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13th-Sep-2015 10:53 pm - Reflection on NES and Super Mario

Always remembered that iconic moment end of 1986 when I played this game for the first time, and within moments, I decided I had to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System.

Now I understood better how the designer made the first level so "dopamine releasing" to all players. You jump to hit the ? and coins came out and you felt good. Next you hit the ? and a mushroom comes out and made you big, and suddenly, wow, you can now smash the block when you could not do so before. Dopamine keep being released in my brain. No wonder I was so hooked then!

I guess that was why, being a Gen X gamer, I was amused at how complex games are nowadays, that you need to get some kind of game guide from the Internet, in order to start playing. And of course, I laughed when people like Pew Die Pie can get such a following from others who watch him play games!

7th-Aug-2015 08:25 pm - CLC review

CrystaL Clear, or CLC, debuted with a very catchy song by the name of Pepe, that easily found its way into my gym playlist. They were originally seen as backup dancers for GNA's Secret which I thought was a good illustration of the economic concept of Economies of Scale. Since Cube has many different kpop groups, they can lower the unit cost of producing their videos and performances by using a group that you plan to debut in a video of a more established artiste instead of having to hire another group of dancers and possibly having to pay them more. =)

And just like what I have said for Oh My Girl, Inkigayo also had the best version for this song performance, in my opinion.  Its not so much the background props this time, but the added "photo finish" effect at the ending part of the song, the part where there was a camera clicking sound and a picture was "temporary" taken, that was very appealing to me.  It turned out that this performance was the only one with that photo-finish effect.

Their second song, 18, was especially interesting due to the lyrics.  I never really took notice of that song, just felt it was a nice change to a slower paced song after their debut. However, my eyes widened a bit when I saw the translated lyrics on Music Bank.  The "comparative advantage" of Music Bank would be how they make their music show very accessible to the non Korean crowd by putting in English subtitles.  Understand the lyrics has both good and bad side.  On the good side, understanding the lyrics allow you to understand some parts of the dance cherography, like the "heart pounding" part where they use their hands to push off from their chest.

On the other hand, the lyrics can be quite creepy, given their age profile.  It was about how a young girl who falls in love with an older person. Obviously, the older person is not taking her seriously and she wished that she was 18 so that he would take more notice of her.  Then the rap goes, "I am going for you, watch me!"  What a strange song to be sung by them but I guess it will appeal to a "different group" of fans hah.

Their third song is a bit more normal, like Pepe.  After being intrigued by the lyrics of 18, I woke up from the Matrix and I decided to made sure I checked out the lyrics of that new song before I conclude anything about the song =). It turned out to be more normal, although its still the same theme.  Now I understand better why younger fans may like them, because the lyrics is always about how much they want YOUR attention and love haha.

It was also this song that I realized their main vocalist, Seunghee have an excellent voice and more meaty, which is more towards my taste. Their youngest member, Yoo Jin had many more lines in this song compared to Pepe, at the expense of their Thai member Sorn. I wished Yoo Jin put on more weight though. =)
Incident about the flood

Interesting that, on Tuesday 4th August, there was a huge downpour as I was going to work.  My original path to the bus stop, the covered walkway was flooded due to the water overflowing from the side drain.  I decide to go the other way to the coffee shop bus stop to take a more indirect bus journey to work.  But upon walking for a few minutes, I found that the covered walkway to that was flooded with water too.

Just like the other incident some years back, which also involved heavy rain, I felt sian and I was wondering what to do.  Of course, I was not feeling upset or anything; I have since been well trained, reinforced also thru that incident, to always look at the bright side no matter what.  But interestingly, today, when I saw the 2nd flooded walkway, I began to be more conscious of the thinking process.  By doing that, I could feel the neurons in my brain firing in so many different directions as I was mentally calculating whether there was a plan C.  I remember feeling like some water that is moving around in my head, which was probably the plasma in my brain.

