Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thinking anew

I congratulate the Singapore Government for granting our newly minted Olympian, Joseph Schooling a deferment of his National Service obligations for another 5 years, i.e. till 2020. The reason is so that he can take the time to train for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Winning the first gold medal merely signals the start of more to come for this young boy. We should support him as much as we can.

This exemption, however, is nothing new, nor out of character for the government. Some, though, have been controversial, like the exemption that was granted to President Tony Tan's son, Patrick Tan, whose NS was disrupted so that he could proceed to the US to study medicine. He eventually returned with a PhD and completed his NS. Since the 1980's NS enlistees who secure a place in NUS to study medicine will have their NS deferred to train as doctors before they routinely complete their NS as Medical Offices (MO). Although the statutory age for enlistment is 18 years old, people who are students in the local Polytechnics are also granted deferment until they complete their Polytechnic studies, by which time they will be 19 or 20 years old.

Perhaps it is time to re-think NS deferments in the wider context, and not just for the sake of sporting achievements. I know of many young people who have great ideas and would have started companies to develop and eventually commercialise their products, if not for the disruptive 2 years that every Singapore male is obliged to put away soldiering in the fields. Some say they can do so once they join the universities after their NS. But for many, the spark of creativity may have been lost by then. Others will say the rewards go to the persistent and the resilient, so NS is a good "testing ground" to gauge whether the initial enthusiasm is a spark that is easily extinguished or continues to smolder. In the former case, we will never know what could have been.

It is really up to the government and its generals to rethink National Service, ironically, for the sake of our nation's economic future whether that is in sports or technological innovation..

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A page from Singapore's history

Singapore blood is coursing through this boy. Majulah Singapura!

Source: Google search

Statistics you never thought you'd ever see

It's real. The little red dot of an island is on the Rio Olympics leaderboard!

Schooling's Gold

Congratulation, Joseph Schooling, for winning Singapore's first ever Olympic Gold medal at the on-going Rio Olympic Games. Joseph Schooling won in the 100-metre butterfly swimming event today, the 13 August 2016. This is all the more noteworthy because he beat Michael Phelps, the world's best swimmer by Olympic medals, in the same event, pushing him to second place.

What a wonderful day for Singapore!!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Finance (Minister) Recovers

Erstwhile Finance Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, appears to have recovered from his stroke. A video recorded his discharge from hospital, all smiles all around. It shows him walking out of hospital, unaided, though unaccompanied. Funny this last, whenever a patient is discharged from hospital, you would expect to see at least a loved-one walking beside that person. The conclusion is that the video is all stage-managed with the objective of assuring Singapore, and perhaps the world financial markets, that all is well with the Finance Minister and that he can be expected to be back at work some time in the future. At this time though, the world is more worried about Brexit but it will be good to have Mr Heng contribute his intellect to this situation in the continued service of the government.

The report alludes to his need for continued therapy, which is to be expected for stroke patients, but he appears none the worse for wear. I wish Mr Heng godspeed in his journey towards full recovery.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fact, fake and opinion

Mr Chan Chun Sing, Government Whip in the current Parliament, and Member for the Group Representation Constituency of Tanjong Pagar, said that the motion by the Workers' Party to amend the NCMP scheme to transfer the seat vacated by best loser in the last General Election, Lee Li Lian, to the losing candidate of its own choice "must reflect the truth".  This goes without saying. How can Parliament even entertain the thought of passing a motion that are lies? We are, after all, not a banana republic. Yes, the truth must be stated. But the amendments to the motion introduced by Mr Chan is hardly the whole truth, or the truth was not the only thing that was reflected. It contains, yes, some truth (more accurately, fact), but also opinion and innuendo. Consider the amendment that was inserted to the motion:

“...regrets that Ms Lee Li Lian, having stood as a Workers’ Party candidate and received the highest vote share among all losing opposition candidates, has now decided to give up her NCMP seat to another candidate from her party with a lower vote share (FACT), contrary to the expressed will of the voters (OPINION + ASSUMPTION + INNUENDO). And that the WP supports this political manoeuvre  to take full advantage of the NCMP seat (OPINION + INNUENDO), even as its secretary-general criticises NCMPs as just duckweed on the water of the pond (FACT + INNUENDO)."

