Tuesday, 5 April 2016

One Man's Marriage Proposal is Everyone's Joke

Recently, the following meme started circulating on social media that pokes fun at the inherent logic-impasse that exists between the atypical method used by the groom and the poetic representation on the card he is holding. Primarily focusing on the fact that using an oxygen tank is the exact contradiction to declaring "I can breathe without oxygen", the meme ridicules the apparent stupidity of the groom.


While it is harsh to call it stupid - in reality, the gesture is indeed quite novel and worthy of a marriage proposal, the irony of the statement he is holding to his situation of having to use underwater breathing equipment is just too good to leave un-ridiculed. Even I decided to capitalise on the momentum and highlight the need for people and business to invest in professional wordsmiths.



Interestingly though, this is the second iteration of a meme on this incident - an earlier version that plays on the same irony seems to have been circulated in 2014. One can only assume that the embarrassment of that news cycle sent the couple into hiding - the bride's Instagram account and Facebook profile appear to have been locked into privacy.


But running away and hiding is not the way forward - simply because 'comedy gold' like this will keep resurfacing. Instead, the strategy would be to 'own it' instead and laugh with the crowd rather than reinforce the fact that you've become the laughing stock.

Course of Action
For this case, my recommendation would be to turn the contradictory phrase "breathe without oxygen" as an inside joke or reference between the couple to refer to how the groom is able to stay underwater for long periods of time (albeit using underwater breathing equipment). Once the narrative is changed in such a way, the focus of the running joke is effectively voided and makes the irony less pronounced.

The next step would be to openly link this clarification to all instances of a related meme turning up so that whenever a web search is made, the results will invariably list that information as one of the results. The link to the new narrative can be in the form of a blogpost that can be updated with links to the different memes as they appear, or a Facebook or Twitter post referencing the latest meme and adding the context each time. In fact, turning the periodic web traffic that will occur to their advantage, the couple could use the strategy to draw attention to any business endeavour they might be involved in or simply discuss any particular advocacy they might be interested in.

In any case, the negative attention should be used to redefine a more robust - if not, positive - profile of themselves rather than the current state of proving the criticism by going underground. I've made attempts to touch base with the couple through the friend who first wrote about the proposal but unfortunately, I haven't heard back from them or the friend.

In today's digital highway, anything can go viral, and worse, even insignificant indiscretions can be repackaged to go viral. If you find yourself in such an enviable position, don't suffer in silence. Be empowered to control the situation to your advantage. Remember, while you can't control what the beast that is the internet will do, you can certainly exercise control on how badly this beast hurts you.


Reach out to me if you need help managing your social media presence.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Marginalisation of Tamil Culture: Do Something or STFU

In recent days, many in the Tamil community have had their panties in a bunch because some shopping centres and even Changi Airport have started putting up Christmas decor even though Deepavali is right around the corner - in other words, not a single F was given for this festive occasion. While there is good reason to feel marginalised by this callous attitude in multiracial Singapore that champions racial harmony - complete with a special day each year to wear 'costumes' and 'celebrate', I am surprised that anyone is surprised by this.


நான் இந்த விளையாட்டுக்கு வரவில்லை
As a second class citizen myself, I'm sure there are many Tamils who have grown accustomed to this and some of those would have even followed Halloween traditions more closely than their own cultural protocols. And I'm certain that the very people who now 'cry mother, cry father' on social media will tomorrow visit these same establishments "because they have the best deals", "because it is my _____'s birthday", "because it's just this one time", because... a thousand irrelevant reasons.

I am pretty confident too that close to 70% of those fuming at this (with 99% confidence in those venting online) don't have the passion and commitment to their culture to turn all this grumbling into real, concrete action. None of them will truly boycott these establishments to show their stand against being marginalised. In reality, these people are just making a mockery of the Indian culture and the Tamil community by being whiny little b**ches online - complain about marginalisation but 'ownself damage' the standing of the community through inaction and apathy.

வாயை மூடிகிட்டுச் சும்மா இருங்கடா
Many of these 'deeply aggrieved' Indians will no doubt conveniently overlook WHY the shopping centres and even Changi Airport didn't bother to recognise the festive holiday linked to one of the four official languages in Singapore. It's obvious that these people don't see the irony of now demanding tokenism be practised by commercial entities - which would just continue to trivialise the larger issues of importance. Once again, this subset of Singaporeans fights over the scraps instead of climbing up to the table to demand a share of the real deal.

As much as you would like to believe otherwise, the larger community is not going to understand what the furor is about because they haven't felt the pain of being scheduled for some unnecessary thing (that could have been done earlier or later) during their important festive period. Deadlines almost never fall on Chinese New Year eve and assignments are hardly made due on any of the first fifteen days.

அவனை நிறுத்தச் சொல், நான் நிறுத்துகிறேன்
The point is that if all those who now make so much noise had actually bothered to stand up during all these occasions (and I guarantee you every working Tamil in Singapore has suffered such an experience), we wouldn't have to embarrass ourselves with this petty behaviour. There is no point being indignant about a practical consequence, really. Nobody cares about your culture because YOU don't care about your culture. You are not willing to get your hands dirty to fight, so why are you now surprised that they couldn't be bothered about what you believe in?

So please, STFU and live with it quietly. Or... get up and do something about the indiscretions that happen everyday around you, at work, with your non-Indian friends, in your everyday lives. And if you start to think that this sounds quite inconvenient - well, that's precisely what a cultural struggle looks like, not your Facebook posts about the decor at Metro.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Burning Down the Columbarium - The Power of Citizen Journalism

Anyone in Singapore knows that the business-government relationship is stronger than any marriage can ever be, and it is seldom the case that the government backs down on big-ticket deals related to infrastructure. For example, the casinos Integrated Resorts (IRs) faced a severe backlash from many Singaporeans who grew up with the notion that gambling was the devil's work. Since our government doesn't practice having a referendum on such major decisions, the deal was already signed even before the backlash took form. And in spite of everything that was said and done by the people of Singapore, the IRs became a reality and today, have become part and parcel of our life.

