Social Issues · Student Life

The Power of Charts

Hey, everyone! This would be one of the math-intensive posts that I will be sharing so bear with me!Capture

(Taken from https://www.instagram.com/berniesanders/)

This graph showing the disparity in after-tax income savings due to a new policy change in the US. The difference between the household earnings of <$10k and >$1 million is quite significant, differing by a factor of ~2115 times! However, as I would explain, this bar chart has some issues. For one, the x-axis is in a range and is unevenly distributed. Furthermore, it disregards the fact that tax savings are a function of income. Hence, a more appropriate chart would be as shown below.

Capture 1

Adjustments I have made:

1. I have adjusted for the range by taking a simple average of the 2 extremes. Since there is an unlimited upside for household income >$1 million, I have estimated the average to be at $2 million.

2. I have divided the tax savings by estimated income for each segment to get an estimated percentage.

Hence, the difference of factor 2115 has been reduced to a factor of 4. As can be seen here, there is still a significant difference between the high and low-income groups in terms of household income savings. However, this can be attributed to the large number of tax deductions the poor would receive vis-a-vis the rich. The lower base of taxable income for the poor will push up the tax savings as a percentage of taxable income for the poor while for the rich, the taxable income would be about the same as household income and so, the percentage would remain flat.

In conclusion, how charts are presented can sometimes lead people to think one way instead of the other and so, we must consider carefully the axis of the chart, what the trend says about the 2 variables, as well as any sharp points of inflexions that may mean something. This would enable us to view charts more accurately and avoid being misled.

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Student Life

Carbon turns into Diamond

 

As a student, sometimes I face immense pressure from schoolwork and other activities. As we sail through the rough seas that is life, we ought to remember the common story of the carbon and diamond.

The story, in short, tells us that carbon can be turned into diamond via a process involving high heat and pressure. We can be likened to the carbon, black and unsightly. By putting ourselves in high heat and pressure, which is likened to challenging situations, we can grow and turn into the beautiful diamond.

However, there is something I would like to add to the story. In real life, when carbon turns into a diamond, it is mostly permanent, with degradation back into carbon occurring at a very slow rate, resulting in the whole process taking about 1 billion years. I would argue that for us humans, the ‘diamond’ stage that we have reached is non-permanent. We are degrading every day, and it is up to us to continue to challenge ourselves, burn ourselves, mould ourselves into a fresh new diamond.

Further, each stage of our lives can be likened to different jewellery curators. One curator may love one particular type of jewellery but hate another. Hence, it is again up to us to figure out what each stage of our lives demands of us and polish ourselves to succeed in those particular aspects.

How do we turn into diamonds? Never stop learning. For example, a diamond that is polished on only one side would appear beautiful from that angle, but when another angle is used to view that diamond, it would lose its shine. Instead, shine yourself in all directions. Know a little about every subject. Get to know more people. Your knowledge does not have to stop at “your major” or “the subjects I take at school”. Finance, Maths, Science, Programming, Language, all these are worthy fields deserving your attention. You have the potential to turn into a beautiful diamond if you do not stop learning.

Student Life

Life: A Zero-Sum Game?

“In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants.”

Many people view life as a zero-sum game. You win, I lose and vice versa. You have 24 hours a day, you go for more activities, you study less, you get poor results (this logical reasoning was brought forth by one of my friends). The bell curve system in schools further serves to reinforce this notion. For me to climb the bell curve, I must push people down. Give others wrong information. Don’t help other people. Be nice to the book-smart so they can give you information. Some people even trick their friends into playing video games so that they would study less (???). I would address these 2 topics going forward.

Firstly, time is seen to be a zero-sum game. I will tell you outright that this is fallacious, taking into account human nature. Alright, so you may have chosen to skip this gathering of friends so as to get ahead in your studies (classic example). With so much time on your hands, what do you do? Mentally, you would think: I have so much time, let’s chill for a while. So maybe you spend 1 hour ‘chilling’ and 1 more searching for data and you come up with an idea and write it down. Work completed. Compare it to if you attended the dinner. You build better bonds with your family, the very people with whom you would spend at least the good portion of your life with. When you get back home, you would be rejuvenated and ready to tackle any tasks set. Do not regard any time spent “relaxing” like having dinner with family/friends, or doing volunteering work, or even exercising, as a waste of time. I have made this mistake before and I was not a very nice person at that time.

