Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lao3 Liao3

Today got people call me 'uncle'.

Some more, I older than her lor.

I know I older than people my age.

But... 'uncle'????????

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


... I have been to ...

1991 - Sumatra, Indonesia

1995 - Peninsular Malaysia

1997 - Tasmania, Australia

1998 - Hong Kong & Guangdong, China

1999 - London, UK

2001 - London again for start of 3 yr study; Stratford-upon-Avon, Nottingham; Lisbon; Madrid & Barcelona, Spain

2002 - Paris, Reims, Beaune, Avignon & Nice, France; Prague & Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic; Warsaw & Krakow, Poland; Budapest, Hungary; Vienna & Salzburg, Austria; Venice, Siena, Pisa & Florence, Italy; Geneva, Bern, Lauterbrunnen, Lucerne, Interlaken & Spiez, Switzerland; Brussels & Ghent, Belgium; Oxford

2003 - Amsterdam & Leiden, Holland; Brussels; Belfast; Dublin, Ireland; Gibraltar; Andalusia, Spain; Tangiers; Lisbon & Sintra, Portugal; Athens, Mykonos & Santorini, Greece; La Rochelles & Nantes, France; Tokyo, Osaka & Kyoto, Japan

2004: Brighton, Cardiff, Llantwit Major; Berlin, Germany; Stockholm, Sweden; Venice, Bologna, Florence and Rome, Italy; Nantong and Shanghai, China

2005: Thailand and Singapore (with the BOY! :p); New York, Boston, Providence, DC; Manchester & Castleton, England

Possibilities for 2006: London, Melbourne, Taiwan

Strange sentences

From the Straits Times forum...

Ms Kapur, September 26th:

'To someone who is constantly on the lookout for racial discrimination, visible traces of it may not be such a serious issue. '

'In this instance, racism is not mellow.'

What on earth is mellow racism?

'Pacifism and racism are irreconcilable.'


'The economic argument is most viable in the context of Singapore because we are not only a multiracial society but also the most globalised nation in the world.'

Alamak. The economic argument, the economic argument. Where on earth is her economic argument?

Most globalised nation? Contentious leh.

'Racism fuels an inward-looking ethnocentrism with a false sense of a comfort zone.'

Fuels?? Interesting use of imagery.

'The insensitivity highlighted in my two instances proves that Moral Education and National Education have not been entirely successful in cleansing people's mindsets.'

Unfortunate choice of word. Cleansing has not only been used to describe face washes, but also things in history that one can hardly be regarded as nice, e.g. in Rwanda.

And I certainly don't like the idea that ME and NE should be cleansing.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Omar just said that he was in town the other day, and thought of calling me to join him for tea. Then he realised that I was not in London any more. :(

Why can't there be a portal between the two cities?

Beyond the age of innocence

This book, by Kishore Mahbubani, is rather intriguing. I like the book for its interesting perspectives thus far, with respect to how America has both benefited and harmed the world, as well as with regards to its relationship with the Islam and the Islamic world.

mmmh. I think the following review by Dennis Littrell on the Amazon.com website is brilliant, and I shall not attempt to do any better:

Singaporean scholar and diplomat Kishore Mahbubani is a great admirer of the United States. He is also a stern critic. I think these qualities are exactly what America needs now at the time of our greatest strength. What Mahbubani wants is to gently admonish the United States for acting unilaterally and without the benefit of international law, while at the same time remind us all of America's greatness and all that America has done for the world.

He emphasizes that the US is not and has not been an ordinary superpower. Unlike other great states, it has not sought empire or the economic enslavement of the vanquished. Instead it has rebuilt the enemy, as in Germany and Japan, and as it is presumably trying to do in Iraq. These extraordinary behaviors by a nation state mark the US as an enlightened nation, a nation that knows that world stability and the economic success of other nations only contribute to stability and the good life at home.

"America is...an atypical human society," he writes, "unlike any other. Until recently, it has served as a powerful beacon, pointing to a future for all of humankind. That is its essence, its real mission: to remain true to its soul and remain an extraordinary society." (p. 211) Mahbubani adds that in other parts of the world, the men who open doors for you...look down in a sort of implicit bow," but that "New York doormen never look down. They look you straight in the eye and behave as total equals... They may work...in the building" and "receive tips...but they possess not an iota of inferiority." (p. 210) He calls this "an enormous leap upwards in the human evolutionary ladder." He believes that "America has largely escaped the pernicious effects of class stratification prevalent in the rest of the world." (p. 211)

His main point, however, is that America power reaches with its tentacles, both soft and hard, into every country of the world and affects everybody from the poorest to the wealthiest. Yet the only people who have any direct say in what the US does are Americans who can vote for its leadership. Consequently there is great frustration throughout the world with a power that to some extent controls them, but that they cannot control.

