Sunday, March 31, 2013

Prodigy Anthony Yip needs tuition :-(

I was very happy for Anthony Yip and his family until I got to near the end of the story. I quote

His father, orthopaedic surgeon Kevin Yip, 51, says the boy had three months’ worth of twice-weekly tutoring before the examinations.

Indeed if even a prodigy needed such help, we are indeed a tuition nation through and through.

This might be a long shot but tuition would be the death to us down the road. Good for scoring in exams but terrible at preparing you for life. A self deceiving excursion. I rather we learn from the Finns and especially the Israelis how to educate our young.

Our kind just cannot resist showing off especially academically given our Confucian roots. The seduction of success and status is irresistible. People are willfully blind to the fact that the world of the Mandarins which would have set you for life in officialdom is very different from today's realities.

“We were just trying him out to see if he was a prodigy like his siblings,” says Dr Yip, who is married to Dr Joanna Lin, 49, an oncologist.

I just hope prodigy eventually paves the way to genius. The record isn't encouraging.

Update: 9 pm

Just explained to my daughter why we should be most unhappy about being a tuition nation. We are turning a public school system into one that is in name only. The large tuition industry means that we are effectively living under a private school system with the best exam gaming and enrichment going to those who could afford it; may be those with the right connections even. It will in time subvert the foundation of this society. Citizens can't do much about this without mobilizing. Does the government want this? Think about it. The successful and most able to organize action are benefiting and they don't want change. The growing under class would want to turn this upside down. That is seething anger leading to revolution isn't it? But from sheer numbers they will throw out the government before that. Then what? How is this good for all of us? And if the government redistribute opportunities too much, the successful might leave. We aren't that far away from class warfare. This problem must be solved before the gap between the have and have-not become too wide and impossible to act.

Update: April Fool's Day 1:30pm

Just neat the ST has an article like this today. Reads like the book Start-Up Nation. I agree with the writer that's how we must refocus and retool ourselves.

Lee Wei Ling's Beautiful Easter Story

Lee Wei Ling has shared with ST readers a beautiful Atheist Easter story today. God is patient with atheists but even more with professing Christians. That's why it is so important for believers not to judge others. You don't even need to love others if you only know not to judge them because you would already have fallen into Love's trap. Now I am still wondering after more than five years why she said to me, "Judge not less ye be judged". I never asked her the reason, I just chose to give her the benefit of the doubt. If I was wrong I learn, if not time will tell. Long ago, God had used her to teach me patience and then love. Sadly as someone who had been part of it, I was not successful at passing on this gift to her. Surely she had as much privilege and right as I had to receive it. Well that is how God works. Nothing new, he is doing it with his people, the Jews too. There is hope for atheists and everybody.

When you grow up from Romans 8 you will get to Romans 9 never mind if most believers chose to be stuck in chapter 8. God is as patient and long suffering as the story of the Prodigal Son. Now back to Romans 9.

With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters.[a] I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children.[b] God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.

Rebuilding of QBC

The church I grew up in is going to celebrate Easter in their new sanctuary. They must be so happy the rebuilding was completed in time for this. So should I pay them a visit? Unless the family is keen but I already know the answer.  Let's continue to meet on Facebook.

I like this pic. We could never get one like this unless you live across the street.That block had been torn down and new flats raised making this shot possible. Thanks folks for sharing.

First thing on Easter: Thoughts on Schizophrenia

I read all the comments on my blog but almost never respond to them since I am blogging for myself.

I woke up on Easter morning my first thoughts were for this woman who left this on my blog over a post I made on December 20 last year. The message was for Dr. Tan Cheng Bock. Did she think Dr. Tan will visit my blog? Well if he googled himself and click through.

She needs a new beginning. She and countless others, me included could use the Easter miracle in our lives. She caused me to remember my visits to Woodbridge Hospital as a kid. I distinctly remember playing Chess with an Indian patient. He was a big fellow but very gentle or perhaps I was small then. You know, when we were small and Christmas trees were big... I was told he was the top student at Victoria School. He had wanted to be a doctor.

Should I write about my late mother in law? She was also schizophrenic. The faith Christ gives us help to make us appear reckless. We can choose our in laws you know. The one who conquered death and broke out of his tomb is fond of upsetting the apple cart. He told me I could be more reckless but my faith is often too small, but it grows. I try his patience but he is always patient. Likewise my kids try my patience and with very rare exceptions I am also patient with them. This is how God breaks vicious cycles in families and society.

A classmate at NUS developed schizophrenia in the first year of our course. When my class had our reunions, I wondered if they remember R....For many years now I try to keep up with my friend's brother who suffers from schizophrenia too. We were classmates in primary school. Of course I always remember the movie, "A Beautiful Mind". It is a wellspring of hope.

God is always more reckless and shocking than I can bear. You caught up with him and he moved on again. It is amazing how so many people try to bottle him up as a genie in a lamp with the Bible. Meanwhile over in Rome, a theologian pope made way for one who takes after the reckless Francis of Assisi. Get this. The genie owns the lamp and not the other way round. The risen Christ had to explain the ancient scriptures all over again for them. Over the years, you understand better how Job must have felt. Those who came after Job were thrown into utter despair but God preserved them long enough for Easter morning.

