Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Life Choices III

1. The company wants my decision soon. As in REALLY SOON. I don't know what is wrong with me. I seem to be dragging my feet on this matter. Friends have been telling me to take it and spice up my resume (and money). After all, this is NOT a bond, and I am free to switch company (and industry) later.

One thing I am good at is PROCRASTINATION. History repeats itself.

2. My folks are asking me again about my graduation - come back for good and start looking for a job (and wife) in Singapore lah. They have no idea about my job applications. Heh.

The Civil War is long in coming. The question at hand is a simple one, full autonomy, the separation of a member from the Family to work/live overseas.

It has become a divisive issue because there developed significant social, cultural and economic differences between the younger members and the elders. The older generation, conservative, patriarchal, parochial and authoritative, sees their interests threatened as the younglings become increasingly worldly, mobile and liberal. Complicating the issue is the fact that the member in question is the only son, the crown jewel in the Empress Dowager and the Patriarch's eyes.

Prior civil discussions had turned into shouting matches, with both sides exchanging harsh words. Compromise was several times attempted by the Matriarch, but each time came to naught. The fundamental issue is individual freedom, but the Elders have no wish to see their male descendant stay overseas.

Analysts have predicted the issue will come to a boil soon (this year or next) without any reasonable solution or compromise. The lines are drawn, the tinder ready. All it takes to fire will be one spark.

3. Congratulations. I had wanted to pass the drawing below to you but I thought it was not very appropriate. Glad to know you are now happy, and thanks for asking about my well-being.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Know what you are getting into

I am sure many of takchek's visitors had already read this. If you have not, I strongly recommend it. :)

Below is part of a letter my senior had written to the powers to be (circa Jul 2005), as an honest feedback on the NSS program. Unsurprisingly (and unfortunately), it wasn't taken too kindly by a body allergic to criticisms and was dismissed unceremoniously.


It is with great regret that I learned that the controversy surrounding scholarships and bond breaking has recently resurged. I hope you will allow me the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on the issue of scholarships and the cultivation of local scientific talent.

Having entered university at a time when government agencies failed to recognize the value of a doctorate, my contemporaries who discovered their latent passion for research during their undergraduate experiences were faced with the unenviable position of deciding between breaking their bonds or forgoing the pursuit of their newfound passion.

Prior to the introduction of doctoral scholarships, I had often counseled junior college students with a passion for scientific research to forgo the allure of a prestigious scholarship, and to stay at a local university to pursue their undergraduate education, and thereby retain the freedom to pursue a doctoral program. For those who aspired to an undergraduate degree overseas, I would encourage applying for financial aid, even when it had the potential to adversely affect the admissions decision.

I have always maintained that is foolish to deny one's passions and to deceive oneself into thinking that one will overcome any initial discomfiture with the idea of a bond, particularly when one has the financial means to support an overseas education. For a Singaporean student who is uncomfortable with the idea of a bond, the laissez-faire attitude that pervades most foreign universities would only serve to amplify such misgivings.

Predictably, in our prestige-conscious society, few students were willing to decline a scholarship for such intangibles as passion and job satisfaction, much to their and the nation's eventual regret.

With the advent of the National Science Talent Search and the National Science Scholarships instituted by A*STAR, I had high hopes that future generations of aspiring Singaporean scientists would not have to face the difficult decision that many of my contemporaries had to.

Regretfully, the many retroactively applied policy changes that characterized the last few years of the National Science Talent Search and National Science Scholarship program has tempered my initial enthusiasm. A particular case in point includes the decision to modify the terms of the scholarship associated with the National Science Talent Search to restrict the service obligation to an A*STAR research institute, as opposed to serving in any research facility in Singapore. Perhaps more widespread in terms of its impact for students currently serving national service was the decision to eliminate many of the top-tier universities from the list of approved undergraduate institutions.

While I agree that a scholarship agreement should not be undertaken lightly, and should be entered into in good faith, retroactively applied policy decisions put scholars in an awkward position, since alternative funding opportunities such as financial aid are no longer open to them midway through their education. Perhaps more importantly, such policy reversals serve to erode the credibility of A*STAR, which can have important consequences in terms of its ability to attract and retain scientific talent.

On a more practical note, might I suggest that in addition to the selected overseas institutions that are pre-approved, A*STAR should consider allowing potential scholars to pursue their education at another institution if they are able to provide a cogent argument about why their university of choice would provide scientific and intellectual opportunities that are unavailable at pre-approved institutions.

As for the issue of minimum GPA standards for the conversion of BS scholars to the PhD program, valid concerns have been raised about the issue of grade inflation, and the temptation to undertake a less challenging and rigorous program of study in order to adhere to the minimum GPA standards. Singaporean students are by nature risk-adverse, and this policy only serves to accentuate that behavior, which is an unfortunate trait to have in a research scientist.

Perhaps what frustrates me most about the situation is that I see great potential in terms of the significant investments in infrastructure that A*STAR has introduced into the Singaporean research and development community. But it behooves us to remember that as a nation-state, our greatest assets are our people, and bureaucratic policies that unnecessarily alienates our young scientists have no place in the agency charged with promoting research and development.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Ripped off from mrsbudak's blog. I can still remember the way it was sung. My most favorite SBC drama serial, and also its underlying message - We are all immigrants, and the tough choices people make to leave their homes for an unknown land of opportunity.