My brain calculated the possibility of plan C in terms of a 3rd bus stop that will require me to take MRT, which will clearly lead to even more risk.  What if the MRT breaks down, what if it was too crowded?  I could really sense my brain furiously calculating all these pros and cons and finally I felt a thought just popped out,

“Why not just take off your socks and put in your workbag.  Take off your shoes and just walk barefooted through the first flooded covered walkway?  Once you are done with the short walk, you could put down your bag, put back your shoes first.  Go to the bus stop, take the bus that you have always been taking.  Put on your socks while in the bus, since you are always guaranteed a seat, and presto, you will be on your way!”

Another thought did pop up though, “But what if the flooded pathway had some sharp objects that your naked foot may land on and thus cause some cut?” But my pre-frontal cortex overrode that possibility and said, “Its worth taking that risk!  So let’s do it!”

As I was walking through the flooded path on my bare feet, my mind was thinking, “Wow, it is this reason that I am really glad to be able to decide on all these options strictly on benefits vs costs, with probabilities thrown in for good measure.”  Then my mind was linking this incident to the comment that I posted on Today about the choices that many unwed mothers have been making, that led to their outcome. 

A life of liberty is indeed one where all of us are free to make whatever choices we are making, and live with the consequences of those choices, whether good or bad.  If I had cut my foot while walking through the flooded walkway, it will be bad but surely I would rather have the freedom to face that consequence, rather than having society decides for me whether or not I should execute that final plan. 

In this aspect, I was definitely influenced greatly by the views of both Fredich Hayek, on his equation of liberty and responsibility here

as well as Milton Friedman in his analysis of how life is a gamble here

Story of the unwed mum "saga"

The story behind the unwed mum issue was also quite interesting and worth recording it down for future remembrance.  On Friday morning, I was replying to a letter from another writer who argues that she doubts many of these unwed mums are there by choice.  Being a libertarian, I just felt a disturbance in the Force and just had to comment on the Internet verison of her letter about my different opinion.

Apparently, the Today editor took my comment and decided to publish it the next day without asking me. It came out in the hardcopy, and naturally also on the Internet.  I didn't even realized that until I received one of 2 "hate messages" over facebook.  The first of them sent me this picture

Then she started ranting at me saying that I was being insensitive to the original letter writer and ended her rant with, "You're gonna be famous among single mothers in Singapore now after today. Congratulations".  The next day, Sunday, another lady sent me a message, "I am disgusted by you".  I smiled realizing that this is the first time I received such comments from the things I post in social media and it was indeed a new experience for my brain.

Reflection on reading those comments

Then on Tuesday, after that flood incident, I took the opportunity to see my "comments" published on Today and I saw that there were numerous comments on that entry, which was a pleasant surprise.  I smiled again as I read so many “emotional” comments that chose to interpret what I wrote, in their own mental interpretations, and then attack my views based on those wrong interpretations. 

I thought I already made it clear that “many, if not all” cases of unwed mums involve choice.  Of course I was aware of exceptions about rape.  It is like I am saying, “Many, not all, swans are white” and people say, “You are wrong, here is a black swan!” =)

The issue of choice and whether society should help

Bryan Caplan had what I thought to be a very good libertarian perspective about how we justify whether we should help.  The criteria he used is, "Are there any reasonable steps you could have taken to avoid the outcome that you are in now?"  The video above basically explains it very well. From the way I phrased the 3 choices in my comments about unwed mum, my perspective is that, for many of them, there were so many reasonable steps they could have taken to avoid being an unwed mum. Interestingly, Bryan even brought up the same issue, the issue of birth out of wedlock around the 31:50 mark.

Reasonable steps of course do not necessarily have to mean easy steps. In this aspect, I also smiled when I realized many Singaporeans never consider seriously the option of giving up the baby for adoption. I have read so many comments both to my comments, as well as elsewhere, that unwed mums are brave in not choosing abortion, thus, no reason why society should not support them.

It seems the 3rd option of adoption is alien to many Singaporeans. It is definitely more practiced in Western countries than in Singapore that is for sure. As a libertarian and not a Republican, I have no moral stand on abortion. While I will probably not push for it, I will not morally judge anyone who chose that option. To avoid stirring any controversy about the morality of abortion however, I decided to use adoption in my comments but somehow that was lost in translation among those comments that I read. =)

As of now, unwed mothers in Singapore do get help but less help than married couples.  I smiled when I realized so many readers interpreted this less help as “punishment”.  I guess that is the main problem of welfare recognized by many libertarians that made us prefer a negative income tax as a way to help the poor rather than having all these ad-hoc welfare benefits. The moment you get some welfare benefits contingent on certain behaviour, say unemployment benefits if you are unemployed, it acts as an implicit tax on working.  Since the moment you find a job, you lose those unemployment benefits so that job must pay you at least as much as the unemployment benefits that you are currently receiving, plus an added premium to reflect your preferences for leisure.

