ippt's coming up in 2 days. i've been running a route which i've crafted since my jc days... it goes by chinese high, goes into namly avenue, passed by the hwa chong boarding school and SIM which is wonderfully lighted, some MP's (or is it the SM's) house past the guards, down into the playground where there are some maids usually having a quiet prayer sessions... there's a cafe set in an old row of shops there called la roma which is lit very well, and it reminds me of a restaurant we ate at at louang prabang (was reminded of it because someone i know is going to work there). i would love to have a cafe just opposite my place which opens till 10. i do like to read and talk outside my home.

the whole place still feels the same from when i was training for an ippt gold to get a 3 month exemption from NS fitness training. i even remember the walk back when i would think of all my crushes and be really sad about them. heh.
i cannot do something that bill clinton is a master at:

speak slowly in clear simply language, framing things into good and bad while explaining economic issues, and most importantly, sound enthusiastic and passionate without coming across as scarily so like joe biden... look at the body language...always laughing, shifting his shoulders, looking relaxed... you want to be his friend. when biden points, it looks like a headmaster doing it, while bill clinton speaks at a slower cadence, so when he moves his finger to the words, it looks like a conductor. his head rolls from side to side, and having a voice and a southern accent doesn't hurt as well. he did a fantastic job explaining why the other party shouldn't be voted for, while always smiling and speaking like it's nothing personal except that their policies happened to suck. i love people who attack behind a smile!


i watched obama's DNC 04 speech, which was hailed as a masterclass. probably for the content, not the delivery. i realized that these things come with practice. obama's delivery now is x times better than he was then... he still spoke a little too quickly and didn't play to the crowd, his voice doesn't have the same tenor it has now. you can see the nerves and the urge to just get through his content, such that he talks over applause. so you see, american campaign speech training is the best in the world. although PM's Questions in the UK and Boris Johnson take the prizes for wittiest speeches.

and especially for bill clinton and obama, it helps when you're winning, have a track record and a favourable audience. after all, you can take as much time as you like when you're the big shot.


avarice, usury and precaution must be our gods for a little while yet

as i was angsting about how long it took to get my visa application to the counter last week and further time angsting about all the bureaucracy, biometric stuff i had to do, and whether my plans would be derailed by a visa, i thought of two things. god, because it's very tempting to trust in one when things are out of your control, and john maynard keynes...
 What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man
that age was which came to an end in August 1914! The greater
part of the population, it is true, worked hard and lived at a
low standard of comfort, yet were, to all appearances, reasonably
contented with this lot. But escape was possible, for any man of
capacity or character at all exceeding the average, into the
middle and upper classes, for whom life offered, at a low cost
and with the least trouble, conveniences, comforts, and amenities
beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of
other ages. The inhabitant of London could order by telephone,
sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole
earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably
expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the
same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the
natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the
world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their
prospective fruits and advantages; or he could decide to couple
the security of his fortunes with the good faith of the
townspeople of any substantial municipality in any continent that
fancy or information might recommend. He could secure forthwith,
if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any
country or climate without passport or other formality, could
despatch his servant to the neighbouring office of a bank for
such supply of the precious metals as might seem convenient, and
could then proceed abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge
of their religion, language, or customs, bearing coined wealth
upon his person, and would consider himself greatly aggrieved and
much surprised at the least interference. But, most important of
all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and
permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and
any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous, and avoidable. The
projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial
and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and
exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were
little more than the amusements of his daily newspaper, and
appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary
course of social and economic life, the internationalisation of
which was nearly complete in practice.

i guess that nowadays travel is so affordable, and that government has some reason or another
to choose the freedoms that we are subject to, to preserve other freedoms. however, i can very
much understand the british suspicion of id cards and of their individual liberty because
government can be so damn inefficient sometimes.

but if you look at what i highlighted in bold, keynes demonstrates a maturity (albeit informed by
the war) that things may not always be so rosy. it's recession time, and it's a good time to go back
and read keynes. people know him only for keynesian fiscal stimulus, but let me present a few
of his other common sense observations.

