Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Shadow of John Steinbeck.

John Steinbeck had his shadow over me for a long time but I was never aware until now.

For many years, I confused John Steinbeck with Pearl S Buck. I have never read both authors but I always felt I had. Then it dawned on me I knew them from the compulsory comprehension assignments from school. Steinbeck wrote the Pearl and not the the author Pearl S Buck. They shared Pearl but one is what you got out of shellfish and the other was a writer. Both Steinbeck and Buck won the Nobel for Literature.

But I encouraged my children to read Pearl S Buck unsuccessfully.

I have been down the whole length of Canary Wharf in Monterey three times. That place was supposed to be filled with the spirit of John Steinbeck. I must at least choose something from Steinbeck to complete the course. Tonight I have chosen one of his three most notable works: East of Eden.  I picked it in order to pray intelligently just as I had done the same for others before. This is what this person said about the book:

East of Eden brings to surface so many things I never knew about myself. It's a beautiful book but it's really uncomfortable too, because it forces me to re-think everything I've been so sure of. About man, about sin, about love. The big events in the story aren't the ones that leave an impression. The little ones do. And sitting in a cafe reading this while waiting for the sub family to take me to dinner, I feel an overwhelming surge of sadness and it makes me want to cry. People always talk about how you have to put down a book sometimes to remind yourself to breathe. It gets a bit more embarrassing when you're so distraught and you try to not cry because you are in a public place.

This must be divinely inspired literature if it is able to illuminate who you are.

Update: 10:10pm

How could I have missed adding this to the post? When our businesses didn't succeed and we were much younger and could afford the failure, my partner a better read person said to me from Steinbeck.

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

Indeed the shadow of John Steinbeck.

Picking a Wedding Gift

Wifey spent much of yesterday evening picking out a gift at Amazon for our friend's daughter who is getting married in less than month. It is so much easier to buy something for our friends over there. When we get gifts from them, I always baulk at how much they paid for shipping.

I had forgotten and totally missed the line, "To Have And To Hold". Wifey had attached a YouTube clip in a follow up email and I was puzzled what it was for. I didn't really care and thoroughly enjoyed the clip. Hey I assumed it was for me.

but as it often happened to me and that's why I usually avoid going to YouTube, I noticed something interesting on the right of the playing video. Ah, I have this song too but don't much listen to it: Beautiful Girl. I didn't know Jose Marie Chan wrote and sang.

Then I saw a much more popular and updated edition by Christian Bautista...these Filipinos are so talented.

You ask me, I prefer the one by Jose Marie Chan. I am not telling why, I am going to give it sometime and see if I still feel the same when I come back, then I would add an update to this post. Let's just quickly say I don't like the new mores. The one with Jose Marie Chan had him in a photo with a woman near the end. I guessed that must be his wife. I later confirmed it with Google. These days we just Ask Google.

Update: 9:00pm

My kids asked me what I was blogging about and then I showed them how the two clips wrapped up. Here you see Jose Marie Chan with his wife. In the other clip are four women the boy had relationships with. Four copies of him will complete the show. It's a different world with different mores.

Update: July 6

This is what we are sending them in the end. Just got notified by Amazon that it has been shipped.

Exponential Growth of Pink Dots

The pool of pink or those frightened by how this movement might call an ocean of it is actually quite pretty. Just for a moment set aside the quarrel and see the lights for what they superficially are.

I first saw pink LEDs when we were having our year end holidays in San Francisco. I wanted them for our Christmas tree but was too lazy about lugging them back. As they were probably a novelty then, the prices weren't right and I am a stickler about not over paying for anything. That's is the first rule of personal finance, which I am glad the kids have learned too.

Now let's take sides. The Pink Dots are on a roll aren't they? They claimed 21,000 turned up. There were 15,000 last year and their first gathering had only 2,500 (2009?)

I bet most of those who showed up were straight and by that are they implying gays are crooked? I think they will get to this issue some day.

The Pink supporters have energy and creativity. I first knew about their creativity from Dr. Florida book.

Look at what I have picked up from Facebook below.

Grace Tang had many people agreeing with her but they were silent supporters. At this rate it is a matter of time the Pink would steamroll the rest. Of course, I am oversimplifying. The non-Pinks will eventually organize and resist. By then it could be a clash of the Titans and I hope we can settle this peacefully before we get to that.

I can think of what obvious but distant consequence Grace Tan alluded to: no babies, we become extinct were nearly everyone becomes gay. And we don't need to get anywhere near there to run into difficulties. Personally I think it is less natural to be gay as it is also less occurring in nature. Morally and spiritually that is more complex. In some ways they are inadvertently holding up a mirror to show that we are not better people.

