Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Singapore SAF's New iPad

From November, recruits doing Basic Military Training (BMT) will be armed with one more 'weapon' - a handheld touchscreen device such as an iPad - to sharpen their fighting skills - The Straits Times

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Luck Of The Draw

You cannot help but feel sorry for the people who are victims of the recent US Green Card fiasco. 

In yet another example of a 'computer error' 22,000 people around the world were mistakenly informed last month that they had won the immigration lottery.

50,000 people a year get a chance to win permanent residence in the U.S. and a ticket to the American Dream when they enter the Green Card lottery

The technical glitch means that the lottery will be re-run according to the State Department.  The computer had made a 'unilteral decision' to select 90% of the winners from the first two days of the application window instead of the full 30-day registration period.

Take the example of poor Mr Kuate from Africa who sold off some of his family land to pay for his application fees and medical examination on the basis that he had been accepted, or another man who rushed out and proposed to his girl friend on the basis that they would be able to start a new life together in the USA.

There hasn't been a satisfactory explanation as to why the computer developed its glitch; perhaps human error with the programming was to blame?

Or maybe there is a more bizarre reason such as recent changes to the US power grid which apparently can make your clocks run 20 minutes fast.
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Friday, 24 June 2011

A Forgone Conclusion?

Tony Tan Keng-Yam - World Economic Forum Annua...Image by World Economic Forum via FlickrJust how "independent" can an independent candidate be?

I was not surprised to see one of the leading PAP stalwarts shedding their party affiliations to run for President.

A former deputy PM of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan, has until recently been part of a small group responsible investing Singapore's reserves through the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).

As well as holding on to the purse strings he has also headed the agency controlling Singapore's media - MediaCorp.  Clearly a very influential and faithful servant of government and one would have to think he remains so.

In an earlier article I mentioned the belief that an overtly PAP endorsed candidate would find such support a 'poison chalice'.  So it is not surprising that Dr Tan is trying to project his candicacy as truly independent, and I do not forsee him having any problems securing his Certificate of Eligibility.

Prior to the recent GE he would not doubt have been the candidate that received the government endorsement for the Presidential post, should he have wished it.

The MediaCorp coverage of his candicacy announcment is also to be expected, although it is notable that his opponents have achieved considerably less column centimetres thus far.

Now that such a PAP heavyweight (make that 'ex-PAP heavyweight') has thrown his hat into the ring I don't fancy the chances of the other candidates in the race, although I would like to think that they too will have no problems in getting their Certificates of Eligibility.

Dr Tan has stated that he was not approached by the government to run and it was entirely his own decision to do so.  The voters of Singapore will now need to make their own decision.

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Monday, 20 June 2011

Changi Compost

It may be difficult to envisage compost heaps at a future Changi airport but the notion is not as far fetched as some make think.

No content with wrapping their sushi in nori, the Japanese are now working on plans with Europeans to use the green stuff to save more 'green stuff' - money.

According to those who follow developments in aviation, a seaweed-powered space-liner will be able to fly from London to Tokyo in two-and-a-half hours, at a cruising altitude of 20 miles and generating no significant pollution.  The time frame is by 2050.

The Zehst - or "Zero emission hypersonic transportation" pictured left will fly twice as fast and twice as high as Concorde if all goes to plan. The technology remains largely secret as one might expect with such a radical development but the two large blue tanks in the illustration suggest a bio-gas component.

I am not sure that this is so reassuring, given that the current gas tanks of the on board toilets always seem to fail or block on a long flight.

Meanwhile in a small apartment in Tanjong Pagar a Singaporean enthusiast is tackling history at the opposite end of the time continuum.

Calvin Chu collects fossils and has an abiding passion for dinosaurs.  According to the media article, Calvin also has a degree of secrecy around his pet project:

"Just like actual dinosaur remains, the study in Chu’s apartment where the fossils are kept is not easily found. It is hidden behind three large bookcases, and revealed only by pulling out the middle one, which acts like a door to the study"

Hopefully the 2014 opening of the new Natural History Museum at NUS will allow him to indulge in his passion more openly.

And, as most of the 335 kinds of dinosaurs ate plants its a sure fire bet that at least some were partial to seaweed. Given the gas that apparently produces maybe global warming isn't such a recent phenomenon after all.
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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Friday, 17 June 2011

Looking over the Fence

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  A young gi...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeI have just been listening to a BBC programme "Growing Up In Poverty" detailing the sorry lives of Britain's urban poor; bright children going hungry in one of the world's most developed economies.

This comes hard on the heels of similar television programmes from the UK where poor families are sponsored by rich ones.

Meanwhile the newly wedded Windsor Royals are 'cutting back', by taking less servants on their first trip as a married couple to the USA.

