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Thursday, Jan 13, 2022 - 23:10 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Game Short

Some recent WhatsApp musings on the lack of decent RTS updates hit home a little, though that said I've just recorded my first Religious Victory in Civ 6 as Peter I with Russia, in between waiting experiments out. While it's not exactly that various gaming genres haven't embraced monetization (e.g. skins/cosmetics/events in Dota 2 etc.), the general direction of the most-popular (mobile) games does appear towards implementing dark patterns towards wheedling a constant stream of cash out of players. This holds even for relatively slow-paced and arguably less-competitive ones like say Pokémon GO or Mousehunt, with the latter getting pretty creative in encouraging hunters to chip in just a little bit to boost hunting efficiency, especially in newer regions. Not that I mind, though, what with it being a calming diversion (no, haven't been using Roborovhunt since its development)

Spot the problem here
Choices, choices

[N.B. On closer reading, they actually make sense since (any) and away bonuses can stack. Some are probably still doubtful deals though.]

These devious designs have worked quite well, from how huge credit card bills due to minors getting hooked (particularly through "loot box" gambling mechanics, to the extent that it's gotten banned in some countries) seem frequently reported nowadays. Given this, one quite appreciates the more-transparent Hattrick (football management game) supporter model of offering nice-to-have extra features (but with no in-game advantages). That said, they might have run into some trouble with game (option) balance - see example above, with the new club sponsorship choices.

Also, random renovation update:

Mystery Parts

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Saturday, Jan 01, 2022 - 21:26 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

New Year, New Restarts

[N.B. She apparently identifies as Asian nowadays (I'm okay with that)]

How did they put it - older but no wiser? - as this rock makes another turn about the sun; but at least the hamster's certainly gotten plumper. As for resolutions, one can't promise not veering into topics considered controversial by at least some, since that kinda defeats the purpose of having an open society, but let's at least ease into it gradually. While grassroots sports remains somewhat stunted locally due to the overgrown pandemic, LKY has done it again for Singapore, in badminton this time. The 24 year-old Loh Kean Yew became the country's first world champion in the sport... for which he got literally nothing in monetary terms, from both the government and the BWF tournament organizers. I suppose all those kiasu parents steering their kids away from such pursuits did have a point.

Perhaps sadly, it's looking like many consumer sports are getting caught up in the Culture Wars these days, which appears reflected in a steep and ongoing decline in viewership (China's issues are... different). This, then, mirrors the decline in mainstream American comics - and the growing relative popularity of anime and manga in the West - as raised last October. I had been leaving the analysis on the difference in propaganda between West and East for the Cold War II series, but suffice to say for now that the attraction of having messages continually bludgeoned into one's face with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, might get old faster than the sponsors imagine.

As it happens, the issue of trans athletes - in particular, male-to-female ones - has returned to the fore after a couple of years, when it arguably last gained prominence due to New Zealander Laurel (formerly Gavin) Hubbard's bid to compete at the Olympics, as a female. This was due to a trans college swimmer completely owning her division after identifying as female from being a kinda-middling male athlete, which has had an official resign in protest, and her teammates mull a girlcott of a meet, since it wasn't like they had a chance to win anyway. But before continuing, some points might be established to try and avoid supposed-TERF J.K. Rowling's fate of cancellation:

  • People should be allowed to identify as whatever they want to be (extending to surgery towards that end), and not face discrimination for such
  • There are some pretty clear (and quite possibly insurmountable) differences in physical potential between the sexes (yes, this affirms they exist)

I believe there exists ample empirical evidence on that second point, from track and field events (where there appears a fairly consistent gap of about 10% in the times/distances between elite male and female athletes, in the same event - which might as well be an eternity), to more "complex" sports like tennis and football (where there is a fair argument to be made about the female world champion being about the level of a decent male on an average college team for the former, and regular reports of club youth academy boys' teams thrashing their senior national counterparts for the latter). Note that this is not to disparage the effort or dedication of the women involved; they can well hold their own in events not relying on raw physical ability (e.g. shooting, darts, chess, etc. - though one suspects there remains some distinction between the sexes, in the proportion of individuals mad enough to dedicate themselves to otherwise-pointless competition). The point, perhaps, is that having (pre-trans) males go up against females while holding such inborn advantages is simply, well, unsporting.

