Thursday, December 20, 2007

My American friends are shocked to learn that most (unmarried) Singaporeans stay with their folks into their 30s (and beyond)...

One thing I really hate about staying in Singapore is the part about staying with my folks. I know they mean well, but they just get on my nerves by asking so many questions about my movements, and people I have been meeting. Machiam like I am still in secondary school.


From FF's post:

JY msged me yesterday. My parents aren’t around this weekend, why don’t you come over? which I found quite amusing. Most single guys in Singapore live with their parents until they’re married or until they’ve reached a ripe old age such that they can afford to buy their own place.

Between living with their parents and buying their own place, they don’t seem to really find the need for their own space……….. that’s a quality I find very unattractive. I like a guy who values his own space…… and spare me the crap about filial piety. It’s not like you’re moving a thousand miles away. And if you stay because your parents aren’t happy that you’re a big boy and need your independence and want your own space, welll…… lagi more unattractive lor. And the worst argument has to be why should I waste money on rent when I can stay with my parents for free? Somemore my mother does my laundry and cleans my room for me.

But this is just my personal preference when it comes to guys. Maybe cos I’ve been living on my own for so many years. Shrug. :)

She should date guys who are already used to (and are) staying on their own...

Of guys with gold and UCal's PhD funding

There are gold diggers, and there are guys with gold but no women.

$772k bonus, a bright shiny condo, but life still empty?


UC's officials now acknowledge their aid packages for doctoral students suck. So if you are considering any of the 10 campuses, beware!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The seventh copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard was bought by at the auction. I hope they will put in the details on the fairy tales for the HP fans.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I have read (and re-read) the entire HP series twice in the past month.

The seventh book was particularly intriguing - and I was drawn to many of its chapters again and again.

This section (Chapter 7, pp 115 - 116) is my personal favorite, if only because I identify strongly with it:

Ginny looked up into Harry's face, took a deep breadth, and said,
"Happy seventeenth."


She was looking at him steadily; he, however, found it difficult to look back at her; it was like gazing into a brilliant light.

"Nice view," he said feebly, pointing toward the window.

She ignored this. He could not blame her.

"I couldn't think what to get you," she said.

"You didn't have to get me anything."

She disregarded this too.

"I didn't know what would be useful. Nothing too big, because you wouldn't be able to take it with you."

He chanced a glance at her. She was not tearful; that one of the most wonderful things about Ginny, she was rarely weepy. He had sometimes thought that having six brothers must have toughened her up.

She took a step closer to him.

"So then I thought, I'd like you to have something to remember me by, you know, if you met some veela when you're off doing whatever you're doing."

"I think dating opportunities are going to be pretty thin on the ground, to be honest."

"There's the silver lining I've been looking for," she whispered, and then she was kissing him as she had never kissed him before, and Harry was kissing her back, and it was blissful oblivion, better than firewhiskey; she was the only real thing in the world, Ginny, the feel of her, one hand at her back, and one in her long, sweet smelling hair -


Winter has arrived in Arizona with a vengeance, and it actually dipped into the 30s (F) at night in the Valley. Adding to that - it had been raining on-off almost continuously the past 6 days. Yes, you heard me right: rain in the Sonoran desert.

It is cold, it is wet, it gets dark early, and the pangs of loneliness bite the hardest at this time of the year.

That said, I will miss you, Arizona. It has been a wonderful 7 months.


A friend from my undergrad days will be inviting me to her place for a gathering later this month. She knows I am (still) single, and wants to introduce her secondary school classmate to me. To cut down on any possible awkwardness, there will be other couples, although we will be the only singles present.

I liked the way she broached this topic to me when we met on MSN:

"Do you mind over-achieving girls?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, the girl has a Masters from LSE, and is a scholar (some high flyer at a ministry). But she has completed her bond. Her ex was some kind of lazy bum, D grades in the (local) uni and no ambitions in life; but she stood by him even helping him find a job in the civil service. He later dumped her for an older woman."

"OK, I don't mind making new friends. Is she tethered to Sg (emotionally)?"

"No. She is OK with moving out of Sg."

"Sure, we can meet up, and I can get you something from Arizona."

Apparently she had done quite a bit of homework on (both of us). It's funny how the first cut-off (from friends and family) would almost always be educational qualifications and job titles.


I will be (tentatively) meeting H. She asked me point blank to get her something from the US. Some kind of 见面礼.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The other Arizona

Last year I wrote brief descriptions about the attackers that brought the US into WWII. This year, I am in the state that gave its name to the ship that made history.

I wonder when I will visit Hawaii.

Memorial to an event that shook the world

Thursday, December 06, 2007

'Famous People' Quiz

How many (out of 104) in this picture can you recognise?

I can only point out fewer than half of them.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Just another typical day at work...

A co-worker and I were discussing debating the impact of minute traces of silanols on one of our process steps.

Her: "Wow, your Org Chem is really good!"

Then my cubicle neighbor popped in.

"Did you just say Orc Chem?"

He had obviously been spending too much time on WoW.

Does Orc blood have these? Hmm...


A new hire joined our group last week, and was formally introduced to us this week.



Some email addresses and servers raise red flags, even when they are used for legitimate purposes. The woes of working in the high tech industry, more so when your products have obvious dual-use capabilities.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Gild the lily Ivy

The Dangerous Wealth of the Ivy League. The Gilded Age of America's Higher Education has begun.

The stark difference (at least in terms of the infrastructure and the cars the students drive) can be seen in an East Coast City which has 3 major universities - a private, extremely selective and wealthy college, a state flagship and a second third tier public institution that is mainly a commuter school. Just like the wards in a hospital, you have the A class, B class and C class.

A case of 锦上添花 vs 雪中送炭.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Black Friday Madness

Doesn't matter which state you are in, everyone's crazy. International shoppers contributed too.

I will be bringing home more gifts for my family. I had asked my folks what they want for X'mas, and I think they will be happy at my selection.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Perks of being in Academia

Congratulations on landing a tenure-track faculty position in one of America's finest research universities! Maybe one day we will be colleagues in rival schools.

You can also start thinking about this soon. After all, it is good to hear that your (future) employer is one of those that provides tuition assistance and preferential admissions consideration to the Other Legacies: Fac Brats.

Imagine offering this carrot to your prospective bride: "I may not be as rich as my peers in Wall Street, but I can guarantee our kids a higher chance of getting admitted to this super-elite university and paying no college tuition for 4 years."

College towns are also islands of (economic) stability, and regularly rank amongst the best places to raise a family in the US.


I think there are many advantages for exposing children to an academic environment early in their lives. They get *easy access* to some of the best facilities available - well-equipped libraries, sports complexes etc. If you are a faculty member in the engineering/physical/biological sciences, your children may get to see some of the most sophisticated (read: expensive) equipment and view for themselves what happens when you add X to Y, or how a yeast cell is like under the Atomic Force Microscope before and after budding, or how the fourth state of matter can be used to completely remove organic residues from a Si wafer.

For those who are more inclined towards the Arts, it doesn't hurt too to have them know your colleagues in the humanities departments.

They might get that edge when it comes to college applications time. What better than to be able to see what your child is up to in college? :)

(Note: This is NOT helicopter parenting.)


I come from a family of teachers. There has always been an emphasis towards excelling in school. It's not just about getting an A, but about doing the best you can. If your best means being able to top the cohort and you failed, it doesn't matter even if you get a distinction for the subject. You would have disappointed the family. Conversely, if your predicted grade is a C but you get a B, it is considered an achievement worthy of praise.

That said, I always felt I was subject to a higher standard than my peers simply because my mum is a teacher. I am expected to do well.


Does Steven Chu's family history sound very similar to the typical high-achieving Asian American family?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Winter Party 2007

The company will be holding its Winter Formal tonight. We were strongly encouraged to bring along a partner, but I have nobody to invite. She has already left. The current blog header picture is a penthouse view of the resort (where the Ball will be held).

The stuff of fairy tales.

I guess I will be one of those standing by the sides watching others dance.


In college I remember getting emails and paper notices from the student government inviting us for the Winter Formal. "A chance to ask your date out for a dance!" The flyers screamed. But I was in a long distance relationship.

So while the Formal was held in the Union Hall, I would trudge up the steps of the Capitol to see the Holiday Tree alone.

Outside the Union Hall

View of the Holiday Tree

Tree Lighted up

Current music: Pachelbel's canon in D major

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test

My results and the website's comments (not surprising):

Your Score: Pure Nerd

78 % Nerd, 43% Geek, 43% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


A pity really. I prefer to give my next SO this T-shirt for her birthday. Ha!


