Archive for the 'Dins' Category

And back.

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

It’s been a good couple of months since I last wrote, and who knows why, given that I’ve had a very relaxed couple of weeks lately.  Almost a month, in fact.  In summary, since the last time I wrote:

– I visited the Dins of 2008 on tour in Bangkok, but was away again in Lagos when they got to Singapore around National Day
– My Nigeria project wrapped up in late August
– I went on vacation with the Dins to Mexico and LA where Tour ended.  That was a lot of fun.
– I’ve been put on a few little things at work, a little wrap up here, a little client development there… then I got assigned to a project that got put on hold

So now I’m holding steady, and happy for that, too.

American politics…  yeesh.  Listening to the public debates for the 2008 presidential elections makes me feel like the whole process is all fluff and no substance.  Sure, there are talking points, catch-phrases and carefully rehearsed evasions.  But how can any voter be expected to educate themselves based on a 90 minute debate?  Even a three hour debate seems insufficient.  Can it be surprising that the American “media elite” often takes a mocking stance towards their Government (at all levels, from Federal on down)?

In contrast to the media circus that constitutes the public-facing side of American Democracy, it seems perfectly reasonable and logical to prefer a quieter, more efficient form of democracy (e.g., the Singapore system).  We would like choices, our opinions to be heard and heeded, our decisions to be embraced.  Sure everyone would like a lot of things, but someone has to figure out how to best balance out conflicting desires within constraints.  And no, the free market is not always best, because the “free market” is itself nothing of the sort.  It’s a social construct, with rules and rulers, unequal access and information assymetries, powers and social responsibilities just like the rest of our social world.  It’s a mirror image of the rest of society, so trying to pretend it’s somehow different or exempt from the constraints of the real world is silly, and dangerous.  The free market is not fairer or more neutral, or more meritocratic or more efficient, rational or adaptive than government.  It just depends on how you define “fair” or “efficient” or any of those other measures, and just as importantly, which government is being compared to what market at what point in time.  For most intents purposes, the free market is a form of government: it’s a way of ordering society, securing contracts and property, allocating resources. 

The current massive collapse in confidence in the American financial system, now spilling over to Europe as well, makes it easy to point out the potential pitfalls of a lack of regulation in the market (with both presidential candidates promising more regulation to come) when trillions of dollars of wealth and debt were essentially figments of the system’s imagination – “synthetic” products and mortgages and derivatives thereof.  The natural reaction is to swing back towards more regulation, or more “government” (government bailouts, handouts, nationalisations, state assurances, guarantees, capital injections).  But the age-old swings in opinion between regulation and deregulation is illustrative of a more fundamental tension between democracy as mob-rule (carte blanche, laissez-faire, caveat emptor)  and democracy as technocracy (expert-rule, faith in the system, specialised division of labour).  Note that technocracy is not incompatible with democracy – the ideal system is one where every or at least most members of society are educated experts (the US, with it’s two-thirds high school dropout rate, can hardly be said to qualify under most reasonable analysis), but even barring that ideal it’s a question of degree: how much decision-making is handed over to experts and dedicated specialists rather than being made by referendum, petition or lowest common denominator.  Furthermore, a true technocracy is a network of experts whose influence is bounded by the breadth of their expertise, which provides the necessary checks and balances – the economists have to debate the social workers and environmental scientists, the historians and lawyers, with conflicts mediated justly by the judges acting within the constraints of that society (precedence, Constitution, values, law). 

I recognise that in some ways it is a question of values – the American ideal essentially means that the voice of a relevant expert is considered equal to a barely sober, barely literate, unemployed 18-year old high school drop-out.  For me, I see that history has demonstrated that greater acceptance of democracy-as-technocracy–where thoughtful, studied expertise is the foundation of negotiation and decision-making–can lead to the sort of smooth efficiency and faster, greater achievement associated with Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan these past few decades.

That’s all.

I’ve recently heard the term “outstation” being overused, and as with most overused words, used inaccurately.  Firstly, a simple definition look-up indicates that “outstation” is a noun, not a verb (as in the common Singapore usage: “He is currently/will be outstation”).  Secondly, outstation is traditionally used to indicate remoteness and inaccessibility in a post or location.  Neither Bali nor New York are outstations.  Thirdly, and bafflingly, outstation is quite cumbersome and multisyllabic, compared to “abroad”, “away”, “not here” and other perfectly good (and more accurate) substitutes. 

