Sunday, August 29, 2004

soon i'll be back at college

i wish i could go back to college
life was so simple back then
what would i give
to go back and live
in a dorm with a mealplan again

i wish i could go back to college
in college you know who you are
you sit in the quad and think
oh my god i am totally gonna go far

how do i go back to college
i don't know who i am anymore
i wanna go back to my room and find a msg in dry erase pen on the door

wish i could just drop a class
or get into a play
or change my major
or fuck my TA
i need an academic advisor to point the way

we could be
sitting in the computer lab
four am before the final paper is due
cursing the world 'cos i didn't start sooner
and seeing the rest of the class there too

i wish i could go back to college
how do i go back to college
oh, i wish i had taken more pictures

but if i were to go back to college
think what a loser i'd be
i'd walk through the quad
and think oh my god
these kids are so much younger than me

I Wish I Could Go Back To College, OST Avenue Q

Friday, August 27, 2004

last day

last day of work today, just sitting around in my cubicle waiting for my boss to return from NUS so i can turn in the paper, get him to sign my attendance form and release forms, and then turn those in along with my magic access-pass, and walk outta here. -sigh- time is crawling by.

nothing erudite or articulate even from me today. in lieu of that, something from dad that arrived in my inbox this morning and made me laugh out loud:

The best and most reassuring explanations you can ever get.....

Subject: diets and exercise

Q & A on diets/exercise

Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it...don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heartwill not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body, and you have body fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain... Good.

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: You're not listening. Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're
permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO ...... Cocoa beans ... another vegetable!!! It's the best feel good food around.

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Battle Room

a Wired article on the simultators -virtual reality- the US Army is using to train its soldiers these days.

The War Room

...In Orson Scott Card's novel, Ender, a young prodigy, is enlisted to play war games that turn out to be real. Recruits like Stehling have been training for Ender's mission all their lives. They pound on Halo in the garrison and launch strikes on Game Boys while riding in tanks. On their days off, they pile into the multiplex to see blockbusters crafted by the same technicians of verisimilitude who will now train them how to save their buddies' lives while blowing the enemy out of the zip code. At night the soldiers at Fort Sill head to the Dragon West, a bar outside the city limits where dancers in thongs whisper scripted endearments and tease them with glimpses of paradise. Many of them aren't old enough to order a beer, and they're nine weeks away from Baghdad.

Immersive scenarios, high-payoff targets, limited lethality, people simulators, networked fires. These young warriors will live, play, fight, and die in the Matrix.


leaving aside the question of using simulators to train kids to go to war -making it all seem like a giant video game-, whatever happened to science fiction? how come there aren't any more Ender's Game stories out there? perhaps i'm just missin' out -after all, i've spent most of the last three years doing nothing but reading books for class and books related to other books i've read for class. (reading Niall Ferguson's Colossus just because we read Empire for Mearsheimer, for example) any suggestions for modern science fiction that's really absorbing?

it's been a good run the last few days: philip pullman's His Dark Materials, The Edge of the Sword (i forget the author), Ender's Game. and The Wee Free Men waiting for me. (i've left it this long because it doesn't have my favourite -the Night Watch's Sam Vimes- in it; i suppose if i really like it i'll have to go hunt down A Hat Full Of Sky) any new suggestions to add to the list -particularly pullman-esque ones- will be received with eternal gratitude.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

this is hilarious:

THE CAKE: Oh my God. It hurts my eyes. It's taller than a midget pimp and wearing twice as much gold. It's lavishly decorated, and by "lavishly decorated" I mean it looks like Liberace himself took a Bedazzler in one hand and a Christmas tree in the other, and then had a grand mal seizure all over this cake while meanwhile the sky opened up and rained pearls.


if you have five or ten minutes to spare, read the whole thing.

Primal Fear, among other things

dad and i were randomly flipping through cable channels last night, trying to find something to watch that wasn't National Geographic (i was just a wee bit sick of bears and birds and ocean views), and stumbled upon Richard Gere lawyering his way through a courtroom. pausing to watch, briefly, i realised that his client was none other than my beloved Edward Norton, putting on an inspired performance as Aaron/Roy. so we watched. despite having no idea what was going on (this was the last...twenty minutes? of the movie) i enjoyed seeing Edward Norton onscreen again. i'd never seen Primal Fear before. shocking, i know. and that reminded me that i still haven't seen Fight Club! someone needs to lend me the dvd, and quick.

for the bloggers in the audience: i'm reading Ender's Game (another book i was deprived of as a child) and came across a passage that describes activity in the blogosphere in quite a cool fashion. reproduced below for your enjoyment and discussion:

...So she wrote on. Her main identity on the nets was Demosthenes -- Peter chose the name. He called himself Locke. They were obvious pseudonyms, but that was part of the plan. "With any luck, they'll start trying to guess who we are."

"If we get famous enough, the government can always get access and find out who we really are."

"When that happens, we'll be too entrenched to suffer much loss. People might be shocked that Demosthenes and Locke are two kids, but they'll already be used to listening to us." ...

..."We're being read," Peter said. "The ideas are seeping out."

"The phrases, anyway."

"That's just the measure. Look, we're having some influence. Nobody quotes us by name, yet, but they're discussing the points we raise. We're helping to set the agenda. We're getting there."

thoughts on how to change/take over the world, anyone? -grin-



Monday, August 23, 2004

help with RSS feeds

all right, so i've been trying and i can't for the life of me figure out how this whole RSS feed/aggregator thing works. (although i have Idle Thoughts's RSS feed activated, somehow, apparently.)

and then, a moment ago, reading Drezner's post on keeping his blog solo vs. going group, it struck me. i should ask you ppl for help! someone should know how it works.

so please? explain it to me? =) leave a comment. or send me an email, if you know my email addy. -grin- thanks, y'all.

also, apologies for posting being rather thin on the ground over the weekend -but i think we can continue to expect that as long as i'm back in Singapore/at work. the weekends tend to be rather absorbed with parents and grandparent and boyfriend and reading books at a frantic pace, and less time spent on the computer. rather a good thing for my eyes, too. so perhaps i am going to be unconsciously following the example of one Terry Teachout re: weekend posting (ie nonexistent), at least for the near term. you all know when i head back to chi-town it will be constant posting. week days and weekends have no distinctions there -except that i get the Sunday New York Times in hard copy delivered to my doorstep.

