Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ruminating on New Year's Eve

My daughter just emailed me this: a poem for the eve of new year.

New Year’s Eve is at last here
The final day of the old year
A perfect time to reflect and to remember
The events that occurred across the earth

A time to pay our respects
To those who left this life
A time to remember
The hollowness of strife

A time to rejoice
At the blessing that we had
A time to remember
The tears that we have wept

When the experiences we’ve had
Over the long year
Dance across our mind
In a merry cheer

When we smile and we say
“Maybe I should have done it another way.”
When we laugh and we cry
“Oh yes I did that right!”

So welcome 2012
The time for reflection is done
And with good faith and open arms
We say the words, “It’s begun”

Happy New Year Everyone!

Copyright © 2011 by May Kwek

Anniversary Dinner

Last year was our last time at "The Lines" Daylight robbery. Way overpriced fare at almost $700 for four of us.

This year failing to get Noble House we went to its sister's restaurant at Paramount Hotel. The food was good and the menu had plenty of items the girls enjoy.

Starhub Set Top Box Kaput

This isn't certainly out idea of spending our anniversary. Waiting at Starhub @ IMM to exchange our faulty set top box for a new one.

We were advised the waiting time would be about 50 mins. Fortunately we needed to be patient for only about half and hour before our turn arrived.


Visiting Changi Point Mall

Met up with an old Dubai friend visiting home at Changi Point Mall. Nothing special to the businesses here. They are the usual familiar names. Some features of the mall are quite interesting though especially the outdoors.  Parking beyond the first two hours is pricey. We were there chatting for nearly four hours and paid more than $8 for parking


All the wedding photos are in wifey's iPad but hard to find among 10,000 pics.

This morning I put all of them in my Kindle Fire. I am going to show it to her afterwards.

Actually I would like to reproduce what I had written from last year here, but that would be superfluous isn't it?

This time of the day, I never fail to recall where I was on that day.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Supporting Wikipedia.

Yesterday I received an email from Wikipedia. We are among their regular supporters. This time it was unusual request. I don't remember them ever asking us to persuade others to donate to Wikipedia's cause. I forwarded their email to quite a few friends, especially those with school going kids. If they are like my kids, they would be using Wikipedia quite regularly for their school work.

My brother wrote back informing me that he had been supporting them. A friend just emailed me that he had begun contributing too. The site had been very useful to him.

I quote from Jimmy Wales email:

Here's how the Wikipedia fundraiser works: Every year we raise just the funds that we need, and then we stop.
Because you and so many other Wikipedia readers donated over the past weeks, we are very close to raising our goal for this year by December 31 -- but we're not quite there yet.
You've already done your part this year. Thank you so much. But you can help us again by forwarding this email to a friend who you know relies on Wikipedia and asking that person to help us reach our goal today by clicking here and making a donation.

If everyone reading this email forwarded it to just one friend, we think that would be enough to let us end the fundraiser today.

Of course, we wouldn't turn you down if you wanted to make a second donation..
Google might have close to a million servers. Yahoo has something like 13,000 staff. We have 679 servers and 95 staff.

Wikipedia is the #5 site on the web and serves 470 million different people every month – with billions of page views.
Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn't belong here. Not in Wikipedia. Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others.
When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising, but I decided to do something different. We’ve worked hard over the years to keep it lean and tight. We fulfill our mission, and leave waste to others.

Jimmy Wales
Wikipedia Founder

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Ignorance of our Leaders

Tan Chuan Jin was a soldier and not a business or finance person. The story he had shared on facebook is the sort of inane stories I get all the time especially from some American friends.

Leaders also can no longer hide their ignorance. To be fair all of us only know a few things well at a time when knowledge is created so rapidly. Our ignorance especially if you are a leader is easily and inadvertently displayed for all to see. Indeed leaders must not pass themselves off as knowledgeable but humble and quick learners. They must quickly set this expectation right because too many voters still unreasonably expect our leaders to have a good grasp of issues, which is no longer possible.

These days, we learn on demand. Those who are software developers would appreciate best what I mean.

Our leaders must go well beyond the bureaucracy to tap the brain trust of the people. They are very slow to learn that the old way of governing is not working.

Interesting way of putting things...

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little..
The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. It could not be any simpler than that.
Remember, there IS a test coming up. The 2012 elections.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

by: Ed Will

 ·  ·  · 43 minutes ago · 

Lousy Microsoft Explorer Touch Mouse

The Explorer Touch Mouse I got in early September has kaput! Didn't even last four months. I have emailed Let's see what they will do to fix this.

From experience, the mouse must be the most fragile equipment of a PC system. I have lost count how many mice I have worked through. This is the first time I am trying to enforce the warranty. Previously I had just gone ahead to buy a new mouse, attributing the problem to bad luck, too much hassle and I need a mouse now.

