Monday, October 31, 2011

Toughest week of the exams

This is the toughest week of  her exams. She gets extra time as a special needs student. Can't wait for it to be over!

Foreign leaders envy our Government.

You can find this reported by the ST in page A6 today. He was at the CHOGM in Perth.

I don't expect him to tell these foreign leaders that the biggest reason why they can't copy us is very simple. If we transplant our government to their countries, will it work? No. It is the people who support this government that make this place tick, and a growing number of us is telling this government that they are getting their policy mix wrong and some sacred cows have to go too. Since they are so hard of hearing, we have offered them a few more opposition members to help them along.

Dear foreign leaders, if you are inept and corrupt, you are hurting your country. If you are honest and passionate about making a difference to your country and you can't it is your people and any number of self defeating structures which they are tolerating that make it impossible to reproduce our success in your country.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Euro bailout explained

This is cute and it sums up the issue with Europe very simply. It is here as I feel this will be ranked one day as a historic moment in European ignominious financial history

The Europeans are great for theater. They can't execute except by piling on more debt, which they can't any more. An old continent indeed and showing its age. A very uncertain even scary world looms beyond the horizon.

What's Luck Got to do with Success?

Just as well I hadn't bought this book. I had just read an article by its authors published in the NYT. Of course, such essays are supposed to whet your appetite for more, i.e, buy the book.

I just wrote to a friend the following comment about the article:

I had thought of buying this book but decided to postpone it because there are many other things to get to and books to read. After reading this article, I have decided not to buy the book.

 This book is right on the money for those who believe that in their hands they could determine their fate. The caveats for success is so elegantly woven into the thesis that people who have not spent a lot of time observing, thinking and trying to understand this issue would miss.

 I do not want to go into the details of argument. Instead just ask yourself one simple question: Would businesses everywhere become more effective and successful because they now have the wisdom of Jim Collins to use? I don't think so. None of his earlier books had lifted businesses across the economy to the next level which simple innovations like double entry accounting, long with us had. Even the invention of the joint-stock company, the stock exchange to business and commercial life far exceed the concepts Collins have brought to the market.

 I am almost telling you that this article is not a useful read, so why did I bother to share it with you? Because many people will believe his thesis and most fans and converts would eventually be disappointed. However his framework also help us understand the recent failures of public policy and execution in Singapore.

This is just another of the endless business self-help tomes that has come along. They have a more respectable name for them: Management Science. Don't be deceived.

Fabrications about the PAP: Patrick Tan's NS deferment

They have put up a note putting together the public discourse on Patrick Tan's NS deferment. It would have been better to have gotten all these facts out before the Presidential Elections.

I still have some questions.

1. Given that offering to study medicine in the US isn't a through train program, it was really remarkable that deferment was granted assuming the student will do well enough to enter med school. The term 'pre-med' would undoubtedly have caused many local readers to impute a through train program because of our local experience.

2. Fewer than a handful of people were granted such exemptions. Perhaps not, but it can also be viewed as these very few young men had all received preferred treatment.

This had been so unwise. That was why the Lee family had always conduct themselves to the point where it would even look absurd to question their integrity on such matters. Why open yourself to questions, suggestions and innuendos. What for? Well I could almost hear them say if it is so restrictive, nobody would want to come into the end a society get the leaders they deserve. You cannot consistently try to give them better. I think we would only be set up to fail more surely and may be catastrophically.

Having fun with NLB eLibrary

Having a bit of fun on a Sunday morning with the eLibrary. As I checked out these four titles, I discovered that they have increased our loan privilege to six books. I am going back in. There are two more on my wish list to capture.

How and where to get good business ideas

I don't care about Halloween. In fact, I truly dislike it. I am making this post for my kids in case their independent streak lead them to do their own business instead of working for others. The first few paragraphs are instructive. It is so typical of many unlikely but wildly successful business ideas. In fact, the more people hate them the better.

So kids, read the article and keep your ears and eyes open. Imagine possibilities. Don't forget to be adventurous and experiment. Also if possible don't repeat others mistakes unless they didn't make their mistakes well. Life is too short to always learn from experience.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In KDK Fan, out Iona Fan

Bought a new fan this evening (KDK, $199 from Best Denki @ IMM) and retire the old one by Iona bought in July last year, which if my memory serves me well cost $118. I bought it at the petrol station along Jelita.

The Iona fan was slowly blowing less strongly. To me it was a sign of a failing motor.

We have another KDK. It still working like new after many years. No reason not to pay a little bit more for another KDK fan.

How to prepare for exams

This had escaped my notice and I just discovered from the WSJ weekly email of most read articles. Just convenient they allow the accompanying video to be embedded. Guess we have been doing it mostly right over here.

Article Link

Government volte face on social mobility?

For a long time, this issue really got my goat. There is a ton of evidence lying around for years that their stubborn position on social mobility was all wrong. Alas the PM admitted as much and I read with amusement how the writers had singled out the Ng Eng Hen, the then education minister to rake over the coals.

