Friday, January 31, 2014

Petronas CNY 2014: Young Hearts

A short clip by Malaysia Petronas for CNY 2014. It would tug at most heart strings but it is also just surreal. Life is not like that but at the same time it is good to flow with it but not lose your head. We watched Disney's Frozen at Eng Wah latest screen recently. Of course that's far better.

What's life then like? It is like the Joseph Story but some play over very long time frames to beyond generations even. So in their time space they cannot see or appreciate it. However without forgiveness there is no Joseph Story. This is not correct in the space of a lifetime. Across generations it is possible to wrap up a good Joseph Story. The battle against pride must be won first. This is too hard to understand and I would never have unless I had to live it.

The Big Joseph Story that made all Joseph Stories possible was when the promised one came to save us. That's across many many generations.

Nevertheless we are programmed to pine for Joseph Stories that is confined within our generation. Fairy tales only give form to how our hearts ache for them but clearly we know they cannot be true. A real life fairy tale is often just an incompletely told story. Someone has been economical with the truth or the story isn't over yet. Without adversity to build character, people often mess up the future. A Joseph Story is a Good Black Swan.

Reunion Dinner

I consider as long as we prepare this dish it is as good as having a reunion dinner.

It's the parents that cook up a storm for such dinners. Once they are all gone and given our small families we cannot or more like not motivated to keep the tradition. I keep it very simple.

Didn't visit any relatives today either. Just sent word that we won't be showing up. Yet again, I told my uncle that I would not be turning up as his place but he knows I am very friendly to him. I find it meaningless that we only meet once a year. Without my parents, it is such a painful chore. They are or more accurately most of them are almost like strangers to us. They have never been part of our social lives. Besides my late father told me to only inform them after his funeral was over. Not the best way to begin eh?

We will be meeting at my sister's place for lunch on Sunday. Had she or my brother not suggested this (my brother took the initiative last year) nothing would happen.

Does the children understand from these what to expect when their time comes? It is not something to look forward to. Their cousins are almost strangers to them. They used to play together when they were preschoolers but afterward each is busy with the demands of their own lives. When they meet this Sunday, as usual they would hardly speak to each other.

A couple of good old friends told me yesterday how they hated CNY. They shouldn't but I can also understand how they felt.

In the next generation reunion dinners will drive home the point powerfully the impact of our declining birthrates. I don't think we are prepared to do anything about it until much closer to time. Traditions would have to be adapted or reinvented because it is already too late. We will not discard our traditions. They define us.

Update: 8:25pm

This is a wonderful story but it many ways it also heralds the crescendo. This is looking back instead of looking forward. We can slow it down as much as possible, we cannot reverse the trend where opportunities for such wonderful reunions is common.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

No to burning of effigies

I had wanted to blog about this when it first appeared in our media but was too busy.

Burning effigies is for me not the Singapore way. Anyone who attempts to do this is out of my good book immediately. Gilbert Goh is crazy, and appears to me attention seeking and a shallow thinker. In many societies such men are dangerous but Singaporeans are more matured and can judge better.

What is the Singapore way? There is no need to detail it here after all I am blogging for myself and family but the SG government better keep this squarely in mind. If we bring in too many foreigners, we will lose the SG way and with it all the advantages which people sought to come here in the first place. Simply put the PM's population policies then was the dumbest thing he had done and I hope for any PM of Singapore ever. If not for the political capital the Party had built up over the years, the drubbing at the polls could have been worse.

Horrid Work Record: Worksites and SMRT

It was just convenient to have this two news item on top of each other. 

So many industrial accidents this month? Why? Can you imagine how many sigma events these are? Without evidence, my baseline approach is to hold forth with the simplest explanation: Cowboys. In other words people fail to follow procedures. The industrial culture outside our manufacturing plants is terrible. There is also one name that stood out for poor and sloppy work: SMRT. I would expect a former Chief of Defence Force to do better and quickly too. SMRT as I posted to this blog before is run by a bunch of idiots. 

CNY Eve Lunch

Lunch today at Marina Square Hamanoya. I had the Yakitori Donburi.

