Risk Assessment and Perspectives

One thing that has fascinates me is the different ways people assess risk based on a culmination of their background, upbringing, personality, level of available knowledge, etc.

Tonight I’m bunking with some friends at a house. I dozed off at around 11pm, and at 1am I woke up shocked to find a number of mosquito bites around my body. In a moment I was angry at how careless we had been to avoid getting mosquito bites. We left the door open and the mosquito netting had gaping holes in it.

My first thoughts were those of encountering dengue or malaria, and panicked thinking that these people may not have thought about it because they grew up in this environment and would likely have considerably higher immunity than me. I was a little relieved when I saw the distribution maps of dengue and malaria on Wikipedia showing low distribution in the Philippines.

Perhaps growing up in Singapore has taught me to be mosquito averse. I have no hard numbers, but I would probably have gotten < 1 bite a week on average. The amount of publicity that goes into education against leaving stagnant water reservoirs around probably adds a subconscious trickle of caution to my perception too.

Living in Vietnam, I see people who place themselves at risk everyday. Crazy traffic, poor safety, etc. Risks that a Singaporean would think twice about. I think it is hard to say who is right and who is wrong. After all, there is no perfect measure to assess these risks with. It boils down to a subjective judgement that people make in their daily lives. Some because they accept it as the status quo, some because they do not have any options.

One decision that I made recently is that I will make a conscious effort to minimize time spent on a motorbike in Saigon, especially crowded places. Am I being selfish or spoilt? My answer is a no. I am clear about my motives. Apart from some practical reasons like being able to get through traffic more easily (which can be managed by managing time), there is no obvious advantages of a motorbike. It is just what people are used to, and till people decide that they are not going to put up with the pollution anymore, they are not going to make a directed effort towards cars and/or EVs.

Though I have not read Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk, I anticipate and recommend it on the basis of other material by Ben Carson that I’ve read. Furthermore, as a pediatric neurosurgeon, I’m sure he will have some interesting perspectives on this issue. If you’re feeling generous, please consider getting me a copy from my Amazon.com wish list or other means :-)

Walk Around SM South Mall

This morning we woke up early to join our host for his regular walk around the village (sub-division) and SM South Mall. It was a lovely walk with not so polluted air, the sound of birds, and the sharing of a pastor (our host!). I definitely look forward to doing it again over the next few days.

Across the Aisle

Across the aisle, she steals my breath away. Her smile and her face are just absolutely stunning, and her white outfit matches her calm and cool demeanour. The silver that she dons adorns her overall appearance. Black spectacle frames add a touch of solidity to give some perspective.

A 48 Hour Day

Yesterday and today just seemed to merge to form an extra long day. From leaving for work in the morning till now. After work yesterday, I headed down to Trung Nguyen opposite Diamond Plaza for a Linuxfest organization meeting. It was an informal gathering with some people trying to get me into a relationship with the waitress :S

On the way back to Doc Lap where I would meet my brother and sis-in-law to go to the airport, I decided to go for some ice cream. The Mailinh driver was really good and recommended me an ice cream house along the way – Bo Gia Ice Cream. Bunked there for 2 hours and just poured out my heart to God. I really don’t know how my heart slowly drifted over time. And how should I deal with people who try to nudge me into a relationship?

After that headed to Doc Lap and then to the airport. Flight departed at 1:20AM and was a little annoyed as I felt the check-in staff were being a little difficult by not allowing us to share weight. Didn’t get much sleep on the flight. After touch down, we moved around from the airport to Victory Fort and to Ps Junn’s place and back there, before finally heading to our hosts’ home.

Am really inspired by the financial status of the host and hope to gain some insight from him in the next few days. After settling in and having lunch, we went to Festive Mall in an attempt to find my camera battery charger. We then returned to SM South Mall where my group bummed around till we just wanted to go back for some much needed rest. I woke them up for dinner which was absolutely lovely spaghetti and we’re now getting ready to go back to bed again.

So, that concludes my first day in Manila! Lovely city overall. When we first left the airport, I just felt it was reminiscent of Hawaii. No idea why.

Good night!

