I Met 3 Remarkable Authors-To-Be From The Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH)

On Wednesday morning, 6 March, I visited the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH). I was invited by Tanya, whom I met in January. She told me that she would be meeting with a few people from SAVH who were visually impaired and that they will be working on their books together. She asked if I would like to share my authoring experience with the group.

Of course, I said, 'Yes!'

And there I was.

These are truly remarkable individuals who refuse to be brought down by their inability to see. They were open about sharing their experiences and how they used text-to-speech software to do their writing. And though this is, needless to say, a slow, laborious activity, they persevere.

2 of them have books that are near completion and are projected to be done by April!

I truly admire their resolve and look forward to meeting them again to help in any way I can.

At the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH)

Pokémon Go(es) To Singapore - The Mind Of A Hunter

With Pokémon Go going strong in Singapore, especially with it being launched on the weekend before National Day (a public holiday), Pokéhunters have been plying the streets in search of their favourite digital creatures.

So what exactly makes it so attention-absorbing? Why do people walk with phones in their faces (more than they normally do)? 

I decided to find out by becoming a Pokéhunter myself and I can tell you straight up that it was an interesting experience. As mentioned in my previous post, I was never interested, much less a fan of the Pokémon series. No offense to the fans, it's just that I didn't see the appeal.

Pokémon Go, however, isn't entirely branded as a typical Pokémon game. The melding of real-world locations, augmented reality (though I never turned the camera on) and a well-thought-out and well-executed delivery made it a pioneer in what will likely soon become a new branch of gaming.

When I played the game, I found myself constantly wondering about two questions:

1) What Pokémon will I encounter next?

2) Where do I get those elusive Pokémon that I don't have yet?

From the first question came a series of other related thoughts:

1a) Let's keep the game open (with the screen blacked out using the Battery Saver option) so I can be alerted of the next spawn in the area.

1b) Oh! I'm near a Pokéstop. Let's go get some free stuff. (This is when navigating towards the stop requires me to constantly look at the screen, unless I am familiar with the area. It's also necessary on a bus or in a car, which can pass stops before stuff can be collected. Also, this thought becomes more urgent when I run low on Pokéballs. I've never run out, though. Yet.)

1c) There's a lure! Need to get there before it runs out. (This is essentially a combination of 1a and 1b)

From these thoughts, it isn't difficult to see why players of the game glue their eyes to their screens. Thought 1a is particularly absorbing because the capture of a Pokémon, particularly one that you've never caught before, gives the hunter a feeling of great satisfaction (especially if it's rare).

The reward is both intrinsic (satisfaction at a skilled throw of a Pokéball, getting the catch in one try, or finding a rare Pokémon) and extrinsic (a new Pokémon, along with resources for future upgrades). The best part is, there are still many more to catch, so the rewards are available for the foreseeable future, spurring the player on.

Related to the second question are these thoughts:

2a) Let me ask my friends, fellow hunters where they got their rare catches. Or, I could look it up on the internet.

2b) Let's join a hunt with others to get them. If we scan a larger area, we may find it more easily. (The GPS can place two people who are walking side by side in real life a little further apart on the map than they really are. This allows the scanning of more area at a time.)

These seem to encourage a more social way of playing the game. You hope that you can get answers from someone, and that others are having difficulty finding the elusive ones as well, so you will all be in the same boat, so to speak.

To get the elusive Pokémon, my thoughts eventually return to question 1 once I figure out where I might be able to find the missing ones from my Pokédex - an index of all the Pokémon that can be caught in the game.

All in all, the game is sufficiently rewarding to keep playing, not too difficult, so there is a low barrier of entry, and there is a real-life social aspect as opposed to the cyber-social interactions of most other games today. 

The creators have brought something fresh and new to the market and consumers, hungry for something other than the 'same old thing, just in different packaging' are clambering all over it. This is something very different, something exciting, something that will spark new industries and products in the near future. As Seth Godin would say, this is a Purple Cow.

Whether you like the game or not, you can be sure that this will have a large impact on many aspects of everyday life. Too early to say? No, it has already begun.

This may be my favourite-looking one. I mean, a unicorn with flames? Come on. How much more mythical can it get?

This may be my favourite-looking one. I mean, a unicorn with flames? Come on. How much more mythical can it get?



An Introvert Retreat

The past week had been a long, tiring one. With early starts to every day, intense back-to-back classes and all-over-the-island travelling, it's no wonder I feel more than a little drained of energy.

On Friday, I had come to the end of my energy reserves and badly needed rest.

That's why this weekend is going to be one spent away from people and in quiet (relative to the hustle and bustle of Singapore). That's also why this is going to be a short, non-exhausting post.

Until my next one, stay energised!

Got this off the internet years ago because it spoke (no pun intended) to me.

What I Learned from Singapore's General Elections 2015 (Part Two)

It's been a few days since the election results have come in. Analysts, both local and overseas, have looked into the event and given their views on the reasons for the outcome. 

There seems to be a running consensus that the patriotism brought about by the SG50 reminiscence and celebrations, as well as the passing of our Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, have contributed greatly to the increase in support for the PAP.

Doubtlessly, this shows the PAP's understanding of human sentiment and psychology. Though it may seem to some like an unfair advantage for the ruling party to use in politics, the opposition parties clearly use this in their riling up of their supporters as well.

