don't just think about charging mobile devices wirelessly. Imagine what this means when we improve the efficiency of harvesting solar energy and are able to receive electricity from orbiting solar panels in space. (cue Samsung jingle...)

Remember the scientist Nicola Tesla who sold Hugh Jackman the huge electrical device in the movie The Prestige? Nicola Tesla was a physicist in the 19th century (no, he was not a rock singer =D), and he was the first person to propose the "transmission of electrical energy without wires". The movement of energy through space/matter that may or may not be conductors of electricity was subsequently named the Tesla effect in honor of Nicola Tesla. However, he died without realising his dream when a failed attempt to transfer energy wirelessly at the Wardenclyffe Tower in New York bankrupted him.

Tesla (middle) with Einstein (left)

So here's to Nicola Tesla, mocked by his peers at his time, reduced to an mad scientist in a movie. You were right. And your legacy might still change the lifes of every person on this planet.

BBC: Wireless energy promise powers up

Anywho, I do like the song by Tesla. The guitar solo just rocks, hell yeah! =)

"Love Song" by Tesla
So you think that it's over Say your love has finally reached the end
Anytime you call Night or day I'll be right there for you
If you need a friend

Yeah Love is all around you
Love is knocking outside the
Waitin' for you Is this love made just for two
Keep an open heart and you'll find love again
I know you'll find love again
It's gonna take a little time
Time is sure to mend your broken heart
Don't you even worry Pretty darlin'
I know you'll find love again

Love will find a way
Darlin' Love is gonna find a way
Find it's way back to you
Love will find a way
So look around
Open your eyes
Love is gonna find a way
Love is gonna
Love is gonna find a way
Love will find a way
Love's gonna find a way
Back to you Yeah
I know
I know
I know
I know

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Average Singaporeans Getting The Shortest Straw?

If this is true, I really wonder what our Ministers and policy makers are smoking to believe that they are making the average Singaporeans' life better...

Future not so rosy for working-class S'poreans
Jun 04, 2007
The Straits Times

MANY Singaporeans must be celebrating at the moment, with the buoyant economy, high employment, higher salaries and, for private home owners, skyrocketing property prices and 'en bloc' frenzy.

However, is the current state of the economy and future as rosy as it appears for most working-class Singaporeans?

According to data published in a report on the wealthiest cities in the world by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) on March 11, Singapore ranks 36th out of 70 cities based on gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005.

A look at the rankings will reveal that, apart from Singapore, all the cities in the bottom half are in Second and Third World countries.

Singapore's GDP of US$129 million (S$197 million) pales beside other Asian cities such as Tokyo (US$1.19 billion), Hong Kong (US$244 million), Seoul (US$218 million) and Shanghai (US$139 million). In fact, we are only slightly ahead of Mumbai (US$123 million).

These?rankings are arrived at by using purchasing-power- parity exchange rates.

However, unlike Singapore, our Asian counterparts in Hong Kong seem to have more to look forward to. The projections for city wealth in the year 2020 show that Hong Kong is likely to rise to 14th position, while Singapore is likely to decline to 40th.

The study (taking into consideration deduction of taxes and social-security contributions) reveals that net salaries in Asian cities such as Tokyo, Dubai, Seoul?and Taipei will surpass Singapore.

However, these sobering statistics apply only to the average Singaporean citizen. The top bracket of earners in professions such as medicine, law, banking and, of course, within the ranks of the Government, will earn as much, if not more, than some of their counterparts worldwide.

What do these figures tell Singaporeans? We can conclude that even though we pay a relatively low rate of?personal income tax, the net amount of wages we take home leaves us in the bottom half of the 70 cities in the PWC report.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

Monday, June 4, 2007

Cooking Up a Storm

Seems like the guys at the Online Citizen are inviting people to join them as they try to serve up a main course by opening a can of worms from the Auditor General's office. Let's hope they do find something other than the "forgone rental" that they have highlighted.

Good luck guys, and watch out when the lightning strikes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Can't Buy Me Love

Really, isn't UNSW decision to close another case of "throwing money at a problem only to have it bite you in the ass"?

People don't agree with tax policy - throw money at them
Economic unsustainable in the LT - throw money into the system by building a casino
Population declining - throw money at couples
Population still declining - throw money at foreigners
People might not vote for you - throw money at people

Hmmm... do I see a pattern?