This is not bad but I still prefer Tori-Q Yakitoris.

Francis Yap's Empathy

This is a first class example of empathy from Francis Yap to Munir, the driver who killed his sons. At this moment I can't helped but also think of William Wan. Empathy is a big word for him but I also wonder what is his agenda really. All of us have agendas granted that many people are not completely conscious of them too.

Reproduced from TNP

Then he recalled a nightmare he had in 1993, when he was in Taiwan for an army training stint. He had not even met Madam Ang then.
Mr Yap recounted: "In my dream, I was driving an army vehicle and there was a young boy cycling somewhere down the road.
"I thought to myself, 'Oh no, can I brake in time to avoid him?' and true enough, I couldn't.
"I heard a loud thud and when I got out of the vehicle, the boy was lying on the road. I scooped him up and cradled his bloodied, listless body in my arms, crying, 'Oh no, oh no... '
"Then I was jolted awake and found myself covered in perspiration, my hands trembling hard."
When he had to drive in the morning, Mr Yap said he had to focus on trying to calm his jumpy nerves and hands that were still trembling.
He said: "It was just a dream and I was already so frightened, so I realised that the driver would not have it easy, too.
"What's more, he experienced it for real and he has to live with his negligence for the rest of his life."

Jesus continues to ask each one of us: Who do you say I am? Please not the answer from the Bible like answering a comprehension passage in school. God who lives across time frames had fixed it all up....for my ways are higher than your ways; and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Heng Swee Keat: Meritocracy is not a dirty word

Avoid making meritocracy a dirty word? Had meritocracy been as fresh and new as a generation ago, we will not consider it a dirty word. What has happened to meritocracy? Why are more and more people losing faith in it? The words of Michael Young was prophetic. He was the sociologist who coined the word in the first place and thought deeply about it. That was in the 1950s. Fast forward to 2001, he had this to say about meritocracy.

Read his full commentary in the Guardian newspaper.

Meritocracy could still serve us with less sterling results and declining acceptance for a while but we must think of the hereafter. Meritocracy is a great train ride for sometime but will end in a crash eventually. We are seeing the warning signs everywhere already. Why wouldn't meritocracy not be a dirty word for more and more people?

This post came about from ideas in an article on Luck by Howard Marks my ex-boss sent me for CNY reading.

Workplace Fatality No. 9

This is fatality number 9 since the beginning of this year. Absolutely horrible. I kept thinking of the 41 year old man from China. He left behind his wife and young child in China and this is so close to CNY.

The right number should be zero, not death mind you but injuries. These companies are taking safety for granted and MOM is doing a lousy job to ensure safe environments at the workplace. I can imagine that moronic attitude "bo ah ni suay" to have an accident attitude at work sites. These people tempt probabilities without knowing the real numbers.

CNY greeting from Shan and wife

Nice gesture! Like it very much.

Video Camera useful against Police too

I am waiting to learn how this case would be resolved. The way Mr. Wong put it, the TP was completely unreasonable.

I always thought the video camera in my car is only for gathering evidence against bad drivers who caused accidents. Now I see it could also be God forbid be useful against some potentially rouge cops eh? 

If it is found that these officers were abusing their authority singling out an innocent motorist, I hope the Police would publicly discipline the relevant officers. This is damaging the public trust in the police.

Remember that rouge cop who went into the house to kill the old man and his son?

SG first driverless car

I like this NUS-MIT developed car. I hope they will quickly bring it beyond the internal roads of the NUS campus. This is a little wishful but perhaps the car I am driving now could be the last time I own a car. I don't have that much faith and that's why my daughter is starting to take driving lessons. Nevertheless the day of the ubiquitous driverless car would come. The sooner the better.

The flip side of this opportunity is that lots of taxi drivers could be thrown out of  their jobs :-( What societies across the world have not improved since the last time this happened is how to graciously help the dislocated. If the winners don't want to do anything to help, governments would have to figure a way to squeeze them for funds but government itself is not good for dealing with such matters. I think commercial value driven solutions are still best but only if it is driven by long term thinking. The problem whey commerce isn't serving society or allocating resources correctly is because business people and managers are too short term these days.

