Tuesday, 30 August 2016

One-North: Sandcrawler Building

I was in the neighbourhood of One-North, so i thought i dropped into the Sandcrawler Building to have a quick peek (ok, i live some 20 mins walk from it. So i'm always in the neighbourhood. Well, 20 mins walk in a hot day in Singapore is like a 2 hour desert trek to me).

For those who are too old (over 65) to know what a Sandcrawler is, and/or isn't a Star Wars fan, a Sandcrawler is a mobile fortress that used by the Jawa (not Java on planet Earth, where the natives are called Javanese. Don't get confuse with Japanese, especially when you say it. Try to sound it out yourself. See - i mean, hear - what i mean? Confused? I hope so).

Sandcrawler, Star Wars
Sandcrawler, as spotted in the deserts of Tatooine (in a TV screen near you)

You don't need to know any of the Star Wars lore, suffice to say that this building is inspired by the Sandcrawler. Instead of a fortress holding the entire Jawa clan, this is an office building holding regional HQ for Lucas Films, The Walt Disney Company, and ESPN (Asia Pacific). Now you know why Sandcrawler.

The building opened in Jan 2014. Yes, George Lucas was here for the ribbon cutting.

Logo, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore
Why the red pavement? Perhaps to reflect the red desert sand of Tatooine

From this angle, it certainly looks somewhat like the Sandcrawler in Star Wars.

Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore

But from another angle, the Sandcrawler building looks to me more like the head of the Exogorth in Star Wars' Empire Strikes Back.

Below is the angle of the Sandrawler building that conjures up the image of the Exogorth in me with its gaping jaw.

Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore

For those who doesn't know what is a Exogorth the giant space slug (are you living in a cave or under a rock?), these should give you some idea.

Exogorth, the giant space slug with its gaping jaw, trying to catch the Millennium Falcon
Exogorth, the giant space slug, who lives under a space rock, with its gaping jaw, trying to catch the Millennium Falcon.
Millennium Falcon is the name of Han Solo's space rust bucket.

To refresh your memory, this is the scene where Han Solo et al have a very close encounter with the Exogorth, and where the doubled Danish-buns (or ear-muffs) wearing Princess Leia thought they were in a cave (she must have been living in a cave, or under a space rock, which is where this space gastropod lived).

Well, it's no cave, princess Leia. Cave has no teeth.

Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore
Closeup of that giant jaw. Don't those balconies look like teeth?

Fusionopolis, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore
If you look at the plan of the Sandcrawler building (in red), doesn't it look more like the Exogorth with its gaping jaw?
At least it looks like a Pacman, which is a space monster. And it's a herbivore.

You could say that the Sandcrawler building looks like the Star Wars' Sandcrawler in the back and the space slug in the front (it's a bit like the mullet haircut with business in the front and party in the back. Only in the Sandcrawler building, front and back switches places. Well, if it involves eating, it's a party).

Ok, let me take a deep breath and enter the gaping jaw of this space gastropod, or better known as the public courtyard to the architect. There're a lot of dense tropical vegetation in the courtyard (which makes me think that this space gastropod is a herbivore).

Courtyard, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore

Courtyard, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore Courtyard, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore Courtyard, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore

Somewhere among the man-made jungle, ponds and streams you will come across a bronze statue of Yoda, aka the Master of Jedi. He makes all my references to Star Wars sounds more justifiable (and less certifiable).

Yoda, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore
Yoda, the Master of Jedi, in his serene pose

Yoda, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore
Perhaps, it just my imagination that i find his pose and expression reminds me of Confucius (the Master of Teacher).
But then Yoda, and the Force are inspired by Eastern spiritual Philosophy.

Stone bench, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore

Yoda, Sandcrawler Building, One-North, Singapore
May the Farce - oops, I mean Force - be with you, readers! Always!

Monday, 22 August 2016

An Adjusted Ranking of 2016 Rio Olympic Games

 Total Medal Tally 
Sports are all about figures, numbers that are measured with the most precise timers, and scores carefully tallied, and ranked. One number seems to get all the limelight is the IOC's official Total Medal Tally or Table (TMT). Perhaps because this figure gives the overall performance of a country in the Games rather than just on any one specific sport or athlete.

Medal table, Rio Olympic Games 2016
Total Medal Table

To put it in another way, the individual medal belongs to the athlete, and the TMT belongs to the nation. Therefore, this TMT ranking is in no way reflect the individual athlete. Just the ability of nations in producing top athlete.

Some would say that the Olympic Games isn't a level playing field with more medals going to the bigger and richer nations of the world. Is it possible to rank the sporting performance of countries by removing factors like population and wealth out of the equation to give a ranking that's fairer?

I think we can. Let's try the following for size.

 Weighted Total Medals Points (WTMP) 
For the purpose of establishing Table A to Table D in this article, I don't want to make use of only gold medals a country gets because that would be unfair to countries that have lots of silvers and bronzes but few or no golds. On the other hand, i don't want to using only IOC's TMT (that gives a single total number) because these sets of numbers treat golds, silvers and bronzes equally, which they're clearly not.

Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze

In this example, country B clearly performs much better than country A. As it stands, only golds count. Silvers and bronzes count for nothing. Why bother handing out these medals then? Sometimes the difference in the result between gold and silver medal is such a tiny fraction of a second that the result may come down to the shoes or even the hair of the competing athletes.

To solve these 2 issues, we need to derive a Weighted Total Medal Points (WTMP) system from the official TMT values. Instead of treating all medals with equal values, a weighting of 1 is assigned to bronze, 2 to silver and 3 to gold. In this system, higher WTMP values rank higher.

For example, Australia has 8 golds, 11 silvers and 10 bronzes. Instead of treating them the same and gives them a TMT of 29, WTMP will yield the following result,

WTMP (for Australia) = (8 * 3) + (11 * 2) + 10 = 56 points

Apply it to our fictional countries A and B, we get a fairer ranking,

WTMP (for A) = (2 * 3) + (1 * 2) + 2 = 10 points
WTMP (for B) = (1 * 3) + (7 * 2) + 4 = 21 points

Country B has a higher WTMP, so it should rank higher.  That's better, isn't it? It's not perfect, but it's better. I say it's not perfect because getting a perfect weighting factor for gold, silver and bronzes is tricky. It's less than perfect, but it's better than terrible when literally no amount of silvers and bronzes could equal a single gold. That doesn't sound too sporty.

  Population   (Source: List by United Nations (2016))
If country A has a population of 100 million and wins 5 gold medals while country B has a population of 50 million and wins 5 gold medals, all other things being equal, country B should rank higher than country A. This is because if country A has a greater population, it has a greater potential pool of people to draw from. A tiny country would be disadvantaged in the TMT ranking. Hence, the ranking needs to take the country's population into consideration.

To get this figure, we divide WTMP by population in million with the highest number ranks at the top.

Using the examples of country A and country B, their WTMP Per Million of Population is 0.05 and 0.10 respectively.

               Table A

Rank Country WTMP Per
Million of Population
1South Korea (KOR)784.18
2Grenada (GRN)19.36
3Czech Republic (CZE)16.53
4Bahamas (BAH)10.58
5Jamaica (JAM)9.55
6New Zealand (NZL)7.44
7Croatia (CRO)5.49
8Slovenia (SLO)3.88
9Bahrain (BRN)3.56
10Hungary (HUN)3.46
11Fiji (FIJ)3.46
12Georgia (GEO)3.23
13Armenia (ARM)3.00
14Azerbaijan (AZE)2.77
15Netherlands (NED)2.47
16Denmark (DEN)2.37
17Australia (AUS)2.32
18Serbia (SRB)2.26
19Great Britain (GBR)2.21
20Sweden (SWE)2.12
21Cuba (CUB)2.05
22Slovakia (SVK)1.84
23Switzerland (SUI)1.80
24Lithuania (LTU)1.74
25Kosovo (KOS)1.63
26Belarus (BLR)1.58
27Kazakhstan (KAZ)1.58
28France (FRA)1.20
29Greece (GRE)1.20
30Belgium (BEL)1.06
31Germany (GER)1.05
32Mongolia (MGL)0.97
33Italy (ITA)0.92
34Canada (CAN)0.91
35Puerto Rico (PUR)0.86
36Qatar (QAT)0.86
37Ireland (IRL)0.84
38United States (USA)0.77
39Norway (NOR)0.77
40Russia (RUS)0.76
41Estonia (EST)0.76
42Spain (ESP)0.75
43Trinidad and Tobago0.74
44Uzbekistan (UZB)0.73
45Kenya (KEN)0.70
46Japan (JPN)0.57
47Bulgaria (BUL)0.56
48North Korea (PRK)0.55
49Singapore (SIN)0.54
50Ukraine (UKR)0.47
51Poland (POL)0.47
52Romania (ROU)0.40
53South Africa (RSA)0.39
54Tajikistan (TJK)0.35
55Colombia (COL)0.33
56Jordan (JOR)0.31
57Malaysia (MAS)0.28
58Moldova (MDA)0.28
59Tunisia (TUN)0.27
60Argentina (ARG)0.25
61Israel (ISR)0.23
62Chinese Taipei (TPE)0.21
63Burundi (BDI)0.20
64Brazil (BRA)0.19
65Iran (IRI)0.19
66Thailand (THA)0.18
67Finland (FIN)0.18
68Ivory Coast (CIV)0.18
69Dominican Republic0.17
70Turkey (TUR)0.17
71Ethiopia (ETH)0.13
72Venezuela (VEN)0.13
73Austria (AUT)0.11
74China (CHN)0.10
75Algeria (ALG)0.10
76Portugal (POR)0.10
77Nigeria (NGR)0.10
78Mexico (MEX)0.07
79Vietnam (VIE)0.05
80Egypt (EGY)0.03
81Morocco (MAR)0.03
82Indonesia (INA)0.03
83Philippines (PHI)0.02
84United Arab Emirates0.02
85Niger (NIG)0.01
86India (IND)0.00

While IOC's official TMT tends to rank countries with large population higher, the ranking in this table tends to favour countries with smaller population.

