Friday, November 27, 2009

AVA - The Exterminator

One would have thought that S'pore Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) would be the active voice in animal welfare. But the reality is far from it.

Many animal care givers associate AVA with animal extermination. This is especially so after the SARS incident where AVA went around killing all stray cats including those sterilised with their ears clipped for identification. These cats were looked after by care givers with the understanding that AVA would leave them alone. These care givers have been looking after their area strays for years. Imagine the emotional turmoil they went through to find them gone.

AVA reputation has never recovered since then. Till today, animals caregivers are wary of them. Even the general public who wanted strays remove from their environment would call SPCA rather than AVA. This is because they trust that SPCA will do it humanely, while they have doubt about AVA. Why ? SPCA staff selection process goes for those who care about animals. AVA ??

There have been reports that AVA rough handled animals subjecting them to unnecessary stressed. Even if these animals are to be ultimately put down, they should be treated humanely and terminated without undue suffering.

AVA's Corporate Vision is - "To be a premier organisation known for our professional expertise...", and some of their goals are :
* Develop a cohesive, innovative and professional workforce.
* Build a positive image and enhance community outreach.
* Promote animal welfare.

Have the organisation live up to its corporate vision and goals ? I think not. How could AVA be professional if instead of advising our government during the SARS period, they acted blindly on instruction given to them ? Civet cat with unconfirmed speculation to be carrier of SARS virus is a raccoon and NOT even a cat. Our innocent cats died because of word association ! Staff in AVA do not know about animal classification ? They are suppose to be the Veterinary Authority in S'pore !

Positive image ? They are S'pore official Animals Exterminator. Their policy regarding termination of strays and abandoned pets has not changed after all these years. They don't even try to get them adopted nor re-home. Only NGO animal welfare groups are struggling to do so.

Promote animal welfare ? Perhaps more to surface dressing. Just like our ministers going around planting trees and reserving carpark lots for their cars. More carbon footprints left behind while promoting a green movement. Then S'pore recent refusal to be part of the global initiative to reduce carbon emission.

If AVA really wants to promote animal welfare, then they should initiate if not actively support other animal welfare organisations trying to get HDB to change its outdated and illogical rule on cats/dogs ownership in public housing. HDB's restrictive rules have resulted in low adoption rate. This means more than 90% of the abandoned animals and strays are put down.

Due to AVA mass culling of cats during SARS, it is hard to erase the misconception that stray cats cause hygiene problem and civet cats carry SARs virus from the public mind, even after so many years. This is because most will think that if such cruel mass killing exercise was carried out by the government authority 'specialising' in animals welfare, then what they said must be true. Sigh..nothing is further from the truth !

Their community outreach has only produced lasting damaging negative consequence. Civet cat is an endanger species, and AVA has further endangered its status by engraving negative image of it in the public mind.

AVA needs to do something positively 'wonderful' in order to regain the trust of animal caregiver community in Singapore.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why does it take so many years ?

The law on money lenders to deal with the illegal lending activities of 'loan shark' has finally been amended and likely to be pass in parliament. Why has it taken so many years before the government decided to act on this teething problem ? After all our skyline and landscape change at 'eye blinking' speed ?

Likely the government would be still 'pondering' over this issue, if not for the two Integrated Resorts which are opening soon. The problem will be compounded with the addition of the two legalized gambling venues. Thus, they needed to act now.

Perhaps it is also because the general election is just round the corner. It is good to appease the long suffering innocent victims of loan shark activities which are increasing in numbers over the years.

MM Lee leads the pack in needing years to come to a conclusion on the effectiveness of a policy before making a change. It was reported that he took 40 years before he realized that he made a mistake in our Bilingual Policy.

This is the same for the population policy which result in our current dilemma of falling birth rate. Only decades later they admit they made a mistake to effect another change in the law to encourage more babies.

Same goes for the law on organ donation. We need to have a high profile widely publicized lawsuit of illegal organ trading before the law is amended.

Can't the government exercise more initiative to effect changes. Must something 'drastic' happens before they can be propelled into action ?

Beauty in Simplicity

There is beauty in simplicity (most of the time).

Take for example the powerful equation of E = mc2. It takes a genius like Einstein to present the world with an elegant and simple relationship between energy and mass.

I have never thought of equations are like poetry until I came across this book, ‘Five Equations That Changed The World’ by Michael Guillen. In the book he said, “In the language of mathematics, equations are like poetry. They state truths with unique precision, convey volumes of information in rather brief terms, and often are difficult for the uninitiated to comprehend.”

Another example of beauty in simplicity is Chinese ink painting. Just a few stroke of the brush, we have fishes coming ‘alive’ on the drawing paper. The black ground is usually blank unlike Western style of painting which normally goes for details and richness in colour.

