Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Discouraging news from home. From the Straits Times Interactive:

Youth averse to disagree with Govt

By Neo Hui Min

THEY know of Newater, the tudung controversy and the plot by militants to bomb Yishun MRT station, but are much less aware of the Feedback Unit or the Remaking Singapore Committee.

And when it comes to publicly expressing views that differed from the Government, most of the 800 young Singaporeans in a Singapore Polytechnic survey said they felt uncomfortable doing so.

In fact, only 15 per cent had no qualms speaking out.

'Many cannot be bothered or think their views have no impact. A small percentage did not want to get into trouble,' business school director V. Maheantharan said of the findings.

Apathy was the main reason for their reluctance to use feedback channels, he said, adding that fear appeared to be another reason - although what they feared was not clear.

To address this problem, the Government should give more publicity to channels such as its Feedback Unit, as well as include more youngsters in its dialogues, he said.

'The Government needs to seek youngsters out and get them to feel comfortable speaking out,' he added.

Only one in four was aware of the Feedback Unit. Few knew of its website and fewer were aware of the Remaking Singapore website.

They were most familiar with The Straits Times Forum pages as avenue for feedback, followed by Speakers' Corner and Talking Point on television.

The survey, by second year Media and Communication students, looked at youths' awareness of local current affairs and feedback channels, their understanding of Singapore's political process, and how they obtained their news.

It was conducted over two weeks last August and involved adults and students aged between 15 and 29.

While a healthy portion, 41 per cent of respondents, said they would use existing channels to get their views across, an almost similar number would not. This 39 per cent felt their views would have no impact or just could not be bothered.

But what was comforting in the survey was that young Singaporeans were abreast of the hottest news; about two out of three were aware of at least six of the 11 issues presented to them.

These included Newater, the tudung issue, the foiled terrorist threat, the hike in goods and services tax, Singapore's gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, and rear-seat belts.

This surprised the survey team, which thought that the oft-labelled apathetic youths would not fare too well. And being youths themselves, some team members admitted they knew little of some topics.

Said Miss Ng Ju Ann, 18: 'We had to put a lot of work into researching some of these issues, so we could ask good questions and know the right answers.'

But respondents were lost when it came to Singapore's political processes. They knew the Prime Minister, Senior Minister and voting age, but many were stumped on the number of elected MPs. Only one in 10 knew it was 82.

And many confused the Cabinet with Parliament. Said Mr Maheantharan: 'Perhaps because of the one-party rule, the concept of Parliament, Cabinet and Government has become blurred.'

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Singapore gets its own official MechWarrior: Dark Age National Championships! GAAAAAAAH! I won't be around then!

/wail of agony.

Not that I expect to win, but that I can't participate and/or watch. :(

The planet at stake in the Singapore Nationals is clearly Southeast Asian-influenced, which is a nice touch. Also, towards the end of the description of Athenry, the contested planet, we see:

Largest among these settlements is the seaport city of Ricobar, which serves as a port of call for the planet�s oceangoing trade.

Sounds familiar, neh?

I got two more Green ForestryMech MODs yesterday, so now I have three. Each has a point value of 100, so three of these chainsaw-wielding 'Mechs could form the standard 300-pt battleforce in MechWarrior: Dark Age games.

From what I've gathered, 3 Green ForestryMech MODs are a fun army only. I can see that it's probably not very good at dealing with infantry. Still, the Green ForestryMech MOD has good stats and abilities, a nice heat dial and a sweet, sweet vent rating of 3. So it can attack/move for three consecutive turns, then vent back to the starting heat dial position. Rinse and repeat. Now with three of them...

I'm thinking of calling them Gaia, Ortega and Nash, after the (in)famous Black Trinary (a.k.a. Black Tri-Stars) in Mobile Suit Gundam. Wish I had the paint, decals and the skills to give them the appropriate unit colours and maybe even modify the sculpts to differentiate each one from the other. I definitely like their colour scheme: black, purple and grey.

More on rising gasoline prices in the US: Gas Gouging Alleged

Don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not defending the oil companies. What I find ridiculous is that no-one appears to think that the impending war between the US and Iraq is the main reason behind the price increases. Everyone expects oil supply to be disrupted or at least made more risky, so everyone starts hoarding oil. Everyone starts hoarding oil, gas prices eventually rise. Then the oil companies may or may not get in on the act and make oil more scarce.

