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....