Friday, June 30, 2006

On treating marriage seriously...

Put here because I like what she wrote. Of course it takes two hands to clap. The title could have been more gender neutral.

Bride for a day or wife for a lifetime?

Weekend • July 1, 2006

Frances Ong Hock Lin

RECENTLY, a friend called and asked me to speak to her grandchild who had run away. She had dropped out of school and was spending most of her time at the arcade. Her divorced parents were at their wits' end.

Another child from a single parent's home is now living in a girl's home because she was caught shoplifting.

While we cannot generalise that all children from broken homes will end up as delinquents, the risk is a serious consideration whenever couples contemplate divorce or separation.

While there are legitimate reasons for divorce — such as if one spouse is abusive or unfaithful — there is also rising concern that more people are getting married and divorced on a moment's whim.

If someone wants to be a taxi driver, he has to undergo training before he is given a licence. He has to know the basic tourist attractions and road names, how to handle passengers and to keep the taxi clean. Similarly, a tour guide is trained before he is licensed.

Upgrading courses are also conducted regularly.

Why is it, then, so simple for one to get a licence to marry? And if an employee is required to go for continuous upgrading throughout his professional life, why is it that a married couple is not required to revitalise and rejuvenate their marriage once they pass a certain number of years?

A friend of mine married her boyfriend at the age of 19 because she found out that she was pregnant with his child. One year later, she divorced him and left the child to be brought up by her parents while she went in search of a new boyfriend.

While in the past, it was expected that a man marry his pregnant girlfriend, the marriage usually worked because there was the network of an extended family to provide the emotional and social support this young couple needed.

Now, because of the predominance of the nuclear family and the stigma of divorce being not what it was in the past, perhaps it's time for society to re-examine the role of a single mother or father.

Two wrongs do not make a right, and forcing someone to marry because of the unborn child is cruel to both the parents and the child. The child could be offered for adoption or the father or mother should bring up the child alone.

Another friend did not do the irresponsible thing — he did not marry his estranged pregnant girlfriend. Instead, he continued to play his role as a father and waited patiently for the right partner to turn up. Six years later, he married someone he felt could provide a secure and safe environment for the child.

While it is impossible to mandate that all couples go for compulsory counselling before a marriage licence is issued, perhaps it would be good for couples to consider why they should take that uncharted step.

There are many reasons why couples choose to walk down the aisle.

It could be that their HDB flat has been built, so they need to get married in a hurry. It could be that the girl is dying to be a bride and so considers the bridegroom as optional extra.

It could also be that both had given in to societal pressure or lack the courage to break up a relationship because everyone was expecting them to tie the knot.

But there is only one reason that will see a marriage through for the long haul — and that is to make the other person happy.

So, let those women who fantasise about being a bride pause and ask: Why must I get married? Do I need to in order to be happy? What is the difference between being a bride for a day and a wife for a lifetime?

If all you can think about is the wedding gown, the flowers and the photo shoots, perhaps you should consider being a bridal model instead — it is less painful to break a professional contract than a marriage contract.

The writer is an educator and mother of six, who has been married for 18 years.

Read this, this and this too.

What do you think? Have we as a society become too complicated and cynical when it comes to marriage (and love)?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Recurring theme, similar decisions

Missed this bit in a previous entry. So I met a compatriot and in our dinner conversation, we somehow drifted to the topic of our (lack of) SOs.

He: "Will you give up a place (at HYP) for a girl who wants to stay put in Singapore?"

One question, and I knew his answer story immediately. I just smiled, and we continued to sip wine from our glasses.


Same question, posed to two (Singaporean) girls separately to ask for their views:

A: No? Like you didn't give up grad school for your (ex)-gf. The same reasoning sticks..I wouldn't give up grad school for a guy.


B: no i wont give up the place at (HYP). I will give up the girl, and if i were the girl, i wldnt move to (HYP) either. I'd want my own career.

Me: Rational decision, as I would have expected of you. :)

B: yah. i mean, unless im a girl who wants to stay at home and spit out kids. i wldnt mind moving, but if i want my own career, i wldnt do it. Not unless i can find a good job, and if im a boy not intending to get married immed, i wldnt give up the sch. if our relationship is strong enough, it'll last the distance. If it doesn't, then it's not strong enough!


