Friday, May 30, 2008

Get Rich Seminars

Everyday, the newspapers reek of advertisements with the tagline “Would you want to start a xxx business and earn $xxxx monthly? ” Earning money or starting a business that rakes in thousands of dollars seems to be a breeze, according to these newspapers.

I have attended some of these seminars before to discover what are the unique business strategies that these companies have to offer to common layman to lift them from the mundane ‘9 to 5’ job and catapult them into the ranks of the millionaires. Alls the forums seem to be of similar format as follows:

a) Highlight to the forum participants on the many painful compromises made to life by leading a normal employees’ life
b) Entice the audience of myriads benefits of financial freedom
c) Provide a unique business strategy and offer help
d) Re-emphasize that the participants have only themselves to reply on to achieve financial freedom and offer great help to them
e) Offer a coaching programme to master the unique business strategy at a greatly discounted price only on the day of seminar and add some pressure, coaxing the participants for sign-up.

In the most recent seminar I have gone, the speaker, a multi-millionaire, in his last stage of presentation, continued to harp on that the registration for the coaching programme was coming to a close in the coming 3 days and that the company would be taking in the last batch ever for such a programme to groom future business associates.

The speaker was very convincing of his business strategy and in his presentation as he hammered all his presentation points relentlessly and tenaciously into the participants, exciting them and sensing the exuberance has rub off on some participants, the presenter continued on his sale patter …..

Two weeks after the presentation, I saw the same advertisement from the same company appearing in the same papers and the advertisement run continued weeks after weeks, it was definitely not the last run of the coaching course as so proclaimed by the company.

Some people might have genuinely gained from these ‘Get-rich’ workshops, but what is this percentage of the initial number of participants for the programme? I have read letters from readers to the Straits Times forum, lamenting on how they lost few thousands spending money in an Option Trading course instead of garnering the profits as guaranteed by the company. Some of them even are working harder than before to recover the huge losses they amassed

Sports Science and Life

Singapore would be pitting against Uzbekistan in the 3rd round of the world cup qualifier in the coming weeks. National coach Radojko Avramovic has engaged the services of bio-mechanist (Performance Analyst) Daniel Greenwood from the Singapore Sports Council to analyze the strategies of the opponent from the videotapes of its previous matches.

Greenwood has spent 3 weeks watching videotapes, one after another, of the opponent’s matches, analyzing the performance, formation, tactics, behavior of each team member and collectively as a team. Using scientific and high-tech instrument, he was able to translate his findings into a set of useful statistics and data, whereby insights into the tactics of the opponents could be gleaned from. Finally, this analyzed information would be presented to National Coach Radojko for his use in deployment and coaching of his team.

Performance analysis is just part of the discipline of sports science which deals with the psychology of human performance in sports and attempts to apply science to improve sports performance.

Sport performance is also influenced by psychology: the mental make-up of sportsmen. In many competitions, what distinguishes the winner from the rest of the participants is having a visualization of the game prior to participation and having visualized playing the game among the opponents, thinking through the strategies to adopt, the pitfalls to avoid and the advantages to utilize.. in essence visualizing success.

There was an experiment conducted before whereby a group of experienced basketballers were divided into 3 groups for further training. In a nutshell, the story goes like this: the first group practised regularly on the courts, the second group did not practise playing at all and the last group was given training via visualization, without actually working out at the courts. Weeks passed and the basketballers were invited to a friendly tournament on the court: without any surprise, the performance of the second group deteriorated sharply and what was more surprising was that the performance of the last group was on par with the first group.

The above story is but one of the many instances of the application of the mantra “Begin with the end in mind”, one of the seven habits preached by Steven Covey, the author of the best selling book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.

It is paramount to have an end in mind for our life and start as early as possible to align our life in accordance with this, taking small but incremental steps to achieve our goals.

In this ceaseless pursuit for money, luxury, material pleasures amidst the corporate rat race, we may seem to be wasting time in our life, our one and only life.