But if she says it's sporting, I ain't saying no
(Source: southparkstudios.com)

But actually, the accepted narrative seems to be that the science says that (even male-to-female) trans athletes do not in fact have an unfair advantage over their cis competitors in sports (though if one looks closely, there appears to remain a 12% advantage in speed even after hormone therapy, to which the response was to compare elite apples versus non-elite oranges). To this, the safest recourse appears to shrug one's shoulders - or, for the more trollish, to actively support the inclusion of yet more top-level MTF athletes in all sports. Then, if the not-unexpected happens, we may soon see brave transwomen dominate the major titles and claim all records, thus proving the superiority of transkind over ciskind.

But, more seriously, the obvious solution would seem to simply be the creation of separate categories, given that the mens' competition is technically an open competition in many sports. Indeed, I'd quite welcome more such restricted categories (analogous to weight classes in combat sports) being introduced (e.g. under-six-footers basketball), which would allow stars and styles that would otherwise not have seen the light of day. That said, there looks like very real gender discrimination going on in Singapore, with a young guy just arrested for his artistic (and lucrative) participation on OnlyFans, despite it not exactly being a huge secret that loads of girls are in on the gig. What can one say, life's unfair in different ways.

Returning to looking back on the last year or two, I suppose it could have gone more happily; I mean, it's not as if I don't know the "right" words to say, views to hold, or acts to put on, to be popular/clubbable/whatever. With apologies, all considered, it's simply still not worth it - especially in the current FAKE NEWS era, where what's printed often bears tenuous connection to reality. I consider myself fairly amenable to persuasion on my stands, e.g. on (legal vs. illegal) immigration, abortion (N.B. not supportive of overturning the current Roe v. Wade status quo), etc., and tend to be more than willing to argue the other side if need be for giggles and practice - but, just saying, there's generally a good reason why I'm for something or other. Readers are free to peruse my blog (or not) and agree (or not) as they please, and as to the correctness of my positions and accuracy of my predictions, I remain generally happy enough to let time be the judge of those.

Life becomes a lot simpler, with this attitude
(Source: manganelo.com)

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Friday, Dec 24, 2021 - 23:02 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Belabouring The Obvious?

Essay for 35 points, recommended 1,200 to 1,500 words
(Source: nytimes.com)

The New York Times evidently felt it necessary to explain Powell's about-face on inflation - from "this too shall pass", to an accelerated taper to end bond-buying by March, and three rate hikes forecasted for 2022 - by reference to surging prices as well as wages and benefits (supposedly). What was not emphasized, it seems, was that these signs had been there for months already, and the most proximate relevant event was probably Powell's reappointment as Fed chair. Well, not that such explanations get much credit academically; my only C(-plus) through my first three degrees was in Macroeconomics I, where it seems like stating such pedestrian observations isn't appreciated. On hindsight, I maintain that my opinions were generally at least reasonable, if not right.

On the pandemic front, our Second Lady has just declared that we have a month to track and decide whether to activate a fourth jab (which I'm betting may be the limit for much of the world, from before), even as Pfizer's paediatric vaccine trial failed for two-to-five year olds, if with no major unexpected adverse events recorded. Of course, many are (sensibly) questioning the need for young kids to be vaccinated, given that severe illness from the coronavirus is exceedingly rare for that age group, but we'll come to that next, or soon.

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Sunday, Dec 12, 2021 - 21:12 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

The Importance Of Leading Vowels

Baby chair to be filled later

Nephew just turned one on Saturday with a dino-themed party, but from his favourite pick amongst the gifts, his personality will probably soon be based off a vehicle instead. I don't know how everyone guessed that I'd get him a stuffed hamster, but he didn't pay it much mind for now, less whipping it about the tail by abit. Kid has good instincts, what can I say?

Decor Sneak Peek II
[N.B. The Dark Angels may have their faults,
but they gotta aesthetics down pat.]

