Superheroes in New York

In New York, some young adults have started a new trend. At night, they dress up in superhero costumes and go out on the streets, helping the police to “fight crime”. Some carry pepper spray, mace and police batons, and other more conservatives ones bring only their cellphones along. Their aim is similar to that of the superheroes we see on the television screen – to fight crime, but they are not related to the police force. They believe that dressing up as a superhero and then appearing in public will not only help to enforce the law, but at the same time, is fun and enjoyable.

The views of the people are mixed. Some feel that these “superheroes” will help to deter people from committing crime, but at the same time some just think that this will only make the world weirder. In my opinion, I feel that the “superheroes” will not be effective in enforcing the law. The most important reason for this is that these superheroes are not taken seriously due to their informal outfits. If I were about to commit crime, I definitely would not be deterred by the superheroes’ presence. However, the most important role of these “superheroes” would be to act as eyes and ears for the police when the latter is not around. When these “superheroes” see offenders of the law, they can make reports to the police, and if these are petty crimes, the “superheroes” can settle it themselves.

The difference between these “superheroes” and other helpful citizens is that the “superheroes” go out actively looking for crimes for them to solve, and are prepared to unsolved crimes. For example, they have police batons or the pepper sprays to help them break up fights. On the other hand, the ordinary citizen plays more of a passive role, since most can only report to the police. Therefore, the idea of having these “superheroes” is effective. However, the police may not recognize these “superheroes”, and misunderstand the latter’s good intentions. This makes it tough for them to carry out their jobs properly. For example, one “superhero” was arrested by the police when he used a pepper spray whilst trying to break up a fight. In my opinion, the idea of having “superheroes” to patrol the streets is creative and useful, but the way things work need to be polished first.
A proper way to solve this would be to make things more organized. First of all, this organization must be properly recognized and accepted by both members of the police and the public. This ensures that no misunderstandings will occur. Rules and regulations can be set up for the organization, for instance what equipment are they allowed to hold. Secondly, members of this organization must record their names with the authorities, and then hold a badge representing the organization while in the costume. This ensures that the members are obliged to follow the rules and are authentic members of the organization. This will make things much clearer and experiences to be much more pleasant.

It is heartening to note that some people are still trying to help society in their free time, and think up a creative way of doing things. As a result of this, I believe that the atmosphere in countries like New York would be much brighter. To make the cause even more well-known, I feel that such an organization could make trips to schools to explain their cause. I believe that such an act could bring about a better sense of responsibility for their country, and thus also inculcate citizenship values in the process too.

Character Development in the Education System

In September, the new education minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, made his first major policy address. Everyone had been expecting him to announce how schools could prepare students for the globalized world, but instead, he explained the necessity to instill values in students. Mr Heng divided values into a few groups - personal values, moral values, and citizenship values. The reason for the first group of values is obvious – we all need our personal values to become a better person. Moral values, on the other hand, involve interaction with others. Examples of moral values are respect, responsibility, and care for others. Moral values ensure that we are socially responsible people. Especially in Singapore, where there is a complicated social fabric, consisting of different races and cultures, all of us must learn to respect other races and cultures. This allows society to be much more peaceful. Citizenship values are values that enable us to unite cohesive as a nation in times of crisis, such as during wartime.

So why should character development be taught in school? Mr Heng believes that the character development is about developing social emotional competencies. This means that character development teaches us what is socially accepted. I feel that these values are intertwined with learning and education. These values, besides teaching us what is right and wrong, also gives us the confidence to study hard. For instance, determination, which is a personal value, is needed to complete a difficult task. Although it is common belief that values should be inculcated in the child at home, the problem is that the parents are not doing enough. In an increasingly materialistic and well educated society, more and more parents are forced to go to work to earn money. Thus, parents do not have time to spend with their children to teach them the right values. Thus, the school can step in here to inculcate students about values. They spend most of their time there, and it is only right that the school, whose duty is to educate, should also instill values. In addition, school is a microcosm of society, and thus the environment is suitable for the students to learn as well as practice these values in preparation for life in society. In the status quo, there are lessons on character development, but these lessons are lightly taken and some teachers use these character development lessons to teach other subjects. Thus, if we want the schools to really teach values, then something needs to be changed.

