Wednesday, December 31, 2014

iPhone 6 Plus arrives

The iPhone 6 Plus I ordered on Sunday for wifey arrived today. Went to POPstation to pick it up saving me the $8 delivery fee. Now we have to shop for at least one really nice phone case. In the interim she will use a simple plastic case. I have also installed a tempered glass screen protector on the phone.

Everything has been backed up to iCloud. Tomorrow she will begin the new year with a new phone after restoring her stuff from iCloud to this phone.

Morning pretty green spot

Took the opportunity to un-mount the Note 4 from its holder and shot this picture while waiting for the light to turn green. There are so many pretty spots on this island only because we tend it carefully as a garden.

Several HDB blocks used to stand here but they had all been demolished. I presume they moved the residents to some of the new blocks near by.

Last night rat in a trap

Rats have been pretty much of many people's minds recently no thanks to what happened next to the Bukit Batok MRT station.

I found a rat caught in a trap when I went to buy milk late last night. This is an intelligent creature who was showing no interest in the bait and trying to figure a way out. There is none except that at this time of blogging, I suppose death would be its only escape.

In an alternate reality, if nature had its ways predators would have kept their numbers in check. That's life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

PM shares article from Japan Times

The PM shared this on his page yesterday from the Japan Times. It is a graphic way to explain to us what our tomorrow might be even if he conveniently ignored if it was even appropriate to compare the two societies in the first place.

Just as the homogeneous Swedes were never a society that is naturally accepting of asylum seekers and immigrants from other cultures, which they are learning the hard way; so the lessons from Japan may not be the right one for us. Beyond the old and the young, we have many fault lines across race and religion, and increasingly between the haves and have-nots. Some of these potential problems could be bigger and over shadow the rupturing relationship between the young and the old.

So what if we read this story? Are we going to do anything differently? Everyone rushing home to make babies? Everyone asking for more immigrants to come in? It's not happening as surely as the threat of a bad and earlier death visit those who refuse to kick their smoking habit. So this was a story to share with his colleagues, but pointless for citizens.

I bet the Japanese reading this story in far greater detail in their own language are only going to talk about and do nothing.

Government should spend more time bolstering their courage and ability to persuade people to accept necessary even if tough policies like we had in our early days than be order takers and populist.

Sad is the day when some of us decide the only way forward for those us with the means is to protect ourselves.

This is the constant refrain of Hstory that people everywhere are always looking for leadership but they regularly did not know how to say so because they often thought that was impossible. Without good leadership whole societies resigned themselves to sad fates.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wasting time speculating QZ8501 disappearance

We are watching a very human need to explain what had happened to Air Asia QZ8501 here. Rationally all these speculation by experts are a waste of time. I have also learned to ignore most of the news flow on this topic until they are able to find some wreckage or something more hopeful.

Every air traffic incident is not suppose to have happened. That is why speculating causes is not meaningful. Any probable cause would have been preemptively dealt with. All air incidents are mysteries until we have collected, analyzed and understand the causes.

Malaysia has been thrice unlucky. What's the probabilities of getting three hits in a row within one year? Meanwhile many of them have been displaced by massive flooding.

Singapore had only one two year old passenger on board that aircraft. Although that seems extraordinary, the human cost as expected is multiplied. Her father despite being a Briton is functionally as good as one of us. We also mustn't forget her mom and older sibling. We know the link does not stop here. Think grand parents.

Confidence in civil aviation remains high but doubts have grown markedly about Malaysia's ability to keep up with the rest of the industry in safe air travel. The man in the street cannot think in probabilities and six sigma bad luck is not good enough reason for many to fly Malaysia. Our neighbor really had a tough job ahead to restore confidence.

At the personal level, we flew with MH to Osaka last year and I would avoid them if possible. Ask yourself what is the probability that in a single flight more than two families lose their luggage? It is just the sloppy way they do their jobs.

Update: Dec 30, 10am

From the FT today. Which is a clearer version from a practitioner my hunch about this incident. You can tell me air travel is getting safer and have the data to back it but to me that is looking back and ignoring the ever changing environment, which may have finally hit the tipping point. The most bottom line conscious, sloppy and gun slinging airline run the highest probabilities of disasters.

