Saturday, June 30, 2012

Age appropriate Christianity (Christians and Hypocrites...)

This is the first time I thought up this label, "Age Appropriate Christianity".

In today's Christian thinking there is no such thing as age appropriate faith. I can sense quite a few taking offence already.

I have noticed one preacher who seems to understand this but say so with far more words, even books: Joseph Prince. He leads a mega church here with growing influence in America because I sometimes get my friends from there asking me about him. In fact, one just did this morning. I understand more than a few mainstream pastors are critical of his theology, but I think they are mostly people who have failed to grasp what grace truly is. Grace from the sacrifice of Christ.

I think Prince's New Creation Church is very successful in ways that are very different from City Harvest Church. Prince teaches and practices Grace as far as I can tell from watching afar. He attracts so many to his congregation because they need grace far more than laws and commandments.

Grace is what makes the commandments easy to obey. If you receive little grace, you will find it hard to obey the commandments. Prince's church like nearly every one in Singapore, and much of the rich world are full of people who have experienced little grace. If you think you have sinned little, you feel you are forgiven little and you feel you owe God a very small debt. You get on with your basically good law abiding life.

I was awestruck when I saw this movie "Amazing Grace" in 2007 at Shaw Cineplex. I am not thinking so much of William Wilberforce as John Newton (this is the guy who came up with the Amazing Grace hymn)

See the first few seconds of the trailer.

" told me that you live in the company of 20,000 ghosts..."

John Newton guilty of the deaths of so many slaves and forgiven by God. How did that change his life? Completely of course!

Pastor Prince core idea as I understand it from far (I don't go to his church) is to always press the point on grace with his listeners. Patiently let grace increase and be recognized to the point that it had for people like John Newton. This work is divine and work at the level of the individual even if it often takes a lifetime to achieve.

All hypocrites are welcome into the church. You can bear the label of Christian, be such horrid examples and stink the good name of the religion, may be even Jesus Christ but God wins by losing with patience beyond our imagination.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father lost by allowing the bad son to take his share of the inheritance. Then he stood at the door of the house and wait PATIENTLY  for him to return. You know there is room to stand beside the Father and wait with him for the prodigals to come back.

Age Appropriate Christianity means a Christianity that is offered at Christ's expense, against his good name for the sake of hypocrites who have felt forgiven little, received much grace which they do not yet recognize and so love the Lord little.

If your church is age appropriate to the faith of believers in your environment, your membership will swell. As and when in God's good time and strategy of losing in order to win, as a leader of the congregation you will pick and rescue those who become overwhelmed by His grace because they now recognize how much they have been forgiven. When your love grows, the commandments are easy to obey. In fact you would obey without even knowing them. 

Grace in rich Singapore appears often in material and ego success. Meanwhile God tolerates us for as long as necessary those who has cheapen his grace for using the promise of eternal life as an insurance policy. They thought they can have their cake and eat it. Don't be foolish. Justice hasn't gone out of fashion just because Grace is freely available. This is hard to understand but true.

Finally I need to quote myself from my prior post:

Now if the map of associative links tells a God based story, good for you. If it doesn't that's hardly unusual. Welcome to the majority. No, I am not going to share what such God based stories may be. I gotta run. I  have other things to attend to and the story cannot be told quickly without missing comprehension. Who could understand when Jesus told Nicodemus, "You must be born again"

If grace is recognized and allowed to actively work through your life as had for John Newton, then "the map of associative links tells a God based story" would be how you see the world. And how might it appear? I have an example to offer but this is in the context of a third world environment. Just a picture I found on my facebook wall today.

Now what about our rich world environment? I recalled Mother Teresa had some scathing words. 

I referred to this before I wrote the above. See A few years ago, I was at Times Funan and read portions of one of Joseph Prince's earlier books, "Destined to Reign". I wasn't very comfortable but I also didn't see what was wrong. But I never stood still, and I hope I am growing in the faith.

Christians and Hypocrites: Memory of my late father

A pastor friend just posted this on his wall: Christians and Hypocrites. A big chunk of those words could have come from my Christian friends too. I had heard them complain enough on this matter. But this morning my thoughts flitted to my late father. I think it had to do with the way the writer put his points across.

My father quit church because he was too poor. When he arrived from China, a friend invited him to attend a Teochew Church: Newton Life Church. He enjoyed it and looked forward to going except that there was one problem. He had no money to put into the offering bag and was too embarrass to appear again in church.

Inadvertently many churches have become clubs for the rich. Perhaps CHC took it to excess, but the image that Christianity is the religion of the wealthy is not too far off.

I once thought and quickly dismissed the idea that if the Christians here were very generous with helping the underclass, we will not have a wealth gap to talk about. We can achieve this because unlike most places, Singapore is just incredibly rich. The idea was rapidly expunge as completely unrealistic. I grew up in Church, I know the psychology well and it was easy for me to anticipate the reaction of the CHC when some of their pastors were charged in court.

The human brain is an associative machine. Unconsciously what we have read, heard and learned, associations are made. This blog post is simply the result of that. It proves that I have been thinking about these matters a lot in the last few days.

Now if the map of associative links tells a God based story, good for you. If it doesn't that's hardly unusual. Welcome to the majority. No, I am not going to share what such God based stories may be. I gotta run. I  have other things to attend to and the story cannot be told quickly without missing comprehension. Who could understand when Jesus told Nicodemus, "You must be born again"

After all, I am blogging for myself. This time I am not even writing this for the family. No doubt my kids will ask me to explain and here is where I might begin without quoting this old memory verse.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1,2

Gardens by the Bay opens today

Gardens by the Bay opens today and we were among the first visitors early this morning. Would love to bring the kids with us the next time. We didn't wait for the domes to open (9am). We left quarter to eight.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Gardens By the Bay not an easy decision: PM

I am glad the government went ahead to build Gardens by the Bay. My late mom would be absolutely thrilled to visit going by the pictures and descriptions I have gathered so far.