I quote from the article:

In March this year, then-Education Minister Ng Eng Hen gave a more upbeat assessment of the situation.
Speaking during Parliament's debate on the Government's Budget, he cited statistics to make the point that social mobility is alive and well.
Half of the pupils in the bottom third by socio-economic background scored in the top two-thirds of their cohort in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
'Gratifyingly, our data affirms that the Singapore Story continues for this generation,' Dr Ng told the House.
He thought we were fools, the way he abused statistics. That was why, I doubted his testimony on the deferment of Patrick Tan in parliament. Our ministers are increasingly like those elsewhere but wanted to be treated as exceptional. It would hurt our interests to accomodate them. If we trust, we must also verify. They know some of us do and therefore with certain policies, e.g., CPF and public housing related, they make so complex. On the other hand they are a paragon of simplicity dealing with large foreign investors. Even the casual off hand remark of the wife of a former CEO of Caltex then based here that there was no night life in Singapore had immediately gotten EDB scurrying to respond. With us they often try to come up with confusing or off the point answers which are basically absurd. Being Asians, we were often loathe to publicly embarrass them. Those days are over.

Here taken apart for what it truly was, Dr. Ng attempt at "lies, damn lies and statistics" in March this year.

As some observed during the March debate on social mobility, the statistics cited by Dr Ng can be interpreted differently.
Dr Ng said that one in six pupils in the bottom-third socio-economic bracket scores within the top one-third in the PSLE. But that means five in six do not.
Dr Ng also said that among students from families living in one- to three-room HDB flats, almost half progress to universities and polytechnics - a figure that held steady in the past decade even as the number of Singaporean households living in such flats fell.
But the share of these students who make it to university is one in 10 - significantly lower than the national average of one in four.
This is the new normal which is very uncomfortable for some our leaders. The media keep having to prove their street cred all the time in order that circulation might not fall. Unfortunately for Dr. Ng, since the PM changed his position, the media will not hesitate to bring out the bayonets. At least they only try to lacerate instead of stab.

Whatever happened to honesty is the best policy? Just as well he is no longer in charge of Education. He could be seen as a bad example to our pupils in schools. May be I have been wrong about him. If so, I am forced to conclude that he must be lacking skills in numeracy expected for someone in his position who must handle statistics correctly all the time. It would be difficult to be competent if he cannot understand data and analysis. How was he able understand the results of medical trials in medical journals correctly when he was a top surgeon?

Political courage and honesty are directly correlated. Nobody is perfectly honest but to spin with numbers like he had is hard to overlook.

I hope the government will stop being an impediment to improving social mobility here. It is too early to be more confident because some "hard truths" are still standing in the way. It is sad that until recently, they were prepared to torture the data to confess what wasn't there. At best, I say they were naive victims of confirmation bias. Again, Kahneman had warned us about such pitfalls. It is pervasive but we expect leaders to do better.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rambling from political philosophy to "eating bitterness"

I sit here reading articles, facebook and email all over the place and out of the blue, I said to myself, we have no political philosophy and we have thus far been able to get away with it. We will need one later, perhaps soon, I don't know except that we must have one. Pragmatism is not a political philosophy.

A developing nation is like a growing up child. A kid cannot answer the question, "Who am I?" Its business is simply to learn and grow up. That was us, and we are now maturing, and we must ask, "Who are we?"

The absence of a political philosophy may eventually make this nation ungovernable. Why? The people would be too divided, and as a multi-racial, multi-religious mix, there would be too many fault lines to count. There would even be new fissures, many unexpected ones.

Without a political philosophy we agree on, as our social compact based on the simplistic idea of building a better living tomorrow wears down, there will be nothing to replace it. What about long term-ism?

The long term good is the ultimate reason to rally the people. It means that some will do better first and others will also, but later. Everyone benefits eventually. However this long term good now lacks clarity especially in a society that is getting more diverse and under pressure for short term gains. Iconic of this pressure is companies management living and dying by their short term stock price performance.

The short term is the enemy of the long term. Nothing divides a people as a result because there are always winners and losers if we only live for the short term. Today businesses are mostly worrying about the short term, and most of them can't help being so. The long term is anything but certain these days. Planning horizons have shrunk to the tip of the nose. If you ask current losers to wait for the long term to get their benefit, you are asking them to show herculean faith. We have a very serious problem.

So the old paradigm of long term-ism is breaking down and I can't think of anything to fill that vacuum it is going to leave behind except fostering a new political philosophy. Alas, I have no idea what such a political philosophy ought to be except that I know the PAP government will not and cannot offer one. They still believe in milking their exhausted paradigm, mounting weak defenses for their impetus. Bloggers will tear them down but like me bereft of alternatives. You know their paradigm is tired and spent when problems get harder to tackle and solutions become more complex and now getting to incomprehensible.

Our leaders would very much like us to be better at "eating bitterness". That would help to extend the life of their tired paradigm. Therefore 'better, cheaper and faster' contrary to what Lim Swee Say try to re-interpret is not about equipment but us.

Would our leaders be willing to join us "eating bitterness"?  Once upon a time Lee Kuan Yew and the Old Guard risked their lives before ours were put on the line. Today it is the reverse. Should we be surprised that the present leaders are less respected? Less credible?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When a Kindle book is less than $7

I first spotted this book offered in the Kindle format at $6.71. Then it fell to $6.05 and stayed there for longer than I could remember. I just checked again and it is now $9.18

Perhaps when the price goes below $7, you must decide if you want to buy and keep it to read later. Problem is it is very easy to buy a ton of books which ended up not read.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Voters had their bite, now the employers' turn

First the voters protested with their votes; now it is the employers turn. Their scare tactic is to threaten to relocate and there will be fewer jobs for Singaporeans.