Schizophrenia will cease but not on our terms. It will be on Easter terms, and don't imagine we completely understand the power of Easter. Do you understand the Book of Revelation? I don't and my elder child has often said it is a frightening read.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hire Local First: One of ST worst reports

In spite of  how poorly researched and thought through this report is by Jessica Cheam and Janice Heng, it is still useful to quickly support my view that.

1. This government had been making their job easy by selling Singapore cheap.
2. Our highly ranked and regarded education system actually prepare us poorly for job opportunities.
3. ST has a long way to go with investigative journalism in the era where we must not just trust but also verify.

Look at how hard foreign employees are let in elsewhere especially HK which is more pertinent for comparison. This government made it far too easy for foreigners and then naively trust employers will act honorably putting locals first. This government is unafraid to take us for granted. Instead of working to make our lives better, they substitute that with making the country headline numbers especially GDP look good. Let the people 'eat bitterness' and they will still vote PAP so they thought. Big mistake.

The test of the pudding is in the eating. Who cares how we rank on the TIMSS and whatever you choose to compare. If foreigners are preferred over us, the school system has failed. Period.

The writers of this article did a quick and dirty job. What do the economists really know about what's happening on the ground? The folks they went to for info are the usual names they always go to. These are the ones who are always eager for publicity because it is good for their careers. What about the offending employers? Their voice aren't heard here. Sure they don't want to be featured but for this article to be credible, useful and raise the level of discussion, you must find a way to get the info. What about the government which persisted in these hare brained policies year after year. They have no comment beyond the scant public statements? They are the most accountable.

The echo from the ground is so loud and persistent, which is basically what these economists and recruiters were playing back that such poorly written piece could still be useful for me to support my views on this matter. It also serves to show for a long time the government was deaf. Imagine how much more useful and transforming if ST could do a much better job on this topic. ST is falling behind what its readers require. Remember, nature abhors a vacuum. Thank you for the generous dividends in the past. I have taken profits of all my SPH holdings.

SMS Spam

So they have found me :-( I am getting more and more such spam messages. Not too many that I bother to unsub yet. I just delete them.

I think the risk is for interest rates to go up going forward. The best is behind us in this cycle. Problems in Europe especially arising from the fiasco in Cyprus is making the Fed cautious, but this is only delaying the inevitable. I just got an email complaining that the Euro has strengthened. I replied treachery is present in the markets.

These are tumultuous times indeed. I hope people are still able to sleep well. I have been waking up in the middle of the night sometimes several times in the past week.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday: Do this in remembrance of me

Other than one other movie which I saw alone, the only other one is this. That was years ago. Wifey didn't want to go.

I have it now in DVD still in its shrink wrap. I wonder why I even bother to buy it other than it was going so cheap. Now I could even download it but nah.

I spent the first hour of my waking enjoying lovely nature and scenery photos from 'Worldwide Collection'. A rare treat on a public holiday. Gave me the opportunity to pick up some examples for my daughter to inspire her for he photography competition. Since when do I do something just only for myself? Ah, before I got married. As I flipped through the many beautiful pics, one line that kept me company in the back of my mind early this morning is, "Do this in remembrance of me". Yes, I was thinking of the Lord's supper. That's how I shall remember Good Friday because that's how the Lord explicitly asked us to.

There is also another way which came by example: offer him a drink on the way to the Cross. Last night I was waiting for wifey at the bus stop. The forty five minutes sailed by quickly when you have a ebook on the S3 to occupy your time. As I put aside my phone, 'G' surprised me coming down from a bus before the one wifey was arriving in. This is the 'G' I had often helped to buy lunch or dinner. That's another way to remember Good Friday. Pope Francis is going to the prison to wash the prisoners feed on Easter day. Will the wardens be doing the same after he has left?

Wash each other feet. My kids they are so grown up and can wash their own feet now but for sometime I have been washing their feet by being their servant. Sometimes I have to flip over as the boss and scold them about this, but most times I am the servant. I am about to go next door to wake one of them up.

Update: 3pm

The pictures of Pope Francis washing others feet are in. Better to suspend memory of the crucifixion and focus on washing each other feet. Some try to reenact the journey to Golgotha, making it so sentimental and conveniently forget that in its original form, that was a cruel and terrible capital punishment. For centuries no Christian wore a cross! After Constantine, they sanitized the cross. Crucifixion was banned. In Singapore it is like celebrating the death penalty by hanging. How would it go down? How absurd. It was a job that needed to be done and by the only one who is able to do so. Today we also carry the cross not by hanging on one but washing others feet.

