Red moon rising

Tourists walk on elevated skywalk of Supertrees Grove as "super moon" rises at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

Tourists walk on elevated skywalk of Supertrees Grove as “super moon” rises at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore
Reuters / Tim Chong

Last night’s full moon apparently was a ‘supermoon’. But what was even more striking and alarming was the angry-reddish waxing moon rising across our local sky of the past week, during the worst of the >300 PSI series of nights we’ve had to endure. The haze hanging over our skies somehow cast a crimson-red hue on the moon.

Check out how the supermoon looked like from other parts of the world. But its the 6th picture which really caught my eye, eerily disquieting:

red_moon_rising Flames burning a palm oil plantation light up the area as the moon shines in the sky in haze-hit Bangko Pusako district in Rokan Hilir

Flames burning a palm oil plantation light up the area as the moon shines in the sky in haze-hit Bangko Pusako district in Rokan Hilir, Riau Indonesia
Reuters / Beawiharta

Photos: Supermoon casts its brilliant glow over Earth

This weekend’s full moon coincided with its closest approach to Earth, a phenomenon known colloquially as a “supermoon.” (In astronomical circles, it’s called a perigee-syzygy moon.)

The supermoon is larger and brighter than an average moon, though the difference isn’t enormous. Many people, in any event, use it as an occasion to dwell on Earth’s only natural satellite. Sri Lankans also mark the supermoon by celebrating the introduction of Buddhism to the country, from India, in 250 BC.


Finding a way out of the Haze


Within every crisis, opportunities abound…
And the best opportunities are the ones that go toward resolving the crisis itself.

Time to dust off some old business plans, maybe reach out to certain old friends and associates.

Dang. Regretting a little now, on not heeding father’s previous admonitions to pick up Malay and Bahasa Indonesia. He always said that it would be useful for business.

Hazardous haze (PSI hits all time high: 321)

Latest update on the haze situation at 11pm:

Haze in Singapore hits new high, PSI at 321 at 10pm

SINGAPORE’S air is now “hazardous” as the Pollutant Standards Index soared to 321 at 10pm, the worst reading in its history.

Air becomes “hazardous” when the index passes 300. The previous worst reading was 226, in 1997.

The Singapore Armed Forces has stopped all outfield training until further notice. Several other organisations such as the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Ministry of Home Affairs all reduced physical and outdoor training when the index crossed 100, while NTUC FairPrice has issued face masks to all of its pump attendants at its petrol stations.

Earlier on Wednesday, Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan acknowledged that Singaporeans are “very frustrated, angry and distressed about the situation”.

Both Dr Balakrishnan and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam spoke to their Indonesian counterparts on Tuesday to urge them to take tougher action against companies responsible for the illegal burning.

The National Environment Agency said on Tuesday night that haze is likely to last for the next few days, and is the result of fires in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Choking and sputtering in this foggy daze…and revisiting an old post, Walking (in the haze).


I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks–who had a genius, so to speak, for SAUNTERING, which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,”

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return–prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again–if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man–then you are ready for a walk.


Surely T jests…what a price to pay for a walk !
Then again, who is to say a walk is not as serious and holy a business as walking with and following the One; after all, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service”.
[Luke 9:62]

T continues:

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or rather an old, order–not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or Riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust. The Chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker–not the Knight, but Walker, Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and People.

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least–and it is commonly more than that–sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.

I, who cannot stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some rust, and when sometimes I have stolen forth for a walk at the eleventh hour, or four o’clock in the afternoon, too late to redeem the day, when the shades of night were already beginning to be mingled with the daylight, have felt as if I had committed some sin to be atoned for,–I confess that I am astonished at the power of endurance, to say nothing of the moral insensibility, of my neighbors who confine themselves to shops and offices the whole day for weeks and months, aye, and years almost together. I know not what manner of stuff they are of–sitting there now at three o’clock in the afternoon, as if it were three o’clock in the morning.

So, be it chivalrously cavalierly or errantly, we walk…
Though four hours everyday seems such a luxury in this present age, like T, rusty is how I feel if denied my regular walk and airing from my chambered cell.

But sometimes, the outdoors air may prove to be less of a cordial elixir towards “preserving health and spirits”.



Haze back in S’pore:

We are caught in the tail-end of the Southwest monsoon winds of the summer months. Hoping and praying for the cleansing rain and favourable winds of the torrential Northeast monsoon is futile — that is at least two months away. Only chance we have is for the Inter-monsoon to arrive promptly and have its swirling whippy winds give us at least a 50/50 chance of escaping the haze.

