Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ahh ....

Just when I thought I could put up a short piece of romantic fiction, or a beautiful poem (as if ...), or a thunder-and-lighting-out-of-the-blue kind of thought provoking post, or a cracker on the secrets of life, or a laugh-until-stomach-hurts joke ... I looked up and saw the calender ...

Guess I have nothing to say in this post but -

Happy New Year!


Bring It On !!!


Friday, December 25, 2009


The thing about seasonal greeting is that - with just a few words, you can fill up a whole post, and nobody would think it as a lazy or improper post.

ry Christmas


Happy Holidays!!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sex Drives

Car crash, smashed windows, transgression, mistresses, infidelity - yes, this post is about Tiger Woods, as if you haven't reached the point of vomiting in disgust upon hearing about the greatest golf player of all time, and his self-inflicted mind-blowing-shattering of image. Although, this post has nothing to do with his car crash, smashed windows, transgression, mistresses (porn stars? pan cake restaurant waitresses?), infidelity, or even his recently announced "indefinite" hiatus. This post is about my two cents on why he was (depending on how he deals with the crisis, still is) the dominant golf player that he was.

We as human beings are here today roaming around the earth because of one reason - we survive. Survival is our most basic instinct. It's the first thing that we need to address every morning when we wake up, before anything else. But golf has nothing to do with survival ... unless you're trying to break the windows of a car to save the driver.

At the very top level, golf is a game of the mind - the player with the most intent of mental strength wins. When a whisper from a spectator standing twenty feet away can affect your game, the power to focus is the ultimate weapon. External noises are relatively easy to handle, internal disturbances are a different matter; while everyone can control their conscious thoughts with a varying degree of ease, it's those who can keep their subconscious voices in check that'll reach the purest level of mind power. And apparently, Tiger has been the best on the golf course for a long while. After the recent car crash and its ensuing jaw-dropping revelation, I think I might have just cracked the secret to Tiger's success in the game of golf.

Here's my two cents ...

Given the ease with which we can dispense of the external factors and the conscious thoughts, let's dive straight into the deepest of our mind - the valley of our subconsciousness. And I assume the basic instinct that would generate the loudest clamour for attention behind our subconscious mind is survival, the first and foremost issue to be addressed in order to achieve peace of mind.

Unlike common people like me, who has to constantly think of how the next cent will slip into my bank account every moment of my waking and sleeping hours, I doubt survival would be making any noises at the back of the mind of the professional golfers. What then lurks behind the mind after the assurance of survival is established? - The desire to procreate.

As a member of a species, and to ensure the continuous survival of the species, we reproduce. To ensure we never forget to reproduce, we are bestowed with hormones - hormones that will urge us into engaging in sexual activities - sexual activities that will drive us into the process of reproduction - reproduction that will ensure our species will continue to roam this earth.

However, longevity of survival hinges on a perfect equilibrium. If the hormones never cease to drive us into the activities of procreation, we will die of exhaustion. Therefore, once the hormones is discharged after our procreating activities, it will bother us no more, for a while. If the sexual hormones are not there jumping up and down for attention, our mind will have more power to focus on other matters, like putting in a perfect swing, or stroking a sweet putt.

With ten mistresses (and counting) who travel around the world to be near him at golf tournaments, I doubt Tiger's sexual hormones have any energy left to even bother him with the slightest of a yelp. Without the distraction from the urges of the two most basic instincts at the darkest and deepest corner of his mind, he was left in peace to do the job in hand - golf swings. And, perhaps, that's how Tiger has the stronger mental strength than anyone else in golf. Of course, I'm not presuming that other professional golfers don't have sex during a tournament, it's just that nobody did it like Tiger.

I was pretty smug about this theory of mine on Tiger's dominance on the golf course ... until the news that links him to performance enhancing drug surfaces ...

Oh, Tiger ...


Friday, December 11, 2009

Hummm ...

I've always thought that monotony is the bane of life, when life is supposed to be colourful. And there I was, observing a dripping bag trickling poison into life - a man holding onto the same job, at the same place, serving the same stuff to the same sets of customers for at least the last twelve years.

I cringed at the mere thought of me in his shoes.

Six jobs in the last eight years - that's how disgusted I am and deal with monotony. Alarm screaming, snooze, more screaming, getting up, traffic, familiar routines, lunch, more familiar routines, traffic, dinner, tv, boredom-induced sleeping, day break, alarm screaming, snooze ... - my heart aches just thinking about the cycle. It won't be so bad, if the routine need no constant pep talking, incessant pumping up and continuous patting on the back to keep it going. And the thing that's more wretched than monotony is - more forthcoming monotonies. The thoughts of going through the tunnel of monotony again the next day weighs heavier than going through the tunnel of monotony itself. The moment I started to feel such weigh and stranglehold, I started to look for another job, lest I would die of suffocation.

After my third job as a stationery salesman, I started to suspect that there must be something wrong. There must be something I'm not seeing that everybody else see, everybody else who stay in their jobs for more than two years, consecutively. Sure, I have after-work activities and weekends to oil those dreadful routines, but work taking up more than three quarters of my life? Surely, there must be more?

Marriage during my fourth job didn't change much of my mentality towards work. Still, life got sweeter - after work, and during weekends, and public holidays, and the annual vacation. But the arrival of my wife's pregnancy a few months ago did.

After the excitement of being a father for the first time subsided, for also the first time, I started to feel the hot breathes of the monster called life down my neck. As the birth of my first child approaches, I feel my grips on my fight against monotony loosening, escaping through another job suddenly seems an irresponsible option. It does seem I have to somehow stick it out with this job, which took me back to the area where I started with my first job.

Back then, I was working as an account clerk, and my favourite place was a coffee shop near the office. No delicious food and coffee that tastes so-so, I guess that's why it wasn't crowded most of the times. It was my favourite because it had enough fans and not many walls to make the place cooling, it's quiet, and I don't have to wait for a table to have an enjoyable time reading my newspaper. That's the highlight of my workday.

After eight years during which I have changed six jobs, it's run by the same man, wearing seemingly the same T-shirt and apron, and with a slightly balder head. It's not that I was surprised to see him there taking my order of drink, but when I saw him bringing my cup of coffee to me, my mind was flashing like crazy, in black and white, with these words - monotony is the bane of life, monotony is the bane of life, monotony ... And this man had been there for at least twelve years - when I first frequented the place, he'd already been there for four years.

He's not the only person who has achieved the "feat". And I often wonder how do they dilute the tortures of such humdrums. Do they have no feelings? What are their secrets?

As he sat and rested behind the counter, I was beginning to suspect he wasn't actually better than me. His smile disappeared and his face started to show signs of weariness. Just as I sighed in the same weariness, I saw his tired face blossoming into a smile that only genuine happiness will bring. As I turned towards the direction of his smile, I saw a young boy in school uniform walking into the shop, humming a little tune, wearing the same kind of smile. I didn't immediately recognise the face, but slowly, an image of a father cooing a toddler from eight years ago surfaced ...

That's it!

I still think that monotony is the bane of life, but maybe I was drilling at the wrong direction all these times. Perhaps survival being the most important part of our lives doesn't allow us to think twice about our livelihoods. Love it or hate it, all we can do is to grind our teeth, learn to live with it and get on with it. Perhaps we don't need an antidote to this bane in this significant part of our lives. Maybe what we need is a justification, especially when it relates to the happiness and well-being of our loved ones.

That's it?


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fiction: A Letter To Jane

Dear Jane,

It rained today, the sort that reminds me of you - soft as feathers,
cool as the mountain streams, and quiet as the night: the fall of the raindrops, the embrace of the air, and the rhythm of the rain. Sitting in the campus cafe, sipping my morning dose of caffeine, I kept waiting for a girl to emerge from the morning crowd of young adults walking to their classes.

Yes, I went back to the university today, had a walk around the campus and took a stroll down memory lanes. So much has changed.

When the rain started, I took shelter at the cafe - the cafe where I first saw you, and had my breath taken away in the drizzling rain. There I was, having my morning coffee before class. Just as I raised my eyes to check my watch, a girl dressed in white shirt and blue jean appeared amongst the umbrella-wielding crowds. What captivated me was not only your angelic face and the innocent smile it was wearing, but your drenched hair, your bare feet, and your joyous steps in the rain - such energy, such innocence, such carefree spirit! Such lunatic!! That's what I thought about you then.

I also thought that love had never come to me
so fast. Not before. Not since. Perhaps it was the heavy cloud of solitude that accompanied me at that time - a lonely soul in a foreign environment stepping into a new life - there's no wall of resistance strong enough to defend against the attraction exuded by your free spirit. That's probably the heaviest and fastest crush I had.