John chapter 13

 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing?13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

Upadate: March 30, 10am

That's exactly our nature alright. From the beginning and across all faiths except strenuously forbidden e.g., in Islam, we humans are prone to have the form rather than the substance. All the way from the man in the street to the highest echelons of society and government it is the same.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Order a 'suspended' coffee today

When I first saw this on my Facebook page, I skipped it thinking it must be another of those I have come across many times. But when another friend put up the same, I thought I better read it. What a treat this has turned out! Makes my day :)

I hope this will gradually catch on here. The income gap isn't going to close anytime soon.

I have been meeting a friend, whom I shall call G more often than usual at the hawker center these days. He would often ask me for some money to buy a meal. I only know one G but the stall holders must know many more. Order a suspended meal or drink is an anonymous but meaningful way to help. If we can pull this off here, it will also show that we have become a more trusting society. I look forward to that day. Perhaps the way to start the ball rolling is for stall holders to hang out notices that they sell suspended meals.

Update: 1:45pm

Wow! I have returned to my PC and spotted another three friends putting up this story and pic on their Facebook wall. Way to go!

TNP:..pitifully begged me for sex

Spotted TNP on the floor of Caltex along Tanjong Katong Rd this morning. Good grief, how despicable can the former SCDF chief Peter Lim get?

I agree with the Police Commissioner that Ng Boon Gay behavior was reprehensible even if he was found not guilty in court but Peter Lim has dived to a new low for ex senior civil servants.

I hope I haven't misunderstood any of them since I did not follow their cases closely. Anyway is the media always able to present the full picture? Increasingly the pressure is to sell more papers first. Given such a headline, some people must be feeling wronged already?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New Kettle

Wifey replaced our very old kettle with this one today. Cost $23.90 at Isetan Shaw House.

The former kettle hasn't been whistling consistently when the water boils. We have been living with it for far too long. It is even older than the children.

Tiger Woods: Winning takes care of everything

Who cares what some say especially when they are the small minority. Who cares what they teach you in school about building a good character. Don't place your hopes too high on the return of old fashioned civics or "好公民". The social milieu when that was taught couldn't be more different from today. Let's be brutally honest about what really goes on. What counts today is winning. That's why Nike finds it irresistible and is boldly confident to put up this ad with Tiger Woods. 

Now in the remote chance that this invite a backlash, we would know that society values have changed. I am not holding out for this. 

You need faith to insist and live by winning is not everything. Since when do they teach that in school or even in church (faith is taught narrowly there to 'advance the kingdom' or support prosperity outcomes). Some families still teach faith that is built on grace and sacrifice and I that makes me happy. Some of them are not even professing Christians because this wine somehow always become new and you need new wine-skins to hold it. 

“God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.” Mother Teresa.

Ngiam Tong Dow: Let's get our young talent job ready

The good NTD has again hit the nail on its head. He is so eloquent I am going to reproduce his speech deliver yesterday to the EDB Society here.

OF ALL the proposals floated in the recent White Paper on Population, the best idea in my view is the suggestion that we develop a Singaporean core in the workforce.
This would not have been possible in 1960, when many workers barely finished primary school.
Today, 60 per cent of school cohorts go on to tertiary education at universities, polytechnics or Institutes of Technical Education.
Our four universities and six polytechnics confer degrees or diplomas on some 30,000 graduates a year across the knowledge spectrum.
These young minds offer us the perfect platform for building up a Singaporean core. Though they may have outstanding academic achievements, they may not all be job ready. Just as our full-time national servicemen have to complete Basic Military Training to be battle ready, similarly, we need to train and induct trainees before putting them to work.
Much more effort needs to go into giving our well-educated young talent the necessary support to help them build on their core competence, so they can perform at the workplace and truly become part of a sterling Singaporean core. This cannot be left to the whim and fancy of individual companies.
I would therefore suggest that the $3.6 billion set aside by the Ministry of Finance for the Work Credit Scheme (WCS) to support wage increases for those for those earning up to $4,000 a month be used instead to pay the salaries of young cadets for one year. At the end of the year, the employer can decide to offer them jobs or release them back to the market.
The employer will be required to reimburse MOF half the stipend paid to those who are rejected for whatever reason. This clawback is necessary to ensure that HR departments organise training and induction programmes with serious intent to retain suitable cadets.
In my view, only the medical faculties of universities run proper internship programmes. Others do not. It is fine to say that trainees have to learn on the job. Far too often, I have seen young cadets virtually left to their own devices. In time, they become frustrated and even cynical.
The key performance indicators of the CEO, head of human resource and other operating departments should measure how well they train their charges. For example, KPIs should track the number of new cadets they induct successfully into their organisation each year. The Board Member chairing the Nominations or Remuneration Committee should have oversight of the whole process of identifying and developing talent for their organisation.
On the supply side, university dons will have to be proactive in seeking out training positions for their fresh graduands. Their responsibilities as teachers do not end simply with the conferment of degrees. They will have to get in touch with prospective employers, understand their needs, and teach their students to have the skills, knowledge and aptitude to meet the needs of business and industry.
There will be kinks. From time to time, accusations of favouritism and nepotism will be made. I believe that only an open and transparent system funded from the WCS can raise the core competences of the Singaporean workforce.
On a personal note, I would like to say that my civil service career flourished because I was fortunate to have (the late former finance minister) Mr Hon Sui Sen and (the late former deputy prime minister) Dr Goh Keng Swee as mentors in my formative years. They were truly selfless men.
Unless we make an all out effort to raise Singapore's core competences, we will slide back to be a stagnant backwater as we were in danger of becoming in the 1950s.
When we started out in the early 1960s to industrialise our economy, the average educational level of workers was barely that of the Primary School Leaving Examination. So Singaporeans had to be satisfied with low-skilled, low-wage jobs sewing garments, assembling transistor radios and knitting hair wigs.
By concentrating on industrial training, we were able to upgrade to higher skills - precision engineering involving miniature ball bearings, watch movements and constant speed drives.
As we stepped up enrolment in universities and polytechnics, we were able to attract knowledge-based industries such as petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, repair and maintenance and soon, manufacture of Trent aircraft engines.
Our growth trajectory was rising smoothly from labour-intensive to skilled and knowledge-based activities, until the global financial crisis struck.
We got cold feet, backed away from manufacturing and promoted softer options such as regional headquarters, logistics hubs, casino tourism and wealth management.
At this inflection point, we reverted back to labour-intensive activities. A million foreign workers were brought in to man low-skilled and low-wage economic activities, straining our housing and transport infrastructure. Instead of punching above our weight, we performed below our knowledge potential. Today, we have thousands of young graduates becoming property agents or relationship managers selling esoteric products.
Importing cheap labour to man service industries is a dead end for Singapore. With so many hungrier and smarter people out there, our gentry debates work-life balance and outsources whatever chores we find disagreeable to do ourselves. We have acquired gourmet taste but have no clue how to fry an egg.
In recent years, Singaporeans have fallen into the bad habit of kicking the can down the street. If Singapore, once so rich with promise, fails, I would place it squarely at the door of our political, administrative and business elite.
It is a hard judgment. Unfortunately it is true.

