Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Only Way To Success

The only way to live life and to achieve success is to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, in the right attitude, for the right reason.

Easy, huh?

Why Should Only Italians or Frenchmen Be Known As Great Lovers?

A friend of mine remarked that Italian men are really romantic lovers. But why can't Chinese or Japanese be known as great lovers? What about Christians?

The thing is in the Asian cultures, we are meant to be conservative. And as a Christian there are boundaries in sex, but that doesn't mean we can't be great lovers.

I was reading "Song of Songs" the other day and realized that the first verse starts with "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth..." Now everyone has different levels of comfort. Some people consider the first kiss as the moment of proposal, and some consider it morally fine for people dating to kiss.

But what I want to highlight is that Songs celebrates it by using the words: "lover" and "beloved". I don't want to be just a boyfriend or a husband. I want to be a LOVER. I've never ever met someone introduce his/her boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife with "this is my lover" or "this is my beloved". I think Christians should do that. A man can be boyfriend or a husband yet not be loving. But a lover? It goes against its definition.

I think also that Songs of Songs teaches that romantic love and the enrapturement of that feeling is also good. Sure, there is infatuation and true love, but romantic love is still a gift of God. Lovers should praise their beloved, telling them how beautiful they are and how they long for them.

Perhaps it still happens, but I can only guess at best it is done behind closed doors in an Asian culture. I think that couples should use more intimate terms to refer to their significant other especially in public. What I hate most (and this may offend some of my friends) is when they call each other with the terms "Mummy" and "Daddy", as if their identities and relationship with each other is referenced through their children.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Whatever You Do...

I always get the feeling that what I'm doing is meaningless, echoing the words of Ecclesiastes.

And its true. No matter what I do, it can be very well meaningless.

The only thing that keeps me going is that Ecclesiastes 9:10 "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." and Col 3:23-24 paraphrases it and adds"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

The other thing is that the greater purpose in it may be hidden from us until maybe decades later. Just think of what Joshua did in prison, unjustly jailed in a foreign country, with no one knowing of his existence. Yet he made do with whatever his hands found to do, being the best servant in Potiphar's household and again in the prisons of Egypt.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

There Is No "The One"

The myth of someone, somewhere out there who is "the one" for you should be debunked.

If you were to go back to the old testament and start looking for "the one" you will be greeted with mystified looks. In the olden times, people never thought of finding "the one" only "a good one". Why can I say that? Because in those times can be many "good ones" and a man was allowed to married all of them!

Abraham had 3 (Sarah, Hagar (or rather childbearer), and Keturah)
Jacob had 2 (Leah and Rachel)
King David had 8
And lets not get into the numbers that King Solomon had!

If we were to walk up to them, and ask them for advice for finding "the one" they would be perplexed.

Some people think if they pray hard enough or sincerely enough, then a spouse will somehow drop out of heaven. We think of how Eliezer prayed for a wife for Isaac, and one fitting the criteria specified by him just walked by. But if we want to look at it in the full context, it was the servant who did the finding. So shall we ask our maids and butlers to find a wife for us and then trust in their choice? We must remember that the case of Isaac and Rebekah is an arranged marriage.

Another thing is that in Genesis 24:5,8 Abraham and Eliezer discuss on rejection. They take it for a fact that the other person may choose to reject. Sometimes I hear of a guy/girl who says to the other person "God told me that you would be the one. So therefore you can't refuse me." Now it may be true that it truly is God's will. But then again, it is God's will for us not to sin, yet many people do it anyway.

In the end, I think, everyone is given freewill and a choice. Beyond this one instance of divine intervention people in the Bible got married in many different ways, even through a sinful experience like adultery (David and Bathsheba).

I have a few colleagues from India, and the way they approach marriage is in a non-chalant way. Arranged marriage is quite the norm to them. They trust their parents to make the choice for them. They may talk on the phone a few times, go back to India and get married after not meeting them for more than a few times.

The idea of "the one" is a product of fairy tales. That a prince charming will come and rescue the damsel in distress. It is hardly Biblical.

The myth of "the one" causes second guessing, thoughts like "maybe I made the wrong choice. maybe I heard from God wrong. etc.."

The only other instance of an explicit divine command of marrying someone specific is Hosea who was told to marry a prostitute. And even when it was divinely ordered, it brought plenty of pain to him. Did Hosea think "maybe I heard from God wrong? perhaps it was my imagination?"

Perhaps the lesson to learn from this is that if you do have problems in your marriage whom you believe was divinely inspired is that you have to stick with it!

I think the problem with the easy route of divorce is that we cannot accept reality of marriage. That we are marrying another human with all his/her strengths, weaknesses, habits, foibles and follys. We fall into the trap of wishing for a Prince Charming, or Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty.

Note: Please do not think at any point that I am making a case for polygamy, only one against a dangerous myth of "THE ONE". I believe in a "good one" not a "good two or three or four". Remember: Jesus said "No man can serve two masters." :-)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

You Can't Run Away From Hard Work

You can't run away from hard work. It will catch up with you, sooner or later.

If you live an easy life now, you'll have to work harder later in life. So it is hopefully better to work hard in starting a business now and hopefully it will make life easier for you later down the years.

It's another paradox, our goal is for an easier life, yet we must embrace hard work and taste some bitterness for now.

And if we don't pay for it now, we will pay for it later.

So therefore, better sooner than later, because it isn't a payment but an investment for our future.

Another reason is because of competition, if something is too easy, then everybody will do it, and then you wouldn't be unique and the law of supply and demand comes to play. Too much supply and your unique value proposition goes down.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Exercising in the Morning

Somehow even swimming 10 minutes or exercising a little in the morning after you wake up helps to perk you up and relieve depression. It's true! It makes you feel at least you achieved something for today for yourself.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Writing Shows That You're Alive

Writing shows that you're alive. It doesn't matter whether you can write like Shakespeare or Tennyson or Hemingway. Words are merely a medium to express your thoughts, your ideas.

When you write you are putting your ideas and thoughts down to be shared with another being, even if it is God. It concretizes what's been floating in your head, it clarifies your vision, it sharpens your ideas.

Writing doesn't have to be perfect.. it can be in spurts.. bits.. pieces. Fragments.

Whatever comes to your mind. The more you write the better you get at it.

Review what you write once in a while, read what you wrote. You can see how you've grown and become better over the years.

Be Kind and Show Friendship to Everyone

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)

Chinese Restaurant Owners Inherit Fortune.

Tips on writing your will. If you want to show that you purposely don't want to leave anything to someone, just leave them $1 in your will. That token amount will show you did not forget that person. Its harder for the grieved party to contest it.

Good on the restaurant owners! Ms. Bechal was certainly an angel.

The other thing in this article that made me think was that it was an inheritance.

The word "inheritance" comes up 218 times in the NIV bible. We are to receive an inheritance. Are we to be worthy of an inheritance? Should we be like the kind restaurant owners or the greedy nephews or nieces?

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:34)

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:23-24)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Singapore Marathon

Singapore Marathon

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Completed the Singapore Marathon 2007 in 6 hours 19 minutes. A new personal best, shaving off about 9 minutes of my previous finishing time last year.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Get Enough Sleep But Not Too Much

A person should get enough sleep each day. I need about 7.5 - 8 hours a day. But once I hit 9-10, I become groggy, and sluggish, almost as if I'm in some kind of stasis or coma and my mind can't even think straight.

Get enough sleep and go for at least a 1/2 hour run or swim in the morning to wake yourself up. It really gets the blood rushing and wakes you up.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Discover your Roar

I think a lot of us have been castrated by life. We think that we cannot win in life. We think that success is beyond us and slink into our holes or hide behind defenses like email and the anonymity of the Internet.

We are afraid of being who we are. We are fearful to realize that we do have indeed the power to change the world, if only we put in some discipline and give up our old-man.

We must sacrifice the old and realize that sacrifice is not the loss of something beloved, but a gain that makes us holy. We sacrifice our temporal pleasures for long term ones. We must sacrifice our fears and our pet peeves, the grudges that we nursed for far too long.

