Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rearranging iPod Touch icons has been moved to another page. Its privileged position has been taken over by Facebook. KTdict now resides in the first page.

Upated Kindle for iPhone

Splendid! Amazon just offered yet another update to the Kindle for iPhone. I now supports IOS 4 and also a built-in dictionary which I can look up unfamiliar words from within the book. No more flipping back and forth with

America: The Story of US

We have been avidly following every episode of "AMERICA, The Story of Us" on History channel for the past several weeks. After this programme we will give up our cable subscription, and that is happening very soon. ASAP.

Much to our chagrin, the cable provider isn't going to show episode 11 and 12. Why they are dropping the last two episodes, I cannot understand. It is like making a shirt and forgetting the buttons. Needless to say, I am quite unhappy with them, and that is an understatement actually.

In the age of the Internet, I can buy a DVD version from Amazon. If I want it now, I can get the iTunes version at $2.99 per episode.

Good bye Starhub Cable. Actually, good riddance.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Giving up Cable TV?

We might give up our Cable TV subscription after the run of History Channel, "American: The Story of the US" finishes. We hardly watch TV these days. May be at meal times, and only for as long as the meal last. The Internet is gradually supplanting TV. I haven't even heard the NDP song on TV. Clearly I haven't been around when it was aired, or you mean cabled.

Buying the Kindle 3

I like what I have read about the Kindle 3. I can certainly make good use of it. The price USD 139 is okay, but I am not buying it yet. I would if my lifestyle sees me on a plane pretty often, but I am home based. So it is just watch and see for the moment.

Changed my mind. Just pre-ordered the US$ 139 Wifi only Amazon Kindle 3. This will eventually allow me to combine my PDA and phone into a smart phone. I didn't think of it earlier. Why carry two devices in your pocket when one will do.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The iPad again

Played with it last night at Challener @ Tiong Bahru Plaza. Read about it early this morning in Digital Life. Conclusion: Obviously there is a much better version secretly in the works. It will get very much better.

I think a future model will come with a webcam. A USB connection to transfer photos would be very helpful. Many people are noticing its absence already.

Apple is the leader but its lead with its competitors is probably narrowing. Easy to tell from its missing obvious features which it cannot yet perfect to bring to market now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What to do about the "violent form of Islam"

Got this in my inbox this morning. Read it, shared it with a handful of people and did some background investigation on the the writer (see So we know he is a real person, indeed a respected senior psychiatrist and also a holocaust survivor. 

Going by what I have read in the ST on the self radicalization of Muslims here, FM George Yeo is right and the Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs is certainly not top of this issue. Pathetic for something of utmost importance the PM was silent or had so little to say that I thought he said nothing.

This was sent to me by a friend who lived in Europe, A child of the WW2 Horror.
Not a hoax my friends. Think about this and please pass it on.
Subject: A German's View on Islam..... A MUST READ

German View of Islam
This is by far the best explanation of the Muslim terrorist situation I have ever read. His references to past history are accurate and clear. Not long, easy to understand, and well worth the read. The author of this email is said to be Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a well-known and well-respected psychiatrist.
 A German's View on Islam
 A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates.  When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'
We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.
The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honour-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.
The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous.
Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.
 The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.
 And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?
 History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points:
  • Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.
  • Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.
  • Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts--the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

Lastly, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it on, is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand. So, extend yourself a bit and send this on and on and on! Let us hope that thousands, world-wide, read this and think about it, and send it on - before it's too late.

Internet Banking

We are never privy to how they implement security. So always trust only with utmost caution. May be even avoid it as much as possible.

News Alert
from The Wall Street Journal

Citigroup told its U.S. mobile banking customers they should upgrade to a new application designed for Apple's iPhone after the bank's original version was found to have a security flaw.

Citi said its iPhone app accidentally saved personal account information in a hidden file on users' iPhones. Information that may have been stored includes account numbers, bill payments and security access codes.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Marina Sands Skypark

The weather was cool with a light drizzle. We seized the opportunity while the kids were still in school to take a stroll on the Helix bridge. I brought along my camera but the batteries failed me. Time to change I guess but I didn't want to spend the money. I had to make do with the lousy phone camera in the Nokia E63. So here is the Skypark which we have decided against paying $20 per head to go up. Had we been tourists, we wouldn't have minded but here in our own land, we have all the time in the world to choose if we want to go up.