Having such strong bonds between business venture and government support, it has always traditionally been difficult to get the government to call off deals that appears to be to the people's detriment, primarily because it feels that it has made the best decision but also perhaps a little over-confidence that it wouldn't make major mistakes.

Citizen Journalism in Action
And thus the Sengkang Columbarium Saga happened, where a site next to a new housing estate was revealed to be won through tender by a private company that intended to build a columbarium facility there. When the news broke in late December, it understandably sent homebuyers into a frenzied state of anger and panic as they sought clarification and details.



Following this sizeable backlash, a dialogue session was held on 4 January 2015 between the affected homebuyers, the developer, the authorities (HDB and URA) and the MP of the constituency where assurances were made that HDB and URA would look into the concerns of these soon-to-be residents of the estate.


However, just two days later, on 6 January 2015, a joint press release was issued by the authorities to affirm that there would be no change to the situation and that the private company would be allowed to carry on with its plan for the site.


Over that same period, I had started looking closely at the company involved and its background, and discovered that the company had a very dubious layout. Using publicly available information from various sources, I pieced together the convoluted money trail and established just how far the rabbit hole went insofar as this company that won the tender was concerned. The article I prepared was then published on The Online Citizen on 9 January 2015.



And then subsequently, there was little activity on the mainstream media about this issue until it was announced in parliament by Dr Khaw Boon Wan on 29 January 2015 that the tender had been revoked.



My take is that the obvious negative outlook of the company on account of its layout and funding sources made it too unsavoury for the government to be involved with. I would even go far as to suggest that if not for my article spelling out just how questionable it was, I don't think the tender would have been revoked.

Truth Prevails
Now, the naysayers will naturally say that I am just full of it and that it was all just coincidence, not causation. Yes, that is surely a possibility. But, can you really say with definitive authority that the article did not force the government's hand in any way at all? 

The fact is many members of the mainstream media follow The Online Citizen (TOC) and the article was extensively shared on many other platforms. It is therefore hard to imagine that no decision-maker involved had been informed of the findings in my article.

And that's the point I'm driving at. As long as the possibility is there, we must continue to believe that our efforts to unearth the truth will bring about justice - even in a place as squeaky clean as Singapore. Instead of making blanket statements based on half-truths, choose an issue you believe in and tear it down with evidence and established facts.

If you're not good with words, you can still pass on the information to sites like TOC which are committed to getting reliable information out to the people. If that too isn't an option for you, then support those who are actually putting in the effort in seeking the truth. You've seen these people and have benefited from them, but have you actually recognised their efforts well?

Donate money, share their work and refer people who can contribute information to them - do something. Because citizen journalism is a movement, not just pockets of individuals. And everyone can be part of this movement towards truth.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Apparently Town Councils are Political, and PA is not

An interesting exchange happened this week as I met up with a Youth Executive Committee member of a Constituency Club (CC) located in an opposition ward. The meeting itself was with regard to a school project that I am undertaking but as we discussed the possibilities, he mentioned that using services and venues that come under the purview of the Town Council would be problematic. While he admitted that the Town Council would largely accede to the request, it was not with the same frequency and almost-hassle-free manner in which it could be done under a PAP Town Council.

To this gentleman, the People's Association was non-partisan and focuses on community engagement, while the Town Council was an extension of the political party controlling the institution. He shared that PAP Town Councils work closely with the People's Association and offer many privileges such as the complimentary use of venues like void decks, or at a nominal fee.


It was amusing to me because of two realities. One, the People's Association has a much more closer relationship to the PAP than Town Councils. And two, Town Councils are municipal services that ought to be part of the government machinery - even if it is through an elected representative from the opposition party.

In fact, I would even go as far to say that it is precisely BECAUSE the Town Council is non-political, that there is no preferential treatment for services offered to the People's Association. The Town Council's primary role is to address the residents' basic needs in terms of their living space and manage the services provided properly. To me it makes sense to allow residents more leeway in paying their conservancy fees than to offer nominal fees to community engagement activities.

To use an analogy, if one business charges the same rate to strangers and friends alike while another charges a lower rate for those it considers friends, which would you consider was being professional in its dealings? The friends enjoying the preferential rate would of course describe the other flat-pricing business not as good, but in the larger picture, who is really being fair?

source: CIA

In another observation as the friendly conversation progressed, the gentleman took pains to clarify that the Meet-the-People Sessions (MPS) were conducted near a block of flats across the road from the CC, and not within the CC itself - "because the MPS is political". I nearly laughed out loud at that because a Member of Parliament meeting the constituents he or she is representing to address their issues is anything but political. The fact that the MP belongs to one political party or another is merely a statement of fact, not implication.

I have no doubt the people volunteering their time through the People's Association have the best intentions to serve the community - after all, I was part of this at one point in my life, not long ago. But to buy into this propaganda that the People's Association is non-partisan in practice and that Town Councils are politically motivated is really sad.

Yes, the political rhetoric can be twisted to suit each party's agenda, but the proof is in the pudding. Who are the ones being invited to People's Association events without fail? And who are the ones NOT being invited - even to the extent of being actively avoided? Who are being appointed as advisers - sometimes with the oversight that supersedes the power entrusted to the parliamentary representative elected by the people?