South Korea is not only the highest rank in this table. It's the only country with 3 digits WTMP. It's not even a communist country. Impressive. Its communist cousin North Korea, however, ranks 50.

Note, India has a value of 0.00. This is caused by rounding. I think Indian would know that because they're very good at maths. If there's a Olympic Games for maths competition, they probably get a lot of medals.

  GDP Per Capita   (Source: List by United Nations (2015))
When it comes to gauge the prosperity of a country, it's misleading to look at GDP alone. One needs to look at GDP per capita for a more meaningful measure. India has a GDP about 3 times larger than Switzerland, but you wouldn't say India is a more prosperous country than Switzerland. Or has more money to train athlete (the Swiss probably spend more money in the Winter Games).

If country A has a GDP Per Capita of 10,000 dollars and wins 5 gold medals while country B has a GDP of 5,000 dollars and wins 5 gold medals, all other things being equal, country B should rank higher than country A. This is because if country A has a bigger GDP Per Capita, meaning it has more money to train more athlete than country B.

To get this ranking figure, we divide WTMP by GDP Per Capita. The bigger numbers rank higher.

Using the examples of country A and country B, their WTMP by GDP Per Capita is 0.0005 and 0.001 respectively.

               Table B

Rank Country WTMP by GDP Per Capita
1Kenya (KEN)0.022513
2North Korea (PRK)0.020115
3Ethiopia (ETH)0.019386
4China (CHN)0.017666
5Russia (RUS)0.012171
6Uzbekistan (UZB)0.010788
7Ukraine (UKR)0.009975
8Burundi (BDI)0.007246
9Jamaica (JAM)0.005068
10Azerbaijan (AZE)0.004912
11Brazil (BRA)0.004568
12United States (USA)0.004477
13South Africa (RSA)0.003514
14Cuba (CUB)0.003387
15Great Britain (GBR)0.003293
16Tajikistan (TJK)0.003240
17Georgia (GEO)0.003162
18Serbia (SRB)0.003111
19Ivory Coast (CIV)0.003042
20Iran (IRI)0.002790
21Nigeria (NGR)0.002786
22Hungary (HUN)0.002775
23Kazakhstan (KAZ)0.002664
24Colombia (COL)0.002642
25Belarus (BLR)0.002612
26Armenia (ARM)0.002574
27Vietnam (VIE)0.002369
28Japan (JPN)0.002248
29France (FRA)0.002207
30Indonesia (INA)0.002091
31Germany (GER)0.002086
32Thailand (THA)0.002063
33Croatia (CRO)0.001992
34India (IND)0.001896
35Italy (ITA)0.001876
36South Korea (KOR)0.001543
37Denmark (DEN)0.001451
38Poland (POL)0.001441
39Turkey (TUR)0.001424
40Spain (ESP)0.001355
41Australia (AUS)0.000994
42Algeria (ALG)0.000951
43Netherlands (NED)0.000945
44New Zealand (NZL)0.000927
45Malaysia (MAS)0.000922
46Romania (ROU)0.000891
47Mexico (MEX)0.000888
48Argentina (ARG)0.000871
49Kosovo (KOS)0.000846
50Egypt (EGY)0.000830
51Tunisia (TUN)0.000775
52Canada (CAN)0.000763
53Niger (NIG)0.000758
54Mongolia (MGL)0.000755
55Greece (GRE)0.000721
56Philippines (PHI)0.000690
57Slovakia (SVK)0.000626
58Czech Republic (CZE)0.000610
59Fiji (FIJ)0.000609
60Jordan (JOR)0.000608
61Bulgaria (BUL)0.000587
62Moldova (MDA)0.000542
63Sweden (SWE)0.000418
64Slovenia (SLO)0.000386
65Lithuania (LTU)0.000353
66Morocco (MAR)0.000343
67Venezuela (VEN)0.000335
68Belgium (BEL)0.000298
69Grenada (GRN)0.000225
70Chinese Taipei (TPE)0.000224
71Bahrain (BRN)0.000214
72Switzerland (SUI)0.000187
73Bahamas (BAH)0.000175
74Puerto Rico (PUR)0.000107
75Ireland (IRL)0.000078
76Estonia (EST)0.000058
77Singapore (SIN)0.000057
78Israel (ISR)0.000057
79Norway (NOR)0.000054
80Portugal (POR)0.000052
81Trinidad and Tobago0.000049
82Qatar (QAT)0.000027
83United Arab Emirates0.000025
84Finland (FIN)0.000024
85Austria (AUT)0.000023
86Dominican Republic0.000019

In this measure, the table favours poorer countries (countries with lower GDP per capita). In this case, North Korea ranks 2nd while its south cousins ranks 36. Both China and Russia have considerable lower GDP per capita than that of USA, hence their higher rankings.