The Ultimate Nerd

It’s le-vi-O-sa, not le-vi-o-SA.

*I spent 8 hours two Saturdays ago reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from start-to-finish. On Halloween, I wanted to dress up like Harry, and ended up exchanging charms, jinxes, curses and hexes with my co-worker, who is also a HP fan.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Can anyone say 'Boxer'?

This guy got pwned. Get ready for the newspeak from MinDeath sometime soon.

*I never have a good impression of SAF's Army regulars. I despise (most of) them.

Nov 6, 2007
Warrant officer asked to retire 5 years earlier

I WAS a regular serviceman in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). I served a total of 32 years, comprising full-time national service, reservist and regular service, from 1974-2006.

I was one of more than 200 regular servicemen and women in the Army who were notified in May last year that we would be given Special Early Transition. Some of the reasons cited included difficulty in offering us 'suitable jobs' in the long run, restructuring and possible 'stagnation'. We were given only six months to transit.

Having attained the rank of a warrant officer in 2001, it meant that I was able to serve till the compulsory retirement age (CRA) of 55. I transitted last November after just turning 50, five years short of the CRA.

The Control of Personnel Centre announced that we were not under-performers. I was still PES 'B' and I received my performance bonuses annually without fail. I had also met all other requirements, i.e., Individual Physical Proficiency Tests, Annual Trainfire Programme, Body Mass Index, and Annual Proficiency Knowledge Test.

I also did not have any discipline or medical problems. The latter meant that I was still combat fit and still deployable. There are some who have not conformed to one or more of these requirements and yet are still serving in the organisation.

Till today, I am still somewhat in a state of depression at how the organisation had overlooked all my years of loyal and dedicated service.

The SAF Management Philosophy states:

'The SAF is concerned with the well-being of its people and their families, the SAF values its people, looks after them and their families so that they can give wholehearted attention to their assigned duties.'

The Defence Minister himself said last year:

'Every soldier is precious to us. Every national serviceman, every operationally ready national serviceman, every regular who serves with us is a precious and valuable person.'

The organisation failed to honour its word to allow me and many others to serve till the CRA of 55. I have a wife and two young children still attending school.

Second Warrant Officer (Retired)
Henry Minjoot

Edit (8 Nov): Too old to work, too young to retire?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Pumpkin carving is fun

With friends, that is.

Friday, October 26, 2007

More on H

For the story background, read this. To say I am disappointed with her comments is a gross understatement.

Her *interesting* quotes (from our MSN conversation):

a. On how I am like in her mind:

When discussing about her views on marriage, I typed in wah lau.

H says: don't wah lau me leh... so bengish, so not you. I got the feel you are pretty cultured, refined and poised, don't prove me wrong ok?

b. On why I am still single:

H says:
high standards or only want to find after your studies when you have established your career? or worse not interested? But you seem quite eligible, maybe you don't target people but pple target you and you not keen? hehe

c. On my accent:

H says:
I am interested to hear you slang but not use singlish. (inserts mouth-zipping MSN icon)

tk says:
I don't speak with a slang. Sorry

H says:
oops, ok. Just kidding , no hard feelings.

A reader comments:

You attract all the high class wannabes...hokkien must be so uncouth in her mind..

It is a wonder she is not choosing some (rich) white guy to be her prospective husband. I also wonder what she thinks of Black and Latino slang. But the polite me just kept quiet.

Imagine if she knows the title of this blog. *Laughs sardonically*

Motivational Posters

These are two of my favorites. More can be found here and here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Competition vs Collaboration in Academia

Found from YoungFemaleScientist - a classic case of what can happen when a fresh PhD/post doc interviews for his/her first faculty position.

The hardest part of a faculty job search for any candidate is to define the area of research he/she wants to get into. For obvious reasons, you cannot expect to continue to work on what you did for your PhD. That would mean direct competition with your advisor, and chances are you will lose. After all, he/she is the one with the stature and prestige, and you are the Apprentice.

So most people would try to do one or two post docs to gain expertise in different area(s), before starting their careers as junior faculty. The hope is that they can combine them to do novel research in a hybrid field.

But sometimes when the field gets too crowded, the Assistant Professors, being at the lowest rung of the academic professoriate, get the shaft.


Which is why I have seen many of my peers/classmates/groupmates, some with multiple national/college awards for their research/publications, quit academia and leave for the industry after their PhD.

The pay is much better, even if the competitive nastiness remains the same.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Auto Theft in Arizona

I had been hit once (thankfully not the whole vehicle), and today an emergency alert came out from the company. Some buggers actually succeeded in stealing the cars/trucks from the parking lot in spite of increased security patrols.


Crime Statistics from the NICB. 4 states, all in the West, topped the list for 2006.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Questions my folks will definitely ask

In all of my conversations with my folks about the girl(s) I am/was seeing, several questions are always at the tip of their tongues:

"Where is she from? Where did she do her college/Grad School? What does her family do?"

If the girl is Singaporean - "Which JC and secondary school? Is she a scholar?"

Machiam like going for job interview. Very predictable.

I wonder where I will stand if gauged by my prospective bride's family in future. I hope I can pass.

This can very well apply to some Singaporean families too.

Parents draw up a list of suitable suitors for their daughters, and dinners are arranged for the prospective couples to meet. Drawing up this list of suitors is demanding: family backgrounds are investigated to determine if their status would match. Education, wealth, criminal records, political positions, and extraordinary talents are fair game for judging a prospective. This research extends not just to the suitor, but to his entire family. It is a marriage of families, not just of individuals. - Oikono, on the Korean marriage process


For Indian Hindus there's the caste system, which operates very similarly when it comes to marriage between two persons families.

Saturday, October 20, 2007



In Taiwan, they call BBWs "恐龙". My co-worker is the first Chinese guy amongst my friends to prefer full-figured women to slim Asian beauties.

He likes bah bah ones. Such guys are known as "龙骑士".

Imagine my horror when he said she is too stick thin!

Your dressing reminded me of DHS girls' uniform, and RGS' too.

Different guys, different preferences.

Reader comments:

agrainofsand: eh, dhs uniform will not look like that. The skirt is way too short. haha

tk says:
hahah. eh, my time got girls' skirts THAT short, and Mr Kiw will always call them to the office.

agrainofsand says:
that's not representative

tk says: then yours? ankle length? LOL

agrainofsand says:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

All the great stuffs about Arizona

These are all so true. From the winter tempests of the Upper Midwest to the scorching summer heat of the Sonoran Desert, I can say I have endured (and survived!) temperature extremes from both ends.

You notice your car overheating before you drive it.

You no longer associate bridges or rivers with water.

You can hear the weather forecast of 115 degrees without flinching.

You can be in the snow, then drive for an hour...and it will be over 100 degrees.

You discover, in July it only takes two fingers to drive your car, because your steering wheel is so hot.

The best parking is determined by shade.....not distance.

You realize that "Valley Fever" isn't a disco dance.

You can make sun tea instantly.

Hotter water comes from the cold water tap than the hot one.

It's noon in July, kids are on summer vacation and yet all the streets are totally empty of both cars and people.

You actually burn your hand opening the car door.

Sunscreen is sold year round and kept right at the checkout counter.

You put on fresh sunscreen just to go check the mail box.

Some fools will market mini-misters for joggers and some other fools will actually buy them. Worse.....some fools actually try to jog.

You can pronounce Saguaro, Tempe, San Xavier, Canyon de Chelly, Mogollon Rim, Cholla, Gila and Tucson.

You can understand the reason for a town named "Why", or "Tombstone".

You can fry an egg on the hood of a car in the morning.

You see more irrigation water on the street than there is in the Salt River.

You hear people say "but it's a dry heat!"

All of your out-of-state friends start to visit after October but clear out come the end of April.

You think someone driving wearing oven mitts is clever.

Your house is made of stucco and has a red clay tile roof.

Vehicles with open windows have the right-of-way in the summer.

Kids ask, "What's a mosquito?"

People who have black cars or black upholstery in their car are automatically assumed to be from out of-state or nuts.

You know better than to get into a car with leather seats if you're wearing shorts.

You can finish a Big Gulp in 10 minutes and go back for seconds.

The temperature drops below 95, you feel a bit chilly.

You've lived in AZ for a long time but you have never been to the Grand Canyon.