As I've said many times before - and something in which I believe very strongly - once the elections are over, everyone in parliament becomes the government and should work towards progress for the nation, betterment of society and improvement in the citizens' lives. Some citizens getting penalised for their choice of parliamentary representative is deplorable and is a very dark stain on Singapore's reputation.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Educator's SEL Lesson Guide for 'A Fish With A Wish'

One of the modules I am taking for the Masters in Education degree programme at NIE is an interesting and refreshing exploration of using picturebooks to facilitate Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL). The assessable assignment for this module is a lesson plan that incorporates the use of a selected picturebook to conduct an SEL lesson. With the huge volume of picturebooks to choose from, it did take me some time to get to one that I was happy with - but which was not overused in popular culture like Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak or The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

Anyway, after poring through various authors' works, I stumbled upon Ethan Crownberry's work - a handful of novel-in-verse (or story-in-verse, in this case) picturebooks exploring various SEL elements. I subsequently devised a lesson plan around one of his books entitled A Fish With A Wish by Ethan Crownberry and delivered it to one of my classes at ITE. It was an interesting experience for both the students and I, and I'm quite glad that they found it fun and enjoyable. Although it was an exploratory attempt to see how the main component of the lesson plan would execute, it was evident that the lesson had incredible potential.


Here is some footage of the lesson...


The lesson itself was actually one of the easier ones to execute and the students took to the task without much persuasion necessary. Interestingly, one of the students recalled that this story had been read to her by her mother during her childhood and she was able to retell the original story during the classroom exercise. Another student picked out the congruence between the selected picturebook and a biblical story and retold that tale in detail through the exercise.

While some groups tried to reimagine the story with comical exaggeration, it was obvious that the students recognised the element of sacrifice inherent in the story and made reference to the protagonist's unhappiness with the existing circumstances in one way or another. It was indeed a fun experience and the trial run of the lesson component has been developed into a full lesson (which is what I have submitted as the assignment). I am now looking forward to executing this lesson proper and analysing the results.

If you have the chance, feel free to try this lesson out and share with me your experience as well! You can download the lesson package from the following link, which includes:
   a) Lesson Plan
   b) PowerPoint File
   c) Worksheet
   d) Softcopy of picturebook, A Fish With A Wish
   e) Examples of student work
www.gangasudhan.com/blog/20140408fishwithwishSEL.zip


Note: The author, Ethan Crownberry, dropped me an email to thank me and share his appreciation!


You can visit Ethan's website to support his other works at

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

I Could Have Stopped The Riot

As many of you might know, I was an officer with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) for ten years and spent quite an amount of that time plying my trade in Little India. I left the force in 2005 for a several reasons, one of which was the way the SPF was turning out to be. With so much documentation and miscellaneous duties, policing became too much about following procedures rather than fighting crime - and worse, victims, perpetrators and every human being in the process became just another inanimate feature of each case.

When I first heard about rumours of a riot in Little India, I expected it to be an exaggeration of some accident scene because of the crowd that had gathered. But as the story unfolded, it quite sounded like mob mentality had resulted in wanton public violence.

However, as the details eventually become established, it looks more and more like a typical incident that spiralled out of control. In my time as a police officer attending cases in the vicinity of Little India, coming across accidents on a crowded Sunday evening is not something new - as is coming across disputes, thefts and even robberies. In this case, (possibly) careless driving led to a pedestrian (or disembarking passenger, as some eye witness testimonies suggest) being run over.

Naturally, as anyone who has been to Little India will tell you, a large crowd formed at the scene of the accident and fellow countrymen of the injured person started to panic and look at ways to extricate him from the situation. However, the bus driver (perhaps out of fear) chose to remain inside and not move the vehicle, which only served to exacerbate the situation. The distraught bystanders who were trying to help then became desperate and tried to break into the bus in order to move it (notice the lack of aggression or violence in the video below).


As one can expect, dustbins and random pieces of equipment would not be able to break the tempered glass of the windows or doors and so, the desperation merely escalated. Eventually, the Police arrived at the scene and (probably) projected aloofness, which gave the impression that the officers didn't care about the injured person or the despairing bystanders. By addressing the needs of the bus driver (who must have looked like the victim under the circumstances) the bystanders and others watching on the sidelines would have felt incredibly marginalised.

This is probably what infuriated others not directly involved with trying to rescue the injured person, and here is where the mob mentality truly set in, not any earlier. Having reached this tipping point, the bystanders would have reacted angrily and started attacking the Police vehicles and - by extension - the rescue vehicles (and personnel).

What I Would Have Done

After learning of these details I was actually surprised, because I have encountered similar elements and circumstances in other incidents while I was an officer myself. In fact I have brought things under control in similarly escalating situations before.

Basically, it is all about perception and a crowd of Indian workers expect sympathy and some concern for a fellow countryman who has been injured (or killed). Even with most of the situation already unfolding at the point when the Police arrived, I am fairly confident it could have been brought under control. I presume the situation to be a small crowd of distraught workers panicking and trying to gain access into the bus so that it can be moved to aid the rescue of the injured/dead person, surrounded by a larger crowd of onlookers (this has been corroborated by the description given in the letter from the Singapore High Commissioner to India).


Thus, upon reaching, the main persons to be addressed would have been the bus driver, the injured person and the group of distraught workers. Simply empathising with the distraught workers and letting them know that you are there to help the injured person would have actually calmed them down significantly and secured their cooperation (as opposed to unilaterally instructing them to stop their perceived aggression). By keeping the focus of this distraught group on rescuing the injured person (or his body), attention could have been diverted away from the driver inside the bus.

Next, getting the cooperation of the bus driver to move the bus or allow another officer to enter the bus to assist/direct the next course of action could have given control over to the officers at the scene since the crowd's objectives (gaining access to the bus to move it and aiding the injured person) would have been met. The watching bystanders would have had no reason to get angry and would have been satisfied that the authorities were being fair to the situation.