On another note, did anyone's hair on their backs stand like mine when they read this?

SAF given new powers to deal with changed security landscape

So now the army can arrest people during peace time just because the Defense Minister says so? Hmmm, what's this steep slope doing here next to me....

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bacardi Absolut Carlsberg

So a couple of local celebrities' brush with the law for drink driving have stirred up media interest on the supposed prevalence of drink driving in Singapore. I think many drivers insist on driving even after they have downed a couple of beers, is that they feel they are still sober and are able to handle a car. However, breathalyzer tests measure Blood Alcohol Content, it does not measure a person's level of intoxication. This varies from person to person depending on one's alcohol tolerance. So even if you feel perfectly fine after 3 glasses of red wine after dinner, you can still fail a breathalyzer test. (makes you wonder how anyone can drive in France or Germany because all they drink is wine and beer!)

Like all tests that rely on a proxies (ie. your breath), externalities affecting the proxy can have significant effects on the measurement of the target metric (your BAC). One of the most common sources of error in breathalyzer measurement is testing too early. When the body is absorbing alcohol, the distribution of alcohol in the body is not uniform. It can take 45 minutes to more than 2 hours after drinking for the distribution to be uniform. During this time, some parts of the body will have higher blood alcohol content then others. During peak absorption, arterial BAC, which is what breathalyzers measure, can be as much as 60% higher than venous BAC. So taking a breathalyzer test before alcohol absorption is complete will tend to overstate your BAC. Whereas blood tests, usually done by drawing venous blood, will measure a lower BAC during peak absorption.

Another common source of error is mouth alcohol. Because breathalyzers assume that the breath sample is alveolar air (from the lungs), it will not compensate for breath mixed with alcohol from the mouth, throat or stomach. A tiny amount of alcohol from these areas can have a significant impact on breathalyzer readings. It may take 15-30 minutes for alcohol in the mouth to dissipate through the normal rinsing effects of saliva. Even then, it might not fully wash away alcohol trapped in dentures or gums (caused by periodental diseases). This is probably where a cup of Chinese tea might help wash mouth alcohol away. (Unfortunately, it does not lower one's BAC)

Even belching or burping will get you in trouble. Eructation causes liquids and gas from the stomach (including alcohol) to rise up into the soft tissue of the esophagus and oral cavity, where it will stay until it is dissipated. So if you happen to burp just before blowing into the breathalyzer, better rinse your mouth thoroughly and drink some Chinese tea!

Finally, you may also be incorrectly penalised by breathalyzers if you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as Acid Reflux. This is when the stomach valve becomes herniated, allowing alcohol to rise and permeat the esophagus and mouth, where it is then exhaled into the breathalyzer.

So, if you drink, don't drive. If you are sober and really have to drive, protect yourselves from our ever zealous authorities, take the necessary precautions to ensure breathalyzers do not overstate your BAC.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Attack of the Peasants

Reading Wayne's article on peasant resistance, I immediately thought of Vivocity. I was there recently and I noticed the lifts and toilets there were in very bad shape. Unusual for a place that has just opened a few months. Are these the signs of independent/private subversion? When Vivocity opened there was a deluge of complaints in Sammyboy about the place, mainly due to the fact that Vivocity is owned by the government's property arm Mapletree Investments. Even our tightly controlled press got onto the bandwagon (subconscious twitch of press conscience?) by reporting on confusing signs, dirty wadding pool water, low shopper traffic on weekdays etc. More CCTVs to come?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Singapore Relents To Sign Extradition Treaty

This article was first published in Singapore Angle.

Singapore has finally relented and agreed to an Extradition Treaty with Indonesia (CNA, 23 Apr 07). Indon politicians had accused Singapore of dragging its feet on the treaty because the country was harboring Indonesian fugitives of the Suharto era convicted of embezzlement. Any delays on the part of the PAP government was probably not to protect the freedom of any criminals, but more likely to be satisfied that any potential flight of capital out of Singapore due to an extradition treaty would not seriously impact the country’s economy.

