Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Paper Qualifications

The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Ranking® is reputed to be the most widely read university comparison of their kind. In addition to exploring the world's top 800 universities overall, you can also compare the ranking of universities in a specific region, by subject area, or based on factors such as reputation or research citations. National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have moved up 2 places in the 2014 World University Rankings – NUS is now ranked 22nd and remains the top Asian university, while NTU is ranked 39th.

NUS came in 39th place in a new ranking by international publishing company Nature Publishing Group this month (Nov 2014), making it the highest-ranked Singapore institution on the index. Highest in that NTU was ranked 42nd, while the Agency for Science, Technology and Research was ranked 133rd. Worldwide, China's Chinese Academy of Sciences was ranked as the top institution. The Nature Index takes into account articles chosen from 68 nature science journals.

Differing from the Nature Index, the Nature Publishing Index (NPI) is calculated from research articles published in 18 journals by Nature Publishing Group. The NPI places NUS at the 46th position among its Global Top 100 list of research institutions, up 28 places from 74th in 2012.

NTU president Bertil Andersson has an explanation for all these placings, "By continuing to attract the best professors and students from Singapore and around the world, I expect NTU will break into Times Higher's top 50 universities in a few year's time." Times Higher Education World University Rankings is yet another index, which places NUS 25th and NTU 61st.

Unfortunately the Singaporean post-graduate student who was impregnated by Associate Professor Yu Wanli of the prestigious Peking University is a sad reminder that not all in possession of paper qualifications have their heads screwed on right. Apparently she was fully aware Prof Yu was into bondage, swingers' parties and one-night stands. Our very own sex-for-grades law professor from the NUS pales by comparison. No wonder the ministers have been dissing the importance of chasing a university degree. Especially when university dons - who supposedly have to publish or perish - still have time to chase skirts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Going To War

When Cassius Clay a.k.a. Muhammad Ali showed up at the induction at the Old Post Office building in Houston, one pace forward would have meant acceptance of the call-up to serve in Vietnam.
"Why should me and other so-called negroes go 10,000 miles, away from home here in America to drop bombs and bullets on other innocent, brown people who's never bothered us?"

Muhammad Ali refused the draft to go into Vietnam in 1967 and it cost him his World Heavyweight Champion  title, 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He said that if the Vietnamese came over and attacked this country, he would be the first one to defend it.

So why is the journalist going on about sending National Servicemen to fight the war in the Middle East ("Get national servicemen to volunteer for overseas missions", TODAY, Tuesday 25 Nov)? Just because Tony Blair was a willing poodle for George Bush Jr, should our young men risk their lives for some politician's ego trip? The irony is that the United States had fought to introduce democracy to countries like Iraq - and some say they have failed miserably - when our own elected officials are adamant that "Western democracy" is not meant for us. Why then go to war?

Sure the generals would like some war stories to tell their grand children, and grassroots leaders - is that why the ex-general is now in Acheh? Patton loved to be called "old blood and guts", but the grunt slogging in the mud was right to point out: "Oh yeah, our blood, his guts". The writer must have missed his medication when he penned that "Singapore can be confident that national servicemen will step forward and volunteer to serve on the SAF's fourth journey to the Middle East."

The real battle worth fighting for is within our homeland. It's not just defending our jobs and livelihood from the foreigners brought onshore by the pro-alien party. It's also about taking back what rightfully belongs to us in the first place, starting with the balance in our Central Provident Fund.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Running Out Of Smart Ideas

The Prime Minister's Office has appointed Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan to oversee the "Smart Nation Programme Office". Not exactly the smartest of moves, given the propensity of the gutter politician to throw good money after bad, and yet to account for the overblown budget of the Youth Olympic Games. In particular, what exactly was buried under the miscellaneous charge ("Other Costs") of $78.9 million.

The haze was not as horrific as last year, no thanks to any contribution of his. Someone must have figured out he should stop sitting in the corner and twiddling his thumbs and do something useful to justify the million dollar paycheck. Something nebulous as a 3D project that defies imagination. Who needs a new 3D map for animal sightings, potential hazards for cyclists, or even the best mee pok, nasi lemak or mee siam mai hum? Google maps aside, there are apps plentiful to hunt down the discreet carpark for a surreptitious rendezvous between a senior civil servant and a compliant IT vendor. BTW, anyone with half a brain would think IT is under the auspices of the Ministry for Communications and Information. Has Yaacob gone off to fight for the ISIS?

The Executive Deputy Chairman of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and Co-Chair of National Infocomm Awards (NIA) 2014 trumpeted, "Singapore is committed to become the world's first Smart, and using technology and data in new ways that can improve the lives of people of all ages is the foundation of what it means to be a Smart Nation." Ouch, that must be a painful reminder that 60.1 percent of the electorate is still dumb enough to vote in the same political party.

