Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A surprise anniversary cake

This cake smells wonderful.

I wasn't expecting this but my ex boss said she would be dropping by to give me something. I didn't know her daughter had baked us a cake to celebrate our anniversary :-) I haven't seen her in years and she has grown into a very pretty woman.

Will savor the cake later and I know it would be very good because she is deep into this business critiquing the best in town.

New Keyboard and Mouse set

Got this at Challenger today for my daughter. She is the only one running Windows 8 at home.

The labels of her old keyboard were already wearing off and the mouse has over time become sticky at the side, I believe the result of our high humidity.

MCE as Beta Software Part 2

Singapore MSM marks the last day of 2013 with an ignominious full page report of the new MCE with every paragraph and graphic completely telling a story like a bad beta software experience from the user.

I went over to LTA site the info they had provided was worse. Those guys are more interested to boast their engineering feats like the old days some computer magazines did. Such publications were among the first to go out of business. Clearly the motorists were not their first priority. When you get this bit wrong everything eventually go wrong for you. In the past we had PWD and ROV. The PWD folks can boast their engineering and construction prowess, the ROV guys would concentrate on making the system serve road users well. That structure would have produced a better outcome.

Beta software almost never comes with a user guide. The YouTube video from LTA uploaded in November was wrongly pushed to us as such. That was akin to demo software and we all know the demo always look much better than the one you finally received.

Perhaps the present bad situation will improve as we learn to use the MCE better but I am skeptical how much. The picture will become clearer when everyone heads back to work and school in two days time. I am not holding my breath.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dinner at Jurong Hilltop

We had teppanyanki dinner at Jurong Hilltop this evening. Haven't been here in ages. I vaguely recalled the last time I was here was probably more than 25 years ago. I brought my then girl friend there who is now my wife. I don't think it was a Japanese cum Indonesian restaurant then. Some coffee house or something like that.

Wouldn't be back for a long time not because the food was bad but this is the kind of feeling you get when there was too much to eat which is quite rare with us. We didn't stay for the complimentary dessert.

Bad LTA: MCE road changes like beta software

Just a few minutes before 6 am the radar shows that the ECP near MBFC traffic wasn't smooth flowing. For much of yesterday it was colored red. We decided to avoid taking a joy ride through the MCE and I was wondering if many bored Singaporeans were thinking of doing the same thing on a Sunday.

I first caught this on my phone early this morning. The sentiment of smooth flowing traffic was definitely not shared by lots of motorists. See below.

I think Justin prediction is coming true this morning.

Ah, we forgot this is a LTA project. They have long lost the reputation of managing our land transport well.

This whole enterprise is beginning to smack like beta software. Unfortunately few things are harder than infrastructure, especially roads, bridges and tunnels. You can modify code, recompile and release at will. You live with all the shortcomings. When the planning guys (the brains) fall short the ops people suffer. They also get the short end of the stick from motorists. Meanwhile the planners remain anonymous save their unlucky political masters.

Update: 8:25 am

The traffic at 8:20 am on Google Map. The traffic coming from the east is very heavy as per normal. I think there were probably many curious motorists kicking the new tires on a Sunday yesterday eh?

Update: 3:50 pm

The way ST Christopher Tan describe the situation which Google Map isn't updated to show, the problem seems to be structural. Many motorists had shared the same frustration of the inadequacy of only two lanes bleeding into the ECP etc., In other words, the exit roads do not have the capacity to handle even current volumes of traffic. What an idiot piece of work by the LTA. Billions of dollars at risk.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Everyone is clueless about health plans

Even the health correspondent is fuzzy about the available insurance plans for the rest of us. Note that the very rich do not need health insurance.

I am not surprised. This is the same strategy big business and in this instance insurance companies use to fatten their profits all over the world. The old style was to keep it simple but opaque and the new way is to be more transparent especially when compared to what was formerly, but highly complex. You wonder what is the regulator doing about it, but many people do not know that in many societies business increasingly do not just have the balance sheets but also could overwhelmingly arbitrage their knowledge against the government and hence the people. That is why IDA, MDA, LTA etc., are having such a hard time meeting our standards of effectiveness. We are all working for businesses now and they are becoming increasingly unaccountable. In the USA they even wiggle their way into crafting the legislation to defend and promote their own interest. How did you think the pieces fell in place leading up to the financial crisis of 2008?