Two Singaporean guys kaopehing about lack of gfs, when they both gave them up for grad school.

Edit (28 June) - My earlier comments at Kevin's blog:

takchek Says:
June 15th, 2006 at 10:15 am

Two girlfriends and many failed ones thereafter, I have come to the conclusion one shouldn’t date and go steady when he’s still unsettled.


1. Decide on what you want to do and where you want to stay.
2. Once your life settles down to a routine, then go pak-torring.
3. Marriage comes naturally and with no LDR woes.


There is always a price to pay for the school.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pictures of DPRK...and of my trip to the Mountain State

Taken from Xue:

Pictures of the DPRK.


Photos of my trip to the Mountain State are up. I have added them retroactively to my earlier entries.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Coming to a close...

I love going for academic conferences - you get to meet potential SOs people and exchange interesting (and workable) ideas on possible research directions. On top of that, you usually have the chance to go tour the place and enjoy the receptions and banquets that come along with it.

Got to know a Malaysian girl in her 2nd year of PhD study in my major! at Cambridge. Too bad she is leaving early tomorrow morning. I would have asked if she is keen to go visit a national park nearby. The Jeep would come in handy. Heh, I actually took the initiative to go strike up a conversation and later ask to take a photo together. Nice girl next to me and beautiful mountains in the background; I doubt I will have such a chance again anytime soon. Best of all, she is still single. :) Too bad she will be across the Atlantic. Darn! At least I have her contact details.

I like the Singaporean/Malaysian(?) accent and it feels at home instantly (in a foreign land). Not many girls here at the PhD level speak like this. She also has a good idea of my work and I too, of hers. So many common topics to talk about, yet so little time.

I had a good talk with an alum from my present institution who is now in one of the national labs that I want to go to. Contrary to what some might think, things are quite happening there - not just work, but social life. Except the New Mexico labs.

Will be visiting two more places before returning to the daily grind in my own lab. Now I really feel like transferring school.

Transfer between institutions and gender imbalance (aka missing females)

Just as many Singaporean poly students gripe about the admissions discrimination against them by the local universities (notably NUS), in the US both elite public and private universities are making it harder for community college students to transfer in for their junior and senior years.

Loiseaurebelle wondered about a gender imbalance among Singaporean students here. While I can't comment much about the undergrads, at the grad level I would think that family dissuasion and concerns over being over-aged/over-educated and thus chances of finding a spouse are major factors. I see the same phenomena among peers from the other East Asian countries - notably China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

It is slightly more even for the Europeans.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Day 2 Quick Update

I spent the morning at The Academy, and was pleasantly surprised that the driving time (one way) was only 75 minutes. Since it is both an undergraduate college and a US military facility, many areas of the campus are off limits to visitors. It also offers a spectacular view of the Rockies, and has two landmarks - a hulking B-52 monument at its entrance (this aircraft participated in the Vietnam War) and the toblerone-like Cadet Chapel.

Gateway to the United States Air Force Academy


USAFA's distinctive Protestant chapel

Cross as Sword

Parade Ground, USAFA

I might actually gave the state capital a miss, and the air here is very dry. I am now drinking twice as much water than I did prior to my arrival.

What a coincidence (It's like the past and present colliding):

Blog entry on the road (II)

So ended the first day. I arrived in the morning not knowing a single soul here and now, I just came back from chauffering 4 other folks from a drinks session downtown. (In case you are wondering, I did not take any alcoholic drinks. It is no joke to get a DUI out-of-state.) This place is so...happening?

I guess when you are away from your usual comfort zone, you make friends more easily. People were just hooking up! A smile and a short introduction about yourself would be enough to get you 'friends'. Strangers we are in an unknown town, yet we share a common desire to go around exploring the place together.

I met another Singaporean graduate student (at an ivy institution), and a new friend.

Folks here look at the school(s) you are currently attending! A community of scholars. Indeed.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Blog entry on the road...