 Collective Athlete Performance 
If country A has an Olympic team of 150 athlete and wins 5 gold medals while country B has a Olympic team of 100 athlete and wins 5 gold medals, all other things being equal, country B should rank higher. It's quality over quantity.

               Table C

Rank Country WTMP Per Athlete
1Czech Republic (CZE)0.875000
2Azerbaijan (AZE)0.482143
3United States (USA)0.451264
4Tajikistan (TJK)0.428571
5North Korea (PRK)0.400000
6Russia (RUS)0.397163
7Great Britain (GBR)0.393443
8Jamaica (JAM)0.382353
9Jordan (JOR)0.375000
10Kosovo (KOS)0.375000
11Ethiopia (ETH)0.352941
12Kenya (KEN)0.348315
13China (CHN)0.338983
14Grenada (GRN)0.333333
15Ivory Coast (CIV)0.333333
16Uzbekistan (UZB)0.328571
17Georgia (GEO)0.307692
18Malaysia (MAS)0.281250
19Armenia (ARM)0.272727
20Kazakhstan (KAZ)0.269231
21Croatia (CRO)0.264368
22Indonesia (INA)0.250000
23Denmark (DEN)0.238095
24Iran (IRI)0.234375
25Burundi (BDI)0.222222
26Thailand (THA)0.222222
27Vietnam (VIE)0.217391
28Japan (JPN)0.215976
29Hungary (HUN)0.212500
30South Korea (KOR)0.204878
31France (FRA)0.202532
32Germany (GER)0.202353
33Slovakia (SVK)0.196078
34Cuba (CUB)0.191667
35Italy (ITA)0.181230
36New Zealand (NZL)0.175879
37Netherlands (NED)0.173554
38Nigeria (NGR)0.166667
39Philippines (PHI)0.153846
40Serbia (SRB)0.153846
41South Africa (RSA)0.145985
42Switzerland (SUI)0.144231
43Bahamas (BAH)0.142857
44Bahrain (BRN)0.142857
45Sweden (SWE)0.138158
46Greece (GRE)0.136842
47Australia (AUS)0.133017
48Slovenia (SLO)0.131148
49Turkey (TUR)0.126214
50Belarus (BLR)0.123967
51Singapore (SIN)0.120000
52Spain (ESP)0.114379
53Belgium (BEL)0.111111
54Colombia (COL)0.108844
55Canada (CAN)0.105096
56Ukraine (UKR)0.098522
57Brazil (BRA)0.083871
58Chinese Taipei (TPE)0.083333
59Romania (ROU)0.082474
60Bulgaria (BUL)0.078431
61United Arab Emirates0.076923
62Lithuania (LTU)0.074627
63Poland (POL)0.074074
64Puerto Rico (PUR)0.071429
65Mongolia (MGL)0.069767
66Norway (NOR)0.064516
67Mexico (MEX)0.064000
68Algeria (ALG)0.059701
69Fiji (FIJ)0.058824
70Qatar (QAT)0.052632
71Ireland (IRL)0.051948
72Argentina (ARG)0.051643
73Tunisia (TUN)0.049180
74Venezuela (VEN)0.045977
75Moldova (MDA)0.043478
76Israel (ISR)0.041667
77Trinidad and Tobago0.031250
78Niger (NIG)0.026667
79Egypt (EGY)0.025000
80India (IND)0.024194
81Estonia (EST)0.022222
82Morocco (MAR)0.019608
83Finland (FIN)0.017857
84Austria (AUT)0.014085
85Portugal (POR)0.010870
86Dominican Republic0.008197

Czech Republic (asked to be renamed to Czechia) ranks high in this and Table A. Impressive result. China stumbled in Rio, dropping its TMT from #2 to #3 spot. And for the 1st time, there's no Chinese women players in the badminton finals where they dominate the sport for a long while. They didn't do so well in gymnastics either. Overall, the Chinese athlete didn't perform as well as previously.

 Final Aldjusted Ranking 
The ranking in the 3 tables above all have its distortions. Table A rankings favour countries with small population. Table B rankings favour poor countries. Table C rankings favour countries with smaller team. So we should combine the rankings from these 3 tables above to gain an average together to produce a more all-around, balanced ranking in the table below.

To obtain this table is quite straight forward. We simply sum up the rankings of the 3 tables above and order them from the lowest to the highest to obtain Table D below.

