Thursday, June 11, 2009

Promotional Stand-Up Comedy Video

Gary's a friend of mine who's now practising to be a stand-up comic. Kudos to him. Here's the promotional video - some of his stuff ain't bad.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


The mark of true responsibility isn't what you can do when you have absolute control over everything in your life - it's what you do when you don't have any control.

It is drying the tears of your loved one when she tells you she loves someone else. It is the kindness in letting go. It is the dignity of doing what needs to be done. It is the million tiny acts to acknowledge that your love isn't at an end, even if your time together is.

It's moving on and staying still at the same time.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Sunday saw us evaluating a number of juniors. In particular, Chris had his work cut out for him. I couldn't quite believe it myself - he was put through the paces of an evaluation that would possibly have tested a Scholar, and he acquited himself reasonably well. Well done.

I'm also quite astounded that Greg is relying more and more on the seniors to evaluate and teach. I suppose that is a natural evolution of things but it's heartening to see that there are -enough- seniors in attendance to teach things (and teach them somewhat correctly I might add).

There is one thing I do want to say to the juniors in the class though.

If I could go back and do everything again, I wouldn't go back to practice my guards, cutting and positioning. I would go back and re-master my footwork.

Abrazare may be the foundation of swordsmanship, but footwork is the foundation of everything. Footwork is responsible for stability, measure, timing and power generation - just about everything important for swordsmanship.

Too often these days, I notice an acressare that comes just a little bit late robbing a cover of its stability and power, or a stance that's insufficiently deep, robbing an intial attack of inches, or a turn not executed from the hips.

Work on the feet. The feet are important. Everything starts from the contact with the ground.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Josie and the DBS Credit Card Boycott

I've been chewing over the morality of the DBS Card Boycott for a while.

I think this video will probably do a better job of summarising my thoughts than anything else.

The mistake that many (including myself) make is treating big organisations like DBS as individual organisms. I especially have that problem because I've had the seperate legal entity doctrine drilled into me since 3rd year of law school.

This is a fiction. The operational reality is that a company is defined by its people. Furthermore, the higher up you go, the greater the influence this person has on thoughts and philosophy of the company.

In many senses, an organisation (or subset of an organisation) takes on the identity of its leader. Think Bill Gates, and the Evil Microsoft Empire. On a more local note, think TSMP. I'm willing to wager that all of the senior management of the company have cell group and prayer meetings at lunch time, and those who don't never make it to senior management.

Let's add another thought into the equation - the role of large organisations in society, and what it really means when a consumer buys a product. It's fairly undeniable that large organisations exert a large footprint in society. In many ways, the consumer's choice of which large organisation to support reflects on which message they want to support too.

Let's take an example - when I support Gloria Jean coffee, I would be supporting the fact that Gloria Jean Coffee uses my dollars to support some dubious Christian practices. That's a clear cut example. A less clear cut example would be the support of Apple over IBM - for the longest time, the choice of using Mac's was intimately connected to the objection over Microsoft's OS dominance.

Putting these thoughts together, I think it's pretty legitimate for someone to boycott DBS Credit Cards based on Josie's actions. Rejecting the product would be a pretty good way of saying that (1) you don't condone DBS putting Josie in a leadership position where she can influence the "personality" of DBS marketing and (2) you don't condone Josie's individual actions, and want to stick it where it hurts - her job performance review.

Think of what I've written, and then think of that Argentinian Transexual applying for a bank loan in a department run by Josie. Think of the reaction that she would be getting, and think whether you want to condone such a message.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Authoritarians - AWARE Edition

To those who have been following the AWARE saga, please read this netbook by Professor Bob Altemeyer, called "The Authoritarians". It's pretty good describing some of the behaviour that went on during the AWARE EGM by the New Guard.

Pretty chilling, if you ask me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Humble Suggestions involving the AWARE EOGM and the presence of Rajah and Tann

Rajah and Tann has apparently been engaged as the legal advisors for the AWARE EOGM on May 2 to ensure compliance with law and the constitution of AWARE.

I, of course, have my doubts about their role there. However, I'm willing to give Rajah and Tann the benefit of doubt at this point in time.

That being said, I would make a couple of very humble suggestions for those attending. Consider this my contribution to the cause.

Please note here that everything I say here should be verified and fact-checked - I'm no expert on the Societies Act, and I certainly haven't seen or read the Constitution of AWARE.

(1) The first thing attendees must clarify is this: Who is Rajah and Tann's client? Specifically, is Rajah and Tann's client AWARE, or the new Ex-Co, or members of the Ex-Co in their personal capacity?

The distinction here is absolutely important. If Rajah and Tann's client is AWARE, then they are bound to act in the best interests of the Society as a whole - which means that they can neither favour the current Ex-Co nor the existing members. If they do so, then it would be advisable to remind them of their professional duty here.

Things would be somewhat different if they are the Ex-Co's clients. In such an event, please be aware that Rajah and Tann is not obligated to act in anyone's best interests except the Ex-Co.

(2) The second thing is - those who are attending, please study the constitution of AWARE. My concern right now is that there might be some procedural defect in the calling and voting of this EOGM. One that I am especially concerned about is that some societies reserve the power to choose not to accept certain members - which the Ex-Co can exercise quite legitimately to swing the votes in their favour. Others may become members but may not be eligible to vote in this EOGM because they joined too late.

In this regard, I would advise some kind of verification process to clarify who are the members eligible to vote - I would certainly press that this be answered by the Ex-Co at least, and Rajah and Tann themselves if they come out in the open and state that their clients are AWARE.