Update: Dec 30 4:55pm

How would families feel to receive such news? For me it is the horror of suddenly feeling alone in this world that hits me and knock me over. I am referring to the 15 year old Indonesian student. She had just lost her entire family to this crash.

In a way you don't mind if news is delayed if only to sustain the hope that there are survivors. But if this wears on for too many days, by then you want closure (think MH 370)

I don't care how Tony Fernandes is handling this. This is not the time to score his performance. Something like this should not have happened in the first place.

Update: Jan 1, 10:45pm

Update: Jan 2, 10:15pm

162 victims is too many to handle and without consciously choosing, the family that I root for is this one. May be it is secret nightmare of leaving a child behind. Of course you don't think it is going to happen. 

Just 15, Chiara Natasha lost her entire family in the tragedy.
Chiara's parents and two brothers were flying to visit her in Singapore, where she had just moved in early November to study on a Singapore government scholarship.
The family had sent her off from Surabaya airport less than two months ago, promising to visit her to celebrate New Year's and help her settle into dormitory life at the Methodist Girls' School, said her aunt, Linda Patricia.
Chiara, a petite teenager with long black hair, had flown back to Surabaya herself on Sunday — the day Flight 8501 went missing — and waited at the airport Monday and Tuesday for clues about the plane, praying hard that her family had survived.
News that some wreckage from the plane had been spotted and six bodies retrieved left Chiara in shock and she kept crying when relatives tried to console her, her aunt said. Chiara didn't come to the airport on Wednesday.
Her older brother, Nico Giovanni, 17, has been studying in Singapore since last year. He had returned to Surabaya for year-end holidays and was due to start his new term at the St. Andrew's Junior College, said Linda, who has been with her niece since her return.
Chiara's father, Herumanto Tanus, was a 46-year-old accountant and Linda's youngest brother. Her mother, Indahju Liongsih, was a homemaker.
Chiara's younger brother, Justin Giovanni, was 9. Many Indonesians use one or two names but no family name.
"We are all heartbroken and Chiara still finds it hard to accept" her family members' deaths, Linda said. "I am thankful that the plane has been found. My only hope is that all their bodies will be found and evacuated no matter what the condition is so that we can have a proper closure."
She said Chiara has agreed to eventually return to Singapore to study as she didn't want to disappoint her parents.
"In Singapore is her future," Linda said.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Running out of Hard Disc space

With only 173GB left on my current 1 TB Passport I upgraded to a 2 TB one today. Never mind it is fatter than the latest offerings, after all I don't carry it around.

Each time I get myself a new hard disc, I feel (not think) it would last "forever". Couldn't be more wrong!

Tharman's family holiday in the Caucasus

Just caught this by Tharman on Facebook. He and his family were on holiday in the Caucasus but much of his thoughts were picking up the lessons of history for Singapore. Reminds me that to succeed in political leadership, it must become your obsession. An impossible job without a very supportive family. Most wives wouldn't be so supportive and husbands are worse.

I spent all my time on our recent US holiday trying to make sure everyone had fun and my secret to enjoying the trip is to forget myself and delight in the nice photo opportunities.

America provides too much information. You can plan everything to the atomic level today compared to just three years ago when we were last there. Suddenly you have the power to make things as good as possible but not more time to achieve that. That was my challenge and I was tired all the time.

The Caucasus is an old place steep in history and tragedy. I had read about the places from the Christian history perspective a few years ago. I agree with Tharman that the politics of the region did not have religious causes but it is the same age old issues over all time and places. As I read what the ang mohs did to the native Americans in the Yosemite region, played for higher stakes and more terrible brutality are the same forces that washed over the Caucasus over and over again. To have a long history is to also have many periods of tragic sadness. The take away for tiny Singapore from history lessons is not encouraging. We must never think of making Singapore last indefinitely and only keeping it good for ourselves and children continuously. You got to think long term and yet no so in order to be adaptable to avoid trouble and seize opportunities.

It is only a matter of time that moment when we run out of wiggle room will eventuate. That is why I had often blogged here that we need people of foresight to run this place. Such leaders successfully influence the making of a benign external environment long before they become obvious to most. Good institutions are a boon for most nations but far from good enough for us. Sadly we are not very good at selecting good people. This is a global problem.