We need to walk about like a proud lion, afraid of nothing. God didn't make us timid people. He made us a people with a spirit to love, he gave us a spirit of power and of sound mind and discipline.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Is It Fair to Ask?

Most women want to marry a man that is just as tall or taller than them. Very rarely do they say they don't mind someone shorter. Even if he is shorter, it is only slightly less.

This is a case of where there are physical requirements in finding a mate.

Nobody blinks an eye when a girl says that. Almost every tall girl I know finally married someone taller than them. I think maybe I should have my own requirement, just as tall women want guys taller than them, I should require my wife to be slimmer than me or have bigger boobs than mine.

But seriously, there is this mistaken belief that physical appearances don't make a difference.

I think it does. In acting, modelling, stewarding in an airline, appearances do matter.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cavatina in the Park

Cavatina in the Park

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

There's nothing as peaceful as listening to cavatina while walking in the park in the morning.

Heaven or Hell?

We shouldn't live our lives trying to escape hell. We should live our lives preparing for heaven.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


What is maturity? Perhaps it is an ongoing experience for all of us. We never stop maturing. The day we stop maturing is perhaps the day we stagnate.

We look at a young girl or boy and find that he/she isn't mature. What perhaps we mean is that she hasn't realized what the right priorities in life are, or doesn't understand the meaning of consequences.

Perhaps we meet a young man, but he cannot overcome a lost love. What we mean is perhaps that he needs to accept the truth.

Maturity is an ongoing process, it is one where we keep on learning new things, accepting new truths, so that we become in a way, different, new even. The Bible urges us to keep on re-new-ing our minds. To keep on maturing. To become "better".

It is in accepting beliefs, or rather truths about the world, about life, about people, about the mystery of God.

But when new comes, some of the old things must also go. Mistaken beliefs, assumptions, generalizations, simplistic ideas, fear, greed, cowardice, self-centeredness, anger, lust.

Maturity can also mean holding on to the truth in spite of societal pressure. So whether it's gaining new truths or holding on to it, it is in truth that we must grasp and hold on to.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Self-control is a misnomer, it's letting God take control of your life.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Objective in Life

Singapore Chinatown

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Perhaps the the ultimate objective in life isn't to have a comfortable life like the world implies but rather to be better persons.

Think of it, what if you really did enjoy the perfect life? No problems, no enemies, no difficulties.

Would you like these questions asked at the end of your life: You mean you've never forgiven anyone for an offense? You've never had a weakness to overcome? You've never sacrificed your own interests for others good? Never had to endure discomfort?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Calling someone homophobic...

Calling someone homophobic is like calling someone who doesn't like smoking smokaphobic.

I've never rejected my smoker friends, but I don't approve of what they do.

Monday, October 29, 2007

What The Facebook, Flickr, YouTube Really Is...

What Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, really is, is that you are creating a presence for yourself, an extension of you that people can access online.

Marshall McLuhan's seminal book, "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man" puts forth that mans inventions are extensions of himself.

The phone is an extension of the ear and mouth.

The car is an extension of the feet.

The TV is an extension of the eyes.

Using this metaphor, we can generate an infinite flow of ideas on how we can create services and ideas for internet business startups. (Though success may not necessarily follow.)

Facebook is an extension of our need to express our current feelings, our emotional moods and state which we need to express to our fellow man.

Flickr is like this virtual photo album which we would like show the whole world.

Just go through your day, and jot down the things you do, everything from waking up to talking to people. Which of these activities do you think would be made more efficient or better by web-enabling it?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

How Many Times?

How many times should you try?

Try a thing you haven't tried before three times:

  1. Once to get over the fear.

  2. Once to find out how to do it.

  3. And a third time to find out if you like it or not.

Virgil Thomas.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's Readiness that Matters, Not Years

I think that for any endeavour, whether it's business, career, sports, love, college, we should not look at the chronological age or the number of years a person has spent in it but whether the person is ready.

A young 27 year old could be ready to be CEO, a 14 year old could be ready to go to University. It's not the age.

Moses needed to be prepared for 40 years till he was 80 before he was ready to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

That is not to say that we can adequately prepare fully for everything, there are no such things as perfect conditions, but we can remove conditions we know that will definitely cause us to fail to reach our goals.

As we plan long term, we must think, are we ready? If we want to get married, we must prepare beforehand to be ready for it. Or for business, are we ready to handle the burden, do we have the financial, social and psychological resources? Or at least have access to help?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Too Busy To Worry...

I'm too busy solving my problems to worry about them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Imagine If...

Imagine if you could really have an Aladdin's lamp to wish for whatever you wanted.

Imagine you had no problems, that everyone agreed that you were always right. If you had a husband or wife who disagreed with you, with a snap of your fingers he/she would agree with you.

Or if you had no girlfriend or boyfriend, you could attract whoever you wanted with a blink of an eye.

That if you were fat and overweight and wanted to run a marathon the next day, you could do it in world record time.

That if you wanted to be an entrepreneur you could become a Bill Gates the next day.

Or if you were an artist you could create works of art with a wave of your hand.

Though tempting, it would take the joy out of life. Where would effort be? How would you ever grow? Where would the attachment be if you did not spend the time, energy and effort into creating?

A man who lovingly tends and nurtures a single rose would value it much more than if he could buy a whole garden of rosebushes.

Life is a journey. The paradox is that you cannot focus on the journey but on the goal. Just like maturity. Try observing yourself becoming mature, "Oh, look I'm growing". It doesn't work.

Instead, focus on a goal, aim to achieve it, yet realize that the journey is also an important part of it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Spanish Harlem Orchestra

The Grammy award winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra at the Singapore International Salsa Festival. Time to parteee!

There really is a difference listening to a live band versus listening to a CD.

The thing during the performances of the different bands is that I could observe local Singaporeans actually mouthing the Spanish lyrics! It's amazing that local salseros could actually memorize what to me are unintelligible syllables.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When Everyone's Moving One Direction

The current wave in startups is now to develop another social networking application, to see who can build the bigger network. Hi-5, Friendster, Facebook, MySpace, etc.

This reminds me of the portal wars, back in the first Internet wave, the mentality then was to see who could build the biggest and best portal (which was won by Yahoo! and MSN). Then Google sneaked up on everyone and just built a better search engine.

The herd mentality is now into social networking, I think that that is a signal not to follow the crowd. There will be a clear winner, but I think that the winner is already in the market, and its just a battle of attrition now.

I think the next big thing would be something simple and overlooked that no one will expect it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

If I Had The World

It would be meaningless to have the world in your hands, and yet have no one to share it with.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Goodbye Mourinho, Hello Sven

With Jose Mourinho departing Chelsea, I find it hard to support Chelsea much, besides Lampard, Drogba and Cech, there's nothing better than supporting "The Special One"

I doubt Chelsea would do any better without him. It seems that Mr. Abramovich neglected to read Sun Tzu's "Art of War" which admonishes the sovereign from interfering with tactics of the general.

I admire Jose because he epitomises self-confidence, discipline, always has something witty or a great quote up his sleeve, has good family relationships (he's still married to his childhood sweetheart till now, goes out with his kids), doesn't let his medals go his head (he threw them into the crowd on winning his second premiership title), and finally has a really good dress sense. (Urggghh, Avram Grant in his training jacket just looks like a tired old fogie.)

I'm switching my support to Mr. Sven Goran Eriksson now and Manchester City.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Common Theme In All Stories

The common theme in all good stories is that it involves personal growth.

Because of that, it must involve a proactive protagonist who sacrifices something, be it his pride, his ego, his life, his ideas, etc.

Isn't that what life is all about? Facing your fears, and dying to yourself, so that you may be reborn anew.

Salsa at the Esplanade

Salsa at the Esplanade

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Salsa dancing at the Esplanade this night. Performance by ACTFA. This kicked off Dans Festival in Singapore.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Experiment Over

After the few weeks experimentation of doing virtual betting, I've stopped.