I hope the Arc Touch Mouse stands out better. So far so good.

Evergreen ABBA: Happy New Year

Don't we play this ABBA song as we count towards a new year every time a year draw to its end? Against this tune, we count out memories. They are that old. Since then nothing is able to take their place. I even use this for some of my New Year flash movies.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Putting REDAS in its proper place

I can't find MND Minister Khaw Boon Wan anywhere. Surely REDAS would prefer the top dog to grace such an occasion?

A clear message putting REDAS in its proper place.

Ministry of National Development shared their own album: MOS Tan at REDAS 52nd Anniversary Dinner.

Speaking at REDAS' 52nd Anniversary Dinner, MOS Tan explained the Government's rationale in implementing measures to cool the property market, and shared other programmes to enhance home ownership for Singaporeans. This includes the GLS programme, expanding the the EC scheme, and ramping up the supply of new HDB flats to help first-timers purchase their homes. Full speech:

Visit to the Columbarium

It has been a while since we visited my in laws and mom at the Columbarium. Their niches were surprisingly clean. My sis must have been here not too long ago. Most of the plastic flowers in the other niches were very dusty but not my in-laws.

I didn't know my mom's niche had real flowers. By now they were all dried out and I didn't have fresh flowers with me. All we could do was clean the niche.

Slavoj Zizek: Capitalism with Asian values

I think this guy is worth listening to. He is so powerful his interviewer was more listening than asking questions most of the time.

In this session he discussed Anglo-Saxon neoliberalism versus Capitalism with Asian characteristics. Of course he had Singapore and China in his mind. As he isn't Chinese or live in the east, I think he doesn't appreciate as closely how potentially unstable we are.

He got is right that Capitalism has lost its social compact (he used so many words when this line was good enough) and the field is now open (he is running ahead of most people on this) for something else to take over. The available candidate could be Singapore style authoritarian capitalism. He needs to come here to see that we are increasingly fed up because it is feeding an elite and retarding social mobility. The field is more dangerously open than the realize.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Poor Addidas Climacoo Sandals

My Addidas Climacool sandals I bought in March this year as can been seen in the photo deserves to go to the dustbin. I am quite disappointed. I expected it to last longer.

Good thing I got the sense to check it this morning. I had felt uneasy about mine sandals since my daughter's Nike broke without warning recently.

Sure they don't make them like they used to. Perhaps it was just poor design.

I got this from SportsLink outlet @ Clementi Mall just now. Cost me much less than the Addidas: $62.90.

I hope this one lasts much longer.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

JCs cut off points

I have tried to look this up via Google too many times. Don't know why I didn't just copy and paste it here earlier. This is one of the key reasons why I have this blog in the first place.

The O levels results should be out around January 8 and we will be consulting this table on which school to apply to.

Here is a poem my daughter had written earlier for the fateful results announcement day.

Now the time has come
And we’re seated in the hall
Waiting for our results
Oh that dreadful call!

I am fidgeting, I am nervous
I know not what to think
All the blissful holidays
Have passed by in a wink

And now we shall see
If our two years of labour
Have in fact
Produced fruits with any flavour

I know what I want
But I know not what I’ll get
And I simply cannot stand
This agonising suspense!

I want to know what I got
But in my fear I also do not
I can’t control my feelings
And feel as though I’m shaking

It’s fine for me to know
And it’s also fine not to know
But it’s this wait before knowing
Which I find so frightening!

So if you’re in charge of this
Please have some pity
And put a swift end
To my fearful misery!

Copyright © 2011 by May Kwek

L1R5 Aggregate Scores (With Bonus Points) of Students Admitted To Junior Colleges In The 2011 Joint Admissions Exercise (JAE)
S/NoJunior CollegeArtsScience/IB
1Anderson JC108
2Anglo-Chinese JC77
3Anglo-Chinese School
4Catholic JC1110
5Hwa Chong Institution33
6Innova JC2020
7Jurong JC1415
8Meridian JC109
9Nanyang JC109
10National JC55
11Pioneer JC1616
12Raffles Institution33
13Serangoon JC1514
14St. Andrew's JC99
15Tampines JC1313
16Temasek JC76
17Victoria JC54
18Yishun JC2020

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Dinner

This year we had our annual Christmas gathering on the 23rd. So dinner tonight was a simple affair but at a place which we could never get a table.

The curry fish head was wonderful on the top floor of West Coast Plaza. Wifey "da bao" the left over curry home to use with baguette tomorrow.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My daughter on Seng Han Thong

My daughter just asked minutes ago what did Seng Han Thong do wrong? I said as far as I can tell since I wasn't following this closely, he wasn't a racist. In fact his strength might have turned out to be a serious liability. He is probably racially blind like everyone in my family is. Unaware of the racial chip on many people shoulders, Seng Han Thong mistake was his carelessness and complacency. When he tried to explain himself in all honesty, he only made it worse. His apology came across as insincere. Those that were offended would accept nothing less than an unvarnished apology that he was wrong and truly sorry. Honesty wins no plaudits here.

