Wednesday, 26 July 2017

SingPass 2FA does 'eff all'

I arrived in Singapore on 4th July. This was published on 7th of July 2017:

Have a new system for public? Test it rigorously first

All my attempts to apply for a SingPass two-factor authentication (2FA) have disappeared into a black hole.

Late last year, I was instructed to obtain a 2FA to make government transactions more secure.

But none of the options on the relevant website applied to me, as I live overseas.

After several e-mails and submitting scans of various documents, my application ground to a halt. I could not proceed with the registration online.

I called the helpline, whereupon a robotic voice took me from one option to another and landed me back at square one.

When I finally spoke to a human officer, I discovered that Assurity, the private company charged with dishing out 2FAs, has no records of my London address to which a token is supposed to be sent, and it insisted that it could not send one to my Singapore address.

I had to go down in person, I was told, and at least this helped resolve the matter.

If I did not happen to be back in Singapore, I would forever be locked out of the Singapore system. I could not even renew my passport.

This is not a complaint about personal inefficiency or individual unpleasantness.

It is a reminder that if the authorities wish to attempt such an onerous exercise, then the system should first be piloted with a group of disparate potential users.

Why allow only users of Singapore-registered mobile phones?

Call in some user-experience experts, test every scenario, and note that Singaporeans living overseas are as varied as they can get.

If the authorities cannot exhaust the ways of dealing with anomalies, then at least have an option within the protocol to deal with such matters satisfactorily.

===

The original:




BLACK HOLES DO EXIST
All my attempts to apply for my SingPass 2FA have disappeared into a black hole.

Late last year I was instructed to obtain a ‘2FA’ to make government transactions more secure.

I get that. My banks require two- or even three-part verification.

But boy! Do they make it difficult for Singaporeans who reside overseas!

None of the options on the relevant website applies to me.

After several emails, and having submitted scans of various documents, my application ground to a halt.

As I am in Singapore, I queued up at a CPF office to resolve this matter.

I could not proceed with the registration online as the (not so) civil servant said I could.

I called the helpline whereupon a robotic voice took me round and around the different options and landed me back at square one.

When I finally spoke to a human being (Daniel) I discovered that Assurity, the private company charged with dishing out 2FAs, have no records of my London address to which a token is supposed to be sent.

First they refused to register my overseas address. Now they insist that they cannot send it to my Singapore address.

Or I must attend one of two addresses in Singapore, which defeats the purpose of going online, surely.

If I did not happen to be back in Singapore, I will forever be locked out of the Singapore system. I can’t even renew my passport.

Am I now a lesser-spotted Singaporean?

This is not a complaint about personal inefficiency or individual unpleasantness. It is a reminder that if you wish to attempt such an onerous exercise, then pilot-test the system with a group of disparate potential users.

Mapping processes on a flowchart is inadequate. Reality does not always fit in with your limited categories. Why only allow Singapore-registered mobile phones?

Call in some user experience experts. Test every scenario. Note that Singaporeans living overseas are as varied as you can get.

If you cannot exhaust the ways of dealing with anomalies, then at least have an option within your protocol to deal with such, satisfactorily.

Incidentally, why ‘2FA’? Have you not heard the term ‘eff (sounds like ‘fook’) all’?

For me, ‘2FA’ = ‘total eff all’. So far.

Homeless in Singapore

This was published in Straits Times Forum (Web) Letters on 15th July 2017:

Difficult for returning S'porean to get HDB flat

When I decided to come home to Singapore after 26 years abroad, I began my search for long-term accommodation for my husband and me.

Years ago, when I tried to apply for a HDB flat, I was made to understand by a HDB officer that I did not qualify because there was no record of my marriage to my husband (who is a non-citizen) in Singapore. Hence, we put off trying to buy an HDB flat.

Friends suggested that if HDB deems me a single, I should buy a resale flat as a single.

But, the HDB now says I am definitely "married".

While it does allow joint applications with a non-citizen spouse, it is only for a two-room flat.

However, I am told that my husband has to sell his overseas property.

But if we do that, where is our teenage son, who could not come back to Singapore because he was not granted citizenship, going to live?

The only possible solution seems to be to divorce my husband - that is, to regain my single status - just so that I can buy a resale flat, after which I can settle to find work here.

With so many foreigners in Singapore, I am sure I am not the only one in this predicament.

===

The original:

Divorce (verb) to return to Singapore

After more than two infuriating hours at the HDB Hub I came to the conclusion that the only way for this reluctant migrant to return to Singapore permanently (after 26 years abroad) is to divorce her husband.

I cannot afford to work in Singapore until I get a home. Thus I began my search for long-term accommodation for my husband and me.

Years ago an HDB officer told my sister that I could not apply for an HDB flat with my husband because there is no record of my marriage in Singapore.

As such we put off trying to buy an HDB flat.

Friends suggested that if HDB deems me a single, I should buy a resale flat as a single.

