Sunday, January 31, 2016

NCMP: WP -1 PAP -1

Prima facie there are contradictions but I am not interested. I would very much prefer the PAP to drop this issue. Leave that to us to make up our minds. Don't tell me you are doing this for us because you are not an disinterested party here. Besides I am not convinced that you are white enough in the first place. The more you indulge in such attacks to me you are scoring your own goal.

I resent that you think we are stupid and needed you to flag these things about the WP.

WP must find its way back

I have always felt that the PAP can only be destroyed from within. If you want to beat them there is only one strategy. Wait for them to do themselves in and they were on that path two GEs ago but they woke up from their complacency and mounted a strong comeback in the last year GE.

Unlike the CCP the PAP will always have difficulties testing their MP candidates and minister in the purifying furnace. It didn't help that they think the talent they had spotted are too valuable to risk destroying.  Compared to the competitive politics elsewhere these PAP wannabes are on the easy road. Then one day they become MPs and ministers the burden of testing them fall to us.

Not so for the opposition which face obstacles at every turn. The rejection email Lee Li Lian received was  an example of that. However I don't believe in making it easy for the opposition either because I remember those who can overcome the greatest odds as the unlikely underdog make the best leaders. Obama the unlikely candidate would have been a lesser President if he didn't have the odds stacked against him in the race to the White House.

WP needn't worry, neither us. The worriers should always be the PAP. Given enough time it is human nature that they will become complacent again. When that happens we shall fix them properly but would WP be ready? It is always the people and not another party that will fix the government.

As for WP they look like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. The situation have changed and what did they spend the last few months doing instead of understanding the new realities? If they do not know what is the smart thing to do, at least grasp that the old strategies no longer work.

What WP need are patient patriots more patriotic than the other side because their MPs may never in their careers get the chance to one day take control of parliament. That belongs to another generation. Meanwhile their role model isn't their secretary general but the now retired Chiam See Tong.

Never give up and never leave.

What about strategy? That is very simple, be whiter than white.

Useful accident stats

I find these stats very useful and I hope the new driver in our house take note of them too.

We have stopped going out on Friday evenings since we returned from Dubai and noticed the population had become noticeably larger. We used to take strolls along Orchard Road on Friday evenings when the kids were still in primary school.

Yep, my experience didn't disappoint me. I have often told the new driver that the car park is the riskiest part of her journey.

Men are more reckless? I think given time the ratio will approach closer to one. I just do not know how long it will take.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Local Chinese helping "Soros" short the Yuan

WSJ quoted Jim Rogers well,

Still, Mr. Rogers, a one-time partner of Mr. Soros, says his concern is that China’s slowdown is getting unfair blame for global difficulties, which he says stem from indebted governments in the U.S., Europe and Japan. “I see serious economic problems in the world, worse than we saw in 2008,” said Mr. Rogers, noting that he remains an investor in China’s yuan and listed stocks. “It’s clear these problems didn’t start in China.”

Speculators can succeed at shorting the RMB only because the wealthy and self centered locals have no confidence in the safety of their capital and chose to send their money out of China in a stampede. Speculators are only taking an unstoppable bus full of traitorous locals. If the Chinese government can figure out a way they will definitely severely punish these locals. We all know much of these flight money are not honestly earned.

Look at the data entrails from the previous month. Clearly many Chinese were mis-invoicing to take money out of China. Locals were doing the equivalent of shorting the RMB massively!

The PAP decided to strengthen their competitors

ST provided this graphic but I my thoughts is over the remarks of analysts on this proposed change to our system.

I quote Prof Mutalib,

The proposed move may also further deter a segment of voters from voting for the Opposition, said National University of Singapore political scientist Hussin Mutalib, as they know that “a sizeable number of them (Opposition members) will be in Parliament anyway”.

Now if NCMPs also get the same voting rights as elected MPs won't they begin to see themselves as sort of elected MPs as well? They didn't win but they were ahead of all the losers. This would legitimize their grassroots presence in the wards they polled well but not enough to win. In many instances the margin of loss might not be significant too. There is nothing to stop them from working to serve those who had supported them. They likely polled from 40 to 49%. If this is the outcome then Prof Mutalib logic would now work in reverse.

Full voting rights is not insignificant at all. Analysts seem to have forgotten the legitimacy that would give to NCMPs going forward. This is definitely a double edged sword for the governing party. It is good that the PM is not making the job easier for his party. They need to fight hard to win. This must also be seen as strengthening the opposition parties.

