Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Oddest Opposition Party

The WP must be the oddest opposition party in the world. They are the product of many years of the total and withering pressure from the government against any political challengers to the PAP. There is no way to survive and thrive except to align with the people like no political party anywhere in the world. It is in no hurry or professing any ambition to form the government in the foreseeable future. Where do you find such? Why are these men and women in politics?

They have left the PAP in a conundrum on how to counter them. I think the best and most effective way for the PAP is to be more than the WP. Is that possible?

Update May 1, 7:30am

I didn't have time to add this yesterday.

The PAP brought with them the strategy of might using the Law and Power. The WP finally figured that the only other thing more powerful is the strategy of Shrewd. The PAP has successfully educated the population against accepting freebies otherwise the strategy of Shrewd would never work and there is no moral high ground to anchor such an approach. This is unique in the world. The contest between these two parties is unlike any. The liberal western press is reading and reporting it all wrong. This is the gold standard but it is also surreal because it isn't like normal human nature. It can only happen in man made Singapore. What is real is creating function out of dysfunction which is what we are seeing everywhere.

This has been a political Black Swan for the PAP but it is good for Singapore and kudos to Tharman for recognizing this quickly.

Remember this name for 2016: Nizam

Then it was a name I could not remember except as the guy from AMP who spoke at Hong Lim. Kudos to him now I will remember his name for a while in the same breath with Yaw Shin Leong and Michael Palmer.

Remember Nizam Ismail. If he harbors any ambition to stand for elections as MP, I think this has put that ambition to rest.

What I don't like about this episode is the finger prints of the government are all over the place. I think we deserve to know all these about him if he wants to be a civic or political leader, but I wished the salacious secrets would be aired by some other quarters.

Now which opposition party would field him for 2016?

Note to self: Remember this name for 2016

Thank you Breakfast Network because I don't read BH.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The meaning of high Med School fees

So this doesn't concern most of us because very few parents have kids that would be going to medical school. We can't be more wrong! Quite simply, if med school fees are stratospheric, in a long winded but sure way, medical costs are out of control. The best way to explain this is a story I often get as email. It is a quick and short story of a rat complaining about a rat trap but others in the farm were nonchalant.

A rat looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. What food might it contain? He was aghast to discover that it was a rat trap. Retreating to the farmyard the rat proclaimed the warning; "There is a rat trap in the house, a rat trap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Excuse me, Mr. Rat, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it." So.. the Chicken returned to clucking and scratching.

The rat turned to the pig and told him, "There is a rat trap in the house, a rat trap in the house!". "I am so very sorry Mr. Rat," sympathized the pig, "but there nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured that you are in my prayers."  And the Pig returned to the slop.

The rat turned to the cow. She said, "Like wow, Mr. Rat. A rat trap. I am in grave danger. Duh?" How will a rat trap affect me? And she returned to leisurely grazing on grass.

So the rat, head down and dejected,  returned to the house to face the farmer's rat trap alone. That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a rat trap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital.

She returned home with a fever. Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient, the CHICKEN. 
His wife's sickness continued so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them the farmer butchered the PIG.

The farmer's wife did not get well. She died, and so many people came for her funeral that the farmer had the COW slaughtered to provide meat for all of them to eat. So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem and think that it does not concern you, remember that when there is a rat trap in the house, the whole farmyard is at risk. 

If we and also every other advanced economy fail to control the runaway cost of training a doctor, we will also risk bankrupting ourselves with healthcare costs. Dr. Philip Choo of TTSH and Dr. Tan Cheng Bock are right on the money with this one. The government is trying to ration health services but it is not working. The whole healthcare paradigm is off the mark.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tsarnaev brothers: Where is their religious teacher?

So the mother of the Tsarnaev brothers were probably also complicit but who was the religious teacher who had influenced them? The FBI claimed to have identified him. His moniker is Misha, a Rasputin like character. ST ought to have made that a prominent story. The war against the militant and perverted religion at the expense of Islam must be brought back to its purveyors: the false teachers.

Those teachers who can be reasoned, we reason. Those who can't we must treat them as enemy and effectively blunt their capacities radicalize others. The bigger and deeper contest we have to let leaders like Pope Francis show the way.

Compared to the ST, the UK Telegraph today has a much better article.

Property: 'More Home, Less Asset'

More home and less asset? Only for those that long as they are not yet invested in real estate. For those who are already in the game the gargantuan unrealized gains bring smiles to their faces. Therefore the problem can simply be reframed as how to let those who are asset light become property owners. On this score I thought KBW had already fashioned a solution: public housing going for 4X the median income. So what's the problem?

