Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tough week ahead

Toyota just fumbled the ball in the red zone

Toyota Motor Corp's crippling sales shutdown of eight models due to a US safety recall will continue until at least mid-February. This is due a recall of floor mats that could trap gas accelerator pedals and pose potential hazards.
  • Toyota said it would recall as many as 1.8 million vehicles in Europe. This increases the global recalls of Toyota cars and trucks to about 7.5 million vehicles, almost as many as it sold worldwide in 2009.
  • With Toyota potentially unable to sell some of its most popular models including the Camry for a month or more, rivals readied new plans to poach sales from the world's largest automaker and the top-selling brand in the United States.
  • Ford Motor Co, Hyundai Motor Co and Chrysler Group LLC said they were rolling out incentives targeting Toyota customers.
  • The companies are following the lead of General Motors Co, which on Wednesday began offering Toyota customers payouts of up to US$1,000 or zero-per cent financing for up to five years if they trade in a Toyota for a GM vehicle.
  • In a blow to Toyota's reputation for quality, Consumer Reports said it was suspending its recommendations for the Toyota models at the centre of the accelerator pedal recall.
  • Toyota shares have lost 15 per cent since the recall was announced on Jan 21. Shares were down less than 1 per cent in trading in New York on Friday at US$77
  • Residual values of its vehicles could drop by 4 percentage points.
Source: Business Times

Toyota’s accelerator pedal recall and suspension of sales is confined to the following Toyota Division vehicles:
  • Certain 2009-2010 RAV4,
  • Certain 2009-2010 Corolla,
  • 2009-2010 Matrix,
  • 2005-2010 Avalon,
  • Certain 2007-2010 Camry,
  • Certain 2010 Highlander,
  • 2007-2010 Tundra,
  • 2008-2010 Sequoia
Highlander hybrids and Camry hybrids are not affected by this action and will remain for sale.

Further, Camry, RAV 4, Corolla and Highlander vehicles with VINs that begin with "J" are not affected and will remain for sale.

Source: Toyota Newsroom

Is Multi-Tasking Making You Ill?

The answer is a YES. And I am multi-tasking most of the time :p

Lifestyle Tips: Is Multi-Tasking Making You Ill? [via]

Most boring article EVER

Went for 2 x naps when reading this 29-pages long article titled "National Training Standard for Information Systems Security (InfoSec) Professionals". It's the most boring and dry document I ever read in my entire lifetime! To make things worse, the font used is those fixed with typewriter style!

OMG! It's such a torture.

工作真头痛

工作上压力大但没人能分担。这是因为工作太专门太秘密保密的后果。手上的两个工程都一样,没人能帮我。我一但不在它们就真的停工了。

刚过去的星期一至五,我上了一项5天的全天课程。人虽不在公司但不断的收到工作有关的简讯。昨天的周末,我一人到了工作岗位,花了6个钟头,只能把下个星期他们要的百分之25做好。每逢星期一至三,因晚上有课,我是不可能待在公司太迟的。真纳闷。

Google gives reward for every security hole found in Chrome

Google is giving away reward from $500 to $1337 (clever) for every security hole found in their browser Chrome. This move is to boost the confidence in their Chrome. I thought the monetary amount of the reward is pretty small.

Google dangles the Chrome carrot [via]

NUS Career Fair 2010

I thought it is good to at least have a feel what are the "hot" skills to equip with in the current job market.

NUS Career Fair 2010
http://www.nus.edu.sg/osa/career/downloads/students/Event%20Website%202010.pdf

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shagged and heavy headed

But still surviving ... ZZzzzz...

Impressed by Obama's warm interaction with the Americans

I am impressed with the way how the Obama Administration communicates with the people. That is true democratic leadership.

You may wish to fast forward to 10:00 minute and see how Obama is introduced by VP Biden. He is such a superstar! At times, you can even hear Obama using "Check it out".

20:00 minute
Change never comes without a fight. That's true then, it's true now. Change never comes without a fight. I won't stop fighting.

Watch 40:00 minute onwards to see how Obama took on questions from the audience. It is really close interaction. Mind you, questions thrown to him were all tough and against him but he took on coolly and openly. It is obvious that none of these questions were pre setup and staged unlike what's happening in SXXGXXXXE. That's democracy!

1:16:44 hour for closure. He talked on his understanding that everyone is different but we should respect one another. The interest of Americans must be put as top priority.

Although the video below is titled "Creating New Jobs by Investing in High-Speed Rail", it is really mainly on what are done to FIGHT.

Take part in Class Action Suit against wrong-doings of American financial institutions to recoup losses

From Class action in America:

An American legal firm, specializing in class action suits, is holding a seminar in Singapore in March to explain their service in assisting investors to seek compensation under US securities laws for their investment losses due to wrong doing by the financial institutions. More details about this service is shown in this video.

This firm will only collect a fee based on successful outcome of the legal action. If there is no recovery, no fee is payable. More details of the seminar will be announced later, when details are finalized.

Please provide your particulars in this form, if you are keen to attend the seminar.

I applaud the effort of the American firm for taking the lead. Class action suit is particularly "powerful" if you know how it works. A company can end up in bankruptcy and having to pay many times more as compensation. Because of the nature of class action suits, it can lead to abuse.

What is a Suspense Account?

In accountancy, a suspense account is an account used temporarily to carry doubtful receipts and disbursements or discrepancies pending their analysis and permanent classification.

Source: Wikipedia

Is the world getting transactional?

Hopes that the world is not all becoming transactional where people treat one another nicely only because they expect something in return. How sad and superficial.

4D3N Tokyo

Too short? I think so. In a dilemma yet again.
  • Singapore → Shenzhen → Hong Kong → Tokyo → Hong Kong → Shenzhen → Singapore
  • Singapore → Hong Kong → Tokyo → Hong Kong → Singapore
  • Singapore → Tokyo → Singapore (4D3N)

Shall turn down tuition on Statistics

Unexpectedly, a friend of mine suddenly MSN me if I can teach statistics for free in May/June period. Before I can even make a decision and reply, that person went offline.

ACCA-level statistics? Though I have taken a module on statistics during my Uni days and am reasonably okay with the subject, statistics has never been my cup of tea. To teach, one has to be quick with his thoughts and must always be many steps ahead of the tutee. I guess I better turn down this tuition assignment and not give myself unnecessary sleepless nights.

It's time to say No.

5 days on course = 5 days no work

5 days on course
= 5 days no work
= 7 work-related SMSes
= 1 Saturday burnt tomorrow
= 1 Sunday burnt? (NO WAY)

I shall make a trip down to my lab to try to clear as much stuff as possible. 2 projects so happen to be back in full horsepower yet again.

So, unlucky!

Current stock portfolio

  1. Cambridge Industrial Trust [J91U]
  2. Koh Brothers Group Limited [K75]
  3. Mapletree Logistics Trust [M44U]
  4. Neptune Orient Lines Limited [N03]
  5. Parkway Holdings Limited [P27]
  6. Singapore Exchange Limited [S68]
  7. Singapore Technologies Engineering Limited [S63]
  8. SMRT Corporation Limited [S53]
  9. UMS Holdings Limited [558]
RED means currently at paper loss.

Market correction looks to be over very soon.

Added Cambridge Industrial Trust to my stock portfolio

Did my second buy transaction for the week and all during my course! HAHA..

The latest addition to my stock portfolio, Cambridge Industrial Trust, is in line to my long term high dividend yield strategy. The current yield for Cambridge is at 11.876%.

BTW, they are distributing dividends of S$0.01377 per unit, which is approximately 3% for only one quarter.

Alright.. Need a break for new cash injection.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thanks for borrowing 2 books for me

I would like to first thank my friend's sister, who is a librarian working in Temasek Polytechnic, even though she did not end up borrowing the 2 books for me because her own borrowing quota has exceeded its limit.

Another person I would like to thank is my Singapore Polytechnic's lecturer.

Hi Hon Chun

The books are available in the SP Main Library.
I've arranged for the books to be sent over to our Hilltop library which is the same building as my office.
It will take about 3 day working days to process. Will let you know once the books are here. Likely will be next week.
Let me know how do you wish to pick it up.

Yeah! Shall be meeting my lecturer for lunch in Singapore Polytechnic next week :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

开始变老的时候。。。

当你发现开始喜欢孩子的时候,也就是你开始变老的时候。
我已老了。

Add on:

以上不代表我一路来都不喜欢小孩。
我只是想说现在我可能更对小孩之间的对话更有兴趣了。

What are Sundries Account?

