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.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Asian Stereotypes in the US

I was reminded again of this on the flight to Philadelphia. I made the mistake of wearing my school's T-shirt for the trip. There was this very annoying WASPish mother sitting next to me, and she made many comments about my (Grad) school and major to her 'precocious' daughter on her left.

Some youtube videos on the various Asian stereotypes, which I first saw on PS's blog:

Related: Asian and College Pressure.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


My disaffection with the country started with the military, before spreading to the entire bureaucracy. It's not hard to see why.

I have seen the FUBARs they can make, e.g. something as straightforward and yet all-important as morale, which is so important and yet, through their disconnect with reality, they make things worse. I have seen how some commanders treat their men, how they are treated as resources and not as human beings, how they have lost sight of the reason reason and objective behind what they do. I have sat on Courts-Martial panels before and seen the bottom end of the spectrum, how the system can be so stupidly inflexible that it drives NSF boys to desperation, to do silly things like go AWOL for trivial reasons, just because their commanders did not care enough about them, or worse: of injustices I felt compelled to fight.

There was a case once of an NSF charged with losing a live round of ammunition during patrol. He pleaded guilty and was going to be sentenced to detention for a few months. But upon hearing the facts of the case, I discovered that it was not implausible that we was originally only given 29 rounds in the first place, that he was not trained in the technical handling of the weapon in the first place, and that he was actually ordered not to physically count the issued rounds individually. I threw out the case and told the defending officer to investigate more thoroughly and to prepare a defence for him. When the next trial date approached, I called up the defending officer and realised that he had done absolutely nothing at all—because the unit CO and S1 instructed him to "just get it over with quickly". They didn't seem interested at all to uncover what really happened, but would rather send him packing off to DB for a few months just to close the case without much fuss. I was horrified. This was a few months of a man's life we're talking about here, and they didn't seem like it mattered a lot to them. But the soldier wanted to plead guilty because he "didn't want to drag the issue", also I suspect because he was afraid that by fighting for his innocence, he would incur greater wrath. I could not do anything and a man went to DB for 3 months because of an offence he most likely did not commit.

The unit in question was an armour battalion. This incident was seared in my collective memory and after many other encounters with people from Armour, of all the branches of the Army, I despise Armour the most.

And the truth is that it pains me. It pains me to see an organisation that is so important to our country get ruined in the hands of people who don't know better or couldn't care less. Yes, I believe there are good people in the Army, but the Army is so large that the proportion of these good people are overwhelmed by the rest. Some commanders don't know better what's really happening at the ground level. What most of them see are the showcases, where everything is made presentable before they arrive, and then it's back to the dregs after they leave. But the picture is very different right at the ground, which is where I work. - jemauvais

Afterall, you must be doing real bad to drive many of your citizens away, including some of the best and brightest.

On a side note, I am sensing some kind of latent unhappiness towards me by my male peers (stuck in Sg for various reasons) for not having done any 'reservist' at all. Heh. NEVER AGAIN.

I despise the SAF and everything it stands for. It's amazing looking at the hate generated by a 'mere' 2.5 years of conscription.

"2.5 years?! Wow, it's so long! Are you guys fighting a war like we are in the South (Kurds) or what?" - My Turkish colleague. He will only serve 21 days in total if/when he returns as he has already worked more than 3 years outside his country.

The Reluctant General

It's depressing. The Dowager is still around, but her princes and princesses are already sharpening their knives and marshalling their armies for the spoils that will follow with inevitable break-up of the Empire.

It's a little ironic that the Dowager herself witnessed the decline and destruction of an earlier one; the collapse made complete by the Japanese Occupation. Her demise will bring about another one in the 21st century. A sense of déjà vu.

Sibling against sibling, cousin vs. cousin. Neutrality is out of the question. Everyone has vested interests.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Careers, Family and Relationships

I probably blogged about this (or something closely related) before, but I still think it is worth another entry for the record.

So on the way home earlier after watching the July 4th fireworks across town, my housemate (an American dude) asked me about my long term plans with the company.

I told him I have no idea. Nobody in this Globalization 3.0 age would talk about long term employment with a single company. But I am fairly certain I will be moving about in different cities/places, even if I am to remain in/with the same company.

For the most recent quarter of my life, I have moved from Singapore to live/work/study in 5 cities (US and Japan), ranging anywhere from 3 months to 4 years. I believe this is the main reason for my difficulty in getting hitched. I am unsettled. I am not even sure I will sink my roots down in one place. Short of getting a homemaker, it will be unfair for her to adjust her career to my operational needs. And I have yet to talk about (having) kids.

There is already a precedent in my family. The most successful (career wise) of my mum's siblings is also the one who had his first and only child in his 40s. While he was earning two Masters degrees simultaneously from MIT and Harvard, his wife was pursuing her MFA at UCL in London. Then followed by their separate job postings in the US, UK, Malaysia and China. Only decided to move back to Singapore when they were in their early 40s and finally settle down.

My aunt also served as the example to my granny's warnings about dating/marrying RGS girls. Too focused on their careers vs. familial needs. Heh.

I look at those peers of mine who are married. ~80% are civil servants. What does that tell you? Then again maybe they just so happened to tie the knot.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


I watched Transformers today. Kinda disappointing to see the human subplots. I had wanted to see more (and only) of the robots.

That said, my favorite in the movie is Blackout. The part about (it) appearing and transforming on the American base. Some in the cinema cheered when Optimus Prime appeared on screen. Heh.

For a while I thought Soundwave would appear. That was my all-time favorite character. I remember the original cartoon series from the mid 80s, with Laserbeak, Ravage, Rumble, Frenzy, and Ratbat popping out of Soundwave's chest.

I think I still have the orginal Hasbro toys. Must ask my mum if she can find them.

"Autobots, transform and let's ROLL OUT!"