Sunday, August 16, 2015

Saturday, May 28, 2011


With all the joys of NCC, army couldn’t be that much worse – just more the same vulgarities, pushups and nonsense which I was all too used to. All I needed to do was work hard, have fun and (hopefully) get in OCS. Or so as I thought.

Physically, BMT wasn’t very demanding for me because I prepared ahead. All the PT, SOC and outfield wasn’t exactly tough. It was only the food and sleep deprivation that was a constant pain – partly because the cookhouse usually doesn’t serve enough and the training programme is packed back to back. I remember losing like 10kg in muscle and then putting on about 7kg in fat. I wonder how the propaganda video can even declare the food good?

However, I made quite some mistakes here which I shouldn’t have done.

Sticking out too early. Unlike NCC, where the nail which sticks out gets pulled higher, here the nail which sticks out gets hammered down.

The second was about safety. SAF is very safety conscious because they are awfully scared of people dropping dead or being killed in accidents, and perhaps overly so. And I discovered that a lot of things that I do are actually quite dangerous, apparently. Stuff like doing chin-ups without putting down the black sling bag that I was carrying.

But then and again, I really love some things like the community spirit in BMT. Yes, there may be some politics here and there, but by and large everyone more or less cooperates with each other.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Clock tower banner project: After Action Review

Levin's description of the project explains what we did.

While it might have sounded so awesome with the circuits and complex mechanism and all, this project failure exposed some serious deficiencies in how we operated (particularly me, because I could see #1 & #2 and failed to correct them):

1. Overconfidence in designs and paper planning, which led to no test run on location – and so we missed the ledge. It’s only common sense to test something in the environment that it’s meant to be used in, but our 2 brains (who I won’t identify) over-relied on brainpower and didn’t do a test run. My failure in this was failing to convince them: since I had joined late, I didn't have much sway over them, and so it went.

2. Lousy recces and measurements led to incorrect information about the clock tower, particularly the length of the ledge protrusions. The best would be to have a physical measurement (a plumb line would be enough), then an architectural blueprint, with pixel measuring (which our 2 brains relied solely on) only as a last resort. Pixel measurement isn't very accurate; there's too much uncertainties involved in it.

3. Overly complex triggering mechanism – A much simpler electromagnetic circuit (which would be familiar to any P6 kid) would have done the job, as shown in the diagram below. My failure was in thinking of it only after the project failed.

I do hope these deficiencies will be ironed out.....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sri Lanka - 4 months later

Sri Lanka & the LTTE – 4 months after

4 months after Sri Lanka’s proclamation of the LTTE’s defeat & the death of Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the Sri Lankan government seems to be shooting itself in the foot.

Trying to detain all LTTE cadres is pointless. As with any army, the lower level cadres/troops just follow orders, its the leaders that are responsible. In any event, the LTTE is so ingrained in the population that they might as well arrest large chunks of the population – which seems quite close to what's going on in the refugee camps.

The military doesn't seem to be held accountable - international observers are prevented from inspecting. Food, water, sanitation are lacking, and many disappearances - some allegedly at the hands of soldiers - are being reported.

Detaining journalists under wartime anti-terror regulations for writing “untrue” articles about the camps is stupid. Whether the claims are true or not, by arresting them the government has lost its credibility in the court of public opinion. While I do support censoring of information that might be militarily useful to enemies, there isn't any enemies left - hostilities are over. Why are these laws not repealed?

Of course, there is President Rajapaksa’s visit to Myanmar, but that easily opens another can of worms with regards to the international scene.

It's quite simple: Piss the Tamils off enough, and this victory might just turn into another ceasefire.......

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Xinjiang unrest

Last year, Tibetan uprisings in Lhasa. Now, Uighur riots in Xinjiang. Quite obviously, pretending that racial tension doesn't exist isn't working.

The reasons why the Tibetans & Uighurs are angry are obvious: mass migration of Han into ethnic areas & them reaping bulk of benefits from economic development, suppression of culture & religious worship, Han control of political power, massive military presence & discrimination by the majority Han.

Unfortunately, by covering up the resentment and not addressing its root causes in the name of short term stability, the Chinese authorities are simply accumulating more long term hatred.

What the Chinese government should do is quite clear:

1. Get rid of the above root causes fueling Uighur dissatisfaction. When it concerns benefits and local political power, at least give the Uighurs an equal share of it.

2. Allow minorities more political posts with real power, not just symbolic NPC seats.

3. Increase Han understanding and acceptance of Uighur and Tibetan culture and practices. This can be easily done through national campaigns and patriotic education, both which China has much success with.

The future looks grim if we look at the former Soviet Union, which had similar but more brutal policies; these caused the many ethnic conflicts that sprung up right after the Soviet breakup. If the Chinese authorities continue on like this, Tibet and Xinjiang could one day become China's Chechnyas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Iranian post election blues

The world watches as the election saga drags on in Iran.

If anything, it destroys whatever moral authority that the authorities might claim to have and makes it look something like the Myanmar junta. The authorities could have at least saved their credibility by recounting the votes, but their refusal to recount destroys most of their credibility.

But even then, it is difficult to say who would win even if this was truly an absolutely fair contest. The reformers have the support of the more liberal urbanites, while Ahmadinejad and the conservatives have the backing of the more conservative rural people.

Now the question is, what is Iran going to end up in? There have been 3 possible outcomes for this kind of revolution in the last 50 years:

- Military coup, like what happened in 1979
- A long standing urbanite vs rural tension like what is going on in Thailand
- The regime becomes a Stalinist kind of state.

Neither is going to happen anytime soon, but given another 10-20 years this could well happen.

The presence of a nuclear program, tension with Israel and the US only adds to the complications. The prospect for military conflict looms in the background. Who knows, the regime might even try playing brinkmanship to distract the populace from the political troubles.

How then? Nobody knows for sure. Naturally the international community hopes that someone with better priorities (economy > nukes) comes up, but from the looks of it not anytime soon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Iranian elections

Now we have Mir Hossan Mousavi, said to be a reformist, vs Ahmadinejad, a ideologist. There are another 2, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezhaei, the ex IRGC chief, but these seem to be minor players.

From a Western and perhaps international standpoint, hopefully Mousavi or Karroubi wins and the ideologist rhetoric, belligerent stand and nuclear weaponeering will be reduced, and the economy will improve. As for China and Russia, its not immediately clear who they would support.

The problem is, nobody knows who is going to be elected, especially if the 2 major contenders, Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, have different power bases. Also, Mousavi and Karroubi don't exactly love the West either, as seen by their track record while in power.

The question of corruption also hangs over the election. With corruption being quite rampant in Iran, its not unlikely that someone's going to try to rig the election too.

Let's also not forget that the supreme leader, Al Khamanei isn't elected and isn't answerable to anyone.

So far, the international community has been shooting itself in the foot by using sanctions which affect everyone and not just the regime. This, in addition with historical hatred going back to colonisation and the Shah, means that Iranian attitudes towards the West may well be hostile.

Will international hopes then be justified that Iran's belligerent stance is going to decrease? Hard to say.