Monday, December 31, 2007

Top Singapore Short Stories in 2007

As year 2007 comes to a close, let us recall some of the key stories that grabbed the headlines in Singapore this year.

These stories are listed in no order of priority:

UNSW Bombshell

The University of South Wales (UNSW) pulled its campuses out from Singapore as quickly as it have them set up, leaving many students in a fix. Many affected students eventually accepted the university’s offer to continue their education in Australia.

A380

The much awaited A380 giants finally soared to the sky after years of waiting and delay. A new ruling is implemented to prevent couples from making love in some of the very posh cabins.

Taxi touting

Letters written to the Straits Times complaining and lamenting on taxi touts finally caused the authorities to act by lifting the penalty for taxi touts.

F1

Singapore will host its leg of the F1 tournament right on our sunny shores come 28 September 2008! And yesterday, Punggol residents had their taste of a F1 when their constituency staged its own Gold Kart race. Gold Kart races will soon make their appearances in other parts of the island for Singaporeans to experience the F1 thrills and to prime the whole nation in the F1 countdown.

Amri Mohd Samat

Singapore surgeons performed a miracle operation on Amri, cutting off his lower half in a bid to save his life from flesh-eating bacteria. The operation was a success and the optimism and positive outlook of the man towards life after the operation is also applauding and gratifying to all.

PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations)

A Muslim girl topped this year’s PSLE with a record score of 294 in the history of the PSLE, with no tuition aids, but with very encouraging parents who created a learning and exploring environment for their daughter since young. The girl was no nerd, excelling in other co-curricular activities as well.

Dragon boating death

Five young, promising and athletic National Dragon boat racers lost their lives when their boat capsized in a river in Cambodia during a race there. Investigations soon found that the victims were all without life vests. A rigorous committee was set up to investigate their deaths and at this moment of writing, the investigation results are still pending. There incident threw the whole nation into two schools of thought on whether dragon boat racers should wear their life vests during racing. It is most likely that a ruling for all dragon boat racers to don their life vests in all races will be on the cards soon.

Dave Teo Ming

Dave Teo created a stir in Singapore when he left his 1 SIR camp in Kranji with a M16 assault rifle and ventured off to Orchard road. Security lapses in the camp have been questioned and again in Singapore, a committee has been set up to investigate these lapses to ensure such an incident will not happen again, especially when it occurred in a wave of school killing incidents around the world. The most notorious school killing was undertaken by a Korean student in one of the America’s universities who killed dozens of his classmates and eventually ending his life. Morbid videos that he sent to NBC are chilling and shed some lights to his reason for the massacre he committed. It is widely believed that the Korean murderer was a victim of school bullying.

ASEAN football champions

Singapore emerged as the champions of ASEAN this year when it defeated its worthy opponent Thailand. The match was cloaked in political shade after Thailand’s tussle with Singapore over Temasek’s investment and the alleged link of some of our political leaders with Thaksin.

ASEAN Idol

Without much fanfare, Hady, our Singapore Idol (2nd season) clinched the first ASEAN idol !

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova came to Singapore for an exhibition match and defeated her worthy compatriot: the 6th ranked Anna in an exciting and adrenalin-pumping match. She is a gorgeous beauty who tower many local men with her 1.88 m frame !

Relationship with neighbours

Singapore has seen its relationship strained at times this year with its neighbour over the following issues:
With Malaysia: Pedra Branca’s right
With Indonesia: Halt of granite supply and sales to Singapore (which may affect Singapore’s development of the IRs) and the alleged monopoly of some of Indonesia’s Telcom industry
With Thailand: Allegations of links with Thaksin and investment of Temaesk in Thailand’s companies.


MRT deaths

More and more Singaporeans are choosing a fast end to life by jumping into MRT tracks to be hit (hopefully dead in their thinking) by an approaching train. Their deaths not only cause grief to their surviving families but also halted MRT services and caused inconveniences to hundreds of passengers. Some of these incidents are not reported in the newspapers any longer as these incidents may be getting too commonplace. Newspapers may also no longer want to fall prey to the agenda of the suicides: when the first such case occurred, donations poured from Singaporeans island wide to the grieving family whose sole bread winner committed suicide in a bid to gain sympathy and attract some monetary assistance to his financially-drained family. The man succeeded with a resounding victory, posthumously.

Charity scene

The charity scene in Singapore has been blighted by scandals involving the NKF, the Children’s society. Even probes are underway for the Ren Ci hospital whose ‘icon’ is the beloved Reverend Ming Yi. When probes broke, Singaporeans even questioned over the authenticity of the reverend’s doctorate, which he obtained through distance learning from an Irish university, after checks on the university with the Irish authorities failed to ‘locate’ this university.


Environment

Environment has been in the spotlight this year. Al Gore and his associates won the Nobel prize for his effort in environment conservation. As the earth falls more and more ill as a result of man’s action and man realises more and more repercussion of his actions, the onus is for man to act collectively to save our earth and the time in now! One chilling environmental anomaly to share: Castiglione di Cervia, a small village of 2000 people in Northern Italy become first to be hit by a tropical disease, the Chikungunya, a relative of the dengue fever.

En-Bloc

“En-Bloc” is a term that is introduced into our daily lexicon in year 2007. In year 2007, Singapore witnessed 109 estates being ‘en-bloc-ed’, creating a revenue of $13 billion for homeowners. The demolition of apartments due to the ‘en-bloc’ led to housing shortages in the city, causing spike in rents. Coupled with the property boom, the prices of housing increases further forcing sellers to move to smaller apartments of cheaper locations.

2nd Adviser

Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Mr Lee Yi Shyan was appointed 2nd advisor for Joo Chiat SMC (Single Member Ward), in a very unusual arrangement in Singapore’s political history where a full time advisor cum MP (member of parliament) is cocurrently seconded to another ward.

1.7%

Unemployment hit 1.7%, the lowest figures in almost 10 years.

$16 billion

Singapore attracted $16 billion in manufacturing and projects, generating $3 billion of total business spending in services. Norwegian firm, REC, invested in Singapore, the world’s largest solar plant. Exon-Mobil has signed an agreement with the authorities to build a 2nd world-scale chemical complex here.

13th ASEAN summit

Singapore hosted the 15th ASEAN summit whereby ASEAN countries signed the landmark ASEAN Charter, which set the path for an ASEAN Economic Community by year 2015.

43 Golds

Singapore clinched 43 Golds, in one of the best showings by a team comprised mainly of youths in the SEA (Southeast Asia Games).

881

Homemade movies brought regional acclaim to our shores: 881, Homeswan stories, to name a few.

Singapore Day

The first ‘Singapore Day’ was organized in New York which brought together 6,000 Singaporeans working overseas in New York for a rare and homely gathering.

172,000

172,000 jobs were created in the first 9 months of 2007.

UP, UP, UP

The cost of living continues its upward spiral. The government cited three reasons for the increase: a) adjustment of GST from 5% to 7% b) increase in the annual value of HDB flats push the value of flats up (but it affect only 5% of the population who has no home ownership and lives in rented homes) c) worldwide increase of food and energy. The 4 years of sustained growth has also created problems: a) shortage of prime office spaces b) resource constraint in the construction industry c) a tight labour market. Inflation is rising faster than expected too.


Dengue Fever

Dengue fever infections spiral unabatedly from May to August which prompted NEA (National Environment Agency) to mobilise its team of officers to tackle the problem at the bud. ‘Intensive Source Reduction Exercises’ are conducted to rid the root of the dengue scourge. The efforts pay off and the infections tapered off to a normal level.


An Economic Anomaly?

With the unusual strong showing of its economy (7.5% growth rate) in 2007, Singapore is lauded as a developed nation growing at the pace of a developing nation.

$1.94 million

After the highly scrutinised pay revision of top civil servants and ministers, $1.94 million is the annual pay of an entry-grade Minister in Singapore now.

6.5 million Singaporeans

Policymakers are gearing up for 6.5 million Singaporeans in their policy making considerations.

666,000 millionaires

That is the number of millionaires with liquidity of US$1 million in Singapore. The rising number of the richer Singaporeans inevitably leads to an ever-increasing income gap.

1 million foreign workers

1 million foreign workers now reside in Singapore, contributing to Singapore but nevertheless creating some challenges to Singapore.

377A

To repeal or not? Singaporeans are divided into 2 schools of thought, in the discussion of whether law forfeiting Gay Sex shall be repealed in Singapore. The topic drew an aggressive discussion and hot airing in parliament and the verdict attests to the traditional conservative Asian values of Singaporeans in general.

GST increase

GST increased from 5% to 7% on 1 July 2007


4th University

A 4th university is on the card with Minister-of –State Lui leading a study to explore the form that this new university will take

Annuity

The government wants Singaporeans aged 85 and above to be covered with compulsory annuity.

CPF reforms

Reforms would be made to CPF, promising higher interest returns, later drawn out age for the minimum sum and annuities to be made compulsory for Singaporeans and paid using their CPF.

WorkFare Income supplement

Another shield of society for low income and older workers, in addition to education, compulsory home ownership and the 3 ‘Ms’: Medisave, Medishield and Medifund.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Waterloo Street

The part of Waterloo Street flanked by KuanYin temple and the Indian temple, OG shopping centre, Albert Complex and the food centre is a microcosm of daily Singapore life. The rhythm of life is encapsulated on this street. Here, one can see a good representation of the different races living on this island and as well as the various groups of foreigners congregating on this lively street.

