Friday, December 30, 2005

birmingham 2 manchester united 2

Doing conscription liability in ________ is a nice thing. yesterday I got to watch 4 video tapes, all on the tsunami, which helped me to learn more about them, how they were formed, & y they hit where they did. Can take away 2 things: first, that reconstruction is not just about rebuilding houses, infrastructure, & amenities, but it can involve changing the entire physical & human landscape, eg in Thailand unrelated people who lose their spouses cohabit to support one another at the expense of village gossip, previously anonymous & homogenous fishing villages not only recover their fishing industry but with the help of international NGOs learn embroidery and become more heterogeneous & in contact w surrounding villages that serve as a market for their products, rebuilding houses is not a simplistic process but can involve complex legal and psychological implications etc. Second, that the reason why the tourists in Thailand did not expect the tsunami until it came was cos when the earthquake set off the tsunami, it set it off in a series of peaks & troughs. Thailand beach was a part which received the troughs first, and people there were mesmerised by the sudden uncanny low tide at the wrong timing. 1 hour later, the peak, about 108 miles away & travelling at about 100 mph, hit them with full force.

later yesterday we had Life activities - something that it meant to be every Thursday. we get to, during office hours, to exercise - we can swim, play badminton, use the gym, or just have a leisurely walk. And i went to use the gym. the weighing machine there wasn't very kind. But I value honesty.

then today to celebrate end of year we had a celebration in a function room in Alexandra. the branch heads sponsored pizza and other food & drinks, & we also had games like guessing the christmas carol ( a bit belated, but the strains of Rudolph & Silent Night were still nice, and also dance revolution - people are supposed to dance and when the music stops, form groups, and people without a group would be eliminated). i realise that it is difficult to have this kind of "icebreaker" among people conscious of various ages and ranks, are more used to seeing people as colleagues rather than friends, and where the wicked concept of the "other" has crept in to factionalise an idealistically integrated department. The icebreakers weren't very successful, as people didn't really want to guess the carols and the entire branch had to come up to sing the carols together even tho many of them didn't know, so it wasn't as much fun as a concerted exercise to promote cameraderie. but i really appreciate the cohesion committee who planned it, especially the two who worked overtime to produce the exquisite goodie bags. We also sang Auld Lang Syne at the end. I think it's an appropriate song. there's a lot there must be forgiven, & forgotten. One of them even gave me a New Year present - something I never expected! This is a strange kind of conscription liability - to be exposed to the beautiful function room with top-notch leisure facilities in the government office, to enjoy food and games, to not be asked to help when usually conscripts are given the work to do, and to be given goodie bags! Thank God for this so special, special conscription liability.

New staff officer has come in, she's also my age, which makes the 3 of us who are 23 yrs old, me and 2 other fresh graduates, 1 from NUS Psychology, & yes, the other is from NTU mass comm, had Ingrid as a classmate, saw Joanne Peh in a lecture theatre before, and is from SAJC making her from the same batch as Lin Junjie, Hong Junyang, Michelle Teo, Esther and Nat, etc etc. But she says she doesn't know you, Esther, Nat, Ingrid, if you do happen to read this, have u heard of Lee Ailing?. That makes it 2 vacancies for staff officer (Comm Studies/Political Science/Regional Studies), and 1 branch head. thank God that we can clique. Barely known her a week and she trusts me enuff to invite me for breakfast with her, tell me about her bf, and confide in me about how people in the office finds her and how she is doing. Thank God also lunch on Thursday, where my breakfast was 45 minutes and lunch was 1 hr 40 minutes, if u add in the videos, reading of the newspaper, and Life activities, actual time doing conscription liability (what people call washing the drain) was 0.