The results are: I would have lost money. (No surprises there.)

I do not have a keen eye or nose to pick winners. Even picking a winning team isn't good enough, the betting companies know how to give low odds on big teams like Arsenal and Man Utd. You have to get a good secondary pick like actual score or number of goals scored, etc.

But the second thing is, doing soccer result predictions takes time. It may seem easy enough to pick who is the winner but there needs to be some research into it if you're "serious" into betting. You have to find out who's injured, guess the morale of the team, pick the right bet with the best odds, buy the morning paper, read pundits opinions, etc. No wonder there are 1900 numbers that charge a whopping $50/call just for you to hear an "experts" pick.

It's not just the money, it's the time. That's why I couldn't even get started on Fantasy Football. It's the same thing, checking the injury list, thinking about the tactics, guessing which player is worth buying, home and away, etc.

(The ironic thing is if you spent money on every match, blindly betting on AOS (Any Other Score, i.e. any score not listed like 9-0, 7-4, etc.) you would be just about making a profit now. A fluke nonetheless.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Internet Is The Computer

Yes, rephrasing of Sun's "The Network is the Computer" tagline.

But it is clear from mashups, web services, social networking applications (like Facebook), that the whole network of computers on the Internet forms a computer in itself.

Using public API's, like Facebook, Yahoo! Pipes, Google Maps, what developers are building on are functionalities that combine everything together. Mashups as they call them.

What I think is the next step is "The Mobile/Internet is The Computer" where everything is linked together. What needs to be done is an API that allows developers to connect mobile users together.

Friday, October 05, 2007

People Do Lie

We must be wary of lies. I wish I didn't have to write this, but it is true. The world isn't such a utopian place as we would like to believe.

There are people who lie, cheat, steal, rob, betray, injure and even murder.

I read about con-artists in the newspapers and even met them in real life. A beggar telling that he lost his wallet and needs a bus trip back. (Buy him the bus ticket, don't give money). Someone asking for money to buy food. (Give him/her food. Not money.) A guy asking for money because he's unemployed. (I pointed to Subway Sandwiches..."Get a job. They're hiring.")

But even worse are the crooks in business suits. Who talk of "market appreciation", "great opportunity". They can even rent hotel function rooms complete with buffet dinners.

There won't be an end to them.

Even more diabolical are people who pose as potential boyfriends/girlfriends on the Internet and use emotional manipulation to con them of money.

Then there are liars who could be your colleagues and business partners. An accountant told me that bad debts eat up 5% of business revenue. I wonder how many told them "The check is in the mail." Or how about colleagues who claim "I planned this and implemented this" taking credit from other people.

Lying isn't as uncommon as you think. Not just kids fibbing about doing their homework, parents do it too. Promising them things they cannot do or won't do. I know one mother who would exaggerate the truth or lie to create guilt in her husband or children she wanted to influence.

The final nail in the coffin is that we are one of the best liars to ourselves. The number one killer of people isn't cancer or heart disease. It's denial. People tell themselves that they're going to be alright, that there's no need to go for a check up and die when it's too late. Or telling ourselves that a relationship's okay, when an outsider would observe that it's sliding downhill.

Isn't truth so important?

Perhaps another skill we need in life, is to learn to discern lies from truth.

Judges need this skill everyday to make judgments. I wonder how they can handle listening to people tell tall tales in court everyday. Policemen need it. Teachers need it. Businessmen need it. Kids need it. Adults need it. Senior Citizens need it. As long as we live in this world, everyone needs it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

No Point Being Depressed

We all go through depression.

But I realize that in the end depression doesn't do anything. It may make you feel "better", but it doesn't change your situation.

Unless I do something, nothing is going to change.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Cafe Cartel Bread


Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

I like eating the bread in Cafe Cartel, especially when its freshly baked. You get to slice it yourself and feel the heat of the bread in your hands and hear the sound of its crunch when you slice it.

It's free flow with your meal and tastes great with dipped in olive oil.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Learn from Mistakes

.Com of the the late 90's is now renamed as Web 2.0.

Remember history is repeated by those who never learn from it.

If you want to learn from people's mistakes, go to TechCrunch's Deadpool.

This is a tagged section of their website which lists companies that have gone belly up. Companies that owe million$ in debt or just couldn't get enough traction.

Everything from Second Life wannabes, MySpace wannabes, Facebook wannabes, Friendster wannabes, some with series A through C level of funding ranging from $1M to $300M all folding.

Take your pick, trawl through them and learn the lessons well.

Perhaps it may be me, but I find it a bit humiliating to sell your company on eBay. It's like stripping a carcass of edible parts to feed the vultures before finally dumping it. It's not dignified. But then again, if you do have vultures circling you, you may as well throw them something to keep them off your back.

There's nothing wrong with failure mind you. It's part and parcel of life. Consolidation happens. And you should give everything in life a try. That's life. Based on success rates of startups, a rational person would be foolish to start one. It's actually safer to invest in some strong blue chips.

It's a lot of money to a poor man, but to a rich man, they don't mind having a go. They might hit the big one with you. Doing a startup means giving it a go. If you really believe in yourself, and feedback from others tell you its good, do it. It's not the destination, the journey in life is important too.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

EPL Predictions Week of (21/9/2007)

Reading 1 - Wigan 2 (2-1, Lose $5.85)
Middlesborough 0 - Sunderland 1 (2-2, Lose $23.75)
Arsenal 7 - Derby 0 (5-0, Lose $5.10)
Liverpool 2 - Birmingham 0 (0-0, Lose $30.00)
Fulham 0 - Manchester City 1 (3-3, Lose $24.30)
Newcastle 1 - West Ham 1
Aston Villa 0 - Everton 1
Blackburn 2 - Portsmouth 2
Bolton 1 - Tottenham 2
Manchester United 2 - Chelsea 0

Friday, September 21, 2007

Early Morning Swim

Early Morning Swim

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

It's nice to take a swim in the morning before you go to work. The only thing is the cold water. I try to offset that by doing some sit-ups and push-ups before jumping in.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle is a useful principle, often called the 80/20 principle. It can be used in quality control, 80% of faults are caused by 20% of the types of causes, sales (80% of your sales comes from 20% of your customers.)

It's roots lie in economics. Vilfredo Pareto studied the wealth of nations from the ancient Egyptians to modern day (at that time) Italy. He found that 80% of the wealth of a country is controlled by 20% of the population.

Looking at the Forbes list of 40 richest in Singapore, the breakdown of wealth even among the top 40 follows the Pareto Principle too. List of richest here.

The top 20% control 68% of the wealth, with the bottom 80% control 32%. (The principle is not exact, but it shows that asymmetry occurs.)

What are the other applications? I think equal wealth may not be a practical goal. Equilibrium is reached in asymmetric proportions. The New Economic Policy of Malaysia may be flawed to some degree. (The goal is for the Malays to control at least 30% of the wealth of the country.)

However, in the end, what happens is that there are very rich Malays and very poor Malays. There will be a top 20% of Malays who own 80% of the Malay wealth.

That being the case, the result will be that the top 20% of Malays will control 24% of the wealth of country. While the remaining 80% of Malays will control 6% of the wealth of the country.

It's an intuitive leap of logic, but I think that is why one of the observations as to why there are not more Malays being even more prosperous. The NEP benefits an asymmetric slice of the population.

Even worse, the average Malay voter on the street believes that the policy will actually benefit them. It only benefits the rich. Instead if the NEP is truly in the spirit of alleviating poverty, its benefits should be doled out based on economic boundaries rather than racial boundaries.

The key then, is not to hope for general external factors to push you into the top 20% but for you yourself to vault yourself there.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The On-Time, On-Target Manager

For those of you who have a hard time getting things done or have too many things to juggle with, the on-time on-target manager is for you.

The one thing that I took away from this book was the word propriety. That there is a right thing to do at the right time, the proper thing to do. It's something we must all learn.

PDF of my summary in this link.


