The legacy we leave to our descendants, is in the institutions we create (the hardware) and the character we impart (the software). The recent tampered US election has gotten me thinking about the kind of institutions we should build to create checks and balances, in addition to the private character-building that must take place in each family.
The socio-political hardware our generation should leave a future generation of Singaporeans are what I term the Six Fairnesses:
- Fairness of an independent judiciary.
- Fairness of an independent elected President, regardless of race or religion, who shall be a check and balance on the Government.
- Fairness of citizens regardless of sexual orientation, such as homosexuals and transsexuals, equally.
- Fairness of political competition and cessation of gerrymandering.
- Fairness of treatment in the public service, regarding the Government qua employer. The white horse/scholarship system that insulates scholars from meritocratic competition from capable on-the-ground public service members of all educational backgrounds must be abolished.
- Fairness of representation. No religious minority shall capture the decision-making arm of government, and laws must remain liberal and tolerant for all creeds and races.
The above Six Fairnesses will occur if we are to become an attractive polity for first-world citizens (Americans, expatriate Chinese, Europeans etc.) to call home. There are several hard truths about Singapore's precondition, not least its vulnerable geostrategic position, delicate balance between races, and low-birth rate. However, the above are reconciliable with those hard truths, achievable within a single administration, and politically realistic. These concerns have often been dismissed by the current PAP administration, but their dismissal relies on control of non-institutional factors, such as their long history as the ruling party of Singapore, and that they have built in informal checks-and-balances in the government. But as politics has a bitter history of showing, the fairnesses you dismiss today, are the same fairnesses you will regret not building into the system if the tables are turned, when those fairnesses are inevitably weaponized and denied to you. Institutions should be built from a position of strength, not of weakness.
A proud citizenry arises when the hearts of men and women are satisfied by a fair and great society, allied with economic prosperity and an honorable peace.
Today's news was all about David Bowie, who passed away from cancer. He was an incredibly talented and humorous person with no ego, here are two great interviews:
- With Jeremy Paxman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0-51IkWpFE
- With Conan O'Brien: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40c0wjFeFPY
The last two songs posted on his VEVO music channel are prophetic of his imminent death.
- Blackstar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kszLwBaC4Sw
- Lazarus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-JqH1M4Ya8
Apologies for the lack of posts since the New Year, I've been meaning to post but have been feeling a little unwell due to side effects from medicine I've been taking. I'll post more frequently when I get better
- "But, while knowing English is clearly an advantage to songwriters and producers seeking success in the U.S. and the U.K., a lack of facility with the finer points of the language is equally important. Swedish writers are not partial to wit, metaphor, or double entendre, songwriting staples from Tin Pan Alley through the Brill Building era. They are more inclined to fit the syllables to the sounds—a working method that Martin calls “melodic math”—and not worry too much about whether the resulting lines make sense. (The verses in “I Want It That Way,” for example, completely contradict the meaning of the chorus lines.) Fans of Cole Porter may see this development in roughly in the same spirit that “Downton Abbey” fans might view “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”—with horror—but one can argue that this very freedom from having to make sense lyrically has allowed the Swedes to soar to such melodic heights." - http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/blank-space-what-kind-of-genius-is-max-martin
- 2015 Article on Max Martin - http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/blank-space-what-kind-of-genius-is-max-martin
- Lefsetz on Max Martin - http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/index.php/archives/2015/08/05/taylor-swift-in-vanity-fair/
- Lefsetz on Taylor Swift - http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/index.php/archives/2014/08/19/shake/?curator=MediaREDEF
Amusing quotes, heard.
- Churchill the racist. A commonplace book by American left-wing intellectual George Scialabba - http://www.georgescialabba.net/mt/. Of which the quote which most struck me - "I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger, even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place." - Winston Churchill, 1937, on the Arab inhabitants of Palestine.
- The fish in America "The fish in America is of equal quality to Japan. But the handling is terrible. The guts are all mashed up, the skin is all screwed up by the time it gets to American ports".
- Food in Singapore. "It's hard to run a small food business in Singapore. First, the government gives you rebates for using prepared foods. If you make your own sambal, you don't get any rebates, but if you get it from a big supplier, you can get up to 40% off. This is why the sambal tastes the same everywhere. Another example: iPads grants from the government, to encourage people to run lean by cutting out service staff." Singapore's encouragement of efficiency on the food business, leads to less artisanship. "Additionally there are the restrictive labor laws that prevent Filipinos and other workers from working in F&B".