Lunch was spent with this great friend of mine - a humble idealist, and we talk about civil service, NS, idealism and realism, religion and agnosticism, policy and decision-making processes, career paths, technocracy & meritocracy, human resource selection, studying abroad, etc. He's a great listener. He's also idealistic enough to share about abstract stuff and wonder about people and things - somehow we can clique, even tho I dun think I am an idealist. He equates materialism with secularism - employing a strange dictation cos he claims to be agnostic, but he's open enuff to not reject when I tell him about Christianity. He can't really deny my argument that God's ways are higher than man's ways, because man is a self-contained entity which therefore has a limited scope of cognition, his inability to perceive at a dimension beyond him (ie divine) would parallel to an ant's inability to understand the way a man can think and act, and therefore he requires faith, a variant of reason that provides a direction towards an absolute, albeit subjective, to believe God is God. Problem is, this doesn't make him more receptive to the claim that the Christian God is supreme and that the Christian way is the Way. Well, hope to have more lunches with him. If you're wondering why this article seems so positive, it's cos a New Year's resolution, one that is heavily belated and repeated, is to be less pessimistic. It's difficult, cos I equate pessimism with realism. The solution is when you approach something pessimistic with a thankful attitude, it somehow becomes less bad than it first appeared to be.

The writer is doing conscription liability in ________. He contributed this article to the blog in his personal capacity.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

chelsea 3 fulham 2

as i watched contestant after contestant demonstrate their gifts of the gab (in chinese!) on the programme 超级主持人, i am really filled with awe, as they are really fluent and incisive in their thinking. my mind rolls back to my JC days, when I joined Debaters but never really made it, cos I am the quiet, unexpressive, compliant sort, and tend to be nervous and ungrammatical when I am really given the stage. but the ability to stand with such poise and confidence, and speak with flair and fluency, is really an admirable one, and from today on, i still want to develop and hone my ability to speak. also, of course my chinese. these people are describing unforeseen objects and linking them in a story while connecting them to a prepared speech - in chinese. i'm really amazed by their abilities. one thing i realise about myself - i am only able to command a conversation in chinese if i start it, if i don't really know the person and start introducing myself in chinese. so for people that i always speak to in chinese, i feel more comfortable articulating and communicating, but for people that i am used to speaking in english, i am unsteady when i try to make a switch. when i sleep i dream that i am also standing in the centre, dressed in suit and tie, fluent in mandarin, and the stage is mine for that few minutes. there is a gap between a dream and reality.

but thank God, He did give me the chance to develop powers of speech in chinese. now my mind rolls back to that time when I went to Shandong Normal Middle School affiliated to Shandong Shifan University (山东师范大学第而附属中学). That was a yr ago, as part of a cultural-educational exchange programme organised by MOE. Since MOE encourages Chinese students to come to Singapore to study (& most of them go to Dunman High, Nanyang Girls & TCHS), it's time that Singaporeans can also go to visit schools in China. So 6 of us went - I think 2 went to Beijing, 1 to Shanghai, I went to Shandong, and 2 others went to another part which I can't remember. we weren't supposed to teach, just to observe the lessons, but in the end, I taught 2 13-yr-old classes on Introduction to History, and 1 on the Opium War. I had to write out nearly the entire script of the lesson, and I'm not sure if I pronounced 瑷珲条约 correctly, but thank God, the students were very supportive, and MOE provided a translation of the technical jargon for the policies, acronyms and systems regarded to our education system.

sometimes i wonder, since I am doing conscription liability in ___________, & will go onto career after that, should i still invest the money & time to develop myself? There are 5 interests I haven't really pursued...1 is debating or public speaking. Alas, I was not good enuff to make it to the school debating team, so debating was a hobby that soon faded out when studies and core ECA got too bz. 2nd is playing chinese chess. in secondary school and JC i alwas remained in the reserves and fringes of the team, and often my games were meant to try to force a draw with the opposition powerhouses so that the real good people could concentrate on thrashing the weaker opponents of the team. 3rd is singing. People say I have a potential pitch, but my voice is not trained, & i find it hard to sing from my diaphragm. i didn't make it into secondary school choir, and joined an ECA which gave me a good grace to go JC but...

