Archive for November, 2005

A Digital Sunset Over Europe and Africa

Taken from here.

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The Urban Legends reference page describes it as:

The picture is of Europe and Africa when the sun is setting. Half of the picture is in night. The bright dots you see are the cities lights. The top part of Africa is the Sahara Desert. Note how the lights are already on in Holland, Paris, and Barcelona, and how it’s still daylight in London, Lisbon, and Madrid.

The sun is still shining on the Straight of Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean Sea is already in darkness. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean you can see the Azores Islands; below them to the right are the Madeira Islands; a bit below are the Canary Islands; and further south, close to the farthest western point of Africa, the Cape Verde Islands. Note how the Sahara is huge and can be seen clearly both during daytime and nighttime. To the left, on top, is Greenland, totally frozen.

Awesome this digital composite isn’t it? And for those of you flying frequently on long haul – those *real-time* pics you see on the mini-TV screen in front of your seat or wall projections of day and night of earth can be just a click away.

Inane post, yes, but do you know that I used to frequent the Singapore Science Center ‘s Astronomy section if only to look at those plastic balls masquerading as planets? While busying ourselves with life on earth, it would be good sometimes if we can just step out of Mother Earth and look at her from the outside. You will be amazed by what you see.

More images (from NASA)


November 28, 2005 at 12:45 am 2 comments

GEPpers; DOM

Slow day today, with many leaving home for the Thanksgiving break. Two pieces of news:

1. The gifted education program (or GEP, for short) is featured on Today, if you haven’t been following the news back home. Details/personal viewpoints here and here. I have nothing substantial to add (to the debate), except that those GEPpers I encountered in school were very much like the rest of us “normal beings”. That being said, I wonder the rationale of them being allocated more of the state’s limited resources over the “mainstream” folks. The GEP with its smaller class sizes and specially assigned teachers.

It is terrible that folks would hunt down one of the letter writer’s blogs and flame her on her tag board.

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Part of John Singleton Copley’s oil on canvas Watson and the Shark, 1777-78.

Edit: These are worth reading too.


2. Brings us back to the term “Dirty Old Man”. From Sammyboymod, and he has been arrested.

November 23, 2005 at 5:01 pm 1 comment

Price of Defaulting NS

A $5K fine if you are a world reknowned pianist. I wonder if Mr Wang has anything to comment on this.

Edit: Mr Wang commented.

Nov 20, 2005
Pianist pays NS dues – 28 years later
He is fined for defaulting on his NS after he decides to return, as his aged parents are finding it difficult to visit him in London

By Kristina Tom

AFTER staying away from Singapore for nearly 30 years because he defaulted on his national service, pianist Melvyn Tan has finally paid his dues.

The 49-year-old, who has lived in the United Kingdom for the last 37 years, has paid a fine for not fulfilling his national service duty and will be performing at the Esplanade next month.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, a visibly relieved Mr Tan said that he is glad to have put the past behind him.

He has not stepped onto Singapore soil all these years because he had feared that he would be arrested and thrown into jail.

But his 86-year-old father and 80-year-old mother are getting too old to make the regular trips to London to visit him at his home in Notting Hill, London.

So he decided to take a ‘risk’. After informing the authorities of his intention to return, he came home in April for a court hearing.

The hearing lasted 30 minutes but he had never been so nervous in his life. ‘It was very, very nerve-wracking,’ he said.

To his relief, he was asked only to pay a fine.

He claims that he cannot remember the amount.

Under the Enlistment Act, those who evade national service can be fined up to $5,000 or sent to jail for up to three years, or both.

Although Mr Tan became a British citizen in 1978, he was still a Singapore citizen when he failed to fulfil his NS duties, making him answerable for the offence in a Singapore court.

In 1994, The Straits Times quoted a lawyer who said that one of his clients, a 39-year-old French citizen, was arrested at the airport on arrival, fined and made to complete nine months of training.

Mr Tan, who has an elder sister, was studying at Anglo-Chinese School when he left Singapore to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Sussex. He was then 12 years old.

After he finished his course, he stayed on in England to study at the Royal College of Music instead of coming home to serve national service in 1977.

He said: ‘When I was at the Royal College and I got my final call-up, I was just on the brink of starting a career. I thought about it and thought about it and realised that I was not going to get this chance again.

‘So I made that very difficult decision to not return. It meant I could never come back.’

Mr Tan first made his mark in the classical world with his performances on the 19th-century fortepiano, the precursor to the modern concert grand.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he produced a series of recordings that popularised the early music movement, regarded as a slightly eccentric niche within the music world.

He has about 30 recordings to his name and a regular touring schedule in Europe.

Along with Seow Yit Kin and Margaret Leng Tan, he has helped Singapore to gain recognition on the global piano scene.

The pianist is wasting no time in reconnecting with the Singapore music scene.

He goes back to England tomorrow, but will return early next month to sit on the jury of the National Arts Council’s biennial National Piano and Violin Competition, which starts Dec 7 and ends Dec 18.

