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Like to listen to what goes on behind the scenes in film making or acting straight from an actor? Click here.

A Reunion Dinner with a secret to hide. Click here.

Have you taken all the modern comforts for granted? Behind every modern device there is the technology and with them comes the management and risks. Interested to find out what goes on below the hood? Click here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Driverless Electric Vans


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This is a landmark achievement for driverless car navigation. I wonder how they interact with other cars with drivers. If the video doesn't work, click here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bucky Group - Changing Education Paradigms

23rd October 2010

This Saturday, we listened to a speech given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education expert and recipient of the RSA Benjamin Franklin award.
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A lot of what he says resonates with what Bucky said, that "Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them." Evidently, as in Ken's speech, toddler kids score 98% in the genius test and got worse as they grew older.


As an exercise for 'divergent thinking', Joo Hock gave us each an A4 size paper and asked if we could make a loop out of it that is big enough to go around our body. That is, without the aid of sticky tape and staples. I told Joo Hock that I have already done this before and he asked me to think of another way of doing it.
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We come back to the results later...

The famous author and futurist Alvin Toffler mentioned about the factory style production of education in his book "The Third Wave" in the 1970s and in "Revolutionary Wealth" in the 2000s. In the factory system, everyone starts at the same age, do the same curriculum and take the same tests. This was to turn farm hands to factory hands in the face of the industrial revolution. More about "Revolutionary Wealth", click here.
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This system also assumes that everyone is destined to be an intellectual with the ultimate achievement of becoming a university professor. In other words, some will be called 'smart' and some 'stupid'.

Bucky mentioned in the 1970s that universities of the future would be production studios for educational documentaries. Today, we find lots of these educational documentaries in Youtube and other video hosting portals. MIT and some other Ivy League universities have also uploaded their lectures and lecture notes to the Internet for anyone to download for free!
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Then you have oddball groups, like the Bucky Group, going on an informal lifelong learning journey, by gathering in a hair salon every week to learn something from books, videos and each other.
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Now, here comes the contentious part about ADHD...
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Reflections-on-Ken-Robinson’s-talk
By K E Pang
Registered Educaion Therapist, Assoc Fellow, DAS RETA;
MSc, PGDipEd, BSocSc(Hons), BA.

I agree with his point that we need to reform education due to economic and cultural reasons. I also agree that we need to relook the way we classify human capacity into “academic vs non-academic” and the myth of the “abstract – theoretical – vocational” conception.

Definitely, education should cater to different individuals. But this is not new. About 2,500 years ago, Confucius in China already propounded to “teach according to the material/talent (witty pun too).”
It is true that current public education marginalizes millions of children. While he seem to suggest that all those millions are children with ADHD conditions, I’d like to add that those labeled ADHD are just some of those marginalized, but not the only one. There are others like those with conditions of Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Autistic spectrum, etc.

There may be some cases of ADHD where drugs may not be the best solution, and may be overused. However, in extreme cases, it is necessary for the safety of others. In have come across several children with severe ADHD coupled with violent tendencies that they actually posed a safety hazard to people around them (children and adults alike) on a daily basis. It was only on days they were sedated that the other children felt safe from harm. Fortunately, most cases of ADHD were not like that.
In his presentation, Ken Robinson appear to tacitly privilege divergent thinking and creativity over other capacities. Divergent thinking and creativity per se, without balance from other capacities may not be very helpful. There are also other capacities like the ability to focus, and act, that are also important for work to get done. Thus the value of convergent thinking and deductive reasoning still have their places for survival and daily living.
In the experiment he quoted on the genius in divergent thinking, he noted that divergent thinking seem to deteriorate with age. He attributed the deterioration to education. However, without proof cited, that is just a speculation.

We know from research that influences on the individual from the mass media and peers are just as strong, if not much stronger, than education institutions. Moreover, brain studies show that there are developmental phases in our physiology that our brain cells and their connections go through pruning – a process of cutting down the very connections that is linked to divergent thinking. Perhaps the causes of deterioration in divergent thinking lay elsewhere?
Ken Robinson seemed to contradict himself towards the end. e.g. he mentioned some individuals study best in solitude, some in small groups, some etc... yet, in his closing remark he mentioned that most learning happen in groups.

This may or may not be the case, for we know some of the most important and profound insights were done in solitude. Especially knowledge of intellect and of emotions. wisdom...which is more than both. Jesus spent years in the wilderness. Buddha attained his enlightenment in solitude meditation under the Bodhi tree.
Moreover, learning in groups may be heaven for some of the ADHDs, but it would be a torture chamber for those on the autistic spectrum, or other individuals who just learn best in solitude.