               Table D

Final Adjusted Ranking Country Sum of Rankings of 3 Tables
1Jamaica (JAM)22
2Azerbaijan (AZE)26
3Great Britain (GBR)41
4Georgia (GEO)46
5Russia (RUS)51
6United States (USA)53
7North Korea (PRK)55
8Armenia (ARM)58
9Kenya (KEN)58
10Croatia (CRO)61
11Hungary (HUN)61
12Czech Republic (CZE)62
13Uzbekistan (UZB)66
14South Korea (KOR)67
15Cuba (CUB)69
16Kazakhstan (KAZ)70
17Tajikistan (TJK)74
18Denmark (DEN)76
19Serbia (SRB)76
20Kosovo (KOS)84
21Ethiopia (ETH)85
22Grenada (GRN)85
23New Zealand (NZL)86
24France (FRA)88
25China (CHN)91
26Germany (GER)94
27Netherlands (NED)95
28Burundi (BDI)96
29Belarus (BLR)101
30Ivory Coast (CIV)102
31Japan (JPN)102
32Italy (ITA)103
33Australia (AUS)105
34South Africa (RSA)107
35Iran (IRI)109
36Slovakia (SVK)112
37Ukraine (UKR)113
38Bahamas (BAH)120
39Malaysia (MAS)120
40Slovenia (SLO)120
41Bahrain (BRN)124
42Thailand (THA)124
43Jordan (JOR)125
44Sweden (SWE)128
45Greece (GRE)130
46Brazil (BRA)132
47Colombia (COL)133
48Vietnam (VIE)133
49Indonesia (INA)134
50Spain (ESP)134
51Nigeria (NGR)136
52Switzerland (SUI)137
53Fiji (FIJ)139
54Canada (CAN)141
55Belgium (BEL)151
56Lithuania (LTU)151
57Mongolia (MGL)151
58Poland (POL)152
59Romania (ROU)157
60Turkey (TUR)158
61Bulgaria (BUL)168
62Puerto Rico (PUR)173
63Singapore (SIN)177
64Philippines (PHI)178
65Argentina (ARG)180
66Ireland (IRL)183
67Tunisia (TUN)183
68Norway (NOR)184
69Algeria (ALG)185
70Qatar (QAT)188
71Chinese Taipei (TPE)190
72Mexico (MEX)192
73Moldova (MDA)195
74Estonia (EST)198
75India (IND)200
76Trinidad and Tobago201
77Egypt (EGY)209
78Venezuela (VEN)213
79Israel (ISR)215
80Niger (NIG)216
81United Arab Emirates228
82Morocco (MAR)229
83Finland (FIN)234
84Dominican Republic241
85Portugal (POR)241
86Austria (AUT)242

Jamaica and Azerbaijan rank the highest in this Final Adjusted Ranking. Usain Bolt, who represents Jamaica is like a one-man Olympic team or Michael Phelps of Jamaica.

Even though i created these tables, i'm somewhat surprise that Great Britain ended up ranks #3. Their performance in Rio is exceptional.

I'm also surprise that Russia (#5) and USA (#6) also rank so high.

To rank higher than #10 in Table D, China would have to get many more medals than USA.

China doesn't rank as high in Table D as the official TMT suggests (which is #3). China has a lot of room for improvement as they're latecomer who didn't join the Olympic Games until 1984 after decades of isolation like North Korea today (actually North Korean is competing in the Games and doing quite well. You can say that before 1980 China was more isolated than North Korea today. And not just in Olympic Games. But in every other way). The Chinese participated in only 9 Summer Games comparing to, say Great Britain, who attended in all 28 Summer Games since the start of the modern Olympic movement in 1896. Having said that, in the #25 spot, China ranks higher than Germany(#26), Japan(#31), or Australia (#33). Australia's swimming performance was probably sub-par in the 2016 Rio Games.

Brazil, the host country, rank #46, sits about the middle of the table.

Sometimes, having just a few high-performing athlete can make a difference to the rankings of a country, USA has Michael Phelps, Jamaica has Usain Bolt. In the Sydney 2000 Games, swimmers Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Michael Klim, propelled Australia to #4 place in the TMT. Only in 1956 Melbourne Summer Games that Australia ranked higher in the TMT. Aussies won a lot of medals in swimming then as well.

These impressive athletes distort (the word is used in the same positive sense as the word "disrupt" when describing technology) the ranking of TMT of countries. The most awarded athlete can win more medals than 100 countries (in Rio there are 116 countries that receive no medals).

These multiple medal holders are tended to be restricted to sports of swimming and athletics. Some sports have no chance of winning more than 2 medals for a country (one for men and one for women). So countries that do well in swimming and athletics tend to have a higher TMT. Not all sports are created equal for TMT (or WTMTP for that matter).

This Final Adjusted Ranking is far from perfect. Instead of just looking at IOC official TMT, which could be misleading because it doesn't take factors such as population, GDP per capita, and the number of athlete a country sent to the Games into considerations.

One thing that can improve this final ranking is applying different weightings to the ranking of Table A to C before producing the final Table D. But i'm in no position to come up with the correct weightings (i don't know if it could be done at all).

Olympic Games Rings Mascot and national flags

While it isn't perfect, this Adjusted Ranking have made allowances for all these factors, and give a ranking that's more indicative of a country's sporting performance overall. It's more balanced, fair and nuanced about the sporting performance of countries.

Think of this as just an alternative way of looking at the IOC's official TMT ranking.

