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Monday, July 13, 2015

Wanna Be Like Greece?

I have been following the Greek Euro Crisis with bated breath. It has all the elements of a Greek Tragedy (minus the iambic trimeter). I do think it beats K-drama any day!

Here is the story.

Greece is Europe's prodigal son, profligate and unproductive. It had poor lifestyle habits that prevented it from creating wealth.

Greece is a high risk borrower. There is a real risk that it will default. As such, banks will only lend to Greece if the returns on the lending are high (i.e., high interest rates). In other words, since Greece had a poor credit rating, lending institutions were only willing to lend to Greece provided that interest rates were on the level of loansharking. That made the problem worse. Greece had to pay off a huge debt, which got larger because of hefty interest rates.

However, Greece wasn't very good at making lifestyle changes. It could not become productive. Its economy shrank. It was incapable of creating wealth enough to pay off its debt.

Watching the Greek story unfurl, it makes me thankful and grateful that the new PAP is also good with finances and savvy (maybe not as good as the old PAP... but I know I am biased) in the ways of economic growth. After all, the Singapore economy is still holding up. The new PAP may have been insensitive about social issues. The new PAP may have lost touch with people's hearts.

It never lost touch with economic growth.

You know, the new PAP was like a husband whose sole way of showing love was to ensure the family had enough money. This husband loved his family deeply. He was serious and gruff, never smiled and did not understand other people's weakness. He was always working so hard to make money that he did not have time to show love and affection. He also drove his family hard and when his family did not work hard or well enough, he adopted foreign children to help support the family.

At the same time, he was supremely confident that he was a good husband and demanded the respect commensurate with his own self-view.

Yet, through it all, this husband did not stop loving his family. It may be hard to believe, but I think it is true.

The story continues...

A joker named Tsipras developed the delusion that Europe would have no political will to throw it out of the Eurozone. His government's reasoning was that Europe would lose a trillion Euros if there was a Grexit (see HERE). He believed that Europe would be so afraid of losing one arm that it would loan another arm. This is, of course, a sort of deluded logic (born of emotional blindsiding and a striking lack in Theory of Mind). Judging from Greece's track record, Europe has every reason to believe that in 3 years time, they could stand to lose both arms if they committed a second arm today.

As such, the world was treated to a spectacle of incredible infantilism on the part of Greece. Greece went into emotional convulsions, ran a referendum and tantrummed a HUGE "No" collectively to the austerity plan proposed by the rest of Europe.

Europe, like any wise parent, disengaged, left Greece to tantrum till it was tired. You can tantrum all you like but if I say no ice-cream until you behave, it is no ice-cream. Then, 4 days later, Greece responded by promising to behave. It really, really wants that ice-cream. Greece gave promises of even more disciplined and better behaviour than what Europe demanded at first.

But... but... but... by now, Europe was certain that Greece had no intention of keeping its promises to behave well. So, a Grexit is inevitable. Else, Greece needs to allow Europe to dictate to Greece how to change its lifestyle and send in supervisors to oversee lifestyle changes within Greece (which is really shameful). However, what is Europe to do? If Europe is to risk a 2nd arm, it needs to enforce discipline within Greece because clearly, the Greeks are unable to discipline themselves.

So, this lead to even more emotional convulsions - "Aaaaah! We are humiliated! We are one Europe (one family). We cannot break up this family! We are being bullied and exploited by the strong!" 

Strong people can get hurt too... and hurt badly. If it you were Europe, would you risk a 2nd arm for the chopping off? It is no coincidence that France and Italy support Greece's 3rd bailout. Both countries did not contribute much money to the bailouts. These 2 countries talk only!

Update: Greece is still able to stay in the Eurozone. However, it will be required to sell its most valuable assets (Greek islands and archaeological sites). Many Greeks feel humiliated and know that more suffering awaits.

Really? You want jokers like Tsipras in government who lead your country there? You want emo-emo convulsions in politics?

I read social media and see people write that none of our PAP politicians have "charisma". Hello... Tsipras is very, very charismatic leh... gosh, the fella looks like a Greek God! I look at that face and my heart skips 2 beats! I watch him swing onto his sexy motorbike and I cannot breathe! Ooooh la la!

My heart and my lungs work perfectly fine when I look at Lee Hsien Loong, Heng Swee Keat, Tan Chuan Jin (ok... this one quite hamsum but I still breathe good), Khaw Boon Wan and Chan Chun Sing. Of course, if we could have a Lee Kuan Yew (both hamsum and technocrat) it is good.