However, where Chinese characters are concern, I find beauty lies not in the simplify form but the ‘original’ form, though complicated to write. This is especially so for Chinese calligraphy. For example, the beauty of the words ‘longevity’ and ‘stork’ is lost if written in simplified form. Besides the simplify form cannot capture the three essences of Chinese characters : thought, sound and form. These elements make Chinese words an artistic medium in calligraphy.

In my previous post I mentioned that my 6 years of foundation in Chinese at primary school level was in the 'traditional' form. When the government switched to the simplify form - I was lost. Some may think that it should be easier to learn the simplify form, after all the strokes are minimum. But we have to understand how the brain works. It difficult to unlearn ground work. Besides, after the age of 9, to pick up a language (in my case to relearn it) is very difficult for most people, unless they have a flair for it.

For me the traditional form of Chinese characters have meaning attached to them - pictorially and auditory through the 3 essences of thought, sound and form. Thus, in a way it is easier to learn because of this reason. Simplify characters often lack these and I find it difficult to remember due to the missing 'meaning' element express through form.

40 Years of Language Experimentation

MM Lee has announced that he made a mistake regarding our Bilingual Policy which has resulted in generations of students put off by Chinese language. Besides, there is also lost of bright talent who went overseas to study when they could not make the grade for 2nd Language. Many of them never return to S’pore after completing their studies aboard.

So after 40 years of experimentation with our students, we are ready to start another round of experimentation – different learning strategy. Is there anything new to this ? I though we have been experimenting with different teaching methods all these years, not only with Mandarin but also the English language.

I am one of the 'causalities' of our government bilingual experimentation. I can speak Mandarin quite fluently, but this is after I took up Chinese instrumental, martial arts and Taiji in my adulthood. For this, I have my friends to thank, not the school education system.

I have great difficulty in writing and reading Chinese characters. If I have any regret in life – this is it. I wish I have master the Chinese language during my school days. I think I am able to immerse myself better in Chinese cultural appreciation if I could read up on the subjects of interest written in Chinese. Instead, I have to depend on the translated versions in English.

I was doing well in my Chinese subject at primary school level. I liked the subject. It was during my secondary school days that MOE did some major experimentation. We were introduced to ‘simplify’ Chinese characters and it became a compulsory passing subject in order to make the grade.

Many familiar characters became unrecognizable in their simplified form. Six years of grounding foundation uprooted ! The relearning process was difficult as Chinese characters are not easy to master. A single dot or a dash can change the meaning of the word.

Besides during secondary school days, the number of subjects taken is often double the numbers taken in at primary level. Many of these are new subjects. Then the stress of knowing that all the studying will come to nothing if one failed in the 2nd language.

To add to my woes, our Chinese lessons consisted of hours of monotonous reading and explanation by the teacher. It used to be my ‘napping’ time as the soothing voice the teacher hypnotized me into perpetual slumber during 2nd language period. Chinese had became my least favorite subject.

Besides, some of us do not have the flair for languages. MM Lee just realized this, after being enlightened by his neurologist daughter. I wish his enlightenment has come earlier. After all, I thought Dr Lee W L has been a neurologist for decades ? Why did she not enlighten her father earlier ? They live in the same household, don't they ?

I used to have Hokkien speaking neighbours and classmates, but I never pick up the dialect. During my adulthood, I have Malay colleagues and friends. I try to learn the language but have not been successful.

I know my limitation in learning a 2nd language. Though I passed my final Chinese examination, but it is regrettable that after studying the language for 10 years, I end up only able to speak it. And it is only because of my immersion in Chinese culture related activities in my adulthood

I often wonder if I could have a better grasp of the language if there had been no major changes in the education policy and more creative teaching method employed during my school years.

I have learnt to live with my limitation. We need not be the master of everything. We just need to be the master of our fate.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Singapore Strays

Why are our Singapore strays always being blamed for everything? During SARS period, stray cats were rounded off to be killed, though they were free from the virus. In Singapore, we human were the carriers and transmitters of the disease.

Stray cats are also often blamed for cleanliness issue which is caused by irresponsible feeders and pet owners.

Now the strays are in the spot light again, though indirectly. The caption in the Straits Times regarding the increase in the number of folks being bitten by dogs is accompanied by a photograph of a stray dog in the foreground and kids in the background. Sigh...I am sure its life is coming to an end soon, as AVA will be targeting it and other strays for termination.

Reading the article, there is no mention of strays biting human. If pet dogs are the culprits, who is responsible ? The owners of these pets.

How did stray dogs become strays in the first place ? Many were abandoned by their owners who either have no time for them or cannot handle them any more.

Are we becoming a country of 'intolerance'?

Even our homeless and dissolute instead of seeking help have to hide from the authority to avoid being rounded off. Oh yes, they exist but they have to remain 'invisible' if they wish to have their freedom. If this is how we treat our fellow human beings, what hope is there for the stray animals in Singapore ? They are just 'sore eyes' to the authority.

