Thursday, March 31, 2016

On China: Kausikan's candor

I didn't like him at first but now I am getting to appreciate him: Bilahari Kausikan. He says it as he sees it. Quite undiplomatic for a diplomat but is also reminded me of S Rajaratnam's forthrightness.

Even the NYT has taken to quoting from his sharing at the IPS.

Like Goujian which I used to blog about probably years back about the Chinese, the weak and strong Goujan are quite different characters.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Yuan Research Centre: NTU 1, NUS 0

That is what happened when you are better in the Chinese Language, that you have trained countless PRC government leaders. The Yuan research centre will be in NTU and not NUS. I can feel the rapidly increasing importance of CL. It is a world of difference when China move from the primary seller to become the primary customer. As a seller she speaks your language to make the sale. As a customer you have to speak their language to get them to buy from you.

They are going to publish in CL or at least in bilingual.

A surprising box in the mail

I was flabbergasted to open the letter box to see a box occupying 90% of the space. The box was very light as it was I discovered later made from Styrofoam. And what was it trying to protect? A protective piece of tempered glass for my Yoga tablet! I have ordered so many screen protectors before and this is the first time I see it packaged this way.

Terrible lift maintenance

This is a totally unacceptable level of life maintenance. We have been too complacent. I hope we are not waiting to be as screwed up as the Chinese before we fix this everywhere because the Chinese use the same technology as us. In fact they are the same all over the world.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Post MNC Singapore economy

I said to myself, "A top down approach" But that is exactly what we do when the government is very serious about something, wanting to minimize the risk of failure and make it successful. They are finally rolling up their sleeves, very interventionist to transform industries. Unstated is that we can no longer count on the erstwhile MNC development model. For the young it also means the best opportunities are no longer with the large foreign MNCs. Tomorrow is certainly not MNC extrapolated. Less management and more leadership going forward.

 Workers better be prepared for wrenching change. Leaders better figure out and successfully persuade them to come along.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

SG future according to LKY

I recalled LKY response to what Singapore would be like in the next 50 years? He said with enthusiasm that it would be much better. Meanwhile Han Fook Kwang retrieved his notes interviewing the late LKY on this subject and I want to reproduce it in full here for reference and thought.

How confident are you that Singapore will survive you?

Mr Lee All I can say is I think Singapore is safe for 10 years. No trouble because there's a team in place that will handle it. Whether it will be 15, 20, 30 years depends on them getting a team of players very soon. Part of the team is in place but you need a leader man. You need somebody who can communicate, who can mobilise people, move people. It's not enough to have a good policy. You got to convince people.

What about beyond 10 years?

Mr Lee I think there will come a time when eventually the public will say, look, let's try the other side, either because the PAP has declined in quality or the opposition has put up a team which is equal to the PAP and they say, let's try the other side. It must come.

How will it happen?

Mr Lee It depends on when it happens and whether it happens all of a sudden or it happens gradually. If the decline in standards happens gradually, an opposition will emerge of quality. I mean, the public can sense it.

I think the more likely is a gradual evolution because it is most unlikely the way we have evolved the party and the renewal of the party leadership that you will get such a clash of opinions that it will divide the whole leadership, the MPs and the party machinery into two, or into one major part, one minor part.

What will happen if it takes place suddenly?

Mr Lee If it is sudden, well, you're landed with an emergency. In that emergency I think the people will just take somebody like me and a few of those friends and say look, let's make a bid and stop this from going down the drain.

What could possibly make it happen suddenly?

Mr Lee You have a rumpus in the leadership. They disagree profoundly, either for reasons of principle or personality and suddenly it breaks up... I cannot tell you what's going to be in maybe 20, 30, 40 years, not possible. We might have a genuine difference of perspective what the future should be, what kind of Singapore will survive and thrive in that future. We might have a clash. I don't know. I've lived long enough to know that nobody settles the future of his country beyond more than a decade or so of his life. Stalin grabbed the whole of eastern part of Europe, grabbed all the Asian republics right up to Siberia, took Outer Mongolia which belonged to China under his wing. That's 1945. He's dead. 1950s or -something, Khrushchev came up. 1992, it dissolved - less than 40 years. They threw up a Gorbachev who never went through a revolution, who did not know that he was sitting on a boiling cauldron.

So there's nothing that can be done to prepare us for that eventuality?