Every time I come to this street, I am also enthralled by the many ‘performers’ on the street. These can be peddlers selling some ‘magical’ charms or acrobats performing intriguing acts. Of late, I spot a tiny ‘performer’ (woman in a child’s body) borned with both legs twisted to the front, so that her feet and head face different directions. She was singing on a karaoke set and asking for donations from the crowd of on-lookers.

There are many other interesting ‘performers’ on this street and what I have observed is that many of these ‘performers’ do not look local. Though these performers liven up the street and make the street definitely more interesting than many others in Singapore, I do not know whether their acts carried out on this street contravene any laws or regulations.

Soliciting for donation or money in general has become almost central to this street, from beggars, performers, flower sellers to people asking for donations to help the unfortunate in other countries. Hitherto, I still do not know whether the donation seekers are genuine or bogus seekers exploiting on the charity of temple-goers.

Nevertheless, waterloo street with its mix of good food, culture, religious places of attraction, shopping centres, computer mega stores and a National library in its vicinity is certainly a nice place to hang out at.

Hawker Centres

I have recently completed reading the book titled Singapore Hawker Centres: People, Places and Food written by Professor Lily Kong from the National University of Singapore. This book rightly captures the essences of our Hawker Centres and its relevance to the lives of Singaporeans from the past to the present.

Our ubiquitous Hawker Centres are really the gems of our small nation. Dining out and eating with friends have almost become a ritual of our daily lives, not just as a mean to fill our empty stomach. In fact our hawker centres, a central part of our lives have become one of “the 1000 places that one must visit before one dies”.

There is no more addition to the existing number of hawker centres in our country. What have been springing up are food courts, restaurants, cafes and the likes. The quality of food served at very affordable prices is the main draw of hawker centres. Conversely, many food courts I have patronised before served very low quality food in very small serving portions at very high prices. Good food can be found in restaurants but they come with premium prices, GST, compulsory service charges, etc.

Our hawker centres, after upgrading have become much more spacious and elegant and have almost become daily attractions for Singaporeans.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Teacher's Pay

Teachers will get a hike in their salaries and fatter bonuses with effect from next year, the Ministry of Education announced.

This announcement brought cheers to the 29,000 teachers in Singapore, at least in my opionion :)

It is a challenging time and exciting time to be a teacher in Singapore.

In this era, knowledge is dynamic and ever-changing and these demand constant upgrading of the teachers to imbibe the constant changing information, transform them into knowledge and impart to the students.

The Ministry is giving generous scholarships, bursaries and allowances for teachers to upgrade their qualifications, from bachelor to Masters and even doctorates.

Imparting knowledge to the students in this era may be more challenging than the yester-years. Now there are a wide range of techological devices to impart knowledge. Different facets of knowledge transfer asides, the students of today may be more sophiscated than before and the teachers of today have to really connect with the students to guide them along.

Teachers, apart from teaching, also spend hours on co-curricular activities.

So with all these challenges, it may be justifiable for the pay hikes of teachers.

But are the teachers of today more interested in teaching as a career only or because of the intrinisc benefits they obtain from the transformation and guiding of students?

It is hard to tell.

But what is evident in Singapore is that our education system, honed and refined through the years have become internationally acclaimed and become our Singapore quality export.

Maths and Science textbooks produced by Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) have been reproduced in some states of America to be used as teaching tools, to take for an example.

Knowledge is criticial to today's economy as in a knowledge-based economy, knowledge is power, therein lies Singapore's heavy investment in education. However, other countries like China and India are playing catch up.

Singapore students may be enjoying a high quality of education but their demeanours still need to be improved.

Just look around, many teenagers displaying all forms of intimacy at a young age. Giving up seats to elderly may not be in their "dictionaries" too.

Moral education shall be stressed, at this era, where a host of changes confound lives and where morality is slowing and surely declining.

Bhutto Assassinated !

In just two days time, 2007 will come to a closure.

It was a rude awakening and a shock to denizens the world over when the daughter of the Muslim Word, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated during a public rally on 27 Dec 2007 (Thu) Singapore time.

Bhutto had a vision for Pakistan, a country fraught with malaise and struggle. She stood as the symbol against terrorism and a beacon of hope for a better tomorrow for Pakistan.

Surviving assassinations many times before, and despites reminder morbid death notes by her nemesis, she returned to Pakistan in her attempt to liberalise Pakistan, unafraid and determined.

She has died, as a result of cowardly terrorist act but the world over shared her vision and mission.

The terrorists have won this time round but the fight against terrorists will continue and be strengthed further !

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Transport Woes

I find it increasingly difficult to take the MRT these days as the train is always packed to the periphery, to the extent that sometimes, one’s body can be pasted like a sucker-fish to the door of the train (no kidding!)

The overcrowding of the MRT at most times of the day may be attributed to the population increase, the simply reluctance of the passengers to move into the interior of the train and the recent price hikes of petrol which may encourage more use of public transport among the population.

With Singapore gearing to an ever-increasing population, it is a real challenge to accommodate transportation needs of the people in this land-scare island. Though MRTs are efficient modes of public transport, to curb overcrowding of the train, more services at higher frequencies may be necessary but this would inevitably lead to higher fares.

Mannerism and basic courtesy of Singaporeans are embedded attributes, which are unfortunately hard to change over these years despites numerous campaigns targeted to address the courtesy issue.

The higher price of petrol may aid in energy conversation as more people may switch to public transport, thus bringing down the level of vehicle emission in Singapore. However Singapore is a small player and the small improvement made to the emission level is negligible compared to larger countries.

With COEs, parking fees, ERPs and the higher price of petrol, I find public transport more attractive than car ownership. Owing a car and commuting by car is a real monetary commitment at the expense of convenience.

Pros asides, public transport has its cons. The long waiting time for buses, the inconveniences of crowding with people…. it is all a matter of compromises.

Of late, I find that buses are certainly excessive electrical consumers. These buses are freezingly cold in the mornings that I take them that many passengers resort to the wearing of sweaters. Seen in this perspective, buses are not so eco-friendly. And why should buses have TVmobile? Do passengers really need them? These mobile TVs installed in buses, only create more noise, disturbing passengers sleeping and use up more electricity, in my personal opinion.

In contrast, MRTs are getting warmer and warmer, most probably due to more and more passengers taking the trains.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Increases

Prices of many essential items such as flour and oil have increased in the recent few weeks, leaving many Singaporeans concerned and worried.

Basic necessities asides, the price of petrol has also skyrocketed a little, leading to corresponding increases in the prices of petrol and inevitably higher taxi fares.

Prior to these increases, GST this year has increased from 5% to 7%, and with the recent increases of many items, prices of hawker fares have subsequently seen a hike.

All these increases this year may have put a strain on the pockets of the average Singaporeans, thus when the latest increases to top civil servants and ministers were announced, some Singaporeans lamented that it was not the most appropriate time for the increase.

I would not dwell on the link between top pay and top talent. I believe one shall have read the lengthy justifications made for these pay increases in the newspapers. To me, the salaries of the top civil servants are definitely high but these may be reasonable for the duties and responsibilities they hold, as compared to the ‘16th’ person in the median of the same profession ’.

What we see in Singapore is a growing chasm between the rich and the ‘not so rich’, with millionaires in Singapore being 66,000 and growing. However, looking at some of my less well-off colleagues who still have a comfortable asset, their homes, I believe the government’s policies of compulsory home ownership is working well.

Year 2008 is coming in just a week, there are telling signs of a slower economy next year. Singapore is betting on the IR, the Youth Olympics and the F1 to ride against these challenges, but can they endure against the constant vortex of change?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

SEA Games Results

The SEA games ended last Saturday 15 Dec 07 with Singapore at the 6th position, clinching a total gold medal tally of 43.

Our result at the SEA games was neither impressing nor poor. It was mediocre and to a certain extent fell short of expectation. We had a patchy performance with excellent results in some sports and under-performance in traditional strong arenas.

It led some Singaporeans to wonder whether the heavy investments in our sports and our athletes were worthwhile? Consider countries like Thailand, which did not have such a heavy investment in their athletes nor handsome rewards for them as Singapore, and yet these countries produced sterling results at the SEA games.

To me, talent is both nature and nurture.

One may argue that Thailand is a much larger country than Singapore. In a bigger country, the number and quality of the talent pool may be definitely much greater than that of a small country like Singapore. With sufficient training given to its athletes, it is not hard for these large countries to excel in sports.

In Singapore, it may be harder to find natural born sports talents among the smaller pool that we have. With this constraint, our strategy in developing local sport talents is to develop our local athletes. These strategies pay off as we witness our local sportsmen in the top of the leagues in sports like water polo and bowling at the SEA games.

Singapore has also imported foreign talents to our national sports team and developed them. Many of these talents borned in countries like China and Indonesia eventually become Singaporeans and represent Singapore in regional and international games. It may be indeed difficult for many Singaporeans to dismiss the fact that these foreign talents are not born in Singapore and some controversies inevitably sparked over their nationalities whenever they clinched the titles for Singapore.