So how much money would create such angst in the Yudhoyono government and cause the PAP government to risk bilateral ties? A look at the top 7 most wanted Indonesian white collar criminals that are currently on the run might provide some indication:

  • Eddy Tanzil: Sentenced to 20 yrs. Embezzled $620 million from state-owned Bank Bapindo. Escaped and is now believed to be living in China.
  • Bambang Sutrisno: Former VP of defunct Bank Surya. Sentenced to life for embezzling Rp1.5 trillion. Now apparently living in Singapore.
  • Andrian Kiki Ariawan: Former president director of defunct Bank Surya. Sentenced to life for embezzling Rp1.5 trillion. Now apparently living in Singapore .
  • Samadikun Hartono: Former president director of defunct Bank Modern. Sentenced to 4 yrs for embezzling Rp169 billion. Whereabouts unknown.
  • Sudjiono Timan: Former president director of state-owned investment company PT Bahana Pembinaan Usaha Indonesia. Sentenced to 15 years jail for embezzling Rp1.1 trillion. Believed to be in Singapore.
  • Maria Pauline Lumowa: Boss of PT Gramarindo Mega Indonesia. Suspected of embezzling Rp1.7 trillion from state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia. Fled to Singapore before trial.
  • Irawan Salim: Former president director of Bank Global, suspected of embezzling Rp830 billion. Rumored to have fled to Singapore, Canada or Europe.

Source: Paras Indonesia

For a country that has been ravaged by corruption for so long, who knows how much of Indonesian money that has flowed into Singapore is potentially tainted. With an extradition treaty in place, how much of that money will stay around and risk being frozen as corruption investigations in Indonesia widen? It is also not difficult to see why Singapore was wary of the potential economic fallout if Indonesian money starts to leave Singapore:

  • Foreigners' share of total caveats lodged for private properties in Singapore in 2006 increased to 23%. Indonesians accounted for the lion's share of 22% of foreign buyers. (BT, 21 Mar 2007)
  • A third of Singapore's 55,000 high net worth individuals are Indonesians holding PR status, with assets worth $87b. (Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, October 2006)

Not only are trillions of rupiah involved (1trillion Rp is about S$170m), Indon President Yudhoyono’s political survival depends heavily on his ability to tackle corruption in Indonesia. Failure in pursuing these fugitives in an acceptable manner would seriously threaten his presidency.

Moral and ethical assertions aside, when would it be not in Singapore’s national interest to hold out on signing a treaty? Indonesia had probably realized this line of thought and had fired the first salvo in a game of quid pro quo by banning sand exports to Singapore and threatening to widen the ban to granite and wood. It seems Indonesia has played the right cards and has succeeded in getting the treaty she wants. Although how much the treaty is in Indonesian’s favour is still unknown as the terms of the treaty are yet to be made public. What is left is to see if Singapore has done its sums right and its economy can absorb outflows, if any, of Indonesian money.


A few readers in Singapore Angle saw my article as implicit support for harboring "dirty money". My reply:

I personally do not support harboring convicted white collar criminals. My intent was to discuss why, in my mind, PAP took so long to sign the treaty. Our relationship with Indonesia was never very good since Suharto's fall and the subsequent riots. One Indon president actually taunted us with the "little red dot in a sea of green" remark. It was only until the sand ban and its potential impact on PAP's plans for growth that it was forced to act. In addition to trying to gain something in return by throwing other issues onto the table (PAP is fond of what it calls a "win-win" agreement), I believe PAP had to also ensure due diligence by being certain IF and HOW MUCH dirty money is stashed in Singapore (not an easy task) and IF SO, would the key institutions involved be able to withstand any repercussions. I believe all these led to the delays.

In terms of risking the plans in being a financial hub in not addressing the accusations of harboring questionable money, we only need to look at Switzerland.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Singapore Intelligentsia Speaks Out Against Minister Salary Hikes

A letter from NUS's Dr Hussin Mutalib which ST chose not to publish. Kudos to Wayne who brought this up.

STI Home > ST Forum > Online Story
April 6, 2007
Ministers' salary increase: Can it be delayed until there is more public consultation?

THE views expressed so far on this difficult issue rightly deserve attention, even as Singaporeans await the Government's presentation of its case in Parliament next week.

Given the unhappiness, it is hoped that the Government will do more to soothe this feeling during the Parliament sitting, and address this issue beyond the offer of relevant statistics and other pragmatic arguments.