national day rally speech

really tired this morning -didn't get to sleep until two am because i cleverly picked up the third of Pullman's His Dark Materials series, The Amber Spyglass, because i had about two hundred pages to go and i wanted to read a little before going to sleep, then got sucked in, of course, finished the book, and then couldn't sleep because it was -terribly heartwrenching. (everyone should go and read it. i read it in three days. one day a book. with a day off in between because i was at work.) and this morning i picked up Card's Ender's Game, which i got at the library yesterday -yay!-, and got sucked in on the train ride, so expect more sleeplessness and blogging about science fiction/fantasy books soon. but on to the main meat.

i tried, really i did, to watch the entire thing. but when our new PM's maiden National Day Rally speech touches the three hour mark, and my attention span has an upper bound of oh, forty minutes or so, you can see immediately how impossible it would have been for me not to have dropped the ball on this one.

add that to the fact that i was counting on being able to read the press release in the office this morning, and therefore (a) didn't really bother myself about missing the last three crucial points of his list of things-to-be-talked about, all of which concerned, directly, me and my interests (education, getting youths involved, and babies -balancing the work-life scale - i like how that implies work isn't part of having a life, which, granted, for a lot of people it isn't) and (b) i didn't take notes on the interesting bits, despite having the iBook next to me in my parents' room. i was going to blog about it on the fly, but the wireless network let me down - their room is a dead spot. (thankfully, mine is not.) however, i have just learned there was no prepared speech; the man wrote a speech outline and then composed it on the fly. (it showed, but not too badly, and now i understand the awkward bits) i wonder if he knew beforehand it was going to be three hours? i made it through almost two hours before i lost it. [ed: there may have been no official press release through SPRINT, but there's a copy online at the ST here.)

however, some points for me, as a future civil servant, to dance around about:

  1. civil servants really are going to a five-day work week. now alex and various other people are expecting that we will have less paid leave and take pay cuts and so forth. but it seems that we will be working longer hours during the week (big deal, since most people have to stay late anyway) to make up the hours, and i'm not sure what else will happen. they lose just about 26x5 hours a year in time spent checking email, gossiping with colleagues, and going for tea breaks anyway. who works saturdays? (the people who actually do work on saturdays don't actually do any work on fridays that isn't life-or-death)
  2. changes in medical benefits schemes means that dependents of female civil servants now enjoy the same benefits as dependents of male civil servants. about damn time, on this one. it irritates me that they lump it as part of the baby bonus package, rather than a women's issues package, because dammit we are something other than baby-making machines. but despite being pissed off about the presentation, i'll take it. eating giant bears one bite at the time and all that.

i didn't think there was v much earthshattering in his speech (the ST says "Major Changes Ahead With PM's Bold Vision" but really, nothing terribly bold about making speeches; it's the execution we are all waiting for) in terms of policy-making. yes, i'm happy about the above changes to a civil servant's life, but really, it's nothing that shouldn't already have been in place. after bitching about women's issues for so long, to have something finally done about it but trumpeted as part of making your role as a mother easier is simultaneously a victory and a loss -because while you get the benefits you've been fighting for, it sounds like you only got it because -guess what? it makes it easier for you to go be a mother. bah. and frankly, talk is cheap. saying things like 'we must change our mindset' is great! but how the hell do we make it happen? mindsets cannot be forced into change. we can but wait and see if it happens. the government can say 'cut workload on kids, trim back syllabi and let kids be kids', but if the parents and the teachers don't see it as a good thing, who is going to protect the kids?

not to say that it's all bad news and pessimism. just -temper your expectations, and wait and see what happens. this PM is, after all, in it for the long haul, and he has just begun.



Thursday, August 19, 2004

kerry = de Gaulle? what?

before launching into today's post a quick aside to say a veteran is suing Rummy and other top military officials. (i saw it yesterday but didn't know over what.) it transpires he is suing over being kept in Iraq past the end date of his contract, without being given a choice. he points out that Congress has not declared war on iraq (goodness! then what are they calling this fiasco when they talk about it in session? 'the fracas in the middle east?' or just 'iraq', perhaps?) and therefore his involuntary retention in Iraq is illegal, and perhaps the policy that called for it unconstitutional. more details as it develops, i am sure.

in the meantime, a commentary article from Today on said war in Iraq: "Will Kerry Act Like de Gaulle?"


...When Mr de Gaulle returned to power in 1958, at a moment of crisis in France's war to defeat Algerian insurgents and to keep Algeria French, he recognised that the war was futile, even if the insurrection itself might temporarily be defeated. He cut France's losses.

Defying military mutiny, despite significant resistance from French public opinion, and facing assassination attempts and a terrorist campaign directed against him and his government, Mr de Gaulle negotiated Algerian independence. It was an act of cold-blooded courage and realism. It did not leave France revealed as "a pitiful, helpless giant" (as Nixon said would be the case if the United States left Vietnam). It strengthened France, freeing it to deal with real issues of political and economic reform. ...

this is what the writer of the article -William Pfaff, whom alex appears to have researched and discovered is a columnist for the IHT- wants Kerry to do:


...If Mr Kerry is elected president, he will have the de Gaulle option. He will have a window lasting a few months during which he could reverse US policy. He could set a timetable for coalition troop withdrawals, begin them, end the construction of permanent US bases in Iraq and affirm America's intention to respect Iraq's authority over its security, its economy, its industry and the disposition of its energy resources.

Rather than try to control political development in Iraq he could support the efforts by Iraq's traditional religious and tribal leadership, together with the country's old and new secular political forces, to reestablish the representative political institutions that existed in Iraq between independence in 1932 and the military and Ba'ath party coups that began in 1958.

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that political disorder and communal struggle would follow, leading to chaos, Iraq becoming "a breeding ground for terrorism."