PSLE: What if we have learned to love our misery?

Recently I have started to wonder what if we have in the process of coping with the rigors of the exam based education system grown to love it. In this love-hate situation we would have trapped ourselves. We cannot decide if changing for the better is actually better. We cling to the PSLE not because we love it but we feel secure from a contemptuous familiarity we prefer over any new and better system we do not understand, and especially lack the confidence to succeed. This would be irredeemably damaging.

I am reminded of the Israelites when faced with difficulties in the wilderness they prefer to return to the familiar misery of slavery in Egypt.

Link to article.

Accepting changes to the political system

Broadly I only bought the proposed changes because I read the 1984 speech by Lee Kuan Yew. I had earlier blogged by reservations on January 17.

Nevertheless I am uncomfortable that there is so little debate on this. Of course that is because the government have enough authority to act with little consultation. We are back to judge us by the results produced mode. I think this is short term thinking as you cannot at the end of the day persuade people the changes are necessary or even superior by arguing in counterfactuals. I thought LKY was explaining the changes he tried to move the house and people on much better than LHL.

I hope there will be more discussion in the days to come. Perhaps there is but I have missed the news on that. This is what happen when such developments are distraction to those like me who are so busy with their work.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Innovative City: Florence superior to Silicon Valley?

Saw this intriguing article written by Eric Weiner in the HBR. The writer suggested that the model to explore is Florence and not Silicon Valley if a city wants to be an innovation hub. Weiner suggested it is smarter and more practical to draw lessons from Florence than Silicon Valley. Methinks knowing your own city is the most important. After all what you are trying to achieve is to get winning habits and behavior from what you have got. Florence and Silicon Valley are just context sensitive cases of what had worked. Often we are not able to recreate a foreign spirit in the local context. Of course that is the possibility of the awful discovery that your city does not have what it takes to be an innovation hub if you are not willing to imbibe that foreign spirit. Then the question becomes how willing are you to be a commercial success?

I noticed subversive elements in Weiner's ideas which he generously provided from the aftermath of pandemics and total wars. A generation of leaders had been cleared off the deck from such disasters. A fresh generation fills the vacuum and innovation flourished. A stable city with an existing government would not welcome such transformational change. Therefore Weiner's ideas would not be popular with decision makers even if he is spot on, but I am not sure if he is. His thesis is not testable without existential consequences.

Mouse: From Logitech to Logitech

My Logitech mouse which I bought in August 2014 has made way for another Logitech yesterday. I bought it with "funny money" i.e., the rebates from buying petrol.

As a rule I typically run through a mouse in under two years. Therefore I no longer buy the pricier ones. I think Logitech used to make them sturdier. Some of the latest designs from Microsoft for keyboard cum mouse for Bluetooth connections look very good. Perhaps I would migrate to that when my Notebook eventually gives up on me. It doesn't look like happening anytime soon though. I am surprised this 4 year old machine is still serving me very well but I feel vulnerable without warranty protection.

I wished I know the secret of longevity for the mouse too.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Is the Zika virus here already?

I screenshot this on December 31 last year intending to write about it but like so many things these days, never got around to it. I had wondered when it would arrive here and how long before the media picked it up, disseminate the info, when the public start to get worried. I also thought this is unnecessary since practically all of us are so connected to the Internet, we will know about Zika long before it appears in our newspapers.

But you need the newspapers to tell a story on Zika which enough people read for them to respond together. Before that people speak quietly and those with unborn kids worriedly to each other. I think that moment is now.

It would be extraordinary if Zika has not made home in Singapore by now but I hope we never have a Zika baby, and it is disturbing I have read in our papers about any test for the Zika.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Were the deported Banglas terrorists?

I was curious about the NYT perspective. This is a dropped on your lap opportunity to compare how we report this story versus them.

The Bangladesh authorities found there were no evidence of Al Qaeda or ISIS influence among those we had arrested and deported. In fact some of them were sent back to their families.

NYT also says,

Mr. Islam said that the 14 men who had been charged “were mentally ready to get involved with terror activities at any time,” but that the police had not found “any specific plan of carrying out an attack on any particular target.”

Now that is the Singapore difference, to play it safe enough don't even think! You never know such thoughts would little to tentative half-hearted actions which we consider sufficient to bring you in. Why else would there be the ISA if it satisfies the rigors of the law right?