Another concern I have is the use of a possible procedural defect to render the results of the vote void - the change of venue itself is a bad sign. I don't know what kind of notice provisions the Constitution of AWARE has, but it does seem awfully last minute. My advice here is to clarify and question whether this will eventually render the results of the meeting void, and if so, why was this action taken in the first place.

(3) Given that the crowd may be huge that day, my suspicion is that not everyone will be able to enter the hall. Fire codes, etc may be cited to limit the crowd. In that regard, I would encourage everyone to be patient. Furthermore, I would encourage the attendees to clarify what kind of criteria they would use to allow people into the meeting - first come, first served may be helpful, but again, it may be biased against people who wish to vote against the Ex-Co, given that there is a convention next door.

My suggestion here is to be patient and ask questions about the process and procedure for admittance into the hall. Oh, and make sure to arrive on time.

I would also encourage that AWARE be prepared to find a way for all attendees and voting members to listen to the discussions, even if the capacity is reached. If this is not done, I fear a spontaneous mob may form and more accusations of bad faith be slung about.

Good luck. I will not be present and I will be unable to vote even if I was present. As such, I wish AWARE all the best.

To my lawyer friends and classmates who are more, uh, aware of the issue than I am, please feel free to correct what I have written or dismiss these thoughts outright.

Update 1 If what I have access to is in fact the latest copy of the AWARE constitution, then please be aware that there does not seem to be an express provision for the removal of AWARE Ex-Co members duly elected. This may be a possible tripping point.

My suggestion - don't let this discourage you. A 2/3 majority overturns the rules of the Constitution, subject to the Registrar of Societies' consent. Get the votes, and worry about the acts later. I suspect this will end up in a nasty lawsuit regardless.

Update 2 The newspaper reports I've been reading seem to indicate that Rajah and Tann is acting as counsel for the EX-CO. I suggest a couple of courses of action IF R&T are in fact representing the Ex-Co (i) check whether the bill paid to Rajah and Tann is paid from AWARE funds (ii) if they are, check whether it is within the constitutional limit of $20,000 per month and (iii) question whether there is an issue in having the funds paid out from AWARE's coffers but only benefitting the Ex-Co.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Facts which I know about Star Trek and its casts

PLAGERISM ALERT!: My contest entry has been copied in its entirety in THIS ENTRY. Please be on notice that I am, in fact, the original author of this blog entry. Proof? There's a spelling mistake in my disclaimer, which was duplicated.

Disclaimer: I'm not responsible for the bad grammar mistake in the title. It's a requirement for participating in a competition to win STAR TREK TICKETS! I will gladly sully my grammer for STAR TREK TICKETS!

This is my somewhat shameless bid to win Star Trek premiere tickets.

Facts I know about Star Trek and its cast.

(1) Contrary to popular belief, Captain James T Kirk is not the first captain to appear in a TV series. The first captain was Captain Christopher Pike, played by Jeffery Hunter, then Sean Kenney. The studios switched to Captain James T Kirk because they felt that the series needed "more action". Mild Spoiler Warning: Ironically, in the new movie, the man that convinced a young Kirk to sign up with Starfleet is none other than Christopher Pike.

(2) The "T" in James T Kirk stands for "Tiberius".

(3) Mild Spoiler Warning: The latest Star Trek movie represents a soft "reboot" of the series, because it actually happens in another "timeline" from the original series. The villian of this series, played by Eric Bana, travels in time to take his revenge on a younger Kirk. That explains the reason why the trailer has Eric Bana saying "James T Kirk was a great man, but that was another life."

(4) Mild Spoiler Warning Cont'd: This also explains Leonard Nimoy's guest star appearance in this movie - he plays an older Spock from an alternate timeline.

(5) Speaking of Leonard Nimoy, he's written two autobiographies about his time as Spock, entitled respectively, "I am not Spock" and "I am Spock". Go figure.

(6) There are massive homages paid to Star Trek on the series "Heroes". For one, George Takei, who played Sulu in the original series, plays Hiro Nakamura's father in "Heroes". The homage was made even more obvious when George Takei is seen driving off in a car that bears the license plate "NCC-1701". "NCC-1701" is the starship designation of the original Enterprise.

(7) Of course, Zachary Quinto, who plays Sylar, is now the new movie's Spock.

(8) More facts about George Takei - he's homosexual, out of the closet, and one of the first few men to get his domestic partnership registered as an actual marriage in California before Proposition 8 kicked in. You would never have figured seeing this photo.

(9) Memory Alpha, the famous(?) wiki on all things Star Trek, is named after the planetoid containing the sum total of the knowledge and culture of all Federation members. I used this reference only once during the composition of this and that was to find out the episode Khan Noonien Singh first appeared.

(10) The original series of Star Trek featured the first interracial kiss shown on TV. The kiss was between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols, playing Kirk and Uhura respectively. It was a big deal back then.


(11) The plot of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" was actually the continuation of an episode from the Original Series "Space Seed". In that episode, Kirk convinces Khan Noonien Singh to settle on a marginally inhabited planet, not knowing that the planet eventually becomes unstable. Khan loses his wife to that planet, and blames Kirk for her death - which is the motivation for his actions in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan".

(12) Speaking of grammar mistakes, "To boldly go where no man has gone before" is a grammatical mistake when the Original Series was first telecast, because it splits an infinitive. It's now grammatical correct because the rules on split infinitives have been changed.


I can probably get the list up to 50 or even 100 if I wanted to, but I think this would suffice. As can be seen I am a massive Star Trek geek (even though I missed "Voyager" and "Enterprise").