Else, I prefer my PAP politicians to a Tsipras any day!

The new PAP has gone through a gruelling 5 years. A wife confronted her husband on poor behaviour  in 2011. Much was said and through that the new PAP understood us better. The new PAP had the courage to break out of its previous delusions. The new PAP did not go into emo-emo convulsions of apologies and public self-flagellation.

It quietly changed its behaviour.

That is all I need to understand the sincerity of this husband, and his love for this country. The new PAP has wronged us to some extent but that happens in any marriage. You hurt each other because you don't know better. Then, you find out. You talk. You develop a better mutual understanding. Each side improves.

And you forgive.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sng Buay & Soursop Smoothie

This smoothie recipe is very addictive.

A can of pineapple + 1 soursop + 5 sour plums (sng buay).

Syrup from canned pineapple + deseeded soursop + minced sng busy (sour plums). Blend till smooth.

Add ice. Blend till smooth.

Pineapple + cucumber + kale + water ... this is not bad too but raw kale has lots of oxalates which can cause kidney stones. I don't do this very often.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

TCM Relief for Hormonal Imbalance

I finally found a Doctor to help me with my hormone condition. I am more comfortable with natural medicine than with synthetic medicines patented by Big Pharma, anyway. The herbs prescribed by this Dr. are effective. 

How do I know? 

I experience side effects AND good effects. On the plus side, I have more energy and less brain fog.  My eyes are less dry. I don't seem to feel thirsty all the time even whilst needing to pee all the time. On the minus side, I experience a slight throbbing headache at times and I wake up 3 times a night drenched in sweat.

The Doctor said that he would need a few consultations to calibrate the herbal recipe. So, I have medicine enough for 1 week and that will allow him to check if this recipe is appropriate for me.

The clinic reception.

The Doctor's CV.

The Doctor's name card.

My packets of herbs. There is 1 for every day. I have to brew 2 bowls over night (in a thermal pot) and take them the next day (morning and night). 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

SMRT's Magic Wand

I kinda think it is not reasonable for people to expect...
(1) that equipment will suddenly become new and...
(2) poor work processes as well as...
(3) management practices...
... will quickly improve just because a CEO was retired and a new CEO took over.

It takes time to clean up other people's crap, you know.

Why Punish the New CEO?
The new CEO is not responsible for the bad state of affairs but people still want to dock his pay. That too does not seem very reasonable to me. If you paid a new CEO badly because of a previous CEO's actions, then you can only attract poor calibre CEOs. Then, even more the whole network would continue downhill. Desmond Kuek is probably paid more than the previous CEO because his job is many times more challenging.

The previous CEO was given a healthy system to run. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Desmond Kuek has to bring health back to a system whilst keeping it running! That is a tougher job.

The SMRT is 28 years old.

How old are your refrigerators / washing machines / gas stoves?

The equipment is 28 years old. Due to insufficient maintenance in the past, the system has aged even faster than it should have. Ideally, system renewal should start from Day 1. Unfortunately, it did not.

So how?

Behead Someone?
I suppose we could dig the previous CEO out of comfortable retirement and behead him/her? Even then, it won't fix the system. It is just some bloodletting à la ISIS. Do we really want to be like ISIS?

Shut Down the Network for a Few Years?
We could shut down the entire network for a few years to effectuate a complete and thorough changeout of every single part so that we can have an all new system again. In essence, close it all down for a few years and rebuild.

Sack All Long Time Staff?
The CEO does not do everything in the company by himself. Wouldn't it be great if companies could operate through a hive mind. From the moment you change the Queen Bee, all the worker bees know her mind. From the moment a CEO takes over, he/she and his/her staff can meld their minds.

Long time staff need time to learn new ways. To be humane, SMRT cannot sack them all wholesale. Even if staff were sacked wholesale, new staff need time to learn the ropes, no?

Wave a Magic Wand?
I think it is not reasonable to expect immediate results from Desmond Kuek. He cannot wave away with a magic wand, 3 decades of bad maintenance practices AND poor staff habits.

It took 5 years to build the network (see HERE: 1982 to 1987), and if you consider that only part of the network was built in 5 years, then you would understand that the whole network needed perhaps 10 - 15 years to build (not sure of this)? Desmond Kuek has to renew hundreds of kilometres of network whilst running the services 7 days a week. Can an entire system be renewed within 5 years part-time (at night) when the whole system needed more than 5 years (full-time) to build?