Mahbubani believes that it is especially important that America use its military power wisely. If we do not, the rest of the world will view our "soft power" suspiciously "as an increasingly frayed velvet glove that covers a mailed fist." (p. 197)

As an example of the wise use of military power, Mahbubani notes that "Global trade continues to grow steadily. Many reasons explain this: technology, open markets (an ideology spread by American influence), political stability, global trading rules (another American legacy). But one important factor that is rarely mentioned or recognized is the spread of American military power around the world. American military power keeps global sea and air routes open. Any force that tries to disrupt these routes will have to reckon with America. Since no country can, global trade has flourished." (p. 140)

Consequently, Mahbubani argues, the rest of the world benefits "enormously and directly from the global American military presence, which costs American taxpayers over $400 billion a year. But other nations pay not a penny for this." (p. 141)

What Mahbubani would like to see--barring a sharing of power--is a foreign policy by the US that understands the extent of its power and uses that power wisely for the benefit of all and not just for narrow, short-term American interests. He believes that what is good for the rest of the world is good the for the US. If the rest of the world suffers because of unenlightened US policy, as it sometimes has in the past, the US itself will suffer as well.

He makes it clear that the neocon dream of an American Empire is a delusion based on an unrealistic understanding of both America and the modern world. He writes, "With all the military power in the world, America appears incapable of subjugating one medium-sized country in the Middle East because it is incapable of administering the kind of brutal suppression the British applied when they conquered Iraq in 1917." (p. 10) He adds on page 202, "If America cannot tolerate the sight of its soldiers abusing a few Iraqis, how can it build an empire?"

Then there is the question of legitimacy. Although they have no vote on who is elected president of the United States, Mahbubani believes that the planet's 6.3 billion citizens "are the ultimate custodians of legitimacy in the international environment." (p. 186) Since most Americans believe in the rule of law and in the idea that some actions are legitimate within its scope and others not, it behooves our government to act accordingly. Mahbubani's point is that if our use of power (as in the invasion of Iraq) is not seen as legitimate, we will lose prestige and credibility in the world, and with that loss, we will abdicate moral leadership and ultimately become isolated from the rest of the world. In the "Age of Innocence" that would have been okay. China existed for centuries isolated from the rest of the world as did the US (for the most part) until the first world war. However in the modern world where everyone is so closely connected, such isolation is not possible.

A note on Mahbubani's choice of title and his message: "The Age of Innocence" was before the modern age, before the globalization of the planet. There is a novel by Edith Wharton with the title The Age of Innocence published in 1920 (but set in the 1870s). With every country in the world affecting not only its neighbors but countries around the globe, there can no longer be any innocence of intent in foreign affairs.

It costs only about US$17 on Amazon. I highly recommend it. :P

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Journey Home

The Journey Home

As Asians set down new roots around the world, home is no longer a fixed destination, explains Pico Iyer. It is as much a favorite dish, a memory or an idea as it is an old house. In this special issue, TIME invites some of the Asian diaspora's top writers to embark on physical and mental voyages of return

Homeward Bound: For many Asians, home is an intangible thingWhere do you come from?" "what do you call home?" The simplest questions these days bring ever more complex answers—when they bring answers at all. Which is another way of saying that the fundamental, defining questions of any life have been spun around and sometimes exploded in the modern, mongrel world.

I, for example, am 100% Indian by blood and heritage. Most of my relatives live in India, my family name places me very specifically in terms of caste and region and religion, and everything about my face shouts out, unanswerably, "India!" Yet I've never lived in India or worked there. I speak not a word of any of the country's 1,652 dialects. And when I return to what is, on paper at least, my ancestral home—Bombay—I feel more a stranger there, often, than do many of my friends from San Francisco or North London. Ask me to take a journey home, and my first question is: do you mean Oxford, England (where I was born), or California (where I keep my things and pay my taxes)? Or do you mean Japan (my adopted home, where I spend seven or eight months of every year)?

The one place that does not come to mind is India.

For the Asian diaspora, home, like everything in the modern floating world, has gone global and fragmented, portable and underground. What once might have resembled a well-creased snapshot now looks more like an MTV video. To better understand what home means in the midst of constant flux, what exile truly is, and what it involves to live in many places all at once, Time invited leading Asian writers to stage some version of the classic journey home in the pages that follow. Some found themselves in places they hardly recognized. Others went to lands where the only roots they could see were as indecipherable as the roots of a language they could not speak. Still others chose not to leave their Western homes at all and instead fashioned their sense of belonging at their desks.

When Ma Jian returned to his beloved home street in Beijing, he realized that the only home that lasts, and will be safe from time and history, is invisible, inside himself. Gish Jen, an American by choice, takes apart the very meaning of "Chineseness," while Chang-rae Lee seems to dissolve the very category of "Korea" in his return to a family far away. Wendy Law-Yone suggests, thinking of her native Burma in her exile home in London, that home may be the place you long to flee (and exile may be a haven, a glad escape). And Pankaj Mishra, staying put, writes wistfully of how the quiet home he has found is changing around him daily.