So who has the accurate story? Singapore or Bangladesh? For now it does not matter. In time the truth will see the light of day. There are too many stories than I have time for now. We are brutal about keeping this place safe.

Damage control was swift. See below.

What choice have they got? To be fair their lives here would be considered hardship by locals but very good by their home standards.

Just don't think armed Jihad and you would be OK. Without thought there is no action. Here even the wrong reading materials is considered prejudicial.

You know these Bangladeshi workers might actually be planning to attack Singapore but our authorities prefer to keep that a secret with only a hint that the 27 could easily have changed their minds and attack us instead. 27 of them with long knives can do a lot of damage already.

Prof Shih is right about entrepreneurship but...

As I look back, I feel that in business nothing is harder and more risky than entrepreneurship. I have also taken away one lesson which is peculiar to Singapore. To have world beating success we must choose the options which everyone think is going to fail. That was how we get here and also how we continue to be a shiny gem. In other words we always have to stay special by reinventing ourselves. To do that we cannot be too obsessed with commercial success, much less a quick pay off. Even Mark Zuckerberg from big USA is very patient and strategic. What more us?

Perhaps the first flagship entrepreneur was Dr Goh Keng Swee? It was either a successful industrial Jurong or Goh's folly. If Goh had failed we would have starved. It was as brutal as that.

We cannot compete with others on hard and even soft resources as we are simply too small. So we have to compete on insight, foresight and the courage to go it alone. It is frightening and nobody likes to live in fear. Today we talk about having fun all the time but Vivian Balakrishnan was right to share with Wired UK that for us it is about survival.

"We are not supposed to be here," Vivian Balakrishnan -- who was minister for environment and water resources until October 2015, as well as the head of the Smart Nation Initiative -- told the audience at an innovation event that WIRED attended in April 2015. "What you see in Singapore is an exercise of desperate imagination. It's not about innovation because it's sexy, but because it's survival."

A lion city must be led by lions and I hope the late lion had turned many sheep into lions. Time is the ultimate test of this experiment.

Update: 8:20am

Nevertheless the intrepid must also not be a confused bunch who are actually fools in disguise. I shared this from SR Nathan regarding Dr Goh refusal to buy untested combat aircraft in a September 2011 post which unsurprisingly Google helped me find.

Remember what SR Nathan said about Goh Keng Swee rejecting the offer for some fighter aircraft because they weren't battle tested? The wise man know the limits of cognition and theory. Now the stakes for committing to nuclear energy on the little soil we have is infinitely more severe. Singapore could practically cease to exist.

So how to strike the right balance which this government is fond of asking? That is actually the wrong question. There is nothing to balance here. Just don't be stupid. Have some holy fear and never think too highly of ourselves but also be supremely confident as well. The tension is good.

Friday, January 22, 2016

In car camera kaput

I have somethings to blog about almost every day for the past five days but simply couldn't find the time. Sometimes it is because I have to be clearer about the subject before I could write anything meaningful.

Last night the the car video recorder suddenly stopped working. Got this in March 2014 and it was very cheap. Wonder if I should replace it with the same one which cost about C$38. I can buy it at eBay for about C$31 now. The price has come down. It is also available at Qo10 for about S$34

Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Tweaking" our political system

What are the powers that be trying to do messing with our political system again? Who do they think they are? Founding fathers earned the right to do such things and so we accepted the changes LKY brought but these folks have not earned the moral right to do this. Sure they own the commanding heights in parliament but that again is also voters' unique and peculiar response to the harsh realities of ensuring Singapore's success.

In political systems, small changes have great impact. Tweaking is simply deceptive selling. Enough people here clever enough to see through it.

They better explain, persuade and sell this exceptionally well or be prepared for a backlash in the next GE. I can imagine they are trying to fix the Elected President system but you cannot depoliticise that if you ask us to approve a candidate via the ballot box!

Jakarta attacked: All the brave words

All that brave speech but what counts is action. I guess that is being Indonesian. Trinna Leong cannot resist after telling how folks are staying away to round it up with the following by a college student,

"I feel much safer now..."


But at least their security forces do not lack courage or determination. Kudos to them.

After 9/11 the Americans showed up in force at their football games. They were not afraid. Now that is courage in action.

If something like Jakarta would to happen in Singapore, how would we behave afterward? The last time we stood in the rain but that is determination, nothing to do with courage.