I’ll hate to have to go a-sauntering and choking in a foggy daze.
The haze is of course due to the seasonal slashing-and-burning of the region’s farms and plantations and the vagaries of the prevailing winds and monsoons. It has not always been this way; it only got this bad in the last 15-20 years as the commercial plantations got larger and larger, buying out and consolidating the smaller family farms. (Capitalism at its worst)

[Slash-and-burn as a landclearing technique is not evil in itself and has been used in subsistence farming for thousands of years; in fact, prudent use of slash-and-burn can regenerate non-fertile (or ‘farmed-out’) land by releasing nutrients, allowing the land to lay fallow and carrying out proper crop+plot rotation.
But in the modern world of huge commercial plantations often cultivating only one/two cash crops, indiscriminate large-scale slashing-and-burning is carried out ILLEGALLY and UNCONSCIONABLY, simply as the cheapest means of clearing land.]

In some good years (and there have been many), the onset of the slash-and-burn season fortuitously coincided with favourable winds, resulting in relatively haze-free years. The bad years are when the Evil Planters decide to start slash-and-burn season early in the Southwest monsoon, then the haze can come on unbearably thick and last very long.

I wrote that post back in 2009 during September, in the middle to the end of the Southwest monsoon season, the usual period during hazy years when the smoke from the slashing-and-burning of the region’s forests becomes a problem, but when we would at least have the coming changing winds and inter-monsoons of Oct/Nov to look forward to for some relief.

So, after the last three relatively good years of favourable winds and being mostly haze-free, I guess this year, is one of the bad years…

In some good years (and there have been many), the onset of the slash-and-burn season fortuitously coincided with favourable winds, resulting in relatively haze-free years. The bad years are when the Evil Planters decide to start slash-and-burn season early in the Southwest monsoon, then the haze can come on unbearably thick and last very long.

This time (PSI of 321) is the worst yet. And we are still early into the Southwest monsoon. Sigh, I expect many months of suffering ahead of us… Unless some political and economic weight and leverage can finally be brought down to bear on the Evil Planters this time!

But oops, am a shareholder and part evil planter too…

Rascal and his friends

Even a Rascal has his scallywag friends around him to commiserate and celebrate his many fails with.

無賴 (理直氣壯版) 鄭中基
Rascal (self-righteous version) Ronald Cheng

And with ne’er-do-well friends like 李璨琛 Sam Lee (Hong Kong actor notorious for his many supporting roles acting as a ne’er-do-well and usually drugged-out friend who gets the male leads in trouble), who needs enemies?

Ah, I also want to have a 無賴 Party/Rascal Party with my buds and babes!
Preferably at the old Canto or Club Barracuda at the now long-defunct Planet Marina, Marina South.

God, those were the days. Cutting classes to attend afternoon ‘tea dance’ parties at Canto, Fire, Sparks (all legal, no age restriction and no alcohol served -ahem- before 6pm; but no go when happy hours start). And before stepping into the clubs, we checked and double-checked that our 90s-style floppy hair was in place, our baggy chicken-pants hanging just right, our grunge jeans perfectly grunged, and above all, that we got our Running Man and Shuffle dance moves down pat.

Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually miss the old Planet Marina, with its motley gaggle of gauzy-themed clubs and pubs, seedy 24-hr pool house, bowling joints, coffee-shops and restaurants…even the large and open, dark and slightly creepy car-parks where you just might find a fresh steaming pool of vomit some drunk had just thrown up next to your car. And where I was menaced upon and shaken down by a gang of 10 or so chaps in three Ah Beng boy-racers (Civic EG6s and WRXs) who drew up around me and forced my car to a stop. I survived that.

[No disrespect meant to boy-racers. In fact, the first car that I really really wanted (apart from a childish lust for the Knight Rider/KITT lookalike, the Mazda RX-7 Savanna from the 80s), was and still is the perfect boy-racer, the Civic EG6.

李璨琛 Sam Lee tricking out and tuning up his WRX STi:

我, 無賴 I, Rascal

無賴 – 鄭中基 Rascal – Ronald Cheng:


我間中飲醉酒 很喜歡自由
常犯錯愛說謊 但總會內疚
遇過很多的損友 學到貪新厭舊

怕結婚只會守 三分鐘諾言
曾話過要戒煙 但講了就算
夢與想丟低很遠 但對返工厭倦

*但是仍(在地球) 唯獨妳愛我這廢人

 為何還喜歡我 我這種無賴
 在座每位都將我踩 口碑有多壞

 何必跟我 我這種無賴
 但是妳死都不變心 跟我笑著捱
 就算壞 我也不忍心 (偷偷作怪)*

沒有根的野草 飄忽的命途
誰像妳當我寶 什麼也做到
舊愛數足一匹布 在這刻寫句號


還喜歡我 我這種無賴
在座每位都將我踩 口碑有多壞

何必跟我 我這種無賴
但是妳死都不變心 跟我拼命捱
換轉別個 也不忍心 偷偷作怪



Sometimes I drink and get drunk, and I love doing whatever I want
I often mess up and resort to lying, but will always feel guilty after
I have met many ne’er-do-well friends, learnt to disdain the old for new gratification
And I had also let many ladies down…