My own sense is that the chance to choose a home, which many of us have, is a blessing. In my grandparents' time, homes—and with them our sense of self, community and tradition—were inherited. All four of my grandparents were born in India and fixed within its hierarchies and distinctions. Even in my parents' day, when they moved from India to England (and then to California), they traveled at first by ship, and every farewell seemed final. I, by contrast, was lucky enough to be an Indian in England who moved to California at age eight and so, from early on, could pick and choose among affiliations. I was free to live in many worlds and outside the limitations of my tribe. When, some years ago, my family home suddenly burned to the ground in a forest fire, and all my photos, mementos and notes were reduced to ash, I was reminded forcibly again that home nowadays has nothing to do with a piece of soil and everything to do with something I carry around inside me.

All this applies, of course, only to the fortunate among us, the ones who have chosen at some level to leave and can choose, at times, to return. The vast majority of the displaced these days are forced to move, by poverty or famine or war, and obliged to try to patch together a sense of home in a place where they don't and will never feel very much at home at all. The backward glance for them is not luxury but daily necessity. And even among the privileged, home is sometimes, surely, a notion in flux. Ved Mehta in these pages returns to Lahore and a family home that was taken from him by the partition of India and Pakistan. Monique Truong, though fashioning her first novel, The Book of Salt, around the defining Vietnamese figure of Ho Chi Minh, passionately denies attachment to the Vietnam she fled at six while acknowledging that her new abode in New York can never really be her home.

The Asian Journey Home, we quickly see, has grown complicated, mixed-up, in a world in which everything is spraying out in all directions. A modern Odysseus may find upon returning home that Penelope is in New York now and Telemachus has applied for refugee status. For many people, even if they're not among the desperately dispossessed, home as a moving target can feel unsettling. Living between cultures, they feel lost, neither here nor there. Instead of an abundance of homes, they feel a dearth or sense that a surplus of homes can be more desolating than a paucity, especially if none of them speaks to every part of you. People get caught in the revolving doors of cultures. The Asian part feels this way, the American says this—and it's all doubly complicated because you're living in Berlin.

Yet one by-product of this rotating sense of home is that those of us who are multicultures within may often feel a small kinship with others in the same position. The half-Thai, half-German living in Los Angeles finds that she has a lot in common with the half-Swede, half-Japanese based in Kuala Lumpur. More and more of us belong to a new community that could be called the deracination state, the spiritual home of many in the new century (whose actual location may be in such mongrel cities as Sydney or Paris or Vancouver). Homesickness has perhaps become close to universal in an age in which so many are living far from home, yet homecomings are more easily effected at a time when home is around many corners. I, though not formally connected to Toronto, feel instantly at home there, partly because it is trying to bring a European legacy together with an American sense of promise, and leaving it often in the hands of immigrants from South Asia. I feel at home in Hong Kong or Singapore, where many of the people I meet are facing the very same questions of belonging that I face. And I have no qualms at all about "going home" to a Japan where I barely speak the language, live on a tourist visa and will always be known, even after years of residence, as a gaijin, an "outsider person."

The Asian Journey Home, I suspect, has less and less to do with a trip into the past and more and more to do with a journey into our future, where people will have to think of home in more and more imaginative and nonlinear ways. The classic story of the exile's return—intrinsic to the human condition, some would say, since Adam and Eve (or the Buddha)—has gone virtual. And when I think of bringing all the pieces of my home into one place, I may think of an airport (where a cousin is at gate 43, a school friend is just coming through customs and I can get the magazines and foods of almost every one of my homes). "What is home?" someone asks me. I pull out from my pocket a picture of a longtime partner. I speak of the Benedictine monastery to which I retreat four times a year. I think of the English language, my companion for every moment of my life. I cite the books and ideas and loyalties I take everywhere I go. Home—the need for solid ground—is as vital as it ever was, but now more and more of us are obliged to find it on the move. For millions of us, the journey becomes the destination. And a part of us—at sea, in the air, in passage or in passageway—wishes that there were a simpler way home.

Purvis Street & Raffles City

The Hainanese chicken rice at Purvis Street is quite yummy.

Quite amazing that I recognised the place.

From when I was ickle.

And hor. How come I never realised how cruisy Raffles City is in the past har? So many... pick-ups? Or maybe I very blind hor.

Saturday, September 24, 2005



At what?

I am HUG DEPRIVED for one.

And that alone is good enough reason.

There are others. But I shall keep them in first.

Well, amongst them is the heat and the humidity.


And noone talking to me.

I feel so extra.


And I miss Jonny so much. :'(

Friday, September 23, 2005


Today medical appointment.

The army creeps even closer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Who runs your world?

BBC survey at:


Vote for 11 leaders out of 100 nominees who are political, entertainment, business, philosophical, sport, etc. leaders.