Because of you, or the desire to see you again, I got to know the owner and the waiters of that cafe. I still frown upon the stinginess of the owner for not giving me discounts for my coffee, after the many cups I bought to wait for your appearances for many weeks after that. After so many years, the owner of the cafe has changed, perhaps many times over, so has the price of a cup of coffee. But I was still listening to "our song" on my iPod.

... there must be an angel playing with my heart ...

Eurythmic, remember?

I'm quite sure that's your favourite. In one of the happiest day of my university life, this song was softly streaming out from the earbuds of your Walkman into my tender heart. The luckiest guy in the world - was my only thought that day, when you walked towards the back of the bus and picked the vacant seat beside me. As you took your seat, you smiled at me. Yes, you smiled. I'm very sure you did. Because my heartbeats picked up speed like a paratrooper who had jumped off a plane without a parachute. And the vigour of it! I thought the whole bus could hear my heartbeat.

As you tapped your finger lightly on your bag to the song, I was trembling slightly like a foolish teenage boy. I so wanted to talk to you then. But I couldn't bring myself to interrupt your song. To my delight then, we alighted at the same stop near the campus. I'm not sure you noticed, but I followed you all the way to your class
that day, waiting for a chance and enough courage gleaned to tap your shoulder and say Hi! As you know, that never did materialise. The happiest day of my university life was to be followed by the saddest.

Like a puff of smoke, you disappeared into thin air after that day. I have never seen you since.

The agony of missed chances tortured me for a good few months after that. Concocted with the crashes of the diminishing hopes of you somehow reappearing in front of me was the worst feeling - sleepless nights, tasteless food, futile searches, disappointment after disappointment, and, in the end, giving up. Ahh ... the emotional youth and its inexplicable idiocies. Coming out of it, I made a promise to myself.

A promise I keep until today - to never be fearful of taking the first step towards what I want.

These fearless first steps have since led me to my first job, my first sales - now I own a medium size company, my first girlfriend, and subsequently my wife of twenty odd years - she was my fifth girlfriend (yes, the fearless first steps work for breaking up too) - and my three boys - the eldest graduated from our university today - that's what brought me back to the campus, and that's when I thought about you again.

In a way, everything I own today started with those fearless first steps which came into forces because of you. And thus, I owe what I own today to you. You made me who I am today.

I call you Jane, but I'm never sure whether it's actually Jenn or Jean. I overheard someone calling you "Jane" before you entered your class the last day I saw you, and I saw the initial "J" on your bag on the bus that day. Truthfully, I don't remember your face ... So ...

So, thank you, Jane.

Now, if you receive this e-mail today, please do not worry. I'm not a stalker. You have received this e-mail today because your info stated your attendance to the University of St James around the years of 1985 - according to Facebook, and your name is Jane.

I don't expect any reply to this mail. I don't need any reply to this mail. Please don't reply to this mail. I just want to somehow express my gratitude to you - Jane.

Whoever you are, here's wishing you a good life and happiness.

Thank you.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

So ...

What's on your mind?

Dunno. But it's kind of heavy.

Work? Relationship? Personal? Family?

Hmmm ... sort of a little bit of everything.

That's what they call LIFE ... Hang on, positive heavy or negative heavy.

Not exactly negative, but definitely not bubbly positive. Just heavy.

First time feeling like this?

Nope. It's been a while. In fact, on and off for the past few years, I guess.

A sudden change happened in your life lately?

No ... there's no changes in my life lately. Well, little changes happen all the time here and there, but no, there's no major changes that would throw me into these kinds of heavy thoughts. No, not that.


I suddenly have the realisation that I'm not exactly the captain of my ship in this voyage called LIFE. I was constantly being pulled in all directions except mine. I'm doing things that I may not want to do. I'm not complaining, I understand that's part of life. And sometimes making sacrifices and doing things for others is what happiness is all about. I won't always get to do what I want to do all the times. In fact, I might not want to do what I want to do all the times. That's life.

Seems like you're at peace with where you are right now. What's the problem then?

Well ... I guess the bigger problem than not being the captain of my ship is - without these external pulling factors, I'm not exactly sure where I want to go with this ship of mine ...


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Capture Happiness

I'm not sure it's a Wednesday afternoon, but most likely it was. Because usually that's the day I would have a lighter workload and get off early to wait for you after school. Although, being self-employed, lighter workload means less income - but that's not what this post is about.

As usual the school entrance was crowded with parents when I arrived. Most were huddled in groups of two or three chatting away; some preferred to wait at the opposite hawker stalls having a drink; some, like me, who didn't meet any acquaintances would stand alone in the crowd and look pensive, while trying to eavesdrop on some interesting conversations. We were all under the shade away from the evening sun, of course. Was it overcast that day? I'm not sure - but that's not what this post is about.

The school bell rang. A bunch of schoolboys in white shirts and dark blue shorts started to trickle out through the gate. Almost everyone came out like they went into the school earlier - neat and tidy, NOT! - especially you and your other 7-years old friends at Primary One. If there's not a stain on your face, it'll be on your hands; if it's not on your hands, it'll be on your white shirt. For some reason your knees were always dirty. You told me that was because you have to kneel when you couldn't find a seat during recess (or was it school assembly?) - but that's not what this post is about.

I have always enjoyed spotting your dirty face and uncombed hair amongst all the happy faces streaming out from the school. It's a happy feeling to watch your wondering face blossoming into a smile when our eyes meet - it's the kind of happiness when we stumble upon a long lost love after a hundred years apart, even though I had just bid goodbye to you in the morning. I hope, you're just as happy to spot my face amongst the neck-stretched, head swinging and eyes scanning adults - but that's not what this post is about.

As usual, the first thing we did was to enlighten your load. Heavy school bags were always a complaint amongst the parents. I hope those weight would not hinder your growth, although, looking at your other 7-years old friends, you weren't exactly short or small for your age. When we crossed the road, I stretched out my hand. You held it. I felt happy - a fuzzy-warm kind of happy. I had started to cherish these special moments. Lately, as you grow older, at times, I have to resort to commanding to hold your hand. When you were younger, no matter what the situation, you automatically holding onto my out-stretched hand was as natural as our heartbeats - but that's not ... well, you know.

As we walked towards the car, I asked you to walk in front of me. You had always liked to walk behind me. With news about children being kidnapped never stop circulating, I could never be too careful with you. Although, you following my footsteps was something that once made me very happy - a being-idolised kind of happy. For the record, when you were younger, you adored me (Yes, adore! To a certain degree, at 7-years-old, you still do). You had said that when you grow up, you wanted to do what I do as a career. Of course, not long after that, your ambition changed to a teacher, and then a scientist - but that's not what this post is about.

This post is about an image of you that was imprinted onto my mind a few minutes later that day. That image has been bringing happy, very happy smiles onto my face until today, several weeks after. And hopefully when I revisit this post in the future, I can conjure up the same image and bring back the same smile.

I think you were especially happy that day because some companies had sponsored soft drinks and snacks to the school for Children's Day, even though the school had celebrated it in the week before. There were extra bounces in your steps that day. As we approached the car walking on the corridor of an old two storey shop, your gait changed.

Instead of putting your right foot down after you had stepped on your left, you hopped once on your left foot. You then put down your right foot. Left foot out, hopped once on your left, and right foot out. Yes, you were skipping on your left foot. And your hair bobbed freely with every bounce. I'm very sure it was your left foot. I'm not sure why you didn't skip on both legs. I'm also not very sure whether that was the first time I saw you skip, one leg or two. But watching you skipped in your slightly over-sized school uniform of not-so-white shirt and dark blue short, pulled slightly above your waistline, I was suddenly overwhelmed. Unexpectedly.

I think I was almost in tears.

Perhaps it was the way you embrace life at that moment, or perhaps it was simply the cuteness of your skipping, my heart suddenly flooded with happiness by what I saw. I'm not sure I can put my feeling of happiness then into words. I'm not sure words can describe something so inexplicably wonderful. But if I was to pinpoint that happiness in its extensive spectrum, I think it was contentment.

And - because of the old man who sold chee-cheong-fun on a mobile stall - pride too.

The old man had been peddling his food by that road for the past few weeks. He noticed you skipping. I noticed him smiling while watching your skipping. Although with those skips, you didn't achieve anything to any degree in academic terms, or artistic terms, or physical terms, at that moment, when I saw you skipping, I was happy, very happy to proclaim -

"My boy! Yeah, that's my boy!"

Simply because I'm your father.


Thursday, November 12, 2009


No new post for this week.

This post will explain why.


