Against the tide

My mom was determined to be middleclass. She bought a Kawai piano and I was to play it half an hour daily. She bought assessment books and told me the drill. This was at odds with my idea of childhood. I am more or less dutiful, depending on whether you spoke with my doting aunts or my mom. My dad understood the importance of working hard. He disliked homework and never got involved in my mother’s schemes. He also never said, how about a break. Interminable work stoked the fires of revolution.

No worksheets, I said to my husband, when we were picking childcare.

Amongst my few friends, I was the deviant. 回头是岸吧孩子! One of them was as fervent as a Young PAP about it. Children should start homework as young as possible. (Naturally, I ignored her.) I heard the moderates. I moaned about homework as if I was the one doing it. I still ignored them.

The teachers didn’t think the kids had a problem with school work. I concluded that the nightly assault on their spelling lists was good enough. I also thought their problems wasn’t work but behaviour. One was fidgety. They other just started class for 3 months and is a bit of a 管家婆.

Home based learning changed my life view. My son is illiterate in Chinese. My daughter doesn’t understand grammar rules. I started trying flash cards. I bought assessment books. How on earth do people decide what to buy? Luckily, my sister in law who heads English in primary school had passed me a thin booklet and an assessment book. I went to the shops with these books and bought the same thing for my son. I bought a similiar thing for Chinese. I didn’t go off into the deep end and buy exam papers like a friend advised. It would be optimistic to imagine they could take an exam and finish writing it.

Forum: MOE should publish assessment books written by teachers ...

Flowing with the tide made stress levels high. My kids were understandably upset about having mummy’s homework. I planned their school day. My husband, stuck at home, carried out those plans. The kids didn’t like Daddy messing about their homework. He was too strict, they complained. My husband missed his work – he belonged to the 手停口停族. More accurately, he was already stressed about income. Tasked to man the kids, he complained about not having his own time for paper work. Welcome to my world, I said, testily. Your life is so easy, I said at another time. I was being mean because his initial idea of manning the kids is to mess about with his phone and take a nap after.

I think we are getting better at it, the kids, their father and I. The kids yelling now takes on a note of resignation. I am now very open to the idea of tuition and the need for practice. The father is now open to changing their student care. (The 8 year old picked up rude words from older children there and they are not making sure work is done.)

Why is it that flowing with the tide is more stressful than not? It might be the realisation of not being average makes it stressful. Against the tide, there is no such realisation. It is white noise even if you notice there are others who are marching to the beat of their own drum. There is a lot more freedom. It takes more discipline and grit to flow with the tide.

Risk Management In The Time of Covid 19

Risk management in a financial industry is more structured than less – which is a very good thing for the financial industry. When I entered my next job, it was mainly handling X. I got do a bit of the “Hey I did this to figure out that!” but it was not that often. I implemented those things thought up by others. The sort of thinking in risk slants towards what ifs and how do I make something that I totally don’t know about knowable. I felt I was translating risk a lot. That was when everything was norm.

When Covid 19 struck, risk management disappeared. I don’t mean I don’t need to work but that everything was clear, predictable and stable. There was no uncertainty. The government set clear and firm laws about what is to be done. The businesses set about doing it. While it is true we don’t know how the community and the economy will emerge out of this crisis but nobody is thinking about this at the moment. The front of mind is how business can be continued at the present time. Soon, there will be gradual reopening of the business community. The funny thing is that the reopening is more uncertain than the closing – with the fear of a second wave of the virus, there is a lot more uncertainty. The potential flip flop of the ministry’s stand is requires more resources than certainty.

As a means of diversification, services industry might make our GDP earnings less risky than a manufacturing or agrarian focus if there is domestic consumption of these services. As with all decisions, there is a trade off: focus on too much domestic consumption, we won’t earn as much GDP. There is also another trade off because food access a safety concern; a healthy manufacturing sector creates jobs. But I am generalising broadly – risk and impact is relative.

In a daily stand up, my boss would asked for our plans and what we have done for the day. To this end, I have discovered something call a bullet journaling. It is helpful when there are just too many things happening. It helps with recording what was completed and what will need to be done for that day.

It doesn’t really show what I have achieved for the month. I have started recording it in the monthly page. It is interesting to see that many of my jobs requires on and off tinkering.

