Thursday, June 30, 2005

Canon A400

Just saw this camera in the Jessops shop window yesterday and thought that it might be a good pressie to get for Jonny. It's cheap at 99.99 pounds, and comes with a 'free' 64 mb SD card. 3.2 megapixel, and it's Canon and prolly therefore more reliable.

Will search for more cameras first though, before making a purchase. Any suggestions? I want to get a camera before tomorrow, so that he can use it on Saturday.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Online books to read...; Condom packing

Thanks to lovely Mr. Siderophobia, who not only informed / reminded me that Brave New World and 1984 are books that are pertinent to the meritocracy debate, but also gave me the link to read them for free online: http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/1984/ and http://www.huxley.net/


Will prolly be packing condoms at the THT Direct Helpline office tomorrow (www.tht.org.uk). Am volunteering there, normally doing menial paperwork stuff, such as mail-outs, data entry, photocopying. This weekend though, is London Pride (http://www.pridelondon.org/), and I guess that THT is giving away condoms again. So, depending on what time I wake up, I should spend up to five hours tomorrow helping out with the condom packs. Hmmm.

Actually hor, if the Singapore gover-ment give out condoms at Nation, then Nation'05 can be held on Sentosa again, instead of at Phuket mah. Indeed, why not give out condoms to everyone, a la SARS thermometers? I'm sure others, such as NUS hostel-ites (what do NUS hostel stay-ers call themselves?), gay and straight, would need them as well. Unless shotgun marriages are desired of course.

London again

Back here again. And it's lovely to be back.

Annoyed with Heathrow yet again tho, because of their silly drawbridge.

Interesting article at http://singaporeangle.blogspot.com/2005/06/just-who-are-beneficiaries-of-academic.html, with regards to Singaporean meritocracy and I will prolly use it for the CE assignment.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

If you don't want to burn your tongue...

Dear Miss Manners:

My husband and I disagree on one point of dining manners, and it's causing quite a bit of confusion for our preschooler. He maintains that it is rude to blow on hot food to cool it. I assert that his practice of cooling the food by inhaling as he takes a bite, which often includes a slurping noise, is more rude. I also believe that it's dangerous to set this example for our small children, as it could lead to inhalation of small (or even large) pieces of the food. Please help us resolve this disagreement.

When Miss Manners has to declare that one spouse is right and the other wrong, she worries about what it will do to the marriage. So she is happy, in this case, to declare that you are both wrong.

Polite people do not use their wind power -- in either direction -- to cool their food. They use patience.

(From the Washington Post. Thanks again to Starfearer's Sky for his link to Ms Manner's columns. :))

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

(X - M) = Even less gals in Shanghai / China

HUH??? Scally the children only speak the ang moh language, then laggy backfire.

Export Shanghai brides, says Jackie
June 15, 2005 The Straits Times

GONGFU mega star Jackie Chan says a good way to promote Chinese culture worldwide would be to have more Shanghai women marry foreigners.

'We can encourage more foreigners to marry Shanghai ladies so their children will be able to speak Chinese,' he said at the Shanghai International Film Festival.

'It will help spread Chinese culture far and wide,' he said.

But he did not say why his proposal singled out Shanghai women, and he offered no suggestions about how to implement his plan.

Chan also said he wanted to see more teahouses next to Starbucks coffee shops and more Chinese-style sesame seed cake shops next to McDonald's restaurants.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Let Our Accent Be Heard!!!!!!!!

Don't mimic Westerners, let local accent be heard
June 14, 2005 The Straits Times

I REFER to the recent debate on speaking good English.

More than the pragmatic reasons that guide the Government's bid to encourage Singaporeans to speak good English, one of the intangible benefits of doing so is that it will help augment our sense of cultural confidence.

Many of us have come across Singaporeans who mimic foreign accents when speaking to Westerners.

Indeed, in my first weeks as an undergraduate in the United States, I found myself making a conscious effort to 'evolve' my accent, as I feared I would not be understood by my peers and professors.

