24 August 2008

Rainy Kim Yam Road

Kim Yam Rd

Camera-phone series #3: en route to say hello to grandmas, grandpas and uncle before the seventh month ends.

It has been raining non-stop for two days.

Happy families are all alike and every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

A scribbled thought from Brunei some weeks ago -

If happiness is already so elusive for one person, why do we express surprise when families are not happy?

If indeed happy families are all alike and every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, then there is only way that a family can be happy: it simply means that they have found their coinciding pocket of happiness, and it is very large for them. And for the unhappy families? They roam around the vastnesss of their individual happiness, guilty at not being able to find their miniscule, collective pocket.

* * *

This is not suggest that we should give up looking for the pocket; on the contrary, this is one of those things where »the answer lies in the attempt. Like allegiance to a country, allegiance to a family has little to do with love, utility and happiness. We owe allegiance by virtue of the fact that this family has done its best (even when its best is not good enough) to make me into a relatively productive person, not wielding a knife in the streets, not screwing my siblings, children or father. Meaning: in a world where so many things go crazy, where no one owes you a living, it is a miracle that a couple of strangers who happen to go by the names of 'mum', 'dad', 'bro', 'cousin' bother to put in effort for someone who got plonked into their midst by a random choice of fate.

And for that, we owe this motley crew of people some allegiance.

* * *

There is not a cloud in the sky. It is blindingly bright.

The sea is infinitely wide.

I need a swim to clear my head.

18 August 2008

Only child

Daddy daddy, don't be angry
Mommy mommy, I'm hungry!

(My first time back in the zoo in probably 10 years)

16 August 2008

Irreversible mistakes

This past week, NYT has been doing an exposé on the plight of sick illegal immigrants in the US. The consequences of government mismanagement »in this case was so horrible that I could not bear to finish reading it.

Time and again, it seems to me that policy makers and implementers around the world do not understand enough that (1) they are dealing with people's lives; and (2) their split-second decision ("You're faking ill; I'm not sending for the doctor") can have irreversible consequences on people's lives.

I attribute this to the fact that no time is spent on discussing the art and ethics of decision-making when one first becomes a public servant.* Add on the ohh-so-fashionable imposition of KPIs, and you get people averse to erring on the side of humanity**. Alarmingly, I am not even sure if law enforcement and social services officers are given a rule of thumb such as, "When you are unsure and 'no' has severe, irreversible consequences, say 'yes (i'm sending for the doctor)'."

For a broader discussion on the difficult ethical issues surrounding healthcare for illegal immigrants, see »the story of Mr Jimenéz.

* Certainly not in my case.
** See also »this article. I used to say 'on the side of caution' »here, but 'caution' is too broad. The point is to prevent lethal mistakes.

10 August 2008

Dolphins diving into the belly of the green whale

Cake and coffee

The night before hatchday - I went back to my hotel room after nearly 12 hours of meeting and found a cake waiting, courtesy of »the hotel:

birthday cake

Hatchday morning - I sat out on my partially-sea-facing balcony in my bathrobe to have the last portion of the cake and instant black coffee for 20 queenly minutes... Mmm.

birthday me