If in the next year or so we have a Black Swan event and global asset prices collapse all the asset price problems we are facing now will evaporate and we shall have a very different set of problems. The point is that bull or bear markets there are opportunities and dangers. Some problems cannot be solved now and the trick is to not let it destroy you but ameliorate its impact, stick around long enough for the environment to be more supportive and then you act. There is a season for everything as in Ecclesiastes 3

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.    
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.    
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.    
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.  
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.  
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

Meanwhile talk is just shiok. You thought you were involved and participating but actually better minds have cogitated and fashioned solutions. Don't be unhappy. If the solutions are good ones we ought to be happy and accept them. Just don't expect the perfect solution which would please all and sundry. That is only possible when the pie is expanding rapidly. Redistribution of the goodies which we are often forced to do these days will always bump up against the problem of one man's meat is another man's poison.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Govt: Advocacy groups exploiting bus drivers' case

My question is what is the truth in this case? I don't believe either side and have questions for both parties. I can't afford the time to study this now and will have to leave this for another time. In time the rat which has gone into hiding will appear and show if it was a black or white animal.

Going forward like HK, the Police ought to install video recording equipment in their interrogation rooms. As for these advocacy groups, they have not shown themselves to deserve our trust. You want most of us to trust you? Keep it simple. To hide in complexity is an old trick. We should be unhappy with both.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Monkey in the heartland

I was walking to the car park this morning after buying breakfast from the hawker centre but found the path blocked. Some folks were staring and snapping pictures of this monkey. I decided I must also have a souvenir photo too but I was too slow to catch it in the better pose. It was sitting on the railing (see left of photo) and the attention must have caused it to move away.

I think this is worrying. There is a huge source of food not more than 20m away. Children love to play here too. Also the lower floor homes are easily reached by an agile monkey climbing the drain pipes.

Something tell me that I am not seeing this fellow for the last time.

Update: April 29

Bought Arc Mouse again :-(

After two failures getting a folding arc mouse from eBay I have decided to go back to the expensive option: Microsoft.

Bought the Arc Mouse tonight at Challenger Tiong Bahru for $65. This time I took care to scan the receipt and file it away properly. Judging from my poor record with computer mice, I am likely to need Microsoft to honor their 3-year warranty.

I never understand why these mice never last for me.

Tiong Bahru Kopitiam

We have not been to Tiong Bahru Plaza in months. Tonight we had dinner at the renovated Kopitiam. Verdict: we prefer the stalls from the older food court.

The old herbal chicken soup and claypot chicken rice at one end of the stalls is gone. The kuey chap stall which I often bought the spine meat soup or water cress soup is no where to be found either. It is the still the same China lady manning the drinks stall but otherwise this is as good as a new food court.

We used to buy an ice kacang to share after dinner. The ice shavings is more refined with their new equipment making it like the one at 212 Katong.

I don't think we will be back here very often. Yet another of our old haunt gone. We won't be missed. The business is very good.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Clementi Ave 3 Road Tragedy

I feel terribly sorry for the family of Zhang Huirui. It was an absurd and totally avoidable tragedy. I wonder how her husband and primary school going daughter is going to cope.

I have blogged about this before. It doesn't matter who is right or wrong on the roads. Just avoid the accident. SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. If the bus driver failed to see you, you must spot him.

It would unbecoming of the LTA and government to say what I had always and just said. This is one of those moment a private citizen is stronger than big government.

In the Razor TV clip, I don't hear anyone talking about personal responsibility. It is always the other person's responsibility. Don't be stupid. The one who get hurt, maimed or dead is you if you are careless. The price paid is infinite. This is not about losing money which you can always make back. It's life gone.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Engaging or Fighting the Government?

Some bloggers wrote too much on this topic recently. I have no time to read them. Bertha gets to the point and is often better than the ST (link to her article). She should find a way to monetize her work.

I remember Nizam Ismail from the Hong Lim gathering. Not the name but that someone from AMP spoke.

Rules of engagement Bertha and others? I don't know. The PAP government is committed to being the 800 pound gorilla in our landscape and the only way for them to stay that way is never to face another 800 pounder. More likely they will engage to neutralize any creature that is adding pounds quickly.

The huge gorillas are only afraid of the ecology turning unfavorable to them, i.e., the people. If you are only 100 lbs but the ecology is in your favor, you win. Simple and powerful lessons from BBC 'Walking with Dinosaurs' series. Any creature that ignore this 'hard truth' is only setting itself to be fixed and dispatched. Not clever.

I can think of few situations where over turning the boat of Singapore is the right way to go. The best way to engage the PAP is a contest for the mandate of heaven. Not the Chinese style of bearing arms and marching on the capital city to dethrone the emperor but an ongoing contest of accountability and ideas such that the loser withdraws or else incur the wrath of the people at the ballot box. I hope we don't get to the point that voters are so angry with the government that they would even choose a monkey over the PAP candidate. I feel that way about them quite often these days and I wonder how large this company is. I am not among those who want to get the opportunity on May 1 to find out. The world is watching. Don't cut your nose to spite your face. As long as we locals and the government understand that is good enough.

Some helpful public words from the 800 pound gorilla would go some way to make things better. Something like let's not meet in a ring with the world watching us fight. Only fools accept Pyrrhic victories and we need only one idiot to make it so.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Growing wealthy without bubbles

Click on pic to read article.