It is not late to take stock of what one eventually wants in life and start to work towards one goals!

Urban make-over

Just two weeks ago, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has announced plans to transform our tiny island into one giant garden, where Singaporeans can enjoy a seamless and unfettered walk along the whole perimeter of Singapore using the connected park connectors stretching 150 km in all. Kallang and Paya Lebar would also be transformed into an urban hub, offering hosts of commercial, residential and recreational facilities. The many farms located in the north of Singapore would also be undergoing a revamp, to better offer the highly-coveted aspects of rural life to Singaporeans.

Personally, I find Singapore getting too crowded for my comfort. On weekends, it takes discipline to navigate through the thronging maddening crowds in the shopping centres, to wait patiently for that coveted seat in the restaurants, etc.

Crowds also spill from the urban amenities to the natural parks such as East Coast Park and the Changi Village, taking the luster off an outing there.

I do not really fancy the make-over as these places, be it urban or rural amenities, would also be crowded in time to come…….

The only place where I believe I am really able to seek solace, to be alone with nature, to listen to sea breezes, smell the aroma emanating from nature, bask in the charms of nature is to go out of Singapore to the many interesting islands of our neighboring countries.

That is also where natural attraction is (largely) untamed by human.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Handphone radiation

Handphones have become the ubiquitous items of our times and in Singapore, the number of handphone users outnumber the total population!

I am always of the belief that handphone carries a certain risk, risk coming from its radiation, though there is no profound scientific confirmation on this.

Using handphone for 2 minutes, I can experience headaches which could last for hours! In fact, I experienced headaches on waking up when at the previous night, I have placed my handphone on standby mode next to my bed! The radiation from handphone can be so powerful that it can boil an egg!

Nowadays, I am always careful not to put the handphone near to my heart, or my ‘valuable part’ during work and try to put it inside my bag (just afraid it would be stolen).

I am not sure whether readers have also experienced similar ill health effects which they believe come from handphones? You may drop me an email and I would try to compile them on this blog.

Two websites for your reference by my ‘goggling’ on the word ‘handphone radiation’:

http://www.sgclub.com/singapore/handphone_radiation_12215.html

http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/printfriendly/0,4139,79446,00.html

Fruits

I am not an expert in fruits but since the primary school days, I am always of the belief that the watermelon is a fruit, that is what the teachers taught us. During art classes, on the subject of fruits, I have always drawn watermelons alongside the common fruits such as apples, pears, and oranges; the teachers do not protest to my drawings.

It was only today that in my reading, that I realised how wrong I was, and for such a long time. A health article I read highlighted that contrary to popular perceptions, the watermelon is not a fruits but a vegetable, which is belongs to the same family as the cucumber, pumpkins and squash.

The same article also highlighted that strawberry is not a fruit or a berry but the enlarged receptacle of the strawberry flower.

It is such a revelation to me; after eating so many watermelons and strawberries in my lifetime, that I do not know that they are not really fruits!

Negative energy

I chanced on the word ‘negative energy’ used to describe the fruit, celery, in a brochure.

Seeking to understand the use of such an uncommon label, I read on and found that the word is used for celery as it takes more calories for human to digest the fruit than the calories that celery gives to human on consumption.

Some people we work with are like celeries, we take more effort to work with them due to their non-proactive and non-productive work habits than if we were to just do it alone.

Tasmanian Devil

The Tasmanian Devil, not the one we see in cartoons, but the actual ones, grazing in the fields of Australia, may soon become extinct.

The population of the animal has dwindled from 140,000 in the 1990s to only 80,000 in 2006.

Cancer has been cutting down the population of the animal significantly to the brink of extinction

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Power of Habits

A father who is mired in gambling ends up with huge gambling debts with the loan sharks. He begs his family members for money to save him from being hacked and promised them it would be the last that he would gamble. His family, fearing his safety, loans him the money, only to find themselves in a vicious cycle again, whereby the father again begs them for more money to finance his ceaseless debts. The family, cash-strapped by his father’s endless gambling debts, seeks loans from their friends, and end up in a bottomless pit themselves, owning their friends a huge amount of money and straining to a certain extent their friendship.

