Monday, October 31, 2005


Being a scholar means you have to learn to quote other people's works, and to quote as many as you can. For many people, it is a representation of how widely-read you are. For others, it is the sheer caution of not wanting to plagiarise other peoples' work.

Occasionally I get sick of citing others. So this time, I let Einstein have the honours.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

David Seamands

Another sad piece of news of high-flying pastors caught in the sexual trap.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Making a Living

How do we make a living?

The word 'living' in modern usage has been used as a noun. A man needs to make a living, meant that he needs to earn his bread and butter. All he does in life is to achieve the purpose of making ends meet. Sounds pathetic if all we do is to make a living this way. For what?

Rom. 14:9 ¶ For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

In the verse above, and many other verses in the New Testament the word 'living' is used as a verb.


Strike's Over. Back to School

The Teachers have voted. It is 77% yes to accept the mediator's proposal, and that means school resumes on Oct 24th, 2005 for many children and teachers.

As I thought about the past 2 weeks, I have mixed feelings about it all. Firstly, I am surprised by the power of the workers union who can single-handedly bring down basic services in the city. The 38000 teachers from the BCTF were supported by CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) which boasted 470, 000 people. Friday saw a bigger impact when CUPE went into action. All mainland Vancouver libraries were shut. Public facilities like swimming pools, Universities and other public services like transportation. Some questions I asked:

#1 - Was it about Money?
Initially I thought it was. Now I think it is more than money. For the duration of the 2 week strike, the provincial government need not pay the teachers at all, resulting in a savings of CAD160 million dollars. The resultant minor salary adjustment was considered too small to make any impact in terms of bottom line. For the teachers, they lost half months of salary but gained a small victory in standing up for their principles. For the government, it was a $160 million savings and not budging much from their initial positions. In a nutshell, the teachers have helped to refinance their own stikes. No strike pay (courts banned the $50 per strike-day pay), losing half month of salary and on top of it, their union getting fined CAD500,000. that is a big financial sacrifice on the part of the teachers. WINNER: Government.

#2 - Was it about the kids?
Partially. If it was for the kids, provisions should have been made specifically to help needy parents and children to do so, though it might have reduced the impact of the strike itself. WINNER: Nobody.

#3 - So What was it all about?
Basically the rights. The right to be heard. The right not to be overrun by unjust policies. The right to strike. Nothing seemed more important than the right to their perceived way of living. That is the culture in British Columbia. WINNER: Nobody
The picture is the perception of the government infringing on the rights of the teachers.

#4 - What are the Lessons Learnt?
I think human relationships are ultimately the key to resolving anything. The mediator, Mr Vince Ready, reputed to have successfully ended 7000 disputes, including this recent Teachers' Strike), put up a simple 7-page proposal to both the government and the Teachers Federation. Based on this proposal, both parties agreed to move on to engage one another at a future time. Meanwhile work needed to be done. Three observations I can make:

- We need to recognize that it is easy to take radical positions when tempers and emotions are high. We need people who are willing to put aside their own biasness, and take a neutral stance in order to bring different parties together. Positions of compromise may eventually be the result that nobody is truly satisfied. But that is the fact of an imperfect world, an imperfect society. We need to have more emphasis on Reconciliation.

- Never be too quick to move into the last resort. It will leave one no way out. When the stakes are upped, it will make negotiations more confrontational and difficult to back down without a loss of face.

- A price has to be paid, and the teachers have paid a heavy price. When we fight for certain principles, we need to be prepared to do so. That is the difference between a pragmatic mindset versus an idealistic mindset. The former will do the sums and make decisions based on bread-and-butter. If the sums are not right, principles can wait. What happens when some event or some party forces us or our organization to 'deny our beliefs' or starve? Do we do our sums and avoid punishment?

In any confrontation, there are no winners. In any

As Christians, we can learn from the 3 observations. We are called to be bridges to strengthening relationships. Jesus prayed that we may be one. We need to develop skills of mediation among fellow believers, and then to fellow human beings. Secondly, We need to be flexible, and not to place ourselves on the throne so easily. We are imperfect and must be prepared to concede our weaknesses. Giving in a little is better than surrendering our entire inventory. Showing a little flexibility always takes some heat off from an explosive situation. The crux comes when our basic beliefs are threatened. In situations like these, we need to exercise wisdom like Jesus, when he was constantly tempted and tested by the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The law is one thing. the spirit of the law is another. It is ultimately the attitude of the heart and the relationships that determines the courses of actions.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Teachers Stike vs Law of Courts

It is already more than a week since my kids were school-less. The teachers are still on strike. Last Thursday, the courts ordered the teachers to end their strike and to go back to work. Instead of a widely expected heavy financial penalty, the courts decided to freeze the Teachers' Union financial assets. Widely viewed as an innovative way to uphold the law, I sense that the BC Supreme Court Justice Brenda Brown, has creatively carved a way out for both sides to negotiate. On the one hand, for the teachers to escape heavy fines and go back to work. On the other hand, for the government to make good its promise to negotiate, only when the teachers are not breaking any laws.
Things Turning For the Worse
Today, 17 Oct at 11AM, there was a mass labour union rally from the powerful Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) which boast a membership of 470,000. Many union members walked off their jobs to join in the protest and to support the teachers. If this carry on, there is a strong possibility that the economy will grind to a halt, at least in British Columbia.