I want to watch this movie bad. As a lover of Trek, I am excited about this reinterpretation of Kirk and Spock - showing them as younger, less skilled but no less idealistic and courageous members of Starfleet. It's like watching Daniel Craig as James Bond - the fact that they are vulnerable and young does not detract from their heroism. Rather, it showcases how much more heroic they are.

I've always loved how Star Trek reflected the mood of the times. This is a prime example. We no longer want our heroes invincible. We want them flawed. We want them emotionally vulnerable. We want them human.

Most of all, we want them being heroes, because they remind us even ordinary men can be heroes.

Remember guys! Catch Star Trek in cinemas on May 7!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Business Tips from Restaurant City

Proof once again that I take my gaming WAY too seriously, here are some practical business tips I picked up from playing Restaurant City.

Restaurant City is a game produced by Playfish, and is currently one of the most popular games on Facebook. It's my new productivity sink. As I understand it, Cowboy Caleb is also on this game. I am currently using the Cowboy as my toilet washer.

The game is incredibly subtle in its complexity. The basic premise of the game is that you must run a restaurant, decide on menu, layout, etc. You earn money and experience based on the number of customers you serve (i.e fail to piss off).

The "hook" of this game, apart from tapping into the nesting instinct, is that there are many business and economic principles that are at play in this game. My observations are based on some of these.


1. Think pipeline, not just production

One of the interesting game mechanics here is replicating, in some respects, the "supply chain" of the restaurant business. Essentially, you must cook, serve and clear the table ready for the next customer.

One of the early mistakes I made was to improve food production without improving my serving and clearing capability. I did this by upgrading the quality of my stoves, thinking this would clear a bottleneck of cooking (which was, at the time, what I perceived as a weakness of my sales model).

Instead of making things better, I made things worse. My poor waitress couldn't keep up with the production of food. Instead of clearing tables, she shifted her time into shuttling between the kitchen and the tables serving food.

What made matters worse is that I created a situation where 2 upgraded stoves could not duplicate the capability of 3 normal stoves (i.e I couldn't just reallocate a cook to a waiter) and still keep production up at a capacity that I wanted.

My solution in the end is to tough it out until I can afford another staff but I'll be clear about this - it -has- hurt my business and I see a couple of friend-competitors overtake me in this time period.

2. Lessons of scarcity - What's your comparitive advantage?

The game starts you off with one starter, one main and one dessert. In that sense, everyone starts off "trained" in the same menu choice.

What's interesting about my subset of friends is that they, in large part, have all opted to be "trained" in the same menu choices. I don't blame them. In that sense, since you started with something "free", if you focus on that option, you are essentially getting one "upgrade" for free.

However, the interesting thing is that due to this, everyone in my subset is hunting for more or less the same ingredients. You need those ingredients to improve your menu choice. However, if everyone hunts for the same ingredients, those ingredients become much harder to obtain.

One thing I did right in this game by accident - I deliberately chose a menu choice that few other people in my subset of friends duplicated. In that sense, I have a nice distributed menu choice where I do not have to stress about where to get surplus ingredients.

3. Make your customers work - Get within their decision loop

One of the keys to success, I found, in Restaurant City is the ability to get within your customers' decision loop. Essentially, a customer is simulated into making a decision based on whether you have a table open and cleaned, whether you can produce food fast enough to fulfil their needs, whether you have a clean toilet available, etc.

One of the keys I've found to serving large numbers of customers fast is to create a "tiered" priority system. In other words, I place some seats much further away and make it more difficult to get to them. I place other seats right next to the door. In the time that it takes for a customer to get to the back seats, I'd have had a slight time advantage in fulfilling the orders of the customers, while staggering the impact on my own time.


These are just some observations that I've found generally applicable to business. I'm sure you guys have more. Let's share them!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Of Faith and Gaming

I'm writing this post for two reasons (i) I received an invitation to go visit a church I haven't been back to in 15 years from a friend who doesn't know my history with that church and (ii) another friend is writing his master's thesis on RPG's, the pen and paper kind.

How are these two events even related?

Read on.


I started playing Dungeons and Dragons at 7. I played it out of the back of a school bus, and the DM was a friend's brother. My first ever game was as a Magic-User, out of the Dungeons and Dragons Red Box Set. In many ways, Dungeons and Dragons was my first real hobby. Everything that came after, the avid reading, the comics, the drama, the computer gaming, the swordfighting, it all sprang from my love for pen-and-paper RPG's. Arguably, I owe a lot of my thoroughness and skill in law to my love for debating rules in Dungeons and Dragons.

From there, my first gaming group from Primary 2 to 6 was lead mostly by my then-best friend. He introduced me to the wider world of Pen-and-Paper Role Playing Games. My second game, and the one that is still my favourite, is Marvel Super Heroes, then TMNT, then Ninja and Superspies. I remember skipping lunches and saving up pocket money and gorging myself on dinner when I got home to afford the books. I still have them somewhere.

I gave myself gastric by the time I was 12.

I remembered that my gaming group spanned almost half my entire class, and after school we'd run monster marathon sessions where one group would take on another group. It was pretty magical.

Then I went to secondary school.

You see, my P6 class was incredibly bright. A full half of them went into GEP. Many of them went to RI. The other half went to ACS, and we got split up into many different classes. In a year, from 12 to 13, all the people I knew and loved and were cool with suddenly turned into a class of hostile people, most of whom I barely knew, many of whom tormented me endlessly. I got shot at with paper pellets when I got off the school bus every day. That's how bad it got.