Everyone thinks only of his narrow self interest. Bosses do not care about yawning wealth gaps, public transport congestion or the rising prices of housing for the majority. They live in a different world.

Caught in between is the government, which I am tempted to call feckless but their reputation is still large and solid. So such a label appear misplaced. But the British also enjoyed a sterling reputation before the Japanese attacked from the north. To add insult to injury, Japanese planes easily sunk the Prince of Wales and Repulse.

Reputation must be QC often. It is backward looking or a lagging indicator. Past success is not guarantee of future performance since this is not science.

There is something at heart that is seriously wrong about our economic strategy. To be practical, we cannot do very much about it. It is not difficult to produce alternative economic strategies but it is irresponsible as we have no means to test if they would work. Outside of government, we do not have enough data.

I recently had an argument about the GST with a minister. He gave me the inane party line and I refused to be baited because I don't have the data needed to crunch and test. But what I know is this. The truth eventually gets out because we shall live it. People are not going to buy the cognitive. They will decide with their experience. Indirectly you suspect that our GST system even with all the helps isn't likely to create a progressive or neutral tax regime. Simply taxation is one of the key ways to rein in a widening income gap, which is not happening. 'Diary of a Singaporean Mind' article was suggestive but inconclusive as he could only make use of scant publicly available data.

Their tiresome line challenging the Opposition and citizens to come up with alternative solutions will increasingly sit poorly with us.

So what have this government placed before us? They can't make the people and the employers happy together. It is like you have two roads and they both lead to the same ruin. Fortunately the future is unpredictable. I have this hunch that the external environment would be friendly to us in an unexpected way. It had happened countless times before. However each time the government was quick to seize the credit for our success, conveniently forgetting that what was brought to solve the problems were necessary but not sufficient. Lucky fund managers making money in the markets also are equally good at explaining away their luck as skill. Professor Kahneman has a far deeper insight into this than I do. I must go and buy his latest book.

Healing Garden @ the Singapore Botanic Gardens

We pass here often in our walks at the Botanic Gardens often joking that it must be a hospital of injured plants in the Gardens. Pleasantly surprised we were quite mistaken when we read about the President visiting it recently.

 This was an irresistible photo opportunity on our way back to the MRT.

Topping Maths

The younger daughter got a stamp of approval for topping maths in her finals. I think she also achieved the same with Science too. On the other hand, she failed badly for D&T, which I thought was a no brainer. That's what happen when you hate the subject and compounding you can't get along with your teacher.

The fiasco over D&T had caused her to end up in detention :-(

Car accident

Sigh! My brother had a car accident last night. I wasn't there to see it but he told me he was violently rear-ended by another vehicle. Both parties were insured with Income and so the orange vehicles were dispatched to the scene. The police got involved too since the momentum of his car caused by the other vehicle caused him to crash the road divider.

He told me if the repair costs are too high, the insurance company might opt to pay him off at the car market value instead. I think it is probably futile trying to get the offending driver to pay for this loss. The laws on such matter have never been fair. If anything, they have become worse. It is rigged in favour of the insurance company.

There is only one good rule on the road. Don't get involved in an accident. It doesn't matter who is right. Drive defensively.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Einstein Vs Jobs

I shall never tire of this quote by Albert Einstein. In fact, I must find sometime to read the biographies of the good genius professor and Steve Jobs by the same author: Walter Isaacson.

Jobs divide the world between the smarts and the many shitheads or bozos. Einstein was kinder.

I am not here to judge the two men. I am afraid to judge myself even, for that arrogantly claims complete self knowledge. I just cherish that though many geniuses are jerks, e.g. Edison, Ford etc., there are also many who aren't.

I wonder what I would discover. I think there is more to be learned from Einstein than Jobs. I mean, that professor was obviously insightful and wise. I think most people would disagree with me because privately they want to have Jobs' success and power. Dream on! Better to take Einstein advice and find out if you are mammal, foul or fish right?

I have talked too much. The idea of this blog post is later to revisit and see if I have changed my mind after reading the two books. That must at least be months away.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Project Gutenberg and the 'O' Levels EL paper

The strategy I recommended my daughter worked. I had suggested that she went over the 10,000 commonest words in Project Gutenberg; pick out those words she wasn't familiar with and study them. For this afternoon EL paper, of the five vocabulary words, three she could recognized coming across in the Project Gutenberg exercise.

CBS 60 minutes on Steve Jobs

60 minutes is leading the pack discussing the Steve Jobs. I have only managed to catch part 1 and 2. Will have to return for the remaining three parts. The part I blogged about Jobs stupidity is in part 2. When I was done with that part, I told myself: It was all inevitable. As surely as you throw something up, it must come down. Gravity cannot be willed away. Do people understand that had Jobs chosen early surgery, he would have to pay with his genius? I think the genius was worth giving up.

 "Dozens of the colleagues whom Jobs most abused ended their litany of horror stories by saying that he got them to do things they never dreamed possible," Isaacson wrote.

Likewise he thought he could by his regular act of will expunge the cancer without surgery. Had he given in to surgery easily, the confidence which underpins his magical thinking would crack. The longer he held out, the more he could preserve. He avoided surgery for nine months.

I remember I spent the early evenings of my honeymoon long ago reading "Steve Jobs, The Journey Is the Reward". What I am seeing and reading about Jobs thus far is pretty consistent with that old book.