Very clearly written piece and a breeze to read. I am putting this up for my elder child and my comments following to explain that real life is not like what Tan Chin Hwee has painted here. Can't be helped. If it is easy to read and understand, it doesn't capture the messiness of real life. That's why you can take away the nuggets of wisdom from Warren Buffett but you could most times not replicate even a little of his work yourself.

An economy can grow wealthy without asset bubbles for only so long. Wealth especially concentrated wealth make asset bubbles inevitable. Also from the risk-reward angle, trading assets will most times beat gathering wealth brick by brick. Come on, people are making money the hard way only because the easy way isn't available. However once cash or reserves is accumulated and need to find a home, they start to look for assets to park them. It could be anything judged to be durable and valuable. Now if as a government you refuse to entertain this the money will find ways to leave the country. No government ever allows that. There you have it: asset bubbles.

At best you can mitigate bubbles but never prevent them because in practice you only know one after it has appeared. For a while a bubble isn't universally recognized or accepted as such when it is forming.

My long term worry aren't about asset bubbles but as the pendulum swings the other way, how far would markets become more regulated and asset gains taxed. Very much depends on what society would permit seeing how frustrated people all over the world are with the huge and widening wealth gap. I am early. Nobody is talking about this yet and I hope ever. I know history echoes another story and an unhappy one.

STB: Shiok Moments

I like the last bit :) But the reason why it is here is to come back years later to look at it again. In my opinion it was over done with "shiok" but this of course is done on purpose. We aren't the target audience but I guess it hope to carry us along as well.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Painful lessons from the Tsarnaev brothers.

America like many places is learning many lessons the hard way. Religious self-radicalization is not a new threat. Given our small size, I don't believe we want to learn lessons like they do. The cost to us would be much higher.

I think this is a war of stamina and endurance. Therefore one must conserve its resources for the long haul waiting for the other party to exhaust itself. Violent Islam (radical is OK) is a powerful idea virus that do die easily. Islam must be left alone to find its own way and come around. It will not remain antagonistic and violent forever. In fact, Christianity face similar risks of resorting to violence if the conditions are right.

What shall we do with religion? You don't want them but you also cannot live without them.

Religion as a path to faith has a pathetic track record creating opportunities for massive fraud.

Big revamp for RCs

Finally they are doing something serious about the RCs after 36 years. They have been so complacent and almost completely irrelevant after sticking to business as usual for so long. Naturally they have not succeeded in capturing the young. In fact they have to leap ahead a couple of generations to stay relevant. Meanwhile look at how the Buddhist and Christian organizations have adapted to changing times.

RCs should be meaningful to the community than serve a political purpose for the PAP. If they don't and fail to revamp them correctly, their role will be usurped by various comers e.g., religious groups.

Better late than never but will they make it fashionably late? I think their biggest problem is how to get rid of old furniture. To avoid an embarrassing failure we might end up with new outside but a familiar and irrelevant inside. Time will tell. Again, this is one of those issues I wish to be completely off the mark because I will lose for getting this right.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Good bye Huang Wenyong

RIP Wenyong. Left too soon. I don't follow TV8 programs any more but I loved his role as Ah Shui from the 80s. Then SBC produced good quality dramas and participated in nation building without being cheesy or preachy.

The newspapers tomorrow is likely to have pages of this stories and many eulogies from colleagues and friends. People like him were pioneers and role models to those who came after.

Update: April 22

It wasn't loss but erosion. It was unnoticeable but if given enough time the loss become recognizable and grievous. That is what 雾锁南洋 has brought home for me. I have become less Singaporean and more global citizen. I am losing my moorings. Anomie is here, a word I never thought I did use again since a short course in sociology all engineering students had to take then.

May be it takes a while, but for those of us who are old enough, a part of us dies when wenyong died. Of course wenyong being a loyal employee at SBC, TCS and then Mediacorp had to toe the company line. He also lost it after he was remade for other roles, but death released the ghosts to live again and ghosts do not die.

This tells me very powerfully I am not alone.

From last night's Star Awards. I haven't followed for as long as I could remember

Update: April 22 1:30pm

The lyrics for 'Awakening'

雾起在南方 雾落在南方

雾起在南方 雾落在南方


雾起在南方 雾落在南方

带希望努力垦荒 带理想开拓新家乡
用希望换取希望 用理想创造新理想

不必迷惘 黑暗到了尽头
雾起在南方 雾落在南方

Toilet view @ Satay by the Bay

What a view from the men's room at Satay by the Bay at GBB! If I weren't in a hurry, I would have stood there after washing my hands and enjoy this longer. There must be days when there were more lotus flowers. If only I had carried my S110 in my pocket yesterday.

