Dr Tony Tan has been elected Singapore’s seventh President, winning by a 0.34 per cent margin, or 7,269 votes.

He secured 744,397 or 35.19 per cent of total valid votes, while Dr Tan Cheng Bock received 737,128 or 34.85 per cent of the valid votes.

Anyway, many Game Theoretic applications and takeaways from this presidential election; from the initial (hidden) structuring/framing/gerrymandering, the subsequent announcements of candidacies, the drawing and redrawing of OB (out-of-bounds) markers during the campaigning, and finally to the actual voting and results tonight.

Like an auction-based signaling process, similar to the theory of Conjoint Measurement applied to event arbitrage outlined here:

Sigh, a bit sad.
Wrongly played by the anti-Estab crowd…what a pity.


Interesting conversations amidst Dissipation

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows. The really diligent student in one of the crowded hives of Cambridge College is as solitary as a dervish in the desert.

I thrive best on solitude. If I have had a companion only one day in a week, unless it were one or two I could name, I find that the value of the week to me has been seriously affected. It dissipates my days, and often it takes me another week to get over it.


I agree wholeheartedly and unabashedly with Thoreau. My life thus far has been of trying to fulfill my obligations towards Man and Society, and managing the resulting Dissipations that wash over and assail me after.

For me, reservist training are usually dry, methodical and entirely dissipating affairs. Men in green are strange creatures; it seems that once you put on camouflage uniforms, your IQ drop 30 points, you lose half of your vocabulary, and you restrict yourself to neanderthalian colloquialism and philistine issues of the day.

But occasionally, you may lay down that facade and have a couple of decent and interesting conversations with other sapiens.

This time, I met a fellow alumni who though not of the same cohort, was also a product of a specialized education programme, and who is now working in policy-making in the education ministry. And we had a very interesting conversation on Jean Piaget‘s educational and child developmental psychology. As well as quite a spirited discussion on Hans Eysenck‘s take on the famous (too famous? too entrenched?) Spearman’s g factor, on tests of general intelligence ability. Piaget’s The Psychology of Intelligence and Eysenck’s The Structure and Measure of Intelligence, are of course titles which have been fixtures on my book shelves ever since I first read and used them in my General Paper class discussion on Tabula Rasa, Nature vs Nuture and Eugenics, so many years ago. And of course, on that same shelf from years ago, are Galton, Arthur Jensen, Charles Murray, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lynn, and definitely not in the least, James Flynn.

[Can’t help but mention here on how ironic it is that Charles Spearman’s construction of the Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient and of Factor Analysis, now the main tools of the trade of so many disciplines and especially in quantitative-based trading, was initially meant to provide for a rational, mathematical/statistical evidence-based justification and useful numeral unit for the original Binet tests.

{Coincidentally, these ideas and themes were referenced and in my mind when I commented on a DailySpecs post here, regarding overpopulation, evolution and eugenics. My comment was interjected wholly tongue-in-cheek and framed in a divergence/convergence lens using H G Well’s The Time Machine. I really should do more to put together a post regarding this deliciously taboo theme.


Another and rather more delightful conversation I had was with an oil trader from a bulge-bracket investment bank. These last few years of market turmoil, especially with crude going from 30 to 140, back down to 30 and then back up to 100, had been very very good to him. Between working hard in front of the trading screens, and wisely investing his spoils by picking up choice property in prime city locations, and less wisely adding to his collection of fast cars (I still think that driving into a military camp in a brand-new all-white Porsche 911 is in bad taste), he has apparently been doing some exotic adventure travelling.

While talking about our obvious common interest in the markets, we discovered that we share another interest and almost-obsession with history, overlapping especially in the classical antiquity history of Mesopotamia and Central Asia. And coincidentally, the one area in geography and the one spot in time which lit both our fires, was the ancient kingdom of Bactria, especially the ‘later’ years of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom (250 to 125 BC, largely located in present day Afghanistan), when they were squarely and solidly in the centre of the the overland trade route between China in the east and the Mediterranean countries in the west, profiting immensely from their facilitative and middleman role to become the richest kingdom sitting astride the ‘center of world trade’ (centuries before other regions and cities like Samarkand were to assume the position), and leading eventually to the mesmerizing myth of the Bactrian Gold.