Thursday, November 5, 2009


The train of thoughts was flagged off by a picture of the recent flood in Manila, Philippines. Its speed picked up with a story of a robber praying with his victim in the US. A dialogue with tertiary students by Singapore Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew loaded it with more purposes. On its way, it took a slight turn and picked up a story that I had been wanting to write for a while. It reached the penultimate stop in my previous post. And now here we are, chronicling the journey of this particular series of thoughts on parenting.

Game for a ride on the J-Train?

While hopping through blogs recently after the Typhoon Ondoy had wreaked havoc in Manila, a particular picture captured my imagination. It shows a well-dressed middle-aged woman carrying her handbag on top of her head wading through chest-deep flood waters. "Unpredictability" was the word that sprung up from the contrast reflected in the picture. With the recent spates of natural disasters, it does seem Mother Nature has run out of patience, striking readily anywhere, anytime, and anyhow - ready or not.

Not so long ago, if we were caught in such a predicament and need to start over, we have the comfort and assurance that our insurances or savings and investment in financial institutions will kick-start our recovery when we need it. But during an age when long-established major banks, insurance and financial institutions, and even a country can go bankrupt, the safety net provided by our finances suddenly seems loose, and with it, our economies.

In my non-professional, non-economist opinion, our economies have evolved too far away from the supply and demand of our basic needs, and weighed too heavily on a financial system that is too sensitive to sentiments and opinions. The greater the influences of human factors are in our economies, the more fragile and unpredictable it is. And much like the wraths of Mother Nature, it does seem it can falter and crumble anywhere, anytime and anyhow - ready or not. And not so long ago, it did. And it seems a certain Mr Smith was not ready.

Have you heard about the praying robber? In short - Mr Smith was unemployed, has a family to support, decided to rob a bank, ended up praying together with his victim, gave up his gun, ran off with a cell phone and $20, and later turned himself in after being convinced by his mother, who saw a surveillance video showing his face on TV.

What struck me with that piece of news was that - my son could be Mr Smith in the future!

On the face of these few facts, I'll make a few assumptions. I assume Mrs Smith had raised her boy much like I'm raising my children - with a similar set of moral values and righteous characteristics that would make them grow up to be responsible members of the society (he did own up to his wrongdoings). I also assume and am quite sure that Mr Smith had struggled and failed to refrain himself from stepping into the world of crime as a solution to his financial problems (he seemed nice, as a robber).

Mr Smith had erred, just as my children will make mistakes of various degree in the future. He is big enough to raise his hand and admit his misdemeanours; and I hope if my children do make a mistake in the future, they'll be responsible enough to do the same. In some ways, Mr Smith is the intended result of our parenting, except he had decided to rob.

How do I prevent my children from following the criminal footsteps of Mr Smith if they were faced with the same financial destitute? How should Mrs Smith have brought up her son differently to avoid his misdeeds? Given the fragility and unpredictability of our economies (my assumption), how should we prepare our children to face any possible financial destitute in the future mentally? It's one thing to describe the pain of a tooth being pulled out, without any painkillers, and another to actually go through the pain physically.

Perhaps we should not be too protective of our children from hardship. Or perhaps we should lead our families to a lifestyle of modesty bordering on hardship, even though our income allows us to enjoy better things in life. Perhaps companionship with hardship during childhood will strengthen the wall of resistance against any desire to take the easy way out of any financial difficulties in their future. Should we, as parents, forgo these "better things in life" and make these sacrifices to better prepare our children for any possibilities in their financial future?

Minister Mentor Mr Lee of Singapore certainly thinks so, as he had revealed during a recent dialogue with tertiary students. He and his wife refused to move into the official prime minister residence for the sake of their children. In absolute terms, him living it down was probably still many, many levels above us. But in relative terms, he did live it down for the sake of his children.

I'm sure, as parents, we all try to give the best to our children - better food, better clothes, better quality of life, piano lessons, art courses, ballet classes, etc, etc, as far as our income can afford. And at times, we even pay for them with our future income. That's how much we love our children. And I assume that's what Mrs Smith did too.

But, as parents, are we missing something?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Would You?

He turned the ignition key. The engine spluttered. After a few more coughs, the engine reliably revved into a familiar drone. He looked at his watch and gave two quick hoots to hurry up his passenger in the house. The reminder broke the silence of the seven o'clock morning in the single storey terrace housing area.

A teenage girl rushed out from the house in a blue and white school uniform. "Morning, Mrs Lim," she gestured to the lady next door as she got into the car.

"Aren't you a bit late this morning?" the father asked as he reversed the car out of the house.

"Sorry, Ba. Lots of homework last night, " the girl replied while munching on her bread.

He had always enjoyed the drive taking his daughter to school. It took roughly half an hour to weave out from their residential area, through the small town and to her school not far outside the town. He didn't mind the traffic going through the town. It gave him extra times to chat with his daughter.

"What happened to your bag?" he noticed a tear at the side of her bag.

"Oh, this? Got caught against the rail of the stair at school yesterday," she replied, trying to sound nonchalant about the damage.


He remembered the bag. It was her birthday present two years ago. She was never one who would be rough with her belongings. She had been brought up knowing the value of cents and the time and effort that make it go round.

"How's your preparation for the coming exam?" he changed the subject.

As they chatted, the car stopped in front of the school.

"Sweetie," he beckoned as she got out of the car, "we'll go shopping tonight for a new bag."

The girl hesitated for a while. "It's Okay, Ba. It's still usable."

"We'll go. I got extra from work this past two months. Anyway, it's been two years with the bag," he insisted.

With that, the face of the girl blossomed into a smile and beamed with joy. "Okay then," she waved goodbye and closed the door.

He smiled as he watched his daughter walked towards the school gate. The sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from raising this girl for twelve years overwhelmed his heart. All other successes in his business or career paled miserably in comparison. He knew, as he had always known, he made the right choice.

He was still wearing the smile, and savouring the overwhelming sense of satisfaction when he stopped his car in front of a gated factory.

The guard gave him a salute before raising the bar and let his car in. He drove past a myriad of shinny BMW and Merc before shoving his old timer into a vacant slot amongst them.

As he got out from the car, he found himself whistling.

"Morning, Mr Lu," the lady walking ahead of him looked back as she heard the happy tune.

"Morning, Mrs Lee," he gave the lady a playful salute.

She waited for him before continuing their walk towards the office.

"I've booked the hotel at the beach resort as requested. It'll be a five hours drive before you'd reach the resort. But ...," she hesitated.

"But what, Mrs Lee," he inquired, in the happy tone of his, blending his words into the tune he's whistling.

"You sure you don't want a trip to the Disney in Japan, or even Hong Kong for this holiday?"

He paused for a little while, pondering on the question. "Not yet, Mrs Lee. Not yet," he replied. "But soon," he added with a knowing smile.

As they walked towards the office, the lady couldn't hide her admiration for her boss. An admiration reserved for a father who owned a multi-million dollars business, with more than one hundred workers, branch offices in six countries over three continents, and yet, would live a lifestyle of moderation befitting not one, but many notches below his income level. A sacrifice he and his wife would willingly make for ten odd years without any complaints, for nothing but the sake of their daughter and her upbringing. In her opinion, they were probably the greatest, most unselfish parents ever walked on the surface of this earth. Ever.


If you are a parent, would you?

As a parent, would you?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


It was a welcomed rain. After a scorching day, the air needed a change. The downpour managed to flush out what was left of the day's oppressive heat within minutes and coolness set in. But to some, the refreshing rain was a curse.

The weather had grooved into the familiar pattern of tropical June - torrential rain closing the curtain on a day of excessive heat and humidity. However, the expected rain didn't stop the crowd from buzzing along the road on a Saturday's night earlier. But much to the despairs of the owners of the makeshift stalls lining the road, as expected, it poured. The night market heeded the cue from the weather and took an unwilling break.

Sitting in a coffee shop facing the once crowded place, it would be fun watching people scurrying for cover when the rain started, but my attention was caught by a little girl behind a stall located in front of the coffee shop.

She seemed the same age as my nine years old daughter. I didn't notice her until the rain started and she rushed out from inside the van behind the stall. Needing no instruction from her parents, she swiftly moved around the stall. She helped to shift and cover the tables used to display shoes of various shapes and sizes from raindrops that escaped the big umbrella. Just when they were about to finish, the parents shooed the little girl back into the van. Under the generator-powered yellow light, the little girl took a few moments to regain her concentration and continued her homework.

While the rain continued to pour, her work was interrupted when her father handed her a plate of food. Together they sat at the back of the van, chatting while nibbling on the food. I couldn't hear their conversation over the distance and through the noises of the rain and the generator. But I could certainly feel the warmth between them - giggles interlaced with hearty laughs, gentle nudges on the shoulder exchanged with cheeky facial expressions, playful teases replied with puffing faces in pretence - it all seemed so familiar.