This issue is not new. So too the attendant shock that many Singaporeans react to when this pay scheme was publicly goaded in the early 1990s and hotly debated in Parliament in 1995.

Let us recap the two sides of the argument. To the Government, we are fooling ourselves if we want to lure top talents but refuse to pay them top salaries, and that moral counter-points must give way to pragmatic ones.

The cost of living, the competitiveness of the market place in a global economy, the high standards of integrity and performance expected of ministers and the equally high cost to their private lives are imperatives that must be taken into account.

MM Lee even once argued that 'moral values on pay are good only for textbooks on socialism and political tracts on social justice'.

However, to many Singaporeans, other factors must be given consideration. To begin with, is it right to compare jobs in the public and private sectors since there are obvious fundamental differences between the two?

Secondly, while many have no problem with raising ministerial salaries as a matter of principle, the quantum of the raise seems to be unduly high, making our Cabinet ministers among the most highly paid in the world.

Thirdly, while we must credit the political leadership for securing Singapore a sterling economic position in the world - our Republic's GDP growth rate and foreign reserves are among the highest in the world - such a remarkable achievement could not have been attained without the contributions and sacrifices of an equally productive workforce.

Finally, this increase of ministerial salaries may convey the wrong signal that money is actually the bottomline, even in such a nationally important issue of political contribution and service.

What about other redeeming intangibles such as honour and sense of duty, dedication, passion and commitment, loyalty and service?

It may be difficult for many to believe that the talent pool is so small and that the able are so money-minded that the best way to get them to come forward is to give them more money.

Hopefully, the Government will do more to appease this unhappiness. What about delaying this proposed increase until more public consultation is done and a better way of compensating the ministers and senior civil servants be found?

Otherwise, many Singaporeans will feel the sheer helplessness that however unhappy they are about matters that are close to their hearts they will have little chance to be redressed, both outside Parliament and inside - and this is not good for Singapore's future.

Dr Hussin Mutalib

Elia Diodati has also published a letter from someone working in the US about his thoughts on the issue. A good read on the views of a brethren on the outside looking in.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Show Me The Money

Its been announced, the newspapers have been spinning it for days. Hue and cry from the great unwash, but everyone knows the likelihood of our displeasure causing a “rethink”- zilch. Ministers and some 230 Administrative Officers are raising their own salaries, some a whopping 80%, and nothing short of our sun going nova is going to stop them from getting what they think they are worth, nosiree.

You can guess which side of the fence I'm pounding standing. Yes, I've read all the reasons - competing with the private sector, paying top dollar or they will leave yadayada. Does it make sense? Yup. Would I give them a raise?...

If I were a shareholder of a for-profit corporation, my decision on whether to reward management will depend on what I’ve gotten in return for my investment, my ROI - dividends, bonus shares etc. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

So now these Ministers and their 230 or so officers are asking for demanding announcing a raise. So how do I, as a tax-paying citizen, evaluate this request decree? How is my life (the ROI on my taxes) so far under these peanut-deficient men?

Top on the list, Jobs. They may say it’s the economy that’s most important. But what’s the point of having a roaring economy if you don’t have a job, or your job doesn't pay you enough? I support a government who can best look after my needs. Selfish you say. But the one that can satisfy the needs of the most gets to run the country. If I am the minority who doesn't benefit from existing policies, the government of my choice doesn't get elected. If the policies make more and more people less better off so much so that they become the majority, the government gets booted out. Isn’t that how it’s suppose to work? So jobs… I have a job, but I'm reaching a point in my career where my position is constantly under pressure from cheaper foreign imports. If I get laid off in the next few years, I'm done for. I'd probably have to switch industry, which means I'd have to start from scratch. That's 10+ years of career planning and hard work down the toilet. I'm not the only one facing this problem. Most of my friends are in the same boat. It is real and pretty widespread and is the result of various policies implemented by the current government.

