Monday, May 29, 2017

George Yeo thinks China less prone to populism

George Yeo's article in the HuffPost which is reprinted in the ST today.

He is rare in his ability to see the world equally through western and asian perspectives but I wished he would be more realistic about our common human nature. The better angels among us is under assault when people feel less confident and secure. Chinese outward confidence even bravado hides inward insecurities.

Imagine had the Xiongnu been more technologically advanced than the Chinese, had they had a fair bid of arable land as well instead of grass and desert to sustain a livelihood on harsh animal husbandry. This is what the modern Xiongnus possess vis a vis China. So just like the Hans learned to own and ride battle horses because the Xiongnu had used that edge against them to devastating effect, and later the Hans took the war to Xiongnu territory as well, China today will do the same. China will assert its power beyond its territory for its security and self-interests. Hence the One Road, One Belt.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Heroes uncovered

Do you expect the homeless loser to be a hero? There were not just one but two. Faces say nothing about what is in a person. We all know that but yet our attitude and behavior suggest that we do not. It is best simply not to judge a book by its cover. Give people a chance and if you must from the risk and exposure, it is alright to protect or insure yourself. What everyone needs is an opportunity to show their true selves and even to work at becoming at becoming better angels of ourselves. 

Homeless losers? There used to be many such losers but today given the structure of the economy and society, there are simply more people down on their luck than lazy losers. Therefore expect many hidden gems of heroes among us. 

AlphaGo defeats world No.1 again

This picture will immortalize the human defeat of Weiqi at the hands of Artificial Intelligence. It will however not defeat the human spirit or possess the values to create Star Trek. It can be smarter than us but not wiser. It will force us to stop our foolishness but it can't itself become wise. In other words it will always need human leadership.

Algorithms however impressive are simply only mimicking us better than ourselves. As in the past, we will use our creations to learn about ourselves. To do that we must not make AI serve us but work with us by sharing the load. This will free up time and energy which we will then experiment and create the next work place and economy. The problem is that we can't visualize what that future would be like yet. At least we must commit to not doing harm to each other with this technology but keep trying until they are used to do good.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Singapore left out of China's OBOR?

This is not the best way to post this but I have no time.

Relevant links.

China Frictions May See Singapore Miss Out on Belt-Road Billions

Common interest of Singapore and China greater than any difference of views: DPM Teo Chee Hean

My response borrowing heavily from Leo Suryadinata, 'The Rise of China and The Chinese Overseas"

Click on pic to enlarge. 

Update: May 25 7:40 pm

Just like the suppliers selling gear to gold prospectors. We make money regardless if they find gold. I don't think there is gold.

Manchester: Targeting children

Taken from the front page.

Your hate will make you strong. Satisfy your urge for revenge. Give in to your anger. Strong is the Dark Side, do not resist its seduction.

ISIS saw how Trump shot 59 Tomahawks in response to Assad nerve gassing children. Targeting kids is their priority now.

We must resist this thirst for revenge and only pursue justice. Not a bad idea to review and update the laws on this especially to discourage more such acts.

We resist the Dark Side and seek the better angels of ourselves. May God help us.

Boom and Bust in personal road transport

Saw this early this morning and Whatsapp an old friend about it:

About a month or so ago, I shocked to see so many cars drove up to the foyer at Jcube who were Uber or Grab hires. This morning ST report helps to quantify their presence. At the personal level how is this affecting you?

Crazy. Looks like they grossly over expanded. Drivers are going to suffer. Commuters short term joy could turn into tears later. They have brought the logic of boom and bust to this segment of the transport market.

We are no good at doing road transport here isn't it? We keep trying. Sometimes we succeed but the success doesn't last long. 

Meanwhile I just got a response from my friend: "Honestly I don't bother"

And my response: "I like your attitude! Take care as competition looks fierce."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Finally a decent speech from Trump

Absent the usual divisiveness and now emphasis on unity and inclusiveness except for identifying Iran as the enemy, which there is abundant evidence that they are trouble makers.

Read his speech on his Facebook page.

Update: May 24 5:20 am

There are two ways to look at this. Trump was duplicitous and no doubt he regularly is. He had an education on Islam, I am open minded enough to accept that possibility. Nevertheless the man is unfit to be president and possibly the worst president in America's history.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

This fascinated Tharman

I find this completely intriguing that Chess could be addictive enough to lure people away from the bottle and gambling. Only in this Indian village and may be a few more undiscovered ones which have enough in common. It will never work here but it is very useful to understand why it is working there.

The other more important reason for this post is Tharman. I am always curious what goes on in the minds of some of our top leaders. Do I find them surprising or boring. Quite a few are boring but Tharman is always fresh or insightful.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mahbubani: West get North Korea wrong

I am tired of reading about North Korean defectors predicting the fall of the their country. Their track record is so poor, I have gone to read up and understand a little better why that ain't happening. These defectors basically wanted to sell books and wrote up their stories basically to achieve that. To be fair to them they believed the North is doomed or they would not have risked their lives running away.