An account in a sales ledger or purchase ledger for recording things bought or sold from companies who are not regular customers or suppliers and who therefore do not need their own separate accounts.

Source: Financial Times Lexicon

Erm.. I think I gave the wrong definition two weeks ago, during a Principles of Accounts tuition session.

Disgusted by the "bazaar malam" financial advisers

I am utterly disgusted by the "bazaar malam" financial advisers stationed at Compass Point.

Erm.. I shall write a comment on my impression on the overall financial advisory industry in Singapore when I have the time. It will include the banks, insurance companies and independent financial advisories.

Warren and Bill Discuss the Economic Crisis

Watch my two idols (偶像), Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, discussing on some of the effects that the economic crisis is having on poor countries, international aid, and the value of money.

This video reminds me watching a separate interview, involving Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on CNN, in Somerset Lake Point Bangkok last month.

NOTE: You will require Microsoft Silverlight plugin to be able to watch the below video.

Warren and Bill Discuss the Economic Crisis
http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Conversations/specialfeature.aspx?id=83

My product review on Apple new iPad tablet

Apple finally unveiled the much anticipate iPad tablet. This new gadget is described as revolutionary by Apple's CEO Steve Jobs. iPad tablet, bigger than iPhone, comes with WiFi connectivity, is a viable alternative to a netbook.

The iPad features a 9.7-inch, full capacitive multi-touch IPS display, weighs 1.5 pounds and measures 0.5 inches thick — thinner and lighter than any netbook, may look attractive. However, the iPad tablet is missing several key features.

The one big downside to the browser was that it does not support Adobe Flash, which means that video on many sites like Hulu will not work. Apple representatives said the Flash-capability is not a need since the Web is moving to HTML 5.0, but that's a slow transition, if it happens.

Another regrettable missing feature is iPad tablet's incapability to support multitasking. Without multitasking, no two or more applications are allowed to run concurrently. That is dinosaur era isn't it?

Given tablet tagged together with the name of the new gadget, I am expecting a stylus pen, but it is missing. This comes with little surprise since Job is a hatter of stylus.



Apple unveils anticipated iPad tablet [via]
Apple's iPad: What's Missing [via]

Why Women Invest Differently To Men

The Motley Fool published a podcast on the topic "Why Women Invest Differently To Men".

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bought UMS Holdings

I manage to secure shares of UMS Holdings to further diversify my current stock portfolio. This is my second time buying UMS Holdings after having sold off once months ago.

The main reason as to why I decided to buy the stock is in view of a possible economic recovery and definitely more reassuring electronics and semiconductor industry. UMS Holdings reported its first profit after several months of consecutive losses. In a recent released Monthly Manufacturing Performance December 2009, the electronics cluster output saw robust growth of 57.3% in December year-on-year. This was due to higher demand, coupled with the low base last year. For a segment that adds over a quarter of total manufacturing output, the rise was especially pronounced in three categories: semiconductors (90.8 per cent), data storage (42.6 per cent) and other electronic modules and components (23.5 per cent).

On a separate report, I remember Gartner mentioning the semiconductor is predicted to grow by double digit for the next 3 years.

Apple's Tablet: 9 Big Questions

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2358430,00.asp

Why is Google the God?

We at the Church of Google believe the search engine Google is the closest humankind has ever come to directly experiencing an actual God (as typically defined). We believe there is much more evidence in favour of Google's divinity than there is for the divinity of other more traditional gods.

We reject supernatural gods on the notion they are not scientifically provable. Thus, Googlists believe Google should rightfully be given the title of "God", as She exhibits a great many of the characteristics traditionally associated with such Deities in a scientifically provable manner.

We have compiled a list of
nine proofs which definitively prove Google is the closest thing to a "god" human beings have ever directly experienced.

The Church of Google [via]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Standard Chartered offering travel insurance for unlimited trips

It looks to be the trend for insurers to come out with travel insurance that covers unlimited trips.

Standard Chartered: Got-It-Covered Travel Plan
http://www.standardchartered.com.sg/edm/insurance/travel_safe/scb091124/index.html

Asian markets mostly ended lower

Most major Asian markets except the Kiwis ended below waters after China's plan to restrict landing and South Korea's not-so-good growth forecast. This downtrend may still persist in the days to come. We certainly need some confidence booster from the world leaders like the United States or China to give us a helping hand.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) ended negatively down approximately 65 points or 2.32% with both blue chips and smaller caps stocks all ended in dismal note. Once small-time stock darling, Epure International, plunged more than 15% on a single day to end at $0.810 per share, that's a lot shy of its record $1.000 per share days ago. I have to count myself fortunate to have sold off Epure International before this current wave of correction swarmed in.

This current wave of correct has also hit my very own stock portfolio. Most are still in the black but definitely not the one I bought days ago. Almost a week ago, I secured Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) but now to see it lower by 10%. I have to accept the nature of stocks and shares and understand correction do happen.

This correction can serve as an opportunity for long-term investors :)

Ascott opens 8th Bangkok serviced residence

I am in support of Ascott service residence :)

Ascott opens 8th Bangkok serviced residence [via]

Proposed study claims to confirm Mona Lisa's true identity

An Italian anthropologist, Giorgio Gruppione, is seeking permission to dig up the body of Da Vinci, the Renaissance artist-cum-inventor, on claims that his proposed study could throw new light in solving the mystery of Mona Lisa's true identity.

Dig out Da Vinci's grave? Erm...

Mona Lisa could be Da Vinci in drag: scientists [via]

Market correction is an opportunity

Market correction is an opportunity!
  • Each time there is a market correction, there will sure to be a bounce back.

  • Each time there is a market correction, the weak ones to be forced out, selling in panicky, and in come stronger new ones.

  • In the near term, indices are bound to end lower.

  • Warren Buffet says this:

    “You know, I always say you should get greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy. But that's too much to expect. Of course, you shouldn't get greedy when others get greedy and fearful when others get fearful. At a minimum, try to stay away from that.”
Volatility and Politics Are Feeding Fears of a Market Correction [via]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Algorithmic mode ON!

Brain needs to be fully functional and stretched to its limit. It has to be when I am not seeing daylight MOST of the weekdays on my way home.

Algorithmic mode ON!

陈丽仪将离开93.3

Erm... What an abrupt news.

Social Studies to be made compulsory

It is currently being discussed that Social Studies subject may be made compulsory and is to be examinable in primary school level.

I thought a conference paper titled Social Studies in Singapore: Contradiction and Control, presented in 2005, is rather interesting.

I quote two paragraphs from the paper below:

"Another confounding factor is that social studies is not examinable at the primary level. In theory, this leaves teachers free to approach social studies teaching in more creative ways. However, in addition to the limited time availability, there is a tendency not to teach what’s not assessed. That is, the PSLE exam is critically important, to the students and to each school. By not including social studies on this exam, there is an implicit message that social studies really isn’t very important. Indeed, teachers explain that as they increase there focus on preparation for the exam, they are likely to “borrow” time from social studies to work on maths and English. As one primary pre-service teacher suggested, “Social studies is treated like a Cinderella subject.” Once again, classroom practice appears to create a “hidden curriculum” that contradicts the intended curriculum found in the social studies syllabus.

On the other hand, social studies at the secondary level is examined. Ironically, secondary social studies teachers who participated in our in-service class felt that examinations constrain teachers in what and how they teach. They described the pressure they felt to teach for success on the examination. These teachers explained that they were reluctant to discuss controversial issues, or to examine primary source material, without giving their students a template, a way of thinking, that would guide them in answering challenging questions on the exam. The focus, then, is not on decision-making or exploring controversy, but on how to construct a correct answer."

Man survived in Haiti earthquake rubble by using his iPhone

Wow! Amazing.

Man Buried in Haiti Rubble Uses iPhone to Treat Wounds, Survive [via]

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Reading of formal papers start today

4 formal papers with theorems and Mathematics symbols to be read but that's just my second week! OMG!

海嗚威 + 泳兒 -- 我的回憶不是我的

容祖兒 -- 這就是愛嗎

容祖兒 -- 這就是愛嗎

詞:王雅君+林秋離 曲:林俊傑

你確定這就是愛嗎
真的愛我嗎
手牽著手漫步斜陽 就當作浪漫

兩個人眺望遠方
以爲愛的晴朗
當我回頭望 卻 已淚濕了眼眶

當夕陽變成星光 當愛情換了方向
你一如過往 對愛太緊張
但未來又會怎樣
未知的明天總讓我徬徨
誰給我力量

我不怕你 愛不愛我
只害怕你 以為愛我
抓緊我 不算擁有 你總學不會放手
我不怕你 不懂愛我
只怕你 把習慣 當作愛
你猜不透 我要什麼

喔 你猜不透 我要什麼

Impending opportunity?