But Iraq already is a breeding ground for terrorism and is nearing chaos under the occupation. According to the available polls, 98 per cent of the Iraqis want the Americans to leave. It is obvious that continued occupation is worsening the situation, provoking resistance and disorder. ...

no arguments from me there on that last point. the americans have come to be viewed as an occupying army, not a liberating force, and to that end the iraqis are willing to wage urban guerilla warfare to get them to leave.

but unlike the French, the Americans really do not have the option of cutting and running, regardless of who their President is come November. if they wish to maintain their unipolar moment (that's another debate for another day), they'll need to continue to project a powerful image across the face of the earth. frankly, it doesn't matter -it didn't matter- if France disintegrated over Algeria, because the US would have cleaned up the mess (they were already there, sitting on top of West Germany, remember?) for fear of destabilising Europe.

now, however, the Americans have a reputation to defend, including their vaunted faith in the RMA. the US is no longer in a position where it can let things slide, because there is a rising challenger for its position as global superpower -economically the US is not doing as well as it was in the 1990s; there's great uncertainty over the future of free trade and so forth after November's elections; and of course Greenspan is about to retire. so who knows what will be steering this juggernaut into the next decade. it just can't afford to display that sort of military weakness and lack of resolve in the Middle East, a region not particularly known for its friendliness toward and support for the US in the first place. not to mention repercussions in other strategic interests around the world -Japan pulling away in East Asia, the Koreans beginning to rattle their sabers, tension in Europe from reduced troop levels in Germany...

having been, like Kerry, dead-set against going into this war in the first place, now i can't see any way out of it. sure it was bungled badly both in the decision-making process and the execution; and the planning was filled with faults -no post-victory plan, and yet you want nation-building? geez.- but what's done is done and we are stuck with it. for better or worse. (probably worse.) all that's left is the mammoth task of figuring out how to rebuild an iraq that isn't more actively hostile to the US that it was before.

and it could start by not trying to make Iraq into a satellite of the US in the MidEast.

ed: another perspective on What America Should Do in the future: become Fortress America ala the interwar period. See "Goal should be quick, full disengagement" for more details. a short exerpt:

PRESIDENT George W. Bush has proposed bringing home upwards of 70,000 United States troops stationed in Asia and Europe. It's a good start, but remains only a start.

Washington should withdraw all 230,000 service personnel guarding against phantom enemies in Europe and protecting well-heeled friends in East Asia. And the US should begin withdrawing them now, rather than in 2006, and finish in two or three years, rather than in 10.

The Cold War ended nearly two decades ago. America's friends face few conventional threats and are capable of defending themselves. An invasion of Europe by Martians is about as likely as by Russians. In East Asia, the dangers are more real. But South Korea has 40 times the gross domestic product and twice the population of the North. ...

Still, some US devotees of the status quo worry about the impact of Mr Bush's initiative. Charged retired general Wesley Clark, who commanded former president Bill Clinton's misbegotten war on Serbia: The move would 'significantly undermine US national security'.

But even if trans- atlantic ties loosened, the US would be better off. America's alliances are mostly security black holes, with Washington doing the defending and allies doing the carping. Withdrawal would force friendly states to take full responsibility for their own defence, which would enhance US security. ...

Finally, more troops should be brought home more quickly. US forces, now at 140,000, must be withdrawn from Iraq as well as that nation becomes responsible for its own fate. President Bush recognises that the status quo is untenable. His plan should be but the opening move towards full disengagement.




Wednesday, August 18, 2004

america pulling troops out of South Korea and Germany

as announced yesterday, Bushie is pulling 70,000 troops out of S. Korea and Germany, to be redeployed more effectively somewhere else. where else, i ask you, but in Iraq. that aside, let's ask the question:

what impact will this have on the security situation in East Asia and in Europe? discuss.

me, i'm jittery. both because clearly Bushie is running out of troops to stay on top of the Middle East, and also because i'm not sure what the US is signalling re: commitment in East Asia. and this is not a good time to be confused, with China on the warpath and an increasingly more aggressive Taiwan. if the big showdown is coming, i want someone bigger than either of them on the block to make sure they keep their squabble quiet and clean.

clearly, i'm not as concerned about Europe. but i don't live there. =)

edit: another thought on the US's more high-tech, mobile approach to military systems. like Mearsheimer pointed out repeatedly during our Seminar on Realism days, the RMA can only do so much. if your intent is to go in, punch the daylights out of someone, and get out asap, the RMA that allowed strategic air attacks and long-distance shelling is awesome. if you are going to have to hold conquered territory, or do some nation building afterward, then it's a different kettle of fish altogether, isn't it?

part of this redeployment is supposed to be part of the whole sea change in the approach to military affairs -troops are being recalled so that they can be reorganised into smaller yet more effective units. the problem is, a 'more effective unit' does depend on what use you wish to put it to.

medical insurance is a mystery to me

"MediShield premiums to go up but will be kept 'affordable' "

the Health Minister announced yesterday that MediShield premiums will rise in the near future (although there has not yet been an announcement how much they will rise). i have no doubt that they will remain affordable, because the premium right now is a mindblogging $12 a year. twelve Singapore dollars per annum.

i thought i had read that number wrong. 12 dollars a month maybe, i could believe. but $12 a year? that costs even less than my highly highly subsidised schoolfees! my mind boggled.

and now, although the premiums will rise, the amount you can claim and the things you can claim for will also increase accordingly. you know, for all i complain about what the government does, occasionally something like this zooms along and totally smacks me in the head.

my premiums for fairly crappy medical insurance in the states would be crippling for my miserable income if i had to pay them. (thankfully, the scholarship board pays all 'mandatory' school-related fees, and health coverage is one of them, since college insists you have coverage whether with their preferred provider or your own) i mean, it runs into hundreds of dollars per ten week term. if i had to pay for insurance the entire year it would be well above a thousand dollars. but in Singapore, for MediShield (which covers catastrophic illness-related hospitalisation), you pay just $12 a year??! granted the coverage is much less -something like 40% of the cost- but still.

the cost of public healthcare -that is, government hospitals and polyclinics (clinics run by the govt with highly subsidised costs)- in this country is stunning, but in a totally different way than the cost of healthcare in the states is stunning. i mean, seriously. if you don't go to private doctors and private hospitals, you can get excellent care (let's not talk about service, but care, first and foremost, ie making sure you get better and not die) for a really low cost. -blink-

one quibble, finally:

Said Mr Khaw: 'We must remove cherry-picking and reverse the fragmentation
of the MediShield risk pool.'

One way to do this, he said, is to make it a must for people to subscribe to a basic MediShield scheme before they can buy the extra products - such as private hospitalisation benefits - offered by commercial insurance companies. If this comes to pass, it will be unprecedented, and could limit private insurers to merely offering plans that complement the MediShield scheme, rather than independent ones.