This National Day: One of Singapore's Dreams

Spotted this near the Padang while driving to Marina Square earlier today. I can't believed what I was seeing and just have to take a photo of it.

Pathetic, I thought. After becoming a first world economy and society, something as mundane that it does not even begin to be considered gracious must be one of the Singaporean Dreams for this National Day celebrations. So lots of bosses shout down their subordinates in Singapore? Are we too afraid to put up more inspiring dreams. I am not even thinking of landing on the moon.

No to the the SkyPark

The Marina Bay Sands Skypark from Marina Square
I am not willing to pay $20 to go up the skypark. I have spent most of my working life working above the 40th floor. It doesn't make sense. Likewise I have also not tried to go on the Singapore Flyer.

If it were free, I might go but then everyone would also want to ride the elevators up.

I have received numerous emails from friends overseas about this sky platform, but like those attractions in Dubai e.g., the Palm, it is not a great when you are there.

The discussion between Prof Tommy Koh and Dr. Linda Lim

Prof  Tommy Koh begins his response to Linda Lim with,

It is with some trepidation, as I am not an economist, that I write to register my disagreement with several points in your essay.

Right! A foreign policy expert yes, but then goes on to show they he indeed doesn't get it when it involves Economics.

First, you state 'Cheap money fuelled 'financial innovations' such as sub-prime mortgages and risky assets, which led to a crisis'. I beg to disagree. It is greed that led Wall Street to deceive investors with those unsound instruments.

If money isn't cheap, greed has limited avenues to gorge itself. 

Second, you quote United States Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke as saying that a 'global savings glut' was the cause of these global macroeconomic imbalances.
Mr Bernanke's argument is self-serving and disingenuous. He is trying to blame America's creditors when the fundamental problem is America's unsustainable deficits.

Well, America could have decided long ago not to trade so freely with others. There would not be these imbalances as a result. It takes too hands to clap. Stop pointing fingers. It wouldn't solve the problem. We are in this together.

Third, you argue that the reason why East Asians save so much is demographic. I do not agree. East Asians save because of our culture of thrift and out of prudence.

Do you think if Asians were provided with a comprehensive safety net, they would be saving like they had been? If no, why are our leaders ever so afraid of the welfare mentality? Looks like Asia is trying to persist the status quo with America, which is unsustainable.

If Asia keeps pushing the status quo, I am afraid if through some back luck, the Americans eventually conclude that Asia especially China is simply trying to weaken America with its "opium" of exports so that China can lead the world, this would be very troublesome. We don't want to get into such a situation.

The exchange of letters between the professors continues but I shall stop here.

If you cannot be proactive

If you cannot be proactive then be very quick to react. The General Elections is coming and so you can expect the Government to act quickly on the unhappiness resulting from their getting caught by surprise with the floods; distance based charging for public transport; rapidly rising property prices etc., First off the line is Mah Bow Tan. He promised that the current supply crunch of HDB flats would be solved within a year and how. Less high profile, PUB is pulling out all the stops to meet with residents affected by the recent flooding. There will be more to come, and then the PM will call for elections when they are ready to sell their repair and restore messages.

It is impossible to be proactive when you do not have the ability to look over the horizon. In the management of the economy and national finance the late Dr. Goh had the gift. In matters of foreign affairs and security, the late S. Rajaratnam was as gifted. MM Lee does not wear those shoes as well as his former colleagues.

Today we organize ourselves better but our ability to anticipate is much more limited as we no longer understand the changes going on in the world and our society as deeply as before. You cannot prepare for every eventuality. Swift reaction is the best we can hope for unless we have even better people coming forward to lead.

Damning verdict on buy-out groups

Very easy to understand why this is happening. The lesson here is also relevant to anyone you give money to invest on your behalf. They pay themselves first.