Secondly, I would address the competition in the education system due to the notion of a zero-sum game. To get up, I must pull others down. Don’t do the group project, someone will help me “tank”. We get the same score for group work anyways, right? To address this endemic style of thinking, I would bring in this interview. Take a look at it. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/givers-vs-takers-the-surprising-truth-about-who-gets-ahead/.

“Oftentimes givers put themselves at risk in the short run. But in the long run, they end up building the kind of social capital that’s really important for success in a very connected world.” This is the most important statement out of all the statements in the interview. Sure, by providing information to your friends (or as some people like to call them, ‘competitors’), you may risk getting burned out or burnt by other exploitive people. However, when you give, 3 things happen. Firstly, your own knowledge improve. By articulating what you know, you give yourself reassurance that you know your content. Also, the other person would get better in his or her study (some would view this negatively), improving quality of class discussions. Finally, and most importantly, the other person will remember you. “Oh, that guy. He always helps me. What a great guy!” You build social capital and one day, when you are down and out, someone will come by and help you to your feet, become you helped them to their feet in the past.

In conclusion, I believe many of my friends will disagree with me (sorry guys!) but I think that nothing is a zero-sum game and when we help each other, we grow and prosper together.

Student Life

A learning experience

As things come to a head, with finals looming around the corner, I would like to reflect on the past 2 months of being in university. University is certainly as interesting as most people make it out to be, and it gives you so much room to grow and improve. In a short span of 2 months, I have taken part in 4 case competitions, excluding a stock pitch challenge I am currently involved in. Joining the Business Accountancy Network (BAN) in NUS and the NUS Investment Banking Club has given me some new insights, going beyond the school’s curriculum. The curriculum in NUS Business School has developed my skills and ideas, way beyond what any pre-university curriculum could.

Most importantly, I had to change my mindset upon entering University. In the pre-university course of study, I trounced every exam set in my way. So you can imagine my surprise when I got a grade less than an A for a presentation. After a day’s worth of pondering, I realised that the reason is 2-fold. Firstly, the ball game, at least in NUS Business, is completely different from Pre-University. In pre-university, we can afford to relax and fool around. However, in university, every grade we get affects our job prospects. Of course, we will fight tooth-and-nail for every mark. Secondly, I have forgotten that is ok to fail. In pre-university, I studied every day, day and night. I sacrificed my health, my social life, (and my emotional well-being? I wasn’t too happy then). At that point in time, I thought I was obsessed with gaining knowledge. It is only half the truth. In fact, I feared to lose. But the thing is, we learn more from losing than winning. By losing, we discover our weak points and improve on them.

As we steer our boats through tumultuous waters, I do hope that we, as students, stay the course and follow True North. “Grades is not everything”. Although cliched, this phrase is true.  Grades mean a lot, and we have to keep striving for better grades. However, that letter on the assignment script should not define your value and worth. Besides, people value you based on how much benefits you can give them, not based on some number or grade on your workbook. In essence, keep learning and improving, and one day, you will succeed, no matter what your grades are.

Student Life

A Journey

As I received my NUS Business Dean Scholarship, I can’t help but look back on my past years of education. I would like to take some time to tell you my story, and how I managed to climb from the bottom. Hopefully, it would be a useful and inspiring read for all of you.

I have not always been a prolific student. My scores in primary school were merely average. If I do not remember incorrectly, I suffered from severe laziness, being unwilling to study and practice questions. In spite of efforts to boost my grades by hiring tuition teachers, my grades were floating.

I only started to study in Primary 5/6, for the Primary School Leaving Exams (PSLE). I do not know how or when I started to put in effort in my work, but once I did, my grades improved gradually, inspiring me to put in even more effort. However, it came crashing down during my PSLE – 235, a mediocre score. Above average no doubt, but below my expectations.  I cried for three days.