  • Grace Tang For those straight people who support the cause, I wonder if they truly know the consequences of what they are supporting.
    Like · Reply · 26 · 12 hours ago via mobile
    • Koli Kari Yes.many of us support this cause.Do share what consequences you speak of.
      Like · 24 · 12 hours ago
    • Leandro Ngo do share what consequences and what do you stand to lose.
      Like · 10 · 12 hours ago
    • Cole Yang Yes, do air your "consequences". Don't talk bull when you obviously can't pull together a semi-decent answer to reply those not in favour of your statement =.=
      Like · 4 · 11 hours ago
    • Ng Jing Kang Yeah, a freer society free from hate. You would hate that, won't you.
      Like · 7 · 11 hours ago
    • Shaun Richard Verghese Wow, a bigot who has worked for People Search. Is that a recruitment agency? Do tell, what other forms of discrimination do you harbour?
      Like · 1 · 11 hours ago
    • Wo Shi Xiong Mao Shaun Richard Verghese, people are polarized by such actions, some like you resort to personal attacks as well as you've just done so. as a matter of fact speaking at least with this incident , all these wouldn't have happened without this event.
      Like · 1 · 11 hours ago
    • Elton Chew OMG! I hope your involvement in NUS is no more than just physical labor work! I was there with my wife and daughter to support(check my profile), I only know my girl will learn not to discriminate and readily accept gay people into her society. They don't deserve any lesser love for what they are. However I'm really not aware of any consequences in supporting, please enlighten me.
      Like · 10 · 10 hours ago
    • Bk EatingHouse And there goes the person who commented, into thin air. 
    • Elton Chew Btw hope Murphy Law doesn't happen to you and your lovely children when they grow up. 
    • William Timmermann Consequences? You mean like a fairer, better, more inclusive society?
      Like · 1 · 

Update: 7:40pm

I wasn't there and don't plan to any time. It is good to have this in video so absent ones like me have some idea. This is a nascent and critical development in our society.

I could hear them singing the National Anthem and Dick Lee's 'Home'. They are telling us they want to be accepted like we accept any of different race or religion. Surveying the ground, I think many people there weren't LGBT. They were just there to lend their support for equal treatment in our society.

Riau's farmers and the haze

Just as our Zoo put to shame the appalling conditions the once beautiful but now sickly animals in Surabaya Zoo endured, I am completely confident that we care far more for Mulia and his people than Ah-gong WhyUdonno.  Ask yourself, who could and would provide better care if another Tsuanmi hits them tomorrow.

The Economist writes for the intelligentsia so they focus on the forest. This article put aside the forest for the trees and there we see the human face. I don't know how yet, but we must help them. The haze is a powerful reminder to us that our neighbors need our assistance. Their government is a bloody obstacle. We might do it through generously and intelligently funding NGOs. I don't think we can or should eliminate slash and burn. They have been doing this for millennial but the scale must be managed. Haze is not a local problem only, it is a global climate challenge. The Indonesian leaders have lost all their credibility coming out of this. Let's see how they are going to fix that. Also when they are most humbled but not humiliated, it is the window of opportunity for us to get in to make something good out of this.

Do S'porean workers deserve their wages?

Yes, do Singaporean workers deserve their wages? Some but these are a tiny number deserve world class wages but not the majority.

Han Fook Kwang moved in the circle that did not allow him to know about these realities a reader wrote to him about. I am glad he wrote about his education. That is a good newspaper man achieving balance.

What's missing? How did we get here? Such knowledge can help us fix the problem. Many of us know what's wrong. A lot of it had to do with our education system and it not just the focus on exams but that is the key obstacle. Egregiously the focus on exams performance is ratcheting up and so the negatives will be accentuated. Since there is a time lag for it to show up, we are easily lulled into thinking all is well until employers complain. Very dangerous. Likewise fixes that work do not appear effective until many years later. And who knows what skills and habits are in demand then? We are living the moments when it is better to be lucky than smart unless we have a fundamental breakthrough in thinking to reverse that.

 My hunch is you cannot have a successful five-year plan to help workers deserve high wages for the value they bring to their jobs. This is more like growing fruit trees and that takes time. We can have quick small improvements through managing differently and fostering a positive work culture. Don't look too much to IT investments. Those low hanging fruits have been plucked clean. Ever since I started work I have always felt that Singapore management compare badly with many from the First World economies. They are the fruits hanging on branches just a little above IT. Unfortunately a little higher does not make it easier when the ladders you raised don't reach high enough to comfortably let you pluck them. So how? And this bad example of English is defeating us in ways we don't even understand because language is much more than just communicating.

New thinking must begin somewhere, not anywhere. It should begin with MOE with the PM's personal interest. I have no reason to be hopeful. They love their sacred cows too much. They even take them to bed to serve as blankets.

Update: 10:10am

That's the common problem with economists. The very good ones are not good enough times and the bad ones are always ivory tower bad but very good at getting themselves into textbooks and exams for our children.

This was just convenient coming together with Han Fook Kwang's article in one morning.

Dr. Yeoh is only narrowly right. Without immigration, higher wages will price us out. The conceptual tools economists bring to problems are almost always narrowly cast. What can they do without Ceteris Paribus? So the best economists when they put aside their tools and roll up their sleeves tell stories with wisdom embedded. Real life stories. Beware of economists bearing models or worse equations.

Update: 10:05pm

You don't often have an editor who penned a piece that caused so much reaction. Folks from the MSM usually play it safe and know the OB markers better than any of us. Now I had friends emailing or telling me to read Han Fook Kwang's article. I replied the latest and quoting from my earlier reply to another as follows.

[redacted] had sent me the article. She felt it was too important to missed. I replied her:

People must appreciate that the economy is a huge and diverse creature. Many of them provided shades of truth and there are many truths out there covering and overlapping niches. Trouble with them is that so many are one dimensional. Han Fook Kwang was himself and he is learning from readers' response to his previous article. 

Therefore I agree with you. There are a myriad of correct explanations. Like HFK each of us will talk from his or her own book and experience.

Come on, our latest high profile event: the haze. The Indonesians and us saw the same thing but interpreted and reacted completely differently. In our disagreements one man's meat is another's poison. 

This is not my job and neither is this the place but what I want to see is wise leadership. Frame the problem, suggest the objective and go fix this. You will not get consensus but there are various ways to make most people feel that matters could be improved. And I think Singaporeans deserve more.