It has not been many years back when we folks live harmoniously with animals around us. Does development mean having a 'sterile' place devoid of humanity ?

POST NOTE : I attend SPCA meeting on 24/11/09 and confirm that the increase in biting incidents is from pet dogs. The strays are innocent.....Sigh !

Right To Dignity - Part 2

In my other post, I was wondering if the law on Euthanasia will materialize in my life time.

I suppose it depends on the economic situation in S'pore. As citizens, most of us will base our decision on moral and religious considerations. But for the government, it is more of a political game base on the country's economical well being which can affect the party's votes during election.

It is just like our government's decision to have an official public gambling den in S'pore. Our government do things the grand way, we build not one, but two casinos at a the same time. We call them by some fancy name like Integrate Resort. This is to disassociate it with the word gambling and instead conjure up an image of fun for families - highlight the theme parks and play down on the gambling.

Should one day our government find our terminally ill aging population taxing our country's financial resources, there is a likelihood the law on Euthanasia will be passed.

Energizing Soup

Food for thought - the 4 ingredients to brew an energizing soup :

1) Contentment
2) Gratefulness
3) Tolerant
4) Self Help (or self-awareness / understanding)

The last item I am not sure since this is translated from Cantonese.

Drinking it everyday would improve our mental and physical well being. To be shared with others for harmonious living all around us.

Country of Scarcity .....S'pore

This is a continuation from my previous post on my visit to PUB's plant in Bedok.

We were told that in land scarce S'pore, we have to 'sacrifice' a large portion of our land to building water catchment so as to provide water for our ever growing population.

If this is so, why are we having so many golf courses in this tiny speck of an island ? I still recall in 1992, our then BG Lee S L said "Let reason prevail....a golf course would have to be built on nature reserve land if there was a need." He was referring to Pierce nature reserve. NGO environmental groups gathered enough support to defer this project.

Let reason prevail indeed - since when is there a demand for golf course which cater to a minute population of Singaporean ?

However, we were not so lucky when it comes to Kranji nature reserve few years later. Kranji nature reserve is turned into a golf course inspite of its rich biodiversity.....sigh !

Then there is the question of population growth. This is insane, sacrificing quality of life for quantity in numbers which tax our water resources.

It could well turn out to be another costly political mistake - the Stop At Two resulted in population decline, now the relax immigration policy could well result in population explosion. Six million over people packed into a country of scarcity - land scarce, water scarce, food resources scarce.....

S'pore may be the Mother of All Hubs, but we are also a Country of Scarcity. We may be rich in human resource, but human resource need many other resources for sustainability. What happens if there is a world wide drought and famine due to global warming ? Even we have the financial muscle, who will be selling water and food to us if they do not have enough for their own population ?

Mother Of All Hubs - Part 2

Just learn that S'pore has added two more hubs to its 'portfolio' :

1) Accountancy Hub (as reported in the papers this week)

2) Water Hub (from my visit to PUB's NEWater plant organised by SIM)

Accountancy Hub - should not this be under Financial Hub ? Perhaps 'parking' it under accountancy is just to add to the number of hubs under our portfolio ?

As for Water Hub, my first though is how could it be, since our water resource is not even self sustaining for our population. The honor of this hub status is based on our water reclamation technology, which we are now the consultant for other countries.

When we think of NEWater, we think of Hyflux founder and CEO, Ms Olivia Lum. Her life story is a motivation one. It is about hard work, self motivation and entrepreneurial spirit.

During the PUB visit, it was highlighted to us that Marina Barage is our 15th reservoir and there are 2 more in the pipeline making it a total of 17 freshwater catchment area in S'pore.

Marina Barage is another milestone for S'pore as we are one of the very few countries and certainly the 1st in Asia to build a reservoir in the city. It is a challenge as water drainage from the city is high in pollutant content.

S'pore being the Mother of so many Hubs, perhaps Water Hub should be our most outstanding achievement. A country lacking in natural water resources even to sustain its population, and now we are helping other countries with their water management.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Animal Abuse - Part 2

I read with horror in yesterday papers that a collar was threaded through the cat's body. A cut of about 4 cm was made on the cat's right shoulder to insert the beaded collar.

Just imagine someone doing it on us - how painful it is. SPCA believed that likely there are more than one person involved in the cruel act. How people can derive fun from inflicting pain on helpless animal is beyond me.

Luckily there is a happy ending to this episode. After 2 surgeries, it is recovering well and put up for adoption by SPCA.

According to SPCA - this is one of those friendly and trusting nature cat which makes it vulnerable to people with cruel intent.

Yes, from my personal observation of strays, there are mainly two kinds - approachable and unapproachable. Those approachable ones will run towards you and enjoy being stroked, purring away happily. The unapproachable ones which likely have had bad experience with human before, are very wary, running away to avoid contact.

