Archive for March, 2008

I didn’t make this up. Local friends shared this version of 5 Cs with me, and it seems to be a common knowledge among Singaporeans.


Like a rebellious teenager, I don’t like to associate myself with what others desire (even though my own standards are likely to be affected by social norms and expectations). And it makes no sense to me to identify oneself with any of the processions above. For fun, here are the 5Cs I want to have: confidence, conscientiousness, creativity, culture, and curiosity.


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I was invited to an Easter play today. Although I’ve read about the popularity of mega-churches that operate like a business, this is the first time I experienced one. I can understand why this model is attractive to many people (especially young people). The event was held in a stadium with 8000+ people, very much like a pop concert with good lighting effects and acoustics. The music was modern, with drums, guitars, and keyboards. The sermons and the play were lively and entertaining, yet the gospels were communicated eloquently and suited the more serious type of believers.

I can see how it can fulfill people’s needs (like all religions do). It’s a good ways to meet people (amazed how many fashionable teenagers went), feel connected, obtain a sense of purpose and get helps or console when needed, and have them all without having to go through boring ceremonies or compromise the seriousness (at least it seems) of worship.

I think religion serves an important role in the society, but I’ve passed the stage where I’d get fulfillment from it, or perhaps I’m just being self-deceived into a different type of ‘religion’.

Here’s a previous post on the similarity between Christianity and communism.

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As in my previous post, I’m still not ready to commit to a PhD yet. Doing a PhD entails huge opportunity costs. My current role as an economic analyst in an investment bank is one of the few jobs that can keep me from being dissatisfied and pays well. It could be the closest thing to an ideal job in the private sector for me (starting my own business might be another one as it seems to give lots of autonomy). Although finance might not be what I found most interesting in economics and most of what I do is too short-term oriented for my taste, my position allows me to keep in touch with economic issues everyday. Ideally I’d love to further develop my knowledge in a wider range of issues and have more autonomy in deciding what I want to do (sadly, these don’t seem to be possible in academia before attaining a Professorship either).

One reason why I can’t commit to a PhD is probably similar to why I didn’t become an artist. Just as I don’t have the courage to become an artist as I’m not confident in my skills and passion, I’m equally not confident in my ability to succeed in the academic world. Doing well in a master degree says little about one’s fit in doing a PhD and much less about future success/satisfaction in the academic world. I’ve known enough people personally who were disillusioned by the academic world or did PhD for the wrong reasons and ended up being dissatisfied. Those who do well seem to know clearly what they want and value in life or because their strengths or interests skew strongly toward a certain area. In this sense, being above average in many areas but not exceptionally well in any can be more a curse than a blessing.

Life is never easy, and trained as an economist, the best I can do is to maximize my utility within my constraints (knowledge and personality endowment, financial limitations, etc.). Without knowing clearly what my preferences are, I remain unable to solve this simple maximization problem. My inner psychologist, on the other hand, tells me that most life decisions like this are not rationally planned. If I got fired in this financial turmoil, maybe I’ll have more time to reflect and come to a conclusion. But for now, I’m hanging in here to see first hand how brutal and cyclical the industry can be.

Side note

If I were to do a PhD in economics, GeorgeMasonUniversity will be among my top choices (or maybe these two if I could manage to get myself into). Robin Hanson, Tyler Cowen, Russell Roberts, and Bryan Caplan are a few GMU economists whose thoughts I greatly respect (here is a nice article on GMU economists, and many of them keep wonderful blogs). Being able to spend time with these people would be a great experience, and for me, doing a PhD will be more a consumption than an investment choice.

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Brighten up

In case friends worry I’m in a depression, below is a positive update on recent activities.



I watched the Taiwanese movie Yi-yi (the cover page reveiw on imbb is good) for the second time and found myself like it much better this time round. The little boy in the movie wonders whether every one of us can only sees half of the things in this world. Perhaps we are all blinded in a certain way that only others (including future selves) could discern. What are my blind spots, and are there ways to overcome it?


Nodame Cantabile Europe Special 1 & 2

Classical music, dreams, and idealistic characters, the special episodes are as enjoyable if not better than the drama series. The Japanese actors are skillful enough to make the manga adoption looks natural. Just like Swing Girls (also played by actress Juri Ueno), the series are not meant to be realistic. Watching Nodame is a good way to relax and to remember/immerse in idealistic dreams, while listening to some popular classical music.


Great Expectations


1. Booked a ticket to a concert featuring Wagner, Bruch, and Brahms. Going to concert becomes a regular pasttime of mine in addition to dining out.


2. Ka-Lun’s coming to visit in 3 weeks’ time! I’ll take some evenings off to enjoy his company and explore Singapore. Plans so far: watch a musical, travel to nearby islands, and try out all sorts of foods and desserts.

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Once upon a time

When life is simple

And dreams are pure

When everything seems possible

And time is plentiful

What have I accomplished?


Years passed by

Life somehow becomes complicated

And passions have stealthy evaporated

Fear of failure dominates

And everything appears scarce

What have changed?


Has anything really changed?

Or are they all just in my mind?



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This drawing is based on a sketch I made while waiting to meet a friend. I generally hate waiting as I think it’s a big waste of time (but I’m fine if I’ve some reading materials with me). Now I found another way to avoid feeling bad, and all it takes is just a notebook and a pencil.  

By the way, I won’t have internet access at home for a while as the person I shared access with moved out. So I might be late in replying to message or email. But it’s good that most coffee shops and cafes in Singapore have free wireless network. So before I obtain internet access at home, a cup of latte will probably be a regular accompany for me on weekend. 

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