In that case, was he not just imposing another set of ideas onto what is?



Discussion:
About Answers
Monica: Teachers in schools tend to have a 'correct' answer for every question they ask. This does not allow the students to think that there are more than one answer to a question.
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My Experiment as a Teacher
That is why when I was a lecturer in a local Polytechnic, I refused to have multiple-choice questions as it gives the impression that one of the four suggested answers is absolutely right and the other three are entirely wrong. This does not closely reflect reality. Usually, there are more than four alternative answers and sometimes, all of them are 'wrong' or not ideal.
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The other category I took out from the exams the privilege to choose the questions the student would like to answer. Again, we often do not have the privilege to ignore questions that we face in real life. So I insisted on all questions to be answered.
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As I was teaching a security course, all questions were scenario based. That meant that a scenario was given and the student had to assess what to do given the scenario and to state all assumptions if required.
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For some questions, I went a step further to ask the student to identify the question (or problem) in the scenario, and that marks will be awarded to the explanation of why the student think that was the question given the scenario. Isn't this a common situation where observations are made, and yet the real question is elusive?
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Naturally, I was not popular, as the students were all working adults from 35 to 45 years old, holding responsible positions and educated in the traditional route learning system. I realised that when they interrupted my lesson to tell me that what I spoke of at that moment and what was displayed on the slides were not identical. They also asked which page of the notes I was referring to. They had expected speech, slides and notes to be all perfectly synchronised. I told them not to worry about the slides and only to refer to the notes when they get home, but right at the moment, they were supposed to listen, understand or ask questions. That didn't quite work out.
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More challenges arose in the assignments, one of them which was supposed to build a data centre on the crest of a hillock. As they were used to accept knowledge from books wholesale without questioning, some of them mentioned in their assignments that "precautions must be taken to make sure that the data centre site is not flooded during a rain..."; another mentioned that "precautions have to be taken against pipes freezing and bursting...", even given that the site is in sunny tropical Singapore!
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At this point, Joo Hwa said that the student was 'correct' about the flood, as we learned that in our nursery rhyme, that "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water...". "Aren't they supposed to go DOWN the hill to fetch a pail of water?" Come to think of it, yeah, nobody questioned, myself included!!!
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In another assignment, I asked the students to pick up any two brands of a security device, then evaluate and compare their usefulness and explain why they choose one over the other. Many of them couldn't do that. They are used to receiving information and treating them as gospel truth. Now with the democratisation of information, they were unable to discern and discriminate. A skill that urgently need to be taught in school - this is suggested by Alvin Toffler in his book "Revolutionary Wealth", as in the Internet age, students no longer learn only from teachers. The result of the assignment was that I got many assignments that merely cut and pasted a table of data of product A, and another table of data of product B, without commentary.
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However, there were two activities that worked quite well, so not all was futile. One was the role play exercise, where I simulated a scenario of a security intrusion and that they were to react to the incident. The other successful activity was the one-to-one interview where they felt they really learned a lot from, though the interviews for each of them was only 5-10 minutes. I supposed these two activities worked better because they were interactive and there was more fun!
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How to Get the Most out of the Present System
Lily related her experience of her grand-daughter in kindergarten where she coloured the face of a girl blue and the teacher told the little girl that it was the wrong colour, and what the right colour was supposed to be. In another case, her grand-daughter drew lines across a triangle, as instructed, and the teacher commented that the lines were out of the sides of the triangle and that they were crooked, so she should use a ruler to draw them.
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Lily said that that was disheartening, but she tries to go along with the system, by telling her grand daughter that for the exams, she must do it in a certain way, but in life, the rules are to be broken.
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June then quickly interjected that it must be emphasized that it should be told that the rules can be broken but only if integrity is maintained.
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How do you feel if you have made a discovery?
At this point, Joo Hock took out his poster used during his book launch of a quotation by Isaac Asimov, it has some blanks for us to fill in and it goes like this:
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"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds a discovery is not 'e_____', but 'that's f____.'"
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Can you guess the two words in the phrase? The first one is 'eureka', the second is 'funny'.
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Results of Cutting the A4 paper into a Loop:
These are the results from a group of senior citizens trying to cut loops out of A4 size paper that is big enough to go through Joo Hocks body. Well, did Ken say genius thinking deteriorates with age? :)



Try it yourself. Cut a loop big enough to loop around your body from an A4 size paper without sticky tape and staplers. I'll show you one of the solutions next week!


Postscript:
Monica mentioned about the 12 senses in Wardolf Education. I have checked on the Net and found these:
  1. Touch
  2. Life
  3. Movement
  4. Equilibrium
  5. Smell
  6. Taste
  7. Vision
  8. Warmth
  9. Listening/Hearing
  10. Word/Language
  11. Thought
  12. Ego
For more details of the 12 senses, click here.
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

What I Feel Like Saying...


