Monday, November 23, 2009

"Your Best Life Now"

Got this from a friend's post on Facebook.

I first became aware of Joel Osteen's in 2006 when an old friend gave me a copy of, "Your Best Life Now" It was something I wouldn't have picked up myself.

So Joel Osteen doesn't preach the Gospel of repentance....

Well, I think if he was less successful, he would have attracted far less attention. As I can see from the video, the preacher outside Osteen's church did not seem to have attracted much attention. They were just walking pass and ignoring him, going into the building to listen to Joel Osteen.

Noisy Information

Do you wish for the old days when information was scarce but if you find it, you can trust it? These days, we are flooded with it but much of its quality is suspicious. We spend so much time shifting, sorting and deciding what is accurate and correct from the shameless lies. The Anglo Saxon media is particularly guilty.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

There is a bubble

Sure there is a growing property bubble in China. Hong Kong is feeling much pressure and Singapore is trying to retard the depreciation of the USD

“Real estate prices should only go up because people want to actually use the space, but at the moment we can see more and more empty buildings across the whole country and in every real estate segment,” Zhang Xin, chief executive of Soho China

No Big Picture

How many times over the years have I heard from Christians they are seeking to know God's will and the big picture of their life? I wonder if that is exceeding their faith most of the time. What is needed is to stay humble and remember we can do no big thing, but only small things with great love driven by faith in future grace.

Some of these small things might become great works. From the perspective of this world perhaps. God might have other ideas.

Belief is so easy that it becomes the most difficult thing.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Christmas Tree @ Ngee Ann City

Took the family on our annual pilgrimage to see this Christmas Tree in Ngee Ann City. Every year, this tree seems less impressive. Well, it wasn't a religious pilgrimage. This is shallow stuff.

Last year, we had to settle for the one in Dubai Mall. It was very big and tall but looked more like a ghost of a Christmas Tree, a pompous art piece devoid of any understanding of Christmas.

Well Business have gradually stolen Christmas from the Christians even as more of them discover that this day was actually an important pagan festival pre-dating Christ's birth.

Well, I do not believe in pilgrimages either.

A superficial comment on Laziness

Laziness is one of the most intriguing aspect of the human personality. Nobody knows he is lazy until he is told. Even looking at other hardworking people doesn't cause him to become aware of it. At the deeper level, even the hard working guy could very well be lazy. Henry Ford understood this well. That hard worker applied himself with much effort and discipline to his work but he doesn't use his brains. Thinking is even harder than brawn work. That hard working fellow didn't know he has been lazy, again it is because nobody explains to him that he really is. Singapore and Japan are full of such hard workers. It is a waste of time.

Who understands that the open book exam can be much harder the closed one? Similarly if calculators are permitted, the math paper is going to be harder? Try it. You will discover that it is due to one simple reason: You have to think more in an open book exams. Maths problems are more knotty when calculators can be used.

Nobody dies from working too hard. The Japanese who died from hard work weren't working hard. He only appeared to be. The reason was stress, the ultimate rebellion to work, which is death. He was forced to go further than he was willing, to the point of losing his purpose for existence. Therefore it is impossible to work hard unless you also love what you do.

If you only love the work you are doing because it brings you pleasure, that is one of the dumbest reason for working hard. The pleasure diminishes because we are so good at getting used to things. Such a person is immature. We work because it is meaningful. Smart employers who create meaningful work find that they do need to pay the highest wages. However they can pay very good and well above average wages because their staff enjoy doing meaningful work and will do well. They also know how to do their jobs better. After all, they know the meaning of their work right?

There is another group of workers who work very hard, may be harder than almost everyone. The guys and girls on Wall Street; and the best renumerated are those from Goldman Sachs (there are smaller firms e.g,, hedge funds that pay better...) They work the hardest. Unfortunately, the meaning of their work isn't a social or economic purpose, it is mostly Greed and Ego. These are the folks who had been seduced into the business before they had found a meaning to their lives that is greater than themselves.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The future of smart personal comm/computing device

Amazing technology from MIT. The ultimate personal communication and computing gadget is always waiting to be invented next.

