Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Kino books!

I just, finally got my member's card at Kino! Figure I'll be buying lotsa books anyway...

Well, I was at Kino with Key. My intention was to get my membership and pick up two books. While I was walking around though, I saw a funny thing.. Two books next to each other that showed someone at Kino had a lame sense of humour.. =p

Book 1. Malcolm Gladwell's Blink (which I have), subtitled: The power of thinking without thinking.

Book 2. Michael leGault's Think!, subtitled: Why crucial decisions can't be made in the blink of an eye.

Well anyway, if you didn't think that was funny, you're probably not lame. Anyway, my two new books are:

1. Sandman vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, by Neil Gaiman

This is pretty cool. After reading Gaiman's American Gods and Anansi Boys, I find that I quite like his writing style. Interesting thing is, you'll see more and more of his work popping up on the shelves at Times the Bookshop ( I was at PS store the other day), and the shop is quite popularist about which books it puts on its sci-fi and fantasy shelves. So I guess he's becoming mainstream popular.

Anyway, will review as I read, and as I add more of the volumes to my collection.

2. The Undercover Economist, by Jim Harford

This book was recommended by Wei Shyong. He'd read the first two chapters and shared with me the example: Who makes the most money in getting you the Starbucks coffee? The answer? Think, who along the entire chain has the rarest commodity?

So I'll slowly read this and free-associate myself through its principles. First off..
If scarcity increases the share of profit to the holder of scarce resource, and abundance of buyers transfers profit to sellers.. then Singapore's drive to produce "entrepreneurs", not the Silicon Valley types but more properly people who start small businesses... that will drive rentals and the price of commercial property up, while making it harder for those businesses to make good profits..

Kind of half-baked, but hopefully it'll get better as we go along..

Monday, March 27, 2006

Good food on the weekend

The other day Andy mentioned that he was running out of places to eat.. So here's a couple of good places where I ate on the weekend. It's not rocket science food review, I'm just a simple person, if I like it, it's good! Otherwise, it's not! =p

Anyway, Saturday evening was Ramen Ramen Ramen at the Rail Mall, along Upper Bukit Timah. Accessible by bus if you know the Upp Bt Timah stretch well. Dish: Ramen, Ramen, Ramen, their signature. Think ramen noodles in tonkotsu (pork) broth, really really good! Like all the ramen dishes I've eaten, light on meat, but it's really very delicious! And only a teeny weeny bit spicy, even to me with my super-sensitive pepper-detecting fire-breathing tongue. There's also a chizu ramen (cheese!) which I didn't try but it seemed interesting. Side dishes: the codfish was pure heaven, the meat had just a bit of fish oiliness, like snowfish, and blended perfectly with the sauce. I would not recommend the tempura stuff though, kind of bland. Is it supposed to be? Anyway, it's quite affordable too, think the ramen cost was $7.50, well worth the money.

Sunday evening: Margarita's in... Clementi, somewhere. Off Commonwealth avenue, opposite the Clementi fire-station, near Nanhua Primary? Yeah. there. That is so so so so so a drive-in place, unless you want to work up a sweat before AND after dinner. There's a couple of restaurants there, right in the middle of all this landed property. Serves mexican food, I wanted the fajitas, but waiter cautioned it was spicy. In the end... Dish: Some fish (I forget) in avocado sauce. The non-spiciest dish, but it was only so-so. The catfish (which is off the menu) which my mom was having was much much better, and the vegetable paste it came with went superbly well. Drink: Peach honey was only so-so. But the place seems to serve sangrea, next time will try. Side: Nacho's were good, even without sauce. (I don't take salsa sauce, same culprit again.) The fried mushrooms were fantastic, some of the best mushrooms I've ever taken. Bring on the portobello's!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Ban smoking?

This article talks about yet another city that's banning smoking. I like this part:

...defending the right to smoke is politically as appealing as defending the right to pick your nose.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sunset Grill and Bar

Met Jav, HJ, CZ, Jon and Pierre at the Sunset Grill and Bar for dinner today. Well, out of the whole gang I'm the only one who hasn't bought a car, so had to finagle a lift from CZ. Met him at Yio Chu Kang, and went down Jalan Kayu towards Seletar Camp. It's the hardest place to go, so for the benefit of others I will now provide instructions.

Let's start from the northern end of Jalan Kayu, at the entrance to Seletar Camp. Go through the entrance.. yes, it's inside the camp, don't be like Pierre and wander around outside looking for it. At Picaddily circus, take the second exit, East Camp. Head down and keep going straight, looking for the Seletar Base Golf Course entrance on your right. Turn right, go past the golf course clubhouse, and take the first left turn, there's a sign for "East Camp". Follow the road (ignoring the two right turns) until you come to a T-junction. Take the left turn, and follow the road until you have a chance to right-turn. There should be a signboard here as well. Follow on till you come to the hangars. There should be a left turn that goes behind the hangars... You'll know you're on the right road because next to the road on the right side there's a red Fokker building. Also, there's signs that say no left turn and no right turn before the building.