The string of my heart resonated warmly to the picture portrayed by the pair of father and daughter under the fluctuating yellow light. My daughter and I share a similar kind of relationship, interactive and fun loving. But I doubt ours will ever plumb the depth of theirs.

I am lucky that I earn enough to provide my children an environment where they can spend their times mostly between studies and recreation activities. At this stage, they know we have to work to get the food, the clothes, the shoes, the books, the Gameboys, and etc. But it's nothing to concern them directly. In facts, we shield them from the hardship of life and ask them to concentrate on enjoying their childhood. Reality has never forced us into a partnership of any kind through any hardship, unlike the shoe peddling family. For that, I am thankful.

Hardship of any nature is never our choice of destination. But, guess what? We never have a choice but to face them when they are at the doorstep knocking on the door. Having gone through forty plus years in life in a not-too-hard environment, compared to our parents, I am still fairly confident that I'll be able to withstand any austerity that dare comes my way. Stay away! But my children? Are they growing up in an environment that is "too comfortable" to face any possible adversity in the future? Have we prepared them adequately?

Of course, we will never push our children into formally earning any sort of money at this stage. We will continue to try and create a safe and comfortable environment for them to grow. At best, we will create simulated environments where they are required to work hard to earn rewards of monetary nature or otherwise. But it is simulated. Without the monster of life breathing down the necks, they will never comprehend the magnitude and the weight of the "hardship".

I guess my daughter will not grow up to be as good a fighter in life as the shoe peddling little girl. To compensate what is lacking in the "early training", as parents, we'll try to instill in her characteristics that'll prepare her for the anticipated challenges in her future. While I'm not exactly yearning for the situation of the shoe peddling little girl for my children, I am envious of the shoe-peddling father.

As a father, I'm sure this is never what the man intended for his child. But having to go through life's obstacles hand in hand, bearing the burdens of livelihood on their shoulders standing side by side, the bond growing between the father and daughter will be strong. Their understanding of each other fabricated by comradeship, the successes they enjoy in overcoming difficult times together, the sharing of fruits from their hard work are all special ingredients for a unique father-daughter relationship that will carry them far in the challenges of their lives.

Of that, as a father, I am envious.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Of Scrabble And Life

A game of Scrabble, in many ways, is similar to life and its challenges.

We get our seven tiles. The board laced with squares of green, blues and reds lies in front. The rules prop up the board, and our chest of vocabulary stands ready. The objective? To be the player with the highest score at the end of the game. As in challenges in life, everything stands in front of us. How do we confront them?

We don't get to choose our tiles. But getting seven tiles with one point does not mean we can get a maximum of mere seven points. Using the same set of tiles, we can get up to the seventies, or eighties with knowledge of the rules, the depth of our vocabulary and the clever use of the tiles lying on the board. Our achievement is not limited to what's thrown at us, or within our reach. With knowledge, acute observation and an agile mind, one plus one can always be greater than two.

alimony scores 80 points!Image by Vanessa Pike-Russell via Flickr

However, if we keep hitting a brick wall matching our tiles to our arsenal of vocabularies, we can always opt for a tiles exchange. It is akin to changing jobs, moving house, migrating to a foreign country, or starting another relationship. We won't know what we will get - we might jump with joy, or we might pinch ourselves and ask "Why bother?", or we might even pull our hair and yell in regrets and frustration. But one thing is certain: we will miss a turn, and the opponents will be given a chance to increase their lead on us, or cut short our leads. The transition is always a risk, and it needs to be managed with the appropriate mentality and attitude.

But is it a risk worth taking? We can never be sure.

The option to exchange is always a comfort to have. At times when we do find ourselves facing dead ends, it's a breather. And the path of life should never lead to a dead end. Take a step away from the dead ends, and a myriad of options are always available.

While tiles of single point might not go far in Scrabble, we shouldn't be smug when we get the ten-pointers either. For they are only valuable when they are placed on the board. If they remain in our rack when one of the opponents has emptied their rack, it's a double blow to us. So knowing when to play the high value tiles is important. We must seize the moment. If we decide to let go of the opportunity that presents itself, the next one might never arrive. It's not always easy and at times, for the sake of avoiding an eventual heart break, we might have to settle for second best, for the best might not exist - if that is the case, while we think we are settling for second best, we are actually choosing the best. As in life, we'll never know.

Luck - in my opinion is the most advantageous aspect to have playing Scrabble. We can have the widest vocabulary in the world, but if we don't have the right tiles, and there is no place to put our tiles on the board, it is worthless. We always need a little bit of luck. But Scrabble is not just a game about vocabulary.

We approach a game of Scrabble like we approach the challenges of life - with a right strategy and plenty of patience. Want to play an open game? Put every word perpendicular to the words on the board. Want to play it tight? Stack the tiles on top of another word on the board. Stronger opponent? Play it safe. Weaker opponent? Be adventurous, but be cautious still. Lagging behind? Try to keep pace, the right tiles could appear at the right time in our rack and on the board. Leading? It's never too cautious to keep a watchful eye. The right strategy needs to be coupled with patience. During execution of the strategy, patience will keep the unwanted emotions in check and maintain a cool head under any situation in a challenge.

And as in life, we don't always play to win in Scrabble ... err ... Actually, in that sense, Scrabble is nothing like life. And we only tell ourselves we play for the sake of learning and winning is not important when the other guy is leading by 100+ points and there are only less than 6 tiles left.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Threw Away My Dictionary

Dressed in a smart gi, I took a deep breath, harden my set of ab, letting the qi rise within me, and my id slowly concentrating into a focal point. Slowly I let out a breath from my os. Armed with a da in my right hand, an ax in my left and the moves de ki planted firmly in my mind, I closed my eyes. My ka was strong. I try to sense the approaching od with the sharpest of my senses.

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry. I've appended another version with definition of the strange (to me) two letters words in this post.)

And then it happened.


Like swimming in an ea of hot aa, my armours melted. Like an ignorant fool facing the wrong direction in the way of a stampede from herds consisting of ky, ai, and zo, my tactics was crushed. It came as ae huge surprise. I never expected what was coming my way. Not ay.

I was amazed, and amused to na end. My ees were wide open in incredulity. I was going like "Oh My Di!" and an aw of exclamaition, "ah..., eh..., er..., ha..., hm..., la..., ow..., st..., uh..., um..., ur..." follow suit, when I saw "IT".

"IT" is the list of acceptable two letters words in Scrabble from Facebook (for some reason, it's not available in US and Canada) displayed in the Dictionary tab. I have no idea which dictionary it's based on. And it's not just the two letters words. Other words that I didn't think exist appeared on the board and were given points. It's almost like I'm bringing a bagful of xu to China to trade, or reading a book with plenty of of pe, pi, nu, mu, or xi.

But I didn't ug it because of my ignorance. Not at all. I enjoy the game. I am trying to ch my vocabulary to banish the wo I suffered in my first game, when I was so not ready. With these new found words, it opens a whole new dimension of Scrabble fun for me. I no longer fear having the tiles of "Z", "J", "X" or "Q" in my rack. Although, I'm not sure how many words that I'll learn can be used in my writing. So, I probably still have to keep my dictionary for verification.

And with this, I announce my entrance into the world of Facebook, albeit with my alternate identity in the blogging world. Yo, the name is Jay Buzz (they don't accept my preferred name of BJ or just J, and there are more than one Jay Buzz in Facebook), I'm a blogging Facebooker, or a Facebooking Blogger now.

Apart from playing Scrabble, I'm not sure what I can achieve through the network, but I'll give it a go. I'll be "friending", "following", and etc. And maybe I'll see ye and ya in there? Perhaps we can have a game of Scrabble too. Oh, do bring a piece of za too, so we can et while we play, ja?

Oh, the ed in my Words program were going hay-wired with this piece. And I swear, for a mo, I could almost hear a siren going off inside my computer when I was typing this out.

See you in Facebook!

( Note: the two letters words in colors are all acceptable in the game of Scrabble in Facebook)

The What-They-Mean Version

Dressed in a smart gi (- loose-fitting white suit worn in judo, karate, and other martial arts), I took a deep breath, harden my abs (- abdominal muscle), letting the qi (- chi) rise within me, and my id (- mind's instinctive unconscious energies) slowly concentrating into a focal point. Slowly I let out a breath from my os (- mouth or mouthlike part or opening). Armed with a da (- Burmese knife) in my right hand, an ax (- axe) in my left and the moves de (- of or from) ki (- Japanese martial art) planted firmly in my mind, I closed my eyes. My ka (- in ancient Egypt - attendant spirit supposedly dwelling as a vital force in a man or statue) was strong. I try to sense the approaching od (- hypothetical force formerly thought to be responsible for many natural phenomena) with the sharpest of my senses.

And then it happened.

Bo (- exclamation uttered to startle or surprise someone, esp a child in a game)!

Like swimming in an ea (- river) of hot aa (- volcanic rock consisting of angular blocks of lava with a very rough surface), my armour melted. Like an ignorant fool facing the wrong direction in the way of a stampede from herds consisting of ky (- Scots word for cows), ai (- shaggy-coated slow-moving animal of South America), and zo (- Tibetan breed of cattle, developed by crossing the yak with common cattle), my tactics was crushed. It came as ae (- one) huge surprise. I never expected what was coming my way. Not ay (- ever).

I was amazed, and amused to na (- nae - no) end. My ees (- eye) were wide open in incredulity. I was going like "Oh My Di (- deus - god)!" and an aw (- variant of) of exclamaition, "ah..., eh... (- exclamation of surprise or inquiry, or to seek confirmation of a statement or question), er..., ha..., hm..., la..., ow... (- exclamation of pain), st (- exclamation to attract attention), uh..., um..., ur..." follow suit, when I saw IT.

"IT" is the list of acceptable two letters words in Scrabble from Facebook (for some reason, it's not available in US and Canada) displayed in the Dictionary tab. I have no idea which dictionary it's based on. And it's not just the two letters words. Other words that I didn't think exist appeared on the board and were given points. It's almost like I'm bringing a bagful of xu (- Vietnamese currency unit) to China to trade, or reading a book with plenty of of pe (- 17th letter in the Hebrew alphabet), pi (- sixteenth letter in the Greek alphabet), nu (- 13th letter in the Greek alphabet), mu (- 12th letter in the Greek alphabet, a consonant, transliterated as 'm'), or xi (- 14th letter in the Greek alphabet).

But I didn't ug (- hate) it because of my ignorance. Not at all. I enjoy the game. I am trying to ch (- ich - eke - increase, enlarge, or lengthen) my vocabulary to banish the wo (- woe) I suffered in my first game, when I was so not ready. With these new found words, it opens a whole new dimension of Scrabble fun for me. I no longer fear having the tiles of "Z", "J", "X" or "Q" in my rack. Although, I'm not sure how many words that I'll learn can be used in my writing. So, I probably still have to keep my dictionary for verification.

And with this, I announce my entrance into the world of Facebook, albeit with my alternate identity in the blogging world. Yo (- expression used as a greeting or to attract someone's attention), the name is Jay Buzz (they don't accept my preferred name of BJ or just J, and there are more than one Jay Buzz in Facebook), I'm a blogging Facebooker, or a Facebooking Blogger now.

Apart from playing Scrabble, I'm not sure what I can achieve through the network, but I'll give it a go. I'll be "friending", "following", and etc. And maybe I'll see ye (- you) and ya (- you) in there? Perhaps we can have a game of Scrabble too. Oh, do bring a piece of za (- pizza) too, so we can et (- eat) while we play, ja (- yes)?

Oh, the ed (- editor) in my Words program were going hey-wired with this piece. And I swear, for a mo (- moment), I could almost hear a siren going off inside my computer when I was typing this out.

See you in Facebook!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Did you laugh?

Well? Did you?

I did. Heartily too. My computer was lucky that I wasn't holding a mouthful of coffee or water in my mouth when I came across that statement.

$50 to opt-out. For one year. Brilliant! Hahahahahaha ...

If you're an Entrecard member, and if you haven't already known, according to some fellow Entrecarders, it has been announced that firstly, the sponsored ads campaign has been postponed to 5th of October, instead of 28th of September; and secondly, you can now opt out of the sponsored ads by paying a minimal amount of $50 ... for one year.

Hmmm ... how do I start?

I'll start with - In my personal and humble opinion -

I guess EntreCard had grown in its value when its membership expanded significantly some times back. Having its widget appearing in thousands of blogs probably means a great potential in internet marketing. But how do you convert this great potential into cash? Mr G failed. And by the look of it, in my personal and humble opinion, so would Ms C.

"That's so not the way to do it."

"Yeah? You got any bright idea?"

"You shouldn't have given them choices! Be firm. Corner them. Then offer them a lifeline by paying cash. That way, we earn from the sponsored ads AND from those who don't want sponsored ads. Win-win! Muahahahaha ..."

Yeah. Right.

There must be something that these EC people see that I don't.

Four points.

But before that, let me state that I totally understand and accept that it requires funds to run something like Entrecard. If the EC people can make money out of it as well, I'm happy for them. But this should be implemented in a way that's acceptable to people who makes it successful, or valuable, in the first place - the members. And - I'm not leaving Entrecard just yet. I'll stick around to see how this will turn out. And to my favourite bloggers that have stated their intention to leave Entrecard, I'll be bookmarking you all for future visit.

OK then.

The first point - the intention of Mr G in launching the paid ads campaign a few months ago is understandable. But I guess the members' negative reception to his paid ads was probably not something he expected. So he learned. And he backed off.

So when Ms C decided to launch her sponsored ads, did she not have the knowledge of what Mr G experienced previously? If she knows about the episode and still goes ahead with the sponsored ads, then there must be something very, very profitable about these paid ads or sponsored ads that I fail to see. Or maybe her brilliant $50-opt-out is her ulterior motive? Maybe there's something that I've missed.

Secondly, assuming paid ads or sponsored ads is the way to go about in solving the financial issue of Entrecard, there is something not right with how they launch it. I assume what makes Entrecard widget attractive to advertisers is that its widget appears in thousands of blogs - great exposure. And I assume, ultimately, external or third party advertisers are their targets for some serious money.

"Come, come buy our ads, you'll get exposure in thousands of blogs. Great value for your advertising money. Come, come. But before that, we'll drive away many blogs to devalue the advertising potential of Entrecrad. Come, come place ads with us." - make sense?

Or, maybe they have a brilliant plan to attract thousands more bloggers into Entrecard after this round of exodus, for the second time. Something I have missed?

Thirdly, did it cross the brilliant minds of the EC people that there are more than one way to opt out from the sponsored ads? Hmmm ... if I'm so concern about the sponsored ads, should I pay 50 bucks, or delete the widget? Pay 50 bucks? Delete the widget? Hmmm ... that's a tough one.

Or maybe they've secretly re-coded the EC widget such that it can't be torn away from our blogs. And to make it sponsored ads free, we'll have no way but to pay the $50. Again, is there something that I have missed?

Lastly, if I'm concerned about the sponsored ads, and I want to remain in Entrecard for the traffic, is $50 worthwhile?

Compared to Adgitize, where members are induced to click on ads by money, EC members are rewarded with ECs (and nowadays, they don't get any if others click on the EC widget on their blogs) that cannot be converted into cash, and can only be used to buy ads on other EC blogs, which starting from 5th of October will get only 85% exposure.

And with most EC blogs now have Adgitize ads displayed on them, the Adgitize ads will be the more likely exit point, compared to EC ads, for most widget surfers. I know I do. Therefore, when we place EC ads on EC blogs that also have Adgitize ads (and there are a lot of them), it's likely, and that's what I've observed over the past months, that we'll get less click through from the EC ads that we buy. Value for money?

I guess the greatest beneficiary from the side effect - the exodus - of this sponsored ads will be people like Adgitize, or CMF, or ... wait a minute, maybe the EC people IS the Adgitize people ... Hmmm ... There must be something that I have missed.

I like this community of Entrecard. And it is a community. Unlike BlogCatalog or MyBlogLog (I think), with Entrecard, whenever someone drops on my blog, I feel bounded by a sense of fellowship to drop back. Thus the reciprocal visit is more than likely to occur. Although, how to convert this traffic into readership is something to be considered.

Again, I totally understand the need to find money to finance this beloved community of ours. But is there a better way to do it without offending many of our members? And I guess most feel offended by these changes because they are implemented halfway through. Nothing was stated about the one-page-down (is this still being enforced?), or the paid ads, or the sponsored ads when we joined this great community of Entrecard. And I guess for the goods of the community, nobody would object to changes that are beneficial - to both the management and the members. But when it's forced down our throats without our consent, nothing nice will come out the other end. Anyway ...

I wonder how sites like Facebook or Twitter survive financially.

Oh, and if you want this piece of junk out of your face, you can just pay me $50 too.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The tiled roof of the little brick house splashes a warm red against the cold whites on the ground. The greens of the lone pine tree standing guard to the little house blend quietly with the reds and the whites into a perfect picture of winter serenity.

This is her favourite place to visit in search of inner peace. When she is trapped within the four walls of unbearable sadness, when stress comes close to suffocation, when she can't muster another strand of energy to take another step forward in her quest, this is the place to seek solace, nourish her strength, resuscitate her heart in despair, and take a much-needed rest. This is where the world around her stops spinning.

She could almost see traces of smoke billowing softly from the chimney on the roof. Through the wood paned windows of the little house, she could almost see the light emanating from the firewood. How peaceful it must be lying by the warmth of the fireplace in the winter cold - with a book she loves in her hand, and within the vicinity of her loved ones. Oh, how she yearns for the embrace of such warmth.

As her mind is taking a leisure stroll into the placid whites of the winter world, she is slowly leaving her worries and anguish behind. Or perhaps the snow has prevented them from hurting her by burying them deep within the ground.

There is nothing more soothing than the image currently being reflected in the mirror of her eyes. No, there is one ... She gives the quiet world a little shake.

The snow lifts itself from the ground and swirls around the little house and the tree. They are dancing elegantly to the silence of winter. When the swirling stops, the winter whites drop softly towards their resting place again. Winter has just got slightly livelier and more captivating being showered by the falling snow. She pictures herself standing in the middle of it, stretching her arms wide to welcome the falling grace. Some rest on the roof of the house, some on the top of the tree, though most will fall back to the comfort of the ground. She takes a deep breath. She could almost smell the cold air and the snow.

She promises herself she will one day stand in front of just such a house and next to just such a tree on just such a snow-covered ground. She promises herself she will work hard towards this dream. Like the snow slowly thickening its blanket over the ground, hope fills her heart, and thereby burying her angst.

As she looks longingly into the winter globe by her bedside, her imagination continues its journey into the winter land. While the warmth of the tropical night dries her tears, tiredness gently put weight on her eyelids. Her breathing gradually draws longer and deeper, and she softly closes her eyes ...


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


His heart was beating fast, knocking furiously against his chest. He had never felt his heart thumped so violently, and loud. So violent, he swore his shirt was fluttering because of it, and not the high wind. So loud, it was the only audible sound amid the screams of fear within him.

He dared not look beneath his feet, lest his strength would be sapped away from propping him up. He didn't want to fall out of dizziness, or wobbling feet. Trying desperately to calm his racing heart, he took a deep breath, and another, and another ... trying to inject a dose of sedative calm into him. One more inhale, and he held it. He opened his eyes and casted his sight forwards, careful to snap the view in front, and not below. Then he let out his breath slowly.

It was not the most magnificent view he had ever seen. But without a barrier of any solid form to prevent him from taking a step into thin air atop two hundreds feet, it was breath-taking.

From afar, the different shades of blues of the sky and the ocean drew a perfect horizontal line. The crashing waves splashed a vaguely visible white wriggly line between the ocean and the beach. The greens of the few rows of tress guarded the sandy white beach from the encroaching civilisation of roads, tall buildings, houses, cars and their occupants. Under the morning sunshine, above two hundreds feet, it was grand. But could it be the last scenic view of his life? He did have his fear.

As overwhelming as his fear was from two hundreds feet, his worldly worries were always lurking behind his mind. A sudden, but not unexpected, loss of job was the trigger to his predicament. Its entailing loss of income magnified his financial burden to a suffocating level. The mortgage loan grew in its weight on his shoulders. Installments on the cars, the piano, the home theater system which once seemed insignificant hung heavy. The insurance premiums, his mother's medical bills, the kid's tuition fees and school supplies, the credit card debts, the uncertain future ... were all simmering his heart.

"Arrrghh ...." an anguish shout rang through the air.

He drew in another deep breath of the thin air, focused his eyes squarely to the front, clenched his fists, muscled up his guts, knelt slightly, spread out his arms and pushed his leg back with all his might. He jumped.

For a brief moment, everything around him seemed frozen in time. But two hundreds feet above the earth with nothingness beneath his feet, he started to fall.

As the earth pulled him towards the ground in accelerating speed, he forced open his eyes. Whoosh! He saw only blur. He heard nothing but the howling air. Whoosh! His face twitched uncontrollably. His internal organs were being churned. Whoosh! His limbs were stiff. His fists clenched tight. Whoosh! Million thoughts flew by his mind, millions thoughts crushed. Whoosh! His fear was so overbearing, it crushed itself. Whoosh! His mind went blank. Whoosh! Then he let go ...

The surface pressed towards him fast, as was his rush of adrenalin that displaced his fear. He could only scream towards such concoction of extreme sensations. As the surface crashed into him, he closed his eyes. Then it happened.

He felt a tug at his leg. His fall broke. As the grip on his legs get tighter, his dive slowed. Then he stopped. The howling stopped. His thoughts stopped. The world stopped. He opened his eyes.

Before he could give out another shout, he was yanked back towards the sky. At the top of his flight, he finally managed to shout again, in delight. He punched his fists in the air. He laughed. He did it.

After a few more bounces in the air, he was hanging about ten feet above the ground above a huge airbag. His feet tied to an elastic cord dangling from the top of a two-hundreds-feet high crane. At that point, he was looking at the world from an unfamiliar angle - upside down. As he hung waiting for the bungee jumping crew to get him, his worries seemed distant and minute. In fact, nothing seemed insurmountable.

When he finally stood on the ground looking upwards at where he was a few minutes ago, his wife and kids rushed towards him, and gave him a supportive hug. He is ready to take on the world again.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Night

The moon is full. Her scars of age and wisdom are clearly visible, and proudly worn. Up in the sky, she is strolling majestically in the centre of the thickest of the blacks, or is it the deepest of the blues? As she glides slowly across the sky, she is enjoying the view illuminated by her magnificent shine. But the one half of the blue planet is not the only recipient of her captivating light.

The moonlight has drawn out a perspective of depth on the few thinly clad clouds that accompany her tonight. Without heavy clothing, the clouds are flowing frivolously across the sky in a much hastier manner. They are seeking their companions that have gone into hiding from the scorching sun during the day. And when they unknowingly block the view of the moon, they soften her glow, at the same time enhancing her mythical beauty, crowning her with a ring of outer shine.

Being a considerate host, the sky is thoughtful in shooing off the multitude of stars. This night belongs to the moon, and nothing should take away her radiance. Though a few cheeky starlets that escape the chase are playing the twinkling game at a far corner. And they are winking to a song being played by the wind.

Although the wind is in no rush, his path through the trees is leaving a soft trail of rustling and whistling. The trees are happy to have the cooling wind for company; they sway willingly in accordance to the baton of the wind. Their reflections on the moonlit river are dancing in tandem, swinging to the rhythm of the night.

Just as the wind is heading towards his destination of the night, the river is on her way to hers, though she is flowing at a much more relaxing pace. The night is still young, there is ample time to make it to her rendezvous with the rising sun at the eastern ocean. While she is winding her way along the line of trees towards her destination, she takes time to give thankful pats to the grass that protects her shoulders, and kisses to those that are long enough to reach her. For those playful rocks that try to catch a glimpse of this beautiful night by protruding their heads above the river, she gives them teasing splashes on their heads. And that makes a perfect accompaniment to the tune the wind is playing.

As busy as the river is doing everything else, she never forgets to capture the tranquilities around her with her reflective surface. She is creative in giving a rippling effect to the scenic image to add a feel of liveliness.

And upon this lively picture of calmness, the night is breathing softly, drawing in the remnant heat from the day and gently exhaling the coolness of her serenity. Her breathing is tender, taking care not to wake up the animals that are sound asleep after a hectic day of activities. And as they sleep, up on a branch of a tree, an owl is keeping watch - in a night when the moon is full.


Monday, August 31, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blog Ownership

When do you start owning a blog?

If the answer is when we register with a blog hosting company, free or otherwise, gives it the sexiest name that comes to mind, picks a template and Voila!, then this would be a very short post. Although, right now, after one week and two days from my last post, post of any length will do for me.

If the answer to the question has not appeared thus far, I would think the next step of putting some sorts of post in the blog would not really confer the ownership of the blog to the publisher either.

In my opinion, half the ownership to a blog will be acquired when the blog has its first reader. After all, what's the purpose of a blog without readership?

The other half of the ownership would come from ... guilt!

Some blog to make money, some blog to make friends, some blog to journalise their lives, some blog to share their experiences, and I blog to for the sake of my creativity, after I've failed to make any money out of it. Though I care about readership, I don't really care much about stuff like page rank, or rather I've stopped caring about stuff like page rank.

However, with readership, comes expectation.

I used to put up a post twice every week. But as work and family commitment are getting more demanding, I've started to post once every week. I feel that a week should be the longest spell between posts for a "regularly-updated" blog. But lately, work and family commitment are starting to get real stingy in allotting times for my blogging activities, and I have been stretching my dormant spell a little bit. When I don't meet my self-imposed deadline, as usual, I feel a sense of guilt.

Ever since I have started to feel this kind of guilt some times ago, I started to feel like I own a blog.

In my opinion, with readership and responsibility, comes ownership of a blog.

Now, it would be easy to abandon this blog for the sake of work and family in terms of priority, fortunately I'm not at that stage yet. Therefore, the guilt is allowed to stay and torment me. I needed a post.

Friends, I don't purposely blog to make. But, a few, I've made nonetheless. A friend in need, is a friend indeed. And the serendipity of life is being kind to me on the day that I felt compelled to publish a post.

For this edition of my post, I'd six or seven potential materials waiting in line to get published, after they were polished, if I could polish them in time. However, they were playing hide-and-seek with me, and they're good at it too, hiding that is. But a comment in my last post bowled all these elusive materials away with a strike.

So, I own a blog, and yesterday I felt a great sense of satisfaction of owning a blog too.

While I was still scratching my head for a post yesterday, out of the blue, my day was saved when I was given an award - my blog is being loved! And it's said in a language I probably can't twist my tongue around too -

J'Adore tien Blog!

That means I Love Your Blog, in French!

An award is an award, but receiving it from an accomplished writer like Patsy from Patsy's Words of Wisdom makes this award ultra-satisfactory for this "writer" (to tag myself as such without blushing, the best I can do is wrapping it with apostrophes). It's one thing that she drops by my blog often, it's another when I realise she actually reads what I wrote, and it's yet another when I find out my blog is actually worth an award from her!

Patsy's Words of Wisdom is one of the blogs that I frequented. I can always pick up a quote from her that'll put a smile on my face, open up my mind, plunge me into deep thoughts, provide me with a different angle on life, or light up a bulb in my head. I do admire her writing style. It's always worth five minutes of my blogging time on her blog.

So, once again. Thanks for the award, Patsy! And thanks for saving my day by giving me an award to fill this post.

However, I'll break the usual rules here and keep the awards for now - too tired to go through all my favourite blogs and pick a few, my mind hurts.

Instead, I'll be lazy and just say -

J'Adore tien Blog! And that means I love your blog, in French!

And you know who you are!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Have A Cup?

Life is best enjoyed in short spans. Take it any longer and all kinds of negative sentiment will start forcing themselves into the gaps, giving it a bitter-sweet flavour. Although, when that happens, life is actually at its fullest and would be best savoured like vintage wine, with maturity and wisdom. But for an unseasoned player like me, life is appreciated most in short spans, like a cup of tea.

A cup of tea can be enjoyed in ten to twenty tasteful sips, not long enough to think too much, except the cup in hands and its delightful content.

Colour and scent - these would be the initial impressions of a cup of tea. As with experiences in life, expectation is important. Too high an expectation, disappointment will ensue; too low, and there'll be no satisfaction to cap the experience. The colour that meets the eyes and the aroma that fills the nose will help set the expectation for an enjoyable drink.

But before the first sip, caution is to be practiced, and haste is to be avoided. No matter how enthusiastic we are towards life, we should not jump into it blindly. Life is to be taken without haste, and caution is required to avoid unwanted surprises. Feel the cup. If it can be held with both hands without being dropped onto the floor, then life is ready to be relished. If it's too hot to be handled, then it's not the right time to handle. But don't let it "over-cool" either. Too cold, it will lack aroma and taste a bit bland. The moment needs to be seized.

When the tea is ready to be consumed, the first sip should be just enough to immerse the tongue. There should be enough room in the mouth to let the tea swirl. Feel the smoothness. Allow half a sip down the stomach to wet the throat. Hold the balance in the mouth for a few second. Taste it. If it helps, close your eyes. Let neither the worry of the future, nor the regrets of the past be a distraction. Explore the senses, seek out the details, enjoy the delicacy, live the moment.

Now, tea is tea, as is life is life. Our mind is a wonderful magician. With the slightest shift of perspective and attention to details of whatever we're holding - sweet can be bitter, bitter can be wholesome, wholesome can be thin, thin can be rich, rich can be plain, and plain can be sweet. Beauty arises from our perception. Beauty brings out satisfaction, satisfaction draws out optimism, and optimism leads into happiness. Life can be wonderful.

After the first sip is down, the experience is not at an end. There's the after taste and the lingering aroma. These are memories to be brought forward for the next sip. Adjustment to our expectation should be made if necessary.

The thing about a cup of tea is, when we have finished enjoying it, the regrets of the past or the worries of the future which wasn't in the picture before might now change their tones or their hue on second look. And life could be a lot more optimistic after a pleasant drink.

But, if you didn't enjoy the tea before, although you can't throw it away, as in life, you can finish it in a few quick gulps and get it over with. The next cup is always just a few moments away for us to start anew.

Make sense?

That's my cup of tea for the moment - another post, another cup; another excursion, another cup, another journey, another cup; another day, another cup.

If you didn't enjoy this cup, do come back another day for another cup.



Monday, August 10, 2009

Of Courage And A Nine-Year-Old

"It's okay to fail. Everybody fails once in a while. The important thing is how you react to the failure. I would rather be someone who is able to bounce back after a failure than someone who has never failed."

"Look at the positives. It's a good chance to learn how to rebound from a setback. Try to think about what went wrong, figure a way to improve your shortcomings, make this failure worthwhile, make it a seed for future success."

Try driving these pep talks to a nine-year old little girl who had just brought back a poor exam result and were feeling down after a session with her mother, and you'd realise how difficult parenting can be, effective parenting, that is.

My little girl has always been up and down with her grades. My wife and I practise a good-cop-bad-cop routine on her with her academic progress. My wife, being the bad cop, would exert pressure when required, and I would come in to release the pressure from her when I think fit. In this particular instance, it's especially bad for my little girl.

She's a bit over-confident prior to the exam and was slightly slack in her preparation, despite numerous reminders from her mom. Therefore, when she brought home a poor mark that barely extended beyond the passing mark, she was in for a storm.

Lesson learnt? I guess so. I hope so.

Did my subsequent pep talks work? Well, she seemed blur on the message "Look at the positives from the failure", but she could totally accept and understand "It's OK to fail" - loud and clear.

But her worries were not over yet. She was to receive the results for a few other subjects the next day. Her confidence being on the lows, her eyebrows were locked the whole night fearing another round of bad marks comes tomorrow.

Another opportunity to practise my parenting skill? - Definitely.

"Be brave. Own up to your work", "Have courage to face the consequences of your own doing", "Be brave, be courageous", "With bravery and courage, nothing needs to be feared", "Be brave, be courageous" - "Baba, you said that already."

After another round of ineffective pep talks on a blank and frowning face, I finally accepted the wisdom of "It's OK to fail", and went to sleep with the "Look at the positives from the failure" at the back of my mind. It's a good thing I don't have to present my marks from effective parenting to any cops.

So, how do you instil bravery and courage into a nine-year-old?

The next day, I think I did it. I hope I did it.

When I got home that day after work, I was a bit anxious about how my little girl went through her day. To my relief, my little girl ran to me and gave me a big hug with a big smile. I think my "trick" worked. I hope my "trick" worked.

Right before I left for work that morning, inspiration struck me. I tore out a piece of paper, and on it I wrote the word Yong Qi (Courage in Chinese). That's it? No. I felt something was missing, it lacked punches - there is nothing there to back it up.

"Jie Jie, Baba's going to give you Courage to bring to school today, OK?" I told my just-awaken daughter, with a cheeky, but encouraging smile.

"Huh?" My little girl put on a puzzled and skeptical look. None the less, she accepted the piece of paper. The piece of paper with the word Yong Qi and signed with "From Baba who loves you very much!".

I'm not really sure the trick worked for you that day, Jie Jie, but I hope soon, you'll be able to draw bravery and courage from within you and face any problem with your head held high, and a smile on your face. But I guess that piece of paper is a good start. Love, Baba.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Quiet Time

There's nothing more important than a cosy Sunday to cap off a working week, to prove life could still be enjoyable. It's the best time to do some much-needed soul searching, enjoying some quiet time, relaxing and recharging unless ... you have a seven-years old boy with you.

On the only day when you can sleep until the sun slides its butts westward, my little boy would invariably wake up earlier than usual. That would be fine if he keeps his Sunday to himself. But probably due to my endearing fatherly love, he would insist on sharing his Sunday with me as fully as possible.

But he doesn't send the invitation by gently waking me up. He would bang my bedroom door going in and out doing his "chores" - clearing up the messes he left behind in the room, on his table, on my table, or in the living room from last night.

Ok, Ok! Sunday morning nap is gone - I'm awake.

"Morning, son. So, what do you want to do today?"

"Baba, I want to watch TV."