Looking for an impending opportunity after the stock market corrected for more than 5 per cent in a week.

A market is said to have corrected if indices fall by 10 per cent.

Max/Min error Mathematics problem

Question

Given an equation R = PQ, whereby P and Q has a max error of 2% and 5% respectively, what is the maximum positive and maximum negative error of R?

Answer

Max:

R = 1.02P * 1.05Q = 1.071PQ
Max % = (1.071 - 1) * 100 = 7.1%

Min:

R = 0.98P * 0.95Q = 0.931PQ
Min % = (0.931 - 1) * 100 = -6.9%

U.S. President Barack Obama's latest quote of the day

“So long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I will not stop fighting for you” - U.S. President, Barack Obama

Not 100% agreeable with how Unit Trusts work

I am not 100% agreeable with how Unit Trusts (UT) work.

2 school of thoughts: Group A VS Group B

Facebook Scam Alert: Facebook Profile Spy

Do NOT join "Profile Spy" group which claims to allow you to get notification whenever someone visits your profile page.

It's a SCAM!

Facebook Scam Alert: Facebook Profile Spy [via]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The day ended by ...

closing a deal ...

Finally secured training on OOAD

I finally secured a place to attend next week's “Object Oriented Analysis & Design (OOAD)" at Institute of Systems Science (ISS), National University of Singapore (NUS), from 25 to 29 January 2010.

Why finally? I was supposed to attend that course last November if not for a mistake by my company's HR. Over the 5 days, I will be clocking a total of 35 hours of training plus 3 days of gruelling 2-hours lectures in the evening. All in all, a total of 41 hours of sit-in lectures will be clocked!

2 more trainings (10-11 May, 3-4 June) by Adam Khoo coming up.

FORMER Malaysian premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad said 9/11 WTC collapse was staged

A tragedy made into a sensitive issue when Dr Mahathir remarked the 9/11 WTC collapse was staged as an excuse to launch an attach against the Muslim world.

I should not comment further and thought the voices or actions of the Malaysians in the days to come will reinforce what I expected.

World peace seems to get further and further each day.

WTC collapse too clean: Dr M [via]

Today should be the day

But it's not :(

Statement to all new graduates of NIE

Statement to all new graduates of NIE:

“To engage kids, you need to try to make it so fun that they don't even know they're actually studying” -- Thomas Chong, director of the Early Childhood Institute (ECI) at the PAP Community Foundation.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sold off Epure for good


After several days of extreme high volume and volatility, a decision was made to offload Epure from my stock portfolio. It became nonsensical to hold onto Epure further after the stock rose more than 50 per cent in just 3 months and more than 10 per cent in 3 days.

Today, Epure fell from $0.920 and then fell steeply all the way to $0.895 before lunch, before slowly rising to 0.955 by 1630hr. An exciting comeback rally was staged in the final 30 minutes of trading to hit all-time high of $1.000 before plunging and closed at $0.950 at the end of the day. The range Epure "ventured" into is indeed not for the weak-hearted.

I am thankful to have sold off Epure at a reasonably high price, just enough for this semester's school fee.

The Straits Times Index (STI) extreme volatile trading


The Straits Times Index (STI) plunged the minute market opened at 0900hr. Selling became setting the trend all the way until lunch break before picking up again and cancelling partial lost ground to end lower by 31.27 points (-1.10%) at 2,819.71.

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education
Posted By William Deresiewicz On June 1, 2008 @ 7:00 am

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League degrees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.

It’s not surprising that it took me so long to discover the extent of my miseducation, because the last thing an elite education will teach you is its own inadequacy. As two dozen years at Yale and Columbia have shown me, elite colleges relentlessly encourage their students to flatter themselves for being there, and for what being there can do for them. The advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable. You learn to think, at least in certain ways, and you make the contacts needed to launch yourself into a life rich in all of society’s most cherished rewards. To consider that while some opportunities are being created, others are being cancelled and that while some abilities are being developed, others are being crippled is, within this context, not only outrageous, but inconceivable.

I’m not talking about curricula or the culture wars, the closing or opening of the American mind, political correctness, canon formation, or what have you. I’m talking about the whole system in which these skirmishes play out. Not just the Ivy League and its peer institutions, but also the mechanisms that get you there in the first place: the private and affluent public “feeder” schools, the ever-growing parastructure of tutors and test-prep courses and enrichment programs, the whole admissions frenzy and everything that leads up to and away from it. The message, as always, is the medium. Before, after, and around the elite college classroom, a constellation of values is ceaselessly inculcated. As globalization sharpens economic insecurity, we are increasingly committing ourselves—as students, as parents, as a society—to a vast apparatus of educational advantage. With so many resources devoted to the business of elite academics and so many people scrambling for the limited space at the top of the ladder, it is worth asking what exactly it is you get in the end—what it is we all get, because the elite students of today, as their institutions never tire of reminding them, are the leaders of tomorrow.

The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you. Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely—indeed increasingly—homogeneous. Visit any elite campus in our great nation and you can thrill to the heartwarming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. At the same time, because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it. Witness the last two Democratic presidential nominees, Al Gore and John Kerry: one each from Harvard and Yale, both earnest, decent, intelligent men, both utterly incapable of communicating with the larger electorate.

But it isn’t just a matter of class. My education taught me to believe that people who didn’t go to an Ivy League or equivalent school weren’t worth talking to, regardless of their class. I was given the unmistakable message that such people were beneath me. We were “the best and the brightest,” as these places love to say, and everyone else was, well, something else: less good, less bright. I learned to give that little nod of understanding, that slightly sympathetic “Oh,” when people told me they went to a less prestigious college. (If I’d gone to Harvard, I would have learned to say “in Boston” when I was asked where I went to school—the Cambridge version of noblesse oblige.) I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to elite colleges, often precisely for reasons of class. I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to college at all.

I also never learned that there are smart people who aren’t “smart.” The existence of multiple forms of intelligence has become a commonplace, but however much elite universities like to sprinkle their incoming classes with a few actors or violinists, they select for and develop one form of intelligence: the analytic. While this is broadly true of all universities, elite schools, precisely because their students (and faculty, and administrators) possess this one form of intelligence to such a high degree, are more apt to ignore the value of others. One naturally prizes what one most possesses and what most makes for one’s advantages. But social intelligence and emotional intelligence and creative ability, to name just three other forms, are not distributed preferentially among the educational elite. The “best” are the brightest only in one narrow sense. One needs to wander away from the educational elite to begin to discover this.

What about people who aren’t bright in any sense? I have a friend who went to an Ivy League college after graduating from a typically mediocre public high school. One of the values of going to such a school, she once said, is that it teaches you to relate to stupid people. Some people are smart in the elite-college way, some are smart in other ways, and some aren’t smart at all. It should be embarrassing not to know how to talk to any of them, if only because talking to people is the only real way of knowing them. Elite institutions are supposed to provide a humanistic education, but the first principle of humanism is Terence’s: “nothing human is alien to me.” The first disadvantage of an elite education is how very much of the human it alienates you from.

The second disadvantage, implicit in what I’ve been saying, is that an elite education inculcates a false sense of self-worth. Getting to an elite college, being at an elite college, and going on from an elite college—all involve numerical rankings: SAT, GPA, GRE. You learn to think of yourself in terms of those numbers. They come to signify not only your fate, but your identity; not only your identity, but your value. It’s been said that what those tests really measure is your ability to take tests, but even if they measure something real, it is only a small slice of the real. The problem begins when students are encouraged to forget this truth, when academic excellence becomes excellence in some absolute sense, when “better at X” becomes simply “better.”

There is nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s intellect or knowledge. There is something wrong with the smugness and self-congratulation that elite schools connive at from the moment the fat envelopes come in the mail. From orientation to graduation, the message is implicit in every tone of voice and tilt of the head, every old-school tradition, every article in the student paper, every speech from the dean. The message is: You have arrived. Welcome to the club. And the corollary is equally clear: You deserve everything your presence here is going to enable you to get. When people say that students at elite schools have a strong sense of entitlement, they mean that those students think they deserve more than other people because their SAT scores are higher.