Some might put it down to 'mental colonisation', a post-colonial scar precipitating the Assumption that everything in the Western world is superior and therefore desirable.

But for many Singaporeans, mimicking a Western accent represents a lack of confidence in our English ability. Even our best English students are not spared this inferiority complex.

Growing up in Singapore, we have come to associate our accent with Singlish. Speaking with a Singaporean accent often necessitates the use of 'lahs' and 'lors'.

It has become almost unnatural for us to speak good English and yet maintain a local accent. It seems as if only politicians, broadcast journalists and English teachers have the ability to combine the two elements of good English and local accent.

Our mental image of what constitutes good English is conditioned and indelibly influenced by Western media. When we meet a Westerner, our reflex action is to switch our accent as we make a conscious attempt to speak good English.

Our ambassadors, politicians and many notable Singaporeans have proven that good English spoken with a local accent can be understood anywhere in the world.

I do not recall any prominent international Singapore figure who speaks with a foreign accent.

Perhaps what stops us from speaking with a local accent when conversing with a foreigner is that we subconsciously associate our accent with an inferior brand of English.

This does not have to be so. Our English-based education system should have prepared us adequately to speak and write proper English.

Singapore aspires to be a global city. A global city must have global citizens. Being a global citizen does not mean we adopt the practices, ways and accents of others.

It is about contributing something to the melting pot, be it our food or customs.

Singlish is a product of our local melting pot, but it will never be part of the global melting pot because we lack the critical mass and leverage to export it as a popular 'language' or slang.

This is the reality of being a small nation. We can, however, contribute to this melting pot by speaking good English in our unique Singaporean accent.

We will take a small step towards being a more confident people. Let our accent be heard!

Leon Tham Ngiap Liang

Monday, June 13, 2005

Russell Sq to Euston

On Saturday, had a rather 'strange' encounter. Jonny and I were making our way to Victor's, and running a tad late too, when we were stopped just after stepping out of the house, and asked for directions to.... Euston.

The China guy offered us a lift there in his little red car, while we pointed out the way there.

So we got there in 3 minutes instead of the 15 it would have taken to walk all the way. ;)

The strange thing: when we entered the car, an instrumental version of Tian Hei Hei was playing in the car. ooohzer!

So we got a free ride, and listened to one of my favourite tunes along the way! Much better than them crappy and expensive black cabs.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Orchids; 15

Lovely article on orchids on the BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4078332.stm

Comes with some lovely pictures and little bits of facts on them lovely flowers, e.g.:

'The spectacular lady's slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus), which was picked to near oblivion by the Edwardians and Victorians, and reduced to a single plant in Yorkshire, is responding well to a recolonisation project run by Kew Gardens. '

Gonna be watching '15' with Jonny, Victor and maybe Kevin later. wheeheee. I wonder what the English and the Welsh would think. :p

Friday, June 10, 2005

Education-based meritocracy; Religion n'est pas pour moi

Going for a seminar on that by John Goldthorpe, University of Oxford, in 15 minutes. Comments later. :)

Well, the best bit of it were the sarnies. I grabbed three on the way out. *yumbley scrumbley*

Thankfully, he didn't rant against education based meritocracy and its philosophical flaws as I would expect sociologists in this institution to. Instead, he proposed evidence showing that meritocracy has not been achieved in England, and suggested that policy should aim to address this. Hardly groundbreaking.

He used an interesting word to describe people in the top socio-economic class: salariat. Is this the equivalent of the proletariat? A search for 'salariat' on dictionary.com yields nothing. No wonder 'salariat' sounds so salar. What is 'salariat' supposed to refer to? The salaried class? :S

Ran a search online for Goldthorpe's articles. There's one available on meritocracy, but the computer can't seem to get at it, and it's prolly fate. His co-workers include Michelle Johnson, so a search for her might yield something, but I'm not that bothered.