- on moral hazard. willem buiter of lse has been going around suggesting that we should let banks fail.
in theory, this is right. however keynes has a beautiful common sense insight regarding "taking the
bitter pill." if it were true that one could swallow a bitter pill once and that would be the end of
it, then most people would do it. the problem is that we don't know how many pills we need to
swallow and as human beings, we may be able to swallow one or two pills but then the itch to
intervene comes later, at a greater cost, because somehow humans can only take so much pain
so it may be better to intervene while the cost of intervention is low to restore confidence. true, moral hazard has to be solved but this is something that one shows
strength and leadership in during good times, not bad times, through having the appropriate
regulations and premiums etc...

I always find Keynes has remarkable intuition, and he did better in psychology for his civil service
exams than economics (to his eternal resentment). but this informed him well as a speculator
buying corn and as someone designing policy. he was such a pragmatist, like lky and the traditional
british civil servant... utilitarian but with sensible aims and intuitions... like john stuart mill.

Another good read is this: economic possibilities for our grandchildren. very uneconomic, in
a sense, and utterly wrong in some respects, but good points all round well, perhaps we haven't
really solved for all our basic needs, but i sense that our needs really may be insatiable,
contrary to his believes... of course, the reason he writes such beautiful prose is to make a
normative point, not simply describe us as we are. he foresees that fact that we may actually
run out of work and be super productive. this happens in countries like france, where working
hours are short, but then again, perhaps there just isn't enough creative destruction going on.

but the normative point he makes, is a more subtle one... the world of economics and money
are all well and good for certain aims, but we are not civilization itself, or the supreme objective
it merely makes civilization possible. and he has in there, the example of the perpetual long-horizon
discounter, anticipating the behavioural economics paradox we have nowadays. money, in itself,
has no intrinsic value unless you spend it. of course, if i were that discounter, i would withdraw half
at any one time, and let the other half earn interest. so, see the power of prose to mislead.

but he was damned good at it. and i loved his article about newton, and how newton was more
a wonderful intuitionist as compared to the ideal of the rational man who works everything out
from first principles like descartes... his real achievement was to see the results that mattered,
and prove them afterwards, rather than proving everything from first principles like the bourbaki
school, which is rather tautological.





thank you nouriel roubini.


i was at newton with two 40 somethings in the group... newton hawker centre has changed much a little bit of the charm is gone... anyway, dwelling on the topic of whether hawkers will still be around the 40 somethings started reminiscing about their kampong childhood, about the different seasons on their fruits and being able to smell the sea from yio chu kang.

don't be mistaken i guess. i don't know if they would trade in 30 years of progress for their childhood back. i think that i would have wanted to trade in mine for 10, but i also know that we cannot sit still...

i found a compilation of joni mitchell's lyrics as well from the guardian newspaper... had been hiding in my room this entire time... akan datang... anyway, song of the moment.... we're gonna be friends, white stripes

Fall is here, hear the yell

Back to school, ring the bell
Brand new shoes, walking blues
Climb the fence, books and pens
I can tell that we are going to be friends
I can tell that we are going to be friends

Walk with me, Suzy Lee
Through the park and by the tree
We will rest upon the ground
And look at all the bugs we found
Safely walk to school without a sound
Safely walk to school without a sound

Here we are, no one else
We walked to school all by ourselves
There's dirt on our uniforms
From chasing all the ants and worms
We clean up and now it's time to learn
We clean up and now it's time to learn

Numbers, letters, learn to spell
Nouns and books, we show and tell
At playtime we will throw the ball
Back to class, through the hall
Teacher marks our height against the wall
Teacher marks our height against the wall

And we don't notice any time pass
We don't notice anything
We sit side by side in every class
Teacher thinks that I sound funny
But she likes the way you sing

Tonight I'll dream while in my bed
When silly thoughts go through my head
About the bugs and alphabet
And when I wake tomorrow I'll bet
That you and I will walk together again
I can tell that we are going to be friends
Yes I can tell that we are going to be friends


finally found it ... song of the summer!

i'm going on 24! and this version is by kanye west

and by the kooks!


picked up some of the international editions of my core textbooks, they're mostly your standard graduate texts save some intro books which i'm revising out of... mostly pretty dry.