PM: Wished he was born 50 years later

Even before my kids were born, my late father often suggested that they will have a tougher time than my siblings and I. He was right. Now when I see my niece, nephew and my kids work at school, the evidence is overwhelming on top of what you read in the media and the testimonies of relatives and friends.

But the young also have far more opportunities to the degree I could never imagine.

The PM sells himself that he would have preferred to be born 50 years later. In a way he is right. It is a very difficult and thankless job to be PM. Let someone else do the job and you can have your life to yourself. However it could be a less meaningful and purposeful life too if you care enough for others.

If you overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities, the future is bright. If you fail to make the grade you would wish life was like before as you believe you would do better. Question is will we have a small number of winners and many losers? The income gap is about a tiny number of rich people with a crowd of the unwashed masses. The answer to this question is personal and has to be aggregated to give the result for this society. However we must bear in mind that in an very imperfect world we need to be cognizant of what is possible and whether if we are already the least worst among all others.

As we cannot choose to be born, let's not waste time with fictitious questions and get on with making the best of this life.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

HUDC: End of an era

End of an era. Used to live there with my parents where I had my most vivid memories. I can recall many events in great detail. On that December morning I left and from that day onwards only return to visit because I was getting married. The overnight mugging for university exams; the bus trips; the drives; punctured tires by uncivic neighbors; visits from friends; that one phone call....too many memories which I don't think I will ever forget.

Every few years I still take a drive into the estate to look around. The place look worn but its charm remains.

Oh, my old place is visible in this photo.

PM to NTU Students: Avoiding Conflict in Asia

The PM is addressing the 1,000 students in NTU this very moment and Today has tweeted among other snippets the above.

With qualifications the PM is right but it should more accurately be understood us nobody wants to attack anybody (they will defend themselves for sure) if they can help it. Each country has declared what could lead them to war. The only time when you can be sure there is no conflict is when everyone is committed to using arms only for repelling an attack.

The PM is not known for his ability to see over the horizon but his thoughts on the present shape of reality here and in the region is useful. I agree with him that the next 50 years would be exciting but what matters is what form of excitement it will assume. The way things go, even Antarctica would be exciting. That's is not foresight. Anyway I appreciate the guy for trying his best.

Should Schizos Serve NS?

Obviously not but this is one case where the young man Ganesh Pillay did. He went into NS and never complete it. The story from The Independent.

My friend's youngest brother went into NS and came out a schizophrenic. Destroyed his life. Friendless, I made friends with him and make it a point to send him a nice birthday card every year.

NS could have buried or more aptly sent me to the crematorium many years ago if I didn't have enough guts to keep pestering and challenge the medical officer. I was downgraded in the end.

Ganesh Pilly's psychiatrist should have done more and his camp doctor was useless and his lieutenant callous. I hope the Army bring all these officers to task but would they unless there is enough publicity for this case.

I learnt from NS that people should learn to look after themselves. My Ah Boy to Man moment was quite different from how Jack Neo try to tell it or Chen Show Mao gave for signing up to NS.

You must hop back into the process that preserve your life e.g., use of live ammo in the army. Most people are shooed into them so they live, but if you are born an outlier you need to put in special effort or your life would be at risk. Really, "you die your business".

Monday, January 27, 2014

NTUC Income vs SMRT

I got this email from NTUC Income only moments ago and I can't help comparing them with SMRT. How I wish SMRT would have just a fraction of the civic responsibility NTUC Income commits itself to. Of course to achieve this it cannot be a listed company. Income is a cooperative.

This is a crazy idea but may be public transport operators should be restructured with inspiration from successful cooperative enterprises. Whatever and however we do it, public transport must always put the short and long term interests of commuters as their highest priority. Anything that conflict with this should be re-engineered away. Unless Desmond Kuek and the board grasped this, their failure is all but a matter of time. Of course the cost would also surely be paid by the PAP in the next elections. Sometimes politicians would be forced to borrow your heads to appease the people. Remember what Cao Cao did to this chief logistics officer. Why be so stupid? Why should good people turn themselves into monsters? A stitch in time saves nine.