4th is playing piano. actually i love music...but i love music when instrumental accompaniment & celestial voice synergise together to produce those alluring strains, like with piano and guitar combine in the background, the stage lights are set, and 彭羚 comes out, commands the centre stage, and pours out her heart into the microphone with the song, "嫉妒", and the audience is submerged in the spellbinding beauty of the voice and emotional intensity of the song's cry. 3rd is playing the sounds horrible when u r playing the scales, & when u can't even play it perfect, but if u know the piano enough to play 孙燕姿's 天黒黒 just like she herself sings and plays in the MTV, then all the years of practice is worth it. When I was young I was not mature enuff to unnerstan this.

5th is learning more chinese. there was a dim thought of trying to take chinese lit at JC, to delve into chinese poetry and prose "红楼梦" etc etc in JC. But I had no chance to go HC, to continue taking Chinese in place of C Maths (in the end, there was quite a lot of C Maths which I didn't enjoy, especially the endlessly boring and demoralising lectures, & the classes I had to take on geometry & statistics), or even to go down the unconventional route.

now i try to help myself. i still occasionally play chinese chess with my brother. He has great potential. He's definitely going to be the JC school team forefront, to do what I couldn't do. I try to speak chinese to everyone I can speak chinese to. I sing chinese songs at karaoke whenever i get the chance. i applaud those who can play the piano (some of u oreidi immediately noe u r the people i am toking about). I'm going to be a teacher, so i'll be still doing some public speaking, tho chances for me to talk in chinese will only to be the parents since i won't be teaching chinese.

actually i had a 6th dream. that is to be like carlo cudicini, who used to keep goal for chelsea and is an italian international, albeit not the 1st one. this is a dream...need I say more?

the writer is doing conscription liability in ___________. He contributed this article to the blog in his personal capacity.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Newcastle 1 arsenal 0 (shearer 82, gilberto red card 54)

Reason I am going back in history is cos Chelsea only playing Fulham on 26 Dec.

I have been SO blessed this Christmas. Really thank God...thank God for giving me the chance to serve in the camp, to see people touched and happy when they are singing the camp carols, playing the games, eating with friends at the party, acting in the skit, and signing autographs with friends they now have built bridges with. everything now becomes worth it...all the work, the arguments i have had with camp president. thank God for all the gifts COOS has given me...1 thing COOS doesn't seem to care about is that i am new...but no, i've been given a chance to serve, and at the Christmas party I gave 1 present & some packet drinks - & I got a sumptuous meal, 2 cards, a tin of biscuits, a photo frame, a candy cane, & a bookmark. For the camp, I got 2 really nice collar t-shirts, 1 black 1 white, 2 books, $25 worth of Tangs voucher, a free 8-course meal, free dessert, just been SO...SO blessed. Yet for some reason, 1 of the things I do least is to thank God, in fact, even to mention Him in the things I do. Also want to thank Camp com president for her magnanimity and selfless good-heartedness, the love of God that shines thru her to forgive someone like me. this morning, I was v self-conscious as usual, but really heartened to see the salvation of Huiyan & Xinqi, the same depth of emotion I felt when I saw Anan raise his hand during altar call at the camp. it's been a long time since i saw salvation in which i was involved, was glad that yisheng brought all the chinese frens here...relating with them, in chinese, reminds me of when I was in the US, & half the people on my floor & 3rd floor were from Taiwan, HK & the mainland, & I talked to them in chinese, & also when I did the exchange in Shandong 2 years ago, & they were so hospitable, letting me stay in a 3-star hotel & inviting me to see their classes including the English classes, especially the English teacher there...who was so humble & friendly & willing to engage with me that I really look up to him.