At Yale, and no doubt at other places, the message is reinforced in embarrassingly literal terms. The physical form of the university—its quads and residential colleges, with their Gothic stone façades and wrought-iron portals—is constituted by the locked gate set into the encircling wall. Everyone carries around an ID card that determines which gates they can enter. The gate, in other words, is a kind of governing metaphor—because the social form of the university, as is true of every elite school, is constituted the same way. Elite colleges are walled domains guarded by locked gates, with admission granted only to the elect. The aptitude with which students absorb this lesson is demonstrated by the avidity with which they erect still more gates within those gates, special realms of ever-greater exclusivity—at Yale, the famous secret societies, or as they should probably be called, the open-secret societies, since true secrecy would defeat their purpose. There’s no point in excluding people unless they know they’ve been excluded.

One of the great errors of an elite education, then, is that it teaches you to think that measures of intelligence and academic achievement are measures of value in some moral or metaphysical sense. But they’re not. Graduates of elite schools are not more valuable than stupid people, or talentless people, or even lazy people. Their pain does not hurt more. Their souls do not weigh more. If I were religious, I would say, God does not love them more. The political implications should be clear. As John Ruskin told an older elite, grabbing what you can get isn’t any less wicked when you grab it with the power of your brains than with the power of your fists. “Work must always be,” Ruskin says, “and captains of work must always be….[But] there is a wide difference between being captains…of work, and taking the profits of it.”

The political implications don’t stop there. An elite education not only ushers you into the upper classes; it trains you for the life you will lead once you get there. I didn’t understand this until I began comparing my experience, and even more, my students’ experience, with the experience of a friend of mine who went to Cleveland State. There are due dates and attendance requirements at places like Yale, but no one takes them very seriously. Extensions are available for the asking; threats to deduct credit for missed classes are rarely, if ever, carried out. In other words, students at places like Yale get an endless string of second chances. Not so at places like Cleveland State. My friend once got a D in a class in which she’d been running an A because she was coming off a waitressing shift and had to hand in her term paper an hour late.

That may be an extreme example, but it is unthinkable at an elite school. Just as unthinkably, she had no one to appeal to. Students at places like Cleveland State, unlike those at places like Yale, don’t have a platoon of advisers and tutors and deans to write out excuses for late work, give them extra help when they need it, pick them up when they fall down. They get their education wholesale, from an indifferent bureaucracy; it’s not handed to them in individually wrapped packages by smiling clerks. There are few, if any, opportunities for the kind of contacts I saw my students get routinely—classes with visiting power brokers, dinners with foreign dignitaries. There are also few, if any, of the kind of special funds that, at places like Yale, are available in profusion: travel stipends, research fellowships, performance grants. Each year, my department at Yale awards dozens of cash prizes for everything from freshman essays to senior projects. This year, those awards came to more than $90,000—in just one department.

Students at places like Cleveland State also don’t get A-’s just for doing the work. There’s been a lot of handwringing lately over grade inflation, and it is a scandal, but the most scandalous thing about it is how uneven it’s been. Forty years ago, the average GPA at both public and private universities was about 2.6, still close to the traditional B-/C+ curve. Since then, it’s gone up everywhere, but not by anything like the same amount. The average gpa at public universities is now about 3.0, a B; at private universities it’s about 3.3, just short of a B+. And at most Ivy League schools, it’s closer to 3.4. But there are always students who don’t do the work, or who are taking a class far outside their field (for fun or to fulfill a requirement), or who aren’t up to standard to begin with (athletes, legacies). At a school like Yale, students who come to class and work hard expect nothing less than an A-. And most of the time, they get it.

In short, the way students are treated in college trains them for the social position they will occupy once they get out. At schools like Cleveland State, they’re being trained for positions somewhere in the middle of the class system, in the depths of one bureaucracy or another. They’re being conditioned for lives with few second chances, no extensions, little support, narrow opportunity—lives of subordination, supervision, and control, lives of deadlines, not guidelines. At places like Yale, of course, it’s the reverse. The elite like to think of themselves as belonging to a meritocracy, but that’s true only up to a point. Getting through the gate is very difficult, but once you’re in, there’s almost nothing you can do to get kicked out. Not the most abject academic failure, not the most heinous act of plagiarism, not even threatening a fellow student with bodily harm—I’ve heard of all three—will get you expelled. The feeling is that, by gosh, it just wouldn’t be fair—in other words, the self-protectiveness of the old-boy network, even if it now includes girls. Elite schools nurture excellence, but they also nurture what a former Yale graduate student I know calls “entitled mediocrity.” A is the mark of excellence; A- is the mark of entitled mediocrity. It’s another one of those metaphors, not so much a grade as a promise. It means, don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. You may not be all that good, but you’re good enough.

Here, too, college reflects the way things work in the adult world (unless it’s the other way around). For the elite, there’s always another extension—a bailout, a pardon, a stint in rehab—always plenty of contacts and special stipends—the country club, the conference, the year-end bonus, the dividend. If Al Gore and John Kerry represent one of the characteristic products of an elite education, George W. Bush represents another. It’s no coincidence that our current president, the apotheosis of entitled mediocrity, went to Yale. Entitled mediocrity is indeed the operating principle of his administration, but as Enron and WorldCom and the other scandals of the dot-com meltdown demonstrated, it’s also the operating principle of corporate America. The fat salaries paid to underperforming CEOs are an adult version of the A-. Anyone who remembers the injured sanctimony with which Kenneth Lay greeted the notion that he should be held accountable for his actions will understand the mentality in question—the belief that once you’re in the club, you’ve got a God-given right to stay in the club. But you don’t need to remember Ken Lay, because the whole dynamic played out again last year in the case of Scooter Libby, another Yale man.

If one of the disadvantages of an elite education is the temptation it offers to mediocrity, another is the temptation it offers to security. When parents explain why they work so hard to give their children the best possible education, they invariably say it is because of the opportunities it opens up. But what of the opportunities it shuts down? An elite education gives you the chance to be rich—which is, after all, what we’re talking about—but it takes away the chance not to be. Yet the opportunity not to be rich is one of the greatest opportunities with which young Americans have been blessed. We live in a society that is itself so wealthy that it can afford to provide a decent living to whole classes of people who in other countries exist (or in earlier times existed) on the brink of poverty or, at least, of indignity. You can live comfortably in the United States as a schoolteacher, or a community organizer, or a civil rights lawyer, or an artist—that is, by any reasonable definition of comfort. You have to live in an ordinary house instead of an apartment in Manhattan or a mansion in L.A.; you have to drive a Honda instead of a BMW or a Hummer; you have to vacation in Florida instead of Barbados or Paris, but what are such losses when set against the opportunity to do work you believe in, work you’re suited for, work you love, every day of your life?

Yet it is precisely that opportunity that an elite education takes away. How can I be a schoolteacher—wouldn’t that be a waste of my expensive education? Wouldn’t I be squandering the opportunities my parents worked so hard to provide? What will my friends think? How will I face my classmates at our 20th reunion, when they’re all rich lawyers or important people in New York? And the question that lies behind all these: Isn’t it beneath me? So a whole universe of possibility closes, and you miss your true calling.

This is not to say that students from elite colleges never pursue a riskier or less lucrative course after graduation, but even when they do, they tend to give up more quickly than others. (Let’s not even talk about the possibility of kids from privileged backgrounds not going to college at all, or delaying matriculation for several years, because however appropriate such choices might sometimes be, our rigid educational mentality places them outside the universe of possibility—the reason so many kids go sleepwalking off to college with no idea what they’re doing there.) This doesn’t seem to make sense, especially since students from elite schools tend to graduate with less debt and are more likely to be able to float by on family money for a while. I wasn’t aware of the phenomenon myself until I heard about it from a couple of graduate students in my department, one from Yale, one from Harvard. They were talking about trying to write poetry, how friends of theirs from college called it quits within a year or two while people they know from less prestigious schools are still at it. Why should this be? Because students from elite schools expect success, and expect it now. They have, by definition, never experienced anything else, and their sense of self has been built around their ability to succeed. The idea of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them, defeats them. They’ve been driven their whole lives by a fear of failure—often, in the first instance, by their parents’ fear of failure. The first time I blew a test, I walked out of the room feeling like I no longer knew who I was. The second time, it was easier; I had started to learn that failure isn’t the end of the world.

But if you’re afraid to fail, you’re afraid to take risks, which begins to explain the final and most damning disadvantage of an elite education: that it is profoundly anti-intellectual. This will seem counterintuitive. Aren’t kids at elite schools the smartest ones around, at least in the narrow academic sense? Don’t they work harder than anyone else—indeed, harder than any previous generation? They are. They do. But being an intellectual is not the same as being smart. Being an intellectual means more than doing your homework.