Depending on how heated the atmosphere was at the time, the bystanders could even have been co-opted to help console and reason with the distraught group, which would have diverted focus of this larger group onto the injured person and the affected workers rather than deliberate on the cause of the accident.

With the crowd thus under control and basically responsive to the police officers at the scene, medical aid could have been rendered without much interference and any hostility. Even with the injured person being pronounced dead, the crowd reaction could have been limited to just the grief by discussing the deceased's family instead of the cause of death (i.e. the accident) or about seeking justice. At this point, the bystanders could be asked to disperse or move back so that emergency vehicles and personnel can do the necessary. Once this space and distance has been created, the bus driver could be whisked away from the scene to further dissipate any tension at the point of accident.

All this could have been executed without the need for too many officers on duty and with no necessity for the SOC (i.e. 'riot police') being activated or for the need to recall all the off-duty officers of two police stations (which is what happened on Sunday night). While this is being portrayed as a major incident with all manner of pointless initiatives being rolled out as a knee-jerk reaction - not to mention the inevitable additional workload that awaits the already-overworked police officers of the area, in reality it all stems from a routine circumstance that has happened many, many times in various parts of Little India over the years.

This is why I am particularly saddened by this incident - an accident aftermath that was allowed to escalate into something so serious, and it is the first time since I left the SPF 8 years ago that I feel a tinge of regret - because had I not resigned, this riot may very well not even have happened.

_________________
Interestingly, I have covered the basics of this sort of situation in Chapter 3 (Handling Disputes) of my book which I published in 2008. If you're interested, feel free to click the button below to get it in ebook format.




Friday, 18 October 2013

ST's Rachel Chang Misinforms Public On Election Process

The comedy of the Elections Department mucking up the one job they really have (I created a meme on this - see below) was a source of great fun. How else can I rationalise the authority on the matter going to the Police instead of explaining to the public and the PM sending a proxy to explain the matter which is clearly under his purview.



But the funniest thing really has to be a 'political writer' from the main broadsheet in Singapore describing the election process so erroneously. I had to do a double-take when I first read the paragraph "...after the close of polling, ballots are transferred into different boxes which are sealed and escorted to counting centres, and the empty boxes left behind..." I actually had to check and make sure I hadn't understood the most basic of the voting process wrongly all these years (after all, we are given to believe the Straits Times is the holy grail of journalism).



Ballot boxes are checked, sealed and guarded before the votes are cast and they remain so until they are ready for counting - which happens at counting centres. So the process is --> ballot box sealed at voting centre --> votes are cast into said sealed box --> voting closes --> ballot box transported under Police security to counting centre (source: Elections Department). This essentially is the chain of custody that ensures no tampering and it makes no sense to meddle with the sealed box at the voting centre.

It's amazing that dear Rachel doesn't even understand the election process - it obviously isn't a typo but conceptual fallacy. The editor too - whoever it is (and I couldn't be bothered to check) - obviously doesn't respect himself/herself enough to proofread and check the facts. So this is what the "right thing" is all about huh, Minister Yaacob Ibrahim?


No matter how many awards you bestow on yourself or how much the government paints a lovely picture of you, it is ultimately the quality of your content that determines how good you really are, Straits Times. I'd spend more time upgrading the quality of your reporting instead of hounding ordinary citizens like a shameless bully to pay licensing fees for reproducing articles online which they themselves are featured in.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Cease & Desist What, Mr Zainudin Nordin? Discussion?

On Wednesday (8 May 2013) morning, I was looking through my Facebook news feeds during a break when I chanced upon a post on The Rice Bowl page which mentioned that a Member of Parliament representing the Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency, Zainudin Nordin, had made some rather controversial comments on his public Facebook page.



I was perplexed at this assertion, what with him having directly benefited from the democratic process to become a member of parliament in Singapore - one of the highest paid politicians in the world. The issue of why an MP would use gang rape to explain the concept of democracy continued to bug me and so I decided create the following meme and share it on my facebook page to ask whether he had seriously said such a thing.


My friends and I had some discussion on the matter and soon after, someone pointed me to a screenshot (below) of the statement made by Zainudin. It was actually a quotation from Terry Goodkind, an author, and the entire quotation in its entirety emphasises that democracy should not come at the price of the individual's rights (Goodkind was referring to America's attempts to install a democracy in Iraq during an interview).



I duly added this information that night to the meme that had been posted itself but still continued to wonder what the MP was implying by posting that quotation on his Facebook page. Could it be that he felt the Singapore government was infringing upon the individual's rights here? Or did he hold a dim view of democracy altogether? More questions seemed to arise from a better understanding of the post as it appeared on the MP's Facebook page than before I had that information.

