Problem Solving Flowchart

Posted: May 29, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

Seeing as my intended graduate studies will be be in Information Technologies, this flowchart a friend sent me seems like a good start to cement the fundamentals...

In pursuit of happYness

Posted: May 27, 2009 by fievel in Labels:

Recently a friend read my blog and told me "dude, i think your blog is a bit too dark...". Seriously, even before he said so, I was already thinking the same, that there are happier stuff to write about; which was perhaps why I had the writer's block for quite a couple of days now as I ransacked my upstairs for a piece filled with positivity.

Failing to produce any article with this mandate in mind, I can only conclude my "pursuit of happYness" is coming up against some major brickwalls at the moment.

Referring to Maslow's hirerarchy of needs, I note that I'm waaaay behind schedule in terms of "self-esteem" (Achievement, Mastery, Recognition, Respect) and "self-actualization" is nowhere in sight. Worse yet, my lengthening spell as an unemployed is starting to shake the layer containing "security" and "stability". I also realize the one thing holding me up from sliding down this snake & ladder game is the "Belonging - Love" level. I have great friends, fantastic family and one heck of a spouse-to-be...but I've got no lover...hmmm

Anyway, seeing as this piece still doesn't quite qualify for yanking this blog back from the "dark side", I reckoned the least I could do is change its template to brighter hues for now =)

Quitters Poll

Posted: May 24, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

2 days ago, I accompanied a good friend to an emigration agency in Havelock road (Singapore) for a first session of consultancy. It was an interesting first encounter and I'll like to share with the readers of this blog some of my revelations.

They charge $6500 to assist my friend with applications, which is not inclusive of around $3000 in fees paid to the Australian official bodies.

There has been a rising trend of "first generation Singaporeans (FGS)" (e.g. PRC Chinese, India Indians, Philipinos etc) in Singapore seeking consultation to move on to Australia.

"Original Singaporeans (OS)" seeking migration to Australia has been the agency's bread and butter source of revenue for many years.

Have you wondered how many of your fellow Singaporean friends are thinking of becoming a "quitter"? Having openly declared to his colleagues his quest to leave Singapore citing several reasons such as the rat race lifestyle/mentality, the high cost of living, and last but certainly not least on his list, the overcrowdedness, many of them gave him comparison rebuttals such as "Japan is more crowded!".

I admit my friend gets easily exasperated when his views are not shared by the majority of his audience, as if his views should hold universal logic and hence uniform consensus. Out of pure curiosity, I've started what might not be a very original, but certainly up-to-date, poll that will run from today up to this year's National day, 9th August 2009. Please do forward this link to more of your Singaporean friends and visit back in a couple of months for results!


Posted: May 18, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

Do you think you are a good person? Think about it. From the time you developed any form of cognitive ability, in how many instances have you truly and utterly felt guilty without a shred of doubt and without the need to seek redress from your inner voice because even that voice is experiencing the same guilt. Of late, in a rather strange and unfamiliar way, I have been becoming increasingly aware of my flawed and self-centered character.

My plans to pursue a postgraduate degree in the States was kickstarted by what some might deem as lofty career goals, and then driven on by my selfish wanderlust, my dream of living a more "full" life. The little bits of preparation like getting my GRE done and pulling together application material such as recommendation letters has come full circle and I may be able to leave for Chicago soon.

My family has been supportive of my endeavours, but their very same act gnaw away at me. If their kindness gnaws, my fiancee's imminent sacrifice in this next episode of my life tears my conscience to shreds. Maybe Singapore's family campaign ad, Funeral, is getting to me subconsciously.

I am not the world's most decisive man, she will tell you. I will attempt at making life changing decisions only to change my mind again before she can even finish ridiculing me out of mock fun for the last stupid call I made. Her funny and light-hearted takes on our big decisions (which are going to inadvertently affect her with the strongest impact) is the reason my guilt is crystalizing. You see, she cannot work in USA with a spouse visa, not even after I have moved from school to the workplace. She is to remain economically redundant as an individual for several years till we receive a green card. Why have I not thought of all these before? Why the guilt now? Maybe it is fear, I don't know. I knew she was screaming out in silence and yet I pushed on with it till it is this close to D-day.