He said that he is getting to know Singapore, which he describes as ‘unrecognisable’, all over again. And, of course, he has been feasting on his favourite foods such as popiah.

But the best part about being able to come home as a free man was showing up at his mother’s 80th birthday party on Thursday.

His parents still live in his childhood home in Lengkok Angsa, off Paterson Road. ‘There were a few tears,’ he said. ‘She was just delighted. It was the best birthday present she’s ever had.’’s Coffee Hub has more, while talkingcock’s seemed too real to be funny.

Your time in NS is cheap, oh yeah, your life too.

Edit: Harsher penalties on the horizon for ‘draft dodgers’. More liability to you, the Sg male.

November 21, 2005 at 12:20 pm 3 comments

Asian, too smart for the rest; so the others leave; in-your-face rudeness

Was alerted to this WSJ article (Nov 19): The New White Flight by l’oiseau rebelle. Initial response: Piece of racist, stereotyping crap.

Sometimes we (as in Asian – Chinese, Korean, Indian, Jap) try to mingle with the rest (blacks, whites and hispanics) and we get shown the cold shoulder. Or we get sarcastic remarks/comments on our academic achievements from non-Asian peers or the departmental secretaries.

Two experiences etched in my memory:

1. At the undergraduate studies secretary’s office, to get my schedule plan signed.

“Oh, so you are petitioning to graduate this sem, and you have only spent 5 semesters in the college so far?! *Oh the horror! look* Wait, let me pull out your file.”

“No wonder, you are from Singapore.”

Ed: Singaporeans had always done well in this dept (and the university in general). No thanks to a huge influx of *scholars* from several high profile stat boards. Graduating early (~3 years on average) and topping the class. Probably the same case in other heavily Singaporean populated colleges, as shown here.

2. Grad school, at a social gathering for first years and the dept’s profs. Topic somehow drifted to the GRE scores. It was still under the old format, with 2400 the maximum possible score. (800 for each of verbal, quantitative and analytical)

A minority (non-Asian) friend, A: “I didn’t do too well for them (GREs). Thankfully I still managed to get accepted. About 1900 for me.”

Another minority (non-Asian) friend, B: “Me too. My score was in the 1800s. So what did you get? ” *points a look finger at me*

Me: “2X00.”

Silence, then

A, B (almost simultaneously): “Yeah, you are supposed to get that score. You are Asian (read: good in Math and Science) you know.”

A short while later I got to know almost all the Chinese and Korean first years had 2400. This puts my score somewhat average. heh.

Wikipedia has an entry on the model minority.

Recommended readings: Wind’s Cornell experience, Xue’s thoughts. Sometimes, you end up spending more time *with your own kind* (how I hate this term, and by own kind I mean Asians in general, the Chinese, Koreans, Japs and Indians) not because you want to hang out solely with them, but because others don’t really welcome you into their circles. In a sense, I can empathize with those French rioters.

On a final note, I don’t hang out often with the Singsoc people, but I admit I have more Asian (including Asian-American) friends here than non-Asians. But it could also be a result of demographics – since Asians are overwhelmingly represented in the engineering and physical/biological sciences.

Edit: Olandario sums it up for me.

November 20, 2005 at 10:30 pm 7 comments

Backdoor entry to the Ivies (sort of); dual MBA – MS/PhD degrees

The New York Times yesterday reported the rising interest of younger (enrolling at Harvard University Extension School. Some are “drawn by the chance to experience Harvard at bargain-basement prices. (…)About $550 per lecture course compared to about $4,000 per course at Harvard College.

With at least 40% of the classes taught by bona fide Harvard instructors and some courses identical to those at Harvard College, the only difference is the title of the degree: “And there is the diploma, a bachelors of liberal arts in extension from Harvard University (that other diploma says bachelors of arts from Harvard College).

For people who are familiar with the educational landscape, this is not new. On the local scene, Hardwarezone forums is popular with Singaporeans seeking advice for distance learning/continuing education opportunities. The paper also listed (non-profit) alternatives at Washington U (at St Louis) and University of Maryland University College (different from UMD’s flagship campus at College Park).

Among the ivy colleges, the other university with a similar program (for non-traditionals and students looking for a less competitive admission to an ivy) is Columbia through its School of General Studies (GS). Tuition is steep though, at $976 per credit. With 124 credits required for the BA or BS degree and only up to 60 credits allowed for transfer, one would still expect to pay about $62,000 (~ S$106,000) just for fees for completion of the degree program assuming one did the first 60 credit hours elsewhere on the cheap. The good (or bad, depending on which side you stand) thing is that the diploma awarded will be the same as all other Columbia undergraduates.