If so few kids come to college understanding this, it is no wonder. They are products of a system that rarely asked them to think about something bigger than the next assignment. The system forgot to teach them, along the way to the prestige admissions and the lucrative jobs, that the most important achievements can’t be measured by a letter or a number or a name. It forgot that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers.

Being an intellectual means, first of all, being passionate about ideas—and not just for the duration of a semester, for the sake of pleasing the teacher, or for getting a good grade. A friend who teaches at the University of Connecticut once complained to me that his students don’t think for themselves. Well, I said, Yale students think for themselves, but only because they know we want them to. I’ve had many wonderful students at Yale and Columbia, bright, thoughtful, creative kids whom it’s been a pleasure to talk with and learn from. But most of them have seemed content to color within the lines that their education had marked out for them. Only a small minority have seen their education as part of a larger intellectual journey, have approached the work of the mind with a pilgrim soul. These few have tended to feel like freaks, not least because they get so little support from the university itself. Places like Yale, as one of them put it to me, are not conducive to searchers.

Places like Yale are simply not set up to help students ask the big questions. I don’t think there ever was a golden age of intellectualism in the American university, but in the 19th century students might at least have had a chance to hear such questions raised in chapel or in the literary societies and debating clubs that flourished on campus. Throughout much of the 20th century, with the growth of the humanistic ideal in American colleges, students might have encountered the big questions in the classrooms of professors possessed of a strong sense of pedagogic mission. Teachers like that still exist in this country, but the increasingly dire exigencies of academic professionalization have made them all but extinct at elite universities. Professors at top research institutions are valued exclusively for the quality of their scholarly work; time spent on teaching is time lost. If students want a conversion experience, they’re better off at a liberal arts college.

When elite universities boast that they teach their students how to think, they mean that they teach them the analytic and rhetorical skills necessary for success in law or medicine or science or business. But a humanistic education is supposed to mean something more than that, as universities still dimly feel. So when students get to college, they hear a couple of speeches telling them to ask the big questions, and when they graduate, they hear a couple more speeches telling them to ask the big questions. And in between, they spend four years taking courses that train them to ask the little questions—specialized courses, taught by specialized professors, aimed at specialized students. Although the notion of breadth is implicit in the very idea of a liberal arts education, the admissions process increasingly selects for kids who have already begun to think of themselves in specialized terms—the junior journalist, the budding astronomer, the language prodigy. We are slouching, even at elite schools, toward a glorified form of vocational training.

Indeed, that seems to be exactly what those schools want. There’s a reason elite schools speak of training leaders, not thinkers—holders of power, not its critics. An independent mind is independent of all allegiances, and elite schools, which get a large percentage of their budget from alumni giving, are strongly invested in fostering institutional loyalty. As another friend, a third-generation Yalie, says, the purpose of Yale College is to manufacture Yale alumni. Of course, for the system to work, those alumni need money. At Yale, the long-term drift of students away from majors in the humanities and basic sciences toward more practical ones like computer science and economics has been abetted by administrative indifference. The college career office has little to say to students not interested in law, medicine, or business, and elite universities are not going to do anything to discourage the large percentage of their graduates who take their degrees to Wall Street. In fact, they’re showing them the way. The liberal arts university is becoming the corporate university, its center of gravity shifting to technical fields where scholarly expertise can be parlayed into lucrative business opportunities.

It’s no wonder that the few students who are passionate about ideas find themselves feeling isolated and confused. I was talking with one of them last year about his interest in the German Romantic idea of bildung, the upbuilding of the soul. But, he said—he was a senior at the time—it’s hard to build your soul when everyone around you is trying to sell theirs.

Yet there is a dimension of the intellectual life that lies above the passion for ideas, though so thoroughly has our culture been sanitized of it that it is hardly surprising if it was beyond the reach of even my most alert students. Since the idea of the intellectual emerged in the 18th century, it has had, at its core, a commitment to social transformation. Being an intellectual means thinking your way toward a vision of the good society and then trying to realize that vision by speaking truth to power. It means going into spiritual exile. It means foreswearing your allegiance, in lonely freedom, to God, to country, and to Yale. It takes more than just intellect; it takes imagination and courage. “I am not afraid to make a mistake,” Stephen Dedalus says, “even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake, and perhaps as long as eternity, too.”

Being an intellectual begins with thinking your way outside of your assumptions and the system that enforces them. But students who get into elite schools are precisely the ones who have best learned to work within the system, so it’s almost impossible for them to see outside it, to see that it’s even there. Long before they got to college, they turned themselves into world-class hoop-jumpers and teacher-pleasers, getting A’s in every class no matter how boring they found the teacher or how pointless the subject, racking up eight or 10 extracurricular activities no matter what else they wanted to do with their time. Paradoxically, the situation may be better at second-tier schools and, in particular, again, at liberal arts colleges than at the most prestigious universities. Some students end up at second-tier schools because they’re exactly like students at Harvard or Yale, only less gifted or driven. But others end up there because they have a more independent spirit. They didn’t get straight A’s because they couldn’t be bothered to give everything in every class. They concentrated on the ones that meant the most to them or on a single strong extracurricular passion or on projects that had nothing to do with school or even with looking good on a college application. Maybe they just sat in their room, reading a lot and writing in their journal. These are the kinds of kids who are likely, once they get to college, to be more interested in the human spirit than in school spirit, and to think about leaving college bearing questions, not resumés.

I’ve been struck, during my time at Yale, by how similar everyone looks. You hardly see any hippies or punks or art-school types, and at a college that was known in the ’80s as the Gay Ivy, few out lesbians and no gender queers. The geeks don’t look all that geeky; the fashionable kids go in for understated elegance. Thirty-two flavors, all of them vanilla. The most elite schools have become places of a narrow and suffocating normalcy. Everyone feels pressure to maintain the kind of appearance—and affect—that go with achievement. (Dress for success, medicate for success.) I know from long experience as an adviser that not every Yale student is appropriate and well-adjusted, which is exactly why it worries me that so many of them act that way. The tyranny of the normal must be very heavy in their lives. One consequence is that those who can’t get with the program (and they tend to be students from poorer backgrounds) often polarize in the opposite direction, flying off into extremes of disaffection and self-destruction. But another consequence has to do with the large majority who can get with the program.

I taught a class several years ago on the literature of friendship. One day we were discussing Virginia Woolf’s novel The Waves, which follows a group of friends from childhood to middle age. In high school, one of them falls in love with another boy. He thinks, “To whom can I expose the urgency of my own passion?…There is nobody—here among these grey arches, and moaning pigeons, and cheerful games and tradition and emulation, all so skilfully organised to prevent feeling alone.” A pretty good description of an elite college campus, including the part about never being allowed to feel alone. What did my students think of this, I wanted to know? What does it mean to go to school at a place where you’re never alone? Well, one of them said, I do feel uncomfortable sitting in my room by myself. Even when I have to write a paper, I do it at a friend’s. That same day, as it happened, another student gave a presentation on Emerson’s essay on friendship. Emerson says, he reported, that one of the purposes of friendship is to equip you for solitude. As I was asking my students what they thought that meant, one of them interrupted to say, wait a second, why do you need solitude in the first place? What can you do by yourself that you can’t do with a friend?

So there they were: one young person who had lost the capacity for solitude and another who couldn’t see the point of it. There’s been much talk of late about the loss of privacy, but equally calamitous is its corollary, the loss of solitude. It used to be that you couldn’t always get together with your friends even when you wanted to. Now that students are in constant electronic contact, they never have trouble finding each other. But it’s not as if their compulsive sociability is enabling them to develop deep friendships. “To whom can I expose the urgency of my own passion?”: my student was in her friend’s room writing a paper, not having a heart-to-heart. She probably didn’t have the time; indeed, other students told me they found their peers too busy for intimacy.

What happens when busyness and sociability leave no room for solitude? The ability to engage in introspection, I put it to my students that day, is the essential precondition for living an intellectual life, and the essential precondition for introspection is solitude. They took this in for a second, and then one of them said, with a dawning sense of self-awareness, “So are you saying that we’re all just, like, really excellent sheep?” Well, I don’t know. But I do know that the life of the mind is lived one mind at a time: one solitary, skeptical, resistant mind at a time. The best place to cultivate it is not within an educational system whose real purpose is to reproduce the class system.