So in this case, the introduction of Baby Bonus as well as the previous BTO benefits for married couples with children, now served as an implicit tax on being an unwed mother.  Although the analogy may not be perfect, it is still quite cute to witness how so many readers regard it as a punishment.  It certainly reminded me of the parable that Jesus shared about the workers of the vineyard.

Observation 1: Joseph Prince in the pulpit

Indeed, upon reflection, I understand better now two different observations.  First, pastors like Joseph Prince will, now and then, use the pulpit to clarify certain criticisms of his approach.  Although he often stressed to us that we do not have to answer for him, for God would answer.  I guess, in the flesh, it is always very tempting to personally step in and clarify the fallacies in their conclusions. 

But this is the advantage of living a life as long as I have.  You realized that people’s opinions, even mine, are formed over many years of our existence and there is really not much point trying to convince them logically because they will never change their minds until they want to. 

And I have also learned this, "Never try to use logic to win against someone who either cannot be or does not see the need to be, logical."  It was probably Chris Rock who first exposed me to this, although he used it in a more "controversial" context hah.

Observation 2: Why many Singaporeans in general are afraid to state controversial opinions

I always smile when I see how so many people would rather post pics of their overseas holidays and maybe restaurant food in their Facebook page, but with zero reflection almost all the time.  Or, they would share articles in the media that may be presenting a more controversial point of view but I realized they usually don’t add their own views on those.

After this incident, I begin to understand better the risks involved.  Putting your opinion on issues that may be going against current trends is indeed not for the faint-hearted.  If you share your opinions of how great LKY was and how grateful you are to him, during the days of the state funeral, you can be rest assured that you will get many likes and support from the public.  So the general public would probably state safe opinions like that most of the time.

However, when you post your opinions on issues that are far more controversial and going against what most people think, you will really get called all kinds of names that have nothing to do with the reflection you are putting up.  Many people do not really read carefully what you are saying or not saying and they often don’t debate with you in a logical and calm manner that allows a fruitful debate. It takes a matured mind to be able to read comments that are clearly coming from an emotional mind and thus make many irrelevant points attacking character, without your emotions also being negatively affected. 

But I guess that is where you grow even more.  As I live longer, I realized that the roots of any “mid-life crisis”, is the feeling that you are auto-cruising through life without learning anything new.  When you were students, every day is basically a new day and every year is a new year.  You are always learning new things, meeting new friends. 

But once you are settled down in your job, it really takes conscious effort to make sure that you grow every year.  And, from the optimistic point of view, I guess when all these events, whether it was the flood today that made me felt my brain racing, or the comments and hate messages over Facebook, over my published perspective on unwed mums and liberty, that kept making me reinforce, "My happiness is within my control, must be zen about the entire thing," all helped me to grow and learn new things.

Difference between an economic mind and a non-economic mind

Many of these critics rejected the basic economic paradigm, that people are motivated by incentives.  We believe that people do the best they can to maximize their self interest in the presence of constraints.  So if the constraints change, say through government policies, at the margin, there will either be an increase or decrease in certain outcomes.

Someone who rejects this economic thinking seems to have a strong belief that helping unmarried mothers, would not, in the margin, increase the number of people who choose to be unmarried mothers.  In economic speak, for economists to frame that argument in a manner in which some answers might be given, they believe that the demand is very price inelastic.

In my mind that is basically a mind built upon the economic paradigm, I was thinking,
“It was nice to see a debate about the elasticity of the demand curve for babies out of wedlock.
I guess the next step is to measure it to conclude this debate. Here is a thought experiment that might help: If many of these unmarried mothers tend to be low income, the price of having a baby is thus a high proportion of that low income.
If you can accept that premise, is it that hard to conclude that these "potential mothers" will be very responsive to any lowering of the price due to the equalization of benefits, and hence we should see a more than proportional increase in the quantity of babies?”