Darwin's theory of survive of the fittest. In modern context - survival of the cautious.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Racial to Nationality Harmony

Perhaps it is time our national pledge be amended to read :

We, the global citizens of Singapore
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of nationality, race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society,
based on justice and equality,
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.

It takes us years to achieve racial harmony. But now it looks like we have to start the cycle all over again, only this time to strive for nationality harmony.

With the high influx of immigrants and foreign workers from various countries, it is not so much of race, but nationality that is becoming the 'dividing line'. At ground level, there is discontentment from both locals and PRs/new citizens due to perceived 'privilege' the other is getting. One thing leads to another - stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination... due to differences in nationality.

A typical example is Chinese nationality (especially pretty young female) is often associated with involvement in vice trade by local Chinese. So now we have people of the same race, language and often even same religion- stereotyping each other.

Stereotyping is common and exist even amongst our kids at primary school level. It often leads to prejudice against students from China.

It is frightening that children at such a young age start to discriminate against others. They are our future generation of Singaporeans. Will we still be a united people that we pledged to be in the coming years ?

This issue is compounded by the fact that Singaporeans will form only about 25% to 30% of the population in 30 years time! With such high percentage of the population who migrated here from various countries, even without discrimination rearing its ugly head, where will the emotional allegiance of these new citizens be? Their motherland or adopted country ?

Besides, there are many PRs not taking up citizenship. They just want to work in S'pore but spend their retirement years in they country of birth. Likely in event of unrest, these folks will fleet to their homeland.

Will we still stand as one united nation in times of trouble ? In time of peace, will there be national harmony amongst us ?

On chatting and walking

I always thought how nice to take a walk with your dog. Perhaps because I don't have one, that is why I 'envy' those who walk with their dog. Well, the field is always greener on the other side, isn't it ?

Apparently some dog owners may not have time or find it a chore to walk their dogs, because to see maid walking the dog is pretty common nowadays.

Often, the dog is not 'walk' but stand around while the maid chat away on her mobile phone. Or we can see two maids chatting merrily together while their dogs hang around looking 'bored'. Or could it be a look of 'disappointment' ? Oh, yes - animals can feel bored, though perhaps it is my imagination that they look disappointed.

I wonder could not the maids walk the dog and chat at the same time. I am sure they can multi task. Why must they stand around or be seated at a bench to do the talking ?

Perhaps the maids are over work ? Thus they are saving their energy as they still have tons of household chores to do after walking the dogs.

I suppose I will never know why. All I know is - those poor doggies are deprived of their daily walk.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Of Crying Game and Weeping Camel

I bought an 'old' movie DVD recently - The Crying Game. I remember the title because it was one of those 'unconventional' film years back in S'pore, but I cannot recall the story line at all. There is this narration in the movie about the frog and the scorpion. I heard this before. I am not sure if this narration originates from this movie, or the movie uses it to illustrate a point - innate human nature is hard to change.

The word 'crying' makes me think of weeping camel. Last year, there was this film cum documentary based on Mongolia and camels - titled Weeping Camel. It was fascinating. What happened was this Mongolian family living in the desert was attending to their camel which was giving birth for the first time. The whole family, from grandparents to children were out in full force. The camel was having a difficult birth and had labored for more than a day. Finally, they had to help it by pulling the calf out as the female camel was not able to pushed anymore.

Then came the problem - the female camel refused to nurse the calf. It kicked her calf everytime it came near her or moved off. So they had to squeeze milk from the camel to nurse the calf. After a few days, they decided they had to resolve the problem once and for all. There is this belief that music and song can help to bond the mother to its calf. But there was no musician around. (theirs is the only family for miles)

They send 2 of their kids to a distant town to get a musician. Woh - one of the kids was only around 9 years old - they are so independent. Makes me think that our local kids are over protected.

The kids got a musician playing a 2 strings fiddle to ride back with them. The 2 strings fiddle has a body that looks like a cello but it reminds me of the Chinese Er-hu.

The whole family gathered around the camel and its calf again. The mother of the family sang a song to the accompaniment of music from the fiddle. The camel cried listening to the song. I too was moved,- not sure by the camel crying or the tune of the song.

After this, when they pushed to calf to the camel, it let it suckled willing. Talk about music being able to move the world. No doubt about it as it can move even animals!

This film has a very simple story line but I was touched by the unity of the family and the care their shown to their livestock.

In our current commercialized farming - it is all about profit maximization - animal welfare is the last thing on the mind of these businessman farmers.

My Sister's Keeper...continue

I completed reading the book - the movie version is very different from the book. Even the ending is different. I am caught by surprise as I expected the movie to stick to the most 'critical' aspect of the book. In the movie, Kate who suffered from cancer died. In the book, Anna the healthy child died instead.

The last chapter got to me - it tug at my heart string. It just seems so unfair to have a healthy child who suffered both physical and emotional pain due to her sister to died so young. But I think the author did a great job, for otherwise the book would not live up to its title - My Sister's Keeper. Anna gave Kate a new lease of life with her death...her kidney was transplanted to Kate. She continues to be her sister's keeper even in death.