My elder daughter best friends in school is a Malay and Indian girl. The younger girl buddy is a Kaur. They both have many friends from other races.

Seng Han Thong's fiasco is a lightning rod telling me that my girls are potentially at risk of making the same mistake. They have to learn to see what the world looks like through the colored lens of race and religion. A good place to start might be the startlingly shocking views of the Jews, Christians and Arabs over Jerusalem.

Once my daughter asked her Indian classmate what is that guy he was wearing on a necklace around her neck. Her ASEAN scholar classmate, a Malaysian Chinese was shocked by that remark. She asked her who she thought Jesus Christ was. My daughter innocently responded that he was a person, just another guy. These are quick thinking and bright kids. They understood right way she was religion blind. No such luck for Seng Han Thong.

This is a divided world with divided peoples. The late Pope John Paul II was very wise to suggest that we are one because we are different.

Let's not be so cruel to Seng Han Thong.

Update: 24/12/2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mr Brown on Seng Han Thong

I need to make space for this Mr. Brown parody of Seng Han Thong here. It is just too memorably hilarious.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christian Bale should feel embarrassed?

Some of us in Singapore can hold the Western and Chinese perspective in the same mind.

The ang mohs must be nonplussed that the Chinese should say that Christian Bale should feel embarrassed.

This gap is very dangerous but practically cannot be closed. Only by being mutually respectful of each other cultures and being infinitely patient can we coexist. This is only workable if we do not suspect each other intentions. This is a tall order.

Read the 5 stars and 1 stars review of this book and feel the yawning gap in their worldviews. 1 stars are mainly from the Chinese. Good for them if they are right, but woe if they are wrong. I fear for them that the late Deng Xiaoping would not agree.

10% Stamp Duty

Just read this WSJ article and shared it with a friend. In my email I said,

"I imagine the 10% stamp duty might not be tough enough to discourage the Chinese. Some Chinese could be looking at risking way more than 10% staying at home. They might lose everything. 10% tax looks very cheap."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jacquie Lawson's Christmas

I have lost count how many copies of this Jacquie Lawson's card I have received. I enjoyed each copy of it!

I got it last year too, but there are even more senders this year. They must be doing very well.

Regaining Aljunied GRC

I don't have time to finish reading this article by Rachel Chang, but I don't think the PAP can win back this GRC.

Aljunied was lost over national issues. I am afraid it can only be won in the same way. The WP is neither stupid or incompetent to run municipal services badly. If anything they are bringing in a breath of fresh air to the stifling PAP.

As for reinforcing East Coast GRC and Joo Chiat SMC, what makes them think those can be saved by being good on the ground? An euphemism for populism, which I feel the electorate is too mature not to see past? They could be lost on national issues too in the next round.

Well five years is an eternity in politics, and we are not very good at thinking in discontinuities.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Paying It Forward

My nephew put this up on his facebook page. I am putting it for keeps. Reminded me of the movie, "Pay If Forward" which wifey had introduced to me. A short while later, I used the theme for a Children's Day movie for my girls' primary school. I also recalled when I reconnected with an old friend and for a while I helped her a lot. I told her the best way to pay me back is to pay it forward. I am no longer in touch with her again and I hope she is indeed paying it forward.

Kim Jong Il dies

Beep! I was on the escalator at IMM. I took a look at my Korean made Mobile, an alert from the WSJ that Kim Jong Il is dead.

I got back and saw the that Kospi had fallen more than 3%. Stock markets all over Asia have also gone south.

On facebook, some were delighted. These are the ignorant ones. There are better ways for Kim to die. Sudden death was a bad idea.

I imagine all the secretly and painstakingly drawn up plans to move the Chess pieces will now be put into action. The world outside would be kept out until a confident leader emerges, purportedly his third and youngest son. Another possibility is that we, most likely South Korea and China will somehow be drawn into their internal power struggle. This will seriously destabilize the region.

The longer we have to wait for the new leader to speak to his people and the world, the more we need to be worried and prepare for a bad outcome.

De-rating SMRT

I just looked at the numbers at SGX. The STI is down 1.3% and SMRT has given up 2.7%

Very likely over the weekend, analysts have made estimates on how much more resources must be added and/or diverted toward better maintenance of the train system.

The CEO remains in her job but to any thinking person, she has lost all credibility. She said a repeat of the Thursday breakdown wouldn't be repeated. It didn't take long for the system to fail again. Two days later, on Saturday morning, the system failed again. This CEO didn't know what she was talking about.