But this is not unusual, said Mr Khaw, and he used a cable TV analogy to explain: 'You can subscribe to the HBO movie channel if you want by paying extra, but before you do that, you must subscribe to a basic tier.'

that's a totally weird analogy. but that's beside the point. while i agree that enlarging the risk pool is a great thing re: keeping down premiums and raising level of care available for the price, i don't think that compulsory MediShield is the way to go. look, that's like saying 'we have an inferior product, but since we are the government, we are going to force everyone to buy this inferior product before they are allowed to get a better one.' oh wait. that's not even 'like' saying that, that IS saying that. if you can make MediShield attractive, people will go to it anyway. come on, low premiums, high coverage, what more can people ask for in an insurance scheme, right?

of course, if you don't force everyone to buy MediShield, you might wind up with the reverse of private insurer's cherry-picking: adverse selection. MediShield will wind up covering the high-risk people that private companies won't insure, and hence premiums will spiral upward and/or MediShield will go bankrupt. hmm.

it's just that saying 'we'll force you to buy MediShield' automatically puts my hackles up. why can't they phrase things more nicely? -sigh-

update: a most timely article in the Times today about the high cost of health insurance in the US raising labour costs and contributing the unemployment. and this isn't even the auto industry! take a look: "Cost of Benefits Cited as Factor in Slump of Jobs"

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

a new project

am presenting embarking on a new project (though perhaps not so much at the office) to get the recipes i'm interested in cooking typed up and loaded online so that i don't have to carry my cookbooks back with me to chicago. cookbooks are heavy. however, am starting to become interested in investing in a few classics, rather than tons of random 'how to cook every kind of potato known to man' ones. i foresee a lot of typing in the near future -hopefully to be followed by lots of cooking in the not-so-near future, when i am back in chicago and my own kitchen.

walked to ChompChomp last night after dinner and finally got my first taste of goreng pisang after four plus weeks in Singapore. (and i call that my favourite food!) it was reasonably good goreng pisang. but i've had better, and from the same stall, too. i just didn't get lucky with the bananas last night - to make good goreng pisang you gotta have really really ripe bananas, and the two i had were just a tad less ripe than i like them. dad and i also bought some char kuay teow for supper (despite having eaten tons of dinner, and then tons of deep fried banana after that), which i happily consumed at eleven, because for some reason i was starving again.

perhaps it was the nice cold lemon-lime juice flavoured with mint that i made to accompany dinner. it's a great summer drink, people. when it's really hot outside, go buy some limes and a lemon, and rip up some fresh mint from your garden (or buy some from the store). squeeze the limes and some of the lemon into a jug, pour in lots and lots of ice cold water, throw in the torn mint leaves, and let it sit for a while. (make sure it's lots of water, because there's no sugar and if you don't dilute the lemon enough...) then fix yourself a tall glass of iced lemon-lime. it is awesome. (i have some with me at the office today.)

haven't had any caffeine today, so brain isn't quite awake. watch this space -or the LJ- for more later.


Monday, August 16, 2004

MercyRelief.Org

brain still not functional, but passing on a quick note from Eun.

Mercy Relief is working with Singaporean partners to raise funds for victims of floods in India, China, Bangladesh and Nepal. as most of you know, the rainy season has arrived with a vengeance in Asia, and the lowlying countries as well as China are experiencing severe flooding (this shortly after severe drought earlier this summer). fresh drinking water is proving to be a problem esp in Bangladesh.

if you have the time, swing by and take a look; if you have some spare cash, i'm sure it will be greatly appreciated.

yay ferrari!

and they've taken the constructor's title with Schumi and Barichello coming in one-two at the Hungarian Grand Prix. what a great race. and the shot of the two ferarris cruising side by side after crossing the finish line miles ahead of their competition was awesome. what can i say? those are beautiful beautiful cars, even though driving one of them would scare me to bits.

back at the office after a too too short weekend, spent mostly unproductively (which means i didn't get as much sleep as i would have liked.). however, it will soon be the next one (which will be equally unproductive, it looks like, since there's the meet-the-firstyears thing on saturday followed by CNV dinner, and sunday...oh, national day rally!).

more from me later maybe. when my brain gets up to speed.

Friday, August 13, 2004

handover, recapped

a little under the weather today, so not much by way of commentary. just some remarks from last night's swearing in ceremony for the new PM and his Cabinet:

...This political transition is not just a chance of Prime Ministers, or of a Cabinet. It is a generational change for Singapore, a shift to the post-independence generation in a post-Cold War world. ...

...Hence, leadership succession will be one of my top priorities. We must continue to search for younger Singaporeans in their early 30s and 40s to rejuvenate the team, to inject new perspectives and to prepare for leadership succession at all levels -ministers, MPs, at the grassroots, in the trade unions.

Therefore do not wait to be invited to tea, but step forward to make a difference to yourselves, to your fellow citizens, and to Singapore. Let us shape our future together. ...

...Let us strive to keep Singapore a haven in an uncertain world, open to all for business, safe for citizens and friends, a welcoming home that gladdens our hearts every time we return from our travels.

Let us build a nation where every citizen has a place, where all can live in dignity and harmony, and where we all have the opportunity to raise our children and realise our dreams.
watching the ceremony i was uneasy at the emphasis on 'leadership self-renewal' - perhaps because watching the election process in the US is so different from watching political transition in Singapore. but i guess at some point i am just going to have to accept that this is the way things are done here; that our political leaders are handpicked and groomed and their progress can be tracked by watching where they are sent when they become cabinet ministers, rather than how many people vote for them in election time. (the next big hunt: LHL's successor.)

i just can't seem to make up my mind whether it's more important to be critical of our failures, or proud of our successes. it seems to me that i'm not allowed to be both. it feels like i'm not allowed to simultaneously be proud of what we have achieved as a tiny little no-right-to-exist nation state, and critical of what i think can be better, like SMRT, and retail service, and oh thousands of other things. but that's what i am.

oh, this says it best:

and there're things i'd like to do
that you don't believe in
i would like to build something
but you never see it happen

and there's this burning
like there's always been
and i've never been so alone
and i've never been so alive







Thursday, August 12, 2004

handover day!

first things first: it's Chee Tung's 22nd Birthday today. you know the drill:

-singing-
Happy Birthday To You
Happy Birthday To You
Happy Birthday To CheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeTuuuuuuuuuuung...
Happy Birthday To You!

have a good one, you. no more chocolate cake, though. -grin-

however, Handover Day was off on the wrong foot this morning, thanks to SMRT having a brain cramp and keeping the train in Dhoby Ghaut station for a good five minutes while the train doors and the platform screen doors banged open and shut. not, of course, in sychrony, so nothing moved. bah! (i heard the station manager wandering around with a walkietalkie saying 'override it manually' over and over, and thought to myself -train accident on sengkang lrt- who knows why this train is sitting here? and was worried that if i got on the next train it would barrel along down the track and smash into this one as it sat, recalcitrant, at City Hall Interchange)

time to practice driving. and get a car. if this is one of the best public transport systems in the world, we are totally screwed. -grin-

however. in honour of Handover Day, the Straits Times has produced a little piece (a long piece!) on our PM-to-be, Lee Hsien Loong. some exerpts:

...WHATEVER they think of his personality, few seriously doubt his competence to be Prime Minister. Talk to anyone who has worked with him, and the praise flows like water. A good leader who cares about people. Committed to Singapore. Able to understand complex issues. Excellent problem-solver. Expects good work. Comfortable with dissent. ...