So it was not an easy decision. You can see the dollars and cents forgone for this - many billions.

This government had always felt uncomfortable spending money if there is no measurable returns; the exception is spending for security.

It was really good that the PM put aside the "price of everything and the value of nothing". Keep at it, don't stop here. Grow a greater faith; deeper conviction and the courage to understand and know how to invest in our people, in social objectives far beyond what we are confident to do today. Don't let the voters force you to do them. Be different from the rest of the world. Be different by leading. What is a leader? It is to take the people to a place they want to go, probably do not know that is really what they want and on their own would never go.

Sure you need to fix housing, public transport, excessive foreigners etc, but don't stop there. In a fast changing world it may be risky and impractical to articulate a vision that in the end was unachievable, but one could go deeper and articulate a set of values and principles which guide a calibrated vision....

I know we would have succeeded when a one generation want to reproduce the next because it is so good to live here. You can't hope to raise the TFR to 2.1 by focusing on it. It is a by product of getting a whole array of policies right which today we do not have sufficient insight and courage to successfully tackle. We look excellent when compared against most other nations. Those who seem to be out doing us, on deeper analysis their models are not sustainable, not even for a generation. They are mostly supported by debt even with natural resources. The hard truth for Singapore: what is considered excellent by outsiders is not good enough for us. To refuse to bring babies into this place is nothing less than a society committing suicide slowly, the ultimate indicator of deep seated unhappiness which we cope by going into denial and not even showing up in happiness surveys.

Gardens by the Bay represents a low hanging fruit in the right direction. Many more things we need to do. They are far harder. Don't settle too easily and that is why the PAP did poorly in the last GE.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Kong Hee's case for my kids

Yesterday I made an entry to this blog which at least one of my kids told me she couldn't really understand. Well it is partly because the courts have not tried and passed its judgement. The more important reason, I am not sharing yet. Let's just say I was never a fan of CHC.

The news flow is quickly leading the public to their own obvious conclusion. The behavior of supporters at the subordinate courts were not laudable either.

There is a letter from Lawrence Khong urging all Christians to pray for City Harvest Church, refrain from talking about it on social media etc., I am also not a fan of Lawrence Khong's church. has a rational discussion thread on this topic which I would urge my kids to read. This will give them a useful flavor "Christian talk" , reactions and response. The thread is too long and I don't have time to read most of it.  Page 1 and 30 at least were rational.

Get educated. This case will not be the last.

I am not surprised that Kong Hee tweeted this. I have explained it in this blog yesterday.

Later at 1pm, Kong posted on his Twitter account, alluding to a Biblical verse: "Why r you down in e dumps dear soul? Why r you crying e blues? Fix my eyes on God...He puts a smile on my face. He's my God."

Guy and gang think they are still doing God's work. Personally I think they are completely in denial and deluded. Will we get to learn that they had wasted so much tax payers' money investigating them over the last two years? If they had done wrong, wouldn't it be right and Christian to confess and ask for forgiveness two years ago? Well innocent until proven guilty and if found to be guilty only the legal violence of the state is able to force them to prison. They might just go there insisting that they were dong God's work. I hope not. I hope they broke before the judge. After all their conscience must have told them it was not right, otherwise why try so hard to cover their tracks? There is one more possibility: the fear of being misunderstood. I have been to that place before, and I think such circumstances are rare and by obvious divine appointment.

We shall see. Time reveals all truths.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kong Hee et al were doing God's work

Well if Goldman Sach's Lloyd Blankfein can claimed that they were "doing God's work" and most Goldman staffers if they were not fired are still with the company, why shouldn't it be the same at CHC?

No, the truth is too unbearable. It is far more attractive for Kong Hee et al to rationalize that they were doing God's work even as they had broken the law. It was man's law anyway. God's law is higher and beyond man's law.

They struck the right posture in adversity. Solidarity with each other by standing together hand in hand facing the Christian trial for obeying God to go the world, be among them, love them and bring the good news (not Good News) to the non-Christians. Project CrossOver right?

I am not expecting 33,000 to turn up to support them at the subordinate courts, but I wonder if we should be surprised that there were so many supporters.

I repeat myself. They broke the law but they didn't do anything wrong because they were obeying God and called to reach the non-Christians through Project CrossOver. These supporters must be believers in the rightness of the what their pastors had done.

What is God's work like? Anything but all these. And what have Kong Hee and his comrades in crime done? I quote myself:

Anyway this is a strange world, even those who are God believers, I have watched them figured many ways to drive Him into their holy books and reappear from there sanctioning their moral travesty.

Remember the world's greatest crimes were done in the name of God. But they are never done in the character or station of Jesus Christ who was an itinerant teacher, penniless and homeless, caring for others till it hurts. Also when he was on trial, his followers fled but Kong Hee's followers stuck with him. Quite an achievement even God could not manage!

God wins by losing, not using the methods of this world. Not with Kong Hee's methods. Of course if you want to fix a successful outcome, you could never figure how losing can bring success right? And if the law abiding approach wasn't working, extra-legal ways must be entertained. That's what they had done in the name of God.

Update: Just received this blog post on CHC posted on March 29, 2010. An astute analysis of the church as a business. See
Indeed if you want to fix the outcome like I blogged earlier these strategies are effective. I repeat, God excels at winning by losing so that no man can boast. These guys use a totally different approach.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Has the pin to prick the bubble appeared?

Early this morning, I had felt uncomfortable reading Andy's insistence that central banks should creatively open the monetary spigots in this dire moment. I want to agree with him but I also felt that I can't. These is a very difficult moment.

Cheap money has turned out be a narcotic. Governments have been taking it and not putting to good use the time it had bought them. I worry.

Just moments ago I discovered an article by Simon Nixon reporting on the BIS. I wonder if central bankers have not finally decided to take the pin to prick the bond bubble and with it every asset class. That would be hellish but politicians have left central bankers without choice.