I wonder why they want to keep her as a CEO for? What can she contribute except to try her best protecting her flawed legacy? Unless the Transport Ministry install a supervisor over all of them, senior management at SMRT would be busy trying to protect their rice bowls.

They should put her on no pay leave immediately available to the investigating committee to answer questions.

Update: Found this video on AsiaOne Forum

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tentative thoughts on the MRT break downs.

Simply put, SMRT was clueless, not on top of their job of maintaining the system. Now they are hoping to obtain salvation from the "nobody gets fired for buying IBM" principle?

What a cover the behind attitude. They did what they were told - by the book. If something fails outside the book, they are not at fault?

No, people must be made to own the outcomes if there were not to be an endless litany of honest mistakes.

I wouldn't be surprised all these is the result of running the system too hard, taking it beyond the edge of reliability, poor engineering leadership that live by the book rather than know the system.

Now why are we the ditch over this? It was the Cabinet's clever by half policies of growing our population in a hurry. Our infrastructure just could no handle this. What else is coming apart next?

Those who are short term always look clever for a while; then their myopia catch up with them eventually.

MRT trains to go slower, frequency reduced
SINGAPORE - MRT trains will now run slower along certain stretches - mostly in the city area - and the frequency will be reduced, as the authorities take steps to prevent more disruptions.

At a press conference today, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it has directed SMRT to apply a temporary speed restriction of 40kph at the affected stretches and to monitor the train vibration in these areas.

The slower speeds will translate to an additional travelling time of about five minutes for a train ride from one end to the other on the North South Line and East West line. For morning commuters, the waiting times for the trains will also go up by about 10 per cent - as a result of the removal from service of damaged trains.

Staff from the LTA and SMRT have conducted an overnight inspection. The inspection team found several instances of dislodged "claws" that secure the third rail - which supplies power to the trains - to the support structure of the tracks. In all, 61 rail defects were found while 13 trains were also deemed to be "defective".

The dislodged claws were discovered mainly at sections of train tunnels in the city area where floating slab tracks are installed - these floating slab structures are meant to contain the vibration from passing trains so that surrounding buildings are not affected. Investigations will continue to determine if there is any correlation between the floating slab structures and the dislodged claws.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Investigating SMRT and beyond

This article from the WSJ opens with,

Singapore’s reputation as a well-oiled city-state, replete with a peerless transport system that’s envied world-wide, has failed to live up to its reputation of late.

Since I am currently reading Daniel Kahneman, "Thinking, Fast and Slow" I can't resist the thought that our natural "System 1" thinking ineluctably caused us to see a pattern to all these train system breakdowns.

In the spirit of fairness and intellectual discipline, we mustn't prejudge the findings of what had gone wrong. Nevertheless I would just like to speculate on this a little since this has been on my brain chatter so often.

Are we seeing the exhaustion of a paradigm? The problems with the MRT is only just the first pin to have fallen? An investigation and a report from a group of independent experts on the failures of the train system would not take us beyond 1Q next year promised the transport minister. I hope they bring to the task the discipline and rigor that is routine to air crash investigation. Get to the bottom of this once and for all. If the findings ever reveal weaknesses in leadership and culture (Recall the problem at Korean Air in Gladwell's writings), that would be the flashing red light for us. The follow up question would be, where else in our public organizations are we suffering the same disease?

Many speculate that the obsession with costs and stock price performance have led to reckless risk taking. Again SMRT had gone so far as to compromise commuters' safety. As you sow the wind, you now reap the hurricane. Penny pinching wise and pounds foolish, this is the consequence of the preoccupation with short term performance. Dig a little deeper, we must understand the culture and mindset that encourage and reward such behavior, if they exist. Investigators ought to go back far enough in history to examine how decisions and trade offs were made leading to this debacle.

To be fair, the long term has become foggier than ever making it much harder to navigate the future. It is when the way forward is hazy that we need to return to our core values (what are these by the way?). They become our compass even as our faith is tested. Faint hearts and weak minds find excuses to justify short-termism, especially when everyone is practicing it. I fear this infatuation of the short term, most visible with stock price performance may have become pervasive in Singapore.

Truth is at any time, the future has never been clear enough. Life is punctuated by discontinuities making train wrecks of trend lines. What is important is we must decide where we want to go, what we want to become. Don't just be pragmatic without reasons, or worse for convenience. Then we would have failed to heed Keynes warning,

"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist."

Then at best we become ordinary and undifferentiated from the rest except by punishingly hard work and low costs. We also run the risk of becoming irrelevant when we stop for a breather. Security and prosperity under an umbrella of fear? This is no way to live.

Remember a widening wealth gap is the road to dystopia. Are over crowded and unsafe trains the bats ushering in the night? Can we have robins instead of bats? I look forward to the report findings.