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A New Way Forward, Fists Forward?

4 minute read

Update: About 20 minutes after posting this, news erupted that this had happened. I will be posting a second part to this piece shortly.

The nation waited with bated breath to see what our ruling party would emerge with after the much-anticipated party convention this Sunday. Titled “Our New Way Forward, A Call to Action”, the People’s Action Party was set to define among its cadres how it would tackle the challenges it — the PAP, not Singapore — faces.

They emerged with 8 points (link).

  1. Dedicate themselves to serving the nation and advancing the well-being and interests of Singaporeans.
  2. Strengthen the Singaporean identity, where people of different races, religions and backgrounds live harmoniously together for a better Singapore.
  3. Create opportunities for all Singaporeans to build a better life.
  4. Called for sustaining a vibrant economy, enabling quality jobs and improving living standards for all.
  5. Uphold an open and meritocratic system, so that everyone has opportunities to fulfil his or her potential.
  6. Strive to preserve social mobility so that all Singaporeans, regardless of social backgrounds, can achieve success in diverse fields through their efforts.
  7. Build a fair and just society, where the benefits of progress are shared with all Singaporean
  8. Resolved to be a responsive and responsible government — responsive to tackle immediate challenges, and responsible to look beyond the immediate and create long term, sustained success for Singapore.

In short, the party resolved to do everything exactly what it has resolved to do since 1959 (give or take a few communists here and there).

Given that it’s a party convention and it is not election season, this was not a time to create a manifesto or debate policy, I get that. It was a time to affirm its core values, which it has. It was also a time to acknowledge its challenges and internally decide how it can evolve to meet them. It appears they chose the path of taking on those challenges — head on.

It’s a little puzzling that the mouthpiece chosen to address exactly this should be that shining light of the PAP’s fourth-generation politician, Chan Chun Sing.

Our political process is addicted to our military men turned Prime Ministers and top leaders, which is all well and good (well, not really but that’s another story for another day), until you realise that military men never lose their uniforms.

Chan Chun Sing wants to do battle. On every street corner. Every cyberspace corner. In mass media. Social media. And so forth (link). With you. What’s more, he will not concede the space — physical or cyber. At all. Just before that he was saying the PAP had to improve its communications…

What’s wrong with this picture here?

Vocabulary is everything. Thus far our leaders have demonstrated an outsized inability to understand just how they don’t understand the media. Used to owning the message right through to the last soundbite through old forms of media control, that ship has long sailed and they do not understand they are no longer even on the boat. Their ministers struggle to explain themselves, even with well-meaning messages. Politicians of all people should understand the importance of the soundbite. The difference that vocabulary makes. Instead we parade the lack of charisma and military style buffoonery to be hallmarks of Singapore governance: is it because if someone isn’t slick and sophisticated, we should believe him more?

I don’t need Mr Chan to be sleek. I just don’t want to have to do battle with him. I’m not going to win. All he has to do is feed me army food and I will concede defeat.

I’m just a concerned young citizen of this great nation who wants to know if they have any ideas about how they are going to evolve as a party which is quite frankly losing its sheen. Perhaps even its ideas. I want them to concede the space. Move over somewhere and let the other guy talk. Maybe not even the other guy, that may be too much to ask of them for the time being — let some other guy talk. Like the guy who doesn’t want to fight me on the street corner.

I’m not yet convinced that they are completely irrelevant. But I am alarmed by where they are going. For a start I would like them to wean themselves off their addiction to legal action against private citizens who have something to say. That’s not a fight they’re spoiling for; that’s a long-range missile against people who only have fruit to throw at you.

I was hoping to hear more introspection rather than more of the same. The one thing they got right: they must improve their communications.

Because quite frankly I am tired of being told that I read it all wrong*, they didn’t really mean it that way, their words were taken out of context — I sometimes wish they went back to the good old days when they actually knew how to control the media. Now they just look like bumbling idiots.

  • Someone, somewhere, is going to say that ‘battle’ was just a figure of speech, probably after the ‘netizens’ howl about it. I stand my ground. Say what you mean, pick neutral words, try not to put down anyone while you’re doing it, and if you’re getting it wrong again just read a dictionary.

Living with Graves

4 minute read

A year and a half ago, my friends sent me to a local emergency ward in Singapore when I moved in and out of delirium in the middle of dinner. I had been unwell for a long time, but there had been no suitable diagnosis or treatment. I lost nearly 20 kilograms, had the shakes, became insomniac, and most of all, emotionally and mentally unstable. Once diagnosed, it isn’t a terribly awful disease; but the number of adjustments one has to make is astounding. Friends and loved ones too, struggle with dealing with the external impact of your disease, and will have to do so for a very long time.

To say it can have a dramatic effect on your life may not be an understatement. Nearly every Graves’ patient I know personally has experienced one or all of the above: unplanned career changes, closure or reorganization of business enterprises and any other financial responsibilities, breakdowns of relationships including marriages, and the list doesn’t stop there. Some of your partners or friends will think it is not a big deal and that you are overreacting — after all, it’s just that a tiny butterfly-shaped gland near your throat has elected to produce hormones at a different rate, right?