Update: 9:40am

One is obsessed with keeping Singapore going, this one is preoccupied with getting everyone a proper loo to use. Most of us are just tied up with making a living and some just trying to keep their heads above water!

Arriving on Christmas Eve

Landed at Changi in the early afternoon of  Christmas Eve after an exhausting holiday in the US West Coast. Never felt so glad to be home!

This trip to the US felt so different from our last one in 2011. America felt less welcoming to Asians despite the government effort to make immigration and customs more friendly, they cannot compensate for the unfriendliness you could sometimes feel on the streets. Even my famously color blind kids felt and told me about it several times. I can't help feeling the PRC Chinese have spoiled it for all of us with their deplorable anti-social habits. No wonder their President had taken to publicly scolding them on this matter.

People are much more in a hurry now and often impatient.

On the other hand we had some of our best photos on this trip in part because we finally dared to drive into Yosemite in winter. I prayed we didn't need to put on those tire chains. They were rented and I am not even sure if they would fit!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

PM: Branded vs Neighborhood schools

The PM lauded two top scoring PSLE pupils for choosing to enroll in a neighborhood secondary school than a branded one. The question on many of our minds is this. Would he when the time comes encourage his grand children to do the same? l doubt it. If my guess is right it would be better that he had not posted those comments to Facebook. Better to leave people alone to make their choices. Better to encourage people to try and if not successful to manage their disappointment positively.
I think in the end parents must research and choose the right rather than a branded school for their children. I am quite sure RGS wouldn't be suitable for my girls. The elder girl probably won't have aced her A levels at RI and more important make the right friends and the right experience.

Update: Dec 22, 9:10 pm

I should have this in the main post but we are on holidayand blogging is the low priority.

Remember LKY didn't send the PM and his siblings to RI, ACS etc. They went to Chinese stream schools. That's was a powerful message.

Whatever happened to saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Credibility is slipping. The need to read between the lines is getting more important just like everywhere else eh?

We fly home tonight. Always better to have a real keyboard to use.

Coach Handbag

Picked out this handbag for wifey yesterday at Westfield Valley Mall in San Jose. Coach bags are much better value for money here than back home.

I think I have often been good at choosing handbags for her.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lessons from killing rats

Bring in the commando pest busters,  inform the media and show Singapore society that the authorities are doing something and acting quickly. Then wait a few months when people complain on social media which cannot but also find its way to the ST, repeat the cycle calling in the exterminators again.

If you are not motivated to get to the bottom of the problem once and for all, just paying contractors to do this is also kinda of solving the problem.

So what's the problem?

It is when public servants are easily rattled and frightened by us. They are too hasty  and not interested to do a fundamentally good job. Unless the PM looks into the matter nobody solves problem for long term and sustainable results.

Confident leadership is gradually turning into order takers and people pleasers. We are becoming like elsewhere.

Carmel Mission: A depressing place

We have been around these parts several times over the years but never visited this place. This time I had ignored my hunch and we came here yesterday.

In photos the place is beautiful but all of us feel a heavy spirit sitting on us while inside. We had to pay to get in, so might as well just look around. When we finally got out, the feeling of release and uplift was palpable.

The Forbidden City in Beijing was a more tragic place than here but we enjoyed the place and learned much. On the other hand this place feels haunted, tragic and self defeating.

Scholarships & your mind

Scholarships do strange things to the awardee's mind he is rarely aware of. He stopped looking for a job because he is already bonded to an employer. Unlike most of his classmates, he is secure and uncurious. I was hoping Sandra Davie would finally add this observation so many of us passed our youth are aware of.

Why go checking and learning about other opportunities especially entrepreneurship when you are already committed to an organization? Mentally the world of these scholarship holders shrink. The younger this happen to you, the worse off you will be,

In the end people often choose to be secure than to be adventurous. I am not sure I want my children to be risk adverse. In the bigger picture we are producing so many risk adverse leaders with this system. Even if we are successful, we are also becoming more fragile. A few exceptional ones at the top cannot make up for the deficit of the rest. Top leaders will find themselves pushing against a wall of the majority of lesser scholars. At the personal level these people are also boring and predictable.