If our health insurance plans are deemed complex, they haven't tried Obamacare. That is the egregious gold standard.

Whatever it is, the insurance providers with the health care system at the back always make sure the lawmakers can afford their own care or you bet they will try incredibly harder to make sure the plans are in good order. I am tempted to insist that the our leaders ought to have the same type of health care as the rest of us but you can bet on it that nobody would want to serve the nation in those capacities. In other words, suck in it up Singaporeans.

Teo Chee Hean super thorough now

That the riot in Little India happened is a big black mark on DPM Teo as the Home Affairs minister and overall in charge of our security. Now this guy is 200% thorough. There will be no more riots regardless of the reasons.

Lawrence Khong Exonerated

This is a good outcome for him and his church especially when folks like me had been decrying him. However I noticed their church has gone from 20,000 to 10,000 members.

There is nothing wrong being a rich Christian or even Pastor but note that it is really much harder to include the poor, sick and disenfranchised as a result.

My late father quit church as a teenager because he was too poor to keep up with his richer friends. It was as simple as just having a few coins for the offering plate. He didn't have even that since he had been orphaned from twelve. To avoid the embarrassment he quietly left.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Meiji Low Fat Milk

Trying this for the first time. This Meiji low fat milk had been highly recommended by our friends for many years but we had always stuck with F&N hi-lo milk.

Thumbs up. I think we are switching.

The ugliest Christmas Tree

Was meeting old friends for dinner yesterday when I spotted this. I think this Christmas Tree in Toa Payoh town centre qualifies to go down as the ugliest in town. It was shoddily built and appeared unstable. The top cone and its star was waving in the breeze. I hope they take it down before it falls over becomes killer litter.

ZTP Abalone

Bought three cans for abalone from ZTP at their IMM outlet for $100 yesterday.

Every year we used to buy them for others and usually kept only one can for ourselves. This year we have it all to ourselves. I hope they are good. Never tried them before.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Do-Not-Call Registry Fiasco

MCI is helmed by the ineffective Yaacob Ibrahim. Therefore I am not surprised he has messed up another initiative once more. The Do-Not-Call or DNC registry.

Some netizens don't see anything wrong to have these exemptions because you will not be getting spam from organizations which you do not already have a relationship with. I suppose that is what the wonks at MCI also thought was reasonable. That is shallow thinking and clearly showing up the inadequate grasp of the guys in charge of this. More clued in folks like former Digital Life editor Alfred Siew grasped its stupidity quickly.

My take? What is to prevent the larger organizations e.g, Singtel; a local bank and especially Sing Post from partnering with other businesses just to spam you? These purportedly locked out organizations would pay Sing Post or Singtel an access fee to get their messages to us. MCI didn't realize that they have opened up a back door! The DNC registry would in quick time be completely defeated.

This whole thing has become stupid as stupid does. What a shame. We need some spring cleaning of the people at MCI, MDA, IDA etc.,

Update: Dec 27, 6:20 am

Front page news!

Update: Dec 27, 7:55 am

I didn't have to wait long at all.

I used Sgcarmart.com to sell my car before we moved overseas a few years ago. Since then I had received commercials from them every week which I regularly delete.

Look, what is the relationship between sgcarmart and Shell? How would the latest tweak to the DNC apply here. It would defeat the whole purpose of the DNC. Waste of time.

Update: Dec 31, 7:30 am

Indeed the Personal Data Protection Commission were clueless about their job. They were just order takers. If you can be more persistent and organized and press your logic you get what you want. They are not capable of independent thought much less grasp the broader issues, consequences and the impact in the future. They were easy picking because of the ignorance for businesses to manipulate.

Hush Puppies Sandals

No more ever school shoes, instead wifey got a pair of Hush Puppies sandals for the girl. Perhaps something she could wear to uni when the time comes.

First Visit to Rochester Mall

Rochester Mall is very quiet. There were many shop units not taken up. This place was up way before Star Vista but the traffic couldn't be more different.

BTW, the Ya Kun farnchisee at Star Vista had quit since early December. I think the problem is not their product but image. You don't go to Start Vista to have Ya Kun.