The un-thought hope is that everyone gets paid. If that is not possible, the fund houses will pay themselves first. Sometimes in really adverse market conditions, nobody gets paid. Everyone may even be paying the market!

Damning verdict on buy-out groups
Private equity groups were accused on Monday of producing disappointing returns while charging their investors fat fees amid glaring conflicts of interest in one of the most scathing critiques of the industry published to date

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is your fish safe to eat?

Be very careful if it is catfish and sourced from Vietnam as the fish fillets may be produced from fishes farmed in water with unacceptable quality.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Still the same

Luke 18:39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

If you are like that blind man in the story, Today they will still shout at you to keep quiet.

What if these men were tasked to help you? Then you better not stop shouting for help.

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Resale HDB prices hit new highs

I hope by now the government realize that it is impossible to achieve a gradual appreciation of property prices. If you let the market decides, you must accept that Mr. Market is forever a manic-depressive character. And it would threaten to make us bipolar as well!

Just as a steel bar becomes permanently magnetized when exposed to a magnet for too long, the same could happen to voters. The risk is that they will vote not vote rationally.

Come to think of it, if you are rational, you are likely to be less supportive of this government these days isn't it? Or am I manic-depressive already?

General Stan McChrystal speaks for us

'Over the past decade, arguably no single American has inflicted more fear, more loss of freedom and more loss of life on our country's most vicious and violent enemies than Stan McChrystal,' US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during an emotional retirement ceremony. -- PHOTO: AFP

Read this in the AP,

Gen McChrystal complained President Barack Obama had handed him 'an unsellable position' on the war. The general's closest advisers mocked other government officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, as fools who were ignorant of the complexities of war.

Most leaders are not sufficiently clued in with matters on the ground that would have made a huge difference to the success of the organizations and the welfare of the people they meet. I am not a soldier but I have come across far too many stories of clueless people at the top, armed with fine sounding theories, many from management schools are the latest management fad. An area that is full of such stupidity is implementing an ERP system in an organization. Nearly all the time the working level are worse off and the senior levels got duped into this over promise and under deliver situation by consultants and vendors.

Friday, July 23, 2010

NParks just putting up a show?

Broken and falling large branches, uprooted trees were the problems and not tree trunks snapping in the wind. Why is NParks doing this for? Anticipating tree trunks to snap?

Is this just putting on a meaningless show to show that they are doing something?

Increasingly show is more important than substance. Of course the authorities will tell you that both are important. You will know which is the greater priority from their actions of course. (photo: from ST online)

Backsliding in Rwanda

I thought the situation in Rwanda has improved very much. That it is stable and making steady progress. They have even sent some of their people here for training. Alas, as so often in politics, without the right culture, things go awry. Read this in the Economist,

Violence increased in the run-up to RWANDA'S general election due on
August 9th. President Paul Kagame's party denied involvement in the
recent murders of an opposition leader, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, and of a
critical newspaper editor.

See also 

Rwanda voters 'free to decide' in August poll: Kagame

A Woman's Poem

This came in the mail today. Hilarious.

He didn't like the casserole 
And he didn't like my cake, 

He said my biscuits were too hard 

Not like his mother used to make. 

I didn't perk the coffee right 

He didn't like the stew, 

I didn't mend his socks 

The way his mother used to do. 

I pondered for an answer 

I was looking for a clue. 

Then I turned around and 

smacked the shit out of him.... 

Like his mother used to do.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Japanese outsourcing themselves

This article in the NYT was the final straw that led me to write my previous blog entry. With market forces leading the way, which used to be stopped by laws, the Japanese are now outsourcing themselves to cheaper Asian locations outside Japan. This is very good for business but terrible for Japan.

Capitalism is blind or may be only served the interests of those who controls its resources and owns its returns. Only the naive and inane believe in the Invisible Hand. The world today hardly fits the assumption of Classical Economics.

Capitalism needs an enemy

I wonder if Capitalism need a strong enemy to thrive, without which it might destroy itself from its own ultimate contradictions.