Perennial: Kids cheating their Parents

Like pedophilia but would be less often stories like this will appear again and again in our papers. Like the former this one makes me very angry. Times have changed but there was a time when such kids would be put to death. I think partly because a less sophisticated society saw it as murder of one's parents since practically that would be the result. Today as a society we can step in but as much as possible we must keep exploring for more ideas and ways to bring these kids to task.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

School Parking: Too much power to bean counters

This one has my goat. First saw it last Friday, again the next day and many times on Facebook especially the one yesterday.

If we consider teaching a calling then we respect it as such. You don't want to keep strict scores with the teachers especially when they do not as well. This was made very clear when someone reminded us:

"Former teacher lists 13 examples of "fees" teachers have had to pay out of their own pocket...."

This inane idea of getting teachers to pay for parking in school of course come from bean counters who see and weigh the world as beans in different sizes and colour. There is a lot more to life than just beans. Unfortunately these government accountants have so much power.

I used to blog here a few years ago that the government was prone to know the price of everything but the value of nothing. This episode really remind me of that DNA once more. I hope we can do better.

Note this comment from the Facebook story:

Remembering Glioblastoma Multiforme

Saw this last Friday but was too busy to do anything about it until now.

Glioblastoma Multiforme the infamous and practically unbeatable tumor that took mom away when she was still quite young. So this is a good and significant milestone achieved fighting this one.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

What happened to guys' pants?

Great! When did this happen? First time I noticed in men's fashion they wore trousers that are clearly too short. It would be interesting to look out for who are doing this here.

You can buy this for $19.90 off Qoo10 which is shipped from Korea.

Update: 5:50pm

I was told that the Beatles started this way back in the 60s. Did my parents make my brother and I do the same? I remember at one point my mom bought us purple pants.

Bought HP K4000 Bluetooth Keyboard

Just bought this HP K4000 Bluetooth keyboard for about $40 with the money accumulated on my Everyday Card from filling the car tank. We love to use the positive balance at Popular bookstore. This keyboard would make annotating my thinking maps on my Tablet very convenient.

I had earlier spent an hour at SL Square and left with only the cheapo reading glasses. You have to do your homework before shopping there. Prices can vary very widely. The shop I wanted to buy a cheapo Bluetooth keyboard wasn't open and I wasn't happy with the prices quoted by the others. I was hoping to get a Chinese non branded one for between $15 to $20.

Moving from Funan To SL Square

I didn't realize the new Downtown line comes to close to Sim Lim Square. Mentally I am preparing to to give up Funan Centre and return to Sim Lim Square.

We had arrived too early for lunch at Fatty Weng, so we took a walk around the building and made this wonderful discovery. I never liked to drive to SL Square, its parking rates are terrible and not always easy to find a parking spot as well.

Reading Glasses: Good & Cheap

Bought these for $4.90 each at the sprawling Level 1 shop in the middle of Sim Lim Square this afternoon after lunch at Fatty Weng. Quite well made, should have bought one or two more and leave them all over the house!

Radha Exports is the company behind ValueDollar and ABC chain store. I used to buy cheap orange Kit Kat and breakfast cereal from them.

Friday, January 8, 2016

China: A giant kid at financial markets

The woeful inexperience of the Chinese in financial markets is showing.

My ex boss rued that they are like a giant learning to walk and when it falls threatened to break or trample on us. What an apt description.

Better get your act together or risk losing the premium you have enjoyed. Watch and learn how Draghi and Bernanke played the confidence game. Unfortunately the Chinese mindset of using raw power over shrewd cajoling and threats means they are wearing the wrong clothes to the party!

China is forever faced with this conundrum of using Chinese or International approaches to solve every problem. This time it shows they don't know what they were doing.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Business: Heads I win; Tails you lose

Business leaders here have shown their true colors once more with the most selfish proposals before Finance Minster Heng Swee Keat. Kudos to George Huang and many other who saw through this quickly. Really reflect badly on the captains of business here. They are quick to ask for help and get others to do the work for them. I don't wish to but often business is either our enemy or most times friendly enemy.