Such is the evil of gambling, whereby families are torn apart. Gamblers are often oblivious of the tremendous stress and burden they bring to their families and steep further and further into their routines; gambling, drinking, drug abuse often tear up families, the basic units of societies.

Fundamentally, gambling, drinking and drug abuse are habits, no doubt, extremely insidious ones if indulged in excess. The scenario mentioned in the preceding paragraph mentioned the power and tremendous effect of bad habits.

On the opposite side of the coin, if one is to adopt good habits and work at them diligently, one day he would succeed in his undertakings and in a significant manner.

Man are creatures of habits and habits come from the mind. It is thus important to work on developing an enlightened mind, cultivating good habits and demeanour everyday and improve ourselves in all aspects of life.

Yes in life, the race for success is not always fair and just. Some are born with a golden spoon in their mouth, some rise in organizations due to their connection and some appellations they have been given prior to joining the organizations. However the power of habits would be immense that in the long run, it would render the cultivator significant edge that would parallel or even surpass those who thought they are superior to the cultivators initially, provided one work at cultivation of the habits diligently. And even if one does not get what one ultimately wants from his diligent cultivation of his mind, body and soul, he would still be better off than if he were not to do so!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sick joke

Recently, I received the following SMS from one of my friends:

1月25日,雪灾=天灾
3月14日,藏独=人祸
5月12日,地震=地灾
1+2+5=08
3+1+4=08
5+1+2=08
08年08月08日奥运会
巧合?地震发生那天正好是距08年08月08日奥运会 还差88天在加这个,都是巧合!


真是佩服李白,在唐朝就知道今年奥运、地震了:
北暮苍山兰舟四
京无落霞缀清川
奥年叶落缘分地,
运水微漾人却震。
前四个字---北京奥运
后四个字---四川地震

After reading the SMS, the message may seem credible to many as it roughly indicated the dates for the china snow blaze, the Tibetan protest and the Sichuan earthquake (though I only verified on the internet that the date of the Sichuan earthquake contained in the message was accurate).

With the ostensible upper half of the message, undiscerning readers of the SMS are easily led into believing the second half of the message: a poem which was claimed to be written by the famous poet Li Bai centuries ago in the Tang Dynasty.

The second half of the message was a distinct sick joke by the originator of this SMS to crank up ill humour in the face of thousands of deaths in the Sichuan earthquake and the snow storm! He or she seems to be gloating over the tragedies, belittled and made a mockery of the well-respected poet Li Bai, accusing him of some nonsensical poems he has written.

There are other versions of such poems as one can read in this website:

Friday, May 23, 2008

‘Eat with your family’ Day

Today is ‘Eat with family day', a day whereby employees are encouraged to return home earlier to dine with their families.

It is common to witness employees, decked in uniforms, returning home late at night on weekdays, visibly tired, with sloughing shoulders, and most of the time, heading to bed soon on reaching home. Reports suggest that tired and stressed out employees may be the reasons of the low birth rate too in this growing dual-income family society.

The toll of work on employees who often work past office hours either voluntarily or not is considerable: Such employees regularly eat their lunch and dinner outside, not a good thing, bearing in mind the wanting nutritional value and MSG of outside meals. Besides the nutritional front, insufficient sleep for these employees is hardly healthy to them too. With long hours spent at work, family time also takes a back seat in terms of quality and quantity.

The onus is for employers to take the initiative to provide a work environment that offers a work life balance to employees. It is often easier to say than to do this for most companies are profit-driven and emphasizes on performance of the employees. Clocking in and out punctually are taboos for many employees as it is akin to them being less hardworking than their peers.

The government is taking a lead in creating a culture of work life balance for employees and hopefully employers would take into cognizance of the other important aspect of their employees’ life apart from work.