I remembered that I met a pretty inspirational teacher back then. He seemed to be the only person that would give a damn, and under his influence I started going to church, and converted.

I don't know if anyone remembers but during the late 80's and early 90's, there was a satanist scare involving Dungeons and Dragons. I must have been Christian for about a year or two back then. I remember the event that finally stopped me going was when the teacher tried to "counsel" me into stopping the "black magic practice" of Dungeons and Dragons.

On a related note, I also remembered how, suddenly, having parents that were Buddhist and being unbaptised were also looked on unfavourably, just because I played Dungeons and Dragons.

It was the first of many tests of faith I got, and also the event that built a lifelong distrust of Christians who were took quick to condemn others.


I was fortunate that I managed to find friends that gave me hope during this very dark period of my life. These people literally watched me grow up from a gawky teenager to a gawky almost-adult. They introduced me to books and writers that I've never heard of, but swear by these days. They also gave me my first real writing gig. Four letters made a world of difference.

This group, and the offshot gaming group that came with it, formed the foundation of my gaming experience for a good 7 years, from 14 to 21. The game ended, as it must, when several members started getting married and having kids.

Along the way I met some people at Thomson CC. I was there first and foremost to interview the then-president, but we ended up being pretty good friends. The Thomson CC crowd formed the nucleus of my next gaming group, and some of its members are now my godbrothers through my mom. One in particular, though, is responsible for some of the worst heartache I've ever felt.

This group still games with me now, at a place that they have gamed at for the past 10 years or so. The group, like the members, have grown propsperous, experimented with different styles and genres and have generally seen the whole gamut of gaming, and reverted back to its core - good characters, good storytelling.

Except that I'm now at the helm. I don't game much nowadays - by choice, I'm now the storyteller.


Why do I still game? I think the answer should be obvious but here it is.

Without it, I would never have found friends that I care so much about.

Without it, I would never have questioned my faith at so young an age. Without those questions, I would never have known what it was like to be an underdog, or to have to find and refind faith, over and over again.

Without it, I would never have been half the man I am now.

Without it, I would not be me.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Because I've been fooled too many times already, and I won't be fooled again.

Because there's no deception worse than self-deception.

Because I won't unconditionally accept someone who takes but does not give.

Because one does not assess merit by all the wrongs I've committed over all the right things you've done.

Because the number things you've done right by me has been painfully small that even THAT comparison is only marginally in your favour.

Because a man that you've taken shameless advantage of for 12 years no longer exists and is finally willing to stand up to you and cut you out of my life.

Because you are a bully, and I hate bullies.

Because you are a coward, and I hate cowards.

Because when push came to shove, you neither pushed nor shoved. You ran away.

Because I've lost friends because of you. Not one. Not two. Multiple.

Because, in spite of everything, I've given you chances that you never even recognised as chances.

Because you never said sorry, and meant it. Or even remembered that you said sorry.

Because you are a parasite of the worst kind.

Go run back to the people that you can deceive into thinking that you are a decent human being. You don't fool me. Never again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Appendicitis and Accidents

Thanks to all who have been asking about my mom. She is fine now, if a little cantankerous.

I'm still not quite sure how it happened, except that at about 2 pm last Wednesday, I received a call from my dad on my mom's phone telling me she's being warded for appendicitis. That's the start of a supposedly-relaxing-but-actually-hectic weekend.

Apart from a scare with her blood pressure dropping like a rock on the first night (to which my brother quipped that my presence probably saved her life by raising her blood pressure), she is well and without complications. The doctor told her that they lasered off the appendix just in time.

She is now resting at home. I've moved back to live with her for a week. She and I exchange evil glares in the occassional battle of wills whenever I catch her doing something she isn't supposed to be doing. Lifting heavy things, puttering around needlessly, sneaking prohibited snacks away - the list is pretty endless. My dad and brother have declared themselves above it all.

Fun and games for the next week.


I spent some time over the weekend on the Causeway. My SO and I were travelling up for the weekend to get some stuff done, and we got into a minor, bumper scratching accident.

Which should have been resolved easily, except that (i) I was in a murderous mood by that time because of the long jam on the causeway and (ii) I really disliked the attitude of the guy when he got out of the car.

I have a thing against elderly men trying to take advantage of shock and awe to get a private settlement in their favour. I consider these guys bullies of the highest caliber. I can spot that kind of driver a mile away.

There are many ways to resolve the incident - some good, some not so good. My personal approach is that no matter how minor the accident, the first thing I will do is to check if anyone is injured or in shock. Honestly, there is no telling how minor or serious a fender-bender is until you check for injuries, and I never take this shit for granted. Then and only then do I check the damage to the car.

This particular elderly man didn't. He opened in the most politely aggressive way possible short of actual yelling - he asked immediately to see the license and registration of my SO, but without offering his own. This is a very subtle and firm indication that (i) he wants to be in charge of the process and (ii) that you are the one at fault, thank you very much.

All this got my blood boiling, so I got out of the car and started my discussions with him by pointing out to him that it wasn't clear cut that my SO was at fault.

Thing degenerated pretty rapidly from there. My offer to let our insurance companies settle this was refused, on the grounds that my SO was driving a Malaysian car - another indication to me that this guy just wants a quick settlement in his favour that I wasn't willing to give at that stage, seeing that (i) he was asking for quite a bit of money for small damage and (ii) I'm pretty sure that this guy was at fault even though the insurance company would probably disagree with me.

Seeing as he was unwilling to let the insurance settle this, we started the blame game, and ended with him threatening to scratch my SO's car here and now - just as an ICA officer was walking towards us, and well within earshot of him.

