Sunday, January 15, 2012

Free Online Documentary - The Fabric of the Cosmos

If Youtube, PPT, Tudou and all the other online video crap isn't enough for you, try this: It is just a place that gathers some online documentaries. I was sad when I saw that its Economics section really sucked, with its main focus on financial crises, collapsing economies or run-away companies. No wonder people have such a negative view about the study of Economics!

Nonetheless, the website has some cool videos. It is like how I like to shop around in physical shops, because many a times, I don't know exactly what I want (my utility function is really fuzzy and unstable). Browsing through certain sections can lead me to other interesting stuff that I wasn't looking for initially. There are some interesting videos about history, psychology, philosophy, science, and many others.

There is an interesting documentary about physics This is the youtube link, but I got it from the previous website that I mentioned. I once read the book by the same author (Brian Greene), but I did not manage to get through the entire book. Had to get through my Master's thesis back then. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Singaporean and their cars

Singaporeans are obsessed with owning a personal vehicle, but this is something I find hard to appreciate. Cars are expensive to buy, drive, park and maintain. This excludes costs from accidents or car thief. Getting a driver's licence requires considerable effort too, costing around $2k minimum (rough impression). Most importantly, like every modern urban city, the surge in car-chasing has led to more frequent and heavier traffic jams eats up everyone's time and mind.

Singapore is really tiny. And with its acceptable public transport system, the private car obsession is incomprehensible. Much effort has been made to increase the costs of car ownerships, such as the right to own a car through Certificate of Entitlement (COE) to the right to use a road using electronic road price (ERP). Push factors. Singapore also plans to increase her subway network from the current 148.9km to 278 km by 2020. 

Nonetheless, I understand I reside in a part of Singapore that has great access to public transportation systems. I live within walking distance to 2 train stations, of which one is directly connected to 3 different subway lines. In addition, I live 15-30mins to town/CBD area by train. Even during peak hours, I need to wait no more than 3 trains to be able to board, even on the worse raining days. Not many Singaporeans have such luxuries, and I can only praise my parents for their excellent residential choice. 

I am still commonly advised to learn driving, especially at my age. I know its a skill I ought to. Unfortunately, things have not fallen into the situation where I just have to learn driving. Nonetheless, I reckon Singapore needs more people like me; those lazy to drive and willing to take the public commute. If not, cars and their usage will only cost more, and road speeds will only get slower. Without people like me, everyone will just suffer. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ministerial Pay

In 2012, after a pay cut of some 30-50%, Singapore political leaders are earning around S$1million annual incomes. Some justify paying for the talent from the private sector, while others say this can help keep corruption at bay.

As logical as the reasons sound, many Singaporeans feel the sum is too high. I have no strong opinion on this. However, I agree with the government's statement that once given (payouts), it is hard to take back. Giving is always easier than taking away, because humans are inherently loss-aversion. That is why we do not have unemployment handouts. I believe the same situation applies for our ministerial pays. It reach this stage where Singaporeans are not happy about, and taking away makes those that entered for the money sick.

This the nation as it is. We value quality, talent, achievements, material gains. Like many things in Singapore, money is used, as like baby bonuses and military scholarships. Everything must be fast, efficient, now, and world-class. Our changing education system is suppose to place more emphasis on virtues and morals. This is the story we tell our kids. Yet, parents of some of our kids are split between money and their nations.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Free Ebooks

Lately, with time at hand, I have done some intensive Internet surfing. For example, my entry into the pay-per-click industry has shown me some very interesting websites. In addition, I found some interesting websites that span from task management, file transfers, site building to investment plannings and so on. Figured that its a good idea to share them here. I am going to start with free ebooks. There are 2 sites I like to recommend.
I focus on only the books that I want. They are mainly economics, philosophy, mathematics, econometrics. Looking forward to look at physics books in the future. Definitely, you should not expect to obtain exactly the books that you get. But if you keep an open mind with several topics that you do not mind to peruse, then why not? Since its free anyway! (Of course, you have opportunity cost of reading.) Guess its really the time for me to get that Kindle that I always wanted!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Singapore's Education; IP Schools

A small island with no natural resources, Singaporeans are constantly reminded that "humans" are our only resource. Education stands to be a top priority of many Singaporeans families. The (not-so) recent hot topic in Singapore's education system is the integrated programmes (IP), where 12 year olds are selected into an institute that provides them with a safe track to an established Junior Colleges (JCs), and thus, a steadier path towards well-recognized universities.