17th October 2010
It had been a special Bucky session with the agenda under wraps for many weeks. It was also the first and probably only Bucky event that Joo Hock had to turn attendees away. Finally, when the day came, it was revealed that it would be a launch of his book of poems entitled, "What I Feel Like Saying".
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"What I Feel Like Saying", is a collection of the inner thoughts of Joo Hock, much of them inspired by the philosophy and thoughts of Buckminster Fuller. particularly the one called "The Trim Tab Man".
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A trim tab is a smaller control device to release pressure prior to making major navigational changes on an aircraft or boat, to change direction. Bucky likened himself to be a trim tab. That is, just an individual that discovers new things to prepare humankind for the major changes ahead.
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"What I Feel Like Saying" is also how every Bucky session in the Salon starts off with, to allow participants to say anything they have in their mind. Absolutely anything with no judgment of what is 'right' or 'wrong'.

Here is the opening poem:
Opposite every printed poem, is a blank page for the user to pen his poems, perhaps inspired by the author's.
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We were also served to a game of filling in the blanks of famous quotes, like those pasted on the wall:

Did you manage to fill in any of the blanks?
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There were also famous poems, whom we have to identify who the authors are.
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Somebody then asked Joo Hock why he likes poems so much. He says that they are inspirational and he tries to commit to memory many of the poems he encountered, especially those penned by Bucky. He finds writing poems therapeutic. Perhaps they are all these thoughts bottled inside that needs to find their way out in a gentler kinder manner such that they can be inspirational to others.

Finally, the book launch...

... and the autographing...

I got mine inked by the author too...


TEDxNUS

16th October 2010

It was an enlightening seminar - one that lived up to the expectations of TED.

I was given a tag to fill out my name and what I would like others to talk to me about and I scribbled, "Technology".
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Others I have met have more light hearted suggestions, the best among which is "You!". Yes, talk about you! Isn't this the best way of engaging someone else in a conversation?
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The famous Dale Carnegie's book on "How to Win Friends and Influence People", has put this as one of the main principles
- "Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves."
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For the list of speakers, click here.
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The 3 things that most impressed me and that I have learned from the seminar are:
  • That a goal you want to achieve 'someday' is not one worthy of you to take up.
  • That singapore's human settlement is at least 700 years old, preceding the arrival of Raffles.
  • That nobody knows the future in the stock market.
The seminar doesn't explain:
  • Why Americans are said to be diverse in culture yet unable to focus on human relations at work.
  • Why male spiders are much smaller than it's female partners.
  • What Singapore culture is.
  • If Singapore's wildlife is reducing or flourishing on the balance.
There was a speaker (Gino) who spoke about living in the present moment, but funny enough when he explicitly asked everyone else to focus on him (symbolically) as our 'present moment', I lapsed into an overly conscious state and couldn't be in the moment. hehe. Easier to do this naturally. Once too conscious about the present moment, it slips away from me. The present moment is in the moment before thinking. Thinking adds, "I, me, my..." in it and the blissful clarity vanishes.

Overall, it was a great experience to be in TEDx. I wish there was more time to mingle around during the seminar. The lobby hall was a little too small for moving around, but that just slowed things down a bit, but not a show-stopper.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Unique Day in Singapore

18th October 2010

The morning was a little bit of a hurry, as we were trying to beat the 7.30am Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) toll charge along the East Coast Parkway in Singapore. We started a little late and so we had to hurry. However amid the haste, in between pauses at traffic lights, we could still change the iPhone4 skin. Not bad eh? Every each day, a new skin! Isn't it cool? :)
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Then as we got near the ERP toll gantry, as if to make the plot more exciting, the traffic slowed down and we had only 2 minutes before the toll bells ring! Then as we crawled till just at the bottom of the gantry, the clock clicked 7.30am and we got charged $1.50 instantly, to our cries of "Oh shit!" in perfect synchronisation.
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Later in the day as I travelled in (public) bus number 130 along Balestier Road, an elderly man (about in his late 70s) got up with a folded wheel chair. The driver forbade him to take it up the bus and suggested that he took a taxi. "Taxi is very expensive!" the old man replied, but that didn't soften the driver's stance to block him coming up the bus. Ironically, the driver said that the old man could bring the wheel chair up if he sat on it, which he couldn't as it was damaged and he was bringing it for repair.
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After the old man got off the bus, the driver called up his head office to enquire if he could allow the wheelchair up, and after some discussion, the head office said that he could allow the wheel chair on board. However by then as I ran down the bus to get the old man, he had already taken a taxi.
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I was upset with the driver for being so heartless and myself for not intervening earlier. Singapore sadly has become a state where many people live like robots. I asked the driver how he could possibly turned the old man away and he said that if it was just up to him, he would have allowed, but he was afraid of possible reprimand from the company. Couldn't the driver decide with his heart? What harm or safety risk can a wheelchair do on board? The irony is that he could have allowed the wheelchair up if the old man sat on it. Haiz!