Related: Exchange – transfers


A friend was ‘chided’ earlier for not taking advantage of the school’s dual MBA – MS/PhD option (even though he signed up for a Certificate in Management, it’s still considered a poor cousin to the MBA). Cost isn’t an issue as some universities allow for cross registration of MGT classes with the graduate technical ‘core’ courses. If you plan well early enough, you can get the MBA virtually for ‘free’ and simultaneously with your advanced degree with no additional time required. Would strongly recommend if you aspire to be on the research/technical managerial track after graduation. I am a little surprised that not many grad students (in the sciences/engineering) are aware of such a possibility.

Other dual degree programs with rising popularity include the MD/PhD (usually offered jointly by the biomedical engineering dept and the Medical School). We call it Med School on the cheap. The only catch is that it is terribly long (no prizes for guessing the attrition rate) – having to satisfy both the requirements for the MD and PhD portions.

November 19, 2005 at 11:15 am 2 comments

Singaporean Faculty at US universities

This blog is still getting hits from readers who keyed in “Tracey Ho” (with “MIT” thrown in at times) on google and yahoo. If you don’t know what I am talking about, see this and this.

It has got me thinking. She is definitely not the first Singaporean to get an academic appointment in a US university, nor will she be the last to do so. So, the question now becomes: How many Singaporean (or someone with extensive Singaporean roots) faculty are there teaching/researching in the US?

I obviously do not have the answer, but just to start the ball rolling, I will put those I know in the list below; I encourage readers to submit addenums/ point out errors that you see and I will edit this post accordingly.

Why: Every year, a number of Singaporean students decide to head to the US for graduate studies. Encounters with peers at a certain local research institute applying to the US universities showed that while ‘hard’ information about the universities’ research (and the *USnews rankings*) is readily available online, ‘soft’ factors such as the local living conditions, congeniality among the various research groups in the school (an important factor that is most often overlooked by incoming grad students) are not easily forthcoming. So, in having this list, Singaporeans coming over here will have an additional resource in asking opinions about their fields of study and the school/city where they will spend the next 2 – 5 years of their graduate studies. What better advice than someone who shared your social/academic background and understand where you are coming from? They can also serve as some kind of model figure (*for those of you thinking of getting a faculty job here, ie quitters :P*)

This list is pathetic not exhaustive very short for now, and I look forward to expanding it.

List of current Singaporean faculty at US schools, broken down according to disciplines (Not exhaustive)

Linda Y.C. Lim – Professor of Corporate Strategy and International Business; Director of the Center for South East Asian Studies, University of Michigan (tip: L’oiseau rebelle)

Xuanming Su – Assistant Professor, Operations and Information Technology Management, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

Teck-Hua Ho – William Halford Jr. Family Professor of Marketing; Chair, Marketing Group; Acting Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, UC Berkeley

Mawder Foo – Associate Professor, Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado – Boulder

Chemical Engineering
Simon Ng – Professor and Co-Director of Alternative Energy Technology Program, Wayne State University

Jackie Ying* – Professor of Chemical Engineering, MIT

Pauline Hope Cheong – Assistant Professor, SUNY – Buffalo

Bee-Yan Aw-Roberts – Professor of Economics, Penn State

Electrical Engineering
Changhuei Yang – Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering & BioEngineering, Caltech

Tracey Ho – Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Caltech

Shirley Geok-Lin Lim – Professor of English, UCSB

Jessie P. Poon – Professor, Director of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Study Center, SUNY – Buffalo

Melvin Leok – T. H. Hildebrandt Research Assistant Professor of Mathematics, University of Michigan

Chek Beng Chua – Combinatorics & Optimization, Department of Mathematics, University of Waterloo**

Boon Wee Ong – Lecturer, Penn State Erie, Behrend College

Mechanical Engineering
Kok-Meng Lee
Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech

Chee Wei Wong – Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University

Plant Molecular Biology
Nam-Hai Chua – Andrew W. Mellon Professor, The Rockefeller University

Michael Goh – Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota


*Taiwanese, but did her secondary education in Singapore. Concurrent Executive Director of IBN.

**Canadian institution

November 13, 2005 at 2:05 pm 18 comments

Hooked on WB’s Related

Been quite a while since I get really hooked on a television series. (The previous was Ally McBeal). Thanks in no part to Laura Breckenridge, who played the role of the youngest sister Rose Sorelli.

She is HOT. Reminds me of a tutor (that I had a crush on) back in school when I was in my teens.

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Breckenridge is a highly accomplished dancer who has trained with the Rock School of The Pennsylvania Ballet, School of American Ballet and The Royal Ballet in London. At the age of 10, Breckenridge was chosen by Christopher D’Ambroise as the youngest “Marie” in The Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. She performed in The Nutcracker for a total of seven years and continued to perform with The Pennsylvania Ballet in various productions including Coppelia and Cinderella. She continues to train at various studios in New York and Los Angeles.

Although taking a break from her studies during the production of Related, Breckenridge is majoring in classics with a theater and dance certificate at Princeton and now makes her home in Los Angeles.

Beauty + Brains + Talent.

She also starred in Southern Belles. Hmm, I think of girls in popped collars and pearls, à la Gone with the Wind.

November 9, 2005 at 11:50 pm 2 comments

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