Monday, April 30, 2007

Benefits of Academic Networking

First, you get unsolicited offers from prestigious journals to submit your manuscripts to. (Research)

Now there is a complimentary textbook and an upgrade in your status. (Teaching)

I hope this is wonder what is next.


Other news: my Singaporean roommate in undergrad is now in Chicago for his MBA, while my BMT buddy is heading to the Northeast for the same degree. Both are fully sponsored by their organizations. Another is in his final semester and will be leaving for home soon to serve his bond.

"Pantheon of Titans" indeed! A decade later, we are still competing with one another for one-upmanship and bragging rights. Just like them.

PhDs vs. the MBAs. Some companies take both; Imagine being colleagues in the end. Hur hur.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Speak Good English - Whose English?

Jollypuddle and Fox present their opposing views on Singaporeans' standard of spoken English. To cut the long story short - I am leaning towards towards the former's argument. Or maybe because I find this offensive:

...looking at the Singaporean undergraduates in my university, the problem seems to be getting worse with younger people. Or maybe it's because many of them come from SAP schools where the lingua franca is Mandarin. Good grief, what do English teachers do in those schools?

While I certainly speak with a distinct Singaporean accent, I think my pronunciation is clearly understood by my advisor and PhD committee (all US-born-and-educated Caucasian males), as well as by my American peers. But Singlish should be avoided, especially when speaking to non-Singaporeans/Malaysians, more because of sentence structure than actual pronunciation.

When we consider the question of standard English what we find, in effect, is double standards. The very idea of a standard implies stability, and this can only be fixed in reference to the past. But language is of its nature unstable. It is essentially protean in nature, adapting its shape to suit changing circumstances. It would otherwise lose its vitality and its communicative and communal value.

How English develops in the world is no business whatever of native speakers in England, the United States, or anywhere else. They have no say in the matter, no right to intervene or pass judgment. They are irrelevant. The very fact that English is an international language means that no nation can have custody over it. - Widdowson

Eric Ringmar, formerly a lecturer at LSE, sums it best:

Great American universities like Harvard and Yale may pride themselves in their multiculturalism, but they know little about it. At Yale we were some token foreign students in a corner of the classroom, but the majority of the students were regular, all-American, kids. This is not the case at the LSE. There may be more English students here than others, but we don’t do ‘minorities,’ we are all minorities of some kind or another. Everyone is included, no one cannot take part.

This is why the official language of the School is broken English. Personally I speak this language perfectly fluently.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Arigato, by KOKIA.



誰もが気付かぬうちに 何かを失っている
フッと気付けばあなたはいない 思い出だけを残して
せわしい時の中 言葉を失った人形達のように

もしも もう一度あなたに会えるなら
たった一言伝えたい ありがとう ありがとう

時には傷つけあっても あなたを感じていたい
思い出はせめてもの慰め いつまでもあなたはここにいる

※もしも もう一度あなたに会えるなら
もしも もう一度あなたに会えるなら
たった一言伝えたい ありがとう ありがとう※


時には傷つけあっても あなたを感じてたい

Thank you for the song. :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Price of Mobility

To be frank, I am getting a little tired of Grad School - the numerous unexpected problems that derail and set back apparently simple experiments. Situations like presence of static electrical charges even on grounded samples, adverse effect of outside weather conditions on operation of indoor equipment,...the list goes on.

This, plus the fact that I am a little apprehensive of heading to industry and the hassle (albeit temporary) of arranging for the move to another state, has given me many sleepless nights. I have settled into a comfortable little cocoon in school and there is the fear of the unknown. New city, new friends, new boss, new housemates.

I realize all my work experiences so far have the term 'research' - be it in the US, Japan, or Singapore. The social side remains the same - I move alone. Hence my envy in seeing my labmate leave together with his wife.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The world is your oyster

I am excited for one of my lab group members. He has just been offered a position at a National Lab. He is not a US citizen/PR, in case readers are wondering. I hope to be able to join him at the same Lab sometime later in my career, as I will be going to industry first.

He actually has two offers - the other is from a university in the Northeast; They are willing to sponsor his H-1B while as a post doc, plus a position for his wife as well.