Prior to all these, I have noticed Bernanke did not lift his finger to help Obama in an election year. If he doesn't provide liquidity now, it would be very inconvenient nearer the presidential elections. It would also be too late.

I think central bankers are just fed up with their politician colleagues. They may be starting to see themselves as accessories instead of providing timely aid as the cowardly and feckless politicians allow us to be carried to the edge of the cliff. Central bankers are not like politicians, they are more akin to priests in the temple of money.

Not that we desire, but we might be starting to see interest rates going up, which we most certainly cannot afford. Am I talking rubbish here? This is too scary. I must watch and work through this over and over again.

Marine Parade Community Library

Yesterday I was at Bedok Library, spending several hours day. Today I dropped by the Marine Parade Library.

It is a smaller library and there are far fewer elderly visitors. In fact most of them look youthful.

What does this tell us about Bedok housing estate vis a vis Marine Parade?

The air conditioning at Bedok Library was much colder.

City Harvest Khong Hee and 4 others arrested

A friend posted on this event, "All that glitters is not God"

This isn't the first and neither would it be the last time for religious scandals.

I read the findings of the COC and it gives me the feeling that the charges will stick for this group because the evidence is clear and overwhelming.

What a betrayal of trust of the members of City Harvest Church. DPM Teo took care to emphasize this is not against the church or its members. You cannot be too careful with religiously based emotions. In fact, the aggrieved parties are the members. See where and how their tithes and donations are used.

I bet more than a few will still remain very loyal to Kong Hee. We have watched the same thing happened with Yaw Shin Leong. The bonds are strong and they are emotional and irrational but that's just being human.

Update: Someone whose life was deeply touched by Kong Hee and Sun Ho.

Welcome Back! TouchDraw

TouchDraw was one of the first apps I purchased for my iPad more than a year ago. As it turned out it didn't meet my needs for drawing NaviMaps. I eventually wrote it off and uninstalled the app.

A few days ago, I reinstalled the latest version from the iTunes app store. I was pleasantly surprised how much more sophisticated TouchDraw has become. The features I persuaded them to include and more are now all supported. It is so much more natural to draw NaviMaps on the iPad than with a mouse using Visio or  Dia.

My Regular Cereal Breakfast

Nice! So many pieces of strawberries in the M&S cereal for this morning breakfast.

I had sworn off this one for sometime because I had the misfortune of cracking one of my teeth sometime back. Since then they had rebranded and remixed their offering and I am enjoying their effort for a fee which I wishfully hope will go down, i.e., more special two for one!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bedok Community Library

Spending several hours at the Bedok library was quite an experience. There were many senior citizens and I think their numbers can only grow. Eventually it will be squeeze like the MRT. The library is free, the aircon is good, the place is quiet and tomorrow elderly are educated and so have a natural affinity for books in their retirement. We need more libraries and places to sit and enjoy the books. Well may be I am wide off the mark because a good portion of these books might become ebooks by then. Well this is the big picture. The narrow picture is more memorable.

Some folks fell asleep in the cozy environment. I saw a librarian asking one old man to wake up. The old fellow next to meet, I am afraid to confess he didn't smell good. He was enjoying Lao Fu Zi comics. Another chap behind me eventually fell asleep and started to snore!

Before leaving, I found and checked out Walter Issacson's biography of Einstein. I had been impressed with his book on Steve Jobs.

PN Balji on the Worker's Party

The frequently insightful PN Balji wrote a commentary for the NST which Yahoo Singapore had picked up.

I think Mr. Balji missed the target this time. The majority of voters do not want a government radically different from the PAP.

What I want is what LTK and his colleagues have repeatedly emphasized: that Singaporeans should be at the center of government policies. Second, that government must successfully connect with the people. This is really basic. If you fail to connect, you fail to serve. You end up serving Singapore the concept and its pride; and not its people and the people's future.

Take the latest example which was made available on CNA. Here is what Chan Chun Sing said.

"I think we are still quite traditional - we'd like to visit our parents. But for those people who choose to do so and if they enter a private contractual agreement with some of the nursing homes beyond our shores, we hope they understand what is in it for them and what are some of the obligations that they have," said Mr Chan. 

"..we are still quite traditional" He is quite out of date. Does modern mean we abandon our parents? Many of my American friends stand by their parents through woe. They are modern and cosmopolitan. How many young citizens see themselves as modern and opposed to the traditional. When a minister talks like that he fails to connect and I am afraid gives the impression that he doesn't understand even if in person he is an extremely kind and considerate guy.

Forget about Minimum Wage for now

Was listening to this in the car this morning. Very interesting! I especially like how the MD of ISS (Mr. Wun I think) responded to questions: short and straight to the point. You know he wasn't handling it in the typically PR way. I wished but of course this is a naive position that government leaders would do the same.

Several callers called in suggesting that we ought to implement a minimum wage system. The text book answer now is that we do not know how to do it properly.

My take? I realized we may be the only country with the administrative capability to do better than using a minimum wage policy. We can narrowly cast and target our solutions. The cleaning industry is the first sector to be addressed. Clearly the need to raise cleaners pay is the greatest.

I haven't heard anyone talking about how we can roll back a minimum wage policy if it fails. I think it is really hard to do that.

Let's put minimum wage on the shelf for now. The targeted approach is also helping us get a better grasp what a minimum wage should be if proven we needed one in the end.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Can't Spell, Can Write

An irony of life is that there are some who cannot spell but can write. This morning I had to help my daughter with spelling words for the Econs exams tomorrow but just a day earlier, she had posted her 100th poem to her blog.