Amongst the nominees are:

  • Desmond Tutu
  • Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Germaine Greer
  • Amartya Sen
  • Mahathir Mohammed
  • Bill Clinton
  • Bill Gates
  • Lee Kuan Yew
  • Alan Greenspan
  • Eminem
  • Brad Pitt
  • Tiger Woods
  • David Beckham

Who on earth came up with this list????

Anyway, I did this survey this morning, when blogger was down. From memory, my XI included: Lee Kuan Yew (erhem! let me be patriotic a bit lar), Germaine Greer, Alan Greenspan, Hu Jintao, Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Bob Geldof, etc.

Out and out

The following was written primarily on my flight back to Singapore. Some minor corrections have been made. Having considered its implications, I think I am ready to post it. Friends and family and others have been very supportive in recent days. So ... (takes a deep breath) ...

I recall writing on the BA vomit bag the first time I flew back from the UK. I wrote on it, in part because it seemed cool at the time. In part because I didn't have proper paper to write on. This time, it is the same.

The plane looks like it is going to take off soon. At the moment, it is re-aligning itself on the runway, and rays of autumnal sunlight are streaming into the plane.

This departure from London has been very difficult, and it is by far the most difficult I have experienced. I am not only leaving behind my second home, virtually for good, but am also leaving behind the love of my life. Over the past hour, I have cried and cried. Before I let myself cry any further, well, the obsessive compulsive part of me, the bit that insists on charting and recording important moments of my life, must be allowed to kinda express my emotions as well, by letting it do its thing.

I will perhaps start with the details of the last 36 hours or so ...

Mary Poppins. It was Jonny's birthday on Thursday, the primary reason why I have extended my stay in London from the 30th of August to the 17th of September. We have both wanted to watch it for some time. Also, Jonny had said that he loved experiences, and so, I decided that Mary Poppins would perhaps be the best bday gift I could get him. So, we watched the matinee in Thursday, in seats G16 and G17. 7th row, right smack in the middle. And right under the falling white and pink petals, and a perfect spot to wave to Mary from and catch her attention as she soars away at the end.

(Oooh! The smell of food!)

(Looks to the window and waves bye to London. It's so beautiful, innit?)

Back to Mary Poppins. It was a fantastic show. Great songs, brilliant cast, fantastic set. All in all, an unforgettable production that caterpaults itself to the very top of my musicals rankings (even Joseph).

We went back to ours after the musical, as we both had a headache, probably caused by the dehydration from all the crying the night before. Jonny was originally to go for a Buddhist meeting, but it was cancelled as quite a few people couldn't make it.

So we had time to rest before going to Bertorelli in Soho for dinner at just after 9, using the Sante Online voucher :p. We shared a spinach cooked in butter and a vanilla cheesecake with raspberry sauce. My main course was a pizza with marinated vegetables (including ... the artichoke) and Jonny ordered a risoto of the day. Jonny also had a red Chianti which was characteristically yummy.

It was late when we finished dinner, prolly about 10.30 ish? So it was too late to go to the Sauna Bar. (Besides, I had a Jonny massage already, which is far better than any other, Thai, Swedish and whatever. :p) We decided to ...

(Wow! The Singapore Airlines notepad just arrived. It is tres funky! Nice patterns and comes with a lovely set of postcards and envelopes.)

(Listening to James Blunts 'Goodbye My Lover' right now)

... go to the Yard instead, to where we had our first date together, to see the sofa (on the first floor) where we kissed and hugged and fell asleep on. The sofa was occupied though, and the camera ran out of batteries so we left without a photo. But its image will forever be etched in my memory.

On the way back, we took a look at the Soho Book Store (opposite the internet cafe) and checked emails to see whther Dan had replied. He did, and we sent off an email asking whether it would be good to meet up at Charing Cross Road's Borders, at 6.30 pm, and that we would probably be wearing matching animal t-shirts (we didn't eventually though, because it got too cold).

Then home, and to bed. Hugz and snugglez.

Before I forget, before going out to dinner, we went downstairs to take photos with the hallmates. Jonny was wearing the blue guinea pig tee-shirt, and me the red froggy one, which we got together at Camden market.

(I am actually currently wearing the frog shirt in my second layer right now. The inner most layer is Jonny's Keith Haring 'alien' t-shirt.)

The photographs are on an earlier posting in this blog.

Friday morning. The usual distractions, making Jonny a little later than he should be. As usual. I got up earlier than normal to get the washing done, and to do all the errands, and the stuff I have left to the very last day to do.

Went to the Institute to check emails. Went to John Adams Hall (after trying the Finance office) to find out how to get the hall deposit back. Thought of asking them to write a cheque to Jonny, but apparently, it was the usual thing. (Duh!)

Ran to Argos to get a weighing machine. And grabbed cash from Natwest and a vegetable pasty for Greggs along the way. Ran back to weigh my luggage, and it came up to ... 40 kg, even though not everything was filly packed yet. So I grabbed the box of books, frantically taped it up with parcel tape and ran to the postroom to send it off. 35 pounds, much cheaper than Royal Mail. Luckily, managed to the post room just a minute or two before it closed.