The pieces are also slowly coming together for my home renovation, with my finally pressing the interior designers a little more, after too many months of slow progress. With the following not meant to be taken as any reflection of my own IDs, it should be said that the line doesn't have the greatest of reputations for customer satisfaction locally, and it's not hard to understand why - execution aside, there's often a cloud hanging over the billing process, given that the true underlying price of various services is often obscured, and sometimes difficult to tease out due to most homeowners being new to the business.

Part of the problem, I gather, is the common practice of having the IDs earn their fees implicitly through (unrevealed) mark-ups, instead of an explicit design/project management fee up front (or, further double-dipping in the latter case). It follows, then, that one may be left with but a very vague sense of what's actually being charged for their work (which I suspect is intentional). Well, they should be compensated appropriately for their labour put in; it would be unconscionable if they were unable to earn a proper commission after dedicating their time to one's home, and cutting it too close to the bone will probably just lead to subpar work, or worse, an abandoned site.

The delicate balance between getting one's carrot chopped and sinking the project/relationship can be quite fine, however, and history informs us that some very talented men can have quite different outcomes in budgeting for real estate and associated costs. I suppose one of the best defences is to have some knowledge of actual market prices, particularly for relatively-standard jobs. A certain mark-up is only to be expected when engaging an intermediary, but letting them take it too far is probably bad for maintaining respect all round. I mean, I consider myself a Nice Guy that tends to give contractors many chances to let themselves down gently; it might not go as nicely for them, with the type of customer that takes it personally.

砍也不是这样砍的吗, 别紧张, 慢慢来, 机会多的是; *pats hand gently* 刀借我一下, 我帮你砍!

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Tuesday, Dec 07, 2021 - 19:40 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Two Years With Covid

It may be a bit of a cliché, but it's good to return to where one started from occasionally, which brings us to the ongoing coronavirus situation. Having put off any real coverage on the issue for maybe five months, there has been a veritable deluge of happenings since then, to the extent that even starting to pen a recap became rather foreboding. Just my recent curated browser bookmarks on the subject came up to a grand total of 1,470 links, not including those left over from about July, which might give an idea of the scale of the business before us (on this note, one of my colleagues has apparently lost a few weeks' work on her thesis, which brings us to last year's advice on backing documents up). About that, I can't guarantee that all these sources will make it into the final telling (I tend to try and squeeze them in somehow), but there's at least a partial solution to the coronavirus review - present it in parts.

Today's introduction, then, will be on the situation in Singapore these past several months, but before getting into that, a collection of and commentary on this blog's coverage up till now, in the style of previous recaps:

