Sunday, March 07, 2010

Now on Amazon: Diary of a Taxi Driver

Dr. Cai's book Diary of a Taxi Driver is now available on Amazon if anyone is interested. I've ordered my copy.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

ST Forum: Letting athletes train in lieu of NS not feasible

From the Straits Times Forum on 3 Dec 2009 [link]:

Letting athletes train in lieu of NS not feasible

I REFER to Mr Lee Seck Kay's letter last Thursday, 'Let top male athletes train in lieu of NS'.

The Ministry of Defence, in consultation with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, considers top male athletes' requests to defer their national service (NS) on a case-by-case basis.

Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan had explained this arrangement in his reply to Nominated Member of Parliament Joscelin Yeo's question on this issue. Athletes who are preparing for and competing in major international competitions may be allowed to delay NS enlistment for a certain period.

Those granted such deferments in the past included swimmer Sng Ju Wei and sailor Maximilian Soh. Like everyone else, these individuals still have to do NS after their deferment period.

NS ensures Singapore's national security and survival. This is the basis of the Enlistment Act, which mandates that all NS-liable males are to be enlisted at the earliest opportunity on turning 18 years of age. The suggestion put forth by Mr Lee, to let top athletes train full time in lieu of NS, goes against this core principle.

We thank Mr Lee for his feedback.

Koh Peng Keng
Director, Sports Division
Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports
I'm surprised at the shoddy reply given by Koh Peng Keng from MCYS. Nowhere in the Enlistment Act does it state that all NS-liable males are to be enlisted at the earliest opportunity on turning 18. All it says is that if you do get called up, you have to register. The SAF council has the option of not calling you up.

It is no secret that Singapore award citizenship status to sportsmen under the foreign talent scheme. None of them have ever been enlisted despite being eligible (all male citizens and PRs between 16 1/2 and 40). The same goes for the many foreign talents who were given scholarships by government organizations such as A*STAR. I know many male scholars who had to take up Singapore citizenship in their 20s in return for receiving their scholarship awards. They were never asked to serve NS. As far as I know, A*STAR guarantees their male scholars that they do not have to serve NS if they take up citizenship.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Please donate blood

Singapore has a relatively low voluntary blood donation rate because many people are apathetic, afraid of blood, ineligible for various health reasons, etc. Blood stocks tend to be low at the end of the year and there will probably be a public call for more blood donors soon.

I've been a regular blood donor since my undergraduate days in NUS and will encourage you to be one. If you are an NUS student or staff, it is very convenient to donate blood. Just head to the NUH blood donation centre which is next door.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Myth of the 5000 year-old civilization

"No -- 5,000 years, and don’t forget, we invented all these things, and we’re going to go ahead in the next 5,000 years. It’s the only country where a language has survived 5,000 years, the only country by the present generation shares the same basic thinking as the past. And they’re very proud of it.

You read Hu Jintao’s speech on the 60th anniversary, translated on the web -- what is it? We have 5,000 years of civilization. We’re going to get there."

-Lee Kuan Yew (taken from here)

Actually, Mr. Lee, you are wrong about two things.

1. China hasn't been around for 5,000 years. The earliest archaeologically confirmed dynasty was the Shang dynasty which lasted from 1600 B.C. to 1046 B.C.). We have only evidence for at best 3,700 years of Chinese civilization. Furthermore, Chinese civilization originated in the plains of North China and present day China is a lot bigger than the China of a thousand years ago.

2. There is no 5,000 years of the same language. Old Chinese is very different from Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese or any other modern Chinese language. The Chinese languages, like all other languages, evolve and accumulate changes with time. The relationship between contemporary Chinese languages and Old Chinese is akin to that between modern Romance languages (such as French, Italian, Spanish, etc) and Old Latin.

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant. However, if you were ever in a position to decide or control ethnic and linguistic policies of a country, then you should have at least tried to learn more.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A taxi driver in Singapore with a Stanford PhD

This is an extremely but sad (from my perspective) blog. Ageism can hit anyone in Singapore. Even a Stanford PhD is not spared. It's another number 1 for Singapore - we have the most educated taxi driver in the world.

It's probably only in Singapore where we have a Stanford PhD driving a taxi. What's next? NUS graduates picking up cardboard boxes for a living? Tsinghua graduates working in KTV lounges?

In any case, it is still a fascinating read, a rare glimpse into the life of a taxi driver in Singapore from the point of view of a Stanford PhD.