...it can be expected that he'll continue that habit of probing fundamentals, of challenging a priori assumptions. It's a welcome trait in a leader of a country that succeeded for 40 years on export-oriented manufacturing and is finding new ways to stay relevant.

Third: This new Prime Minister will challenge rules. It's no coincidence that the panels to reduce red tape and review enterprise rules gained momentum when he became Finance Minister.

He'll encourage a society that dares to think out of the box. Already, there's greater churn in Singapore society today: More young people striking out in business on their own, greater diversity in education, more acceptance of bohemian lifestyles. A 'vibrant society' is what he called it in an interview last October. ...

...Mr Lee has an additional image burden: that his family is too powerful. His father remains in Cabinet as an adviser. His wife Ho Ching is executive director of state investment agency Temasek Holdings. Younger brother Hsien Yang heads one of Singapore's biggest companies, SingTel. ...

So for now, Mr Lee Hsien Loong is known to the world outside Singapore as Mr Lee Kuan Yew's son. But could it be the other way round some day? It was his father himself who said in October 1985: 'I may well have the discomfort of later on being compared unfavourably to the offspring.'


Far-fetched? History will be the judge.


worth a read through, even the bits where the reporter is trying her best to make him seem more human, more funny, more relaxed. (i just realised it's Chua Mui Hoong! i hate the woman) i won't disagree with most of it. her description of the 'common man's impression of Mr Lee accurately reflects mine: that he's a brilliant, if somewhat aloof, man. i used to seriously dislike him, but i think over the years he has grown on me somewhat.

i have no quibbles with the fact that he is a very intelligent man, and that he is perhaps the best man to be running this country. i think he is sharp, and thinks on his feet, and is a good public face for our little island nation. perhaps a little arrogant and abrasive, and not like Mr Goh at all, but still. a good move. my only concern has always been that he is perhaps not able to really connect with the people -not the ones who see him every day, or often, or who are in his constituency, but those who only see him on tv or in the newspapers. but i suppose as long as we have confidence in his capabilities, we don't really need to like or love him, do we?

i like the idea that he 'thinks out of the box' and 'goes back to first principles'. perhaps there is hope for the future after all.

ed: i posted before reading the rest of the paper -it is filled with little bits and pieces on LHL's character and how he is a warm friendly person. calculated to give you the warm fuzzies, until your mind wakes up and realises that 'yes, it IS Lee Hsien Loong they are talking about', and then you have a mental breakdown. go take a look.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

cuddle parties?

i know i know, excessive posting. so a short one to point you to this story: "Cuddling New Craze For New York's Singles"

all i can say is: sounds like trouble. =)

the new Cabinet

the new Cabinet has been announced:

Goh Chok Tong will become Chairman of MAS, as well as being the new Senior Minister;

SM Lee Kuan Yew will take some unspecified role called 'Minister Mentor';

As expected, there will be two DPMs. however the second DPM is not who i expected it to be: Dr Tony Tan remains, while the second will be Prof. Jayakumar, who will remain with MinLaw;

Lee Hsien Loong will remain Finance Minister as well as being PM;

BG George Yeo, as expected, moves to MFA;

and Lim Hng Kiang is moving to MTI.

also, two new female MoS:

Mrs Lim Hwee Hua will be MoS for Finance and Transport, while Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon will be MoS For MCDS.

finally, i have a complete list of Cabinet Ministers!

by way of About Last Night:


"Music, as long as it exists, will always take its departure from the major triad and return to it. The musician cannot escape it any more than the painter his primary colors, or the architect his three dimensions. In composition, the triad or its direct extensions can never be avoided for more than a short time without completely confusing the listener. If the whim of an architect should produce a building in which all those parts which are normally vertical and horizontal (the floors, the walls and the ceilings) were at an oblique angle, a visitor would not tarry long in this perhaps 'interesting' but useless structure. It is the force of gravity, and no will of ours, that makes us adjust ourselves horizontally and vertically. In the world of tones, the triad corresponds to the force of gravity. It serves as our constant guiding point, our unit of measure, even in those sections of compositions which avoid it."

Paul Hindemith, The Craft of Musical Composition (1937, trans. Arthur Mendel)


amen.

Happy National Day!

belatedly, of course. but i was at the National Day Parade yesterday, and got home far too late to blog anything coherent. so i put it off til today, when back at my desk at the office, i have the time and the coffee-induced wakefulness to post my impressions of National Day.

i've always enjoyed being at the parade, though i much rather be in the gallery seats than the grandstand seats. this sentiment got me some rather bemused looks and remarks yesterday ('are you crazy? there are backs to those seats and you get a great view!') but it's true -the gallery seats are where the people really participate and enjoy themselves and the kids are all excited (though i must say the people around us yesterday were rather subdued) while the grandstand seats are filled with VIPs and foreigners and they don't jump around waving their flags and throwing their noise-makers when the Kallang Wave goes by. so there. =) and being at the parade with a bunch of gung-ho friends who are willing to be silly and wave flags in unison and sing songs and at the same time make cutting remarks about subliminal messages in the mass displays is awesome.

some impressions: getting off the train at kallang mrt station and seeing a sea of red getting off with me; walking to the stadium with bazillions of small children wearing their bright red five-dollar-hang-ten tshirts with 'Singapore' emblazoned on the front (more red than i had ever seen in one place at one time before!); walking into the stadium and watching it fill slowly with thousands of red people waving flags; sitting on the east side with the sun full in our faces, hiding behind umbrellas, shades and the goodie-pack-issue red Singapore cap and feng-yuan's spray-on sunblock. wincing at Sharon Aw's hyper-i-am-a-stupid-ditz enthusiastic MCing. jumping around with the flag and screaming when the kallang wave went by, and booing the grandstand directly opposite for not being enthusiastic enough.