I have been pointing out for as long as I can remember that our leaders lack courage. Sure they did some seemingly courageous things but that is I think only because the old man insisted. These leaders have been drifting away from substance to form. My first impression of the drift was the early SAF recruitment adverts when the second generation took over. Then most people do not agree with me but now that they are slipping in a hurry people are trying to convince me about what a few of us already know for years.

Where is Europe going?

I have so many thoughts on this subject I don't know how to start and what to include. I know I want to make a record of this because I am coming back to it sometime.

Europe is complex, confusing and confused. At least one finance minister has provided evidence of his stupidity: the Dutch one. This is so bad, it is best he quits and every leader distance himself or herself that confiscating bank deposits is a doable idea. Of course he never imagined the Netherlands or its neighbor Germany ever caught in a situation like this.

Today Europe is nothing but just trying to stay alive. They get into each hair as they try to do that. Sometimes they are forced to do worse, like when the big guys beat up the small guys. Think giant Germany against dwarf Cyprus. I can't think of any other simpler way to understand what they are all trying to do.

Meanwhile frightened European money must be rushing for the exit. In the end Draghi at the ECB may be buying time for nothing. There ain't no Alexander Hamilton among them.

Update: March 30

Oh yeah, special case? Except for Germany, here is how to become special quoting the German FinMin

He said the problem in Cyprus was that two large banks were in effect no longer solvent and the Cyprus government did not have enough money to guarantee savings.

Continue to kick the can down the street and see what happen to more and more Euro members.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

HOTA and Suzanne Chin

I first took notice of the implications of our HOTA on March 15 and blogged about it. Then the CJ inadvertently did me a favor with the story of Suzanne Chin returning from brain death.

Now I imagine there is a spike of submissions from people withdrawing from HOTA.

The docs in HK were probably wrong about Suzanne Chin's brain death. Of course they wouldn't admit it. Furthermore friends and relatives of Suzanne Chin likely cannot resist calling this a miracle. That's fine but the problem is I think our doctors are as vulnerable as those over there in making the same mistake about brain death. I am completely unimpressed from the the clinical procedures mentioned in the article which we are presently using to certify brain death. They must be exactly the same steps the HK doctors had taken. HOTA ought to be backed up with a more rigorous methodology.

Yep, I have downloaded the HOTA opt out form.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Indoguna: An SME rarely found

Food supplier Indoguna is a high quality SME, the sort we could do with many more. I am reminded countless times that for a small business what makes the difference is people especially the number one person and not assets or funds. All world beating global firms begin with a very able and visionary founder or occasionally a closely knit team of equals. I was prompted of this fact again when I read Howard Schultz, 'Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time'. My first must be more than twenty years ago, 'McDonalds: Behind the Golden Arches' and many more in between. There are enough parallels between Helene Raudaschl and Howard Schultz just like all basketball players share the edge in height and several other attributes. 

Now let me quote her. I don't want to keep criticizing this government but I shall regrettably still end up turning the tables on them. Sigh. 