China is too big and fast for all of us

In the final analysis, the Chinese are just too big and too fast for the rest of the world. We are all also addicted to economic growth. The Chinese were able and more than willing to feed that addiction. They were also willing to take US IOUs.

Ideally the US should export as much as she imports from China but that was not possible.

Now the problem is coming home to roost and it is too scary to contemplate.

People will increasingly lose confidence in the USD and having nowhere else to go, will chase other assets.

Away from the abyss

Staring down into the abyss, all national leaders and their central banks cooperated to avoid falling into it. Now we are safe from financial Armaggedon, naturally everyone has his or her ideas on what is to be done.

We are going to be stuck with a divided world for a while. It is an unpredictable phase. Meanwhile the asset markets are only concerned with liquidity. It is unwise to ignore so many risk factors but that is how the markets always function.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Everyone is paying for US profligacy

We are all helping to pay the debt of US profligacy. See what the Thai FinMin said recently at the APEC meeting held in Singapore.

"We've bought about $15 billion to support the dollar," Korn told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

"We're building up effectively greater level of US dollar reserves. I'm convinced that in the long term the dollar is more likely than not to decline in value, so we're building up assets that are declining in value over time. That's not healthy," he said.

Korn said that while Asian countries have benefited from China's robust economy, the weak yuan that fuels China's growth also forces Asian central banks to curb their own currencies to maintain competitiveness.

"Quite clearly, all Asian central banks have found it necessary to intervene, and it's costing us," he said.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Son

Got this in the email a while ago. I have received it many times. As I like this story very much. I am going to put it up here.

This is great, take a moment to read it, it will make your day!

The ending will surprise you.

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art.. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.

When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas,

There was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, 'Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.' The young man held out this package. 'I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.'

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture.. 'Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift.'

The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. 'We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for thi s picture?'

There was silence..

Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, 'We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.'

But the auctioneer persisted. 'Will somebody bid fo r this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?'

Another voice angrily. 'We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Gogh's, the Rembrandts. Get on with the Real bids!'

But still the auctioneer continued. 'The son! The son! Who'll take the son?'

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. 'I'll give $10 for the painting...' Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.

'We have $10, who will bid $20

'Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters.'

The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son.

They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. 'Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!'

A man sitting on the second row shouted, 'Now let's get on with the collection!'

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. 'I'm sorry, the auction is over.'

'What about the paintings?'

'I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time.. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings.

The man who took the son gets everything!'

God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: 'The son, the son, who'll take the son?'

Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.


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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cleaner school shoes

Ever since I made my daughter wash her school shoes, she has kept it cleaner than usual such that sometimes it does not even need to be cleaned for the next week.

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I think we can use the generous maternity benefits as a trojan horse to upgrade the HR practices of the privage sector if the MOM watches and resolve disputes wisely. The bullied women can help themselves by coming forward to complain.

We have been dumbing down, adding bodies to the economy to achieve growth rather than smarting up. We need to reverse this trend.


PREGNANT?  YOU'RE FIRED in bold on page 4 of the Sunday Times today.

The government should just have awarded the more generous maternity benefits to civil servants. Forget about the private sector. They have been taking it out on pregnant women ever since the generous benefits were put in place. These adversely affected, harrassed into resigning or dismissed from their jobs are worse off in the end.

In the last few years, if you want to see pregnant women, other than the obstetrician offices and the maternity wards, the other place to go to are the schools. Well, this is an additional reason why teachers are happier than most others.

Short lived Businesses

1. Entry barriers used to be much higer. Now a flood of people with no business to be in business are in.

2. Too many are in business for a quick buck then to give value to customers. It is amazing how they self talked themselves into believing that they are giving value.

3. There is simply too much money around. A lot of it did not come from long hours, sweat and tears. That is what happen when the economy grows very quickly. Easy come, easy go.

4. Too many books and courses selling how easy it is to start your business. Sure, there are quite a few businesses you can do with no money down. When many people know what these strategies are, it gets crowded.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Teaching others to draw NaviMaps

Conclusion: Mostly impractical because only a few people would be able to learn it easily.