My advisor's recommendation does have an impact. Woot!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The American Dream

Like the many international students who want to work and contribute to their host country after graduation, I wonder if the US government would one day adopt immigration policies similar to Singapore's. But of course chances of it happening is slim. Unlike the latter, most of the foreign students do wish to be given the chance to settle down and sink their roots here in America.

Isn't the US is the land of freedom and opportunities? Then I look at how fast the H1-B visa ran out this year and the situations of the undocumented college students, I think the freedom and opportunities are mostly belong to those who have legal status. Then my next question is, why is it so difficult for some people to acquire a legal status? I think it is the issue of having an abundance vs. scarcity mindset. If you believe the resources of a country will be depleted when there are more people in a country, of course you don't want too many people to "share the pie" with you, right? - Right-minded Actuary

Monday, April 16, 2007

VT Killings

My condolences to the students, parents, faculty and staff.

Hard to imagine that it can happen on a supposedly rural, laid back campus. *Shudders*

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Teaching vs. Research (as a PhD student)

It feels somewhat weird to both fill up a survey form about my research experience in Grad School and participate in a roundtable discussion for Graduate Student Instructors on the same day.

On the front page of the Handbook for Faculty, Instructors, and Teaching Assistants given to me is a quote by the University's President:

"Although we are known as a research university, teaching is the core of our mission. We intend to excel at it for the entering undergraduate as well as the Ph.D. student working on advanced research."

Hur hur. I used to dread leading a discussion section, going over homework sets, overseeing the operation of lab equipments and having office hours. Because it takes away time from my lab (same for blogging too, hah!), and I have to spend effort thinking about the solutions to the problems and grading papers.

But it soon became obvious (after being a TA for 3 semesters already) that teaching actually helped me develop a deeper understanding of my undergraduate coursework. There is no doubt that teaching and research reinforce each other, and there is definitely a positive externality to my work. Plus the satisfaction of seeing students learn something beyond textbook knowledge.

Earlier entry on Greg Mankiw's blog.

The 2006 Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs

I am glad to be able to participate in an important survey. This sort of comes full circle - I remember selecting my institutions (both undergraduate and graduate schools) based partly on NRC's list. It is time they update the data from the '93 study.

Dear takchek:

You were recently selected by your doctorate program at University name deleted to participate in the National Research Councils 2006 Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs. This assessment, conducted about once every 10 years, collects information about U.S. research doctorate programs. The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete. For completing the questionnaire, we will send you $15 as a token of our appreciation These data will help students like yourself, to select a doctoral program that best suits them.

To complete the Survey Questionnaire, go to:
Your login information is: deleted

If you experience technical difficulties, email us immediately at . Please include your name and the name of your institution so that we can respond promptly.

As I have said earlier, if only I have the same good fortune when it comes to winning the green card lottery.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bitter Asian Males Part II

Is this a pan-Asian phenomenon?

Yeah, yeah, I know what some of you will say. Sour grapes; Loser. I don't have a very good impression of Asian female-white male couples.

On a side note, a female reader was telling me of how difficult it is to find a non-Christian English-speaking Chinese male in Singapore. She thinks there is a direct correlation between the language one is most comfortable with and his/her religion.

Edit (11 Apr): Paper on Mate Preferences and Online Matching Outcomes. Tip: Ray. Money is good - can 'buy' one love. Just like "good governance".

Monday, April 09, 2007

LKY's words of wisdom

I have refrained so far from commenting about the current big news from Singapore. Simply because I have nothing new to add on to what others had written.

I just want to say, I find the MIW quotes morbidly fascinating. Like the kind of creepiness people dish out for Halloween. Except that it is not really funny, and they make me sick.

Of course, the best (I think) comes from Ah Kong himself.

"You know, the cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government.

You get the alternative and you'll never put Singapore together again. Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again...and your assets will disappear, you apartment will be worth a fraction of what it is, your jobs will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people's countries, foreign workers."


"...Singapore's GDP is only one-third of its external trade? Our external trade is 3 1/2 times that of our GDP, higher than Hong Kong. And if this economy ever falters, that's the end of Singapore and its First World status. Denmark, Switzerland and Finland are part of Europe. You can fail and you're still caught in the European situation. If you fail here, you go back to a Southeast Asian situation. Just look around you...