Things went south quickly once I asked him very loudly and clearly if he was threatening me in front of a uniformed officer. The ICA got involved and referred the matter to the Police. The Police got involved and tried to defuse the situation - which wasn't happening because Elderly Man was insistent that he did nothing wrong and said I was accusing him of something that he didn't do.

Except he did. Except that what he told the officers and what he told me were different things. Except that I had a very low tolerance to people who will twist what happened to their advantage and appear the victim. So I repeated what he said again. Loudly. In front of the police officer, who was valiently trying to calm both of us down.

My SO stepped in and defused the situation, by telling me to shut up. By this point, I was damn sick of hearing this guy go on and on about what a gentlemen he is and how all he really wanted was an apology (which was absolute bulocks - he never mentioned an apology until much later). I went down to the ICA station and got down the name of the officer who might act as a possible witness.

After I got back, I found out that my SO had settled the matter amicably, with neither side admitting fault or paying the other. We exchanged numbers, and I listened to a whole load of shite from Elderly Man about being gracious and not telling police officers that I had been threatened. I wisely shut up this time, and just let it go, given the matter was already settled.

Elderly Man, if you're reading this, bullocks to you and your fake integrity. If you had any at all, you would not have acted the way you did. If you want to try anything funny, I want you to know that I still have no qualms about making a police case over what you said.

Let's see how much integrity you have when the police get involved in this.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

More Madness

My mom went down with appendicitis today. Been shuttling back and forth from Gleneagles. No complication thank god.

Just feeling a little drained - this week also happens to be the week I'm taking my wedding photos, and I've specifically arranged for this week to be restful.

Best laid plans....

Monday, March 23, 2009


I just spent the last weekend in Muar, supposedly for a restful weeked. I ended up going there and rushing out some legal paperwork for my company. It wasn't pleasant to say the least. Apart from all the logistics issues that comes about when you go to a relatively less developed part of Malaysia,

The most traumatic part for me, though, was the use of a part of my brain that I try very hard not to use - the overclocked processor.

When I was still in legal practice, I was essentially thrown off the deep end and had to learn many complicated things by myself. To survive, I developed (or perhaps always had) the ability to accelerate my thought processes to a point where I can keep up with the deluge of information. Think of it as an adrenal stress "fight or flight" reaction, except it is completely focused on synthesizing and processing information (including, I might add, negotiation tactics).

The cost of this is that I literally shut down all other available functions. I don't eat, hardly sleep, pace around like a madman and do away with most social niceties like grooming and speaking like a human being. I also apparently give of this "fuck with me and you will die" aura.

The price of overclocking my processor this way is that it takes it toll on me. Physically, I end up in the state of physical exhaustion and starvation when it ends and I usually need a few days quiet rest after to get back to 100% again. Socially, it takes a while to repair the relationships damaged through my lack of social niceties.

The worst toll on me, though, is this spiritual chill I feel at the end of overclocking. It's not physical in any way. I just perceive the world as a cold and hostile place, like I'm suddenly and completely disconnected from everything. Nothing I eat tastes good. No gesture of kindness has an impact on me. Nothing.

I believe greatly in positive acts and positive karma. The problem with using this part of me is that it is fueled with anger, hate, and desperation of being caught in an untenable lonely situation. It infects my worldview and makes everything bleaker. Enough of this, and I revert back to negativity - something which I don't ever want to go back to.

And I have just taken another step back to it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rabbit Punch

Thought I'd get round to explaining my Plurk.

A rabbit punch is a blow delivered to the base of the skull or neck, so named because that's how you kill a rabbit barehanded. It's considered an illegal move in boxing because it can cause death.

I did not get rabbit punched - the placement was about 6 inches off, because the blow landed on the base of my skull. It was a clean shot - which makes me feel somewhat better about it.

The reason I received many shots to the skull (3 in all) was because of a particularly intense bout of dagger drills. I've written a lot about fighting with a dagger, and I won't repeat it.

Something that I spotted in the article I've linked that I didn't pay attention to when I went into the dagger bout that Ilkka brought up - at dagger range, everything comes into play. Arms, hands, knees, feet. Getting the quick strike isn't everything, as I've learnt.

How it happened was when I launched a quick strike into my partner, and felt contact. I distinctly saw my blade sink into his collarbone and I though - okay that was it. Unfortunately, the bout continued, and my opponent launched a series of punches to my face. Two landed on my mask, one looped around and got me in the head.


Ultimately, the art is about the control of structure. An attack with a dagger is another means of doing the same thing - distrupting the structure of someone by planting steel into his internal organs. There are other ways of doing the same. Repeated blows to the head, for example.

I think I have the issue down, and it's the same issue I've been having all this while - I've been practising the material so long that I'm starting to take it for granted, and errors are creeping in. Sure, my initial responses are good, but after about 2 seconds I usually end up flailing around like a headless chicken.

Understanding the general principle is all well and good, but it's a methodology to work responses and nothing more. You -should- be able to work with what you. For example, in the instance when the guy is punching the living daylights out of me, the response should be the same as a normal dagger defense - first remedy cover to the center, plus a change in line, plus a return strike with the dagger.

This shit works. I just need to make it work for me.

Friday, March 06, 2009


Okay, the title is a bit OTT. No I haven't been possessed. Still, in line with connecting and reconnecting with people, I did something I've always done - meet the Cowboy.

As a bonus, I met the even-cuter-in-person Fireangel as well, plus members of the Cowboy Bar whose exploits are legendary on the web. Hi MistressGrace, Nerak and TK!

So here it is. No pictures though.