klemperer's auction theory is wonderful, it's not so much a textbook as a case study... he was the guy that did the consultancy work for uk's 3G auction together with ken binmore... so it has detailed analyses of all the european 3G auctions, what went right, what went wrong. and although he is quite a theorist himself, he readily admits that undergrad micro and a good understanding of industrial organization are really more important than doing sophisticated gymnastics using nash equilibria and bayesian statistics... at the end of the day, an auction is a game and people are going to try to game it so your concern should be to try to take into account that players are always gonna be smart and find ways to collude. auctions really work well only with a large enough market, like NUS' CORS. but i still have doubts of it being an efficient way of handling course allocation.
wow jamaica 1-2-3 in the women's 100m... i've been wondering where the american track dominance has gone too... it seems the the sprint medals are shifting towards the periphery where the talent really is.

singapore's finally got a medal... we were all crowding around watching at the office as one of those bean counter types rued out the $750,000 we'd have to shell out.

indonesia's got the men's doubles gold... but lost the other finals... and lin dan totally demolished lee chong wei... too fast for him

and one of my favourite moments was usain bolt slowing down to break a world record... i guess it's more fun to break it a few times.
wow, what a weekend of sports action! michael phelps got his 8 gold medals, but reels of newsprint have been devoted to his glory... so i'm going to point out another achievement...

rebecca romero of great britain, silver medallist, rowing, 2004. then she decided to switch sports! after that to take up individual pursuit cycling and now she's the gold medalist. how's that for sheer training.


well there's awesome olympics coverage here in singapore... 6 different channels + mediacorp... si i've been lazing away today at michelle's place watching sports i would ordinarily never watch like cycling, handball and beach volleyball.

the olympics always seems to be a good old-fashioned event which broadcasters do for free... just like the old days.. but remember channel 7 sportscity on tcs? no, didn't think so.

what an awesome opening ceremony... and the gratuitous use of energy and people, it seemed like one of those old good-fashioned cold war national day celebrations designed to show how they had enough people to drown you out (or carry your sedans)... the poor british must be quaking in their books coming up with a suitable response for 2012.
i was reading up on the airbus a380 as part of my aerospace assignment, and i am reminded once again how my first a380 flight was not the mind-shattering experience i thought it would be... i remember watching the initial documentaries on how there would be a little atrium where you could walk around and stretch your legs, but they used it to add more seats... i guess on economy you can't expand anything much... a huge screen and incrementally more legroom + a beige decor which i have long advocated (doesn't purple depress you), but nothing revolutionary (it feels like an emirates 747). but thank god sia has good service and is rarely late (and a hub that is not too crowded). anyway, emirates is going to have showers on their suites! this is an airline that wants to consider shedding in-flight magazines and duty-free shopping to save weight and they want to lug around all that hot water...

MSNBC wins for best website for the olympics though... i like info like what the race course is like


fear china!

america's next top model has gone to china! credit crunch means no money to pay pretty girls to walk around and parade expensive stuff and so there is no stopping the huge money-hoovering capitalist paradise that is china... people, sell thyself! from la to shanghai to the fashion capital of china.... beijing.

but hey do they feel good or what... it's the olympics tomorrow and a vigorous month of sports available to couch potato to.


legend has it that towards the end of his life, howard hughes had such a mistrust for his fellow man that he refused to deal with anyone unless they were a mormon... i run into many of them on my way to the alliance... and i must say i share his sentiments. i've listened to them and not only do they sound honest, they evangelize in the friendliest and non-threatening way possible... i know appearances can deceive, but how do they do it! they are nice without being sycophantic, and they know when to lay off... others... please learn!

and standing underneath the glass triangular cone of wheelock place while it is raining is profoundly beautiful


i had a bunch of vouchers today and i managed to find michelle's old waterbottle. i missed my yellow asics racers which i had all those years ago in the army and i tried to find another pair... i decided to just get the trainers though because they seem to be insanely light nowadays... basically i bought the lightest one (nike zoom+ victory), it's basically almost as light as a racer except it has that layer of foam to "protect" you.

will be going for SBR 10km on the 24th, but i think i can't register for the nike 10k anymore.


introductions on lse postgrad forum today... everyone seems overeducated (xx degrees in this and that before) and it does seem more diverse than undergrad... although, i must say, asians are under-represented! we'll see how it turns out


"when the going gets tough, the tough lower their standards"

unanswered questions.

not quite the standard advice for life, but this is from "street-fighting mathematics", a short course from MIT, again on problem-solving heuristics. If anyone wants to learn a few cheap tricks to help you can learn them here... only jc maths needed.


a question for you, courtesy of w.b. yeats

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Why might this be the case?

