Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Moral of the story?

You could wait a hundred years and still not get another one of these stories in the news:

"A schoolboy who climbed over a fence into a crocodile enclosure and taunted the animals with sticks and a catapult was dragged into the water and eaten."

It's a modern cautionary tale of why you really shouldn't climb into a pen of carnivores and beat them with sticks. It would be tragic if it weren't so funny.

And by tragic I mean they had to shoot a crocodile to find some remains of the boy.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A time to give away...

My comic collection was decimated yesterday. It was two boxes of comics and 15 years of memories.

It was a little weird seeing them go out the door. Admittedly, I haven't really looked at them in years but as I sorted the lot out, I realised that I remembered each and every one of them like I'd bought them yesterday.

So, as I waxed lyrical about Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio and even the scourge of comic book anatomy, Rob Liefeld, I realised that in giving away my comic books, what I was actually doing was packing away my childhood. Weird feeling, believe you me. It's not that I miss it or anything. It's just a touch of nostalgia.

It would be a secondary school ritual to head down to the comic book store (back then it was Leisurecraft Orchard at Orchard Emerald) with all my allowance in tow and picking up my order. Yes, I actually had an account with Leisurecraft that meant that I would just head in and pick up my regular order. Friday would be new comic book day and that usually meant that my allowance went to my collection. (Secondary 3 and 4 were years where I would often go without lunch) But it all felt worth it. Sitting at Burger King with JL reading comic books was a secondary school ritual that was just about the best part of my teenage years in school. Geek in the making.

More than that, actually.


I mean, I have X-men #1 in all five variant covers (in triplicate mind you). A couple of other regular orders and a sealed version of the first print of Superman #75. (Black mylar bag pristine and double boarded)

But they've all gone to better homes now. I donated my collection to a group of kids who will probably appreciate them a whole lot more than I can afford to now. I think of it as setting the next generation of geeks down the right path by starting them on some of the greats. And I'm surprisingly OK with that.

Because in packing up my childhood, I'm preparing some space so that my own kids have theirs. Shelving old memories and setting up a new home for new additions. And maybe, just maybe, if my kids start picking up comic books on their own, I'll bring some of my collection home.

But for now, fare thee well.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

If only they'd seek wisdom...

The arrogance of the ruling party has got to be the thorn in its side.

I flipped to this chapter in the bible just now and I realised how apt it all seems. It's a chapter that talks about Solomon's son as he ascends the throne of Israel. And the mistake he made when he listened to the council of the stupid and ignored his people.

1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and all Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you."

5 Rehoboam answered, "Come back to me in three days." So the people went away.

6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. "How would you advise me to answer these people?" he asked.

7 They replied, "If you will be kind to these people and please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants."

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, "What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, 'Lighten the yoke your father put on us'?"

10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, "Tell the people who have said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'-tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.' "

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, "Come back to me in three days." 13 The king answered them harshly. Rejecting the advice of the elders, 14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, "My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions." 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from God, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.

16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:
"What share do we have in David,
what part in Jesse's son?
To your tents, O Israel!
Look after your own house, O David!"
So all the Israelites went home. 17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.

18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, [a] who was in charge of forced labor, but the Israelites stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

Oh when will they ever learn?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Of Salaries and Bonuses.

Perhaps it's best to say that I really have some self interest in this topic before I begin. When I heard that civil service pay was going up being adjusted, I was quite happy. Yes, granted that it probably was because the ministers really decided that they wanted a larger slice of the pie, but that also meant that as a civil servant, my spending capacity would be increased as well.

What was interesting was that sometime in the weeks between the announcement and the subsequent declaration, I heard a sermon about the injustice of the income gap between the rich and the poor. And that it was the way of the world and not what should be. It gave me food for thought.

I'll have to admit that the reasons that I gave for the gripe over the proposed ~100% increase in ministers annual salaries was largely based on sour grapes. I mean, we work hard for what we achieve, it's common for all Singaporeans. So why should ministers get paid so much? Broken record. Over and over.

But when I really thought about it, I came to the realisation that we haven't really done all we can in Singapore. There are still the poor and the destitute in Singapore. They're around us even if we don't notice and they certainly are living in the shadow of our prosperity. Swept under the rug and forgotten.

And that nailed the niggling doubt that I had over the proposed increase of civil servant salaries.