It could not be more wrong.

That tiny butterfly-shaped gland near your throat is also inscrutable, and controls many aspects of your life and health that you take for granted. One of the key things it affects is your mood, if untreated or treated inadequately. If you’ve always been cheerful, optimistic and bubbly, imagine becoming a different person for hours with no warning whatsoever; breaking down crying when your bus doesn’t arrive, or when your toast is burnt. If you’ve always been confident and dominant, imagine becoming daunted by small tasks you do routinely — and being confused as hell about it. If you’ve always had a superb memory to the point you’ve never had to write anything down to remember them — imagine forgetting, every single time, the door code to get into your office. Every time you go to the bathroom you get locked out from work because your brain just isn’t keeping pace with your body.

Scariest of all: nothing else seems to matter. The business you’ve built for years. The career you’ve devoted your life to. The partner you’ve made plans for life with. It’s so necessary to walk away from all of that, when you aren’t yourself. It’s tempting to think about leaving everything and everyone because nothing’s working anymore and you want no part of it. It’s easier to quit. Which is also weird, especially if you’ve never been a quitter.

I tried, and still try, to lead a normal life. I take my meds everyday, but am constantly thinking about what more I can do. Should I drink radioactive iodine? Remove my thyroid gland completely? I don’t particularly want to do either especially since neither of them have a sure shot or even a good shot at ‘curing’ me, and may potentially work out even worse. I want to eat my meds daily and eventually come to a point when I don’t need them anymore. Most days, a year and a half on, I’m back to being myself — by that meaning a completely different person from when I got diagnosed. A different person from the one that made bad decisions because I did not know the extent of my disease or what it does to me, when I did not know I had the disease at all. Now that I know how it affects my cognitive processes, my emotional lability, my physical body when the symptoms return when in remission — I try not to notice. Most days, I succeed. Yet it never feels like it’s enough.

We still haven’t gotten it right. The meds work and then they don’t. My body, through no input from me, suddenly decides it loves making my heart jump out of my chest when all I’m doing is sitting in a car. My mind decides it wants to react in entirely unwarranted ways: I’m the life of a party one mind and the next moment I can’t even hold a conversation with anyone.

I’m seeking all the best medical help I can get but it’s still an incurable disease that affects everyone differently and in different ways at every stage in your life. I don’t know if I’ll ever be done: all I can do is manage my expectations, and other people’s. I know my limits: if I can’t work, socialize or be normal, I have to make sure people know it isn’t me, it’s just this dumb disease. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am or what’s happening. I’ve come close enough to get to a point where my levels are supposed to be normal, normal enough to get off the meds completely to see what happens next. But even before we can try that, I’m relapsing — like a damned yo yo — and I have no idea what will happen next. It’s a dumb disease.

Just some dumb disease I’ll have forever.

Life Is Short. Have A Kit Kat.

2 minute read

As Ashley Madison, the world’s leading extramarital dating website, announced its plans to expand to Singapore, our minister for social and family development Chan Chun Sing was roused into making the following proclamation on Facebook:

“I do not welcome such a website into Singapore. I’m against any company or website that harms marriage. Promoting infidelity undermines trust and commitment between a husband and wife, which are core to marriage.”

The Minister’s personal views on marriage and infidelity are his prerogative.

And yet his Ministry has been sorely lacking in leadership on the following aspects:

  • Wherein the real gross monthly income of our lowest 20th percentile of employed residents rose only 0.1% each year from 2002 to 2012 (link)
  • Where an estimated one-quarter of Singapore households would be under the poverty line, if we indeed had one (link)
  • Where his Ministry’s professed pro-family policies have arguably led to myopic national policies in housing, marriage and fertility — through their inability to include or even consider more socially progressive definitions of family
  • Wherein he still oversees the archaic institution that is the Social Development Network whose sole aim to ‘promote marriages and nurture a culture where singles view marriage as one of their top life goals’ has no role to play in 21st century Singapore’s marital or fertility choices, leading one to conclude that even if we cannot fix our present day fertility shortfall, our stubborn efforts to continue to search for solutions with 1980s blinkers (fertility measures which failed back then, by any measure), can only signify acceptance of failure or a complete lack of gumption or courage or innovation or all of the above
  • Not to mention our anecdotal problems with problem gambling among the lower income classes (see first point about dismal rise in income for these groups) — but such stats are not available — yet going by the anecdotal number of anti-loan sharking signs in the heartlands these days it isn’t hard to make an educated guess;

With all of these in the bag, I would rather this Minister focused on actually fixing our social problems than pre-empting one through empty Facebook-moralizing — especially when the would-be adulterers have avenues other than Ashley Madison to carry out their own personal choices.