Next, Housing. I was initially pretty satisfied with my housing situation. Although the value of my flat has fallen, I had no intention of moving so it was a paper loss. That was until my area was selected for en block redevelopment and I will be forced to realise the loss. Even after taking into account any compensation offered to cushion affected residents, this unplanned move is going to cost me around $100,000 – loss on current flat, built-in furniture, fixtures, floor tiling, kitchen etc. will have to be written off and new ones bought for the new flat. I've yet to work out if I would have to top up my bank loan... My MP? He says it can't be helped and I was unlucky to have bought my flat at the wrong time. I wonder if he knows what it feels like to be kicked out of your own home and moved around like a refugee.

Healthcare. I don’t know when it began. But recently I’ve begun to feel the sting of medical bills. I guess when I was younger, I just don’t see the doctor enough to feel the pain. But now, I’ve had consultations, x-rays, scans, checks, tests, scopes, a day surgery, medication etc. I’ve spent close to a month’s take home on medical. What’s it going to be like when I am 50? 60? As the healthcare system is currently still being revamped, I’ll reserve my judgment until it’s done. As of now, it is still bearable but will definitely get worse if nothing is done to tackle costs.

Living Costs. Up, up, up. Someone once said fed up. What else is there to say? Blaming it on globalization doesn’t make it less of a problem to me. I’ve heard you talk about cutting business costs year after year, when are you going to get some of those 230 AOs to work on cutting MY costs?

Quality of life. This is a biggie and a bit of a mix here. Law and order, cleanliness and infrastructure, I’ll sing the praises. But you know, there’s just this nagging feeling that something is missing from my life. People use to say Singapore is like her hospitals, it’s clean, it’s efficient, it has all the facilities, the shops, the food etc. Maybe that’s the problem, living in a hospital. You have around you everything that’s designed to keep you physically alive, but you just feel miserable. You just want to go home, where you are free to do whatever you want, eat whatever you want, sleep wherever and whenever you want, read and watch whatever you want… say whatever you want…

…what’s that? I have to pay you more or else you’ll go work somewhere else?


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Stranger In A Strange Land

There's been a lot of discussion recently on why some people choose to leave Singapore for another country and who's to blame. Some say its the PAP Government's fault, while others feel we have only ourselves to blame. I have to admit I belong to the group that desires a life away from this island if given the chance. Why I feel life for me would be better elsewhere?

1. Life is tough here in the city, and its only going to get tougher. Living costs will continue to climb faster than my pay and the people in charge won't admit they don't have the solution or political will to solve the problem. And you can't vote them out.

2. Our nation's plan for a fulfilling life is A) the promotion of money worship and the pursuit of material goods. There is no plan B.

3. I am afraid of growing old here. I hear in some countries they treat old people with respect and dignity. Here, old people are seen as a problem, fully depreciated assets that cannot be discarded but continues to suck on national resources.

4. My country doesn't value my opinion. When I was living with my parents, I had no say in family decisions. I couldn't wait to move out and take control of my own destiny. Ditto here. There are just too many obstacles (perceived and real) if you want to be heard, even more so if your views are different from the people in charge. And you can't vote them out.

5. My country doesn't value my or anybody else's freedom. I don't think we will learn to accept the chaos that usually comes with individual freedom anytime soon. We are so intoxicated with our economic success that we are too afraid to live any other way.

6. I want a better life for my child. See points 1 to 5.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Evil That Man Breeds

John smith's ghastly comments offends me to the core. Read what he said at MrBrown here and here.

To suggest that "society should not have to shoulder the burden" of helping children with special needs if their parents chose to raise such a child, to me, defies the very nature of Humanity. This is not the brave new world or clockwork orange, mate. The logic of responsibility simply doesn't apply here. We, as civilised humans, should have a DUTY to help ALL who needs help. By Smith's, we should just ship all prisoners, drug addicts, disabled people, the elderly and the chronically ill to an island and let them rot there because, well, we didnt ask for it did we, so we shouldn't have to "shoulder the burden" of caring for them, right?
So you have cancer, sorry its because you smoked, no medicare for you. Diabettes? Who asked you to eat all that oily hawker food, no subsidy for you. You are old and have no money? Sorry we can't help you either because you brought it onto yourself by not saving enough while you were younger. Straight out the door you go, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

If this the type of society you want to live in?

Being Paris

Liberty Leading The People by Eugene Delacroix, featuring the icon Marianne, who represents the spirit of France and a symbol of freedom and liberty.