What should be changed to make a difference? The most important changes that Mr Heng proposed were to make a change to the CCA system and the grading systems. He felt that CCAs needed to emphasize more that CCAs were meant for the students to learn about teamwork as well as sportsmanship, and not to win medals – the medals are only a reward for those who perform well. Also, he found that there was a problem with the grading system, and they would “give due recognition to key learning outcomes”. Those who show that they have learnt something important in that CCA would be rewarded. Besides this, I feel that the school should organize other out-of-curriculum activities put into place. For example, they could first give a short explanation on some of the values and why they are important, and then practice these values in activities. I feel that such activities should be focused more on the lower primary level, as student older than that need to prepare for their examinations.

The education system is grinding towards a one more focused toward producing more morally upright students, and in my opinion, this will be a good change for Singapore.

Korea And Its Education System

Every year on the 10th of November, South Korea will prepare for the annual university entrance exam. The exam is the one which will decide the future of the students. The exam separates the students by their results – those who do well in the exam get streamed into the best universities. There, they get a good degree, and this will secure the rest of their lives in a good job country. However, those that do not do as well in the exam will then be sent to lower-tiered universities or not even admitted into university at all. As a result, they can only join a less prestigious firm, and since their culture discourages the changing of jobs, they may be stuck there for the rest of their lives.

This system has both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that the system is efficient. It quickly identifies those will high academic standards, and pushes them into the faster stream. Students have the chance to learn faster, and have more chances to develop themselves. The system drives the students to put in their best effort in preparation of the exam. Right now, there is only one route to success – the route through doing well academically. Thus, the only focus that the students in South Korea have is on their academic work. It hones the potential of those who have the talent, and allows the Korean society to maximize resources to develop faster in times of crisis. For instance, despite last year’s economic crisis, South Korea’s economy still grew by 6.2%.

There are many disadvantages too. The nickname for South Korea is the one-shot society. In the country, the students get only one chance to become successful in life – the examination. Those who don’t do well and trip up during the exam will never have the chance to bring themselves forward. This makes South Korea seem like a cruel society – they only give the young one chance. Those who fail are cast aside, and only the cream of the crop receive good opportunities. A survey showed that 100% of Korean parents want their children to go to university. There is a question that we must ask – does society really need everyone to go to university? Some who decide to go to other professions that do not require a university degree are still forced to go to there by both their parents and societal pressure. Even before they went to university, attending high school in South Korea is already very hectic. The Economist interviewed a student, and it seemed that the schedule that most students had were studying seven days a week from 7am to 4pm in school, and then self-studying from then until midnight. I feel that such a schedule is putting too much stress on the child. Korea already has one of the highest suicide rates. Among middle and high school students, one-fifth of them had contemplated suicide before. In 2009, an astonishing 202 students had committed suicide. Obviously, this is not the ideal society, and is a bad use of human resources. As a result of there being the only choice but to study hard, the students will not only become lop-sided, but have no chance to express and develop their imagination. Another result of having a system like Korea’s is that the cost of bringing up a child who will be outstanding in society is exorbitant. Therefore, most parents will only give birth to one child. This will result in the birth rate declining, which is ultimately bad for the country.

The education system of South Korea has come under worldwide scrutiny recently. Undoubtedly, the system is effective and produces top students, but there are dire side effects as well. Many Western countries are obviously envious of the results produced by the country; yet do not want to implement a similar system for fear of causing damage to their youths. Right now, I feel that there is no need for the Asian country to make amendments to their education system. In my opinion, it should be the parents and students that need to change. First, the parents need to understand that different children have different talents and interests. Not everyone can become a successful lawyer or a great engineer. The children then need to effectively tell their parents what they want for their future. Do they want to become a lawyer, an engineer, or what? This makes it clear and easy for the parents to make a decision together with their child. The parents, on the other hand, need to be understanding and not force their children to spend the rest of their lives doing something that they do not enjoy. Stronger parent-child bonds also need to be forged to make sure that the children do not commit rash acts as a result of their stress.

