Is Apple Store (education) cheaper than the NUS Notebook Ownership Scheme price?

Apple prices are controlled so price comparisons are pretty easy. Several years ago, the NUS Notebook Ownership Scheme for Apple Laptops used to be about $300 cheaper than Apple Store. But that was several years ago.

Now, the Apple Store Educational price appears to trump the NUS price. A quick check today revealed this:

Apple Store price = S$1888.15
i.e. Mac Book Pro = S$1,816 (w/free delivery)
+ iWork (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) via App Store = S$72.15
NUS Notebook Ownership Scheme’s = S$2,046.92
+ iWork = S$44.95
Includes carrier bag, but cannot resell.

The $158.77 difference is significant ($185.97 without iWork) – it is more than half the in-store cost of an additional 4GB RAM at $252; which would be a very useful addition for Lion!

So when did Apple Store become cheaper than the notebook tender price? Am I missing something here?

I’d like to know, since I am still a mac evangelist of sorts. After a few meetings this week, I will say that working with other mac users generally involves less brute force!

Update – Thanks to Laurence Gwee for pointing out my original comparison was with the 2010 tender! Then we realised no more Office bundle and did the recalculations.

Would you buy an NUS student license for MS Office 2011 (~$100)?

If you did, you could decide against buying iWork and simply use Powerpoint, Word and Excel. Probably the choice of new converts to the mac.

Personally I prefer iWork’s Keynote and Pages for presentations and writing. I usually use Google Docs for simple spreadsheets and also for collaborative writing.

If the document requires heavy formatting, or the pc-users are not Google-alert, then having MS Word capability is useful.

I never did take to iWork’s Numbers, and for aggressive number crunching, I find MS Excel easily the best tool – and on a pc too!

So it depends on how you work. If you collaborate with many people over many situations, you’d need both Office and iWork. Mostly a solo worker, iWork would be fine. For hard data analysis, I’d settle for Excel and explore Virtual PC apps to get it to work faster!

Olivia Ong’s captivating rendition of “Majulah Singapura” from 2004

In 2004, an elegant eighteen-year old Olivia Ong sang our (Singapore’s) national anthem at the 2006 Fifa World Cup Asian qualifying rounds in Saitama Stadium. (Qualifying matches take place long before the actual world cup, hence the difference in dates. )

She had been in Japan since she was 15 and is a real tough cookie. Now 25, she has released at least four albums and I have at least two of those.

Well Ivan Chew and I only found out about her two years later through that now famous clip in which she sang and captured the hearts of many. We blogged about it enthusiastically but some time after, the youtube clip went MIA. A subsequent post I made in 2008 provided a new youtube video link but that too went dead.

I see people searching for Olivia’s rendition of “Majulah Singapura”, which typically happens close to National Day. There are now many copies out there including one I have filed away for safekeeping.

For this post, I present the first copy on YouTube that I found. Here you are folks, in preparation for National Day on 9th August 2011, our national anthem by Olivia Ong:

A long love affair with dinosaurs – now, let’s get some of our own!

Are you excited?

When the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research launched the appeal to fund the purchase of three Diplodocus fossils, all I could muster up was mild interest.

Intellectually though, I knew that dinosaurs play a critical role at most of the museums I had visited in the US – this was also indicated from conversations with children both locally and overseas. And that impression was sealed when NUS’ Provost, Tan Eng Chye, a mathematician, confessed that he was consumed with a burning passion for dinosaurs when he was a kid.

When Eng Chye was Dean of Science, he whole-heartedly supported the project “A T-rex called Sue and Friends” which the Faculty of Science mounted in 2006 with the Singapore Science Centre. He knew it would fuel a passion for science amongst young people and they did stream in to the exhibition with little persuasion. The exhibition, funded by the faculty’s outreach budget, eventually paid for itself.

RMBR_SSC Dinosaurs 2006
RMBR_SSC Sue 2006

An ecosystem of excitement

That T. rex called Sue project fell into our lap because the Field Museum in Chicago had brought the project to Tokyo and wanted to maximise the exhibition’s presence in Asia. Our herpetological friends at the Field Museum pointed them our way and so the cast of Sue and a bunch of other dinosaur fossils arrived to great acclaim at the Singapore Science Centre.

