Saturday, April 30, 2016

Set of WMF kitchen knives

Bought this set of WMF knives for $99 yesterday at Isetan. We had gone looking for them at Takashimaya without success. Since we were already in Orchard Road and as we hardly come here any more we decided to go over to Isetan just to look around. It turned out to be a good decision.

This morning BHG is also selling the same set but for $118.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

SG Property: Learning from London's example

Besides using this to commemorate that my subscription of the Economist is ending soon, I have a more serious purpose: London property prices as a cautionary tale for Singapore.

A quote from the the article is in order:

Increasing inequality is bad for the city economically. Costly rents and mortgages transfer wealth from poorer people, who tend to spend whatever money they have, to richer folk, who save it. As a result there is less overall demand to support the local economy. 

Decreasing diversity is another loss: if different sorts of people do not cluster together, they cannot exchange ideas and innovations so readily. In 2012 and 2013 productivity per worker fell in London, though it rose in the rest of the country. The proportion of total employment that comes from startups is falling, and small firms are currently closing at a faster rate than more established outfits.

One day I saw a much appreciated and needed stationery shop in the neighborhood disappear. It was replaced by a hair dresser. There was a hardware shop which made way for yet another hair-do enterprise. Afterward a decades old Chinese medical shop gave up which was replaced by yet another hair dresser! Elsewhere it could be something else, e.g., banks in Holland Village.

All of these are years old stories but they mimic the London experience and at a time before we moved to arrest the inexorable rise of real estate prices.

The government might from time to time be blinded by ideology but it is not stupid once it realized its mistake. The real estate sector should recognize facts on the ground before they press the government to make their lives good again. Being wishful is not a virtue in business but it also makes me wonder the sort of reprehensible relationship they might have enjoyed previously.

The quick and dirty economic growth from property bubbles are not worth it and only serves to make us poorer in the long run.

Beware of dentists suggesting fillings

This is a horror story and it is far away in France. It is amazing he got away for so long. The story here is more mundane but painful especially to the pocket and your health. A lot of dental fillings these days are probably unnecessary. Sadly the majority of patients do not know and trust the dentist's opinion and get unnecessary fillings. It is a quick and dirty way for the dentist to make as much money as possible. As the healthcare sector becomes increasingly commercially focused it is also becoming harder to find a dentist you can trust. One way out is to go to a dental hygienist. They have more experience doing routine maintenance and are cheaper as well.

Reading Admin Officers promo dinner

65 admin officers were promoted like they do every year in posh settings at some hotel. This year they have chosen the Shang. I am not suggesting this is wrong but the yearly choice of venue and luxury is more than a little interesting. Also don't envy them but be sad for ourselves. Here is why.

The ministers are always telling the these admin officers they need to spend more time on the ground in order to write meaningful policy papers and craft policies that are sensitive and suitable for conditions on the ground. How we ought to understand this with greater precision is this: You need to spend enough time on the ground to make your policy making useful to the ministers. But how much time is enough? If you are not sure you ought spend more rather than less right but that is not how they have been doing. In other words, policy makers will always remain out of touch until they are periodically publicly humbled. This is the cycle of arrogance and meekness we can expect. The cycle of out of touch and getting back in touch.

The elite-hoi polloi divide is an issue all over the world which we prefer to remain as an issue as well. Civil society should take note, continue to develop and keep the government on the ball and relevant.

Monday, April 25, 2016

SMRT new trend: Tragic accidents

The report is out stating what is obvious for people with work site experience. This is in order that the the public would also know. Think of the dumbest reason possible and that is the reason why the tragic accident happen. Compare it against all other headline grabbing accidents they all have the same underlying cause: Negligence and "not so suay one" attitude toward safety. I complained earlier in another blog post a couple of days ago.

What the public cannot see or understand are where all the monkey business goes on, and there is plenty we are not privy to.

Given SMRT dismal track record do not be surprised more workers will die on the job. They are starting a new trend. There is no need to review safety procedures. The hell just comply with them and it will be alright. But what is the cost of compliance? Missing deadlines and dollars and cents leading to the stock price and the senior executives comp. Safety issues are the same all over the world. Remember BP's Deepwater Horizon? That is one huge example. You can have your pick anywhere anytime.

