Sunday, December 08, 2013

Positivity and the Benefits of Thinking in Terms of It

"So... do you think I should go on doing it?"

It was a really simple question that was posed.

And after some time, I felt I had a really simple answer to give back.

Now, ignore for a moment what the question pertained to. Yes certainly I could go into whole background of it, but that won't give any context at all to what I'm talking about (which is about positivity - my theory of it I suppose). The seeker wanted my view on whether I think she should go on in her current state, with her attendant hang-ups about the state of affairs, as well as the benefits of what she was getting out of it.

My view was simple: If whatever you're doing gives you a sense of positivity, then continue doing it.

So what's a sense of positivity?

It really depends on what you're getting out of it. If you're getting money out of what you're doing, and you're profiting (even with some investment put in), then your positivity comes out of the profit that you're making.

If you're emotionally satisfied by the relationship you're in, and your emotional reward from being with a partner outweighs the drain of living together with him or her, then your positivity comes from knowing that you're getting more out of it than what you're putting in.

My own positivity story? Well, I switched jobs and industries some one and a half years back for less pay and more fun. I wanted more fun. I didn't mind less pay. And I felt a great relief that more fun made a more positive contribution towards my well-being than more money could have done.

So there: it's really simple. Forget all those self-help stories and books out there. Just ask yourself, when you're in doubt about any current state of being (or perhaps considering a change in status quo), whether you're in a state of positivity.

And if not, then find something else that will bring you there. Or something else that will deliver higher positive benefits for you (i.e. a higher state of positivity)


The easiest philosophy you'll ever live by.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Atonement isn't about atoning at all

I was fortunate today: a friend of mine (who works not far from where I work) had a couple of tickets to Atonement last night. She wasn't able to make it: her boyfriend had free tickets to something with Hossan Leong in it and both mutually forgot to inform the other. She decided to give up Atonement for Hossan Leong, and I got myself 2 free tickets to an Oscar-winner-to-be.

My own date's version of events is that the Hossan Leong show costed more, and therefore, in pure economic terms, giving up Atonement was a far better deal. Upon learning about Hossan Leong though, I told my friend that it was far more prudent to give up Hossan Leong instead.

Like she would. :)

And anyhow, I think I would have enjoyed Atonement alot more - why would I blog about it, no less?

Ed note: before proceeding further, there're going to be a whole lot of spoilers (from my POV at least), so read on only after you've either read the book, or seen the movie.


When I read Atonement a few years back, it struck me that I had probably just read the best book of my life (I think I've scaled higher peaks in literature since then, but alas, I've recently regressed a far lot further since). Atonement was, for me, a writer's novel. It takes someone who's read well and read a lot to empathise with the protagonist, and, by extension, with the author himself.

The movie as I saw it yesterday night (this being only a few hours ago) was faithful to the novel - this must be because Ian McEwan himself was a producer on the movie. The movie neatly segments into four parts, just as in the novel itself:

- there was the story of that one fateful day where Briony saw her sister jump into the fountain before the manservant Robbie, and the tragic misunderstanding borne of an overactive imagination;

- there was the horror of war and what it wrought on the young men of a generation, the story of Robbie and his promise, the promise to return to the woman he loves;

- there was the story of Briony and her atonement, and how she slowly understood what she had wrought. There was her experience as a wartime nurse and her wanting to tell the story that is consuming her;

- there was the story of the aged writer, Briony finally realizing the story, her last, and what it meant to tell a story itself.

Ultimately, the story that is told in Atonement is not about Robbie and Cecilia, though one will think it is, given that they get all the coverage. The story is also not about Briony: it is, cleverly hidden from the reader / viewer who the person pulling the strings was, and the smart reader / viewer will have already discerned, early on, that the writer was telling the tale, and the writer is Briony.

But... be a little patient, and listen carefully when Briony makes her soliloquy (in the novel, this was all in Briony's head; in the movie, it came out cleverly as an interview). What Briony was essentially talking about was about storytelling, and there were a few themes in there which made the book more than just another frame story (a mise en abyme), and which made this the Booker prize winner. The truth of the matter is this: I believe Briony, in this last part of the story, is actually Ian McEwan talking about himself; and particularly, himself as a storyteller and what it meant.

I remember reading the story so many years ago, and it still struck me how, in this last part of the book, everything that was fabricated earlier was an exposition in the struggles of a storyteller: telling it as it was (fact) or telling it for what it is meant to be (fiction); imagination and the dangerous course it sometimes runs; one's experiences in life, and how they come to be important in shaping the story; and what it means to set things right, even if they were never to be achieved in reality.


I felt for the characters: I truly did. It hurt to be wronged, disgraced and shamed; and set in an English class struggle it is all the more tragic what Robbie himself went through. It hurt to be separated from your love, and the pain of separation which drove Cecilia to part from her family, distraught and angry with your kin, is one that is beyond bearing. It must have been distressing to be Briony, to realise that you have wronged someone, and was ultimately the cause for the suffering and hurt to, not just our two protagonists, but, to a whole family as well. Briony realised that her actions of that evening was the cause of it all (like the first domino in a long chain of tragic events).

I felt it must have been carthatic to write about it all, and seek release - and I smiled when she talked about the happy ending that she wrote. An irony at the end: the truth is tragic, and the novel would have had closure the way it was without the fourth and final part of it. But that was Briony's closure, not ours, and Ian McEwan recognised that the novel wasn't great until he tore away the veneer of falsehood over it and pulled away the wool that covered our eyes all along.

That made the novel a masterpiece - and I can think of no better compliment than that for a writer.

Friday, November 02, 2007

9 Million Bicycles in Beijing

It's been 4 months since I last checked in: a lot has happened within that space of time. While I feel compelled to give my loyal readers (all 10 of them! If they're still reading my blog...) an update on my life and what has gone on, I also feel like I often write posts just updating people.
The lowdown on the last four months:

1. I wrapped up work in Australia. The last time I posted anything here, I was somewhere in Melbourne chilling out with my sister and not doing much work. I didn't really need to be there: the boss just wanted some closure over there, so off we went, said hi and bye to a few people, and generally stopped talking to the Australians we worked with after that.

In retrospect, that time in Australia was, on the whole, quite fun: there was plenty of drama along the way, some travelling, and the best part was just catching up with family. I would do it all over again except for the part where I froze my balls off every night walking back from the MR firm to my hotel in North Sydney... All so I could save on cab fare.

2. I also did not announce this, but I hooked up with a gal a little before my last trip to Australia. At that point in time, I wasn't sure if I was ready for another relationship. However, after 4 months (and still counting...) it looks like it's in for the long haul.

It is serious... I think. Somehow, we always cracked jokes about how we should just break up and see other people (you know, for the variety?). But all these remained talk, and I knew, some 2-3 weeks back, that she was serious.

So I should be, too.

Come to think of it, I don't think I'll be blogging much about my relationship though: it is just not my style to. Unless, of course, I start that angsty trip again, one that took me some 1 year to recover from.

