Saturday, September 30, 2006

If you want to use Craigslist to look for sex... are more likely to succeed if you are a "straight female looking to have sex with a male". I assume that the local chat rooms (IRC?) will have the same phenomenon happening. (Ed: The survey had excluded gays and lesbians.)

Tells you a lot about the differences in social behavior approach to sex between straight males and females.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Econs Professors' Blogs

Econs was my minor in (undergrad) college, and in one of my classes I used Greg Mankiw's classic introductory textbooks.

Am surprised to come across his blog. A recommended read. Then there's also another economist professor's blog - Andrew Samwick.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Lowest lifeform in the Universe"

Partially inspired by Mr Wang's entries on NS, as well as Oikono's piece about conscientious objection, I logged on to Amazon last week to buy "The SAFTI Military Institute (Singapore): To Command".

I love those pictures - they remind me of the time when I actually believed in National Service (and sweated out in the field); and the whole shebang about Duty, Honor and Country. I only have one photo from my NS days. The formal one of my BMT platoon. And no, I don't intend to wear my No.4 ever again.

Can you imagine saying something like this?

The Preamble

We are Officer Cadets of OCS
To inspire us onwards as officers to be
We now state with reference and respect

The Officer's Creed

I am an officer of the Singapore Armed Forces
My Duty is to Lead, To Excel and To Overcome
I lead my men by example
I answer for their training, morale and discipline
I must excel in everything I do
I serve with pride honour and integrity
I will overcome adversity with courage, fortitute and determination
I dedicate my life to Singapore

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"You there, cadet."

There are some things you just can't forget. Oh yes, the book serves as a good talking point to my fellow grad students. It presents a sanitized view of a part of my NSF stint.

There was one issue Mr Wang's readers did not address. That of the different kinds of privileges given to NSFs, depending on their rank. Having different messes in camps - for officers and WOSEs, and you can really see the difference between the two. If we are all conscripts, why do we get accorded different levels of privileges based on our ranks?

Like what a friend said during our previous meet-up when I was in Sg: "Bloody hell, outside I am a lawyer called to the bar. While in the camp my CPL rank means that I can't sit with my colleague during meal times because he's a LTA."

Technorati: Singapore, NS

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Connections, connections, connections

Stating the obvious again (after glancing through Kelvin's entry):

Three of the most elitist (and chummy old-boy-networked) employment sectors in the world U.S are: Academia, investment banking and management consulting. The majority of professors in my field of study hailed from only a handful of schools (where they got their PhDs) - you can count them in one-and-a-half hands. For the remainder who did not, they were most likely to have done their post-docs in one of them. The top i-banks and management consulting firms recruit actively from only about 10+ (< 20) schools in the country.

The entry points into these corridors of power, money and prestige are the universities. Hence the intense competition each year to get admitted into the top colleges.

Readers might want to get this book: The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges -- and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates. (The author Daniel Golden did a radio interview here.) This reminds me somewhat of the competition to enroll in the top primary schools in Singapore. How parents would 'volunteer their time' or 'donate monies' to the school(s) of choice in order for their kids to get a place, or through 'legacy' admissions (Phase II?).

The only truly 'meritocratic' elite universities in the US are probably the public schools, with the exception of a few private ones like Caltech and Cooper Union. Then again, why should 'academic merit' be the sole 'fair' criterion for admission? If it is, then probably 80% of RJC students would get offered places in the top US private schools every year (with their 4 As and high SAT scores).

Is the world fair? Of course not.

Dan's book had sparked a lively exchange here.

Two groups of people overwhelmingly bear the burden of these policies -- Asian-Americans and poor whites. Asian-Americans are the "new Jews", held to higher standards (they need to score at least 50 points higher than non-Asians even to be in the game) and frequently stigmatised for their "characters" (Harvard evaluators persistently rated Asian-Americans below whites on "personal qualities"). When the University of California, Berkeley briefly considered introducing means-based affirmative action, it rejected the idea on the ground that "using poverty yields a lot of poor white kids and poor Asian kids".