Got a chance to teach history to 2 yr 1 classes - that was in the introduction to history, but to teach to the yr 2 class was a bit more tricky - I had to teach them the Opium War - in chinese! And then I also had to talk to the history department about SIngapore's education policies - & discuss both countries' policies, orientations & school organisation - in chinese. MOE did a good job by providing us with all the policies and acronyms in chinese translation - really think I learnt a lot. Today, even though I have stopped learning chinese for many years, still think it's 1 of my fave subjects - and i think i express myself better in this language, and can relate with people better when i tok to them in chinese. many people r put off by chinese cos its difficult to learn & master. but actually, if they commit themselves to speak & write it often, & have a good attitude to keep learning, it's really a beautiful, expressive, poetic language. thank God for the china attachment,

but before my mind started to hyperlink, I was talking about their salvation, well, I was touched by their openness, Xinqi himself beckoned to me to go in front with him, and Huiyan who was sitting beside me boldly opened her mouth to say prayer after Head pastor. Anyway, Xinqi is amazingly open about the Bible & ready to embrace Christianity - he said he had read the Bible about the wise men coming to bear gifts to the Messiah, & he compared them with what he watched in the play. & he has a most unusual name - 昕 其. it's the first time I've seen that character, but it means sunrise & dawn. when he came up to the front he actually shared that he didn't feel ready, but when i checked if he was ok with taking the step of the faith, he had actually done it, so let's hope that in the days to come, he'll really find out more about Christ & receive His love! i'm just SO happy for him - and Yisheng...dunno y. last time i couldn't care less one. need God to touch my heart.

wanna thank all those who gave presents, cards, SMSes, & wishes this christmas season. to all those who gave, i do desire to be closer to you all, & to get to know u better. it has been a great christmas. tonight just had a good talk with entire family - the first time in a long time the whole family sat down to have dinner together & tok about happy things for 2 hours at a stretch - am really happy.

just fallen in love with a new song - 张惠妹 - 记得. it's the 16th time i am listening to it now. i love its intensely lamenting buildup, something which A-mei and others like 那鹰 & 周蕙 are famous 4.

the writer is doing conscription liability in ________ Office. He contributed this article to the blog in his personal capacity.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

doncaster 2 arsenal 2 (AET)

3rd writing since this blog renaissanced.

i haven't written anything about the camp. i guess i haven't shared much either, tho the others have showed their Timor & China camps & videos.

well, this camp has left me feeling quite tired, cos I didn't imagine the extent of commitment and stamina required, and has also left me awed with pauline's energy, organisational skills and selflessness vis-a-vis my own inadequacy.

the first day at the camp, the non-christians didn't seem to gel v well with the rest, some of them were even upset at being separated from their siblings and cousins. but the feedback in the end was that they all enjoyed the outer games, called Amazing Grace, in which they learnt about the story of Christmas thru a treasure hunt type of game around the Queenstown neighbourhood. the 2nd day the campers started learning the songs and skit for the christmas party. at the 3rd day, when i saw them performing the skit and songs together with the church campers, the non-christians singing the christian carols, and playing their roles in the skit, whether as narrator, angel, villager, innkeeper, pregnant Mary, lame man, i knew that they had learnt the story of christmas. this education will remain in their heads. they cannot forget, and people cannot take it away from them. (it's just as effective as national education - the courses I've attended about using drama, stories, videos, pledge, national anthem, invented traditions - to communicate responsible citizenship and justify conscription liability. )

the next step is for them to accept it in their hearts. the same person who was upset at being separated from her cousin was playing the pregnant Mary very well, excitedly singing the Christian carol, "go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills & everywhere that Jesus Christ is born", mixing and gelling well with the church campers, and going around collecting autographs by the third day. i'm so glad that bridges have been built, and the message of Christmas has been imparted, an irreversible deed. this gives some meaning to the month of administration, meetings, stress, time, etc that has been put in.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

arsenal 0 chelsea 2

this blog is coming back, and this is the 2nd posting I'm making in a night.

reinhold niebuhr is an american theologian. he is the one who said, "God give me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change, the courage to change the things i can, & the wisdom to noe the difference." but he also made a very insightful point about how individual benevolence is often subverted by collective imperfections.