Went for the seminar coz I thought it might be useful for my Education and Development in Asia module essay. Ah well. Maybe tangentially.

Parce que, at least for now, religion is a rather personal thing for me.

I just do not like institutional religion. It is a very strong gut instinct.

Religion for me, and for others undoubtedly, is about truth. Truth in institutional religions tends to be universal, to be objective, to be the TRUTH. And the objectivity of this truth has not quite been that solid, as evident from history.

People say that their gut tells them what's right and what's wrong. They are Christians, Buddhists, Moonies, etc. because their religion sounds (and is) right for them, that their religion resonates with their heart, that their religion emanates the truth. So it is that there are TEN commandments, NINE sons, EIGHT directions, SEVEN this-that-and-the-other, and all of this is not questionable nor refutable in any way, even if counter-evidence exists because to attempt to refute the truth 'is to miss the point' (cue the predictable speech on how religion is meant to be believed in and not thought through with human logic because human logic is so limited and truth is so universal and boundless and limitless). Since the truth is so truthful to hard core believers of their respective faiths, no amount of explanation seems sufficient for them to understand that their truth does not resonate with me or that my automatic response to proselytising would be to go according to my gut instinct and question, doubt and query, and more usual than not, in my usual devil's advocate or confrontative manner. It is frustrating and I would rather just shut up really. Playing devil's advocate and being confrontational in arguments that are purely intellectual and peripheral can be fun. In religion, it isn't, and shouldn't be enjoyed, for in some cases to do so can shake the hard core (and dissipate the soul?)of individuals, and therefore could well be rightly viewed to be sadistic. Let the religionist be safe and comfortable in the space and discourse of his religion, provided that he does not harm others. Please give me some space alone in my non-institutional not-really-religious-according-to-any-institutional-religion guts-space.

Believe me, I'm not lonely being alone in this guts-space, so don't feel sorry for me.

The other thingy I am not quite comfortable with is that there is hierarchy in most institutional religions that I am aware of. As mentioned earlier, religion is deeply personal to me. Truths can be absolute, but in human perception can be relative (note: I am not setting up the presence of a superior or indeed inferior being here), and different experiences of the truth by different individuals would prolly shape their perceptions of the truth. Therefore, there are arguably many different truths, all of which are truthful to the believer of each truth. A hierarchy probably means that truth or the means of exploring / discovering the truth would be imposed from the top down. blar blar blar. Enough of my rant. GRRZIEBOOOBLE!

Let's just say that I have a rather strong gut instinct against institutional religion, and that my heart does not resonate with any institutional religion, or any of their discourses. I don't mind religion. I like it that people celebrate their religions. Just don't try to religionise me and recognise that your religious discourse is not necessarily his, hers or mine.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I know where you are; On HIV and gay-ers

I recall that when the Ezylink thingy was to be introduced in Singapore, someone told me of his conspiracy theory: that the whole thing was a ploy to track down where anyone and everyone was in the lovely 'Big Brother' state. You see, you've got to 'di' the card when you board the bus, and 'di' again when you get off, and the sophisticated GPS R2-D2 robot will tell Mr Autocrat Someone-out-there where Mr. Chee et al. are. One of the problems with that theory is that, hey, people forget to 'di' when they get off. So, the dear transport companies find themselves with some more not-so-spare change and 'Big Brother' wonders why on earth are people taking the people's air-conditioned limousine to the interchanges so often. Are they congregating there for some demonstration / secret meetings of the malcontent HIV-stricken gay-ers? *gasp*.

Now, conspiracy theorists would gasp in horror if and when they hear of the scheme to be set up in England. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4075490.stm Essentially, it's a satellite system to track down the distance one has travelled on the car, and then charge according to this distance. This charge will hopefully replace the road tax and fuel duty. So, England's 'Big Brother' laggy more powderful: Oyster card to track down where London-ers go, road charging to find out where every single freaking vehicle in freaking Britain is going!