When I entered Secondary School, I made a promise to myself. A promise to study hard. As far as I could remember, my grades in Secondary School were not too bad, better than in those in Primary School. However, what I sacrificed was my social life. The CCA I joined was just to fulfil requirements. There was a slip again in Secondary 2, whereby I missed the cut-off for Triple Science by a fraction of a mark but got in through an appeal.

I think that incident kind of cemented an idea in my mind: nothing is going to come to you. Everything is a competition, and you must always be one step ahead. In the next four years from Secondary 3 to Junior College Year 2, I poured my heart into academics.Three papers a day, four papers a day, these did not faze me. However, I feel that I had sorely missed out on the student life experience, as well as other kinds of activities that I could have joined to improve my soft skills.

As I entered University, I have realised the power of soft skills and networking. Case competitions, networking events, CCAs, they all serve to build up one’s capabilities, both in analytical and communication skills. As I go through university, I am still trying to find a balance between extra-curricular activities, my own time, as well as academics. Academics, although important, is not everything. I was once told, “People hire you because they see themselves in you, not because you scored better in this or that test”. This resonates with me and makes sense to me.

In short, I will sum up by listing some of the key points to take away from my experiences:

  1. Do not be afraid to do things you are not 100% sure how to do. Only through this you will grow and become better at your area of expertise.
  2. Do not EVER stop learning. Read widely and try to remember key facts about each area of study that you read up on.
  3. Draw knowledge from people and events around you. A foolish man learns from his own mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.
  4. Do not focus only on academics. While important, a paper qualification may not be enough for you to get hired. Also, when you study for exams or tests, do not do rote learning. Instead, understand the principles behind whatever you do. That way, it sticks and form part of your knowledge base for the different areas of study.
  5. Make use of your time well. Whether it is writing a book, or studying accounting techniques, or inventing something, do what you love. Time is too short to be wasted on the non-essentials.
Student Life

It could only be you.

When I entered my first class in NUS for the first time, I did not know what to expect. Almost no one was from my Junior College. My army friends were literally miles away in Engineering. Unfortunately, I did not manage to go for orientation or NBC and so, I did not have any friends. I minded my own business, like how a scared child tests the water. Interestingly, my friends in NUS have managed to peel me open like an onion, exposing my inner self and behaviour.

With my outer shell removed, I began deal sourcing. There were many candidates, believe me. Some got a deal immediately, some were searching like me. I look over the candidates. Some of them have a great external valuation, but already have a strong shareholding structure, making a hostile takeover nigh impossible. Remove those from the list. Some were too far removed from my business model. Remove those from the list. Some lacked the ambition for expansion that I desired. Remove those from the list. With that, I have one. The only one. It only could be you.

Your eyes sparkle with passion when we talk. Your voice is soothing and touches my soul. The passion you show when you work is inspiring. A merger is going to be rocky. No merger is smooth sailing. Disputes will arise over responsibilities and ownership, and the management and board of directors will fight for control over the merged entity. I am willing to take the risk of net profit plummeting, or share dilution. The question is: Will you merger with me?

Student Life

The Calm before the Storm

It has been a flurry of activity ever since I entered the National University of Singapore.  The waves of Individual Assignments, presentations, lectures and tutorials threaten to overwhelm my old, rusty mind, cogs straining against its 2 years of disuse. From my NS days, I got used to following orders. I do not ask questions. The transit from the Singapore Army to the National University of Singapore was akin to a tiger falling into the Pacific Ocean.

However, I have held my own, getting positions in clubs and participating in several case competitions, even breaking into the semi-final rounds for one of them. My short stint in Deloitte Corporate Finance has helped tremendously, acting as an enormous raft for the tiger to clutch onto as it tries to learn how to swim. One day, I hope to turn into a beautiful dolphin, swimming in the sea with ease.

As I move into recess week, I can still barely breath as projects, mid-terms and case competitions bare down on me. However, I can’t shake off the idea that this period is the calm before the storm, the brief moment we spend in the eye of the hurricane before the strong wind of Finals sweeps us off our feet.

