Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Essay: Are foreigners essential to a country's progress?

While others are groaning over a possibly apocalyptic US election result, I'm just going to share another freestyle essay and a self-critique. 'Freestyle' means no plan, just pure improvisation over a 90 minute time limit. And, yes, I do in that span of time allow pauses to compose my thoughts and make edits along the way.

The essay question as follows:
To what extent are foreigners essential to a country's progress? Discuss with reference to your society.

The essay here:
http://tinyurl.com/oz6y3gn

And the self-critique:

Clearly not a standard essay for the General Paper. With no plan, I let the scope of this essay go out of control and ran into trouble bringing the argument back into focus. The definition of 'foreigners' was difficult to nail down as the concept is more abstract than I had anticipated. While the simple idea of a foreigner is someone born outside of local borders, the conception of 'foreigner' is just as telling of a mindset as it is a place of birth. Besides, how does one discuss a relative thing like 'progress'? So many things to establish even before I can begin to make a case. By the time I got to make 'reference to your society', it was really the tail end of what I could manage within the time allotted. As such, the conclusion tries to make a point I hadn't had time to fully develop, ending on a hyperbole with little to no substantiation. And, yes, some evidence is contrived as well. As for balance, well, a resource is either essential (absolutely must have) or not essential (can live without it) and cannot be partially essential (which makes no logical sense at all). I chose to argue 'essential'. Being decisive motivates a stronger argument than being placatory.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Arguing the extreme

Model essay time!

I detest 'balanced' arguments the way they are commonly taught. What usually results is something of a bipolar nature with little basis for resolution. Instead of arguments, what the kids generally produce are almost verbatim reports of 'he said' vs 'somebody else said', which is a neutral approach, but two arguments for the price of one is NOT an argument -- particularly if they are self-negating and hence, inconclusive.

Instead, I prefer turning the essay question back on myself. I don't care what the eternally conflicting straw-men have to say about the issue. What's important is what I think of the unvarnished truth of the matter. While I rail at the world, I am still able to 'balance' my argument by identifying the imperfections that make up the world and our experience of it, rather than shoehorning in balance via the polar antithesis of the question.

Anyway, here's what I think of the 'pursuit of excellence' and whether is is ALWAYS beneficial to [my] country: absolutely, unequivocally yes!

Edit 01:
Coincidentally, I just read this article about the intentional propagation of ignorance by the BBC, making me wonder if we were actively teaching kids to stay ignorant by teaching them to argue through polar opposites.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Staffed duck

Staff retreat. Just ridin' a Duck and feeling like a tourist in my own country.

Getting our flippers wet
Water under the bridge
City skyline
I don't get seasick, else I'd be doing the same
The Sands: view from the Bay
Trusty duck



Thursday, October 06, 2016

Don't wanna go back to school!

To Liu who wrote:
Globalisation could negate efforts in skills upgrading
From Liu Rijing -
October 6
I refer to The Big Read article “Despite being vulnerable, few PMETs heed call to learn new skills” (Oct 1) and wish to raise a few points.
First, threats to jobs come not only from technological change but also globalisation.
So how can we be sure that learning new skills will ensure we do not lose out to global competition when companies relocate owing to cost considerations?
Second is whether a new skill one picks up would still be in demand after one has spent time and money to complete the training.
Third, when companies can choose to outsource professional work to a worker based in a foreign country with a lower salary, how can skills upgrading help then? (Today Online)
If you are looking for assurances, there are none. Sorry. But if you don't want to undergo skills upgrading, that's fine. When enough of us refuse to do so, there will be more opportunities for overseas companies to outsource their crappy, low-skilled, underpaid, exploitative, dangerous jobs to us. That should put your overarching fear of unemployment to rest.

10 cents for career counselling, thanks!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Wanna bet?

People are understandably concerned about the legalization of online betting in S'pore within the next month or two. Going online makes it more convenient to place bets via mobile app than having to trudge down and queue up at the corner betting store. But will convenience alone cause a spike in gambling as our concerned citizens fear? I doubt it.

This convenience comes with a price: the ability for the authorities to identify individual bettors, track how much each is wagering per transaction and establish their betting patterns over time. Cross-referenced against personal incomes, disproportionate or suspicious spending on bets can be flagged out for intervention if necessary.

If I were a betting man, I'd still go to the corner shop and place an anonymous bet with less-traceable cash. Only if I win big will the world know who I am. Until then, how I bet and what I bet on is nobody else's business. And as a non-betting man, I see more disincentive than incentive to start.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Who's an unhappy camper?

S'poreans show their unhappy side again, this time with their employment situation. That is, compared across the board against our South-East Asian counterparts, our employees are the most unhappy.

I wonder what we would see if we cross-reference our job happiness index against a corresponding survey on general income levels? My guess would be that S'poreans are educated, and have expectations of higher income and better job prospects that are set somewhat above realistic; whereas our neighbours are happy to have a job that puts food on the table for their families.

This observation is intended to be neither snarky nor mean. It's probably a human trait that when we have more we make ourselves unhappy by wanting even more; conversely when we have but a little, we are happy being grateful for that little.

We also seem to be looking at the wrong things to be happy about:
Singapore respondents felt that getting a new job (30 per cent), a higher salary (19 per cent), or receiving recognition from the company (9 per cent) would help increase their job happiness.
These perks offer immediate gratification. But they don't come around too often, and when they do, they usually also come with more work, more responsibilities, and more time spent in the office -- side-effects that make us more unhappy in the long run. We accept them anyway, in order to justify the happiness we feel from achieving these very temporary rewards.

We actually have a good problem. To be able to have and want more is a good thing. But it means that if we also want to be happy, all we need to do is realise that happiness is a choice we make for ourselves. Choose wisely!

An afterthought: perhaps the jobs of Management and Middle-management is inherently unhappy? Managers neither own the company nor do much of the actual production work, so they are sort of in-between, easily replaceable and sometimes even an obstacle to getting real work done. Who'd be happy in a job like that?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Getting through

T -1 day to promotional exams. The going metaphor is that the exams are like a door to get through, which makes sense. Once past that door, the successful get to face a new arena containing a new set of trials and tribulations to traverse before they arrive at the next door.

Some kids think that they need a 'passport' or a 'password' to get through the door, and that they can find it in the assigned reading materials or last-minute hints dropped by their tutors in the last days leading up to the exams. But they are being silly. The fact is, there is no one guarding the door to hear the password or stamp the passport. The door is simply locked.

Who has the key, then? The good news is, there is no 'Master' key, so there is no need to scramble for a limited resource that doesn't exist. There is also no need to acquire a key in a standard design, because there isn't one either. Remember the trials and tribulations mentioned above? They exist to train each student how to pick the lock for themselves. Yes, not a key, but a set of lock-picking tools unlocks the door to the next level.

I like the lock-pick metaphor because unlike keys; passports; and passwords that only work once per door, we always hold on to our lock-picks, find new ways to manipulate them and pick up new upgrades along the way. Lock-picks work on every door, and how they are used is unique to the user, as long as they consistently practice their skills, being in the moment and not constantly worrying about the next door ahead.

Cliched, but if people valued the journey rather than the destination, they'd have less anxiety approaching their exams.