You can attend any function wearing shorts and a T-shirt/tank top.

You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.

You realize that snowbirds aren't really birds at all, but just really bad out of state drivers that you learn to hate

There are only two temperatures, hot and hotter

Even thinking about not having air conditioning makes you sweat

You travel out of state and any sort of humidity nearly kills you

*You have no idea why 48 other states (Hawaii doesn't do it either) insist on changing their clocks twice a year for this thing called "daylight savings time".

Fall colors of Northern Arizona

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Singaporean Husband Hunter

If I can put a (monetary/economic) value on myself for the dating/marriage market, what will it be? Not as exaggerated as this (Hell no, I am just a technologist), but the concept is similar.

I have a profile (complete with picture) in one of the most (in)famous Singaporean online dating sites. Sometimes I get responses from interested ladies asking to be friends. But this one is amongst the most direct and upfront takes the cake. This was only our first MSN conversation! Seems like she shares many of my interests too!

Does true love still exist? Or is everything measured in terms of accomplishments, job titles, schools attended, geographical locations?


It started off with her email to me: "Hi, saw your profile on (the website). I would like to make more friends. I hope to hear from you."

Then to MSN

HH says:
May I ask you something on your (web) profile?

tk says:
sure, go ahead.

H says:
is it impt that your partner possess all the qualities that u have listed there?

tk says:
haha, of course not. Doubt such a girl exists

H says:
oh so you wrote it for fun?

tk says:
i wrote the qualities i hope my partner will have, but i am realistic enough to know that it is not possible for her to have all of it.

H says:
yeah, but i'm sure that is a certain value that you value most right?

tk says:
not sure, i don't really impose anything. It's not rigid.

H says:
I love playing Bridge.... its a great game...

tk says:
spore stye or contract bridge style?

H says:
not sure what type, my first contact with it was in Australia. what's the difference?
very intelligent game.

tk says:
card counting;

H says:

tk says:
your profile is interesting. Unique.

H says:
in what sense?

tk says:
honest, sincere, loads of useful info. Many others simply list ... the mundane stuffs

H says:
yeah, what is in there is what I am.... no doubts about it. I am looking for the one, to be honest.

tk says:
so do we have mutual friends?

H says:
I am prepared to forgo my career at the moment..

tk says:
how impt is career to you?

H says:
what do you think judging from my profile? do you think I went JC? Judging from your profile, I guess we do not have mutual friends.

tk says:
haha. why do you say that? What does my profile say that is implied?

H says:
yup it is? certain feel about your profile that's all

tk says:
i went to JC. yupz

H says:
i bet you were from RJC

tk says:
hahahha. why????

H says:
not sure, just a feel. I am not good in my studies. so that answers your question, I can't be in the top JCs. I am looking for someone who is very accomplished in their chosen field but is humble about it. you fit the bill

tk says:
i dun think i am accomplished

H says:
no worries! Do you think u make a good partner then? If the gal is willing to move with you, what will you do to ensure the smooth transition?

tk says:
get settled?Get to know the pple in the neighborhood as the first step to integration.

tk says:
so far, i still think career should be number 1 priority. For me lah

H says:
okay, if this is your choice, stick to it.... and make it clear to your parents.... settle down late....for guys it should not be an issue

tk says:
unless i can get the girl to move with me to the US

H says:
you will be free once you make you decision. I believe there are gals who are willing to relocate.

tk says:
not many sg girls i know want to relocate

H says:
I'm pretty optimistic

tk says:

H says:
hmm, I don't know what's your view? but I believe in setting my family right before pursuing my career. its psychological, you need support as a human.... what best way to get other than your spouse, right?

tk says:
sometimes u don't have that option. Then how? Go around searching for the one while your career stagnates?


Quotable (reinforcing the stereotypes):

But one woman in her mid-20s applauded the husband hunter's candor on

It's "not about the money, and it is not a matter of materialism," she wrote. "Rather, it provides an umbrella under which many other qualities seem to fall: premium educational background, high level of motivation, a family who raised the man well (and therefore good genes and similar breeding) and a socio-economic background that reflects your own."

...As coldhearted as it seems, the Craigslist plea reflects the "functional relationship" between many men and women, said Bassil, who wrote the book "From the Bar to the Bedroom."

"Women are attracted to ambition, and that translates into security with high earning power," said Bassil. "Men value looks and beauty and equate the relationship with how good-looking their women are."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Clearing the air about Grad School Funding

I initially wanted to title this post "ai pee, ai chee, ai tua liap nee" but decided not to since there are really some folks who are not exactly clear about the funding situation for graduate studies in US universities. They assume automatically that all admitted PhD hopefuls will be offered full financial support (tuition and living expenses) from their first day in school. Unfortunately, this is NOT the case. It varies from university to university, even within departments in the same institution.

For all purposes, my comments will be restricted only to the engineering and science majors.

1. Not all departments/schools will pay for your first year (or semester/quarter) of grad school. If you are unlucky with your classes/quals/adviser selection, be prepared to pay into your second year. The most likely reason is that the department is poor, even if individual professors may have plenty of research funds. Most first year grad students are not assigned to a research group.

The department is also unwilling to commit funds to someone who may not pass his/her quals or get an adviser (if they admitted too many applicants). Such a student will most likely be asked to leave either at the end of the first year or second. Read this. (Stanford is notorious for admitting too many and using quals to sift the chaff from the wheat.)

2. Because of 1, some departments require that a professor admit the applicant into his/her research group first (unofficially) before offering him/her formal admission to the university.

3. There are also departments which use full-paying grad students as cash cows, usually dumping them 1 or 2 years later with a Masters. Sad, but true.

When I applied to graduate school, I avoided those which do not provide funding for 1st years, or for students who are undecided about the prof they want to work for. I did not want to restrict my choice to a particular faculty before knowing all my options, and asking my folks for more money was out of the question. I was glad I did.


This is a reader's email to me that triggered this entry:

The apparent problem is funding for 1st year of doctoral studies.

Grad school admits international students in a different way. They DO look at financial support. Both Caltech and UCSD look at grad sch (applicant) favorably if the candidate mentions in his application that he has applied for fellowships in their own country. My guess is that they will offer admission but no support (just like the admission I obtained earlier this year from Oxford... admission with no support)

My understanding is that professors usually funds the student (using their external grants) from 2nd year onwards after they have settled in their labs (during the 1st year, students usually do rotations ... thus not committed to 1 lab). One of my classmate in berkeley said that international students will be admitted if they come with ready funding. ... she was funded by the professor in berkeley right from the start.. For john hopkins, the department funds all 1st year students irrespective of nationalities... this is markedly different from all other schools - where funding situation for 1st year international students are left hanging in the air.

So my question is : how to get admitted (even if I am outstanding) if the admission system does not cater for international students to be funded? My understanding is that the department's funds for 1st year students come from federal grants which are only admissable to US citizens.

Ai pee, ai chee, ai tua liap nee! There are other top schools which provide funding to all admitted students, for your case, BME. Anyway, if you have been working for a few years after your Bachelors, you would have some savings. Since you are really keen on several particular departments, what is one year of tuition and fees compared to the potential payoffs for the rest of your (professional) life?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Columbia hosts Ahmadinejad

This is probably one of the best speeches I have heard so far from a University president.

Succinct and biting.

Unfortunately, his guest came out a dud. With remarks like:

“In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country.”

Maybe he's right; maybe he has killed or imprisoned them all.


On a side note, do you know of Singapore's academic linkages with Persia?

Sunday, September 23, 2007


How many of you actually fell for this? If you did, you are really an idiot. The website was quite nicely done though - looked convincing enough for a layperson of science.

Read more about the background to this hoax here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Same story, repeated

A friend of mine (in grad school) has just ended her relationship with her SO. He is now working in Sg, as part of his scholarship bond. Their last 3 years together were in the form of a LDR.

They had met while as undergrads in one of the Ivy schools.


She is leaving AZ (most likely for good) on Friday. There goes my 2007 夏天之恋.



My sis' poly GPA is really uncompetitive, even for that *state school* (granted, it is a flagship and a football rival) down the road. I am not referring to AZ ones. On the other hand, most Aussie universities' GPA cut off for poly grads seem really low. Guess where my dad is pushing her to go to.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What a Chinese Department in Singapore...

should or should not be.

*Quah Sy Ren is an Associate Prof and the deputy Head of NTU's Division of Chinese.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Foreign talents, foreign workers...