Good reminder that we should trust our heart.
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This is my Uniquely Singapore Day!
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bucky Group - Making Enzymes


9th October 2010

Siew Kiang, a Bucky Group member briefed and guided us into the process of making enzymes from fruits. We made one from fruit peels and wastes for cleaning, aka "Rubbish Enzymes" and another for drinking.

We used big fat plastic bottles. 'Fat' for the volume and 'plastic' so it won't explode during fermentation. The yeast in the fruit consume sugar producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. Initially, the carbon dioxide will carbonate the water and subsequently build pressure that can pop the bottle or break it.
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The proportion of sugar:fruit:water is 1:3:10.
That means if you use 900g of fruit, then it would be 300g sugar: 900g fruit: 3000 cc of water.
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The brown sugar is added, then the fruit peels and remains (only for the Rubbish Enzyme). Have a good mix of different fruit peels, like lemon, apple, bananas...etc, so that we can get the different properties of the different fruits.

After that, add clean water, leaving some space in the bottle, cap it tight and shake the bottle thoroughly to mix. Open the bottle cap once a day during the first two weeks to release the built up pressure during the fermentation.
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At the end of 3 months, filter the enzyme solution for use. Enzyme solution is like wine as the potency increases with time. There is no expiry date.
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The residue may be reused for the next batch by adding more fresh ingredients or you may dry the residue, blend and bury them in the ground to fertilize the soil. Use this carefully as it is a very strong fertilizer. Alternatively, pour into your toilet bowl / kitchen sink to clean and remove blockages in the pipes.

Do the same for enzymes for drinking, but use raw honey in place of sugar, as sugar produces more alcohol, and in excess, is bad for the liver.


Enzymes are effective as:
  • Fertilizer (replace or reduce use of chemicals), diluted 1:100/500/1000 ratio.
  • Insecticide, diluted 1:1000 ratio.
  • Pesticide, diluted 1:100 ratio.
  • Plant hormone (for fruits and flowers – use on roots, soil), diluted 500 times.
  • Anti-odour / air freshener ( pets, laundry, toilets, closets, shoe box, refrigerator), diluted 200 times.
  • Shampoo, Washing liquids, Detergents (to reduce chemical side-effects, grime, mould/fungus), 1 teaspoon per 500cc.
  • Veggie and Fruit wash – soak fruit and vegetables for 45 minutes to remove harmful pesticide residues, 1 tablespoon per 1000 cc.
  • Soothe Insect bites / itch / eczema / scalding - applying on affected areas immediately.

Notes courtesy of Dr. (H) Joean Onn of Naturopathic, Family Care Centre in Penang.

At the time of writing, we are 9 days into the enzyme fermentation process. You can drop in Hair Affair Salon to see what the bottles have turned into. In another 81 days, the enzymes will be ready for use, saving the environment from harmful toxic chemicals, giving you good health and hygiene and saving you some money.

Finally, see how easy it is to keep a group of senior citizens happy by just giving them each a bottle to shake with.



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video

Read about my explosive experience making wine in High Spirits.






Monday, October 11, 2010

Adaptive Imperative


Date: 5 Oct 2010

Venue: NUS Bukit Timah Campus

Speaker: Jeff Chua, Boston Consulting Group

I have attended a talk recently about developing business strategies in turbulent times when it is difficult to see trends beyond two or three years. The speaker mentioned the following observations:

The context of strategy has changed since changes happen frequently.

  1. Market leadership does not necessarily imply the same extent in profitability.
  2. It is harder to define industry boundaries.
  3. It is harder to predict the future.
  4. Market position is unstable. Those on top do not stay on top for very long.

Example of a Market Leader losing out to latecomer:

Blockbuster vs Netflix

Blockbuster was a market leader in video rental. But on 23 Sep 2010, it filed for Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code or protection against creditors.

Netflix is also in the video rental business and started in 1997. It deployed no strategy other than encouraging compulsive dissent and experiments. They tried sending out DVDs on envelopes, posting them and pricing them on a flat fee for as many DVDs customers care to watch. Then they continued to stream videos across different channels. By 2007, they passed the billionth DVD delivered.