The strongest opponent Capitalism can have since the demise of Communism is governments, which are very much weaker. Also governments are divided. Some embrace Capitalism with open arms and even adopt it as their favorite pet. Those who oppose Capitalism loses out in the short term, and as we know in the long term, Keynes remind us, we are all dead anyway.

Therefore Capitalism can play the field with abandon. Eventually it will risk destroying itself. The only ideology today that might eventually challenge it is Islam. Governments are no match unless united, which of course, is impossible.

Capitalism needs a strong enemy or it will go overboard. Marx was right, but he might only from getting Communism wrong. I wonder how many in the CCP believes that Capitalism is a stepping stop to Socialism.

Buying the iPad

I have been regularly asking our kids for a couple of months now: "Do you think there is a iPad in our near future?"

They believed in waiting for the next generation. This is delayed gratification. I think it helps that games are banned from our three iPod Touches.

I wonder how many long queues there will be snaking into the various authorised Apple outlets tomorrow. It would be a media event.

My guess: There will be enough machines to go around. I am not anxious. I am not buying yet, if ever.

Crowded MRT trains

Got on a train at Queenstown station after leaving the car at Kah Motors for the 20K service.

I got on the train at about 8am. Many passengers but no problem getting on. Ditto two trains going in the other directions.

No reason to complain if this is the daily experience. Furthermore it was raining this morning.

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Apple: Strain showing

Perhaps the strain of staying ahead of the competition is showing. There is hardly any extra time to make a device perfect.

So, not only is the reception on Apple's new iPhone arguably worse than that of its predecessor, it turns out the iPhone 4 is less profitable than the 3GS.

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We're improving

Good we're improving even if there isn't much we could do against mother nature. It is the cocksure and failure to understand the issue, dismissing it that we cannot understand.

Heavy Rain Warning

Issued On: 22 July 2010 - 05:13 LT

Heavy showers with thunder & gusty winds are expected over many areas of Singapore between 5:45am and 6:45am. PUB says flash floods may occur in low-lying areas in the event of heavy rain. The public is advised to exercise caution and look out for flash floods*.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Learning from History

History may not be knowledge. It is perhaps an illusion of knowledge. We could very well be deceiving ourselves when filled with historical insight we interpret our present and extrapolate into the future.

We shall always remain skeptical and test our insight at every chance with experiments, traps and at worse, observations.

If the Theories of  Change gleaned from historical insights are correct, they must be able to achieve two outcomes. (1) Explain the details and (2) Forecast the future. Immediately the experienced person knows that almost all our theories are badly flawed. What we have is just a broken compass. It points the way ahead very roughly and as we travel, we have to make continuous adjustments.

George Yeo displays an impressive grasp of history and how it explains the present. And it is just that: Impressive and nothing more.

Are we socially successful?

How do we know that socially we have failed? No need for sophisticated and dubious social science or measurements. Just a couple of simple questions.

Now Singapore is no longer an impoverished country with full of deprivations, but as always every where else still full of wants.

1. Do your children want to have your kind life?
2. Do you even have kids at all? (TFR of 1.22, i.e., is slow mass suicide without pain and feeling of guilt)
3. Do you think your kids can have a superior version of your kind of life?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wall Street will sell anything

That's right. If there is a demand, they will supply it? Competing firms would also be quick to do likewise. So they will have to sell fast and sell much. What are we talking about this time? Black Swans funds, i.e., hedging against tail risks. Investors are hungry for products to insure them against their fear of loss.

Taleb had this to say about such products which is branded from a book with the same namesake.

Taleb said sticking with a tail-risk strategy can be psychologically challenging because payoffs, while big, are less frequent.
“If you looked at numbers over a period of time -- six, seven, eight years -- there’s much higher return,” Taleb said. “But if you watch a trader in any given year, he looks like an idiot. No trader wants to feel like he’s an idiot.” 
I like Taleb. He calls a spade a spade. Doesn't minces his words.

The Chinese Strategy

I imagine when they invested in China long ago they as businesses naturally did not think and plan in decades. Meanwhile the Chinese took advantage and arbitrage this with longer term thinking. This is the same strategy smart small investors and also Warren Buffet use against the can't be helped short term investment pros.

