Scores of foreign workers skip Little India

From ChannelNewsAsia – Scores of foreign workers skip Little India

Some of his peers chose to watch cricket while others took the time to get fit at the gym, or engaged in leisurely pursuits at their dormitories.

That’s right–despite working gruelling hours at construction sites doing manual labour, our migrant workers are still spending their spare time GOING TO THE GYM. It’s not enough, lifting heavy things during their day jobs.

*I* skipped gym last weekend because it was raining and so the air conditioning in the gym would be uncomfortably cold.

I am ashamed.


Singapore Riots

The Little India riots have left Singapore’s media, traditional and new, in a flutter. The causes prescribed are varied and far ranging, and seem to depend largely on the agendas of the analysts. The xenophobes blame it on poor integration and the large number of immigrants; the liberals blame unhappiness wrought by poor living conditions and employer abuse; the government insists it’s an isolated incident fuelled by alcohol; the anti-PAP-groups insist it was due to the lateness of our civil services, which as usual are evident of our terrible leadership.

Who to believe? Perhaps they’re all correct. After all, the xenophobes and liberals are both arguing opposite sides of the same coin and alcohol definitely played a role. As for the anti-PAP comments–those hold true for any event in Singapore for those who can’t stand the PAP.

I suppose what’s important is what comes next and what actions are to be taken. And something has to be done–after all, if Singapore has any “natural” resources to speak of, it’s the peace and stability of our little island, and a forty-year record has died together with poor Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu.

In a bid to boost Singaporeans’ and investors’ faith in the continued placid continuity of Singapore’s safety and prosperity, there has been no small PR effort, with ministers of all stripes reassuring everyone that it’s business-as-usual.

In an odd little bit of news, the heroism of our boys in blue has also been highlighted by DPM Teo:

“We knew we were going into a very hot situation, and were mentally prepared.

Our troopers had encountered real-life situations dealing with unruly and violent groups, but not on this scale. We had faced such situations in training and this prepared us to deal with this situation. We had some young troopers, including NSFs, among us who had recently graduated from their course, and we were pleased to see that they carried out their duties well.”

It’s prepared and unexciting, but exactly what I’d expect of a professional who makes his living wrestling with rioters rather than writers’ block. Maybe in a couple of years, when things have settled down enough someone can write something with a bit more (literary) blood. Perhaps with a tongue-in-cheek title, like “300: Singaporean Warriors”.

Don’t bend for others, they say

I suppose it’s meant as a warning to the more “divisive” members of our society, but considering PM Lee was just in the US asking for more US involvement in the region whilst ESM Goh and other assorted Ministers were in China doing the same, it sounds a little hypocritical.

Of course, international relations for economic progress are, as usual in Singapore, measured in different terms from social norms and thoughts.

Movie Review – Oblivion

It was a sunny day out and I woke up late and lazed about in bed, having worked late last night. As I giggled at a kitten video, I received a message from TW asking if I wanted to catch Oblivion in an hour-and-a-half. Feeling a little guilty about having wasted the large portion of the morning doing nothing in bed, I thought it was a good idea to go out and get some sun. All I knew about the movie was that it featured aliens and Tom Cruise (is it because he’s into scientology that so many of his movies deal with aliens?), and an upbeat action movie seemed like just the thing to shake off my inertia and kick off a weekend of fun.

Oh boy was I wrong.

Oblivion features Tom Cruise as a Jack, high-tech technician maintaining drones which patrol a devastated earth, fighting off alien  “scavengers” while humankind collects energy in preparation for a mass-migration to Titan, one of Jupiter’s moons. He is joined in this task only by Victoria (), his live-in communications officer/wife. They are an “effective team”, behaving professionally whilst on the clock whilst enjoying a sexual relationship once off it. Jack suffers from mysterious dreams of another woman, and is plagued with doubts about whether leaving for Titan is the best thing. Two weeks before the end of their mission and their due date to return to the space station–the “Tent”, they pick up a mysterious signal coming from the Empire State building, and their mission is put into jeopardy.

There’s a twist after the this, so I won’t say more about the plot in case you do decide to go watch it.

I will say that the twist is so obvious after the first thirty minutes that you begin to wonder about the intelligence level of  the main characters. And sadly, even though the twist should have CHANGED EVERYTHING, very little about the pace and tempo of the movie actually did.