This, the speaker claimed is evidence of increased unpredictability and turbulence.

Businesses would need to have:

- Responsiveness (agility)

- Resilience (robustness)

- Readiness (anticipation)

- Recursion (experimentation)

Example of two market leaders deploying very different strategies:

Google – using open systems

Apple – using closed proprietary systems.

The speaker continue to suggest that businesses should adapt using their:

  1. Signal Advantage
  2. System Advantage
  3. People Advantage
  4. Simulation Advantage
  5. Social Advantage.

My opinion:

I think the speaker had focused too much on the form and not enough on the essence of the apparent ‘changes’.

The underlying common denominator of the current observations is merely the advent of technology and its easy and cheap availability. For instance:

- Netflix triumph over Blockbuster because of the former’s clever use of technologies.

- Large companies no longer make the proportional scale of profits as they used to because clever technologies are no longer just affordable by big companies, but they are affordable to small ones too. It is now possible even to become a one-man multi-national company.

So things aren’t that unpredictable or turbulent if we focus on the common denominator of ‘technology’.

Also, while Google appears to be ‘open’ and Apple being ‘closed’ using propriety systems, the commonality is that both makes money through their own propriety ‘orifice’. Google’s orifice is their search engine, while Apple’s is iTunes. And we have another major orifice called Microsoft Windows. Businesses love orifices. So in this respect, they are the same. So there isn’t the unpredictability or turbulence.

In summary, observations may appear different in form, but in essence there are usually common causes. The trick is look beyond the raw data to derive meaningful meta-information. The luminary Buckminster Fuller (Bucky) believed that the universe is one system obeying a set of generalized principles, and that in the early days when equipment are limited in ability and accuracy, different phenomena appeared to behaved differently. That resulted in the formation of different disciplines. So some scientific observations became ‘physics’, some became ‘chemistry’, some became ‘biology’,…etc, but in truth, they all belong to one system in the universe.

By those measures, it doesn't matter if Apple is a computer company, a mobile phone company or a lifestyle company. The fact that businesses have be categorized wrongly as stoke pipe industries with clear boundaries, doesn't mean that they need to continue to be so. A fresh look at them as eco-systems in one universe with their outreach enabled by technology would be closer to the reality.

Once the causes are identified it’ll be easier to help companies to cope up. So now you cure the causes, not the symptom. That means a simpler remedy, but usually that means you cannot sell expensive ‘medicine’ and make a lot of money. Bucky said, “You either make sense or make money, they are both mutually exclusive.” To date, I am still pondering over this question, "Can we make both money and sense?"

Monday, October 04, 2010

For god, No god.

Met some atheists. They mocked the raping of choir boys by church priests and said they are going to educate others that there is no god.

I think they will have a hard time, as if they really believe that there is no god, then there should be nothing to educate about. Unless they want to start atheism as a religion.
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Friday, October 01, 2010

Happy Children's Day




For those children out there and those still a child at heart, "Happy Children's Day".
Here is a song I used to sing in school called "Semoga Bahagia" on Children's Day in my National Language Malay. This song is composed by Zabir Said, who also composed the National Anthem of Singapore.
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Lyrics (Malay)

Sama-sama maju ke hadapan
Pandai cari pelajaran
Jaga diri dalam kesihatan
Serta sopan-santun dengan kawan-kawan

Dengan hati bersih serta suci
Sama-sama hormat dan berbudi
Jaga tingkah pemuda-pemudi
Adat dan budaya junjung tinggi

Capailah lekas cita-cita pemudi-pemuda
Supaya kita ada harga di mata dunia
Kalau kita lengah serta lupa
Hidup kita sia-sia

Jiwa besar sihat serta segar
Rajin dengan sabar tentu bahagia
Lemah lembut perangai pemudi
Cergas tangkas wataknya pemuda

Suka rela selalu berbakti
Sikap yang pembela dan berjasa
Capailah nama yang mulia pemudi-pemuda
Rajinlah supaya berjaya semoga bahagia
Lyrics (English)

Together we progress
Clever at seeking knowledge
Take care of your health
And be courteous to your friends

With a clean and pure heart
We respect and do good to each other
Watch your behaviour, oh youths
Respect and honour your customs and traditions

Quickly reach your goals/dreams, oh youths
So that we'll have our worth, in this world
If we are lazy and forgetful
Our lives are worthless

A big heart and a fresh mind
Hardworking and patience definitely brings success/happiness
Soft-spoken is the lady
Energetic and tenacious is the man

Charitable, always contributing
Having a righteous spirit and doing good
Attain a respectable position, oh youths
Be hardworking so that you will succeed, may you achieve happiness
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