Arab Spring Reflections

The Arab Spring, which stretched over the course of 2011, has its effects on many parts of the world. It all started in Tunisia, when a man whose property was taken from him by the police without reason burnt himself to death on the street. This occurrence attracted attention and further angered the people in the country, who were already dissatisfied with the poverty, high unemployment and corruption in Tunisia. The anger boiled in the public for a long time, then turned into a revolution. As a result, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia after 23 years in ruling power. The people in neighboring countries like Egypt and Libya, who were experiencing the same problems as those in Tunisia, saw that it was possible for them to overthrow their governments too. A long-standing revolution thus broke out. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak was overthrown without much violence and damage to the infrastructure, but unfortunately, this did not apply for countries like Libya or Syria. In Libya, the government threatened to quash the protestors if they were attacked or sanctioned. Thus, the UN voted unanimously that a no-fly zone would be imposed on Libya to make sure that Gaddafi would not bomb the protestors using the air force. However, when the situation did not improve in the country, French warplanes were sent in to help, and not too long after, a full blown civil war erupted in Libya. Gaddafi then retreated into his stronghold but was still killed. However, Syria’s government is still desperately holding on to power, and does not have any qualms about killing its own citizens.

The impact of the Arab Spring? Anger was sparked in many Western states, which was one of the reasons for intervention in Libya. They despise the violent way in which the Middle East countries are ruling their countries. Organisations for peace such as the UN are also against such violence. Countries that depend on military rule these days are unable to stay in power for long, if that is what they are looking for. If they are violent, sanctions will be placed on them. Therefore, they have no chance of gaining means to any trade and income from the outside world and become very poor. At this point, these brutal countries have no choice but to stop their violent acts or their country will fall into bankruptcy, and they would be overthrown. Even if this did not happen, the pressure from other world powers will slowly push them off the ruling seat. One example of this occurrence is in Burma. The military junta, Than Shwe, slowly lost the support of the people when the country became extremely poor and had many serious but unsolved problems such as child labor and civil war. Shortly, he had no choice but to give up his place. The people in the world are demanding more freedom and democracy place, where violent ruling is no longer accepted. With the increase in education throughout all countries, the people now know their worth. They are increasingly aware of their rights and what they can do. Using the social networking sites now easily accessible by a growing number of people, the oppressed now have a means through which they can express their feelings as well as find a way to group together with those of similar ideals. The time has come for countries to discard violence and embrace soft power, by means of diplomacy and discussions.

For a more personal reflection, I too have learnt many things from the Arab Spring. Our lives are like a small depiction of the world – so things that apply to the world can also be applied to us, and vice versa. We can thus deduce that using violence, or brute force methods will not help us to solve the problems we have, but instead aggravate them. In order to become a more productive and peaceful society, we have to start learning to give and take, and respect others, and if any problems arise, only use our power and authority as the last resort.

MRT Problems

The nasty train experiences have blown into a huge commotion in Singapore. Several times, the trains in Singapore have stopped in between stations, leaving thousands of commuters in the lurch. Electrical power supplies to the train were stopped, and the light and the air-conditioner were off, making it suffocating in the vehicle. Worse, announcements were unclear to those trapped in the trains. Even after they exited the train about half an hour later, their problems did not stop there. They had to hike between the stations, and many people were stuck in the train underground system. Also, the public transport like buses and taxis were very cram as a result of the multiple breakdowns at around the same time. In addition, both the people who were and were not affected by the train breakdowns were angry they found out that the company had sent a message to their company’s taxis. “Incoming opportunity. Dear Partners, there is a breakdown in our MRT train services from Bishan MRT to Marina Bay MRT stretch of stations.”

The blunt message made it seem that the company did not sympathize with the commuters, but instead, they took advantage of them to earn more money even though they had publicly apologized already. Such a big incident like this has not occurred in Singapore’s transport system. As a result, the people grew very dependent on it, and seemed to even take it for granted. Thus, when an accident like this happened, they felt that the government was not doing enough to keep the transport system in good shape. When a tourist from Spain who once lived here commented that even though there were often riots occurring and stalled the transport system in Spain, the people did not complain about the government. This person was later scolded by other netizens, who said that the government ought to keep the country in good condition since the ministers were paid so much salary. I feel that the response that the Singaporeans voiced out were fine, but the root of the problem is that the people are taking everything for granted. Some creative netizens came up with the slogan – “Saw Must Resign Today”, and they also threatened to vote against the People’s Action Party in the General Elections in 2016 if she did not agree. A portion of Singapore society refuses to see the hard work put in by the government to serve the people, and using this as an excuse to vote against the majority ruling party is ridiculous.