My 100th poem

Yes I have reached a hundred
And I have many more to go
But more can I write?
I really do not know

I have written about butterflies
And the deep blue sea
I have written of forests

I have talked about birds
And their beautiful songs
And I have talked about people

I have written about the stars
Dancing in the night
In the dark of the night

I have spoken about the clouds
I have written of hope

I have written so many things
What else should I write?
Perhaps I will find more inspiration
In the wind and tide

Copyright © 2012 by May Kwek

Lots of Luck and some Meritocracy

I often tell people please don't confuse luck with genius. I might have offended more than a few when I suggested that their success is mostly luck and not skill or talent.

I became aware of the importance of luck long ago in an autobiography of Michael Bloomberg.

Here Michael Lewis is more eloquent about the decisive role luck plays in people's success.

Weighing between luck and meritocracy, which is more decisive? At the personal level it is still luck, but by the law of large numbers, meritocracy help to make more people lucky.

Now if meritocracy leads to a new class of elites which are basically oligarchs who justify their position by their convenient read of meritocracy, that is the moment meritocracy will fail to help make more people lucky. You truck out all the statistics and any "evidence" but the people will not buy because it will not square with their experience.

A practical meritocracy must grow the economic pie so that we are not caught in a zero sum game.

Michael Lewis is right. The successful owe a debt to the unlucky to help them acquire merit so that they might succeed. Sadly today the reverse is happening. Hence the widening wealth gap.

If the successful would not help than the rest of us will eventually be forced to press for new laws to clear the deck so that we have a level playing field like when we first begun. We can't do it now as the money will flee before we can act. We have to wait for the external winds to change direction. The problem we face is global. Patience will get us what we need to survive and thrive. Meanwhile we just have to stay alive.

Hong Kong incoming chief CY Leung

If rising political awareness means Singapore inches closer and closer to how HongKongers treat their leaders then it is just cutting your nose to spite your face. I hope we are never visited by such a fate.

It is not going to end here. Hong Kong bears close watching.

Whoever propose a free for all press in Singapore ought to have their heads examined.

Baby-G for my daughter

Bought my daughter a new Baby-G after lunch at Clementi Mall today. City Chain doesn't offer the best price in town but I am not confident that I am able to get this at the retail outlet for I bought my Tough Solar from them.

City Chain is currently offering 20% off for GSS.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

New Akira DVD-TV

Retired the old Palladine DVD-TV (must have been at least 6 years old) and bought for $259 the Akira DVD-TV for wifey this evening at Giant.

Picture quality is much better than the old Palladine.

The Nordic Model and Us

I have so many thoughts as I read this Saturday Special that it is too slow and laboriously to organize and write them here. I hope I will not regret being lazy but this blog job has always been a fast, quick and dirty effort. I am amazed that so many people come to read some of my posts especially when I had put very little effort to make them clearer for others.

A thought that keep recirculating in my mind as I read was the Nordic countries have organized themselves successfully for now in a way that they do not need God. As for us we are becoming ever more godless because the pursuit of money and success do not deserve to be gods. In life you can't do worse than being philistine. It is incredible we have chosen the more vulgar option, and quite oblivious to it. This is the PAP idea of a better life for all? Perhaps only those who competed successfully in ever brutal conditions. But with a grim social situation we also have the occasional triumph of faith and the human spirit which must be rarer than large diamonds in the Nordic states since they live such protected lives.

As I got toward the end of the article, I was truly pissed with our government position. Completely without sense because I can see their objections were basically to preserve the status quo. They conveniently forget that this is exactly what many of us are unhappy with. CSM got the nail on its head when he pressed that people should be the centre of all our policies. Good for country, bad for people is just untenable. So in practice that is what the PAP means by nation before self? What is the nation? The dystopia of an elite with the masses under their feet?

We have been soul searching privately for many years. Since GE 2011 the process have become public. A year later the direction is still not clear. The government is standing its ground and working furiously to salve the pain with massive public housing investment, reinvesting in public transport and stumbling over how to connect better with the people. Substance wise there is no change. After all how can you change, must less negotiate hard truths?

Personally I do not buy the Nordic model. It is unsustainable because you need more working adults to support a growing number of the elderly when the population is not even reproducing itself. The demographics are against them. More important it is nearly impossible to copy. Either you are already there, established and ready when the world was a saner and supportive place with the right history and opportunities, it just can't be done in today hyper competitive environment. As you attempt to restructure, you must temporarily lose competitiveness. It is like you hang up a sign saying your shop is "under renovation". Competitors are more than happy to take over your business while you reform yourself in your cocoon. Well may be Singapore is special because of our huge reserves position and we could get there after expending most of our reserves. Who has the gumption and leadership to lead the nation through such wrenching change? What business will you be in when you emerge? The hardest bit, how do you create that wide moat against competitors which the Nordic countries are enjoying to protect their livelihood especially when we are conjoined to fast moving industries. We have all the wrong skill sets and mindsets to replicate the Nordics here even without considering the geopolitics and economic realities of our position in SE Asia.

No, the Nordic nations and us are on different evolutionary paths. They cannot be like us and we will never be like them. We have to find our own way. We will destroy ourselves trying to be like each other. As usual most economists are unimaginative and they are trying to shoehorn what seems to work now elsewhere into our situation. They confuse rather than enlighten the discussion. I agree with Nassim Taleb that the Nobel Prize should not be awarded for Economics.

What is more practical is enter into a pact with the Nordic people. Those who like our ways can come and live and work here as some happily have. Some of us who prefer their way and can make a contribution to their societies can relocate there, and again some of us already have. For now, this looks like a win-win to me until they face the demographic bomb. But a much tighter even at a distance integration between they and us can only be mutually advantageous as I imagine they would prefer Singaporean immigrants than many of those they are presently admitting. We would like their energetic and entrepreneurial types to set themselves up here to infect us with their ways.

Perhaps as we cross-fertilize the habits and culture between they and us, we can from the bottom up through such chromosomal exchanges confer the pluses of both sides on each other? I think this is a thought worth exploring further. Meanwhile I have more urgent bread and butter issues to look after. I leave it to the people smarter than me to figure this out. I only wish they were more imaginative and think out of the box. Thinking within the box, even enlarging the box hasn't gotten us anywhere near a satisfactory solution. Bear in mind Einstein's advice that new thinking is needed to solve problems created by old thinking.