Nigel and Donovan one year later

I feel only pain for the parents of Nigel and Donovan when I read about them. I know I have written somethings about this tragedy a year ago but I am not ready to look it up..

Some comfort them telling them their two sons are in heaven. After all they are believers but let's be honest. Heaven for many is in the head but not in the heart. They need time to fully grasp that. That is why I find it so painful.

Being real is not just about going to heaven and reuniting with loved ones. Instead heaven has become a form of escapism in order that we may better cope with life's tragedies. That's why it was such a shocker when we read in Mother Teresa's dream, St Peter told her there are no slums in heaven. She chose not enter the pearly gates.

Get real means for now heaven is the hopeless wish that the tragedy didn't happen.

So what and where is heaven? That is a lousy question. The question to answer is the same old one from Jesus: Who do you say I am? In one's life that question will be asked over and over again. From Moses encounter with the burning bush to show me your face, step by step. Losing Nigel and Donovan is part of that journey but in this case it isn't just the Yap's journey, it has also become ours too.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

NUSS Magazine Part 2: SMRT Desmond Kuek

I have much to criticize about this article but not the time or energy. Of course the writer can't do better than faithfully report what happened at the Guild House on November 13 last year.

I am pessimistic that Desmond Kuek would succeed at SMRT without massive government help with funds and leadership. My view of SMRT board is equally dim. I am just glad we didn't need to count on him to lead us into battle. What a confused mind he is. What a predictable mind too which the opposing general must have loved. The man reads like a theory only person. He is approaching his job like the SIA CEO but worse.

I quote him,

"In SMRT we just try and figure the path forward that focuses on doing the right thing"

But he never clarify what the right thing is. I wasn't there and if the writer failed to explain it in the article, that is an epic fail.

Desmond Kuek admitted that we can't please everyone but these are the constituencies as he sees them. They are commuters, shareholders, regulators and SMRT and its staff.

Of course he had to put commuters first but it is shareholders that ranked ahead of everyone. If commuters isn't the first priority, there is no business for SMRT to be a private much less listed company structured to maximize profits. So how this work in real life is reward shareholders which already have a formula for rewarding top management and any leftovers of the pie go to the other stakeholders. That is the true meaning of you cannot please everyone. This approach no longer work. In fact it is an impossible situation. He worst career decision was to accept the CEO job when he was not up to it.

What a CEO needs to do at SMRT is actually very simple. When a house is properly set up, you can do anything you like. Now if the house is on fire, what do you so? Put out the fire silly! Anyone who hasn't even gone to school can tell you that temporarily the top three priorities of SMRT are commuters, commuters and commuters. The way to top this up if he wants to is for the CEO to be a commuter too.

For those who regularly read business books, they might have come across how Paul O' Neill turned around Alcoa by simply focusing the company on only one thing: Safety.

If Desmond Kuek has the courage (you don't need much brains here) to just focus on that one thing which could just be customers or even more fundamental which outsiders like me cannot see, he will succeed. If he tries like all scholars to be good everywhere and everything, he would likely fail. Between now to unambiguous failure would be a totally demoralized staff that is often confused and not empowered to act. If you keep things simple, people have enough brains to know how to do the right thing. In the meantime we can expect the frequency of train breakdowns to only get worse because when you get it wrong, the problems have a way of running ahead of you. It is just like cancer.

NUSS Magazine Part 1: The most beautiful Miss Singapore

The most beautiful Miss Singapore ever hands down got to be Miss Eunice Olsen. However I wouldn't have this post if not for Anton Casey's wife Bernice Wong, a later Miss Singapore than Ms Olsen. I don't need a blog post to remember Eunice Olsen but here I am juxtaposing Eunice with Bernice.

I must confess I know almost nothing about Bernice Wong but I imagine most Singaporeans must have hated her choice of husband. I don't remember the names of any other Miss Singapore Universe or World. One struck me but not favorably is the girl who is associated with a Facebook billionaire co-founder (I can't remember his name either since he wasn't Mark Zuckeberg) who has made his home here. I vaguely recall a picture I happened to come across of her celebrating her birthday with a phallic looking birthday cake. I assume the guests wanted her to do the obvious eh?