I agree with Mahbubani that the western media get the North more wrong than right but I feared he has done even worse. E.g., there is no such thing as an unbiased point of view. All views must reflect our preference which is not informed by facts but beliefs.

His prescription of helping the North grow economically and secure so that they would give up their nuclear weapons is fantasy. There is simply not enough trust. The North does not even trust China to protect them! Would they trust the Americans? The western media has been far better at selling their views more consistently than Asian intellectuals or media.

It is completely in Singapore's interest that there is no war on the Korean peninsula and that the current debacle can with patience eventually be peacefully resolved. I signed up to that too but I feared the crazy Trump bends more toward violence because to the Americans all peaceful options have failed. The logic of others dead than American lives at risk is a powerful one to attack the North regardless of the consequences as long as America First is preserved.

A peaceful solution is available if China have the ability to guarantee the North's security but that would take a long time and the North would be nuclear armed with ICBMs long before that. Instead I think the Japanese is likely to arm themselves with nuclear weapon eventually. When that happens depends on the US commitment to its security. If the US waver the Japanese will be nuclear ready sooner. Following that South Korea will do the same.

There is no peaceful solution for the peninsula except through nuclear deterrence to maintain an uneasy peace until the social and economic circumstances of North Asia societies are completely different from today.

One Belt, One Road: Show me the money

China offers a free call option with no expiry and many nations signed up. Why not? Problem is where is the money? The Chinese have it but is not showing it. Not yet.

I like the OBOR idea but one has to be realistic as well. Beyond money the Chinese has plenty to catch up before they are able to lead this endeavor. What with so many pressing domestic issues that already consume so much time and energy.

The only thing realistic about OBOR is just one line in the story: He did not give a time frame.

But once you make a big public show of OBOR the clock starts ticking. It is no longer strictly true the Chinese can do as they please any more. You have to keep people expectant and interested or lose credibility.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Three blind mice

In July last year I decided two mice were better than one. For the past few months I have been using three! Three blind mice. Experience suggest I would stick with two most of the time. In this instance the runt is the blue one. The Arc Mouse was a small miracle. Shortly after I got it problems developed. Fortunately I didn't throw it away as it was so pricey, and now it is working fine.

Three blind mice is the way to go and I work them hard.

New and dangerous attitude toward drugs

I just finished reading this story from Today. One paragraph jumped at me which caused me to make this post.
A 25-year-old woman, who graduated from a local university and works in the media industry, claimed that taking cannabis was just like drinking coffee. “It’s popular among successful entrepreneurs”, she said. While in university, she took cannabis - also known as marijuana or weed - daily before she went for class, and even before examinations.
My daughter sometimes reported to me that some of the students have incredible stamina that she cannot even compare with them. I think I know why and hopefully this is only true for some of them.  The global environment and media attitude toward drugs is getting softer and with that it throws off an aura that drugs are benign.

The threat has changed and now these dangerous stuff is sold with false claims and half truths. Some of these drugs grow on you so slowly you thought it is safe. The only way to discover their danger is when you are trapped.

Update: May 14 7:55 pm

I had wanted especially to share this earlier but it wasn't convenient until now.

His public remark that drug abuse is commonplace was nothing less than sobering. Catch that in the video clip. 

Saboten: When kids eat free

That is what we saw at Saboten in 313 Somerset today when children get to eat free. Don't imagine all of them are locals. I could hear a fair bit of Japanese spoken.

To see toddlers in baby chairs seated in a row was simply too cute to ignore.

Saboten Tonkatsu is really good. We used to go to the one at IMM until one day they inexplicably disappeared.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sacking of FBI director James Comey

Full of heat and noise, not much light and sound for many of us who can only afford to follow what is happening cursorily. I trust Ray Dalio and James Comey used to work for him at Bridgewater.

I would not be surprised if the low life Donald Trump is eventually impeached and removed as president. The path leading toward his possible collusion with Russia to win the elections grows clearer over time.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Vesak Day 2561

I have been sending Vesak Day greetings to Buddhist friends for many years now. I think most Christians do not do that. One Christian group, the Campus Crusade for Christ once got into trouble for disparaging the religion. Today they are no longer CCC but Cru.

Whilst Christianity might be represented in the Inter-Religious Organization, I know many Protestant churches are not friendly to other religions. They seek to convert them to Christianity often by telling others they are believing in the wrong things.

Yesterday in one of the Whatsapp chat I participate, someone posted this just for cheeky fun.

This morning being Vesak Day I shared the top most pic with them and then added the following in the Buddhist spirit for the day. 