Govt ups pay for McDonald's poorest

This is not a voluntary wage hike given by the government to top up the inadequate pay for McDonald's workers. Rather it is an egregious act by the company to get the tax payer to subsidize its workers.

America is not our problem. I am more concerned how its equivalent is being schemed and achieved here. Perhaps our public transport companies? That's what happened when you put a dud minister like Raymond Lim in charge. He didn't use his head but the religion of free markets. He conveniently forgot that textbooks divorce market forces from the powerful people and organization that drive them. They are so powerful they practically is the market. Market forces is their hallowed gloves which hide their self seeking urges. Textbooks legitimize markets and ignore the powers driving them to make it simple enough so that schools and colleges could teach them. It is up to you to use your head to apply it correctly in the real world.

I would evaluate each minister if he has any common sense or just some disciple of market ideology.

This for those who decry this government and desire to ape the West. The American system is designed to self correct. Please note that it is easy to copy others but really hard to learn how to reverse a mistake. Often a wrong practice needs only a process to be implemented but it is a society's culture that must from bottom up successfully reverse the mistake. A huge example of aping America wrongly is the Philippines.

For now the PAP is least bad, the best in opposition can only check the the government by and large better than the PAP's own MPs. They are not good enough to form an alternative government by a long shot. The question to answer is whether the PAP is good enough for Singapore. Here each of us must come to his or her own conclusion. Don't let others tell you. Make up your own mind and defend it successfully.

Back to McDonald's example. Companies that do not respect their employees will in the end also disrespect their customers. Just witness how the celebrity hamburger chef Jaime Oliver had exposed them. If the value of corporations is only to enrich their owners and top managers then they have no values at all. A high stock price at all costs is actually too high to pay for.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Disney's Frozen for Christmas Eve

Except for the time we were living in Dubai, the gang of us had always met for dinner and chit chat into the wee hours of the night on Christmas Eve. Come to think of it we have been doing this for almost 25 years. Even before the kids came and now they are all so grown up. Time to move on.

We will still meet, but not everyone will show up and not on the Eve. Last night we went to see Disney's Frozen and what a treat it was! Finally Disney is growing up and has a more mature message on Love for the times and especially for the younger set. Love it!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Japan's Winter Illumination

Aiyah, I didn't now they have this every year. We would have extended our stay there and travel from Kyoto to Nagashima for this annual show. It begins in November and lasts till March. Next time perhaps.

Here are some nice pics from the 2012 illuminations.

PM's breakfast with first responders

I downloaded this pic from 938 Live of my Facebook news feed.

Note the red ellipse. That is Ho Ching pouring out water for a first responder at the Little India riot.

Except for the commissioner, all the senior officers were standing. Today they honored the guys at the front line.

Some people might see this as excessive but I think we didn't do enough in the past. If only more senior people respect those at the bottom more, we can make things much better.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Deportation: Bad luck happens

Time has made me a lesser fan of TOC and other sites which I had found useful in the last GE. Time is the great revealer.

Grow up! Bad luck happens. I don't know if these deported workers were telling the truth - who knows? We try our best within the constraint of time and resources and come to a decision. I am fairly sure we had despite our best efforts, sent innocent people to the gallows when they didn't trafficked the drugs they were deemed guilty of. In has taken many years and I sorely wished it had come sooner but we have now ameliorated the chance of making such mistakes.

We can always be more thorough and gracious but never perfectly so. We can only promise ourselves and others to keep getting better. Please do not compare us with Dubai. I had lived there and we treat our foreign workers far better.

To provide an environment that has a lesser chance of bad luck to foreign workers over the locals, I think TOC, TWC2, Work Fair, Maruah etc., were just too idealistic. In fact don't even expect the luck gap to be small.

So what is realistic? An example would be Pope Francis standing firm on Church's doctrine against homosexuality but at the same time showing incredible grace in receiving them. That would markedly improve the luck of the gays (never mind most visitor to this blog wouldn't understand what I am talking about). My homophobic evangelical friends never understand how to stir grace with theology in the same pot. All of us are poorer for it as a result.

My former boss once met the big boss in the elevator in NY. He congratulated her for her outstanding performance. She replied that she was just lucky and he said to her to keep staying lucky! This is another example of realism. If it was really luck and she ran of supply, she will be history.

Let's have a more robust and resilient attitude dealing with bad luck. Many of us reduce or exposure to bad luck by avoiding risk. I hope this is changing.