...He (Low Thia Kiang) has compared Singapore as if it were Denmark, Finland or Switzerland. Their systems and governments never produced the kind of transformation that we have, and their system and government have a broader base and can afford a mediocre government."

I have long lost my respect for them, and hope for the country.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Employers' Perception of Local vs Overseas Educated Singaporeans

From the ST forum (Apr 7):

'It's very hard to find good talent in Singapore nowadays,' said HR professional

I ATTENDED a career talk organised by Contact Singapore in Sydney two weeks ago. This event boasted many respectable companies from the banking and financial sector, aiming to give new graduates job opportunities. Overall, the event was informative and encouraging. However, it was marred by an incident that sent shock waves through the conference room.

During the question and answer session, a representative from Morgan Stanley said, 'It is very hard to find good talent in Singapore nowadays' while explaining the need for more 'talent' from overseas. This remark was an insult to every Singaporean attending the event - a verbal slap in the face. It might not have been so offensive had it been a one-to-one talk, but this was an address to an audience of a majority of Singaporeans studying and working in Sydney. The looks on the faces of the Singaporeans present were clear to see. They were of shock, dismay and displeasure.

What is ironic about this incident is that the representative who made the remark happened to be in a senior position in the human resource department of the company. Remind me again what their job scope encompasses? So if this is coming from this part of the company, what does it say about the company as a whole?

I find it ridiculous how local talent is neglected and foreign talent is idolised. Sure, they may have experience from overseas, but are they capable? What can they do that a locally educated person cannot? Surely, they are not worth a quadruple salary compared to a local, simply because they are from overseas. There are some who merit that no doubt, but it is often hastily generalised that employees from overseas are 'foreign talent'. They are foreign but they are not always talent.

Local talent should be recognised and companies that discriminate against the local pool should not be welcome in Singapore. We do not have to take sitting down such disregard for our people. We should never discriminate against our own and we should never allow ourselves to be victimised in any way.

Julian Sng Yeung Liang

Sydney, Australia

Unlike Fox, sometimes I think the problem could be due to the "professionalism of the students before they go for their job interview".

My related previous entry.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Stanford's Parody of Harvard's Econs; Aqua Harp; H1-B Quota

Taken from Greg Mankiw's blog - Stanford econs students' parody of Harvard's 2006 recruitment ad.


Animusic's Aqua Harp reminded me of my childhood teens' visits the Singapore Science Center's planetarium. You know, the kind of music they would play while you waited for the show to start.

The background of the MV fits too - ...a serene setting -- a cross between a water garden and a planetarium.

The first thing that caught my eye was the visible harmonics on the harp.


Lottery for the H1-Bs. This is just getting so crazy.

Points to note - 1. Students who have Masters or Doctorate degrees from US institutions are eligible for a further quota of 20,000.

2. Institutes of higher education and research (e.g Universities, research labs); Related or affiliated nonprofit entity; or Nonprofit or government research organizations are NOT subjected to the H1-B hiring cap.

3. Singapore citizens are eligible to file for the H1-B1 visa, which has its own 5,400 (separate) quota. The H1-B1 however does not allow you to apply for a green card.

Edit (8 Apr): Peishan's case.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Supply and Demand at Brand Name US Colleges

News reports from the NY Times, WSJ and Bloomberg on selective colleges getting even more selective. Just a decade ago, such extremely competitive admissions (based on my experience with peers applying together from Ghim Moh JC) were restricted only to a few select US colleges. Teachers would only write LORs (letters of recommendations)/encourage the best (defined by their 3 S-papers, Science/Math Olympiad medals etc etc) to those applying to HYPSM and Caltech. I am still not sure if it is true, but the word going around was that these universities had set a 'low quota' for successful Singapore applicants.

The applicant numbers are rising, but the places available are still pretty much constant.


This article reminded me of the students from a certain high school. But who am I to criticize? After all I am a beneficiary of the system. Hence my snigger when friends say they want to go to New Orleans to help rebuild the city. Yeah...right.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My Hottie

Today, in anticipation of my upcoming 2000 mile road trip across America, I went to the dealer to get this baby.

Free Image Hosting at

Isn't she cute?