Even before the start of lunch, I was faced with an interesting problem - how in the seven hells do I recognise Cowboy, he without an online photo? Plus, he's probably never seen my photo either, so if he didn't recognise me, I would be in trouble.

Luckily, I recognised Fireangel, who looked damn surprised when she first saw me. I must have looked like some rabid stalker. In my own defense, it was because I was relieved to see her.

Anyways, with that bit of awkwardness behind us, we went for a "quick" lunch at Brotzeit.


What can I say about lunch, except that it was the best stress relief I've had after a long week of back-to-back work? The banter was easy, funny and free-flowing. I can only imagine what they are like when they are drunk.

Bloody hell, my liver can imagine what they are like when they are drunk.

I was seated next to Nerak, who turned out to be a lark, a mother of two and in impossibly good shape. Fireangel and I could only stare in disgust when she claimed she was "normal" weight. I muttered under my breath about my figure.

Of course, what German meal would be complete without sausages? And what sausage-based meal would be complete without innuendo, both about Germans and their sausages, with meaningful looks cast at Nerak and Fireangel?

MistressGrace joined the four of us a little later, and somehow the conversation turned towards blog traffic and Nuffnang earnings. My own pathetic earnings turned out to be even more than MistressGrace's, for which, in a burst of schadenfreude, I was eternally grateful.

TK joined us last. Again, the conversation took a bizarre turn towards artistics photography. TK suggested that I should pose in the nude with nothing but a steel gauntlet, and I was, for once, shocked into a loss for words.

Lunch tapered off eventually, with all of us needing to return to our day jobs. Still it was pretty awesome. Good bunch of chaps, one and all. Kudos.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Just Show Up

Just as I was trying to find the source of my recent energy drain, along comes Tym with a wonderful video that reaffirms an epiphany I had while I was in California and trying to put into practice.

Lately, I've been feeling de-energized and unmotivated. I had initially thought that my energy drain was due to having to help friends deal with difficult issues in life, but I realise now it's deeper than that - it's creativity fatigue.

To those who do not believe that counselling friends with wisdom and restraint is a creative process, I challenge you to do so. It's just as much effort to frame your ideas, experiences and wisdom in a way that will be understood clearly as it is to teach a class, write poetry or perform on stage.

Elizabeth Gilbert is an amazing speaker, but more importantly, she frames the issue in an interesting manner. Since I've gone through my life-changing experiences, I've been an advocate of taking responsibility only for yourself, and to leave the rest to...well...the rest. I've written about human love and stubborness in the past, as an ingredient for living life after a great tragedy. However, the pieces fall into place so well in this speech that I feel almost...breathless.

Externalize your creativity. Just show up and do your job - let the rest take care of itself.


One of the issues I've been having with swordsmanship isn't lack of practice - it's lack of intent and understanding. The practice we have are merely gates (pardon the small pun here guys!).

Lately I've been unable to synthesize what the practices into something useful. My wheels are spinning but I'm going nowhere. After watching Ms Gilbert's speech, I think I understand what's going on. Sometimes, the process of learning (itself a creative process) involves spinning wheels because synthesis of learning is just as capricious a creature as creativity.

That doesn't mean that I should not make the effort to learn. It just means I don't beat myself up everytime I don't quite learn something as well as I should.

Just show up. Let the rest take care of itself.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Sunday's training pretty much reflects how ragged my form has become.

I don't think my form is horrible. I managed to execute First Drill properly (despite some initial hiccups with the second step). I managed to get through the variations fairly well. I even survived the (comparatively brisk) warm up on Sunday, along with a fair execution of Syllabus Form.

The problem here is the lack of "stressed" training.

It showed a lot during the mock tournament we held. Kenneth and Yu Sarn have been able to truly integrate their training into a useable martial art. I have not. They can execute sword forms while thinking tactically. I cannot. They can step off the line as a natural response. My feet feel glued to the floor.

The strange part is - all of these problems only appear when I am in a stressful situation - i.e freeplay.

I know what this means - it means I don't have enough reps under my belt to really integrate this into a proper martial art. I've been doing a lot of armchair martial arts - critiquing styles, forms but not really training.


The other problem now (which is related) is that I'm at an incredibly low in energy. I think I know why it's so low, and I know from experience that it tends to be self-correcting after a while. I just need to refill my energy reserves that I've spent on creative endeavours of late - i.e helping friends through their love problems, writing out scenarios for the games that I run etc.

Perhaps what I really need to do is to get some way of getting healthy without my reliance on swordsmanship as a head fake. I think I've relied on that for too long, and I really should move on based on that foundational activity.

More later. Head is hurting again.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why You Should Wear Gloves When Practising Swordsmanship

AKA, "The Doofus that Got Himself Cut"

How it Happened:

We were practising crossing of swords from Dente di Chingale. (Translation: It's a parry from a low guard held to the left of the body against a blow coming in from the attackers high right, cutting down towards the lower left.)

Some mistiming was probably going on. My best guess was that the cover either came up too late against an improperly formed attack (and I was the attacker) or I was leading with my hands.

Long story short - the blow grazed my fourth knuckle, deflected off my fifth and gouged a chunk of skin off the edge of my hand.

Lesson learnt, wear gloves, do your best to cover your hands on the attack, and don't stand so close.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Malaysian Conumdrum

I've been following the discussion thread here at Mr Wang's. It's a discussion about why a Singapore PR/Malaysian citizen would not want to take up Singapore citizenship in order to enjoy the privileges here, and is instead asking for the Singapore Government to instead extend privileges to PR's.