Women and men likewise should use the time when they still look good to invest in their invisible selves. If you to that right and most important humbly ( because many are quite good at pretending) the invisible will become visible.

Well there are some who go overboard and completely ignore their looks. I think that's stupid. People should never exceed their faith or belief.

The Graduate: NUSS members' magazine

When I was a new member curiosity led me to flip through the pages of this magazine whenever one arrived. I focused on the new members pages looking out for who I might know. Beyond the first few issues, and I think they published monthly then (I just found out it is now quarterly) I stopped reading the articles.

Over the years, I regularly bin the magazine but one day I must have opened the letter box before going to work and took the magazine to my office. That issue would years later become an awakening for me. I don't believe what had happened was chance. That would be a multiple sigma event and Black black Swan. It created the setting that would lead me to take huge and sacrificial risks.Why would or should I if it had been any other way? As a result some Bible stories no longer become distant but personal and living.

Many Christians regularly see God's hand in two sigma events. That's not for me. I am too open minded for all sorts of possibilities and I prefer the simplest explanations given that scientific credibility is usually not available or applicable. Attributing it to God is often harder and more complex than common sense or just simple probability. This is a bad habit which fortunately our ancestors by God's grace managed to pull away, otherwise we would still be in the Dark Ages. I can't understand why people want to go back and live in the past and I wonder how and to what degree the hijab feature in this. I am not Muslim, I don't know but I am sure it is an awful idea for Christians to dress and live like the early church. Yes, I think the Amish life for everyone is also a bad idea. As a small group like they are now on the other hand is a very good idea.

Today I looked at it the latest issue of this magazine again after so many years as I wanted to learn more about the new City Guild House after wifey alerted me to it. I found that there are no longer any new members page - you mean they have admitted them by the hundreds now? More membership dues, a way to get rich? Definitely so if many members are like me who don't turn up at their clubs very often.

Between the pages of this issue surprisingly I found two articles that interest me which I want to remember in two separate posts to this blog.

But I think I will continue to throw away the next issue of The Graduate and beyond.

Back to Arc Keyboard

I am back to using the Arc Keyboard. The cheapo Logitech Keyboard hurts and worse it was noisy.

I think I paid much more than $49 for my first Arc Keyboard. I could search this blog to find out but I am too lazy to do that right now.

PM: Going slow with tudung

It is not going to be one tudung at a time. The hijab presence would probably increase but imperceptibly or in the language of Physics which I am more at home with - adiabatically.

Some Muslims will see this as playing for time, infinite time. That would just effectively be a no answer. For me I wonder how much of the decision making is based on fear or insight and knowledge. The PM was so gung ho at exploding our population in a hurry. Weren't the unintended consequences from that policy not more severe? Perhaps privately he is less confident after that big mistake. Perhaps he can't push SMRT to do better because ultimately he was the one who caused the problem with his population policies but now the train operators have the nasty job of fixing it. Otherwise how do you explain why the government is so patient with SMRT? Could it also be that our ICA and police force are also under resourced ever since they cleverly over managed the civil service on new fangled financial principles and the strain of fighting terrorism threats? Sound finance is only sound if supported by sound insight or you will find that in due course you end up with penny wise and pound foolish. May be the MRT problems are the first birds returning to roost? What others might be returning for pay back? The government can choose to be coy but time is a great revealer of the truth. Just look at Empress Dowager Cixi. She had been unjustly maligned for so long but folks like Jung Chang are now helping to render justice.

Either the government is accountable and transparent or we would just speculate and worse lose confidence in their leadership.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

GBB Flower Dome losing shine

The CNY theme at GBB Flower Dome this year. Horses.

And this was what the Flower Dome looked like last year. Which is better? The whole family thought last year was much prettier but there were lots of cherry blossoms this year. Last year there were many rich rose bushes and an abundance of Chrysanthemums. This year there are lots of yellow dancing ladies.

In fact, I am wondering if I should renew my annual membership. I just get the feeling that the place is starting to age prematurely and going down market. Their spreadsheet models telling them they can't afford to keep up with more fanciful displays because of a poor business case? Who knows?