From Post War; A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt (pp 757):

To one side stood a sophisticated elite of Europeans: men and women, typically young, widely traveled and well-educated, who might have studied in two or even three different universities across the continent. Their qualifications and professions allowed them to find work anywhere across the European Union: from Copenhagen to Dublin, from Barcelona to Frankfurt. High incomes, low airfares, open frontiers and an integrated rail network favored easy and frequent mobility. For the purposes of consumption, leisure and entertainment as well as employment this new class of Europeans traveled with confident ease across their continent - communicating, like medieval clercs wandering between Bologna, Salamanca and Oxford, in a cosmopolitan lingua franca: then Latin, now English.

On the other side of the divide were to be found those - still the overwhelming majority - who could not be part of this brave new continent or else did not (yet?) choose to join: millions of Europeans whose lack of skills, education, training, opportunity or means kept them firmly rooted where they were. These men and women, the villeins in Europe's new medieval landscape, could not so readily benefit from the EU's single market in goods, services and labor. Instead they remain bound to their country or their local community, constrained by unfamiliarity with distant possibilities and foreign tongues and often far more hostile to 'Europe' than their cosmopolitan fellow citizens.

One notable exception - migrant (low-wage) labor.

...There had always been men (and mostly men) who traveled to distant countries to find work: ignorant of foreign languages, regarded with hostile suspicion by their hosts and in any case intent upon returning home with their carefully earned savings. (They) were not likely to be found dining out in Brussels, vacationing in Italy or shopping in London...

Just like we have our own Cosmopolitans vs heartlanders, foreign talents vs foreign workers...

Related entry.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


她: 哈哈......吃到蛋糕了真開心~ 谢谢你!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Social networking sites have their use

I spent quite a bit of time these past nights going through my friends-list in friendster, facebook and linkedin. I got to know (or was reminded) of where they did their college (and graduate work for some), what jobs they have now, their marital status and kids (if any).

I have also reconnected with a few I had lost contact - including one (a crush from Dunman) for almost 15 years.

I must say I am impressed.

Beautiful Libraries of the Western World

Found this from -ben.

I love going to libraries. The joy of being surrounded by shelves of books, of various genres, and modifying Forrest's quote: "Life is like a box of chocolates library of books; you never know what you gonna get". The surprise and exhilaration of randomly picking up one which you like; thumbing your fingers through each and every page, savoring the words in your mind as one would to a glass of vintage wine as they bring you to another world...

One could spend a lifetime in these hallowed halls. -ben

I love Georgetown's Rigg library. I did a double take when I visited the campus during one spring break, literally gawking through the door window.

Riggs of Georgetown

My favorite is the Library of Congress though.

Don't you find the smell of musty books, erm, orgasmic?


Imagine a cold wintry night on campus - the ground outside is frozen stiff and you can hear the wind howling and pounding at the glass windows. Here you are sitting snugly next to the electric heater with a cup of warm cocoa in one hand and your favorite book on the other. There are other students around you, but the place is quiet. Everyone is engrossed in his/her book.
- My idea of how I would spend my winter months in college. (When I was in my first year.)

The reality was of course, quite different since I took a brutal undergrad courseload. Reading (outside of class work) was a luxury I could not afford.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I was labelled a nerd....:(

Friends from the company came over to my place for dinner and (board) games last night. We played 'Taboo' and 'Cranium'.


When it was my turn, one of the words I picked was 'saddle'. I couldn't say 'horse' or 'riding', and so I tried to lead my group by saying..."When you have y = x^3, what is the point at (0,0) called? Or the valley between two peaks in a 3D plot?"

They looked at me blankly. Then the time was up.

"It's a saddle point!"

"OMG, you are such a nerd!"

This came from a group of fellow engineers. Everyone started laughing.



My group rolled 'red', aka 'data head/fun facts'. The question was "So what two countries fought the War of 1812?"

Me: "US and UK."

"Do you memorize history books or something?"

Another question: "Which country is Timbuktu located in?"

Me: "Mali"

"Do you memorize the World Map?"

I suck big time for "Star Performer" though. I can't act, and I can't sing.


So what did you think of my responses to the games? Good right? I wonder why the others looked at me like I was nuts

S says:'s good..but usually people don't think like that.

S says:
hehe..I know! Go read this book "the know-it-all"

tk says:
and what about it?

S says:
the author attempted to read the entire encyclopedia britannica

tk says:

S says:
yah. Then you'll know why explaining facts like this is unorthodox

tk says:

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Congratulations for your upcoming special day. I still keep your photos; not because I feel for you but because they are also a part of my life's history.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Free Trade versus Protectionism

Saw this pic on the MOB's blog.

I am actually ambivalent in this 'local' vs 'foreign' debate. I believe free trade works for the benefit of all, although some of the poorer/low-skilled segments of society are made worse off with globalization and the free movement of goods/services and labor across borders.

Some jobs may be lost, but new ones will be created. It is not a zero-sum game.

Then again what do I know. I am just a beneficiary of the present system - without which I would not be able to 'export' myself, my skill-sets and become a 'foreign-born' professional in the USA. (I might also add - as well as a significant proportion of my readers now working outside of Singapore. You know I know who you are.)

A related old post by Greg Mankiw. What he said: "I thought the readers of this blog--an elite group--might enjoy it." sounds so wrong. Heh.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Harry PubMed?

Whoever says (Singaporean) doctors have no sense of humor better retract his/her words...

Interesting in- and outpatient attendances at Hogwarts Infirmary and St Mungo's Hospital for magical maladies.

Lim EC, Pomfrey PM, Quek AM, Seet RC.
Division of Neurology, National University Hospital, Singapore. mdcelch (at)

Ailments afflicting wizarding folk are underreported in the muggle world. The recent integration of muggles and magical folk with the return of You-Know-Who (aka He Who Must Not Be Named) may result in a similar affliction of inhabitants of both worlds. We describe interesting maladies afflicting muggles and wizarding folk alike, arising from the use and misuse of magic. We also provide a basic glossary of magical ailments, and describe their muggle corollaries. Further studies will hopefully result in the development of immunity against the unforgivable curses.

PMID: 16565770 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Full paper here.

The first author also had another interesting piece.

Labor Day Vacation

San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Napa Valley, Monterrey/Santa Cruz.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mamma Mia!

Watched Mamma Mia! today at ASU's Gammage Auditorium.

The ABBA songs are timeless classics, although my all-time favorite musical is Phantom.

Money, money, money!

Her comments: Mamma mia! 真的好好看唷....而且還坐很前面..真開心!

Friday, August 24, 2007


This could very well apply to me too.

The evening took quite a surprise turn.

“Is everything okay?” she asked in concern.

“Yes I am. It’s work.”

Except it was not. It was not work I was thinking about. Perhaps it has been in me too long, how I had always sought shelter behind the facade I put up, that it had not occurred to me I was doing it unconsciously. Not that it had anything to do with the company present; in fact, the evening would go to end as a very pleasant one indeed.

I had you on my mind.

Which was why I was far, far away.



Only a few more weeks, and we will be far, far apart.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Innovation Video Contest - via Youtube

Got this in my mailbox:

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation is sponsoring a "You Tube" video contest to highlight scientific innovation in America. Interested individuals are encouraged to create a three-minute video that demonstrates how scientific discoveries resulting from federally funded research in the physical sciences have changed our lives. Students are especially encouraged to use their creative skills and participate in the contest. The deadline to enter is the 10th of September.

The top five videos will be viewed in the U.S. Capitol on October 4, 2007 during the 50th anniversary commemoration of the launching of Sputnik. The grand prize winner will receive $1000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington for the October 4th activities.

The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation is a coalition of organizations from industry and academia which promotes increased federal support for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering. For more information about the Task Force and for complete contest rules, visit:

For a video presentation on the competition, visit:

As a tip to my readers who are interested in participating, I recommend this site as an initial reference.

School Quotes that I like...

Any of the ones below can be equally applied to my school/major. *Sigh*

The men here often complain that there are too few women here; if they took a look in the mirror, maybe they'd realize why girls don't come here - Stevens Institute of Technology.

There are lots of complaints about the attractiveness of the female students, but we females have our own saying about the guys at CMU: The odds are good, but the goods are odd. - Carnegie Mellon University.

Doesn't matter that we got no women. I'm never in bed anyway - Caltech.

Taken from the Biz of knowledge.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


(Dragon) Lee says Singapore needs more bilingual, bicultural talents.