For failing to ensure a safety culture some pretty high up executives in SMRT ought to be booted out. Now they are busy trying to pass the buck with improving safety systems. It is not the system idiot, it is the behavior and the attitude that keep repeating unsafe actions. Until that change, wait for the next accident and big apology. Afterward it is business as usual for what the public cannot see.

Go look for someone working on maintenance in SMRT and hear, "Please don't quote me stories..."

Update: Apr 27 9:15 pm

I didn't have to wait very long for just the next example to prove the point in my main post. If I had waited perhaps just weeks for another death at work site accident story, the common features of why the tragedy happened would still be the same. Do people wonder why we never have bomb disposal officers getting killed while trying to defuse/dispose bombs? They follow safety procedures. 

People give short shrift to safety here. I do not know how many more need to die before they would wake up their idea. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dr Naik: Half right is most dangerous

It is easy for me to understand Dr. Zakir Naik by comparing him with the Christian equivalents I have come across. He is a dangerous man but it is not easy to tell. If you must listen to him, do not trust him too quickly but listen with a critical mind for a very long time. Once you trust him, you will stop checking his ideas and then you are sold.

Dr. Naik is excellent for preparing Muslims to be radicalized turning them eventually into candidates for terrorism (such types won't use the label on themselves) part way. He will not take you the whole journey but makes it easy for others to pick it up and complete the trip. The Malaysian government is naive, more likely it may already be too late and they find it all but impossible to stop him preaching in Malaysia. Many imans are probably already sold on his theology.

Dr Naik preaches and is an apologist for the superiority of Islam over other faiths. We have many Christian preachers who are also like him defending Christianity. If you think your religion is superior keep it to yourself or in private discussions over a meal with those from other faiths. The public square is not the place for such things. These are dangerous acts that can potentially bring about misunderstandings and divisions in societies.

What sort of Islamic theology is this which threatens the peace than protects it? Like those Christian preachers I come across doing us a disservice, Dr. Naik have failed the Muslims. Unfortunately the rank and file adherents of any religion are also often too gullible and easily misled.

Waiting to be "Amazoned" by Uber

The taxi industry and consumers are simply sitting ducks waiting to be "Amazoned" by Uber. Long term greedy just like Amazon is the approach Uber is taking. Once they have become dominant they will raise prices and their stock will go up big time. That is their pay day. However they could never execute their plan like Amazon and so their strategy is more obvious.

People are naive given the money faced characters behind this business if they are across the world's cities to do good for you. It is an amoral business pure and simple. If we do not learn to look after ourselves eventually we will become Uber's hostages.

As for our taxis companies they deserved the pressure and competition they are getting from Uber. Truly reveals the extent of their complacency and parochialism.

Good luck and please vote public transport.

Wearing down my Logitech MK330 keyboard

Did I actually work that hard on my MK330 keyboard. The letter A is disappearing. This happen to all my former keyboards but I thought this is happening too soon. I only had this in December last year.

Perhaps I have truly been pushing myself harder, at least from far fewer, quick and even more sloppily written blog posts.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Safety? We are losing our values

This story is from ST Monday April 18, and I am only writing about it because my mind keep going back to it. I suppose I am in some way angry about this but I am too busy and especially powerless to do anything meaningful about it. Why else would I keep remembering?

The reason why so many people die at the work place is very simple. Safety is not priority one. The very same obverse reason why far fewer people die in air crashes because safety is priority one. So what effort? Where your heart is, there would be outcome you can expect. Delivering projects on time, maximizing profits ahead of safety then you can expect more injuries and deaths. The faster you make them work the more accidents you will experience. So sounding trite but it make sense, if you stop work nobody gets hurt as well.

So how do some bosses and the government try to deliver a safe environment? Silly wishes and praying of course on top of nagging at the workers. Meanwhile Mindef gets singled out for extra public whipping but ironically they are one of the safest place. Just unlucky.