There is no need and it is just foolish to disparage other people's faith when you can often begin the conversation by identifying and talking from where we overlap. 

Religiosity is growing everywhere, it is time to take stock and ask ourselves how we can best promote peace engagement than provoke each other and risk hostilities. 

I am patient. Easter is over and perhaps at Thanksgiving or Christmas I might pick this up or by then something better would be available to continue the Gospel story for anyone willing to listen. On the other hand Christians are often taught to be impatient and quoting scripture that non believers must be converted ASAP. I am sure they are wrong. They are eager to get people to say the Sinner's Prayer instead of showing people our path to a new hope and beginning that is good for eternity. The accumulation of that praying the Sinner's Prayer is to end up with uncountable nominal Christians and losing sight of Jesus Christ in the process.

Testing the ZenFone 3 camera

Settings: 1/30s, f/2, 4.04mm ISO 2387

Shot this morning at the Botanic Gardens

Impressive photos from this mid range phone. Quite happy with its performance but I missed having the S-pen of my Note 4.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Who is most susceptible to fake news

Link to story.

Not in the story but my take for interacting with my Republican American friends is that they are ideological rather than empiricists or pragmatic.

If you are ideologically driven you are also naturally vulnerable to fake news. Anyone who is familiar with your ideology will know how to create false information that fits your beliefs. You would love to read such stuff and your faith in the ideology will deepen - a vicious cycle.

If you are an empiricist then you insist that facts are the most stubborn things and must be respected. It is far harder to monkey with facts to create a false narrative.

Friday, May 5, 2017

For the next ice kacang

I was looking in this blog to discover when was the last time I had ice kacang but found nothing. I think it was more than a year ago. Will it be more than a year before I have this dessert again?

I have always been disciplined with what I eat but with age has become even more disciplined.

South China Sea: Might over Rights

The Chinese have succeeded at softening ASEAN opposition to their claims in the South China Sea. Might has triumphed over rights. If might cannot be resisted, it will be used to create a new legitimacy through revisionism or outright lies. A new set of rights would replace the old set destroyed by might.

This E-book would not convince the Chinese. The population is moved emotionally and not logically.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Japan: A military time bomb

After decades of not coming to terms with what they have done to Asia during the last war, there is no hope that they ever will. In fact we have every reason to fear that history might repeat itself if Japan gets the permission to arm itself again.

Quoting this chilling bit from the story:

The group firmly believes that Japan is to be applauded for its role in liberating Asia from Western colonialists. 

It also says that issues such as the Nanjing Massacre and “comfort women”, a euphemism for women forced into the sex trade, have been grossly exaggerated, and that the Tokyo War Crimes Trial was illegitimate. 

Denouncing what it terms “humiliating apology diplomacy”, 

Nippon Kaigi says this has brought about a loss of pride and patriotism among a younger generation of Japanese. 

When asked last year about the group’s position on Japan's war aggressions and crushing defeat, Professor Takubo said: “For all countries that have gone to war, each one will have a different View of history. If you want to call that revisionism, I’m all right with that.” 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The last doctor in the family

My brother shared this with us a few days ago. Finally my niece is done with medical school. I was wondering what to do with this pic and then it occurred to me that she would be the first and last doctor in our family. The rest of the kids aren't even interested to become doctors and I agree with my ex classmate when he told me why he discouraged his kids from pursuing medicine.

It is so hard to get into medical school. I have come across several families whose kids wanted to become doctors. Some checked all the right boxes but weren't even called up for the admission interview. Many pursue their doctoring dreams overseas and one even went to China knowing that the qualifications there would not be recognized here.

Oh I just remember my cousin is a pediatrician. In fact she attended to my daughter many years ago in NUH.

Update: May 2, 2:55 pm

Got this from my sister.

A doctor can do a lot of good but that demands you choose one of the less traveled roads. I didn't think my cousin take one of such paths and that is why I almost forget she is also a doctor. 

Bought the Zenfone 3

Reluctantly bought the Zenfone 3 ZE552KL from Red White Mobile today. I can't wait because my Galaxy Note 4 is kaput. The phone set is set to "Safe Mode" if I ever power down and turn on again. The volume rocker which I almost never used was somehow frozen in the volume down position. I hate it when I have to make an unplanned purchase.

Paid $428 for the above. Customer service at the store was not great. They weren't rude, just inflexible and unhelpful. I rather to go KAsia Mobile but they don't carry Asus models at the moment. This Zenfone is a compromise between price and camera features. If the Note 8 comes up with some compelling features I might make the switch but I am not holding out for any surprising breakthrough. Innovation seem to be slowing in smartphones. Improvement are incremental and the top of the line phones are asking for a lot more money so little improvements.

New record high temperature: 30.9 Celsius

The highest temperature record was broken only recently. We have new high today at 30.9 C.