Unlike Kitana, I have to admit that LHL's maiden speech is not my fav speech. In fact, I hate it, only because I think it serves as tacit evidence of confusion, incompatibility and contradiction in the LHL Government.

But this post isn't about that, its about Singapore being the "Paris of the East". Has anyone ever asked how we can be the "Paris of the East"? Certainly not by transplanting a Parisian cabaret in the middle of Clarke Quay. I certainly don't think aping another city (is this a city plan or a country plan anyway?) is the answer to our future.

I don't look forward to it. For starters, anyone who thinks that we can become Paris in his or her lifetime will be sorely disappointed. As cliché as this might sound, Paris, like Rome, did not become Paris in a day, not even a hundred years. And Paris certainly did not become Paris because of her roads or spanking new malls. So what makes Paris Paris? To me, she is great because she has layer after textured layer of History and Culture. Sit back and think about Paris and what comes to your mind? For me its~ crazy kings all named Louis, musketeers, men in white tights, wigs and face powder, women with moles, hunchbacks, Mona Lisa, baguettes, Grace Jones jumping off the Eiffel Tower, Napoleon, Da Vinci Code, Amelie, Nikita etc.. the exquisite memories wash over me. What about you?

Paris is a cultural tour de force, a culmination of hundreds of years of history, a history that was made by its people, young and old, rich and poor.

So, is Singapore on its way to become the Paris of the East? It would be a fallacy to think that "to be" Paris is a specific point in time and space to be reached, that when you get there, you can plant a flag and say "We are Paris! Eat your heart out Malaysia". It is what happens now, everyday from today, that paves the road towards Greatness, which is essentially what Paris represents.

So are we on our way to Greatness? Not by the looks of things. The policies and actions of the current Government sure aren't helping us get any closer. Will we ever get there? Not that any of us will ever know, because we will all be dust by then.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Snake Oil

Its nice to see a good rebuttal to a ridiculous argument (Straits Times, Andy Ho, 3 Mar 2007, Nude shots give gays wrong idea.). Ho's article reads suspiciously like a badly written proposal that was hurriedly made up to make a quick sale. There's a term in consulting circles that's used to describe something like this - smoke and mirrors.

Smoke and Mirrors
Trickery or deception, often in a political context

This expression to the performances of stage conjurers who use actual smoke and mirrors to deceive the audience. the figurative use that is now more common refers to the obscuring or embellishing of the truth that is employed by spin doctors and the like in order to deceive the general public. This later usage comes from the writings of American Jimmy Breslin. In his Notes from Impeachment Summer, 1975, Breslin twice refers to smoke and mirrors being used in the US political scene:

"All political power is primarily an illusion... Mirrors and blue smoke, beautiful blue smoke rolling over the surface of highly polished mirrors... If somebody tells you how to look, there can seen in the great smoke, magnificent shapes, castles and kingdoms, and maybe they can be yours... The ability to create the illusion of power, to use mirrors and blue smoke, is one found in unusual people."

Taken from The Phrase Finder

Similarly in local parlance, this is known as "bue ko yok", literally meaning "selling medicine". The Hokkien phrase, like smoke and mirrors, alludes to the traveling salesmen in the 70s who moved from village to village hawking wares of questionable nature, usually medicine that promised incredible benefits. The sales pitch typically happens at night, accompanied by gongs and martial arts performed by an athletic middle-aged man (think spears bent against bare throats), whom we were supposed to believe had been the beneficiary of the very medicine being sold.

So here we have Ho, whom we were told is a Ph.D holder, single and successful (I'm not sure if he's as successful in life as he is apparently at work, as I remember he wrote once about having had to throw a ring into a ditch after another unsuccessful pitch), the embodiment of the "perfect" male, performing acrobatic spin, telling us that banning Leslie Kee's Superstars was for the good of everyone, straight or otherwise.