Today, I am close to another major change of decision and this time, I realized a couple of things. First of all, one should not feel obligated to stick to bad decisions, instead one should strive to avert bad decisions even at the last minute. Our lives can be defined equally by good decisions made as bad decisions pulled. Second, I realized the source and weight of my guilt from finally lifting it - my solution is Australia, a country where she is not restricted for work as a spouse, a country where she can maybe toy with her baking ambitions and come out happier for it.

As the Australian tourism TVC so fittingly puts it, "sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself".

Where is home

Posted: May 12, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

Being unemployed gives you a lot of time to ponder, surf the net, and then ponder some more. I came across a blog discussion by a Singaporean gal, Peishan, back in 2006. See below for the piece or the link here to the original source.
"Where is home?"A worrying trend: More Singaporeans are viewing themselves as 'citizens of the world'. A blog discussion.Mar 23, 2006

Home is where the heart is?By Peishan, a Singaporean in Chicago.March 18th, 2006

Stripping away the lyrics from one of Singapore's many trite National Day songs, "This is home, truly, where I know I must be, where my dreams wait for me, where the river always flows…" Where's home? What's home?
Perhaps, if you've lived in one place all your life, the answer should come easily, instantaneously. Where else, otherwise, could you call home, if you've never experienced something different?
But it's a question that has been put to me rather frequently of late; by my friends, myself, and most importantly, my parents.
To my friends, I tell them blithely, "I'm a citizen of the world"; to myself, I scratch my head and try to banish the question into the depths of my mind; to my parents, well, I make non-committal, guilty noises.
Tonight, I asked my aunt, "Where is home for you?" Her answer was quick, immediate, "Why, right now, it's in DC of course."
"How about in the future? Where would you finally call home?" I pressed on, eager to hear from someone who's lived away from home in various stages of her life.
"Wherever Sam [my uncle] wants to go, [and that'll probably be Melbourne]."
"But won't Gong [Grandpa] be upset that you don't call Singapore home, don't call where he is home?"
Difficult questions, even more difficult answers.
How to tell my parents that Singapore isn't really my home anymore? I mean, yes, they are back there, I grew up there, they took care of me there, but how do you call home a place where you haven't lived in years, and do not intend to live in for the next few years?
How do you call home a place where the only constants are your parents - a place where the landscape is always changing, a place where your friends are moving on, have moved on, and are living their own separate lives?
My aunt's answer was a guilt-free one - home is where her husband is.
My answer on the other hand, is a guilty one. If family is the one thing home is defined by, then of course, home is in Singapore. But it is not. Again I ask, what is it you call home?
Let me let you in on a secret though: Chicago is not home either. Yes, it is where I stay now, where I work, where I lead my life. But how do you call home a place that you do not own, but rent?
(I think the Singapore government got it right when they said that people feel like they belong when they can assign ownership to something concrete…)
How do you call home a room you stacked with furniture you did not lovingly procure, but hastily assembled together from the amongst the cheapest you could find?
To answer the question my mum posited me just now, yes, I can just as easily pack up and leave. Move to another city, another state, another country, stay there, and perhaps be just as happy. "I'm a citizen of the world."
Is it that important to have a home? To feel like we belong to somewhere, to someone, to something? Ah rhetorical question it might be, but it leads me no closer to what I could call home… You?


For me, that answer will always be Singapore even though I am unable to see my immediate future here. I was schooled here, I formed all my lifelong friendships here, all the good and bad moments of my life etched in the memory bank were here, heck I met my love of my life here.

When I returned to Singapore in 2007 after spending about 2 years away in Arizona, the first whiff of Singapore air as I emerged from Changi airport smelt distinctively like home. My good friend came to fetch me and as I sat in the car heading for Jurong via the PIE, the radio station Class 95fm love songs played in the background. I remembered remarking aloud how great it felt to be home, how comforting it was to hear the familiar voices of our Singaporean DJs.

Singapore is to me decidedly home, albeit it housing the system I desperately wish to get away from.


Posted: May 8, 2009 by fievel in

Health Care Policies

Posted: by fievel in Labels: , ,

As my family gathered around the table today for a family bonding steamboat lunch at home to celebrate both mother's day and my dad's birthday, our casual intermittent topics of everything under the sky suddenly took a turn towards the topic of quality of life in Australia (as opposed to Singapore's).