SMRT, which is the only MRT service in the country, has attributed these incidents to not just one maintenance issue, but a few isolated reasons. On the first few times, they claimed the incidents occurred because of the misalignment and wear and tear of the connector shoes of the train and the third rail on the track. However, three days later, they reported that the problems occurred because of a signaling problem in the system. For example, a problem with power rail in some of the train tunnels, and another problem with the signaling systems. This might represent the falling standards of SMRT’s services after such a long time without competition from other companies. I feel that the government should not need to force the CEO of SMRT to step down from her post, as this will not solve the problems. The problem may not necessarily stem from her to begin with. It could be possible that the technicians and the engineers felt that they did not have to put in so much effort, and believed that the system would continue working well if they did not regularly check the system. However, they did not check with their superiors about whether it was okay not to check so often. Even if the problem did stem from the CEO of the company, forcing her to resign now will not be the right solution. If she was the one who caused all the problems, she should know best about the situation and how to solve it.

All in all, I feel that the problem lies with both the people and SMRT – both need to improve. The people need to start understanding how much effort is needed to run a company, and not take all services provided by the transport companies for granted. On the other hand, SMRT needs to understand its importance to the country as a vital part of its transport system and make sure that all its equipment is always ready.

The Rise of Burma

Slowly, the political situation in Burma is revolving. The military government, which used to be headed by Than Shwe, has finally been overthrown, and the first ever democratic elections have been held. The previous one was laughed off as a joke, as the military government’s parties overwhelmed the opposition in both number and in strength. One-quarter of the seats were also reserved for the army, thus rendering the opposition useless.

However, it is evident that the rule of military governments has reached its limit, with most people despising it. I believe that the world is now mostly headed towards a more peaceful world where violence is not accepted. In fact, one major reason why Burma is so poor now is mainly because of the country’s violent behavior towards its citizens. Therefore, the country was sanctioned by many other humanitarian countries like Western states and peace-keeping organisations such as the United Nations. Thus, it shows that hard power is now unacceptable by many countries’ standards, and that violence will not bring a country or its ruler prosperity, but instead ruin and death. Soft power is the way to go.

The hero of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, has finally relented to taking part in the elections this time. A clear example of the respect for her would be obvious to anyone there. The country is filled with pictures of her and her father, and she was named “the Lady” by supporters. In addition, the United States is here to help. Hillary Clinton visited the country recently to “repair” relations between the two countries. I believe that this will also give the Burmese a sense of safety. After the US visits Burma, the people will feel that there is a strong Western power supporting it, giving them to spirit to work harder towards improvement. The country is now the second poorest country in Asia, and it obviously has a long way to go towards improving. Suu Kyi’s opposition party, National League for Democracy, NLC, has managed to win the hearts of many citizens in Burma. As a result, they are willing to vote for her and thus will make things easier for her government to rule in the future. The results are already out and for all to see – the parliament has already passed a bill to allow certain Burmese to protest, something that has not been allowed since a long time ago. It can thus be expected that the country, with the help of others, will be able to lift the sanctions, allowing Burma to further develop as a democratic country.

Besides the political suppression that the country has been experiencing, Burma also has to solve many problems, most importantly health and education. The country is wilting from AIDs, and the children of the towns are not going to school, but are instead fishing from mud ponds. If the situation continues, then there will be almost a certainty that the next few generations will bring low economic development due to the low education of a great portion of society. In addition, Burma’s next working generation and perhaps even the generations after that will be weak and unhealthy. Hopefully, when the NLC is voted into parliament, it will be able to slowly turn the situation around. Burma has been entrenched in violence and misfortune, but we can now hope that the new beacon of peace will finally be able to reach the people, and bring happiness and a better life to them.

As the world revolves with time, so do countries. They develop both physically and politically, and although the chance to change Burma is within grasp, it is now the job of the new government to make things happen!

My Hamster Cookie

Recently, I was hoping for an animal that I could talk to and watch in my free time. I thought that it would be fun to have another smaller companion, and I felt that I was able to take on the responsibility of raising a pet. However, I noted that it was impractical to choose a big domestic pet like a dog or a cat due to the huge costs of raising it and the trouble it would bring. Thus, my considerations shifted towards the smaller ones – either a hamster or a terrapin. To my excitement, my parents agreed to buy me a small pet as a birthday present. However, they warned me that a pet was a big responsibility and when I got my pet, I needed to be ready to spend time to care of it. After reassuring my parents that I would do just that, we embarked on a “learning journey”.