As part of the exhibition, several scientists visited Singapore to participate in dinosaur symposiums and to give talks. All of them visited the zoological collection of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research with great interest. One of them also ventured to our mangroves to open the eyes of his students (back in the US) with sights of our biodiversity. I contributed images and a video of monitor lizards accumulated over the years to his image collection which he’d use for teaching back at his university. You see, most evolutionary biologists aren’t content with fossils, they examine living species with a keen eye and here in Singapore, we have a wonderful showcase of those!

Bird specimens for dino exhibit, 2006

Dodo (Raphus cucullatus)During the exhibition, the Raffles Museum used the opportunity to exhibit related specimens such as birds and crocodilians which we could smoothly inject into the narrative. Thus the arrival of dinosaur fossils meant that rare bird specimens saw the light of day, framed in the themes of evolution and extinction.

With an enhanced budget from the faculty at the time, the most accurate lifelike model of a Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) to date was made, and is still in the Science Centre today. This exhibition piece is an excellent teaching tool for it relates a classic story of ecological extinction. The iconic Dodo warns us of the folly of man – and the species’ demise is no less dramatic (perhaps even more tragic) than the mysterious disappearance of the dinosaurs. It is a grim reminder that extinction is a fate visited onto a record number of living species in this age of man.

The dinosaur exhibit excited fellow Museum Roundtable members – so much that we ran a blogging competition through One winner, five-year old Loh Yih Hang had impatiently begged his parents for a chance to see the dinosaurs and blogged about his visit. We were touched by his expression and he won himself a Pachycephalosaurus model.

Hunybunz and the Pachycephalosaurus

When the Loh family came to collect his prize one Saturday, his parents, both NUS alumni, were surprised to see the Raffles Museum’s Public Gallery tucked away in the university. So the lights came on for an impromptu gallery tour and they were even further enamoured! A kid’s love of dinosaurs had unveiled the museum’s Southeast Asian collection to the family.

I read the post I wrote then and was tickled to see that I say,

“One of the objectives of bringing down Sue was to awaken that sense of awe in little kids and awaken an interest in Science.”

This is surely the main motivation behind every dinosaur-related exhibition! Scientists readily acknowledge that these large and mysterious animals from the past communicate science in a very effective manner. We are happy to do all we can to bring them to the public!


I first got excited about dinosaurs, not as a kid, but late into my years, as a final-year student here in the National University of Singapore, thanks to my “palaeantology and fossil evidence” lecturer, Chan Kai Lok. I wrote then that:

“…in 1990, a palaeontologist named Jack Horner talked about theories of warm-bloodedness, and brooding behaviour in such a graphical manner that he captivated an audience which included young children and academics.

After the session [at the Singapore Science Centre], it was an elated bunch of second and third years who returned to campus, still chattering away about the talk, feeling quite grateful to A/Prof Chan Kai Lok [who had arranged the talk]”

Though Chan Kai Lok was an entomologist and vector control expert, the theory of evolution is an integral part of every field of biology. He also knew the value of having students speak to someone like Jack, for you must realise that in those days, we did not have a stream of scientific visitors coming through Singapore every other week, as we do now. The university was certainly a much quieter place then. I remember Jack’s hefty hand shake in the dark corridor of the Department of Zoology and was fascinated that he had come all the way from Montana to chat with us!

Jack Horner, however, didn’t think it strange that people in faraway Singapore were excited about dinosaurs; wasn’t everybody?

Jack has inspired many people with his willingness to communicate and was the inspiration for the character Alan Grant, the paleontologist in the movie Jurassic Park. I had the pleasure of meeting him again in 2006, when he came back to talk at the dinosaur exhibition we were hosting.

