Our Second Anniversary in Malacca

Just came back from a trip from Malacca with the fiancee, a trip sorta arranged around our second anniversary. I really enjoyed myself, and so did she. Went shopping, watched a movie at the theatre (and half of one on my lappy). Ate lots — and I mean lots of pretty decent food.

Happy anniversary and two days my fav ger ger! May this be the second of many anniversaries we will celebrate!

“Freak” Rain Every 50 Years?

At lunch yesterday, a colleague of mine told me about the previous day’s rain that had caused flooding in the Bukit Timah area. The damage, he told me, was quite substantial, with some of the major casualties being the cars caught in a basement carpark (with water levels up to waist-height). He was surprised that I hadn’t known about it as it was all over the news (after which I told him I did now, and I still hadn’t watched the news).

So it was with interest that I noticed a column on this flood in the Straits Times. It quoted Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim as saying that “Thursday’s deluge which submerged parts of Bukit Timah was a “freak” event that comes once in 50 years”. The article also added that “[Yaacob Ibrahim] said his ministry knew that the canal was not up to the task of draining away all the rain that fell that day”.

Two questions immediately came to mind after I read that short column: (1) how did the ministry determine that this type of rain occurred once every 50 years? and (2) if they knew that it occurred every 50 years, and that the canal couldn’t deal with that amount of rain, if approximately 50 years had gone by why hadn’t they done anything before this?

I’m not faulting the ministry for not predicting this amount of rain — nobody could have predicted it. But if it’s unpredictable, do not say it occurs once every 50 years; say that the weather’s unpredictable, apologise for not taking action earlier (for PR’s sake) and then take steps to rectify the problem (as they have). Saying it occurs only once every 50 years will only make those most vulnerable complacent, and that’s definitely not a good thing.

The Black Swan

My thinking has lately been a little inspired by The Black Swan, by Nicholas Taleb (author of another of my favourite books, Fooled by Randomness). The basic idea behind the Black Swan is that we cannot ignore improbable events (especially high-impact events), and that absence of proof does not mean proof of absence — which essentially means that having no proof of having seen a red sky doesn’t mean the sky can’t turn red or that sort of thing.

And so I was in the car with the fiancée, discussing whether or not we should go ahead to apply to be part of the balloting exercise for the next build-to-order HDB flats in Punggol. I’m not sure exactly what led to what, but eventually it came to a point where I mentioned that we might not end up together, for whatever reason (I think I used it as an example of how unpredictable life was, referring to how she was worried that we may never get another build-to-order flat anywhere near an MRT station).

Needless to say, she was upset by that remark and asked me to explain myself. I had used an example of a Black Swan (our breaking up), and needed yet another to save her from manslaughter charges. So I pulled one out of my hat and said that, for example, either one of us may die, and thus we would technically “not be together”. Not comforted one bit by my answer, and in fact a little peeved that I mentioned my early demise yet again (I have a habit of talking about how fragile my life — and in fact life in general — is), I drove on in silence for a while before jumping onto another topic, and very quickly the unhappiness hanging in the air, unlike me, departed.

On Reading

I am a voracious reader — I read anywhere and everywhere: on the toilet or on the bus; at home or at the office; at the library or at fiancee’s home; while watching television or exercising. I like to think that I’m always learning something new, something to apply to life, such that I can live it somehow better.

But, alas, I am but a vorarious reader. I cannot say that I am an effective reader, nor can I can say that I am a vorarious learner. Ask me to give a review of a book I read, say, last week, and I’d look at you blankly as if you asked me to guess the number of moles the average monkey had.

The need for a car

“I think that it was the car,” my mom said over dinner, “that kept me going in my job.”

When I first heard this I didn’t realise just how counterintuitive it was. My mom was referring to how important she felt the car was in for her keeping her job. It wasn’t that her job needed it, it was that she needed it to keep her going at her job. I’m not sure how serious she was when she said this, but even if it was only partly tongue-in-cheek, it was quite an insight.

I suppose I never thought about it that way before. To me, a car was what you got when you were relatively higher-income or well-off; it was an end after money issues were settled, and not a means to an end where money issues were settled. Who knew — although normally classified an expense, it could just be the thing to keep you going.

How unpredictable life is.