Friendly Dude

Deng Xiao Ping's bust along the Singapore River

Deng Xiao Ping’s bust along the Singapore River

Been taking walks around town since presentations are all done. Took some pictures, I liked this one more than the rest.

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Why Importing Athletes Probably Can’t Hurt

Feng Tian Wei, Singapore's first individual Olympic medalist in over 40 years

On Wednesday, 1 Aug 2012, Feng Tian Wei became the first Olympic medalist for Singapore in over 50 years. I am a Singaporean, and for this, I am proud. Some will go on about her roots being from China, making her not actually Singaporean. Well, I say, so what? If they can do better than what our current stock of players, then we must put them up as our best foot forward. A win, in many cases, spurs support and that in turn spurs more wins. If this is what it takes for us to get started, then I say why not?

With hope, these ‘imports’, as they are often referred to, will help build up a team that is natively Singaporean. That will not happen soon though. Look around the London 2012. Athletes from geographical locations other than the one they are representing are strewn all over. Some countries have niches in which they traditionally perform very well in. They get governmental support to train atheletes in that area. Many athletes are recruited, and the best are cherry-picked to represent their home country. What then happens to those who aren’t? They aren’t the best there, but surely they could beat the best in many other countries. It makes sense for them to look overseas if they are to continue their quest for a place in the Olympics. And so they willingly become ‘exports’.

I feel this does two things. One, it evens out the sporting landscape a little. Two, it drives improvement in the sport. With talent spread the world over, the best must get better as more athletes get training from some of the best on the globe. Sports benefit greatly in that way, and audiences will inevitably get a better show. The proverbial win-win.

We sometimes like to say ‘haters gonna hate’. I guess that is true. Perhaps some foriegners in Singapore deserve a stern chiding, but the flying in of athletes is something I can live with; and I don’t say this just because we’ve won something. Or do I?

Samuel

On a warm island evening,
An old friend comes by in a daydream.
‘When you’re all pipe, slippers and rocking chair,
Can you pretend that you’ve lived?’
And then he took off.

Goodbye Sam.
You’ve gone long before it was okay.
Your humble, eccentric ways we have learned to love.
Your quiet strength I will always remember bolstering our quests.
Now, your reminder.
Rest well, friend.

You Will Be Missed

When you’re aged 25, you just don’t expect a friend who you’ve gone to school and rowed boats with to die — it just isn’t supposed to happen. I’ve had acquaintances die before, but nobody who was closer. Samuel Ling and I served the same club back in junior college, we fought the same fights, sometimes against each other, but mostly we fought as brothers-in-arms.

He was eccentric, to say the least. In a place where most people could barely manage to write and speak proper Mandarin, his grasp of the language rendered some of his deeper writings arcane to the common reader. On a boat, he paddled with sometimes berserk ferocity, throwing form to the wind; other times he would let the paddle prance above the water just keeping a straight back and perfecting form. Samuel had strength in his legs, as many doors in school would attest. And damn, could the man sweat!

Watching him compose and play at a piano, I don’t think he is anything if not at least a minor prodigy.

Although we did not contact each other very much after university — he being busy with work, and myself busying in school — whenever we did meet, there would be happy backslapping and laughter.

I hope I could write better about this, and maybe I will at some point, but for now, I’ll just miss you Sam.

The Dark Knight Rises: Thoughts

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises I think is a good superhero movie ending. It got me thinking about inequality a little.

We the common man constantly rattle our fists at ‘the one percent’ – the privileged few and their entourages. What happened in Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises is a revolution fronted by a deranged man. It is far out, but if allowed to breed and grow under the radar, the thought of such an angry mob actually forming is feasible.

The one percent whether they realise it or not, can only sit on top comfortably if the people under them are happy to stay where they are. Philosophers have argued this way and that on the matter, and my thought is this. The people on top should pay reasonably well, and make sure that the rest of society can live in relative comfort, only then can they sit happy in their nests perched atop everyone elses’s’. If not for society, then for their own sake.
A monster like Bane may not materialise, but the resent may breed malice as pure as his.

Composed

Nomad woman milking a yak on the grasslands of Sichuan, China after a snowfall the night before. (© John Quintero/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

Nomad woman milking a yak on the grasslands of Sichuan, China after a snowfall the night before. (© John Quintero/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

When people say National Geographic photographers take some of the world’s best pictures, this is the kind of thing they are talking about. The look, the vibrant colours, and the capturing of a life in one frame.

The Genetics of Stupidity

Some rights reserved by Noel A. Tanner on Flickr.com

The following post from Wiring the Brain gives some insight into the genetics of intelligence from the other side. The genetics of intelligence is probably better considered from the viewpoint of the stupidity.  Some really interesting insights into the correlation of  body symmetry and intelligence too.

This is an example of why more scientists should blog and write in Human, so that the rest of us peons can learn from their research while stumbling through the internet.

The Genetics of Stupidity

Whatsapp: ‘Why we don’t sell ads’

Whatsapp on why they don't sell apps

This is why Whatsapp charges instead of selling ads. A sound argument too. Fact is, when the service is as reliable as what Whatsapp offers, people are more than willing to pay for it. The following is taken from the Whatsapp blog (emphasis mine):

Brian and I spent a combined 20 years at Yahoo, working hard to keep the site working. And yes, working hard to sell ads, because that’s what Yahoo did. It gathered data and it served pages and it sold ads.

We watched Yahoo get eclipsed in size and reach by Google… a more efficient and more profitable ad seller. They knew what you were searching for, so they could gather your data more efficiently and sell better ads.

These days companies know literally everything about you, your friends, your interests, and they use it all to sell ads.

When we sat down to start our own thing together three years ago we wanted to make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse. We wanted to spend our time building a service people wanted to use because it worked and saved them money and made their lives better in a small way. We knew that we could charge people directly if we could do all those things. We knew we could do what most people aim to do every day: avoid ads.

No one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they’ll see tomorrow. We know people go to sleep excited about who they chatted with that day (and disappointed about who they didn’t). We want WhatsApp to be the product that keeps you awake… and that you reach for in the morning. No one jumps up from a nap and runs to see an advertisement.

Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought. At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out… And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen.

Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.

At WhatsApp, our engineers spend all their time fixing bugs, adding new features and ironing out all the little intricacies in our task of bringing rich, affordable, reliable messaging to every phone in the world. That’s our product and that’s our passion. Your data isn’t even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it.

When people ask us why we charge for WhatsApp, we say “Have you considered the alternative?”