It had been 16 years, but he still valued the interests of the little ones, who in fact, could best talk to him about the details of his favourite animals. And so, his second talk was entitled, “Cool New Stuff about Dead Old Dinosaurs“!

jack Horner, 2006
Jack Horner and the replica of Sue, 2006

SSC lecture, Jack Horner, 2006
The lecture crowd

About a decade earlier in 1995, the Dinosaur World Tour came to town. It brought with it 88 real fossils including the the only complete black skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex (“Black Beauty”), a 21 meter-long Mamenchisaurus (the largest Asian dinosaur), the troodontid skeleton of the bird- like Sinornithoides, a fleshed-out model of Albertosaurus, and a buried group of Pinacosaurus.

Simply to bring the exhibition here, $3 million had been spent. How do I remember all this? I worked with our recently graduated honours student, Chang Chia Yih, to host a lecture and bring undergraduates to the exhibit, and wrote an article for the student publication, The Mudskipper:

dinosaur world tour

I reached my pinnacle of dinosaur reading then – an amazing book by Louie Psihoyos, Hunting Dinosaurs provide the template. I supplemented that with the many dinosaur books lying around the lab at the time, belonging to a fellow-zoology postgrad, Alvin Wong.

So when we brought our undergraduates to the exhibition at the Singapore Science Centre, I was able to do an excellent job of guiding – I am my harshest critic, but I remember stitching many stories with the exhibits and the eyes of the undergrads were glistening. A student from that class told me recently she still remembers the performance and it had been clear and enjoyable!

You see, I had become as enthusiastic as a kid!

That fruitful experience inspired me to “stop the press” of The Mudskipper, courtesy of chief editor Loh Lih Woon, to insert an article in January 1996 in which I thanked everyone who enabled the experience. This included two lecturers who had allowed me to hijack the 2nd and 3rd year classes with their blessings – and one of them was Peter Ng. Years later as director of RMBR, he helped bring the 2006 dinosaur exhibition to Singapore with Tan Swee Hee and both of them, along with Leo Tan and Belinda Teo, are at the forefront of the current effort to purchase the Diplodocus group to be a permanent feature in the new Raffles Museum building.

The presence of these long dead creatures is sure to be uncanny – it will stimulate the ecosystem of visitors, exhibits, field trips, exchange of ideas, questions, discussions, competitions, and of course, will excite the curiosity, wonder and scientific interest of many a little kid. Once drawn to the museum, they will discover the showcase of biodiversity from Singapore and the region as well as the efforts of the local natural history community engaged in exploration, appreciation and protection.

I am excited!

With these three Diplodocus, an opportunity has fallen into our laps once again, like it did each time before. And once again, we must grasp the opportunity to make the best of it.

Simply thinking about the possibilities this will create has roused me from my stupor! I hope we will succeed. It’s been 21 years since Jack Horner brought the subject to life for me, and I can’t wait to get excited again and infect students and kids out there with a passion for exploration and discovery!

You can donate to the effort to bring the three Diplodocus dinosaur fossils to the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at

The museum and dinosaur acquisition will be discussed in a talk at the National Museum of Singapore today, Fri 29 Jul 2011 – registration is free.


  • 2011 – “Please help to bring the dinosaurs to Singapore” – the Raffles Museum’s Diplodocus Family appeal. Letter from Leo Tan, Peter Ng, Tan Swee Hee and Belinda Teo, posted in the NUS Biodiversity Crew, 28 Jul 2011.
  • 2011 – News and the discussion about the Diplodocus dinosaurs acquisition archived at Raffles Museum News.
  • 2006Dinosaur blog posts from the old RMBR News blog (loads slowly).
  • 2006Dinosaurs! A T. rex named Sue and friends – exhibition webpage hosted by Department of Biological Sciences, NUS.
  • 1996 – “Stop Press!!!” A big thank you to the BSS SuperSenior and Zoology staff who facilitated our student’s visit to the Dinosaur World Tour. – Article by N. Sivasothi in The Mudskipper, Jan 1996.

Update – Eugene Tay commented,

It “should be emphasized that RMBR is seeking public donations for the dinosaurs, and not asking the government for money.”