‘Friends’ of China question relationship
The risk-reward calculation between staying quiet and speaking up has shifted towards the latter as some foreign businesses feel they are being pushed out of the country

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C.S. Lewis on Democracy

I cannot agree more with him. If you give a government too much power, if not today, surely someday you will live to regret it.

We have lived dangerously and gotten here safely. We should not cheapen the Lord's grace and tempt fate further.

C.S. Lewis:
I am a democrat [proponent of democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man.
I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government.
The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. . . . I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. . . .
The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.
—C.S. Lewis, “Equality,” in Present Concerns (reprint: Mariner Books, 2002), p. 17.

I am with e-books!

There is no place left in the house for anything more. I have been surrendering space to the others in the family. Practically the only physical books I read these days are those from the library. All the books I buy now are ebooks.

From my WSJ email alerts: said its Kindle device and e-book sales were accelerating, despite competition from other dedicated e-reading devices and multi-purpose devices such as Apple's iPad.

Amazon said the growth rate of Kindle device unit sales had tripled since the company lowered its price to $189 from $259 last month.

Over the last month, the Seattle e-retailer sold 180 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books it sold, it said.

Anti-AIDS gel

Who would use such a gel? Really dumb. If they do it unprotected, based on some mysterious faith or logic, they don't think they are catching it. If they imagine there is risk of infection, 50% reduction in risk, not to mention 90% elimination of infection isn't good enough.

Anyway, we all do dumb things unknowingly. That is the human condition which often can be traced back to original sin. I bet I am going to read concentrated evidence from Dan Ariely etc.,

Adding more:
I learned something new about this topic reading the equivalent story in the WSJ (I have no subscription to the FT). I learned that the women were so much lorded over by the men, they simply do not have a choice. In this situation, this gel would help. I feel sorry for them.

HIV infections halved by gel treatment
A gel applied by women before and after sex has reduced the risk of HIV infection by more than half, according to a ground-breaking study to be released on Tuesday that could help revolutionise prevention. 

Monday, July 19, 2010


The Apple iPad will finally be available here beginning from this Friday.

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Two wives?

I don't now this guy but my condolences to the family loss of a son, husband and father.

This obituary notice is most surprising only because given that he was so young, yet in Singapore's context he could be married to two women. This shouldn't be possible for non-Muslim marriages under the Women's Charter. Well, may be he is Muslim, but there is no evidence to his name to that effect.

Additional Notes:
A day later the ST apologised for a big mistake. One of the wives was his former spouse.

Marina Bay iconic, like Shanghai's Bund

It is one full cycle and complete. The Chinese learnt from and have overtaken us. That is why it is appropriate for the PM to describe the Marina Bay as like the Shanghai Bund.

Nassim Taleb: Clearer and clearer

He has learned to state his case more clearly and simply than ever. Excellent but unfortunately the decision makers will not listen, much less adapt his ideas. One of those guys would be our PM, "Safe to Fail", which I have always felt he probably doesn't know what he was talking about.

Government: Your Friend and also Enemy

A government's power is not shown in war making most of the times. It is on display when it fiscally pump prime the economy. It is powerful.

If you benefit from a government's policies, it is your friend. If it hurts you, it is your enemy. If you are farseeing, you navigate yourself to be its friend. If you are unfortunate or careless you might end up bearing the brunt of policies that caused you pain.

Each government creates these two spaces of benefits and penalties. Governments hope as many of its voters would move to the benefits space. They must try to make the migration to this space as feasible as possible. When they fail to do so, they risked getting voted out of power.

The size and quality of these two spaces vary widely across nations. Some have such small and narrow benefit space, its citizens try to leave their country. Even non-bumis up north is leaving their country in increasing numbers.

The Singapore Government tries to enlarge the economic pie. It is the preferred way to enlarge the benefits space. However this strategy will not work well if the wealth gap widens. Worse, if the pain space is perceived to be growing even faster. Benefits get concentrated into a small and narrow group of people. Egregiously the government tries to persuade the people to accept this as a fact of life. Silently the people respond to the economic and social realities with slow suicide: Total Fertility Rate of 1.22. I wonder what is the fertility rate among the office holding politicians and senior civil servants.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Moral Hazards

From the FT.

