Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The reality of relativity

This post is dedicated to time. I've always been very fascinated by the "concept" of time... Even more intrigued by Einstein's theory on relativity. If you've been living in your stone cave, Einstein's theory of relativity briefly means that your perception of time could differ according to the situation you are in.

Two quick interesting concepts I wanna get out of the way are two observations, behavioral actions I find psychological and amusingly effective.

1. Fake run: I do this all the time, intentionally, though I used to do it subconsciously before. Whenever the traffic light green man blinks, I would sometimes still cross the road, executing what I would call a "fake run". It's where my body movements look to be running, but the speed of my movement is that of 1.5x walking. Taking into account how impatient most Singaporean drivers are, whenever the traffic light blinks, most of them would horn at pedestrians just about to start crossing the road - I know, we were told not to do so since young. But truth is, have you actually timed how long you would need to cross that particular road? For short roads (perhaps 20-30m long?) at neighboring estates, perhaps 5-7 seconds of brisk walking, and for longer ones, about 10-15 seconds. After factoring the buffer time of +2-4seconds for the traffic lights facing the side of vehicles to change, there's always "bonus" allowance for you to make the cross. Of course, in Singapore please be warned to look both sides at all times before crossing, especially at night when vehicles would just beat traffic lights. I don't want anyone to get hurt after reading my post... 

But it's just psychological, when a driver or rider sees you fake running, they would think to themselves, "ok, at least he/she is making the effort". After all in Singapore, as the Chinese sayings goes "ren bi Che da" (literally meaning humans are bigger than humans). Since we're on the topic of vehicles, only in Singapore do we also see an over-dramatization of reactions after a vehicle accident.

It's comical how both drivers would alight their vehicles, snap photos, change contacts, claim from insurance - standard procedure, as if there's an inbuilt SOP on how humans should react to vehicle accidents. Well I guess I can understand, there's no "human touch", the mutual understanding because of the cost of cars in Singapore, especially. They have become more of an deppreciating asset than merely being a materialistic "goods", like a bag, or a  piece of clothing. It's through overseas inter-reactions that I've come to realize the missing human touch in how we handle matters here in Singapore.

2. Hunchback creep: Only recently I've seen what looked like the most exaggerated "hunchback creep" I've ever seen, you know how your body and neck arches forwards and downwards a little whenever you're entering a seminar or class that you're late for? It was a sight that was creepily hilarious. 

I believe its psychologically, that the latecomer does so hoping to make himself or herself look smaller so that he or she will be less detectable. In times of extreme scrutiny, we tend to physically "ball" ourselves up so that we look less visible. I'm guilty of doing so myself, I don't know why I do it, I mean consciously, only until that recent "weird" sighting. 

However, one can't deny that the hunchback creep works, psychologically both for the executor and for the observer. If you were to see a latecomer walk into a classroom or theatrette with a hunchback creep, you would think to yourself that at least that person knows that he/she is late. If however the person simply walks in nonchalantly looking all "normal", that person is simply oblivious  and has a heck-care attitude. 

So does the gesture compensates for the perception of the loss of time, in this case, it seems so. 

But perhaps the most amazing enlightenment on relativity does not come from me running short of one second (2.4km) during my ippt which could have resulted in me obtaining gold, an additional $200 monetary incentive (yup, I've to force it here somewhere in my post because I'm still terribly sore about it, the most expensive second of my life) but because of the birth of my newborn child Dylan. 

I've mentally prep-Ed myself for that big day, I've heard and internalized the mental "trauma" cos of the supposed sleepless nights, but when it did finally come, it wasn't just the shagness, but the perception of me living my day more " fully" or to put it in a layman term, my days seemed so much longer. It's not because of the "suffering" as some would  have thought it to be (well, sacrifices have to be made, if the husband feels like he's "suffering" then the wife must be undergoing a "tragedy"), it's more because of the lack of sleep, the intermittent waking ups that makes each day longer, that makes time pass slower (not necessarily a bad thing). The biggest irony, even though it passed slowly, it still passed too fast for me. During the first week of the birth of Dylan, I was lucky in a way, in that that week had a public holiday in it. So I didn't have to take an extra day annual leave to spend more time with my son. And yet, time in each day seemed to pass slowly, yet the days passed quickly. 

Perhaps there's a weird sense of time balance, a relativity equilibrium that somehow exists in the concept of relativity, the c, the constant which puts all your relativities and my relativity in the same space time quantum realm where science and math coexist to complement as well as to contradict. 

I've never actually known relativity that well, not until now, where 2-3hours of intermittent sleep deprivation reaches the crossroads of emotional happiness.

Monday, June 9, 2014

16 Life Lessons - From the day I started "living"

I'm 30 this year, and I suppose that's about 1/3 of my life gone, assuming all goes "well" in my next 2 thirds. Perhaps like the old saying goes, I shouldn't be looking at my life 1/3 gone, but 2/3 more to live. Well either way, nothing's going to change the fact that my last 30 years is a thing of the past, the past where I've come to learn many important lessons through the different phases in my life.