Gosh! "Fair and Warm" weather

An amazingly hot day! Usually you don't get anything more uncomfortable than 'Fair' from the NEA. Today they have added "warm" with it!

Do we have a 35C sometime? I hope not.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Long's interview with Chen Show Mao

Enjoyed reading Susan Long's interview with Chen Show Mao this morning.

I am nowhere as bright or accomplished as him but at the human level I can certainly identify with a graying crown.

He deals with bad situation by looking forward. Not a bad approach especially if you cannot profit from the mishaps of the past. However we believers of the Way can have hope in Joseph stories. Recently I have grown and traded the Joseph story for a better one from the author of that story.

Let Faith and Hope abide, but the greatest of these is Love. True faith and hope is fed by love. I wish CSM stronger love and eventually the faith to believe in Joseph stories for himself. One can get even more real by staying hopeful.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

iPad versus the PC (Tough choices...or are they?)

I just got off the phone with my ex boss. She spoke to me about this article from last Saturday paper. I thought I had read it but I wanted to find out for myself. I have two choices. Go to the ST website or the iPad app. I chose the latter. And here are my thoughts on the choice.

Steve Jobs and team design of the iPad was just brilliant. It was much harder to touch type this pic in an email to her but the ease of hunting down this article exceeded the chore of touch typing.

Similarly I never go to NEA weather site on the Web for the weather forecast any more. I look it up on SG Weather using my Android phone.

Apple blazed the path to the future. Johnnies come lately try to copy and quite successfully too. If the insight leading to Apple's innovations are not needed for creating insanely great products, Apple will have dogs biting its heels pretty soon.

Content websites on the Web are turning into losers. The PC needs new ways to access Web content (social media perhaps) and the mobile devices insist that content must be served differently, which turns out to be more intuitive and accessible. This is a big problem for Facebook which is stuck in the older paradigm.

Finally my response to her on Leslie Koh's article,

Well to me Leslie missed the point. It was never about reason. It's all emotional and an extreme example among the leaders is Lim Hng Khiang faux pas on women's hairdo. They just don't get it. You must successfully connect. You can reason till kingdom come to no avail.

The problem can be framed very simply. Just be open minded and find a way to carry the people with you knowing that reason alone does not work.

Assimilating the foreigners among us

The scholars from Vietnam in my girl's class were very good. Necessity have pressed the Vietnamese to invent. With a people like that, I think this nation have a bright future.

Some cultures just know how to turn adversity into advantage. Of course the repression must not be too extreme. Japan is one society which have not been able to overcome the dysfunction of their elites. Had their civil infrastructure been less developed, and with a smaller government, families and small groups would figure ways around an inept government. There is hope for grassroots initiatives to make a difference when laws are few or sparingly enforced, and organized crime do not entrench themselves. This is too wishful for most societies. The country would be militarily weak but potentially economically vibrant with many small businesses. I wonder if Vietnam is heading that way and how far down this road they can go before being blocked. The Chinese have a similar culture. Small businesses were thriving until the government stepped in to redirect resources to SOEs.

Of course my main interest is our own society. Many western societies have come to depend on welfare, but could we have developed the same, if worse habit by depending too much on government instead of welfare? When you have no alternative to government, you will eventually be forced to accept a poor one. This is always the risk for us.

Government here may be viewed as too powerful but is deemed to be necessary in view of the threats and vulnerabilities we faced.

Had Afghanistan enjoyed a good and united government, she would not have been repeatedly invaded. On the other hand no conqueror is able to pacify Afghanistan because of the culture of its people. Indeed people power is often not strategic or intelligent but effective only where the "wisdom of the crowds" is applicable. What "wisdom of the crowds" is Singapore society capable of?

We are having a bad tummy ache assimilating the huge influx of foreigners among us. It is knee-jerk for Singaporeans to demand the government solve the problem, but I don't think there is any magic pill which you can pop to cure this over night. Government can only do two things quickly. They use laws and money. Clearly the government had created a problem with no easy solution. What are we to do? Nothing actually. When the government says it takes time to solve a problem, it is just salving the pain as much as possible. What solves the problem is time. Slow down the inflow of foreigners and eventually the tummy ache will go away because locals and foreigners will learn to get along. Bear with it, tough it out, this is not forever.

It is not clever to make foreigners become like us. The smart outcome is that we influence each other to produce something better. However no society can survive if the locals are forced to become more like the new comers. This is simply conquest by another name. This government want to make Singapore into a global city but does that mean we will be invaded and conquered by the world? Viscerally this has created a backlash against government policies going in that direction because not enough people are winning from that strategy.

The government have failed to persuade the people that either we become a global city or will become a backwater village eventually and assimilated either by Malaysia or Indonesia, i.e., back to our historical position.

I have noticed and the psychologists have proven it, that most people cannot distinguish the very smart from the very very smart. Whoever reason and argue in a way that resonate with them emotionally, that is the argument they will buy. Very smart people are criticizing this very very smart government and the government is losing support.

I harshly criticize the government but mostly it is about their pathetic ability to communicate and connect with us. We would be more resilient and capable if they were more successful in persuading us, but alas I suspect too many of the people at the top have their hearts in the wrong place in the first place!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kind Act Harshly Repaid on the MRT

My daughter just emailed this to me. After watching the clip, I decided to blog about it.

Actually I had seen this story earlier  on the front page on TNP. I saw in inside a Caltex station while waiting to pay for petrol this morning. I thought it was very unfair to the kind young lady who had given up her seat to the middle aged woman.

Takes all sorts of people to make the world! Some types you want much less of. Now this ungrateful and unkind woman is getting the brickbats on social media. Perhaps it would even be in ST tomorrow and certainly the Chinese papers.