Firstly, we discussed and decided that we would get a pet hamster. A terrapin moved too slowly and it was harder to “read” its emotions. On the other hand, a hamster looked much more adorable and lovable. After this, we read up on the different species of hamsters. We discovered our ignorance in this area not too long after – we all thought that there was only one species of hamster. However, to our surprise, we found that there are two distinct types of hamsters – dwarf hamsters and Syrian hamsters. There are quite a few differences between them. First and most distinctly, dwarf hamsters enjoy company while Syrian hamsters despise it. For the latter, they are territorial and will kill other hamsters that are in the same cage as it. Also, when there are two hamsters of different gender in the same cage, they will start breeding and this will result in the birth of more hamsters, which would then become more of an expensive and time-consuming activity to raise the hamsters. Second, the dwarves do not like being touched by humans, but Syrians enjoy being held, and we felt that one of the joys of raising a hamster would be to feel it. Syrian hamsters are also much easier to tame compared to their smaller counterparts. Thus, after careful deliberation, we decided to get a Syrian hamster.

After making the decision, we went out on physical journey to different stores in Serangoon North to check out the prices. We took pains to look for best things that we needed at the best price – the cage, the food, the bedding for the hamster and the hamster itself. We visited countless pet shops, and finally found a cage that we liked. It was a blue, double-floored cage complete with a water bottle and a silent wheel. It was the biggest sized cage we could find, stretching 53cm in length and about 43cm in width. I was quite sure that my hamster would like the new cage! We also purchased, from the same store, a 50L bag of beddings as well as a larger wheel for the hamster in preparation for when it grows into an adult-sized hamster. However, we could not find suitable hamsters to buy. In many shops, we found that the hygiene conditions were not very good, and we were worried that the hamsters would not be healthy. If the hamsters were weak and sickly, then they would not last for long as our pet. Thus, we decided to go to a cleaner environment where we could find some hamsters that would be more likely to be healthy and active.

To solve the problem, we visited the biggest pet chain in Singapore, “Pets Lover’s Centre” (PLC) to buy the small animal. I have not visited a pet shop in years, so everything inside was quite new to me. The seemingly infinite rows of accessories for bigger animals like dogs and smaller animals like hamsters were shocking, and even finding the hamster section was difficult! Once there, I looked into the glass box containing all the small, eight-week old hamsters. They were playfully rolling and burrowing all around the box. We then searched for a colour that we liked, and found two. However, we wanted for a male hamster as many people had said that males were easier to tame and would not overheat as the opposite gender would. As a result, we were left with one option as only one out of the two were male! After observing him for a while, we noticed that he was quite active, and then the deal was set! His head and lower body is a pleasant toffee brown, and is banded with white in the middle. A brown stipe of fur stretches to join the two bands of brown, and he always has an inquisitive look on his small face. In the end, we decided to name the adorable hamster Cookie!

It has only been a day since I got Cookie, and he still seems nervous. Despite this, his cute movements and sudden spurts of boldness never fail to make us happy. I noticed that although the cage was a new concept to him, and that he did not even have a wheel to run on in the glass cage, he quickly adapted and was soon running on it as if he had done it for the whole of his life. Another interesting thing he does – sometimes, he would go into the sand pit that we provided for him and start rubbing his face profusely. This funny action all made us laugh! Later, we read online that it was common with newly bought hamsters. They would rub their faces to leave their scents around in the cage. Hamsters are short-sighted, so they rely on their acute sense of smell to “see” the things around them. They would mark different spots in their cages for their different activities, and would use their noses to sniff the places out! By the same method, the hamster recognizes who approaches their cages!

What a great and fun birthday present this has been for me!

A New Alternative

The diesel industry is headed for change – an alternative for the fuel has been found. Now, biodiesel in the form of vegetable oil is gaining its popularity. The fuel is easily accessible and cheap as it can be homemade given that one has the right “ingredient” and is careful. Here is the “recipe”:

1. Filter out the food and the water from the oil using a mesh screen

2. Warm up the oil and add sodium hydroxide and methanol (the sodium hydroxide) breaks up the oil molecules into fatty acids and glycerol, and the methanol reacts with the fatty acids to form esters.

