Friday, March 27, 2009

Winter, Coffee, Philosophy

Somewhere in Brooklyn, 14 Feb 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

No Exit

Keep it Going

Bay Street, Staten Island, 8 March 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Light and Tunnel

110 Station at Cathedral Parkway, 7 March 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Clockwise: Bobbi, American born Korean, specialist in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and also in Heidegger! Hitoki, Japanese, boss. Olga, Russian, secretary for Hitoki. Catherine, Chinese, specialist in India and Nepal. Alma, from Albania, specialist in Pakistan. Jimmy, from Singapore!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Urban Movements

Coney Island, 7 March 09

Friday, March 13, 2009

Where's Jimmy? =p

'Group Shot with Ban Ki Moon'.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Much is given, much is required," she said.

It was probably my toughest interview since the days running for student council. Friends who know me well will know that I’m not very good at handling interviews. It puzzles me because I’m generally confident in handling tutorials.

Anyway, 4 of us were interviewed at the same time. All had impressive backgrounds - a Harvard Kennedy student who prepares speeches for an MP, a Georgetown undergraduate with many internships under her belt, and an auditor in a big firm. I guess my advantage was a better awareness at local issues.

It was a good hour of exchanges between the interviewer and us. I didn’t talk much in the opening five minutes because I was trying to squash the butterflies in my belly. Gradually, topics shifted to issues on the financial crisis, meritocracy and elitism, and social security.

I argued that the public service should foster a culture of philanthropy to sustain VWOs, in light of the government’s cautious approach towards a welfare state. The interviewer asked me if philanthropy was a difficult issue to talk about during recession. I was quite surprised by my quick rebuttal that “philanthropy is difficult to talk about in bad times but that doesn’t make it less important”.

Another tricky question was whether I would fire foreign talents if Singaporeans wanted me to do so. It was a difficult question and I tried to play the Daniel Tham diplomatic (i.e. non-committal) card by saying that it was a choice between making Singapore a competitive business location and responding to the social needs of low-income Singaporeans. The interviewer pressed me for an answer and I borrowed Obama’s budget solution that we should increase the tax of the top 2% wealthiest people in Singapore by a few percent. I reasoned that:

1) since the marginal propensity to consume for the wealthy would not increase with GST rebates (a theory mentioned in this year's budget speech), they wouldn't drastically suffer with a few percent increase in taxation.

2) while it would drive away some foreign talents, it would at least retain those who wouldn’t mind contributing something back to create a pool of social security funds (or in the words of Obama, a sense of 'balance and fairness').

3) it would be a good compromise between listening to the people and retaining conscientious foreign talents.

Later on, the interviewer asked each of us to suggest one policy that we would like to change in Singapore. I suggested that our national service should have two tracks. Besides the usual 2-year service, we could have a different track for groups such as the Jehovah Witnesses. This might be in the form of a 2-year local and overseas community service. I told the interviewer that this would create greater social liberalism. Instead of wasting their time in the DB trimming potted plants and making bird cages, they could contribute to Singapore too.

The interviewer was quite accepting of my 'interesting' idea but said that MINDEF might not like it.

I guess I did fairly ok for 70% of the interview. There were moments when I stuttered and fumbled in stringing my sentences. Towards the crucial final few minutes, I misinterpreted an issue concerning the need for better public relations by the civil service. I handled that rather badly. Also, I didn’t do too well in the 2-hour psychometric test.

I will know the results in a fortnight. Not exactly confident about my chances. I was quite upset with myself during the evening; walking around Chinatown and along Broadway in the drizzle. Felt that even the wind was against me, when it inverted my umbrella. So I was already trying to find out opportunities at IE Singapore during today’s career talk at the Grand Hyatt.

Whatever the outcome, it was a good experience to exchange perspectives with a very sharp and ENTJ interviewer. I think I’ve come out of it stronger, in terms of confidence and handling tricky questions from NTJs. That is an important lesson, regardless of the results. I think I made a new friend too, with Harvard Kennedy dude. We share many common paths back in Singapore and he is from Living Waters. I joked that whenever the security guys caught us playing Sunday soccer in ACS, we would say that we were from Living Waters.

Time to focus on thesis in the next few weeks. Walzer.....