We both enthused and agreed that after the discovery of Qin Shih Huang’s Terracotta Army (and even more tantalizing, the as-yet-unopened main tomb) in 1974, and of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, the 3rd most significant archaeological find of the 20th century has to be Viktor Sarianidi’s discovery of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex and of course, the Bactrian gold hoard found within it.




And my oil trader comrade-in-arms, while on garden leave before joining his present firm, managed to score a visa and apparently visited Afghanistan with the specific intention of touring the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex and seeing pieces of the Bactrian Gold hoard up close. And of course, since he was already there, he took in the Bamiyan Buddhas and Xuanzang’s travel route as well.


[Well, as least some good came out of the US invasion of Afghanistan.]

I was green with envy. And shall be updating my travel plans accordingly.


Ending here with some more words from Thoreau:

You think that I am impoverishing myself by withdrawing from men, but in my solitude I have woven for myself a silken web or chrysalis, and, nymph-like, shall ere long burst forth a more perfect creature, fitted for a higher society.

I do not know if I am singular when I say that I believe there is no man with whom I can associate who will not, comparatively speaking, spoil my afternoon.


In case Thoreau comes across as a little too high-sounding and aloof, here are rejoinders from the self-deprecating Lin YuTang:

If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.

A man who has to be punctually at a certain place at five o’clock has the whole afternoon from one to five ruined for him already.

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

–Lin YuTang

Lau Pengs (Old Soldiers)

Heh heh…

The government in 2010 announced a reward and incentive scheme of S$9000 for reservists. Unfortunately, the reward will not be paid out retroactively for reservists who had already completed their service.


wa lau eh — A Singlish exclamation; actual meaning too coarse to place here; refer here for full definition.

boh sui — not good, undesired (Hokkien).

NSF — Fulltime National Service personnel; referring to the compulsory enlisted period of military service (used to be 2yrs 6mths, now just 2yrs) for all Sporean males, usu. from age 18 to 21.

ORD — Operational-Ready-Date; the date all NSFs countdown towards, when they finish their enlisted military serivce period, leave the army and return to the ‘real world’, and become Operationally Ready NSman.

NSman — National Serviceman or reservist; what an NSF autonatically becomes after ORD (note: the accumulation of fat during this period varies from man to man and is highly optional).

ICT — In-Camp-Training; the main form of reservist training for NSmen; frequency vary but can range from multiple callups in a single year to once every two years; can be disruptive to work and family life. Tough luck.

ROD — Run-Out-Date; the date that all NSmen countdown towards, when they finally finish their reservist service obligations and are officially discharged from the military; usu. accompanied with a letter of commendation and watch for service rendered; date of discharge varies upon the meeting of stipulations but offically is age 50 for officers and age 40 for all other ranks.

BMT — Basic Military Training for all new enlistees/recruits.

gahmen — government

one kind — narrow minded

lau peng — old soldier (in Hokkien)

dowan — don’t want

lau cheow — old bird (in Hokkien), meaning old and experienced, grizzled veterans.
[as opposed to sin cheow/new bird: raw and young recruits, inexperienced and gullible]

frus — frustrated

No. 4 — the main standard dress code for army personnel: camouflage shirt and trousers and boots.

Tekong — The island of Tekong, the main offshore island used for military training; in the older days, the BMT training carried out in Tekong’s old and creepy Camp One with its longhouse bunks, was famous for its tougher training compared to other camps in Spore island with their newer camp facilities.

Drop twenty — to perform twenty pushups

chiong sua — charge the hill (in Hokkien)

2.4 — to run 2.4 kilometres, part of the basic physical proficieny test standard

sign extra — to perform punishment duties

PC — platoon commander

kiwi — to polish with Kiwi brand leather wax

welfare — to be well taken care of

tekan — to be punished, to get picked on, to come down hard on (in Malay)

teh kosong — tea without sugar (in Hokkein+Malay)

2359 — 11:59 pm; the usual deadline timing for booking in and reporting back to camp; in the video, used to refer to reporting back to the wife.