Work is just one important aspect of life and it would be sad to have one spending a large proportion of his life working, without development in other aspects of life.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Assumption

Once in a while, I pop into a fast food restaurant and since many years ago till now, I always walk away, feeling that customer service in fast food restaurant here has not really changed.

The counter staffs in the fast food restaurants here often fall prey to assumption: assuming what the customers want. Immediately after placing your burger, fries or drinks on your tray, the counter staff would place few sachets of chilli sauce, often without the customer’s requesting. Even if the customer would request some sauce, it would always be chilli sauce.

Therein the customer service suffers from the weakness of assumption: assuming ALL customers want chilli sauces to accompany their orders. What happens to the sachets of tomato sauces? They seem to be prized catch, not that easy to be given away. Readers reading this post and who have visited the fast food restaurants would attest to this fact that unless one requests for tomato sauce specifically, what would be given to him would be chilli sauce! Try it the next time you visit the fast food restaurant.

Looks

While shaving yesterday night, I have inadvertently hurt a small patch of skin above my mouth. Blood soon oozed out and a small red blood scar was formed.

Having this small red blood scar was a bit inconvenient for me as I had a meeting today to attend to and this blood scar was not that presentable at all.

While waiting for the bus, I saw this young, fair and quite presentable lady walking towards her friends in the direction of me, everyone including me turned their heads towards her.

At this juncture, readers may be thinking that all of us turn our heads to admire her beauty; however it was not. A large portion of this young lady’s face was scarred (either from accidents or fires which I have presumed judging from the appearance of the scars).

After looking at her, I noticed how small my scar was as compared to hers which was permanent as well.

I do acknowledge looks are quite important to modern man and especially woman, thus it must be real traumatising for the young lady to suffer scarring on her face. Observing her for some time, she carried herself with grace, greeting her friends warmly with her cheerful smile, and seems boldly oblivious to the stares of others on her. I can sense her immense sense of strength emanating from her as she greets everyday life bravely.

Modern Singaporeans, especially women have always prized good looks as one of the most important things to possess in life. That explains the strong flourishing and growing business of salons from beauty salons, to salons offering manicure, pedicure, slimming, hair treatment, liposuction, chemical peeling, lasik……almost every part of the human body is covered.

Even for man, slimming centres, salons offering anti-balding treatments are making quick bucks.

I do acknowledge that looks may exert some importance in today’s society, especially for people in sales and work involving interaction with customers. Even for me, though I am not particular about how I really look and wear the most ordinary clothes and jeans everyday and that $10++ watch, I do also feel a sense of panic with my hair thinning each day.

The truth is looks are artificial façade of the human body and they would fade away with time and with age, these are temporary, only a strong heart, mind, personality and soul would weather the challenges of times!

Monday, May 19, 2008

NDP Tickets

It is the time of the year when Singaporeans send in applications for the highly coveted NDP tickets (preview and actual parade) via SMS, website and SAM services.

Application for the tickets which commenced on 16 May 08 would close on 25 May and ticket allocation would be via electronic balloting

Before this method of ticket allocation was implemented, the tickets were distributed on a ‘first come first served’ basis at specific sports stadiums on a particular day, manually. Back then, long queues formed days before the actual day of ticket distribution; camping by families at the entrance of the stadiums were a common sight and the scene was like a huge picnic cum family gathering which lasted for few nights and days.

The move to electronic application and balloting cuts down significant resources and cost of ticket allocation. It further obviates the inconvenience of many who endure the elements, hunger and lack of sleep just to obtain the coveted tickets via the traditional manner.

Electronic application for the tickets and balloting for the successful ticket recipients might have hence a number of advantages compared to the traditional and somehow archaic method of ticket distribution; however the successful recipients would need to depend on an element of luck rather than industry (queue earlier to get the tickets) to own the tickets.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Electronic Birthday Treats

In an effort to go paperless, and to save a tree or so, some companies may have really gone a bit too far, at least in my opinion.