watching the Guard of Honour contingent marching in, and being all excited by the solid block of pure white uniforms created by the Navy contingent (the divers! Nalcom! erm...random other blocks of people). watching the colours come in, disappointed that because we were sitting opposite the grandstand they would not march past us. screaming with delight at the fly past, and the Red Lions falling out of the sky carrying their Total Defence banners, and army men rappelling down the light towers so close i could see their expressions, and more swarming down from the roof of the grandstand into the middle of the VIP section.

standing up and screaming when PM Goh arrived; standing at attention for the National Anthem as the super pumas pulled a huge flag across the stadium. singing crazy Singapore Songs about 'wo men shi zui hao de pen you' (we are the best of friends) with arms around one another, swaying from side to side as if we were at a Faye Wong concert; making cutting remarks about losers and quitters while watching the mass display ('this is what we are! a bird in a cage! this is what happens when you try to run away...[massive gridlike picture on field]' 'how is this a picture of unending resilience?' 'well, it's unending, anyway.')

the stadium slowly going dark after a spectacular sunset, and slowly being filled with pinpricks of light from the torches-shaped-like-cellphones (how appropriate! for singapore), like all the stars of heaven; singing the old favourite Singapore Songs in the old familiar way -not the hiphoprapcrap that they've mangled Home into this year- Stand Up For Singapore, and This Is My Country, and One People One Nation One Singapore, and finally Home, with Kit Chan. singing the Anthem again after taking the Pledge, to the rippling flag on the giant screen. (they used to do the flag-flyby at the end of the parade. perhaps they didn't want have to light up the flag any more.)

the tribute to PM Goh at the end - surprised i could remember so many of the things he said while in his early years in office - 'run the next lap together' - and despite not being here for the National Day Message and Rally last year, recognising that the final screen shots -of PM Goh waving to his people, wearing a bright shirt and a brighter smile- came from then, after SARS, after economic recession, with a note of optimism and hope for a discouraged nation. he, receiving the crowd's tribute of applause and flag-waving and noisemaking, and a handshake from SM Lee, taking his leave of the parade for the last time as PM.

and of course, who could forget -leaving the National Stadium and trying to get home after the parade, along with 60, 000 other people who want to do exactly the same thing at the same time. Singaporean mobs are the most well-behaved in the world -where else would several thousand people obediently stop at the roadside and wait for ten minutes because a single policeman -just one- told them to wait while letting thousands of other people by, and buses and cars containing just oh, one or two people per vehicle. even though it gets restless and noisy, there is precious little pushing or poking, and no fear that you are about to be trampled beneath several thousand pounds of enraged human beings. being pissed off because trains aren't arriving often enough -stupid SMRT. walking through Geylang to get to Aljunied -thinking that if this were Chicago i so wouldn't be walking to another station -i wouldn't know if i would die -here we just followed the tracks and stuck out in approximately the right direction and hoped for the best.

that was my National Day Parade.

much as i dislike many things about this nation, and these people, there are things to be proud of and to love as well. it's good to remind myself, once in a while, that these things and these people exist - that for a small, threatened nation that shouldn't -by all rights- exist and thrive and flourish we have accomplished very much and come very far in a short time - and remember that i call this place home.

Happy 39th Birthday Singapore! may you have many many more happy ones to come. =)

adendum, because i meant to earlier and forgot:

'...it takes passionate pilgrims, vague aliens and other disinherited persons to appreciate the "points" of this admirable country' -Henry James, English Hours
appropriate to our little island nation as well, is it not?





Saturday, August 07, 2004

there are woodpeckers in Singapore

birdwatching with dad this morning. it's a saturday morning, v early, and as the alarm goes off, i ask myself for the umpteenth time why i am volunteering to get up even earlier than usual (than usual for going to work, that is) to go to Kent Ridge Park and look at birds. grouchily, i drag myself through the morning routine and slouch downstairs, and we are off.

first birds spotted were a bunch of your friendly neighbourhood mynahs, squabbling over the remains of someone's picnic (for all that Singapore is a Fine city and 'oh it's so clean here!', Singaporeans are a messy inconsiderate bunch when it comes to public spaces) and strutting all over the grassy patch in that strangely predatory straight-backed (as if birds could be any other way) way of theirs. almost like they were psychotic butlers, come to think of it.

next on the list: a small group of thrush, spotted because of the terrific ruckus they were kicking up in the tree nearby. four of them -what appeared to be two pairs- largish birds with bright beady clever eyes, brown bodies and a startlingly white, oddly-shaped head. on closer inspection, the odd shape turned out to be a fluffy, crazy-Elvis crest. they pranced over to the meal the mynahs had abandoned, employing a funny bouncey-hop that made them look like they were walking in a low-to-null gravity environment. they're funny birds. noisy, too.

then the woodpecker: a large brown-bodied bird with a bright red head. perched on the side of a treetrunk twenty feet away, staring at us in bemusement. it was early yet; perhaps it -like me- has trouble waking up in the morning. but just as dad got the camera ready to take its picture, it started up and flew away. silly creature. that was the last we saw of woodpeckers today.

the rest of the morning involved lots of little flitty sunbirds zooming around doing little sunbirdy things, pigeons sunning themselves in the trees, with their i-just-flew-into-a-wall stunned look on their faces (i think they're real stupid birds) , and finding more thrush and mynahs, but no woodpeckers. oh, and we saw what looked like a sea eagle or hawk of some kind, but it floated away around the hill toward the water, and disappeared.

i've just rounded up the day by cooking dinner for my parents: that herb-butter baked chicken that i've made before, and the mesclun salad with oranges and basalmic vinegrette dressing that janice taught me. not too bad, though am startled by the dearth of what i have come to consider 'regular' parts of my cooking in chicago. however, as mom pointed out to me, i am back in Asia now, and cannot expect to find (a) cheap fresh herbs like rosemary and tarragon; and (b) beef consomme in the Campbell's instant soup section of the local Cold Storage. i shall have to learn to cook asian/chinese food all over again when i return.

Friday, August 06, 2004

the US of A: a maximum security prison?

in the mailbox today, an email from the Office of International Affairs at the U of C, informing us of new exit procedures beginning -well, immediately, pretty much.
“We will begin testing processes that will make exiting quick for visitors and effective for security,” said Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security. “We must implement a straightforward exit process to ensure that individuals adhere to the terms of their admission. This supports our efforts to strengthen homeland security and ensure the integrity of our immigration system.”