Wow, I really love the economic way of thinking! =) 

Fairness and the most “efficient” way to help

And I realized the issue of “fairness” is a very strong belief in many of these critics.  As an economist, when I see people who argue based on “fairness”, my mind would immediately think, “Ok, time for me to withdraw from such debates”.  Fairness to most economists is basically normative and there is no way to objectively debate such issues.

In this kind of debate, my mind would immediately switch to a “libertarian” mind.  To help these cases, using the government as an agent to basically coerce everyone to hand over some money and then for the government to decide how to spend that money on these unwed mothers, is really the worst way and the most inefficient way to help them.

Basically, that falls under “spending somebody else’s money on somebody else”.  As libertarians, most of us are fine with private charities.  I have no desire to force the unwed mum to work to support her child, and I am not even interested in judging her choices morally.  Libertarians always leave moral judgements out of the picture.  I am merely suggesting that no force should be used to compel others to support them.

This will likely lead to the unwed mums working, but it might not. It’s none of my business if charity X wants to give money to unwed mum Y, whom I perceive as undeserving. Conversely, I may choose to support charity P which supports unwed mums Q because I think she is deserving, perhaps because I know her personally or I understand why she is an unwed mum, but others see as undeserving. 

That is the celebration of liberty instead of coercion.  There is no way any government agency can do such charitable acts without utilizing coercion.  But from the way I read commentators saying, “The government should do this, the government should do that, what does it matter to you if equal benefits are given”, they probably have the idea that there is excess money somewhere and thus no opportunity cost involved in directing them towards unwed moms. 

Conclusion: Papa vs society, who will preach more?

It was definitely the experience of feeling the neurons in my brain firing in the flood that made me decided to take time to reflect upon that and link it to the story about unwed mums.  For the TLDR version:  It is fun to be free, free to make your own decisions.  Freedom to make your own decisions only makes sense if you are also free to face the consequences of those decisions, no matter what those consequences may be.

Reflecting on this issue brought me back to the memories of the 1980s where Madonna managed to discuss this same issue in the lyrics of a kickass song.  After developing my economic and libertarian schemas, I begin to interpret this song from a brand new perspective.  The "papa" in the song is paying for the upkeep of Madonna and her coming baby born out of wedlock.  She is asking her daddy not to preach about the morality of being an unwed mum because she has made up her mind to keep the baby.

That is the "good" thing about private charity.  If you know the unwed mum personally and provide help for her, she is more likely to spend that money as efficiently as she can due to a closer connection to the donor, perhaps to avoid being nagged too much by the donor.  If she is spending taxpayers' money instead, there is less of a connection and that money would be seen as "free money".  As Milton Friedman would say, that type of money would be less efficiently spent as it is harder for you to feel "preached" by society =).
12th-Jul-2015 09:49 pm - Welcome back Chae Yeon
Hah, watching her comeback reminds me of my early days of kpop, and I even made an entry some 10 years ago here, comparing Chae Yeon and Unee.  Sad to say that Unee has committed suicide in 2007 though. 

I have to say Chae Yeon still looks darn attractive at an age of almost hitting 40.  If 10 years ago, I will be glad to marry her, that feeling has not changed even now in 2015 hahaha.  This song is catchy and she still have an excellent voice singing live, I have no hesitation including it in my gym playlist.

My only question is, why I keep hearing the words, "I'm not a video" in the chorus? I guess it is a nice transition from the 2005 hit of "Na Na Na Na Na Na Na!" =)

It was interesting noticing, from that blog entry 10 years ago, how MBC has changed from Music Camp to Music Core, besides the obvious change from 4:3 to 16:9 resolution.  One thing is that they still place non-lip synching as a priority, which is definitely their comparative advantage.
The most interesting theme I picked up when I watched the 8 episode TV series "Marvel Agent Carter", was that particular radio show segment shown at the beginning of this video episode.  My economic schema was immediately activated as I could see how technological advancement has the potential to change job scope and cause possible structural unemployment.