Mergers and exclusive contracts are major corporate world activities, not just because of the huge underwriting profits for bankers, but also the possible anti-competitive nature of such actions. In essence, anti-competition is bad because consumers lose (e.g. pay higher prices for the same goods) at the expense of the producers. Why a sudden mention of mergers and exclusive contracts? Because the IP structure seems like form of vertical merger/exclusive contract, where upstream and downstream firms form a direct linkage in the production line. Basically, IP-JC sections hold "exclusive rights" to the products (bright students) from the secondary sections. More schools in Singapore are offering IPs, and many parents are worried that their late booming children are disadvantaged by the smaller number of good JC openings for their children later on.

Definitely, my approach of merging (pun intended) these two topics may not be very ideal, but I hope to only  provide a different perspective at the same old boring issue (product differentiation). Maybe someone with more time can look into this issue from this angle, but this guy/girl should not be me (at least not in the near future). Some of the more interesting issues would include:

1) Do child have to score better grades just to enter the same JCs, aka grade inflation.

2) Are IP schools providing better education? Many worry that the IP curriculum weakens the students' ability to tackle exam questions necessary for the 'A' levels.

3) Are primary school kids more pressured now to excel to enter into an IP school, leading to possible burn-outs, post exam trauma, or even other psychological issues, such as poor self-esteem from not being able to enter an IP school. Not sure about the kids, but the parents seem much more pressured to get their kids into IP schools these days.

Lastly, I am glad that I am not a young student anymore. Seeing as an outsider, I cannot help but feel sorry and pressured for these young kids. I cannot expect how it will be like when I have my own kids though, but that, will be another story all together...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reference point and Singapore's subway system

Reference point is common concept in psychology and behavioural economics. It explains how the mental anchors people hold will influence in their decision-making process. In simple terms, reference points postulates that human decision-makings are not independent of surroundings or situations.

Recently, I believe Singapore has saw an episode that Singapore's subway system, a 24 year well serving system, broke down not 1, not 2, but 3 times. within a week. Singaporeans, as usual, were up in arms. However, I believe that some of the negativity Singaporeans experienced during this fiasco are due to their own high expectations of subway system. Largely in part, this high reference point is some kind of winner's curse, where the strong track record of the subway system has bitten itself, with Singaporeans experiencing their virgin subway disruption of such a great scale. In this aspect, the system should not be faulted for being excellent in for the past 24 years. Other countries, noticeably UK and Paris (as reported in the local newspaper), have subways that have much higher frequencies of disruptions, and fares that are also much higher.

In addition, I guess the negativity also stemmed from other aspects of the transportation system itself. Yes, subway and cab fares rose less than 6 months ago, a topic that I hope to discuss about in a future entry. Yes, this subway disruption was drastic. Some blame the population growth. Yet, I do believe there are areas in which the system can improve itself. For one, how the disruption was handled could have been improved. However, I have no aim of addressing this. My point is this: Singaporeans are setting their expectations too high, which I postulate it to be from the extremely high reference point that Singaporeans are used to adhere and live by. Maybe, we have been living too comfortably.

Kim Jong Il's Death;Korean Won;Market Correction? (Part 2)

Working Day 2 of Kim's death. I was curious to see how else the market would react. Amazingly, the market corrected to post Kim's death rates! At this rate (pun indeed), I am definitely going to follow closely to the Singapore/S.Korean Won exchange rates for some time!

(Just as I ended this entry, I decide to take a look at other rates. A similar pattern was spotted for USD/S.Korean Won. Is the market that over-reactive and volatile? I am so glad I am not a forex trader, because I totally do not know the market!)