Their proposal basically creates a situation which they enjoy all the upside with no downside which the people will have to carry. If the government is stupid to agree to these proposals they will bear the political cost at some point. Dealing with business is not about trust but leverage often in a combination of carrot and stick. They never cared for Singapore, only their short term interests. If they ran out of luck they will come crying for help. If you tell them to restructure they threaten to decamp to another country or more likely roll over and die. There are exceptions but they are the minority. Most of them are SMEs who are in business beyond the profit motive. No listed company is in this category and Alan Chan from SPH was stupid enough to allow his name to be used in the story. Imagine had SMRT been a non-listed entity, it would have paid more attention to maintenance, but it was run for profit maximization and the short term. They were right to assume that the buck would stops with the government when push come to shove. Tax payers will assume the tab to restore the system after management and shareholders have gutted it.

Just as we cannot have government like elsewhere, we cannot allow business here to be like everywhere else too. It will work against our interests for long term growth and survival. This comes across as idealistic and impractical but sadly we do not have a choice if we want to secure our future. In other words in many companies we have placed the wrong people at the top.

Update: Jan 8 9:55am

I just read BT on this debate. I happen to be reading Vox before I decided to update this post.

Quoting Vox because they made it so clear,

The Chinese political system is full of political and economic elites who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo and not changing the economy. For example, China's energy sector is dominated by three major oligopolies, which have used their political connections to block reforms designed to introduce competition (and thus fuel growth) in the field.

Now comparing with what BT printed, quoting them,

Esmond Choo, a senior director at broker UOB Kay Hian, said that the SBF recommendations are timely as Singapore Exchange (SGX) has been under pressure from regional competitors for years. The proposal to use pension monies to invest locally will professionalise retirement investing and strengthen local fund management capabilities, he said.

I hope lots of readers realize Mr. Choo was just talking his own book for his own narrow business interest. Fortunately BT always better than ST reporting on such issues sought the opinion of many more fair minded experts.

Similarly, David Gerald, president and CEO of investor lobby group Securities Investors Association of Singapore (Sias), said that GIC should not be restricted to only local markets when investing CPF monies. CPF members will want good returns, and GIC will naturally want to diversify, he said. "Let them go for local investments that match overseas investments' returns," Mr Gerald added

Come on when anyone wants you to do something good for him but not you they never tell you the real reason. This is as old as Adam and Eve when the Serpent sold Eve the idea of eating that forbidden fruit with half true promises. The problem is not blatant and obvious lies. It is always the partly true that is the problem. Buy Esmond Choo and the CEOs argument to your peril. Remember CEOs are generously rewarded when the stock price is high. When we have only ordinary people in charge, structure always breed behavior.

Hard disc from the safe deposit box

Retrieved this from the safe deposit box today and replaced it with the most updated collection of the photos we have taken - A 400 GB hard disc with 180 GB of photos.

It was so long ago, I can't remember when I left this at the box. The file date stamp pointed to 2007. So it has been eight years since we open the box. This hard disc capacity is only 40 GB! I am using micro SD cards that are 64 GB.

Finally COE prices will trend down faster

There is nothing to be surprised about, rather it is a signal from buyers of what is coming keeping in view of the darkening external economic and security environment. If China catches a cold the whole of Asia gets pneumonia. 

The most important feature is until the final minutes to tender closing the highest bid was $22,000. I expect volatility and the general trend to be downward going forward. 

The bottom opens up

You know the year wouldn't open well but you always have to see it happen to fully appreciate it. I saw the sign now on the fourth trading day of the year. The bottom has opened up and it is too dark to see except to experience the fall.

My friends and I are thankful for our dry powder. As usual it will not be easy to act against the crowd. Always not bold enough.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Finally Bluetooth adapter works

I bought a USB Bluetooth adapter two years ago for USD 1.89 but couldn't get it to work. It ended up at the end of the drawer until I saw it again yesterday when I had to look for an old hard disc.

I gave it another try this morning and it worked! The difference? A different bluetooth headset. But it wasn't easy to set it up and I got it right only by trial and error. It is also Bluetooth version 2 and not 4 which is what we have on our phones and tablets now.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Visiting President Wee on New Year's Day

We begun last year with visiting my in-laws and mom niches at the Mandai Columbarium. We have done the same this year. We also dropped by after Qing Ming for obvious reasons. We have been back at least twice every year for more than ten years.

Ten years ago, we visited President Wee's niche. We paid him our respect again this afternoon. I am impressed he still have fresh flowers (the yellow orchid).

The daughter also spotted his late parents' and other relatives niches nearby.

That is President Wee's parents.

And a photo I took of the President's niche seven months after he passed away. Then he had only fresh flowers.

Update: Jan 5 9:45pm

Kept this pic in my Dropbox for so long. This is the place to keep it permanently.