Afraid of marriage, capable only of keeping 3-min promises
Once swore to quit smoking, but the oath once uttered wisped away like smoke
Have far-flung dreams and ambitions, but dither lackadaisically when getting back to work
Had never been good at planning since young

*And yet (On this earth), only you can love a useless fellow like me
 When I mess up you are always willing to bear with it
 And though everyone could see we (the clothes) don’t fit
 Still you are willing to wait

 Why do you still like me, I this kind of Rascal
 Should we say you are foolish or amazingly magnanimous
 Everyone here had trodden me down (spoken ill of me), my reputation  is notorious
 But still you always remain unfazed

 Why stick with me, I this kind of Rascal
 After half a lifetime still a big fat failure
 But you simply won’t give up, wanly smiling and hanging on with me
 No matter how bad I am, I would never bear (to sneak around behind  you)*

A rootless and worthless wild weed, a destiny buffeted and flung around by the winds
Who can be like you treating me as though I am treasure, willing to do anything
An old love measured out exactly in one bolt of cloth, right at this point a fullstop stamped:
I just want to grow old with you


Still you like me, I this kind of Rascal
Should we say you are foolish or amazingly magnanimous
Everyone here had trodden me down (spoken ill of me), my reputation is notorious
But still you always remain unfazed

Why stick with me, I this kind of Rascal
After half a lifetime still a big fat failure
But you simply won’t give up, hanging on doggedly with me
Even if you turn to another, you still won’t bear, to sneak around behind me

Ah, the story of my life.

And I had also let many ladies down…

為何還喜歡我 我這種無賴
Why do you still like me, I this kind of Rascal

After half a lifetime still a big fat failure

Singapore Bonds Decline to Become Second-Worst Debt Market


Singapore Bonds Decline to Become Second-Worst Debt Market

By Kenneth Foo – Jun 12, 2013

Singapore bonds fell for a fourth day, making their loss for the past three months the second-biggest in the world, as investors gird for the possibility that the U.S. Federal Reserve could slow bond purchases.

The price of Singapore’s 3.125 percent note due in September 2022 tumbled to S$107.30 as of 3:27 p.m. local time from S$108.24 yesterday, based on data compiled by Bloomberg and the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The yield rose 10 basis points, or 0.1 percentage point, to 2.24 percent, a level not seen since July 2011.

“The only reason for this is the speculation of Fed tapering,” said Michael Wan, an economist at Credit Suisse Group AG in Singapore. “There’s pretty much a sell-off across all countries and markets.”

The Bloomberg Singapore Sovereign Bond Index (BSIN) has declined 2.4 percent over three months. The only other sovereign index among 33 tracked by Bloomberg that fell more was Slovenia’s with a 4.3 percent decline. The Bloomberg U.S. Treasury Bond Index fell 0.2 percent.

Nasty, for sure. But it’s only a fraction of the move that occurred in May/June 2008.

Here are the exact daily settled prices of that particular bond security mentioned, the 10-yr benchmark NY07100X 3.125% due on 01 SEP 2022:

Still, not going to be pretty for bondholders who have to keep their books MTM. Tough.

Effective Healthcare+Increasing Longevity+Low Yields = Million Dollars Also No Enough

A juxtaposition of two articles and themes, soon to become a looming concern with the coming silver tsunami…
[a Japanese Hokusai print with huge looming silvered tidal waves will be very appropriate here]

June 7, 2013 5:30 pm
Thank you, Singapore
By Gillian Tett

The country’s healthcare system is not just lowcost but also very effective in terms of saving lives

A decade ago, I had an experience that left me profoundly grateful to Singapore’s healthcare system. During a work trip to the island state, I was suddenly taken ill and succumbed to a rare variety of meningitis. In many countries, I would have died but two extraordinary things occurred. First, a work colleague had a strange premonition that something was wrong and came to my hotel room, where she found me sliding into a coma. Second, the colleague then had me rushed to a local hospital, where Singaporean doctors identified the problem with astonishing efficiency and then took a bold medical gamble to save my life. (Essentially, they injected every type of antibiotic they possessed directly into my heart because they did not have any tailored way of treating the rare strain of meningitis I had.)