  • 17 Feb 2020: Wuhan Clan Interruption - in which the first early signs emerged from the Orient, a bunch of early information was compiled, and the to-be pandemic was recognized early on as a Game of Trust
  • 22 Feb 2020: SG VS COVID - in which early FAKE NEWS on no lab leak, no call for travel halts, no need for masks and some early flustering was described
  • 29 Feb 2020: Pandemic? - in which the strange reluctance by the WHO to declare a pandemic was emphasized, and more reports began to filter out of China, South Korea, Italy, etc
  • 14 March 2020: Yes, The Suspension! - in which the WHO finally declared the pandemic, at least a fortnight late, as various sport leagues belatedly shut down
  • 1 April 2020: Quis Custodiet - in which the potential of HCQ was first raised, and the concurrent specter of unwarranted censorship by the FAKE NEWS mainstream media apparatus - Twitter in particular - was described
  • 6 April 2020: A Plague On Both Powers - in which the involvement of both the U.S. and China was hinted at with lockdown looming in Singapore, a defence of free speech was made, and sadly all-too-accurate calls of worse days and unbelievable bungling to come
  • 12 April 2020: Lockdown Week One - in which the dynamics of hoarding and in-effect-rationing were discussed, amidst face mask diplomacy
  • 20 April 2020: Four Sig Fig - in which the local caseload first reached four figures (if mostly amongst foreign blue-collar workers), and dodgy figures from China
  • 27 May 2020: COVID In May - in which an early recap was made after the first lockdown period, some advocacy for foreign workers covered, and the beginnings of the reversal of the supposed-science on masks being useless is observed
  • 31 May 2020: "Science" & Facts - in which the reputation of science takes a beating with respect to HCQ, and the geopolitical implications of the pandemic are briefly raised
  • June 2020: the Of Logic, Looting, Twitter & Disinformation series (Part I, Part II, Part 2.5, Part 2.75, Through Glasses Darkly) - in which the dastardly #Lancetgate fraud on discrediting HCQ as a plausible accessible early treatment, was explained in detail as it unfolded. Sadly, sloppy and ham-fisted as the hit job was, it basically worked; early treatment would be tainted in the public mind, arguably up until today
  • 6 July 2020: Politics & Fixes - in which a (on hindsight well-founded) demand to restructure the WHO by POTUS was reported, together with the acceptance of over-US$3000-a-course Remdesivir
  • 11 October 2020: Corona Update (Part I) - in which some subtleties on interpreting coronavirus test accuracies, and possible other considerations involved in drafting policies against such, were discussed
  • 17 October 2020: Corona Update (Part II) - in which the potential of vaccines was explored, and more rumblings on HCQ, Remdesivir and how current science seems to work differently depending on the price of the treatment
  • 21 December 2020: SitRep: Covid - in which good news (and some reservations) on vaccines were reported, with some notes on the reliability of PCR testing
  • 17 January 2021: Enter 2021 - in which research on inter-country trust in terms of vaccine acceptance was presented (recall: Germany won, but partly due to being more ready to smack others down)
  • 7 February 2021: More On Excess Mortality - in which some supposed strangeness in excess mortality figures (recognized as one of the more-reliable metrics to estimate coronavirus impact, given uneven standards on diagnosis internationally) were brought up...
  • 29 March 2021: Vaxxed - ...in which the doubts raised in the above post were answered, and a declaration of my personal vaccination being completed
  • 30 May 2021: The Unbearable Lightness Of Gas - in which the crap that passes for the scientific method in the area of finding accessible early treatments was covered, with next to no progress after a year
  • 2 June 2021: Glory! Glory! - in which accompanying satire on local contributions towards the same came, in the form of quite-rigorous findings that oral HCQ and povidone-iodine throat spray could help against the coronavirus (not that it was ever reported much outside of the local news, from my own experience)
  • 11 June 2021: Communications Of The Social Media Gang - in which the geopolitical implications were updated, a new wave presaged, and the case for and against the newest star on the accessible early treatment block - Ivermectin - was made
  • 20 June 2021: Progress Or Not - in which more vaccines were introduced together with unfortunately falling efficacy observed, fervent establishment censorship on Ivermectin described, and inconsistent public versus private behaviour on masks by politicians illustrated
  • 25 June 2021: Developments For Now - in which more (well-founded) arguments for aggressively pursuing early treatments were made, together with a surge in interest for Ivermectin in the region
  • 11 October 2021: For The Common Good - in which more satire on the illogical (and unethical) approach to accessible early treatments was attempted
  • 27 October 2021: Requiem For A Frame - in which an effort to explain the unexplainable incompetency of global health authorities with respect to subduing the coronavirus was made, with inspiration drawn from the Liar Game manga's Pandemic Game arc

That about covers it, I suppose. A few more posts might have mentioned the coronavirus in passing, but they didn't meet my threshold for inclusion. So, back to the present. Went for my Moderna booster in late October (though there has been some debate on whether it is better to wait, on which more next time) as a deliberate choice to mix boosters from my own research, which seems to have received some official affirmation for now. Note that this does not imply any endorsement of existing messaging and/or policies around vaccines - often unnecessarily opaque - but yes, more on that next time too.

One step closer to victory!
[N.B. The threshold of four jabs might also coincidentally turn out to be largely true from current trends, but that's another discussion to be left for later]
(Original source for bottom: mangakakalot.com)

So, what's been going on in Singapore? The Omicron variant has just made landfall (and seems poised to dominate), but it's not as if things were going swimmingly before that. To recap, we've been mired in a sort of purgatory since early September, after being arguably one of the models for pandemic management last year. After the lockdown last April had stemmed the initial explosion of cases, there would be but a very brief minor resurgence about August, and we would end 2020 with just over 58,000 cases, and 29 confirmed deaths - barely noticeable, frankly. Moreover, the bulk of these early cases were amongst foreign labourers in their dorms, with little direct impact on the wider community; out of sight, out of mind.