And in the periphery, we apparently now also live in a Singapore where Christian fundamentalists are still allowed to hijack the national agenda for sex education and even the employment act these days, leading one to conclude that if the shining stars of the PAP’s fourth generation are such, and our current crop of opposition leaders are what they are, perhaps I would much rather live in a country full of adulterers with conviction who know how to get what they want (at least we can maybe have more babies!), than one led by moralising leaders with no ideas nor even the ability to get things done.

Stop talking, stop moralizing — the institution of marriage isn’t going to collapse, the internet isn’t going to break, our children aren’t going to go out and have affairs in droves, MILFs aren’t going to pop up around every street corner (if only they did!) — just go fix the problems we elected you to fix, please.

How To Setup Business Email Without Google Apps

4 minute read

Google Apps seemed like a godsend to many businesses when they first came around. The free version was great, and I never had to upgrade. Eventually I came around to the same opinion that Marco Arment has stated many times: I want to pay for a service I need, especially one that is so mission-critical like business email. Several times I’d had problems with Google Apps and just simply could not get any support because we were on the free service. I could have upgraded, but migrating my email to another provider was something I wanted to do anyway to wean myself off the big G.

When I had to set up email for a new business recently, I decided to try something new. I decided to go with Fastmail.fm after multiple recommendations from other geeks, and so far I’m pretty happy with it.

I didn’t find too many resources in the same place, so I decided to make one.

1. Buy a domain.

If you haven’t already bought one, or are thinking of transferring to a better domain registrar, I strongly recommend Name.com. I have been using them for a long time — never been happier. Everything is easy and straightforward, unlike GoDaddy. (Disclaimer: If you click on Name.com from my site, I make a small percentage through my affiliate link.)

2. Purchase an email plan. (Fastmail recommended)

I like Fastmail for many reasons (read about some of them here. Sign up for a business plan at Fastmail.fm. If you’re not sure what you need, just start with the basic plan. I’m just a one-person operation at the moment and I have a Standard plan. I’ll look into upgrading when I need to.

Fastmail will run you through account setup and passwords. You can create a master user and use that to make administrative changes to all accounts. Use a different password for the master account and your own standard account.

3. Make some DNS changes.

Log in to your Name.com account. Click on the domain you just purchased, and click on DNS Records. If you’re using any other domain registrar, just locate for the DNS Manager or other tool that lets you make your own DNS changes. If you’re using an off-site DNS service, you probably won’t be needing this article but the same DNS values apply.

4. Set up CNAMES

This how-to won’t cover how to set up your domain to your web host and will focus only on email. In the DNS Manager/DNS editing area of your domain registrar/service, create two new CNAME records.

In Name.com’s DNS manager, select CNAME from the TYPE dropdown and enter mail into the blank space named “HOST”. Enter wwww.fastmail.fm in the ANSWER field, and 300 in the TTL field. (Remember to come back to this after everything is setup and ready to go — once it works, come back here and change all the TTL values to 3600.)

Create a second CNAME record, repeating all the steps but with a new CNAME record of wap instead of mail.

You’ll end up with:

CNAME mail.yourdomain.com www.fastmail.fm 300

CNAME wap.yourdomain.com www.fastmail.fm 300

NOte that you can replace mail/wap witho whatever you prefer, such as mail/mobile or email/m. For newbies, the whole idea of creating these CNAME records is so that you can go to mail.yourdomain.com or m.yourdomain.com or mobile.yourdomain.com and access the web interface.

5. Set up MX records

In the same DNS management screen, set up two MX records. It’s exactly the same as the above, but there is a new field for MX records: priority. In this case, the two values have a priority value of “10” and “20” each.

As below:

MX yourdomain.com in1-smtp.messagingengine.com 300 10

MX yourdomain.com in2-smtp.messagingengine.com 300 20

6. Set up IMAP access

The best part of Fastmail is its excellent IMAP feature. You can, of course, use the web interface at mail.yourdomain.com (or whichever CNAME record you just set up in step 4, but I prefer to use various email software to access my business email.

On my desktop, Mail.app or any other app.

On my iPhone, my new go-to Mail app for business is Dispatch app. It supports all of the productivity tools that I use or like, such as Evernote, Clear, Things, Google Maps, Drafts, Skype, Fantastical, Reminders, Due (see full list here); it’s a different approach to email, and I like its action-driven focus. It’s still pretty young, but I like it very much already.

No matter what email client/software you use, the setup should be the same.

_Incoming mail server: mail.messagingengine.com

Port: 993

Username: yourname@yourdomain.com

Password: xx your password xx_

_Outgoing mail server: mail.messagingengine.com

Port: 465

Use SSL: Yes

Authentication: Plain

Username: yourname@yourdomain.com

Password: xx your password xx_

You can also set up your Fastmail account to enable FTP and DAV access, but I haven’t had the need to.

You should be all set up now, just send a test email and make sure everything works! (For more info/support, go here.) When it all works great, go back and change all of the TTL values from 300 to 1800 or 3600.

Did this work for you? Is there another email provider you have had a great experience with? Let me know in the comments.