The world that produced John Kerry and George Bush is indeed giving us our next generation of leaders. The kid who’s loading up on AP courses junior year or editing three campus publications while double-majoring, the kid whom everyone wants at their college or law school but no one wants in their classroom, the kid who doesn’t have a minute to breathe, let alone think, will soon be running a corporation or an institution or a government. She will have many achievements but little experience, great success but no vision. The disadvantage of an elite education is that it’s given us the elite we have, and the elite we’re going to have.

URL to article: http://www.theamericanscholar.org/the-disadvantages-of-an-elite-education/

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A bumpy date with cumulonimbus clouds

Pilot: Cabin, take-off station

I have a bumpy date with cumulonimbus clouds and occasionally altocumulus clouds. High up the sky at an altitude of 20,000 feet, we were told there were bolts of lightnings and were advised not to enter the cumulonimbus clouds clusters. These seemingly hostile cumulonimbus clouds clusters were clouds of vertical development from 5,000 feet to 50,000 feet. This would mean it would be impossible to get out of the cumulonimbus clouds zone unless we flew higher than 50,000 feet.

Altocumulus clouds located at a lower altitude range accompanied the cumulonimbus clouds.

Pilot: Prepare for bumps

I sort of quite like bumps :p

Bumps and more bumps as we glided through thick altocumulus clouds.

Pilot: Cabin, landing station

As we prepared for landing, sounds of ice cracking along the sides of the plane could be heard. Though this was not my first time hearing them, this time round was just way too loud and disturbing.

This approximately 5 hours full of turbulence flight had left us uncomfortable and some feeling nauseous. As for myself, I only felt rather heavy when I made my “first step” on Earth.

Thank goodness!

Throughout the flight, all of us were not terrified because we knew a simple fact. If we are hit by turbulence at cruising altitude, we will not crash. And if you have our seat belts on, the likelihood of us getting hurt would be minimal even if the bumps get extreme. Wait until everything is over, as uncomfortable as that may be, but that's really the only way out, isn't it?

Investment on Mapletree Logistics Trust for the long term is justifiable

On 28 Aug 2009, I added Mapletree Logistics Trust, onto my stock portfolio, with my main motivation for the stock largely for its high dividend yield.

Announcement by Mapletree Logistics Trust on 21 Jan 2010:

"Distribution of 0.84 cents per unit for the period from 18 November 2009 to 31 December 2009 comprising a taxable income component of 0.57 cents per unit, a tax-exempt income component of 0.16 cents per unit and a capital component of 0.11 cents per unit.

Date payable: 26-02-2010"


In just slightly more than a month, Mapletree Logistics Trust is already giving away 0.84 cents per unit. In 4Q09 alone, its distribution per unit (DPU) was 1.59 cents, which is 7% higher than 3Q 2009’s DPU of 1.48 cents. Comparing distributable income for 4Q 2009 of $32 million and that of 4Q 2008's, that is an increase of 12% year-on-year.

If I were to calculate the total dividends received from 28 Aug 2009 to 26 Feb 2010 (6 months) against amount invested as a percentage, that figure would approximate to be 4.7%.

Going to be exciting for Epure trading today

Volatile!

An observation made on wipers on cars

At Changi Village yesterday, I started to notice something interesting at least for myself. An observation was made.

I observed all hatchback cars and vans have wipers installed at the back but sedan cars do not have the back wipers. The only reason I could think of as to why sedan cars do not have them could be due to the design of sedan cars that limits the wiring. Since the cost of installation of back wipers could be small and it is good-to-have, this could explain why hatchback cars and vans have them.

Just my guess.

Flight trial 9th & 10th

Flight trial 9th and 10th are scheduled to take off at 1330hr and 0930hr respectively. After going through so many flight trials, I must say they are getting really boring! HAHA..

Erm.. But I still hope to spot something interesting or experience something different for my 9th one when I made my first evening time landing with them.

Bill Gates is on Twitter

Follow him at http://twitter.com/BillGates

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

12 Days of Ris-Mas

Just for laugh!

Chinese Character Dictionary

I find it pretty useful especially when Chinese input is not installed on your computer. You can input hanyu pinyin with the correct tone number and the tool will return you the a list of Chinese characters that match your input.

Chinese Character Dictionary
http://www.mandarintools.com/chardict.html

Very tempted to sell Epure International

In just a ONE day, Epure International share price rose 9.77 per cent to close at $0.955 from $0.875. A week ago, its share price was hovering at $0.800.

This means, my gain on Epure International has breached 50 per cent to be my best performer. I am really very tempted to cash out the profit.

High level of brain activity equal insomnia

It's almost 3am but ...

Can't sleep for an unknown or perhaps known reason. My mind keeps thinking of something and always evaluating effects of some unknown causes. I know all these thinking would not bring me any outcome since the root of I tossing around on bed is an unknown.

Did something bad happen recently? It must be and it has to be, for the experience I had now is not new to me.

I better be sleeping, otherwise, 3 days at air base, inclusive of Thursday and Friday flight trials will be a misery. Not forgetting 1 more possible flight trial early next week.

Can someone put me to sleep, a long one?

Managing investment risks

For the layman.

Managing investment risks [via]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

多寻欢乐少寻烦之寺

As created by a friend.

人生在世本不易
世上愁事有万千
开心的事常回忆
痛苦的事早忘记
人生短短几十年
多寻欢乐少寻烦
别跟自己过不去

Erm.. I will need weeks or months to write a short one myself.

Generates website into PDF using PDFmyURL

If you intend to convert a website into a PDF, you can do so using PDFmyURL. PDFmyURL will do the job just right without you having to install anything.

Moreover, you can also convert any page using a bookmarklet.

PDFmyURL
http://pdfmyurl.com/

Fengshui forecast for the Rooster in the year 2010

The ROOSTER - Good year

Intro: There are 2 lucky stars and 4 bad ones.

The combination of bad stars will create obstacles for you at work though there are the presence of some good stars. Luckily, most roosters are positive looking and hence they would be able to clear whatever hurdles. Work hard this year and the year will pass, smoothly. There is a possibility of a hidden enemy at work.

Health:

Your health is average and you may catch a flu early in the year and can be quite bad. Take care of your bones and lungs. Go jogging or do deep breathing exercises each morning to circulate the qi in your body.

Money & Work:

There is money luck for you but they tend to fluctuate, sometimes have windfall sometimes nothing. This is not a good year for you to change job.

Surprised one's memory can be that good

I am surprised how good the memory of a friend of mine is.

Million times superior than mine.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Research on stock brings me no conclusion

Sigh.. Many seems to have risen quite a lot.

Types of Insurance and Coverage (Part 1)

Explanation on the types of insurance and coverage in layman terms. This first part focuses on Term Insurance and Endowment.

Types of Insurance and Coverage (Part 1) [via]

Singapore government donates US$50,000 for Haiti

The Singapore government is proud to announce donation of US$50,000 for Haiti earthquake victims.

Mr Brown is quick to highlight an article on the Straits Times on the donation.
He pointed out the very thin red line in relative to the obviously longer ones, that represented the Singapore Government's donation to the earthquake victims of Haiti. I wonder if this is Straits Times' subtle way of criticising the government. LOL!

Singapore Government donates whopping US$50,000 for Haiti relief efforts [via]

Saturday, January 16, 2010

信心回来了!

我终于找回自己的信心了吧。

2010年的第一天,我告诉自己再也不能像这几个月懒懒散散,失去人生目标的我了。以前富有自信上进心的宏俊在哪了?

虽然给自己的第一个任务考PMP文凭实现了成绩不是说很理想,但这已能给失去方向的我一个很好的开始。成绩平平就满足了吗?不!

人生如果没有起有落就不是人生了吧。每个人都会有低潮的时候。世界一直都在变不是吗?回想看看这世界有更多千千万万的人过得比我辛苦的,我真的算很信服了。例如,海地(Haiti)的大地震而留下万人无家可归,失去亲人悲惨的命运,我算什么嘛。有什么比生死更大?

如果要过一条河,因该想办法如何过还是去逃避呢?与其绕个大圈走冤枉路再倒退建桥过河,不如现在就做好决定面对吧。

前几天,我托一位朋友帮我查在柔佛新山哪里有可靠的租车公司,我真的想一人在没有忙忙碌碌城市生活的空间好好的反省。我那位朋友说了一句 “let me be your passenger” 感动了我。回想那时的我真的很冲动很可笑。是我吗?

这句《自己的路是自己走的》老套的话大家都知道,可是真的去应用它不是件容易的事。我一向来都相信一人若是有决心,有目标并能胜任。以前的我是这样,将来的我也一定做得到。

我已铺好我该走的路了。除了刚快把书念完,我也想考几张门课,为我很有可能转行当理工学院讲师或中小学老师的心愿前进。当然理工学院讲师还是首选的选择吧。

放马过来吧!