Oblivion tries to play with themes of isolation, identity, survival and the meaning of being human. Unfortunately, it just bores you.

The first half-hour of the movie is dedicated to the minutiae of Jack and Victoria’s life, where the *wrongness* of their existence is hammered home in a thousand ways, from Victoria’s posh british accent to the glass cage of a home they live in. We’re treated to long, tiresome shots of their quarters–reminiscent of the kind of douchebag apartment so popular with the investment-banker set, together with lingering shots of Tom Cruise’s and ‘s beautiful bodies. Overall, I think I spent more time marvelling at the lack of wrinkles on Tom Cruise’s face than I did caring about what was going to happen.

You have to give Tom credit for looking as good as he does for 50(!).

Unfortunately, by the time the twist occurs and we understand why things are the way they are, it already feels like I’ve watched a very, very long perfume commercial. There’s a lot of style, without much substance underneath. Despite being a sci-fi movie about the power of human innovation and desire for freedom, the characters are yoked under cliched lines and decisions that would have been more appropriate in a slasher flick. At some points in the movie I wanted to cheer for the murderous drones and for the idiots to just die.

Oddly, the movie seems to be filled with tongue-in-cheek references to Tom Cruise’s career. I kept thinking of American Psycho because of the scenes in the apartment (Christian Bale took Tom Cruise as inspiration for that role), Top Gun from a pair of aviators, and Mission Impossible from a zipline scene. And of course, it’s Tom and another movie about aliens. I’d have to watch it to be sure (I won’t), but once I started playing the game it kind of cheapened the whole “humanity is on the line” tone of the movie.

Would not recommend. Unless you’re a very rich investment banker looking to get into the pants of some chick, in which case the combination of Tom Cruise’s dreamy looks and happy-ever-after ending might be enough to get you laid.


Less Transients

In a bid to solve the problem of transient workers, the government is trying to boost productivity in the construction industry by promoting automation and reducing building complexity.

Now, this might indeed bring down the number of transient workers and reduce the total percentage of non-Singaporeans in Singapore, but isn’t it an “obeying the letter, but not the intent” solution?

The main source of malcontent is hardly due to blue-collar construction workers. These guys don’t compete with Singaporeans when it comes to salaries, housing and risky investments. They do jobs at prices Singaporeans wouldn’t touch and short of the racist comments from Little India bus-takers, landlords and curry-haters I don’t think there are many complaining about them.

This policy makes no tran-sense.

Looking for Work

Interview lined up for tomorrow and the day after. Just had one where the guy offered me the job during the interview.

Six employment agencies called me up over the last week to ask me if I’m interested in a bunch of jobs. For the first time in my professional career, I’m getting to pick and choose. It’s doing wonders for my self-esteem. This must be how it feels to be good-looking.

Is the economy really not doing well? Or is generic-programmer suddenly such an in-demand job?

Epic Silver

It’s a perennial  joke between me and TW, silver. He believes it to be a stable, long-term investment for  any value investor, and I think that it caters more to jade-ring-wearing gentlemen at least twenty years older than we are–and even then gold is probably a better bet. Every so often the topic comes up, whereupon I laugh at him for sleeping with bullion under his pillow and he silently bids his time to laugh at me when he cashes it all in for a Lamborghini.

So I can’t help but be slightly interested in silver prices. After all, if I must face a last laugh, I’d rather find out about it myself.

Just read this article You Can’t Beat Silver as an Investment on, where the uncredited author makes the following claim:

…the fact is nothing will beat silver over the next 10 years.
The opportunity in owning silver and silver mining companies is epic.

My heart would have skipped a beat if he had started with that–luckily, the article ended on it, and with nothing much in the article to support the claim, I couldn’t help but giggle.

The bulk of the article educates the reader on the many uses of silver–it is a metal with applications across all human endeavour, from medicine to electronics, from jewellery to food. Yet, just because something is used widely does not make it certain that its price will steadily increase from the current price. Unless sudden new applications for the silver are suddenly discovered, I am quite confident that the market would have adjusted to accommodate for its increasingly varied uses. After all, that is the point of a commodities market(as we are often told by bankers)–to protect against sudden fluctuations in price. And if a new alloy or metal were suddenly found which could replace silver in key areas, prices are just as likely to fall, so much of the article is sizzle without a steak.