In conclusion: No, I will not be outstation from tomorrow.  I will be away in Bali till Sunday for my annual office retreat.

See you later 🙂


Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

…takes a long time, and a lot of effort.  So many events: fun events, meaningful events, catered events, stand-around-waiting-for-hours events, jostle-with-classmates-for-a-good-spot events, feel-good events, noisy events, grand events, intimate events…  you get the picture.

Tonight was really fun, actually.  There was a party at the athletic fields, followed by Grad Jam.  I sang “Let’s Fall in Love”, which I’ve never sung before, so I partly confused the words and sang a hilariously confused bunch of lyrics at one point, although noone noticed and even on video it looks seamless, thank God.  I had a lot of fun, the singing was so relaxed (usually at the biannual concert we’re all wired up and rush recklessly through all the songs).

And then there was a random party in the Eliot courtyard, which was surreal, and fun and did I mention surreal?  There was very random food (burgers and oreos and Reese’s peanut butter cups) and fairly random drink (champagne and Budweiser and pineapple juice and brandy) and an even more random location (the partially set-up Diploma Cemermony tent for Eliot House with all kinds of random tables and lawn chairs lying sideways and in folded-up piles).

I had a blast.

And here’re the amusing results of an online “gender role” quiz I just took:

Your Score: Androgynous

You scored 53 masculinity and 60 femininity!

You scored high on both masculinity and femininity. You have a strong personality exhibiting characteristics of both traditional sex roles.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 99% on masculinity
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 99% on femininity


Link: The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test written by weirdscience on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test


Yay Terence!

Monday, May 14th, 2007

And just because I think I might never have time to blog about the past weekend’s flurry of activity (some 700 miles of driving around NYC, Boston and Cape Cod, only three-hour naps on either end, Dins and Din alums, my first Red Sox game at Fenway Park, the SIAMA end-of-year dinner), I feel compelled to record that I saw Terence in NYC!  It was a wonderful coincidence that Terence had flown in from Stanford that morning and that I happened to be (very briefly) in the city as well for Dins.

Catching up with Terence (who was very nice about having to fight jetlag and general fatigue at the end of a loooong day) was really, really nice.

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Thursday, March 8th, 2007

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Something lost, something gained…

Monday, February 5th, 2007

A rather eventful, hectic sort of day.  Mainly it seemed hectic because I constantly wanted to just lie down and relax.  Right from the moment I dragged myself out bed at 6.15am, to turn off my alarm.  The interviews turned out successfully, judging by the outcome… at least for me.  That’s good news, I know, to have a solid, competitive and compensated summer internship offer with a top outfit in a great location.  If only the elation could be enjoyed unalloyed by thoughts of March and August, untempered by a mixed result, unaffected by the want to go to bed.  I’m also vaguely miffed at having missed the celebratory lunch.

It helped to sit in Nathan’s massage chair for about twenty minutes, although later at Lodge the sensation came back to haunt me in an unpleasant fashion against the hard, straight seat backs.  Lodge meeting tonight was…  something quite new.  The experience of having to push through that endless, narrow corridor-catwalk jammed full of bejewelled, tuxedoed officers (average age: 45) from other lodges was quite intimidating and discomfitting.  Then the prodigious feat of memory and protocol displayed by R.W. T. was breathtaking (not that Lodge isn’t usually impressive that way).  Finally, the banquet that followed was far fancier than previous events.  It reminded me of the European leg of world tour, what with the enormous platters of cheese, fruit and cold cuts interspersed with serving stations for whiskey, cocktails, wine, juice and soda.  My personal favorites were the circulating trays of beef Wellington hors d’oeuvres and bacon-wrapped scallops (yum!).  And after an hour, just as everyone was getting seated, I ran away to avoid the tedium of a two-hour long meal (especially since I was already stuffed)…  but not before lingering to hear the jazz duo (double bass and keyboard) play Antonio Carlos Jobim’s sublime Wave.

I did no thesis work today 🙁

PS: I still *heart* cold winters, but only with the assurance of heated interior spaces and the promise of warmer days ahead.