With my birthday nearing, I received a birthday card via email from my insurance provider, one of the largest in Singapore. No problem with that, however I was shocked to note the discount vouchers for certain items that the company had also sent as a birthday gift to me, appended at the bottom of the birthday card. The company has also kindly requested me to print out these discount coupons if I would like to use them.

I was put off by the lack of personal touch. I agree that certain hardcopies can be replaced by electronic mails but to adopt a broad stroke of the brush to all is hardly wise and can make customers think the company is a ‘cheapskate’ to save cost.

Health checks

Recently, my friend found out that he has contracted diabetes during a health check. In fact, I knew of a few colleagues who discovered they have contracted some illness or other (some at a fatal stage) via health checks too.

The importance of doing a health check may not have really sunk into the masses. Doing a regular health check can help detect diseases or illness that one have which he is not aware of, and treat it at the root. However to many, health checks are not really necessary and they need to pay for these checks too.

And I also know of my friends who refuse to go for health screenings even if these are provided at no cost as they do not want to know of any possible bad news.

Singaporeans shall exercise regularly and restrict their intake of junk food. I am guilty to announce that I wolfed down two sweet desserts today and I regretted my act.

The Obesity link of global warming

A Geneva report has produced an interesting finding that obese people contribute to global warming as they consume more food and inevitably cause more deforestation in the process and more fuels are burnt to carry obese people in vehicles.

The finding to me is a sweeping one as non-obese man may contribute even more harm to the environment by their environmental unfriendly acts penetrated daily

MP shopping at NTUC

I have a second look in NTUC today while buying some fruits. I saw a Member of Parliament (MP) who I believe is living in my constituency, buying fruits there and then joining the queue patiently. He enjoys a high profile in Singapore as a MP and is earning millions in his career. Being a phenomenal success does not really make him above all, and it is quite pleasing to all that he joins the queue as well.

Workplace communication

I had the opportunity to chat with one of my company’s security guards on the bus, while we were returning home from work recently. The company guards were stationed at a outpost few hundred metres from the main company building.

The conversation soon developed and what caught me by surprise was the information and knowledge of the company ‘developments’ and ‘updates’ that the security guard possessed which he communicated to me. These being information which I did not know at all via official communication channels and I would soon know in time to come via these official means? I keep replying back, “Is it” to the litany of company issues which he thought I had known.

Communication takes place in the company everyday, and the unofficial channels of communication are not to be underestimated. However it is regrettable that some snippets of information do get twisted either deliberately or via misinterpretation and cause misunderstanding or problems at work daily.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Going Bananas

Just want to share with readers that I have developed an affinity with bananas: they taste great,have lots of nutritional values, are 'good mood' foods, and have lots of health benefits.

Just try to google "The health benefits of Bananas" and one would be amazed at the many intrinsic benefits of this marvellous fruit!

Fruits have existed since time immemorial but man is not really eating much of them despites the health authorities' recommendation to consume 2 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables everyday. What man consume in excess are meat and more meat so much more that they bring to themselves a host of health problems and destruction of the planet via deforestation for more meat and cultivation

Consumption of fruits and vegetables each 2 servings everyday takes discipline, especially so with the hectic worklives of Singaporeans.

Apples, oranges and bananas are my favorites. Personally, I do not like dried fruits such as longans, rambutans, lychees as they are considered heaty but nevertheless they are nutritional fruits too.

It does not help that prices of fruits sold in food centres are not cheap! To encourage a more healthy living, the relevant authorities shall price fruits at cheaper prices to encourage more working Singaporeans who to consume them during their lunch hours.

Anyway with fruits cut, the vitamins present in them will disappear over time, thus I prefer to consume my fruits fresh from home rather than buying cut fruits from the shops.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ugly Singaporean

Singapore may be a first world society but that does not exempt it from socially ungracious acts from its citizens. Occasionally, one may see some ‘ugly’ Singaporeans (or social bullies) here and there sporadically, and I hope this number of such Singaporeans is indeed dwindling.