...Besides nurturing more bilingual and bicultural talents in school, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) is also helping to promote Mandarin.

The Chamber is setting up a new club called 'Business China', which will bring together businessmen, professionals, young entrepreneurs and students who are interested in China, to network, interact and discuss important issues in Mandarin.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has agreed to be its Patron and Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng and other ministers will serve as advisers.

I laughed. As I im-ed cognitive dissonance: "I learnt more about China and Taiwan (as well as improved my Mandarin) when I was trying to date girls from those countries, than from my 10 years in SAP schools".

I had to get out of the country to rekindle my interest in the Chinese language and culture. Isn't that great?


A compatriot hosted an alcohol tasting session for a group of us at his place last night. Wines, along with roasted peanuts, baguette and curry chicken (he had brought primataste from Singapore) made us happy campers.

We had loads of fun listening to theme songs from old school Chinese drama serials, watching a Singapore-made movie - Jack Neo's Just Follow Law and debating about our favorite characters from 金庸's 武侠小说.


What stood out was that all the Singaporeans present except one were guys, and their other halves (if they have one) were from elsewhere. It was an international (all Asian) group.


On the occasion of the National Day Rally, I dedicate this song to my Singaporean readers. I hope you still believe in the Singapore Dream.

星月 by Mavis Hee

在你怀中一起成长 我的世界 我的梦想
每次向天空仰望 星光闪耀月儿弯
牵引无穷尽的幻想 在我心中迎风昂然飘扬
我的梦让我勇敢 是你给我力量

星月照亮我前方 一路上永远有希望
像明灯一盏 越暗越是明亮
星月照亮我前方 于是我拥有信心和温暖
愿一切与你分享 星月常伴

在你光辉中我成长 我的朋友 我的家园
飞得多远心中依然 星光闪耀月儿弯
童年无穷尽的理想 在我天空迎风昂然飘扬
每个梦让我勇敢 是你给我力量

星月照亮我前方 一路上永远有希望
像明灯一盏 越暗越是灿烂
星月照亮我前方 于是我拥有信心和温暖
愿一切与你分享 星月常伴

我的梦 星月常伴

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Perpetuating the 'scholar' family

Two years ago, Mr Wang wrote:

Many, many years ago, the personal stories of our government scholars were an inspiration to the ordinary people of Singapore. We used to read in the newspapers about how a taxi driver's son or a widowed seamstress's daughter studied so hard and scored all the A's and won a President's Scholarship. The moral of the story was that if you worked hard, then there was always hope, no matter how disadvantaged your personal circumstances might be.

This no longer happens. It simply no longer happens. The typical profile of our scholars has changed. The vast majority of scholars come from very wealthy family backgrounds. Their parents are likely to be highly educated themselves.

I think that this is a natural manifestation of a highly competitive education system. Over the years, our system has grown ever more competitive. And in a highly competitive education system, every little advantage counts. To be rich is an advantage. To have well-educated parents is an advantage.

The rich kid spends no time on housework because his maid does all of it; therefore he has more time to study. The rich kid's parents can afford to send him for violin lessons and tennis class; therefore his CCA record looks more impressive. The rich kid's father is a doctor and his mother is a lawyer; therefore his father can help him with A-level Biology and his mother can help him with General Paper. The rich kid's parents can send him to the best independent schools which in turn lay the route to the best junior colleges.

These advantages accumulate over years, and in the end, we see that the most prestigious scholarships almost invariably end up with the rich kids. A President's Scholar is not made in a day. He is not even made in a year. I say that the process starts somewhere around the age of eight or nine, when his well-educated parents engineer his entry into the Gifted Enrichment Program by buying him books with MENSA IQ tests that he can practice taking.

I believe that it is still quite possible for the relatively poor Singaporean to succeed (say, to the extent that he enters a local university and graduates). I just don't believe that it is very possible for the relatively poor Singaporean to succeed at the very highest levels, and win the most prestigious scholarships.

Why is this significant? It is significant because only the relatively poor would be profoundly grateful for their scholarships. It is only the relatively poor who would think, "If not for this scholarship, I would not be able to attend university at all, let alone study here in Stanford. I must serve my bond faithfully and give something back to Singapore."

For the rich, the prestigious scholarship is more like a trophy. It is a symbol of achievement, something that looks good in a CV, something to be very proud of. But it is not something to be deeply grateful for.

In the end, it means that the Singapore government scholars of today, being affluent, and being less grateful for their opportunity, would tend to be relatively less committed to public service. This is in comparison to the poorer Singapore government scholars of yesteryear - those heroic sons and daughters of taxi drivers and widowed seamstresses. That noble breed is now extinct.

This was reported in the Straits Times on Friday:

Aug 17, 2007
President's Scholar follows in dad's footsteps
By Ho Ai Li

Image Hosted by
Shot at 2007-08-18
'I think the President's Scholarship is, more than anything else, responsibility. It tells you you can't slack off, but have to try to enrich yourself in as many ways as possible.'
STEPHANIE KO, 18, on what it means to be a President's Scholar. She is seen here with her father, Mr Ko Kheng Hwa, 52, who also received the scholarship in 1974. He is now managing director of the Economic Development Board. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

IN 1974, then Raffles Institution student Ko Kheng Hwa received the President's Scholarship from the late Dr Benjamin Sheares.

Now managing director of the Economic Development Board, Mr Ko will return to the Istana tonight with his wife, Madam Hoong Suet Kun, to see daughter Stephanie, 18, receive the same award from President SR Nathan.

The Public Service Commission, which awards the scholarship, said Stephanie - from Hwa Chong Institution - is the first recipient to have a President's Scholar as a parent.

There are four President's Scholars this year. The others are Sergius Wat, 19; Kaan Hung Leng, 18; and Liu Chen, 21, all from Raffles Junior College (RJC).

Stephanie, who will study medicine at Cambridge University in Britain, said: 'It's the satisfaction you get as a doctor, dedicating your life to helping people.'

As former vice-president of the Hwa Chong Students' Council, Stephanie helped organise many events. She also represented the Singapore Chinese Girls' School in basketball.

Fellow President's Scholar Hung Leng also has a 'scholar dad'.

Her father, Mr Kaan Quan Hang, a senior engineer, studied in Australia on a Colombo Plan Scholarship. Her two siblings also went overseas on government scholarships.

Unlike them, Hung Leng is staying here and studying medicine at the National University of Singapore to keep her father and housewife mother, Madam Tan Bee Geok, company, she said.

Hung Leng, from Raffles Girls' Secondary (RGS), excelled in fencing and playing the piano.

Her former RGS and RJC schoolmate Liu Chen is also well-versed in sports and the arts. A national taekwondo brown belt champion, she also plays the piano and double bass.

She moved here from Shandong, China, in 1997 with her father, Mr Liu Luo Sheng, a business consultant, and mother, Madam Xu Bao Li, a private tutor.

'I had heard that it's hard for an ex-foreigner to get a government scholarship. I'm glad I proved them wrong,' said Liu Chen, an only child who became a Singapore citizen two years ago. She will study economics at the University of Chicago.

The thorn among the roses is Sergius Wat, whose father, Mr Wat Tat Chuen, is a general manger in a construction firm. His mother, Madam Ang Poh Choo, is a housewife. His older brother is a Singapore Armed Forces scholar.

Sergius, concurrently a Singapore Police Force scholar, said he wanted 'to help people in a very real way.'

Helping people comes naturally to Sergius, a scout and recent winner of the HSBC Youth Excellence award for his charity work. He will study government at Harvard University.

For all the crap these folks spewed in the interviews, how many still believe in them after several years or even within months of working in the Civil Service? I am sure you will know of someone who broke bond, either because of disillusion or in search of fatter opportunities in the corporate/private sector.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Leaving a legacy

I received 3 emails this month from my undergraduate alma mater (one was from the department), and I am surprised (because they had never sent me more than one per year; always asking me for money!). It turned out that the 5th Year Reunion is coming up. A survey was also included that asked for my philantrophic plans - and whether the university and/or department is going to be a beneficiary.

Wah lau, they start with the young alumni. As I had told AEG, I am unlikely to leave anything to my relatives and future descendents; the bulk will go to my alma maters (undergrad and grad schools) in the form of professorships/endowed chairs/scholarships if I end up rich enough. I won't want to see anything similar happening to my family when I am gone.

If I do have kid(s), the most they/he/she will get from me is a university education. After that, they will be on their own.

What's yours?