Singaporeans who could not get over the nationality tag of these foreign talents shall understand the attraction and development of talent in sports is akin to that in other arenas. Work teams today are made up of diverse groups of people with different nationalities, so is with sports. Soccer teams playing in the famous leagues and world cups also bore testimony to this fact.

On the other hand, large countries which may have a larger pool of talents may not certainly excel in sports if they do not develop their athletes. Consider Laos, a country of significant land mass and population. Mired in economic difficulty, it is hard for Laos to grow and develop its economy, let alone develop its local sports talent.

To summarize, to excel in regional and international sports, nature, nurture and sourcing of talents are critical. On hindsight, considering the small population of Singapore, its results at the recent SEA games may still be encouraging.

Purchases

Recently I bought a game item from a reputable retail shop in a shopping centre. The item was sealed up in a neat transparent packaging with the price tag clearly labeled. After payment, I happily brought the item home. Impressed with the neat and transparent packaging which in my impression, conveys quality of the product, I did not open the game item until a few days later.

Imagine my shock when I tore open the plastic wrapping and the stickers, only to find an aged box, which showed once the packaging, was torn. Examining the game item, I realized some parts of the item were missing !

It definitely pays to check one’s items after purchase and not to assume the purchased item has no defects, no matter how well packaged the item may be. I endured some inconvenience to bring back the game item to the shop where I bought it and convinced the staff there for a replacement, especially tedious when I had thrown away the receipt.

I realized how applicable the adage “Do not judge a book by its cover” in this episode and was more convinced of the necessity to check and verify and not to assume in all matters we do.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Poaching

While passing the park connector between Tampines Avenue 10 and Pasir Ris, there are evidences of people poaching wildlife.

Laying nets, armed with some traps, they straddle the shallow rivers, the canals and lay their baiting traps, hopefully to catch some wildlife.

These can be fishes, or sometimes some rare creatures such as iguanas.

Most often, they fail in their attempts as they are not skilled but once their baits are caught, they may be rewarded handsomely.

And if they themselves are caught, the cost is even greater.

Marriages

This month seems to be a month of marriages, with me witnessing, one after another, my friends, stepping into the aisle, being congratulated by friends and relatives.

To get married at the age of twenty-plus in this age is considered early. Marriage is a commitment and my friends are already signing on this life long commitment at this tender age.

Married or not, there are pros and cons, and it depends on one’s viewpoints of things. Responsibilities come flooding once one gets married. Being a good husband, a good father, taking care of wife and children, managing accounts and expenses and having real little time for oneself.

All these commitments are challenges. To some, these are pros and they relish these challenges. For others, these commitments may be costly and one prefers to be single and free of commitments.

Singapore is at a development stage where we need more babies as our population is ageing and declining. To tackle the problem of our population shrinking, our youth needs to procreate and to procreate more.

Though the government has dangled more and more carrots to attract earlier marriage and more procreation among our population and also played some match-making roles, the procreation rate may still need to be ratcheted up at a faster pace.

My personal opinion is that apart from an increasing worldwide social trend of people preferring to remain single, the higher and higher costs of living may also deter some from starting a family or having more children.
Higher costs of living is inevitable, however it is a blessing that the government is trying to reduce the stresses of this bugbear through its various initiatives.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mailbox

With the advent of Email (Electronic-Mail), postage mail has been, to a certain extent relegated. Postage mail however is still a necessity in today’s world, especially when original copies of documents or parcels are to be sent from one point to another in the world. This necessity renders the sustained presence of mailboxes in Singapore.

Together with the relegation of postage mail in today’s era is the ‘relegation’ of the location of the mailboxes. Mailboxes used to be located in populated areas, within easy reach of the mailers, e.g. inside the MRT stations. However after ‘911’, these mail boxes suddenly ‘moved house’ to be relocated at a further distance from crowded places like the MRT stations.

The mailboxes are not the only facilities to have ‘moved house’ after ‘911’. Dustbins, a common sight in MRT stations were removed from the stations shortly after the incident.

The relocation of these facilities stem from security concerns, which are worthy causes. It is a worthwhile trade-off of conveniences for security.

Rain

The seasonal monsoons are here again, bringing with it plentiful rain to this tiny island, lending a tinge of Christmas to this all-summer country.

Areas in Singapore are not all flood-proof. Low-laying areas in the country are susceptible to floods. It was not unheard of for horticulture farms, homes and other factories to incur losses after flood water ravage their properties and assets. With excellent drainage facilities constructed, these flooded areas are fortunately a minority.

In neighboring countries, the damage caused by floods is tremendous, ravaging homes, whole stock and barrel, livestock and even precious lives. The magnitude of these floods is far greater than our local floods where the maximum height is only waist-deep.

As a result of man’s action, climate has changed. It was reported yesterday that it is raining hailstones in Australia, which is an unusual fact considering that it should be summer now in that country.

Hailstones are no kidding stuff. Falling from great heights, they smashed the windows of cars and homes and injuring others.

Man is seeing the repercussions of his constant destruction of the environment.

Singapore- A Nation of Campaigns?

Singapore is a ‘campaign’ country. Since two or three decades back, we had a slew of campaigns such as the ‘Courtesy’ campaign, the ‘Save water’ campaign, ‘Two (Children) are enough’ campaign, etc. Some campaigns such as the anti-littering campaigns are evergreen, which persist till today while some faded into oblivion due to irrelevance in today era.

These campaigns are medium of mass public education, intended to achieve a social or economical aim of the nation.

Of late, campaigns of a new nature have come to the fore. Though the aims of some of these new campaigns are still mainly economical, to a certain extent, they have taken on an international and global twist.

When Singapore hosted the World Convention the year before, there was an aggressive campaign to showcase to the world that our people are friendly and ready to welcome the international delegates via the ‘Smile Singapore’ campaign.

Currently, Singapore is in a bid to host the Youth Olympics in year 2011. Preliminary rounds have indicated Singapore to be in the 2nd position in the running for the hosting rights. To ratchet up the momentum and drum up local support for Singapore to host the event, a campaign is in the offing. Some signs of this campaign are
It is hard to miss the colourful banners put up across the island or the advertisement blitz via the mass media to canvass for support among the community.
Some youths have been appointed ambassadors for the event.
Plans to include ‘lessons of the Olympics’ (do not ask me what it is, I am not sure too) into the syllabus in schools are also on the card.

Drumming up support for this event is but one of the twin objectives of this campaigning. The other apparent aim would be to show to the judging panel that Singapore is ready to take on the job!

Another campaign with a modern day twist is the ‘Bring-Your-Own-Bag-Day (BYOBD)’ spearheaded by NEA. ‘Environmental-friendly’and the like are buzzwords of this era. This campaign with a green twist aims to encourage shoppers to use recyclable bags, instead of plastic bags to contain their purchased items. Response to this campaign among shoppers has been reported to be forthcoming and NEA is considering increasing the frequency of the BYOBD from once per week to a more regular basis.

It is premature to predict whether BYOBD would ultimately achieve its goal of reducing the consumption of plastic bags in Singapore. Such campaigns ultimately calls for mindset changes and it may take years before the community is accustomed to these changes and the fruits of these campaigns are reaped.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Urban Legend 3: Monkey Business

This evening, I went for my routine cycle cum jog session to Bedok Reservoir.

After an invigorating run, there was a commotion sparked up by some monkey business.

Literally not figuratively speaking, monkey business.

Out of the blue, a monkey appeared swinging from trees to trees at the reservoir. It piqued the curiosity of many joggers who paused to take a look. Some took out cameras to take photos of the creature, who was obviously proud of the interest it has created in the tranquil reservoir.

For once, I did not know where this creature come from to claim a stake in Bedok Reservoir.

Monkeys are common in the water catchment areas, Bukit Timah areas but in Bedok Reservoir?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Experience

Experience is the sum of interaction with people, with the environment and hence experience is always dynamic. Some folks who have been to a certain place individually may not want to revisit the place with a group as they believe that the experience is the same: visiting these ‘old’ places. But they are wrong. With groups, the experiences gleaned will be different, with interaction with others at different dates and in different environments. All these make for different experiences, different enjoyment and shall be cherished. It is like playing games: playing with different people will make the fun of the game different.

STOMP

STOMP continues to be a popular news online medium in Singapore where Singaporeans can become reporters and their articles viewed by many others. Pictures are often convincing and it often validates the stories told by these ‘reporters’ but I must really caution that pictures can also be biased. There may be only one picture but the interpretations can be a dozen. One must judge the credibility of the stories at face value only.

Smoking Ban

I really advocate the smoking ban to be extended to all HDB flats. Living in a non air-conditioned unit, everyday, I fall victim to the suffocating cigarette smoke emanating from my neighbours below and which penetrates my room. The only solution is to shut all windows (which make the room also suffocating) and reopen the window again and the battle continues………..till the person stops smoking

Mocca

Mocca, a platform for users to post advertisements free-of-charge has come to the fore with a big bang via an aggressive and humorous advertising blitz. There are hundreds and hundreds of advertisements of all types being posted on Mocca. Of late, I discovered a whole slew of advertisements offering sexual and discreet services. Though Mocca provides a free platform for genuine buyers and sellers, certainly it also fall prey to the oldest profession in the world. Sex sells and do continues to sell, via a whole gamut of medium in all places!