This book makes one ponder over questions which are uncomfortable to most :

1) We should learn to let go of our love one when the time come. Kate's mother refuses to let her daughter died - even if it means grasping at the last straw and having a genetically conceived child to be Kate's life long donor.

2) We should have the right to die (not legal though in S'pore). Kate wanted to die as her whole life is revolved around hospital and ill health. She has no childhood to speak off. She begged her sister Anna to take up a law suit against their parent for right to her own body so that Anna need not donate a kidney to her. Without a kidney transplant, Kate will die and this is what she wanted. She knew her death would release her family from pain too as they have no life of their own, because all their activities revolved around her.

3) Organ donation - this topic has been given a new 'angle' in recent years in S'pore. The law now allows donors from none family members and compensation to donors. I think the law on organ donation would not have been amended if not for Dr Lee Wei Ling (MM Lee's daughter) thinking out of the 'moral and religious' box and advocated for it due to practical needs in saving lives. We need more courageous folks like Dr Lee who is high profile and yet dare to go against the norm.

The book offers a new perspective - should not children have a right to their own body ? Parents make all the decision for their underage child - even life impacting decision such as organ donation. Would the child as an adult understand or blame the parents for it ?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

VJ - Myanmar Through The Lens

Even though Myanmar is the official name of the country, but most Burmese still hold dear to the formal name of Burma.

Burma VJ - a touching documentary filmed by video journalists (VJ) who are ordinary citizens risking their lives to capture the events in their country. This is one of the few powerful documentaries screened over 2 evenings at Orchard Cineleisure to highlight the plight of the people in Burma.

These courageous VJs riskd torture and imprisonment to document the political turmoil in Sept 2007. They were armed with little more than small handy cams to capture dissent dramatic days when Buddhist monks together with ordinary citizens demonstrated. It is mind boggling to see the whole street and every building along the road filled with people cheering the monks marching by. Even the roofs of the buildings were lined with people. It is like after years of suppression, the lid has suddenly blown to let off steam.

Then tragic struck, the unarmed demonstrators were gunned down by the military. Many were rounded up and thrown into jails. Temples were ransacked and left eerily empty as all the monks were rounded up or killed. Blooded bodies of monks were seen floating down the river.

Some of the VJs died, others jailed, and a lucky few escaped - but only to become political exiles.

There is no happy ending to this day for the 'Burma story'. Power corrupts. Nothing is more frightening then absolute power in the hands of a few. A country rich in natural resources and yet has its citizens living in poverty due the greed of the powerful few. Sigh.....what is life like without freedom and to live in perpetual fear.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Mahatma Gandhi : My nationalism, as my religion, is not exclusive but inclusive, and must be so consistently with the welfare of all life.

If only we could live by his belief, perhaps the ugly face of discrimination has less chance to surface. Discrimination is DISCRIMINATION in whatever form it takes, even if it is legalized (eg Section 377A).

Nationality, religion and race are three of the most forceful triggers of discrimination, besides other factors such as social status, educational level, sexual orientation....

In local context, differences in nationality seems to bring on nasty jokes and remarks even at primary school level. Our local Chinese kids are passing unpleasant remarks on China nationality students. Those being discriminated against experience emotional stress.

Where did they learn to discriminate at such a young age ? Perhaps they overheard their parents discussion ? Do parents realise that their kids are picking up acts of cruelty unconsciously ?

The high influx of foreigners has caused some discontent amongst locals, besides the unfortunate bad publicity caused by some folks from China. But these should not be excuses to discriminate against others.

On global context, differences in religion and race are bringing out the ugly side human being. The recent high incidents of terrorism being undertaken mainly by people of the Muslim faith, have resulted in ordinary citizens suffering because of the acts of some fanatics who happen to share the same faith and/or the same race as them.

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.”... Barack Obama

Perhaps Obama may be another Gandhi ? But then they are different, as Gandhi believed in passive resistance, while Obama will use military force, hopeful with restrain. Perhaps different times call for different measures to resolve conflicts.

'Hate the sin but not the sinner', said Mahatma Gandhi. If only we can be objective enough to focus on the issue, perhaps there will be more harmony instead of friction when we relate to others.

Right To Dignity

Recently our PM Lee mentioned that S'porean should get use to the idea of hospice care due to our aging population.

We got over the 'sensitivity' of organ donation issue in recent years, I wonder when we will get over the issue of Euthanasia.

What we have is Advance Medical Directive. It has been around for ages and few years back, the government tried to revive it with little success. Not many know of its existence nor what is all about. Why - because it is neither here nor there - just beating around the bushes. It allows us to reject medical intervention but does not allow us to die with dignity.

Euthanasia allow us the right to dignity by choosing when we want to end our lives, when it becomes meaningless and causing and emotional stress to our love ones as well. It is painful to see our love ones wasting away day by day.