Revisited this after an interregnum of several years and disappointingly it is the same conclusion. Feel like I am revisiting the same old conclusions! I would really appreciate a break through.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Why be President?

Gotta to tangle with life and death issues like this? Why would anyone want to the job of President?

Kingship has brought the biblical David more sorrow than joy? God promised that he will always have a son on the throne was a plus, a blessing. Is that so? Yes, it was so because....go read Romans.

Moral and Dumb

Read the little story below. It is sad that those who endeavor to live a moral life are not sufficiently savvy and wise about the ways of the other side. This makes me wonder how well founded is the moral life we see and recognized around us. Where is the shrewdness of Christ?

'Bless me Father, for I have sinned.
I have been with a loose girl'.

The priest asks, 'Is that you, little Joey Pagano ?'

'Yes, Father, it is.'

'And who was the girl you were with?'

'I can't tell you, Father. I don't want to ruin her reputation'.

"Well, Joey, I'm sure to find out her name sooner or later
so you may as well tell me now. Was it Tina Minetti?'

'I cannot say.'

'Was it Teresa Mazzarelli?'

'I'll never tell.'

'Was it Nina Capelli?'

'I'm sorry, but I cannot name her.'

'Was it Cathy Piriano?'

'My lips are sealed.'

'Was it Rosa DiAngelo, then?'

'Please, Father, I cannot tell you.'

The priest sighs in frustration.
'You're very tight lipped, and I admire that.
But you've sinned and have to atone.
You cannot be an altar boy now for 4 months.
Now you go and behave yourself.'

Joey walks back to his pew,
and his friend Franco slides over and whispers,

'What'd you get?'

'Four months vacation and five good leads.'

Whatever will be, will be.

Whatever will be, will be. Sure, we can work hard but we live in a world of increasing Black Swans. We are learning to get used to the impossible happening. It is an oxymoron of course. By definition you cannot get used to surprises.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Circle of Competence

The FT summarizes Warren Buffet latest deal: Burlington Northern (BNSF) very well.

Bankers said the BNSF take-over was typical of Mr Buffett: a deal at a low point in the economic cycle for a group with few rivals in a sector set to benefit from long-term trends such as rising oil prices and stricter environmental standards.

This is his biggest bet ever but also a classic display of operating within his circle of competence.

Everyone should try to develop his/her circle of competence and update that circle continuously to stay relevant. Most of us will do this outside of investing and perversely will maintain a circle of ignorance. Some will pass it to financial advisers, who sadly live in a circle of ignorance too.

Our health care system

Stanley Jeremiah is mostly correct. Good reminder. Just because most of us didn't need to call upon the system in a catastrophe we forget.

Below his response to the WSJ op-Ed article.

LETTERS NOVEMBER 3, 2009, 5:40 P.M. ET
Singapore Has Health-care Hurdles Too

William McGurn's column "What Singapore Can Teach the White House" (op-ed, Oct. 21) paints an inaccurate picture of Singapore's health-care system and the costs it incurs.

Singapore does not have "universal coverage," as Mr. McGurn asserts. Even the government has admitted that in a country of about three million citizens, tens if not hundreds of thousands of Singaporeans do not have any basic medical insurance coverage, which is provided through government agencies. Many of the uninsured are women and children.

In Singapore, as in the United States, there are people who are uninsured and uninsurable. Even the government's basic health-insurance program, Medishield, refuses to provide cover for those with pre-existing and congenital medical conditions. Parents of a child with a congenital condition have to carry the entire medical cost burden themselves.

It is true that medical costs in Singapore are generally lower than the U.S., but the average Singaporean does not enjoy the same per capita income or standard of living as the average American. Medical costs are significantly higher than in neighboring countries. The minister of health recently admitted in Parliament that many Singaporeans regularly cross the causeway into Malaysia to buy prescription drugs because they are much cheaper there.