Please let me know if you detect any errors in my figures in the comment section. I'll correct them accordingly.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Funny Caption 38: DVD Bikinis

DVD discs as bikini

"DVDs on sales?"

"You know, seashells are more traditional and biodegradable..."

"If only she has a smaller DVD collection."

"Good on ya for recycling old DVDs."

"I'm bored. You've got any sci-fi from the 1990s or anything with Raquel Welch in it?"

"Wearable siren songs."

"I hope all the DVDs are blanks. You just don't know who have watched them."

"DVDs are oh so out of fashion now. The latest things are USB drives or micro memory cards."

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Bought My 1st Bitcoin, Halving and Bitfinex Hacking

 Hello Bitcoin! 
My interested in Bitcoin had been purely on an "academic" level, until now. I decided to put some skin in the game as Warren Buffet would say. So i started the ball rolling on buying a Bitcoin. Of course, knowing the risk of Bitcoin, i only put in my play money. The kinda amount that i wouldn't lose a minute of my sleep if i lose it all.

I investigated a few alternatives of buying a Bitcoin in Singapore (where i'm living now). There're many possibilities ranging from buying it from a Bitcoin ATM (which Singapore has quite a few) to buying from a Bitcoin vendor, to buying it directly from an individual face to face.

Each of these options have draw-backs to me. With ATM, the practical limit is really tens of dollars. Even with Bitcoin vendors, they limit purchase to $100 or so. Buying directly from individual would require me actually tear my bum from my seat, which doesn't sound like an attractive option.

Finally i decided to get it from a local Bitcoin exchange. There're a few of such exchanges in Singapore available (a number of them sprung up recently), i finally picked Coin Hako.

I thought the process would take 2 or 3 working days at the most from transferring funds from my saving account to purchasing a Bitcoin in Coin Hako. I encountered quite a few technical hiccups with Coin Hako that i eventually bought my 1st Bitcoin after 7 working days.

I expected it wasn't easy because all these are quite new, but i didn't expect it to be so challenging. I guess that's why each Bitcoin is still priced only under $1000.

 The Halvening 
I thought about getting into Bitcoin back in 2015 when it was around $225. But i took my eyes off it for a little while, and it steadily - ok, more like rapidly - climbed to a high of $768 in June (2 months ago). The price rise was caused mainly by the talk of Bitcoin halving (sometimes called the halvening. I guess a play with word of "happening").

Bitcoin price chart  from 2015 to 2016

I even got several promotional emails about such "secretive" event. Some wanted me to buy their ebook, while others wanted me to sign up to their subscription service to reveal this halving event and why this event would make the price of Bitcoin skyrocket. One of them wouldn't reveal even the name of the cryptocurrency where this halvening was about to occur.

I'm wary - ok paranoid - about these sales spiels. Just google "Bitcoin halving", and you will find out everything there's to know and more. Nor did i buy any Bitcoin in anticipation of this halvening that took place on 9 July 2016.

There's even a website that gives you a count down of Bitcoin halving event. Actually, there're many such websites.

This Bitcoin Halving countdown website shows a rocket launch, suggesting such event would propel the price of Bitcoin like rocket.

Bitcoin price chart 2016
Should read "peak for 2016", not "Peak for 2015"

I think Brexit would also have some positive effect on BTC price, but i wouldn't think it should only be marginal. But then Bitcoin takes on this quality - at least partly - of gold that whenever there's economic and/or political uncertainties, it helps the price of Bitcoin. I was too busy to look at BTC market because Brexit had a huge positive impact on the price of gold, and i'm a gold trader (among other markets).

I didn't buy into this halvening (or Bexit) because i know that from trading on the equity market that the market will price in such event long before it occurs. As expected, the price started to run up at rapid clip from 22 May and peaked on 16 June, a few weeks before the actual halving day on 9 July.

Of course, just the very hype about this event within the more informed Bitcoin community would also has a inflating effect on the price as the date of the halvening drew near.

This is called buy on rumour sell on news. Of course, the halvening isn't a rumour. What is rumoured is the suggestion that after the start of the date of the halvening, the Bitcoin price would simply skyrocket. In fact, it did the opposite.

It fell from the peak of $768.2 on June 16 to a low of $603 on 22 June. It recovered a bit on the actual halvening date on 9 July to $650.6. But it still a fall of $117.6 from $768.2 to $650.6.

This peak was pushed up by the rumour of Bitcoin's rocket launch to the moon that's never occurred.

I understand that halving does increase the value of Bitcoin, over time. It shouldn't cause a sudden price spike. It was the rumour spread by people who want to profit from unsuspecting potential Bitcoin buyers that caused a brief run-up in the Bitcoin price leading to the event.

This halvening event occurs every 4 years on the average. But 4 years ago (actually slightly less. Nov 2012), the Bitcoin community would be so small and Bitcoin is unheard of by most, such newsletters wouldn't make much money selling this halving event (they probably hadn't heard of Bitcoin themselves). 4 years from today, i would imagine fewer people would fall for this trap (especially readers of this article). So the halvening this year provides a perfect timing for them to profit from the uninformed.