From the Second Coming by W.B Yeats.

putting a more positive spin

The best have more humility,
while the worst are ranty and ravy.

jokes aside, it is a common stereotype nowadays, so is there truth to it?

Why is there the hollow between cubicles which is reportedly used as a signal for homosexual sex?

lastly, i found the google decision mechanism which is well used at guardian sports, but i found this instance at another blog.

i should _____ her (3.63 million)
i shouldn't _____ her (573,000)

so i should.

guess the verb.

**rereading my post i realized that the above few lines could be easily misconstrued... no i am not trying to make a real decision and it is merely an illustrative example.
toto time! 8 million is up for grabs, which means many people dreaming about quitting their jobs, getting that ferrari they've always wanted and making a mattress out of cash.

do you believe in lucky outlets? here's my take. places where you can buy toto are scattered not so randomly around singapore. certain areas will have higher catchment areas (higher population, human traffic). through a greater sale of tickets as well as luck, some outlets start to post higher than average number of wins (positive noise). this then creates an accumulation effect as this statistical noise is transmitted by word of mouth... so you end up with a self-fulfilling accumulation of wins (not quite like a bubble) and you have places like 7-11 getting 43 wins! it's unstable dynamics, and one should expect it to be more and more unequal over time! people should be checking rate of hit, not number of wins... that way we know that there are no supernatural forces at work... of course, if there are anomalous rate of strike... then...

you can check the theory by roughly seeing if those outlets at the top have high human traffic, and those lower have lower human traffic, except if they happen to be near an already famous outlet.


at the bottom tail, it's not significant anyway... pay attention to the middle and the top.

there is a common sense lesson to all of this... you have initial noise amplified into a self-perpetuating inequality. thomas schelling showed an example of how racial segregation occurs when people simply have minor preferences not to be surrounded by people of another race. Now, these are basically a phenomenon known as "cellular automata", and mathematically enough people have experimented with them.

look at pretty pictures:
Conway's Game of Life:

At work I play with trade data. While nominally there is a site called "trademap", what it really does is spew out numbers. You have to draw your own pictures to visualize the data. But if you did draw it out, you would see that the world is very far from the homogenous economies gravity model assumptions. there are sinks and "black holes" which just have tremendously thick arrows coming out of everywhere. fine, so you wish to model and make something tractable, but I see a lot of work still starting from CES (Dixit-Stiglitz) production functions, the maths of which is not easy, and producing conclusions which while not incorrect, are nowhere close to what you see.

so while economic geography interests me (i used to like geography), and the lse is a good place to study it because some of the early work was done here, i'd like to see models which make extensions not by making existing equations more complicated (i.e. adding more variables), but by using more intuitive, spatial ways of modelling. and that way perhaps we can leave some of this world always tending to equilibrium in the long run, when i want to know what happens next year. and then at least i have a plausible descriptive reason for why governments apparently feel it is so important to kick start investment: for agglomeration. how transport costs affect trade flows. how extending the congestion charge area could increase congestion.

and every post of mine must have this rant. while everyone loves saying that keynes was "proved" long, he had a remarkable common sense handle on people's psychology, even though the math wasn't there. this is true of many economic historians and economists of the time. that's how one needs to start... postulate animal instincts... and many years later maybe someone will show you how to model it... enter behavioural economics...

back to real life, and training myself to have a passable conversation on aeronautics so i'm not totally clueless. just as i was coming onto that industry, cnbc decides to run a feature on how airliners are facing a difficult future. but that means cutting costs and benefits for generic parts manufacturers.