Then check emails again. Printed out Sante vouchers for Jonny, Tim, Victor and Dan, and ran back to BP to get the camera and the Compact Flash card. Ran to Jessops to print out copies of Thursday's photos for him, and a set for myself.

Bumped into Tim and Nick just outside Jessops, while going to meet them at Virgin. We went to Virgina and HMV to find the latest Mary Poppins CD. Got it at 14.39 ish at HMV with the student discount.

Then to Monmouth coffee place, and Ben's cookies, and to Boots and then back to Monmouth coffe place to meet Victor.

(Sorry Wilson for not getting you any cookies, no space liaoz lar)
(Tim, must try your coffee some time ah! :p)

Then Borders to meet up with Jonny and Dan and Melanie. We went to Costa, where I just had peppermint tea. Was sugared out by cookies and caffeined out at Monmouth's by then.

We went back for dinner, after grabbing some stuff and paying for these using the luncheon vouchers. Dinner was (canned) abalone, bacon slices, mange tout, oyster sauce, fish powder and rice noodle soup. Had dinner in the telly room. On telly was a programme on parents taking the GCSEs alongside their children.

Then we sang along to Mary Poppins. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IF YOU LET IT. TUPPENCE A BAG. Watched a bit of the DVD from Prowler's. Then bedtime...

I didn't want to go to bed. I wanted to keep the lights on, to stay awake to make the night stretch as long as it could. Alas, we were both tired, and next thing we knew, it was 9-ish in the morning.

I had a shower so that my hair would be clean for the haircut later. We had breakie of cereal and blackberries in soya milk. I then went to JA Hall to settle the deposit and to check emails again, while Jonny chanted, showered and packed my photographs for me into Ziploc bags and a box.

We then went together, via tube, to get sweat bands. Looked at Topshop, Niketown and then Prowlers. We got a black one at Niketown and a rainbow one at Prowler's each. If only they could be as warm and tight as Jonny's grasps. I miss him already. I really loved wearing Jonny's worn blue stripey sweatbands, even if it was just for a day (Friday). (Jonny, if you read this, DON'T mail the blue stripey sweatband over. I love you wearing it. :) )

Jonny had promised to get me a non-metal ring before. Sweatbands are sortov rings also hor, just that they encircle one's hands, rather than just the finger.

We grabbed two fish cakes and a portion of chips for lunch at the Endell Street chipshop and had them in the BP garden. (Somehow, I distinctly remember telling Jonny to wash his hands after moving the garden furniture and before lunch.)

Then a haircut. Jonny the barber! He's good! Gentle and firm and loving. I will miss the haircuts.

The food's here. I am hungry. But don't feel like eating.

Well, ate most of the main course, but cannot eat any more. Not much appetite.

We lift with Fitri at about 2.30 pm, and Ted walked us to the Holborn tube station.

We took the 2nd train, as the first was much too packed.

(By the way, Kelly Clarkson song on now.)

Got to Heathrow too quick. The queue was very long at the SQ counter. But still too quick.

Bumped into Carolyn, who was seeing her parents-in-law off.

We went to the loo. Peed. Then looked at ourselves in the mirror. Went to Boots to get moisturiser for Jonny.

(Just realised that we both forgot that I was the one who initially needed moisturiser, for the flight.)

Had early grey at Starbucks. Jonny had frothy milk with the tea!

We couldn't bear to leave Starbucks. Kept delaying going to the departure gate. We cried and cried. I reminded him that I love him, and also that I don't want him to move to Singapore to live if it's just for me. I told him that he has wonderful friends, a wonderful career and a wonderful family in England, and I don't want to deprive him of these. We wrote little notes on Starbucks cup-holders.

We stood a long time at the gate. Taking photos, hugging, holding hands.

Goodbye was very difficult.

Heathrow has certainly improved in efficiency. Went through security very fast.

Called Jonny. He said that the viewing gallery was closed so he could not watch my plane take off. So he decided to go back early.

I feel like I have left too much of myself behind, with him, in him. We have to keep in contact.

I do hope that he comes to Singapore. I hope that Tim, Hi Ching, someone will be able to help him find a good job.

I hope that there is a demand for art teachers in Singapore.

I called Tim, to say goodbye, and bye to Adrian. & Ted. Texted William, Rob, Gareth, Florian and Victor.

Left voicemails on Jonny's phone. Because he's on the tube, and I hope that he finds some way of recording of what I said to him.

I realise that my writing of this entry effectively outs myself (if other entries haven't already done so.)

Thinking about it. I think I have to out myself sooner or later. If I deny my gayness, I am not only being a liar, but also denying the love that I have for Jonny.

If I cannot be allowed or forbid myself to express such sentiments, then I am hiding a lot of myself, and it is too much to bear.