Yes, it was all looking great, what more with vaccinations getting a wide roll-out through this year, until July when cases began to pick up again, including at my old wet market. This seemed a mere salacious curiosity at first, with KTV outlets of dubious repute (depending on one's perspective) comprising some of the initial clusters, leading to quips about bankers, enterprising air stewardesses and a satay hawker saviour. Things then quietened down somewhat with reassurances that Delta Plus had at least not been found, before an ominous second uptick beginning late August, that had an outbreak amongst public bus captains described as "transient".

It soon became clear that this was the Real Deal, which many had likely not expected to happen, given all the playing-up of vaccine efficacy, and seeing that some 78% of locals had been fully vaccinated by end-August. As it turned out, they were but 40% effective against transmission (if at least still pretty good against severe illness). Well, key medical figures were soon throwing up their hands at the "not unexpected" surge in the broader community, which recall had never happened last year. 1,000 cases daily - once viewed with such trepidation in April 2020 - was back on the table and reached by the middle of September, worryingly with nursing homes also hit. Human interest stories aside, the sad reality was that deaths from the coronavirus were starting to become more common, if with at least one life (temporarily) saved by a quirk of fate.

Plan endemic would be put on hold as the case load line went near-vertical, which would only be mitigated about mid-October, with positive rapid antigen tests (ART) no longer included in the figures - but to be fair, it seems everyone tinkers with case numbers when it suits them. Near 1,500 would be reached by the 22nd of September, with daily cases projected to soon hit 3,000 a couple of days later, with the next estimates as high as five figures (shades of the stock and real estate markets there). In the end, we topped out at just 5,324 on the 27th of October, following a long run over 3,000, likely helped by tweaked positive case defintions. As things stand, we appear slowly headed towards "a new normal", with the Second Lady warning that restrictions might not be relaxed until mid-2022.

Can't play the game, without the proper gear
[N.B. Local instructions]
(Original sources: mangakakalot.com, nature.com)

There had been a shift towards more-convenient (and less-expensive) tests such as the ART at least, alongside a number of interesting innovations; the Joint Interquartile Algebra Logarithm Analysis Test Modelling (JIALAT) model made some waves on Reddit Singapore in mid-September for its pretty-decent predictions, alongside other modelling attempts, and a fun homebrewed Papers, Please clone. From the more-official end, local vaccination status has been integrated into Google Pay (i.e. a vaccine passport, I suppose), the SafeEntry check-in screen has been otter-animated, and a large number of public healthcare workers have at least gotten something concrete (i.e. S$4,000) for their pains. On the vaccine front, it's been engagement on all ends, so it seems. Sinovac/Sinopharm have been included in the official vaccination programme in August, efficacy notwithstanding, and I was personally heartened by the link-up with AstraZeneca, from how they seem one of the better players in the game thus far. Not that Pfizer-BioNTech is being left out, what with them setting up their regional HQ and manufacturing facility here; a bunch of local kids are then first up to trial their paediatric vaccine.

It cannot be denied that the prior faith in vaccines as the cure-all had not been borne out, despite early suggestions by local experts to let the vaccines do their job, which soon transformed into blaming of the remaining unvaccinated minority, which unavoidably led to musing on why their seeming failures are being pinned on those who haven't taken it. The ratio of deaths and ICU wardees amongst the vaccinated and unvaccinated would also raise some cumbersome doubts, and after some attempts by the 160th-ranked media to sugarcoat the matter, the vaxxed/unvaxxed death ratio would mysteriously disappear from reports by the end of October. Of course, such ratios cannot be used to interpret vaccine efficacy without more information about the individuals involved, but the concealment of this data has done no favours for trust either - not that it has stopped netizens from doing their own calculations.

For those trawling international forums, it can hardly be denied that Singapore's pandemic-handling reputation has taken quite a big blow; yes, I am aware of our "slightly-fascist nanny state, but hey the trains run on time" reputation. After a mostly-stellar 2020 and a near world-leading vaccination rate, however, the bizarre sight of us flattening our infection curve... but along the wrong axis, had to be grist to the mill for doubters of the vaccine-focused approach (and they might not be wrong). With the country now also near the top globally in cases per million and underperforming on fatalities per capita, it has become our turn to be slammed by the U.S. (including the NYT), Germany, New Zealand etc. for mismanagement, with growing rumblings of discontent detected amongst the citizenry as well. This might yet be reflected in an exodus of the wealthy expat population.