Let me start with a couple of points - I don't think it's possible to generalise on whether a PR is here just to reap the economic benefits or whether they are here to stay. A lot depends on factors such as whether they own property back in Malaysia, and how badly they are being treated in Malaysia.

I just thought I'd share some of my experiences and hearsay that I've experienced. Hopefully it will give a new perspective on the situation.


Some Malaysian PR's are here because they want to earn in SGD and spend in Ringgit. I don't think this is in itself bad. If Singaporeans themselves are complaining what a low wage they are earning, I certainly cannot blame Malaysians for wanting to optimise their earnings. If they are depressing the local wage by being present here, it must be that they aren't earning all that much either.

I've heard some stories from Malaysian colleagues that Singapore employers automatically propose lower salaries on seeing that they are from Malaysia. In some senses this is a double edged sword - yes they do have a competitive advantage in wages, but the wages they make are lower overall as compared to a Singaporean in a comparable job scope and industry.


Some Malaysian PR's are here (or in other countries for that matter) because they are being victimised in their own countries. I've heard over the last year that the 30% ownership of companies by Bumiputra's have caused the Chinese business community to go into an uproar, to the extent of asking their children overseas to stay overseas, and slowly initiating a transfer of property over. Singapore, UK, America, Canada all feature heavily in places to "run to".

Apparently the Keris-waving incident has caused some problems among the Chinese community in Malaysia as well. The extent of that, I'm not sure.

What I do get a sense of in Malaysia is that minorities (i.e not Malay) are very skittish of their own homeland. Given a choice they would certainly not want to run to another country. However, the writing's on the wall, and they are certainly getting less and less welcome as Malaysia becomes increasingly unstable.


I wish to touch on the issue of owning property in Malaysia too. A couple of months back a friend developer asked me if I was interested in purchasing some property. I humoured him of course, but I had no intention of buying the property. What I found out surprised me. I, too, received the same advice - that I should put the ownership under a Malaysian's name where possible. I also noticed the difference in mortgage rates offered to Malaysians and Singaporeans. It was a 5% differential, which amounts to quite a bit of money.

I am also told that there are certain bank accounts and investments in Malaysia that pay preferential interest rates, but only to Malaysians. From what I've gathered the differential is a couple of percentage points higher than what bank accounts usually pay. I guess this must be Malaysia's version of pork barrel politics but I'm not entirely sure.


The long and short of these anecdotes is that I don't think the situation is as clear cut as what most netizens make it out to be. Sure, a lot of the reasons I've cited are economic and political, but I think these form a network of interacting wants, needs and emotions that make it the decision not to take Singapore citizenship very hard to untangle.

What really fascinates me is the fact that this PR, Adrian Gopal, would appeal to the Singapore Government on a public forum to make his life as a PR easier. What I do not understand is this - essentially, each person's problem is individual. What Mr Gopal is asking for is essentially a sweetener to make the decision to stay in Singapore easier.

I can only draw two possible conclusions from this (1) that Mr Gopal thinks he has a reasonable chance of success in his appeal and (2) that Mr Gopal is desperate, so even if he thinks he has no reasonable chance of success, he has to try to make this appeal.

If the first is true, then it exposes once and for all how vulnerable and dependent Singapore is on skilled labour, and the inadequacies of our own labour force in providing for Singapore's needs (for whatever reasons). If Mr Gopal thinks he has a reasonable chance of success, it must be because foreign labour has collectively got sufficient bargaining power to make the Singapore Government listen.

If this is the case, then there must be a failure of Singapore Government policy somewhere. If the issue is wage competitiveness, then the issue must be that the Singapore Government's policies in either education, labour or NS (or all three) does not make up for the differential in value offered by Singaporean labourers, as opposed to foreign labour.

If the second option is true, then this speaks a lot about the invisible plight of foreign labour in Singapore, and it behooves us, if we are to become a nation, to understand their plight and not dismiss them offhand.

Either way, there's more of a story to be told I'm sure.

Friday, February 13, 2009

NS Part III - Responsibility

Here's the last instalment of my thoughts on NS. The last instalment turned out to be harder to write than the previous two, mostly because I've been distracted thinking of other breaking news about the Job Credits Scheme (which I think is a good idea, but not for the reasons the ministers give) and various ministers putting their collective feet in their mouths.

Anyways, here it is.


The final aspect to consider about NS is the amount of personal benefit an NSMen derives from service. Here is where things get most complicated. The Powers that Be would like us to think that NS is an opportunity to grow up, a rite of passage etc. We who serve likely think the opposite, and that we pick up bad habits along the way, i.e cursing in colourful Hokkien, smoking, drinking cheap tiger beer, etc.

I think couching NS in terms of personal benefits is completely misconceived. NS is a circumstance of Singapore life, much like PSLE, applying for a HDB flat and CPF. It's very difficult to judge the effect of a set of circumstances on a person, because people react to circumstances differently.

Simply put, you and I can go through the exact same NS training and come out different people.

With this in mind, how is it that MINDEF can spout the same drivel about making our youngsters more mature year-in, year-out? Why is it our female counterparts can become mature in university without the need for NS? What about the generation of uncles that came before us? Are they any less mature for not having gone through NS?

This cannot be correct.


If what I have written above is true, then the flip side must also be true. Insofar as NS is a dangerous, shitty, time-wasting circumstance, it is still the individual's responsibility to ensure that they get some personal benefit from it.

It must be up to us to get gold from the shit, so to speak.

Of course NS has it's share of keng-sters who will dump their work on you because they can get away with it. Who's to say that you won't get this in future when you are working? Learn to deal with it, ESPECIALLY if it's a superior officer doing this to you.