The views of the Rocky mountains are awesome! The architecture of this campus can beat that of Stanford. *Sighs* Compared to my present institution, this place feels like heaven. It is also a cyclist's haven.

Might make a trip down to the Academy later, if time permits. I am a military buff, if you have not noticed already.

Other news: Thanks to the car rental company which gave me a free car upgrade (they ran out of subcompacts), now I drive a brand new Jeep Liberty instead of the super small and weak-powered Kia Rio. And I like the fact that much of the speed limit here is 75 mph. Big powerful car + higher speed limit + excellent scenery = happy takchek.

Unfortunately, there is no one to take the passenger seat. Else can go jiak hong together. :) More updates to come later. I love this place!

Edit Jun 23:

The Mountain State's Public Ivy

Nestled in the valley of the Rockies

UCB's 3 Physics Nobel Laureates

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Why Singaporean girls

(Edit 11.20pm): Partially to pre-empt people from asking "Why Singaporean girls?" (Since we are in a grobal world mah):

Both my friend and I have significant others who grew up near each of us. Having a preference for people of similar background is natural, but automatically crossing out people because they're from a different culture or background reeks of insularity. - loiseaurebelle

I quote from an unidentified girl's blog:

While I would not want to overgeneralize that all inter-racial relationships would fall into such unfortunate (Ed: Referring to some kind of domestic quarrel) situations, I still showed her my support and said, "Yeah, it can be difficult at times because of two different cultures clashing." And she said, "It's not only the cultures. It's the values as well."

I knew what she meant by that. My mom had always told me that when I marry, I do not only marry my husband. I also indirectly marry into his family and be integrated into his family culture and his family values, and he in mine. And of course, successful integration is key.

Lest anyone accuse me of being a bigot, let's just say I dated Indonesian and French girls before and I know how hard it is to bridge across cultures and values.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Self portrait

I like wearing suits to formal functions, although the weather in Singapore does not permit me to do this comfortably. (Anyway, few men wear them in Sg.) It is different in the US though, when it comes to presentations at academic conferences. But you can always count on some jokers turning up in T-shirts and jeans (with hair uncombed) - they fit the stereotype of the garage nerd scientists/engineers.


I would like to meet and get to know more Singaporean girls (having such qualities would be a big plus), but given my present location and occupation it is likely to be difficult if not impossible.

My background not that bad right?! I can even cook for her if the situation calls for it. heh.


Will be out of town for the next week. Internet access will be sporadic.

Have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Anime films I watched

The one that left the deepest impact on me would be 火垂るの墓 (or Grave of the Fireflies). Then Gilco has to come out with this product. Ewww...

Tip: Boing Boing

The rest are all by Hayao Miyazaki - Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke.

Incidentally I watched Spirited Away alone in Japan, and you can imagine me struggling to speak to the box office counter staff - "that I want ONE ticket to this movie" in a hybrid of Japanese and English. I saw the trailer earlier on TV and listened to the soundtrack Itsumo Nando Demo. I liked what I had seen and heard, so when the weekend came around I headed down to the cinema nearest to my company dorm.

On the hiring of Ang Moh teachers by MOE to teach English

Put here for my future reference.

For the background and some perspectives on this issue, go read here, here and here.

The (now) (in)famous ad in the Guardian:

Location: Asia & Australasia
Date posted: 15 May 2006
Closing date: 15 Jun 2006

Ministry of Education
Moulding the Future of Our Nation

Be Different.
Teach in Singapore.

The Ministry of Education (Singapore) is looking for experienced, qualified native speakers of English to teach English as a first language, English Literature, Geography, History, Knowledge and Inquiry

We are looking for teachers who:
- Hold a relevant degree in English Language or Humanities (e.g. English Literature, Geography, History, etc.)
- Have a recognised Teaching Certificate in teaching English (e.g. PGCE, TESOL, TEFL, etc.) or relevant teaching subject (e.g. Geography, History, etc.)

Newly qualified teachers are encouraged to apply but they MUST have completed the induction year.

