Sunday, February 26, 2012

Toastmaster:What would men be without women

Advanced Communication Series: The Entertaining Speaker
Project 3: Make Them Laugh
Executive Summary
Humor is an ideal way to attract and hold an audience’s attention. You can also use humor to build rapport, emphasize points, convey a sensitive point, or deal with unexpected incidents that occur during your talk. Humor includes some kind of unexpected twist that pleasantly surprises the audience. Practice delivering the material until you can do so smoothly, pausing before the punch line to create tension.
-        Prepare a humorous speech drawn from your own experience.
-        Strengthen the speech by adopting and personalizing humorous material from outside sources.
-        Deliver the speech in a way that makes the humor effective.
Time: 5 to 7 minutes.

What would men be without women?
Last week, my husband and I went hiking to the Treetop Walk at MacRitchie. For the benefit of the uninitiated, the TreeTop Walk is the first of its kind in Singapore, in Johor Bahru and also in Batam.  Once there, you be at the top of the world, a bird’s eye view of the surrounding.
Before we all get carried away, that’s the marketing part, which is to get you high, at the top of the world. Now, we need to be real, with our feet firmly on the ground.  In order to enjoy the beautiful scenery, one has to trek 4.5 km from the MacRitchie Resevoir Park to the entrance of the TreeTop Walk. 4.5 km equates to 1.5 to 2 hour walk. That’s not all. Unless you live in TreeTop Walk, you will need to walk back to civilization. So add another 4.5 km for a round trip. In total, it is a hike of 9 km or about 4 hours.
So yes, it was a beautiful place but also yes, we had a tiring time. No thanks to my impatient husband who insisted to go faster and faster and even faster. Did he not know the phrase “more haste less speed”?
“Why can’t you go faster” He would hurry me.
Puff, puff [pause] “I can’t… erh, because I am a woman?” I ventured a guess.
“See, I have always told you that men are better than women.” He continued as he took my panting silence as an admission that he was right.
I retaliated by giving him a hard cold stare that must have sent chill right down his spine.
For from my eyes, he must have seen the list of all the unfulfilled promises when he was then my boyfriend. Equal responsibilities in our household expenditure. Equal responsibilities in doing our housework. Equal responsibility in raising our children.
His definition of “Equal” in raising our baby, for example. Our bundle of joy, was his. He would carry, cuddle the baby. Our burden of joy, unfortunately was mine. I would cajole, cater to the every need of the baby.
There was a recent report on fewer women than men in senior leadership position. The data mentioned that there were 3 women for every 8 men at the top.
I salute the few women who have reached the pinnacle of their career. For it is really a mammoth task. For a woman never, ever, really leave the kitchen behind, for each step on the corporate ladder that she advances, her man is pulling her the other leg to remain in the kitchen. Just imagine balancing one leg on the kitchen ladder and the other on the corporate ladder. The higher she limps up the corporate ladder, the more precarious the balance is.
“Ah!!!!” My train of thought was broken by my husband’s loud scream.
Before I knew it, a bunch of monkeys snatched his red plastic bag containing some snacks and water for our trip.
“Oh mine. Who in the right frame of mind will bring a red plastic bag to attract monkeys?” I took the opportunity to rub salt on his predicament.
”What would men be without women?” I sighed.
“Scare, madam, mighty scare." My husband promptly replied.
Back to you Toastmaster of the Day.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Recently, I am reading poems. The lean ones which packed a punch. Enjoy!

Die-you can't do that to a cat.
Since what can a cat do
In an empty apartment?
Climb the walls?
Rub up against the furniture?
Nothing seems different here
But nothing is the same.
Nothing's been moved
But there's more space.
And at night-time no lamps are lit.
Wislawa Szymborska

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Just for Fun

There are 2 schools of philosophies:

1. Deontic logic
2. Consequential logic

1st means that it is innate in you e.g. you should not kill another fellow human being. 2nd means that you have to evaluate the consequence - if you do not like the consequence, do not do it.

Consider 2 scenarios:

Scenario 1. A trolley holding 4 people in high speed. To save the 4 people, you can flip a switch to change the track of the trolley but then, there is another man on the other track.

Scenario 2. A trolley holding 4 people in high speed. To save the 4 people, you can choose to push one man to break the speed of the trolley.

Which one should you choose? (you have to choose one)

If you subscribe to deontic logic, you will choose scenario 1. To another who believes in consequential logic, it does not matter.

The analysis will become more complicated if say, your loved one(s) is in the trolley or the man that you are pushing is your significant half.

According to the Economist's Golden Rule (always think of the benefit of the society), you should not let your emotions get the better of you. But who are we kidding?

There was a Nobel prize winner who used the amnesia theory - if you can forget who you are, your decision will always be for the greater good :P

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Math is about clarity in thinking

There was a period of time where I was confused if I had studied the right discipline. Afterall, I had done well enough to be able to choose the popular courses such as accountancy, engineering and such.

Misconception about Mathematicians

After some internal struggles, I decided to follow my heart and did Mathematics. I enjoyed my 4-year study which was such a joy. However, when I graduated, many people thought that mathematicians were just good with numbers. Some even erroneously thought that we could process the computation of more than 10 strings of numbers at a snap of the finger.