Standards are falling in Singapore. People are careless about protecting personal data and now they get fined but I doubt they will learn. They were careless about infection control in SGH and so Hep C killed more than a few but SGH was just unlucky as it could have happened in any of our hospitals. So how could you name and shame them publicly? Everyone has been careless and negligent but some are more unlucky.

We are losing our values.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Suicide is not a Single Story

I know many will silently say to themselves that this 37 year old had been selfish to attempt suicide this way.

Those who thought otherwise also tend to be more willing to share their views publicly. Like Eric Lim and later he and others responded to another comment. See below.

My point for this post? It is actually more general. A post I wanted to write but find the effort to be too much until now.

Recently I read an Op-Ed by David Brooks from the NYT: The Danger of a Single Story. Eric Lim and his sympathizers are aware there is more than one valid way to look at suicide but Lydia Wong did not.

Mr. Brooks began his essay as follows:

In 2009 the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a fabulous TED talk called “The Danger of a Single Story.” It was about what happens when complex human beings and situations are reduced to a single narrative: when Africans, for example, are treated solely as pitiable poor, starving victims with flies on their faces.
Her point was that each individual life contains a heterogeneous compilation of stories. If you reduce people to one, you’re taking away their humanity.

He is a just a better communicator and writer than almost all of us. I always look forward to his writings.

There will be fewer quarrels and more mutual understanding if people are more open minded to more than their one narrow minded story.

Here goes one blog post, very quickly written.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

They are voters too: The Savings Bonds

Everyone of us except the only one who was debarred due to age have put good sums into the Singapore Savings Bonds, but when I try to encourage others to do the same, they are predictably uninterested. My private thoughts were always: they are voters too!

It is kinda of miracle that this system of electing a government through universal suffrage actually worked when most people can't even look after their financial best interest. The only folks I needn't encourage them to put money in this bond the the HNW friends. In fact for some their problem is the limit is too low and not worth the bother.

In an ideal world the elites should run the place but they regularly disqualify themselves because they are too selfish and exploitative of the hoi polloi. As a result, checks and balance is a necessity. Our system here is working well now but fragile. Investors do not care and are confident about us because to them as long as they can invest and profit before the roof caves, it is good enough for them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Record room temperature (31C)

The daughter shared this on the family Whatsapp showing the thermo in the living room has topped 31C. She also told me until now the highest temperature I have recorded in this blog was 30.6C. This is insanely hot. Unlike when we lived in even hotter Dubai, we are not prepared for temperatures beyond this.

Will this temperature be topped soon? I hope not.

Update: April 20 10:00am

LOL! The daughter Whatsapp this to me!

We all feel it, so we must talk about it right!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Quick thoughts on Brexit

Got this in the mail from Seeking Alpha,

Ahead of a visit to the U.K. next week by Barack Obama, the White House is insisting that a Brexit decision should be determined by U.K. voters and the U.S. president would only offer his views as a "friend" if asked during his two days in London. The administration has so far backed David Cameron's position on the matter, stating "the British economy will be weaker, its international influence will be reduced and the EU will be damaged if the U.K. votes to leave the bloc in June."

That is the problem everywhere including Singapore isn't it? Leaders only make a case for why this or that decision is good for the country but then in recent history they have difficulty ensuring that the benefits are widely scattered among the people. Instead bitter experience suggest that only the elites benefited and they masses are worse off. To win support for staying in the EU David Cameron has to successfully sell to enough voters why most of them would be better off. There is not much time or much faith for the PM to convince the Brits.

It hasn't worked for the man in the street, so why would he want to keep going in this direction eh?

So there is only one trick to convince the voters or leave your fate to capricious lady luck.

Underperforming DWA 182

This morning after living with it for a month, I decided to retire the supposedly higher performer DWA 182 Wi-Fi adapter and put back the trusty more than two years old DWA 171.

I could rarely get 100% signal strength with the DWA 182 which I regularly enjoy with the DWA 171. I don't understand why, the DWA 182 is a USB 3 spec vs the DWA 171 USB 2.

What is even more unacceptable is the Sync Tool only works intermittently with the DWA 182 unless I downgrade it from the 5 GHz band to the 2.4 GHz one.