So how do we avoid falling prey to the deadly winds of the storm? Well, I think that we would have to anchor ourselves against something. Whether it is family, friends or your special one, we need an anchor to put things into perspective.

In conclusion, we must remind ourselves that the tumultuous sea that is university life is a drop in the ocean of life itself. Failure here is undesirable, agreed. However, it need not be the be all and end all of life. Now, as I anchor my vessel in the eye of the hurricane, I brace for the impending storm.

Misc

An Irrelevant Story

Hi, guys and gals! We have not been posting many new stories as we are currently busy with university applications. However, I just thought of a new short story (it’s kinda not a short story but …) and would like to share it with you!

When you walked into the room, I was indifferent, my eyes glued to the computer in front of me, like a fool. You were like any ordinary girl, nondescript and uninteresting. When you introduced yourself to me, I gave an obligatory handshake and smile, like I would anyone else.

As days turned into weeks, I felt an imperceptible movement in my heart. Your smile, although it was rarely directed at me, was soft and gentle, like a breeze in the trees. Your laughter was a symphony in my ears. Did I like you? The question bounced around in my head incessantly. Did I like you? Did I like you? Did I like you? I endowed you with gifts and kind words, which went accepted with that soft, gentle smile that would be seared into my mind forever. Looking into your eyes was an impossible task, for they were perfectly shaped and shone like the brightest star in the night sky.

However, it was not to be. No, it was never to be from the start. You were flying away to a distant land, far far away. Your intention was never to stay here from the outset. You meet other people, and when your smiles and laughter was more like a sharp spear of ice instead of a warm hug of comfort. My love was spurned, but that was to be expected, for it was one-sided in the first place.

Weeks turned into months and soon, it was time for you to go. The last time we met was the worst. My heart was brimming with words that could not be said, things that could not be done. The words threatened to escape my lips, but I swallowed back, forcing the words back into my head, embarrassed to expose my emotions. Not a single smile and several cold words of goodbye were the only spoils of that day.

That day, I went home in emotional tatters. Only one word came to my mind: irrelevant. My love was irrelevant. Curious, I searched Google and came across a gem of a quote. It reads, “The intensity of your love is irrelevant if it is not reciprocated. Love must flow in both directions for it to be worth chasing. Otherwise, you are only running towards a tsunami of your own making.” – Samuel Decker Thompson.

Indeed, I have constructed my own tsunami of irrelevant love, spinning in the torrents of my own creation, hurling me into emotional turmoil. How long would I take to recover? I do not know. How is this story relevant to you? Irrelevant. Ironic. Even this story is irrelevant. Then what is relevant in life? While I muse over this idea, I shall continue to navigate the rough seas of life, with logic as my compass. On this note, I end my irrelevant story.

My first romantic story. Please give comments as to how I can improve my writing further. Thank you very much!

Kruger

Kruger: Chapter 2

General Winatro stood stoic behind a window, his golden armour shining in the fluorescent light. It was the day of the test. The soldier gripped his sword tightly, his muscles tensed. The class of 5, who had already completed the test, stood to watch expectantly behind a window.

“Simulation start,” the PA system announced, and a machine gun turret materialised in front of the soldier. His knuckles turned white as he continued to grip the sword. The bullet came, flying out of the barrel of the machine gun with blinding speed. The soldier leant on his training, slicing his sword with lightning speed and pinpoint precision as he deflected the bullets. As more and more machine guns materialised, the soldier had trouble deflecting the bullets. Eventually, he bowed out at 3 machine guns, the speed of the bullets too fast for him.

General Winatro sighed as the soldier exited the simulation chamber.

“None of you passed. The minimum standard is 7, and the best you all can come up with is 5. Disappointing!” General Winatro roared, scaring the soldiers.

He continued, “Do you think just because you all are genetically modified that you can beat anyone? Do you think you being the best of the best of the Indonesian Army means anything? People in ARC, they are genetically modified too! And they are 2 to 3 times stronger than us! Don’t let your past achievements go to your head!”

“The next mission is against bandits. How strong can they be? ARC is still far away, we have time to train for that!” one of the soldiers piped up, frustrated by General Winatro’s scolding.