She has others listed too.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Of Mergers, Aquisitions, Breakups and State Intervention

Blogs/websites I have been chewing my thoughts on these past few days:

1. Singapore girls - a challenge to love

2. peishan

3. kitana

4. simplyjen

5. angeline

6. ringisei

7. tym

8. anthony

9. ashke

10. gabriel

11. mollymeek

12. Mr Wang I, II

The first thing that came to my mind, however, was the first line of the Hymn to the Soviet Union.

Permanent Union of Free Republics


What's the main purpose of a relationship/marriage again?

Quote of the Day:

One emotional man said online: “I’m fed up with life. Can’t even find a date let alone a wife.” For him and the rest, salvation lies in Vietnam or China. - littlespeck

Edit: Spider's take, plus two new ones I found: Singapore-city-zen, and sg_ljers.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Even Lab Vendors know...

Dedicated to elia, who I know is being snowed in on campus and with bus services canceled.


When the outside weather conditions is like this:


Make sure you have this in your lab.

Lab Snacks

Saturday, February 03, 2007

CHICAGO CITYLIGHTS; SSA Alliance; Work Singapore

Someone forwarded this to my mailbox. I wonder who would actually turn up (for those outside of the Upper Midwest).

Dear All,

The University of Chicago SAMSU Singaporean Society is proud to present Citylights 2007: Stand-up for Singapore! SAT, 24 FEB 2007
Ticket Price: US$25

This year's programme in brief (please see attached banner):

3-5pm at the Map Room, I House.

SYMPOSIUM (International House, 5pm)
Hossan Leong will be giving a talk about the comedy scene in Singapore and what it is like to be a comedian.

DINNER & PRE-SHOW SEGMENT (International House, 6:30pm)
Included in the ticket price.
Featuring mouth-watering dishes from home such as chicken rice, beef rendang and chicken curry. Also featuring the lovely sounds of our home-grown a cappella group grooving to the likes of Kit Chan, as well as the funky moves of our dance group!

STAND-UP COMEDY (International House, 8:30pm)
Featuring Hossan Leong. He can act! He can sing! While playing piano!!
Aaand, he's funny too!!

AFTERPARTY (Location TBA, 11:00pm onwards; SINGAPOREANS and invite-only)
Our chance to party, have fun and show everyone how it's really done, SINGAPORE-style!

This is an annual event organised by SAMSU SS to bring Singaporeans all over the US to meet and bond over Singaporean Culture! Previous years have seen us bringing in politicians, filmmakers and musicians to speak about Singaporean issues at the UofC (refer to for more details).

This year, SAMSU will be featuring local talent Hossan Leong in a stand-up comedy performance, as well as an a cappella group and a dance group featuring our very own SAMSU members!

If any Singaporeans would like to request for cheap accommodation within Hyde Park, SAMSU SS will be able to provide it, if you email as soon as possible.

We hope to see you there!

For any queries, please email

Shahidah Abdul Rashid
SAMSU Singaporean Society
External Relations Chair


Then there was a link to this "College Scope/SSA Alliance". Smells very suspicious. I have become too cynical of any initiative that could have a (Sg) government hand behind it.

Remember this? Here is the answer to that MOM questionnaire.

"Work Singapore is a job and internship portal targeted at graduates of good universities outside of Singapore who wish to work in our dynamic and cosmopolitan island city.Singapore residents who are looking for work at home are especially welcome.

The Singapore economy is currently experiencing robust growth and many premium companies are hiring. There isn't a better time than now to start your career in one of Asia's most vibrant cities!

Work Singapore will officially be launched on 1 March 2007. The portal is now open for registrations. Once you are registered, you will get updates of the most current news about the portal including jobs and internships that are of interest to you. Do visit thewebsite and check it out!"

Maybe I should suggest that readers follow Mr Wang's blog to clear the spin. It is amazing how ignorant some Singaporeans (students) overseas are when it comes to home issues.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Déjà vu

I remember my post-A level days. All those flashy, glossy scholarship brochures screaming for your attention:

"Apply to us and be set on the path to success in Singapore Inc!"
"Get a headstart over your peers!"
"Attend (Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, MIT etc) for free!" etc etc

Even though I had absolutely no REAL idea what those organizations/companies do. All I saw then, was the chance to go to some elite-sounding, Ang Moh university on someone's account.

Two years ago, I turned down an offer to go to Santa Clara after getting my Masters. A friend said I was crazy. Good location, very decent pay and "you said NO?!" She was literally screaming into my ear.

And now. An opening in Arizona. I must say the terms are quite obscene. Right up there with the management consultants in terms of compensation (after adjusting for cost of living). But it is not in an industry I want to go to, although the location is a BIG plus factor.

The places where I really want to go to are in other states. Where I would gladly take them up even if they will be paying only half of what this company is offering for me in AZ.

One thing's for sure though. My folks won't be happy. None at all. And I am keeping mum until the deed is signed and confirmed.

Choices, choices, choices.

Friend: "what about starting a family and stuff <- going for that?"
Me: "with that kind of money, I think I can afford to BUY a bride. With plenty left over"