I can only offer prayers

"I can only pray for you all" those were the words my aunt kept repeating when I spoke to her on the phone yesterday. She goes to mass every morning since I was little and prays for all of us. One day she will discover that was the most important and best gift ever. So why did she said that? Because most people want something more concrete than prayers. They want what they want which only include submitting to God provided it is convenient. But God is never convenient.

Do not pray like the little girl I blogged about two days ago was taught. Most who fail to move beyond that would eventually give up. Most people do not pray and the way so many churches are run combining management best practice and corralled passages of the Bible to support their choices suggest as much. They have made their choice and will have to accept the results.

I didn't tell my aunt prayers is all we need and covet. After all she could no longer get my daughter's name right for many years. Let her be and what she is doing is appreciated and accepted. Yes, she is getting older and the pace seems to be accelerating.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sixth Anniversary of my Father's passing

I can't embed this so I link to it will have to do. I bookmarked this tune at YouTube in June last year and kept it for use today, the sixth anniversary of my father's death. The music from that clip reminds me of him playing the various Chinese musical instruments especially the Erhu. Yes, he played that tune and many more too and played them very well. At his sick bed one of his constant friends was another guy who used to enjoy playing all these tunes with him. They were even in some public performances together.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Gardens by the Bay: When A Flower Dies

Gotta go and check out this book by Josephine Chia, "When A Flower Dies". From my many visits to the Flower Dome, I discover there are so many of us who love flowers. The world is so much richer for it!

The Science only trace the path for life and meaning to transverse. I hope people will overlay that with life rhythms and its vicissitudes against what they had needed to prepare for this topic in their PSLE. I am speculating.

Survival: Becoming an engineering nation

Can you tell what a forest is like from looking at some leaves of the trees? More or less. So I think we are going to remake ourselves into an engineering nation. It would never be called that but it is if we use the terms we are familiar with. Just like they used to call the automobile the horseless carriage. We are preparing ourselves for an innovative high tech future with the public service as a massive incubator for engineering talent. We are going to significantly reduce the loss of engineering to non engineering careers. All these are not in the article but you can more or less guess the 180 degree change in thinking and attitude the government has toward engineering. This could be the biggest learning from from the mismanagement of our rail infrastructure.

Twenty years from now, many engineers will be trained and equipped from their service in the public service to create innovative tech start-ups.

I have a blog post about the post MNC Singapore from analyzing this year budget. It doesn't mean we throw these companies out but they become secondary instead of primary to our economic strategy. Nurturing engineers is part of that "made at home" instead of "buy from abroad" strategy. The next world require uniquely home made products and services or we will get stuck in a race to the bottom price war with others.

I guess how they learned to pray

Someone shared this with me yesterday and later I found several friends were also sharing or praising it.

I supposed that is how Protestant Christian families who are serious about their religion (I didn't say faith) might teach their kids in the religious observances. She is so young and I don't suppose she understands everything she said. The articulation also led me to suspect that this was practiced.

I hope she out grow this. Meanwhile adult Christians also learned to pray like this. I used to hear them doing it. I hope they don't stop here, better yet don't do this for too long and move on to something more meaningful. If they do not most of them will tire of praying.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

LWL: The dishonorable son

The eldest son and PM responded to her sister telling the world he is deeply saddened by her remarks. It is easy to understand where the PM is coming from but his sister LWL is harder to understand and I fear most will miss her point. If not for my background in the Gospel, I would not have understood either.

Yep, the eldest son ought to have done differently. He obviously did understand his late father but did otherwise. Here is my read of the whole thing.

This is a scene from the Nativity story. King Herod the evil, paranoid and selfish king is getting his yearly forgiveness by transferring his sins to the bull which would be killed in his place. My point?

When we remember LKY, we must choose how to remember him. You cannot publicly remember him in all ways although in private how you do it is up to you. I fear on the first anniversary of his passing we had chosen the equivalent of remembering him like King Hero had although we are not evil like this king.