Mr Lee Can anybody tell you how to prevent, from getting a stroke or an accident? That you will eventually die is a certainty, right? But how you will die, nobody can tell you.

What is your greatest fear for Singapore?

Mr Lee I think a leadership and a people that has forgotten, that has lost its bearings and do not understand the constraints that we face. Small base, highly, technically, organised, very competent people, complete international confidence, an ability to engage the big boys. You lose that, you're down. And you can go down very rapidly...

No system lasts forever, that's for sure. Ten years, I don't think it'll happen; 20 years, I can't say; 30 years, even more I cannot tell you. Will we always be able to get the most dedicated and the most capable, with integrity to devote their lives to this? I hope so but forever, I don't know.

As I re-read these extracts now, he seemed more tentative and ambivalent about Singapore's future than I had ever heard him.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The 'Essence of Religion'

As a government your priority is to get every race and religion to get along. Most governments would love the Pope's stance on this. It take courage for Pope Francis to hold on to these values because the most vocal adherents of any religion tend to be exclusive and even hold a low opinion of any other religion except their own.

Christians should just like the Apostle Paul hold firmly to the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus and keep an open mind to welcome others whatever form they come in.

Here is a good example of a Christian missionary in action on the streets of Chicago. Time did a story of him back in 2002 which I only come across today (March 30)

Christians and any religion should learn that they do not need to be insecure about their faith.

Lee Wei Ling: A year after LKY left

17 hours later and 3,200 shares an old buddy shared and I got the opportunity to read this by Lee Wei Ling.

Well said Wei Ling! This can only be made better with many more shares.

Budget 2016

No time and yet I feel I need to record somethings here, and I am finding that I am adapting.

Just one yellow box taking Pareto's Law to the extreme. If that thrust fails many will not matter. The rest of the budget is mostly to make things better, right some unfairness, re-calibration as gaps grow etc.,

Politically if you are cynical which I am not, but enough are, they will suspect Heng played it safe, make no big mistakes so that he can be PM. I prefer to think the better of him. When things are clearer the measures will take advantage of those insights. As usual I wished we were more able at comprehending what is developing in the world today.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

SMRT: Do they track near misses?

These trains and its systems are terribly expensive and we know for sometime they don't take care of them as they ought to. Simple, just consider something you can feel: the trains aircon. How often they don't cool, i.e., inadequate maintenance.

How do you make sure that everything is tip top? The surest way is when the smallest items are attended to. This has not happened to our trains and system for many years. Trains I took in Japan from their design which were obviously older than ours were in much better condition. Now what has this got to do with safety? Everything! I think this tragic accident was a tragedy waiting to happen! If they have had the right attitude it might have been avoided but of course in safety speak it would be billed as perhaps moving from one in a hundred thousand to one in a million, maybe from million to ten million whatever.

My question and only SMRT and LTA can answer is simple: Do they track near misses? The laws of probabilities is such that frequently there a many near misses before there is a hit. Near misses is a flashing amber light telling you trouble is coming. I fear they never bother. I am afraid they were too money minded.

A while ago I read an article by Today newspaper: Some SMRT staff upset over apparent disregard for workers’ safety. Need I say more. That is not TRS, TOC etc., alright.

Update: March 25 4:30pm

As usual Chris Tan writes an excellent article. This is the long form of what a sophisticated multilevel safety system would look like and which obviously was absent at SMRT. In shorthand, a fatality is not possible unless multiple levels also fail. The quality of such systems is checked against near misses, study them and follow up with preventive measures.

Looks like in some situations SMRT have a "you die your business" attitude toward their workers. If their health and safety are low priority do not expect high morale much less any chance of becoming a world class train system.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

LKY: One year ago today...

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew passed away. I have chosen what was said in the Cabinet Room by the PM to remember this day.

I wonder if LKY has become a god in every sense except in name. That is words recorded would become scripture of sorts, but I don't care except that we must always know very well what is happening, what we need to do and do it well.

Update: March 26 12:20pm

I chanced across this, not sure where to file it without losing it eventually and decided this is the place. We have no leader who can speak candidly like him. That is much appreciated and missed.

We would not just be missing the talk but the missing action that would have gone with the talk and that is what matters.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The young are less religious

That's from the ST yesterday. No surprise even in an environment when religion is becoming more prominent in our society and elsewhere as well. Religion is so important that it has even been hijacked for all sorts of ends especially politics. However among many families the young on balance are less interested than their parents are about religion.