The Incredible Human Brain

Picture by Flickr anabadili user.

An excerpt from The Big Picture by Ben Carson, p. 51

Think about it. No computer on earth can come close to the capacity of the average human brain. The brain that we all have is a tremendous gift from God—the most complex organ system in the entire universe. Your brain can take in two million bytes of information per second. If this room were completely full and ten times larger than it is, I could bring one of you up here on stage and have you look out at the crowd for one second and lead you away. Fifty years later I could perform an operation, take off the cranial bone, put in some depth electrodes, stimulate the appropriate area and this person could not only remember where everyone was sitting, but what they were wearing.

Coming from a computer science background, the “two million bytes of information per second” of course sticks out to me. The average modern processor is capable of taking in excess of two megabytes of information per second. But there are a few points of note. Firstly, this book was published in 2000, 10 years ago. But more importantly, how this “two megabytes of information” is defined is questionable.

Information taken in by the human brain is firstly far more versatile than that a microprocessor. The human brain is capable of processing not just information but do incredible analysis on complex information that computers are not able to process. The ability of the human brain to process imagery, sounds, smells, tastes, emotional information, etc..

Updated: But honestly, just let the profundity of what Ben Carson said sink in. Just think about the amount of memory that the average human has. Perhaps then it isn’t a problem with memorizing things, but more of how to tap into the vast pool of memory to perform the recall at the time that it is needed. That also explains why while one may struggle with listing out every word that they know, they can recall it when they see it.

The first Ben Carson book I read, Gifted Hands, was incredible. The Big Picture is incredible too, and I am looking forward to reading Take The Risk when I get my hands on it.

By the way, I’ve just set up my first Amazon wishlist here :D


Picture by cecies.






To Bavet and Back

As a foreigner, I am limited to staying in Vietnam for 30 days at any one time. Because the company that I work for has only just gotten registered and I am looking at a few months before I get something that will free me from that, I guess I can expect to continue doing this for now.

Before I go on, yes there is a 3 month pass that I can get, but it costs US$100 and takes up one page of my passport, and after going to PP the previous time, I thought that making a trip to the border ain’t that bad of a thing for a change of environment.

Ok, so, today I made a trip to the border and back. Decided to go with Mailinh this time. Only thing that I was a little upset about was the lack of a toilet on the bus. To make up for it, they stopped along the way for toilet/petrol breaks so that’s fine. Took me about 2h30m to get to Mộc Bài today. Maybe partly due to weather conditions. The bus going there was very empty, around 10 people all together. Sat alone and just enjoyed some music. Their Mailinh staff didn’t have sufficient English for what I wanted, but we managed to get by with the help of some other people.

At HCMC I had booked a return trip for the bus that left PP at 1:30pm, but I missed it at Bavet (Cambodian town at the border), so I had to wait for quite a long time. Spent the waiting time trying to talk with the Mailinh guy stationed there who could hardly speak English or Khmer. Pretty much just vocabulary he picked up from the job. But I’ll give him the credit for his attitude and friendliness. I used diagrams and body language to make some communication with him. After that he got busy and I chatted with an immigration officer there in Khmer.

Sometimes I really wished I could help all these people. So much that I want to do. Anyway, he said he was taking English classes from a Filipino instructor based in Vietnam who would go to Bavet daily for classes. He paid US$10 for one week of lessons in a class of 100! Thought this is pretty outrageous. US$1000/week to give a class to 100 people just sounds too extravagant. Also found out that approximately 2000-3000 people cross the border daily. Approximating the border to be opened for 12 hours a day, that would make it an average of 250 people an hour. Relatively low stream of locals and the occasional burst of buses.

Spent 1.5 hours talking and waiting at Bavet for the next Mailinh bus. On the return bus, I sat next to a telecommunications engineer based in Siem Reap. He gave me a good 2 hour introduction to mobile infrastructure and some telecommunications stuff which really piqued my interest. I was amazed to find out that his company has rolled out fibre optic all across Cambodia, the only company to have done this. Talked to him about his future and what he wants to do and felt that there was so much more in store for him.

Well that’s my rant for the day.. time to hit the sack!