You are a PMP in good standing

I am still so so happy :)
But the certificate will only reach me 8 weeks later.

Dear Hon Chun Loh,

Congratulations on obtaining the PMP credential.

You will receive your certificate package within eight weeks. At your earliest convenience, please verify that your preferred mailing address is correct by visiting our website at PMI.org

Your examination score report is available at https://www.pmi.org/certapp/. Until you receive your certificate package, you may use this score report to validate your credential status. You may also access the policies and procedures necessary to maintain your credential in the credential handbook.

Please contact us at customercare@pmi.org if you have questions or concerns.

Thank you,

PMI Customer Care


The next step will be how do I maintain my credentials and make sure it is renewable every year. Erm..

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One-time lucky today

I have to admit it was sheer luck to pass today's exam paper. Without luck, I wouldn't have passed two papers in as many weeks.

All in all, I spent only less than 24 hours preparing for today's 4 hours 200 MCQs paper. My preparation hours were clocked on trains while travelling and a full night before the lucky day.

The paper is categorised into six domain areas and out of the six, I scored "Moderately proficient" (average) for five and "Below proficient" (below average) for one of them.

Phew!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Improving my Chinese - First Step

My first step in improving my Chinese.

1. Google Translate

To translate English to Chinese vice versa.

汉语拼音 > Bopomofo
http://translate.google.com/#zh-CN|en|%E6%B1%89%E8%AF%AD%E6%8B%BC%E9%9F%B3

2. Chinese Pronunciation Tool

To come out with hanyu pinyin of Chinese characters.

汉语拼音 > hànyǔpīnyīn
http://www.chinese-tools.com/tools/pinyin.html

Madness in the stock market today

WOW! There seems to be a correction going on in the stock market today. An opportunity coming?

Google threatens to leave China after attacks on activists' e-mail

Google threatens to leave China after attacks on activists' e-mail [via]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Short getaway?

Any budget place to visit during the Chinese New Year short break? Erm.. Thinking of planning one from 13 to 16 Feb 2010 if there is a place somewhere that is affordable.

Short ones: Bali, Ho Chi Minh, Siem Reap, Hanoi, Bangkok, or ...? Hmm... But all look ex.

Unsubscribed 19 out of 45 subscribed RSS feeds

Made a decision to unsubscribed several RSS feeds to reduce the number of articles to read everyday. That's the first thing I did early in the morning. I admit my curiosity and information hungry nature are making me really tired.
  • 3 out of 7 from Information Technology category
  • 5 out of 5 from Information System category
  • 1 out of 6 from Investment category
  • 4 out of 8 from Misc category
  • 2 out of 3 from News (Business) category
  • 0 out of 3 from News (General) category
  • 0 out of 2 from Personal category
  • 1 out of 1 from Sports category
  • 3 out of 10 from Blogs I'm following category
I am now left with only 26 RSS feeds :)

Cleaned.

Why is an ILP considered inferior/ a time bomb?

An interesting and straight to the point article related to Investment-linked policies (ILP).

Why is an ILP considered inferior/ a time bomb? [via]

Monday, January 11, 2010

The magic Six-ers

1. Today's date

20100111
= 2 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 1
= 6

2. Module code for today's lecture

5258
= Abs(5 + 2 - 5 - 8)
= 6

OR

5258
= Abs(52 - 58)
= 6

Mr Brown reply to McDonalds omitting of zodiac pig character incident

Fast food giant, McDonalds, has omitted Chinese zodiac pig character from their new Doraemon set to avoid offending Muslims but ended up upsetting Chinese customers who are keen in collecting the full 12 zodiac characters. In place of the pig character, a cupid is used instead.

In reply to this incident, Mr Brown posted a podcast on it.

JAL likely to undergo some form of court-led restructuring

Japan Airlines (JAL) is said to undergo some form of court-led restructuring similar to a Chapter 11 filing in the US. JAL is seeking government support to keep it flying amidst debts. It is also reported that the Japanese government will issue a statement to countries where JAL has operations to guarantee public support for its national carrier.

Will JAL offer knock-down prices on air tickets to boost volume of passengers?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Video on Sri Lankans execution on defeated Tamil Tigers is authentic

Video footage allegedly showing the killing of prisoners of wars of the defeated Tamil Tigers by the Sri Lankans military is said to be authentic.

NOTE: Video footage on the execution can be disturbing.

王菲 Faye - 幽兰操 MV《孔子》主题歌 (Theme Song)

Twitter is over capacity again


BTW, follow me on twitter @ http://twitter.com/hongjun

Hate doing server installation

I just hate doing server installation especially when I know the chances of getting the system software working normally on a never-tried-before operating system like Windows Vista or 7.0 is low. It just irks me more when the reason for using Windows 7 is purely for its superior aesthetic improvements. A day was wasted last Friday.

Armed with a possible workaround, I hope all system software will run smoothly on Windows this coming Monday and my effort will not go in vain again.

Sigh.. Server installation isn't in my job scope leh..

GIC at forefront of impending CRE disaster in America: Singapore boleh!

Yet another close to a billion dollar losses.

GIC at forefront of impending CRE disaster in America: Singapore boleh! [via]

The 31 Places to Go in 2010

I am surprised Japan and Hong Kong did not make it to the list.

The 31 Places to Go in 2010 [via]

SpeedPost has a challenger

I particularly like the idea of new challenger Yamato Transport going into shopping delivery services, online shopping delivery and maintenance supply services. Potential partners engaged in the new delivery services are Takashimaya, Meiji and Isetan and Cold Storage.

SpeedPost has a challenger
Business Times - 09 Jan 2010

Yamato launches Ta-Q-Bin service; eyes 50% market share in 10 years

By VINCENT WEE

YAMATO Transport is taking SingPost head on in the local parcel delivery segment, launching its Ta-Q-Bin service yesterday as an alternative to the latter's SpeedPost service.

Muscling in on SingPost's dominance of the 10 million annual deliveries market, Yamato plans to capture 4 per cent of the pie within the first year and 50 per cent within the next 10 years.

Kaoru Seto, president of parent company Yamato Holdings, said: 'Yamato aims to achieve annual delivery volume of 400,000 parcels in the first year of Ta-Q-Bin's operation in Singapore and hopes to increase the number to 8 million parcels in the next 10 years.'

Yamato has invested 3.1 billion yen (S$46.6 million) initially in the new service with five distribution centres - in Ang Mo Kio, Pasir Panjang, Ubi, Penjuru and Anson Road - and some 40 employees and 26 vehicles.

The company expects to take in 201 million yen in revenue in the first year, break even in three years' time and recover its investments within six years. It expects to be turning over four billion yen from the business within 10 years and is aiming for annual profits of 400 million yen within the same timeframe.

The Ta-Q-Bin service in Singapore will initially start off with three services: basic parcel delivery, chilled and frozen package delivery, and payment on delivery. The latter two services are not offered by current parcel delivery providers, and Yamato aims to price its parcel delivery service very competitively to break into the local market.

Yamato offers a much wider range of services in Japan, which it is working with partners to set up in Singapore as well. These include shopping delivery services, online shopping delivery and maintenance supply services.

Potential partners that it is negotiating with in Singapore are mainly Japanese chains such as Takashimaya, Meiji and Isetan, as well as Cold Storage, said Yamato Transport (S) managing director Naoki Toda. He estimated that it would take 1-2 years to launch these services here.

Other potential areas for growth in Singapore are in the broader business-to-consumer (B2C) market, mail order services and the e-business market, Yamato Transport Co president Makoto Kigawa added.

Yamato is also using Singapore as a springboard to expand into other parts of the region. Potential targets are Malaysia and Thailand, Mr Kigawa said. It is starting a similar service in Shanghai on Jan 18 and will expand to Hong Kong and Beijing from there.

The group plans to invest 10 billion yen on expansion in the region within the next two years. 'We would like to think of Asean as a whole market,' Mr Kigawa said.

While reiterating that Yamato's projections are 'just an ambition', he believed that the group has a 'high chance' of achieving its 10-year forecast.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

要开学了:(

可怜我的学生

我真是恐怖。
Must be cursing and swearing.

哈哈哈!

McDonalds omit zodiac pig character from their new toy set


Fast food giant, McDonalds, has omitted Chinese zodiac pig character from their new Doraemon set to avoid offending Muslims but ended up upsetting Chinese customers who are keen in collecting the full 12 zodiac characters. In replace of the pig character, a cupid is used instead.