Tharman's wishful meritocracy

Among the ministers, I like Tharman best. I think he understands us better than most of his colleagues. He wasn't on an anointed path to the top. He wasn't a straight As student. In fact he had retaken his A levels to get better grades. In many ways he is one of us. No wonder he speaks and thinks differently from his PAP colleagues.

Unfortunately I think Tharman's vision of meritocracy will not happen. Simply, where are the driving forces much less the initiatives to get there? In fact we have been doing everything to go in the other direction because the Old Man believed and managed to get the rest on board or was it imposed on them that some of us are born to succeed more than others. I think that is bunkum and I am glad the growing amount of credible literature to rubbish the idea of nature over nurture. Come on, we don't even understand how to reproduce genius. LKY had been talking beyond his ken. He was all along bullying us with his nature argument. He is now out of the picture amd his favorite book on the subject  "The Bell Curve" is now completely debunked. Unfortunately the Cabinet seem to have inherited this nonsensical 'hard truth'. I am waiting for Tharman to disavow it otherwise we cannot have a substantial and meaningful discussion on meritocracy.

Tharman's version of meritocracy will still yield a system where some products of meritocracy are more desirable than others. As long as our culture produce and reinforce a social hierarchy (Confucianism!) rather than egalitarianism we cannot escape this result. We would just produce new politically correct behavior of respecting and extolling the less meritorious but nevertheless meritocratic achievement in order to maintain social peace. I think we are too well informed for this bait.

Until we turn around nature trumps nurture to nurture over nature there is nothing to discuss except eventual social break down and chaos. We would have risen and fallen like any society in history when the social hierarchy ossifies and mobility disappears. To use nature to justify success through meritocratic sorting will only lead you to social bankruptcy. The elites would be overthrown, I hope peacefully. Over a couple of decades a new elite would be created and the cycle repeats itself. Terrible way to live.

What we need is a real meritocracy that disbelieve nature over nurture. Therefore the fruits of meritocratic achievement must always be open to fair competition and challenge. Today, much of our society and economy, winners receive the keys to open doors and then quickly shut and lock it after them. So we must also check the abuse of power by the successful to entrench their success, but first we must win the intellectual battle that would remove their claim to power to perpetuate themselves. The worst abusers of meritocracy is the PAP through the systematic abuse of the spirit of the law to create the most unlevel playing field in politics. That is why their MPs and ministers no longer command as much respect because they got in through the easy door. They say is meritocratic but how many are deceived? Enough people bought the crap as long as the wealth and lifestyle goods are delivered.

Tharman's vision of meritocracy will remain only as a wish. It is not compatible with our culture narrow concept of success. It is good for politics but don't be stupid and believe. Until the PAP trade their intellectual old wine for new wine everything they do are just new forms over the familiar old substance. Only time will tell but for now Catherine Lim is right that the PAP cannot change. You will know when they invest more time communicating better than anything else. Fortunately Singaporeans aren't stupid. If they fail to deliver they are out. It is the same attitude they have been promoting: No hard feelings, it's just business. But this time the benediction is upon them.

Forget about changing mindsets. We have been bandying that for years. It's our culture that's the problem. We fail to truly respect the person's for who he or she is. The job or role has been defining the person worth more than the other way round for too long. Given enough time, it can only lead to our demise.

I still like Tharman because I think he will see the light more quickly than the rest, if at all.

Friday, April 19, 2013

HK workers rubbishing Li Ka Shing

Link to WSJ article:

Surely KS Li must know that it would come to this? Now what do I don't care? I am quite focused here. They are paying 15% rate for income taxes, we are billing our rich 20%. The difference? If you are a tycoon, you would not suffer this in Singapore. I think many will bite the 5% premium.

This is a relative world. We need others to be worse than us because we are getting less attractive relative to investors relative to the past.

Sure it is unfortunate that we are all losers if the pie is shrinking but neither could we fall over pursuing growth as before. We need that break to retool. Many competing countries are offering us that as I had hoped and blogged about several times before.

Update: 10:15pm

I didn't know that Li Xueying has also written a story on the dock workers' strike too. It is interesting to compare hers with the one by the WSJ. Li Xueying put more focus on the big picture and in this instance I agree with her. Not that the human interest angle isn't important but clearly HK port cannot go with business as usual. They are literally losing their lunch to other ports.

This has also shown how we out competed against HK. For many years we lagged them but the moment we turned more business focused with all the unpleasant socio-economic consequences we went ahead of them. Our government is clearly better than theirs but both aren't good enough because they can't keep Hong Kong or Singapore going when society is clearly fracturing. Sometimes there is no solutions but to buy time till the environment changes. For us we can forget about calvary riding to our rescue. We are on our own.

Surreal experience with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

This is surreal! Nine minutes ago, the most wanted man or more aptly boy in America just updated his Facebook profile picture. I just came from watching the story on BBC how his brother had been killed by security forces. I believe his turn is not too long from now.

I also had my question answered which BBC weren't able to provide. Do they claim to be Muslims? Yes, you can tell from his Facebook page.