Further readings (scroll to the bottom), and The Economist's Poison Ivy.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Management Consulting Opportunities

I attended the recruitment talk on campus by McKinsey for APDs. My university is one of their core target schools in the US. For this event, the 11 recruiters/consultants present included 3 alumni who are now Associates with The Firm (to try get us PhDs-to-be to think beyond the typical Academia/Industry pathway and join the dark side). Heh.

Now, I have to think about the hordes of my peers who also showed up for the presentation...

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It is the key to leadership.

It is the key to the most influential leadership network in the world: our clients, colleagues and alumni.

Will such doors be even there for me to knock on if I had attended other institutions closer to home?

...I met a friend who graduated from a local university and she is currently working for one of the top management consultancy firms. To my surprise, she told me that she used her junior college as her point of reference (which is the top one) instead of the local university she studied in her CV. According to her, her top JC brand name is likely for her to find a job in a multi-national corporation than using the local university. In addition, she told me that all the students from all local universities are usually eliminated from the first round of their interviews as compared to their counterparts from the other countries. - BL

I see a similarity at the JC level, and wrote about it on a previous entry:

...I was born in Singapore and studied in a neighborhood school (government-run schools catering to students with poorer academic abilities and coincidentally (or not), from lower income backgrounds). Students at my middle school came from lower to middle-class backgrounds. After graduating from middle school, my grades helped me matriculate at one of the top high schools in Singapore, where students were largely wealthier. I could have lived a normal life, oblivious to the poverty and social problems around me… but I failed at this.

At high school, most of my schoolmates, having lived in elite social circles all their life, did not even know that poverty existed in Singapore. Whereas students in my high school had resources and opportunities to dream of attending Ivy League universities, teachers in my middle school told us that we should be grateful if we even made it into a university, much less a renowned university. - oikono

I am not sure about McKinsey in Singapore (although their people profile for SEA featured a Singaporean who got her Bachelors and PhD from Oxford), but I know BCG typically makes only 1 offer each year in Singapore. Several years ago, that went to someone from NUS Law.

Hmm, maybe I should also start looking at the other consulting firms...

(On a side note, all these remind me of Monkey Business and Liar's Poker - all for the shitloads of money and power...)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Carrots for returning home

What a coincidence to see PS's entry:

...But of course I’m not bitter, not even when my dad feels like he has to entice me to get married by offering to ease off giving a portion of my salary to my parents. 50% reduction if I marry, he says, and 100% cessation if I marry a nice Chinese boy in Singapore. Kinda similar to the government’s tactics to try encourage Singaporeans to have babies, by giving them tax breaks, no?

Sweet deal, but try beating this:

"...I will GIVE you the house if you come back to work and settle down (Ed: with a nice Sg Chinese girl) in Singapore."

Note: A HOUSE (in a choice location no less), although not a detached one. :)

Haha, I can really forget about doing the stereotypical Singaporean way of proposing by asking my other half to get a HDB flat. Not that I want to (buy a HDB) anyway.

Good deal? Look at the terms first. It is really like those Sg govt. scholarships - they come with bonds.

Sigh. Or rather, bleahz.

Edit (24 Sep): jhuprincess' take on this issue.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Check out your competitors if you are entering the academic job market

Taken off the Chronicle:

Who's Hot? Who's Not?

From the issue dated September 22, 2006

Online rumor mills shine a light on faculty job searches but may also intensify the star system


With 11 campus interviews and an offer from Yale University, Susan D. Hyde quickly emerged as the darling of last year's faculty job market in international relations.

Her good fortune was clear to anyone with an Internet connection, courtesy of a new blog that tracks jobs in her discipline. Through anonymous postings, the blog followed Ms. Hyde's nearly every move, from her interviews at the University of Virginia and George Washington University to her decision to accept the offer at Yale.

Too bad I can't find (yet) a rumor mill for my discipline.




Started January 2005. The international-relations blog lists fellowships and faculty job openings and offers discussion forums. On the forums this year, posters have asked whether some candidates got job offers because they were female, and whether candidates' political views influence departments' hiring decisions.