Frankly, I think it does not make financial sense. Given the Brits' track record in building and setting up stuff, the costs involved would prolly be wildly under-estimated. And the financial ploughbacks would also be grossly over-estimated. Haven't they learnt from their experiences with congestion charging, the introduction of the Oyster card, and happy-clappy bendy buses? I would be very surprised if the Treasury makes enough to cut fuel taxes.

It is more likely to make financial sense in Singapore.

& thank goodness I don't drive.

Just ran a google search for HIV organisations in Singapore. There's the AFA - Action for Aids. On the website, it says: 'Over 500 Singaporeans have been reported with HIV infection (up to late-1996). There are many more who are infected but do not know that they are. In the 1980s the majority of infections in Singapore were homosexual or bisexual men; but now there are many more infections seen among heterosexual men and women. Heterosexual spread is now the main method of transmission in Singapore. And over 75% of infections around the world are acquired through heterosexual intercourse. '

I would bet that the majority of those who do not know that they infected with HIV are heterosexual men. Why? Coz Mr. Heterosexual: "Aiya, gover-ment say must be gay then get HIV one mah. So I no need to test one lar, sure ok one." If one extrapolates from STD clinics in London to ones in Singapore, the demographic of people taking HIV tests might well be largely of two demographic groups: the women, and the gay-ers. Surely, this would mean that dear Mr. Minister's statistic for HIV-incidence suffers terribly from sample selection bias.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Voice to the people

From the following article: "while only 15 cannot be implemented - for now"

No surprise as to which ones cannot be implemented.

For now? mmmh. Then when huh?

Govt okays youths' ideas for change
55 out of 91 proposals to reshape Singapore accepted, while others are being studied

By Vivi Zainol June 8, 2005 The Straits Times

SINGAPORE'S youths yesterday got a pat on the back from their minister, who made it clear to them: You can make your ideas work in this country.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan sent out this strong signal when he said the Government had accepted some 55 of the 91 proposals for shaping Singapore's future which a group of young people submitted .

Others are being studied, while only 15 cannot be implemented - for now, indicated Dr Balakrishnan, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports.

Among those that got the nod are a youth enterprise academy, letting private companies conduct National Education lessons in schools, and event management internships for youths on society's fringe.

The bundle of ideas so pleased the minister he said the process by which they were created will be formalised into a new youth consultation process. The Government also wants more young people involved in future issues.

But the bottom line is that they must come up with action plans.

Dr Balakrishnan was especially full of praise for a group of 120 youths. They had distilled suggestions from about 2,000 of their peers into well-argued ideas, which were handed to government ministries in April.

'The quality of our young people's proposals has been very impressive. Even more so has been their level of commitment,' he said in a speech to start the Youth Leaders and Mentors Programme. The programme will groom secondary and post-secondary students with leadership skills.

He said the youths, working in four groups, spent five months deliberating, consulting key stakeholders and working on ideas.

The exercise began last August, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he wanted to empower younger Singaporeans.

Dr Balakrishnan is convinced the process has improved 'the level of trust and engagement' between the young and the Government.

The youths gained a deeper insight into policy-making, while the Government's thinking was 'challenged and refreshed', he said.

He also vowed that the Government will help the young translate their ideas into action, with networks and seed funding. But they must see it through, he added.

The challenge hardly fazed Youth Action chairman Lee Hong Chuan, 35, who is thrilled 13 of his group's 15 ideas were accepted.

'Seed funding will definitely encourage more youths to come forward,' he said.

Already, one idea has received more than $300,000. This is Shine, Singapore's first festival organised by youths to showcase the talents of other youths. It will start on June 18 and end on July 9, with about 60 youth groups taking part.

Commenting on a few 'controversial' proposals that were rejected, Dr Balakrishnan said: 'Some wanted to champion people with alternative lifestyles and sexual preferences.

'We had to clearly explain to them that the sensitivities of the majority of people had to be taken into account. We had to say 'no'.'