My gut feel is that our society now have a lot more angry people than before. We have become such an unhappy place. I can feel it driving on our roads. Just yesterday, an old Indian man, stately looking, was walking his dog in the middle of the road. As I drive toward him slowly he refused to move to the side. Of course he can't win against a car, but after I have passed him as I observed him from my rear view mirror he kept turning back and staring at me.

What's the matter with our society these days? All these are the behavior of people on the edge of losing control of themselves. They probably could not constructively obtain redress for whoever they felt have wronged them (PRCs for the middle aged woman above) and perhaps upper caste Indians for me who brought their sense of entitlement from India to Singapore. Probably that old Indian man felt my small car placed me much lower in the social hierarchy than him (he has a Bently in his garage?) and so I need to show him deference? At work, wifey used to have a Brahmin subordinate who refused to take instructions from her.  Fortunately the CFO was local or it would be wifey rather than the Brahmin who would have lost the job.

I don't know how we can restore ourselves socially to former times. I can only do my part but political and civic leaders must do something to reverse the trend. After all it is the government who had created this environment.

'How Pixar creates stories'

I first found this on a friend's post to facebook: Pixar's 22 rule of storytelling.

Then I asked if this was bona fide Pixar's? And this is what I have found.

Tubefilter is one of the site with the background to this. Leading on I discover a book on Pixar: The Pixar Touch which I hope to read sometime. A question remain which I shall think about later (no time lah). Which popular old stories predating Pixar had also followed these rules? E.g., Joseph, Esther etc. in the Bible? Stories from the Mahabhrata? Journey to the West?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

K Shamugam meets Blogger Gintai

Singapore Daily
On 15/6/12 @11.40 am, I had a private meeting with Foreign Affairs and Law Minister Mr Shanmugam in his office. It lasted for about an hour. Only the Minister, myself and one of his trusted grassro...
41 minutes ago ·  · 3

A wonderful recount of Gintai meeting with K Shanmugam. I welcome this! :-) But I should I be surprised that the minister is unaware of some of these happenings on the ground? Never mind. He took notes, he promised to look into the issues raised. This is better than going those many feedback sessions which got us so fed up, gave up and chose to feedback with our votes.

Good blogging Gintai!

Microsoft Surface Tablet

Microsoft new Tablet Surface launched today in Hollywood. Quite an interesting design especially the two keyboard options as shown in this video.

And here is the Surface promotional clip.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Trivializing Grace Part 2

I wrote the following less then ten days ago in 'Trivializing Grace'. I quote myself.

This is the Gospel of Grace. Today that grace is taken for granted in our hospitals and we even claim to have discovered and owned it; but for our inner life, relationships and mind problems it has graciously been made available until in the guise of science we claim it as ours sometime.

This book by our local born Googler represents an early attempt to do just that. More is coming. We are moving on, well on the way as we have turned uncommon miraculous healing into common medical cures. The next post is to do the same of the afflictions of our inner life and relationships. We will not give the giver our thanks. We shall again say, we did it our way.

Truly I haven't expect myself to write this post this soon.

Celebrating Father's Day

Father's Day is interesting because I tell the kids what I want from them: hit the books. This is the second time they are celebrating Father's Day by studying. Why didn't I think of this sooner? I think it was because when my dad was still with us, we all celebrate as an extended family. The day was also close to his birthday too.

A healthy lunch at Ichiban Sushi today :-)

Unlike most weekends, tonight BS is also not optional. We will continue our exploration of Hebrews.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Wealth Gap and Meritocracy

I am nursing some sacrilegious thoughts of the income gap. I can't explain the connection but I know it was triggered by wifey's visit today to the Casa Raudha home in Jurong.

Casa Ruadha share premises with the Missionaries of Charity - the Mother Teresa organization. I thought to myself, what a wonderful example of religious harmony without even being ecumenical.

I doubt Leo Tolstoy was right. Look around you, the poor, suffering and disenfranchised across slums of the world are alike. They have no time to fight over doctrines or religious practice. They help each other. I admire the views of Desmond Tutu on such matters.

I come quickly to the sacrilege. Perhaps we shouldn't be thinking of narrowing the wealth gap. What we need to do is keep applying ourselves to give poverty a human face to the point that to borrow from Mother Teresa until we do not have the poverty of love.

Love or charity begins among the poor and spread to the rich even as the wealthy offer the material to make poverty bearable.

Make the wealth gap irrelevant by increasing the likelihood and velocity which the poor break through into the ranks of the rich even as the well to do must not be allowed to make their privileged position sticky. They must go down the slippery snake after they have climbed the ladder of success if they are unlucky or stupid. Easy come, easy go, climb the ladder again after the fall. I suspect we are much better off with a society like this than one that is more egalitarian where people become lazy and live the damaging buffet attitude.

Therefore we mustn't try to recreate Eden by copying or adapting the Swedish model. Instead we must cultivate a new arrangement where membership at both ends of the income divide is highly porous and movement fairly rapid. In this way, at least half of the elites at any time must have humble roots; and half of them expect to lose their position in "fair competition". If needed taxes and regulations may have to be enacted to make this happen as the successful often try to pull up the ladder after they have climbed it.

The wealth gap destroys the proper functioning of meritocracy. There may be no other way to reinstate meritocracy. We can achieve this with the cultural genes that gave birth to our young nation before we are too over run by the ways of recently arrived foreign talent creating their own enclaves that is hard to assimilate. What is missing is the character leadership to get us organized and acting in concert.

Singapore wealthy class used to have a sense of noblesse oblige from which we can build the new social compact. The foreign arrived and parvenu carried themselves with a vulgar sense of entitlement most easily recognized with their flashy and speeding marques on our roads.

Our leaders think too much in the box and confuse expanding that box with thinking out of the box. Why are we in this fix? The lack of courage preventing them from being more imaginative. It is safer and seemingly surer to try to be another global city. They conveniently forget that such a strategy only serve the elites and they have to keep paying off the underclass and eventually even the middle class to continue supporting it together with a regime of threats and fear preying on their insecurities to make it affordable. They are recreating Singapore into a Dystopia.