I'm constantly astonished that fuel-efficiency has not gained further ground here. Many Americans do see the need to conserve and use gasoline, but they're far outnumbered by the ones who like to inch their gas-guzzling SUVs through rush-hour traffic. This is a country where the governing Administration's idea of reducing reliance on oil imports, is to wreck an Alaskan nature preserve.

Heard of the Lysistrata Project? This is an initiative that invites those opposing war with Iraq to stage readings of Aristophanes' classic anti-war comedy in their communities on 3rd March. Quite a unique method of protest! Already there are 538 readings of "Lysistrata" being planned in 36 different countries - including my very own Singapore. :)

To find out more, visit

Sunday, February 23, 2003

A nation which ignores and does not encourage its theatre is, if not culturally dead, culturally pitiable; just as the theatre which ignores the drama of its people [�] is merely an amusement hall for those who attend merely to kill time.

-- Goh Poh Seng, Singaporean postcolonial playwright

Friday, February 21, 2003

While a heated and extremely well-attended debate was raging this evening at the BSLC here on campus, a young woman lay down on the floor in the women's restroom one floor above the discussion and barely moved, her voice just above a whisper, her skin pale and sweaty.

She had come to attend the debate, had excused herself and ended up in on the floor of a cubicle. Somehow I got involved -- I was asked by the person who discovered her to go find the woman's boyfriend.

I failed to do so even after repeated tries in that packed lecture theatre. It was only after the paramedics came, hoisted her into a sitting position on a bright orange stretcher-chair, and wheeled her into the lecture theatre to identify her boyfriend from the entrance, that he was finally found.

While accompanying the paramedics and the woman to the lecture theatre, I was informed that the woman couldn't be sent to the University of Chicago hospital right next to campus unless she could notify someone who knew her. Otherwise regardless of her condition she would only be admitted to the nearest "provident hospital".

As I signalled her boyfriend to leave his seat and exit the lecture theatre with the paramedics and the woman, the debate was still in full swing. The irony of the whole thing is why I'm typing this out -- the debate was about whether the US should provide universal health care for its citizens under a single-payer national health system.

"Gas Soars Past $2 a Gallon in Some Spots" According to the article quite a few people blame the price increases on gouging by oil companies.

Gee... so a US invasion of Iraq that would destablise the Middle East isn't responsible in any way?

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Simulate the Bush Admin's upcoming war in Iraq! Gulf War 2 a.k.a. World War 2.5.

Sing along! When You're Happy And You Know It Bomb Iraq

A week ago, a friend sent me a link to a site that claimed that the 9/11 attacks were not by Al Qaida, and that the Twin Towers were really blown up from the inside instead of succumbing to fires from the two airliners. The site hence draws the conclusion that some shadowy conspiracy working in the uppermost echelons of American government is the real culprit for 9/11. For those of you who want to investigate further, the link is here.

For the record, I don't believe that such a conspiracy exists. Not because I think everyone loves fresh air and sunshine or some such platitude, but simply because I don't believe such a well-organised, all-pervasive group can exist, carry out its activities to a T and stay out of the public view in America. An "American group" killing, in one fell swoop, 3000+ Americans who had nothing in common that made them a target for persecution as a whole? What aim does that accomplish? Assuming that it was some American conspiracy makes no practical sense to me.

For all who think that the best trick the Devil pulled was to make everyone think he didn't exist, I suggest that you folk are like the man who pours garbage in his backyard every evening to keep the elephants away. Conspiracies, I suspect, are the product of a refusal to believe that the Everyman can be capable of immense cruelty.

But who cares what I think -- you can all read and think for yourselves. A conspiracy is a tempting explanation. Sadly, perhaps the only truth of 9/11 is that the truth may never be known.

That said, 9/11 makes a poor basis for waging war with Iraq. In fact, on its own (de)merits I think war with Iraq is an incredibly stupid and pointless exercise. What weapons of mass destruction targeted at the US? The Gulf War ended in 1991. You'd think that in the 12 years in between, with US fighters bombing Iraq on a weekly basis and forcing economic sanctions, Iraq would have done something if it had really wanted to.

That said, if the Bush Admin was going to wage war in the first place, it probably should have taken a leaf out of Machiavelli's "The Prince" -- make your wars short and sharp.