Addressing the New World Order, America’s Place in the Today’s World

“The international economic position of the United States has deteriorated substantially since the new millennium. The big trends in global finance and energy markets are working against the US. There isn’t any solving this problem in terms of making it go away. These are ongoing realities. The energy picture is not going to change: it is here to stay.”

- Flynt Leverett (former director of Middle East Affairs on the National Security Council, 16 Jun 2008 )

This weekend, Peter Kelly, the Editor-at-large of The Australian picked up the current energy, economical and politicial woes that affecting the US. In his article, he wrote about the passing of American prestige and power, last seen during the pre-Bush years. In the second part of the article, he discussed about the new power structure and dynamics under the current geopolitical climate. This sentiment is also shared in an article published in the Jul/Aug 08 edition of the Foreign Affairs by the Secretary of State, Dr Condoleeza Rice.

Related links

Nike reckons Singaporeans do not speak English

I came across this amusing message window (see screenshot below) when I tried to visit the Singapore Nike Plus website from it’s AU counterpart.

“Unless you speak the local language it might be difficult to register for Singapore’s race.”

Singapore English isn’t that hard and you only require some simple pattern matching to realise that “en-au” and “en-sg” belongs to the “en” language family.

In Singapore, we also apply a comma between two parts of a sentence. For example, “Unless you speak the local language, it might be difficult to register for Singapore’s race“. The comma helps to improve the sentence’s readability.


2008 Annual World Most Livable Cities Ranking by Monocole

1. Copenhagen, Denmark
2. Munich, Germany
3. Tokyo, Japan
4. Zurich, Switzerland
5. Helsinki, Finland
6. Vienna, Austria
7. Stockholm, Sweden
8. Vancouver, Canada
9. Melbourne, Australia
10. Paris, France
11. Sydney, Australia
12. Honolulu, Hawaii
13. Madrid, Spain
14. Berlin, Germany
15. Barcelona, Spain
16. Montreal, Canada
17. Fukuoka, Japan
18. Amsterdam, Netherlands
19. Minneapolis, United States
20. Kyoto, Japan

Key: Green – City I visited, Blue – City I wish to visit one day

I’m surprised to see no mention of any east coast cities like Boston. Also there is a heavy gearing towards European cities but not totally without merit. Good to see Australia retained two spots within the list through Melbourne (#9) and Sydney (#11). With such survey, the devil is in the details (ranking methodology). My top concerns for these two cities to retain it’s liveable status are the housing affordability and the state of public infrastructure.

Related link: A Singaporean reporter response to this listing (mypaper, SPH)

Monocle is my current fav mag read after I discovered it in Melbourne in Mar 08. The articles are original, well read and offers a diverse coverage within affairs, business, culture, design and excellent editoral (most important component to me). I also appreciate it’s compact size and excellent colour print.

A truly well made magazine. Check out the distribution link to see if it is distributed in your country.

What does the Future Hold for Asia Research Universities

During the recent years, Asian universities (especially from Singapore, Japan and Korea) received unprecedented level of government support to educate and develop the next generation of engineering and technology talent. But only few institutions can really make the grade to eminent research institutions. One of such institution is KAIST (formerly known as Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology).

During the recent Singapore Management University Distinguished Presidential Lecture (Apr 08), Dr Suh Nam Pyo (President, KAIST) outlined his university’s effort excel as a 21st century research university. Read about his vision for the future of Asias’ research universities.

Microsoft to build $280m R&D center in Beijing, China


Microsoft continues expanding it’s research and development capabilities in China with the annoucement of a new $280 million centre in Beijing.


Software giant Microsoft yesterday said it will invest $280 million to build a research and development center in Beijing and significantly expand its research team in the country.

The new R&D campus, set to accommodate 5,000 employees, will become Microsoft’s largest research center outside the United States when it is completed in 2010, said Zhang Yaqin, the company’s China chairman.

Microsoft currently has 3,000 research staff in the country, with 1,500 full-time employees and another 1,500 working on a project basis, Dow Jones has reported. The company has said it will double the number of its full-time research employees in China to 3,000 in the next three years.

Source: Microsoft to build $280m R&D center in Beijing (People’s Daily Online)

Lean Manufacturing Principles Application in the Service Industry

Clever global manufacturers have learnt how to save billions by following the Toyota method of lean production, perfected by the Japanese car maker over decades. Peter Day finds out why the service industries seem to be far behind.