Tiny red dot II

On the subject of National Day Parade and celebratory Mass here on this tiny red dot, from an old post and old comments:
Tiny red dot




Singapore — like the Venetian Republic in its day — is a wonderful triumph of open commerce in a autocratic island; there is no question that every city in America fails by comparison just as 15th-16th-and even 17th century cities in France and Britain failed by comparison with the jewel of the Adriatic. But we decrepit students of history find ourselves wondering how and when events will find a parallel with the day the French Army arrived across the Lagoon.

And my response to the above:

Don Chu on June 1, 2009 1:33 pm:

While I doubt that Raffles and the British East India Company had “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free…” in mind when they ‘finagled’ that treaty to establish a trading settlement on pre-modern Singapore, the largely unrestricted immigration policy in the early years did lead to a melting pot immigrant population reminiscent of America. And with any bubbling cauldron of huddled masses, the double toil and trouble of seething tensions and volatility (ethnic or otherwise), will always be boiling just beneath the surface.

True, the achievements of modern Singapore is heartening; and like the obedient automaton that so many view it’s citizens to be, I raise my stringed arm to hail and herald the contributions made by our dear Doge. But in truth, it was the unstinting hard work and thrift of generations of stoic immigrants that built this city-state.

And as Mr Jovanovich alluded to, the fortunes of sparkling, bejeweled city-states rarely overstay their welcome and have never been more than an interesting appendix (or indeed, a sour-graped dismissive footnote) in the capricious pages of History.

Decrepitude or not, perhaps this may be why this ‘tiny red dot’ of just 4 million-plus spores have often been accused of having a siege-mentality; whether it be born of a genuine fear of losing its much-vaunted racial cohesion amidst the growth pressures of a shrinking island, or the induced paranoia of being in an encircled (see map above) sea of potential fundamentalism.

Awaiting then, the inevitable…


On July 8, 2009 at 12:25 am I said:
(I was feeling a little ornery)



Watching the helicopters overfly above with the giant national flag (rehearsing for national day) has awakened my latent patriotism.

I feel an irresistable urge to jump to my feet, put on iridescent and colourful tunics+costumes and join in a mass synchronized display of uniform flag-waving and placard-changes to the rhythm of loud and stirring anthems.
I want to raise my arms and hail our dear leader for all that he’s done to build this magnificent modern glazed Gotham…


No, wait…that’s not my patriotism. That’s just scenes from Bruce Stirling’s Islands in the Net.

A full August

Looks like its shaping up to be a very full August.

The S&P 500 lost almost 60 points and 5% today, the largest one-day decline in almost three years, since the hurricane-halcyon days of autumn 2008. And led earlier by the almost as large sell-offs over in Europe. The slumbering stupor of the summer market months does seem to be over. With greater daily trend and range extensions come great opportunities; and this is definitely the time for a speculator to dust-off his moth-balled shorter term strategies, get ready to ramp up his leverage on notice, charge the net and play a tight intense offensive game of volley risk-on/risk-off. Game on.

[Just realised I said the same things some time back, on an old post taking a musical view of the markets, La So Mi Re Do ? The markets are steppin’ and a-trippin’:

The equity markets have been doing a march-in-place in even time for the last week, almost staccato-like. Of course, in the week prior to that, markets danced a graceful glissando in a quick climb through their scales (arguably 7 levels-notes of resistance/support on the charts; 5 if I leave out two minor levels).

One wonders if the current ranging may be a marking of time before rising to a further crescendo. Or perhaps a halt is being called on a short-term top; and we may be seeing the start of a downward stepping through the scales.
If so, rather than down through the 7 notes/levels (of the heptatonic scale), this return may take the faster path through the 5 pentatonic tones of traditional Chinese music :

宮 商 角 徵 羽
Do Re Mi So La

Here is a famous tune based on the simple arrangement of stepping down the traditional chinese musical scale:
(first line is an even stepping-down, 2nd line a rescaled stepping-down, 3rd line slows with a repetitive range before the obligatory returning rise)

La So Mi Re Do
Mi Re Do La So
So La So La Do Re Mi So

《滄海一聲笑》 or A Laugh at the Sentient Seas:


In any case, looks like the sleepy slumber of summer is truly over. While breadth and volume participation in the cash markets (S&P500) may be attributed to dubious machinations in the less than desirable financial/agency names, volume in the futures have gloriously broken out.