It also doesn’t help with feeling stressed or overworked. My current boss is really a superb boss. We had a call yesterday that was a weekend wrap up. He was asking us how we felt working at home. Imagine that! And he also remembers the family and circumstances of every team member. Impressed!

Home, working from it, other ruminations Work From Home

I am trying to recover from having immediately turned into a shrek like hue. One director just casually bragged that he had dropped 20 to 30kg and he completed writing a book.

My victories are small scale. I got to watch TV. I subscribed Netflix. I got to have adult conversations with my husband after the children go to bed. Working from home meant I don’t dress up and paint my face. I got a normal lifestyle during Covid.

When will my kids are not old enough? Would a normal lifestyle be achievable before the aches and pains set in? Or is it that I choose to overwork (easier) instead of losing that 20kgs and writing a book (harder).

不必玩二选一

3.26 蔡康永:做更好的自己

我听了很感动。象很多人,我把想做的事埋了起来。想做的,能做的,被肯定的,距离太大了。象我妈说的,算了吧,不如就做一般人。

收在心里的不一定会消失。有些不需多少洋气,水分,和阳光。有一天你会发现它有在慢慢的,不经意的长大。可能没开花或结果。但是它有根,枝,叶。你努力经营那些你觉得能做的,被肯定,到头来可能只是一般般。

摆脱”极端主义者”的想法!不必玩二选一:放弃想做的事或放弃能做的事。才子也未必能做到拉近想做的,能做的,被肯定的。我们能做到的就是在每一个作品里,不断的努力去拉进距离。两者慢慢的努力。结果有可能两者都是一般般。但不会对想做而没努力而遗憾。

Is it really hoarding? (Or, Brought to you by Dettol)

Friday night, in Singapore, once the alert was raised, the entire nation worked with one mind.

Live reports on friends’ facebook showed incredible queues at the shopping centre. When the alert was yellow, cleaning products was first to go. Friday night, it was toilet roll and instant noodles. Then it was fresh food. There were assurances that the warehouse in the sky had all these products. A lot of tsk tsk accompanied pictures of NTUC. NTUC never had so much publicity.

What sort of trade do we have with China? I don’t know. However, at the market today, prices of fresh vegetables did go up. Not banana money inflation but it had increased. Some vegetables went up by 30%, some a bit lesser. With the reduced supply and consistent demand, prices would go up.

Is demand consistent however? I am guessing that demand has increased. There could be more eating at home for the coming week to avoid crowds – hence, lots of instant noodle, dried noodles and rice sales.

The thing that I bought more of was Dettol. I never liked the smell of it but between that and chlorine bleach, at least the Dettol won’t annoy my skin as much. I have increased my washing load – towels are cleaned daily. I am using Dettol sanitizers. Hands are washed more frequently. I have started spraying the door knobs with Dettol. I have been wiping phones with alcohol.

I don’t remember my mom was that vigilant about cleaning during SARS. Perhaps with children, I have more zest for cleaning. However, it was about the same level of cleaning when HFMD hit us. I don’t remember I was that zestful when HFMD made the rounds on and off.

On Free Time

Chinese New Year is a time where we spend a lot free time eating and being social.

Every age has a different meaning to being social. Now, being social means occasionally looking up from our phones to take pictures of ourselves, our eating. 20 years ago, being social means occasionally looking up from the television to eat or to coo or badger little children depending on age. Even further back, it means being breaking the silence to talk about how delicious the food is. New Year goodies also mean different things during different times. In the past, it means home made. Now, it means buying home made. Or pretending to be home made.

Children or adults have a fantasy of having no work at all. Or perhaps this is me. I find this fantasy comes out in full force during Chinese New Year. My idea of having no work at all is mainly to cook, eat, bake and watch TV. Husband’s idea of having no work at all is to spend every waking moment sleeping. Kid 1 wants to enter the magical world behind the screens. Kid 2 messes about with tidying up. She likes organising toys or bed.

I imagine that we enjoy doing what we love all the time. I discover it is not so. Kids will get bored doing only the things they love. The boredom is expressed in a funny way. They are stuck in a loop with that thing they enjoy (tidying, cooking, screen). The joy has evapourated, leaving annoyance and irritation. And yet they cannot leave that thing they do. The act has imprisoned them. I think it happens to adults too.