That's partly my fault; but mainly my wife is to be blamed. Sunday mornings are the only mornings when my children can switch on the TV before breakfast and enjoy their cartoons, as long as they've kept their places neat and tidy, on insistence from my wife, and on apathy from me.

Ok, TV then. I can probably go back to my morning nap.

But, after spending three minutes picking up pieces left scattering by the tornado of my fury and frustration by breathing-in-breathing-out, and another ten minutes of the same even-if-you-don't-try-you-would-do-it-anyway trick to get back to sleep, I would realise that the only way to get back to total unconsciousness would be banging my head against the wall.

So, I'm up.

Well, might as well start enjoying a beautiful Sunday - with a shouting match of the children over the TV remote control.

Fine, I don't get my Sunday sleep-in, the kids don’t get their Sunday cartoon either. Breakfast.

After herding the children into the car, off to Sunday breakfast.

Being the only day I get to eat my breakfast leisurely without being hurried to work, Sunday breakfast is like wearing my favourite underpants - if I don't wear it right, I feel out of sort. So it's important to start my day with an enjoyable breakfast.

"What do you want for breakfast, kids?"

"Kopitiam!" - their favourite.

"OK, we're having wonton mee!" - my favourite.

That's democracy being practiced by a dictator. Take it or leave it, kiddos.

With that, my seven-year old throws another fit (before you go pointing finger at me, the kids do get to go to their favourite place once in a while). It's hard to imagine how I would think he's the greatest gift to me with that sulky face.

With satisfied taste buds, a full stomach and a newspaper in hand, I finally get to my quiet time. The kids? They're enjoying themselves with the second most important modern invention to keep kids away from parents after the TV - computer games.

Quiet time? Only if I live in a separate house.

I think my son plays computer games like no other kids play computer games. At least for other parents’ sake, I would like to think so.

"Die, you ugly monster!", "No, you don't!", "Take that!", "Hahaha, I told you I'll beat you!", "I'm gonna get you!", "Yes! I told you so!", "Muahahaha, you can't beat the master!"

As if the music from the games is not already noisy enough, my son would actually interact with the game verbally too. Hats off to the game programmers - Bravo, I hope your kids do the same to you too.

It's cute for a while. After half an hour of the verbal abuses, it gets annoying and I would start to wonder who’s this replica of the sweet little boy whom I hold so dear to.

After dinner, homework time. Quite time?

Not my son.

My son is slow in this area. Not that he's not bright. Just that he would keep alternating between doing his homework and other mindless drivels, like sharpening his pencil, playing with his erasers, practicing his kungfu, singing a song, or doing a dance. Eventually the carnival will draw complaints from his older sister. He'll then defend himself with a "No" and attack with a "You". Then his sister will defend with her "No" and attack with her "You" and Voila! - a shouting match.

When all else fails – cane.

With some cracking sound effect from the cane on the sofa, order would be finally restored. That's when my son is at his most efficient with his homework. Ten minutes, the record to date, and the devil within him will rise again.

But, after all that, it's still easy to get past the devil in the boy.

The devil can wreak havoc all he likes, but the angel within him will prevail eventually - when I pull the blanket over his chest, run my fingers through his soft hair and caress that angelic face of his on his bed.

Finally, at long, long last, some quiet time ...

"Baba ...will you read me a bedtime story?""



Monday, July 27, 2009

The Void Within

The night was late, the street deserted. The air was cool, the sky pitch dark. Tall buildings surrounded her, hiding the moon. The traffic light was red, her face void of emotion.

With her hands casually on the wheel, she was staring blankly at the front. Her hollow gaze reflected her hollow mind. She looked at the red light, couldn't care less if it never changed. Yet, despite her indifference, the red made way for the green, hurrying her on. Without much of a thought, she lifted her foot off the brake and gently put it down on the accelerator. Mechanically. Much like how she got through her days recently.

For more than a year now, she had realised she had been going through the same set of daily routines without much of a ripple in her heart. It certainly wasn't like this when she started working in this big city.

Even after the initial exciting buzzes fizzled out within a few months, she still found herself enjoying the experiences of working in a big city - stylish office wear, walking on streets covered by a sea of hurrying strangers, mirrored lift to 15th floor office, personal cubicles, mega shopping mall, pizza joints that's not named Pizzahut, hangouts at Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and other big city glitters. Problems arose when she got the hang of her job and put herself one-hundred-and-one-percent into her job, as she only knew how.

"Hey, I know what you did! Next time, mind your own fucking business!" her colleague walked past her cubicle and dropped her a nasty remark with an angry stare and a livid finger.

"That's one angry bitch!" looking at the back of her colleague walking away, she murmured to herself, neither in an angry tone nor an apprehensive pitch.

The hostile remark didn't bother her, at all. She had mastered the skill to shield off such offensive attacks over the last year so perfectly, her heart barely beat any differently upon such provocation. But she had never learned how to let a mistake pass her without doing something about it. And such attitude had caused her much anxiety at her job and lost a few colleague friends. At first, she was upset about it, in tears even. Then she decided once and for all to side with her principle and learned how to deal with the consequences.

However callous she thought she had become towards such provocation, her mind would remind her otherwise by popping up the unpleasant scene occasionally as she was driving home from work.

She enjoyed the drive home at this time of the night. With the windows down, cool air brushing her hair, and no traffic in her way, she was able to clear up all the frustration built up during the day with the smooth drive. The ability to control her speed and direction with the slightest movement of her feet and hands gave her a sense of control, which she felt sorely lacking at times. She was seemingly able to clear her mind of any negative thoughts and regain her sense of tranquility. The empty street that was jam-packed with vehicles during the day gave her a much-needed sense of space. And it was the same sense of desired space, or the lack of it, that led her to leave her hometown two years ago.

"I want to try something different", "All my friends have left to work in the city", "I'm so bored here", "I feel trapped", "I want changes", "I want more than this", "I'm so unhappy" - with the last few remarks, her parents finally yielded to their daughter's desire. And that's how she left the town in which she had lived for twenty years and started a life in the city as an OL - Office Lady.

She had never regretted that decision two years ago. She is not one who looks back whenever she goes through a rough patch; although she's not jumping with joy at the moment either. She didn't mind all that much of the shoulders turned against her because of her way of going about her job. She's not happy about it, but she wasn't perturbed by it. But no matter how she tried, she could never let the emptiness within her pass.

Praises from her superiors and appreciation from her colleagues could not fill the void within her. An emptiness she was made aware of lately. She felt no satisfaction from her job. She couldn't feel the fruits of her work; she wanted to touch the products of her creativity, like when she used to help out in her parent's bakeries.

She was good at the bakeries. She loved the bakeries, of the smell of fresh flour, butter, eggs, chocolate, cinnamon, and the freshly baked cookies, bread and pastries. The magic of transforming these raw materials into something so alluring to the nose, the taste buds and the eyes had always managed to capture her imagination. The satisfaction that came from opening the oven door - the aroma that escaped the oven and filled the room, the tantalizing golden brown on the oven tray - could have made her stay all day in the bakeries. And there's nothing more satisfying than the positive feedback from the patrons. But that wasn't enough to keep her in the bakeries at that time.

When she stopped at the next red traffic light, she finally lifted her eyes from the road ahead. She turned towards the sky. It's been a while since she had the moon in her mind. And despite the surrounding tall buildings, the moon was able to smile at her at that particular spot. And it's a full moon too. Her heart was truly at peace now, perhaps due to her being able to release the bottled up weariness, or perhaps she knew she was finally on the verge of taking a step forward at a crossroad that she had long stood.

She was lost in the serenity of the moon. And she would have stayed lost in it too, but for the honk from a passing car. She turned towards the traffic light. It was already turning yellow from the green.

She couldn't care less though. She's more than willing to wait for another green light at that spot. She was smiling, the suddenness of the honk had managed to push her another step forward.


"Bea, I think you've done it again. This is de...licious!" an elderly woman bursts out with her mouth nibbling.

"Really? Thank you, Mrs Lee. You don't think it's too sweet?" she asks, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand, as she put down a tray of freshly baked cookies on the counter.

"No. Not at all! Perfect!" the woman replies, gesturing with her hands to her mouth.

Sitting down behind the counter, she takes a sip from her cup of tea. Her face is glowing with fulfillment.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Total Eclipse Of My Site

Yup! My site is currently experiencing a total eclipse. Anything that's not illuminated will be invisible without some kinds of lighting.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime (of this blog) phenomenon. If you're lucky enough to bear witness to it - Good On You!

If you can read this and know what's going on with my site - Bravo!

Don't worry. Everything will be back to normal as soon as I put up my next post - hopefully - soon.

* When the eclipse happened:-



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