Last week Britian announced that it would continue to send a billion dollars of aid support to India, a country that now has more billionaires than Britiain itself.

There has to be something fundamentally flawed and unjust about such decisions.  If the investment was channelled to the UK disadvantaged instead of overseas (or on royal visits) the country's disadvantaged would have a chance to rise within society, social problems would be alleviated and the country would progress.

This sort of approach is not restricted to Britain; it happens in New Zealand and other western countries where aid would be better spent internally than trying to curry favour in  areas of potential returns outside the country.

Its about time we looked on our own side of the fence rather than over it and fixed our own problems before trying to fix other peoples.
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Friday, 10 June 2011

Leaving Work Early

A study published in the Psychological Review suggests that to be successful you need to leave work early. The paper - The Role Of Deliberate Practice - with its focus on learning music, reminded me of the hours of slow torture being taught pianoforte at a tender age, by autocratic nuns.

The trick evidently is to stay focussed and work at a task for short bursts of time.  Violinists who practised in the manner for 4 hours achieved more than those who slaved away for 7 hours.

This information will provide some relief to those of us who live or used to live in highrise apartments and HDB's in Singapore and elsewhere.

The strains of music practise are quite common, although in our case we were fortunate having a  piano virtuoso within earshot.

I shudder to think what might have happened if an intinerant Scotsman with a set of pipes had set up residence.

Working at a task for short bursts of time comes naturally to some people.  In Singapore I noted that the routine of many of my colleagues was:
  • to arrive early
  • fire up their computers and check Facebook was operative
  • have a break for breakfast (or eat a curry puff at desk)
  • work for a couple of hours
  • have coffee and discussion on where to go for lunch
  • two more hours of work
  • taxi ride to the 'best foodcourt for....'
  • lunch with friends
  • a couple more hours of work
  • quick trip to the staff room to see who had left kueh kueh to be shared around
  • two or three more hours of work, checking the approaching rain clouds out of the window from time to time
  • rush to catch the bus that connected to the MRT, that connected to another bus etc.
Author Timothy Ferriss stresses the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 law, which is that 80 percent of outputs come from 20 percent of inputs so I think my Singaporean colleagues are on to something.

But this is not to suggest that Singaporean are happy workers.  A recent Lumesse survey published in the Straits Times shows that "a poll of employee attitudes in 14 countries has ranked Singapore last in workplace happiness. Unsurprisingly, this correlates to loyalty to employers, where Singapore is again ranked at the rear."

While job hopping may be the norm in Singapore it is by no means universal.   Some places of work have emnployees who have spent most of their working lives with one company or institution.  The 'post bonus migration' though is set to continue for some time with the scarcity of talent in several sectors.
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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Napier Road Awash

There's rain and then there's RAIN.  This photograph was taken by a friend and former colleague of mine at the British Council in Singapore.

Napier Road - Photo Robert Morales
It is the view out of what was my office window overlooking the two lane Napier Road, near the junction with Tanglin Mall.

The tropical deluge that created this flood is not uncommon and the coming of the rains brings welcome respite from the June heat.  It is also a time of danger as people have been knwon to get washed into culverts, so one has to be very careful when crossing flooded areas.

As I discovered, even the strongest umbrella couldn't stop you getting soaked when the heavens opened in this manner.  It is best to site it out and wait for the storm to pass, which they usually do within an hour.

Click this link for the sound of a tropical deluge that I recorded on my mobile phone in late 2006.

Shoes in Singapore do not last as the soles often separate from the uppers due to the constant wetness. A change of shoes in the office is also a wise move.

The above video is Tanglin Mall which is just down the road from the British Council and where my colleagues and I often took our lunch, in the foodcourt on the lower level.
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Saturday, 4 June 2011

Tanjong Pagar Station

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station from ChengChan.

The historic Tanjong Pagar station is being returned to Singapore as part of a land swap deal. At the end of this month it will cease its train operations.

Built in 1932, it has been the terminus for the West Coast line of the KTM (Keretapi Tanah Melayu) Railway line. The station will continue to be owned and operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), Malaysia's main railway operator until July 1st.

The sculptures that adorn the structure are works by Rudolfo Nolli, a sculptor and architect from Lombardy, who during the first half of the 20th century worked mainly in the Siam region.

Singapore has agreed to keep the old station building preserved by the National Heritage Board in any future development of the area. One hope that this will mean 'kept intact without additional add-on embellishments'.

It's combination of neo-classical and art deco architecture makes it a striking building.
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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Wonders Never Cease

'On The Tiles'
I entered this online promotion run by KLM just for the hell of it. Today I received news that mine was one of nearly 4,000 tiles selected to decorate the cabin of one of their triple 7's.

A 'delft touch' if you'll excuse the pun!