This understanding of psychology is an indication that both parties know of the unhappiness and dissatisfaction of many Singaporeans, especially in terms of income gaps, immigration policies, and rising costs of living.

It is therefore improbable that the ruling party does not know that negative sentiments will arise from the introductions of some of their less-popular policies.

The question, then, is: Why did they still pass these policies?

Surely any government would like to know that they are supported by their people and popular with them. Knowing that some policies will make them less popular with Singaporeans, there must be other factors involved in the decision-making process.

Here, many disgruntled locals will cite the "obvious" reason that our politicians just want to make money and line their own pockets, with no heed to the well-being of Singaporeans.

With some thought, I find this to be a rather illogical conclusion to come to.

Here, I will list my reasons:

1) Stability is strength

There is no doubt that a stable country will be stronger than one that is unstable. Stability is, of course, affected by many factors. For example, crime rate, corruption, social disorder, and so on.

It is therefore not difficult to see that widespread dissatisfaction will eventually lead to dissent and social disorder. In order to counterbalance policies that will lead to dissatisfaction, other "pleasing" policies have to be put into action. It is a delicate balancing act, and it takes a lot of thought and tweaks to get it right.

If we are honest about it, we have a few policies that are still very unpopular. However, the fact that not every single citizen is up in arms about them shows that they have some benefits, to some, if not all, and may not be immediately felt by many of us.

This would mean that they are not necessarily bad policies, but policies that need further tweaking and refinement. As long as the government is still willing to work on them (even slowly), there is no reason to assume that they aren't listening to the people's concerns over these policies.

Singapore is one of the very few countries in the world with an atmosphere of security so high that a lone individual can walk along the streets in the wee hours and not have to worry about being a crime victim. Singaporeans feel so secure that they have no qualms leaving their bags and belongings to "book" a table while they go off to order their food - an absolute no-no in most countries around the world. Maintenance of such high security necessitates what may seem to be invasions of privacy - installation of CCTVs, police squads at large events, licensing for almost everything etc.

After all, security and freedom are two ends of the same spectrum. Though we are certainly leaning more towards security and less towards freedom, it seems to be a reasonable place to be.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are two points often brought up as missing in Singaporean media. Personally, having seen the negativity, thoughtless-ness, and lack of critical thinking and respect for others on numerous online platforms, I'm glad that these things are controlled. 

If we take a step back and look at the global situation, things are looking bleak. When all else is sinking, it takes great courage to keep trying to stay afloat. Singapore has built a reputation of stability over the decades. Without this stability, investors, businesses, and high net-worth individuals will lose trust in us and likely pull out. Once trust is lost, it is difficult to regain.

Without the resources that these entities provide, how can Singapore survive?

Even if our politicians are really throwing out policies ultimately for their own financial benefit, wouldn't it make more sense for them to maintain a stable country than to have everything in a mess?

In the meantime, instead of complaining about their policies, shouldn't we take advantage of the stability of our nation to better ourselves and improve our own financial situations?

2) Corruption is not difficult to spot

Policies that benefit only the politicians who pass them will be seen by the global community as a sign of corruption.

It isn't difficult to see corruption in a country. Singaporeans who travel are likely to see it everywhere in the world. Though it is impossible for Singapore to have zero corruption, we certainly have a very low level of it.

Again, if other governments and businesses see corruption in Singapore, they have no reason to want to put their money here. With the loss of their funds, how will Singapore sustain its economy?

Why are high net-worth individuals looking to own property or take up residence here? Are they all in cahoots with our politicians? That is highly improbable, isn't it?

3) Leadership requires sacrifice

Sometimes, we have to choose the lesser of two evils. Both choices may have undesirable outcomes, but we pick the one that is easier to handle.

Perhaps, this is the outlook of the ruling party. They know that their policies will prove unpopular, yet they go ahead with them not because they don't care about what we think, but because they see the larger picture and see the future benefits of these policies for the nation.

In sacrificing popularity, they gain stability and wealth for the nation. To some, this is a good trade-off. To others, it isn't. There is truly no way to please everyone.

If Singapore had never achieved the stability it has, we would hardly be as wealthy, and we would be complaining about very different, probably very basic things like food, water, and infrastructure. 

Our leaders have made difficult decisions, and they have surely thought them through. Perhaps they are not as in-touch with us as we'd like, but they are doing these things for the betterment of Singapore. 

Leadership is a lot of trial and error. The ruling party has made mistakes, and they have often been slow to recognise them, but, looking at the efforts they are now making at being better at communication, they deserve an opportunity to make amends and make changes.

If I may liken this to a classroom, a teacher would enjoy being well-loved by her students. She could do this by giving them little to no homework, simple tests and examinations, and rewards for the most trivial things.

However, a teacher who does this is irresponsible. Her role is to educate her students, not to become the most popular teacher in the school. If her goal is the latter, we would say that she is being selfish. Her students, spending more time at play than at work, will not learn much about the subject she is supposed to teach them. They will be happy. They will enjoy her lessons, but they won't be getting any benefit for their future. 

What do you suppose will happen when the national examinations come along, when they have to show what they are supposed to have learned? Who do you think they will blame then?

*A little disclaimer: These are my thoughts. You are free to agree or disagree with them. I am sure that I have missed details and/or connections between bits of information. If I make a thought connection in the future, I will edit as necessary.