Before continuing, to be fair, it should be recognized that there was no good, universal solution to be had, with citizen opinions split right up the middle, depending on one's circumstances. Our reliance on external trade implies that waiting it out indefinitely - as, say, China might be able to try - is untenable, and if so it was between accepting that the coronavirus will become endemic, or continuing to shoot for Covid Zero for as long as the economy could sustain it. When the situation wasn't that bad before September, it felt that "endemic" was the general direction. However, with deaths spiking, this stance had become a lot tougher to maintain, with some pretty loud voices cursing the government for not respecting seniors' lives. The latest course appears something of a middle path (cannot lock down indefinitely, but also cannot let things rip, according to the PM, who has moreover been drawing comparisons with pneumonia), which doesn't seem to have satisfied many either.

Truth in advertising, in truth
(Source: r/singapore)

Overall, with daily cases falling again, we appear gradually trending back towards endemic coronavirus as the norm, with the Ministry of Health to stop their media releases soon. The pandemic has however shown up rare chinks in the armour for the incumbent party, though, and while the PM has maintained that the government's measures have worked due to trust, this is probably less of actual faith in their abilities, and more of fear of punishment. Even on the usually more incumbent-friendly Reddit, there has been a regular stream of posts on the seeming delusion and incompetency of the ministers in charge - in particular those leading the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MMTF) - mainly for continually being stuck in a reactive posture, due to an apparent lack of foresight and planning.

The most concrete manifestation of this was probably the crunch in ICU beds, with initial assurances that capacity could be ramped up to a thousand if required, turning out to be off by an order of magnitude. This had us down to just sixty ICU beds available at the peak of the surge - a ratio below say Malaysia and Thailand - which had commentators figuring that our healthcare system isn't all it's cracked up to be (personally, it's not that bad lah). Meanwhile, on-the-ground reports were of a deteriorating situation in the hospitals and general confusion on how the burgeoning positive cases were being handled, with healthcare workers copping warnings for speaking up.

This lack of clarity and transparency by the MMTF has been much-lampooned online (special ref. "clear and unambiguous roadmap"), in particular on all the seemingly-illogical and inconsistent policies tangentially relating to public health. For example, concerts, wind instruments and even background music in bars are no-gos, but mass ball pits are a-ok; families can't dine together in restaurants, despite being around each other all the time otherwise in the same household; the big relief monies are going to those at the top instead of commoners... but fine, that happens everywhere. All this has led to some very damning assessments of the MMTF's indecisiveness (other than in meeting vaccination KPIs), though as a consolation, they appear at least aware of this impression.

For an explanation of how to came to this, we will unavoidably have to delve into politics. As a quick-and-dirty primer, Singapore had thrived under the largely astute-if-authoritarian leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, our founding Prime Minister, who held the post in his iron grip for some 31 years (1959-1990; first/pioneer generation). Being an effectively one-party brand of democracy, the PM-ship would pass to current Emeritus Senior Minister Goh from 1990-2004 (second generation), and completely unsurprisingly to LKY's son, current PM Lee Hsien Loong (2004-present, 16 years and counting, third generation)

Triple Threat 4G Match in progress
(Source: asia.nikkei.com)

While PM Lee II has consistently indicated his intent to step down by the age of 70 (i.e. by 2022), this succession - arguably the first not under PM Lee I's very long shadow - has been far more uncertain than the previous two. For quite some time, Chan "Kee Chiu" Chun Sing (rightmost in photo) seemed the hand-groomed anointed one, but this was apparently not an unanimous opinion even within the party. This had then-Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat become the favourite to be a transitory compromise, but the bullets he took "just as planned" in salvaging East Coast GRC for the party proved too much, and he would remove himself from the conversation for health reasons (having already had a stroke in 2016), come this April.