Logic thinking is the building block of Math

I was stunned for an explanation. Now, I would say that such misconception is an insult. Math is a study of logic. Logic thinking is the basic building block of math. The more than 10 strings of numbers add up as they follow a set of axioms that are consistent and true. Otherwise, the most powerful supercomputers will have runtime error.

So what is logic thinking? It means rigorous thinking. This statement is an example careless thinking "Life begins at conception because the fertilised egg contains all the information necessary to create an adult human being."

We can represent the 2nd segment "all information necessary to create an adult human being" as the "A" and "B" is "life". Mathematically, the statement above is saying A implies B.

So all genetic information on the fertilised egg fits snugly in a DVD. If I burn that info into a disk, is the disk alive?

Another statement "do no harm". Taken literally, this means "never take any action" because any action runs the risk of doing harm.

Yet another "all dogs have 4 legs. My cat has 4 legs. So my cat is a dog."

Math is all around you

So you see, many situations in life could be converted into a math question and be thought through with logic and rigor. That's why, I love math for its logical clarity, ironclad truth and elegance. That said, it's important to read beyond math. And let your mind run free.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Lord of the far horizons.
Give us the eyes to see.
Tranquility descends.
Bring us the calm we seek.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Perfect Market and Non-Market System

This is a blogpost on the insights I gleaned from the book "The Undercover Economist" by Tim Harford. It is a captivating read and sheds new light on the Economics that I learnt.

Perfect Market is a the world of truth. It is a world where markets are complete, free and competitive. But it is an economist's fantasy. However, this fantasy will help us understand why economic problems arise and also helps us to move in the right direction. So when real-world economies malfunction, we know to look look for the marekt failures - and to do our best to patch them up. Market failures occur due to scarity power, missing information and externality (i.e. decisions that have side effects on bystanders).

Life without markets refer to goods provided outside the market system. An example will be the local police force, which is paid for by a non-market system of taxation. We do not need to pay for the service. It is provided by the government as the government is supposed to afford the same level of protection to the rich and poor.

However, the non-market system also has some disadvantages. You cannot shop around for another police force, if you are not happy with the current one. Neither can you spend more if you will like extra services.

Another example is Government-provided schooling. Due to the absence of pricing, parents line up, haggle and protest. They move to districts with better schools.

The non-market system has the cosy advantage of concealing the fact that the poor don't get the same quality education that the rich do. However, the non-market system suffers from a serious problem: the truth about values, costs and benefits. In a market system the truth will emerage about how much it costs to provide good schools and who would be willing to pay for them.

It seems that there is a willingness to pay for good schools, as we see it emerge because house prices are higher near good schools. So we see that the non-market system channels the money that parents are willing to pay for a good school into the hands of property owners near these schools instead of the schools themselves.

Prices perform two functions, not just one. In a market system, prices provide a way of deciding who gets to enjoy a limited supply of schools - those who are able to pay. This is an uncomfortable state of affairs, which the government-school system is designed to prevent. But prices also give the signal to build more schools, hire more teachers or raise their pay if they are in short supply, and better materials.

In a non-market system, the loss of pricing means a loss of important information. This loss is offset by gains in equality or stability.

Efficiency vs fairness
Let's define efficiency in the context of economics. When economists say the economy is inefficient, they mean that there is a way to make somebody better off without harming anybody else.

While the perfectly competitive market is perfectly efficient, efficiency is not enough to ensure a fair society, or even a society in which we would want to live. That is why, we have taxes and subsidies which are common causes of inefficiency.

This is a good example of why taxation is inefficient.
- Cost of a cuppa of coffee: $1.00
- Price of a cuppa of coffee in perfectly competitive market: $1.00
- Price after tax: $1.10
- Willing to pay for a cuppa of coffee: $1.05
- Coffee sold: none
- Tax raised: zero

There could have been a sale that created 5 cent of efficiency gains but did not happen due to tax. What is worse is that the tax wasn't even paid. If the government were able to waive the tax in such circumstances, they would be no worse off, but the coffee buyer would be better off: a clear efficiency gain.

But it is hard for tax officials to know when to charge the tax and when to waive. In general, taxes are often higher when price-sensitivity is low. E.g. fuel and cigarettes.

So a key question is whether there is a way to make our economies both efficient and fair?

According to eminent economist, Kenneth Arrow, the youngest man ever to win the Nobel Prize for Economics, there is a way. He has proved that all efficient outcomes can be achieved using a competitive market, by adjusting the starting position. We shall term it the "head-start theorem". In essence, the trick is to make lump-sum payments and levying one-time taxes. By so doing, we can give a "head-start" to those who need it so as to put everyone on the same footing. At the same time, it will not blunt the incentive for anyone to work hard as in the case of taxation thereby continuing the state of efficient economy.

However one will have to be judicious in the application of the "head-start theorem". A practical example could be used to prevent elderly people from getting cold in winter, without damaging the environment. This could be in the form of giving money to the pensioners. Some may use the money to insulate their homes. Those who did not feel the cold in the first place can spend the money on other things. Nobody will burn extra fuel unless they need to.