Started May 2006. The politics blog will follow its first full job season this year — from advertisements in the fall to offers in the spring — with separate listings for American politics and comparative politics. Postings on the comparative section started in August this way:
Anonymous: "Good luck to everyone on the market. May the best scholars win."
Anonymous: "Are you joking? The market is seldom just about quality of research."


Started July 2006. The blog, begun by a doctoral student in the field, offers job listings plus an overall 2007 job-discussion forum. "Please comment here," it says, "if you wish to discuss (or, most likely, complain about) the 2007 job market."


Started January 2006. The blog has separate listings for jobs in political philosophy, political theory, and public law. It also tracks moves by senior scholars in those fields.


Started in 1999. A sophisticated Web site, known as the "astromill," that offers a color-coded listing of jobs for postdoctoral fellows, assistant professors, full professors, and department heads. Job rumors are submitted by e-mail to an anonymous moderator at (named after Edwin P. Hubble, the astronomer).


Started July 2006. Martin White, a physics professor at the U. of California at Berkeley, started this wiki to provide the same kind of information as the established astromill, but faster. Because the wiki — a communal Web site — can be edited by anyone with a computer, the information does not have to go through a single moderator. The site uses a single, easy-to-read table to follow openings for tenure-track jobs.


Started 1995. John Terning created the site with a colleague when he was a postdoctoral fellow in physics at Boston U. Now an associate professor at the U. of California at Davis, Mr. Terning still runs it. Above its easy-to-read listing of faculty job openings, the Web site includes this disclaimer: "The following information is based on rumors submitted by our correspondents from around the world. Since many physics departments will not verify this (in principle) public information, we cannot guarantee that any information is accurate. This information is provided as a public service, no warranty is expressed or implied. Your mileage may vary."

UVa's Boy Wonder

Someone should send this article to those 'scholarship' administrators in Singapore. You know, make their scholars complete their undergraduate degrees in one year or less.

Probably with a slogan like: "If Bahn can do it, so can you!"

U-Va.'s One-Year Wonder
Teen Graduates Early, With a Double Major

By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 20, 2006; Page A01

And you thought your kid was smart.

David Banh, an 18-year-old from Annandale, just graduated from the University of Virginia in one year. With a double major.

His college education, almost entirely covered by a patchwork of scholarships, cost him about $200. And he sold back textbooks for more than that. Now he's starting graduate study at U-Va. with a research grant.

So at this point, he's technically running a profit.

He's upending two trends: Most students take longer to graduate than you might think -- about two-thirds of freshmen at four-year colleges in Virginia manage to finish within six years. And tuition gets more expensive every year.

He was helped by the fact that U-Va., as a public school, costs a lot less than most private colleges. And that the university accepted many of his Advanced Placement credits from high school; many of the most selective private schools wouldn't. As it was, he doubled up on course credits and took more physics over the summer to finish his second major.

Read the rest here.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What to do with a my Ph.D

Probably too late into the PhD game to be asking myself this question again, but it has been bugging me for the past several weeks.

Several of my classmates have started/about to start interviewing with companies coming to recruit on campus.

Academia doesn't seem so attractive after all. Do I want to continue to work like this?

The National Labs are in sort of a half academia-half industry position, and most folks there are hired straight out from their post-doc stints.

You think Grad School is tough? Wait till you become a tenure track asst. professor. - Prof Anonymous X

Grad school was easy compared to being an asst. prof., by far the worst time of my life.

Pretty much the same hours in the lab, but in addition I also had to teach freshman chemistry and/or graduate courses, write papers and grant proposals, serve on committees, and of course teach brand new grad students how to work in the lab, all the while being scared @#$%less that my career was going down the tubes. Not fun. I literally did not bother to turn on the heat in my apartment, even in dead of winter, because I only spent about 30 waking minutes a day there. My landlord couldn't believe his luck.

But that princely asst. prof. salary more than made up for it all...-SRC

Academia vs. Industry, Academia vs. Industry, Academia vs. Industry, Academia vs. Industry, Academia vs. Industry...

