Friday, January 28, 2005

Matchmaking for 'educated people'

I was surfing around the government websites doing some research for a friend who's thinking of setting up a non-profit. Managed to somehow stumble upon this portal that contains all sorts of interesting links. One link says 'get married'. There's useful information on how to date people and be happily married. If you click 'find a soulmate', you'd be brought to a site that advertises the government matchmaking service. So far, so cute. Then the horror starts. There seems to be two matchmaking services available. One's called SDU, the other's called SDS. It turns out that not everyone can join the SDU. In the membership section, it says that only uni grads are allowed to join. Also, if you're angry with your spouse and are temporarily separated, you can't join too. On the other hand, you can only join the SDS if you're not a uni graduate. I actually read the thing three times to convince myself I'm reading correctly. Has institutional discrimination even managed to sneak into something as innocent as a match-making outfit? Man, this is sick. If I'm a uni graduate, why can't I join the other group? (And vice versa?) Why? Because ex Prime Minister Lee thinks (years ago, I'm not sure whether he still thinks this) that uni grads should marry uni grads so that their baby will be cleverer. You don't want to mix genes with less clever people, do you now? Hell, no! So I looked at the two websites. Here and here. Tell me which is the one for the uni grad. Yes, the one with the nicer website design. I seriously don't get it. In this day and age? I can understand the membership restriction against married folk who are alone temporarily, but this is just getting too far. And then the myth gets propogated, and everyone starts to believe it...

Thursday, January 27, 2005

A great way to fly!

So I got this in the mail today.
From: "KrisFlyer" To: Subject: Closure of KrisFlyer Account Date: 20 Jan 2005 14:31:42 +0800 Dear Mr Yen, We realise that we have inadvertently sent you a very brief email recently informing you that your account has been closed. KrisFlyer account number 8002269799 for Yen Jeffery has indeed expired as there has been no record of transactions in this account in recent months. We are also aware that there are other accounts that have your same email address and we like to confirm that these accounts are still active. Unfortunately, however, through an error on our part, we sent the earlier email to you, in its draft form, before we had completed it. We are mortified as the email appears extremely curt and dismissive. Please accept our sincere apologies for the confusion and unhappiness the unintended email must have caused you. If there is anything else that we can assist you with, please contact us at KrisFlyer Membership Services. Yours sincerely, Ms Yap Aye Wee Manager Loyalty Marketing
And I decided to write back.
Dear Ms. Yap, Thanks for writing, your forthrightness is indeed commendable; apologies accepted. Unfortunately, I did not receive the said email from your department. If you can be so kind as to forward me the mail again, that'll be great. I've never received a curt, dismissive, and draft reply from SIA before, and now that you've made me curious, I'd sure like to see one! Thanks! Sincerely, jeff

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Call the cops...

It's not often that I want to throw up after reading a news article. I nearly puked on my keyboard just now reading what the next Attorney General of the US (top policeman of the country) said about the torture that went on in Iraq.
Alberto Gonzales has asserted to the Senate committee... that there's a legal rationale for harsh treatment of foreign prisoners by U.S. forces. In more than 200 pages of written responses...Gonzales told senators that laws and treaties prohibit torture by any U.S. agent without exception. But he said the Convention Against Torture treaty, as ratified by the Senate, doesn't prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics on non-U.S. citizens who are captured abroad, in Iraq or elsewhere.
The big issue is this. Who's really the good guy and who's the bad guy? Traditionally, in the best cop movies, it's often ambiguous. I'm afraid it's not very ambiguous in Gonzales' case. I think the guy should be thrown into jail... Source: Knight Ridder, DailyKos

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Probably the best or second best dumplings in Singapore, at Westlake Eating House. They look really ugly, but they are big... We usually order 30, and once we tried 40, but the waiter doesn't want to believe it and keep on insisting we only want 10...

Behind the railings...