- Partners. "There are three kinds of partners in the firm. The 5% with big ideas, who believe that what we do saves the world. Then there's those with big mortgages. And finally there's those with big bladders, able to sit on meetings longer than anyone else."
- The economic progress of the nation.The national story of economic development is a source of pride for every citizen. We bask in reflected lustre of two great national development policies - (A) export-oriented industrialization of starting in the 1960s, first manufacture of textiles and then of electronics, and then oil refining. (B) The services economy in developing Changi airport in 1981 and sea ports; as well as developing the financial services industry in the 1990s. This allowed Singaporeans to gain jobs as middle-management for global companies entering Asia. The third financial hub turn in the 00s and 10s has created even greater concentration of wealth which is expressed in a gleaming downtown, but that growth model has led to an increase in the number of foreign citizens, which have put strain on our social contract
- A good education - one of the best in the world. Singapore's obsessive focus on education is the key to creating good jobs for its people. To take an example - my own training to be a doctor in JC involved two years of education in the basics of biology and chemistry. I think my training in biology in JC was simply world-class (and better than many American prep schools) - it left me with a very solid grasp of the field's fundamentals - evolution and DNA.
- I could mention a few more - the housing policies to ensure every citizen had a stake in the nation, the NEWater project. The PAP government have been very effective municipal administrators.
- The friendliness of Singaporeans - who may weather hardship, but are invariably friendly when making the kopi or driving the taxis.
- The flowering of civil expression (political and artistic) in the last 15 years, as I have seen peers who have taken paths outside the well-worn tracks of lawyers, doctors and bankers..
- Wicked spicing in the roti prata curries, the delicious nasi lemak, silky chicken rice, an endless variety of sweet soups and desserts - Singapore's food may not be the most refined, or the easiest for the digestion, but it has one of the broadest spicing palettes I have seen anyway. This small island - with Cantonese steamed fish, red chilli crabs, peranakan cuisine, and in latter years a smattering of celebrity chef restaurants - has one of the highest varieties of food per square km.
Happy birthday Singapore!
- - MATHEMATICAL ELEGANCE. The objective is simple, to reduce the opposing hero from 30 to 0 life before he can do the same to you. Most of the game mechanics are deterministic (though there are a lot of mechanics), and the random mechanics are probabilistic, allowing for smart calculated plays.
- - GAME THEORY. One can guess at the opponent's cards for the next turn, and make the play most likely to succeed given the assumptions the opponent has certain cards. There is an element of playing around the opponent
- - WIDEST POSSIBLE AUDIENCE The game is turn-based, which allows it to appeal to the widest possible audience. Starcraft and other Real-Time Strategy games are often reflex based, and exclude the older demographic due to their need for a large amount of clicks per minute. Hearthstone's turn-based mechanics make reflexes irrelevant.
- - AN OPTIMAL BLEND OF SIMPLICITY AND COMPLEXITY - Simplicity and complexity. Simplicity comes through minimal resource types (three resources: cards, mana, and existing board state through minions and weapons), and complexity comes through a large number of interesting effects for those cards, minions, and weapons.
- - the simplicity draws the casual gamers in. the complexity makes the money. Because the standard cards are good for winning certain games, but you will win it in the same way most of the time. The cards generally just do damage. To get complexity, you will need to invest in card packs, to get the more interesting effects. And you get access to multiple game mechanics.
Some inside baseball now for players of Hearthstone.Two of the best players are Kolento and Strifecro, and their Twitch streams/Youtube videos are well worth viewing for anyone who has a passing interesting in top class competitive gaming.
Kolento is I think the world's best player, and his solutions are often very elegant. See this video for example:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tawimgtiVIA In this video, the opponent has exactly 17 health. Kolento has 9 damage on board, and can increase it to 14 damage with Nightmare (0 mana) and 16 with Auchenai + Heal (6 mana). He knows the boombot will deal at least 1 dmg to whatever is remaining on board if it dies, but he needs to ensure that nothing else remains on board. How can he guarantee lethal?