3. Lots of travelling the last few months: mostly, it is for work trips to Beijing. There were also a couple of holidays: one to Bali and another to Ho Chi Minh City. Both were short excursions / getaways to seek hedonistic pleasures in... oh, I'm saying too much there. ;)

Ed Note: Hey, btw, what do you think if I start blogging about sex? I haven't quite done any of that before. Probably won't do that though: too many people know me in real life and know about my blog. Heck, it's even in my facebook profile.

More on Beijing in a while: impressions and stuff. I have a somewhat biased impressions of Beijing (they're positive btw), largely because I'm glad I finally got a chance to work here.

4. Workwise, I got onto a really interesting project in Beijing. Remember that I work in a consulting outfit for a client in the technology sector. The 'really interesting project' was a strategy piece that involved formulating a plan to grow the client's business in China. That's the 3 second spiel anyway.

The more interesting aspects of the work, though, were in learning about:

a) the challenges of marketing tech products in China;

b) the battles against counterfeits in a notoriously IP-ignorant country;

c) the importance of channels and why we should never piss them off;

d) how come no one knows the 'who, where, what' when it comes to Small and Medium Businesses; ande) the magic you can create with some customer data and a spreasheet


Let's hope I find the time (over the next week or so) to delve a little more into some of the 4-5 things above. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Late Like a 40-Year Old Virgin

Rant and Rave ahead - skip this post if uninterested.


I have never waited so long in my life for an airplane to take off.

It was a simple domestic flight from Sydney to Melbourne for the purposes of work, meeting relatives, and a more pleasant environment to spend the weekend.

Instead, it turned into the interminable wait.

In hindsight, it wasn't entirely the fault of Virgin Blue (the domestic carrier I directed all my invisible rage at). But I can't help but blame them for what ensued.

First off, I checked in at those ubiquitous self-service kiosks that were meant to reduce the need for front counter check-in staff. But because I also have a Samsonite to lug onboard, I still have to drop my bag in the bag drop-off counter.

What I didn't get was why there was a queue for the bag drop-offs - don't you just 'drop' your bag and then go? So why the need for a whole slew of counter staff to check and tag bags? OK, I guess it is necessary, but somehow, it kinds of defeats the whole purpose of self check-in entirely.

Additionally, checking in was also confusing because there were 2 long queues formed: one for the self check-inners who are queueing to bag drop; another for the stupids who are queueing to check in. Of course general confusion ensued and additional staff have to be hired to manage the lemminged passengers into joining the right queue.

And to make things worse, there are guys who will join the wrong queues, and hold up counter staff in meaningless arguments over mindless stuff like: "Yes I know I didn't check in at the kiosk, but can I still drop my bag? No? WHY THE HELL NOT? WHAT RULES?"

Ok, so all in, about 30 minutes to self check-in (5 mins for the computer illiterate to figure it out and move on from their frustration at the kiosk, 1 min to check myself in, 24 minutes shuffling in the queue and nudging my bag to the drop-off counters).

Next up: Krispy Kreme doughnuts for brekkies and off to Gate 32 we go!

At Gate 32, I whiled the time away reading a little book about finding your strengths, which Virgin Blue isn't very good at showing me at this present moment. Its one claim to fame is perhaps that it keeps you in transit for a SHORTER period than its archrival JetStar.

So while at Gate 32, there were ominous signs looming: the first one was the airport announcement over the public address system that there were "Strong Westerly Winds" blowing in and one of two of Sydney's runways will have to be closed. It meant delays and Sydney airport decides that the best thing passengers can do is to "check with your respective airlines' staff". Like they aren't hassled enough already huh?

And to make things even worse, Virgin Blue flight DJ 818 was 'DELAYED' getting out of the Gold Coast. Which meant that it was going to be 'DELAYED' getting out of Sydney as well. Alright, fine. Virgin Blue's ground staff immediately announce in a cheerily happy voice that the 8.15am flight would most likely leave at 9.30am or so, after the Gold Coasters disembark and the plane refuels.

How optimistic of them.

So next up, DJ 818 finally got into Sydney airport and the harried Gold Coasters shuffled off the airplane. Hurray! Gate 32 should start getting busy soon.

Except for one problem: DJ 818 has an engineering fault and "our engineers are working on fixing the problem" and the ground crew announces that "as soon as we know how long it will take, we will let you know."

At this point, I am starting to seeth... I'm already late getting out of Sydney, and I am going to be very late showing up at my client's office.

To make things worse, ground crew eventually pronounces (in the same cheerily happy voice) that "unfortunately, our engineers cannot tell us how long it will take, and we apologise for being unable to tell you when our aircraft can take off". They also say that "if you would like to leave the gate area, please listen to the public announcements for updates".

Tell that to the iPodders who probably didn't understand any of the ruckus going on. More on iPodders later.

Eventually, the engineering problems proved insurmountable. Ground crew at Gate 32 finally made the executive decision that was to create the 'Mr Bean' situation of domestic airport hell: they decided we should switch to... another Virgin Blue plane! Yatta!

Ground crew promptly decides that the plane at Gate 31 will become DJ 818 and thus announces that "all passengers of DJ 818, please move to Gate 31 for immediate boarding". Happily, the passengers all shuffle across the passageway to the gate opposite and promptly forms a queue in front of the counter. There were few seats available because some passengers of another flight are plonked on them.

Ground crew happily skips from Gate 32 to Gate 31 and picks up the microphone. DJ 818 passengers look on in mild anticipation that they will finally board the plane. Ground crew cheerily announces that "all passengers of DJ XXX (I forgot the number) waiting at Gate 31 will now board at Gate 32 instead. Please kindly move to the gate opposite to await your flight".

Ahhhh... now I get it. We did a plane swap! Collective groans from the passengers of DJ XXX were greeted by indifference from several iPodders - some sleeping to the sounds of Handel, others pumping their heads to techno. It did take a while for the iPodders to register these domestic terminal comedies and, of course, they did eventually move. (Some of the thick ones did eventually try to board the 'wrong' aircraft and were shooed away with much irritation and confusion).

Okay, so the plane swap has happened and Gate 32ers are now Gate 31ers, and vice versa. So DJ 818ers finally look at our skippy cheery ground crew gal and she finally announces that "we are now removing your bags from the previous plane and transferring them onto this plane, and there will be another delay".

Wow... 8.15am has turned into 10.15am, and none of us are on the plane yet.

And finally, the plane swap has been done and the bags were moved across, ground crew gal finally starts checking boarding passes and letting people onto the new DJ 818. Collective sighs of relief and happy customers of Virgin Blue start boarding their flight for Melbourne.

So boarding takes another 20 minutes or so and I chucked myself comfortably into window seat 5F, with a view of the starboard side of the plane. I can see the wing to the right and back, and a mean looking yellow manhole cover nearby.

