I haven't had the chance to really write about my Mount Kinabalu climb in February this year. In fact I never had the habit of writing about any of my experiences. The past few months that I've experienced is making me realise that I should be jotting down my thoughts, ideas and reflections in a place where may be accessed by people and me. I have learned too many valuable lessons, from my trips, from precious friends and mentors, and from God himself and His word.
The Kinabalu climb was physically challenging. It was equivalent to twenty hours of continuous climbing, with an 8 hour break and a 4 hour break in between. A real trial for me, the hike was on moderately rough terrain as well, for which my pair of boots paid the price.
What was really enjoyable was the company of the friends who were with me. Jon (who planned the trip), YC, CW and Edwin were great fun throughout the trip. They always had interesting topics to talk about and were super helpful too (esp Jon who did all the research and preparation work beforehand).
As old friends from high school, it was really nice to find out how they are all individually doing. The time spent together made me recall the days we suffered and enjoyed in Hwach high school Humanities Programme with Mr Samuel Lim, Ms Cheong and Dr Mercer. Those were the insane years when I took triple pure sciences, double Maths and triple pure humanities, with a humanities research paper to write. By God's grace I've survived that and I'm praying that He will continue to multiply the works of my hands so that I can be more effective and not worry about earthly things.
Anyway, the sights of Kinabalu and Sabah in general are terrific. On top of Kinabalu, we were at the highest point in Southeast Asia and there were few mountain peaks as high up as where we were. Our guide, Julius, was incredibly friendly and professional, going to the extent of offering Edwin his own pair of shoes and to climb barefoot so that Edwin could wear a proper pair of shoes because Edwin's ones broke during the climb.
One thing we did miss was the often praised food of Sabah :/ had some unremarkable seafood on the first day (tho the chicken wings were cheap and good) at a local market but otherwise the food was decent but there was nothing spectacular.
Our new Attorney General, VK Rajah, chaired this dialogue between local and international legal experts, including experienced professionals who have done international comparisons of legal systems. It is really enlightening on the legal system (or eco-system) in Singapore. Singapore scores badly in the category of "the right to representation", as Mr Michael Hwang asked,
"You know, we score very lowly in that regard [right to representation], so I wondered whether the fact that Singapore does not have a mandatory system to provide for criminal legal aid was factored into the Index in some way...So it is taken as a given that the right to criminal aid is an integral part of the rule of law?'
To which Mr Mark Agrast replied,
"Yes, not just the right to representation but to effective representation. That’s a big problem in the U.S. It’s a big problem in many developed countries, particularly in capital cases. The Index seeks to evaluate the quality of representation, not simply the fact that someone who can represent the accused is appointed."
Many interesting ideas about the various aspects that should be considered in measuring the rule of law in a country are discussed in this recorded session, so do take a look! But of course, it takes a certain amount of patient reading to understand the full picture of what is being said, which is to be expected of any intelligent conversation of such a complex topic.
The next big business opportunity may lie in utilising under-used resources in the economy. A powerful function of the Internet (with its many convenient forms like mobile apps) is that buyers and suppliers of anything (think eBay) can be easily linked up. So things that were previously not shared or rented out for a fee, because it was nearly impossible to get the scale of buyers and suppliers or the real-time aspect of the platform to make the business possible, can now be done so! This has come in the form of a short-term house rental platform (for tourists) - Airbnb - which is now valued at 10 billion dollars. Lfyt (pictured) is also one of them! Linking up people travelling in the same direction and even allowing them to charge a fee, Lyft has both drivers and hitchhikers rate each other so that there is a social element to it as well (if you are nasty and mean to the owner of the car or vice versa, you may not be as welcomed the next time you try to give/get a ride). It is a fantastic idea that has been bankrolled by VCs, with $250 million to be exact. Crazy, but the potential is there. And there are probable a dozen of such brilliant ideas that will make everyone's lives so much better (just check out the prices and kind of houses available for tourists on Airbnb).
With the advancements in data science, Big Data is going to change entire fields - marketing, sales, business, finance, healthcare, just to name a few. The sheer amount of data available to companies with large memberships or visitors (like Facebook, Google, Whatsapp, Apple, etc) means that these corporations can find previously unseen trends and correlations, and be able to act on such statistical relationships. For example, the real-time geographical spread 2009 swine flu was better predicted and measured by Google than the US Centre for Disease Control through analysing the search terms used by Americans around the country. Used to spot fraud, track consumer behaviour, and so on, Big Data has countless applications that are just waiting to be discovered. The new currency of the Information Age is data - and the currency is appreciating.
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
Willson, the CEO of the data analytics startup that I work for, has always shared with us intriguing news about the United States. Just today, he told me something that I thought was incredible. A group of Americans, particularly the pro-guns but also including local government in the state of Nevada, rallied and was, unsurprisingly, well-armed when federal government agency staff tried to fence off cattle that have been grazing on federally owned territory. The owner of the cattle, Cliven Bundy, has been extremely vocal in his opposition of the duties required for his use of federal land and has since chalked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in overdue taxes to the federal government. Stating the obvious, the agency in charge, the Bureau of Land Management, decided to back down due to concerns regarding "the safety of their staff" and are mulling over their next move.
Bundy's supporters claim that their original grazing privileges were forcefully sold to environmental agencies seeking to restore the natural habitat of the grazing areas. In the period around 1989-1993, the desert tortoise's conservation status was increased to "threatened" and since then environmental activists and government agencies have been restricting and imposing taxes on Bundy and other users of federal land.
Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has the honour of being Captain Obvious. He commented on the Cliven Bundy standoff, "It's not over. We can't have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it's not over." Well said but unfortunately nothing. Or rather can anything be conceivably done with the standoff that is happening? The reputation of the federal government has not really been terrific, considering the recent well-publicised failures of healthcare.gov.
In reality, I suspect that time will exhaust the stamina of those gathered on Bundy's ranch, resulting in dwindling numbers and eventually Bundy might compromise. But this incident remains significant in highlighting the (interesting but) chaotic complexities that surround and underlie American politics.
To read more: Time Magazine's article, Fox News videos, CBS News article