Late Employees

Employees who are late for work everyday are a drain on the company’s resources. Imagine if there is only one employee who us late for just ten minutes per day: in a month, about 100 minutes of working hours will be gone and extrapolated to a year, 20 man-hours will be wasted, and the company may have more than one such employee.

Though it is true that quality of work takes precedence over the quantity of time spent in work, nevertheless, lost man-hours due to constant lateness on the part of the employees should be something management shall look at.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Urban Legend 2


What are noticeboards for?

For this one, it serves as a rubbish bin!

But I find it disbelieving that this notice board is used as a rubbish bin for it is extremely difficult to slot these papers in.

Or rather, how does one put all these refuse in? for this noticeboard looks locked.

Urban Legend 1


This picture was taken on a raining day.
I really believe the white mist shrouding the towers is low laying clouds.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Civil Service Bonus

Civil servants this year will get between 3 to 3.3 months of bonus + $220. This bonus includes the 0.5 month bonus +$220 that Civil servants had been given in July 2007, 2 months of bonus in December 2007 and a ‘Growth Bonus’ from 0.5 to 0.8 month pegged to the performance of good performers.

Normally, the stand of the Civil Service in giving out its bonus is not to be seen as leading Private Sector in this practice, but rather as a guideline.

Shortly after the release of the bonus handouts, private sectors are reported not to peg their bonus with that of the Civil Service as it is akin to comparing apples and oranges, and they have their own practices.

There is one reader who wrote in to the Straits Time today to challenge the notion of the good performance of the supposedly good performers of Civil service and calls for transparency to dishing out public funds to these good performances and she even question the bonus itself.

The reader seems to be steeped in a culture of envy in the letter. She should have known that the bonus of Civil Servants which is widely publicised is really transparent in this aspect. Further more, these bonuses dished out are average, some private companies can pay their employees more than six months of their salaries as bonuses.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

1 Dec 2007

Today is 1 December 2007, the last month of the year. With two holidays in this month, two half day offs granted on the eves of Christmas and the New Year and with many colleagues taking off and leave, this month will fly and soon 2007 will be history.

2008 will be the year China hosts the Olympics and Singapore hosts the F1 tournaments and besides these great events, there will be a slew of interesting happenings coming up.

However, there is a possibility that recession may set in year 2008. Recession is a vicious, cyclic occurrence. With the most recent two previous recessions in 1997, 2003, it may seem time that recession will indeed set in year 2008.

But Singapore is confident that the recent slew of international projects it has undertaken (or will be bidding and hopefully getting them), will help our country tide over the recession.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Relativity

The law of relativity, founded by Einstein is one important Physics law which underpins the principles of Science.

In life, I believe this law is also applicable. Man often gets a sense of meaning through relativity. In short, this relativity stems from the comparison with others.

Man often focuses on what others have that we do not have and feel a sense of regret or sadness.

But at the same time, man does not treasure what he has until the time that he loses it. Then, it is late to regret.

5 Singaporeans drowned in Cambodia

22 Singaporean rowers of the National Team participated in one of the traditional dragon boating festivals in Cambodia where their boat capsized, drowning five of the members.

These five members were found to be without life-jackets prior to the drowning. This sad episode threw a question: Why were life jackets not worn?

In common dragon boat racing, though life jackets are advisable to be worn, many rowers do not wear due to the belief that these life jackets may impede their movements. And often, the sailors set off once they have determined that the sea is calm.

It must be emphasized that this incident is a freak one. There was a sudden influx of currents which capsized the boat. Experienced rowers wearing life jackets may also drown in such an environment.

However, life jackets do minimise the probability of drowning.

Educational Shows

Though Singapore’s home-made TV productions has come a long way since independence, I believe its contents can be further improved.

Often, new local entertainment shows or dramas are of the similar mould or if not, exactly similar to what local viewers had seen of its Taiwan or Hong Kong Counterparts.

Chinese serial shows are often of the same genre, focusing on an extended family where the protagonists are often embroiled in a series of quarrels and caught in a complicated web of love and relationships, etc.

At least, there is still the broadcast of Hong Kong and Taiwanese productions on the free-to-air channels which is a real breather.

Recently, there is a new Chinese documentary showing on Channel U at 2130 hrs on Tuesday where Professor Yu Dan from China waxes philosophical about the Confucian beliefs and melded with the high tech animations to reinforce the messages. It is an extremely educational show. Such shows are sadly to say, lacking in this complex era of changes.

Flu Bug

Singapore seems to be gripped in a mini flu epidemic in the recent weeks. Many colleagues of mine were given medical leaves due to the common cold. In the buses and MRTs, it is getting commonplace these days to witness passengers sneezing and coughing, and to a certain extent, infecting others who have not contracted the disease.

This mini-epidemic often coincides with the close of the year when there is a change in the weather from hot to rainy. But this year, unlike other years, the weather is the most unpredictable: the morning and afternoons are unusually hot, then there is the occasional rain and at night, it may get extremely hot, humid and uncomfortable, especially when one’s house is not air-conditioned.

At this period when common flu is prevalent, one who has contracted the disease should consult a doctor and refrain from going out and infecting the uninfected. Doctors here have warned that the flu strain this year has mutate to a more drug-resistant strain and thus this strain of flu is more challenging to counteract than its predecessors.

December is a month of celebration, a month of reflection and a month to prepare to usher in the coming New Year. It is a saddening thought to be infected with cold or other diseases and not being able to participate in the yearly celebrations.

Herein lies the importance maintaining one’s health: exercising regularly, eating fruits and drink enough water, having sufficient sleep and observing one’s food intake.

We can only seek to minimise getting infected, a 100% protection against disease is unrealistic.

Personally, I believe man’s health and immune system has deteriorated as a result of the ecological damages brought to Mother Earth. This is one of the unfortunate consequences of the ecological damage.

Millions of years ago, scorpions and other insects were bigger than present day human but as a result of the changing environmental conditions of the earth, they have shrunk to present size.

Similarly, the consequences of ecological damage left one to fathom.

Strongest Man in the World

The strongest person in the world is one who has control over his mind, emotion and his whole self, and one who does not easily falls prey to the influence of externality.
Admittedly, it is hard to be influenced or affected by the outside world. Though we may act rational and behave in a wholesome manner, others may behave and act below what we expect them to be, and behave in a manner unacceptable to our morals, ethnos, beliefs and ways of life.

The simplest thing is to ignore them but saying is far too easy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Internet addiction

Internet is a priceless invention but it has brought about its share of social problems. In Singapore, one of the countries in the world with the highest internet connections, one can witness the social problems brought about by this new medium of communication and information.

With internet, one can email, play games, watch movies, communicate and chat via an array of different means; carry out banking transactions, listen to music and indulge in a whole slew of other activities.

The social ills of internet stem from its inappropriate use. Companies suffer from decreased productivity when their staffs misuse the internet for chatting and other non-work related activities during working hours.

We are also seeing an increasing number of internet addicts among the youngsters, who are easy preys to the lure of the internet. Youths who spent hours and hours everyday in the net, rooted to their seats, are common phenomena in our society.

Playing games and chatting with friends are common activities the youths indulge inside the internet. Being addicted to the internet, these young folks will not hesitate to rebel against anyone, even their parents and siblings, who chastise them for spending too excessive an amount of time in these activities. One must be aware that plugging off the power supply to the computer is akin to plugging off the life of these youths! Heavy addicts may even resort to violence when their ‘life’ is being taken off!

One must be cognizant that internet addiction can be a serious social problem. Youth are the pillars for the future of our country. It will be a worrying trend if our future leaders are steeped into these less purposeful activities on the internet.

The incident of the ridiculed trishaw driver

Enough has been said of the news of the local trishaw driver who was ridiculed by some foreigners.

For those who were not aware of the news, it went like this: A group comprising of two to three foreigners hailed a trishaw in one of the tourism belts in Singapore. Along the journey, they poked fun, insulted and ridiculed the old trishaw driver in English, a language the poor uncle did not know. And all these insulting and bullying were happily captured by them in their camera phone videos which were then posted by them on Youtube and circulated to the world. The worst part was that no payment was made to the uncle at the end of the trip.

Immediately, the video footage sparked an intense outburst and drew flak among the netizens. As a Singaporean, I find it deeply insulting for these white men to be discriminating towards Asians.

The great colonial times have already passed, it is now the time of the rising Dragon!

Scams

Reading the news today, I find it unbelievable that a teacher, supposedly to be highly educated, can fall prey to swindlers from China.

Singaporeans may not be really clever judging by the significant numbers of Singaporeans who were tricked by these swindlers. They ranged from professionals to those in the lower rungs of the society.

Taiwanese Li Ao has labelled Singaporeans stupid. It is time for Singaporeans to show the world that they are not stupid and not falling prey to tricks which are meant more for children.

Singapore’s old men are also being targeted by some China dolls for their wealth of income accumulated over a lifetime of hard work. These poor men lost their entire wealth to these dolls eventually and suffered.

This is what I have read from a book the other time.

In terms of shrewdness,

1 Chinese Man (China) = 2 Taiwanese Man=3 Hong Kong men = 4 Singaporeans

Are Singaporeans getting lesser wiser compared to their regional counterparts as a result of being raised in a comfortable environment?

Recall of China’s products

China’s products have been in the news quite a number of times this year for all the wrong reasons: defective design, defective quality and even possibility of containing toxic chemicals.

This may prove to be an impediment to China’s growing economical power which is poised to take on the globe.

Singapore population

Figures released this week by the authority revealed the following statistics of our population:

3.68 million Singaporeans and Permanent Residents and

1 million foreigners: 756, 000 working (110,000 E Pass workers and 646,000 holders of work permits).

Foreigners and permanent residents are becoming common sights in our society. Though some Singaporeans are less welcoming of them, it is noteworthy to see that some of these permanent residents and foreigners making good contributions to society, with an increasing number of them being involved in grassroots work.

They are also making a mark on the landscape of Singapore with enclaves formed over time. Some of these enclaves are specially earmarked for them by the government, others developed over a period of time from a natural result of their congregation over time.

It is easy to pass remarks at foreigners resulting from some preconceive ideas we may have about them. It is more useful for Singaporeans to understand them and welcome them into our society for they too are contributing to the common good of the nation.

To a certain extent as a result of an increasing population, I begin to realise that Singapore may be getting more and more crowded than before. Just try going to the shopping centres in the city and in Orchard on weekends!

One can also witness the throngs of people coming out from the train which had arrived at a platform of a MRT station situated in a residential hub. Immediately, the quiet platform is transformed to a bustling marketplace in a matter of seconds !

Leadership Lid

As one leadership guru says, if one comes under a manager with a leadership lid (or ‘capacity’) which is lesser than that of himself, two things are bound to happen:

One, the employee will find it stifling to be under the command and control of the manager, deemed an ineffective under in his eyes and there will be rebellion.

Two, the employee will quit after sometime to ‘escape’ from the control of a less-than -effective leader.

Are leaders born? The answer is a resounding YES as which man is not borned?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Work

I think I have written quite a number of articles on work as I am of the belief and convictions that work is a very important part of life.

Work itself is an attitude, develop a good working attitude, and work will be a breeze. Take a real interest and passion in your work and you will soon like it.

I have read from one good book that there is no perfect work as there are no perfect people.

True sometimes, one will get bogged down by the negative work attitudes emanating from other lesser colleagues. Such an attitude is contagious and it soon spreads and poisons the proactiveness and morale of the whole team.

I find that work in itself has infinite opportunities of learning, it depends on one to discover these learning opportunities and to be better off, armed with these opportunities.

Cyclists

Recently, traffic police revealed statistics which indicate an increasing number of cyclists being caught cycling on the wrong side of the law: expressways and pavements. One cyclist was even killed while cycling on the road shoulder of the expressway.

While it is understandable that it is foolish to be risking one’s precious life cycling on the expressway amidst the fast moving vehicles, it is disconcerting to note that cycling on the pavement constitutes an offence too.

I am a regular cyclist and I shall admit that while there are definitely reckless cyclists threatening the safety of pedestrians on the pavements, there are also reckless motorists on the road who threaten the safety of cyclists.

A majority of our pavements in the country are bicycle-friendly and it is such a relaxing experience to be cycling on the pavements, taking into sight the nice scenery of our heartlands and knowing that one is safer on the pavements rather than to be on the roads, provided one cycle slowly and steadily.

I believe many Singaporeans are still unaware that cycling on pavements is an offence: one can just see the slew of people cycling on the pavement everyday.

The compromise between pedestrians and cyclist on pavements is similar to that between motorists and cyclists on roads. It boils down to tolerance and gracefulness.

Second Advisor

In an unusual and surprising move, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Mr Lee Yi Shyan, who is a MP for the East Coast GRC was suddenly appointed to be the Second Advisor for the Joo Chiat SMC, assisting the Advisor for the constituency, Mr Chan Soo Sen in the grassroots and constituency works there.

What made the move strange was the fact that there was no precedent to appoint a Second Adviser in the SMCs. A Second Advisor to a constituency is usually appointed with the aim to equip potential PAP candidates with some ground experience before the General Election, but this is also not often.

It is thus unusual considering that the next General Election is some 4 years away and that Mr Lee has already had a consistency under his charge.

Only time will tell of the rationale behind the move.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Nature of Singapore

In tiny Singapore where life on the weekends can be pretty mundane, where time on weekends are mostly spent in shopping malls and restaurants (just see the throngs of crowds on weekends at these places!), an alternative get-away would be the farms of Singapore.

To many, Singapore is largely urban but there are still rural areas on the outskirts of Singapore in the northern parts. There are over ten farms that one can spend time visiting on the weekends and savour the rural landscape and rustic charms.

I have been to such farms in Singapore and it is definitely a day worth spending at these places. Away from the maddening crowd, one get up, close and personal to nature, to animals and to plants. One is also able to see the places of Singapore less explored. A website that must be recommended for interested farm-goers is http://www.kranjicountryside.com/

Apart from farms, there are also parks to visit where one can feel the breeze of the sea and feel soothed. Cycling, jogging and skating are also activities one can indulge in, in parks like East Coast Park.

However, as a regular park goer, I find that parks like East Coast Park is increasingly being ‘urbanized’ by an increasing crowd and getting dirtier as a result of a larger volume of refuse generated by the park-goers.

In time to come, there may be really a need to explore true uninhabited islands to feel truly at peace and at ease with nature and with oneself.

Having stayed on a remote island where there is really nothing at all, I have also appreciated how technology has made living more convenient and comfortable for human beings. To a certain extent, as a Singaporean, I have also learnt to appreciate the Singapore government’s excellent job in making living an orderly and pleasant experience for all on the island.

Leadership

Yesterday, I attended a talk on leadership presented by a director of one MNC in Singapore. The speaker was an eloquent, fantastic presenter, who peppered his speech with live anecdotes and practical examples.

Personally, I myself had read books after books on leadership. And taking the presentations that I had attended and the books I had read on leadership in totality, there are definitely myriads of leadership definitions in the world today!

Personally, I view leadership as the following:

a. Taking charge of yourself before taking charge of others

b. Having discipline and the means to work with people.

c. Being an exemplary example to others, with a clear direction to lead others.

These are just the main salient points of what I believe in leadership. I believe leadership must start with oneself. It is unfortunate to witness that in some organizations, people climb into leader positions not by capability but by perceived capability and by some other means.

One will only know the effectiveness of one’s leadership skills by what one’s followers or subordinates say. Over time, one will be able to sieve out true leaders from who came into leadership positions by other means.

Ancient Chinese Civilisation

Watching the Hong Kong serial drama now airing on Channel U every weekday, “The Conqueror’s Story” where the protagonists in the story are Xiang Yu and Liu Bang of the Chu-Han period, I am kept mentally and visually simulated.

The 5000 year old Chinese civilisation certainly holds tons of valuable lessons to be learnt from the rise and fall of the dynasties and I welcome Chinese dramas based on these themes.

Such drama serials are not only exciting in content, visually exciting, these are great educational tools as well.

For this drama that I am currently watching, one can witness the power of emotional quotient demonstrated by Liu Bang at play, which eventually won over the hard technical power and prowess of Xiang Yu who was less attuned to the use of wise men and who lacked people skills

In short, people’s leader vs dictatorial and authoritative leader.

On a separate front, I wonder why the Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS) could not really produce a drama series which could really rival that of Hong Kong

I do not think it is a matter that TCS has a short history as compared to its Hong Kong counterpart. The crux of the issue, I believe, lies in the skills of the artistes and the directing skills.

Sudoku

Flipping through the TODAY newspaper every Saturday, I come across the logic game ‘Super Sudoku’ where it was aptly described as ‘tough for the die-hard Sudoku junkies’.

Admittedly, I play Sudoku less than ten times in my life at a level deemed to be ordinary, easy for many, on those occasions when I am really free. Looking at the description of the ‘Super Sudoku’ in the newspapers, it seems to be a difficult puzzle for many, even for regular players.

Having nothing to do while travelling in the MRT yesterday, I dug up a pen and attempted to solve this supposedly difficult puzzle. And guess what? I managed to solve this puzzle within a modest timing of 25 minutes !

Though this timing may not be impressive to Sudoku players, the fact that I, an average player with not much practice in Sudoku, is able to solve the puzzle, is more important !

The ‘tough’ description of the game may deter people who are not regular Sudoku players from attempting the challenge, but only those who really try the game will find it otherwise.

The lesson learnt from this simple episode is immense: In life, we are often told that a task is very tough, near impossible, and this will often deter many of us from attempting the task. This is where the challenge comes in.

People who will rise to the challenge will be those who build up the mindset, the perseverance to overcome the challenge, ignoring the tagname given to the tough challenge and constantly believe in themselves that they could do it.

A positive mindset to overcome the odds, coupled with the confidence to take on the challenge are keys to overcoming challenges or obstacles in life.

Though not all challenges can be overcome, one can take comfort for having at least tried to solve the challenges. This is applicable to life as well.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Who really works?

No man is an island at work. Everyone depends on another in order to complete a certain task in work. One’s attitude towards work is important not only to himself but also to his colleagues around him. The latter fact is true as one’s work attitude in work is infectious, it affects others and this is particularly true for personnel holding managerial positions at work.