Welcome to the hurricane-halcyon days of autumn.
This can make or break the year…



This can make or break the year indeed…

But unfortunately, I will be sidelined for much of this August, with two weeks taken up for military reservist training. Darn. And just when things seemed to be getting really interesting in the markets.
Am a little miffed at this actually, cuz the last time the markets showed such tantalizing daily ranges, during the Lehman market meltdown of 2008, I was also stuck in reservist training, and was forced to watch the proceedings on CNN from a tiny TV screen in camp (Spore’s military camps severely restrict the bringing in of personal laptops, smartphones and other electronic recording devices, even for reservists), kicking myself that entire week for having to sit out some of the largest intra-day trading ranges in history.
[But of course, it could easily have turned out the wrong way for me too, so…]

Managed to dig up some words I wrote after that fateful week of the Lehman meltdown in the autumn of 2008:

For the past week I have donned green and done my part in protecting this country. And of course it has to be the week for the markets to move in its largest intra and inter-day ranges in recent history. Sigh, some of the largest moves in the markets took place this year when I was away on reservist training.

Spending time with large gatherings of people, especially ones wearing army green, leaves me dissipated. Will probably need some time amongst green of a different nature before coming back to the markets.

If today does prove to be the watershed day marking the end of the 28-month Risk-On rally since the recession low of 1Q2009, global markets are in for an interesting time ahead indeed. Will need to make sure my two-week interruption is as least costly (as much for opportunity cost as in real terms) as possible…

Its finally confirmed. The Singapore Presidential Election will be on 27th August.

On the heels of the watershed May general election which saw the opposition winning a record 6 seats, the highest number in 40 years (hey, don’t knock it; this is already a milestone in Sporean politics), the election of the President (a non-executive, largely ceremonial head of state endowed with some veto powers; but politically significant in that it is the only directly-elected office in the land) may potentially provide some spice to the current political landscape. And with four credible candidates of whom at least 2 can arguably be seen as non-Establishment, this should be a good contest.

In any case, many events abound for this month of August. With next Tuesday being Spore’s National Day and preparations well underway for the ‘celebratory Mass’ or National Day Parade (NDP) that takes place every year.

[Timeout for some school-time gossip:
I was just recently informed that this year, a little snafu took place during the preparations and rehearsals last month, embarrassing the usually clinically-efficient NDP organizing committee, regarding an apparent copyright infringement of a Lady Gaga song when they changed the lyrics into a ditzy ditty about something called the Fun Pack Song(?).

This is what I could find of this apparently infamous, totally panned by the public, and since withdrawn and deleted song:

NDP 2011 CR3 (Fun Pack Song, _Bad Romance – Lady Gaga):

The Animated Funpack Song!:
(with the lyrics)

And my sources informed me that the chairman of the NDP organizing committee this year happens to be a Colonel OTZ, our classmate from school a long time ago (and who was one of the three President’s Scholars of our cohort).


Oh dear, TZ, what happened… Those lyrics…

TZ used to be a fine musician, and leader of the orchestra…

(Btw, I thought TZ organised the NDP already some years back? Why is he doing it again?)

Babbling Babel: Shannon, Chomsky and Computational Linguistics

Wanted to bookend this series with some thoughts on Chomsky and computational linguistics, especially on thoughts KIVed since reading this referenced article here some months back,:

On Chomsky and the Two Cultures of Statistical Learning

and especially on the following:

“… while it may seem crass and anti-intellectual to consider a financial measure of success, it is worth noting that the intellectual offspring of [Claude] Shannon’s theory create several trillion dollars of revenue each year, while the offspring of Chomsky’s theories generate well under a billion.”