Because it's a known and predetermined event, it should therefore be a non-event as far as prices are concerned, ideally. But we don't live in an ideal world. That's why i'm interested to trade Bitcoin because the market is so inefficient. All markets are inefficient. Since Bitcoin is so new, its inefficiency is in the extreme. Every little rumour would cause it to fluctuate more wildly than it should.

Bitcoin price chart  from 2015 to 2016

 The Bitfinex Heist 
After i took my my eyes off Bitcoin last year, it got pushed to the back of my mind until i got some scam emails about the halving. Even then, i haven't thought about buying it because it was still much higher than $220 that i saw last year. But when i heard about the Bitfinex hacking incident, the Bitcoin price took another tumble. That was when i decided to get into Bitcoin.

The Bitfinex heist shouldn't affect Bitcoin price. This Bitfinex incidence should affect Bitcoin the way a bank robbery should affect fiat currency. Well, it shouldn't. Nobody loses trust in the fiat currency because of bank robberies. In fact, we wouldn't even lose trust in the banks being robbed (we also still fly the airline that just has an air disaster). None of us is going to withdraw all our deposits from our banks because it was robbed this morning. This is because we believe that banks (or airline) are far safer than Bitcoin exchanges. And that our deposits are safe in the banks. These trusts are built over many decades (even centuries as in the case of banks). Since Bitcoin exchanges are so very new (the oldest is less than 6 years old), and very small and therefore they're quite insecure compare to banks (or airline). Those Bitcoin holders who have such security concerns shouldn't keep their Bitcoin in BTC exchanges. There're many ways to secure the Bitcoin from hacking of exchanges. One simple way is through cold Bitcoin wallet.

I actually keep my Bitcoin in Coinbase exchange. Well, like i said, i wouldn't lose sleep over this. Also, Coinbase has a vault option that's more secure than its hot wallet version. Its vault borrows the principle of a delayed lock in bank vaults. This means that it's safer, but less convenient because you have to wait - in this case, something like 2 days - to get your cryptocurrency out of the vault. If your goal is leaving your Bitcoin for safekeeping for a long time, just as you would storing family heirlooms and important papers in a deposit box in a bank vault. You wouldn't want to store cash there. It's a pain to get them out.

When i actually start trading, i would probably split my Bitcoin into several exchanges to minimise risks. Maybe. When i amass a small fortune of a dozen of Bitcoins one day, i may consider cold storage.

I wasn't able to get it at the lowest price of around $553 when the Bitfinex incidence happened. As i said, it took some 7 working days to get it. By then the price had moved up and i bought my 1st Bitcoin at the price of $586 (SGD $794.6) on 9 Aug 2016.

Anyway, i like to get into a market when others are rushing out the exits. I'm a contrarian investors in equity market and there's no reason that would change for Bitcoin market. After 2 consecutive drops in price, you just get more bang for your buck or Bitcoin.

 Decentralised Currency Living in a Centralised World 
It's quite interesting that Bitcoin was invented as a decentralised currency. It's a revolt against centralisation. But Bitcoin exchanges and other Bitcoin infrastructure elements like Bitcoin miners are centralised organisations. This centalisation is causing risks that Bitcoin is free of, because Bitcoin is decentralised. I guess Bitcoin doesn't exist in vacuum of ideal world. It exists within the real world frameworks of centralised infrastructure.

Satoshi Nakamoto didn't think about the centralised infrastrcture. I guess Satoshi is a cryptographer, who invented cryptocurrency. He's not specialising in other fields outside his own (i assume Satoshi is a guy. Nobody even knows if it's a person. It could be an organisation like CIA or NSA, where the best cryptographers are on the payroll. Who knows?). Somebody needs to invent decentralised exchanges. Wait, somebody did. I believe Bitshare accomplishes that.

 Watch Out! Fun Rides Ahead! 
One of the reason i bought Bitcoin was so that i could get into Ethereum. Well, that would be the topics for my next post.

Let my BTC and ETH fun rides begin !

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Glasgow Necropolis, Scotland

When our hotel Fraser's staff told us that the Glasgow Necropolis is nearby, they didn't need to tell me twice. It's over my dead body if you try to stop me from visiting a cemetery (or Necropolis). What's there not to like: dead quiet, free of crowd, free admission, interesting architecture, history, and fresh air?

This was one of the cemetery that was built after the completion of the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, which i happened to visit just last week. 2 visits to 2 famous cemeteries in 2 weeks. Yes! I can die a happy man! For once! Well, as the super spunk spook James Bond says, "you only live twice." In Japan,or anywhere else. Unless you're a cat...

From the late 17th to early 19th centuries, especially after King Louis 14th, France was the style trendsetter. Today, they still set trend, but in the more limited fashion sphere. Even there, it's limited. It's the américain who are the pacemaker (via mostly Hollywood flicks) from the mid 20th to the early 22nd century (i'm guessing. You just wait and prove me wrong. I don't know about you, i plan to live forever (in 1 form or another). Unrealistic real-estate prices make it too expensive to die in the future. That makes cemeteries like this the more precious than ever.