Ratatouille is a delightful film about a rat wanting to be a chef. I give it a 4 star rating. Excellent.

Instead of writing a movie review this time, I decided to dissect the movie into standard template motifs.

Joseph Campbell's Hero of a thousand faces. The hero role is supported by two characters, with Remy being the main hero.

Mystical Birth: Remy is born with a special sensitive nose that can even sniff out poison.
Call To Adventure: Remy is called to adventure when he is swept off into the sewer system.
Refusal of the Call: Remy wants to remain in the sewer.
Crossing the first Threshold: Remy takes the first step to go out of the sewers.
Supernatural Aid: Remy has the spirit of "Gusteau" advising him.
Rebirth/Transformation: The meeting of Remy and Linguini transforms each of them. Remy from just a rat and Linguini from a garbage boy.
Training Sequence/Road of Trials: Remy and Linguini train to work with one another to cook.
Woman As Temptress: Linguini is sidetracked with Collette that he forgets about Remy.
Atonement with Father: Remy sets things straight with his father, Django, later in Act III, Linguini learns of his heritage as Gusteau's son.
The Ultimate Boon: Linguini inherits the restaurant.
Refusal of the Return: Linguini basks in the limelight of fame and forsakes Remy.
The Magic Flight: Earlier in Act II when Remy steals the will and letter from Skinner's office.
Rescue from Without: The whole horde of rats come and help Remy cook.

EPL Predictions (Week of 15/9/07)

This weeks EPL predictions:

Everton 0 - Man Utd 3 (0-1, Lose $21.75)
Portsmouth 0 - Liverpool 3 (0-0, Lose $30.00)
Tottenham 0 - Arsenal 1 (1-3, Lose $19.00)
Sunderland 0 - Reading 0 (2-1, Lose $24.25)
West Ham 1 - Middlesborough 1 (3-0, Lose $30.00)
Wigan 1 - Fulham 0 (1-1, Lose $23.90)
Birmingham 2 - Bolton 1 (1-0, Lose $12.75)
Chelsea 0 - Blackburn 0 (0-0, Win $131.75)
Manchester City 1 - Aston Villa 0 (1-0, Win $38.55)
Derby 0 - Newcastle 3 (1-0, Lose $30)

Virtual Lose: $21.35
Running Total (Loss): $226

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Life Is Competitive

I realize that life is competitive. (Oh, wow! Tell me something new.)

No, I came to this conclusion, because I thought of it mathematically.

There is no way out of that. Even if I had the power to automagically give everyone on earth $10,000,000 each, the economic classes will still remain roughly the same. Property prices will just sky rocket based on each people's bids. There will be a certain percentage of people who will fritter away their money, COE's will skyrocket. (Pareto Principle will emerge.)

In business you may be one of the first movers in a new market, but there will be people who will see your success and start copying your product.

Because life is competitive, being agile, and stronger in business is a necessity. In an industry, consolidation occurs, and only 2-3 winners to emerge. One big winner, a second smaller one, and perhaps a third minority. The virtuous cycle is tapped on by these winners. The successful ones beget even more success. They tap into the economies of scale. It is a pattern that repeats itself over and over in industries. Car manufacturers, Airplane makers, Internet search engines, etc. In mathematical terms, clustering happens. Customers will start clustering around the best providers.

That is the reason why working hard is a feature of life. But working hard shouldn't be the target of work. It is a side-effect. I've seen too many bosses and workers pursue working hard as a goal. It is not a goal. It is the side-effect of pursuing a goal. Just like happiness and joy shouldn't be the goal, but rather the side effect of serving others. Commanding someone to work hard is, in a sense, the same as commanding someone to be happy.

I think the reason why people pursue the side effects is because they don't have clear cut goals in life and in business. A couple automatically works hard because they want their child to be well-fed, and provided for. They don't make it a goal to stay up late at night and lose sleep for the sake of losing sleep. But I see that in some offices. Peer pressure, expectations from the boss. "If I don't stay late in the office, people/my boss will think that I'm a slacker."

These thoughts remind me of a scene from "The Pursuit of Happyness" starring Will Smith. In that film, he played a man who worked hard because he had the goal of providing for his family. He worked hard because he had a clear cut goal of completing his tasks before 5pm. (It was not an option, he had to leave by 5pm so that he could queue up at the homeless shelter.) He then cut the goals into smaller sub-goals like shaving 8 seconds of each cold call by not hanging up with the phone but by pressing the hook with his fingers.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mediacorp Shoot

Mediacorp Shoot

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Had a short shoot this morning for "Life Story". Played a funeral director. Also had a brush with Fiona Xie in the make up room.

Tremors in Singapore

Tremors in Singapore

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

The crowd outside UIC Building after evacuation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Problem with Software...

Is that it is invisible.

Imagine that only 3 out of 10 building projects succeed. 3 out of 10 building projects are abandoned. And the 4 that are delivered late are of poor quality, rundown and not what the customers wanted. Within 2 years, another project to replace these buildings will be in place.

Hardly what we see in the building and construction industry.

Unfortunately, that is the norm in the software industry. A lot of software is bad quality, badly maintained. The reason for that I believe is that software is invisible. A customer can only see the effects of software, he can't inspect with his eyes each line of code. What we can see of software is the draping of a cloth over an invisible structure. We can see the shape the structure makes, but we don't know how well the construction is.

Humans being sensory creatures find it hard to understand software. Software is an abstraction. Perhaps with more tools like unit testing, integration testing and continuous builds software construction could be made better.

I'm not sure how this problem can be solved outright. Education could be one thing, but some people don't want the secret out. Software consultancy is like the tailors trade in "The Emperor's Clothes".

Sunday, September 09, 2007

How Machiavellian Are You?

Take the test at:

The book was banned by the Catholic church because it expoused worldly principles of deceit and manipulation.

I've read it. Why?

Because Jesus said to be as innocent as doves yet as wise as serpents.

Being Original

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Humble Man

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is a nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

EPL Predictions (Week of 1/9/07)

Betting figures are hypothetical. I do not condone gambling. The figures are just to show that gambling doesn't pay.

Bolton 1 - Everton 1 (1-2 Lose $7.75)
Fulham 1 - Tottenham 2 (3-3 Lose $30.00)
Liverpool 2 - Derby 0 (6-0 Lose $17.25)
Middlesborough 0 - Birmingham 2 (2-0 Lose $14.00)
Newcastle 2 - Wigan 0 (1-0 Lose $29.20)
Reading 2 - West Ham 1 (0-3 Lose $6.20)
Manchester United 3 - Sunderland 1 (1-0 Lose $4.15)
Arsenal 3 - Portsmouth 0 (3-1 Lose $1.00)
Blackburn 1 - Manchester City 1 (1-0 Lose $4.20)
Aston Villa 0 - Chelsea 2 (2-0 Lose $1.30)

Virtual Loss: $115.05
Total Virtual Profit/Loss for the Season: -$204.65

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sell yourself to the best

Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men. (Proverbs 22:29)

The first impression of this proverb says that if you are skilled you are automatically rise up.

But another look at this proverb makes me think differently. When we are skilled we should look for "kings" (the best firms) to serve. We should in fact, ignore obscure companies.

Look for the best companies that will appreciate your work. Don't work for low quality companies, or companies that will not succeed. This doesn't mean we are stuck up or think we are too good for them. Rather, we choose people that will appreciate our work the best.

In today's global job market, we have to sell ourselves. Know the level of skill that you are at and find the best company for you. Don't short sell yourself. "He will not serve before obscure men."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Letter To Today

Letter To Today

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

My first letter to a newspaper (Today) published.

I couldn't help but write in to rebut another letter writer about saying scholarships help to teach financial independence.

I'm putting it on my blog for posterity's sake. After quite a few letters sent in to newspapers. It's my first one published. Seeing it in print does make you feel that you can make your voice heard in this world, and perhaps that you can make a difference somehow.

His letter and my reply...