When that risky gamble pulled me out of the coma, the hospital staff set me on the long path to rehabilitation, with further efficiency and grace. And, a few months later, came another surprise. When I stumbled on some of the paperwork between the hospital and my insurance group, I noticed that the bill for the intervention was not that large. “If this had happened in America, it would be many times that size,” a colleague later grimly remarked in New York. (To which I retorted that if the incident had happened in America, I might not have survived at all since litigation risk might have deterred the doctors from engaging in that antibiotic gamble.)

But in recent weeks I have been flicking through a fascinating ebook, Affordable Excellence, that an American scientist friend, William Haseltine, has written about Singaporean medicine for the Brookings Institution. And this leaves me convinced that I have even more reasons to say “thank you” to Singapore than I realised at the time. For if Haseltine is correct, Singapore’s healthcare system is not just low cost but also very effective in terms of saving lives – both during emergencies and in less dramatic cases too.

The statistics are striking. At present, America spends about 18 per cent of its gross domestic product on healthcare, more than any other western nation. […] Singapore’s healthcare costs, by contrast, are just 4.6 per cent of its GDP; and while the system is based on insurance programmes, premiums per capita are just 2 per cent of those paid by Americans. But on issues such as life expectancy, infant mortality, premature adult death – and, yes, emergency care – Singapore produces much better outcomes.

But the main weapon for lowering costs is consumer pressure: hospitals are forced to publish prices for medical procedures and outcomes so that consumers can quickly compare them. Patients are always forced to co-pay for treatment, alongside insurance groups, to create incentives to scrutinise their bill.

Not going to go into a debate between Universal Healthcare versus Pay-as-you-go/Co-paying. Have already had many of these discussions, even with Taiwanese friends who warned soberly that the much-vaunted taiwanese universal healthcare system is not without its ills and after a near 20-year run of superlative performance, escalating costs are now showing up the cracks in the system. No one solution is perfect or even suitable for all periods of time; generational, demographic, economic shifts and changes are always on-going, and the perfect system for one generation/time period can be disastrous for the next.

But I did have a very interesting dinner conversation recently with a close family member who is well-placed and informed about these matters, especially in our local context; a management consultant leading a so-called human capital/talent management consulting practice, with a personal specialization in health & benefits/insurance. [Whose team advises government agencies on these same issues. Shhh…]

[But the irony was when I picked her up (Asia Square is really ‘nice’: left the car at the long expansive driveway {everyone was doing it!} to check out the large green plaza and to pick up a quick coffee while waiting for her. Came back to find a traffic police summons on the windscreen. Bummer.) for our dinner appointment, she flung herself into the car in a huff and started on a litany of complaints about her senior partner bosses and discrimination and being stonewalled again for promotion to the coveted partner level/position. Apparently, for her appointment grade -Practice Leader-, her domain experience, the large regional team she manages, and most importantly, the amount of business she brings in, she is long overdue for the partner position. Doesn’t help that the country heads are apparently parachuting in under-worked consultants and ‘co-leaders’ from the States and London offices to help ‘share’ her team’s workload, but who do not have the required expertise or experience, and who arrive in Spore on generous expat terms and benefits; and all on her team’s budget and numbers, which dilutes her overall profit performance (she has responsibility for revenue and profit targets). More stories of how she would like to fill several senior analyst (considered junior to mid-level) positions on her team and was interviewing very qualified local candidates with the right experience in the industry with other consulting firms; but her senior partners wanted her to hire fresh graduates from US and UK at higher salaries and with housing benefits. Pretty blatant discrimination. This from a consulting firm larger and regarded even more highly than McKinsey or Bain. And which was lauded by our government as an employer with very progressive and equal opportunity HR practices. Guess they don’t take the same consulting advice they dish out to their clients.

But this digression and rant really belongs to another post, regarding ‘Foreign Talent’.

And the next article…

Why many retirees could outlive a 1 million nest egg
Published: June 8, 2013

A MILLION dollars isn’t what it used to be.

$1 million is more money than 9 in 10 American families possess. It may no longer be a symbol of boundless wealth, but as a retirement nest egg, $1 million is relatively big. It may seem like a lot to live on.

But in many ways, it’s not.

Inflation isn’t the only thing that’s whittled down the $1 million. The topsy-turvy world of today’s financial markets — particularly, the still-ultralow interest rates in the bond market — is upending what many people thought they understood about how to pay for life after work.

“We’re facing a crisis right now, and it’s going to get worse,” said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “Most people haven’t saved nearly enough, not even people who have put away $1 million.”