But my thoughts are not on Steve Jobs. It is what I can use Steve Jobs as a lens to the genius of Lee Kuan Yew. His daughter Lee Wei Ling writing in her latest Sunday column, I feel is wrong about the indispensability of her father. As the former PM grows old, he must recede. Tillson was right that he is better addressed as the former MM. You don't do anymore, you mentor. His understated son was wise to give him that for his last title in Cabinet.

Lee Wei Ling must be struggling with her own mortality. Even if she tries to hide it, she can't. She presented herself as victorious but as a reader, it was hardly convincing. Her writing was more aspirational than achievement.

But we are all eventually defeated by life. Why not death? Because death is a part of life! We can stop breathing, hearts stop beating. What we leave behind might take a longer time to die. Ecclesiastes will ring true very time. Just give it enough time.

Our hardest and greatest act is not try to stop a rebirth that augurs our deaths. I mean death in all its forms. Wisdom is knowing the time has come. More often, we just need to recover from sickness. All times are wrong times except the last one. If you missed that, it will scream at you. You cannot fail to hear. Wise or unwise, you will get it.

From the Bible, why Steve Jobs should have traded his genius for his life. You can say he ran out of luck with his magical thinking; or you can see it as he ran out of grace.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Dr Patrick Tan vs wifey vs the Lee family

Before I took this photo of the front gate of my daughter's school, I had driven past the school next door. Their gates were wide open.

We need to make sure that she is assigned a proper place to sit for her O levels today. I am quite confident the school would get it right this time, but for something as important as this, we better be completely sure. So wifey accompanied her in to make sure that all the necessary arrangements were made. As she pased the guard post, the guard tried to get her to sign in but she refused. Security guards are used to such behavior. It was even more common at the girls' primary school. However parents of kids in their primary school e.g., Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern would dutifully report to the general office to sign themselves in. I had seen them do it many times. As a parent volunteer then, I didn't had to suffer that chore. That's the burden of being part of the Lee family.

A long introduction to just make one point: the NS deferment of Dr. Patrick Tan. You must not just not had enjoyed preferred treatment but must be seen beyond the shadow of a doubt to be so. That's the problem with Defence Minister Dr. Ng testimony in Parliament on this case. We do not know the only other boy who had gotten the closest treatment like Patrick Tan had was a white horse too.

Well all these are waters under the bridge. We have chosen our president. Going forward anyone deferring their NS will be listed for the public to scrutinize. We can allege and bring evidence of any unfair treatment we want. So, let's close the chapter on Patrick Tan and move on. If there were mistakes and a cover up, it doesn't appear that it was prevaricated. I shall wish and it will forever be just that, the case of Patrick Tan's deferment was less ambiguous. Well, I can live with that. I think many people can too.

PM elegant tribute to Mah Bow Tan

Mah Bow Tan is not a genius, but he is not incompetent either. He had erred as all of us are prone to. As minister, naturally his errors are magnified. Underlings who don't understand often complain why their top bosses were often so cautious.

It was good and elegant for the PM to have let on publicly that this waterway was Mah's idea.

Average people can go very far with only a little luck needed if they are good at not allowing their liabilities to trip them up.

Even as we invest in our strengths, keep a watchful eye of our weaknesses that is always waiting to sabotage us. Indeed the wise have recognized that often our worst enemies are ourselves. No need to worry too much about external enemies.

I am glad for Mah Bow Tan what his boss had just done for him. Proverbially, he had been pelted with rotten eggs by many of us. It is time to recognize him for the positives we have ignored. If he was that incompetent in his job, we would have been much worse off. Succinctly put, he was a prisoner of an outdated paradigm. Thomas Kuhn had eloquently explained that even very smart people aren't immune to this trap. We have smart people only, and not geniuses running this place.

Very smart people even if they make serious honest mistakes must take the fall. Playing it differently will cause us imperceptibly to rot into mediocrity.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A comment then the purchase of 'Happiness' by Lord Layard

Just bought this as a Kindle book for US$ 3.99. I am buying it now because the price might jump later. I had experienced it twice already. Of course there were more than two times I bought a Kindle book and the price fell afterward.

Thanks to an anonymous comment left on my blog entry, "Happiness: Bhutan vs Singapore" I became aware of this very provocative book.

I have been rewarded again and again from the intelligence and helpfulness of the comments people have left for me even if as a rule I never reply directly to them. It is good to be open. It is even better to grow that openness.

Cold weather wear from Uniqlo

Bought 21 pieces clothing from Uniqlo today costing us about $633. Among them were three parkas at $99.90 each. We are replacing all our parkas with these much lighter ones. We will be checking in our old winter clothes and giving them away at our destination. Nobody in need of them here. They can all afford their own.

The Guardian review of the parka we just bought. 

Some testimonies about the jackets.

And the technology that went into it.

Wonderful. So easy to pack them away. Can even put into our carry on bags.

And what is this stuff actually?

Finally, what goes into them and some to care instructions

An idea, but kinda of hard to pick up clearly how it all came together.

Delifrance back at Jelita

What is the name of that sandwich place that was occupying the space vacated by Delifrance on the ground floor of Jelita? Anyway since Cold Storage expanded to drive it out and also 711, they are all gone.

Was at Jelita today and lo and behold what did we see? Delifrance is back. Welcome! We used to eat there. We will be back.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

An genius with a fatal weakness

To me Steve Jobs happened to be the latest in a long line of geniuses and their stupidity. In Jobs' case it was his refusal to have surgery on his pancreatic cancer.