The problem is, Ho and his buddies neigh high think they are still in the 70s, selling "ko yok" to ignorant villagers.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tool Time

There's something about man and tools. I happen to be at a Home Fix store the other day and I had this sudden urge to take this handsome yellow and black tool box home with me. I was somehow convinced that the red and black number at home needed replacing, even though the only action its seen so far is the inside of a fully renovated condominium. Luckily, or unfotunately depending on which side of brain you use more often, my brialliant plan was quickly put down by my smarter half, who was equally convinced that the last thing we needed was "another toy" to choke up the storeroom. It was a blessing in disguise because my abstinence has now earned me the right to own THIS baby - the Giant Knife by Wenger, version 1.0, which comes with not one, but two key rings (for His and Hers), and a nail file to boot (see, I got this for US):

1. 2.5” 60% Serrated locking blade
2. Nail file, nail cleaner
3. Corkscrew
4. Adjustable pliers with wire crimper and cutter
5. Removable screwdriver bit adapter
6. 2.5” Blade for Official World Scout Knife
7. Spring-loaded, locking needle-nose pliers with wire cutter
8. Removable screwdriver bit holder
9. Phillips head screwdriver bit 0
10. Phillips head screwdriver bit 1
11. Phillips head screwdriver bit 2
12. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.5 mm x 3.5 mm
13. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.6 mm x 4.0 mm
14. Flat head screwdriver bit 1.0 mm x 6.5 mm
15. Magnetized recessed bit holder
16. Double-cut wood saw with ruler (inch & cm)
17. Bike chain rivet setter, removable 5m allen wrench, screwdriver for slotted and Phillips head screws
18. Removable tool for adjusting bike spokes, 10m hexagonal key for nuts
19. Removable 4mm curved allen wrench with Phillips head screwdriver
20. Removable 10mm hexagonal key
21. Patented locking Phillips head screwdriver
22. Universal wrench
23. Laser pointer with 300 ft. range
24. 1.65” Clip point utility blade
25. Metal saw, metal file
26. 4 mm allen wrench
27. 2.5” blade
28. Fine metal file with precision screwdriver
29. Double-cut wood saw
30. Cupped cigar cutter with double-honed edges
31. 12/20-Gauge choke tube tool
32. Watch caseback opening tool
33. Snap shackle
34. Telescopic pointer
35. Compass, straight edge, ruler (in./cm)
36. Mineral crystal magnifier with precision screwdriver
37. 2.4” Springless scissors with serrated, self-sharpening design
38. Shortix key
39. Flashlight
40. Fish scaler, hook disgorger, line guide
41. Micro tool holder
42. Micro tool adapter
43. Micro scraper-straight
44. Reamer
45. Fine fork for watch spring bars
46. Pin punch 1.2 mm
47. Pin punch .8 mm
48. Round needle file
49. Removable tool holder with expandable receptacle
50. Removable tool holder
51. Multi-purpose screwdriver
52. Flat Phillips head screwdriver
53. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.5 mm x 3.5 mm
54. Spring loaded, locking flat nose nose-pliers with wire cutter
55. Phillips head screwdriver bit 0
56. Phillips head screwdriver bit 1
57. Phillips head screwdriver bit 2
58. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.5 mm x 3.5 mm
59. Flat head screwdriver bit 0.6 mm x 4.0 mm
60. Flat head screwdriver bit 1.0 mm x 6.5 mm
61. Can opener
62. Phillips head screwdriver
63. 2.5” Clip point blade
64. Golf club face cleaner
65. 2.4” Round tip blade
66. Patented locking screwdriver, cap lifter, can opener
67. Golf shoe spike wrench
68. Golf divot repair tool
69. Micro straight-curved
70. Special tool holder
71. Phillips head screwdriver 1.5mm
72. Screwdriver 1.2 mm
73. Screwdriver .8 mm
74. Mineral crystal magnifier, fork for watch spring bars, small ruler
75. Removable screwdriver bit holder
76. Magnetized recessed bit holder
77. Tire tread gauge
78. Reamer/awl
79. Patented locking screwdriver, cap lifter, wire stripper
80. Special Key
81. Toothpick
82. Tweezers
83. Adapter
84. Key ring
85. Second key ring

The knife weighs a hefty 1.3kg and measures 22 cm, in width mind you. But don’t worry, it has a snap shackle so you can carry it around with you on your belt.

The knife is priced at US$1,200 and can be had by placing an order via the telephone. Now where's my mobile...