During the discussion, Peter spoke to James Womack (President, Lean Enterprise Institute) and uncovered scenarios that could benefit with lean manufacturing thinking. He quoted examples of Circuit City misguided use of contingent staff in critical customer facing roles to reduce wage bill. In the long run, the company suffered higher cost of revenue and dissolved itself from the important customer dialogue and feedback.

When a company removed itself from direct customers dialogues, the company would not be able to make the right strategic decision to maintain customers’ relevance and retain their patronage. Along the way, the company could end up making expensive and wasteful decisions, detriment to their obligation to shareholders – to deliver on-going and long term value.

Download the podcast (mp3, BBC World Service)

Singapore Grassroots Community Delivers Cheap New PC and Free Broadband

Last week, Project GAPc, an initiative by the South West Community Development Council (a Singapore grassroot group) delivered a hundred brand new PCs to low-income familiars at the cost of S$80 (USD $58) and three years of broadband connection for free.

The aim of the project is to help low-income families with school-going children bridge the digital divide. It also involved the local technical college to give training to these families. Besides helping participants learn the different parts and functions of a PC, organisers also hope the experience will help them break through the psychological barriers associated with information technology.

Full article – IT initiative helps low-income families bridge digital divide (Channel NewsAsia)

A NPR Interview with Liu Tie-Yan (Web Search Researcher, Microsoft Research Asia)

Tieyan Liu, a researcher in Internet search technology with Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing 

Last evening, National Public Radio (NPR) broadcasted an interview with Liu Tie-Yan, a researcher from the Web Search and Mining Group. During the interview, Tie-Yan spoke about his research passion and the dynamics of collaborating with his Redmond colleagues. He also highlighted challenges that working in China presents, and reflects on what Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) has meant for Chinese-educated researchers like him, and for the country’s universities. 

Tie-Yan made a great point by saying that his web search research was driven by a desire to improve user experience, and not by the competition.  This really reflects MSRA “academic environment” where reseachers are free to pursue areas of science that are of their interests and our researchers are always looking for ways to make an impact on the world.

Microsoft Worker in Beijing: Focus Is Collaboration by Michele Norris “NPR – All Things Considered” (6min 21sec)

The University’s Mission in a Diverse and Interconnected World

Universities around the world are involved in an important mission to to develop intellectual capital, this is evident particularly in areas of science and technology. However, Universities should not cast aside it’s complementary mission pertaining to character and understanding oneself in relation to the larger society. Professor Shih Choon Fong (President, National University of Singapore) highlighted this point during the Beijing Forum on 3 Nov 2007.

Here is the link to hiscspeech transcript – “The University’s Functional and Civilizing Mission in a Congested, Culturally Complex World” (pdf).

Welcome to the Modern Life! Things that Suck! For Example, Customer Service

You’re dialing that 800 number, but you know you’re going to be even more miserable and dissatisfied when you hang up. See, customer service isn’t really about serving you at all — it’s about getting you off the line as politely and efficiently as possible. Hey, phone time is money!

Bangalore, India
The locals speak English, they’re educated, and they’ll work for 85 percent less than equally qualified US employees. But they’re not exactly emotionally invested in the product you bought.

Manila, Philippines
English is spoken here, too (the Philippines were an American colony). Plus, the island nation is wired with optical fiber, meaning cheap voice-over-Internet calls. And they work even cheaper than the Indians (so that’ll ensure quality!).

Central Services
They only care a little if your problem gets solved — in fact, one out of three call centers don’t measure customer satisfaction. Of course, one in two don’t measure employee satisfaction, either. Their goal is to be done with you.

The ideal customer service rep (according to personality inventory tests) is uncreative, has low incentive, and demonstrates limited empathy. There’s a shocker.

Please Hold
You are not alone. Half of all service reps are talking, emailing, or IMing with another customer at the same time. One quarter handle up to four people at once.

- Extract from Wired Feb 08 “The 33 Things That Make Us Crazy

BERNO: Actually they should enlarged this reference to back office services staff.  I came across some of these staff who would route their number directly voicemail to avoid any realtime human contact! I can’t beat them in the game of email ping pong!