Imagine my surprise when I saw an email from 'zainudinnordin@gmail.com' in my email inbox the next morning, and at first I was quite impressed that the MP had sought me out personally to discuss and clarify his position. Alas, this happy moment was shortlived when the text read:
Dear Mr Gangasudhan,
You have posted a picture of me together with a quote “Gang rape, after all, is democracy in action”, which you have attributed to me.   This is a statement by Terry Goodkind, and not me.   Your post is therefore mischievous and highly defamatory of me, and calculated to embarrass me and cause me damage.   I therefore demand that you remove your post immediately, failing which I will have no option but to take the appropriate legal action against you. All my rights are reserved.
Thank you.
Zainudin Nordin
Honestly, it was quite upsetting to see an MP resort to hostility when open discussion and honest debate could have clarified the matter. I felt unduly persecuted by a person of authority when all I had done was pose a question. At first, I just wanted to delete the meme and be over with it, never again to trust Zainudin Nordin, but after some thought, I felt it would be more constructive to use this opportunity to engage the MP and understand his stand on the concept of democracy and gain insight as to why he would endorse Terry Goodkind's statement. I thus sent the following reply to him, in the hopes that he will refrain from a hostile approach and adopt a more inclusive attitude, befitting an elected official in a democratic institution:
Dear sir, I am puzzled as to why you might feel embarrassed by the combination of your image and a reproduction of what you posted publically on your Facebook page. But more importantly, as a voting member of the public, I am very disturbed by what seems to be your endorsement of this opinion that democracy can be explained away using a heinous crime such as gang rape.
Generally, I do not bother with politicians’ Facebook pages but when I chanced upon a Facebook posting elsewhere on Wednesday morning (https://www.facebook.com/sonofadud/posts/505031336210687) that described the post you had made regarding democracy, I was shocked – to say the least. I thus reproduced the statement attributed to you together with your picture to ask my friends why a politician receiving $192,000 of taxpayer dollars would even think to say such a thing. The picture is to identify the person who said it and the quote is a verbatim reproduction, thus I do not see what there is to be embarrassed about nor how could this be interpreted as mischievous intent. In fact, this was merely an act of free speech in posing a legitimate question to my friends – how could a highly-paid elected official who has taken office to represent the people through a democratic process imply that the very same process was akin to gang rape? 

Subsequently, through the responses from my friends, I was able to find a screen-capture of the posting as it appeared on your Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=523797831010442) and noticed that you had actually reproduced a quote from someone else and not directly made the statement yourself, thus I added the relevant information to reflect this new information on Wednesday night (see screen-capture below).
 
Looking at the quotation you reproduced on your Facebook page in full though, I am no more reassured by your position on the issue of democracy. The statement by Terry Goodkind suggests that the rights of the individual should not be infringed in the name of democracy, so are you saying that the Singapore government – a democratically elected institution - does not recognise the rights of the individual?
At best, the reproduction of Terry Goodkind’s statement demonstrates poor taste in discussing the concept of democracy – not to mention makes light of the very serious crime of rape (what more, with the world reeling from the news of the many brutal rape cases in India). As an ethnic Indian, I am actually offended at the insinuation that I would use the issue of gang rape to be “mischievous” in any way.
I am also disappointed that as an elected member of parliament who purports to represent the interests of your constituents, you have taken issue with a meme meant to invite discussion – i.e. instead of engaging in discussion and clarifying your position, you have attempted to remove the discussion altogether. This is not at all what I would expect from an elected representative of the people and I have somewhat lost faith in your ability to represent the best interests of the community of Singaporeans you serve.
I therefore hope that you will use this opportunity to engage in discussion and reassure me, a citizen of Singapore, rather than continue with what appears to be an exercise to silence me, thank you. In the meanwhile, I will share this exchange with my friends through my personal blog so that others can better understand the context of the meme I created as well as your thoughts on the matter, take care.
Ganga
| www.gangasudhan.com 
| www.gangasudhan.com/blog 
| +65-90602206

I now await the reply from Zainudin Nordin and will decide what to do next depending on his reply. Hopefully, this will be just a misunderstanding from which we can come out with an insight into his opinions and philosophy on democracy and civil rights. Whatever it is, I shall update the developments here.

UPDATE 10/05/2013 @ 2345HRS

MP Zainudin Nordin replied at around 4.30pm with the following email message:

Dear Mr Gangasudhan, 
It is clear from your initial posting that it was your intention to ridicule me, and not to debate issues. To do that, you deliberately and mischievously attributed Terry Goodkind’s quote to me and even extracted, without context, part of that quote. Your motives were plain and your response, contrived. You had no choice but to correct this egregious error, but I note there is no hint of an apology from you.  

I think it is important to have open, honest debates on issues of the day. It is responses such as yours which in fact stifle honest debate and discourage people from sharing their views. 
Thank you.
Zainudin Nordin
Sent from my iPhone


Monday, 22 April 2013

iPad Lessons at SINDA

On Thursday, I attended a one-day workshop on using the iPad for pedagogy and got a few ideas from the trainer, John Larkin (whose website is really resources-rich) and fellow participants. I never took the apps offered on iPad seriously till the workshop and thus decided to explore how I could use the apps available on the App Store (the free ones, that is) for my own classroom use.

That evening, right after the workshop, I had a science lesson with some P6 students at Pasir Ris STEP centre, so I decided to see how a science-related game might be received. I managed to find one called DK Quiz which is a rapid fire timed quiz of 20 questions in a multiple-choice format. This particular quiz app offers many different categories (e.g. Science & Technology, Natural History) and sub-categories (e.g. Incredible Bodies, Worlds Apart, All Things Creepy Crawly & All About Behaviour), allowing for (relatively) targeted practice.

In class, hooking up was as easy as it gets (VGA cable, audio cable and the iPad port-to-VGA converter) and the game was a hit with the students who loved the break from the normal routine of worksheets and practice papers. Each round took about 2 minutes or so and we had about 4 to 5 rounds just before the lesson ended for the day.

Inspired by how it went, I decided to try a more elaborate lesson for my Maths class on Saturday morning at East View STEP centre, with about 12 students. I trawled the App Store again and discovered quite a number of math-centred games and tools. One interesting and stylish game app called King of Games really stood out. The free version allows Addition, Subtraction and Mixed (i.e. Addition/Subtraction) topics with a S$1.28 purchase offering the full version of 9 other topics (i.e. altogether 12 topics).

Each topic (called 'book' in the game) has 9 chapters and each chapter has a rapid fire series of 10 maths questions in a multiple-choice format. But the interesting thing is the questions are phrased in a way that tests the students' ability from different angles. I used this app as a trigger/warm-up activity before proceeding to the lesson proper. Watch the video below to appreciate the impact/value of this app.


