Making Light of Things

August 2009 Archives

The Speed of Spread

Probably an act of misinformation I should have corrected earlier, but the last two weeks of my life was replaced by a flash of green, the smell of musty army equipment and the absence of any decent computing input device.

The Nokia E91 is a window of freedom, but its tiny keypad makes Twitter’s 140 character limit a godsend.

So a couple of weeks ago I blogged about the premature demise of my favourite teacher in all the world, only to receive an email from same said teacher, a Facebook invitation to connect and a comment to the blog entry.

He is alive and well.

My initial reaction wasn’t to panic that I had perpetuated “news” of his passing on to what could be a sizable number of people. It was one of relief.

Then my inner geek took over and I began analysing how misinformation is spread. My initial source of information was credible: a personal friend and a student at the same school, many years my junior. But names are tricky, and it was another Mr. Ng who suffered an untimely demise.

This probably won’t be the last time I blog, tweet, facebook or transmit misinformation, especially emotive pieces that spur one’s instinct to react. But if anything, it is a personal case study on the importance of triangulating information versus the trigger-happy gen-y tendency to broadcast.

My National Day Rally Soliloquy

I am thankful for the journey that Singapore has taken the past 44 years and will admit —as many would be quick to point out — that there are imperfections that lie therein. I am not saying that we ought to bury past transgressions, but we need to be conscious that the pursuit is not out of a sense of spite, and that it does not cost us our present or our future.

It is the future, that of our children’s, that I look forward expectantly, nurturing a small flame of hope in the winds of growing cynicism. The words of the anthem should resonate, that we move onward as a united people and forge our collective destinies with our own hands.

I believe that Singapore should be more than a place that holds the memories of our childhood — that could have easily been Montana or Nairobi. Singapore should be more than brick and mortar, and her pulse should be more than the rise and ebb of the stock market. She should be the manifestation of our ideals, the stuff of dreams.

A community that does not judge one by colour, language, religion or rank in society. A place that affords a measure of success to whomever has the talent, determination and will to pursue it, yet shows compassion to those upon whom misfortune has befallen. A country that stands up for what is right over what is convenient. A people of more action, and less words; more joy and less murmuring; more sharing and less hoarding.

That is my hope for you. I will do my best to work towards this future.

Onward, Singapore.


I’ve been creating the website for Teachers’ Day for the last few years. It’s a site to celebrate Teachers’ Day in Singapore, which falls on the 1st of September. We’d normally invite the public to write short notes to the teachers who have touched their lives in one way or another.

As part of system testing, I’d always write to Mr. Ng, who taught me English Literature in secondary school. I’ve not been able to find Mr. Ng, not on Google or Facebook, not on MOE’s internal staff directory. I hoped that he’d eventually read my short messages and get back to me.

Because he was a really special teacher to me.

When all other teachers were exasperated beyond belief at my disinclination (to put it mildly) towards the doing of assigned homework, Mr. Ng took time to converse with me, person to person. I loved literature, but always found writing down answers on a piece of paper the most inefficient way to expand the mind. It was during my many conversations with Mr. Ng that I found a fellow journeyman who hadn’t lost the awe and wonder that came with reading wonderfully written lines. We spoke about Shakespeare and about life; and he never did ask me to hand in his homework.

It is an intimate relationship when you know someone by the pieces of text they hold dearest in their hearts. Mr. Ng’s favourite poem was “Convergence of the twain” by Thomas Hardy. Its cadence and the build up towards the impending collision between the Titanic and the iceberg appealed to him, he said.

It strikes me deeply that I’ll never have the chance to tell him how wonderful he was to me.

This year, like the other years, I built the Teachers’ Day website and launched my first dedication message via Twitter. I received an email hours later from a friend, who also happened to be many years my junior in secondary school, asking whether or not I had known that Mr. Ng had passed on a few years back.

The finality of it all sunk in. I was at a wedding dinner when I read the email, and everything went about in a blur. The one thought that kept coming back was: “I missed it.” I should have said thanks earlier. I should have spent more time with the people that matter. I shouldn’t have procrastinated.

Like the poem, we all see this coming, for all our relationships. It’s what you do between the first line and the last line that matters.

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