As this is a pilot program, US-VISIT will analyze the benefits and challenges of each exit process in order to better develop a system that enhances security while facilitating legitimate travel and ensuring privacy. The exit procedures being piloted require foreign visitors to check out at an automated exit kiosk or with a US-VISIT exit attendant at the departure gate at the port. Foreign visitors will go though one of the following two processes, depending on location. Under one alternative, visitors departing the United States will check out of the country at exit kiosks located within the airport or seaport terminal. As with the process the visitors encounter upon entry, their travel documents are read, their two index fingers will be digitally scanned at the exit kiosk, a digital picture will be taken and they will receive a printed receipt that verifies that they have checked out. An exit workstation attendant will be available to assist with visitors’ check out. Visitors also may be required to present the receipt at their departure gate to confirm that they checked out at the exit kiosk.

Another alternative under the pilot program is a biometric check-out process with a US-VISIT exit attendant stationed at visitors’ departure gates. To help the process run smoothly, foreign visitors will receive a printed card explaining the exit process from U.S. Customs and Border Protection when they arrive in the United States. Also, directional signs are strategically located throughout the airports and seaports.

US-VISIT is a continuum of security measures that begins overseas and continues on through entry and exit at U.S. airports and seaports and eventually, at land border crossings. The US-VISIT program enhances the security of U.S. citizens and visitors by matching the identity of visitors with their travel documents. At the same time, it facilitates legitimate travel and trade by leveraging technology and the evolving use of biometrics to expedite processing at our borders.

yeah, and if you believe that more delay 'facilitates legitimate travel and trade' i have a gold mine in bukit timah to sell you...much as i love chicago and new york, this whole being-treated-like-a-criminal thing gets old fast. first, barcodes on my I-20, easily faked on a laser printer, i'm sure. then, fingerprinting and phototaking upon entry into the US (after a twenty hour flight, no less. i'm sure they'll be able to recognise me from that photo if they saw me again). now, fingerprinting and phototaking upon exit. i'm not sure that it adds much value to the entire security situation, and it sure as hell pisses me off -and as for improving relations between the US of A and the rest of the world, it sure doesn't help. sure, it will help them track people better - if their intelligence agencies can get their shit together and coordinate better. otherwise it will continue to be just as easy for terrorists to slip through the cracks (more like gaping chasms) in the system, while ordinary, honest tourists and students like me have to face ever longer and slower immigration lines and exit lines, to boot.

also in the mailbox today, from rachel castignoli:

The Independent Republic of New York: Should New York Secede?

...After contemptuously dismissing the idea, even the crustiest, crankiest city officials will say that, yes, the Democratic Republic of New York is a very interesting place to contemplate. How fabulous our national anthem would be. How cool our currency, the york, would look. Vera Wang could design our flags, Groucho Marx would be on our stamps; we’d all agree not to have a national bird (sorry, pigeon). Bill Clinton could be president again—assuming, after eight years of presiding over the Free World, he has the patience to worry about potholes—though Ed Koch jokes he’d volunteer for the job, adding he’d name an international airport after himself and call it EIK. ...

New York is my favouritest city in the world. and how much more i would love it if i didn't have to be fingerprinted and photographed to be there! how unfortunate, then, that it will never happen. but hey, we can dream...


Thursday, August 05, 2004

9-11 Commission Final Report

a brief note mostly to self to read the 9-11 Commission Final Report sometime this week. yes, i know it's been out for a while. i just haven't worked up the energy to plough through it yet. (even the executive summary is 35 pages; the report itself is the size of a novel, at a hefty 525 pages)

enjoy.

update:

Drezner posts over at his blog about decentralising intelligence gathering etc. take a look at his links, in particular this Slate Piece about learning how to do things the right way from -of all companies- toyota.

getting old

i swear i am getting old.

last night was more fun than i expected. Absolute US, which is sort of like a party organised by the Singaporeans from the U of C, was held at Zouk (again) last night, and feeling a sense of obligation (read: janice insisted i buy a ticket from her, and go with her and gail) we put in what was intended to be a cameo appearance around nine pm. first we met and had sushi for dinner at the Sakae at Wheelock Place, where we proved that three girls dressed for a night on the town can get a seat really quickly, but three girls dressed for a night on the town accompanied by one boy can't. ahhh, the inequities of life. -cheeky grin-

then, stuffed to the gills with sushi, we cabbed it over to Zouk (a club in town that's been ard for a loooong time), fashionably late. wandered in after having my ID checked (me: did i not look older than 21? alex: the bouncers always check female IDs...) , and immediately discovered that (a) some friends from the U of C i haven't seen since leaving in June were there and (b) the talent show was appalling. however, after the U of C part of the evening was over, the music came on, we started chatting -yelling, rather- over the music with friends, and finally, hit the dance floor when they started playing songs-from-our-childhood. ie dance songs circa late 1980s/early 1990s. -grin- some of those songs have strong strong associations for me...it was great to hear them again.

we bundled out of there around midnight, deaf and slightly stunned by the regular mambo crowd that had shown up around ten thirty or eleven (wednesday night is Mambo Night at Zouk) , and wanted to find some kopi to round off the evening. stumble around for a few minutes, unable to locate said coffeeshop or even to hear each other, and upon discovering that the coffee is across the way, i yawn and say i'm too tired...time to go home and go to bed.

at 12 am.

this morning, i couldn't wake up. like my alarm went off, and played half the CD before i could force myself to stir out of bed. (was almost late for work this morning. dad came and banged on the door at almost-seven thirty to make sure i was still alive post-last-night and i had just finished brushing my teeth. he was horrified. aren't you going to work today? he says. yes, i reply. you'll be late! he cries. nah, i say, it doesn't take that long. besides, i couldn't get out of bed just now.) my back was killing me, not to mention my poor poor ankle, punishing me for dancing in heels for just under an hour. just an hour. (although granted, the ankle was hurt -and is worse today. had to rustle up some flats for the office because frankly, i couldn't face the thought of a day in heels. the pain!) and my eyes won't stay open with the artificial aid of -you guessed it- coffee.

whatever happened to the days when four past-midnight bedtimes in a row were no problem -whatever happened to bouncing back with a vengeance? fiddlesticks to this aging process. bah, i say. =)




Wednesday, August 04, 2004

newspapers!

upon reading this morning's Today i chanced upon this gem of a headline:

"S'pore student killer suspect faces child porn charges"

never mind the content of the article for a minute. someone guess what this headline means? i thought it mean that someone killing Singaporean students was also facing child porn charges; my cubicle mate thought it meant that a singapore student killer (whatever that means) was suspected of having child porn. it turns out that it was a Singaporean student who was suspected of killing two other Singaporean students who was also facing child porn charges.