(I just refused the icecream, to the surprise of the stewardess.)

I want to be able to hold Jonny's hands to the end of days.

I love you, Jonny. x

New Link: Yawning Bread

New link to be added: www.yawningbread.org

Good, well thought through and well articulated articles on an assortment of issues, including:

'Snowball party denied licence. Minister warns of AIDS. Prostitution is not illegal. Press freedom index. NUSs forum. Manazine and MITA. Oral sex letters to the press. The map's tale - history of our sodomy law. My take on various reactions to Goh Chok Tong's comment about gay civil servants. Wanbao handling of Leslie Cheung's suicide. Bar-top dancing and pseudo-liberalisation. Cleo magazine features 5 lesbians.'

Monday, September 19, 2005

Friedman on Singapore (NYT)

Still Eating Our Lunch

Published: September 16, 2005

Singapore is a country that takes the Internet seriously. Last week its Ministry of Defense granted a deferment for the country's compulsory National Service to a Singaporean teenager so he could finish competing in the finals of the World Cyber Games - the Olympics of online war games.

Being a tiny city-state of four million, Singapore is obsessed with nurturing every ounce of talent of every single citizen. That is why, although its fourth and eighth graders already score at the top of the Timss international math and science tests, Singapore has been introducing more innovations into schools. Its government understands that in a flattening world, where more and more jobs can go anywhere, it's not enough to just stay ahead of its neighbors. It has to stay ahead of everyone - including us.

Message to America: They are not racing us to the bottom. They are racing us to the top.

As Low-Sim Ay Nar, principal of Xinmin Secondary School, explained to me, Singapore has got rote learning down cold. No one is going to outdrill her students. What it is now focusing on is how to develop more of America's strength: getting Singaporean students and teachers to be more innovative and creative. "Numerical skills are very important," she told me, but "I am now also encouraging my students to be creative - and empowering my teachers. ... We have been loosening up and allowing people to grow their own ideas."

She added, "We have shifted the emphasis from content alone to making use of the content" on the principle that "knowledge can be created in the classroom and doesn't just have to come from the teacher."

Toward that end, some Singapore schools have adopted a math teaching program called HeyMath, which was started four years ago in Chennai, India, by two young Indian bankers, Nirmala Sankaran and Harsh Rajan, in partnership with the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University.

With a team of Indian, British and Chinese math and education specialists, the HeyMath group basically said to itself: If you were a parent anywhere in the world and you noticed that Singapore kids, or Indian kids or Chinese kids, were doing really well in math, wouldn't you like to see the best textbooks, teaching and assessment tools, or the lesson plans that they were using to teach fractions to fourth graders or quadratic equations to 10th graders? And wouldn't it be nice if one company then put all these best practices together with animation tools, and delivered them through the Internet so any teacher in the world could adopt or adapt them to his or her classroom? That's HeyMath.

"No matter what kind of school their kids go to, parents all over the world are worried that their kids might be missing something," Mrs. Sankaran said. "For some it is the right rigor, for some it is creativity. There is no perfect system. ... What we have tried to do is create a platform for the continuous sharing of the best practices for teaching math concepts. So a teacher might say: 'I have a problem teaching congruence to 14-year-olds. What is the method they use in India or Shanghai?' "

Singaporean math textbooks are very good. My daughter's school already uses them in Maryland. But they are static and not illustrated or animated. "Our lessons contain animated visuals that remove the abstraction underlying the concept, provide interactivity for students to understand concepts in a 'hands on' manner and make connections to real-life contexts so that learning becomes relevant," Mrs. Sankaran said.

HeyMath's mission is to be the math Google - to establish a Web-based platform that enables every student and teacher to learn from the "best teacher in the world" for every math concept and to also be able to benchmark themselves against their peers globally.

The HeyMath platform also includes an online repository of questions, indexed by concept and grade, so teachers can save time in devising homework and tests. Because HeyMath material is accompanied by animated lessons that students can do on their own online, it provides for a lot of self-learning. Indeed, HeyMath, which has been adopted by 35 of Singapore's 165 schools, also provides an online tutor, based in India, to answer questions from students stuck on homework.

Why am I writing about this? Because math and science are the keys to innovation and power in today's world, and American parents had better understand that the people who are eating their kids' lunch in math are not resting on their laurels.

Orange Valley Nursing Home

Listening to the National Anthem right now, just as I am posting these pictures. I have forgotten that my granny's is right next to a primary school.

These pictures are of Orange Valley Nursing Home, where my granny is currently staying and recuperating from her recent strokes.

I had meant to post something I had written on the plane, but am considering its implications right now. If I do post it, it would be after speaking with some of my best pals and closest relatives first, as I feel that they should know the content before I tell any random reader of this blog.

Sleepy now, off to take a nap. Ciaoz for now. :)

Friday, September 16, 2005

September Mix II

September Mix

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Demand NEWater

Is there actually demand specifically for NEWater?