3. Drain the glycerol away.

4. Wash the remaining substance with water to remove any impurities and extra sodium hydroxide.

5. Drain the water away.

6. Aerate the remaining substance with an aquarium bubbler to remove the moisture.

The manufacturing cost of this biodiesel is a fraction of the price of petrol at US$44 for 175 litres, and this is enough to drive a pickup truck for 1,200 kilometres! However, despite the low cost of production, the price at which the biodiesel is high – and although environmentally friendly people are willing to pay the cost, this alternative biodiesel costs 30% more than petroleum-based diesel.

However, this may also change! With the device to make their own motoring equipment of this biodiesel bought from Oilybits, a person is able to produce batches of 120 litres of biodiesel! What’s more, this fuel is free of tax if a person manufactures less than 2,500 litres a year. There is another astonishingly fact that can be said about this diesel. Even if there was a lower cap on how much biodiesel a person could produce, there would be another solution to the problem. These people could modify their engines slightly to use raw, untreated vegetable oils to drive their cars. The most common way of doing this is to fit the vehicle with two fuel tanks, one filled with petroleum-based diesel until the radiator gets heated up. Here, water is channeled from the radiator to the tank with the vegetable oil. Then, the driver can start burning the vegetable oil when the solution gets more watery.

In the modern world with well-developed technology, we can slowly start finding alternatives such as this waste vegetable oil to replace the commonly seen fuels. Despite this, nobody would start using this new technology if it is not promoted or is too expensive. Make a wise choice – choose the environment-friendly diesel over the conventional fuel!

Information from: The Economist: “The fat of the land”

Brain Boosting Drugs - To Take or Not to Take?

Recently, two students taking an examination in Singapore blacked out as a result of taking brain boosting drugs. The practice of taking brain boosting drugs has become increasingly common in the country. I believe that this is because of the “kiasu” mentality. In Singapore, there is strong competition, and this will cause the children as well as their parents to do almost everything in their power in order to achieve good marks.

However, “self-medicating” like this has its disadvantages. Firstly, there will be the peer pressure that will eventually cause almost all students to be taking brain boosting drugs sooner or later. After seeing that many of their friends and classmates taking the drugs, they will be under pressure to take the drugs too, as they will feel that they will be left behind everyone else if things continue.

As a result, there will be more people experiencing the side effects. With advantages to the brain boosting drugs also come their side effects. What happened at the examination hall is a good example. Provigil may cause anxiety, lower the user’s mood and can trigger serious skin reactions. Furthermore, the drug is addictive and this may even lead to a country where the students become drug addicts. In addition, the students may be desensitized to the idea of taking drugs. They might have the wrong mindset that since they are already taking brain-boosting drugs, then other drugs should not be that harmful. This ultimately harms the child and society as a whole. The problem even may be further exacerbated since these drugs are so easily available.

Some argue that since nobody sets a ceiling to a person’s mental abilities and if the person is fine with cognitive enhancers like coffee and private tutors, then there is no need to fuss over the pills. However, I feel that this statement is not applicable here. Coffee and private tutors do not cause any harm or damage to a person’s body, but this is not the case with drugs. As stated earlier, brain boosting drugs can cause harm to the body, such as skin problems, and in some cases can cause heart rhythm problems. We can also take example from “The Mind of A Mnemonist (1987)” where the scientist’s patient had limitless memory. As a result, he could remember so many facts and events that his mind was overwhelmed by details. Although this is an extreme example that is not likely to happen, the effect intended remains. We cannot always be seeking to be the top, at the risk of our health. The effects of the drugs are not long-lasting, and to keep at the standard, we need to continue taking the drugs, which then have harmful effects on our health. Even if the effects were everlasting, I feel that the health risks stand.

Even so, the drugs are not a super pill where the students are immediately top in their classes. First off, if everyone takes the drugs, is it possible for everyone to be top? Secondly, hard work is still necessary for one to do well. With or without the drugs, the student still needs to trudge over his work and take pride and effort in whatever he does to achieve success. Thirdly, there might still be long-term effects of the drugs that are unknown to us.

In my opinion, I believe that taking these drugs are not the way to go. The drugs, which although have effects to one’s ability to remember things and improves the brain’s functioning ability for a limited time, pose health risks that will unquestionably cause damage. Believing in oneself, hard work and the right mindset will bring a person to great heights.