You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it - Albert Einstein

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dinner at Yaki Yaki Bo

Dinner at Yaki Yaki Bo this evening. First time there, a sister restaurant of Ichiban Sushi and Ichiban Boshi.

Verdict: Not likely to return especially when it is ranked quite low to other teppan restaurants we had been to. Much prefer their other restaurants. In particular one of my girls couldn't find anything she is happy enough with on the menu.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Danger of Cheaper, Faster and Better

The story of SQ is the story of Singapore. Another firm used to to share the same sobriquet: Shell Singapore.

Shell is luckier than Singapore and George Yeo tried to replicate it for us.

Shell used to be run as country businesses but it eventually consolidate them along global business lines, i.e., globalization in practice for businesses. We tried to do the same cutting free trade agreements and other pacts with other nations. Of course our imitation of Shell is very imperfect. After all it is an MNC and head office can exercise complete command and control.

SQ represents the parts of us that cannot be globalized. Predictable rationality dictates that she gets "better, faster and cheaper" This is actually a brain dead idea. Others are coming to your table to feast. That table is not growing as quickly as the diners. Of course if these newcomers are aggressive and effective, SQ will end up with a smaller pie.

"Better, faster and cheaper" is only good for buying time to prepare a new table or hop over to another table where you can give the same pressure to the incumbents what you had just gotten at your old table.

Unlike in the 80s, productivity improvement is not good enough because the top line is also under pressure. We are forced to take a page from Steve Jobs playbook. He recognized that mobile phones will supplant the iPod, so he preempt them with the iPhone.

Markets progress brutally through Schumpeterian creative destruction. It is better to cannibalize your own business to create a new one than let others do it. Sadly our business and government leaders by and large have neither the courage nor imagination to entertain this. Additionally since we are so small, we will always be vulnerable to the Dutch economic disease.

Indeed it is a struggle to keep Singapore going and instead of coming up with bold and imaginative initiatives our leaders in the comfort of their corner offices are stuck with talking brave and driving our workers to the bone with "cheaper, faster and better" This is a sure loser proposition even as we systematically accumulate budget surpluses, pile up our reserves. Instead of using these funds to venture capital bootstrap our economy they are stashed away solely for a rainy day when we might die from other causes before it rains. And if they complain that we do not have the talent then please own up that our education system was an abysmal failure. Government cannot have its cake and eat it.

Fortune favors the courageous. Who has the guts to lead us? I am waiting to acknowledge and support such leaders. I do not know who they will be but  many of us already know who they are not. The present CEO of SQ is certainly not such a leader. He is too cautious with a tendency for half measures.

Thoughts on PRCs here

Saw this on AsiaOne today. Again a reminder to me how brutal and violent the Chinese government is. Again I am reminded of Chinese activist Chen Guang Cheng. Then my thoughts shifted to the PRCs here, and why some of them behave as they did and made the news for all the unflattering even egregious reasons. They had to survive their sort of government and society.

PRCs here under stress react would react as they were conditioned to do back in China. It cannot be helped as this is part and parcel of what defines human behavior. So what should we do?

In an earlier post I suggested speak softly but carry a big stick. That was a desperate measure. We can wished that the government were wiser not to let in so many so quickly but that is academic, water under the bridge. We have to cope with the situation now.

The government created the problem, don't expect us to solve it. What we can do is not make it hard for the government to remedy it. Get PA to quietly orientate the PRCs to our ways. This is one of the best ways to leverage our grassroots organizations. We would still need the Big Stick and hope that its use would be sparing.

Meanwhile we must throttle the inflow of PRCs. If we need more foreigners we should give priority to the Malaysians, Hong Kongers and Taiwanese. We are just socially unable to cope. Economic growth at all cost is foolish, like driving a car with no seat belts and brakes.

We fear being overtaken in the economic competition but did this government never consider that their fix could be worse than the problem? The great loss is political capital in the currency of Trust. I don't know how they are going to recapitalize. We have huge reserves but we have paid too much for them if the price is a divided society.

A Mysterious Advert

Saw this in the ST this morning and I was wondering who put up this Ad.

Of course Ads say some of the dumbest things. These days bosses are more likely to harass you electronically than in person. Being on stand by 24/7 is nothing exceptional.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cecilia Sue says she is innocent

Cecilia Sue says she isn't quitting Oracle as she hadn't done anything wrong. I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised going by the law that she is in the end found not to have done anything wrong. So what's my point? Wall Street, in particular Lloyd Blankfein the chief of Goldman Sachs.

Blankfein had went as far as to suggest something I shall never forget: Goldman Sachs was doing God's work!

So how many bankers have gone to jail? Many people who have committed lesser acts but caught as crime under the law (rightly so) have gone to jail or even the gallows. The acts of the bankers have indirectly brought ruin and definitely the deaths of many. If we want an example where the causal link is clearer, Bernie Madoff offers that, and to jail he went never to appear outside except in a casket.

Cecilia, you go and tell Mrs. Ng, what you have done with Ng Boon Gay in secret that there is nothing wrong.

Well all these are private matters so what is my goat here? I fear that society increasingly is only concerned about not flouting the law and give short shrift to both public morals and private ones too.

There is no shame. So many people must be doing it. I wouldn't be surprised that Cecilia circle of friends more than a few are also having that life. It is their choice, who am I to judge? I am dismayed that if their numbers continue to grow what would become of our environment? When do we begin to invoke Edmund Burke and start resisting? And if we are too slow and late in resisting, we might have to flee this place instead.

How did we get here? Intense competition, a narrow definition of success that is built on money and what it can buy; that the ends justify the means, which this government (I shouldn't state what here) have no qualms about conducting diplomacy and business that should set aflame the conscience. Just being pragmatic you know.