I can imagine during the days of Marvel Agent Carter, when TV was not mainstream yet, it was fairly easy to join the acting field.  In such radio shows, you can easily read your lines from a script and can create some sound effects using various household tools.  After TV became widespread, it is now necessary for all potential actors and actresses to memorize lines and deliver it with the necessary emotions on your face. 

Structural Unemployment for KJs

Also reminds me of the short stint I had as a waiter in a Canto Pub after my NS days, where in most establishments with KTV facilities, a person could have a job as a "karaoke jockey (KJ)", just like disc jockeys, whose job is merely to sit in a small room which is filled with many laser disc players, and just rotate the various laser discs among those players, for customers in the KTV rooms to sing to.

During those days in the mid 1990s, we had to key in the song numbers in our rooms to indicate to the KJs and they will try their best to give us the songs in that order. If many rooms choose the same song, for example, those Jacky Cheung concert songs were particularly popular then, some of us may have to end up waiting for that, as other songs would be pushed up the list.

During the mid 90s, this was definitely THE song I always sing in KTVs. And even now, I made sure I choose this song during my annual or bi-annual visit to KTVs, that the rest of the people in the room would "arm-chio" to for it can certainly reveal my "long life" haha.

Of course, after hard drive space became cheaper and everything is digitized into them, there is no longer a possibility of finding such jobs now, all those KJs have now become "structurally unemployed" too. Along the way, it is quite obvious that, nowadays, its harder for any one Chinese singer to be as big as the 4 Heavenly Kings were during the mid 90s. The simple economic explanation is the huge competition now when it comes to music, especially how kpop has now become part of the music exposure for many Asian countries =).
Took me some time to like Ice Cream Cake but I have to say SM paid a lot of money to have them perform this song so many times in music shows, more than a month definitely.  Thanks to the powerful rap by their leader Irene during all the performances, it was fairly easy for me to start liking the song.  I was fairly indifferent to the first half of the song performances since I found the idea of making all 5 members dye their hair blond was a bit weird since it made it so difficult to tell the members apart. 

I could only differentiate between Wendy and Selugi since they had powerful vocals in their debut song "Happiness", but I certainly could not spot Irene among them.  It was only after they had different colored hair that I could tell who she was.  She is definitely my favorite member in that group.

You know you are an Irene fan when you enjoy listening to a fan compilation of her rap during this song. For me, I don't mind since I remembered how, every time I play a new performance of Ice Cream Cake, I told myself never to miss that Irene rap part, its like her rap is the main reason why I bothered to watch the entire performance haha.

Considering that this was only part 2, you can easily verify that Red Velvet did perform this song numerous times during the promotion run. I obviously chose part 2 since she had much more experience in rapping that part as time went by, plus I liked her natural hair color, compared to blond.

The sad thing though, is that they also changed the dance choreography slightly, when they perform this song halfway through their promotion. I like the original steps where the rest of the members rolled around her while Irene rap but now, they merely squat down as you can see above. You can have a look at the original dance choreography, as well as listen to the complete song, below.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible and I have memorized these 2 verses since my Methodist days in secondary school.  After integrating the memory with what I am learning from Word of Faith churches, I begin to view it from another perspective. 

When it comes to praying and claiming about things that God promised me in the Bible, but I do not see them in reality, it is really the "fight of faith".  It can be discouraging I have to admit and it is pretty easy to slip into doubt and wondering why things are not happening even though I am declaring God's word over the situation for years. 

When God called Gideon "mighty warrior", and called Joseph a successful man even when he was still a slave, what does he see that I do not seem to be seeing with my natural eyes?  When Joseph Prince said about I am not fighting to be healed, but I am fighting from a position of already being healed, how can I internalized that belief? JP also said recently that I should not see my belief as "If I believe hard enough, it will come to pass", with the analogy that healing is just like the Sun shining. If I am in a building, my belief in whether or not the Sun shine, it is still a fact that it is shining. My belief sets me in alignment with the facts. It helps me flow with what is happening. It has repercussions on my actions, it doesn't change the facts.

Pastor Ray also said recently, on May 31st, about Jesus and Lazarus. When he received word that Lazarus was ill, Jesus stayed where he is for a 2 more days, until by the time he showed up at the house of Mary and Martha, Lazarus has already passed away. In the natural eyes, it clearly appeared that Jesus was deliberately late. But according to Ray, Jesus wanted to do the impossible.