As the focus for the Saturday sessions was to guide the students on word problems (the format of the lesson would be to show a word problem, get the students to try it and then show them how to work through it, before moving on to the next word problem), I decided to use the app called Singapore Math which offers word problems and worked answers (there's an app for each level) for the types of questions where models need to be drawn.

While the app's free version only offers a few questions, there is a 'tool' option where you can use the workspace to work out any other question you would like. I thus used questions from the assessment I was using for the class but instead of working out the answer on the white board, I used the neater representation of the app's workspace to show the students how the answer is worked out. The video below shows me working out one question for the students.


All in, the experiment resulted in positive outcome, with the students enjoying and learning together. I do like how the iPad can be easily set up and conveniently carried around, making it an easy option with minimal fuss (as opposed to using a laptop). Needless to say, I intend to incorporate more of the same into my lessons at SINDA, with the probability of using many other apps.

The next step will be to see what apps can be used to deliver Lifeskills lessons at my day job as an ITE Lecturer.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Birthday Mystery - A Reportedly P6 Maths Question

Earlier this week, a colleague of my mine came to me and said, "Hey, you high IQ right? Can help with a question? My girlfriend wants to teach her P6 daughter and cannot solve this question." My colleague then showed me this on her phone.


Having prefixed her request with "you high IQ, right", my ego was at stake and I had to nonchalantly reply, "I think should be able to answer, just need some time." I asked my colleague to forward me the image and started to work on it. Initially, I thought it could be a calendar question where the confluence of month/day could be determined but after a few searches on the internet, I realised it was probably a logic question of some sort.

Once I looked at the logical relationship of the situation and the statements made by the characters, I figured it must be a process of elimination that would lead to the correct birth date. Thus, here is how you arrive at the answer.
Because Ben knows the month, he can deduce what 'day' values Mark cannot possibly have. Hence, since Ben says "I can ensure that Mark doesn't know", this means that the 'day' in the correct birth date does not appear just once among the 10 dates provided, thus we can deduce the correct birth date does not fall along the months including 7/6/1970 and 2/12/1970, which therefore eliminates both these rows.
Following Ben's statement, Mark too then knows that these two rows do not have the correct birth date, and since Mark says "now I know it", this means that of the remaining, he is able to pick the correct one because his 'day' value is no longer duplicated (i.e. the remaining birth dates would not have duplicate 'day' values, therefore eliminating 5/3/1970 & 5/9/1970).
And finally, since Ben can identify the birth date at this point, this means that there must be only one month value left which would eliminate 4/3/1970 and 8/3/1970, leaving 1/9/1970 as the correct birth date.

Of course, expecting this train of thought from of a 12-year-old is ridiculous.

Update:
I was alerted to the fact that MOE posted on twitter that the above is not a PSLE question (to be honest, I didn't think it was a PSLE question, to begin with). However, a few people have posted that they were indeed asked to try this question in school. In addition, this type of question is called an Impossible Puzzle and different variations do exist (if you're interested in this type of thing).

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Coloionalism 2.0




So, the balding prince and commoner princess have come to Singapore for a visit. What's the big deal, people? Last I checked, we were no longer a British colony and are instead a sovereign nation that has no affiliation to the crown.

The excitement these past few days has been similar to that reserved for celebrities, but the British-flag-waving and lining the streets is a tad too much. Yes, the English do that for THEIR queen/king/prince/whoever but what has that got to do with us? Yes, we should accord the respect we honour all visiting dignitaries with, but to treat them as if we are beholden to them is cheesy at best and insulting to the people at worst.

There has been no end to the dramatics, with casual strolls here and there to wave to 'peasants' and press coverage as if some form of god's gift was walking the island - mind you, we don't even extend this sort of proselytising to even The Godfather of Singapore (no prizes for guessing who).

Jumping on the bandwagon are the opportunistic businesses (some of whom have but the remotest of relation to the British royalty) with their over-the-top advertisements. This morning, I came across this gem of a conundrum which I could make no head or tail.


To me, it appears like the stewardess is serving teh-tarik as it is found in Malaysia, not in Singapore. Tell me, where do they pack teh-tarik-to-go like this anymore here? Doesn't it typically look more like this below? And even that is not extremely common, with the 'industry standard' being styrofoam cups.


According to the 'visionaries' who came up with this ridiculous concept (BBH Asia Pacific) , the imagery supposedly "offers a twist on the much-loved English tradition of a ‘cuppa’.... (showing) a British Airways cabin staffer offering up the favourite local choice of tea, ‘teh tarik’, complete with plastic bag and straws, but served from a silver platter more befitting royalty."

First of all, this is not the impression created by this image because who on earth would serve a plastic packet of drink on a platter? Secondly, it is a stretch to call teh-tarik our "favourite local choice of tea" because it is only one of different versions (i.e. Chinese-styled coffeeshops have their version which is also pretty common). Not to mention, the fact that it is - hands down - more prevalent in Malaysia than it ever can be in Singapore, shoots that assertion right out of the water.

British Airways is obviously trying way too hard for its own good to ride the royalty-craze of these 3 days - and it shows. Personally, I am just sick and tired of this meaningless nonsense and will be glad when they finally leave.

At least then, we can get back to the usual wayang that we're accustomed to.


Wednesday, 29 February 2012

ITE Student Feedback

Well, I was clearing out my old materials when I came across a collection of feedback essays that I got my students to write during the New Curriculum Track (NCT) programme which I executed at ITE College West at the beginning of last year (i.e. Term 1 of 2011). The NCT programme is a bridging 10-week course to help 'N' Level students who qualify to directly enroll at the ITE assimilate better. I covered several topics related to Effective Communication and formulated some fresh activities for the students. At the end of the 10 weeks, I asked them to share their thoughts and these are some of the responses I received. You can click on the images to see a larger version that is easier to read.





Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Most Cock Piece of 'Reporting' Yet

I was at the dialogue session yesterday where dolphin activist Ric O'Barry shared his thoughts with an audience of over 500 at the Grand Copthorne Hotel, in Singapore. He said a great many things and his thoughts on several related issues were sought by members of the audience. He was honest and passionate, and it was no secret that everyone in the ballroom was of the opinion that releasing the dolphins instead of including them as an item of Resorts World Sands Sentosa (RWS) is the way to go.

But Esther Ng of TODAY was at a different event apparently. She saw a crowd gathered because a celebrity "who starred in the Academy Award-winning documentary film The Cove" called Ric O'Barry was appearing. She saw only "teachers, students and young adult professionals and a few Caucasians" and declared that "the public debate was a one-sided affair with nary a soul speaking up in support of the captivity and display of dolphins". She also excitedly titled her atrocious piece 'Dolphin catcher-turned-activist nets audience of 500' - as if the point of the dialogue session was to see how big a crowd Ric O'Barry could attract.

The only way one can forgive this report for ever seeing the light of day is if Esther Ng is a secondary school student attached to TODAY. The 500 people were there to see Ric O'Barry in the context of how we can work together to get RWS to change their stubborn decision to keep wild-caught dolphins in captivity. Also, there were 1,000 people at the Save the Dolphins Concert a few weeks ago - where Ric O'Barry was not present - which makes the crowd-size an irrelevant observation altogether. And in a cosmopolitan country such as Singapore, where 1 in 4 persons is a foreigner, seeing a few - or many - Caucasians has nothing to do with anything at all.

As for the dialogue session being a "public debate", it could only have been a debate had the other party agreed to come - RWS had in fact been invited and had declined to attend and address the issues in person, and there was never an illusion that this would be anything other than a dialogues session. In fact, from the outset, it was framed that all of the people gathered at the session were there to find out how we could work together - and not to discuss, debate or deliberate on the merits of whether the dolphins about to be installed at RWS should be kept in captivity or released.


I have no idea what Esther Ng's agenda is (fast-track her career by pleasing corporate interests?) or how the TODAY editors saw fit to allow such shoddy reporting to be carried in print (incompetent, ignorant, disingenuous?), but her account is such a perverted version of a minute part of the 2-hour session that it is truly laughable.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

GE2011 Conspiracy Theories

I noticed that everything the PAP has been doing with regard to the expected General Elections has been - to put it mildly - an utter and complete disaster. From what-looks-like-nepotism, or otherwise called 'leadership renewal', to I-know-someone-who-knows-someone, also known as the Tin Pei Ling Effect, to hahaha-suck-on-it-if-you-are-not-white-on-white, quite popularly regarded as an insult to graduate students and Singaporeans alike, there has been no limit to the indignation heaped onto Singaporeans who love Singapore.

Never underestimate a good conspiracy theory

Never in the history of Singapore since its independence has the PAP had so many spectacular failures. Thus the question of why and how come a
multi-million dollar cabinet can trip over its own feet every step of the way becomes quite a curious assignment. Assuming that no established political party can be THAT stupid and assuming also that the Singapore Flyer's orientation has nothing to do with the cosmic elements surrounding the PAP's ability to govern, might I propose some interesting possibilities.

a)
Internal Strife: Could there be an internal divide within the PAP where one side comprises loyalists to the age-old philosophies that transformed Singapore from the 50's to the 80's, and the other counts those who favour a more modern and open approach? This might explain an intentional rubbishing and sabotaging of the processes - throwing up ridiculous candidates whilst a few current politicians resign. And perhaps this political divide manifested in Lee Hsien Loong's 'academic discussion' of the hypothetical Two PAP System?

b)
Flawed System Finally Fails: Perhaps the system that was all along based on a flawed principle finally ran out of the magic additive that kept it seemingly in perfect condition. When this system was established, everyone feared Lee Kuan Yew and so, from the second top man to the man-in-the-street, it was important not to allow favouritism to affect any choice. It was in fact a case for reverse favouritism - if you were going to choose someone because you liked them, then it was prudent for you to just choose the other guy and CYA.

But that mythical fear has eroded dramatically over time and now the younger politicians could be using the system sans the 'magic additive'. This means that meritocracy no longer needs to be in the black-and-white terms of 'scholar', 'stellar grades' or 'demonstrated achievements' but can be justified by the subjective 'experience', 'good work at grassroots level' and even as arbitrarily as 'bilingual and able to connect well with people of different ages'.

While the initial manifestation of the system demanded that only the best be sought out with serious repercussions should someone better be found to have slipped through the cracks, it is now simply a case of 'choose the best from what we see in front of us can already'. Hence the situation of 'every mother son' turning up as a candidate.


c)
Give Singapore a Dose of Bad Government: Remember Lee Kuan Yew's chiding of 'whiny Singaporeans' with a "the cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government"? Maybe that's what's happening - a strategic push towards favouring the opposition, getting them into parliament whilst PAP holds on to a reasonable minority. The idea would be to allow the new government to run the show for 5 years (or even less, should the opposition falter too much and give up) before coming in strongly back into control.

Why now? Because the opposition is reasonably strong and credible enough to challenge in the political arena but (possibly) not established enough to form a credible government yet. By giving the reigns over temporarily to a team that has yet to peak, the objective may be to sow enough doubt to ensure a longer period of power subsequently - the lack of confidence in the opposition would prevent the current active generation from voting them in again for a decade or so, at least.


d)
Time To Close Shop: It has been a close knit endeavour for the PAP this past half-century and only death seems to separate the core players from relinquishing their involvement in politics. Perhaps seeing as to how the global economy has become so intertwined with the local economy, and having no tangible Singapore Identity to speak of, the backbone of the PAP may have collectively decided to hang up their proverbial white trousers and finally retire because Singapore is a lost cause with no more money to be made.