All of us have weaknesses. I believe even if we were immortal, we will have at least one fatal weakness to destroy the immortality.

Most of our relationship with Steve Jobs had been the products he brought out of Apple. The impact is minimal as long as you haven't caught the Apple religion. For me, I will never catch it. I like Apple products but equally I hate their control freak approach. I am still smarting over the troubles upgrading to iOS 5.

Great strengths hide great weaknesses.

I look forward to reading the iBio of Steve Jobs.

How could such a smart man did such a stupid thing? See it at

Upgrading iPad to iOS 5

So much for user friendliness. Upgrading wifey's iPad to iOS 5 was a real pain. Apple server keeps disconnecting or staying out of reach. Lost many hours :-(

I finally, true some unexplained good fortune managed to get it updated. Since I now want to sync it with a different machine, there is a lot of work. Thousands of videos and photos to move over.

Suddenly Apple is giving me that hated Microsoft feeling.

Low Thia Khiang, the superior Pol

I am trying to avoid blogging about politics as much as possible, but I realized it is difficult because I would need all these as notes for future use, especially the next elections. It is also good to track how my thinking might change.

I just read Low on AsiaOne instead of getting it from the WP site.

This is an unusual situation. The opposition WP isn't opposing the government at all. Nobody is clearer and easier to understand than their Sec Gen. So who is opposing in Parliament? Not the WP. The PAP MPs, especially the old timers. Not opposing the government but the Opposition. Lim Swee Say was even at a loss for words to rebut Low Thia Kiang. Gosh! You can't be like this in the Chamber. It is OK in private life, but if you can't find the words, even in CL, you are not up to the task.

I like some of the newbie PAP MPs especially Tan Chuan Jin and Sim Ann.

LTK is right about bilingualism. What he had chosen to ignore is that we have gone so far off course that it is very difficult to get back on track. He had also failed to explain that the present strategies for teaching CL impose a low ceiling of achievement. Those in other societies embracing learning CL approach it with much more enthusiasm than us. Many of us see it as a burden and chore. We must not delude ourselves a marathon for a sprint. We are winning the short relay and extrapolating our performance to the marathon. A grave error. Sure, our radars will pick this up eventually and as usual, we the people will pay for the government's mistakes working like mad to catch up, or in this instance widen the gap with our competitors in learning CL. LTK will have no joy with , "I told you so"

On learning CL, it is hard to see the merit of LTK arguments now, but time is likely to prove that he is right and it would be too late.

History, fear and self limiting beliefs exact a heavy discount on the PAP potential. Unfortunately they had chosen to pass off informed prejudice as hard truths.

Update: Just discovered this. Good record. Would be helpful to watch again when I need to.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Exemplary help giving

Thanks Pam for sharing this.

The words might be hard to pick out. It goes,

"If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for FREE"

This was an American example. Of course they have many problems, and many things about them are not right at the moment. But this example is a breath of fresh air.

Great charity is not giving money. Often that is the dumbest thing to do. Great charity is as Mother Teresa aptly puts it is to love. If you care, whatever you do goes further. Just like this example.

For most of us, charity begins at home, school and work. Giving money is the last and often the dumbest thing to do. Charity means going beyond the rules, duties and obligations. For government it means different departments of government not fighting each other or shifting responsibilities away, which is increasingly the norm here and the sure path to mediocrity.

If we really care, we will discover we don't need to spend a lot money. We wouldn't even realize that we have waste so much less and gone so much further. There will be surprising sources of productivity. I submit, the Gospel had the last and true word on doing this right.


Got a call from my daughter's form teacher yesterday afternoon. She explained at length why my daughter have to serve her detention today. Typically you had to be served with four bookings before detention. In her case, she has landed "straight to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200". That's serious.

Of course I don't expect the school or teachers to be cognizant of her background. Anyway an offence is an offence. There may be mitigating factors but the wrongdoing is inexcusable.

This is yet another countless repeat lesson for her that you have to face life with courage. When courage fails, trouble begins. When you do something in secret thinking that you can get away, you have invited a demon into your life. That's why in the 36 stratagems, running away is the last one. If you run away before realizing all other stratagems cannot work, you have compromised on courage. You have shortchanged yourself and had compromised your potential. Steve Jobs manner of putting it was, "Don't settle"

The greater our shortcomings, the greater the opportunities for the Lord's grace. I often retell the story of John Newton to my kids. I also often explain and frequently using their behavior why they had just acted like Eve in the Garden. Sometimes I borrowed from Saul.

I explained to her why we had started our studies with Romans. As we live it, I took the opportunity to reinforce it. She is making progress, albeit slowly. Progress is still progress.

Stay hungry, live foolish. That takes lots of courage. You can have courage by the Lord's grace and stop worrying about what other people think and what you can achieve. All these is leading to the poverty of  love. That is a longer distance learning goal for her. The scriptures correctly pointed out that perfect love casts out all fear. She has too much fear because she doesn't know him. But because of his grace, time is on her side too. That's is my source of patience. So I am not shy about losing face. Remember Hannah.

God is the man whisperer and religion is the Great Wall keeping him out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

God will provide

Hey no problem. God will provide right? This just came in the mail. So logical. When I was a kid, this happened very often! Not exactly in this form, but in every sense of the spirit.