You see, my Malaysian cousin (let's call him MC), who studied in Australia, is here working in Singapore and living with us while he awaits his Australian PR application to go through. He was quizzed on his concurrent application for both Singapore and Australian PRs, his ultimate intention of migration, his reasons, and so on and so forth.

Below's re-enactment is not 100% accurately replicated but the gist of it is there...

Fievel: Hey, are you going to choose Australia or Singapore if you get both the PRs? Btw is it easy for you to get PR here?

MC: It's damn easy to get here! Heard that 3 months I can get already. Australian PR takes qualifying and then about 12 to 18 months to get processed, but I'll probably choose Aus anyway.

Fievel: Why?

MC: Work-life balance is non-existent here. My friends there pretty much close shop at the office by around 4pm, here I don't see the daylight.

Fievel: Yeah, plus I heard you get a lot more for your money on housing, like 5 times bigger in size for housing of comparable distance from downtown, yea?

MC: Ya, but taxes are higher there also lah

Fievel: But I hear you get your medical care nearly all paid for and taken care of, no worries on that...

MC: Yup. The govt takes care of it. Hey, your brother is studying there now, he can apply for PR and sponsor you and your family to move over....

....At this point my dad joined in the conversation and got all excited about the possibility of us living in a country that takes care of his medical expenses if he is Australian and one where he can buy a car for a few grand and swap his HDB for a landed and have change to spare which basically adds up to a pretty decent retirement dreamland...

Now it is not my intention to bore anyone with what transpired during my family's steamboat lunch. Afterwards, I decided to do a bit of googling on health care policies in Australia and Singapore and I was real lucky to find a comprehensive and objective study as linked here.

This report was published in Hongkong in 2006 and it was a research on health care policies in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. As they always seem to be the case, public policies are never easy to slice, dice and analyse, much less criticise; (good rhymes!) BUT I'll like to think that I prefer the Australian version to ours here in Singapore. Below are some excerpts but I plead that you read the full paper as it is not my intention to mislead by selective omission.


...The guiding principles of health care policies in the selected places all ensure that their citizens will not be denied health care services. However, they adopt somewhat different philosophical bases. Both Australia and New Zealand emphasize collective responsibility to ensure individuals’ accessibility to health care services. On the other hand, Singapore emphasizes individual responsibility for accessing health care services and the government is the last resort for those who are unable to pay...

...Both Australians and New Zealanders are eligible for receiving public hospital services free of charge if they do not choose doctors in receiving treatment. Singaporeans bear at least 20% of the cost because the maximum government subsidy for the lowest-class public hospital wards is 80% of the cost. Patients may have to resort to out-of-pocket payments, savings in the Medisave Accounts and approved health insurance plans or a combination of them to cover their share of hospital expenses...

...In Australia and Singapore, patients who choose their preferred doctors can still receive some subsidy from the government. For Australians choosing to be treated as private patients in either public or private hospitals, Medicare pays 75% of the Medicare Benefits Schedule fee for services and procedures provided by the treating doctor. In Singapore, the government subsidizes 20% of the cost of B1-class hospital wards, with B1-class patients being able to choose doctors...

...With respect to private health insurance, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study entitled Private Health Insurance in Australia: A Case Study suggests that the insured benefits from the Australian system as they can choose between private and public hospitals. In addition, they benefit from the timeliness of hospital care offered in private hospitals, in particular elective surgery, as the waiting list for such services in the public sector is long...

I have read other blogs and forums where Singaporeans differ on their views on social welfare systems suitable for Singapore. I just want to say my piece here. The bulk of Singaporeans can be considered as belonging to the middle class, whatever that means. If you are one day (touch-wood) struck with stage 2 cancer, your critical illness private insurance is not going to cover your expenses because it is not stage 3 yet. Do you go to Mount Elizabeth (private) or do you wait in line for your NUH appointment (public)? The medisave and medishield amount to nothing when you have cancer. Using individual saving (medisave) for medical expenses is ridiculous.