Given the many lawyers of high standing in the PAP ranks, it is regrettable that the party voted in this amendment as is. The Opposition and NCMPs (who are all WP members) wisely abstained over this vague and politically charged amendment to the motion.

As the saying goes, "All is fair in love and war", even innuendos and fiction disguised as fact and the "truth". tsk tsk tsk.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What is a fault?

The year is hardly over and I have just learnt a new word - "bedding-in". Singapore government officials, in this case, the LTA/SBS Transit engineers, attributed the signalling fault on the new Downtown Line 2 (DTL2) on day 3 as quite normal (Straits Times, 30 Dec 2015, page B2 - "Signalling fault causes delays on DTL2). No, in fact it is even to be expected. It is called bedding-in. Amazingly, the Transport Minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, is happy to parrot this reason (excuse?) and leave things be. How long is the "bedding-in" period? We are told it is several months. However this leaves me none the wiser whether it means 2 months or 12 months. Hello, I would expect more precision from engineers, no? A variation of 10 months in an estimate just doesn't cut it for properly qualified engineers, or for that matter, a Minister paid in the million$.

As with all things new, I "asked" Google to "define bedding-in". Usually, Google will respond with a definition in a box, followed by a million or so links. Not so for bedding-in. It couldn't offer anything definite, just 2.14 million possibilities. Neither Collins English Dictionary nor Merriam-Webster could offer a definition. The closest word was "bedding". Only offered a link to its page on the word but even then, declined to define it.


Instead, it offered instances where the word has been used, listed on the right side of the web page. Most of its uses related to sports (soccer in particular) and politics. A single instance related to economics. The closest this word has been used in an engineering context is the laying of asphalt for F1 tracks, cited in the same list of examples. But train tracks aren't exactly made of asphalt, nor for that matter, signalling systems. Another use of bedding-in is for brake-pads. God help us if we need bedding-in for the braking system.

Well, I don't know what kind of engineers Mr Khaw has on staff, but they would appear to be soccer fans, going by their choice of word or analogy. I have no problems with new words being used, or words adapted for new meanings, but I do mind if it leads to muddle-headedness and imprecise thinking which gives the game (pun not intended) away.

The last thing that Ministers and engineers should do is fob off on the malfunction with bedding-in reasons. 

P.S. Remember 'ponding'?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Prince of Peace

Before people think that I am anti-Christian and anti-Christmas, nothing is further from the truth. Although many of the celebratory practices and rituals are not biblical, they do, to a large extent, reflect on the occasion.

Christmas is about the king coming to town. The decorations, the buntings, the candles, the lights and the music are indispensable to celebrate the arrival of one so important.

Christmas is about reconciliation, and what better way than to have a meal together, to smoke the peace pipe and mend relationships.

Christmas is about healing and sacrifice and what better way than to celebrate it with the less fortunate. Santa often plays an important role here.

Christmas is about love. It is a time to put down the year's hustle and bustle to come together, away from the office and the worksites, to renew and celebrate our love for each other.

Christmas is about peace. Christmas is not just for Christians, it is for the whole world, including those in ISIS / ISIL.

Christmas is about blessings to all men (and women), whether you are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Catholic, the freethinkers and yes, the Sultan.

Christmas is about a good news, which is that God loves you, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Gospel of Luke 2:8-14
... there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The not so real Christmas

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has got it right, where, dare I say, many Christians have not. He has banned all celebrations of Christmas in his tiny but very wealthy kingdom. He has banned Santa Claus and any impersonation of the grand old man. His Imams, the Islamic Religious leaders, cannot agree more. To flesh out the ban, they included the display of crosses, lighting of candles, singing religious songs, sending Christmas greetings...all of which, according to these learned people, are "against Islamic faith". Well, they could also add that these have nothing to do with the Christian faith - not the red nose reindeer, the sleigh, the snow, the hats, the bells, the puddings, the turkeys, errmm...the turkeys? When did they come over from Thanksgiving?