A young woman brought her fiancé home to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother told her father to find out about the young man. The father invited the fiancé to his study for a talk.  

"So what do you do for a living?" the father asked the young man.
"I am a biblical scholar," he replied.
"A Biblical scholar. Hmm........", the father said. "Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in?"
"I will study," the young man replied, "and God will provide for us."
"And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?" asked the father.
"I will concentrate on my studies," the young man replied, "God will provide for us."
"And children?" asked the father. "How will you support children?"
"Don't worry Sir, God will provide," replied the fiancé.
The conversation proceeded like this and each time the father questioned, the young idealist insisted that God would provide.
Later, the mother asked, "How did it go Honey?"

The father answered, 

"He has no job, no plans and he thinks I'm God!!"

Happiness: Bhutan vs Singapore

I enjoyed Khaw Boon Wan's speech on Bhutan. I think it is obvious to most of us that the Bhutanese are poor. In fact, I might be one of the few people here who have a Bhutanese acquaintance as a result of my website. From our emails to each other, even as a civil servant, I can tell he isn't rich.

The point is are they happy? We can be sure they aren't extremely unhappy or they would have rioted. I think they are happier than many living next door; their two giant neighbors. Is that happy enough?

In any society there will always be a segment of unhappy people just as we will always have the poor among us. Question is could we be happier and consequently even richer in more ways if we run ourselves differently by first studying Bhutan even as they keenly watch us. We learn from each other.

We should devise a happiness index, but the path to greater incidence of happiness here must come from facing and fighting our fears. Kiasuism is part of our national psyche. It is nothing but the visible expression of a greater and deeper fear that we might be worse off tomorrow. We have so much to worry about.

Bhutan has created a stable and predictable zone. Singapore cannot do the same. This is the first major difference. Perhaps the only thing we could borrow from them is to create social measures of happiness so that we have a framework and direction to work toward. I agree with Sylvia Lim. The details we have to figure out for ourselves as our position beyond being small and vulnerable as they are cannot be more different. This will also be a test if we have the courage to allow other objectives to compete directly against economic growth. Truly, the fashion we pursued growth over the last few years were not sustainable. So it is wise to layer over what we have new indicators for happiness however rough, raw and imperfect it might be. Let's just get going.

PAP vs WP: Your narrative or mine?

Li Xueying has written a good discussion of Chen Show Mao's maiden speech in parliament. The speech in CL is also available at the WP website. It must have won him many fans from the older generation Chinese speakers.

A friend of a friend who knew CSM remarked that he is kinda of idealist. This is diametrically opposed to the ever realist LKY.

If we all put on our best behavior for as long as possible. If we give the other person the benefit of the doubt, and that this is in turn reciprocated. We can do it. This is after all, the Golden Rule. But will we? I think so. I hope so. But not indefinitely. This good situation must be constantly fought for. It is unnatural in the sense that it is very rare. How many emperors were like Tang Taizong and how often in their court there is a Wei Zhen. Chinese history is long, spanning thousands of years, and you can only find a few.

Let's raise the level of play shall we. Let's assume this cannot last and therefore work hard, take no liberties that it will. Let's be exceptional. Elsewhere they can't even begin to try this.

Bathroom tissues

In this photo, we have the last roll of Paseo Elegant and the first roll out of 20 of Scott Extra ($5.65)

I just discovered online that Carrefour is selling the Paseo one for $5.04 (10 rolls). I thought we bought it for about $8+ at Cold Storage Jelita the last time (20 rolls).

The Paseo looks better, but the test of course is in the using!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fountain Terrace Korean Restaurant

Dinner at a Korean restaurant last night located across from Subway at Suntec City.
Verdict: We would be back.

Grilled Salmon  

 Pork Udon

Ginseng Chicken with Brown Rice

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Opposition MPs contribution in Parliament

I haven't the time to read all these speeches by MPs in parliament. Going over what Sylvia Lim and Lina Chiam had said, in particular the former, I think opposition MPs serve a very useful purpose in forcing the reexamination of sacred cows constantly. There is obviously a significant quarter of the population whose voice could not be represented by the PAP. Better be heard in Parliament than on the streets right?

I thought Cedric Foo (I expected better from him) was just inane in his criticism of Sylvia Lim's speech. Where on earth did he get those ideas from her speech to abolish GDP?

Raise the game guys! Don't be snide or bullying.

Update: Just came from discovering and reading Chen Show Mao's maiden speech. This guy made a lot of sense. Of course it is the pain, and I hope actually a joy when taken with the right spirit and motivation that the details are to be worked out. With boldness and imagination. If a failure is sincere, people are willing to forgive. But a defensive attitude, hints of cover ups, only invite more brickbats.

Gerald Giam did well with doing his homework in his maiden speech. So different from my PAP MP who I just cannot forget, a lawyer with First Class Honours cannot tell that the GST is a regressive tax. In the end Tharman had to rescue him. Sigh!

Lords of Strategy

Finished this book a couple of days ago. My most useful takeaway is that I had not taken the advice of nearly everyone to write a book on NaviMap. Here is the passage from the book which had vindicated my judgement. Really, I am not willing to think too highly of myself. I quote from the book.