Many people question the theory that after the first man sinned, sin came into the world, therefore society as a whole is flawed. but while people can argue that many individuals show magnanimity, charitability, goodness, etc, they concede that man also has to contend with selfishness, egotism and corruption. A person may be able to overcome negative inclinations, but when these are projected upon the macro level, they erupt and depict the fallen world as a whole. If u ask a farmer in America whether he would donate to the poor in Africa, I am sure he would. But as a collective, they have to consider their rights and interests, or at least take them into consideration. Result? The Doha Round fails to lead to rich countries opening their markets freely for developing countries to import, because they need to protect their agricultural interests.

liverpool 0 sao paulo 1 (mineiro 26)

many people are angry about melvyn tan cos they think he got off too lightly, because he makes a mockery of the importance and significance of conscription liability, and because he was able to get out of it cos he was a rich kid.

well, the first thing is that, by going to the UK to further his talent, he actually renounced Singaporean citizenship. this means he forfeited by choice the benefits of citizenship - cheap public housing, compulsory retirement savings, subsidised education and health care, etc. the issue of whether these carrots of citizenship are really substantial enuff to prevent many people from following in others' footsteps is another matter - his 1st penalty is that he oreidi had to go without them.

the second thing is with regards to his breaking the law. when one breaks the law, he is liable to be tried by the legal civil court. the military has nothing to do with this. the singapore constitution, which enshrines freedom of speech, also states that the judiciary is independent. therefore neither public opinion, assessment of public reaction or the military should influence the court's decision. the court's decision, which is based on a judgment of both the precedents and the severity of the case so as to warrant its penalty, did not justify a sentence more punitive than what already meted out to him. the effectiveness of its deterrence is a separate issue, cos one cannot assume that the verdict is meant to serve a deterrent purpose. should the military attempt to intervene or question the judgment, this may lead to a barrage of international protest or queries over the sanctity of Singapore's constitution and human rights, which may cause more tricky diplomatic problems.

the third issue is his wealth enabling him to submit, and relinquish, a bond amounting to a present day. to get around this problem, an analogy can be made to that of posting bail. When a person is under reasonable suspect of being guilty of a crime, he is detained, but if he is financially able, he can exchange temporary freedom until trial even though this may be detrimental to society. likewise, when a person dies, sometimes his employer (if he dies in service), or his insurance company (where he purchases policies of life security), will cede pecuniary compensation to his family. of course it is never a perfect substitute for a life, but it is a means to approach and assuage the loss in value. therefore it is not whether NS can be quantified in monetary terms - it cannot, but that a huge sum of money is about the best means one can institute to limit NS default. Suppose some other penalty is imposed to deter people leaving the country at a young age never to return - a penalty that is extremely difficult to deliver or face. would people then turn around and argue that this constitutes an unreasonable restriction on personal freedoms, that a person cannot leave Singapore (and he promises by bond to return if not forfeited)? what about the worth that the state can expect to gain when it invests in the departure (whether permanent or temporary) of a talent to tap potential overseas in the hope that he can return to accrue greater value?

the public is rightfully angry about the travesty of justice that is so ostensible in this incident. However this does not involve legal justice, or objective justice, but subjective justice, or perceived justice. As I am not trained in legal jargon, I will need to request that readers bear with me on this assumption of legal licence here. The state's response of reiterating the fundamentals of conscription liability will not pacify because it is precisely that the public has been educated to believe in the necessity of NS that they are indignant about the default.

The state, then, should encourage the public to move on, and to continue advocating the values behind NS. One can draw from the example of the NKF. It is very clear that a travesty of justice has occurred, because public trust and philanthropy have been betrayed by self-seeking individuals and corporate mismanagement. However the need to remember the poor is an enduring value. Therefore the public should not allow an incident imperfection to eliminate their charitability but continue to recognise the value of benevolence. Otherwise the poor will suffer, society will suffer and the nation will suffer. And the public did bounce back from the event. Since $600,000 is considered peanuts, at the President's Star charity, they donated $3.4 million - once again, digging into their pockets to benefit the needy. Likewise for the Melvyn Tan issue. The people must restate and renew their commitment to NS. Otherwise neighbouring countries with possible inimical intent may exploit it to their advantage.

The writer is doing his conscription liability in ____________. He contributed this article to the blog in his personal capacity.