how terribly unclear.

also, in the Times Magazine this week, from Consumed:

Charney pulls out a copy of a book called ''The 48 Laws of Power'' and cites No. 13, which suggests that to get what you want you must appeal to the self-interest of others, not their mercy. ''That's the problem with the antisweatshop movement,'' he says, snapping the book closed. ''You're not going to get customers walking into stores by asking for mercy and gratitude. Appeal to people's self-interest.'' [emphasis mine]

amen to that.

in other news, i seem to have hurt my ankle rather more than i thought i had yesterday when i almost fell off my damned heels. (they slipped on the ridiculous tiling outside of Peninsular Plaza, and i almost dropped on my head. however, with the skill that comes with long practice, i stayed upright, albeit in a rather ridiculous skipping fashion, and proceeded to swear furiously all the way to my lunch appointment, drawing some rather curious stares) it's rather sore and it hurts to flex the stupid thing. damn weak ankles. so perhaps there will be little -if any- dancing for me tonight.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

snapshot

he is
a quiet wind
rising in the desert
a shadow thrown
from a stick
thrust into silent sand

administrative update

added BlogRolling to my repertoire of blogtricks: now my sidebar links are organised alphabetically -not my favourite option but i am not language-savvy enough to fiddle with code- will wait for brother to finish exams and return to Singapore to change it into drop-down lists for me. in the meantime BlogRoll should help me keep my favourites properly listed.

another quick note to say that Blogger has a neat list of accredited bloggers who were at the recent Democratic National Convention here. take a gander, look around various blogs, decide to vote democratic in the november elections. excuse me while i try and find a 'Boot Bush!' button for my blog.

that education post i promised

i still haven't written that post on education, have i? well -- some preliminary thoughts to get me/you going (though who knows, this preliminary thoughts thing might just turn into a whole post) [ed: it did]: many people know that education is one of my big Issues that i'm willing to go on about just about forever. with good reason, too, i think -- what kind of education system a country has produces the kind of society that it will have in the future, and if you get your kids young you mould them -even if you don't intend to- you shape them, you set the outline of their lives before them. it's important, then, that you get your education system right, not just for the sake of the future of the country, but -at least for me- more importantly for the sake of the children you are changing.

lest we forget, the Singaporean education system has for the most part been highly successful, which i think is something that we didn't take into account nearly enough when we were discussing it during the seminar. most kids emerge from this system with the ability to read, write and do math; most kids emerge from the system with skills that will serve them well through life, even if their lives inhabit a rather limited scope -car mechanics, air-conditioner repairmen, that sort of deal. it takes great care of the majority of the kids, even if it does rather fall down on the job at the top and bottom end of the spectrum.

but that is not to say that it's perfect. far from it. and that, my friends, is the real problem with the education system. the unwillingness to affect bold change, out of a fear of the new, out of an unwillingness to rock the boat. 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' really is the motto of the MOE. (instead of 'Teach. Mould the future of the nation.' which i always have the urge to misspell and punctuate thusly: 'Teach Mold. The Future Of The Nation.') in our discussion with MOE representatives the current changes to the system came up. a quick recap, for those who have no idea what i'm talking about:
  • four 'families' of schools (Raffles, ACS, Hwa Chong, and Victoria i believe) are switching some of their kids to the six-year 'through train' model, where they will no longer take the O levels at sixteen, but just the A levels or the International Baccalaureate at eighteen;
  • as a result of this, the original GEP schools are not longer running GEP programs (Raffles, ACS); and
  • two private schools (privately funded and privately run) are being opened.

in addition to these changes the ministry is also looking at various issues with exam stress and overloading the curriculum of the kids etc.

now we all know my opinion of the through train program - i like it, for the most part, but dislike its implementation. i think it's going to be rather rushed, and of course the first few bunches of kids are going to suffer for being the guinea pigs (though i daresay they'll still have a better time of it than the kids going to regular O-level-A-level route), but that is unavoidable with any big change in the system. and it was pointed out that if the kids fail to do well at the A levels they won't even have their O levels to fall back on -all they will have is the PSLE cert. a valid point. however, seeing as they are preselected (not to fail) i doubt this will be a real issue, at least not in the initial years. there's a reason these plans are only being implemented in the top schools - these kids are far more likely to do well even if the program they are in is absolute crap.

my problem with the private schools -and to a certain, lesser degree with the through train- is that education isn't just about what you learn from books. going to school is in part -when you're a kid, a great part- a socialisation process through which you learn how to interact with your peers. school takes you out of the isolated, insulated little world you have always inhabited, and brings you out into a larger, more varied world. it's supposed to show you that there are all kinds of people out there and you will have to get along with all of them or your life will be miserable (as some kids' lives invariably are, in school).

quite frankly i have to say that for the most part, my school experience has surrounded me with kids as smart as and smarter than i am (i doubt anyone would claim i am one of the brightest crayons in the GEP box) who come from similar backgrounds, which would have wound up handicapping me if i hadn't been in RJ Humanz (some of my GEP friends had trouble adjusting to normal sch life, and this was adjusting to the brightest ten percent or less of the entire cohort) and then gone to college in Singapore --but i didn't. i escaped to Chicago instead, where everyone is weird and therefore it's ok. and what i'm worried about with the private schools and the through train is that kids from a certain background and place in life will congregate (ok to be more specific i'm worried that the private schools will become a rich-little-boys-playground) and never learn that there are other people out there who aren't exactly like them. then god help them when they emerge, blinking, into the light of reality at the end of the train-tunnel (oh dear, my metaphors are getting carried away).

i'm not saying that the through train or private school is in itself bad. heavens no - i want it for all kids, though i'll accept that some kids aren't suited to this kind of pedagogical method- but i think i'd like to see a little more consideration from MOE about the social aspect of education rather than the purely academic paper-chase (oh, that's a post for another day) aspect of it. and instead of having two private schools outside of MOE jurisdiction, i think i'd like to see the private-school aspect of choice being applied within the MOE system - i fail to see why greater customisation is impossible under the MOE. all it really needs to do is widen its boundaries and guidelines a little, and trust in the system it has built -and the market- to correct any excesses during transition periods. if MOE took its fingers out of a few pies, and took a step back from the ground-level ops of the education system, who knows how much better it could be? and all with less, not more, effort from our civil service.

all right. i think that's quite enough for now. feel free to chime in via comment. =)