System reliability is a function of ...
(1) system health and
(2) human operational habits
(3) system design

System Health
To ensure system health, there needs to be (I would imagine) a phased change-out of the various component parts. I don't see how the whole system can be renewed altogether at once unless the whole network shuts down for a couple of years. Even if the system shuts down for a few years, renewal would still need to be phased and scheduled.

When you renovate your new apartment, does everything go in together? Do not the different crafts (woodwork, tiles, electricity, curtains) need to be phased and scheduled for installation?

That takes time. We are talking about 28 years of neglect, 28 years of ageing... and hundreds of kilometres of track to make good. Since these are railway tracks, as long as even 1 train is running, no engineers can work on the tracks. If trains run from 5.30 a.m. to midnight, I don't suppose the engineers have much time to work on the tracks - 3 hours? 4? 5?

Staff Habits
To change the habits of old timer SMRT staff, there needs to be training, coaching, incentives and disincentives. These need time to work, no? Besides, it takes a while for people to change. Unless of course, the solution is to sack all the old-timers.

Isn't that a very ruthless a way to turnaround a company?

System Design
As for system design, SMRT, as I understand it, has no say in design. Its mandate is to run the trains.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, 6 bank accounts of their Prime Minister that 670 million was allegedly funnelled into are frozen. Online rumours swirl about possible relation to murder of Ambank founder.

- Quoted wholesale from Calvin Cheng's Facebook post. -


I have always been secretly pleased that the HDB market near my house has a little known durian hub. In previous years, it was easy to get cheap durians without having to queue and wait. For some reason, this year has been very atypical. There were hordes of people buying durians even at 6pm. 

And I mean HORDES!

I had the idea to do the counter-intuitive thing and buy durians in the morning. So, I was there at 7.30 am. It was not too hard to find a fellow still having breakfast but willing to sell me something. I bought 3 thorny fruits at a discount (they always give discounts anyway). 

I laughed out loud though. The vendor was husking my durians for me. My 3 thorny durians attracted a small crowd. They were looking at my durians with this expression of yearning and longing. Looking into their eyes, I could see their individual fantasies of biting into the creamy flesh, inhaling the ambrosia-like fragrance, savouring the sweet bitterness of Durian du Terroir de Pahang. Looking at their faces, it was like they were watching errr... porn. 

Hmmmmm... I can imagine all the pleasure centres of their brains lighting up.

I have the bad habit of imagining brains. Whenever I mark an assignment, I draw a mental picture of the child's brain and visualize which part of the brain is lighting up (as in an MRI scan). It started as a conscious effort to relate types of HW and types of worksheet design to this or that physical centre of the brain. Now, I do it unconsciously and as a reflex whenever I mark work. Things are getting worse because I now fantasize about what complete strangers' brains look like when I stare at them!!

And I laughed at my own mental picture of their brain pleasure centres lighting up!

This rush for durians is quintessentially Singaporean. I have gotten so used to buying groceries amidst a background noise of PRC accents that it was actually quite odd to queue up and buy durians amidst the buzz of pure Singaporean talk.

The other noteworthy thing is that durian lore has become like wine lore. There are durians of different strains and differents terroirs. Aficionados discourse knowledgeably about the distinctive favours and notes and slight fermentations of XO, Red Prawn, Cat Mountain King.

I like variety in my durians so I buy from the JiakBaLang basket. They are way cheaper than all the durians du terroir, and I have fun getting surprises on my tongue.

He interrupted his breakfast to sell me durians.

Try and imagine what their brains look like! So funny, no?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


The Husband has digestive issues. Food gets stuck in his gut. He obtained some relief with acidophilus capsules but what REALLY helps are smoothies. If an apple is cut, The Husband eats half an apple. If it is a smoothie, I can feed him TWO whole apples. At dinner, I fed him half a punnet of grapes and a quarter of a cucumber just by giving him a smoothie.

It really helps move food along his gut. There is less flatulence and he does not feel bloated anymore.

In smoothies, I feed him vegetables he doesn't like... cucumber, celery, peppers and avocados. I mix these with the fruits he likes and that makes it go down easier. He gets a smoothie at breakfast. He gets a smoothie at dinner. That means ONE whole punnet of grapes and HALF a cucumber in one day.