Images courtesy of Popular Science

Monday, February 26, 2007


I am having some trouble with my wireless. The connection is intermittent. I have re-learned the wisdom of saving every minute or so. I only wished that it didn't kick me to my Drafts screen every time I save my work. You hear that, Blogger?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Game On

This article was first published in Singapore Angle: Perspectives

When I read the ST report that PAP was "mounting a counter-insurgency against its online critics" anonymously, my first thought was – why? Why do it? Why the need to be anonymous? And why announce it (I seriously doubt the news was "leaked")?

Why the need for such action? The PAP has long enjoyed monopoly over media channels and the Internet is probably an itch it just couldn't scratch. Its recent efforts to "manage" this medium have thus far been somewhat a failure. A casual browse through current Internet discussions would show that the PAP is not exactly the most popular kid in town. The party has already targeted the winning over of young Singaporeans as its main priority over the next 5 years. So it cannot ignore the Internet, the current playground for the young.

But why do it anonymously? Weren't PAP the ones who insisted that those who hide behind a pseudonym are not credible and thus to be dismissed? I suspect their hands are tied on this. Frankly, PAP party members are flame baits online. It doesn't matter what they say, they will either be ignored (see P65) or be eventually beaten down by the boo boys (Sammyboy players will attest to that). PAP must have realised this by now. Something must be done, and the only way to do it effectively is to hide behind a pseudonym.

Which leads us to the last question – why jeopardize your success by announcing to the world your plan? To find out why, it would be useful to know the main objective of the initiative. Lets not kid ourselves, this isn't a Government action, it's a Party action (read the first few words of the report again) and so the beneficiary of this action is the PAP. And the main priority of a political party is Survival. Announcing the plan allows PAP to not stray too far from this objective whatever the outcome. There are only 2 possible unique outcomes to any initiative – a success or a failure. A successful "counter-insurgency" initiative will reap the obvious reward – positive political equity. What about a failure? Like a general that poisons a river beforehand in case it is lost to the enemy, PAP has cast the seeds of doubt and mistrust by tarnishing everyone writing under a pseudonym. This has the potential to stunt the growth of a vibrant alternative media online, in case the PAP has to retreat in failure and resort back to denouncing the
Internet as not credible.

The die is cast. How shall we play it?

Monday, February 12, 2007

You've Got Gmail

I've been with Hotmail for a long time now, I think its time for a new experience. I've heard good things about the web mail form the guys at Mountain View California.

Can someone send me an invite to Gmail?

Update* Got it, thanks James.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Mother Of Invention

Reading about the spat between a certain Lee and a Yeo reminded me of a discussion I had with a friend a while back about our incessant need for pragmatism (no thanks to the father of that same Lee). Yeo runs R&D by buying establish winners to run in the biggest races, while Lee suggests betting on horses and courses closer to home. The discussion I had was triggered by a news I read about Japanese man who invented a special paint that is rather offensive (the smell?) to birds. The inventor came up with the idea when he saw birds resting on and making a mess of park statues. (I can't seem to find a link to that story now. If anyone can find it, would greatly appreciate a link)

Would a Singaporean have come up with an invention like that? What was the first thought that came to your mind? Waste of time and money? Is it really useless? How many thought of Akio Morita's Walkman as a silly piece of toy when it was first marketed? (The creation of the Walkman is actually credited to Sony engineer Nobutoshi Kihara. However the idea of portable music was thought of by Morita, who wanted to be able to listen to his favourite music during his frequent trips overseas). How has our national devotion to efficiency, productivity and practicality affected our spirit of invention and creativity? Would a local chapter of Chindogu be able to survive in our climate?

A bee once sang..
Good, better, best
Never let it rest

Till the good is better
Better than the best
Are there any potential inventions to problems that are unique to us and the region just waiting to be discovered? How about a solution to the humidity problem in Singapore? Maybe special fibers that can be woven into fabric which when worn accelerates evaporation of sweat? A silly idea? Tell that to Morita.

Speaking of Sony Walkmans, I just got myself a W810i. Will post a mini review of it once I get the time.

Hello World

If our eye could penetrate the earth and see its interior from pole to pole, from where we stand to the antipodes, we would glimpse with horror a mass terrifyingly riddled with fissures and caverns.

Bina, Chapter 18

What do you see when you look down
Are they your feet, do they go in your stead
Are they shuffling, hoping from one to the next
Do they drag, leap or skip ahead
Are they covered, polished or painted
Do they carry you
Before the eyes of the weak and tainted