Yes, the acquisition is being attempted through public fund raising – dollars and cents are trickling in and hopefully a few deep pockets will chip in as well. In this post, I wanted to simply share that this idea is not a new one.

We have tried many times to bring dinosaurs to the people through speakers and fossils, without the resources of a full blown natural history museum and in earlier years, without much support. Each time, I felt the back-breaking effort was easily well worth it and thus I have no hesitation about supporting this exercise.

See also, “Yesterday, I was smitten by dinosaurs!” by Ria Tan. Wild Shores of Singapore, 30 Jul 2011,

105th Blood Donation at St. Andrew’s Junior College Hall

St. Andrew’s old boy Mr Yee Teck Peng has been the author of a newsletter for the school and alumni since 1999. I help maintain the list and check it regularly, reading the posts partly to ensure all is well.

This morning on a regular check, I was pleased to see news of a blood donation drive at St. Andrew’s Junior College – but it as to be held today; probably too late to suggest alumni to go but I posted it on this blog anyway.

Viewing the advert, I realised it had been quite awhile since my last visit. Blog archives revealed I set off for my 104th blood donation in mid-April. Aha, but had I successfully completed the donation? To know for sure, I logged in to HSA DonorCare (with Singpass) and saw this:

Last blood donation-1

Ooh, I was eligible two weeks ago! I must have forgotten to gcal (calendar) the date, for where were reminders?!

Alright, so I was eligible, but is whole blood what they need from me?

HSA has a webpage at which I can check the preferred type of donation according to current patient needs. These are the current preferences:

20110727-Health Sciences Authority - What2019s Needed Now

No surprise, really, for I’ve been donating whole blood for years now – they prefer I donate four packets of whole blood annually instead of six bags of plasma. My platelet count is too low for donation.

So whole blood donation at SAJC, it was. I had sorted this all out whilst heading to Pulau Ubin for my student’s long-awaited presentations at NParks Ubin. We finished by midday and I grabbed lunch at Changi Village – I would be expected to have a meal before blood donation.

SAJC’s main entrance is by way of Potong Pasir where Mr Chiam See Tong’s photo no longer greets you. Entering SAJC Hall, I realised HSA’s blood donation staff were overwhelmed. Apparently the turnout was greater than expected. However, my cat had a vet’s appointment at 4pm, would I be able to make it in time?

Then an old friend materialised next to me – Geraldine Yeo. It turns out she is the teacher handling SAJC’s Interact Club, who was responsible for this gig. She fast-tracked me through all the queues – interview/screening, blood test, donation. And each time I apologised for cutting the queue, the students greeted me with warm smiles. What a lovely bunch!

SAJC Hall, 27 jul 2011
SAJC Hall abuzz with potential blood donors

SAJC Hall, 27 Jul 2011
Back in school!

Sivasothi N. 105th blood donation
My 105th Blood donation

I completed my blood donation at my alma mater, my 105th since I began just after my 18th birthday in 1984. Well, these students have begun earlier in their lives than I did and Geraldine and I are here hoping some will become regular donors, clocking at least two donations a year. Singapore does require regular contributions – just check DonorWeb.

A number on my form indicated I was the 205th person to attempt donating. Both the HSA staff and Geraldine told me to expect some 25% of the students to be too light or to have too low a blood iron content to donate. However, with the larger than expected turnout, the teenage Saints would have nudged those needles up today!

Care to donate? Head down to Outram, Woodlands or catch one of the bloodmobiles. See the HSA webpage.

Thanks to Geraldine for the photos!

Student researchers present to NParks staff @ Pulau Ubin

I am off to Changi Point Ferry Terminal Village to meet my students. They will be presenting their completed research projects to NParks staff at Pulau Ubin at 10.00am otters, red jungle fowl and civets!

  • “Status, distribution and diet of the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)” by Meryl Theng. 3rd year UROPS, AY2010/11.
  • “The population of the red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) in a forest fragment in Bukit Batok” by Amanda Tan. 3rd year UROPS, AY2010/11 Sem 1.
  • “The diet of the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), in urban and forested environments” by Fung Tze Kwan. Honours, AY2010/11.