This morning, I witnessed an act by one of the Singaporeans who fall in the ‘ugly Singaporeans’ quarter. As usual, I joined the long queue of Singaporeans lining up for the free TODAY newspapers, ritually. Suddenly, an old, rude and uncouth lady went up to the vendor whose hands were full and busy distributing the free dailies. She fished out a copy of the papers and walked away nonchalantly and quickly, much to the chagrin and anger of the vendor as certainly, it was an unfair act to all those Singaporeans lining up for the dailies. The vendor chastised her and the old lady was adamant and cursed even violently and vehemently at the vendor as she made her way to the MRT station. One could not but feel that it was indeed an unlucky day for the vendor, more so the vendor himself.

I could not really imagine the mindset of the old bully. Nevertheless, one must accept man are different, else the world would be an utopia.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Force of Nature

In the finale of World War II, the US dropped two atomic bombs over Japan, killing thousands and inflicting the later generations with deadly radioactive ailments. The world, for the first time, witnessed the power of the splitting of an atom.

Since then, no inventions had yet match or surpass the tremendous effect of the atomic bomb as the world is spare hitherto, from the use of nuclear bomb in conflicts.

However, the impact of natural calamities can be thousands of times that of the atomic bomb and regrettably, the world has experienced some of these mega shocks.

The Sichuan quake China has experienced just few days ago, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale was of a force equivalent to that of 240 atomic bombs! Perhaps, the greatest force that the earth had felt was during the Indonesian earthquake in year 2004, measuring 9.1 on the Richter scale that triggered huge tsunamis that killed even more; that impact was equivalent to 10,000 atomic bombs and scientists had reported at that time that the earth practically shook!

Yes, there is still a potential natural calamity with an even greater impact to be reckoned: the release of energy equivalent to a collision with a comet or asteroid!

Sited in the Yellowstone National Park in the US was a supervolcano, which the scientists had predicted was overdue for an eruption. Once erupted, the impact would most probably caused a nuclear winter, plunging the earth down to freezing temperatures, and killing thousands or even millions.

Man’s doomsday may be caused by phenomenal natural calamities such as supervolcanoes thus man’s time on earth may be dwindling…….. instead of making full use of our limited time on earth, man is still fighting with each other via the many political conflicts, terrorisms, etc …… its regrettable but inevident.

Patch Adams

Caught a snippet of the above-titled film where the protagonist in the film, played by Robbin Williams, was subject to a trial in the school. What the protagonist said in the film might be quite true, doctors do not necessarily mean medical professional, being trained in the medical fields, they can mean any layman who ‘heal’ others via encouragement, communication and being there for their heart, body and soul all the time. These can be our friends, family and loved ones.

Nature’s wrath

Just as the relief operations in the cyclone-hit Myanmar are underway, Sichuan in China was hit by the worst earthquake in almost three decades on 12 May 08. The earthquake, measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale destroyed life form and infrastructure in a matter of hours. The death toll at the point in writing was 12,000 and counting.

Days before the quake, dwellers in Sichuan witnessed ten of thousands of toads coming out to the streets from their usual habitats, a strange phenomenon which they never understood till now; for animals such as toads detect natural calamities much earlier than human do. These are the telling signs of the catastrophe which human do not heed.

Myanmar and Sichuan are also rice-producing provinces; with the escalating cost of rice due to global shortage, the natural catastrophes in these two countries further aggravated the situation.

This year is the year of the Rat; it seems that the global rice supply have been really been ‘eaten’ by the mighty Rat figuratively.

Why is the Buddha smiling?

I have just completed the above-titled book. To sum it all, man are often plagued by suffering. To the Buddha, the suffering arises from man’s delusion, thus there is no really any source of suffering for it is just the delusion that man is suffering from that causes him to suffer. Therein lies the route to end suffering via enlightenment.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day

Yesterday’s Sunday Times invited two Human Resources authorities to postulate a price tag for the modern mother in Singapore. $23K and $8K per month were the figures put to the fore, taking into consideration the multi-roles that the modern mother has to juggle: baby-sitting, housekeeping, tutoring, financial controlling, etc.