- - The solution is elegant: Nightmare the boombot (+5 /+5) to ensure it survives the first circle of healing (becomes 4 dmg to all minions with Auchenai), hit with all other minions. Auchenai, heal, then double circle to wipe the board and ensure the opposing hero is the only one remaining. He even has time to do the unnecessary play of wild pyromancer
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoELc-Jg8yc . Calculation of damage using the priest hero class
Strifecro's style is recognizably different. He often thinks 1-3 turns ahead, and worries about all the possible cases. See this example with the Doomsayer card: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpDyu1objgg
- 1. Trade minions and maintain board control (having equal or more minions to your opponent, when your turn begins) while punching face (maximizing face damage of your opponent.) to set up a turn where you can, with "minion damage" and "burst damage" in your hand, be able to bring your opponent down to zero.
- 2. Make a difficult for opponent's spells to wipe your board. Here is the "stamp-collecting" part of Hearthstone ("All science is either physics or stamp-collecting") - you need to know the burst damage of the 9 hero classes your opponent is likely to have. (e.g. the Rogue is likely to have a SI Agent which can do 2 damage when put on the board)
- 3. Occasionally one can Set up a lethal two turns in advance. One may choose to ignore the opponent's board and go straight for the kill. However this is risky because the permutations for opponent to clear your board and regain initiative is increased. Usually one goes for an intermediate compromise, where we leave 1 enemy minions on board, and go for a play where we are 90-100% sure we have enough damage to kill the opponent. We can increase the odds with taunt minions, which forces the opponent to attack them, leading to inefficient trades..
- - The zoo warlock is a standard aggressive deck that fulfills conditions 1 and 2 very well.
- - Minions are easy traded because (1) there are multiple minion spawners (little minions are called "tokens") and (2) there are multiple attack increasers ("activators") that increase the value of those minions.
- - Boardwipes difficult due to deathrattles. Because of its numerous "deathrattle" minions, (i.e. do something on death) which summon other minions, it is difficult to wipe the zoolock's board.
- - However the zoolock has a very big downside. If the opponent ever gets board control, the zoolock is very unlikely to win the matchup (<5%). The only comeback cards are Implosion (generates board presence of 1/1s while killing the opponent)and bane of doom (deal 2 dmg and summon a random demon). Those are the only cards likely to give back board control. All the good cards for zoo assume that board control is with zoo, because they buff existing minions, like Power Overwhelming. If you have no board, then you have almost no chance of winning.
- Zoolock becomes boring after a while, because the win conditions are always the same - take board, hit face, win or lose depending on board control. For the month of June, when I was playing Hearthstone, this was my main deck. I was also stuck around Rank 4 with this deck, since it was very predictable for opponents to face. So I recently tried a completely different deck.
- (A) BURST DAMAGE THROUGH ANTONIDAS. Archmage Antonidas is a 7 mana card that generates a Fireball spell everytime you play any spell. If you have cheap spells, you can stock up enough fireballs to kill a player over two turns. There are two lines of play with Archmage, either
- (A1) expect him to live. Bait out the opponent's hard removal* earlieror soft removal** and use 3 manafrost nova to prevent him from dying
- * Hard removal = (Polymorphs, Hexes, Siphon Soul, Brawl, Priest Shadow Word Death...)
- ** soft removal = (Ironbeak Owl, Mage Fireball + Heropower, Warrior Execute/Shield Slam, Rogue Sap, Paladin Equality Consecrate, Druid Silences,) - they will typically run at most 2, maybe 3.
- (A2) Expect him to die and get one turn of value. Then it is necessary to get cheap spells with him. Ice Lances, Frost Bolts, maybe discounted with Thaurissan
- (A1) expect him to live. Bait out the opponent's hard removal* earlieror soft removal** and use 3 manafrost nova to prevent him from dying
- (B) Bring the opponent down to burst range with Alexstraza. 15 life
- Save 15 damage in your hand (Fireball, fireball, frost bolt)
- (C) Use burn spells in a standard way to bring him down to zero life
- We have 12 dmg from fireballs, 6 dmg from frost bolts, 8 potential damage with ice lance, and 10 from pyroblast.
- This can be increased with the Bloodmage Thalnos or Azure Drake (spell damage +1)
- The rest of the deck should be used to cycle through the deck of 30 cards aggressively (drawing for your combo, and stalling to prevent dying)