General Winatro gave him a stare that could kill. Finally, he said, “Come, you fight me now. Grab your sword.”

General Winatro exited his golden armour and stood in front of the class in his vest and slacks. The soldier went up gingerly, gripping his blade. He was the first to strike, swinging his blade with blinding speed. General Winatro matched his pace, steel scraping on steel.

“Mistake here, here and here.” General Winatro demonstrated, swinging his blade in 3 unexpected directions at the soldier. He jumped in fright, dropping his sword. “And you are dead in seconds.” General Winatro stated with a sigh.

He then gestured to his face, which bore a long, red scar. “This was caused by Kruger, one of the most powerful bandits in this area. I fought him, steel against steel, and he roundly beat me. What does this tell you? Do not underestimate the bandits. They have lived in the forests for so long. They have learnt from numerous engagements with enemies in the woodsdownload (2)download (2) while you were still in Jakarta, looking at your handphones. Dismissed.” General Winatro concluded, wearing his armour and leaving the class to reflect on his lesson.

Kruger

Kruger: Prelude

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It is the year 2100. Malthus was proven to be right. In 2050, the human population spiked to 10 billion. Fields became barren due to the massive strain put upon them. Animals were killed faster than they could reproduce, and conventional cattle like chickens and cows became extinct. Without sufficient food to sustain so many people, the population began its freefall. By 2060, in spite of advanced agriculture and chemically created foods, the population fell to 6 billion. In 2100, only 2 billion humans remain, struggling to obtain enough food for survival. That is where the wars started.

Advancements in force field technology have made bombs and nuclear weapons obsolete; combat has to be done hand-to-hand. Genetic modification technology allowed anyone with sufficient cash and resources to change their genetic coding. Previously used for frivolous means such as attractiveness and beauty, now it is used by the military to develop supersoldiers. These supersoldiers have lightning fast reflexes, require minimal rest, food and water and are capable of actions that are impossible for an average human. However, the high costs result in only about a hundred of them being created in each armed force.

Trump’s administration has made a significant mark on the United States political dynamics, and the Americans have a military alliance with them, calling themselves ART(the America-Russia Team). Recently, the addition of China to the team due to a dispute with other Asian nations resulted in the renaming of ART into ARC.  They are the largest armed force in the world and are well-armed. Hence, they have gained strength and threaten to conquer the whole world, reshaping it in their image.

The Middle East nations have banded together to form the Arab Coalition. They are the smallest armed forces in the world but possess an incredible amount of funds. They do not have a standing army. Instead, they hire mercenary supersoldiers from all around the world. Numerous attacks by ARC had been repelled by superior mercenary companies employed by the Coalition.

Asian countries, fearing for their safety, have banded together to form the Asian Powers. A dispute over trade routes forced China to leave the Powers. With the technology prowess of Japan, Korea and Singapore working together, they have the best modifications for their super soldiers. However, their army is small, depleted after numerous engagements with ARC forces and their equipment are bad, damaged by repeated confrontations.

The European nations naturally formed a coalition named the League of Nations. With economic powerhouses like Germany and Britain, the League of Nations has formed a large, well-equipped and united military. However, the European nations were slow to pick up genetic modification due to the fear of technology and so, their supersoldiers are only slighty better than those of The Plebs. Geographically and politically close to ARC, they are untouched by ARC’s sweep of power. But they wonder, are they next?

Finally, the poorest nations in the World located in Africa and South America have banded together for safety. They label themselves The Plebs, a symbol of their weakness. Technologically backward, they barely have any super soldiers in their midst. Even their ordinary soldiers have inferior equipment. The only advantage they have is numbers, which rival that of ARC. ARC has already taken control of the Pleb completely, and the soldiers remaining are all either forced to work long hours in the hot sun, growing crops, or are in hiding, planning a resistance against their masters. However, the opposition is dying off as more and more The Plebs soldiers are killed.

This story is about Kruger, a lone wolf in the tropical Indonesian forests, and how he changed the face of the world forever.

For rankings of the different factions in terms of wealth, army size, equipment quality and modification quality, take a look at the document below.

Kruger