Edit (20 Sep): I love this shit -

Taken from here.

and of course the Scientific Method that we are all too familiar with...

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sg employers Recruiting Overseas Sg students

To tie in with Mr Wang's and Fox's entries. Email from PSC to recruit overseas Sg students.

Courtesy of loiseaurebelle. (In case you are wondering, this was sent out by the University of Michigan's SSA.)


There will be two recruitment talks taking place in October:

1. Officials from the Public Service Commission Secretariat will be
hosting an interaction session on 17 October (Tuesday) at 4 pm on
campus to introduce the new initiatives and opportunities available in
the Singapore Civil Service. These include the Mid-term Scholarships
and the Civil Service Internship Programme which are available to
non-scholar undergraduates.

If you are keen on finding out more, please RSVP to Ms Chai Lee Yee,
Development Executive, Public Service Commission Secretariat at
chai_lee_yee (at) before 18 September. Refreshments will be
provided and details of the venue will be confirmed later.

2. Contact Singapore, in collaboration with the Monetary Authority of
Singapore, is organising a series of recruitment sessions for some
Singapore-based banks across cities and campuses in the USA. They will
be at Chicago on 20 October. You can consider making a stop there on
the way to Wisconsin, which is where the Midwest Festival will be held
on 21 October. For more information and to register, go to

So, make yourself valuable to the country by not studying in the local institutions of higher learning.

Technorati: Singapore, education

Monday, September 11, 2006

On the SAF's Utilization of Manpower (for NSFs and NSmen)

Much has been said about the various aspects of NS (I, II) over at Mr Wang's blog.

Mr Wang talked about the SAF's limited ways in taking into account NSFs' preferences and strengths when deciding on their unit postings. Unfortunately for many of the combat vocations in the Army (where the bulk of the NSFs end up in), all they want is a fit body which can run (IPPT/SOC etc) and fire a M16 rifle (or is it SAR21?). Not much leeway there.

There is usually a better fit on the Service/Technical side. Depending on your academic/professional background they actually monitor your work/posting even if you are just a lowly NSF/NSman.

Take for example a NSF project clerk, who OOCed from OCS and was downgraded and posted to a Formation HQ. CPC would actually send out something like this to the Unit he was posted to:

Depot Road

XX Jun 9X

Hd MP (G1 Br), HQ SAF

Project Clerk

1. 1234567H PTE takchek has been posted to HQ SAF as Project Clerk with effect from XX Jun 9X.

2. His HSP is 4 'A' distinctions. Besides the usual clerical duties that he has to perform, he has to be placed on project work, in accordance with the management scheme to employ NSF non-combat fit 4 'A' Level distinction holders in project work.

3. We would appreciate it if you could forward details on the current as well as future projects to be undertaken by the serviceman.

4. Unit is also to monitor his work performance and give a detailed report to CPC on his task and performance in 6 months' time (by 31 Dec 9X) after his posting. Project Clerks who are underutilized will be redeployed to other units which have requests for them.

5. You reply on paragraph by XX Month 9X is appreciated, please.

Some dude in CPC

I won't go into how I was handling a CPT's (read: executive) work, while holding only a PTE, later CPL rank and getting the (lousy) pay allowance. Talk about serving as a cheap laborer. The good thing was that my brain was kept active and did not atrophy.


The SAF also tracks doctors. Doctors who were not MOs when they were NSFs.

There are some doctors who become SAF officers through the NS MOCC scheme, which is different from the regular MOCC.

They are doctors who had served their NSF in other vocations/ranks and did not manage to disrupt for their medical course either in NUS or overseas. This was a scheme launched in 95-96. The first batch of NSMOCC commissioned officers graduated sometime in 97/98.

This is the way it worked (then): Mindef and MOH would share their data on the list of registered male medical doctors in Singapore. They narrow down those who did not get their SAF MO commissions during their NSF. These people could be riflemen, storemen, signallers, infantry officers etc. They could even be clerks and be PES E. It doesn't matter. HQMC would arrange to have them transferred from whatever NS units to under their charge for the NS MOCC.