Yesterday my brother in law shared this from George Takei page. Wifey did the same today! Pretty much saves me a lot of work explaining to myself and recording it here.

In other words it is commonplace to find intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy in theology. People are more self deluded than enlightened. Unknown to them they also become vulnerable to mischievous non-faith ideas dressed up as holy thoughts which would be used to foment trouble in society, typically through narrow mindedness and exclusiveness. Often claiming they have a monopoly of the truth and ultimate wisdom.

I am glad the young are less religious. Get your faith right and stay honest, or else don't commit to any.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Young grads: Why it is harder for you than your grad parents.

Link to article at Project Syndicate.

Our young ought to read this article and hopefully connect the dots to understand why their pay even as graduates is "low". Before I continue, our young graduates are already doing extremely well relative to many in other societies. Of course it is harder to make this comparison because you need to take a plane ride and live among them for a while. Visiting as tourists, not even university exchange programs will do. So what our young can compare, is noticed how much easier it has been for their parents especially if they happened to be graduates.

Cancer incidence in perspective

Increase of incidence of cancer goes hand in hand with an ageing population. The hard facts aka numbers help one put in perspective how the dice is loaded. I have often across articles which suggest that 1 in 4 of us will have cancer in our lifetimes. At the personal level I think I have too many friends who have had a brush with cancer. On the other hand cancer among my relatives seem much rarer. I am not even thinking about my cousins but uncles and aunties.

Faith in the public domain

Prof Farish Noor contributed this to the ST yesterday. I am reminded that he couldn't work in his homeland because the religious establishment consider him too liberal and open minded. I think he felt it keenly and that perhaps helped him to write about religion in SE Asia better.

He took us on a quick tour of what it was like in the good old days where there was more respect for each other's faith. That is going going gone. What can we hope to achieve now except mutual tolerance? What can governments do? Sometimes as in Malaysia it is the problem. Everywhere governments aren't the right institutions to recreate the harmony of the past. We are on auto-pilot. Each religion has its vision of the future but be careful what you wish for. It will definitely not be like what you imagine. Concentrate on the present and learning to understand and get along with each other is best.

Haagen Dazs at Great World City

Haagen Dazs never stay at a location forever. We almost wanted to drop by the outlet at Wisma Atria but I was suspicious it might not be there any more. Just as well we found they have established themselves at Great World City and till the end of this month it is 30% off for every item including take aways.

Waiting for automated emergency braking

Just read this on CNet. Clearly there is a great need for something like this when I recall the traffic incidents dotted all over Google Map when we were in the US. Back home I am always nervous about the right most lane on our expressways taking care to avoid some stretches during peak hours.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lessons of governance from Brazil

I decided to find out more what is going on with former President Lula of Brazil. I thought he did a transformational job for Brazil, so why are they investigating him now? I found this article by the BBC especially helpful with some critical lessons for our future.

Brazil like so many places these days have become divided along socioeconomic lines. Most governments are formed to look after not so much the interest of every citizen but those who supported them and would continue to do so. In other words there are always large minorities who feel left out. Singapore has by and large successfully avoided this but vicariously it is also something we take for granted to be business as usual. It isn't nearly everywhere else.

In democracies the rich do not have the advantage of numbers. So they find all sorts of ways to influence the government in their favor. In most countries that is through bankrolling their election campaigns and many other even less praiseworthy ways between elections to skew laws and regulations toward their narrow interests.

In other words for a democracy to be stable society must not be too divided or it cannot find sufficiently large overlaps of interests to stay together. The wealth and income gaps that have developed here threaten our long term survival. The fragmentation of our society into interest groups e.g., animal rights, environmental protection, heritage preservation, LGBT issue and even non-inclusive religious lifestyles will make it difficult to be one people in future.

The drivers that make us economically successful and globally integrated will over time divide  us and threaten our unity and governance. What are we doing to make sure this will not happen?

First visit to Chin Lee Restaurant

First time at Chin Lee. The food is very good and the price even better :-)

We also had the yam paste dessert which is not in the picture.

Terrorism: We have to do this urgently

What caught my attention is just one word: urgently.

So there is a time window we must close quickly which we rationally assume the enemies are also rushing to exploit then. We are also fighting this like old generals fighting the last war, i.e,. the conflict is evolving; the terrorists have the initiative and they are also forced to be imaginative. As much as possible they will come at us differently if they hope to score any success. Our hope is that they would try targets in other countries first because it is "too hard" to hit Singapore.