Over the years, Christmas has been hijacked by non-Christians and businesses who have converted it to a time to dine, dance and conspicuous consumption. Just today, I passed by a celebratory signboard which featured a Santa Claus in a backdrop of reindeers and snow. In sunny Singapore? And this sizeable poster wasn't even in a church. Nothing can be more fake!

So yes! The Sultan has unwittingly got his understanding of Christmas correct. Its just the cutting off of the hand and the jail time that I can't quite place, though. And how did the imams confuse the new year as being part of the Christmas celebrations? Oh....yes, those un-Christmas of Christmas cards do mention having a happy new year.

All these are superficial as superficial gets, including the ban. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Image makeover

MediaCorp, Singapore's biggest terrestrial broadcaster just moved house, from its venerable location in the middle of Singapore on Caldecott Hill to One-North, which is situated in the south of Singapore. They had a grand opening on 8th December 2015, graced by no less than the PM of Singapore. MediaCorp, which has had many name changes over the years, from Radio Television Singapore (RTS) to Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) to Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS) before it settled on MediaCorp today. Indeed for as long as independent Singapore has been around, MediaCorp has been there. But this blog entry is not to celebrate its longevity. Rather I was struck by its newest corporate logo:

Every time I see this, this other perhaps more famous logo comes to mind:

Yes, it is quite different, but somehow, my mind reacts to this MediaCorp logo with a recall reaction. Can't help it. Some Freudian slip or parapraxis perhaps? Psychologists would probably tell me that the latter image has been so seared into my unconscious due to some subdued conflict, wish, or line of thought that I associate one with the other. Sheesh. By way of clarification, I am no Microsoft hater. Why didn't MediaCorp choose a more Apple-like logo I wonder? Maybe because it doesn't want a law suite on its hands.

I suppose this confusion will  only ever go away when MediaCorp next changes its corporation look and feel. Till that day comes... Till then, I wish MediaCorp the best in its newest incarnation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Singapore bombs Indonesia

Such an headline would be explosive (pardon the pun) had it been factual. But it is a fact. Singapore, with a host of nations including Malaysia and Australia are carrying out bombing missions in Indonesia....water bombing, i.e. and at the invitation of Indonesia, no less.

Indonesia should have asked for this help a long time ago, but did not do so reportedly because it didn't want Singapore to take credit for any success in putting out the haze. As if Singapore can do miracles. I think the Indonesian government has a delusional belief of Singapore. Yes, it is the richest country in South-east Asia, going by per capita income, it prides itself as a clean and green city (now unfortunately shrouded in haze originating from the Indonesia islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan), and it often is the playground of the rich and famous, including those from Indonesia.

I hope that in future, for its own sake, and not by some misplaced worry of being up-ended, it would engage help earlier rather than later. It would help end everybody's misery earlier and help all of us to get on and get back with our lives and work (read economic activities).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Haze thy neighbour

Right now, and for the last couple of days, Singapore's favourite website must the NEA's (National Environment Agency) PSI (not pounds per square inch, but pollution standards index) page which reports the 24-hourly and 3-hourly reading of the air in Singapore by region. The region with consistently the highest reading is the western part simply because it is geographically closest to the source of the smoke emitting from the island of Sumatra, which is one of the largest islands of the more than one thousand that make up Indonesia. But the rest of Singapore is no less polluted with find particulate matter that is harmful to health.