To become an author, one didn’t even necessarily need to know how to write. For a person with the right credentials and an intriguing idea to push, editorial help was readily available. Alan Webber, the leading staff editor at HBR during this period, later described how the process worked: “The dirty little secret of the Harvard Business Review is that most of the great articles that we published when I was the editor weren’t exactly written by people whose names were on the byline. And that’s not to say they weren’t the author. But they didn’t write them. If you go talk to the professors at the Harvard Business School and you ask them to write an article, you very quickly discover they can’t write a lick. In order to get a very advanced degree, you have to be taught how not to write very, very well. Now, what they can do is talk.

Kiechel, Walter (2010-03-03). Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World (p. 244). Harvard Business Press. Kindle Edition. 


and then I hunged up my mobile.

This is the sinicisation of Singapore! English is our working language. If you want to conduct a survey over the phone, that is the language you begin. I refused to entertain her. I told her, "Sorry, I am not free"

This would not be the last time. I only wonder how often I will be getting such calls. Where on earth she got my number from? She called from an unlisted number. Well at least she had a lovely voice, but so do the hosts on radio.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Planning to go to Yosemite

Planning a trip to San Francisco and Monterey next month. Hoping to also make a day trip to Yosemite after I fingured a way to get there without the risk of road closures. Here is what we might see there. This video was shot about a year ago.

Defence GPC chairman to raise the issue of NS deferments

Good that the chair of GPC for defence will be raising this in Parliament. I didn't support Tony Tan as a result of this. I was not convinced then that Dr. Patrick Tan did not get preferred treatment for NS disruption. I saw the MSM basically steered away from the real issue to fulfillment of his NS obligation, which he did.

Teddy Bears for protecting sleeping kids

Kids often sleep better with a teddy bear beside them. My girls were no exception. Look at the hero teddy defending the peacefully sleeping child against a huge monster. This picture was created by Alex Panagop. I spotted it on facebook minutes ago.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Our small carbon footprint

We have a much smaller carbon footprint. It must be quite incredible how often other families have their aircon on. Ours are already running much of the time. I think inverter technology helps a lot.

Can't think of anything else that would draw more electrical energy. Few people keep tankfuls of aquarium fishes at home right?

eBay Sucks!

eBay is clearly on the slippery slope. Glad I am not a merchant on their platform. Again I couldn't pay for goods I bought with their preferred provider: Paypal.

I accidentally discovered I could start a chat session with them. A few days earlier I had called them. That was a useless session, the problem not solved.

As I write this I am waiting for their reply to come on chat. Put me on and after 15 mins, still no response.

I have evidence in the transcript on the left.

eBay sucks. Glad I am not an investor in their stock. They are going down. Amazon can take over.

Update: Problem solved. Jessy stopped being incommunicado after an hour. Gave me some nonsensical suggestions and finally suggested that I checked my mailing address, which is correct of course.  However an idea occurred to me as I pore through my account. There was another unused shipping address from long ago. It had never caused any problems but I decided to delete it. A hunch I had from my time as a software engineer long ago. True enough, it worked.

eBay owed me one here. I told Jessy how to solve this problem if other members approach them with a similar "cannot make payment" issue.

Occupy Wall Street goes global

"Occupy Wall St" has gone viral. In this case global. It failed to take off in Singapore, Raffles Place, which is not surprising.

So convenient. The bankers blame the regulators and the government return the favor.

The 99% aren't going to stand down unless they at least get good jobs. This is only the beginning.

I am seeing the end of a paradigm. Meanwhile the erstwhile 1% winners who hold the reins of power as well are trying to prolong it.

We are wasting our time. We are risking our children's future.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Birthday dinner

Birthday dinner for wifey with her favorite dish at Jumbo Seafood along East Coast Park

Watching the sunset after dinner.

My old place.

My old place! Long time no see. Shot taken from the top floor of 122 Lorong 2 Toa Payoh

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thumbs down to eBay Singapore

I have been trying unsuccessfully to pay for the Kindle Fire case from "Chinese-Smile" via my Paypal account.

I had spoken to eBay customer service on the phone. A clueless chap had found it hard to believe there was no error code....needless to say, the problem wasn't resolved.

I have lost count how many times I tried to pay them and always get this senseless message.

Now eBay threatens that they might suspend me for not paying for the goods I ordered.

I am totally pissed with them. Until now, I never had problems buying on eBay before. The gap between them and Amazon just got wider. They are a company in trouble. Looks like it is going down and down. I cannot believe I am the only one that was inconvenienced and irritated this way.

Just reluctantly went googling this problem (I don't have time) and found this insightful link from eBay UK.


Apparently this is a common problem and eBay had done nothing to resolve it :-(

I tried the suggested workaround, but it didn't work for me. Too bad Chinese-Smile.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

$3.90 retractable earphones

I refused to put up $19.90 to get a retractable earphone for myself when we were at Sim Lim Square recently.

Now wifey found near her office $3.90 earphones. We bought two of them. Let's see how long these ones will last.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Sim to Jobs:....bringing a bit of us to the whole world"

When I wrote about this yesterday, I didn't think people would be interested. I blogged only for my family and myself. Instead more than a few came and one even left a comment what did it mean for Sim to have remarked, "Thank you for bringing a bit of us to the whole world".

I thought it was obvious. Apparently it wasn't. Of course to be completely sure, you have to ask Sim himself. I am not surprised he had no comment. I feel it is impossible to respond with a sound bite. A longer explanation would be confusing.

What is the bit of us that has been brought to the whole world as a result of Apple products especially the non desktops and notebooks gadgets?