Even well-off scholars need financial independence
Letter from Chen Junyi

I refer to Mr Thomas Lee's letter, "Review criteria for scholarships" (Aug 24), and wish to offer an alternative view to awarding scholarships based on merit alone.
A scholarship teaches students to be financially independent as the continued flow of funds depends on them maintaining good grades.
While well-off families can afford to sponsor their children's education, it also means that children still rely on their families for money.
However, an education is not only about doing well in school, but also mastering life skills.
When scholars are assigned to statutory boards or ministries after completing their studies, surely someone who has done well academically and learned to be financially independent would be better able to do their job and identify with the concept of earning one's keep?
My Reply:
I read with bemusement Chen Junyi's letter with the title "Even Well-Off Scholars Need Financial Independence." Arguing that scholarships are needed even for the well-off.
The reason presented is that the flow of funds from a scholarship will be maintained by only when grades are maintained. Because of that, he reasons a scholarship teaches life skills.
If that is the case, certainly the well-off parents can certainly institute the same kind of rules for their own children. "Maintain your grades or you're out of Harvard." "I'm only paying for your tuition, board and minimal allowance. If you need more money, get a part-time job."
His argument implies that well-off parents are soft, spoil their children and unable to discipline their own children and need an external institution to impose rules and maintain accountability.
Financial independence has nothing to do with the source of funds but the way that person learns to manage scarce resources.
It should be noted that multi-millionaire champion race car driver Michael Schumacher only gives his own children two euros per week. How's that for teaching financial independence?

Monday, August 27, 2007


No one knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.

This is an obvious lie.

Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.

After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.

A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.

That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Singapore Bay Run 2007

Singapore Bay Run 2007

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Did the 12km non-competitive run.

This is a picture as I am crossing Sheare's Bridge with the almost completed Singapore Observation Wheel in the background.

Not a good run. Did it in 1hr 42mins. Didn't warm up enough, legs felt taut and I didn't have any running training the whole week before.

Anyway, it's an experience.

EPL Predictions (Week of 25/8/07)

Note: All gambling is virtual. I do not gamble nor endorse it.

Sunderland 0 - Liverpool 3 (0-2 Win $15.00)
West Ham 0 - Wigan 0 (1-1 Win $34.25)
Bolton 0 - Reading 2 (3-0, Lose $30.00)
Chelsea 2 - Portsmouth 0 (1-0, Win $13.80)
Arsenal 0 - Manchester City 0 (1-0 Lose $2.25)
Aston Villa 2 - Fulham 1 (2-1 Win $38.65)
Derby 3 - Birmingham 2 (1-2 Lose $6.30)
Everton 1 - Blackburn 1 (1-1 Win $37.60)
Middlesborough 0 - Newcastle 2 (2-2 Lose $24.40)
Manchester United 1 - Tottenham 1 (1-0 Lose $22.60)

Virtual Profit: $53.75
Running Total for this season: Loss of $89.60

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Separate Christianity from the Culture

The thing I realize is that what you receive in church isn't just Christianity preached. It's also the culture from where it comes from.

Coming from an American denomination, a lot of the preaching style is emotional, high spirited. But it lacks intelligence and thought. There are times when I question the logic in the preachers argument.

The British Christianity that I've observed from the Anglican church is more thoughtful, well thought out. But it lacks a certain pizzazz, spirit, high-tempo.

It may be good for me to visit other churches in my travels like Coptic, Eastern Orthodox. It would be good so that I can contrast what I have readily accepted as Christianity and then realize it was merely cultural practices.

Which leads to another thing to separate it from. The specific church's or preacher's style. What we mistake for Christianity may be the preachers own attitude or mistaken beliefs.

Forgetting Your Laptop Adaptor

Note To Self:

Remember to always pack your power adapter of your laptop first.

You are far less likely to overlook your laptop computer than the power supply.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Time It Takes To Write A Story

A day of writing should extend for 3-4 hours, which is best done in the morning when the writer is rested.

(I write after a good nap).

Pumping out those ergs of energy each day is NOT like writing a term paper or taking a final exam.

(Which is what I thought too. I agree.)

It is like sustaining a dream that easily dissolves and is gone.

Screenwriting requires us to sustain images that are seen in the mind's eye. To sustain this fictive dream, we learn to focus our imagination.

When you feel that your writing is not happening, it may be because your thinking is not sufficiently focused to imagine. Keep at it, for imagining takes time to learn.

You should also appreciate the challenge of plotting a story and not expect to rush through it. When you feel that your brain is dissolving with fatigue, take it as a sign that you are writing the story. So there is no confusion on this point: Working out a feature-length story can easily take several months of gulag labor. That is the nature of this task, so brace for it.

Revisiting Your Story

When you have problems with writing your story, one of the reasons could be that you don't have a clear enough picture of your story and idea.

I'm revisiting my idea and using a framework of ideas from and writing down one paragraph definitions of things like, What is the genre? What is the frame? What is the event? What is the crisis? What is the conflict about? What is the theme?

These are all simple questions to answer. And by answering them I have a clearer understanding because I have broken down my story idea into bite sized and manageable chunks.

The good thing is that I have intuitively answered all these questions when I wrote my synopsis and treatment, so it wasn't too difficult to answer those bite sized questions.

Answering those questions concisely helped though to have a clearer understanding. I think it is good to always go back to answering those questions over and over again.

It applies also to life and work and marriage itself. When you are having problems at work ask yourself, why am I doing what I am doing? Who is my customer? What is the attitude I should have? etc. In marriage: Why did I marry you? How should I love you? What is the goal in our marriage, etc..

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

David Mamet on Writing

You write your first draft about something you choose.

The during the process, you figure out it's about something altogether different.

Your next draft will then be about that altogether different topic--but it too becomes about something different.

This process continues on until you truly understand what you are trying to say and what your story is really about for you, the characters, and the audience.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Seriousness and Importance

If you're serious about something, you will be thinking about that subject almost all the time. You will find every spare time to do what you need to achieve that objective.

If something is important to you, you will do it IMMEDIATELY. You will also find ways to do achieve it despite obstacles and rejections.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Self Development Goals for Rest of 2007

I aim to increase my skills in the following areas:

1. Leadership.
2. Building and Maintaining Relationships.

I think that I've already hit my limit on technical skills that I need to learn, there is always some API to learn, some new technology to learn, and given time I can master them all. Therefore my next area of growth will be in leading and influencing people and in building and maintaining relationships.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Writing is a discipline. Much like training for a marathon or learning to dance or learning the guitar. There is no substitute for preparation or continual effort.

Don't worry about your story idea being "not new". In fact most story ideas are as old as time itself. It's just how we tell it, the setting. Boy meets girl stories. Heist movies. Wedding stories. Shakespeare's stories are always rehashed every few years or so.

Yes, audiences always want something fresh. Just like people want to taste something new. But in the end there are only the basic food groups. It's how we cook it.

EPL Predictions (Week of 18/8/07)

I don't gamble. But the winning/losing is the how much I would win/lose if I did on Singapore Pools with the minimum $5 bet per category. It's also to prove why I shouldn't gamble, though I like predicting.

Portsmouth 1 - Bolton 0 (3-1, Lose $25, Win $3.75 = -$21.25)
Birmingham 1 - West Ham 0 (0-1, Lose $20, Win $15.75 = -$4.25)
Fulham 2 - Middlesborough 2 (1-2, Lose $25 Win $0.80 = -$24.20)
Reading 1 - Everton 2 (1-0, Lose $20 Win $15.70 = -$4.30)
Tottenham 1 - Derby 0 (4-0, Lose $25 Win $2 = -$23)
Wigan 1 - Sunderland 3 (3-0, Lose $30)
Newcastle 0 - Aston Villa 2 (0-0, Lose $25 Win $1.50 = -$23.50)
Man City 2 - Man Utd 1 (1-0, Lose $15 Win $32.15 = $17.15)
Blackburn 2 - Arsenal 3 (1-1, Lose $25 Win $1.35 = -$23.65)
Liverpool 1 - Chelsea 2 (1-1, Lose $20 Win $13.65 = -$6.35)

Virtual Total Profit/Loss: -$143.35

Friday, August 17, 2007

Business Training

I’ve seen it too many times. A company does short term work but forgets stuff that doesn’t bring results but is essential to long term health.