At the other end, it is also about us letting our love ones who is suffering to have a choice and learning to let go when the time comes.

When we are in uncharted territory and uncomfortable with certain 'sensitive' issue, we like to hide behind 'Morality and Religion' to justify our stand.

The common argument is we should not intervene with nature. Is not all the current medical treatment intervention ? It is for saving life - as the argument goes. Yes, I agree on saving life, but not to prolong suffering when it is just a matter of time before the person dies in the case of terminal illness.

We think it is humane to practice mercy killing on suffering pets and animals, however it is a different matter when it comes to human being. Is it that different ? Are we practicing double standard of morality ? Could it be due to our own selfish need and fear of religious guilt that we refuse to let go of our love ones ?

I am speaking of my personal experience. My father died when I was six. My memory of him is one of hospital and lying on the sofa at home resting. He was in pain, I knew that even as a child. Then there were my 2 uncles - all suffering from terminal illness. Those of us who have been with people suffering from terminal illness would know how bad the last stage can be. They are not able to attend to their basic personal needs (bowel movement, feeding, bathing....). Besides physical and emotional pain, they loss their sense of dignity and being engulf by helplessness. I think to know that your love ones are suffering because of our deterioration is even more painful.

It is the quality of life that matters. Perhaps one of the reasons most want to live a long life is because of fear of the unknown and difficulty of letting go of the familiar.

I know I would choose euthanasia to end my life in dignity and to spare my love ones from pain if the law permits it. Will it happen in my life time ?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Sister's Keeper

I came across this book by Jodi Picoult many times while browsing in bookshops. I did not get it until recently. Not sure why - perhaps the line 'There is a time for everything' explains it.

Normally if the book I have read is later made into a movie, I will go and watch it out of curiosity. More often than not, I will be disappointed with the movie version. This time - the movie is 'ahead' of me - I am only half way through the book.

I decided to catch the movie first. I think the movie impact is better than the book. I may be giving my judgment too early, since I have not complete reading it yet.

This is base on my emotional response. I know the story line is touching, but I have not shed a single tear so far reading the book. Watching the movie, I was sobbing away. The man sitting on my right was crying too. So was my friend sitting on my left. She told me before the movie started that it is hard for sad movie to draw tears from her. Surprise, surprise. Perhaps she having 2 daughters of her own make her identify more easily with the family portray in the show.

My Sister's Keeper has an interesting story line. Anna, a 13 year old girl is suing her mother to the right of her own body. She does not want to be an organ donor to her elder sister any more. Anna has been conceived specially to be a donor to her sister, Kate, who is suffering from a rare form of leukaemia. She has been a donor to Kate since birth.

The movie version is definitely different from the book, as one of the main supporting character is missing. I am not sure the extend of re-scripting done until I complete reading the book. At least I am sure of one thing - I am not disappointed this time.

I suppose for good books, I should watch the movie first before reading them in future. But then, I cannot predict if it will be make into a movie. So I am back to square one.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wishful Thinking

Sometimes I think getting people to do their part in environmental conservation is just wishful thinking. Take for example - car ownership. For most folks, what matters is convenience of getting around in your own vehicle and perhaps the status symbol associated with it too, in the case of local context.

The college I am attached to, one of the teacher is just staying right across the college, around 5 mins walk. She drives to the school everyday. Another teacher used to cycle to work, but got a car too. She too stays just 2 bus stops away from the school, with many bus services plying the route. These 2 ladies are single without family. Their nature of work do not require much traveling. Besides, for school activities, there are coaches to ferry the students. But the teachers prefer to drive their own vehicle. In cases where there a few teachers accompanying the students, they normally prefer to go in their own car. Convenience takes priority, forget about car pooling and being environmental friendly.

One would have taught that environmental awareness would be activity promoted in schools. Perhaps it is to a certain extend, but the action by the occupants review otherwise. More just to lips service.

If our government actions are politically driven where environmental issues are concern, we cannot expect much from those sectors under its wings.

Business organisations are profit driven. In cases where being environmentally friendly help to cut cost, we will see more positive response. Where it affects the bottom line, then they may not be too receptive, especially for those small and medium enterprises.

Perhaps large multi-national corportations (MNC) are more likely to be the driving force in environmental issues. Most of them subscribe to international standards related to environmental, safety and health. MNCs do their part on compliance to these standards. Besides, there is a global 'trend' on corporate social responsibility. MNCs give heavy weight to their corporate image and branding. Thus, MNCs will jump into bandwagon which helps to uplift their corporate image. MNC also has the financial muscle behind them to support environmental causes.

Another silver lining comes from non-governmental organisations (NGO). These folks come together to act with passion for their common cause. Often they are the 'push' factor behind government actions.

It is time we push for Government Global Responsibility and Individual Social Responsibility.

Is The Government Always Right ?