She is spot on here about the government stretching out its hand very far to help SMEs. It is truly unheard of anywhere in the world. Of course nothing is for free. What she has ignored (I am sure she is savvy enough to know) is the many hands of the government to collect revenue and most aggravating to manage public services on cost recovery ever since LHL took over. Of course this wouldn't be enough if the government were spendthrift but it had made putting aside for a rainy day to such excess that overall it hurts far more than their occasional and shocking largess like she has alluded to.  This generosity whilst helping to save jobs is also keeping alive many SMEs that by the law of the market jungle should not have survived. So it is good for Indoguna and its kind, but an addictive narcotic to so many others, which not only keep supplicating but asking for even more. 

Restructuring the economy would be extremely painful. Sadly if done properly might cost the government to lose power. Others would come along and claim credit harvesting what they never sowed. Would the PAP be willing to do it? Basically do they believe that we are mature enough to bite the bullet without throwing them out?

Trying out the Panasonic Volta

Can't remember if these Panasonic Volta are long lasting but I can't think of anything losing its juice as quickly as the Ikea alkaline cells. These Voltas was going on offer at $12.90 and only a few were left. I used to buy its predecessor generation for my compact camera. Very satisfactory experience with them.

The experience with Energizer Gold was quite good. The Ikea batteries expired after a week compared to slightly more than two months for the Gold.

Saying Thank You as a Driver

I plan on trying this 'Thank You' by drivers in Japan. Someone gives way to you, just let the hazard light blink twice to say Thanks!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mom: 10 years later

I changed my mind and decided to blog about this because years from today I would appreciate coming back to it.

She was gone way too soon.

Picked up the Canon PowerShot S110

Picked up the Canon PowerShot S110  I ordered off eBay last night. Wonderful price: $484 for all that is in this pic. If I were to go to Best Denki or Challenger etc., it would have cost me $549

The daughter is excited about taking it to school for her CCA. She can't wait to try it out after I am done with the eight hours of conditioning the battery.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dinner at Sakuraya Fish Mart

Dinner tonight was a Sakuraya Fish Mart. Excellent choice.

This wasn't our first time but the last time was so long ago, I can't even remember when. Certainly before this blog was started. We decided to give it a try once more given the very good reviews and we were not disappointed.

In the photo is about 450g of salmon sashimi shared between the kids. You buy the fish from them and they sliced it for you at no additional charge.

Yes, we will be back.

Tanglin Halt: Trip down memory lane

Took a walk down memory lane today when we visited Tanglin Halt. We took back many copies of this little booklet to give to my brother and sister etc.,

This picture connects my generation with my children. We took them here for their mandatory vaccinations when they were young. We became friends with some of the nurses there. Now the kids are so grown up and the place has been turned into a students' hostel.

This Poh Pia stall was one of our many favorites. They weren't in Tanglin Halt but at the coffee shop below Tah Chung Emporium.

Healthcare Conundrum

If there is one thing that can surely risk sinking an advanced economy, that would be comprehensive and affordable healthcare.

I wished I have more time to study this more closely. I am angry that the people we trust to look into this is like everywhere else doing a bad job.

Now I see more and more badly thought proposals being floated and from their emotional appeal is gathering adherents.

The problem with healthcare plans is that it is quite easy to produce a good one but only viewed from a helicopter. The devil is in the details. Most times, the best looking healthcare plans are also beyond affordability. The most sinister are those you can pay for now but eventually go bankrupt. These plans are often bought or voted in.

Nothing, not even education forces us to choose between what we wish and what we can afford as healthcare do. It can't be helped. We get emotional and irrational when our loved ones are gravely ill. Even LKY was no exception when KGC was ill. Dollars and sense breaks down at the nexus of the infinite value of human life and economics. The full meaning of money is not everything but everything is money happens here.

This job is too big for the health minister. It is the PM and his Cabinet that must drive this. I don't understand the highly complex Obamacare but I haven noticed it was not a task left to the Health Secretary to drive.

Update: 10:15pm

Many thanks to the good doc for this. An example of uncountable ones across the world that healthcare plans look good on paper (from the helicopter) until you put them into action. The wrecking demons are in the details, the surprises as suggested earlier.

Pope Francis bringing balance

Always nice to find another writer, especially a professional one expressing my own thoughts (read WSJ article) because writing is hard work.

Quoting from it;

Then the telling moment about the prayer. Before he gave a blessing he asked for a blessing: He asked the crowd to pray for him. He bent his head down and the raucous, cheering square suddenly became silent, as everyone prayed. I thought, "My God—he's humble."

I wasn't sure what to make of it and said so to a friend, a member of another faith who wants the best for the church because to him that's like wanting the best for the world. He was already loving what he was seeing. He asked what was giving me pause. I said I don't know, the curia is full of tough fellows, the pope has to be strong.

"That is more than strength," he said of the man on the screen. "This is not cynical humanity. This is showing there is another way to be."

Yes. This is a kind of public leadership we are no longer used to—unassuming, self-effacing. Leaders of the world now are garish and brazen. You can think of half a dozen of their names in less than a minute. They're good at showbiz, they find the light and flash the smile.