The quality of Singapore's medical care is high, but as in the U.S., cost is a pressing issue. To some extent, the situation has been cushioned by the collective responsibility of Asian families, where the larger family chips in to pick up the medical cost of a parent or sibling. Yet these social structures are slowly breaking down. Singapore has an aging population and the baby boomers are the most exposed. Having paid for their parents' medical costs, they have no one to pick up to the tab for them. To avoid picking up the cost for those who cannot pay, the government includes siblings and children—including those living overseas—in their means-testing assessment. Employers provide some level of health-care insurance but these programs are often not portable.

Singapore spends roughly 4% of its annual GDP on health care—one of the lowest outlays in the developed world. The average Singaporean cannot afford to use the upscale Raffles Hospital to which Mr. McGurn refers in his article. They have to wait in line at government-managed hospitals. The 2009 budget allocated 3.7 billion Singapore dollars ($2.6 billion) to health care; by contrast, S$11.5 billion was allocated to defense.

Singapore's medical-savings accounts, known as "Medisave," are not fully controlled by their owners. Withdrawals are subject to a complex set of rules which the Ministry of Health changes from time to time—a process that often baffles the average Singaporean.

In many ways, Singapore is heading in the same direction as the U.S. when it comes to health care. While a high quality of care is available, it is not always accessible or affordable. People unfortunate enough to be born with or develop significant medical conditions can find the cost financially crippling to themselves and to their families.

Stanley Jeremiah


Shell plans to cut 5,000

Got an email yesterday from an ex colleague who like me has left the company many years ago. He told me that Shell is planning to cut 5,000 headcount or about 10% of its work force. I wonder what it must be like had we stayed with the company. On and off I have heard unhappy stories from some of those who are still working there. Just a couple of months back, I was at a retirement dinner for one of my seniors. He used to be so enthusiastic about his work. When I met him again after more than ten years, his attitude couldn't be more different.

The cultures of so many large companies have changed so much in a short time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

After the peaceful rise of China

What can we expect after the peaceful rise of China? Will it take a stick to Japan to get even with what she has done to China during the World War II? Will she be a bully?

Nov 3, 2009
MM's speech in US draws flak online in China
BEIJING: Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's comments that the United States should remain engaged in East Asia have drawn criticism on the website of a state-owned newspaper in China.

The Chinese-language Global Times, a sister publication of the flagship People's Daily noted for its international coverage, said it reported on Sunday a speech Mr Lee made in Washington last week, and within hours, it claimed to have received more than 500 comments online.

In his keynote address delivered at the US-Asean Business Council's 25th anniversary gala dinner last Thursday in Washington, MM Lee said the US should remain engaged in Asia. 'The size of China makes it impossible for the rest of Asia, including Japan and India, to match it in weight and capacity in about 20 to 30 years. So we need America to strike a balance.'

He also warned Washington that it risked losing its global leadership if it did not remain engaged in Asia.

MM Lee was conferred a lifetime achievement award for helping to foster US-Asean relations at the dinner last week.

Many of those who responded were upset and said that MM Lee had treated the Chinese as outsiders although they had treated Singaporeans as 'among their own'.

'Lee Kuan Yew spoke for the feeling of those in the West who fear China's rise would harm their vested interests,' said one netizen.

Another described MM Lee as 'a political animal', saying that while he 'relies on China to develop his country's economy, he is ushering wolves here to deal with China'.

A third posting said: 'Just because he has achieved some success in Singapore, he dares to play the guiding light that shows US the way. If he has the stuff, he should go to Africa and offer tips on how to shake off poverty and achieve wealth.'

Another posting brushed off his comments as insignificant as Singapore was a small country. 'Lee Kuan Yew had made such comments likely because Singapore is a small country that needs an interplay of balances in the international arena,' said the netizen.

'However, what significance do his words carry when the reality is that for a voice to be heard and the views realised, one needs to be truly powerful?' the netizen added.

Monday, November 2, 2009


After a break of looking at my notes for so many years, I am reviewing them again. Perhaps this time I would be able to resolve the open issues and ambiguities.

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