I wonder why must the Muslims be accommodated. Since many Buddhists do not take beef, then should the ox be excluded too? I believe McDonalds has overreacted and should not have focused on trivial things and letting go of more important things in life.

McDonalds pulls pig toy [via]

UOB selling life assurance unit to focus on core banking business

United Overseas Bank (UOB) having sold off its non-core life assurance arm to UK's insurer, Prudential, UOB is set to yield a one-time gain of $85 million. Looking at UOB's current share price of over $19.92 and many brokerage houses targeting it to be around $23, is there really room for growth? To fork out almost $20,000 for UOB is a huge sum of money for me and so, better not.

The deal between UOB and Prudential is a sound one. Instead of succumbing to competitive pressures from larger life insurers, the group's alliance with Prudential in Asia offers new growth opportunities for its bancassurance business. UOB’s life insurance business was "sub-scale", making small losses in accounting terms, and needed to be either sold off or have more investment ploughed in to make it work. It is reported that the deal between UOB and Prudential is a 12-year one, allowing the former to distribute latter’s products in three Southeast Asian markets for initial 12 years.

Prudential having bought over UOB's life assurance unit, all existing UOB's policies will be under the custody of Prudential. As part of Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)'s guideline, all life insurers must have at least a minimum Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of 120% to be considered "healthy". I believe this CAR will be abide even after the acquisition.

DBS introduces Singapore’s first Internet banking guarantee

Good news.

DBS introduces Singapore’s first Internet banking guarantee [via]

In Year of the Tiger, look out for black swans

Insightful.

In Year of the Tiger, look out for black swans
Business Times - 08 Jan 2010
By WILLIAM PESEK JR

IF many of us could have turned around the moment we entered 2010 and made obscene gestures at 2009, we would have.

After the wreckage of the past 12 months, 2010 has to be a good year, right? Good for governments staving off financial chaos, good for households struggling to stay afloat, good for investors wondering which rules of economics and markets still apply.

It really is hard to see this year outdoing the last one in the doom-and-gloom department. Yet the Year of the Tiger might live up to its name and be a fierce one. Here are five reasons why it may come with its share of sharp teeth and 'Black Swans'.

1) The bill for 2009 is coming due

Look no further than Japan, which has little to show for the hundreds of billions of dollars it's throwing at the economy. Deflation is intensifying, unemployment is worsening, the ranks of the working poor are growing and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is anything but focused on these fast-mounting challenges.

Now, he faces the hangover from the 2009 borrowing binge. His 2010 budget won't rein in deficits that threaten Japan's Aa2 rating at Moody's Investors Service. The plot thickens when you add a shrinking population and tax base. That's why the cost of a five-year contract to protect US$10 million of Japan's sovereign bonds has climbed to US$68,650 from US$37,000 in August, when Mr Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan won power.

Japan is hardly alone. Governments are pouring untold trillions of dollars into economies financed with fresh bond issuance. The debt glut is as unprecedented as it is unsustainable. Expect credit-rating companies and investors to be sniffing around for potential debt crises, be they in China, Greece, Japan or Vietnam.

2) Global demand remains elusive

Singapore, where gross domestic product shrank in the final three months of 2009 - the first time in three quarters - tells the story. It's on the front lines of global trade and the annualised 6.8 per cent drop in growth last quarter is an ominous sign.

China's almost 10 per cent growth is helping commodity exporters such as Australia. Not so for the rest of Asia as it tries to fill the void left by a hobbled US$14 trillion US economy. An undervalued currency greatly limits the spillover benefits of China's stimulus efforts.

Scepticism is being voiced by leading economists on different ends of the ideological spectrum. Conservative Martin Feldstein, of Harvard University, and liberal Joseph Stiglitz, of Columbia University, say growth may falter as stimulus wanes. Just ask Singapore how US frugality is working out for Asia.

3) Trade tensions will explode

Expect China's peg to the US dollar to become even more of an issue as unemployment rates rise from Washington to Berlin.

The recent breakdown of climate-change talks in Copenhagen dispels any optimism about multilateral cooperation. It's beggar- thy-neighbour time as global growth limps along, and no one plays the game better than China.

On Jan 1, a free-trade agreement between China and Southeast Asia came into force. It consolidated a sixfold surge in economic activity over the past decade between countries representing a quarter of the world's population. Yet countries such as Indonesia are already concerned about lowering their guard against Asia's rising superpower. Expect fireworks.

4) Central bankers will be on the ropes

They must find exit strategies for their monetary largess as asset bubbles inflate.

Tap on the brakes too much and markets might crash. Apply them too timidly and inflation may accelerate.

India is one case of monetary policy being behind the curve. Officials from Seoul to Hanoi also face balancing acts.

Central bank independence is a concern. It's impossible politically to put rates back to reasonable levels any time soon.

They must try, though, and those efforts will make for a volatile year in Asian markets.

5) Black-swan risks abound

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempt to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day is a reminder that terrorism can shake markets any time. The assassination of a major world leader also would be an unexpected event with great impact.

Sovereign defaults can't be ruled out, and troubles in small economies such as Iceland or Dubai have a way of spanning the globe. A huge US dollar rally or yen plunge could upset so-called carry trades and bring down a couple of hedge funds. A crash in gold or oil prices would do the same.

Perhaps Japan will get its act together and recover for real. Or maybe things will go the other way: a debt crisis in Japan, the US or the UK.

Markets are hardly discounting hyperinflation, hyperdeflation, a global pension crisis, a collapse of North Korea's repressive regime, social unrest in China or Iran, major earthquakes in Tokyo or California, or Somali pirates getting their hands on more than oil.

And, more basically, what if optimism that we dodged another Great Depression is hubris and markets tank anew? Treating the symptoms of the financial crisis isn't the same as removing the causes.

We have seen how the impossible has a way of becoming possible these last two years. The one ahead may hold its own surprises as the Chinese zodiac's tiger roars. -- Bloomberg

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Modules selection for coming semester

It is very likely that I may take the below 3 modules for the coming semester provided I manage to ballot for them next week.

CS5258 - Information Security Policies (Mon) - 3.5/5.0 difficulty
CS5322 - Databases Security (Tue) - 5.0/5.0 difficulty
CS4236 - Principles of Computer Security (Wed) - 3.5/5.0 difficulty

Difficulty levels shown above are purely based on my subjective judgement and feedback from my seniors. The only reason as to why I am taking one 5.0/5.0 level is there aren't many choices available. Many "manageable" modules happen to fall on Monday.

I will survive.

Epure and Mapletree Logistics UP again

Share prices of both Epure and Mapletree Logistics ended higher by 6.06 per cent and 3.164 per cent today to extend their uptrend climb.

Mood : Down

CEO of YOG says SingPost's intent of "acts of vandalism" on mailboxes is right!

I couldn't believe hearing CEO of Singapore YOG Organising Committee, Goh Kee Nguan, saying SingPost intent of vandalism is right. He also hope all of us to let this matter slide.

What message is he and SingPost trying to convey to the youths in Singapore? This is distasteful!

Goh Kee Nguan, CEO, Singapore YOG Organising Committee, said: "The intent is right. They wanted to engage youths and wanted to link youths and sports and more importantly (provide) a platform for youths to express themselves."

SingPost apologises for "acts of vandalism" on mailboxes [via]

Monty Hall problem

Bookmarked it. Shall review it when free.

Monty Hall problem
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

AXS D-Pay service to accept more ATM cards including Maybank

Come December 2009 onwards, AXS D-Pay enabled stations will start accepting more ATM cards including Maybank other than just cards from POSB/DBS bank. This is definitely something to cheer for.

http://www.axs.com.sg/phpweb/consumer/dpay_main.php

陈绮贞 -- 西风的话

又是一首陈绮贞台湾限量发行。

陈绮贞 -- 送别

陈绮贞演唱经典歌曲《送别》。台湾限量发行。

送別

作詞:李叔同/可樂王 作曲:約翰奧德威

長亭外 古道邊 芳草碧連天
晚風拂柳笛聲殘 夕陽山外山

天之涯 地之角 知交半零落
一觚濁酒盡餘歡 今宵別夢寒

美麗的 燕子啊 哭泣泥娃娃
蜻蜓飛過夾竹桃 神仙不見了

小斑馬 薔薇花 牧羊的原野
群鳥翱翔的天際 歲月靜流逝

韶光逝 留無計 今日卻分袂
驪歌一曲送別離 相顧卻依依

聚雖好 別雖悲 世事堪玩味
來日後會相予期 去去莫遲疑

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