In those days, the French exerted strong influence in areas from art, fashion, architecture, etc. After the Palace of Versailles was completed, a number of European monarchs would model their palaces after Versailles (e.g. Hermitage in St. Petersburg). When Louis 14th wore his high-heels (ooh la la), other European kings would embrace - sorry, wore - these manly shoes (the high-heels originated from Persia as a symbol of manhood because they were worn by Persian cavalry).

Peer King PRESSURE !

King Louis XIV of France
Louis 14th of France in his macho red 4-inch high-heels.
Nicely compliments with tights and wigs.
Yeah Louis, lift up your royal regalia so we can
see your best kept pre-Victorian secret...
Charles II of England
Charles 2nd of England, not to be outdone by the French
in the high-heel department. Never!

So when Père Lachaise Cemetery was completed in Paris in 1804, pressure was on UK.

Peer Kingdom PRESSURE !

Soon after, these "touristy" cemeteries popped up in UK like champignon (French mushroom). These are cemeteries that designed to draw the public visitors to pay tributes to the fave local sons. Like Père Lachaise Cemetery, you'll find memorials and monuments of notable Glaswegian figures.

Glasgow Necropolis was opened in 1832, which was deemed as the start of Victorian Age (not 1837 when Queen Vicky ascended her throne), hence it's considered a Victorian cemetery.

I don't know if it was because of Père Lachaise Cemetery or a Scottish tradition (i suspect the former), this cemetery is elevated to a higher level, physically and figuratively speaking.

In Glasgow or the other Scottish city of Edinburgh, the highest point in the city isn't reserved for churches as you often seen in other European cities (including Paris). This gives a nice aerial view of the surrounding city.

We started our walk from Fraser Suites, getting there via High St.

High St (at the intersection of George and Duke Sts), Glasgow, Scotland, UK
High St (at the intersection of George and Duke Sts) is franked by buildings in Victorian architecture
which litters the Glasgow cityscape.

Glasgow Evangelical Church, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Glasgow Evangelical Church designed by John Honeyman and built in 1878

Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
View of Glasgow Necropolis from the bottom. The hill isn't high, but prominent.
The Monteath Mausoleum stands out on the hill in a 2 tiered rotunda shape.
Built for Major Archibald Douglas Monteath, who served in the East India Company and was buried here in 1842

Entrance, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Entrance marker with a brief description about the Merchants' House of Glasgow, the original builder of this cemetery.
You could say Glasgow is built by the Merchant's House.

Entrance marker, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Entrance gate, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
One of the entrance gate to the cemetery

Below is the photo of the coat of arms of the Merchants' House embedded in the gate above. It shows a clipper in full sail on top of the globe. The Latin motto Toties redeuntis eodem means "So often returning to the same place". I don't think they mean "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." But quite appropriate. You don't read the dead language of Latin? How are you gonna read motto on European coats of arms, U.S.'s one dollar bill, or study law?

Glasgow Coat of Arms, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Details on the entrance gate.

In most cities, you would view the surrounding city from a church that occupies the commanding height (for example, Sacre Coeur in Paris). You don't usually get to view the city's main church at the foot of the hill like this. It's a rare sight.

Aerial View, Glasgow Cathedral and Royal Infirmary, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Aerial view of Glasgow Cathedral and Glasgow Royal Infirmary on the right

Aerial View, Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK Aerial View, Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK Aerial View, Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Monteath Mausoleaum, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
The Monteath Mausoleum viewed at eye level

Monteath Mausoleaum, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

William Rae Wilson mausoleum, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
William Rae Wilson mausoleum in distinctive Moorish style

Tomb of Duncan Macfarlan, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Tomb of Duncan Macfarlan (1771 - 1851)
Memorial column of John Knot, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Memorial column of John Knot
Tomb of Charles Tennant, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Tomb of Charles Tennant (1768 - 1838)

Aerial view, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Picturesque aerial view awaits you at the top

Aerial view showing Glasgow Evangelical Church and Barony Hall, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
You could see the belfry of Glasgow Evangelical Church in this aerial landscape on the left.
The red building with the steeple on the right is the Barony Hall.

The red building on the bottom right is baronial Cathedral House Hotel. Another Victorian style building.

Glasgow Evangelical Church and Barony Hall, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Street level view of Cathedral House Hotel and  Glasgow Evangelical Church

Bridge of Sighs, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
"Bridge of Sighs"
This "Bridge of Sighs" is used as the route for funeral processions. This bridge name is an allusion to the famous bridge in Venice. The bridge built over Wishart St, allowing visitors approach (and funeral processions) from Cathedral Square to get across to the cemetery.

statue, Norman Macleod, Cathedral Square, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
statue, Norman Macleod, Cathedral Square, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Statue of Dr. Norman Macleod (1783 - 1862) at Cathedral Square