Update: 8:25 pm

I am monitoring his page and this is the latest.

Looks like he is going to commit suicide?

And now I am also wondering if this is even real? Doesn't matter actually.

Update: 8:35pm

More from him. No credibility but he is only a 19 year old kid. I am going to stop here.

Update: 8:45pm

That's all folks. It's gone! Just as well.

Update: 9:10pm

OK, I got what I needed. That Facebook page purportedly set up by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is likely fake. See below and it is easy to tell.

Watching TV together

Nice to see people watching TV together make a comeback and so well supported. Reminds me of the old days even if I rarely had the chance to go out to be with everyone. My parents were afraid we would ended up mixing with bad company. Looking back, I think on this count they were too protective.

I am surprised the turnouts so good. when on many evenings these days, the outdoors is still warm.

The happening place? Tampines.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My 'Plan B' mouse arrives

My 'Plan B' clip mouse arrives today. I had ordered a similar mouse but it never came. They promised to resend another one but I think they didn't do it. I sensed that might happen and so went to order the same mouse (different and better blue colour) from another vendor. Price: C$6.31 with free shipping. Compared to my original MS clip mouse, this is better because it is lighter. Whenever I had to do a lot of graphics and flash movie work it matters.

My mistake was that I should have accepted a purchase refund from the first vendor (ebuyingsnow) when she offered. It was a low cost but valuable lesson on how savvy Chinese eBay vendors work. They gamed the system and most times they judged correctly buyers do not pursue restitution for low priced products. It's too much trouble over too little money.

Update: April 19

The mouse worked beautifully last night. Now it is dead. This is one product category to avoid on eBay. Even the batteries I got are good. What's about mice that they cannot get it right as often?

Higher Hawker Prices

This table would become immensely interesting years from today. I recalled my mom telling me how chicken rice used to be 70 cents and char siew rice was 50 cents. I was way too young to buy them. At some point OPEC embargoed oil and the prices of every item shot through the roof. Those prices never returned.

I still buy chicken rice for $2.50 but usually we asked for the "big" one for the children which would be a $1 more. These prices do not compensate for smaller portions!

It is interesting that ST had used the statistical mode. How many people would understand I wonder.

People by and large are missing an important fact of life. Prices are unpredictable. Therefore unless you are not just rich but uber rich, retirement with decades stretching ahead is a fool's life plan. They don't know that the financial system and the economy is run such that retirees will be suckers.

Now would this blog be around long enough to make this post really interesting, assuming that I am not killed by some fatal disease prematurely, return here shriveled and gray to read this?

Why People Blog? Not me.

I am not included in any of the categories for the reasons why people blog. I blog for the same reasons I take photos. Along the way I added one more reason: for my kids. They like to look at old photos and short video clips too.

Visitors to this blog and they are growing, which I never asked for or expect will likely misunderstand me. I don't try very hard to make myself clear to others as that is what blogging for myself must be.

Why not make this blog private? If you don't already know, anything that is on the Web is no longer private.

For Google and others, between 'Don't be Evil' and 'Be Profitable' which way would they vote? At least Google try because they knew the wisdom of being long term greedy. The day will come when Google no longer need to be good to be wildly profitable. Rue that day!

Leave it to the movers in Japan

This just came in the mail from a family we got to know when we were in Dubai. Their kids went to the same school as ours.

I wished the movers that took our stuff to Dubai and back were just as good as the Japanese. They were an international company.

Interestingly the video did not mention the next most important thing: How much?

Sim Ann and the Children

I look at a few photos of Sim Ann with kids for a long time. Might as well take the best one and 'immortalize' it on my blog! Reminds me of how wifey and I carry our children, nephew and niece when they were younger. In short, this is not fake.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing and Us

I like the way Tan Chuan Jin has conjugated the the bombing of the Boston Marathon with his experience of the bomb attack on the Marriot in Jakarta. Everything can be different but the moment a bomb goes off the carnage are exactly the same. My point? It can happen here with the same resutls.

This might come across as prejudging but do you imagine two bombs would go off if Obama was there? Security would have checked thoroughly. I wouldn't be surprised if Boston Police was in the end found to be complacent, under equipped and/or under provided with intelligence.

The Singapore public have broadly two ways to respond. We can avoid congregating at places where many people would show up especially if the world's media is also there to cover the event (this would be a disastrous lack of confidence) or we can insist the government adequately secure the area. After the silly escape of Mas Selamat, we cannot assume that they are always on top of their responsibilities especially given the poor accountability afterward.

I wonder how many people (I don't think too many) would quietly just avoid showing up in popular events especially our organized marathons. Are we being too smug about customs security?

Free MRT rides is on

I was on the road when I received an sms from my friend with the news that free travel on our MRT will begin on June 24.

Later I replied that I hope these measures work. Nobody knows until you try. I hope at worst it can be seen as a limited success. I also added if interest rates were that easy to predict. Of course that is impossible especially when it is priced moment by moment! But in layman speak I told him there are too many variables. You don't actually predict, you trade and help to make the rates.