Save Dartmouth appeared on the online front page of New York Times today. They have a very committed alumni body, not like NUS.

What I liked was this part:

This is not about the recent election of “petition” Trustees. It’s not about divisive politics. It’s about keeping Dartmouth Dartmouth. Attending the College on the Hill today is a magnificent undergraduate experience, as it has always been. Changing the basis for Trustee selection could lead to a Harvard-style Trustee Board in which the voice of alumni/ae—and Dartmouth’s emphasis on undergraduate education—will be diminished.


...Dartmouth's proper mission is to be the very best undergraduate college in the world and not a second-tier research university.”

Hur hur. Making a dig at Harvard.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How do you defy the physical laws of nature?

Sometimes I feel like quitting this team. This happens when you get a team leader who has no proper understanding of thermodynamics (Gibbs Free Energy, Nerst equation). I could get aneurysms just by trying to explain my work/experimental results to him.

Only the other day the chemist at the meeting told him straight - "I cannot defy the laws of chemistry!"

He: Collect more data. Make it work.

You just wonder how managers are selected. Stupid people exist everywhere, and make things worse when they impose their stupidity on subordinates who can see something's wrong.

Poor leadership, coupled with a weak understanding of scientific fundamentals, creates a very lousy work environment. I should request to switch teams if this continues.


"Lisa! In this house we obey the Laws of Thermodynamics!"

--Homer Simpson

Friday, August 10, 2007

Marriage no different from BGR

One of my JC classmates (S.) has separated from her husband. She was the first in the class to get married 7 years ago. She now also holds the record for being the first (and hopefully the last) to divorce.

tk says: How are you and your hubby? You two have kids?

S says: We separated for a while. Now divorced.

tk says: Oops, sorry to hear that.

S says: ok la, not much different, I am used to being alone. Our marriage was a long distance one for 7 years. But I think in terms of character he is still the best. I hope that one day we can be together again but it is too difficult.

tk says: If you don't mind me asking, is long distance the cause?

S says: Long distance + no communication at all. Well he is not my type - I am very talkative. Therefore even though when I called him he did not talk much. Long distance would never be problem if both parties cared for each other and have a common interest.

I didn't probe more. She is based in Hong Kong, while her ex-husband was one of the stat board scholars bonded for 8 years to the organization.

Am shocked. I mean - you read about the divorce rate rising in the papers, but the significance only hits you when you know a peer or a relative going/had gone through the process.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What are imaginary numbers good for?

Like Greg Mankiw, I am also stumped by this question.

Especially so if I am asked by a layperson.

Are you, too? (Referring to my readers who are into engineering, math and physics.)

Research gems

I recommend this entry by YoungFemaleScientist. Good advice for all of us involved in, or about to go into research.

I think the key to navigating the sea of information is knowing how to evaluate what's reasonable and believable and what's not.

It's really easy to feel overwhelmed by the literature, for example, and not know what to believe, if you're in grad school or a new postdoc in a new field, and you're not armed with the basics.

I really think the least we can do for students is give them the tools they really need. I always say I've forgotten the vast majority of information I memorized for exams in school, but I know the concepts. I went out of my way to learn the concepts I knew I would need, and that guides me. I went outside the curriculum, I read things on my own, I did whatever I had to do. I didn't get perfect grades and I didn't care. But I learned a heck of a lot of useful stuff.

Most of the mistakes I see people making in lab- on a daily basis, mind you- stem from a complete lack of fundamentals.

Or, like what my prof in my sophomore Thermodynamics class said: When in doubt, always go back to the first principles, and work from there.

(Ed: The class was complaining that the cheat sheet for the mid-terms/exam did not include the Maxwell relations. There were many others excluded as well. Of all my undergraduate courses, this made the greatest impression on me. Not because I did well, but because I really felt I earned my 'B' grade. It was very helpful later for my graduate Thermo class as well as my Quals.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

If Love can be bought,

will you buy it? The video is available here.

"People look for love and will pay anything for it, even when they know they are being deceived and in turn deceiving. If you could capture the business model documented in this film into an online social network, you'd have something worth easily 10 times the projected value of Facebook." - Eduardo Sciammarella

Taken from Boing Boing.

(Ed: The guys look kinda...feminine, like straight out from animae. And they get the hot chicks.)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

How disconnected I am with the Island

She asked me about the good places to visit in Singapore. I struggled for a good 5 minutes to come up with a decent (albeit still short) list. It turned out that she had been to more places than I ever did in my 21 years (before I left for my tertiary education) on that island.

So lau kui malu.

I haven't even been to (that part of) Geylang, yet I had my fun in Ropponggi.

How many sides of Singapore have you seen, being a long time resident?

Friend: I am not surprised. You and most of your Singaporean friends are cocooned in a little ivory tower. Bet you don't even know much about the neighborhood schools' environment.


I am becoming a youtube junkie, searching for songs from my childhood and teenage years. This is my favorite from Chage and Aska (similar to 周华健's "让我欢喜让我忧").

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Daddy was the Apple of my Eye

It's not often that you go around telling people you like a song from an underwear ad. I found myself humming it (subconsciously) when it played on TV.


No castle in the south of France
But what we had were underpants
That made us feel like royalty
His hands were hard, his waistbands soft,
And in his deep red apple thoughts, he said,
‘Your fruit will be of the loom, not of the tree.’
Yeah, Daddy was the apple of my eye,
Like underwear he’s with me ’til I die
And the more that I peel back the years, the more I realize
He will always be, the apple of my eye.
A father knows a young boy grows
The clothesline of life sometimes blows
Brief memories that last forevermore.
He gave to me his fearless grin
His rosy cheeks, his tender skin
A comfort that runs straight down to the core.
Yeah, Daddy was the apple of my eye,
Like underwear he’s with me ’til I die.
And the more that I peel back the years, the more I realize
In that tangled family tree, he will forever be
The shining, polished apple of my eye.

On a side note, my mum was the one who chose my clothes (including underpants) when I was young. Heh.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007



Upcoming Weekend Dinner Korean lunch invitation, accepted;
The Simpsons Movie (Ed: last minute switch to Hairspray) on Saturday, accepted;
Long chats on the phone and MSN, becoming regular.

Continue to slog for the company. The moolah's decent, but I am getting disillusioned with the work.

She got the intra-company transfer offer - to relocate to a state to the west of mine.

她: 我的希望就是做米虫,真的,想得越多越发现不会思考;不去想太多,那是多么好的一件事! 就因为是工科博士毕业,做米虫又太浪费。早知高中毕业后就选文科当教师,一个平稳朝九晚五的工作, 又能留在台湾。



From: takchek's advisor (TA)
To: takchek

FYI - post doc opps at (national lab)


From: TA's friend [mailto:taf@(national-lab).gov]
To: TA
Subject: Post Doc Opportunities

I hope you are well. Don't forget to submit your abstract to the symposium!
We have a couple of post-doc opportunities up here at (national lab). If you have anyone coming down the pipe who would be interested, please let me know.



takchek, you have to choose again. Soon.

*The lab's on the east coast.

"OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet..."


What would you recommend giving the girl for her birthday?

Why is giving her cash/gift card a bad idea? They are most versatile and practical, no?

Female friend:

no lah..don't..insincere. give something flowers or accessories.

Sometimes I don't understand women. Really.


National Day is coming, and this song is making me feel emo. More so when I read these.


But, quoting BL:

Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson, you find the present tense and the past perfect.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Weekend Roundup

My car was broken into early Saturday morning RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE, just before I was about to leave for my road trip to California. The mp3 CD player was removed from the center console, together with the little drawer that housed my spare change. Thankfully my glove compartment had nothing valuable to steal. But what pained me the most was the loss of a CD (a birthday gift) from her.

That bugger better die a horrible death. Arsehole.

Coincidentally, I received this from another (girl, :P) on Friday night.

Gained one, lost one in a matter of hours.


The traffic in LA was just crazy with jams everywhere. Apparently it is worse on weekdays. But seeing the beach is enough to make you forget the traffic woes.

Santa Monica beach

Caltech has the feel of a small, cozy condominium complex. It is just so...pretty.

Reminded me of the old Katong Convent primary, where I had my Speech and Drama lessons when I was very young.


Even the fences are geeky.

And that gun!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Kim Gun Mo - Wrongful Meeting (잘못된 만남)

This is one of my favorites when speeding driving on the interstate at 80 - 90 mph. Possibly the Korean rap song with the fastest tempo.

Same song, by Ayumi.