Movie Review: Coach Carter

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
That was what Timo Cruz said in the show “Coach Carter”, nearing the end of the movie. The show was an inspiration one, describing primarily how hard work and discipline eventually pays off, and secondarily, how a good coach can change everything. The show first sets the scene at an unruly neighbourhood known for its gangsters and bad students, and the basketball team are equally as bad – not attending classes, and blaming each other for mistakes during matches. Then, Coach Carter takes over as the basketball coach. He has seen the team in bad shape in one of the matches, but is determined to help them, being an alumnus.
Coach Carter teaches them the fundamentals of being a person first – he believes that the team need to become a better person before they can start thinking about learning to play basketball. He made them sign a contract for them to attend all classes, and maintain a GPA of at least 2.3. As an extreme method, Coach Carter even locked up the gym and suspended all basketball practice and matches when the team did not meet the academic requirements made of them. This action then causes the whole town to be unhappy, and the board of directors voted for the gym to be forced open.
That caused Timo Cruz to say the paragraph stated earlier. This paragraph means that arrogance is the cause of many people’s failures – when we are too powerful, (like when the team won many games and many commented that “We undefeated”), we may even become scared of ourselves becoming too great. However, if we play small”, we cannot “serve the world” – if we try to be humble and stay small so that people around us will not feel scared or even jealous of us, we cannot change anything. Everyone is born to shine in their own ways, and excel at life. Also, it mentions that “as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” We influence many people around us unconsciously, and encourage them to shine and be successful too. In the movie, when Cruz tries to join the team but is forced to do Physical Exercise, one of his friends start trying to help him do some. His other friends, seeing that one of their teammates is helping, also chip in. Then, later when the gym is locked and they instead go to the library where they are forced to learn, those who lack patience and are weaker will invariably feel like walking off, but their friends caution them to continue to persevere on and make them realize that “Hey, it isn’t that hard…” This also explains the next line of “as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”. When we are no longer afraid of something, we also free others from their fears after seeing our success at it.
As a concluding statement, I largely enjoyed the movie for its many inspire and heart-warming scenes. Remember Coach Carter.

The Second Egyptian Revolutions

Not once, but twice. The Egyptians have surprisingly, again, revolted against the Egyptian government. After being overseas recently, I had not caught up with the news. Thus, when I first heard about it, it seemed odd that the Egyptians, after getting what they have wanted, are now complaining. However, after reading the article, I realized the reason for it.

After dictator President Hosni Mubarak was shoved off stage, the military generals seized power over the people. The military then continued the autocratic regime, making past striking efforts and all casualties during the street protests seem worthless and unnecessary. My first reaction after reading this was that the Egyptians did not react in a way that would be best for them. Instead of asking for changes nicely and protesting non-violently, they were again going for the violent option. It even occurred to me that the Egyptians were starting to seem “addicted” to rebellion.

However, the article went on to say that although the numbers of protestors were large, they were nothing compared to those who massed against Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. This reminds me of the “Occupy Wall Street” peaceful protests. Although the people had the same end goals in mind, they no longer believed in the way in which it was done. Also, I realized that there was no other choice for the Egyptians. Unlike the United States, they lived under autocratic ruling and even protests which started out peaceful would turn bloody in no time.

Egyptians now live in a hard time – with no forms through which they can change things, even by a little, except through violence and the overthrowing of the state government. Egypt has had its first truly democratic elections on the 28th of November. Also, it has been pointed out that while some liberalists first supported military rule over democratically elected parties due to supposed Islamist influence, they now recognize democracy as the way to go. Hopefully, things can calm down soon and the violence will stop. Even if this did happen, however, the shift to democracy will be a painfully long process through which new policies have to be crafted out. It will be a hard time to come for them, indeed.

Comparatively, Singapore has a better government. Although it is true that there is no complete free speech, there are still means through which Singaporeans can voice out their opinions. They can have a meeting with their GRC’s MPs and still voice out suggestions. Moreover, I think that Singaporeans are still not very aware of the good plight they are in. Singapore already has a low unemployment rate of 1-2%, and compared to USA’s 9% and Spain’s 20%, it is a minute section of the population. Most Singaporeans are thrifty, and many own flats of their own. The government has clear plans for the future, and is not in any debt. On this note, the Occupy Raffles Place attempt was totally uncalled for and unnecessary.

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.