But this man wasn't trying to act like anything else. "He looks like he didn't want to be pope," my friend said. That's exactly what he looked like. He looked like Alec Guinness in the role of a quiet, humble man who late in life becomes pope. I mentioned that to another friend who said, "That would be the story of a hero."

Le Must de Cartier

"Le Must De Cartier" I first saw, not heard that when I was still in NS. Then I learned from TV how to say it right in French. Like the more powerful Kodak advert in a song sung by Paul Anka, I shall remember this forever.

Cartier is a real marketing machine. Anyone who tries to solicit for their products on my blog I removed them asap, but hey I am now in my small way aiding Cartier along. All for my memory lane.

By the way Michelle Chen conducted herself excellently at the interview. Said all the right things, hit all the right notes.

And to my kids. Be open minded like Michelle Chen.

Friday, March 22, 2013

'Light Pollution' in our future?

Hong Kong already suffers from it now, i.e., 'light pollution'. With the growing habit of installing decorative multi-colored LED on our buildings, would we end up like HK? I don't suppose our planners pay attention to this and so it will creep up on us gradually especially when each developer try to out do each other. It is the same desire in the past when each leading tycoon wanted to out do each other with the tallest office tower until the government put a stop to it. This government is no longer as in the loop or on the ball as before. Now if the problem of 'light population' befalls us I will dig out this post to reflect upon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

India Rapes: Their own worst enemies

"Incredible India" brought in the tourists but as is typical of the Indians, they did nothing about the safety for foreign visitors. For them it isn't that the left hand do not know what the right hand is doing. They just simply do not care and by extension indeed also do not know.

The leading psychologists can provide a ton of research to tell you that Indian men rape because they often got away. Another version of explaining this is the broken window theory of crime. Indian workers in Singapore do not behave like they are back home because the long arm of the law will be upon them in a hurry. All the scare mongering on social media about our women at risk from them is over wrought.

Singapore Indians are very different from those in India. Not for our stay in Dubai, I would never seen this for myself at first hand otherwise. Sometimes you can vomit blood trying to get them to cooperate. They are genius at self defeating behavior and speech. So reading about them in this Asia One piece brought back the memories of  the many encounters I had with them in Dubai. I am grateful I didn't have to deal with them in India.

Flashing red light of familiarity when I read this. These guys never take ownership of anything. I quote from the article.

At the Delhi office of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, executive director Gour Kanjilal said it was unfair to portray India as dangerous.
"Our industry is the first casualty when crime against foreigners is reported in India, but the reporting does not always reflect the truth," he told AFP.
"Tourists should be responsible. They should follow some do's and don'ts."
A state minister in Madhya Pradesh, where the attacks on the Swiss and South Korean tourists took place, told reporters on Sunday that travellers must inform local police officials whenever they move from one town to the next.
That suggestion is hardly realistic for most tourists like 26-year-old Peruvian Marilu Labarthe, who squeezed in visits to seven cities during a two-week trip to the country.
Labarthe, shopping for ethnic trinkets in Delhi on the last day of her vacation, travelled to the country with 11 other women.
"You have to always be careful. And after hearing of these recent incidents, one obviously feels a sense of fear," she said, as one of her companions nodded in agreement.

Good luck India. The trouble with you is that you don't need enemies because you are your own greatest enemies. You are at your best when you make your living outside your country but for India at home to do well, it must face existential crisis like when you were bankrupt in the 90s and the Narashima Rao government acted decisively; like the reckless heroism of your security forces when terrorists attacked Mumbai. Since your existence cannot hang in the balance all the time, your are self defeating and a loser in normal times. Your life is one of hitting bottom coming up not too high and falling to bottom again. Over and over and that is the destiny you have chosen for yourself. Catching up with China is just a glorious pipe dream. Big talk, small action.

Real Life: Malaysian Corruption and SG

I am somewhat familiar with this but not as a witness. I know because my late father used to lead a timber company in that part of the world. This is a good time for the kids to get some familiarity and benefit from the experience of their grandfather.

Of course the SG government cannot say so publicly. Singaporeans should from this video understand better why we must not just have a strong but overwhelming SAF. Also those who fight for values would appreciate that when you scale up to the national level things are not simple at all. Does the SDP understand this or just pretending not to? So should countries have values or interests? If you have faith (not the common and fake sort) you can live by your values and succeed spectacularly which is extremely rare. What is more common is nations have interests and those who try to live by their values are lunch for other predatory nations.

What we can realistically expect from our leaders is at the personal and family level to be guided by good old fashioned values. But at the state level they have to take care to only go as far as their faith permit them, which in the end our actions are often dictated by Singapore's interests than values. No man has the character to handle so much power and temptation and that's why we have a system of government to limit what is put on his or her shoulders.