For people close to retirement, the problem is acute. The conventional financial advice is that the older you get, the more you should put into bonds, which are widely considered safer than stocks. But consider this bleak picture: A typical 65-year-old couple with $1 million in tax-free municipal bonds want to retire. They plan to withdraw 4 percent of their savings a year — a common, rule-of-thumb drawdown. But under current conditions, if they spend that $40,000 a year, adjusted for inflation, there is a 72 percent probability that they will run through their bond portfolio before they die.

But for savers, low rates have been a trial. The fundamental problem is that benchmark Treasury yields have been well below 4 percent since early in the financial crisis. That creates brutal math: if your portfolio’s income is below 4 percent, you can’t withdraw 4 percent annually, and add inflation adjustments, without depleting that portfolio over time.

And with rising life expectancies, many people will have a lot of time: the average 65-year-old woman today can be expected to live to 86, a man to 84. One out of 10 people who are 65 today will live past 95, according to projections from the Social Security Administration.

Frightening actually. Especially the ‘live past 95’ part.
And to relieve the dour mood a little, especially since there is yet another medical appointment to ‘look forward’ to tomorrow (full cash payment! no insurance), here is the evergreen and ever funny Money No Enough (1998).

Money No Enough (1998) – Singapore film:

*Guffaws…I can’t help it. The dialogue gets to me every time…

(Ai Kok, literal translation, Patriotic): I am very disappointed with your attitude.

(Jack Neo, while still on phone): Then what do you think Singaporeans should do?

(Ai Kok the Patriot, getting excited): If we can…An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. They burn our flag, we burn their flag! To show that Singaporeans are also very patriotic! Burn their flag!

(Mark Lee, cigarette between fingers and shaking leg, a typical Ah Beng or the equivalent of an American redneck): Burn their flag? You’re crazy!
Government never ask us to burn, we don’t burn.
Government ask us to burn, then we burn.
Burn flags, tsk…I’d rather go burn joss paper better! (pray to the gods for luck in gambling) Harrumph!

The context of the conversation above is of course regarding the Michael Fay vandalism and caning incident, and the brouhaha it caused in the US then, especially among the US patriots and rednecks burning Sporean flags.

And for those who can’t keep up with the movie’s dialogue and subtitling, the rapid-fire interchanging between several languages… well, a typical Sporean (at least for the older generation) uses and translates in his head several regional languages and chinese dialects in his daily life.

And the themes of money and moribund economy in this 1998 movie have to be understood in the context of the Asian financial crisis which was then affecting most regional economies, including Spore, though to a far lesser degree.

[Both articles above coming by way of Taichiseal‘s shared Pinboard items.]

I Grieve: City of Angels (1998)

I Grieve – City of Angels by Peter Gabriel:

“I Grieve”

it was only one hour ago
it was all so different then
there’s nothing yet has really sunk in
looks like it always did
this flesh and bone
it’s just the way that you would tied in
now there’s no-one home

i grieve for you
you leave me
‘so hard to move on
still loving what’s gone
they say life carries on
carries on and on and on and on

the news that truly shocks is the empty empty page
while the final rattle rocks its empty empty cage
and i can’t handle this

i grieve for you
you leave me
let it out and move on
missing what’s gone
they say life carries on
they say life carries on and on and on

life carries on
in the people i meet
in everyone that’s out on the street
in all the dogs and cats
in the flies and rats
in the rot and the rust
in the ashes and the dust
life carries on and on and on and on
life carries on and on and on

it’s just the car that we ride in
a home we reside in
the face that we hide in
the way we are tied in
and life carries on and on and on and on
life carries on and on and on

did I dream this belief?
or did i believe this dream?
now i can find relief
i grieve

1998. The year my world fell apart. When I wished I could just fall and fall and fall…

it was only one hour ago
it was all so different then
there’s nothing yet has really sunk in
looks like it always did
this flesh and bone
it’s just the way that you would tied in
now there’s no-one home

The first hour is just numbness. Nothing has sunk in yet, because you refuse to let it sink in. You move, but can’t feel a thing. You speak, but hear nothing. Your mind has begun its slow abdication.
The Flesh and Bone you see lying there, really becomes just flesh and bone, empty of its livening spirit and soul of the Person it was just moments ago. And the word ‘Home’ suddenly becomes a foreign word, for that surely cannot be what it is now.

the news that truly shocks is the empty empty page
while the final rattle rocks its empty empty cage
and i can’t handle this

Some final sounds and final moments you wish you can forget, but shall be haunted by for the rest of your life. I couldn’t handle it.

They say life carries on and on and on…
But I grieved and wished I could just fall and fall and fall…