With everyone safely in the aircraft, and the right bags onboard, the pilot proceeded to welcome all passengers and greeted us with this news: "the plane needs to be refueled and we have already called Shell to come refuel the plane, but they seem to be taking their time coming."

Ok, sanity check: Plane swap - checked. Passengers boarded - checked. Crew moved to new aircraft - checked. bags transferred - checked. Oh wait! I can't take off coz I don't have enough fuel!

Ok. Yet another delay.

Eventually though, out of my little peephole of a window, I saw what look like a bunch of shining alumnium pipes-on-wheels zip over the mean looking manhole cover near to the right wing of the newly christened DJ 818. A bored looking man wearing a lime green jacket and big lime green headphones (NOT an iPodder this one) got out of pipes-on-wheels and started fiddling with his mean looking hose.

In fact, he had TWO of them! On the truck anyhow.

The small one led to the plane, and he slowly and laboriously lugged this one to a little hole at the side of the aircraft, plugged it in, and shuffled back to the truck.

Next, he brought out this rod and prodded it into the manhole cover. He removed the cover and attached another hose (thicker but shorter this time) into the recess that was exposed. (If that didn't sound like a dirty romantic novel, then I guess I will never carve a career in writing books with Fabio on the cover; side note: where's my career counselor when I need one?).

So anyhow, the fuel truck guy from Shell FINALLY filled the plane with fuel and drives off. Meanwhile, cabin crew were busy telling passengers to stay in their seats. They were also busy showing their disapproval whenever someone whipped out his / her mobile. Much clucking of tongues and shaking of heads and wagging of index fingers are meant to indicate that it was a bad idea to call the darling while fuel was injected into the aircraft.

With the plane fueled up, it was time for all passengers to hear what the next hold up (you think its over???) was.

Oh yeah, the "Strong Westerly Winds" theory of plane delaying tactics. The pilot promptly announces to us that "due to Strong Westerly Winds" one of the runways had to be closed. Which meant that all planes are taking off and landing on one runway, which meant that "we are now negotiating with air traffic control to let us take off as soon as possible".

At this point, despite my reservations about the delays; despite my seething rage at waiting for 3 hours already; despite my resignation at the inevitability of it all; I have to say that Virgin Blue staff are perhaps the most informative of all airline staff ever. Kudos for the information age!

Not that its a bad thing: it just doesn't help if you have people like stupids, thicks, and iPodders, all of whom generally don't care in their own special ways what you tell them about delays. A delay just meant that: a delay. And no amount of information regarding what you're doing or when things are happening are changing the perception that Virgin Blue is one big cock-up in the eyes of these people.

Finally, and this is the last time I use that word 'Finally', the plane gets permission to take off, and we taxi onto the runway, slowly, but surely, and DJ 818 is off the ground - almost 4 hours behind schedule, and with all passengers intact.

It was with fanfare - and a huge dose of relief - that all DJ 818ers started to clap and cheer when the plane landed in Melbourne airport. I don't think I'll ever look at another 'DELAYED' sign in the same way ever again.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Wanna Hold Your Hand... and Other Vows

There are many rules relating to what you do or do not do at work, and there're probably many rules you can create about blogging, and what you do or do not do while you blog.

One of the work rules is that you probably do not blog while you are at work. Unless, of course, if you're my boss who is currently using his blog as a platform to replace the mass emails that he spams us with. Or if you're the resident blogger of Microsoft / Google / Apple / (pick your favourite IT hothouse), pimping their latest and greatest creations.

One of the blog rules would be that you probably blog on a pretty regular basis, or your faithful readers (all 10 of them!) abandon you for some other tripe (there are a lot of junk celebrity bloggers out there in Singapore).

And because I have never seen myself as a person to follow rules on a consistent basis, here I am: blogging while I am supposed to be working. There's a bunch of stuff waiting to be spreadsheeted and powerpointed but who cares? I've got stuff to talk about.


Speaking of breaking rules, I have a knack for breaking rules related to my car and my driving.

Ever since I started driving (my own car, that is), I have not failed to collect a fine or ticket in every country that I have so deigned to rent a vehicle at.

In Singapore, there have been at least 6 parking fines in the last one year. The range of fines that I have garnered (much like some ill-conceived collection that I'm not so proud of):

  • Rule No. 4(1)# - Parking without displaying any valid coupon(s) : This happened once when I cheated on my parking coupon. On some occasions, I will fold back the coupon flaps rather than tear them out, just so that I can re-use the coupon at a later date. To date, I think I managed to save enough through such efforts to actually pay the fine, so... in a way, it is perhaps worth it.
  • Rule No. 11 - Displaying coupon(s) where the time of commencement of parking indicated is later than the actual time : This happened once when I tried to squeeze a little more time out of my folded-back cheater of a coupon. I put a time that is 15 minutes later than that particular point in time, and promptly got a fine because an alert car park auntie passed by the vehicle 3 minutes later. 3 MINUTES!
  • Rule No. 10(1) - Parking a vehicle in a parking place not designated for its use : This happened when I parked near Fort Canning. I was heading to church and chose to plonk the car in a bus park lot (much like MANY other cars there were doing). So there are actually lots designated for coaches, ok, but why can't I park there when they aren't being used at all? Talk about a waste of space.

In France where I spent 4 months of last year, there were mainly parking fines garnered from the Parisian traffic police. The problem for me was that I spent most of the time in Fontainebleau, where the only parking rule around is that you can park anywhere except where it'll inconvenience someone else. Parking cars up on the kerb is not uncommon in sleepy Fontainebleau. Paris though, is another story, and they slapped me with a parking fine for leaving the car there for longer than stipulated.

To date, I have yet to pay that fine.

And finally, due to an over-eagerness to hit the Great Ocean Road with my colleague, I ended up speeding along Prince Edward Highway, somewhere east of Melbourne. All it took was to be 10km/h above the speed limit, and the camera went snap. The Melbourne police took great pains to locate our address (they called the rental company, the hotel, our client, and my Aussie mobile #) and finally found out we wanted the ticket to be served to us at a grand old CBD address in Singapore.

We haven't got the letter yet (it's been 2 months?). Guess the postage was not worth it.

What is it about dating a beautiful woman that makes you feel insecure?

Why does it make you feel like you will lose her eventually, that there is nothing you can do in your power to hold onto her?

Why is it that jealousy bubbles to the surface whenever she gets approached by other men?

When is it possible to say 'I love you' to her and mean it, and not because you want to get comfortable with her (because she's beautiful)?

What can you do to keep her with you, knowing full well she can have the pick of the crop?

Why is it that you feel an urge to protect her, to hold her, and to reassure her that she is beautiful, despite the reservations you have that it is that which gives her strength and confidence?



Sydney right now is an odd place. It is a living irony.

It has rained copiously the last 3 weeks or so. I arrived here on Tuesday to find it showering torrentially - there was half an expectation that Noah's Ark will loom over the distance, overspilling with kangaroos, koalas and wombats. (the Australian version of it, anyhow). The folks I were visiting at the market research agency we work with were apologising for the weather, like it was their fault that the rain came along (and the British aren't the only ones who have extensive vocabulary for weather conditions).

Yet... and this is weird... the people here are still experiencing a drought. They still do not have enough water.

I found out soon enough why: the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plains; but in Australia, they are falling in the damned cities where the damned dams cannot catch them. So the best possible solution to this water crisis might be this: bring out the bathtubs and start collecting the rainwater off of your rooftops.

Or if divine intervention be required, pray for rain - but pray with more geographic precision.


Have you ever thought about the wedding vows and how they all sound similar? Apparently, even wedding vows have certain best practices. For example, the following wedding vow is too often said to death:

"I _____, take you ______, to be my wedded wife/husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in
sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part. And hereto
I pledge you my faithfulness."

Another one which is uttered by the minister in attendance:

"_________________, will you have this woman/man to be your wife/husband to live together according to God’s decree in the holy estate of marriage? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honour and keep her/him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, faithfully keep to her/him alone, so long as you both shall live?"

"I will."

I think we can all do better with our wedding vows: be creative and come up with your own. The website My Wedding Vows
might be a good place to source for ideas.

However, I think a vow, whether creative or traditional, needs to be made with genuine intent. Otherwise, it is just another meaningless utterance, air let out of lungs without any commitment to it.

And where vows are concerned, I believe I shall write my own one when the time comes around to it. (Ed note: Actually I was thinking of sprucing this entry with a few vows of my creation, but there's no time for that now - I have to get back to work!).


Last piece of news for those who are friends and who read this (and count themselves loyal to my cause whatever that might be at the present moment of time).

I am very happy right now. I also miss home a lot now and rue the fact that I am in Sydney. If you must know why, you know how to find me.

Oh all that rain... and not a drop to drink.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mapless in Melbourne (aka Fatigue and a Shortage of Everything)

This is one of those 'ME' posts - long, ranty, and not very much useful in the bigger scheme of things. It does feel good to write these once in a while though.


I am tired:

- of being me.

- of being me being a crutch.

- of being me being a crutch once too often.

- of being me being a crutch once too often, and for other people.

- of being me being a crutch once too often, and for other people, without anything in return.

- of being me being a crutch once too often, and for other people, without anything in return. What's more, it isn't like I am expecting some reward (though I do habour some expectations).

Being supportive, or otherwise being a friend, is sometimes a tiring exercise. Sometimes, I just want to quit it. If I could just easily tender my resignation as a friend sometimes, it'll be so much better.

A leave of absence will probably not hurt either. In some way, being 6000 miles (approximately) away from home does help.

I don't get too bothered by folks back home when I am here.

I don't get knackered at the end of a day chasing deals that never materialise.

I don't worry about people around me.

I get time away from all that has saddened me and worn me down. I am still sad about it - I just can't do damage to myself from being physically where it hurts (thinking about it still hurts... but it's containable here)

*** By the way, don't believe that bull shit about how getting away will help you forget.


But I don't get to be myself though. Over here, my social circle is diminished, and there is increased interaction with a very small number of people. Being with colleagues for 12 hours a day, constantly, and without respite, is probably none too healthy (even though most consulting engagements are such, I've always been the local and never realised the almost 24/7 interaction required with other colleagues).

Consider this: I live in the same hotel as them; see them the first thing in the morning before heading out; take turns driving the rental car and bitching about traffic; work in a small meeting room overrun with cables, laptops and assorted fat-inducing munchies; hunt for new vegeterian options (I work with a vegeterian Indian, a somewhat renounced vegeterian Indian, and a none-too-picky Thai) during lunch; brainstorm over coffee about our collective problems; fire off emails and make cruel jokes about our counterparts from Hong Kong (they and their 'sing-song' English); check out for new dinner options (Thai today, Italian tomorrow) - the first suggested restaurant wins (so long as there is vegeterian); and then retire to the hotel room, with the privacy it offers me to watch my latest downloaded shows (ack... Heroes is ending!).

I see my colleagues too much. I even talk like them now (affected Indian accent with bobble head thrown in for good measure; kawaii Thai intonations - quite charming for a gal, very gay-ish if you're a guy though).

My rant is: I need to be home... and they aren't letting me be.

Part of the reason is cost: it costs less to house me in the hotel over the weekend than fly me back and forth. The hotel is none too bad: it has broadband, the room is big and spacious, and I get a queen sized bed all to myself (anyone wanna come share it?). The flyback is not bad either: the company books us on SIA (Side note: Since I fly economy class, I always check into seats near the galley, somewhere around row 53 or so, and on the window aisle seat - go find out why).

Another reason is my bad timing: I chose to stay over one weekend, just for the heck of it (and me and another colleague did the Great Ocean Road! 2nd time round for me but she was totally thrilled to see the cliffs and winding roads). That was last weekend, and the intention was to fly home this weekend. Which proved impractical because we were going to fly home ANYWAY next Wednesday (or Thursday, or possibly Friday because we are such poor planners).

It sucks that I can't go home this weekend because: 1) I already miss home and people I know - I also miss TCC coffee; 2) I am going to miss a friend's wedding, and furthermore, that is my one chance to play being a 'Brother'. This sucks ass - I've always wanted to be the guy helping the groom tackle the ruckus of 'gate-crashing' while fighting off demanding bridesmaids. It always sounded like so much fun.


In other news...

1) Melbourne May 2007 is probably not the best of times for this sunshine state. The water shortage is made further acute by the realisation that the government has miscalculated its water reserves by 40%. 40-freaking-percent! This means further water restrictions are likely, with Stage 4 being a distinct possbility now. Yikes... people are already not washing cars due to current restriction levels. What's next for this drought stricken land? What is a stupid tourist like myself worrying about a drought in this country? Perhaps I just like the collective environmental conscience that seems to permeate policies within this country, and therefore hate to see it suffer such (un)natural problems.

2) When driving in Melbourne, you cannot do without their version of the Street Directory. The Melway is one really comprehensive road directory - it never fails to list every major or minor road. The one thing that impresses me about it is that it accurately reflects how 'big' a road really is (which is one gripe I had about Singapore's version of it - all roads look the same size and one-laners are no different from expressways). Much as the Melway helped within understanding and planning a route, Melbourne itself makes it disappointingly hard to get your bearings: street signs are not the most conspicuous objects and the necessity of doing hook turns at junctions featuring tram lines still baffle me sometimes.

3) The Great Ocean Road is one big scenic drive - doing it the 2nd time round is decidedly more fun, since I am now a more seasoned driver and can navigate the curves better (there are other curves I navigate better these days too but... sighs... no chance there). This time, I was driving in a generally west-bound direction and during the mid-morning to afternoon period. The views were amazing - sheer towering cliffs, waves crashing on rocky shores, inlets carved out by years of pounding surf. Given the chance, I would love to do it all over again - and bring a camera... and lose the non-too-adventurous colleague.

4) Finally, the last news item of the day: If you know anyone who can take me out to somewhere chic in Melbourne and have a swell time, sign me up with them. I hang out with people who are currently married / engaged or otherwise seriously dating someone while here. This means there are no singletons like myself who would love to hang out over some drinks and meet other people, and this means that this means post 9pm, I'm mostly back in my hotel room watching downloads or checking out Australian TV shows like Big Brother, 1 vs 100 etc. In the short term, it is kind of nice having a hotel room to thrash like a rock star. In the longer term (which is the next one month or so) this place will start to seriously bore me. HELP!


Oh btw, since I have a surfeit of photos which I have yet to blog about, I will probably put a couple of posts to showcase them a bit - bear with me as some of them date back to last year.

Mapless in Melbourne, May 2007

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Two Steps Behind

It's been 5 days in the Garden State of Melbourne and it looks set to be much longer now. Going by what is required, the work is going to be done by a partner in Australia, with my company being in a more supervisory and advisory position. I believe that this can largely be done out of Singapore. But given the tight timelines and strict deadlines, I guess there's no choice but to be here in Oz-land, stepping on tails and cracking the whips.

Coming to Melbourne in May is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it means that I get to meet my sis and her boyfriend again - the last time we saw each other, it was in rainy December. A blessing also when it comes to food and lodging: the food's largely covered by the per diems, and lodging comes courtesy of the company (of course!) so I'm living here like a well-fed happy consultant, with nary a care who cleans the room or washes the toilet (eh... it's not like I worried about these things back home either... )

It's a curse because I ended up being here (initially) with 2 Indian vegeterians. They're nice guys who took the trouble to explain all things Indian to me - I understood more about Hinduism and why Hindus are such tolerant folks when it came to other religions, and also why they aren't (Hinduism is both everything and nothing at the same time, but at a less abstract level than Zen Buddhism is); I understood also why a map of India from India is geographically depicted to have more land area than the typical atlas, and why Indians are outraged at seeing maps from so-called authorities on national borders; I understood that arranged marriages have a whole structure and organisation to them, that it is in and of itself a grand affair with parents on both sides involved, and brides chosen with much care, and that even if it was a love marriage, the logistics of an arranged marriage are followed nonetheless (70% of marriages in India are arranged marriages and they have one of the lowest divorce rates in the world!).

Oh wait, it's a curse because they are vegeterians and are really good at wrangling a situation to their benefit. :) When it comes deciding where to head to for dinner, the research on Indian restaurants in the area had already been done, and the decision was moot: 2-1 Indian curry place wins hands down. Oh yes there is a concession on one of the nights to go to a noodle joint, but the less than enthusiastic response from my Indian counterparts told me where their cuisine preferences lie. They are picky, cautious and particular when it comes to the food they eat - 'Rightfully so!' Ravi claims, 'because it is what you put into the system, and the system is all that matters in the end.'

Philosophical, that Ravi.


Melb's left an impression as well over the last 5 days or so. First thing I noticed on getting here is the water restrictions put in place. From the various sources I've got (sources include sister, cab drivers, receptionists at workplace and hotels among others), it appears like there's been a drought in the state of Victoria for a long time already, something in the area of the last 5-6 years apparently (according to one source).

It's probably been quite severe before, and there are actually water restriction levels that are put in place to control water usage (to some extent). This also explained why my sister's beat up car looked more beat up (dust, grime and dirt is obvious on a 20-year-old white Honda) because it hasn't been washed for months. Water restriction was at Stage 3 during my stay there and I can't help but think about other such similar 'levels' and stages out there: Hurricanes, Tornados, DEFCON, Terrorist Alerts etc. (for more details on water restriction levels, go here)


An additional curse, if you can call it that, is that our client site isn't located in town. Initially, the expectation was that the site might be on St Kilda Road, which was a hop, skip and jump away from the city centre. Following our own research on the Internet, hotel rooms were booked nearby.

However, upon further information provided by the client and other sources, it was apparent that the client site that we thought was the client site is not the client site that we were supposed to be at. The actual client site is in some suburb outside of town, in the 'city' of Whitehorse (I'm not gonna give away the actual 'urb' it's in because it just might give too much information away on my client and what I do).

The city of Whitehorse is not a city in the strict sense of the word: from the looks of it, it's an extension of Melbourne, or rather, a suburb of Melbourne. The road trip over here passes many houses, and it appeared like we never left the urban areas behind at all. In contrast, during my time in France, driving from one town to another is usually through forested areas and the distinction between one town and the next is usually clear cut (exceptions exist... like Fontainebleau and Avon, which are essentially two towns merged into one big urban mess).

I suspect, though, that Whitehorse might be a local municipality: i.e. it is more of a political entity than that of a geographical one. Given that I am in the airport transit lounge at the moment, I'll check that hypothesis out at some later date and perhaps qualify what I'm babbling about here. This might mean that the jurisdiction over essential services might be separate and distinct from the main Melbourne area itself - it might have its own police force, garbage disposal services, and the like.

Nevertheless, seeing the phrase Whitehorse brings back memories of my NS days. Singaporean males will know what I mean. The White Horse is that oft-used phrase describing a full-time national serviceman who is a 'priviledged son'. He is typically the son of an influential politician, rich and prominent business person, or some other similar e-literati (A l33t in netspeak). The name came about because the dockets (35A and 34B for those who care to recall) will have a white horse stamp on it to remind the unit commanders of the special treatment require for the rich kid.

Few people liked the system (for obvious reasons) and its existence was only very recently acknowledged.


Right. Boarding soon. Thank god for the new IBM Thinkpad my company has deigned to bequeath to me: this baby runs on juice for more than 2 hours at a stretch! (on those days I don't run power intensive programs on it like Azureus). The Thinkpad is a tool for the pro: it looks chunky for sure, but the whole charm of it comes from its ubiquitous black monochrome and the sleek black lines with hard edges and sharp corners. In other words: don't mistake this for a fluffy mac pretender; it is a work tool through and through. And it doesn't say 'I look like I might collapse' like the Dell does sometimes. Thinkpads are made to get you looking like the professional you are, and there's no looking like a pro than tapping away on one while in the airport transit lounge.

Now... if only I can look like I'm actually doing work than blogging away. hehe...


See you in Singapore soon. Bon Voyage.

Monday, April 30, 2007

How deep does the Rabbit Hole go?

It's been a while.

That's all I got to say on the subject of my tardiness.

Now on to the main course.


Firstly, the update. For the last 3.5 months, I was working away at a search firm / recruitment agency / headhunter (choose your description) interacting with a lot of people and generally getting a handle on the recruitment industry in Singapore. Also, I started seeing signs that the famed 'Employees' market' is back again: candidates show up with multiple job offers and companies are getting pressed to hire as quickly as possible (to stem outflows and offer rejections). What has not changed though were the salaries: they do not accurately reflect this demand.