I don’t wish to take sides between Shannon or Chomsky here; and in fact, I think setting up this narrow and ill-conceived opposition between the two men is highly dubious at best, and certainly not useful and serves to prove nothing.
[Also, to correlate the trillion dollar telecommunications industry solely to Shannon is, shall we say, rather spurious…
And the value –in direct monetary terms or in utility benefits– of Chomsky’s work certainly should be evaluated on a wider consideration than just a snide reference to his book sales.]

I had wanted to comment on the above article re Computational Linguistics with some wicked thoughts on my previous specialization in Hartree-Fock condensation and Density-functional-theory methods from computational quantum chemistry. But that too shall be entirely spurious and definitely not very useful, except maybe beyond some laughs…
So shall cease and desist accordingly.

[And anyway, am now more eager to share some more recent comments made on childhood logic puzzles, sappy crushes on luminescent glowing Muses, and phantasmagorical movies, characters and other such (turkish) delights…
Coming next…

So, will leave this hollowed-out post with a couple of irreverent pointers; a banal cartoon on computational linguistics and an old babbling babel post on Shannon:


And here is my old post on Asian Babel:

Asian Babel

Coming soon: Asian Babel.


The longer print version of the above article states:

“…thanks to a special speech-to-speech translator software, which can translate nine languages, namely Malay, Hindi, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia, Thai, Mandarin and English.

All this happens in one or two seconds.”

Apparently, the program translates the input-ted/spoken text into English, the (inter-)lingua franca, before generating the desired output language.

[Much in the same way triangular currency arbitrage is carried out (with a reserve currency), which allows for the determination of the equilibrium cross-rates of three currencies.
Or basically, as a placeholder to pass data values in data structures.

Kudos to the researchers from the eight countries for their collaborative efforts, led by Japan.

Methinks the researchers above owe a debt of thanks to earlier thought which paved the way, especially to pioneering work in communication theory and information theory:-

The Lasswell Communication Model:
Who (says) What (to) Whom (in) What Channel (with) What Effect ?

And even more pertinent, Claude Shannon’s “A Mathematical Theory of Communication”:



[Astute traders and more intrepid risk-takers (aka gamblers) will of course recognize Shannon as the co-developer of that most integral formula used in optimization of bet-sizing/money management — the Kelly criterion]

Foucault: Power-Knowledge structure (and Excluded Histories)

Wanted to continue on the topic of Power Structures, but will stop with one last add here. From an old truncated post on Foucault’s Power-Knowledge structure:


Probable Futures & Excluded Histories

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita feat Michel Foucault.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, the New (probabilistic) Nostradamus.

His models and algorithms are based on the premise of Rational Choice Theory. Which is predicated upon by Power.

But has Mesquita read his Foucault ?

Foucault’s Power-Knowledge structure.
Especially through an examination of the,

method of control that combines hierarchical observation with normalizing judgment. It is a prime example of what Foucault calls power/knowledge, since it combines into a unified whole “the deployment of force and the establishment of truth”


On Foucault’s account, the relation of power and knowledge is far closer than in the familiar Baconian engineering model, for which “knowledge is power” means that knowledge is an instrument of power, although the two exist quite independently. Foucault’s point is rather than, at least for the study of human beings, the goals of power and the goals of knowledge cannot be separated: in knowing we control and in controlling we know.


via the genealogy of the Panopticon/prison (enforced coercion).

[Terry Gilliam’s Brazil again! (the Panopticon dentist chair scene)]:


Foucault’s épisteme is thus:
Systems of possible discourses which come to dominate each historical/political era. The existing dominant Power-Knowledge structure dictates what counts as knowledge and truth and what doesn’t. Rather than a linear chronology of inevitable facts that tells a coherent story, History is actually made up of layers of interweaving discourses kept suppressed and unconscious — and entire excluded histories.

Mesquita’s high positive ‘forecasting’ rate is dependent on his interviewing and data collection of his selected panel of experts.
Selection bias ?



Stanford prison experiment:

Das Experiment, the movie:

Das Experiment [The Experiment] Trailer in English:

Das Experiment (2001) – US Trailer 3:


An example of suppressed Excluded Histories: