Author Archive

2012 in review

December 31, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 38,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Every Little Thing

January 4, 2012

[By a former volunteer of Singapore International Foundation in the SIF Commemorative Book published in 2011]

My helping a group of students came about entirely by chance.

I had just relocated from Botswana to Pretoria, South Africa. At a public swimming pool I used to frequent in my free time, I started chatting with some youths who were keen to learn to swim. They were refugees from neighbouring countries Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

I’d decided to visit them at their regular student association meetings and met more of their friends. Over time, a handful of these youths shared with me their family backgrounds and the financial obstacles they faced, especially with regard to their education.

Since then, I’ve been only too happy to help these students purchase basics things like stationery and school uniforms, and to tutor them in maths and science. We even have an arrangement where I sponsor sports equipment in exchange for them achieving better exam grades.

Small acts like attending their football games and giving out photos of them at matches are other forms of encouragement I give in the hope of making their goals in life seem just a bit more attainable.

I don’t plan to change the world – I honestly wouldn’t know how. This is just me, doing my little part to help others. Maybe that’s enough.

Take Action!
Do something nice for someone else. It doesn’t have to take a special occasion to start paying attention to the people around you. See someone looking a little discouraged or isolated? Think about what you can do to help. It can be as simple as buying them lunch or starting a conversation with them. A better world is a happier one.

Quotes from Nelson Mandela

July 19, 2011


2010 in review

January 20, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 34,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

 

In 2010, there were 217 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1,023 posts. There were 2 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb.

The busiest day of the year was February 25th with 325 views. The most popular post that day was Quotes from Pravsworld.com.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, search.conduit.com, mail.yahoo.com, ecourses.maricopa.edu, and search.aol.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for pravsworld.com, cookies, pravsworld.com quotes, pravsworld, and palm massage.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Quotes from Pravsworld.com August 2007
116 comments

2

7 Principles Of An Eagle – Dr. Myles Monroe August 2007
54 comments

3

Keep Walking May 2007

4

Lemon Grass prompt cancer cells to commit suicide October 2007
14 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

5

The Art of Being Well — Dr. Dráuzio Varella October 2007
30 comments

Using fun to induce desirable behavior in people

October 23, 2009

An interesting social experiment captured on a 2-min youtube clip.

We believe that the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better is by making it fun to do. We call it The fun theory. Do you have an idea that uses fun to change behaviour? Enter now for the chance to win €2500.

Lesson from a chili seller

July 27, 2009
賣辣椒的人,恐怕經常會碰到這樣一個問題,那就是不斷會有買主問「你這辣椒辣嗎?」
不好回答。答「辣」吧,也許買辣椒的人是個怕辣的,立馬走人;答「不辣」吧,也許買辣椒的人是個喜吃辣的,生意還是做不成。
解決的辦法也有,就是把辣椒分成兩堆,吃辣與不吃辣的各選所需,這是書上說的。
我一天沒事,就站在一個賣辣椒婦女的三輪車旁,看她是怎樣解決這個二律背反難題的。
趁著眼前沒有買主,我自作聰明地對她說:
「你把辣椒分成兩堆吧,有人要辣的你就跟他說這堆是,要不辣的你就給他說那堆是。」
沒想到賣辣椒的婦女卻只笑了笑,輕聲說:「用不著!」
說著就來了一個買主,問的果然是那句老話「辣椒辣嗎?」
賣辣椒的婦女很肯定地告訴他:「顏色深的辣,顏色淺的不辣!」
買主信以為真,挑好辣椒付過錢,滿意地走了。
也不知今天是怎麼回事,大部分人都是買不辣的,不一會兒,顏色淺的辣椒所剩無幾了。
我於是又說:「把剩下的辣椒分成兩堆吧!不然就不好賣了!」
然而,賣辣椒的婦女仍是笑著搖搖頭,說;「用不著!」
又一個買主來了,問:「辣椒辣嗎?」賣辣椒的婦女看了一眼自己的辣椒,信口答道:
「長的辣,短的不辣!」果然,買主就按照她的分類標準開始挑起來。
這一輪的結果是,長辣椒很快告罄。
看著剩下的都是深顏色的短辣椒,我沒有再說話,心想:這回看你還有什麼說法?
沒想到,當又一個買主問「辣椒辣嗎」的時候,賣辣椒的婦女信心十足地回答:
「硬皮的辣,軟皮的不辣!」
我暗暗佩服,可不是嘛,被太陽曬了半天,確實有很多辣椒因失水變得軟綿綿了。
賣辣椒的婦女賣完辣椒,臨走時對我說:
「你說的那個辦法賣辣椒的人都知道,而我的辦法只有我自己知道!」
我忽然有所頓悟:
生活中的智慧可以被寫成書,但你不能簡單地照著書上寫的智慧去生活, 因為生活只能是鮮活而靈動的。 不要在智慧中夾雜著傲慢,不要使謙虛缺乏智慧。