Can you imagine if one’s boss is a slacker or a complete mess himself, so much so that he cannot even lead himself, lest others? Often the section or department under him would become demotivated, leading to a decline in staff morale and overall productivity.

Such managers are not leaders, they shall not be even called managers in the beginning as they could not even manage themselves. Scores of such officers may be appointed to a high flying position based on the belief that they are capable and not due to the very fact that they are capable. They may be proven in their earlier ages that they WERE capable in studies and co-curricular activities, but this capability shall not be interpreted as capability in future work.

Often when there is a huge hierarchy in organizations, the management may become distant from the actual staff doing the ground so much so that power may be devolved to the ranks which are just slightly above the lower ranks. The latter ranks may call the shots much more than the higher management in terms of ‘real’ or technical powers, and the higher management hence may ‘give way’ to the lower management as a compromise.

It may be perturbing also to witness in some organizations, the hardworking ones are penalised, doing a slew of work which is not only theirs but also those of their managers or subordinates, as the latter do not carry out their own work not because they cannot but because they do not want to.

Instead of contributing at work, one may see these officers with a wrong attitude at work playing computer games, reading news at internets, hogging the pantries, reading newspapers, chit-chatting, busy on the phone, using the company’s utilities for washing.

The hardworking and committed ones may be penalised, the lazy, the unworthy and uncommitted ones may enjoy doing no work and drawing the same pay.

I view it as a matter of conscious. At the end of a day, I feel proud to earn my daily wages, it is not against my conscious if I work hard or commit sufficiently to earn my wages.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Age

The general common perception is that experience comes with age and hence as one grows older and learns from his previous experiences and failures, he will grow to be more mature and wiser.

But this may not often be the case. From my daily interactions with people, I have observed a relatively large number of people who display a sense of maturity and wisdom which falls short of their age.

The common problem for them is their mannerism and demeanour. Some behave, talk like a child. Some enjoy fun like there is no tomorrow and do not plan for their life. Some exhibit the undesirable traits of the ‘K’s of Singaporean: Kiasu and Kiasee. Others have unhealthy mindsets.

It may also be too simplistic to associate age with maturity and wisdom. The values inculcated in the person since young, the life experiences undergone by the person and the attitude the person himself makes out of life are equally critical to shaping his character.

I cannot emphasize more strongly the point of learning. Learning can be transformational. Contrary to popular beliefs, learning is not solely from books alone. A greater part of learning is derived from the daily interaction with people. Through such interaction, one may learn valuable experiences, get insights overlooked and get motivated at times. Gradually, one will become more mature and wiser via learning.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fact of life

Life is never fair. This fact of life always holds truth to a certain degree even as society progresses.

The notion of fairness derives principally from the assumptions of our moral values that we have been inculcated since young.

Such assumptions include ‘Hard work will translate to success one day’, ‘Good character and good values will deserve good returns’ and etc.

These assumptions though may be true are constantly being challenged in these times.

For instance, the notion of ‘hard work will translate to successes may no longer be true nowadays.

Though performance counts in many companies these days and thus hard work which results in good performance will merit promotions, salary increments and the like; mergers, divestments, outsourcing constantly displace employees from their workplaces. These almost immediately reduce them to zero (being jobless), erasing off their significant achievements made to the companies over the years completely.

To these displaced employees, life is never fair.

Also in some organizations, there exists a group of people who at the tender age of youth, have already their career paths charted high and well for them. They enter into their professions on a title and package that many in the organizations would never dream to achieve in their lifetimes! Subordinates under their charges may be even more capable and experienced than this group of people, however they are sidelined. Automatically each year, without fail, this group of people will automatically rises up higher and higher in the career ladder based on the assumption that their good achievement at youth will be replicated to the end of their lifetimes! No problem if this group does minimum or nothing at all, no problem if this group erases their subordinates’ name on the cover page of their report and fill in theirs.

Readers may think that I am whining, complaining of how life is unfair down here in literature but one has to be cognizant that the phenomenon I have outlined are happening right here !

Monday, October 22, 2007

Passive Smoking from Home

While it is applauding that the National Environment Agency (NEA) has banned smoking in many public places, it could do more to prevent non-smokers from passive smoking.

Like the majority of Singaporeans, I live in a HDB flat. Every night, my neighbour living one storey below me would light his cigarette up in his balcony. The smoke emanated from his cigarettes would never fail to ascend and enter my unit through the windows. Every night, my family and I would have to bear the unbearable smell of the unhealthy cigarette smoke as my unit is engulfed by it.

While the smoker is having a pleasant time indulging in his activity, my family and I have to suffer from the dreadful effects of passive smoking. What made the fact worst is the reality that we do not choose to be exposed to passive smoking, we are in the place we love most: our home. Daily, I return home after a heavy day at work to rest in my pleasant home. It is indeed unthinkable that the health of my family is being compromised by others’ actions right at the doorsteps of our own home!

Definitely, we have tried to shut our windows, but this solution has placed a burden on us. The question to ask is why should be penalized for others’ inconsiderable actions?

While it is noble that the mission of the National Environment Agency (NEA) is to care for our environment, in my current situation outlined, my environment is no longer healthy. In view of the broad definition of the term ‘environment’ which may seem to be ‘all-encompassing’, I would like to ask what would be the definition of the term ‘environment’ to NEA?

Even if private spaces like homes may not be under the purview of NEA, I believe NEA shall look into the problem of home owners putting up with passive smoking from their neighbours as part of their efforts to prevent non-smokers from passive smoking.

I believe there are dozens of citizens in Singapore facing the same plight as me.

Knowledge

There are millions and millions of books in this world, containing tons of useful knowledge to be imbibed, learnt and applied by man. The experience of human, the wisdom of sages, the worthy thinking of the philosophers are encapsulated in these tomes.

In this global era, information is rapidly growing at a phenomenal pace. One must constantly make sense of the information presented right at his face and be discerning enough to discern the worthiness of the information.

Information can only be transformed into knowledge with the right framing of the information by the perceiver of the information. The knowledge, once applied will generate possibilities beyond the imagination of the perceiver.

Knowledge is power in this era too. Reading is one route to gaining information and acquiring of excellent knowledge. Youths are the pillars of the future of our society, they should be reading more than their predecessors. It is alarming to witness that more and more of our youths are besieged by newfangled technology devices and spending valuable time in online messaging, online games rather than acquiring knowledge to improve one’s life and contribute to society.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

YAH Graduation

Singapore saw another group of citizens, mostly the aged, graduating from the YAH Community College today. The YAH (Youth At Heart) programme was a brainchild of the community institution with the aim to promote livelong learning among the senior citizens. Its other thrust is to render learning opportunities to those who were not privileged to attend schools in their younger days.

The objectives of the programme are noble. For this programme, though the graduates don a mortar board and receive their scroll on stage, much alike the graduation ceremonies in the universities, they did not graduate with a bachelor in any discipline. Critics were quick to jeer at the senior citizens for donning a fake mortar board, wearing an inauthentic graduation gown and wasting time to earn a useless certificate. Some critics went as far as to suggest that this programme was a money spinner to generate mileage from this group of learners.

What these critics fail to recognise is that the graduates of the YAH programme are not merely graduating with a certificate that will render them skills and knowledge to secure job in this new era; the graduates are graduating today with a certificate that marked a milestone in their learning. It is celebration of life! The causes are much worthier than what the common layman thinks.

Of the suggestions that the programme is a money-spinner, one should look at the costs of the programmes and be discerning enough to note that the fees for the programmes are actually very low. It may be unprofitable to a certain extent in the eyes of the common man if he calculate the revenue and expenditure of the course provider carefully.

This programme is more about the journey than the destination of life. It is sad that in this instant-gratifying society, many Singaporeans tend to emphasize on the tangible, the material aspects of life and neglect the worthier, intangible and more meaningful aspects of life.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Era

Singapore has clinched the hosting right for one of the F1 tournament games next year and coming on its radar is its bid to host the inaugural Youth Olympics.

Singapore has also expressed interest to host the upcoming Volvo ocean race and Red bull air races.

The benefits of hosting these international games of such stature are tremendous: it will inject a further boost to the Singapore’s economy and also stand Singapore in good stead in attracting tourist dollars and raising the awareness of our country.

Together with the completion of the mega-projects such as the IRs and the Singapore Flyer, these international events will create a sense of vibrancy in the local community and may inject some excitement into the lives of Singaporeans. Never has our country been more exciting before. These are certainly changes in this new era where globalisation is the buzzword and competition is greater than before.

In this new era, it is not only countries that must be constantly on the vanguard of changes and on a leading edge, denizens of the world must constantly upgrade themselves and stay relevant to the new world. Relevance to the changing needs of the world, of the global economy and of the local economy is key to survival for both countries and its people in this new era.

One can be relevant in this new economy but could still lose out to competitors; thus one must constantly stay on top of others in this new age.

To stay on top of others in this new age, learning, unlearning, relearning of new knowledge is often the buzzword. Knowledge keeps outdating itself, and one must constantly learn new knowledge.

The right type of knowledge to be acquired is important. There is no use at all if one just blindly signs up for courses.

Turning the papers everyday, I see dozens of course providers advertising their courses, be it diploma, bachelor and master programmes.

The caveat is for one to check the accreditation of the course provider. Significant amount of time and money may necessary to complete one course. Some people may have completed the course, spending time and effort, only to find that their qualifications newly earned are not useful at all in landing a higher-paying job or the job that they are seeking.

Unworthy agencies may be on the rise in Singapore as the demand for self-upgrading as well as the status of Singapore as a regional learning hub for foreigners grows.

From time to time, we read in the newspapers how some education centres suddenly closed and abandoned by their owners, leaving their students in a dilemma.

The influx of changes in our new world brings with it a multitude of opportunities and for some opportunities for exploitations too.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth or Untruth?

It was highlighted in today news that a British judge has ruled that the award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” by former US Vice President Al Gore had presented some misleading facts and figures on global warming.

The whole world seemed to be lapping up what Al Gore had presented in his documentary and took in completely the veracity of the facts outlined in his documentary.

This brought to the point of the important role that mass media plays everyday in our lives. Many of the people has assumed that information purveyed by media are not error-free and fail to distinguish fact and fiction, opinions and facts.

Statistics, bar chars, and other graphic tools used to present information are often impressive enough and it can look quite convincing to readers and audiences. One must be discerning enough to analyze the source of the data, the means of gathering the data, and whether the data presented are one-sided and without bias.

In this age of information, technology and knowledge era, where information and knowledge spreads at the speed of lightning, the spread of distorted information will spread in a matter of seconds to affect and influence many.

For example, Terrorism leverages on technology today to spread its twisted ideologies far and apart, which can easily influence many who do not have the faculty to analyze this information and who are easily coaxed into taking up the warped ideologies.

The spread of inaccurate, biased ideas and information in this information age can have immense ramifications.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bad managers

Organizations depend on people and managers are critical to organizations. Managers need to be credible people, who are good leaders and who is able to motivate subordinates to excel in their work.

There are tons of management tenets and mantras which I will not repeat here, one can read on these elaborated text.

It is stifling and irritating to work under bad managers when you know you may be better than him or her and when your talents are constantly being stifled.

TOTO

The grand prize of $5.5 million for the TOTO draw is shared between 2 lucky winners, each bagging about $2.75 million and they have become instant millionaires, joining the ranks of the 666 000 millionaires in Singapore.

To win the top prize, one must obtain the correct 6 numbers out of a pool of 45 numbers and that mean a staggering 8145060 possible combinations and a razor-thin 0.00000123% probability of winning.

If one is gungho enough, one can buy all the possible combinations at 50 cent each and that will be to the tune of $4,0725,30. This will definitely be foolhardy as the top prize may be shared by as many as 10 or more, thus one who adopts this tactic will definitely be at a losing edge.

People who become instant millionaires via TOTO will not succumb to this rhetoric, they just need excellent luck and they got it.

Others may rely on scientific means as they study the patterns, the combinations over many previous years and there may even be others who resort to unorthodox spiritual rituals to obtain the winning numbers ……..

Different means but they are aimed to the same lofty goals.

War against Smoke

The National Environment Agency (NEA) is doing a marvelous job in putting a stem to the perennial light up of cigarettes in public places like the coffee shops, bus interchanges, pubs etc.

The thrust of the initiative, key to ensuring that non-smokers’ health are not jeopardized by passive smoking is well-founded. However the question is whether this initiative is sustainable?

The machinery of enforcement, fines and monitoring is cranked up and set to full gear but at times where there are no officers to monitor and enforce would-be offenders, the basic instinct of smokers, kicks in and it is still not uncommon to see smokers smoking at public places at times.

The effective success of the anti-smoking regulations can only be achieved through a mindset change albeit with the heavy fines, a certain deterrent effect can be achieved.

All public places may be covered with anti-smoking regulations and fines meted out to offenders when necessary, but the regulations may not be able to cover homes.

At times, my neighbours staying below my unit will greet me with cigarette smoke ascending from his balcony and I feel irritated and unhealthy with his actions.

There seems to me I can seek no solace in this case against passive smoking.

Appreciating the value of common objects

“It is only during crisis or losses that people usually treasure what they have.” “ It is only during difficult times that leadership ability is being tested “. These two sayings are commonly heard and the veracity of the sayings are often attested to.

These same sayings apply to common objects around us. One often finds that the objects around us have not much of a value unless one needs to use them urgently.

For example, we may possess many pens around us but many people may have to source for a pen urgently when he has to use it in an emergency situation and realizes he does not have one.

Many of these aforementioned problems can easily be solved by being ready: e.g. bringing a pen with you when you are out and bringing an umbrella to prepare for a sudden rainy weather. I observe such practices and often find it bewildered on seeing scores of people stranded in one place during a heavy rain, wasting valuable time to wait for the rain to cease, as they are unguarded with umbrellas.

Outlined in the preceding paragraphs is one situation in which people come to appreciate the value of common objects, another situation in which people grows to appreciate their value is during the dealing of emergencies.

I recalled once when I was stranded on a remote uninhabited island with a group of my friends. The island was completely cut off from the rest of the world with no means of communications. There were no houses or people, just the beach, the trees and the sea. However the island has been explored before, possibility by some diving or adventure groups as tracemarks of some drink cans and other marks of human civilization were found there.

As we were playing on the island, suddenly, the sky darkened and suddenly it pelted with heavy rain. The rain incessantly assaulted us and soon we realized that we were completely drenched and worst still we had to face the relentless onslaught of the cold wind.

Unable to hold out further the cold wind and the heavy thunderstorm, we decided to find something to cover ourselves, not wholly but at least partially to mitigate the assaults by the elements. After looking through items of what we could find of human civilization on the island and exploring alternatives, we finally found some discarded canvass sheets. Spreading out, we finally sought solace in these canvass sheets as they were perfect excellent shields against the relentless elements.

A common thing like canvas sheets, which we see commonly in tentages, can be summoned to noble use in times of emergencies or urgent use!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sleep

Sleep

Sleep is paramount to one’s health and well-being. However as the society progress more and more rapidly, people are generally getting busier, juggling work, family life and other commitment within the same fixed 24 hour day.

As one gets busier, sleep is even more critical, a busier person shall be getting more sleep for his body to ‘recover’ from the onslaught of the daily chores. However, this may be impossible in today’s society where the pace of life is mind-boggling, and I am talking about metropolis and cities in general, including Singapore.

Sleep is at a premium to me too and I do not sleep enough. Signs of insufficient sleep are often shown on the next working day when one yawns repeatedly and needs that constant repeated jab of caffeine from teas and coffees; however this caffeine jab does not work for me anymore.

Over time, insufficient sleep will exert adverse effects on one’s mental and physical health. The best cure is to obtain a sufficient sleep by turning into bed early; however, this is not possible for many as there is a slew of commitment to be fulfilled daily.

The next best choice will be to take quick naps over the day for the body to rest. Studies have shown a 20 min nap may do wonders to the body, erasing some of the fatigue of the tired person.

Of course, there are many others who will not be tired with just a few hours of rest per day. Some may argue that ultimately the sufficient number of hours of sleep varies from one person to another.

I am a strong advocate of sufficient and good sleep and I feel better and function better on the next working day if I had a sufficient amount of sleep the previous day. Health and sleep is inextricable in my opinion. Faced with current situation of not getting sufficient sleep, I will definitely try to take a good nap when there is a good opportunity.

Generally, with one spending a third of his life in sleep, the amount of sleep that adds up in a common man’s lifetime would be significant: 20 years or so; however sleep is a integral part of one’s life, and this applies to all animals and not confined to humans alone.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The War of Life

It has been pouring the whole of today. After the rain, the smell of the night was made even more palpable, sending my mind back to reminiscence mode as flashes of memories streaked past in my mind, reminding me of the yester-years.

It was the smell of the night, but more aptly, the smell of the jungle; when boys become men, when command and control were given to a few men who were supposed to be good officers and commanders.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Command and control when given in a military setting, when left unchecked and used to control a bunch of innocent young men who did not have any inkling of the military law soon became hell.

Abuse, humiliation, unfair treatments were the norms of the days…… the commanders were na├»ve to think that young men in their early 20s could not distinguish between strict regimen and plain ‘tekaning’. In my two years’ stay at the now notorious army camp, I could not recall the numbers of incidents when I was subject to absurd humiliation, taunting and unfairness.

I shall not dwell on the details of these days………… I remember writing all events of my NS life on diaries which soon accumulated into thick volumes, only to be shredded into thousands pieces on re-reading it one fine day. This shall speak volumes of my NS experience.

NS is critical to Singapore, the two are inextricable. I understand the paramount importance of NS to Singapore. However, organizations do have black sheep which tarnish the image of the organization.

My days in NS were unfortunately blighted by unworthy military commanders….. but it only made me even stronger mentally and physically as I experienced countless of unnecessary hardships, tortures and experience the gamut of life. I emerged a more rugged man, not really ready to fight a military war, but ready to take on the war of life.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Autism

This morning, I had the good opportunity to visit an autism care centre on a guided tour and had a better understanding of autism and persons suffering from autism. In the context of our visit, we are being introduced to the term that the centre uses for the patients: clients.

The general public does not have a good understanding of these clients. When one sees the clients in the public, the general consensus that one gives to this disadvantaged group of people is that they are not normal, and what one will usually do is to stare at their behaviours, and at time, some unkind folks may even jeer at them. This is understandable as many of us do not comprehend their actions.

I really treasure today’s guided visit to the autism centre and I would like to share with all what I have learnt from today’s visit.

Autism is hardly detected in affected young toddlers and signs of autism in a young affected child only surface out when he or she reaches 3 years of age. When these signs are detected, their parents often believe that ‘something is just not right’ about their children till autism is confirmed by doctors and the harsh reality sinks in.

The truth is that autism is a neurological illness. It is a complex disease and the clients are in fact normal people who have suffered from a disease which hampers interaction and comprehension of the world and reality and makes their actions a misfit with the actual world.

The clients generally have a sharp visual sense and they interpret the world largely via visual means. If one is to pass messages to them through speech, they will not understand as they usually do not have a capacity to process and hence fore comprehend instructions or messages through listening. They comprehend the world visually. If you want the clients to carry out an activity, the successful way to do so is to depict the activity on a picture card to remind them. For them to carry out several activities, these activities are drawn on a series of cards and pasted on a wall; once an activity is carried out, the associated card is taken off the list and they will then comprehend the next activity as drawn on the next card.

The clients may not have a good memory and therefore visual reminders are necessary to be carried by or to be shown to them constantly to remind them of what they are going to do next. In the public, it is not uncommon to see the clients carrying some forms of cards; and the masses do not really understand this fact and just stare at what they are doing with the cards.

For autistic people to comprehend the world, pictorial illustration is paramount. The clients generally do not possess the faculty to decipher the emotions of man. A normal man may tell when another is angry, happy or sad but autistic people are not able to do so. To teach them the emotions of happy, sad, angry, etc, one needs to produce the various pictorial illustrations of these emotions. One needs to be mindful that a comprehensive list of illustrations of emotions of real people to be shown to the clients, else they will believe that to be happy is just to see a smiley face J.

Some autistic people are really visually focused to an extent that if one just slightly shifts the books placed by him on a table by a slight angle at the end of the day, the next day, he may be depressed on noticing that the book he has placed is not in the exact orientation that he has placed.

Learning is critical for all human beings. In the centre, lessons are taught to the patients largely by visual means no least.

The clients are generally viewed as people with low intelligence, but you may be surprised that some of them actually show a level of intelligence or talent that is hard to be surpassed by normal man. For example, we are told that one such patient, about 13 to 16 yrs old can play a Mozart piece on a piano with no teaching at all!

Many will often think that when a person suffers from autism, he is the only one affected. The truth is that the family of the clients suffer as well. We were being told that some parents, on reaching an advanced age, worry about their autistic child after they pass on. A few of them even contemplate the drastic thought of dying with their autism child so that they can continue to care for them in their afterlife. Their main worry is their children being uncared for after they pass on.

Stress is not experienced and confined to the autistic parents alone, siblings of the clients are affected too. We were being told that some older siblings of the clients become surrogate parents of their younger autistic sibling at a young age of four. Parent of autistic clients may spend a large chunk of their time catering to the needs of them and neglect their other children. These can lead to detriment effects on these siblings.

It is important for Singaporeans to have a deeper understanding of autistic people so that acceptance of them in our mainstream society is easier to attain and discrimination against them will reduce. Contributions to society by this group may be less or none but one needs to value them as an individuals. They have inner worth, strength and beauty to be valued by all. If it is hard for one to understand these facts, individuals born healthy shall feel we are indeed blessed and fortunate as compared to this disadvantaged lot. We shall try to engage the clients and integrate them into society, for they are also part of society.

Raison d’etre

Turning the pages of my diary, I suddenly realised that year 2007 is coming to an end suddenly. January is just like yesterday and here we are welcoming Christmas and then the Chinese New Year very very soon.

People like to make New Year resolution and with the coming close of the year, many people will tend to reflect on the new year resolutions that they had made for themselves at the beginning of the year, and whether they have been fulfilled. Unfulfilled goals will most probably become new resolutions for the New Year for them.

What have you achieved for this year so far? I believe achievements cannot be defined solely in material terms and tangible terms alone.

Achievements to many will be to earn money, get the next promotion, get a better paying job, buy a bigger car or house, there is indeed a continuum of wishes …….these achievements are definitely some achievements for the individuals and the wishes to fulfil these achievements are understandable and inevitable in modern and affluent Singapore.

The crux of the problem arrives when Singaporeans view achievements on a wholly material dimension. Looking at Singapore society currently, the spiritual quotient of Singaporeans is lacking and youths seem to gravitate towards a materialistic lifestyle, judging by the common behaviour of youths in the public.

Looking at today news, Singaporeans are ranked the lowest in the region for ‘life satisfaction’. This is not surprising to me. As outlined above, Singaporean mainly view life satisfaction in practical and material terms. If Singaporean are to pursue spiritual satisfaction, we will go up in the index.

I believe in spiritual satisfaction of life, it is an important component of life. It will make one strong and ready to take on the vagaries of life and encompasses many more. It is the overarching bedrock of life.

To achieve spiritual satisfaction, one needs to set spiritual goals and align daily activities in tandem with the goals.

Learning, learning how to overcome problems. self improvement, making a difference to others, cultivating good moral relationships with others, learning to be happy, are just some examples of such actions.

Keeping fit is another way to maintain fitness, maintain an alert mind which in turn promotes spiritual satisfaction.

There is no denying the fact that one needs to excel in career but this should not be the sole raison d’etre.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

4.68

Reported in the news not too long ago was the fact that Singapore’s population has reached a figure of 4.68 million! This number includes the close to 1 million PRs and foreigners living and working in our island.

The government has in the months before, unveiled its land use plan to cater for a possible population of 6.5 million. This created some ruckus among Singaporeans who have questioned the feasibility of accommodating this figure on our tiny island.

With the population increase, is it any wonder if I find myself being in the midst of an increasing crowd these days on the MRTs, in the shopping centres on weekends and even in my neighbourhood?

I find myself lost amidst the increasing throngs, outside of the hectic schedule of work, I need a breather. I need some place quiet, some place remote to do this …….

The place for such sacred places is getting more and more scare ………

I do know of one sacred place for to take a breather and imbibe in the natural surroundings and be completely at rest and peace with oneself momentarily.

It is Changi village beach, I think it may be last vestige of untouched urban Singapore………. and it is getting more and more crowded…………

Man and Environment

Charles Darwin’s evolution theory postulates that it is not the most intelligent man who will survive, and neither the strongest, but the one who is most adapt to changes.

In this rapid changing era where change is the buzzword, man always find himself adapting to the new era. It is no longer a choice to be adaptable in this century, it is a MUST.

Technologies keep outdating itself, new knowledge is relentlessly being created, new things are always on the move. Faced with the vortex of change, man has to learn, unlearn and relearn to make sense of the changing world.

Today’s winners are learners.

But not all learners are winners, the crux depends on what things you learn.

Today’s economy is geared towards future, man has to learn about future, predict future and control future rather than being held hostage by the unknowns of the future.

Singapore is entering into an exciting era. Singapore is entering into new industries like the IRs, the biomedical fields, and imbibing new ideas into the country and experimenting with novel ideas: F1, Singapore Eye, Youth Olympics and the casinos.

The age of the old era is no longer here. The age of the iron rice bowl is no longer here. One career hinges on the competencies one develops, hencefore the importance of constant upgrading, a point stressed so often by the government.

I feel irked when people told me that the government still owes them a living. These people are trapped in their mentality and have not come to terms with the new world.

In this era, one’s future hinges on oneself.

Food

Singapore is a haven for food lovers, with a whale of food centres and restaurants offering a host of cuisine, pampering the tastebuds of the mass.

Food centres have been renovated into spacious, hygienic dining places for all. Caterers have to pass through stringent checks on hygiene, food processing etc. The image of food centres is constantly been revamped.

Though all measures seem to be in place to ensure a good quality of food and dining place, I still lament on the quality of food being served in the food centres.

The benchmark of quality in my opinion is neither the taste of the food, nor the hygienic standard. Though these two criteria are paramount, another key criteria is how healthy the food is.

I believe some of the food served in our food centres may be too oily, or loaded with too many salt, MSG.

It will take a discerning tastebud to discover the excesses of oil, salt, MSG present in food.

With the majority of Singaporeans working and hencefore eating out lunch and sometimes dinner and breakfast almost daily, the choice of food to partake outside of homes is one that many Singaporeans make everyday.

With diet and exercise being the immutable determinants of health, this choice is one that individuals make important decisions on everyday.

The MSG, salt and oil present in food may be significant: it depends on the nature of food and the way the food preparer prepares the food.

We eat to fill our stomachs, we pay to fulfill this need when outside. But a solemn thought will be that we may be paying to be killed gradually if we choose unhealthy food everyday.

I will not delve on the effects of cholesterol and MSG on health as we are constantly bombarded by the slew of health messages from National Health Board (and I think it is good that health education is being emphasized so strongly in Singapore).

For myself, I go for less oil, less MSG and less fried food. But too often a time, I feel disappointed after patroning a new food stall when I find my tongue and mouth cloaked in oil and MSG.

I feel disgusted too.

Total Pageviews