Before us the top leaders might appear bold using spin doctors. Behind us they were unaware simply acting their programmed from young code to play it cleverly safe. Sadly each time they try to stray off the beaten path they also fail to appreciate the risks they were running with predictable results. Not all of us can put our fingers on this but many of us can sense that the quality of public administration is falling. I leave other more motivated bloggers to enumerate the long list of examples.

Written half way round the earth at 4 am in the morning without a keyboard.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Has the power tripped?

No, I could tell by connecting with our WDLive disc at home.

Before we had this there was no way to tell until we are back home from our trip abroad.

I am writing this from Yosemite national park.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Scholarships Realities

Now I have numbers to give form to my hunch about this matter. At the atomic level my daughter was one of those who didn't bother to try for any scholarships. At the macro level this is a critical problem for the civil service who must now find new ways to attract and retain their share of the best. This they cannot do without overhauling the system and culture. I only hope they will act more like Apple than Nokia in the process. Of course my girl would have missed the boat but that cannot be helped. We must live in the present more than in the future.

Taxi fares priced to the limits

The last time I was in a cab was more than a year ago. For me it is either my car or public transport. These days more buses than the unreliable MRT. Cabs are simply not value for money. I don't know if I am right but overall owning your own set of wheels is better than calling cabs.

The story above confirmed my hunch that the cab companies have used their pricing power to the limit. Before this happened at Changi Airport I didn't understand why Trans Cab wanted to list but now their effort to is probably history.

On the other hand taxi drivers need to earn enough money to continue to attract locals to drive them or you would have many taxis in the yard and no drivers. We have a top and bottom squeeze here. I wonder if this is not the reason why we cannot imitate HK taxi scene.

For me, I am waiting the day of the driverless car come asap. Of course "all things being equal" transport cost will go down but property price will go up. This is the peculiar dynamics for the layman concerning the non tradeable sector of the economy. Indeed property continues to be a good long term investment despite what some very learned socialist minded economist eruditely propose otherwise.

The only enemy beside a bad economy or adverse politics for a good property market is the disruptive side effect of technology. Ecommerce has started to hurt on the street retail and it is not stopping there. Quietly years before it had save office rent through hot desking. The long term sweet spot in real estate is probably residential, logistics and meeting places.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The will to make Madrasahs succeed

I had been worried that the Madrasah path was an educational dead end for its pupils. Its failure was too horrible to contemplate. Now my fears have been put to rest.

This is a reminder that we can produce excellent outcomes if we are committed and put the best we have to the task. Pretty obvious isn't it? The problem is unlike our early days, the number of tasks and projects are growing faster than the people we have to deal with them. So many important jobs are now done by inadequate people.

We make do with what we have, assigning our best to the jobs that are most critical. Of course we don't do this anywhere near perfectly. The slip ups are glaring and potentially politically costly. Fixing the priority list has never been as important. Sometimes the trade-offs has as many losers as there are winners e.g., the understaffed police. Often the trade-offs are measured in time. What is withheld today for the sake of the future. Especially how much do you avoid spending today for a more secure tomorrow. John Maynard Keynes had some wise words regarding this matter which the PAP had grown to ignore to their cost.

Some things were just stupid in the the form of penny wise and pound foolish or a stitch in time to save nine. The woeful lack of maintenance of our rail system is a classic example.

To deploy sufficient resources and talent to make Madrasah succeed stems from a deep appreciation of the consequences of not giving the Muslim Malay community a leg up. I do not know if this is an original thought owned by the present leadership or just a hard truth they acted upon without deep insight.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

ISIS sympathisers among Malaysian soldiers

Yeah, Malaysian police are keeping tab on the soldiers. Who is keep tab on the police then? The Salafist ideology is deep seated in Malaysia. It has become a real hard problem taking politics as its hostage too.

I can't wait for more of them who have gone to Iraq and Syria to be disillusioned from their experience joining ISIS. It is our fortune that Malaysian, Indonesian, Filipino and Indian Muslims which the Arab ISIS look down on are given menial tasks instead of silly glory toting a rifle. I hope they get most of them to carry water, cook and also wash toilets.

The ISIS Arabs are racists. True religion is race blind.

ST: More such stories please

I am writing this on the morning of the 11th but posting this as the 7th. I simply didn't have the time to blog.