Almost there! Just follow the road till the end, and left turn at the T-junction. Park, and the sunset grill is just there!

Well now the tough part is over. It's quite a nice place, cool and with the standard Wallaby's kind of fare: Steak, pork chops and fish for main, buffalo wings, calamari, nachos and fried mushrooms for starters. Kind of expensive: My pork chops were $16+, steaks are $22+ to 28+ for ribeye, and wings were $13 for half a dozen level 0 wings. (no, they don't play warcraft, it's a spiciness measure. Level 0 is fried wings, buffalo wings start at level 1.) Verdict: good food, pricey. Jon would add, good place to bring girls because of the dark areas all around... lol..

Conversation was mostly catching up, and crapping, the usual. But before everyone else arrived I had quite an interesting conversation with CZ. He was talking about swimming, the wet kind. He's kind of into sports and fitness now, going for biathlon next week. Now for me, I was swimming since before nursery, was actually competing and winning prizes as a little kid in swimming club, but got yanked out of swimming classes when primary school started. So I thought my basics were pretty good. But here CZ was talking about all the research he had done into swimming: how you're supposed to spin on your long axis in free style, how your arms are supposed to be making a "hold" like you're doing rock climbing and hauling yourself along, how you're supposed to twist your arm like you're diving into a sweater. Really cool stuff analysing the process of swimming! Was superb interesting, thinking about this kind of thing.. physics and swimming.

Anyway, he recommended a book, Total Maybe I'll go look it up.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

We're out of Europe! :<

Woke up to sad news.. we lost, out of Europe now. Well. let's hope we can overhaul Man U...

Parliament was fun!

I spent a day in Parliament yesterday. It was fun! too bad I couldn't bring a camera in to show and tell.. but I don't understand why, anyway, it's a televised session, why no camera?

Right at the gate to exchange passes I had my first incident of note. The queue had two lines, "Ministry officials" and "public". I was behind my friend who was being served, and I'd just noticed that the other counter was open, but I didn't walk over (my friend's name and mine were together so it was easier to serve us both). Instead, this lady walked past us to the counter, past the rest of the queue. So the guy behind us spoke up and said, "Excuse me, why don't you have to queue?" And the lady said she was a ministry official. Whereupon the guy who spoke up said, "Well, so are we!" The lady just ignored him at that point...

You know those magnetic walkthrough scanners? At the airport, I always worried that the screw in my wrist would set it off. Now with the screw out, I confidently unloaded all metal objects and walked through. Set it off. In fact, no-one managed to get through. This tells me two things. (1) Why bother with the big scanner? The policeman's gonna have to screen you with the handheld scanner anyway. (2) If someone walks through without setting it off, as a police personnel I would really be suspicious.

Well, on to the debate proper. Three main funny bits and 1 interesting one:

1) PhD from USC v Hon D from SCU
1 MP's speech touched on the misuse of honorary doctorates. In particular the raised the example of one CEO who recently had to clarify that he did not have a PhD from University of Southern California, he had an honorary doctorate from Southern California University. "The former a top 30 university, the latter... couldn't be found in a listing of universities in California."

2) So long as it's a male costume...
Dr Ng Eng Hen made a joke about Mr Lim Swee Say's being a chef one week and a roadsweeper the next. He was remarking on the success of the JRP and wondered what uniform he would wear next - but so long as it was a male costume it was okay!

3) Bao bao bao
Mr Seng Han Thong also had a very nice speech in Chinese. I actually thought the Mandarin speakers were much more entertaining than most of the English ones. Anyway, he made a few jokes based on the use of the word "bao" in outsourcing, comparing "wai bao", "hao bao", "lan bao" and others. I'm looking for a Mandarin transcript, anyone have one?

4) NUS University Fees
Out of order here, but this was the interesting one to me. Basically the argument is that NUS can practice "needs-blind admission" (true) and maintain a high-quality education ( some would disagree) based on 3 factors: Govt funding, realistic fees, and financial assistance for the poorest. And NUS/NTU/SMU together offered 25% of each cohort a high quality education.

Now, I first must say that I think that the fees generally are reasonable - whether hikes are, or whether consultation is necessary, I don't know. And the quality of education is not poor - Despite all of the stories I head bandied around, my memory of NUS education was a rigorous one, even if it was somewhat boring compared to my overseas experiences.