Some pour cold water on these free rides that it isn't really solving the problem at the roots. They are right and I am glad there are people who feel this way. This will keep the government on their toes to bring fundamental solutions to our problems. A citizenry which do not tolerate kicking the can down the road is bullish for our long term future.

There are also those who rightly pointed out that we ought to be grateful. I wonder how many are cognizant that it took a lot out of this government to entertain such a solution. This tantamount to choking one of the sacred cows.

Politically we cannot behead our sacred cows and I think the government have chosen to suffocating some gradually to death. Didn't I read yesterday and today that childcare centres will no longer go to the highest bid? That's the right principle but very hard to implement in practice.

Update: 9:45am

Useful statistics I just saw.

Update: 4:15pm

Good to have some numbers to how commuters are responding to free travel. Quite balanced
between the welcoming 37% vs the disapproving 26%. The latter group is most important. They are the ones who demand high standards from the government. Today's solution of free travel is just band aid in a situation where any pain relief is welcomed. It is an unbecoming approach to problem that is not in the Singaporean spirit of yesterday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Third anniversary of my father's death

For more than a month I was hoping to come here with a camera to take a photo of this canal. I didn't make it and today is already the third anniversary of his passing. Fortunately it suddenly occurred to me this morning that I might be able to use Google Map Street View.

I had used Google Map to locate the position of his sea burial. I never imagined I would use it this way.

I didn't plan this but coincidentally I was about three years old when he brought me here. I was afraid to go down the slope of the canal but he guided me down. We had some white bread with us which we pinched off and threw at the guppies in the water. Decades have passed but I am glad time stood still here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Portable Car VideoCam

Bought this for USD 22.95 at eBay which was delivered on Friday. The construction of this kit is a little plasticky but otherwise works well.

Soon the novelty of recording the road experience will wear off and I hope it does not need to be used for what it is intended for: Accidents.

I think I was the number 558 buyer. With so many people having bought ahead of me, it was a safe bet.

Picture taken with our new Canon Powershot S110

Update: January 9, 2014

From April 14, 2013 to January 9, 2014 RIP.

On the way back from school noticed the display was black. The power was properly connected. I thought to myself, this is it.

Removed the SD card to check its content on my PC. Every video is dated 2091. Last recording was driving into MCE this morning. Confirms it no longer records around 6:45 or earlier this morning.

This device has taken a few hard knocks and falls before. I supposed those contributed to its demise.

American vs Singapore Politics

A flood of thoughts too fast and furious for words cascaded through my mind as read this and watched the video.

Of course I think of this not as an American but a local. Most important I think and feel as a fellow human being.

Most of my thoughts were actually on politics in Singapore contrasting it with dysfunctional America. In many ways where they got it right, we had it wrong and vice-versa. We ran Singapore on a diminished concept of humanity and with rare exceptions as when our backs are against the wall, replace faith with rationality. The Desiderata could not have been written in Singapore and we have not found any one to continue where Rajaratnam had left off with our pledge, an utter act of faith in the deepest darkness.

So Pres Obama has put into action what he meant that the greatest job of an American is not to be President but Citizen. Now a citizen replaced the president to speak to the nation. This will not happen in Singapore with our present Zeitgeist. Our luxurious inhumanity and hypocrisy. Singapore is changing and I hope for the better. For the first time the change is driven bottom up and the PM is ruing about becoming an order taker. NTU students have made some progress when they realized that in their final year project it was smarter and more honest to let their subjects speak for themselves in "Growing up with less". I checked my blog traffic and my post on that subject ranked as one of my least viewed posts. Best time to observe ourselves when nobody is trying to look good eh?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Strains in the Property Market

Good to see some numbers against our gut knowledge of what's going on with apartment sizes. From a financial history point of view, this is one of those flashing red lights that there is severe system strain. Of course timing when the stress is too much for the market is almost impossible but on a risk adjusted basis, risk is climbing fast when incomes are strained beyond the limits of affordability to create a faux affordable situation.

Growing Up With Less

The students at Wee Kim Wee school of communications at NTU have done an excellent job bringing to us what it is like to be the despairing poor.

I found the site documenting some of their work at


There are many short clips but I could only view about three at this time. Of course my thoughts are connecting up my recent posts on this blog. You can understand why some people hate Margaret Thatcher, and when the time comes to send off Lee Kuan Yew, it would be quite unlike saying good bye to Goh Keng Swee. I hope it would not be as humiliating as it was for Margaret Thatcher.

There has got to be a better way to organize our society. We didn't try to climb out of here. We were doing better and then we fell into this!

Last visit to NatGeo shop

Popped by the NatGeo shop at Vivocity last night before curtain down day. Much of their merchandise had already been sold. I saw one guy bough a big bagful of photos. Is he going to frame and put them up in his office?