Therefore in tribute to .. er... myself and my late paternal granddad whose death made me a better man, I shall sum up my life lessons in this ghost post, which will probably never be read by anyone other than my sons or daughters to be.

I've always regretted the way I treated my granddad, who loved and pampered me so much, so much so that I was made use of to get things for my cousins (well I got to know about it because my cousin shared it with me recently, reminiscing of the good ol' days). Of course I was too young back then to know what was happening around me, or to appreciate the things or people around me. My primary school teacher had once said that we shouldn't cry when our love ones passes away, cos their spirit will still linger around, and upon seeing his/her family members crying, would surely be heartbroken. Which was why I, held my tears back when I saw my late granddad laying motionless on his bed, lifeless, as if all color was drained out from him. It was a feeling I will never forget, because my guilt was double rummy - not only had I not cried at his deathbed, I wasn't even there during his final hours.

You see, I wanted to play with my best friend so much that I insisted on going to his house to play with him. He was staying just a few blocks down, and though it felt important then, I couldn't even remember a single thing about it. All I remembered was returning home to a granddad who had left us, and my grandmother saying "I wasn't even around when he died, I even went to my friend's house to play..." something of that sort.

I guess many of us may have experienced something like that, an event so significant that it changes our lives. Back then, I was only primary 4, 10 years old. Before that, I was always intrigued about how I came into this world.

I remembered the day I gained consciousness, the day I live, the first day of my life, nope, not the moment when I popped out of my mum's womb, but the day I actually experienced reality. It was weird, I can't remember how old I was back then, all I remember was a dream, a nightmare to be exact, about how I had thrown a rolled up chocolate wrapper at the foot of my bed, and a monster evolving from that wrapper.

I woke up from that nightmare, and I became conscious, for the first time. It's weird to say this, but it kinda felt as if my soul entered an empty capsule, an empty human capsule, that is now me. I tried recalling the past, even tried to remember "yesterday", but I couldn't. My mind was completely shut, blank. It was weird though, that I knew where to go, like going to the toilet, and who the people are around me, like calling my granddad Ah Gong and grandmother Ah Po etc. It was the strangest feeling, which till this very day still haunts me.

But I believe I have hypothesized an answer to this lifelong question I've always had... I had believed it was reincarnation, that my soul somehow entered this body of me, and my belief manifested over the years due to the lack of answers. But now, I believe it's because there's a certain age and time we humans gain consciousness, it's not the same for everyone, similar but not identical. And that was why I came to "suddenly see and feel" this world. Which also explains why I was able to know where to go in my grandparent's house without even recognising it, and why I know my grandparents were my grandparents and not anyone else... my subconscious mind being the answer.

Truth be told, I will never truly know the answer. It's a hypothesis, the most logical scientific answer I can come up with. You see, ever since my poly days, I ventured onto the route of science. I majored in it and it made me the way I am today... sceptical of the world, always asking questions, and never believing in a single answer.

Now that you've read a part of a pivotal phase in my life, as well as my thinking/life philosophy, let me officially welcome you to my life.

1. Never believe in anything completely
2. Not everything is as what it seems
3. Communication is key
4. Speak up, be a master of confrontations
5. Live a life without regrets
6. Expect the Unexpected
7. Knowledge is power
8. Never stop learning (it's where you gain life experiences, learn life lessons)
9. Different people have different kinds of geniuses 
10. Do not succumb to conformity
11. Self reflection is a necessity to better oneself
12. Embrace Loneliness to become a stronger person
13. Think positive, to improve your quality of life
14. There's no definite right or wrong, accept it
15. It's not the job, but the person which makes the job
16. Sincerity is the foundation for connections


1. Never believe in anything completely
2. Not everything is as what it seems
3. Communication is key

Take it with a piece of salt. Just as my post. Don't take information in as if they're gospel, because there's a good possibility that behind every information or truth is deception or lies.

Before you take this advice too negatively, which you shouldn't, let me explain. Nothing is as what it seems.

I live by the rule of 80, 20. Whatever new information I hear that sounds highly credible and logical, the maximum limit I'll give it is 80% belief and 20% disbelief. Same goes for gossips.

Most of the time when people complain or share information, there's probably a hidden agenda. It could be the most harmless of reasons, narcissism, egoism, selfishness etc. Or it could be potentially sinister, like trying to mindf*** you, or trying to backstab you with the information that you're about to share with them.

It's an exceptionally good way to like they say, test water. I've always been a firm believer of sharing information with others. For me, it's the transparency, communication and satisfaction which fuels. To quote Mark Twain "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." Well it's true, at least for me. There's just too many things to remember in life, and I definitely don't wanna remember a lie or a half truth I said.

So does that mean I have to be 100% brutally honest with everyone? Of course not? The truth hurts. A saying we're all so familiar with. The truth could at times act as a double edged sword, hurting not just the people around you, but yourself as well. Always think of the consequences and plan your conversation accordingly. Ok, not always, but when it really matters. You don't wanna be too honest at times like telling off your bosses that their way of doing things is ridiculous silly and be blacklisted for the rest of your working career in the company would you?