To me, it is quite ludicrous to give a price tag to a full-time mother, bearing in mind that a full-time mother is a role played by a woman (not an occupation) who sacrifices her career ambitions for the much loftier goal of caring for her family. If I were to put a price tag to my mother; that amount would be priceless!

I have discovered the editors of Sunday Times, to a certain extent, like to play on salaries (in a bid to attract readership?); just a few weeks ago, the very paper reported news of investment bankers and real estate agents raking in $20,000 to $50,000 per month as salaries. These incomes are just reflective of the cream of the crop and are not indicative averages of the industry. To think that the same paper now capitalises on Mother’s Day to derive a monthly price tag for mothers……

Anyway, in life, though there are always high-income earners and sadly to say, the very the social yardstick to measure success in life is always on the money one earns; success in life is much bigger, in my opinion, it encompasses more than the monetary; it is also about relationships and enlightenment.

I have come across people earning tons of money, but sad to say, they do not have an enlightened mind and soul.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Invigilators and Certified Incompetence

There is a myriad of examinations conducted daily island-wide to certify the qualifications of workers in a vast array of expertise from workplace safety to skills and workmanship.

I always believe that workers who are certified in a particular expertise are really qualified since they have passed the necessary prerequisites until a recent episode changed my belief.

In a recent training with construction workers on assessing workplace safety, I was perturbed by the fact that during the written examination, the one and only invigilator was lax in his discharge of duties, choosing to read newspapers and ignoring the very fact that a majority of the foreign workers were actually blatantly discussing the answers and openly lifting answers from the answer sheets of their colleagues. Some even turned back and nonchalantly copied the answers from my colleagues.

Imagine this group of foreign workers were supposed to earn their safety assessment licences by passing the examinations with due competency in the field. Instead they chose to copy to earn the licence. Just imagine the carnage they would cause, the possible loss of life that if they were to assess workplace safety with their ‘certified incompetence’; a licence to supervise workplace safety might well be a licence to kill ! it might be even more dangerous for worksites to be assessed by them as their colleagues trust them with their certified knowledge, not knowing the route that they use to earn the licence !

This episode is indeed a sobering one to me, and it hammers home the important role of invigilators and their integrity. The same episode might be played out daily in all parts of the world, where incompetent doctors, engineers, workmen earn their ‘qualifications’ through a flawed invigilation system; the harm their ‘certification’ might cause may be immense!

On a separate note, employers sending their foreign workers to be certified in a particular expertise via an examination system should make it a point that these foreign workers really understand English. From my interaction with the ‘copycats’, I deduced that none of them is really competent in or could speak good English and that might be the triggering point of their cheating.

Another point for employers to note is the message sent to their workers about training. Such messages like “You must pass the examination and come back with the licence by hook or crook; I do not want to waste more money for you to retake!” from employers especially those who are cash-strapped; definitely create stress for the foreign workers to earn their licences by any mean!

At the end of the day, though the examination was really simple (I do not know why the foreign construction workers still cheat); it was incredible that there was one failure.

Without any surprise, and no prize for you if you get it correctly; the failure was a foreign construction worker, who sat in the front of the room (no choice, as he was late) and the very one of the foreign workers who did not cheat!

It is common to read about workplace deaths in newspapers; some of these could arise due to incompetence of workers arising from a lax invigilation of their examination for the qualifications.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Myanmar Cyclone Disaster

The cyclone disaster in Myanmar last Thursday has caused widespread suffering and massive destruction, claiming the lives of 22,000 and counting.

Just a few days ago in this blog, I was lamenting on the extremely hot and humid weather experienced lately in Singapore; I shall have count myself fortunate to be born in a country where the only natural disasters experienced are some mild tremors shaking some parts of the island whenever there is a major earthquake in Indonesia.