We found nothing to buy and I took back memories in photos of the place.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Poor Response to MOE Kindergartens

I was flipping the pages of ST early this morning whilst waiting for the kids to get ready for school when I caught this article. I told myself so it is indeed panning out as I feared: response is poor.

I just found the time to read the story and it is worse than I thought. Many people don't even know about the upcoming MOE kindergartens. Don't they read the newspapers, watch TV or even listen to the radio? I thought the government is going to be very upset with the MSM for failing to bring the information to the people but I think the failure of spreading the message lies elsewhere: No buzz, no excitement and no word of mouth. You desperately need parents with preschool ready kids to tell other such parents especially for the lower income group.

Those who do not need or want MOE kindergartens were quick to suggest the government get into this. Many feel that their kids move from light to darkness when they go from preschool to primary school. Now the dark side has come into preschool, why would you want to send your children there? You want them to enjoy their childhood for as long as possible.

Trust in the government has been seriously eroded. MOE cannot simply assume that it has positive brand equity. You need to sell to your target audience why they ought to choose you. I don't believe they have provided any details on what their preschool program is like. I fear many might simply assume it is a lighter version of the tolerated primary school.

My next point is a sad one. Increasingly today's poor are not like those from yesterday. Then many among the poor worked hard and moved up but now many are trapped in a vicious cycle which perceived or real they see cost of living rising faster than income. Middle income parents might not want their kids to mix with the despairing poor but are happy to have the positive character attributes of the hungry poor rub off on their kids. Even if the middle class aren't selfish, they are mostly self focused especially when society is so competitive now you grab every advantage. How else do you explain the booming private tuition sector.

MPs and grassroots leaders going door to door is a pretty dumb and unimaginative way to get children into the MOE kindergartens isn't it? You do that when you are interested to see nearly every household. And if you do not know which families have the age appropriate kids, it shows that your grassroots leaders are really sleeping and out of touch with the community. There are countless other ways to reach them. I hope they asked those who opened the doors to them if they knew of any  neighbors with young kids. There was a time you could ask the policemen manning the neighborhood police post for such information, alas the policing model today is different and the information is absent.

Update: 3:35pm

If I weren't blogging for myself in a glass house, I wouldn't bother. Occasionally I have to be aware that people stop by and look inside.

I want to be fair to the government. Firstly I think Bay Yam Keng is a good MP and one of the few who gave up his job to be a full time MP. Secondly I reluctantly do a quick search to see what MOE had put out as information for their kindergartens. They have set up a website: http://www.moekindergarten.edu.sg/

I do not think very much of some PAP grassroots leaders especially Lionel de Souza. But they are a thicket of wheat and weeds, often hard to pick out. Why the PAP leaders tolerate the obvious weeds is beyond me. I would have thought they are serious political liabilities. The more they keep people like de Souza around  would only serve to lead us to think the worse of them. Good leaders always put a distance between themselves and sycophants.

Update: April 13

In a different and earlier time people might have queued overnight to land a place. ST tried its level best to be encouraging. My point? An organization that never had to compete for pupils do not know how to go about it when they have to. Likewise the government failed to lead in social media when previously it had the commanding heights of the press. They saw it coming but blind-sided themselves with fake preparations and response. Some silly hope for the best measures. They have become fat and complacent.

Samsui Women built the MRT

No reason needed for putting this up. I am just happy to do so, to remember. They are no more and they lived a hard life. Thumbs up to those long ago bosses for appreciating the work they put in. As a kid I never got over the shock of seeing them at work sites. I was sad but also in awe of them. In my childlike thinking, I thought they must have ran out of options as I imagined what my parents would have to do if they couldn't find any other work. Now whenever I go to Soup Restaurant for a meal I remember them.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Admin Service pension by another name

I didn't want to read/use the story of this subject by SPH or Mediacorp. On a subject like this I pay more attention to alternative sources.

What's the diff? Pension is now called by another albeit mouthful: long term retention package. Same thing, just semantics. At the end of the day it is asking the officers to look at the birds in the bush that he/she could have if they stick around long enough. Many more than the birds in hand.

This is sad, yet another instance of the government preferring form over substance. That's why they are coy about revealing the details of 'new pension'.  I think new pension rings louder than sneaky long term retention package. I think to obscure if further it will morphed into LTRP. Some people do not know that the frequently used PIE is Pan-Island Expressway. It works! But only until 2016 when people are massively educated for the occasion.

PAP sycophant grassroots

Yet another example of how PAP MPs lose voters' support. They never learn or more accurately perhaps they don't want to. Some say the MP was in the dark but by now that would be disingenuous. All these sycophants, if you do not discipline or sack them you only let the cancer grow. Such types are shameless. Just showing them that you are unhappy wouldn't help. To me, if you cannot manage them how can you manage your ministerial portfolio without fear or favor?

The MP in the picture looks like Josephine Teo.

There are too many such stories for my blog. I have to cherry pick which one to feature. They will be input for the next GE.