We are losing or have lost our moral compass. The Education Minister, a good man is urgently trying to reverse the erosion but in my view is a losing battle because it fails to get to the root. Meanwhile the main religions have gone to worship mammon and success.

So as long as you are successful like Cecilia Sue obviously is; as long as you have not broken the law; you haven't done anything wrong. Go and tell God that when he comes or more likely when you get the chance to account for yourself before him.

I have been too presumptuous. Cecilia might not believe there is a God. Anyway this is a strange world, even those who are God believers, I have watched them figured many ways to drive Him into their holy books and reappear from there sanctioning their moral travesty.

Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” Revelation 22:11

Government New Communication Strategy

Caught most of this in the car this morning. It had caused me be deep in thought that I even wondered if I was paying attention to the traffic! Fortunately I was driving on familiar roads and basically "System 1" could take over as "System 2" demanded a lot of attention.

I wasn't so much interested in the substance of Min Josephine Teo answers as the manner she responded to them. Alas, the government is responding to the New Normal with a new communication strategy. DPM Teo a lifetime of plain speaking and the clumsy deflections of tricky questions will take longer to adapt. Khaw Boon Wan has always been more political and the better communicator but I have no doubt that DPM Teo is the more able minister.

From Josephine Teo over the radio this morning we got plenty of, "I like that question", "It was a good question" etc., plenty of praise to those calling in or writing on facebook.

Personally I think plain speaking, straight from the shoulder is the better way, but we no longer deserve that, and cannot accept that. We evolve even if we fail to grow well. Can't be helped.

In the past it was our resilience than our reserves and education that helped us survive. I am not sure we are as resilient but we have lots more reserves and are far better schooled (not sure about education). Then we thought too lowly of our capabilities but we might have gone overboard in this age. A minister praising those who asked her questions do wonders for their egos. We are often defenseless against unexpected flattery. What people don't realize is that soon the feel good factor will trump good substance. E.g., you can write a wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable book on Maths but you are likely to end up learning almost no useful Maths.

Much as I was unhappy with DPM Teo performance at the Pre-U Seminar, I am also cognizant of what we are losing. I have to respect the man for still holding out but I think he needed to learn the hard way that it is time to adapt to the times. There is no going back. LKY was more astute here. He reminisced the past publicly but was also able to avoid imposing it on the present.

As I record in this blog over a year ago, and repeat it often, we shall gradually be like the rest of the world. Indeed we can only have a place under the sun and stars by being "cheaper, faster, better". There is no future in being a commodity. It is also the surest way to drive our best and brightest away. That is the end point of pragmatism without deep identity.

Update: Just discovered that this morning TalkBack Townhall with Josephine Teo is available as an mp3.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Amazon Gift Card

Scratching the skin of protection off to reveal the code of an Amazon gift card is always a somewhat nervous experience for me. I just can't help thinking that I might scratch too hard, destroying the code.

"scratch gently" the instruction reads. The next time I will try to scratch it hard after I have used the code. The thought that the code might be protected under a layer of Teflon just occurred to me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

PM's speech to the ESS

It was only in the morning but I fell asleep reading his speech on my computer because it was so familiar, predictable and long.

I have many objections to the PM's points but I am also cognizant that we might be disagreeing between bad options. This shouldn't surprise us because almost every nation today is facing unpleasant choices.

His strategy is logical and very doable if we were less human and more machine. Yeah, you must have the mindset of a citizen of Sparta to be fully engaged in the future of Singapore. You must turn a blind eye to a growing number of people "eating bitterness", and be shy about how we are slowly committing suicide as a society because we are not replacing ourselves. Social spending will go up but I know these guys will push it to get maximum growth such that the income gap remains. We can quarrel over what the real wealth gap is but it would just be confusing cash (meaningful) with book values and/or CPF (not meaningful) in our calculations.

The PM assumes that globalization will not be rolled back. I am not sure that is a safe assumption. No trend last forever or Venice would be the most powerful city on earth today.  A great wave could be on its last legs when it polarizes the winners and losers globally especially when the majority are losers.

May be we will become a global city but it might be more apt to call it a global hotel. We will be Dubai exaggerated, shiny on the surface and soulless underneath. All the great religions here will worship one god: mammon.

I imagine the strain the family will have to endure getting there, I strain to grasp how can this continue to be a great place to raise a family. On the other hand it would be the preeminent city to stop by and return often to make deals, throw money around in flashy and conspicuous consumption.

Finally the PM does not realize that while it might be true that the majority of voters still support the goal of becoming a global city, the excitement will wane and support will erode on the way there. The promise of a better living will end up to be just the hedonic treadmill, a lesson nearly everyone has to learn the hard way. From the government perspective it appear as an increasingly demanding population which they rue as difficult and ungrateful. Sadly all these are just Psychology 101. Why can't they get it?

Dealing with cockroaches

Just found this article in the latest issue of the Economist which is helpful for understanding how cockroaches escape danger. Confirms that my technique of dealing with them was correct: you have to slow them down first with neurotoxins followed by a huge smash with a newspaper stick.

Here is what the the guys at UC Berkeley had found,

Dr Full had been using high-speed photography to study how cockroaches employ their antennae to sense and cross gaps. When the researchers made the gaps wider, they saw the animals flipping back underneath the ledge at the edge of the gap, rather than jumping across the empty space. As they report in the Public Library of Science, cockroaches running towards a gap suddenly grip the edge with the hooklike claws on their rear legs and swing 180° to land firmly underneath the ledge, upside down. They can pull off this stunt in a fifth of a second—so fast that the animals’ bodies are subject to between three and five times the force of gravity, and also so fast that the movement is invisible to the human eye.

This is good but these guys are also gaining the knowledge to build military robots with such capabilities. Why do you think they had bothered to study the roaches in the first place? The smarter ones might not even bother to build mechanical bugs. It could be easier to control the roaches by implanting them with chips. Yikes!