Democracy cannot deliver good governments but it can allow governments to change peacefully and if well instituted it can peacefully limit bad government. If Singapore always require a first class government than we will simply fail unless we are an extraordinary people. And I know we are special in at least three aspects. One, we cannot be bribed. We always ask who pays when politicians promise freebies. Two, any alternative party which suggest scrapping NS will get scant support. Three, and this is the latest. We demand that the ruling party prove that they always put nation before party interests.

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947)

Update: March 22, 9:30am

But the perception just won't go away....seriously do I really need to know the truth?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stiglitz on US learning from SG

Thank you Stiglitz for helping us buy some time as we put our house in order. He had most likely through ignorance made many mistakes in this commentary. Well it put us in a very good light vis a vis his country the USA.

The Americans wouldn't be copying or adapting our ideas anytime if at all. They will find they don't work very well. We know if we leave them as it, it will grow into very huge problems.

Update: 1:05pm

Kirsten Han has a better critique of Stiglitz NYT article than I have. In fact she spoke my mind but as usual I don't try too hard with writing. Unless I can collect my thoughts quickly on a subject, most of them remain unwritten.

Update: 5:20pm

Found this at Yahoo, 'YOUR VIEW: 'S'pore government trying its best to level playing field'' The writer was right but not in recent times. That's years ago. With the 2013 budget the government is trying to get us back on track again but I am not sure massive transfers is the way to go as it would eventually create a dependency culture. Often making less money but keeping a person's dignity because he/she has a job is better than the whole country becoming far richer but sustained with massive handouts to those who suffered from the dislocations.

Edu Minister open to PSLE alternatives

Link to Today Online article.

The problem with Singapore is that we want everything. Of course we can't have everything. In our family we think through and choose what we want. Life is so much better then.

You get to the best secondary schools by topping all the four PSLE subjects. If we somehow come up with new ways to test students beyond pen and paper academics, the stress can only exacerbate. As it is, children are already  forced to become good at what they might not be naturally good or interested in.

Beyond a certain point the all rounder is a failure. That is what holistic education could easily take us to. Outside school, when you are good at everything you often become good at nothing as others who are really good at something find their niches. That one thing they are good at is much better than you.

Of course most people here are just competing to succeed in the narrow Singaporean sense. The less risky path to success most parents see it as passing through the top schools. What they do not know is that after many years, this is likely to end in tears. Since only the small number of successful ones are publicly celebrated, the large numbers who failed to fulfill their similar ambitions are left to cry behind closed doors. Makes for a very unhappy and frustrated society.

Explore and know what you want first then be successful at it. Most people here put the cart before the horse. Like lemmings they chase after the same trophies. It is a terrible and foolish way to live.

In the end character is destiny but we no longer know what it is when to many success is everything.

We have to be less successful in the short term to have more enduring success in the long term. In our family school wise, the kids warm up slowly and gradually. What matters is how you finish and not how you began. Indeed we are faring poorly beyond school when foreigners bested us to so many good jobs. Meanwhile the Israelis do not aced PISA but are beating the living daylights out of everyone beyond school. I am nearing the half way mark of Start-Up Nation and discovered that the authors had a special interest in Singapore and how poorly we stacked up against the Israelis. Our government was our boon and bane.

Cyprus: Stealing depositors' money

First got wind on the 16th I think. Reminded of it on the car radio the next day and I have been watching how this is unfolding. The chickens continue to come home to roost for Europe. The system is not clearing at all. Investors can stop being in denial and wake up their idea. As this roll on they are just going to get weaker. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. A continent facing a lost decade?

Update: March 22, 7:25am

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The wrong problem: Kindergarten places for the poor

I know the most important nugget from Sandra Davie piece is just this: the teachers made trips to the children's homes to make sure mom created a supportive learning environment at home. For my parents then it was buying two study tables for my brother and I where there was hardly any place for them in our small flat.

At great cost, we can fix the schools which the under privileged go to but what is decisive happen in the homes. The task will demand iron will and sheer determination no less to overcome. Against this, the perennial problems of our SMEs would look easy.

The type of advice and exposure our kids get because we had succeededed in graduating from university and landed good professional jobs, the working class are completely clueless. Just as the office cleaner is clueless about the sort of work and thinking that goes on in the corner office he/she cleans every day, he/she has no idea how to advise much less create the environment for his/her kids back home. In a situation like this, even if opportunities were offered to the kids of the working class, many do not even recognize them as such. How do you then give them a leg up?

Actually we have always had this problem but it was as good as absent before. In my time the big difference from today was the ranks of the privileged were small and the opportunities that were opening up were much more numerous. After the well schooled kids of the privileged class have grabbed all the opportunities they cared to have, there were still too many left for us to even count. This resulted in phenomenal social mobility. It was like the Americans moving west, the sky is the limit. Now the west is fully populated and new frontiers of opportunities had turned into many zero sum games. No wonder competition is so intense.

Therefore meritocracy is essentially a means to an end, which is social mobility. This is not possible unless there are new opportunities. Who creates such opportunities? In our circumstances, it is the government right strategic foresight and to a lesser extent enterprising entrepreneurs. As the government become less able at seeing what is beyond the horizon, we have become less able at creating opportunities for our people. To be fair, this is a problem that is rarely solved by most governments. Perhaps at this stage of development we should even ask if the government should not abdicate this to the entrepreneurs.