It’s just like exercise.

It’s essential, everyone knows it’s important but a lot of people don’t do it.


Because it seems to be a waste of time.

Because it’s painful and tiring.

Because they don’t have clear goals.

What happens in the end?

They run out of breath in the long run.

They struggle in the latter part of the race. Things slow down. Things don’t seem to work.

And then they wonder why they are out of breath. Why is it so difficult to climb the hill? Why is every step so excruciating?

And so then a company blames (valid reasons though in the right context) the market conditions were not right, wrong choice of platform, too much competition, etc.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from running a marathon is this: “You can’t train overnight for one.”

Starting a company needs preparation. It needs careful planning. It needs training. Study how other created their company, what did they do, how did they go about it. It will go a long way to increasing chances of success.


Becoming the best bricklayer in town isn't the best way to become an architect.

The Real World is Fake

Wait till you get to the real world. Then you'll know.

That's the thing... I think the real world is the fake world.

The world is built on perception, images... lies.

Image is everything, an ad with Andrea Agassi said.

The stock market is buoyed by "confidence".

Managers don't really manage by objectives achieved, they manage by how good they will look in front of their boss.

The success of cosmetic plastic surgery goes to show the emphasis on appearances are in this world.

Spin doctors abound to protect the image of the clients.

But is there any good in it all? Perhaps. Makeup is to enhance beauty, just like fresh paint on a building. Advertising is to spread good news of some product or service that can help people.

The danger is when truth is compromised.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You Don't Have To Be Perfect To Be Promoted

You don't have to be the best programmer to be promoted to become a manager of programmers. Though knowledge of programming is good, management is an entirely different ball game altogether.

It's like this. A lot of good football managers were football players, but they weren't the best. Jose Mourinho, case in point. He wasn't a good player at all. But his dad was a good manager.

In fact, being a good player doesn't make you a good manager. Most of the world-cup winning squad of 1966 didn't do too well in other jobs.

My advice to people who want to go up is that you don't need to be very good in the lower level tasks to go into management. Get an MBA or a certified project manager and find people who will hire you into management. You can't wait for your boss to promote you to a position. People skills are a much different skill that accounting or programming, etc.

80% of the success of your career is in your hands. Not your boss.

Note To Self: Ironing

Don't iron clothes before going to work.

There's always that nagging feeling that you may have not switched it off.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sources of Inspiration

Everywhere is a source of inspiration. Your friends, your neighbours, your enemies. For writers you can take revenge by making your enemies villains in your stories. (Muah ha ha ha ha... It's true. I just read that the recently deceased Ingmar Bergman created a character based on his father whom he didn't like).

It gives you more motivation to find out about people. What makes them tick. It does in fact, make people more interesting.

Now that I'm writing, people get more interesting. You want to know their background, the parents, their friends, their aspirations, their fears. Not that I want to use people as source material, but rather that you realize that everyone is unique and has something interesting about them.

Everyone has their own story to tell. Some may be in Act 2 of their careers, Act 1 of their marriage, Act 3 of their relationships.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Mad Hot Ballroom

When you learn dancing, you don't just learn how to dance. You learn how to treat a lady well and for a lady to learn how to be treated by a man.

"Mad Hot Ballroom" is a documentary that follows a few group of public school students (in their teens) that learn 5 dances (Tango, Rumba, Foxtrot, Merengue, Waltz) within 10 weeks.

There was a interview with a teacher in the movie where she broke down because she saw her kids growing up into ladies and gentleman. Very touching.

Dance teaches kids to learn to grow up. It teaches you to walk and grow.

I definitely would want my kids to learn to dance, to teach them not just a skill but to become mature.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

If You're Having Problems In Life...

Then you're still in Act 2 of your life.

Act 2 is when your problems seem to get even more complicated. Its when the enemy seems to have the upper hand.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Win Your Daily Battles

Concentrate of winning your battle for today. Tomorrow can worry about itself.

Rethinking Your Plot

When you don't know what dialogue to write, it's good to think about the plot again and free flow writing the elements and how the characters interact with one another. Take time to understand more of your characters, their traits and their desires and the world from where they come from.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Difference

A retired engineer was once asked to fix a problem at his former company. The machinery wasn't working and being the expert on it, was recalled to help solve the problem.

He quoted a consultancy price of $50,000.

When he arrived at the factory floor, he listened carefully to the humming of the machine, then took out a piece of chalk and marked an 'X' at one spot. "This is where your problem lies."

The factory engineers duly opened the machine and examined the mechanism where the retired engineer pointed out. And quite correctly, the machine functioned after being fixed.

The managers were however, a bit miffed for paying $50,000 for just a chalk mark and asked the retired engineer to give a detailed breakdown. His invoice was as follows:

1. Chalk mark $ 1
2. Service from years of experience $ 49,999
TOTAL $ 50,000

The lesson learnt is that value doesn't just come from tangible goods or service but from the intangible as well.

Another lesson is that you must always quote a price BEFORE you give consultation.

Which reminds me of another story:

The difference between the runner in a 100m race may only be 0.01s. But the prize money can be as different as $100,000 and $50,000

100% increase in value for only a 0.1% difference in output.

One lesson I think is that we shouldn't try to go for doubling our output to double our pay. We can't. I can't double my pay by doubling my lines of code per day. In fact the number of lines of code I create a day remains constant. It is the quality of code and the years of experience behind it that is important. There is a limit to the number of hours a day we have.

It is increasing our decision making abilities so that making right decisions more often is increased, and thereby our added value increases.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Guess Who This Is?

She has a 3rd degree black belt in Taekwando.

She is an expert player of the Kayageum (Korean Violin) and has released 4 CDs.

She graduated with a Bachelors Degree from Seoul National University.

She knows English, Chinese, Japanese and Ancient Hebrew.

Her father is an elder in her church.

She aspires to be a missionary.

Guess who else is she?

Miss Korea and 2nd Runner up in Ms Universe 2007! (Lee Han-Ui, a.k.a. Honey Lee)
(Jaw drop....)
The following are the possible conclusions suggested by people
1. Everyone is really beautiful.
2. With make up, anything is possible.
3. With money, anything is possible.
I choose option 1. That first picture of her, makes her look like any girl that I've seen on the street. But I think that really everyone is beautiful. It just needs a little coaxing to come out.
C.S. Lewis writes that one day, even the most boring person you think of, will be transformed into a being that you would be tempted to worship at the feet of. Looking at that second picture, I can sure understand why some men would worship at her feet. :)
Mission trip to Korea anyone?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Time To Boast And A Time To Be Humble

There is a time to boast:

1. During job or performance interviews.
2. When you are selling your product.

In short, to win people over to the merits of yourself or your product.

The time to be humble:

1. When you are with your colleagues.
2. When admonishing others.
3. When examining yourself to improve yourself.
4. Before God.

Paradox? Hypocrisy? Or just the right action for the right time? Asian modesty errs on the side of modesty. American philosophy tends to incline more to salesmanship. The Bible says to "consider others better than ourselves."

I think the key is truth with love. During an interview, you shouldn't exaggerate facts until it becomes a lie. Just highlight truth. (Though of course, when an interviewer asks you what is your weakness, I don't think it's a good idea to tell them if you have a problem with flatulence...)

It may be the truth to tell what is right, but if it harms someone else, perhaps some things are better not left said, though it may be true.

The tough thing is to balance both. "Instead, speaking the TRUTH with LOVE, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is Christ." A difficult thing to balance indeed, something that takes experience to learn when and how.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Have you ever seen a Google ad?

Guess not. What about Friendster, or Facebook or MySpace?

None whatsoever. Yet they are all successful.

If your product isn't good to be spread by mouth of word, it ain't good enough to be socially viral.

I think one of the key markers for a new-economy startup is that it must be so good that word-of-mouth recommendation is the one thing that will differentiate the winners from the losers.

If people don't want to recommend it, tweak and reinvent the product until it becomes so good that people will.

Impressing investors is good, and necessary to get initial funding. But the key indicator of your success is whether people like it.

I've been in a couple of startups and seen too much from the Internet bubble days seeing people spend millions of dollars on advertising down the drain.

The new economy's rules are different and so are the marketing methods.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mensa Select Board Game Session

Playing at the Mensa Choice Select was interesting. To say it was challenging is putting it mildly. (Mensa Choice Select is a board game session to rate different board games and to award the highest rated board game with the award of "Mensa Select")

When I play with "normal folk"... I wouldn't say that I always win, but I do win often.

But when you play against people with the top 2% of IQ in the population, it's a different matter all together. Now, it must be mentioned that I'm a member of this organization as well. But, the thing is, it's my first time playing at Mensa and I'm not accustomed to the speed of thinking.

(Okay, I admit, I lost all of my games.)

I was totally amazed at how some could grasp the properties of a game very quickly and could devise strategies almost off the cuff to take advantage of situations.

And when you lose, there can be very clear winners. Winning not just by a point or two or merely beating you by 5% of the total score. There can be winners winning by a margin of 100% or even 200%!

Again, game playing isn't just having fun. It's also a learning experience in a safe environment where the consequences are limited till the end of the session. I learnt from a remark that I "cut off my nose to spite my face" in making a game decision. Reflecting back, yes, sometimes I do that in real life. I'd rather forsake some of my own interests not to give an advantage to another. I like that kind of feedback. I should remember what are my own interests are, despite temporarily giving advantage to another.

I'm also pretty good at reading rules and explaining it simply. Perhaps not just because of my intelligence, but also because of my ambition to be a game designer and my experience in playing board games and public speaking skills. But I have to learn to be quicker in devising a strategy to win.

Playing at a Mensa session, you are really humbled. But also, you know that you still have certain skills and gifts that others don't have, despite their intelligence. This was my second time at Mensa, and I really enjoyed the level of conversation, and talking to people ranging in profession from engineers to teachers to non-profit organization workers to students. They're not diabolical evil geniuses with designs to dominate the world. (Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. I heard Bill Gates is reported to have an IQ of 165.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Jogging at Pasir Ris Park


Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Jogging at Pasir Ris Park on Saturday. Did about 7.53km in about an hour.

I measured it using Nokia Sports Tracker. Using my N73 and GPS strapped to my arm.

It's quite a good tool, tracking your speed, distance and altitude in your workout. If you have an N95, it'll be even better, because the GPS is built in.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

You Don't Need To Change The World

You don't need to change the world like Bill Gates or Thomas Edison.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page didn't set out to make Google the super success that it was. If it had happened another way, they could have just been a division of Excite.

Bill Gates wanted to have a business advantage but he too never imagined Microsoft to be as large as it is now.

There is success and there is huge success. I think that huge success is more a matter of the right circumstances and decisions turning your way. But reasonable success, I believe, is about good stewardship. If you have reasonable success, then you will be ready when huge success comes to you.

The point is, you can't aim to be a Google or a Microsoft. You have to aim to be faithful in serving customers profitably and coming up with a great product or service. You can aim big, you can aim to be a global leader. But success still comes from the Lord. That's because we don't know what's around the corner.

If only Apple knew that the key to success was actually licensing it's OS, then 95% of us may be using Apple computers today. If only failed search engines knew that the key wasn't going the portal way, but in better search and in directed ads, we may not calling Internet Search "Googling" but maybe "Excite-ing" or "Infosearch". These are the random decisions that could have shaped the landscape tremendously.

The day that Google IPO'ed was just another day for Larry and Sergey. They walked into the same office, and they're overnight billionaires. So what? That wasn't their goal. They were already doing what they liked doing.

I think that a reasonable business goal for a startup is perhaps a 1 to 5 million dollars (by today's standards. That's like selling $200 products to 5000 to 25,000 customers). For hugely wild success, a lot depends on circumstances and taking advantage of opportunities. Do what you like to do most of all.

Aiming high is good but overreaching your ability is also unwise. Take each day as it comes, yet plan for tomorrow and the years to come.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cosplay Festival


Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Since I now live just across the road from Downtown East, I dropped by there for dinner and to catch people during the Singapore Cosplay Festival

The lady pictured isn't as frightening as she looks. (There were even more frightening cosplayers ordering at Burger King.) She's playing a male character from Hunter X Hunter, Kuroro, I believe. Click on the picture for more pictures on my Flickr site. Too bad I won't be around on Sunday to watch the finals.

I could actually converse with the lady pictured, despite her appearance she spoke very intelligently, quoting Dragonlance, Heroes, etc. If I were any younger, I may have joined them as padawan Obi Wan Kenobi.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On Being Notable...

Late at night, sleepless, I decided to do something for a couple of my friends. Googling them previously, I found that they were mentioned in the media but didn't have any entries in Wikipedia.

So I put my research and writing skills to work and wrote up an article respectively for Donna Ong and Namiko Chan.

The thing I learnt about writing these articles was that there are REALLY things about them that you didn't know. And that perhaps you don't really know your friends at all. And that they're actually more notable than you think.

Like Namiko. I knew that she was an artist, but I didn't know she had just won the UOB Painting of the Year Award. Holy Canoly! And to think I still remember her as that law undergraduate staying just one level below me in University. She was a great artist even then, designing our block t-shirt. And to think, that I threw away a "Namiko original". Wonder what it would be worth now?

Donna was introduced to me as an artist, but little did I know she was awarded the maximum amount for a scholarship to study art. And had won numerous art competitions. But then again, perhaps people are merely modest.

I learnt quite a bit. I knew that they were both notable artists in their own right, I learnt about the awards that they had won. I learnt their hobbies, their experiences, the schools they attended, what their fears, hopes and joys are represented in their works.

If you had to write an article on Wikipedia about your spouse, family or friends, what would you write? Would you even know enough to write an article about them? Do you know what their achievements have been in life?

But what else could I take from this experience? That the people you meet will be the famous people of tomorrow. That 10 year old nephew of yours playing with the toy soldiers? He could be the next minister of defence. That the girl next door who likes drawing could be a famous artist. "Do not despise the day of small beginnings."

Finally, not just other people, ALL OF US. Including you. Believe in yourself. Do you like drawing? Or telling stories? Or entertaining your parents with your antics? Or planning, or assembling things together? These are the seeds of greatness waiting to be nurtured.

Most Decisions Must Be Made Beforehand

Most decisions must be made beforehand. You cannot wait till that situation comes and then you think about it.

For example, if you haven't decided what time you want to wake up in the morning...


You are fast asleep on your bed when the alarm clock starts
blaring its wake up call.

Hmm... 7am... I wonder whether I can sleep in?
I do have to do get my laundry from the washing machine.
But this bed feels so nice...

That is just an innocent example. What would happen if you get in a compromising position of being tempted? A hot beautiful sexy woman appears in your bedroom? You'll probably only have 2 clear seconds to think before other parts of your body start doing your thinking for you.

What happens when you are being stressed? Someone begins to say something that is sure to push your buttons? Again, you may only have a second or two before your emotions start to rush in and take over.

That's one of the reasons why quiet time is important, it prepares you for the decisions both large and small that will come about during the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead. When you read the Bible about Joshua or about Joseph, learn about the principles on which they made their decisions and practice in your mind the same things.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Be Bold

"...enable your servants to speak your word with boldness." (Acts 4:29)

"...but the righteous are as bold as a lion." (Proverbs 28:1)

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged. For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

Why is it that there are definitely much better singers than Madonna, yet she is the one who is more successful?

I realize that a lot of good, able and competent people don't get ahead, not because they are less skillful but because they aren't bold enough.

We must be bold enough to market ourselves, to sell ourselves, to spread the word about the message of us.

80-90% of adults live with negative self-talk in their minds. Voices that say "you aren't good enough", "you'll screw up again", "you're just lucky that time", etc.