The storyline is sad. Falling for your best friend's gf.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A World turned Upside Down

When women (of the the Class of '69) entered Wellesley's ivory tower, they were initiated into a rarefied world where the infamous "marriage lecture" and white gloves at afternoon tea were musts. Many were daughters of privilege; many were going for their "MRS". Four years later, by the time they graduated, they found a world turned upside down by the Pill, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, Roe v. Wade, the Vietnam War, student protests, the National Organization for Women, and the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment.


Mary Day Kent's mother had dropped out of Wellesley at the end of her junior year, in 1945, to get married, and she made it clear to her daughter that the aim of college was not to prepare herself for work but "to be a more interesting person to meet a more interesting husband." Marilyn Hagstrum urged her daughter to focus less on her grades and more on her bridge: She too, was at Wellesley "to fit in socially, to meet somebody nice with good prospects and get married."

The Wellesley girls took such admonitions to heart. The majority of seniors in the class of '69, like most women in college that year, expected to work only until they got married or had their first child. Few graduated with professional goals and plans. Most still believed it best for men to be breadwinners and women to be wives.


By the time the women of '69 were launching their own daughters into the world, all that had changed. In 1998, just 3 percent of families corresponded to the perfect portrait of the traditional nuclear family - dad bringing home the bacon to two kids and a stay-at-home mum. With women waiting longer to wed, and with half of all marriages ending in divorce, a woman today can expect to be married less than half her adult life. Child rearing too, occupies a smaller portion of her adulthood. Though the number of children raised by single mothers has quadrupled since the 1950s to 24 percent, Hillary Clinton's generation has had fewer children than any previous generation of American women. With longer life expectancies, they will spend many more years in an empty nest. Twenty percent have never had children.

The shifts in family structure followed dramatic changes in women's education and employment. Women are now the majority of students pursuing higher education, and have made tremendous gains in high earning professions. By 1990, a third of all attorneys, doctors, professors and business managers were women.

- Taken from Rebels in White Gloves. Coming of Age of Hillary's Class - Wellesley '69 by Miriam Horn

The above was obviously from an American viewpoint, but it can be equally applied to Singapore's case.

AEG was telling me that higher education for women is a double-edged sword. While the social dynamics and gender balance in the workplace have changed, our traditional views towards the dating and marriage game have not. How then do you explain these?

At the other end of the scale (or maybe it is the same, just repackaged differently), you have:

Discovered this forum created by local men - just to chat about the sex trade. I don’t understand half the acronyms inside, but I do know that they list places to go and post ratings after they’re done.

A few admits they are attached.

They even warn each other about potential ‘clingy’ girls, so the others can avoid them. The thing that hit me most is that most of them treat it as purely professional. As normal as conducting any other kind of business. I pay, you service me, the end. Some even say things like “She is a very nice, just came to earn money, treat her properly ok”

I wonder if they treat their wives as good.

They aren’t shy about what they do at all, posting very explicit details and events. At the end giving ratings on body, after-service, hygiene, whatever. Its like a whole network of sex addicts feeding on each other’s dirty deeds.

It's called Sammyboy.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Swarm Intelligence

My company is one that actively practises this. Employees are given a wide latitude in determining the best course to move forward in a research project, or to propose new ones to solve unexpected problems that crop up. Our academic backgrounds are both diverse and narrow at the same time - ranging from the biological to engineering to physical and mathematical sciences; the vast majority of the research scientists and engineers hailed from only the top few select schools in the country. You will be surprised to learn that the hierarchy is quite flat too for a company of our size; and everyone has direct access to the CEO. There is no such bullshit as following the chain of command. It is more of a bottom-up than top-down management system, although I suspect this is a leftover from the embryo years in free-wheeling California.

The top management believes this is one key asset that has kept us in the pole position in the industry for the past quarter century.

A single ant or bee isn't smart, but their colonies are. The study of swarm intelligence is providing insights that can help humans manage complex systems, from truck routing to military robots.


The bees' rules for decision-making—seek a diversity of options, encourage a free competition among ideas, and use an effective mechanism to narrow choices—so impressed Seeley that he now uses them at Cornell as chairman of his department.

"I've applied what I've learned from the bees to run faculty meetings," he says. To avoid going into a meeting with his mind made up, hearing only what he wants to hear, and pressuring people to conform, Seeley asks his group to identify all the possibilities, kick their ideas around for a while, then vote by secret ballot. "It's exactly what the swarm bees do, which gives a group time to let the best ideas emerge and win. People are usually quite amenable to that."

In fact, almost any group that follows the bees' rules will make itself smarter, says James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds. "The analogy is really quite powerful. The bees are predicting which nest site will be best, and humans can do the same thing, even in the face of exceptionally complex decisions." Investors in the stock market, scientists on a research project, even kids at a county fair guessing the number of beans in a jar can be smart groups, he says, if their members are diverse, independent minded, and use a mechanism such as voting, auctioning, or averaging to reach a collective decision.


"In biology, if you look at groups with large numbers, there are very few examples where you have a central agent," says Vijay Kumar, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. "Everything is very distributed: They don't all talk to each other. They act on local information. And they're all anonymous. I don't care who moves the chair, as long as somebody moves the chair. To go from one robot to multiple robots, you need all three of those ideas."


Such thoughts underline an important truth about collective intelligence: Crowds tend to be wise only if individual members act responsibly and make their own decisions. A group won't be smart if its members imitate one another, slavishly follow fads, or wait for someone to tell them what to do. When a group is being intelligent, whether it's made up of ants or attorneys, it relies on its members to do their own part. For those of us who sometimes wonder if it's really worth recycling that extra bottle to lighten our impact on the planet, the bottom line is that our actions matter, even if we don't see how.

That being said, there are still deadlines to meet.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Li Hongyi's SAF email and his reprimand by Mindef

Found from rockson's blog:

From: 2LT Li Hongyi, _____ PC, _____
Sent: Thursday, 28 June 2007 9:36 AM

To: ___ ____ ____, Minister, MHQ; MG ______ ____, CDF, CDF Office; BG -___ ____ ____, COA,
COAOFF; COL _______, CSO, _______; zz All in ____, _________

Cc: zz All in ________, _____; zz ALL IN ____, _____; zz All in _____, _____; zz All in ______, ______
Subject: A complaint about the quality control of SAF officers
Dear Sirs and alI,

I am about to disrupt my national service to pursue further studies, and this will likely be my last email sent out for the next half a decade. Unlike the common "ORD letters" that you read, this letter unfortunately cannot be as cheerful. I am using this last opportunity to issue a letter of complaint against the quality control of officers in the SAF, more specifically against LTA X. During my time as his subordinate, LTA X was AWOL on at least 2 counts, attempted bribery, and lied to his subordinates and his superior officer. The battalion HQ has effectively given no punishment, and has not even made these infractions known to the rest of the battalion.

Let me first give you some background. I am the ____ ____ platoon commander from __________. In order to maintain operational readiness my duties are performed at _____ camp where our ops bus and servers are instead of at stagmont camp where our battalion is. The company is structured like so

Centre Head

The duties are therefore shared between the PC's, PS', and the Centre Head. LTA X is the centre head of the __________.

LTA X, was originally supposed to be on duty at _____ Camp as the duty commander for the _______ on the 20th and 22nd of April, a Friday and Sunday respectively. I was on duty on the 21st of April that Saturday, to minimize the changing over, I contacted him and asked if he would like to swap duties for the Saturday and Sunday. To this he agreed, and thus he was to be on duty on the 20th and 21st of April.

On the Friday however, LTA X called to inform me that he was busy during the day, and if I could cover for him until the evening. To this I agreed to do so. At about 1600 hours, I received a call from LTA X, informing me that he was on the way and that I could leave first, thought this would result in a time where there would be no duty commander in camp, he informed me that this had already be cleared with our OC. I therefore left camp.

On Sunday the 22nd of April I arrived back in camp to take over duty from LTA X. After he had left camp the men informed me that he had not arrived in camp on Friday at all, and that he only arrived in camp at 1800 hours on Saturday the 21st of April. On Saturday they had tried to contact him to ask his whereabouts, to which he told them that he was in fact in _____ in ______ camp getting some work done. The men contacted their counterparts in ______ camp to verify this, however no one in______ camp had seen LTA X. 1 further confirmed with the ______ duty personnel on Saturday that none of them had seen LTA X, this was also with confirmed with that day's BDO.