That is an achievement. It is very hard to get The Husband (and Smelly Boy) to eat lots of fruits and veggies. Smelly Boy is even harder. He can taste a SINGLE slice of cucumber blended with an entire pineapple... and then he won't drink the whole smoothie at all.

"There is cucumber in there, Mom," says he.

Cucumber and grapes with a bit of pineapple juice (about 100ml)

All mushed up n a blender.

Portioned into cups.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Natural Aristocracy

“You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow. But if you don’t have a certain natural aristocracy in the system, people who are respected because they have earned that and we level everything down to the lowest common denominator, then I think society will lose out … If you end up with anarchy, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be delivered with brilliance.”

PM Lee Hsien Loong
At a dialogue with Fareed Zakaria on  26th June 2015

When PM Lee said "natural aristocracy", the word "aristocracy" is so salient that most people have missed out reading the word "natural". The term "natural aristocracy" was popularised by Thomas Jefferson (past President of the United States whose face is carved into Mt. Rushmore). It simply means that some men are by virtue of talent and strength of character First Among Equals.

How To Tell a Natural Aristocrat
The best illustration of a natural aristocrat is Dr Tan Lai Yong is a Natural Aristocrat, though he would never EVER accept such an accolade.

Many many years ago, I was a consultant for an industry body. I was still a young lady then. We were at a retreat outside Singapore and I was taking minutes in a corner of the room. A man walked in with a shabby briefcase and non-descript clothes. He had grey hair and a humble air. He bore some slight resemblance to the guy who runs the watch shop at Chong Pang wet market. You would not have noticed the man except that when he entered the room, the WHOLE ROOM shut up.

Since it was an industry level intervention, we were dealing ONLY with company CEOs. Every single CEO of their own company present in that room turned and gave him respect. The were ALL CEOs there. They were ALL self-made men. They were ALL entrepreneurs who were well-known in that industry.

THEY turned and gave him silent respect.

It made me wonder, and so I asked around who he was. It turned out that he was my Dad's old golfing partner. This man started out doing door to door sales in HDB estates with a briefcase full of catalogues. He built a multi-million dollar company from those humble beginnings. His company was an industry leader and he was actually a Past President of that industry association. He would still have been its President if he had not insisted to resign.

No wonder he was First Among Equals.

Culture of Respect in a Natural Aristocracy
PM Lee was speaking about Roy Ngerng and Amos Yee... and how these 2 had to be taught a lesson in respect, otherwise society would lose out and you will end up with anarchy.

The paradox in the phrase First Among Equals is that if there is a First then people cannot be equal. If people are equal, then there cannot be a First. Yet somehow, the phrase First Among Equals means something, no? We understand that amongst people who are equals, some are just better people... and these people command our respect by dint of whom they are. These better people do not REQUIRE the respect because they are better. They do not DEMAND such respect by claiming they are First, for in so doing, they will lose the respect of their Equals.

Hence, the culture of respect inherent in a Natural Aristocracy does not focus on the notion of First. It focuses on the notion of Equal. What I mean is that PM Lee and all this country's leaders deserve respect, NOT because they are First, but because they are Equal.

They Have Treated PM Lee Like Scum
Frankly, Amos Yee and Roy Ngerng have NOT given to PM Lee the respect due to even to an Equal (not to mention First). They have treated PM Lee as LESS than their equal. They have treated PM Lee like scum.

And that is wrong.

PM Lee has every right to demand basic human respect due to every human no matter what their station in life. He should not have to take scum treatment lying down.

It is one thing to disagree with country policy. It is one thing to criticise policy and practices. It is another to cover another man with calumny and poisonous insult. If you went to a restaurant and someone came to accuse you of stealing another man's wallet without proof, you would be neither hurt nor insulted? In essence, that was what Roy Ngerng did to PM Lee.

Why should a public servant be expected to take such insults without retaliating? Gee... if you did that to me at a restaurant, be prepared for me to gouge your eyes out and make you eat them with your Gin Tonic.

If you stood at the bus stop and someone accused you of f***ing another woman or even asked you to go f*** your own wife, you would feel respected as an Equal? In essence, that was what Amos Yee did to PM Lee.

Why should any of our politicians need to take such crap lying down just because the Western powers-that-be believe in Free Speech?

So yes! Sock it to 'em LHL! Make these 2 learn some respect! Never mind what the UN says! This is our business within Singapore. We are Singapore and we do things differently and copy no one!

I will write a later post on what I think of Free Speech. Hmmmmph!