We are familiar with the phrase 'Customer is always right'. Perhaps in our local context, our politicians are trying to have us believe that 'The government is always right'. Are they ? We know that customer is never always right, it is just a 'make belief' that is being drummed into sales folks.

My point is directed at the recent decision of S'pore not being part of the global signatory to reduce carbon emission. We are told that due to the 'small size' of our industries, our emission is negligible. I find it difficult to believe. Some years back, we were one of the signatories to reduce ozone emissions. Our industrial activities, population growth and even vehicles have increase substantially since then. Apparently we could make a difference years back in the ozone reduction, but now our impact has become negligible because of the size of our nation.

USA used to 'shy' away from anything to do with carbon emission reduction issues because of the impact it will have on their industries and economy. Large country with great impact is not signing, small country claims it has negligible impact....sigh !

One of my students from China said that if everyone in the whole population in China is to spit on Singapore, their saliva would 'drown' us. She was upset by her classmates passing 'nasty' remarks on her - discrimination, another topic to ponder over.

Never underestimate the tidal wave of change that could be generated by the cumulative effect of individual's contribution. Every little individual effort does matter.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Good grief - 13 million want to live in Singapore !

It was reported in the papers today that Singapore has become the 'green' pasture for immigrants. According to the migration survey, 13 million people would like to live here. Good grief, we are already cram as sardines even now. Pack in more and we will definitely suffocate.

I suppose I should be proud of the achievement of this tiny red dot of a country. But the recent high influx of foreigners, be they talented or otherwise has definitely affected the quality of life here. Even thinking of a population target of 6 million our government has set, already send shivers down my spine.

This is a great contrast compare to the mid 1990s. I was with Chartered Semiconductor then (Fab 1 - their first plant in Science Park). The company was like a mini United Nation as we had staff from various countries - China, Philippines, Scotland, US, UK, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Taiwan...... Most had one common 'factor' - they had no intention of residing in S'pore in the long run nor taking up citizenship.

Many came to here to work and then returned to their homeland after their contract ended (average 2 to 3 years). This is with exception for those from China and HK. Those from China, mainly from Shanghai and Beijing were treating S'pore as a stepping stone to go to US. While those from HK had their eyes set on Canada.

Planting their roots in S'pore was never in their mind. How time has change.


This week, an ex-VP of the college came over to give a presentation on a home water filtration unit. She looks happy and cheerful. Not sure if it is job satisfaction or part of her nature. Likely a combination of both factors. Well, being your own boss is definitely more satisfying than working for others, especially if it is under the government sector. Unless one is 'immune' to red tape and rigidity.

I enjoyed her presentation - educational. Lots with demonstration - seeing is believing. She is trying to get folks to 'buy' her product instead of trying to 'sell' it to them. She reminds me of what I tried to achieve back in safety profession. It is always an uphill task trying to 'sell' something - be it in material form or a concept to people. However, where people have intention to 'buy'- then selling becomes a breeze. Where the workforce has high safety awareness they willingly 'buy' into safety practices.

This lady is able to make people want to buy her product. Her focus is on the benefits of drinking good quality water free of chlorine and mirco organisms. Chlorine kills micro organisms but when heated turns into carcinogenic compound. We washed our vegetables,...etc to clean them. She demonstrated with cabbage leaves and rice grains how they soaked up chlorine compound. Thus, by cleaning our food, we end up consuming chlorine.

Not sure which is worst. But likely I rather have tummy upset than develop cancer. Luckily in recent months I took to drinking unboiled water. This is mainly due to my faith S'pore high water quality standard and my believe in conservation of energy (every effort counts).

She also show us that some brands of mineral water is in fact distill water as there is no mineral content in them.

A water filtration unit would remove chlorine and micro organisms from our tap water, without affecting the mineral content. The side benefit is the water taste better (without chlorine and other contaminant).

The unit is compact and aesthetically design. Easy to set up and consume little electrical power. Think this is another key selling point.

Even though she is selling a product, she is helping people to improve their health through education at the same time. If I were ever to be in a sales line (which is not my cup of tea), I would like to sell a 'meaningful' product like this. It gives a sense of satisfaction.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What is happening ?

Few months back MM Lee said that our national pledge is not a pledge but an 'aspiration'. Then in July 09, he said Singapore is not a nation yet, but 'in transition of being one.'

Now we have our Law Minister Mr Shanmugam saying that we are not a country but a 'city.'

On 30 Oct 09 in The Straits Time, it was reported that he said :
‘This is where most people make a mistake…I have tried to explain that we are different. We are a city. We are not a country,’ he told 200 lawyers, many from America, at the New York State Bar Association International Section’s meeting here.