So, that fun time at the search firm lasted until a kickass consultancy offered me a 3-month contract with them. It was not the most lucrative offer that an MBA can get, but it was good enough to entice me to join them. I had talked to them since last November and the expectations were rather clear in terms of compensation and work (the work is exciting stuff - strategy consulting always is). Thus, I took the plunge: I ate the red pill and took a dive down the rabbit hole to see how deep it goes.


It goes deep south, far enough for me to be currently in Melbourne. Today (30 Apr) happened to be my first day at work (not counting the 2-3 hours at the project kickoff and that office party event, which were before my official start date). I had barely left the search firm (last Friday) and found myself on a plane Sunday night headed towards Melbourne. There was the inkling of an idea what the project was about (a Market Research thingy), but largely, all I was doing was heading to Australia with little idea what I was meant to do there.

Sitting pretty in the hotel room now, I can't help but wonder if this is what my worklife is going to be for a while: travelling at short notice to strange places and seeing a lot of airports, the inside of taxis, and intimately knowing the interiors of the hotel room (oh carpet, you're so fine!). The consulting life is going to be like this for a while... which is great! I never got to travel much at my last job.

Melbourne also affords me the opportunity to see my sis. It also afforded my dad and mum the opportunity to pile my luggage with stuff they want me to send to her (at last count, this was a headset with microphone, a couple of MicroSD cards, and some baby stuff for her bf's niece). We haven't caught up yet but I reckon I might take part of the weekend to do that. We shall see.


On another note, I'm not sure I will be able to write much anymore. The following reasons are all why I haven't updated this blog for the whole month of April (btw, this post is backdated to 30 Apr so I have something in April... it was written on Labour Day... which is NOT a holiday in Australia):

  1. Anime - Spring's offerings have intrigued me: I started on about 7 new animes that came out for the Spring season and have followed every one of them up until at least episode 3 or 4. Each anime takes up about 25 mins and this meant that time lost to anime amounted to around 3 hours every week.
  2. TV - There are two programs I've followed throughout this recent period (let's call it greyscalefuzz's search firm times): The Amazing Race and Heroes. Whenever possible, I download both shows from bittorrent sites and collectively, they amount to almost 1hr and 40 mins away from more productive work as well. I still like TAR's reality show concept (comes from my travel bug syndrome) and Heroes is just simply mindblowing for its plotlines.
  3. Interviews - and the preparation for them also took up time in April. While the 1st two months of the year were a drought where interviews were concerned, March and April brought a bit of a windfall in interviews. I met 5 companies for interviews (some leading to a 2nd round) even while juggling the possiblity of accepting the rabbit hole job. :) It was good to be desired, but only one other job came to a conversion. There is no way to estimate the time spent here though.
  4. Other distractions - I surfed voraciously in April (my search history shows this) and this also meant much of my downtime (while not at work) was spent reading stuff off the Internet. Topics ranged form Spartan history on Wikipedia to recaps of TAR on Television without Pity. Engaging content on the web abounds - I will never read it all!
  5. Oh yes, there is also The Gym. Since I signed up for a gym membership, I've been working out twice a week (almost religiously). This is a new thing on my calendar and has amounted to 3 hours in The Gym. The Gym is a noisy dancefloor music haven with hunky dudes pumping iron and gym bunnies in 2 piece attires prancing around. Eye candy aside, it also has too many gay guys (getting checked out in the shower room is the usual norm, especially when it came time to wrap the towel around the waist).


So the rabbit hole goes deep: I know little about what I've gotten myself into, but it is a reality I am happy to explore for a while (if just for 3 months, so be it). Beats the uncertainty of recruitment. :)

PS: Give me a shout if you're are in Melbourne!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Great Recap Episode, Part 2

Avid anime fans will know what I am talking about when I mention Sunrise Studio.

Sunrise is the studio behind your blockbuster anime hits like Gundam Seed (and its less watchable sequel Gundam Seed Destiny), Mai Hime, Mai Otome and the currently airing Code Geass. Sunrise's anime are populated by a huge cast of characters, all with particular quirks and very distinct personalities.

Sunrise's anime plots are also riddled with fantastical plot twists and one can expect intense emotion (sometimes) from the characters within. Whether it be mechas, magical girls or harems, Sunrise will manage to make any story seem like you're watching an opera (or space opera in the case of Gundam).

But for all its merits, Sunrise has this one huge flaw which is inexcusable: the cheap use of the recap episode. The typical Sunrise anime will be so full of plot twists that the studio despairs over its fanbase losing track of the shenanigans and exploits played out on TV. 'The fans cannot be left behind! They must be periodically updated on what has gone on!'

What spawns from this line of reasoning is the oh-so-often use of that bane known as the Recap Episode. After approximately 10 episodes, Sunrise feels 'obliged' to let its fans have the Recap Episode: its simply a rehash of already aired episodes, edited to look like a summary of the plot highlights, with a voice over to make it all uber-serious (and also to mask the fact that they reused images and scenes). The real fans know though that it is another Sunrise cop-out: the studio is just saving money and stretching the season for what it's worth.

In other words... a sell out (to the hardcore fans, at least).


Any blog that has been around long enough (and is read often enough) will have been trolled through a search engine, RSS feed aggregator or something similar. I guess my blog is no exception, and since I've started using StatCounter, I've been able to see the search keywords which have led unsuspecting readers to my blog.

Since a free account on StatCounter did not allow me to keep more than a hundred recorded 'pings', I've been diligently keeping a record of the keywords offline. Bloggers out there often have one of those posts where they 'exhibit' these keywords, make funny observations about some of them, and generally boast about their perceived readership (how they get such grandiose notions from the keywords that led to their site is a mystery).

For myself, I guess I am no exception. Therefore, like in any Sunrise anime, my recap post is meant to highlight some of those posts that inadvertently drew the most hits from search engines (the keywords are in italics; my comments are below):

1. The MarkStrat one

"secret of markstrat online"
- this one sounds like a kungfu manual

"how i won markstrat"
- future b-school bestseller if this ever gets written

"what can i apply in real world from what i learnt in markstra"
- in brief: nothing

"markstrat blog"
"markstrat cheat"
- tsk tsk tsk...

"secrets to be successful in the markstrat game"
- there are none: you already have them

"tricks for markstrat"
"hints for markstrat"
- how about hooray for markstrat?

"markstrat wisdom"
- wise indeed...

Sometime last year during my MBA, I did this elective called Market Driving Strategies that is really about all of us playing a simulation called MarkStrat. It proved frustrating to the losing teams playing it that most of us were looking for ways and means to turn things around. I wrote a couple of posts about it.

Little did I expect that there were others like myself out there who had little idea what was going on. But, unlike them, it never occurred to me to troll the blogs for hints on how to win MarkStrat. Some guys did though as is evident above.

In fact, I get most of my random one-time hits from people trolling the net for MarkStrat hints. These guys are quite desperate if they think anyone out there has the answer for them. What's little understood is that MarkStrat isn't about winning it: it's about learning from it (even while losing).