A few years ago, a friend of dad came to visit us from the States. He had the impression that Singapore was this backward state in the middle of Asia, and asked us how come there were no destitutues and beggars on the streets. I thought then they must have been 'removed' somehow. Years later in anthropology class, I learnt that they call this a form of gentrification. The social worker at the drop in centre I volunteer at does therapy at this enclosed community inside the government's mental health hospital; it's one of the places that 'destitutes' go to. So yesterday, I tagged along with her. Some of the residents here are affected by mental illness (the 'low functioning' kind), others by drugs or other forms of addiction. The community is like a holiday resort, very nicely decorated, with koi fish pond, lots of greenery; a really pleasant place. There's a barber, music room, art room, basketball courts, all managed by the residents. Technically speaking, the place is also a 'prison' where the residents cannot go outside. There is strict security, but of the 'soft' kind. (Like in the Singapore zoo where the barriers are almost always concealed by natural ornaments.) At first I was quite alarmed. By what authority can people be put there against their will? A fellow volunteer told me there's a provision in the Penal Code or something, the cops have a legal right to do it; I'll confirm this later. But I guess the good thing is that at least the residents are getting support there, and they seem to be generally OK with the situation. Some, obviously, want to go home. Some, I think, don't really or can't form an opinion. Then again, it could be we who don't understand them at all. But at least they have a relatively pleasant place to stay, for all intents and purposes. I guess it could be far worse... I was watching Ultraman just now; it was showing on the Malay channel. A similar thing happened when I once watched Oshin on the Malay channel. So she's wearing a kimono and speaking in Malay. My problem with Ultraman is the absolutely trivial plot for the first 25 minutes of a 30 minute episode. There'll be some sort of plot development among the guys and gals in uniform, and they're part of this organisation that's equiped with some fighter planes that are essentially useless against the monsters. Sometimes, the human bad guy is actually a monster in disguise. I don't really understand it. In every episode, one or two useless fighter planes will be shot down, and that's when Ultraman appears. He will win, then lose, then win. That's it. So the first part of the show is quite unnecessary. Only the last five minutes contain some interesting combat sequences. Why do they still need to film the first 25 minutes? I don't know... ------------------------- Update to the first story: It's actually not the Penal Code, but I found this act called the Mental Disorders and Treatment Act.
Order for detention of mentally disordered person. Section 25. When upon any inquiry under this Part any person has been found by the court to be of unsound mind and incapable of managing himself and his affairs, the court shall either make an order for the person to be received into a mental hospital and send him in suitable custody, together with the order for his reception, to the mental hospital named in the order, or may, if any friend or relative of the person undertakes in writing to the satisfaction of the court that the person shall be properly taken care of and shall be prevented from doing injury to himself or others, make him over to the care of that friend or relative. Apprehension of persons of unsound mind. Section 32. It shall be the duty of every police officer to apprehend any person who is reported to be of unsound mind and is believed to be dangerous to himself or other persons by reason of unsoundness of mind and take such person together with a report of the facts of the case without delay to — (a) any medical officer for an examination and the medical officer may thereafter act in accordance with section 34; or (b) any medical officer at a mental hospital and the medical officer may thereafter act in accordance with section 35.
I don't understand everything that's in the Act, but I guess others have quite a bit of authority to do what they want to do with the people of unsound mind.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Truth in advertising (and fund raising)

In a bold move, Doctors Without Borders asks people to stop donating to its Tsunami-specific fund and consider other aid agencies instead because it has enough money to finance its current projects there. That's really good stuff coming from an NGO; at least there're some who're not afraid to do something that it knows will make others a little uneasy. I was at the Red Cross a few days ago. They have $18 million in cash, but I guess for an organisation like the Red Cross which can probably involve themselves in a wider and more dynamic job scope, the money is never enough. The problem I guess for all NGOs is to determine how and what to spend it on, and to make sure the money is spent on the folks who really need it and that it doesn't get waylaid by politics or corruption. The logistics considerations to do that effectively is very challenging...Yesterday I was at the Army Logistics Base packing and moving stuff. Hundreds of cartons of clothing collected by Singapore Polytechnic staff and students over the weekend are sitting in the warehouse; I think it's quite a phenomenal job those guys have done. A friend in Perth once told me, the mechanisms to solve the world's problems are actually available, it's just a matter of will to make it happen. Big social structures like governments and personal ideologies like aspects of capitalism and the ownership of money makes solving world's problems an inherently difficult thing. So NGOs do their little bit with their limited budget. A disaster like this shows that funds need not be 'limited'. There is enough money going around to make a difference. Problem is, we don't want to because it would mean losing control, and that is a scary thing... If you want to help out, donate to the Red Cross or volunteer here.

Sunday, January 2, 2005


The folks who designed the Outdoor Theatre at the Esplanade had considered the framing considerations of photographers in the positioning of the mesh shelter thingy; it's quite clever. The bottom pic shows the Corrinne May free concert held tonight. Electrico also performed before her set; they are gorgeous! To those who wanted to hear a bit of the bootleg I recorded, the MD recorder that I used was quite unsuitable for the task at hand, as it turned out. The sound level was too high to get a good recording. Still, here's a sample of her new song from the album out next month, Safe In A Crazy World. New full length songs are now put up on her website.

Saturday, January 1, 2005

__ New Year

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die... A time to weep, and a time to dance... ~King Solomon/Ecclesiastes 3
It's hard to fill in the blanks this year. I was at the Esplanade last night and the contrast was evident. Party goers with party hats, horns, and confetti-expelling cans turned up by the thousands. 600 miles from where I am, 80,000 Indonesians are dead, many more elsewhere. Millions are displaced. It's difficult to make sense of things. Hope the new year will be better for everyone... Corrinne May was great, I guess if she didn't exist, someone would surely put together the frequencies and invent the same voice, it's really quite special. I'm going again tonight... More information about help needed in the disaster can be found here.