This series of articles by Toh Yong Chuan have been very well received. He had tried being a security guard, taxi driver and now caring for the elderly. It was the first story that had the most impact on me because I know next to nothing about security guards. The only security guard we knew was almost like family to us long ago at my parents' place in Braddell View. The scene has completely changed, becoming worse.

Now would ST be hard put to find more such stories? To me the concept is about building links (not yet bridges) between different worlds in the shared space of Singapore society. The media spent too much time writing about the successful and rich. They should go and find out what the public is keen to know but nobody is providing the info.

To be relevant the ST must be a local paper as well. Wasn't that the reason why Warren Buffett went out buying many community papers. This is how you deal with globalization.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Western Union: Sing Post worry for you

A real pity PayPal wasn't usable this time when we try to send her help money. Her situation had worsen after one year and so she no longer have a bank account and is on the verge of homelessness.

First time I sent money via Western Union. The $70 transfer fee to me is really expensive and of course the SGD/USD rates are horrible too. I expect it would be even worse for other currencies. If I could use PayPal from my USD account I wouldn't need to suffer this tax. The USD is so strong now.

It is easy to help the rich who don't need your help and very costly to help the poor because they are so poorly set up to even receive aid.

What I was quite unprepared for was the reaction of the Sing Post officer when I told her I wanted to send money overseas. She asked me if I had personally met the receiver and went on to explain that she had to do this with everyone using Western Union because there has been just too many scams. When I told her no, but I had known this person for a good ten years, she still wear that worry for me expression. I told her don't worry, I know what I was doing.

I have gotten to know so many people because I used to run a website and sell stuff. All sorts from all over the world and over time a handful have become friends. Most are doing well or OK but this one was especially unfortunate.

A business isn't just about money or performance. People is the reason and you need to find a balance to make this worthwhile and meaningful according to your faith. Do not exceed your faith for that is pride. Give faith time to grow, to be wrong, to be humbled.

Update: Dec 6 8:20 am

Received this SMS from Western Union about an hour ago. Appreciate the service.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Smart or just Smarter Nation?

Huh? What smart nation? In my early twenties they had I vaguely recall the intelligent island vision and other successors. I think each plan lasted about ten years. So aren't we an intelligent nation already or in the new description, a smart nation?

I think the right frame is not smart but smarter nation. This bandwagon never stops.

The technology I kinda of read about to be incorporated to make a smarter nation are already here. We are simply just putting them together and integrating it in a fashion other cities do not have the political will to do the same. In other words, it is not too far wrong to say we can be viewed as catching up. But we want to catch up better than others since they never have the full works.

So what's after the smart nation? The dawn of robots? Do you still need every Singaporean as many can economically be replaced by machines? Luminaries like Stephen Hawkings and Elon Musk among others are brooding over the fall of our specie by then. I hope and I don't think they are right, but I am more worried about AI robotic soldiers and police officers. Meanwhile we will be accumulating experience with flying drones and massively intelligent networks. As usual I expect we will pay insufficient attention to security and privacy.

Welcome to the Brave New World.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Bishan Depot: Not once, twice but three times

I was also thinking of that Kenny Roger's song.

That duo insulted high security three times! I supposed they could also have entered any military installation if they had they wanted too. After all the guy in charge of SMRT is a former Chief of Defence Force.

I screenshot that article on Friday. This morning I had to decide if I should thrashed it. I think the right thing to do is remember rather than forget. If I remember correctly the next day Christopher Tan wrote an article educating readers the seriousness of this breach of security.

What I am really disappointed with the MPs and ministers is the lack of outrage over this incident. They will try harder but who cares about harder, it has got to be good enough.

Are they also trying to use the nobody gets fired for buying IBM logic by using Certis Cisco for security? That company has its priorities wrong because it put commercial interests ahead of security performance. There are businesses which a failure has small impact and there are those with high impact which failure is unacceptable. Every major security breach is a Black Swan for a protection company like Certis Cisco. If they don't understand this they shouldn't be in this business.

Looks like we aren't learning the right lessons until we are hit with a MAJOR TERRORIST ATTACK.

Update: Dec 6, 8:25 am

Thanks to Andrew for the reminder.

SMRT management cannot be trusted. Stupid of minister Liu not to come down harder on them. These irresponsible and greedy bosses will keep their jobs but I am not sure about Lui Tuck Yew.