We are safe because other are less safe and got picked for attacks. It is the slow ones in the herd that gets eaten all over again.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Disciplinary Action: The Hep C outbreak at SGH

I was quite unhappy nobody was made to account for this fiasco. Glad to see they finally took disciplinary action. It is alright they failed to mention who got the stick over this.

Doctors that would not be quoted in private had commented that SGH was just unlucky, that it could have happened at other hospitals. Well they got the message loud and clear this isn't acceptable. There was a time for a very long time doctors regularly failed to wash their hands properly leading to countless needless infections. All these had to do with habits and procedures. The lives and well being of patients are of utmost importance.

I recall as a kid sometimes the old complained that they are going to the hospital to die. Looking back now I think I understand a little better what they meant. It was common for them to catch something else in hospital which turned out to be fatal.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Got the MyCloud 4TB

Bought the WD MyCloud 4 TB drive ($269) at the IT Show yesterday. Also picked up a few smaller items: DLink Wifi AC adapter (DWA-182) for $39 and a few accessories

The installation software fail to detect the MyCloud on the network. In the end I set it up manually.

Update: Nov 24 6:45 pm

Cheaper by $20 now or eight months later.

Update: Sep 1 2017

The price hasn't changed for the 4TB version but is much cheaper for the 8TB one.

DeepMind vs Go master Lee Se-dol

Lee Se-dol was on a losing streak against Google DeepMind, then he won the fourth game. Meanwhile many others along with Vivian Balakrishnan asked what happened when we are completely beaten in competitive games by the computer? I think we just missed the lesson from Lee Se-dol. If the machine can learn, so can we. Supposedly that might be how Se-dol in the fourth game has beaten DeepMind.

No, it probably isn't true there will be less fun. I think there would be a lot of fun trying to beat the machine. We may be making the machines that help us become better ourselves. We should not give up.

Natgeo: Living with the Zika virus

Got this from Natgeo in the mail. A really dismal read filling the reader with a sense of hopelessness that the Brazilians have any chance of eradicating the Aedes mosquito. The dwellers of the Favelas are more realistic about that prospect and they are also its worst sufferers.

The media has stolen that health agenda for this scourge. The greater threat, dreadful as it is already isn't Zika but chikungunya.

Dengue is already everywhere but I fear the Rio Olympics would spread Zika and chikungunya even farther.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

PAP MP resigns in ignominy

After having set Facebook alight yesterday, this is front page news this morning. The man made a big mistake aka Michael Palmer before him. He saw and didn't learn. There was enough time as his relationship with another PAP activist Wendy Lim began about six months ago. We are more interested in the larger picture though.

Well said Evelyn. In other words we will always be less trusting toward the PAP than our parents did. We will always wonder what lurks in dark corners and behind closed doors which we have no access. It also means that we expect and rank transparency very highly.

Many probably share Beldin's feeling about this as well. We will never know until a skeleton fell out of a cardboard accidentally left opened. You would have thought in private the party must have severely warned its MPs since Michael Palmer soiled their reputation. Sure we cannot expect Palmer to be the last but we would appreciate there is a lot more time between Palmer and David Ong, like from one generation to another as every generation often need to learn old lessons anew. We are all disappointed.

David Ong you messed up and that is your problem. You have gravely wronged the woman's husband and also your own family. You were a fool to have behaved this way. It would have gone much better for you if this was a one time indiscretion and never happened again, but you kept up as long as you weren't caught. Who else from the PAP is like you doing the same or other shameful acts away from the public glare? Only time will tell. For now will the secretary general privately or publicly warn its MPs and party members to live up to their whiter than white reputation?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Kishore's chose three enduring ideas from LKY

I have often been critical of Kishore's articles but today I decided to translate his latest article into a thinking map. Done very quickly, this is what I have approximately.

Kishore suggested three enduring ideas from LKY for the long term survival of Singapore: 1. Integrity, 2. Institutions and 3. Independence.

To me "1. Integrityt" helps us to "1a. build right" We would be all over the place and working at cross purposes if leaders have no integrity and are surreptitiously serving their own agendas.


"2. Institutions" helps us to "2a. stay right" The easiest to understand is how fast food giant McDonalds produce consistency and performance. "1a. build right" is no use if we cannot keep it "2a. staying right".