Link to MarkStrat post

2. The Ice Cream Case

"ice-fili what happened"
- you really want to know? You REALLY wanna KNOW???

"wtp ice fili"
- I'm not willing to pay a single cent, mind you. WTP = Willingness to Pay

"ice-fili mba case"
"strategy for ice fili"
- Sell, sell, sell... oh wait that was in March, Buy, buy, buy

"ice-fili advantage"
- phick... phock... phick... game, set, match, ice-fili.

Ice-Fili is this Russian ice cream company that is an interesting example of a former government-owned enterprise rising out of the ashes of the Cold War. The case was written with detailed data and enough information with which to teach a Strategy 101 course.

All your strategy concepts can be covered with the material: Willingness-to-Pay, Value Chain, Cost-to-Serve, Value Delivered, Competitive Advantage, Value Innovation, Five Forces, etc.

Being an oft-used case, I guess there are other b-schoolers out there who troll the net for any information they can glean about it.

That is, again, a problem: there should be no additional information needed to understand the case. The case is written to be self-contained. If any information were to be used at all, it should already be within the case itself.

Anyhow, for the Dec '06ers, Ice-Fili was a bad reminder of a badly taught course: our entire Strategy course was based on that ONE case, to the point where we even had our exam on it. Not one of us was interested in ice cream for a while after...

Link to Ice-Fili post

3. The Great Casino Debate

"seah chiang nee tragedy and the casino debate little speck"
- poor Seah Chiang Nee...

"IR parliament house balakrishnan"
"Vivian Balakrishnan"
- Singapore's favourite eye surgeon became Singapore's least favourite sell-out

- none at all I'm sure... your SAFRA clubs are safe because the uncles and aunties won't be able to afford the entrance fee

"chia teck leng"
"chia teck leng christianity"
- rotting in jail now...

"singaporeans spent at turf club"
- ... to see horses run in circles

"legalized gambling deontology"
- 3 words you'll seldom see next to each other

"Parliamentary speech by Khaw"
- hear ye, hear ye

"legal age for gambling on cruise ships"
- probably lower than the legal age to have sex

"casino AND integrated resort"
- Yes... one and the same, only in Singapore

"effect erosion in genting malaysia"
- not something a non-geologist like me will talk about

"social responsibility activities of genting"
- check back again in your next life

"IR debates in Singapore"
- now we're talking

The extent to which Singaporeans were interested in articles on the casino / IR issue surprised me, even when it is no longer a topic of discussion.

To put things in perspective, I wrote my Ethics essay on the Great Casino Debate in Dec 2006, a whole year and some since the debate raged in parliament and in the media. And prior to the debate, even, the idea was mooted by government leaders, there were hushed whispers about it happening, and there occurred the great hullabaloo about calling them Integrated Resorts (for political reasons).

In any case, I am heartened to find folks out there still looking for information on the IR debate. My own research was based on articles I trolled off the net (most were dutifully referenced and noted in the essay).

The strange thing is that, when the debate was at its most intense, it was already a moot issue: the powers that be had already made the decision. The post-decision consultation was just that: all talk. Hot air for the sake of respectability perhaps.

I hope the debate served as that point in Singaporean history where its people finally understood that they have been hoodwinked by a government that is, up till now, still unwilling to listen without first making up its mind. Things must change. Things will.

Link to Essay on the Great Casino Debate


Next week: Another recap episode! This time, I want to go into the funnier and less often observed keywords that have led to greyscalefuzz. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Letters from Bukit Timah / Frags of our Brothers

I was fortunate to be invited to attend a talk by Singapore's eminent economist, Dr Tan Kee Wee. Dr Tan is the Lilian Too of investors: while Lilian tells you what the stars have to say about the future economy, Dr Tan is more "specific" and "down to earth" in his speculations... i.e. he builds and uses econometric models to predict the future. In a nutshell, Dr Tan might be what you describe as a macroeconomic fortune teller.

Dr Tan's presentations are titled Investment Outlook Seminars and he has been doing them for a long while - Singaporean investors do listen to this sage and act upon his advice. However, what Dr Tan really does well is not tell people what to invest in; what he's good at is in explaining the intricate links between macroeconomic forces and current affairs, and why the world is in the funk it is in because of whose actions. It is a Macroeconomics 101 class that is a tour-de-force through the world shaping economic events of this century.

To illustrate his presentation, he uses movie themes. His theme this time round was inspired by Clint Eastwood's WW2 opus: Letters from Iwo Jima (which follows Flags of Our Fathers). With tongue firmly in cheek (Ed Note: I hate this phrase, but it is just so apt), Dr Tan titles his presentation 'Letters from Bukit Timah'. Following from here, I shall talk about what I understood of Dr Tan's presentation (which was interesting, humorous and a macro refresher for myself).

2006 was a year marked by a further ascent in the Chinese and Indian economies. In effect, the rise of the 2 nations are part of a bigger force known as Globalisation. As with any world moving force, there are both winners and losers in its wake. The winners are your i-bankers and MNC CEOs, who are laughing all the way to the bank because they can all buy low and sell high, that all-important principle. The losers are actually the low wage earners and workers of this world. While productivity has improved, wages have not followed suit. Tough luck workers.

Global Liquidity

Why has the world been able to globalise? It is all due to a phenomenon known as Global Liquidity (see this article to understand what it is; see this blog to know why it's a big deal). in a nutshell, global liquidity results in the world being flushed with too much money (none of which is going to people like you and I though). There were two factors that led to this situation:

1. The sinking of the Nikkei index - the Japanese economy tanked in the early 1990s (from its 40,000 high) and never recovered since then. What the central bank of Japan did was to lower interest rates in response, in the hope of stimulating entrepreneurship and investments (FDI). These macroeconomists all think we are motivated by borrowing rates: the lower it is, the more enticed we are to borrow money to start a business. However, what the lowered interest rates resulted in was a practise known as carry trade, whereby Morgan Stanleyish hawks borrowed in yen (cheaply, because the interest rate is low in Japan) and lend the borrowed funds in a high-interest currency, like perhaps the USD (at that point).

2. The dot-com crash - this had an effect because Alan Greenspan, at that time still Chairman of the Federal Reserves, decided to lower interest rates in the U.S. as well. For what reason? See factor number 1. What Greenspan inadvertently caused though was to make money 'cheap'. With borrowing rates low, the multiplier effect does its part in making more money available in the financial world.

To curb the effects that his action has caused, Greenspan has raised the rates again (this as of 2005 I think), but the effect of that won't be felt until much later. Therefore, the world as it is now is still enjoying (or suffering, depending on your point of view) the effects of global liquidity.