PUB Expands NEWater Plants and Builds MBR Demo Plant
Fresh from the opening of Singapore’s first desalination plant at Tuas on Tuesday, PUB, the national water agency today said it was expanding its NEWater facilities to meet the growing demand for NEWater.

Reclaimed water (branded NEWater in Singapore), desalinated water, imported water from Johor and water from local catchments are part of a water supply strategy called the Four National Taps.

“Demand for NEWater has been steadily increasing since its launch in 2003. In the past year, the volume of NEWater has jumped by about 35 per cent, increasing from 68,000 cubic metres per day last year to 92,000 cubic metres used per day currently,” said Lim Chiow Giap, PUB’s Director for Water Supply (Plants).

Full Public Utilities Board press release here: http://www.pub.gov.sg/info_center/press_release.php


  • This blog post return to Singapore: the plan is that I will put up some photos of Singapore every week. Posts will be less frequent, given that I will have less time and less access to the internet. Some topics of interest to me would include: the English education system, Economics, art, etc. and I hope to find the time to write some thoughts on these.

  • We had a chat yesterday, on the times we have spent together, on the possibilities of the future, on others and other possible relationships, on what happens when I get back to Singapore. We had a good cry, and lotsa hugs. We both know that the next few months will be very hard. But we will survive.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I will be back

Today is packing day, and as usual, I am packing far too many things and will definitely exceed the stipulated maximum of 30 kg on intercontinental flights.

I normally pack way in advance. In 2001, before coming to London for the BSc, I had packed 3 whole weeks in advance. In 2002, before going for the 4 month backpacking trip around Europe, I had finished packing two weeks before.

But just like the packing to leave Elm Road last year, packing to leave Bedford Place has been very difficult. As City Walker would probably agree, this round of packing does not simply involve the cramming of books into boxes or the stuffing of clothes in bags. This time, there is also the packing of memories.

Very close friends (and people who have lived with me) would know that I am a hoarder, to a degree perhaps of compulsiveness. I keep all sorts, and today, I have found the following in various boxes: Manchester travel card, chicken wish-bone half, postcards, box of matches from Dubai Meridien Hotel, Tiger Beer bottle cap, used ear plugs, packets of sugar, piece of paper with road directions scribbled by Welsh barman, etc.

They may all sound like trash, or easily replaceable. However, they will certainly be going back to Singapore with me. In each of these items is embedded a memory. The chicken wishbone part, for example, was broken during a wonderful meal at Marion’s home (I sadly cannot remember the wish). The sugar packet is from Café Nero at Old Compton Street, where I have memories of having nice chats and people-watching.

I do look forward to going back to Singapore, in catching up with some of my best pals, including Glynn, Enzong, Jingliu, Christine, Kaiyang, Wilson and Zhongwen. But I also can’t bear to leave London. I have made very good friends here too – people who endure my mischief and various idiosyncracies, people who challenge me to grow, and people with whom I have shared good times and bad. I will certainly miss these friends, and will be most happy to greet them with a leap and a hug at Changi Airport if (no, WHEN!) they visit me in Singapore.

There is a song sang by Kit Chan, which is frequently used for National Day and other patriotic thingies. Some of the lyrics go:

Whenever I am feeling low,
I look around me and I know.
There’s a place that will stay within me,
Whereever I may choose to go …

This is home, truly,
Where I know I must be
Where my dreams wait for me
Where that river always flows
This is home, surely,
As my senses tell me
This is where I won’t be alone
For this is where I know it’s home.

Certainly, Singapore is home, as it is where I was born and where my family is. Also and just as certainly, London over the years, has also become a home to me. I will miss London and its, using Wilson’s words, ‘(v)ibrance, tolerance, magnanimity, idealism, passion, energy, dedication, triumph, despair, stoicism, inner strength, determination and will, remembrance, grief ... and then, serenity on the Thames’.

London, I will be back. :p

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Checklist ...

Here's the plan ....

Tuesday, i.e. today
  • Offload pictures and videos from the camera onto the computer
  • Pack clothes that I really want to bring back to Singapore
  • Pack clothes for Oxfam
  • Pack stationery into a box for Jonny
  • Have drinks with Ted at Kudos before he heads off to Plymouth and Cornwall
  • Call credit card company


  • Have a sort through of the food in the freezer, fridge and locker
  • Sort through the memory box
  • Sort through the photographs
  • Pack CDs
  • Prepare Jonny's birthday card
  • Get the weighing scale
  • Write goodbye emails
  • Collate addresses
  • Send Jon's postcard to him


  • Mary Poppins matinee performance with Jonny


  • Laundry & last batch of clothes
  • Prolly not the first round of man-made thunderstorm?


  • Major thunderstorm at the airport?
  • Last minute phone calls

More books ...