And of course, the converse is also true–just because something has very few applications does not mean prices will remain stable or fall–rare earths, the export of which were recently reduced by main exporter China, saw a price spike even though their usage is limited to electronics manufacturing. They do not have antibacterial properties like silver, but they still gave a healthy benefit to the people who invested in them.

However, two points stood out as being of potential interest:

Firstly, one of the listed uses of silver seems to have a potentially large, unrealized usage capacity–solar panels:

… in 1999 the amount of silver used in this industry was so small there isn’t even an official reporting of the number. However, 10 years later that number hit 18 million ounces, and last year for 2011, 70 million ounces were used. David Morgan, editor of The Morgan Report who runs the website feels that solar demand could reach 130 million ounces per year around 2014.

That’s an almost 100% increase in usage per year. Now, 130 million ounces is roughly 3,600 metric tonnes of silver. That sounds like a lot of silver. Is it? That would depend on the total amount of silver produced a year. According to the USGS Mineral Resources Program, the world produced a total of 23,800 metric tonnes of silver a year. So an increase of 1,800 tonnes a year would constitute a fair amount of pressure (7% increase) on the value of silver. With the amount of hype going around green technologies and China’s burgeoning solar-panel industry, this could be worth looking out for.

Of course, it would take a much more dedicated analyst than me to compare that with the decreasing usage of silver from photography, which tells me stands at 2,000+ tons a year as of 2010. As even more people ditch film-photography, I think it’s reasonable to expect the number to go down even further, which may help alleviate any potential rise from solar-panel-production.

Secondly, the author claims that there is less silver than gold lying around:

right now there is less above ground available silver than there is gold, that’s right, there is less silver than gold. This trend of consuming silver and saving in gold isn’t going to stop, the above ground supply for gold will continue to grow, while the above ground supply for silver will continue to move us towards a physical silver shortage.

Once again, the USGS MRP says otherwise–not only is silver produced in an order of magnitude larger than gold, the amount of silver reserves dwarves gold by as much: 530,000 vs 51,000 metric tons. Even if we’re only talking about mined-and-realized reserves, the total amount of gold mined throughout history only comes up to less than 200,000 tons, which is barely a decade’s worth of silver mining.

I can’t imagine how the author got that comparison, unless he’s referring to bullion lying under the pillows of long-term investors. But in that case, the whole point about silver’s value as an industrially-important mineral becomes less prominent, and it’s more about the perception of silver as a precious metal, which–let’s face it–will never be as shiny as gold.

I’ll  rest a little easier tonight, knowing that I don’t owe TW a meal and an silver-coated apology just yet.

Migration Complete

A while back, I had some problems with my hosting. Something about Virtual Servers not being paid for. I admit, in the midst of all the work last year personal web hosting wasn’t top of my priorities list, and I may have lapsed.

So Dreamhost killed the VPS instances and I lost everything. Sadly, I also found out late last year that my local backups had been erased (no space on work laptop) and that my backups were dead (external hard disks that hadn’t been touched in a year) , so it looked a little like I’d lost all my posts.

It was crushing.

But thanks to the wayback machine, I managed to salvage most of it. In fact, I think I got some of the stuff that was missed when I originally migrated from my own PHP engine to blogger all those years ago.

So here I am today, with almost 8 years of entries behind me (I don’t think I posted at all in 2011 thanks to work and a lack of anything interesting going on). Reading some of the old stuff really takes me back, and I’m sure I’ll be grateful for these little memories in the future.

Here’s hoping I’ll post more in the future.

Wherein I complete a small freelance job

Did a small freelance job to revamp the website It’s a small business based on the idea of taking a large photo of a someone you know and sticking pins into their faces to show them how much you love them.

No, it’s not as sinister as voodoo. Actually, it’s a gift idea more in the vein of a puzzle piece with an incredible number of pieces or a cross stitch. The smallest size they recommend requires you to stick 8,000 pins onto a board, following the color-coded instructions carefully. Supposedly an 11-hour job at minimum.

I suppose it says something about me that I don’t think I’ll ever find anyone I care for enough that I would do this for them? Although I suppose perennial bachelors aren’t quite my client’s target audience. Just spend some more money and go for dinner already. So call me cynical.