So is this a case of those in authority twisting logic to suit the situation ?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Entrepreneurial Spirit

During the SIM Annual Convention, the most interesting talk for the day was the one given by this retired gentleman, Mr Yasuo Yokoi. He is a Japanese who has worked in S’pore for the past 10 years. Now he has set up his own media business. Doing a mental calculation of his potential return from his new venture after his presentation, I think it is likely that it is much more lucrative than what he had before his retirement. It could potentially reach a figure of $400,000 per month !

I learn a new term from this talk – ‘captive audience’. This term is his main marketing strategy. He observed that patients waiting at clinics and hospitals in S’pore could spend up to 1 to 3 hours before seeing a doctor. Meanwhile they have nothing to occupy them but to stare at the TV screen at the waiting room. Normally what is shown on the screen is News. But most of the time the volume is turned down or off. He had us laughing when he said he could never understand why, since who could understand what is being reported when one cannot hear the newscasters.

He sees potential in this – using this platform to educate the patients on health issues and slot in advertising time in between. The advertisements are also health related products which are educational too. He showed us samples of the educational clips, they are interesting and informative. Every detail is well thought out, from the duration of the clips, content and layout of display.

Each clip last no more than 3 minutes, with the health topic (eg Cataract) display at the top of the screen throughout the duration of the clip, so that patient who just enter the waiting room will know what topic is about. The main points are summarized and display next to the pictures and the dialogue is display at the bottom of the screen. This is in case the volume is turn off.

Next he informed us of his marketing strategy – impressive. From his statistic, there are 9 million visits to Polyclinic alone per year ! So what we have here is a huge group of ‘captive audience’ - they have no where to go and has nothing to do during the waiting period. All we need is their attention by screening topics of interest to them.

No wonder he has already captured the attention of advertisers, major hospitals, polyclinics and GP clinics. He is doing the health clips for free for the medical professions on condition that they screen his programs. His income is mainly from the advertisers. He pointed out that that exposure time from his media advertising is more than from newspapers, magazines..etc. Besides, it is more cost effective. Compare to TV advertising – the rate is very competitive. Besides, what is lacking in all these media is the ‘captive audience’ factor.

Well, this is a good example of entrepreneurial spirit which benefits society. He will be the pioneer in being the first to show healthcare TV program in locally. I look forward to seeing his ‘masterpieces’ in the future. Ok, not that I like to go for medical consultation, but at least the waiting time will be more meaningfully spend, as we will be feed with health educational information.

Changi Airport Shooting Down Endangered Birds

I was upset to read that Changi Airport is engaging S'pore Gun Club members regularly to shoot down birds. One of the bird species being shot down according to members of Gun club is the White Belly Sea Eagle. It is an endangered and protected species and there are only 50 of them in S'pore !

There are many ways to keep birds away from Airport area. We could fall back on research done in other countries and effective technology available. This is highlighted by an animal NGO in response to the report.

AVA the governing authority has failed in their duty by issuing the shooting permit. Changi Airport management has fallen short of discharging their corporate social responsibility towards nature conservation.

This is in contrast to the pleasant experience I had while working in SingTel years ago. A pair of White Belly Sea Eagles had nested on top of a telecommunication tower at Sentosa. The staff notified the Safety Dept, instead of calling the pest control. I checked with the Bird Park and upon learning it is a endanger species, we got the blessing of SingTel management to leave the eagles alone to hatch their eggs. It involved going out of the way not to disturb the birds for months until the chicks learn to fly. Management could have taken the easy way out and shot down the birds and destroyed their nest.

Doing the right thing may not be easy, but this is what corporate social responsibility is all about. Changi Airport management team's callous attitude towards endangered wildlife is a great let down !

Gone With The Wind

On Sunday, Channel OKTO was showing Gone With The Wind. They were also running some contest for viewers to see who could come up with the most creative suggestion on how to survive through such a 'marathon' movie. A creative way by the TV station to get folks to tune in.

Well, this is a movie masterpiece in the past. Due to its strong story line and historical background, likely it will keep its place in movie history in the future too.

The scene that leaves the greatest impression in my mind is not the 'kissing' scene where they loved to use to advertise the movie, but the scene where the female lead asked God to witness her promise to herself that she would never go hungry again. Before this scene she was digging up something from the ground to eat as she was so hungry. After which she threw up.

From the close up view of her determine facial expression when she spoke those lines, the camera zoom out and showed her against a backdrop of the setting sun. In the foreground was barren land and a withered tree without a single leaf. Then we have the familiar theme music playing in the background. Perfect composition to heighten the emotional impact of the scene !

I admire the survival instinct of the female character and her will power. I suppose audience can relate to her because she is very human with so many imperfections.

Being an animal lover, there is a scene that upset me. She gave little thought to the horse that carried her and others out of danger war zone. The horse was foaming at the mouth and she kept hitting it with a stick to get it to move faster. When finally the horse collapsed and died, all she cared about was how far were they from home. She did not even gave the poor creature a second look but ran towards the house.

Nowadays movies are different. Characters in the movie would risk arm /leg and even their life to ensure their pet escape with them.