In patting ourselves on the back for a job well done we have, in a sense, just told the poor that they really don't matter. Should we as servants of society really be rewarding ourselves so richly when the rich-poor divide continues to grow? Should we be saying that the progress that has left people behind is a good thing? Can I really say that the extra 3-5% that I'm getting is deserved?

Because when I see stories that tell of people living in one room flats not because they choose to, but because they can't afford to do any different, I really start wondering if we have done such a good job after all.

I think that we've still got a long way to go as a society. As mentioned before, we are economically successful, I will not begrudge our dear MM that. But I would like to believe that success is more than that.

I have to.

So while I grumble away about my measely pay increase, I'm going to keep this in mind. We've still got a long way to go. And I'm going to make that change happen.

After all, I have the impressionable youths in my hands. I might as well make use of them.

And I might, after all, mould the future of our nation.

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I feel the love.

3-5% more love to be exact.

Nice to know that the appreciation for teachers runs that deep.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter.

He is risen indeed.

I always wondered if that's why they call it Easter. Like Yeast.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Minister Mentor Speaks.

SYDNEY - MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew called for a sense of proportion yesterday, pointing out that the annual wage bill for ministers and all office holders is $46 million - or just 0.022 per cent of Singapore's total economic output.

It was an 'absurdity', he said, for Singaporeans to quarrel over whether ministers collectively should be paid $10 million or $20 million more, when an economy worth $210 billion was at stake.

'The cure to all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government,' he said in his first comments on impending salary increases for ministers and top civil servants.

'You get that alternative and you'll never put Singapore together again.'

Singaporeans' asset values would also disappear, he warned, adding that 'your apartment will be worth a fraction of what it is, your jobs will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people's countries'.

He was speaking to the Singapore media at the end of his visit to Australia, and four days before Monday's debate in Parliament on a revision of ministerial salaries.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed on March 22 that public service salaries had fallen to 55 per cent of the private-sector benchmarks to which they are pegged. He said the Government had to close the gap.

According to the benchmark or formula, ministers should be drawing $2.2 million or more a year, but their actual salaries are now $1.2 million.

Minister Mentor Lee was the first to raise the idea of a benchmark by which to peg ministers' pay to top private-sector salaries - which he did in January 1994.

Later that year, Parliament approved the benchmarks, which were set out in a White Paper on competitive salaries for a competent and honest government.

Yesterday, MM Lee asked Singaporeans to consider how it was that a resident population of just over three million people could support and provide jobs for another 1.3 million foreigners.

'How does that happen? Why can't the 1.3 million people get jobs in their own countries? Just ask yourself that question.

'It must be something that we're doing which is right, that creates economic prosperity and growth.'

He said the present system of benchmarking ministers' pay to top private sector salaries was 'completely above board' and allowed the Government to recruit 'some of the very best' to lead the country.

It was an 'absurdity' to argue over whether or not ministers were being paid too much, he added, as their total salaries came up to $46 million a year, or 0.13 per cent of government expenditure. This was 0.022 per cent of gross domestic product.

These figures are before the revision that is expected to be announced on Monday.

'We are quarrelling about whether we should pay them $46 million or $36 million, or better still, $26 million. So you save $20 million and jeopardise an economy of $210 billion? What are we talking about?' he said.

As Minister Mentor, he said his pay of $2.7 million a year was lower than the $4 million a year that today's top lawyers earned.

It was also a fraction of the earnings of the top managers in the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), which he chaired.

When it was put to him that people hoped for leaders who were willing to make sacrifices and who were not there for the money, he replied that these were 'admirable sentiments'.

But he added that 'we live in the real world'.

It had taken a lot of persuasion to get three doctors – Ng Eng Hen, Vivian Balakrishnan and Balaji Sadasivan – to leave their lucrative practices to enter politics in 2001. Even with the benchmarks in place, the decision meant huge pay cuts for two of them, he said.

His bottom line: if the Government could not pay competitive salaries, Singapore would not be able to compete and 'we're not going to live well'.


Apparently, MM Lee has decided that the S$10-20 Million difference in pay for the ministers really is peanuts. Nice.

Meanwhile, spending $250 a month to improve the lives of the poor and destitute (of which we can help with said 10 mill, about say...40,000) isn't really all that important.

And you also have to love the way that he argues for it. IF we don't pay the ministers this salary, Singapore WILL plunge into aforementioned destitution and civilisation as we know it will collapse.