HDB now says I am definitely “married”.

HDB does allow joint applications with a non-citizen spouse, which seems a very enlightened step, but only for a two-roomed flat.

However it reverts to the Dark Ages by requiring my husband to sell his overseas property.

Where is our teenage son going to live if we are forced to sell this, his only home?

Our son is not coming with us because he has not been given citizenship. (I am an inferior woman Singaporean married to a foreign man.)

The only possible solution seems to be to divorce my husband (ie regain my single status) just so that I can buy a resale flat, after which I can settle to find work.

With hindsight I did not have to declare my married status, nor that my husband owns an overseas property. But we are honest Christians who don’t know how to lie.

Perhaps it is far easier for me to get a divorce from Singapore.



Sunday, 2 July 2017

Ethnic enclaves in Britain

Another  letter was published in Straits Times on 8th of June:

The original under-400-word letter reads:

===
My thesis supervisor asked, “Do you think multiculturalism is a good thing?” His tone of voice suggested that he did not approve, which is most unusual for a British academic.

My answer: Multiculturalism is great. Public services can be run on religious holidays as we take turns to go on leave.

What is there not to like?

However British children do not start the school day by pledging unity with fellow citizens ‘regardless of race, language or religion’.

Previously school assemblies were required to be ‘Christian’ in perspective, providing some semblance of cultural glue. These days, liberals, humanists, agnostics, atheists, etc have ensured that religion, and especially the Christian religion, is kept out of the classroom.

An elderly friend was furious on learning that her grandchildren were being taught – at school – that divorce is ‘normal’. (What, I wonder, would she think of same-sex relationships being taught.)

Previously most immigrants chose to integrate. We hear accounts of people changing their surnames (hiding their German/Jewish/Polish/etc roots), adopting Anglicized names (my son says I should call myself ‘Susan’) and adopting western dress, even to the point of cutting their hair and removing their turban, just so to find work.

Even Muslim immigrants adapted, becoming vegetarians as there was no halal food. They worked hard and learned the English language. They needed to feed their families.

Multiculturalism became more prevalent in the late 1990s. Two things happened.

‘White flight’ is the phenomenon of locals (of whatever colour) ‘fleeing’ to other areas to avoid being swamped by people of a ‘wrong’ ethnicity.

The vacuum was filled by new migrants, leading to monocultural ethnic and linguistic enclaves.

Women in particular did not learn to speak/read English and instead became dependent on husbands and so-called community leaders in matters of marriage and politics, including their right to vote (by post).

If children did not have a chance to interact with families outside of their own ethnic group in monocultural schools, how are they to learn ‘British ways’?

If university students are unable to use a knife and fork, how are they going to land (well-paid) jobs requiring fine-dining with clients?

Some insist on wearing Islamic robes to interviews, and then claim racism for their continuing unemployment.

Frustration, boredom, drug addiction, criminal behaviour, and then it’s only one small step to being radicalized by someone who promises an alternative to such purposelessness
.

===
Spot the difference. This is the published version:

===
It is not hard to see how someone could be radicalised.

In the past, immigrants to Britain chose to integrate.

We heard accounts of people changing their surnames to hide their German, Jewish or Polish roots, and adopting Anglicised names and western dress.

Some removed their turbans and cut their hair so as to find work. Muslim immigrants became vegetarian, as there was no halal food.

They learnt English and worked hard to feed their families.

When multiculturalism became more prevalent in the late 1990s, two things happened.

Residents in some areas moved en masse to other neighbourhoods to avoid being swamped by people of a "wrong" ethnicity.

This led to a vacuum, which was filled by new immigrants, resulting in monocultural ethnic and linguistic enclaves.

Women, in particular, did not learn to speak or read English, and instead became dependent on their husbands and community leaders in matters of marriage and politics, including their right to vote (by post).

Children did not have a chance to interact with families outside of their ethnic group because the schools were monocultural.

How, then, are they to learn "British ways"?

The isolation brought about by living in ethnic enclaves could provide fertile ground for radicalisation.

===


Saturday, 27 May 2017

Benefits of non-integration

Meanwhile in Australia, some psychiatrist noted that Muslims do not integrate well.

Questions have been asked why is it that previous migrants to the UK had integrated so well, whereas the more recent ones seem to have an issue.

I think welfare benefits have a lot to do with this.

I have heard many immigrants who arrived before the 1990s who, because they were not entitled to any benefits, had to work and indeed worked very hard.

They learned the language, took on any work, bought homes and integrated, because they were here to stay. Some changed their names. Most changed the way they dressed, just so to fit in.

Such changes were insignificant sacrifices in return for free education, free healthcare, and if they continued to contribute to National Insurance (NI), these migrants will have a comfortable retirement drawing a perpetual pension which today is just under £160 a week (£159.55  to be precise, or about SGD282).

