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Seen at the National Museum, Singapore

Now reading

What I’m now reading: 

Kevin Roose – Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits

Roose talks to The Billfold and Vox about who still goes to work on Wall Street (i.e the global finance industry) and why, and how oddly risk-averse these young people are who deal with immense amounts of money and risk every day:  

In my experience, when I was following these eight people, the ones most likely to wash out were the ones without clear reasons for being there in the first place. The people with pragmatic reasons, like having lots of student debt to pay off or having immigrant parents and wanting to build a better life for them, tend to stay. The kids who got into trouble were the ones who did this as a kind of cultural drift. So I think it has less to do with what they study than with their basic motivations.

It’s an awfully familiar narrative here, too. I was from a ‘gifted’ programme in school (we can debate the merits of that one until the cows come home) and went to a string of ‘top’ schools, and so many of my peers have drifted into the high-achieving scholarship-ivyleague-civil service/ consulting/ finance track, because it’s a default option. Because expectations. Very few people are off saving the world in dramatic and startling ways. (Very few of us will ever save the world in dramatic and startling ways anyway, but we can at least try to leave it better than we found it.)  

An acquaintance who says he floundered in that same gifted programme and didn’t get good enough grades to even make it to university, recently did a Reddit AMA on checking off an awful lot of the conventional Singaporean checkboxes but on his own timeframe and for entirely different reasons. Now that’s purpose. 

Fable

FABLE 

Once upon a time there was a young man named Ken, whose neighbourhood was strewn with other people’s litter: plastic bottles, empty cigarette packets, drink bags, and so on. Ken was terminally annoyed with this and, being a rather civic-minded individual, mounted a personal campaign to pick up bits and pieces of litter. “If I pick up just one piece of trash each day, that makes my neighbourhood one piece of trash better,” he reasoned.

One day, he happened to pick up a plastic Ice Mountain mineral water bottle. As he was brushing the grass off it and looking around for the nearest dustbin – poof! – a genie appeared. “YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND,” he boomed.

Ken lurched away in shock. “What are you doing in a mineral water bottle?”
The genie let slip a tear. “TRADITIONAL LAMP-MAKING HAS GONE OUT OF FASHION AND NOBODY BELIEVES IN GENIES ANY MORE,” he said. “DURING THE MORTGAGE CRISIS I LOST MY LAST HOME AND HAVE BEEN FORCED TO SQUAT IN EMPTY CANS AND BOTTLES SINCE. I STILL GRANT WISHES, THOUGH – WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE?”

Ken thought for a second, torn between asking for a litter-free country and for every other human on the face of the earth to be removed. Either would do the trick, he considered. “Please, Mr Genie, help my fellow humans see and fix the damage their waste is causing,” he said. “Oh, and I’d like to offer you a proper vase to live in — a good pewter one,” he added as an afterthought.

Around him, people reeled as they began to notice the tissue and cups and cigarettes that they walked past, blinded, every day. Within minutes the streets were clean. In the coming months and years they would protest confetti, useless National Day freebies, and balloon releases. Ken took the plastic bottle home, where he decanted the genie into a proper pewter vase in a display cabinet and promptly recycled the bottle. And they lived happily ever after.

THE END. 

(This piece written for Ken Jin Tan while crankily picking up litter after my run this morning)

Rules of Survival

Be the leopard
pacing its cage. Be wood,
driftglass, tossed smooth by the sea.
Be doomed fire 
casting small transparent shadows.
Speak little. Write less.
Bed down for the winter
beneath the world’s skin.

Such clever children. Such shine.
You should know better.

Things Machiavelli forgot

WHEN those states which have heen acquired are accustomed to live at liberty under their own laws,
there are three ways of holding them. The first is to ruin them ; the second is to go and live there in
person ; the third is to allow them to live under their own laws, taking tribute of them, and creating
there within the country a state composed of a few who will keep it friendly to you.
… When cities or provinces have been accustomed to live under a prince, and the family of that prince
is extinguished, being on the one hand used to obey, ami on the other not having their old prince,
they cannot unite in choosing one from among themselves, and they do not know how to live in
freedom, so that they are slower to take arms, and a prince can win them over with greater facility
and establish himself securely. But in republics there is greater life, greater hatred, and more
desire for vengeance ; they do not and cannot cast aside the memory of their ancient liberty, so that
the surest way is either to destroy them or reside in them…

 When you want people to do something, you have to trust and empower them to do it. The really long game would be to have enough people come round to your conclusions on their own. 

 

I wish there was an OKCupid to help senior citizens make new friends.

My grandma is alone at home a lot, and while there’s family around, she doesn’t really have a support network of close friends as people pass on. And she is loath to ‘be a drag’ (her words; we don’t think she’s a drag at all!) on younger people. (Is this a problem that will slowly go away as new generations of seniors become more tech-savvy?) 

smaller reptiles

so I’m desperately trying to teach myself Python, as well as Ruby on Rails. anyone have any really, really good resources for COMPLETE beginners? 

as I said to the husband, “What I need at this point is not so much Python as garter snake.”