Apple products are the intersection of culture and technology. In this sense, the musician Sim also shared a similar background with Steve Jobs. But Sim leans far more towards engineering. As for Steve Jobs, he is more a user than an engineer. Jobs also had the advantage of growing up and selling to a market he is far more familiar with. That market, the USA is also the preeminent culture exporter, i.e., sell in the USA, sell to the world as well.

My point? Sim probably knows better than most how Steve thought. But an Asian bamboo for all its strength and beauty could not transform into an Apple tree.

Steve Jobs products were anticipatory. Like Akio Morita Walkmen, we did not know we want and need it until he showed them to us. Apple products are extensions of ourselves. Like you have grown an additional limb, an eye, another ear. You become attached to them to the point that they are part of you. You use it to connect with others better, quality and quantity wise. That's why for some Apple has become religion.

For Sim, Steve Jobs was his nemesis. I bet he spent nights awake trying to figure Apple out. He needed to learn the lessons having been soundly trounced by Apple at the MP3 war. He concluded he cannot be Apple.

I wonder what the three lines would write like if they were rendered in Chinese characters. It should be clearer.

CapitaLand entering the dog house

CapitaLand is getting interesting! And I am starting to show more than usual interest. I love it when others hate it. Sometimes they deserve to be hated but other times it is just simply short term players selling a stock unnecessarily. These guys live off movements and on and off they will offer you opportunities because of your longer time horizon.

First piece of  homework: Work through a decade of annual reports. As usual forget the analysts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Singapore: Moving from "farmer" to "hunter"

I just interrupted myself reading at page 242 of  "The Lords of Strategy".

What if we are propelled into a world of the "hunter" rather than the "farmer"?

The hunter feasts and starves depending on the success of his hunting. Life for the farmer is more consistent and stable. In a stable economy with secure jobs, that is the moral equivalent to the farmer. In a low inertia and responsive economy which turns on a coin, there is no job security. Hired for a project, fired after it is completed, that is one form of the hunter's life. More likely, hired with the "farmer's" promise but lived and eventually fired like a "hunter". In this case the firm does not need to reward you like a hunter for the upside. No wonder workers feel like heads the bosses win, tails they lose.

Voters will finally pressure the government for a farmer's social contract but in a hunter's Zietgeist . It is an impossible task. This transformation takes years to complete and a long time to recognize; like a frog in slowly warming water, you cannot tell that is actually happening.

If we survive this, life for the hunter is marked by unpredictability but unlike the farmer, there are more frequent big game conquests. Modern hunters like their ancient cousins must save for lean times. Not regular savings mind you, but saving like mad, enough to depress the economy. It's a crazy idea. Unrealistic.

It is almost impossible to forecast or more honestly we are just bad at it, the business opportunities that might wash ashore. It is even harder to capture those that are sailing by. That's why we need to import the foreign talent. We have no time to train our own for opportunities that wouldn't wait for us to be ready, much less spend the money to train the workers.

We are drifting toward a hunting paradigm. It comes with businesses increasingly taking a short term view. It is a tough life.

When did this trend start? When pension benefits moved from defined benefits to defined contributions. It has been many years in the making but that process is now accelerating, the backlash has also become stronger.

I sense the seeds for building a new set of binary scenarios around the concept of the farmer and the hunter. I am not sure I have the time for this. What is the value of doing this? May be all I need is to figure it out as I go along. Unlike when I was with a big corporation, there is no need to share this with colleagues.

Yet another Mouse purchase :-(

$85 poorer tonight because of this Arc Touch Mouse. I have never had much luck with computer mice. I just got the Explorer Touch Mouse slightly over a month ago. It felt like I have had that for a very long time and I am surprised when I check the blog entry how recent it was.

I need to fold my pinkie under the mouse which my previous Arc Mouse permitted. You can't do this with the regularly shaped mouse. Over time it cause me discomfort and then eventually pain with those kinds of mouse. I have been putting up with it for years but I shouldn't if there is an ergonomically friendlier alternative.

Well, I hope more mouse makers will make arc mice. Please bring down the price too. I am not confident that this mouse can last years. Only PC displays seem to live forever. My desktop PC is already more than three years old but not without two changes of the motherboard and a change of hard disc. Thanks to the extended warranty.

How to hold a mouse for many hours

The wrist shouldn't be bent so awkwardly. I was in a hurry to get someone to take this photo for me.

If there is space beneath the mouse, our fingers especially the pinkie naturally curls underneath it. This is the most comfortable position to hold and move a mouse.

I don't know what the views of physiotherapists and occupational therapist are. I had tried to google for their advice before without much success.

Sim Wong Hoo remembers Steve Jobs

The first line goes, "Thank you for the great lessons".

Sim Wong Hoo is the gentleman to have taken out an ad like this on ST.

Had there been no Steve Jobs, Creative could have ruled the roost for MP3 players. It wouldn't be as dominant as the iPod but it would likely be a leader sharing the pie with many others.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dinner at Lau Pa Sat

I have not been to the Lau Pa Sat in years. Didn't keep a blog then and so cannot place when was the last visit.

Dinner was fish ball mee-pok, which wifey gave the thumbs down. I was quite happy with it though.

Now they also tout. Perhaps they have been doing this for a while now.

I am glad I no longer work in the neck of woods here. A look around the towering office blocks tell me that they are keeping later than before. Not good.