You can look forward to:
- An attractive remuneration package (including medical and dental benefits, and bonus upon successful completion of contract), depending on qualifications and verifiable working experience
- Relocation allowance (one-time baggage and lodging allowance, free economy air passage for candidate, spouse and 2 children below the age of 18 to Singapore on first appointment)
- Return air passage upon successful completion of contract
- Interest-free settling-in loan

You can view the video recording of our online career seminar held on 23 April 2006 on the website.

All terms and conditions are subject to review and change from time to time without prior notification. The Ministry of Education (Singapore) reserves the right to decide on the terms and conditions to be offered. No reasons will be provided for selection and non-selection of candidates.

Important thing to note: The education minister Tharman only disclosed this to the public on 10 June, while the ad appeared in the UK newspaper on 15 May.

Question: Given the increasing racial diversity in the Anglophone West, would the Indians/Chinese/blacks born there (i.e native born) be eligible to apply?

Now, can someone send me the link to that picture of "Jobs for foreigners, NS for S'poreans"? I would like to put it up for this entry.

Edit (22 June): Found it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I consider this the music version of youtube.

Tip: juznuts.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Gentleman's C

The New York Times (June 7) had an article on "grade deflation" at BU. Coming from an (undergrad) school that based its honors on class rankings and currently enrolled in another that depends strictly on GPA cut-offs, I tend to favor the former when it comes to evaluating a person's academic (and thus by proxy - work) ability.

While on paper (literally!) my undergrad GPA is only 2.5% (or 0.1/4.0) higher than my grad GPA, in terms of class rankings - I am now somewhere in the bottom half of the pack. No longer in the top 10% of my class. This means I will be able to "graduate with highest honors" at my present institution (if I am an undergrad) based on my GPA, but I will just have a "pass" degree if I am in the former.

(Of course, Grad School is more than just GPA - what matters more is the number of your quality publications and the faculty connections you have.)

"Grades are necessarily comparative of students only within the school in which they are given. They measure your intelligence and effort against that shown by the peers with whom you chose to associate."

So, better to be the top dog in a less competitive environment or to be a goat?

Related: A policy of grade deflation.

ISEAS: Singapore — Place or Nation?

Certain parts are so painfully obvious. Wished I was there to listen than to read this second hand newspaper account.

As for the failure part (esp if she's referring to academics) - you have to know that most of the Singaporean students are on scholarships. This means they have to meet certain GPA requirements. For the others: if you are paying ~USD40,000 a year, do you want to let your (parents') money go to waste by scoring Cs, Ds or Fs?

Fear of failure stifles nationhood

Don on how those who truly care for Singapore will stay here through thick and thin

Friday • June 9, 2006

Clement Mesenas

Singaporeans and Malaysians studying overseas are readily identifiable, it seems, because of their kiasu attitude.

And this attitude apparently prevails even when they are steeped in the liberal culture of the American East Coast colleges such as Wesleyan, Wellesley and Harvard, said Professor Linda Lim, a Singaporean who has been teaching in the United States for more than 20 years.

Ms Lim — an economist and a professor of strategy at the University of Michigan's School of Business — recalled asking a recent batch of such students after a lecture at Brown University, including government scholars, if they were afraid of failure.

"Nearly all of the audience of 70 students raised their hands," Ms Lim told her audience at an Institute of South East Asian Studies seminar yesterday.

Ms Lim, who spoke on the topic, "Singapore — Place or Nation? Implications for Economy, State and Identity", evoked lively interest from her audience made up mainly of academics and diplomats.

She contended that tolerance of risk and acceptance of failure are required for political democracy, business entrepreneurship and scientific discovery — all of which Singapore aspires to.

She said that such a culture could even have an impact on the economy. Many foreigners here, she argued, did not see Singapore as a "nation" but a "stepping stone".

Over the last 10 years, she got to know many Chinese and Indian nationals who studied at Singapore schools and universities, often with scholarships provided by the Singapore government.

They worked in Singapore for a few years and then applied to the US MBA programmes such as the one at Michigan University.

"To my knowledge none has ever returned to Singapore after graduating with MBAs, their goal all along having been to use the place as a stepping-stone to the US job market," she said.