From Blackwell's:

Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days (signed copy, woohoo)

Martin Wolf's Why globalisation works

David Bohm's On Creativity

Coming soon via Amazon:

Barry Schwartz's The paradox of choice: why more is less

Mark Haddon's The curious incident of the dog in the night time

Alan Hollinghurst's The line of beauty

J Surowiecki's The wisdom of crowds

Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini's Inevitable illusions: how mistakes of reason rule our minds

Ok. No more book-buying liaoz.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

This time next week ...

I will be back in Singapore.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sammy boy boy & Cyril's poetry

I think I first browsed through Lim's (2004) book at Borders last year, while waiting for friends to turn up and decide (or non-decide) on where best to have dinner. Didn't quite complete it, but have recently been browsing through it again after finding a copy at the SOAS library.

It's very well written, and very very well researched. A lot of intriguing material, some of which were a little bit surprising. Lotsa thingies one could follow up on and read more about too.

A website, www.sammyboy.com , was mentioned in the book. I just took a peek, and it's actually quite shocking. (To avoid any potential trouble, I would like to state that my mentioning of www.sammyboy.com in this blog does NOT mean that I support, agree with or mean to promote his Sammy Boy's views.) It is primarily a sex site, with a forum on Singapore and Singaporean politics. Also, there are pictures of the homeless in Singapore. It has been reviewed, rather favourably, by Time Asia:

Sammyboy.com is not a website you'd want your 11-year-old surfing into unsupervised. It's deep and content-rich, it's alluring, and, in the main, quite well-written. In places it is also funny. That's the glass half-full way of looking at it. The half-empty way is that it's lewd, crass and offensive. And that there's nothing funny about pornography.

Yes, Sammyboy is a porn site, aimed very directly at the country which arguably least tolerates porn: Singapore. Which is all very well except Official Singapore has yet to close it down. The site has been up and down, so to speak, several times over the past week, and on each occasion it was the site's webmaster, a Samuel Leong, who made the call to shut his own site down. Not the authorities.

The Time Asia article available here: http://www.time.com/time/asia/asiabuzz/2001/01/16/

Another thingy I have investigated since reading Lim (2004) is Cyril Wong, who was one of the interviewees. His website is http://www.cyrilwong.com/ . Some of his poetry is available on his website. A sampler:

Way Out

Such is the violence required
to stop the body in its tracks.
Some say the spirit – if it exists – hovers
permanently within a hundred metre radius
of its busted, flesh-and-bone cage.

I hurried over to the huge, once encumbered
bulk of her; eyes shut behind spectacles
that cling to her face, oddly
unbroken. Her leg, jumped free from its socket,
was held in place
by what must be size-40 Levis.

Blood through a rip in the jeans
flood a long, squint-eyed cut across her thigh:
the inside of her large body
peeking out. I imagine her spirit easing
its way out of that wound

to stand there, gazing skywards at how
far she had come in the gasp of two seconds,
debating if this was a mistake,
and if she had only known
that death was false, that
consciousness would draw her back to itself
even after the end, inescapable,
like gravity.

But I prefer to believe that she
is gone, just as Leslie Cheung
is gone; that death
is not a rapid corridor between one prison and the next;

that the sound she made when the pavement
rose generously to meet her
was not the opposite of a bomb going off.

First published in Three Candles.


"We love to buy books because we believe we're buying the time to read them." ...

... said the philosopher Arnold Schopenhauer (according to Lim (2004)).

Books recently bought or read:

Lim, Gerrie (2004). Invisible trade: high-class sex for sale in Singapore, Singapore: Monsoon.

Stiglitz, JE (2004). Globalisations and its discontents, London: Penguin.

Galbraith, JK (2005). The economics of innocent fraud, London: Penguin.

Sachs, J (2005). The end of poverty: how we can make it happen in our lifetime, London: Penguin.

Hickman, T (2004). The call up: a history of national service 1947 - 1967, London: Headline.

Kerouac, J (2000). On the road, London: Penguin.

Books seen at the bookstores and considered:

Reader, J (2005). Cities, London: Vintage.

Haddon, M (2004). The curious incident of the dog in the night time, London: Vintage.

Chomsky, N (2004). Hegemony or survival: America's quest for global dominance, London: Penguin.

Schumacher, EF (1993). Small is beautiful: study of economics as if people mattered, London: Vintage.

Hayek, FA (2001). Road to serfdom, London: Routledge.

McCloiskey, DN (2000). How to be human: through an economist, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

Schwartz, B (2005). The paradox of choice: why more is less, London: Harper Collins.

Russell, B (2004). Power, London: Routledge.

Fukuyama, F (2005). State-building: governance and world order in the 21st century, London: Profile.

Books seen on Amazon's recommendations:

Carson, R (2000). Silent spring, London: Penguin.

McCloiskey, DN (1998). The rhetoric of economics, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.

Surowiecki, J (2005). The wisdom of crowds, London: Abacus.

Bhagwati, J (2004). In defence of globalisation, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Manchester and Castleton

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Camden Market 050905

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Road To Foyle's 020905

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