Cameron to fight BP’s corner in US
David Cameron will next week defend BP on a two-day visit to Washington, insisting the group must have a “stable and strong” future for the sake of the UK economy and the pensioners who rely on its dividends

Moral hazards everywhere. Now are world scale oil companies could also say the same about themselves. They can go and behave like cow boys, enjoy the upside and ask for forgiveness if their misadventures blow up in their face.

Everyone is in the business of looking for others to bear their risk but collect the gains for themselves. A very unjust system.

Friday, July 16, 2010

America: The Story of the US

We catch two episodes of this every Friday evening from 9 to 11pm.

Protecting the retail investors

After a bruising experience retail investors in the US have had with financial products, a new legislation is on its way to President Obama to sign, which among other provisions will have the new department of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. We ought to have one long ago. Our retail investors were getting a raw deal, conned into purchasing the wrong products. Sad to say, we are not getting one yet. The government is using us to do national service to help create a more vibrant consumer financial market. To me, this is highly irresponsible. Problem is the man in the street doesn't know what is actually happening. He will be done in many times more. No thanks to this government.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mr. Market speaks to Ireland

From the WSJ this morning on the Irish situation,

Ireland's budget deficit may be the biggest in the developed world at 14.3% of GDP in 2009, but the government has been by the far most decisive in the euro zone, cutting public-sector pay by as much as 15%, reducing welfare and pension entitlements, raising taxes and recapitalizing the banking system. Yet the spreads on its government bonds remain stubbornly high at 2.77 percentage points over German Bunds, not far behind Portugal and well ahead of Spain.

Again and again that is what we get from Mr. Market. You wanna to let it steer your economy? You gotta be very careful with risks. This manic depressive and unreliable creature drives you crazy. Remember very good times is followed by very bad times and so on. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

100k more

The PM suggests that the number of foreign workers will increase by another 100,000 given the rapid economic growth. He also said we must up our productivity.

It is business as usual then. He was never serious about restricting the inflow. Previously he was just playing to the gallery. And we would be so busy stoking growth there is no time left to work on improving productivity.

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The Death of Outsourcing and Contracting

I read this in the WSJ this morning,

 The Japanese auto maker also will extend development times by at least four weeks on new models to do more testing and will cut down on the use of contract engineers.

That Jap automaker was Toyota.

In essence, IBM failed DBS flashed on the front page of the ST this morning. 

Many enterprises have struck the wrong balance between doing the job inside our outside. They were good at seeing the profit numbers and cost savings; pathetic at assessing the risk to secure such gains. 

The death of outsourcing and contracting is exaggerated but a retrenchment here is inevitable.

Safe to Fail

Looks like everyone does it; especially the most competitive organizations. Toyota tried their luck and resulted in sticky accelerators pedals. BP was taking shortcuts and cutting corners deeming them to be too safe and so they felt they gained an edge over their competitors. Apple must be feeling the pressure to come up with the iPhone 4 with inadequate testing and now suffers an antenna problem with their latest model. DBS subcontracted too much of their technology away to IBM.

A few years ago, the PM realized that we cannot compete unless we are ready for "Safe to Fail". Fortunately we have not had a catastrophe from that policy. I hope we learn from the lessons of the others.

We can practice Safe to Fail only when we know the risk well enough. Trouble is we often don't.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Economics: Not about theories but thoughts and behavior

It is the dismal science because nobody really knows enough of how his neighbors think and act in economic situations. That is why economists, many of them too bright for the discipline are always disagreeing among themselves. Finally something with some promise comes along: Behavioral Economics.

Paul Krugman's lastes op-ed in the NYT is literally screaming at the Fed to stop deflation. Of course, the Fed doesn't see deflation as starkly likely as Krugman.

Here the last couple of paragraphs by Krugman.