I was about to hit 'publish' but wanted to find the parking story featuring Vikram Nair first. I couldn't find it at my blog but Sammy Boy has it. Again the pic is good enough to tell the story.

Update: April 12

"You think we born yesterday is it?" Probably found a convenient fall guy. If the MP had any political and social sense, that was the moment not to "give face". Politically too costly. Go and sit with the other patrons. The rest of the entourage if they want to sit at the reserved tables is up to them. Once bitten they will know never to bootlick again.

Whatever and however creative the excuses the MP would still come out worse off.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The pin for our property bubble?

If this property is really sold at $300m in the end, will it be that proverbial transaction which burst the property bubble? I think it could very well be. Just examine the stories of financial bubbles from history beginning from Tulipmania.

And if it doesn't sell, just may be the market need to be tested again later.

By the way this is an insane $3,500 psf.

Anyone who understand reversion to the mean would know what is the smart thing to do. Smart doesn't mean you are right and that's the reason why most never learn their lessons.

Why the Chengs want to test the market now and so cruelly? The party can go on if you don't do anything to make them nervous. The government would like to drain the punch bowl but not suddenly remove it. The Chengs are spoilers.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher Obituary: Thatcherism and us

I could have written something equivalent if it was LKY but Maggie Thatcher has preceded him. Both are loved and hated. It would appear that Thatcher had attracted more hatred but until such time we don't know. Anyway it doesn't matter to me. I think LKY is a genius and we are better off because of him. He cannot be perfect, nobody is. For example, I strongly disagree with him that talent is mostly born and not made. That has yielded many policies at the expense of the locals.

I picked a few lines from the article to remember Thatcher.

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money,"

How true! Her detractors to the very end fail to grasp, if they think they are worse off, it could have been much worse for them and nearly all others.

Her personal credo, founded on competition, private enterprise, thrift and self-reliance, gave birth to a political philosophy known as "Thatcherism".

I think and I believed she had admitted before that she had adapted our ideas for her country. The proud former colonial master's media would not admit it. In their usual unscrupulous ways, they stole it.

But while Thatcherism made many better off, unemployment doubled by the mid-1980s to more than three million - a level not seen since the hungry 1930s. Opponents said Thatcher had created a nation divided between the wealthier south and the poorer north.

Such is life that you cannot count on counterfactuals to defend yourself. Strong leaders know when not to care anyway. Weak ones cannot resist passing off form for substance. Our leaders are drifting toward weakness.

No system is forever and every system age and must eventually be replaced or reworked. It is time for the pendulum to swing back. Had we be socialists all along, we wouldn't even have the wherewithal to keep going. We would have failed and perhaps taken back into Malaysia on their humiliating and onerous terms.

Update: 7:50pm

I must find some time to read this article on Margaret Thatcher in Vanity Fair.

Update: April 10, 9:55am

Europe's economic malaise grew out of numerous mistakes. Some, to be sure, are tied to the peculiarities of the Continent's currency union. But Europe holds plenty of wider lessons for Asian states. They should see how nations that sacrifice too much economic freedom for social security end up with neither, impairing both private enterprise and public finance.

Source: Sri Mulyani article in the WSJ

Update: April 10, 10:25pm

I am lucky to serendipitously come across a comment that I could never equal. This is the result of the Old Man belief that talent and intelligence are born and you cannot make up with investing in education. It is a terrible price we are paying for his prejudice which he stuck to it like truth. For all his intelligence and wisdom he couldn't understand this is bad politics and in the end he would lose. On this alone, I will not support LKY and after he is gone there could be a surprising number of people who would pop champagne like they are celebrating Thatcher's passing away.

  • Mia Tan When I went to NUS, my friends who didn't get at least B3 in GP had to take an English bridging module, and have to keep retaking it until they have passed it in order to graduate.
    A girl friend had 2As 2Bs but failed GP wasn't even allowed to apply fo
    r local uni. 
    So my question is this, why are we giving free scholarship plus living expenses allowance to students particularly from china, despite their brilliant results, when they can't speak a smattering of English? 
    I welcome competition yes, but let's compete on fair ground. 
    I don't expect government to give us priority but here they are obviously shortchanging its own people. 

    Other universities take in foreign students not only because of grades but may also be due to higher school fees. In SG, foreigners come study free and go home. 

    I was on a long flight home from USA one day, stop over in HK, a china auntie got on next to me. She couldn't fill up her immigration form. So I helped her. 
    I asked her what's address at destination (SG) she said NTU. Her daughter was given a scholarship to study here. She asked me bluntly, "your country so small, not even the size of a China city, what if my daughter cannot find job? I wanted her go USA study, but Singapore offer free scholarship, plus easier for me to travel and visit her. I think after she graduate I will tell her go USA to work."
    I almost tore up the immigration sheet. 

    I wish our government will grow a heart, two ears and two eyes.
    Like · Reply · 33 · 29 minutes ago via mobile