Drying My Stuffed Toys

I have just washed my stuffed toys, and are drying them via coat-hangers in the blistering sunshine.  They look as if they are being tortured!  Ducky looks particularly sad.

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Getting SG to the Next Level

Source: Time, Jul 2015

What is the single-biggest challenge Singapore faces?

If you are looking at 10 years, getting the economy to the next level is a very big challenge. If we don’t get to the next level then we will have malaise and angst and even disillusionment, which you see in many developed countries. And in 25 years, if we can’t get our demography balance between our births and immigration of foreign workers, then we will be in a very tight spot like the Japanese are.

If you take a 50-year timeframe, then the most important thing is the sense of national identity, because before you can make any policies and get people to say “I want to do this or the other,” people must feel that we are Singaporeans and we want to be together and we are different from others and we are special. Keeping that sense of unity and specialness over the long term is critical.

What do you mean by the next economic level?

We are at 30% students going through our universities and we are going to push that up to 40%. A lot of people go to university outside of our state system — they may do part-time courses, they go to Australia or Britain, all kinds of degrees. When they come back they expect to have PMET jobs — Professional, Managers, Executives, Technical. [We need] an economy that can generate that quality of jobs and uplift those who didn’t go to university so you don’t have a wide gap between the tertiary-educated and the rest, which has happened in America where a college degree now makes a big difference compared to a high-school leaver.

You cannot do that without growth and you cannot get growth just by expansion with bodies because I don’t have that many more bodies and I can’t bring in a lot more bodies without bursting at the seams. So I need qualitatively different jobs, qualitatively a more efficient overall economy. My infrastructure must run brilliantly. My whole system must be different from what you can get anywhere else in Asia. The others are catching up. So even as the others step into where we are, we have to be at the next level

The Singular Mind of Terry Tao

Source: NYTimes, Jul 2015

… the mathematician Terence Tao mused about the possibility that water could spontaneously explode. A widely used set of equations describes the behavior of fluids like water, but there seems to be nothing in those equations, he told me, that prevents a wayward eddy from suddenly turning in on itself, tightening into an angry gyre, until the density of the energy at its core becomes infinite: a catastrophic ‘‘singularity.’’

Tao has recently been working on an approach to a solution — one part fanciful, one part outright absurd, like some lost passage from ‘‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.’’

As he talked, Tao carved shapes in the air with his hands, like a magician.

Tao told me that his view of mathematics has utterly changed since childhood. ‘‘When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to be a mathematician, but I had no idea what that entailed,’’ he said in a lilting Australian accent. ‘‘I sort of imagined a committee would hand me problems to solve or something.’’ But it turned out that the work of real mathematicians bears little resemblance to the manipulations and memorization of the math student. Even those who experience great success through their college years may turn out not to have what it takes. The ancient art of mathematics, Tao has discovered, does not reward speed so much as patience, cunning and, perhaps most surprising of all, the sort of gift for collaboration and improvisation that characterizes the best jazz musicians.

Tao now believes that his younger self, the prodigy who wowed the math world, wasn’t truly doing math at all. ‘‘It’s as if your only experience with music were practicing scales or learning music theory,’’ he said, looking into light pouring from his window. ‘‘I didn’t learn the deeper meaning of the subject until much later.’’

to be a mathematician is to experiment. Mathematical research is a fundamentally creative act. Lore has it that when David Hilbert, arguably the most influential mathematician of fin de siècle Europe, heard that a colleague had left to pursue fiction, he quipped: ‘‘He did not have enough imagination for mathematics.’’

Math traffics in abstractions — the idea, for example, that two apples and two oranges have something in common — but much of Tao’s work has a tangible aspect. He is drawn to waves of fluid or light, or things that can be counted, or geometries that you might hold in your mind. When a question does not initially appear in such a way, he strives to transform it. Early in his career, he struggled with a problem that involved waves rotating on top of one another. He wanted to come up with a moving coordinate system that would make things easier to see, something like a virtual Steadi­cam. So he lay down on the floor and rolled back and forth, trying to see it in his mind’s eye. ‘‘My aunt caught me doing this,’’ Tao told me, laughing, ‘‘and I couldn’t explain what I was doing.’’

People who use Emoji have more Sex

Source: Mashable, Feb 2015

According to Match.com’s Singles in America survey, 54% of emoji users had sex in 2014, compared to 31% of singles who didn’t use them. And 64% of men and 46% of women who use emoji regularly are having sex at least monthly.

The Truly Creative Principle Resides in Mathematics – Einstein

Source: Information Philosopher, date indeterminate

It is my conviction that pure mathematical construction enables us to discover the concepts and the laws connecting them which give us the key to the understanding of the phenomena of Nature.

Experience can of course guide us in our choice of serviceable mathematical concepts; it cannot possibly be the source from which they are derived; experience of course remains the sole criterion of the serviceability of a mathematical construction for physics, but the truly creative principle resides in mathematics.

Happiness @ Work

Source: HBR, Jul 2015

  • Happiness doesn’t necessarily lead to increased productivity
  • Happiness could damage your relationship with your boss.  In her study of a media company, Susanne Ekmann found that those who expected work to make them happy would often become emotionally needy. They wanted their managers to provide them with a steady stream of recognition and emotional reassurance. And when not receiving the expected emotional response (which was often), these employees felt neglected and started overreacting.
  • It could make losing your job that much more devastating. If we expect the workplace to provide happiness and meaning in our life, we become dangerously dependent on it.
  • Happiness could make you selfish.
  • It could also make you lonely.

So why, contrary to all of this evidence, do we continue to hold on to the belief that happiness can improve a workplace?

The answer, according to one study, comes down to aesthetics and ideology. Happiness is a convenient idea that looks good on paper (the aesthetic part). But it’s also an idea that helps us shy away from more serious issues at work, such as conflicts and workplace politics (the ideological part).

When we assume that happy workers are better workers, we can sweep more uncomfortable questions under the carpet, especially since happiness is often seen as a choice. It becomes a convenient way of dealing with negative attitudes, party poopers, miserable bastards, and other unwanted characters in corporate life.

Invoking happiness, in all its ambiguity, is an excellent way of getting away with controversial decisions, such as letting people go. As Barbara Ehrenreich points out in her book Bright-Sided, positive messages about happiness have proved particularly popular in times of crisis and mass layoffs.

Happiness, of course, is a great thing to experience, but nothing that can be willed into existence. And maybe the less we seek to actively pursue happiness through our jobs, the more likely we will be to actually experience a sense of joy in them — a joy which is spontaneous and pleasurable, and not constructed and oppressive. But most importantly, we will be better equipped to cope with work in a sober manner. To see is for what it is. And not as we — whether executives, employees, or dancing motivational seminar leaders — pretend that it is.

Playing Ping-Pong against a Robot