Therefore, I would not mind sending my child to NUS. However, I would not expect the same standard of education of say an Ivy League institution, no matter what the rankings say. That's not a slight to NUS. I simply think (and have always thought), that NUS has a dilemma at its being, in that it has to provide education for Singaporeans in general and is unable to restrict itself to an elite bunch of entrants.

Just remember. 25% of each cohort. I'm not sure how many students NUS has, but I'm pretty sure that entrance grades for NUS are far far lower than MIT, or most of the Ivy League schools. And that's the way it has to be, otherwise even more Singaporeans won't be able to get in. Not that Singaporeans are dumb, far from it, but it is not appropriate to compare NUS with the Ivy Leagues.

There's a lot to say here, but at the end of the day, I would say that NUS students should stop bitching about the "shortcomings" of NUS, and realise that their university education is in their own hands. If you think that your NUS degree won't get you places, well, you have plenty of time between classes and during holidays to do stuff to build up your resume.

Well, that takes care of quality. That leaves cost. Simply consider this: your education will help you earn higher wages. If you think that having an $x increase in your starting wage (NTU reported $2600 right?) and even larger increments over the rest of your working life are not worth the university fees and 4 years of your life, then my advice to you is, don't! If it is an economically sound decision, then why should anyone pay you to do what is profitable to you? If it's not a sound decision, then go seek out whatever gives you the best opportunity cost: entrepreneur, retailer, hawker, insurance agent, soccer player, Singapore idol. If you are at this juncture of your life, you have the opportunity to make of your life what you will. Your most precious resources are time and hope. Don't waste time burning your own hope...

Monday, March 06, 2006

ASK! and win something

Heh, Gahmen initiatives do tend to give away nice stuff nowadays. Last time it was that CPF financial planning game (how DID those guys score so high anyway?!!) and now, NLB is offering iPod Shuffles and other prizes, if you just ask questions...

Best part, you can ask by email... fire away! Me, I've got a ton of questions. Dunno if they're interesting or thought-provoking though, lol. Don't think I'll be lucky enough to win the iPod Shuffle, but books and movie tickets sound good too!

Check your wireless connection

Read this article on NYTimes, and thought, I've set up my wireless encryption from day 1,b but I'd better hop back and take a look.

Can you legislate against discrimination?

There's been a lot of focus in the last few months on discrimination: age, sex, race, even weight! New York Times had a feature which touched on this today. Basically, Craigslist is being sued for advertisements appearing on it which say things like, (and I quote from the NYTimes article)
"African Americans and Arabians tend to clash with me so that won't work out,"

and that's apparently against the law -- specifically, the federal Fair Housing Act. The person making the ad can be sued -- and now they're testing to see if Craigslist, carrying the ad, can also be sued.

My question is, if Mr XYZ placing the ad actually did feel that way, how would forcing him to place an ad minus the discriminatory comments, help to give fair housing? In the end, he would have those thoughts in his head when he makes a choice of room-mate.. Unless of course, you're saying that say an African American applied for the room and didn't get it, then he would be able to sue Mr XYZ for discrimination because he didn't get the room! Which would be mind-boggling to me, because, what, if I were letting out a room, I would discriminate actively against smokers, against druggies, against... well, if I just didn't think that I'd enjoy staying with him I wouldn't let him the room would I?

Or, look at this other NYTimes article, on an imam in NY. On page 4, the imam discusses how a tone-deaf man could sue for discrimination if he were not allowed to give the call to prayer. That's like, if people who couldn't sing wanted to lead praise and worship and could sue you if you didn't let them.

Of course, that's robably an extreme view of discrimination legislation in the US. But still, the main thing is that you can't effectively legislate against it. Instead, changing mindsets is the way to go...

Question: Is discrimination bad for the person discriminating, relative to the rest of society? If it is, we shouldn't need to bother, those guys can figure out what to do to help themselves. So for instance, if people refused to do business with people who discriminate, then the practice would soon die out.

On the other hand, if discrimination imposes costs on society (probably true, though I won't argue that at length today), but doesn't hurt the person discriminating: then there's no reason for him to stop discriminating. It's like the negative externality of traffic congestion.. no individual person has enough of incentive to stop driving, because most of the costs he inflicts is on others.

So if you want to end discrimination: discriminate against those who discriminate, today!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Two new blogs

Nekki just reloaded his blog, and XP finally started up her own. So, refresh the blog a bit so that can add theirs in!

I'm barely home for dinner nowadays. Other than the financial impact, the main thing is that I'm getting home late everyday and tired. And I'm missing out on catching up with friends + having any time for say, THC stuff. Am I happy? I feel comfortable with my current lifestyle.. but def got to make more time for friends. As for THC.. I don't know, I feel partly guilty about living a selfish life, but somehow the fire's gone out...