"3. Independence" promotes "3a. growth" because for a nation state independence equates to sovereignty. Imagine if we were unable to defend ourselves, our foreign policy is weak and we lack confidence, would we have succeeded in reclaiming so much land from the sea, i.e., "3a. growth"

Together 1a, 2a and 3a forms a virtuous cycle as long as 1, 2 and 3 are around.

Young not marrying?

Your heart which is a poor thinker is almost saying the young are not keen to get married. On the other hand the mind says they are only delaying it. Yet if you apply even more thought to this the damning conclusion is that even greater numbers will end up not marrying at all vis-à-vis any earlier times.

Methinks they want it all but that is only possible for very few of them, and when push comes to shove their choice is to pursue their financial security. 

For most of human existence marriage and raising a family were driven by economic necessity than love. Once you take away that the result is fewer marriages. Indeed the greatest poverty is the poverty of love. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Got the Lenovo Tab 3

Bought this Lenovo Yoga 3 8" at IT Show on the first day. I traded in my faulty Galaxy Tab S for $70 so I needed only $229 to get this Yoga.

I like Lenovo Anypen Technolog. It is very useful for me to draw my thinking maps.

Newstead still short me the pouch and screen protector. I am not very keen of any of them but if convenient, I would redeem them at any of their outlets. What might be useful is a tempered glass screen protector which I can buy off eBay. As I use a graphite pencil to draw those map, I wonder if the screen protector is necessary.

Monday, March 7, 2016

$32 plus $268 to fix the Galaxy Tab S

The Tab S 10.5 has been in the workshop for almost a week now. Samsung had called me several times for my decision. I am not willing to pay $268 to have it fixed. They want to change the motherboard and battery, the latter I feel was optional. I bargained with them over the price, they responded I am already getting 30% off. I asked them to requote without the battery but that would only save me $50. I already paid $32 just to have them assess it. 

I think I paid $565 or $525 when new in 2014. Well it is out of warranty. 

Finally I told them I would wait till IT Show to decide if I want to go ahead with the repairs. Perhaps the Lenovo Tab 3 pro is more suitable for me. I want to draw my regular thinking maps on the Tablet. At the moment I am back to using Dia which being more cumbersome is much more powerful and that is indispensable when the maps become complex. Perhaps I should just forget about replacing the Tab S. Will decide this weekend. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Can't even establish the facts around Benjamin Lim's case.

So ST gave a timeline of what  happened eh? Was it accurate? But I want to look at something else before returning to that.

In the recounting, analyses and explaining of what led to Benjamin killing himself (well nobody saw how it happened OK, we just thought it reasonable to assume he jumped from his bedroom window) there has been more heat than light. The complete facts were never definitively established and what is considered reasonable filled the gaps along with various assumptions and then on top of the whole pile add speculations.

If I take the ST timeline to be right, what had triggered Benjamin's tragic action could very well be he was denied the chance to attend the school camp. Of course to support this I would just be speculating that the camp meant the world to him, and to a 14-year old that very well might be true - the test of reasonableness.

But it is all conjecture isn't it?

The worst speculation is reserved for what happened in the police interrogation (note not interview). The session was never recorded either in audio or video. Police lost the chance to protect itself. But why should enough members of the public assume that police interrogation could be, if I may put this across quickly, "human rights denying" and using power to apply dreadful psychological pressure. Because many have friends who know friends telling stories what it was like to be interrogated by the Police. However we live with it because the overwhelming majority of us will not suffer such treatment, i.e., not my problem, I am good. The same reason why there is not much public outcry over the Hep C incident at SGH.

Establishing the facts when the process was never designed to capture them along the way is hard work time consuming and costly. So what started as reasonable guesses became facts after a while to create a consistent story with no gaps.

The above compares TOC against MHA. Five officers versus 3 officers according to the minister but the MSM also consistently reported 5 officers (e.g., below). Just one example of not getting the facts right. If I am kinder perhaps there were three officers and two busy bodies tagging along who seemed at that time not needed elsewhere.

ST claimed five plain clothes officers. So how many actually? Shanmugam said no more than three.

Now it is my word against yours, where are the facts when we need them? So the more powerful wins eh as Churchill warned that was how he would write history.

The Police for your own sake and the morale of your officers in the age of social media, record the interrogations. Record the facts and do not permit speculation. Nevertheless my experience with the Police have gotten worse as blogged about in an earlier post. They told me they would contact me about the neighborhood watch and I am still waiting. Their word is not so good.