So what happens with money being so liquid is that the developing countries of the world, particularly your biggies like China and India, have a whole lot of USD in their pockets. A country like China is scared to be holding on to too much USD though. Why? Because buying too much USD with RMB will cause the RMB to rise, which will make its goods expensive, which will lower its exports, which means less income (ad infinitum as macroeconomic reasoning goes). So China uses its USD to buy US treasury bonds: low yield but stable returns. This is what every other emerging Asian economy does with its USD, to peg its currency artificially to the USD without causing its goods to cost more. Local Asian banks can thus keep their mortgage rate low and trigger what? You guessed it: property speculation (but that's another story...)

The Dominant Currency and Why no Hyperinflation

Come now to 2007 and we all start wondering why doomsday theorists all think this liquidity is supposedly a bad think. They naysaying economists all say so because too much money leads to that unhealthy economic phenomenon known as hyperinflation (my view of hyperinflation is that it is what makes the money we own as good as toilet paper, and I am not being lyrical here). However, we have not seen hyperinflation occur: Dr Tan says this is because all the money is being held by the ultra-rich (hence we are all not rich; hence we don't over-buy stuff and raise the demand curve; hence prices don't rise; ad infinitum reasoning ala macroeconomic theorists).

So... while there won't likely be hyperinflation (and you can bet your pants that the Fed will do all it can to prevent this by...... raising interest rates), there also won't be an alternative currency emerging anytime soon. The currency of the world is the USD.

Do you know why? Wow, Dr Tan's explanation of this conspiracy (it IS a conspiracy I tell you) totally blew me away. First thing you need to know was that, following WW2, the Bretton Woods Conference resulted in exchange rates around the world to be pegged to the USD, which was at that time based on the gold standard (i.e. you can buy USD and use it, at that time, to exchange for a fixed amount of gold... from Fort Knox I assume). What this did was to make the USD stable as a currency of choice: the European central banks love it, the Colombian drug barons love it even more.

The subsequent collapse of the gold standard and depegging of currencies did not diminish the dominance of the USD though: this was because another some Republican president had, by that time, convinced Saudi Arabia (and subsequently all of OPEC) to sell its oil in USD, and in USD solely. What to do? The oil-producing nations only want USD for their oil, therefore the economies of the world have to hoard USD to buy oil.

Okay, enough of a diversion into the USD as dominant currency. Serious contenders to this useless throne have been the Euro and, previously, the Yen. There might come a day though when the Chinese Yuan may prove to be THE world currency, but that won't be anytime soon (they don't want it either).

Bad for US, Good for ROW (Rest of the World)

So Dr Tan gazes into his crystal ball of an econometric model (200-300 equations of it; according to him, central bank models have >500 equations in their simulations). He predicts that a recession will hit the US in the 3rd quarter of 2007. To most economists, the recession has been looming for long enough: a treasury bond yield curve inversion has been observed for the last one year (see this article for an explanation of the power of this indicator). It is inevitable that it will happen sometime this year.

However, unlike the previous US recessions, emerging economies won't suffer alongside. Why? Because the US is no longer the main market for their goods and services. The world has shifted from doing business with the US to doing business with China and India. Most world trade is nowadays transacted with the Chinese and the Indians. Therefore, a US recession is unlikely to have the same repercussions as before.

On Singapore, Dr Tan says 'go for the champions'. The champs are your pharmaceuticals, financial services firms, building and construction firms (he always says there is a housing bubble building up... we're in the middle of a housing rush), the gaming industry (IR anyone?) and even something like the F1 (yay it's coming here!).

Sidetrack: Do you know that the Singapore economy is engineered to encourage you to SPEND? Spending stimulates the economy and it is what keeps a recession at bay (Macroeconomics 101 stuff). However, there are artificially designed laws which makes us spenders on a cyclical basis: COEs, which make a new car old every 10 years means that you WILL buy a car every decade; en-bloc sales, whereby property values will reach an optimum point every 30 years, this means property must be sold after 30 years (or it will depreciate). The Gahmen... it is very smart indeed.


Dr Tan also thinks that there will be war in 2007. Who vs who? This is too easy: the US will attack Iran. (yup, this is starting to sound like a coffeehouse chat, but it REALLY is an economist giving his predictions here).

The big event of 2007 will be the US attacking Iran. The reasons?

1. Iran might have capability to develop nuclear weapons / it has too much influence over Iraq (civil war) / it can choke the Hormuz Straits etc. These are all very familiar doomsday theories which all have their inkling of truth.

2. The more wild reason is that the US wants to do that to protect the USD. Again I was floored by the reasoning, but it made some sense. Oil is sold in USD but there have been detractors in recent history. Prior to the 2nd Iraqi war, Baghdad started to sell oil in Euros. Of course, they got invaded and went back to the USD market.

Teheran has decided of late that it also wants to set up a euro-based oil exchange. This caused alarm bells to go off in Washington, leading to calls for an overthrow of the regime (and here we all think it's all cos the Americans are anti-Islamist).

But why protect the USD? Dr Tan's macroeconomic brain goes into overdrive at this point and explains how the US actually taxes the world economy through the depreciation of the USD. At this point, I thought it was a little too cheem to understand (and google / wikipedia aren't helping here, so I'll save the theory for examination another day).

So... do look forward to the next couple of months to be an interesting time in the Gulf: plenty of missiles in the sky, for sure.

Buy and Sell

Finally, Dr Tan gets to the part where all the crusty Singaporean uncles in the room wake up and prick up their ears: what to do and when.

Dr Tan says:

1. Don't hold the USD... it is going to weaken.

2. Gold is good. Buy gold. It is cheap and it won't depreciate crazily like that stupid paper called money.

3. If you can buy uranium, go buy and hoard it. Prices will go up. (So will your radioactivity and geiger meter count)

4. Buy bonds. But be careful what bonds you buy cos there're a lot of junk bonds floating around. Avoid these. SG government bonds are good though (even with the crappy return)

5. Avoid US stocks - they are weakening. Uncle Sam is like the plague. Buy Chinese stocks. Buy Indian stocks. The stock exchange indices are on a path to the moon and are not looking back (yet). So buy these. In Singapore, go buy trusty Singtel: Dr Tan says it should hit 4 bucks end of the year.

6. Only buy high-end property, not your crappy HDB flat. Also, avoid ulu places like Seng Kang and Yew Tee: they won't be going en bloc in your lifetime, guaranteed. Always always always (and always) look for condos with en bloc potential.

7. And finally... in summary, Sell in March, Buy in June.

And so concludes Dr Tan's investment outlook.

1. Lilian Too is a famous geomancer in Malaysia who popularised the art of Feng Shui. She's also an astute businesswoman who profits from selling (IMHO useless) knick-knacks to boost your luck.
2. You can listen to a podcast of an earlier presentation of the same information at this website.
3. Dr Tan's profile and other information regarding his presentation can be found here.
4. Some of the views expressed here are my own and not Dr Tan Kee Wee's. However, all failed attempts at dramatization are Dr Tan's fault - wah lau... don't you think it's corny that he called his talk 'Letters from Bukit Timah'?