Will they bring back the phenomenally popular Tulips this year?

A cherry blossoms bush.

SMRT run by idiots

SMRT must be run by a bunch of idiots. I cannot understand why they keep screwing up. I am livid and this must be on record my angriest post.

I not going to continue. It will only be vitriol and invective. From now on my membership is with those who cut them no slack and will whack them at every opportunity (not necessarily here).

Of course behind the persistent incompetence of SMRT is the feckless LTA. The time tested solution to solve problems created by idiots is simply to get rid of them.

  • Daniel Tay If there are no signs indicating that the socket should not be used being put at the gantry when you tap your card, SMRT cannot sue the student under the contract law. The contract is signed when you tap your card, agreeing to enter a contract with the transport operator. Therefore, SMRT has no rights to sue the poor student for using the power socket unless she has been told not to do so before she tapped her card.
    Like · Reply · 36 · about an hour ago

  • Marcus Goh Wow... fine $400... I think from now, every breakdown by the train, all commuters in the station should have their Ezlink card top up with $20 for the compensation of the lost of time... not too much to ask right. They will have all the records of entry and exit right?
    Like · Reply · 31 · about an hour ago · Edited
  • Mak Mun Whai To charge phone at the station is not right,didn't she heard of something called power bank? And SMRT shouldn't fined the commuter,moreover a student. Should just warn her not to do so.
    Like · Reply · 21 · 58 minutes ago
  • Nick Deroyale Perhaps the LTA should focus more on our train system.a change of engineering structural plans perhaps.its time to minimise those dreadful delays due to breakdown yet time n again.simple solution to misuse of powerpoint is to totally romove them instead of fine fine fine fine fine fine fine fine fine FINES!!tiz is so irritating!!!
    Like · Reply · 19 · about an hour ago
  • Terence Chiew LTA should look into SMRT who has not been able to keep the MRT system operating smoothly instead. Focus on the bigger issue and not trivial issue.
    Like · Reply · 17 · about an hour ago
  • Dan Ho The LTA should focus on how to stop SMRT from having almost daily disruptions instead of focusing on such a minute issue.
    Like · Reply · 16 · about an hour ago
  • Sharon Yong If I m stuck in a train station because of train breakdown n my hp is low batt., can I use ur power socket to charge my hp so that I can call for help?

    Come on! Places like National Library Board where users don't even pay a single cents get to use the facilities, why SMRT cannot do that, especially when we paid for ur service (which don't necessary work)?
    Like · Reply · 13 · 33 minutes ago · Edited
  • Sergio Gs IIo !?!? flight companies and public transports (trains) in many EU countries provide plugs for passengers to charge mobile, laptops ... 

    I would assume that charging a phone in a plug is allowed unless a sign would state otherwise.
    Like · Reply · 29 · about an hour ago · Edited
  • Pae Thongyaem LTA is INSANE!!!!!
    Like · Reply · 9 · about an hour ago

What is there to relook? Act decisively like Vivian Balakrishnan recently did with some silly rule on hawkers.

Update: 2:15 pm

She is not from SMRT so I would cut her some slack. Perhaps she was quoted out of context here never mind I had often come across her making silly or uncalled for remarks.

Don't make fictitious statements. They shed no light and only generate unnecessary heat. You are a Minister, and we must expect more from you. I am actually trying to restrain myself from calling her stupid.

Update: 2:55 pm

I just read the ST which has a fuller report. So it wasn't just the SMRT but the equally idiotic LTA who took the next step to charge her. Bunch of useless civil servants in that department excelling at learning by making mistakes at our expense. Probably too many heads to roll so must replace the management eh?

This is unbelievable - connecting a faulty device could end up tripping the train system. Yet another proof to suggest how idiotic the system is. Whoever designed the system this way. Actually I don't believe that statement. It is by an ignorant fool or a liar. It is used to justify the severe and unreasonable penalties in order that they do not look like bullying a school girl. How cowardly and dishonest they probably are. There are various forms of stupid but this design stupidity cannot be it.