With this, the MMTF's leadership would have incoming Health Minister Ong Ye Kung (leftmost above) co-chairing it together with Education-turned-Finance Minister Lawrence Wong (middle above), as good an indication of who was in the race as any. Whether or not the MMTF was actually intended as a trial for their future premiership of the nation, it has definitely been interpreted this way by the masses, and the feedback thus far hasn't been swell. The general sentiment has been one of too many cooks spoiling the broth, with OYK pulling for an endemic normal and LW for Covid Zero, and the result being a neither-here-nor-there shambles (in football parlance, a half-arsed gegenpress is simply going to tire your players out to no real benefit, either do or don't, which Rangnick will likely impress). This has led to pleas for LHL and the 3G leaders to sort it out, with CCS happily lying low... for now.

Indeed, it's increasingly looking like active participation in this lousy Pandemic Game may well prove very deleterious to one's political career, as OYK may soon realise. One can't really fault him for some of the flip-flops, but certain positions that he has very publicly committed himself to, look like huge potential minefields. Vaccinations for pregnant women and children being safe is one (note there only being preliminary studies), but the biggest disappointment was certainly his trashing Ivermectin, to the extent of threatening using the POFMA law to stifle discussion, despite it being applied in various other jurisdictions. Well, if ever there was a hill to perish on, advocating accessible early treatment has to be it, and to be frank IVM and HCQ etc. have a lot more support than those only frequenting certain forums might believe. Not that he's avoided coming under heavy fire even without that, however, and talk has already turned to how Mr. Unknown Man will be sacrificed at the right time.

The ruling party were at least thrown a timely lifeline by the Opposition, who had a minority lady MP forced to resign, after admitting that she had lied in Parliament on the details of a sexual assault case used as an anecdote in a speech on empowering women - in particular that a police officer interviewing the victim, had made inappropriate comments. For the Yanks out there, a close parallel would be the Jussie Smollett case, which has just endured fresh accusations of a lunging judge, and the coke-in-bathhouse-together defence. The main takeaway was how unnecessary the embellishments were, in both cases. I mean, if you want to spout forth on gurl power or white supremacy or climate change or whatever, it's not like your opponents can rebut you without being made to look like absolute asses anyway. To top it off, she then went and baotoh the entire party as a parting shot, which I guess throws some weight behind sticking to age-old wisdom here.

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Wednesday, Dec 01, 2021 - 22:28 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

How Transitory This Life

It is the year 2032.

Alice: Have you heard about Fred? He got Gamma Iota Theta!

Bob: Congratulations! Must be a very exclusive fraternity, I honestly haven't heard of it!

Alice: It's the latest coronavirus variant, you ignorant swine. Have you gotten your twenty-third booster jab yet? You aren't one of those anti-vax Covidiots on only 22 or less, are you?

Guess what, new Omicron variant right as the vaccines appeared to be getting a handle on the current situation sort of, and there's been enough said about some Greek letters being skipped, so I'll leave that aside. There's at least some encouraging news from China, as the director of their CDC seems to have acknowledged that early treatment is the way forward - which, like, always made sense - but that will be for the next post or thereabouts.

Economics update next. Following on the predictions from late October about Powell leaving the hard decisions until after his reappointment, the newly-reaffirmed Fed chief has turned lexicographer in stating his intent to retire the word "transitory", at least in the context of inflation. Then again, "transitory inflation" was one of the most transparent dissimulations on a major issue to see print in a long while, and is moreover technically unfalsifiable given that one can consider the Universe itself to be such (I can see it now: Politifact: Mostly False. Inflation will last at most 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 120 years, the current best estimate for the maximum time required for the Universe to reach its final energy state. We rate the statement that inflation is non-transitory, Mostly False.)

Anyway, this can't be doing much for trust amongst those still taking the mainstream media FAKE NEWS at face value, and despite Powell now seemingly supporting a quicker taper given that inflation looks like continuing to rise, word on the street is that they're just trying to prop it up until China's economy crashes first, such that fingers can be pointed for the oncoming deprivations, in the transition to a full-fledged Cold War II. Either way, Singapore has at least been quietly building up our gold reserves, which has had me reevaluate the savviness of our leadership up a few notches, at least.