Sorry Muruganandham and Dinesh. Don't give up trying to come back.

Audrey Chin's latest book

A very supportive friend and former colleague. She was always helpful and willing to explain stuff. Great to see this in the Sunday Times today and I am looking forward to get the ebook version.

On and off  I had heard some of her Vietnamese stories. She loves to tell stories with her twinkling eyes and spell bound her listeners with them.

She is also one of the smartest person I have known. I wish her great success with this latest book.

Smart choice to have a photo without her glasses.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Devyani Khobragade: Indian elites incredulous entitlement

If you have had the ill luck of dealing with the Indian elites you will understand this well. Their sense of entitlement is absolute to the point of blindness. They genuinely believe that they live by another set of self serving rules and that everyone in this world is made to serve them!

Good luck Dr. Khobragade. Why do you have to do this in America? India doesn't have enough leverage over America and their strategy of managing this 'crisis' is simple. They are lending a listening ear to your howls of injustice but it is one which Americans will never understand. You should have packed up and gone home in September when the Yankees hinted at what was coming. But like I have come to know you guys, you are just naturally unable to take the hint. As always the fault is the always others and never them.

The bigger picture is more serious. The culture of entitlement iron cladded in the caste system subverts meaningful democracy in India. It is a biggest and real life experiment to show why democracy fails there and many places else. You can only boast the process but as always the outcomes discredits democracy. This is needless brand damage but the Americans are always so wide eyed and persistent here. And to India discredit she doesn't  have a sense of shame which would have spurred them to self correct and do better. Such a gifted people but even more self defeating. So you know why the Chinese will beat you hands down. I have never understood Goh Chok Tong silly Indian fever. The elites were gracious to him but to the rest of us, they are often insufferable.

Of course there are startling exceptions among their elites but you need a lucky hand to meet them. Just ask those who have to attend to them in our clubs.

Nam Nam at Suntec Fountain Terrace

Light dinner at Nam Nam Suntec last night.

I have always wondered at the long and patient queue outside their outlet at Wheelock Place.

They were quite generous with the beef slices but the chili is for show. I didn't chew into any to verify though.

I think I prefer the traditional Teochew Beef Noodle. It is very hard to get that these days.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Better see ghosts crossing the road

Just saw this clip. What an unnecessary tragedy. The cyclist was an idiot and the taxi driver could have gone slower and keep a better look out.

Our roads have become more hazardous and I have gone one step further to be more defensive. This had saved a stupid little girl yesterday when she dashed out from behind a parked car. I don't see her parents around. Why did they allow her to run around that way? Better to always imagine ghosts are crossing and avoid them. This way nobody will become a real ghost afterward :-(

Meanwhile we must do better with road education and behavior.

Pope Francis: TIME Person of the Year..Rick Warren & Joseph Prince

I took this off my daughter's copy of Time magazine. This is much better than the odd looking cover page that is on display everywhere.

It was obvious he would be the guy to be TIME person of the year. None of the other candidates came close. He has shown how many hungry people there are for the Christ. In other words the churches were failing. He is drawing them out like his boss had long ago. At the personal level, he had given me more confidence in my simple theology. Ah, just like Pope Francis I often tell my children during our Sunday evening BS.

The Pope also offered me a contrast to two interesting and very successful pastor characters, Rick Warren and our own home grown Joseph Prince. These two pastors and others like them had to limit their Gospels or they will lose their success and prosperity. Both had successfully repackaged self help into the Gospel and they have done it with finesse. Their theology is spot on, only that they refused to go beyond and God honors them with success. The price they are paying is to avoid the sick and poor. I didn't sell ignore or push them away, but limit their attention with no risk to their wealth and matching lifestyle. Their self seeking congregation are not ready to go the next step.

I prepared this two days ago but had no heart to blog about it. Rick Warren has grown from the wildly sucessful, "The Purpose Driven Life" to closer to the mark self help themes. His latest is achieving weight loss and done with typical American marketing savvy: the Daniel Plan.

I never cared for his, "The Purpose Driven Life" until my old friend bought me a copy of his book and suggested that we worked through it together via email. Thinking that it would be helpful to her I agreed. Even then I noticed the emphasis was overwhelmingly on the self and not on others. Well if you have problem coming to terms with yourself and loving yourself, how do you love others? You have to be able to stand before you could jump. They are an extraordinary huge group of Christians mostly in rich societies and I don't think they are attracted to Pope Francis message.