Of course NS has it's share of mindnumbing admin to do. Who's to say that you won't get this in future when you are working? Learn to deal with it, ESPECIALLY because mind-numbing admin happens everywhere and your future expense claims, leave and performance reviews may be linked to these.

Of course NS has it's share of dangerous circumstances. Who's to say that you won't get this in future? Learn to deal with it, because if there's one thing NS taught it, it's that nothing in life can be taken for granted.

And there you go. Personal benefit, personal responsibility. It can't work any other way.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Huat Ah!

Happy belated CNY to one and all!

Pardon my lack of updates. I've just spent a good part of CNY un-hooked from the Intrawebs, and am currently a bystander of some unnecessary drama.

I will get back to updating this blog fairly soon. As a teaser, my current bloggable topics include:

(1) Controlling the Centre Line (for martial arts, inspired by watching the movie "Ip Man")
(2) Personal Benefits for NS (or lack thereof)
(3) Unnecessary Drama

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In Defense of Defense Part II - Everybody Dies

I've been chewing through some of the comments that have been put on my blog from my entry. One of them fascinates me, so I will spend some time talking about it.

PanzerGrenadier wrote:

"The far greater price that we NSmen face is DEATH while serving the country."

He also wrote some stuff about the accidents happening in NS, and the risk of death in NS.

Let me start by saying, my utmost sympathies for those who have lost loved ones in the course of serving their NS. This post may offend you, so please don't read on.


Death is inevitable. We all have to die some time, and the only question here is when, how and why. Those are the questions that we need to ask when trying to make MINDEF responsible for loss of life (or anything else for that matter).

I have some sympathy for MINDEF, not a whole lot, but some. The high-level problem that MINDEF faces is that it needs to impose regimentation and fairly rigourous training standards, while taking disproportionate amounts of liability for these standards.

In that sense, I can see why MINDEF would want to defend itself from liability in this way. It cannot be that MINDEF is legally culpable for every act within it's military premises. If a man keels over and dies while binging on cheap Tiger beer at the mess, it's going to be a stretch to argue that MINDEF is responsible.

On the other end of the spectrum, if someone gets squashed flat by a tank during exercise, why yes, MINDEF should be responsible.

What I'm trying to do here is to inject some sense into this issue - it cannot be that MINDEF is responsible for everything. Arguing along this line does not make sense, and in fact, demonstrates everything that I've argued in the previous post - that we are not in fact trying to get what is fair, but merely trying EVERY means to pin some fault, ANY fault on MINDEF. That makes us as bad as MINDEF is.


What I -do- think will help NS safer is a Freedom of Information Act, and more frequent external audits. Take to point the issue of the NS man found mysteriously dead in a bunk. We don't know for sure the circumstances of his death. There isn't a way for finding this information out, so whatever MINDEF says will essentially become the "truth" for the purposes of liability.

Without a Freedom of Information Act, this kind of fact finding cannot be tested by external pressures. It enables the "cover-up" culture to continue, and weakens the credibility of everything MINDEF does.

I don't accept that everything MINDEF does is secret. Take the health of its NSMen for example. That information is fairly widely available in the public domain for the purposes of insurance, court cases etc. It cannot be that NS medical data is somehow special once it crosses the border of a military camp. In the event of a dispute, disclose that medical data.

The other method is to use external auditors to check accounts, training etc. I accept that this method has its limitations, in the sense that they can easily be undermined by whatever administrative roadblocks MINDEF chooses to throw up. However, the reverse side is true - the more admin roadblocks they throw up, the stupider they look when something eventually happens.

I'll get back to my writing about personal benefits (or lack thereof) of NS in a bit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In Defense of Defense

My experiences with NS and as a citizen soldier has lead me to question quite a bit about our national policy towards NS. Personally, I do not think it is NS per se that causes resentment among Singaporean males. It is a whole combination of factors.

The heart of the matter is that NS is a massive obligation with few benefits. When I say "benefit" I mean the whole gamut of benefit - financial, social, personal. I think enough has been discussed about financial benefit so I won't go there. What I will focus on is social and personal benefit.

My biggest gripe about NS is that it is viewed nationally not as a necessary sacrifice, but as a "haha-sucker" sort of obligation. Witness Taiwan - I am told merely wearing a uniform there raises your esteem in the eyes of the locals. A similar but more sombre zeitgeist pervades Israel, Finland and Switzerland. Why is this so?

The problem with Singapore is the issue of "us" and "them" isn't so clear cut. The "us" versus "them" mentality is encouraged, even inflammed, by government propaganda. The problem with encouraging this mentality is that this bleeds over to every aspect of life.
  1. "Me" versus "the government", i.e what I can do to get out of NS in the first place?
  2. "Me" versus "everyone else in NS", i.e can I get other people to do my job in NS?
  3. "Me" versus "society" i.e Now that I have (on paper) served NS, what else can I get out of this obligation that ALL taxpayers have to bear?
Note that this mentality spreads even to non-NS serving citizens - i.e women. I've never met a Singaporean woman that gives respect to our men purely because they have to serve NS. It's always a mixture of relief and schadenfreude (that they don't have to serve), combined with just a little bit of "haha-sucker".

In short, what social benefit is there from serving NS? You don't get any respect out of it, you hardly get recognised for hard work, and if you do, in fact, put in hard work out of moral obligation, people laugh at you and call you a sucker.


More on (lack of) personal benefits to NS in another instalment.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Off to Reservist

See you all at the end of 2 weeks.