Yes I read that we have Medifund - that will provide us with access to medical care if we are truly unable to afford it. That means you have to go from middle-class to flat broke while dragging your family down with you with medical expenses before you get to the handout. In Singapore when a retiree gets cancer, the children (and grand-children) put their house on mortgage to pay the treatment; indeed it does not cost much to the state. In 2002-3, Singapore's govt spent 3.7% of our GDP on health care as opposed to Australia's 9.7% and NZ's 8.7%. It doesn't matter if our taxation is direct or indirect, our GDP lends weight to our public revenue. Why not spend more on our sick and needy fellow citizens? Ask yourself, could your life become a mess all of a sudden when your dad suffers a stroke and requires ongoing nursing care, or your mum gets struck with kidney failure and requires huge sums for dialysis. Would you be more concerned only then?

I guess my point is, I prefer to pay more taxes but know that there is lesser suffering going on in my country. No body nor family has to go through hell just to stay alive. Leave no one behind. Retire in peace. I think it is better that way.

The beginning

Posted: May 7, 2009 by fievel in Labels: ,

Fievel is not my real name. Fievel is the mouse in my childhood's favorite cartoon, An American Tail, a story about a young Russian mouse on his way to America, a land he thinks is without cats. Just thought it to be real smart-ass to play the pun.

I started this blog to document my constant thoughts on leaving Singapore, as well as my possible move to the States by the end of this year.

A bit of background...

My family was from Malaysia but we migrated to Singapore when I was in Primary 3 for three reasons. First was for a better income. Blue-collars earned more in Singapore than in Malaysia 20 years ago as is still the case now. Second reason was my dad didn't want to live as a second class citizen in his own country anymore. Third was for my receiving a better education in Singapore.

I was actually separated from my parents from Primary 1 to 3, as they first moved out here while I stayed behind with my relatives in Malaysia. The day when I finally moved to Singapore was possibly the happiest day in my childhood memories. Saying this really adds a ton of irony to this whole endeavor of leaving at the golden age of 30.

My parents toiled really long hours and we stayed in a one room rental hdb flat - meaning a studio apartment but not to be mistaken with the modern day parquet floored studio apartments, it was a shithole. I was a kid, I was happy nonetheless. I liked to play badminton, and asking for any new gadget such as a badminton racket back then meant I had to achieve something such as scoring As for my exams. This "study hard and you will get what you want" thinking was drilled into me. Eventually, I got into RI, and my "Singapore Cheese" started to curdle.

Fast forward to 2009.

I am 30, I have an Engineering degree from NTU, and after trying really hard to switch into Finance after getting blindsided by the lousy engineering career prospects in Singapore, I had about 2 good years of income as a banker behind me. As a bachelor I was not qualified to purchase HDBs, and I couldn't afford the expensive condominium driven up by our free-for-all open door policy to FTs. Disclaimer - I am not against FT policy, but I think we have a problem when we turn a blind eye to our inflation figures and focus entirely on gross GDP. Going back to the job front, I had a professional disagreement with a newly appointed FT boss (who doesn't even know how to use MS Excel but that's besides the point i guess in measuring one's talent) and hence I had to leave and am currently unemployed. I am getting married with my fiancee this year, and we are staring at the sky high HDB prices whose valuations have mysteriously stayed up despite the recession, and I am thinking, no I am not going to fall into this endless rat race. If I pay the current HDB prices, I will be like going to the next level of the Singapore rat race. It's called the you-can-never-catch-me level.

An aunt of mine commited suicide 2 years ago. Why? Because she had developed a medical condition which might require heavy medical fees which she didn't think her family was capable of affording. Depression took her for a month before she took herself. I wonder why world's best paid politicians have yet to devise the world's best welfare system to take care of the lower income families. My entire family still mourns quietly till today, but I want to rant. Why are there so many foreign students given a better tertiary tuition package (subsidized tuition + monthly allowance) in Singapore? My aunt's kids could have used that money. It would have made their situation a whole lot easier. But alas, it is too late. Oh and don't say the foreign students are better academically, because there will be countless counters Singaporeans can come up with like the usuals; we served NS, we should be run like a country and not like a corporate yadayada. Countless overseas Singaporean students who were earlier rejected by local universities are later approached by our govt to return to Singapore.... WHY?

My Singapore Cheese has gotten so far away from me this time I am thinking of not going after it anymore.