But here we are, visibly sliding toward deflation — and the Fed is standing pat.
What should it be doing? Conventional monetary policy, in which the Fed drives down short-term interest rates by buying short-term U.S. government debt, has reached its limit: those short-term rates are already near zero, and can’t go significantly lower. (Investors won’t buy bonds that yield negative interest, since they can always hoard cash instead.) But the message of Mr. Bernanke’s 2002 speech was that there are other things the Fed can do. It can buy longer-term government debt. It can buy private-sector debt. It can try to move expectations by announcing that it will keep short-term rates low for a long time. It can raise its long-run inflation target, to help convince the private sector that borrowing is a good idea and hoarding cash a mistake.
Nobody knows how well any one of these actions would work. The point, however, is that there are things the Fed could and should be doing, but isn’t. Why not?
After all, Fed officials, like most observers, have a fairly grim view of the economy’s prospects. Not grim enough, in my view: Fed presidents, who make forecasts every time the committee that sets interest rates meets, aren’t taking the trend toward deflation sufficiently seriously. Nonetheless, even their projections show high unemployment and below-target inflation persisting at least through late 2012.
So why not try to do something about it? The closest thing I’ve seen to an explanation is a recent speech by Kevin Warsh of the Fed’s Board of Governors, in which he declared that doing what Mr. Bernanke recommended back in 2002 risked undermining the Fed’s “institutional credibility.” But how, exactly, does it serve the Fed’s credibility when it fails to confront high unemployment, while consistently missing its own inflation targets? How credible is the Bank of Japan after presiding over 15 years of deflation?
Whatever is going on, the Fed needs to rethink its priorities, fast. Mr. Bernanke’s “it” isn’t a hypothetical possibility, it’s on the verge of happening. And the Fed should be doing all it can to stop it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our latest fan

We should have replaced the Mistral a long time ago. After filling petrol today, I finally bought the Iona at Caltex Jelita. Pretty pleased with it. Come with some mist generator. Its oscillation can also be controlled from the remote. I have always found the walking to the fan to play the button inconvenient.

Hope this one last a very long time given our good experience with the other Iona.

I think this product is Singapore made. Produces a very strong wind even when set to the lowest fan speed. This is hot and humid Singapore after all.


We wrote it for the first time at Sengkang on the East Line. The West Line was particularly crowded.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Absent Culture, Absent Productivity

We are lousy at understanding, seeding and growing culture. We have only one response to change. Adapt and work harder. I wonder how quickly we can adapt and how much harder we can work, which must take resources away from other life's essentials.

When LKY experimented with labor cost inflation in the 80s we failed to upgrade and entered a severe recession. Now they are raising foreign workers' levies to force companies to raise productivity. I doubt it would work. Too many would just sit and go out of business. We only raise productivity when we have the government to show us the measures we might take. Faster, Cheaper and Better are just too vague.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The most successful mayor in the western hemisphere

Mayor Hazel McCallion has been elected consecutively to the mayorship of the Canadian city of Mississagua eleven times. She has been mayor for 31 years. Well she is as successful as our PAP politicians. Compare her to our guys. She is refreshingly disarming unlike our unnaturally stiff types here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Proton Smaller Than Thought—May Rewrite Laws of Physics

Very fascinating report about the variable or wrong size of the proton reported in the National Geographic my daughter pointed out to me. See article below.

Proton Smaller Than Thought—May Rewrite Laws of Physics

The Standard Model might have to be reworked.


Greeted by a very beautiful rainbow after our dinner

National Day 2010 Theme Song

NDP 2010 song by Corinne May.

Gray Hair

Just read an article from the WSJ,"Pan leads Chinese IPOs" with a line,

Though he has a boyish face that makes him look younger than his years, Mr. Pan's hair has grayed visibly in the run-up to the AgBank IPO, all the more noticeable since most senior political and corporate officials in China dye their hair.

President Obama hair turned rapidly gray months into assuming office. Recently I read again that graying hair is due to the disappearance of hair pigment and usually brought on by age. I think the scientists might have missed something. My hair turned rapidly gray the year my elder daughter experienced great difficulties with school, and the stress persisted for the next four to five years until we have a clearer picture of her condition. But once the hair start to gray this way, it doesn't stop even if the pace might slow.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Holy Spirit found a home

I am re-reading Philip Yancey's book, "Prayer: Does it make any difference?" in the kindles version, and I come across a story of the author's experience visiting Nepal. Mark the last line: The Holy Spirit found a home.