We must be bold in life. The apostles didn't pray that things around them would automagically turn out "happily ever after" rather they prayed for boldness in facing the challenges ahead of them.

Boldness is a mark of the righteous.

But how do we get boldness? Is it a matter of just repeating "I am bold" to myself and hoping you'll believe it enough that your behaviour will change? Maybe that is part of the transformation process.

The Idiot's Guide To Assertiveness doesn't give all the answers to it, but it does give a few pointers:

Know Your Priorities: Know what is important to you. Think through what is really important to your mission in life. Just 3-5 things. Not a laundry list of 19 things.

Respect the position and feelings of the other parties involved. Will your speaking up improve the situation of make it worse?

Remain in balance. You don't have to overreact and cause other people to be knocked off balance.

How? Proceed with malice towards none. Act with concern towards other people not out of hatred or impatience.

When? Make a time check. Ask yourself, "How will I feel about the situation tomorrow, in one hour, or in even five minutes?" If it is something that will pass quickly, you can let it go. Else, then it is good reason for you to speak up.

Use positive self-talk to yourself and on others.

Know who you are. Know your limits. Be optimistic.

Exercises on being self-confident in social situations:
1. Smile at someone you don't know.
2. Focus intently on what another person is saying.
3. Volunteer for something away from work. That way you'll learn that people do appreciate you.
4. Make a minor request from someone you barely know. The more easily you're able to make minor requests of strangers. The more naturally you'll begin to make more significant requests of anyone.
5. Put yourself in a situation where you're likely to be rejected. Ask a friend to attend something which you know there is a low chance of them agreeing to. If so, wonderful. Else, learn to accept the response graciously.
6. When appropriate, tell a person "I'm not sure". Legitimately pleading ignorance helps free you from any potential feelings of always needing to have informative responses.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Actors I Admire

I admire Morgan Freeman. He has that kind of gentlemanly demeanour, really kind and polite. The type of character he plays are like the mentor or sidekick type, kind and helpful. It's no wonder that he is one of the perfect choices to cast as God in Bruce Almighty and as the mentor in The Shawshank Redemption and Se7en.

I was familiar with him way before I even knew it was him. He was one of the narrators of The Electric Company, narrating all sorts of educational stories.

His demeanour is the type you wish you had for a grandfather, someone who is kind, doting and likable.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Board Game Night at Settler's Cafe

board game-king me

Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Board game night today at Settler's Cafe.

I played 2 games of St. Petersburg and one round of King Me! before we had to leave at closing time today.

King Me even had the house rule that we all speak with Italian accents as we were promoting and killing off pretenders to the throne.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007



Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

For those wondering what happened the past few days with no blog entries... I suffered from whiplash... actually neck sprain. But not from getting into a driving accident but from the wrong sleeping position.

I couldn't turn my neck left or right, up or down. I spent the weekend in bed. *sigh*.

A Fate Much Worse...

I was listening to the "Screwtape Letters" the other day. And one line from Letter XII struck me: "I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought to nor what I liked."

That is a fate even worse than Babbitt that was quoted by Joseph Campbell (see blog entry), a person who never did what he wanted to in life.

And I think the Devil does get people to do that. He overworks people in the office for some measly promotion, pay raise or prestigious title but they sacrifice what they want to do (their dreams) and what they ought to do. (Their duty to love themselves, their family and their fellow man).

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Page Views Going Up!

My page views are going up! Wow, I didn't think that I'll get around 100 visitors per day, but thanks to Google and some friends, I'm almost there... now, if I can get 10 times more visitors, I'll be just as popular as Mr. Brown!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Living Life

The thing about living life is that there are breaks but there are no short cuts.

You do get breaks in life, an audition works out, you get promoted. But there are no short cuts. You still have to work hard preparing for your concert, you still have to work hard in your new position. There is no “I’ve made it.”

It’s a paradox in the sense of I know that God has been leading and guiding me through my life, yet I know also that I have to work in life, to concentrate, to focus, to be disciplined.

It’s a paradox in the sense of I know that God has been leading and guiding me through my life, yet I know also that I have to work in life, to concentrate, to focus, to be disciplined.

There is no magic way of getting out of debt. No fairy tale godmother that came into my life and waved her magic wand and *poof* all of my debt is suddenly gone.

Another example is romance. Having a woman walk into your life isn’t enough. You’ve got to make it work. You’ve got to woo her.

It’s about saving money, and making it work. If you want to get a house, get a wife, raise kids. It’s all about work. But it can be satisfying when we keep our eye on the goal.

Think of it in another way, your life story will be a pretty bad story if things were to magically happen with deux ex machina popping up in your life regularly.

You as the hero have a journey to work out, there will be twists and turns, hard decisions to make, sacrifices to lay on the altar and you could create a plot twist to change things around.

Being Poor...

There are benefits and also dark sides to being poor:

1. You learn to manage scarce resources.
2. You know what is the most important things to spend your resources on.
3. You gain an eye to look for opportunities to extend your dollar or to get benefits for free.
4. You learn to appreciate the truly finer things in life without the distraction of materialism.
5. You stretch yourself further.
6. You learn to rely on things other than just money to get things done, persuasion, intellect.

The dark side of being poor:

1. You may start to believe no one wants to help you.
2. You may believe that being poor is your lot in life.
3. You may start hating those who are rich.
4. You can be so distracted looking for money that you forget that life is more than just money.
5. You may keep shortchanging yourself in career choices, life-partner choices.
6. You may learn to pinch pennies but not focus on earning bigger dollars.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How To Respond To Criticism the Malaysian Way...

If a foreigner (diplomat, journalist, etc.) criticizes your country's policies:

"You should not interfere with our internal affairs."

If a citizen (journalist, activist, etc.) criticizes your country's policies:

"This is a sensitive issue. You should not raise it up."

If the issue is valid, use an irrelevant and worse example to contrast:

"If we are really (anti-Christian, anti-Chinese, etc..) you wouldn't see (churches, chinese) on the streets."

OR attack them back...

"You say we (ethnic/religious group) are bad??? Look at Hitler! That (Christian/German/Westerner) killed so many people." -- (Though they neglect to mention that there were also Christians, Anglo-Saxons and Westerners on the allied front fighting for freedom).

OR claim knowledge of harmful motives or lack of knowledge on the criticizer's part.

"The west is engaged in X-religion bashing." or "The west wants to (politically/economically) colonize us again." or "You don't know our country."

OR (Singapore way...)

"That point is irrelevant to the issue."

"You cannot compare (USA/Finland/etc...) president's salary with Singapore". (I see, then we shouldn't also look at world rankings for Best Airport, Least Corrupt Country, Most Competitive Country.)

Finally when all else fails... (and this is my favourite)...

"It's a Jewish conspiracy."

Monday, June 25, 2007

God Expects The Best From Us

I think that God expects the best from us.

Not to be the best but the best from ourselves.

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48b)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Art of Gatecrashing


Originally uploaded by nicodemus_chan.

Here's a picture of a gatecrasher I met on the evening of the big premier of Ocean's 13 at Cannes.

He's not the only one, I saw like at least 20 over other people dressed in tuxedo's and dresses wishing to get in.

Actually gate crashing at the Cannes Film Festival isn't that bad--if you're interested in watching foreign films. Not blockbusters.

You can watch quite a few interesting films by hanging around the entrances of the theatres and unashamedly holding up a sign (like the gentleman pictured).

The problem is though that some need a badge as well. And that's harder to get. A Cannes entrance pass costs about €200.

If you do have a pass you don't need to beg for a ticket. Each pass gives you about 200 points to spend on getting tickets. Unknown films or rare ones are cheap, maybe 10 points or so. A movie like Ocean's 13 though... costa about 110 points. That's more than half your point allocation and it needs a privileged pass of a special colour.

I did wear a tux, but I didn't get to see Ocean's 13... no point watching it if you can watch it back home for S$9. I had a movie pitch anyway to go to.