Less controversial ideas were also rejected, but people like the co-chairman of Youth Reloaded work group, Mr Ahmad Nizam, 37, are undeterred.

He said: 'It's not an outright 'no'. It's a question of relooking it and finding out how we can balance the concerns of different government bodies. Ultimately, it's about waiting for the right time.'

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

'Fundamentalism'; LiveAid; Sociology of Education

Is 'fundamentalist' an adjective we use to sideline others as extremist? Does 'fundamentalist' have a negative undertone that it ill deserves? What's exactly wrong with being fundamentalist?

LiveAid: I have decided. I support their aim, and from what I know about the organisation and its leaders, I can't say that I support their means. International aid is hardly a simple matter, and expecting lender nations to commit to debt relief might be a tad naive.

Got my provisional grade for the Sociology class. Will go in a while to pick up the essay and the comments. Whoopee! Is it a good time to celebrate? :p

Just read the comments. Here's a sample of three sentences from the two markers:

A1: "A deeper consideration of the merits of critical policy sociology and the damaging micro-processes associated with existing markets that these studies highlight would have given the essay a more sociological feel and might have led you to more equivocal conclusions."

B1: "Accurate, fluent, imaginative and well organised."

B2: "However, the essay would have been greatly strengthened by a fuller exploration of the sociological school choice literature and a discussion of the positioning of education as a market commodity."

Monday, June 06, 2005

Papa, how come the bus so expensive hah?

'No leh. It's cheap cheap. Gover-ment say, only increase by little bit only leh.'


They have this rather interesting model that they expect families of lower than average (median, not mean prolly) incomes to follow with respect to their transport habits.

From the appendix of the REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE FARE REVIEW MECHANISM, www.mot.gov.sg/policy-land.htm:
"Based on the 1997 HIS results, the majority of trips made on public transport consist of home, school and work place as their destinations. These trips are made on both the bus and RTS. To ensure that the travel profile of the characteristic family captures the trips made on different modes, the travel pattern of the characteristic family has been designed to include a mix of rides on feeder and trunk buses, as well as the RTS. To further monitor the change in fares across different fare types, the travel profile also captures both the adult and concession fares. In addition, the family’s total monthly expenditure on public transport has also been cross-checked against the HES findings on the second quintile’s household expenditure on public transport.

The following summarises the weekday travel pattern of the characteristic family:
• One of the working adults commutes to/from work by RTS and the other, by trunk bus;
• The adults travel 12.4km and 6.6km respectively by RTS and bus. These are the average trip lengths in 2003;
• The RTS trip made by the adult requires the use of a feeder bus to make a transfer; and
• The child in the secondary school commutes to/from school by bus using a concession pass and the child in the primary school walks to a school nearby.'

Calculations on how much these families spend on transport are then made based on this model. So, all working adults only travel on buses for work. The secondary school pupil only ever goes to school. And the primary school kid only ever walks.

Now, erhem, how "characteristic" exactly is this family?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A View of Singapore

Got the following paragraphs from a link http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A759738 on Starfearer's Sky:

"Singapore is artificial happiness on an island not bigger than an average city. It’s like in this computer game, Sim City, where you build a city from scratch by placing out industries, condos, shops and roads in the most functional and effective way as possible. There are no natural resources on Singapore: the very nice beaches on Sentosa island are 100% imported from Malaysia, the water all comes from a big pipeline from the main land and the nice looking forests you see everywhere are only a few meters deep. "

"However it takes a few days to get used to the way singaporeans speak english. Even if they write and speak english perfectly, they tend to use their own dialect called Singlish. It’s an effective and fast version of english with lots of the grammatics dropped and word order totally flipped:

“Eh, that Wendy ah, so glam one! Every week also got new dress!”

Don’t panic when singaporeans talk really fast, just ask tell them you didn’t understand (you talk slower can?) and they will switch to a more ordinary english. You’ll get used to it and it’s a fascinating and modern way of talking, although looked upon as slobby so don’t try impressing on business contacts with your new vocabulary. "

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Go to http://www.innocentdrinks.co.uk/drinks/drinks.html, then click on 'Smoothies', and then click on 'blackberries and blueberries'. Here's what you get:

What a fine thing blackberries and blueberries is growing up to be.