Bad Preaching

How to save ourselves from bad preaching? It is impossible. Our sin damaged nature craves for bad preaching. It gives us the loopholes for idolatry. Good that Timothy Keller had written, "Counterfeit Gods". The way the game is played, only a few will benefit from that book, but many more will welcome with open arms a Gospel that legitimizes their material aspirations.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Book on Lim Kim San

Saw the book on Lim Kim San at Times today. Cost more than 40 bucks. Forget it. I shall get it from the libraries.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Raising Productivity

I am not hopeful that we are able to secularly raise productivity between 2 to 3% every year. It is a laudable objective but most people are bereaved of practical ideas how it can be achieved. It reminds me of LKY mistaken policy of using high wages to effect industrial upgrading as a logical response to rising cost pressure. Instead what we have is falling competitiveness and a serious recession.

The rise in foreign worker levies will increase cost to companies with very few of them able to raise productivity.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Story of US: The American Revolution

I am making a date to watch this on cable come the Fourth of July.


This story about life is becoming too true for comfort. It came as shared humor in the mail yesterday. I remember how very good windows were yanked out and replaced with inferior windows during the HDB upgrading. How my quality paintwork were painted over with poor quality paint. I wonder how many residents followed up by replacing these government subsidized windows. Quite a few when I stand below my apartment block and look up.


The kids filed back into class Monday morning. They were very excited. Their weekend assignment was to sell something, then give a talk on productive salesmanship.
Little Sally led off: "I sold girl scout cookies and I made $30," she said proudly, "My sales approach was to appeal to the customer's civil spirit and I credit that approach for my obvious success."
    "Very good," said the teacher.
    Little Jenny was next:
    "I sold magazines," she said, "I made $45 and I explained to
everyone that magazines would keep them up on current events."
    "Very good, Jenny," said the teacher..
    Eventually, it was Little Johnny's turn.
    The teacher held her breath ...
    Little Johnny walked to the front of the classroom and dumped a box
full of cash on the teacher's desk. "$2,467," he said.
    "$2,467!" cried the teacher, "What in the world were you selling?"
    "Toothbrushes," said Little Johnny.
    "Toothbrushes!" echoed the teacher, "How could you possibly sell
enough tooth brushes to make that much money?"
    "I found the busiest corner in town," said Little Johnny, "I set up
a Dip & Chip stand and gave everybody who walked by a free sample."
    They all said the same thing, "Hey, this tastes like dog shit!"
    Then I would say,"It is dog shit. Wanna buy a toothbrush?"
    "I used the governmental approach of giving you something shitty for
free, and then making you pay to get the shitty taste out of your mouth." 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Affordable Housing

In 1988, I paid $43K for my 3-room resale flat. If my memory serves me well, I think we took a 10 year loan from the CPF. Today the apartment is easily $300K and you usually buy it with a mortgage period of 30 years. What does this mean? That you will work all your life to pay for your property? That your income will rise much faster so that you can pay it off early or more likely sell and upgrade? That you can sell it for a handsome profit later. Whatever, it assumes a very rosy future. I am unsure of such wisdom. There will be many unpleasant discontinuities over 30 years. I imagine a fair number will find the ride bumpy and a few will not survive the ride to the end.

China Learns From Robin Hood

In the WSJ today, "China’s income tax system is coming under growing scrutiny from academics and other commentators worried about the country’s widening wealth gap."

Well if the wealth trickling down effect isn't happening. The rich is trapping a lot of wealth, and have not entrepreneurially created ways for those below to level up, then the government is coming with strokes of the pen to change the law to make it happen.

How would the wealthy respond. They will figure out ways with their bankers, lawyers and accountants to hide or squirrel away their money. Keeping what they have gotten feels better than using it to help others.

The economic theories are wrong about human nature and so the desired results aren't forthcoming unless you employ extra-market measures.