The only environmental disaster one can forsee for Singapore is the rising sea level should the polar ice caps continue to melt; for it was recently reported that in a matter of a decade or so, water levels may rise to dangerous levels, submerging parts of Indonesia.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Begin with the end in mind

Steven Covey encourages all to begin with the end in mind for any endeavour to maximise effectiveness. I believe his maxim shall be taken when one is pursuing an academic education.

We may have witnessed cases of people spending years studying for a particular degree, only to find out that, upon graduation, his real career aspirations do not jar with the route associated with the degree he has obtained.

It is hence paramount to have an end in mind, what one really wants to pursue for his career and do for the rest of his life.

With changing times, this can sometimes be easier to say than done. The world is changing at a mind-boggling speed, rendering certain industries obsolete in a matter of years. Students gunning for a specific degree may find themselves caught in a dilemma when there are no longer many openings in a certain industry once its wave has ebbed.
Times are changing, and although the onus is for one to constantly equip ourselves with knowledge and be relevant to the world, we have to catch up with changing paradigm shifts.

Hotter and hotter

These days in Singapore are getting hotter and hotter. As I woke up today, I could not help but smelt the stench of dried sweat around my shirt. It was a super warm night yesterday and the fact that I belong to the group of Singaporeans having no air-conditioners at home did not help.

The temperature reading marched further north to 34 degree Celsius today and at this point of writing, I am still uncomfortable with the heat. To be exact, I am the person who could stand heat but not humidity. Heat coupled with humidity is a lethal combination which could frustrate an even patient and tolerant man under a no air-con environment. Fans could not help much in alleviating the discomfort as what they blow out in turn is hot air.

Singapore is largely air-conditioned currently. A decade ago, non air-conditioned buses were still present but today they are a rare breed. Occasionally taking a non air-con bus in the afternoon, I could feel the sweltering heat and my perspiration just roll profusely.

Human discomfort aside, the hot and humid climate of Singapore makes for an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, and it is thus no coincidence that the incidence of dengue fever outbreaks normally peak at the same period as the onset of the warmer weather.

The afternoon heat tend to make one more sleepy, especially after lunch; however with the majority of Singapore’s offices being air-conditioned, it is no cause for alarm for businesses here.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Shut down Day Singapore

Today is Shut Down day Singapore, a day which advocates Singaporeans to stay unplugged from their laptops and computers for a day.

Alike many Singaporeans, I do not stay unplugged from my computer today. It is not because I do not recognize the important message behind this special day; it is more due to I celebrating this day everyday: by not being immersed in computers day and night (except during works where it is a necessity) and recognizing that life has a bigger meaning through the real and tactile interactions and relationships with our loved ones and others.

It is not a healthy living off your life on the computers, so one should embrace a more meaningful life!

Today I read in the news and this piece of news may deter more from being so hooked to the computers: A British study has discovered the typical keyboard contains five times as much bacteria as our typical toilet bowl. The same study also discouraged computer users to avoid dining on the computer desks as it is akin to eating your meals in the toilet !

Reading this, I would clean up my office’s computer desk first thing on Monday morning! and my house’s one now!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Managers

Do not underestimate the impact of your managers on your life.

With many being employees spending large chunks of their life working, it is a definite and golden truth that the quality of work life parallels that of one’s personal life.

And the quality of one’s work life is shaped largely by and impacted upon by the managers one have; therein lays the importance and impact of managers on your life.

If one has a stifling and irritating boss, one returns home at the end of the day, troubled, beset and irritated by the whole affairs of the office. The bad experiences, frustrations one has with his managers are carried back home and in all likelihood translate to frustrations, anger or apathy towards one’s parents, spouse, sibling or children.

It is paramount that managers have good management skills, and it is even more critical that they are there, in the manager’s seat because of competence and not because of seniority or because ‘he is a scholar, so he is good’ kind of mentality the senior management has.

If there are indeed deep chasms in the relationships of a person with his manager and the differences cannot be resolved, it may be time to consider other green pastures.

A book I read states this veritable fact: if one is under a manager whose abilities are not better than his, either the employee leaves or he builds up an ‘opposition camp’.

And for me, I choose the former option.
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