Singapore to them is just a place to study and work — like Ann Arbor, Chicago, New York, San Francisco or London — whereas their nation remains China or India or, for some, eventually the US, she said.

"This is only to be expected of a place which is not a nation, at least not for those passing through," said Dr Lim.

National identity, she felt, has its basis in an emotional affiliation rather than pragmatic self-interest. A person who opts for Singapore because it gave him or her a good job, good lifestyle, good education for the children, is only interested in Singapore as a place.

Then there are those who stick around when Singapore is in trouble and cannot guarantee a good life, and those who are concerned with the welfare of others, or try to improve things even at personal risk. These people are of the nation, and not just the place, said Ms Lim.

What is the way forward? Promote active civic and political participation, and inculcate the "sense of ownership".

"As parents and teachers, we know that the best way to develop our children and students is to let them 'own projects' and make their own mistakes while 'learning-by-doing' even though we are more efficient and better at doing everything than they are," she said. So there was no point in encouraging citizens to be contented, apathetic and dependent on the state.

"That would perhaps be a greater threat to nationhood and national identity," she said.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Popping the cherry...

Some comments by a friend on dating and marriage. Sexual compatibility (or not) is something most folks tend to gloss over.

Friend: I'm a firm believer in the try before you buy theory. Having sex with someone deepens your relationship with someone in a way that makes it harder to hide yourself and vice-versa. You get a better idea of where you truly stand with someone. I could not imagine marrying someone without having had sex with them first.

However this does not mean I believe that sleeping with everyone (and anyone) is a good idea. Sex is extremely intimate (and I don't just mean in the obvious physical way). It is the closest it is possible to get to someone, so it is a decision that should not be entered into lightly.

A useful tidbit to remember in future.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What my ideal other half should be...for nomogamosis

Talk about being kiasu; thanks to Kevin's suggestion and Peishan's coincidental post, I went to get my FREE personality profiling test of what my other half should be. Any recommendations from you anonymous readers?

To be honest I do not really believe in such computer matching tests, but the majority of the descriptions below do fit the girls I had dated.


takchek's Compatibility Profile Summary

No person can be fully described or defined by a few short sentences. However, here are several of the most important characteristics revealed by your eHarmony Compatibility Profile that you should keep in mind as you search for your ideal mate:

Some of your ideal mate strongest personality characteristics are:

She tends to be very interested in understanding why things happen.

She enjoys knowing and learning about new things.

She likes it when she can do something the right way the first time.

She sometimes likes to get out and try new things.

Some important qualities that your ideal partner brings to the relationship are:

Even when something bothers her she tends to be even-tempered.

She enjoys telling or laughing at jokes sometimes.

Most of her friends and acquaintances consider her a happy and energetic person.

She can enjoy sharing her experiences and stories with others.

Important goals and values for your ideal mate in a relationship are:

She likes spending time with family and relatives.

Sharing parenting values and ideas is important to her.

She may have some strong religious views that are very important to who she is.

Personal values are important to her.


The rest are too long to be posted here, but some of the more important interesting ones (considering the title of this blog):

Intellect: Your ideal mate is creative, rational and quick-witted. She generally makes decisions by gathering the relevant data, putting it into context and weighing the options. Other people might see her as someone who "overthinks" life, but she thinks it's important to come to logically supported conclusions. She has a wide variety of interests, such as science, philosophy and history.

Education: Your ideal mate is someone who believes that schooling is an important part of success. She is proud of her education and spent many years working for her academic accomplishments. She places a high value on academic learning and wants to find a partner who has a similar background.

Industry: You are most compatible with someone who works hard but avoids bringing too much stress and worry home. She likes to stay busy, but she doesn't need to fill every moment of every day with some task or chore. She's generally efficient, persistent and productive, but she doesn't obsess over making lists of things to do or accomplish.

Family Background: Your ideal mate is someone who had a good childhood. Like most people, her family had problems, but it was healthy overall. Her expectations of relationship are realistic, and she will understand if you don't always get along with your family.


Since I like to play Scrabble so much, the word of the day:

nomogamosis: Marriage between persons highly suitable for each other.

Its antonym?

cagamosis: An unhappy state of marriage.