[from an email]

賣辣椒的人,恐怕經常會碰到這樣一個問題,那就是不斷會有買主問「你這辣椒辣嗎?」

不好回答。答「辣」吧,也許買辣椒的人是個怕辣的,立馬走人;答「不辣」吧,也許買辣椒的人是個喜吃辣的,生意還是做不成。

解決的辦法也有,就是把辣椒分成兩堆,吃辣與不吃辣的各選所需,這是書上說的。

我一天沒事,就站在一個賣辣椒婦女的三輪車旁,看她是怎樣解決這個二律背反難題的。 (more…)

What is that?

June 30, 2009

This is a 5-min Greek short film made in 2007 with English subtitle. “Father and son are sitting on a bench. Suddenly a sparrow lands across them.”

Advice from Fjalar Ravia

May 7, 2009

“Learn to enjoy your contingent present, don’t be obsessed by the future. Carpe diem, and enjoy the current emotions: a starry sky, a fresh wind, the shells on the seashore, your love at your side in the night, a long talk in the evening twilight with a friend, the smile of your kids. Substituting *that* with a TV -or a computer screen- is a very poor bargain… that is one of the few things I am now pretty sure of.” — Fjalar Ravia (via reddit)

Life is like a seesaw

April 25, 2009

From http://mini528.pixnet.net/blog:

Philosophy of Life

March 26, 2009

Bruno’s Art and Sculture Garden

March 16, 2009

Art work and sculpture in these slides were created by Bruno Torfs at Marysville Victoria, Australia.
On Saturday February 7th 2009, the fires in Victoria completely destroyed his unique forest creation taking over 300 paintings and scuptures.

I wish you enough

February 3, 2009

[From an email]

Recently I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. 

Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said, ‘I love you, and I wish you enough.’ 

The daughter replied, ‘Mum, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mum.’ 

They kissed and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated.. Standing there I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy, but she welcomed me in by asking, ‘Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?’ 

‘Yes, I have,’ I replied. ‘Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?’. 

‘I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is – the next trip back will be for my funeral,’ she said. 

‘When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough..’ May I ask what that means?’ 

She began to smile. ‘That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.’ She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and she smiled even more. ‘When we said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.’ Then turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory. 

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how Gary the day may appear. 

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more. 

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting. 

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger. 

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. 

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. 

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye. 

She then began to cry and walked away. 

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.. 

Is beautiful music universal?

January 15, 2009

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

— from “Leisure”, by W. H. Davies

Yesterday, I received one of those forwarded emails purportedly about an “experiement in context, perception and priorities” carried out by The Washington Post on January 12, 2007 involving the renowned violinist Joshua Bell.

The amazing tale in the email turned out to be true.

IF A GREAT MUSICIAN PLAYS GREAT MUSIC BUT NO ONE HEARS . . . WAS HE REALLY ANY GOOD?

It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?

While I find the WP account of the experiment interesting and I think we should pause to admire beauty around us, I disagree with its conclusion which is based on the premise that there is such a thing as universally beautiful music. Call me crass if you like, but I honestly don’t like the selected classical pieces.

2008 NTU Convocation speech by Adrian Tan

January 7, 2009

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.   

I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.

My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.

On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable. Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.

And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.

Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.

The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning. You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong process” and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.

The good news is that they’re wrong.

The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.

I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.

You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.

Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.

So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.

Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.

I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy. After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.

Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.

That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.

If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.

What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate. Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows. What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.

Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free. The most important is this: do not work. Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable. Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust. There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”. No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful. People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense. Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway. Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself. I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.

So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher. Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.

Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth. I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence. In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror. I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth.

I now say this to you: be hated. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross. One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.

The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.

I didn’t say “be loved”. That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone. Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work – the only kind of work that I find palatable. Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the truth worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul. Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn’t happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm. You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart. You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you. Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don’t, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone. You’re going to have a busy life. Thank goodness there’s no life expectancy.

Just People

January 2, 2009

A medley of portraits.

This original Powerpoint slide is accompanied by a nice music clip which sounded like Kevin Kern’s work but I am not sure. Please listen and help me identify it.