Archive for July, 2005

Ugly Men for Drinks Ads; 37th Chemistry Olympiad; The farmer-scholar divide

This is probably one of the most ridiculous piece of news I have read today. What next? Fat and unattractive women for car ads?

Ugly Men Called In For Drinks Firms Ads

(UK) Drinks companies have been ordered to use uglier men in their advertising campaigns.The Advertising Standards Authority believes “balding” and “paunchy” men would be less likely to encourage women to drink to achieve social success.The new advertising code stresses that links must not be made between alcohol and seduction.

A campaign for popular sparkling drink Lambrini has become the first to fall foul of the new rules.

The Authority objected to a poster which showed three women “hooking” a slim, young man in a parody of a fairground game.

The industry regulator instructed the firm: “We would advise that the man in the picture should be unattractive – ie overweight, middle-aged, balding etc.

“In its current form we consider that the ad is in danger of implying that the drink may bring sexual/social success, because the man in question looks quite attractive and desirable to the girls.

“If the man was clearly unattractive, we think that this implication would be removed from the ad.”

Lambrini owner John Halewood said the Authority should not be in the business of defining who was and was not unattractive enough to star in ads.

He said: “It makes some very understandable rulings to encourage sensible drinking but we’re not sure they’re qualified to decide for the nation who’s sexy and who’s not.

“Sexual attraction is happily one of the few things in life that can’t be governed.”


XXXVII International Chemistry Olympiad. I wonder what is Singapore’s standing.

Asia Dominates Chemistry Olympiad
South Korea and Vietnam place high, while U.S. performance declines


South Korea received top honors at the 37th International Chemistry Olympiad, which took place in Taipei from July 16 to 25, with each of its four participants earning a gold medal. Vietnam snagged second place with three gold medals and one silver, while Iran, Russia, and host team Taiwan placed third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, with two gold and two silver medals apiece. Once again, Alexey Zeifman of Russia garnered the top individual score.

The U.S. team of high school students continued to place in the middle. Allen Cheng, Jacob Sanders, and Nicholas Sofroniew received silver medals, while Scott Rabin earned a bronze medal. Last year’s team received four silver medals.

Olympiad organizers reported that 225 students from 59 countries took part in the competition, which featured five-hour practical and theoretical examinations. A total of 26 gold, 48 silver, and 79 bronze medals were awarded. Traditional powerhouse China, winner of the previous three competitions, did not participate this year.

Students and visitors also toured local attractions and museums and participated in cultural and social activities during the contest, though the midcompetition appearance of Typhoon Haitang put a damper on some of the festivities.

The next Chemistry Olympiad will take place in Gyeongsan, South Korea, July 2–11, 2006.


Zyl talks about the scholar-farmer divide in the Civil Service. This was also covered by stray_cat in the YPAP forums previously, although I can’t seem to find that particular thread.

Anyway, the gist (with exceptions of course) is that:

Farmer graduates (in their mid-late 20s) normally start off as “Senior Officer”, while returning PSC (overseas) scholars frequently get emplaced as Assistant Directors in their first postings (for the ladies this would mean they are about 23; for guys 25) plus accelerated promotions.


July 27, 2005 at 4:50 pm 2 comments

Outside the Norm; Overqualified/Underpaid; Amalgam in the Middle

So many events (online and off) had happened since my last post on ID4. The London bombings, Singapore-style ‘scholarships’ and the NKF incident. There are no comments here, if you are looking for my views on them. I think the other blogs have pretty much covered most of the angles.

Outside the Norm, a Technology Review piece, profiled several “underaged” undergrad teenagers at MIT. I wonder if this is possible at all for one going through the Singapore K-12 education system. Can one skip grades and be given the green light to enroll at the local universities at age 14 or 16 if he/she is proven to be academically able enough to do so?

I don’t think the system allowed for my time in the 90s, although I am not sure for the case now. There is the GEP if one does well enough in the Primary 3 (now 4) and Primary 6 screening tests, but for many of my cynical peers it was seen as just a way for the government to keep the brighter students occupied and be on the same footing as the rest; afterall the Special and Express streams sat for the same set of O and A level exams at the same time.

The common frustration most of my peers (and I) felt was the over-emphasis on the standardized exams’ syllabi. Teachers were focused on having us give the ‘right’ set of answers and everyone was moulded into thinking our lives’ worths were measured simply by the number of distinctions on our certs and the ‘prestigious’ scholarships that we could get to go to [insert your university here]. Any deviations would be punished, even if we possessed more in-depth knowledge about the subject matter than what was demanded of us, or even that of the tutor.