The deep purple hue is one which screams decadence, luxury and plush velvet curtains. But, like all of her brothers and sisters, she is a reliable provider of fruit goodness and vitamins.

108 crushed blueberries

12 crushed blackberries
1/2 crushed banana
2 1/2 pressed apples
a dash of freshly squeezed orange juice

She's utterly yummy! I was given a box of it (8 bottles) between SOAS and IOE today. Yippee! Are you jealous? ;)

Friday, June 03, 2005

The End

http://www.endclub.com/ is a lovely place to go to for a night out.

Plus Point 1: It is just a 5 minute run from my place, so I can just leave my wallet and stuff in my room.

Plus Point 2: On Thursdays, it's free if you can get one of those free entry cards from some other pubs, or £4 with the NUS card.

Plus Point 3: It has two rooms of lovely music.

Plus Point 4: Drinks are pretty cheap before 11.30 p.m.. A rum and coke for £1.60, that's not too bad, innit? A bottle of Beck's I think is £1.5o.

Plus Point 5: If you like Margarita, there's a frozen version for sale here. Not cheap, but the Mr Slurpy-ish drink is worth trying.

Plus Point 6: Water-cooler. There's a water cooler if you are thirsty, don't want more alcohol and are skint.

Plus Point 7: It's a fairly young stylish crowd, mixed: boys and gals, gay-ers and straights, whites and blacks and asians.

Plus Point 8: The bar staff are friendly.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Male Nudity on English Telly; Naked Cycling

It's amazing what gets on national telly in the UK. Was watching Footballers' Wife last week during dinner, since there was really nothing else that sounded vaguely good. Guess what appeared... male frontal nudity. I didn't realise that there actually was genitalia on screen, in part coz I was hungry and rushing to polish up my plate, in part because I was a tad embarrassed at being caught watching such a silly show by hallmates, and in part because switched-on vacuum cleaners and bare genitalia should really not be too close to each other. Then, someone brought to my attention the following page in a forum: http://www.fmforums.co.uk/forums/lofiversion/index.php?t29861.html (P.S. If male nudity and/or vacuum cleaners make(s) you squeamish / prudish / whatever, do not look!). Omigosh! And it was actually shown on a Sunday at 9.35 pm ish. Aren't the kids watching telly at the time? Oooh la la. The treats kids get these days.

Oh. If one is interested in naked cycling, there will be an event for you in London. http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/uk/ For me, I'll try to avoid the places that those cyclists would be. Some of the pictures are a tad vile.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Live Aid; Tea Direct; Jet Hellas

Tickets to Liveaid, Hyde Park, on the 2nd of July will be available from the 6th of June: http://www.live8live.com/tickets.shtml. 72,500 pairs of tickets are available. How far does LiveAid actually reduce poverty? It might be more useful for the involved celebraties to each donate a fraction of their wealth to the Third World, instead of instigating destructive marches to Edinburgh.

Apparently, LiveAid is gonna be on the same day as London Pride. Would there be any synergy between the gay-ers and the antipoverty campaigners?

More interesting is http://www.teadirect.co.uk/. On the 8th of June, there will be an amazing event in Trafalgar Square: a mass open air tea dance! woohoo! What are the chances of having lotsa cuties there on a Wednesday afternoon, prancing around on a lovely sunny day? :p

Jet Hellas has folded. *cries* T'is my favourite airline. http://www.hellas-jet.com/

"We inform you that on the 20th of April, 2005 the Hellas Jet Shareholders General Assembly decided to suspend all Hellas Jet scheduled flights as of 10 May 2005. This decision was deemed necessary as the market’s socio-economic conditions did not allow us to fulfill the Company’s business plan. "

Listed on BlogShares