NSMOCC consists of two phases spread out over two years because of ICT restrictions. At least that was the case back then. These guys would be sent to SMM for their NS MOCC course.

Upon completion, they would be commissioned as SAF MOs, and be given the rank of LTA (DR) (NS) for those medically unfit (ie PES C and below), and CPT (DR) (NS) for those PES A/B. Of course the most xiong part the combat-fit guys would have to endure is the IPPT. There is no need to take the SOC.

You might think that it is a good deal, but the truth is that many of these NSmen do not like to go through the course. If nothing else, it lengthens their NS cycle and raises the age limit from 40 to 50 years of age. They would also be given higher appointments to serve in their NS units (read: more sai kang to do). Many of them would rather spend their time outside than to be called back to camp for ICTs and what nots. And imagine being a cadet as a NSman! Yes, even those LTA(NS) officers have to go through the NS MOCC, if they were not MOs previously. They go through with the others who are SGTs, CPLs etc.

Many were unhappy, and some had even asked if it was possible to 'fail' the course and not get their commission. One guy in the first batch did.

BTW, it is almost impossible to 'fail' or go OOC for NS MOCC. That guy failed because of an 'attitude problem'. Almost all of these doctors were in their late 20s to early 30s. Things might have changed now, as my info is (quite) dated.

The main reason for SAF to have this NS MOCC is to better utilize manpower. On the grand scheme of things, it looks good, since you wouldn't want to waste a doctor in wartime to fight as a trooper etc when he can be a MO saving lives.

Some of these doctors were quite happy to go through this course as this gave them a chance to be an officer. Especially for those who wanted to but failed to qualify for OCS when they were NSFs. Or those who went OOC in OCS during their NSF days.

Then there were those who were disappointed. Their main gripe was that SAF wants them to be an officer only when they are qualified doctors outside.

Others complained about having their advanced medical training disrupted, since they were taking some MMed/specialty training courses. There were requests by this group for deferment/disruption etc.

Each NSMOCC cohort numbers around 30-40, although with deferments and disruptions the actual number could be less than 20.

A small number no doubt, but at least the organisation is taking steps to make better use of (skilled) manpower.


Selected SAF lingo:

CPC - Control of Personnel Center; this is the place where the Army assigns a WOSE (both regulars and NSFs) his vocation and unit

OOC - out of course

OCS - Officer Cadet School

HSP - Highest Standard Passed

NSF - Full time National Service(man)

IPPT - Individual Physical Proficiency Test

HQ MC - HQ Medical Corps

SMM - School of Military Medicine

SOC - Standard Obstacle Course

MOCC/NSMOCC - Medical Officer Cadet Course

WOSE - Warrant Officers, Specialists and Enlisted Men

Technorati: Singapore; NS; SAF.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The perennial question for oversea Sg students

Will you stay overseas or return home?

from: Kevin

My take here. Also read loiseaurebelle's entry.

Additional thoughts not already mentioned explicitly earlier:

Reasons to stay overseas
1. Pay/Salary
2. Freedom from family control

3. NS

Reasons to return to Sg
1. Missing family
2. Availability of nubile, Singlish-speaking Chinese girls chiobus

Unfortunately, being Singaporeans, when you tell them you study in America - They only expect to hear the likes of HYPSM. Otherwise, you must be the type who head overseas because "you cannot make it to the local universities one".

Not just the laypersons, but ones who have tertiary education. And they include people in senior positions in HR who can make decisions on your job application.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

RSAF Open House 2006

Where I went this morning...Paya Lebar Air Base.

Much as I think my 2.5 years of NS was a complete waste of my time, I still regard the RSAF (and to a smaller extent the RSN) highly. Quite professional, and unlike the Army. Oh well, but I won't be staying on this island for long.

More pics:

Aircrafts and helicopters were parked to the right. The hangers on the left had the miscellaneous indoor events, mainly for the kids.

The main attractions were the F-16C/D jets (like the one above) and the Apache AH-64Ds (below):

The Open House ends tomorrow, Sunday Sep 3.