The closest thing to a Singapore Identity?

Therefore, in order to make a clean escape, they may have allowed the younger politicians to run amok with random ideas with the full knowledge that these 'new faces' having been yes-men and yes-women all heir adult lives would not have the gumption to actually survive in a real democratic political arena. The plan would be to let the PAP lose through these novices, then blame them and leave the country for better pastures. With many of them having children based overseas, it would not be hard at all to resettle and even use the opportunity to
go on speaking tours and book-writing.

While there is no way to ascertain whether there is any truth to these theories, the fact that we do not have enough information to dismiss them outright is a cause for concern. The question to ask is whether the government has been demonstrating any tangible benefit to the people (as opposed to just lip service) or has it only been making more money all along - be it from the people and/or from the processes it puts in place.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Ezycash - forget it ever happened

Some time ago I mentioned the EzyCash advertisement that came in my mailbox - purportedly offering a loan deal that would essentially cause the borrower to pay more than they needed to. When I referenced it at the time, I believe I actually sent an email to the good people at Singpost to see their reaction. Of course, them being steeped in bureaucratic history, they ignored my email and pretended it never happened.

Well, last week, I noticed a similar advertisement flyer in my mailbox and was tickled to note that it now reflects the figures for a $8,000 and $10,000 loan, omitting the $6,000 loan that had the anomaly in the original flyer (see comparison below).


EzyCash Advertisement received in August 2010


EzyCash Advertisement received in April 2010

Seeing as how they've left out the figure instead of correcting it in the new version of the flyer, I suspect that the confluence of loan amount and interest may be creating a monthly installment that is higher under the 'special offer'. If that is the case, then I really feel sorry for those who took up the $6,000 loan offer without realising that the monthly installment would be more and hope that they do pursue the matter with Singpost - God knows the corporation is certainly not going to come out to apologise and make restitution.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Holiday Programme at SINDA STEP (Day 6 & 7)

Day 6

We complemented the theoretical aspects of the Holiday Programme with the introduction of a guest speaker, Mr Kavind, who had overcome a host of challenges in his academic and personal life to become a motivational speaker and presenter. Mr Kavind shared how he had been sacked from being a prefect and demoted from the Express stream to the Normal stream during his secondary school days. He described the difficulties in coping with his parents and how he discovered his strengths which finally enabled him to be accepted into Republic Polytechnic.

The candid and frank session was well-received by the students (many stayed back after the workshop to ask the speaker more questions) and it was clear that he was able to connect with them. We followed the speaker presentation with a reflection exercise and posed 3 open-ended questions as follows:
  1. What are some of the lessons and values that you have learnt from this talk?
  2. The speaker mentioned some obstacles and problems that he faced as a student. Describe some of the similar problems that you have to deal with in your life.
  3. After listening to what the speaker has to share, in your opinion, what three personal values will be necessary to help achieve your goals? Please explain why you think these values are important.
The responses were extremely personal and it was observed that almost every student earnestly answered the questions. The students expressed similar difficulties with engaging parents and fighting off disappointment in their lives but were generally inspired and motivated to face their challenges and push through with their ambitions. A sample of 3 responses (click on image to see full size) are appended below:






Day 7

Taking note of the overarching issue of dealing with various pressures (i.e. peer, family, personal) in the course of being a student, we decided to complete the Holiday Programme with a workshop on Peer Pressure. We opened the session by asking the students if they were familiar with the concept of peer pressure and were asked their thoughts on the issue. This was followed by the screening of an interesting advertisement that puts the issue of succumbing to peer pressure in perspective (reproduced below).




A real life scenario was then presented to the students and they were asked to share their opinions and thoughts on how to deal with the situation. A short exchange of ideas later, what actually happened to the person recounting the scenario was presented to the students which enabled them to reflect and compare against their own suggestions.

Subsequently, we conducted a case study exercise and broke the class into 6 groups of 5 students each. Issuing issued a sheet of butcher paper (i.e. 'Mahjong Paper') to each group, the students were tasked with identifying the various elements involved in the scenario (each group received a different scenario), discussing the ways in which the situations could be managed (i.e. the positive way and the negative way), considering whether the pressure was borne out of malice or ignorance (i.e. whether it was better to resolve the problem or simply walk away), and relating 2 examples of similar situations experienced in their own lives.

Groups were allowed to present their analysis in any manner they wished to and after their work was prepared, were asked to present to the rest of the class. Being generally shy and reserved, the students had to be encouraged to come forward and share their analysis but eventually, all the groups presented their findings. In all, the students were able to identify the elements of the situation (as well as whether the pressure was implicit or direct) and offer clear positive and negative approaches to each scenario. The personal recounts were also vivid and insightful and demonstrated the fact that the batch of students attending the Holiday Programe routinely face the challenge of overcoming peer pressure (perhaps even more so than other students).

The session was closed by addressing the fact that peer pressure exists in all areas of life and the point is to manage these pressures effectively and tackle the root cause that lead to each instance of pressure. A series of tools that could be employed to manage peer pressure was also shared and explained to the students. The relevance of all the workshops were tied back together (i.e. Time Management, Goal Setting, Ambition and Peer Pressure) and the students were encouraged to give these issues further thought and consideration.

Looking back, it is safe to say that the Holiday Programme has made an impact on the students and they seem to have taken away the intended learning points without having felt burdened at attending a school workshop. Almost all the students have returned to the centre at the start of this semester and our opinion is that they are motivated to try harder in their studies.

Back to Day 1 of the Holiday Programme...