For me, it is one thing to support the teachers. It is yet another to disobey the law, even more so when a way out has been made last Thursday through the Court's decision. I must say that the government's argument of "who gives one the right to decide which law to follow and which not to follow?", hold water. Much as I would like to support the Teachers cause, I am increasingly uncomfortable with their blatant disregard even for the law. They should not break the law just because they say the government has previously 'broken the law'. If one condemns a sin, yet himself/herself committing the same sin, what difference does it make?

Cool Heads Negotiate Better
Pray that the teachers union leaders will take a step back and move away from their emotional grievances. With cool heads, have a meeting among themselves on how to temporary disengage themselves from breaking the law and go back to the classroom. Make it clear that they have not backed down on their insistence on negotiation. By doing that, they will be winning a moral victory in the hearts of many. If however they continue to picket and show inflexibility, not only will they lose moral authority, they would have lost their credibilities as teachers in the first place. The law no matter how much one dislikes (barring extreme poverty or Nazi like persecution or other like grievances), it ought to be obeyed.

Teachers come back, many children (my kids included) misses you.


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

BC Teachers on Strike!

Strikes are unheard of in Singapore. Here in Canada, it is a normal way of life. Unions rear their fist frequently when they felt unjust, despite employers' explanation for their actions. The recent Teachers strike has led to something closer to home: Our children not being able to go to school. The two main issues on the table was over salaries and classroom sizes. Judging from the way the strike campaign has been fought, there is a feeling that the children were used by some people as a means to their ends. What remained true is that there has been cost-cutting throughout the province, by cutting the number of teachers (including not replacing any attrition) as well as classroom resources. Over 2500 positions had been cut since 2003 and more will leave if the situation does not improve. Teachers have tried to minimize costs, some even contributed their own money to make up for any shortfall. Recently, my daughter went for an educational camping trip. We were initially not keen to let her go as it was rather expensive for a 3 day weekend. Her teacher contributed half the amount in order to ensure that she is able to go. That is teacher commitment in action.

On the other side, the provincial government managing British Columbia said that 52% of the entire budget was allocated to salaries and compensation alone according to a Sep 14th 2005 financial update. So any increase in the teachers salary will have a major impact on the budget, and that is not even considering other public sector employees asking for adjustments as well. Afterall, the current government has imposed a 0% increase for the entire public sector so far.

Even more complicated is that the law courts has declared that the strike is illegal. The teachers federation having upped the ante are still insisting that their actions are legitimate. To me, the kids will be confused even more. Are the teachers leading by example, that becoming an adult is to defy the government? Teachers and government are the good guys and bad guys respectively? Kids should belong where they are. Learning and not be involved in bipartisan politics. Children should be trained to make good decisions not based on political or social agendas but on values. Can the Church help????

Public support has been strongly in favour of the teachers. Before anyone of us point a finger at the teachers actions, it is good to consider their rationale. By nature and culture, teachers are not militant. There must be something that has been done to them that they felt urged to obey their instincts and to take action about it. Rather than venting their frustration inside the classroom and on the children, they would rather vent it at the governing bodies. That is in some ways quite a good way to manage one's emotions. In contrast, if a teacher suppresses his/her own true feelings on a prolonged scale, it can create unexpected results that rub off our children.
There are legitimate concerns on both sides, and it becomes very complicated to resolve. One teacher puts it very well in terms of compromise. She said that she is willing to compromise on no salary increment as long as classroom environment are improved. Could this happen in Singapore? Very unlikely. However, if Singapore has a corrupt government, the society will be in trouble as the laws are very much against social action like civil disobedience. May the Lord have mercy that Singapore continue to have good leaders in government.

Put it this way. I would rather my kids enjoy school, learning from motivated teachers than having them to spend time with a disgruntled teacher who merely work for the sake of work. My kids summarised it very well. "I prefer that the teachers in Singapore go on strike because I do not like to go to school there. Here in Canada, I hope the teachers end their strike soon as I want to go back to school!". If a strike is needed in order for teachers to be rightfully motivated (ie for good reasons) and really take good care of my kids, I support the teachers.

Some web links:
- British Columbia Teachers Federation (
- British Columbia Public School Employers Association (
- British Columbia Federation of Labor (


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sharing Large Files Online

The rain is back. The cold is back. Winter is falling in slowly and surely. As most of us will be indoors, one of the most popular indoor activities in computing, Internet and of course online activities.

Here are some good resources for those who find a hassle to email large files, especially when email systems limit attachment sizes and mailbox sizes. Some executable files are even banned from file attachments. The following are some I have found and suggest them according to the file size limit. What they do is to allow uploading of the BIG file to a file server, followed by a short email link. The recipient can then download (mostly within 7 days) the BIG file at leisure. Check them out.

1) (up to 1.5GB)
2) (up to 1GB)
3) (up to 250MB)
4) (up to 100MB)
5) (up to 50MB)


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