25% Off Jason (28 Jan 2007)

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

25% Off Jason (28 Jan 2007)

In hindsight, this picture is especially funny because:
(1) It claims that I’m on sale, at a 25% discount
(2) It coincidentally pictures approximately 25% of me in the frame
(3) I am just about to turn 25 in a week.

Thanks to Steve for taking this picture, and for the other Dins who spotted this banner in the Vitamin Shoppe somewhere in midtown Manhattan.

The Big Apple (Tree) and so on…

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

I’d somewhat forgotten how fun New York can feel. I’m still fairly jaded with the city in general, and can’t properly ignore the grime on the streets and the soot in the air. But the people look a touch healthier (and more stylish) than I recall, and it’s also nice to feel like you have favorite spots in the city, reliable sights to see and things to do – shades of being home, essentially. It’s funny how the same actually applies a little less to Singapore, my actual hometown, where almost overnight entire neighborhoods can be transformed; nothing really seems to age there amidst the constant revamping, upgrading and rezoning.

Anyway, back to NYC. Over two nights I’ve seen two different musicals, both recommended by my voice teacher, who seems to see almost everything that goes on in Broadway. Last night I went to The Apple Tree with Ricardo, Ari and Sam, then tonight I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with Evan, whom I serendipitously met at the TKTS line. Perhaps when I get back to campus I’ll write an proper review of each of the shows. In the meantime, as I type on a iBook borrowed from Leroy in Ari’s dining room, I shall confine myself to brief comments. Kristen Chenoweth’s brilliant starring performance makes the otherwise problematic The Apple Tree worth seeing (for half price), if you go in thinking of it as the Kristen Chenoweth skit-show. Spelling Bee is entertaining and well-performed (it did win a Tony award for Best Ensemble), if not especially fresh in content or eye-popping in production.

And I haven’t had much of a chance to go shopping, although I plan to try again tomorrow after singing with the Dins (and Evan) at a morning wedding reception. I did however make it to my favorite button/trim store (M&J Trimming) and fabric store (B&J Fabrics) today. It was fun to recognize staff and also things I’d bought previously, like the antique-gold cord-and-velvet trim that peskily ran out last year, and the lovely imported heavy-cotton shirting that I had made up over the summer. I found a couple of things that I like; I’ll have to make another trip to buy everything soon, perhaps when my plans for the summer and next year are more settled.

In 24 hours I’ll be back to work at school. That will actually be a bit of a relief, considering what remains to be done in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, it’s nice to be around Dins and to sing with them too.

H-Y Cocktail Party (17 Nov 2006)

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

H-Y Cocktail Party (17 Nov 2006)
Originally uploaded by J Y.

My first big cocktail party. 100 guests, 20 types of cheese, 12 types of wine, 8 pounds of strawberries and grapes and lots more. It was a lot of fun, and went on from 8pm to about 3am in the morning.

Too bad Harvard’s football team was heartbreakingly trashed the next day at the Game 🙁

Oktoberfest in the Square 1 (8 Oct 2006)

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Oktoberfest in the Square 1 (8 Oct 2006)Originally uploaded by J Y.

Having never previously experienced it, I was determined not to miss the Oktoberfest street fair in Harvard Square again during my final year in college. I had the pleasure of exploring the fair with many Dins and Pitches, especially (from left) Miriam, Caitlin and Sam.

Happy Columbus Day!

Monday, October 9th, 2006

What’s there to say?

I could talk about the tragicomic performance the Dins gave for the Harvard reunion Class of 1961 at the Harvard Club of Boston, but it was really such an awful/hilarious affair that I don’t think I can do it justice here.

Yesterday’s walk about Oktoberfest street fair in Harvard Yard, last weekend’s relaxing day trip to The Big E (the annual New England state’s exposition) and Andrew’s 21st birthday “Cake-stravaganza” all warrant at least a passing mention.

I might want to record the mock consulting “case” interview I had on Friday (which was pleasant and enjoyable), and the amusing experience I had in the waiting room surrounded by wannabe-I-bankers.

Perhaps I should talk about the momentous new step I took today in the direction of academia by emailing off my first journal submission. Very exciting. I can only pray that it will be accepted.

And in other news, I’ve dropped the Medical Sociology class, which leaves me with a courseload of five. That’s still a little on the heavy side for a thesis-attempting senior.

Till next time…