Human from Human, Light from Light,
True Lord from True Lord, Begotten, not made;

[N.B. The GOD-EMPEROR canonically hails from Anatolia, i.e. modern-day Turkey, about ten thousand years ago - long enough to be considered "of all races and of none", to borrow a famous description from another currently in-vogue fantasy property. Indeed, a recurring theme is the inability of His true face to be known, reasonable given the many personas He has worn through history, with everyone apprehending their own image of his likeness.]

No call for wallowing in misery, though, there should always be time made for the finer things in life, and here's a sneak preview of one of the decor pieces for the new place: a framed canvas print of the GOD-EMPEROR OF MANKIND. The local firm that prepared it evidently didn't skimp on the effort either:

You will be pleased to know that I personally supervised our production team as they delicately printed your image and hand crafted a fine timber frame from the very best of our timber stocks. I watched as they delicately stretched and wrapped your print around the frame, and meticulously inserted Italian made staples to secure your print. I took great delight in witnessing our highly trained hanging expert from Japan insert the hooks and cord that will be used to hang your print for all the world to see. Your print was then carried aloft to our packaging temple, where our white-gloved staff checked your work of art to ensure it met our sky high standards. I could only smile as your print was collected by six fine horsemen from our production facility. The roar of 100 drummers drumming was deafening, as your print was collected by our transport company.

If that doesn't call for repeat business, I don't know what does.

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Wednesday, Nov 24, 2021 - 22:26 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Farewell My Condorental

It had to come someday, and the lease for the apartment where I've been bunking these four years and a bit, has finally run out. The owner has declined to extend it, probably due to looking to sell up - and looking at the prices nowadays, who can blame him? Similar one-bedders around 340 square feet are going for well over S$600k, with the latest transactions for units about this size in the same building touching S$1.7k per square foot. Meanwhile, monthly rentals have jumped from somewhat under S$2,000 to around S$2,400 over the past months. Well, seeing as Powell has just been reappointed and seems to be finally throwing hints about tackling inflation, we will see how it goes.

I've arranged a bridging rental some way down the corridor, while the renovation for my long-term home gets completed over the next few months (one hopes), but I can't deny some sentiment at having spent some fairly good times here. Well, since I recall having apparently failed some unspoken etiquette when photographing a friend's place when he kindly hosted a bunch of us about a decade back - I didn't realise, since I generally have no hang-ups about such - here's some pics:

First, stepping in front the main door, there's a small IKEA BILLY bookcase (will be seeing a few more of these), and the bomb shelter/storeroom to the right. Trash such as takeout gets deposited about here for the day, pending removal.

View From Entrance

And turning slightly to the left, we have the living room turned bedroom, with the aforementioned folding sofa bed, in its natural state. Honestly can't complain too much about the bed's condition, given that it wasn't all that expensive (ordered off Taobao or somesuch), and was probably never meant for extended use as an actual bed. There's another BILLY bookshelf behind it (also hosting a projector), a laundry basket in the corner, and a HOLMÖ floor lamp that I had tried to keep unbusted for as long as possible (but that eventually got torn near the base). Then there's the lift-top coffee table with internal storage that has long gone over capacity; witness the overflow on top of it. Finally, another cheap mini-sofa in the far corner, more to fill up the space than anything.

The Living-turned-Bedroom

Here's the pile looking from my usual resting position. This probably doesn't strictly qualify as a tsundoku, since I've at least scanned through perhaps the majority of these (but no quizzing on the contents without prep)


The bedroom itself has become a study; that's an IKEA MALM desk that I've grown quite fond of, another BILLY, and a self-assembled (with some help) cube closet on the left. The bathroom is to the right, but nothing out of the ordinary there. And... that's it for the apartment.

Yeah, kinda cramped

My second-to-last United match was then Solskjær's last, as he got the boot following a 1-4 defeat to Watford, that was painful to watch. While reports are that he might yet have survived a draw, I personally suspect that even a 1-2 (which was the score before injury time) would have bought him more time. They've bounced back in the Champions League with Ronaldo inevitably SIUUU-ing his way to an improbable five-match scoring streak for United already in the competition at least, and it would really take the cake if he were to somehow drag the team to the trophy by sheer bloody-mindedness. This is not even that improbable on paper, if everyone gets back into form.

Maguire getting sent off

That's it, I suppose - as for the introduction to my new digs, watch out for it maybe in the second quarter of 2022.

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