It was the older Lee who once told the Future China Global Forum audience, "The Taiwanese are ruthless, Hong Kongers are shameless and Singaporeans are ignorant." Maybe that's why the younger Lee thinks it's about time for Singaporeans to appear intelligent.

But not too smart. As in demanding the return of their life savings at age 55 as originally promised. Or go online to highlight how one Singaporean can be outnumbered 7 to 1 by foreigners, here at home, not in downtown Manila. Tan Chuan-Jin thinks that "Unfortunately, these actions backfire as potential employers will be reluctant to take on these individuals." So the smart thing to do when threatened by an overwhelming force is to back down and keep quiet? Not exactly the advice you would expect from an ex-general. It appears that Singaporeans will need permission first to get smart.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Difference Of Art

Like Ford's Model T, available only in black

Definitely a more colourful alternative
The first piece of "art" won her $32,500 in the UOB Painting of the Year 2014 Competition. Ms Om explained that the 100 cm by 100 cm oil on canvas is supposed to be a reflection of a starry night sky, probably marred by the haze from Indonesia. You could never guess that by the "N-PIN56L" title given to the piece, obviously bearing no clue to the 57 layers of colour applied. Don't bother to ask what camel brushes were instrumental for the creative labour of love: ""I used 6 mm tape to create the grid. Each layer is a compilation of a grid, the paint layer and the tape removed and applied again, and then add on another layer."

The second creative effort is more recognizable, spray paint being the medium of choice preferred by graffiti artists world wide. But two German nationals, Andreas Von Knorre and Elton Hinz, both 21, are likely of be rewarded with $2,000 fines, 3 years’ jail and 8 strokes of the cane each for their exuberant expressions of colour and shape.

The main difference being a sticky issue of trespassing on SMRT territory.

When a northbound train was found vandalised with graffiti and the fencing at Bishan Depot tampered with in 2011, SMRT swore that "We want to have a system that is truly comprehensive and will hold up to tests." And was willing to back it up with  security enhancements that SMRT said cost them $6 million, with maintenance alone amounting to $300,000 annually. Manpower costs for its current security team then (in 2011) were already eating up $5 million a year. Money is no object when commuters end up paying for their incompetence.

Not that it did SMRT any good. And Andreas and Elton did made them look pretty silly. Just for that, there will be hell to pay. Don't worry about the chief executive being sacked, after all, it's only the fourth instance of security breach recorded. Unless the stars fall from the sky, his handsome salary takings will never be docked.

Friday, November 21, 2014

We're Number 16

The big news is that the World Talent Report 2014 from the Institute for Management Development (IMD)  has ranked Malaysia 5th position, while Singapore trails a distant 16. The IMD World Competitiveness Center which produces the annual ranking exercise says the objective serves to assess the ability of countries to develop, attract and retain talent to sustain the talent pool available for enterprises operating in the economies.

While the ranking is structured according to 1) investment and development, 2) appeal and 3) readiness, it goes without saying those foreign talents tempted by the glossy brochures will, sooner or later, discover the truth from the myth. Like Singapore is the safest place on earth, bar none. Except for the occasional stabbing in broad daylight at Raffles Place. You can trust the lawyers here too, just remember to do a back of the envelope check when it comes to invoicing.

We don't know why Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins, the husband and wife team of cancer experts who left the National Cancer Institute in the United States after 20 years there to join Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) because of "generous funding", packed their bags again after a short 5 year stint to head back to Houston, Texas. Maybe they had a nasty experience at Sim Lim Square. Or were fleeced for seafood at Newton Circus. Not everybody has the deep pockets of a Brunei princess.

And then there are the untold legions of local talents who have left for greener pastures abroad. Lee Kuan Yew used to insist on a report of the number of emigrants, maybe someone else is still keeping score.

Somewhere in page 8 of the report, a chart shows that Singapore used to do a better job in attracting and retaining talent. We were number 2 in 2008. The explanatory note is worth reading:
The fluctuation in the overall ranking experienced by some of the countries throughout the period may be the result of cyclical economic and socio-political issues that impact, for example, immigration policies and/or investment in education. In some cases, such policies could result in the diminishing ability of countries to attract overseas talent despite strong commitment to local talent development.

We know some of those socio-political issues only too well. The list is long and nauseating, starting with a 30 year mortgage for a public housing flat. It's bad enough to have to stomach the likes of Anton Casey and Yin Yang, the politicians ramming the Population White Paper down our throats make mockery of a welcome home for real talent. It's not sustaining if talents are not retaining.