I had a classmate who was extremely good in Math (and also Physics, Chemistry), and I remember him asking our F Maths tutor during a discussion session on complex numbers if we could apply the usual method of real variables’ differentiation and integration on them. He was promptly ‘shot down’ in class and told to stay ‘within the syllabus’. He would later go on to attend MIT. Now he is working as an adminstrator in the Civil Service. Not sure if he’s the best man for public policy making (since I think he would be better off as a theoretical mathematician/physicist), but hey, at least he did not break bond and have his name published in the papers. Most of my JC tutors (the exception was GP, heh) were so impressed with him that they gave him the job of leading the tutorials for our class. He was infamously known for only doing his tutorial homework on the day itself. The rest of the time? Either playing bridge or reading up college-level physics textbooks. Unfortunately, he was ridiculed as being a chao mugger. Apparently no one (then) believed that one could study for the sake of interest rather than for grades. L’oiseau posted a similar entry here. Read also heavenly-sword’s twopart series on talent production.

During one of the informal Singaporean gatherings in our department two weeks ago, D summed up the reason why Sg guys are so old when we begin graduate school. NS, and the education system being unwilling to accomodate requests to skip grades. There is also no support system for those talented in certain areas, and the cut-throat competition in school which kills off interests to focus solely on grades. The P5 – Sec 2, and the two JC years were a complete waste of time in his opinion, and his favorite phrase for the first period is “All we learnt esp for Science, is the Angsana tree“, and the second “NUS made me repeat my JC notes in the first year of undergrad”. No offense to the botanists! 😛

Now, for the case of graduate school/upgrading one’s education, Quarter Life Crisis described nicely of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.


A poem on Silicon, the ubiquitous element which makes up almost all of the world’s computer chips but scientists don’t really know how to place it. Somewhat fitting to this entry.

Amalgam in the Middle
By Mala L. Radhakrishnan

Silicon was faithfully teased each day
In school when atoms would line up to play:
Metals in one line, nons in the next,
But which line should it join? All were perplexed.

Like a metal, it was shiny,
But its conductivity was tiny.
Its band gap was too far from little,
And unlike metals ’twas rather brittle.

It clutched electrons way too tightly,
So metals teased it daily and nightly.
Yet nons would also jeer and nettle,
“You dress and look just like a metal!”

What pain since it did not conform!
No box for it to check on forms.
Few atoms could know the lonely void
That it knew as a “metalloid.”

But sili did not yet know ’twas able
To be popular with the rest of the table.
Its half-filled shell did place it where
It had some four electrons to share.

While greedy nonmetals weren’t willing to spare
And metals were willing to give anywhere,
Sili’s electrons were things to be earned,
But they bonded with skill that couldn’t be learned.

Once other elements saw this fact,
Moles of them came ’round to react.
O2 was the first to ask it on dates,
And others joined in to make silicates.

The former outcast whose hopes had been bust
Now was key in forming Earth’s crust!
The pariah that had been given the hand
Was now in every grain of sand.

Soon, silicon was lionized;
Its band gap was of perfect size
To dope with nearby brothers and sisters
And make computers from transistors.

As if its utility has not yet impressed us,
It’s also in quartz and glass and asbestos!
And silicon’s used in chemical plants
To make lubricants and breast implants.

Sili, its fourteen electrons so strong,
Proved all of its doubtful peers to be wrong
When it managed to move all the way out to Cali
And founded its very own aptly named valley.

The ugly duckling of the table,
Silicon simply couldn’t be labeled.
So if you feel you don’t fit in,
Think of silicon and don’t give in.

July 16, 2005 at 1:45 pm 7 comments

Your bulb no bright enough; Independence Day

Ms Beautifuk’s entry reminded me of the several reasons why I don’t miss meeting up with my extended family sometimes. Especially during the Chinese New Year where you would have folks comparing whose kids are *brighter* (through the schools they attended, their results in the national standardized exams etc). Then if you happen to be in college, questions like the existence of your other half, and your possible career(s) would be asked. Not that this is wrong of course, I mean there needs to be some topics to talk about, and such questions are pretty standard. The problem comes about in the way they are phrased. Sometimes so condescending and sarcastic that you would want to stand up and walk out.

I guess it is worse if you have relatives (like his case) whose kids are super smart and going places and your folks are the face-conscious ones.

Then another of beautifuk’s posts brings to mind the many friends acquaintances I had from my secondary school to JC days. Fishing for compliments, so they say.


The US Independence Day.

ID4 fireworks
Fireworks aplenty tonight. 🙂

July 4, 2005 at 4:36 pm 3 comments

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