All this changed some time ago -- I cannot be sure when -- which allows new migrants to draw the same benefits despite not having paid any NI. Yes. You get something for nothing.

Without the need to strive for a living, it was so easy to just sit back, get lazy and get very bored.

There is no incentive to integrate. The more a claimant is unable to function in the UK, the more resources are being thrown at them, such as interpretation services when they go to the hospital.

When the news first emerged, I guessed that the taxpayer must have been funding the lifestyle of this young man. How else was he able to fly here and fly there at will when he was unemployed?

I will not be surprised if his parents continue to draw benefits despite not living in this country. All you need is someone at your address to return documents to the necessary government departments and LIE that you are still resident in the country.

We cannot be sure if this is the case.

However it has emerged that this jihadist could have been funded by a student loan despite not being a student any more.

Why did his university not alert the student loan company?

Two hypotheses:

#1 British universities are renowned for hating to have to 'police' the immigration status of students. They are actually required by law to submit details about whether students registered for courses actually do attend classes in order to eliminate bogus students. They don't, because they are not the 'border police'.

#2 The university funding is dependent on numbers. If they report a dropout, the university loses the money. The administration might have delayed reporting this until the money is given to the university and they can take their time to return it. Meanwhile the student loan company (a separate entity) will assume that the loan is legitimate and hands out the money. Nobody cares whether the money will be returned as the rules are if they fail to pay within a certain period, the loan is written off. It might be that dropouts would have to repay much earlier. I cannot be sure. Again, it is not the university's problem.

All in, my tax is being used to fund these jihadists in Britain and there is nothing I can do about it.


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Manchester Terror

Another day, another city.

Another former cannabis user.

Another previously purposeless life, now snuffed out, but not before taking more than 20 others with him. Members of the perpetrator's family have been arrested.

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24) 
My prayers for you, Manchester, a city of great significance in my life.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Who would braid my hair?

My latest letter published in Straits Times (11th April 2017). My original submission here, with the three most important paragraphs (in red) edited out:

I was not surprised at all by the headline 12-year-olds in Singapore spend 6½ hours daily on electronic devices. We have all seen families at restaurants, each engrossed in their own device.

Meanwhile a British newspaper reports that “desperate British parents are spending £70,000 a time” on daughters who had “become hopelessly hooked” on “sexting” (sending naked photographs of themselves using their mobile phones and the internet, see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4371936/Parents-pay-70k-send-teens-course-stop-sexting.html).

The trend that disturbs me most is that of a baby/toddler in a high chair with a tablet stuck in front of it.
The carers/parents get peace and quiet, but the children will not eat, or will only allow themselves to be fed if the feeder ensures that their line of vision (to the device) is not obstructed at any time.

How in the world can a real-life carer/parent compete with the all-singing, all-dancing graphics on that digital device?

It troubles me immensely that:
(1)  family time out at a restaurant does not encourage family – particularly husband and wife – to communicate face-to-face;
(2)  the joy of eating is not celebrated which could lead to an abnormal [requested change to "unhealthy"] relationship with food in the future (obesity/anorexia);
(3)  little children become addicted to flickering images on a tiny screen at a time when their brains should and could be encouraged to ‘wire-up’ in the areas of problem-solving, communication, self-control and relationship building.
I write as a parent who refused to let her child watch children’s TV for the first two years of his life.

In some parts of the world, hair is braided intricately by elders. This is a bonding activity. More importantly, as children relax and form a captive audience, sometimes for hours, elders impart the cultural values of that society.

I recall the hours my mum spent getting my hair ready at primary school, and the life’s values she shared during those times.

Now that this task is usually delegated to a home helper, eating out is an alternative to hair-braiding.

Is it wise to let such inanimate electronic devices rob our family of such precious times together?
===

The published version here:

I was not surprised at all to read that 12-year-olds in Singapore spend 6½ hours daily on electronic devices (Glued to screen for 6½ hours; April 2).

We have all seen families at restaurants, each member engrossed in his or her own device.

Meanwhile, a British newspaper reports that desperate British parents are spending £70,000 (S$121,600) a time on therapy for daughters who have "become hopelessly hooked on sending naked photographs of themselves using their mobile phones and the Internet".

What disturbs me most is how often I see a baby or toddler in a high chair gazing into a tablet.

How in the world can a real-life carer or parent compete with the all-singing, all-dancing graphics on that digital device?

It troubles me immensely that:

•Family time at a restaurant does not encourage the family - particularly husband and wife - to communicate face to face.

•The joy of eating is not celebrated, which could lead to an unhealthy relationship with food in the future, such as obesity or anorexia.

•Little children become addicted to flickering images on a tiny screen at a time when their brains should or could be encouraged to be "wired up" in the areas of communication, problem-solving, self-control and relationship building.

I write as a parent who refused to let her child watch children's TV for the first two years of his life.

Is it wise to let such inanimate electronic devices rob our families of such precious times together?