This news obviously was very distressing, I confronted LTA X regarding this information to which he confirmed that he only arrived in camp on Saturday at 1800 hours, but that he was at _____ for a while then left later to run some errands. Upon learning that I was to bring this information to our OC, LTA X then made an offer to do some of my duties for me to which I declined, his words were "You know if you need me to help you do some of your duties.."

On Wednesday after I had completed my personal investigation and confirmed that these events had indeed transpired, I informed our OC of these offences. Our OC spoke to LTA X regarding these issues, and let him off with a warning.

I would like the story to end here, however LTA RX was again on duty at ____ Camp for _________ on the following Saturday the 28th of April. At 0030 hours on Sunday the 29th of April I received a message from the duty personnel. The duty personnel of the platoon had just spotted LTA X's car, a white Mitsubishi lancer driving out of camp. I responded by telling them to check all the car parks and look for LTA X in camp. I received a call at about 0115 hours, the duty personnel informed me that they had checked the whole camp, and that LTA X's car was no where to be found. They also informed me that LTA X was no where to be found, not in any of the bunks nor any of the offices.

On Monday the 20th of April when I arrived back in ______ Camp for work, I confirmed with both the guard commander and the duty officer for Saturday the 28th of April, that at white Mitsubishi lancer had indeed driven out of camp at about 0030 hours on the 29th of April. This latest information was told to our OC.

When confronted by our OC, LTA X told him that indeed it was his car driving out of camp, he claimed however, that it was not him driving the car but that he had lent it to friend to drive out of camp. After checking with the person in question this was established to be untrue. Finally, LTA X admitted that he had lied, and that is was he who had left camp.

I have been informed that LTA X was to be given 10 extra duties, though this may be considered an extremely light punishment there is a further problem. To date, which is to say, 2 months from the incidents, none of the duties have been published in the battalion RO, in addition, LTA X has not served any of the extra duties he was supposedly awarded. In addition, this system of leniency is not consistent throughout the battalion, or even the company. The following was published in the RO on 1 1th of June 2007:

SXXXXXXXX CPL _____ ________ Non-compliance with a lawful duty or order. stoppage of Leave for 7 days

This was the punishment for CPL ______ for leaving camp an hour before he was supposed to. This was published less than a week after his infringement. If you were to calculate the time AWOL alone, LTA X was missing for a minimum of over 20 hours. This does not take into the account the fact that he repeated the crime less than a week after being reprimanded the first time. This does not take into account the lying to his superior officer. This does not take into account the fact that he is an officer, and thus should be even more liable than corporal.

Absence without leave
22. -(1) Every person subject to military law who is absent without leave from service in the Singapore Armed Forces or from the place where he is lawfully required for the time being to be shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction by a subordinate military court to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or any less punishment authorised by this Act.
(2) It shall be a defence for any person charged under this section to prove that his absence was a result of circumstances over which he had no control.

this is where the report ends and the editorial begins. LTA X's continued service in the SAF is an embarrassment the entire officer corps. In the SAF we are constantly being told that we have very high standards expected from our officers. As an officer cadet any one of these actions would have you put immediately out of course. Here you have a person who lied to his subordinates, went AWOL, attempted to bribe a civil servant, went AWOL again not even a week after being reprimanded, then lied to cover himself, and tried to implicate another person in these lies. He discarded his second chance just days after being given it because he thought he could get away with it. I how ask you what exactly are these high standard that we speak of? I am realistically asking you how much worse than this can an officer really go? Does a person have to commit armed robbery or murder before he fails these supposedly "high" standards of officers in the SAF? I simply fail to understand how someone who would undeniably fail the standards expected of a cadet or even a private can continue to be an officer.

The decisions of the battalion HQ are equally saddening. How can a lower standard of discipline be expected of officers than of men? In the our society, when a police officer commits a crime he is held to an even higher standard, and given even greater punishment than a normal citizen, this is because he has betrayed the very values it is his duty to uphold.

I was told that one of the reasons this was so was that they did not wish to ruin his career with a summary trial. However the SAF is not a charity organisation and does not owe anyone a career. I feel that as a regular his status as an officer and his career should be under even closer scrutiny than that of an NSF, to intentionally withhold such information is effectively tricking the SAF into continuing to pay someone whom if all is known, has no place in the organisation.

Another reason told to me for LTA X's lighter punishment was that it is in light of the work he has done for the battalion, I feel this is unacceptable for several reasons. Firstly in our country we do not mitigate punishments based on past achievements, Durai was not excused despite the amount of money he helped NKF raise, and a doctor would not be excused from molestation no matter how many lives he has helped save. Secondly such mitigation is nothing more than justified corruption and no different from a criminal paying off the police to escape arrest, the very thing we fight so hard to keep out of our society, Finally even if the previous two points are conceded, what LTA X did was not a mistake, mistakes are done by accident. What he has demonstrated is a systematic failure of character and unacceptable as an officer.

Even if you attribute the lack of punishment to extreme leniency, the decision to not inform the battalion is even more suspicious. Especially in a _____ unit such as _________ where the importance of being on duty cannot be over emphasized, to not even inform the battalion of the occurrence is to send a signal that there is nothing wrong with his actions. If it was unintentional it shows gross negligence for something which is clearly an important matter, and if intentional shows a level of corruption that I need not elaborate on.

While some might say this is just a small matter, a story of a single bad officer, the fact that it was not dealt with more severely is indicative of a bigger problem. It shows the lack of quality control being practiced for the leaders of the SAF. The following quote was taken from the army's own intranet homepage:

"In the 3rd Generation SAF, the quality and commitment of our people will continue to be the most important determinant for advancement" - Member of Parliament Ms Indranee Rajah

We can take criticism about having second hand equipment, outdated training methods, and even questionable relevance to modern day operations. But one thing that cannot be tolerated is a reputation for having bad leaders. Such a reputation would compromise Singapore's defence credibility far more than using refurbished tanks or old training manuals.

While I may only be a 2nd lieutenant, I am a citizen of this country. And as a citizen I have the right to demand high standards from the leaders of the SAF While it is true that high standards are hard to come by and even harder to enforce, for such events to come to light and yet nothing be done about it is to say the very least, unacceptable and disappointing.

Yours Sincerely,
2LT Li Hongyi -
___________ Commander

Mindef's media release:

Straits Times Jul 13, 2007

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s son, Li Hongyi, who is serving his national service, has been reprimanded by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for not following proper procedures in e-mailing a letter of complaint to many other servicemen.

Second Lieutenant Li Hongyi had alleged that another officer from his unit, had been absent without leave or AWOL on two occasions.

In the June 28 email, which was sent to the Defence Minister and senior SAF officers, among others, 2nd Lt Li also stated that he had reported the matter to the officer’s supervisors, but no disciplinary action had been taken.

In a statement on Thursday, Mindef’s director of public affairs, Colonel Benedict Lim said: ‘2nd Lt Li was found to have contravened the General Orders of Mindef by broadcasting his letter of complaint to many other servicemen - almost all of whom were neither directly under his command, nor in an official capacity where they could deal with the matters contained in his letter of complaint.’

Col Lim added: ‘He has been formally charged and administered a reprimand after a summary trial.’

A summary trial deals with less serious military offences and is normally presided over by a senior disciplinary officer who may serve with the soldier’s own unit or appointed to oversee the trial from another unit.

Penalties include being warned by the senior disciplinary officer, fortfeiture of days off or shouldering extra duties.

Mindef added that following 2nd Lt Li’s complaint, an investigation was conducted and the officers concerned have been disciplined.

The officer who was found to have been AWOL will be court martialled and two supervising officers have been issued letters of warning for poor judgement in administering inappropriate disciplinary action.

In a court martial, which deals with more serious offences, can result in a range of penalties if they are found guilty of misconduct. These include discharge from service, detention in the SAF Detention Barracks, a reduction in rank, forfeiture of seniority, fines and reprimand.

Mindef issued the statement on Thursday in response to media queries about the internet chatter on Mr Li’s email.

Several sites were abuzz with details of the email and comments on how the authorities would respond.

Col Lim stressed that the SAF takes a serious view of misconduct by any serviceman.

‘To maintain organisational discipline, all SAF servicemen with complaints or grievances should take them up through proper channels for redress, to ensure due process and to protect confidential information.

‘All complaints which are not anonymous are investigated and dealt with properly.’

Mr Li, who is the third of the PM Lee’s four children, has received a Public Service Commission scholarship and will soon be leaving to study economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.