My mind is indeed the arena of faith.  As a man think in his heart, so is he.  This understanding has definitely been enhanced by the study of neuro-plasticity.  In NIE, I also learned what meta-cognition means, that is thinking what I am thinking about.  I must constantly recognize that I am not my thoughts.  Those thoughts come in my flesh, planted by the devil and such but they are not me.  I am the righteousness of God, Jesus has already finished all the works from the foundation of the world.  My only labor is to labor to enter the rest of God. 

Once my thinking is aligned with the word of God, I am trusting the Lord with all my heart, both my thoughts and emotions.  Even though I have yet to see it in reality, let me acknowledge daily that he is faithful to his promises.  Once I do that, he will make my paths straight!

Creflo Dollar is teaching me something new about this passage. I must acknowledged in my heart and emotions that, despite what I see in my current circumstances, the final destination is REAL. It is then the Holy Spirit responsibility to guide my paths into that final destination. In the meantime, be joyful and rest in the finished work of Jesus.
10th-May-2015 09:25 pm - Resolution I can adopt now
The average person is in the habit of saying, "The older I get"; and they thereby call the attention of the mind to the idea that they are getting older. In brief, they compel their mind to believe that they are getting older and older, and thereby direct the mind to produce more and more age. The true expression in this connection is, "The longer I live." This expression calls the mind's attention to the length of life, which will, in turn, tend to increase the power of that process in you that can prolong life.
SBS Inkigayo: Best background props

One thing I have to say about SBS Inkigayo music show is that their background props tend to stand out from the other music shows.  Pity they do not license their Youtube channel to Singapore though, probably due to them having a channel in our cable television network.  I remember when I was in Taiwan last year and I was surfing Youtube on my iPad and I could access the SBS channel, unlike in Singapore.

This is a powerful debut song, at the 1:40 minute mark, by a new 8 member girl group called Oh My Girl.  The drum beat is very cute and the song is so catchy with the English hook in the chorus, but this particular performance stands out.  They had a raised stage with some kind of "elevator" contraption with the appearance of a hot air balloon, allowing half of the members to slowly move towards the upper stage. Of course, they had plenty of background performers in the form of a military band at the ending part of the song, that really made me laugh but also impressed by the amount of money they must have spent for this particular debut performance.

The member that stands out for me in Cupid, is their leader Hyojung.  She always has this smile on her face throughout the entire performance and her vocal abilities are also very impressive.  Will look forward to more songs from this group in the future!

Dance formation for even vs odd number groups

And from watching their various performances, I understand better how to choreograph a dance properly for 8 members. From experience with SNSD, odd number groups seems more straight forward in that you can arrange them based on apex formation on a 4+1+4, with Yoona often at the center.

With even number groups, like Oh My Girl, it seems more tricky because if you arrange 4 on each side, there will appear to be a "hole" in the middle. For Cupid, what I can observe is that they tend to arrange themselves as 3+2+3, with 3 on each side and 2 side by side in the middle to serve as the non-existent "nine" apex, or 7+1, with 3 on each side, but instead of 2 side by side, they have 1 member in front and behind in the middle hole to serve as 2 apexes, one behind and one in front. This will serve to minimize the appearance of a hole I think haha.

Mnet Music Countdown: Solo view of individual members.

I realized recently that, another music network, Mnet, provides videos featuring a specific member of each group. Ahh, that is the power of competition and the variety it provides. If SBS is known for nice background props, Mnet can focus on such cam views instead. I can watch it and verify for myself that Hyojung is indeed smiling all the time! =)

MBC Music Core: Minimal lipsynching

MBC has always been known, to me since the early days of SES, Finkl and Baby Vox, for being one of the few to insist on singers singing live in their music performances.

With this new group, it was cute to hear Hyojung going out of breath in her solo lines at the ending part of the MBC performance. The kpop industry is generally known for hard work, the performers have to train for years sometimes before their debut, and given the way Hyojung kept jumping around for this song, it is certainly very understandable that the breathlessness happened! =)

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