Yes, this government by concentrating on schooling isn't solving the real problems that need to be solved. It is not meritocracy but creating opportunities because we are already working hard enough to be meritorious (not completely correct).

Update: 6:00pm

I think I better move forward "Start Up Nation" from my ton of books to go through. I am just impressed and feel the urgency after quickly perusing its Introduction....some input for my girl before she gets ready for university. In reading about Venice, I was informed of the limits, may be futility of heavy investment in engineering/manufacturing...but Venice built an armada of ships! Yesterday we were going over what she had learnt about that place from school. Sigh! It is an uneven playing field. How many working class parents can discuss and think through such issues with their kids? You see these kids in school but they really compete against each other from home and perhaps enrichment/tuition classes.

We must lift all boats or there is no future. This is not possible when an increasing number of games are turning zero sums. In the last few years, the government tried but it went badly wrong turning many games into negative sum for locals when foreigners were hired over us.

Squashed Faces in Trains

The future of SG commuters in our MRT trains if we hadn't been vociferous about the bad qualify of our ride here.

The Japs were too tolerant and so they got themselves into this.

Smarter Singaporeans will not "eat bitterness  Many foreigners living here must have shared the same feeling.

In a way the problem solves itself. Many here aren't like the Japanese who can't go anywhere else. If we do not provide a good quality of life, why would foreigners want to live and work here? They would stop coming and our ablest would also leave. I am just appalled how dumb the govt was to have failed to recognize this.

These shots were taken by Michael Wolf a HK based photographer after experiencing riding the Jap subway.

Birthday Pendant

Bought a pendant for our elder daughter this afternoon for her upcoming birthday. The stone in the middle is sensitive to movement and looks very pretty when it oscillates. This will be a keepsake for a very long time.

The S3 couldn't handle this task and I had to use the Canon.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Singapore's Security

I am a little ahead of time. Time to research and think deeply about our security. The late foreign minister S. Rajaratnam had gone down this path before. The insight he gathered from his study died with him. Now another generation must trudge the same path. So I am reading this book on the history of Venice. Already at 7% of the book, I am getting a better idea of the wisdom of choosing between investing heavily in manufacturing here versus concentrating more on services. Partly it would help me advise my children if they should study engineering when the time comes. More important, does Singapore have a future post LKY? I know in the end this question cannot be satisfactorily answered because the future is unknowable. Nevertheless it is immensely useful to understand well what is happening now.

William Choong had an excellent analysis about Singapore's defence yesterday. I can't help but recall how shallow the SDP's position is on this matter. Already I worry that the WP is not able to form the government if called upon to do so by the next GE*. Presently I sensed the PAP is veering into political survival mode. It has lost the initiative, becoming populist but will not admit so in order to preserve their brand. Forget about ideological or policy coherence, just make the people happy in time to win the next GE. There is no need to worry about the Population White Paper. It is dead.

Page 237 of Cheong Yip Seng's, 'OB Markers' I found this. Lim Kim San is a far more astute reader of the human character than LKY. In our experience the standard of government has already began to fall.

* This is for the benefit of my children. The way you think is most important. You haven't got it until the complex become simple. Often you do not have the time to go this far but in critical matters you have to. E.g., when I thought Koh Poh Koon would lose, it is different from thinking that Lee Li Lian would win. The outcome might be the same but the thought process is anything but. Today I think the PAP would lose the next GE as explained previously, and now we see that they are frantically trying to avoid that. We will always even at our best only be able to look at the mirror darkly. I am no longer thinking of who wins the next GE. That is no longer the right question. Yes, it might not matter who wins. It is hard to think this through without examining the story of Venice properly.

China's 300 million abortions

Neither be too cocky or cavalier about the future. The Chinese thought it very wise to limit themselves to a child per couple and ended up more than controlling their population. Nobody knows that left on its own population will not run away but stabilize and might even decline.

We must think very hard and very deeply to understand what is happening but be very careful with making decision especially when we are tempted to play god.

If you only have $$$ to guide you on what is a good decision that confirmed you as a fool to begin with.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Easter @ GBB Flower Dome

CNY has made way for Easter at the Flower Dome of our GBB. The CNY theme was much prettier and more colorful.

Must return after Easter to see what they will switch to. My guess is that they would remove those styrofoam eggs and call it Spring!

Pic by the younger daughter.

And this one with my S3

SG Govt uses Spy Software

I have been waiting for news like this one. I agree with Deng Xiaoping that if you want to keep a secret you must not write it anywhere. Ezra Vogel discovered this about Deng when he write up that guy. Suharto went to his grave with many secrets too.

Just as well I don't deceive myself by locking up my blog believing that it is safe. I leave this blog open but I do not encourage visitors.

Link to yahoo article.

Update: March 16, 12:45pm

Must be fair lah. SG government denies running spyware.