Just as God desires obedience more than sacrifice, He seeks the circumcision of the heart rather than the organ. That was precisely LWL point. It would have been in keeping with the memory and spirit of the late LKY to keep it really low profile and then in the second anniversary patted ourselves we understood what LKY would have liked for us to do and we had done and continue to. We needn't wait half a century like the Brits did for Winston Churchill. That is why LWL is so upset with her brother the PM. Out of political expediency he had caved to what the people want, a leader far less strong than his father or even his younger sister. He should never allowed the remembrance to be a bottom up effort but those who knew LKY most intimately should interpret the man to the masses who mostly do the know the man and in fact only begun to a year ago. This is an opportunity to lead than to be led. I was disappointed the PM chose to be led and I didn't know how to express my view until LWL came along and wrote her piece and the exchanges thereafter.

I need to continue a little bit more. This does not make LWL a more suitable leader than her brother because as LKY remarked the daughter well and good takes after him but unfortunately to the extremes. There is an impracticality to the good doctor tremendous courage which makes her unsuitable to lead us. She doesn't know how and when to compromise when that is called for.

It is not my place to judge the PM but I can understand why his sister called him a "dishonorable son". You have to remember your late father right. My little contribution is to explain at least those who are Gospel believers why.

Update: April 13, 4:30pm

Kudos from the publisher of The Independent. Read it here.

Thumbs up!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Lawrence Khong: Christian Worldview Series

I never bother with Lawrence Khong until he bothers our society especially over LGBT issues. On Singapore Daily today I came across a blog post on his latest series of sermons on the Christian Worldview. So I went to find out a little more.

"Truth is exclusive. It is never inclusive...." I think those words are only reserved for God to say because only he knows when and how to say it and get it right action wise. Lawrence Khong overreached if you asked me. He is just mere man. We all grasped the truth partially, so please don't act like you got it 100% Some humility is called for here.

Don't think so big when you have not succeeded at thinking small and practical. In times like this when religion is rising on the social and political agenda, a good and practical Christian is thinking of bringing the peacemaking effort of Christ to this world instead of cockiness over what is truth.

On Good Friday an insensitive non-Christian friend shared this with our chat group.

I am sure the Christians among us were offended but chose to keep quiet. I laughed it off and waited till Easter Sunday to respond as follows:

As peacemakers following the way of the Master who was tortured and crucified we chose not to be offended. As peacemakers not in thought and words only but with skin in the game, after you have done this let's see if you still have any appetite for Christian Worldview ala Lawrence Khong.

What is truth for humans who is always discovering and learning the truth? I thought Robert Brault put it well:

Love thy neighbor and if it requires that you bend the truth, the truth will understand. 

and also by Mr. Brault

Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, 
for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true. 

You want to know the truth simply through Bible Study? That is not going to happen until you get real, until you live it. Lawrence Khong doesn't understand the spirit of the Gospel or Christ. Keep going Lawrence and like I warned before, some day the ISD will invite you for coffee. Then you would say you are being persecuted for Christ's sake eh?

Card for Aunty's Birthday

Selected this Dayspring birthday card for my aunty. Got to mail it soon as it takes forever to get to her and I am hoping I made it in time for her birthday next year.

I will need to look up this post next year to make sure I don't send the same card!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Wild American Ginseng

Bought this bottle of wild American ginseng capsules for the daughter. I hope she finds it useful. When mom was around she had the know how to make something quite special with ginseng and chicken which was very helpful come exams time.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Frightened by Climate Change: Melting Ice Sheet

Spotted this first in ST and then its source in the NYT: Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly.

I think I speak for a growing number of people increasingly concerned about Climate Change, but that article was the first time I felt fright. Concern will give way to fright and eventually fear. We are nearer the tipping point, and I am not referring to the melting ice but the reaction of whole societies. Locally lots of people here must be thinking of the rapidly warming weather and linking that with climate change even if it is better explained by the El Nino than directly global warming. Most people will confuse the secondary effects for the primary ones.

We will either respond to Climate Change massively, perhaps even going overboard or be condemned to a series of inconsequential baby steps with headline grabbing publicity. I don't believe societies will react with "just nice and just in time" especially when we don't know enough and all warnings are  based on probabilities, a habit of thought only good speculators are at home with.