There has been a lot of talk about the wonder that is early retirement. If the joy of doing whatever one pleases evaporates in a short time, early retirement probably require a high level of discipline.

On artistry

最近会一边上班一边听李宗盛的演唱会。有时候听到某些歌会不知不觉的流泪。这些都不是他年轻时写的情歌而是后来发的《给自己写的歌》和《新写的旧歌》。

I was watching an interview. A sweet young thing asked how could he have written hit after hit without experiencing depths of emotions. His reply was earnest. Song writing is like acting – it is cerebral. It is a calculated way to trigger an emotion in someone else. It could be a singer, it could be a listener. It’s a technique that can be learnt – there is no expression of emotion in a song writing. I enjoyed all his songs but the later ones, the ones with years of ability to con listeners all condensed into a few minutes, felt most powerful.

He reminded me of Graham Greene – his ability to reach the reader and his bottomless need for female companionship even when he was very old.

Mature teams

Death, for example, is socially disruptive, because it not only removes an individual member from the fabric of society, which potentially creates tension, it is also stressful for those with close emotional ties to the deceased, who may not be able to function efficiently for a period of time.

Religion deals with the problem of death through both belief and ritual: a belief in the afterlife (common in many cultures) denies the fact of death and comforts the bereaved, while the funeral ceremony offers a chance for other members of society to comfort the bereaved with their physical presence and it may also act as a form of catharsis.

The funeral is effectively an expression of social solidarity which serves to reintegrate society following the ‘stress’ caused by a loss of one its members.

Rituals In Death

We had some rites for Grandmother yesterday. I was impressed how smooth the team operated.

The team of priests and musicians were old and they worked efficiently, taking and handing over when the situation fit. There was an assistant to the priest who seemed to require reminders by the team. The musicians, alert, came to his aid by mouthing instructions or gesturing. Set up and removal of the altar tables appeared seamless in their construction and take down. I would not be familiar with the details of their job (the chanting and the rituals). I could see this was a stable team with the leader being the one who supplemented directions (slightly annoyed tone) to the team where required. They were so smooth in their procedures I felt reminded of my job. This is what established departments look like. There is seamless handling by every member of the team. Where there are new staff, the rest of the members sprang into action to advice the new staff, to socialise what needs to be done.

When teams have an elevated number of new persons who need socialising, the resources and effort spent in socialising them increases. It is not an easy task to socialise staff even if the staff is open and receptive. It requires a lot of conversation to calibrate the staff into the existing way the team thinks and works. The level of difficulty increases when the staff is neutral or unreceptive. (Usually, they get labelled as having an attitude problem.) If the head of the team is new, it increases the difficulty of calibration. The calibration is necessary to reduce production problems in a team. When the head of the team is new, problems get magnified. Heads are less receptive of calibration in general and they can create more chaos by issuing directives when they have not been properly calibrated. Now do I mean that everyone should be yes men and do as they are told all the time? If the issues are production driven, yes, we all need to be able to follow those instructions. If change is required, it needs to be managed.

Now I know that makes me sound bureaucratic but in an organisation, where there are processes already built to handle certain aspects of risk, change requires care. Given the fast pace change in the business circumstances, the ability to nimbly handle them requires a well settled team who is familiar with their work. In chaos, there must be order (to support growth). In order, there must be chaos (to drive growth).

On a side note, I think this blanketing of other risks as operational risk by Basel isn’t very helpful to think about risk properly.

It creates a lot of misuse in the word risk. Someone would declare the presence of risk when they mean error or impact. Language is alive and different cultures use the lingo in different ways. I am not pedantic and it’s not difficult to figure out what the meaning from context and conversation. However, I wonder if it drives the conversation and thinking differently. Being error free means less wastage – it’s a production concern. Being able to cushion impact means the ability to recover and resume operations quickly – another production concern. These production concerns are something that has everyday processes and handling to manage them. A break in controls is a production problem, ie, the operational factors. Production problems must be fixed but it is impossible for production problems to be eliminated. You could bring the number to a very small occurrence but zero is impossible. I wonder if conversations are brought awry when we talk about levels of intolerance in operational risk. It’s at most an ambition, at worse a denial.

This leads me to wonder, if this is a fuzzy concept to measure management. If so, the collection of operational risk data is something to reflects the management at the point of measurement. It can never be forward looking and looking back makes no sense if there are upheavals in management.