Pastor Joseph Prince's message is similar. He taught his congregation not to be weighed down by guilt because of God's amazing grace. Then he repeats often and creatively that as children of the most high they have everything, slipping effortlessly into self help genre. It was faultless and it also stayed there. They are waiting for God to bless them so much until it overflow to others. Last I know they are filling nicely but not overflowing yet. Might take a very very long time to happen.

I do not decry these two pastors, I only feel sad for them and their kind. I get that uncomfortable feeling that for many of them this will not lead to anything good in the end. I wrote my impression of  Day 40 of the Purpose Driven Life to her a couple of years ago that given our environment, our job may just be if the Father is so gracious as to allow us to stand with him and wait for the prodigals to return. Please do not let us become like the other brother who stayed at home. So I thank God for Timothy Keller, Philip Yancey etc., and of course Pope Francis.

This Pope continues where Mother Teresa left off: that there are no slums in heaven. TIME has put it well that Francis did not change the message but the music....so many especially successful pastors have gotten it so right and also so wrong!

I told my daughter CS Lewis Screwtape letters was kindergarten stuff compared to the diabolical struggle that is really going on. How would we ever cope without the Cross? You will not see Francis in public without that cheap Iron Cross. The days will make clear why the monk returned as a Pope in our times. Who among us could detect and feel the pangs of childbirth the world is in today and what it is birthing?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Tree up

The children set up the tree this afternoon. Good job.

Last year we didn't put up the tree. Everyone was so busy.

This is a good tree. I think it is at least ten years old....

Little India Riot: 28 to be charged

Time to remind myself that there are lots of Singaporeans who are really unhappy with the numbers and consequences of having so many FWs and FTs among us. I am sure more comments like the ones here will appear as this post stays around longer on Facebook.

We have become overly emotional about the FW and especially FT issues. To be overly emotional is just another way of saying we are over reacting and irrational in our response. To me, this government took so many things here for granted and pushed their luck too far. It has backfired badly and net we are worse off despite the tangible economic gains.

In fact, they have lost my support for them. Each time I tried to cut them some slack but always after a few weeks I changed my mind. Even if they are right they are just such abysmal failures at selling their policies. A reason why it has been so difficult is they could not even sell who and what they are to many of us. This they-we divide is killing them. Some policies I agree with them in private but not publicly as a result. If the people don't buy them, they are stillborn.

I am currently reading 59 seconds, a book I got from my brother. There are some simple and tested explanations why the PAP ministers are failing to communicate successfully.

Update: 7:30 pm

Just as I thought. I came back to my PC from dinner and the first item on my Facebook wall, 2 hours old and here are some comments on a CNA article on this topic.

BN-MDA spat: Better let MDA win

Read it in Today first and then saw BN's response. Yeah, go back to bed was exactly right. Waste of time and only serve to confirm many of our guesses what MDA is: clueless and earning the status of stupid in a hurry.

But to be shrewd you have to let MDA win or they will find a way to make it really costly for BN and especially Bertha Henson. They can beat MDA in a classic David vs Goliath match (Malcolm Gladwell latest book tell the story better than any Bible teacher) but this is Singapore, and government power is mostly unlimited. We are not quarreling over having 6.9 million people here. Better concede. MDA and its upstairs face is more precious than survival. They are not as large as Dr. Goh forgiving Dr. Tan for making him look bad in Parliament once.

Anyway the bigger the win MDA scores, the greater its loss with the smartest and most influential segments of our society and the international media. And they have to meet these global organizations pretty often too. It is now a no fun job for them. Imagine sitting across the conference table and wondering if these ang mohs must be thinking I am out of touch. It would be far worse if you imagine them silently thinking you are stupid. And if you meet the Chinese instead they would think you are weak and they would propose why not use their methods. Of course you can't talk to them about Zhou Yongkang who is now in the dog house. Teo Chee Hean once met him so publicly to discuss such matters.

Simply put this government do not know how to govern if they open Singapore further and yet remaining as closed as before is untenable. So how?

Update: 1:55 pm

LOL. Good one Mr. Brown.