The bloody Indonesian government. It can't decide what to do about it. It can't decide how to stop this annual occurrence, it can't decide if they would want Singapore's help to fight the fires causing this air pollution, it can't decide who to point the blame at - i.e. businesses which practice the slash and burn technique, and even if they do, they cannot decide if they want to act. Right now, one can only say that Indonesia is impotent, really, it can't do anything about the problem, or chooses not to. All they are doing is wayanging away. Singapore is just a red dot and dots do not matter, I suppose. Not today, not ever. They're not going to change, unless their generals and wives visit the island for a shopping spree. But that's it. Its a spree, they are gone like the whirlwind and the haze comes back. And the rest of us, its neighbors, are left to hold the ball and suffer the consequences. It doesn't matter whether Singapore has strict emission rules, from the car to the cigarette, and punishes those on the island who pollute the place.  There's always the island of Sumatra, shaped like a cigar, which smolders away 2-3 months of the year.

I am not going to visit Indonesia for leisure for a long while now, blame the %#4%@&* idiots which calls itself a government.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The freak that never was

Another theory is working its way around the corner. According to this version, last Friday's General Election result was a freak result. If the PAP government had lost enough seats to boot it out of government, we'd call it a freak election result. But when the PAP wins so convincingly against expectations, is this not also a freak result?

There are people digging into various numbers and some have come up with the hypothesis that the swing originated from a particular group of people called new citizens. The assumption is that new citizens became new citizens because they liked what they saw, they liked the way Singapore is organized and governed, and they see it as a permanent home. So it is quite natural for them to vote for the PAP. The question is, how many of these became new citizens since the last election and  voted in GE 2015? For a start, there was an increase in the number of voters in GE 2015 - 2,304,331 to be exact. In GE 2011, the total number of registered voters was 2,060,373, making a difference of 243,958. This is a 11.8% increase. The number of spoilt votes in both GE 2011 and 2015 is more or less the same, around 2+ %. Given Singapore's declining birth rate over the last 20 years, the net increase in number can only be attributed to immigration/emigration. Obviously, an increase means there were more people coming into Singapore than going out. Thus the major component of the increased voter numbers can be attributed to new citizens in the last 4 years. Would these have caused the swing towards the PAP? Possibly.

This is a sketch of the new citizen hypothesis, but it does suggest that 'old' citizens may not have contributed as much to the PAP votes as has been assumed so far.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Thick Haze+Rain = ?

Thick Haze+Rain=Sauna. No thanks to our neighbour, Indonesia. That's how I felt when I was walking back to my office just now. Now, not only does Indonesia deign to give us oxygen for 10 months of the year, and the haze the other two months, their haze, mixed with rain has raised the temperature of the environment. I thought that rain would dissipate the haze, but no, it has mixed with the rain to give us something more potent - acid rain. Well, I may have exaggerated. But this is how Google defines acid rain:

"rainfall made so acidic by atmospheric pollution that it causes environmental harm, chiefly to forests and lakes. The main cause is the industrial burning of coal and other fossil fuels, the waste gases from which contain sulphur and nitrogen oxides which combine with atmospheric water to form acids." 
 I don't know if there are nitrogen or sulphur in the air now, I hope not. But if there are, it'll be a real concern.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The PAP did not win

After a day of speaking to some people, conversing through WhatsApp, reading what is on the internet and listening to the broadcast media, I have come to the conclusion that the PAP did not win but rather the opposition parties lost. What convoluted logic, you might ask. If you didn't lose, it means you won, right?

Well consider this. Everybody that I encountered today plus those I gathered 3rd hand, told me that they did not want to vote for the PAP, but considering the quality of the alternative, they had no real choice. Many just voted for the less bad party, or some not at all - i.e. spoilt their votes. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

I believe there remains a deep underlying disenchantment with the PAP, despite the landslide, and the overwhelming votes in favor of the PAP has sent this sentiment deeper. That is why social media will remain highly critical of a PAP government because there remains the perception that the WP can do little in Parliament to make any difference. Mr Low Thia Khiang, WP leader, has made this point his clarion call for GE 2015. Unfortunately, few heeded his call.

So the party is not over, not on social media, not by a mile.