That said, when you share something with someone, something personal, they'll probably reciprocate. To determine if they're genuine people/friends/colleagues, do this test. And ask them a personal question after that. If they answer you with a one word reply, you know you'll wanna stay away from them. Because they're probably going to use the personal information you shared with them, against you.

While it's scary to think so badly of people, but take it from me, they are many scary people out there. There's no one to defend you, but yourself. Every once in a while, if you're lucky, there will be some guardian angels to shield you, but rather than gamble on that, why not make yourself a guardian angel for others?

4. Speak up, be a master of confrontations

How many times have you heard that this guy/gal is a good talker, and that good talkers always get the credit despite doing the least work? Well, it's true most of the time, but not all the time, not all good talkers are a**holes and not all a**holes are good talkers. However, there's definitely some truth behind this.

From what I know, good talkers are usually self-centered. No matter whether they are the hard-working sort, or the "chao gengs" kind, chances of them claiming full credit for things they only contributed a tiny weeny bit is extremely high. I've only rarely, perhaps less than the number of a teenage mutant ninja turtle has (3, if you don't know that) been exposed to genuinely magnanimous folks who take less credit than they should.

And how many freaking times have someone talked s*** to you, only to have you dumbfounded and vulnerable? Well, guess what? That's not going to change if you don't get your act together and rebut that m***********. I apologise for the profanity but I really hate it when people step on your toes when you're just minding your own business.

I mean what gives them the right to stir sh** like that, and belittle innocent folks who just want to live a peaceful, no trouble happy life? A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye. Even though the saying goes "If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer them the other side" and it sounds so forgiving and all, but don't be a fool doing that. Do you honestly think that the other person will mend his ways after you offer your other cheek to him/her to slap? Grow up, this is life, this is reality. Chances are, for someone to even slap you, he/she wouldn't have the empathetic capacity to feel remorse.

That's why you have to train yourself to master confrontations. It might be difficult at first, was for me, but it can be honed. Just tell yourself to say a word or two, or even better a sentence if you can in defence when someone shoots a sarcastic remark at you or at someone else. Remember, if you put your mind to it, you can be someone else's guardian angel instead of waiting for your guardian angel to protect you when you need help.

I was wrongfully accused many a times, and though my "guardian angel" didn't rescue me always, she did once and it ever since then, I thought to myself, it's time to pay it forward.

I was wrongfully accused of spoiling a water cooler in my primary school by the school attendant, or the school uncle, as we used to call them, just because he saw me passing the water cooler. I hadn't even drank from it, but he claimed that I spoilt it. It was a big hooha alright. I was so stunned by the accusation that I was lost for words. It was not until my Head Prefect cum friend came to my rescue and told the school uncle off, challenging him if he saw me spoiling the water cooler. Of course he couldn't because all he did was see me pass by it, and so the case was closed, thanks to my so-called "guardian angel".

Being a good talker cum master of confrontations not only boosts your confidence, your conditioned mind will keep you calm in times of crisis and will give you an edge over clearing your or someone else's name when lady justice's cropped up with other matters.

5. Live a life without regrets
6. Expect the Unexpected

It was my friend's death which really got me thinking that "it's about time I really started living, not just staying alive". Though there were many deaths happening, I mean its bound to happen sooner or later, while many would prefer later, it didn't really occur to me how "close" it really was. I believe I had 2 previous posts about this rattling on how important it is to live life to the fullest, my recent newest philosophy, if you were to die today, would you go with regret? If so, it's time to start acting.

Of course we don't expect to do the craziest stuffs "today", like spending your life savings on frivolous activities or breaking the law, but at least you owe it to yourself to do the things you wanna do, those things you have been procrastinating all these while.

Which leads me to the next point, expect the unexpected. It 's or less as what Murphy's Law states, "If anything can go wrong, it will". But it's not just the negative stuff, the positive stuffs will happen too. It's just that many a times, we're always harping on the negative ones, remembering the negative moments in life.

Darren Brown, an extremely popular UK mentalist came out with an episode on luck. About how "lucky" people are actually more opportunistic. They "look around" for opportunities instead of drowning themselves in negativity.

Even though I have been looking around mostly for safety reasons, I have came across many faces, recognised many of them who have some point in time crossed paths with me. It's quite a fun thing to do, observing the surroundings from time to time, of course not all the time especially when you have company. If's offending to speak to someone who has darting eyes and distracted attention.

It also helped me to be more alert on helping others when the need arrives. As cliché as it sounds, one of the greatest meaning in my life, the greatest satisfaction and happiness I have felt is from helping others in need. I'm no perfect person, I have enemies, have offended many, many of whom deserves it though, I've said the wrong things, made many mistakes in my life, I ask too many questions when it comes to religion, but still making sure I don't offend devotees in my conversations with them... yet nothing quite fills me whenever I helped someone, especially a stranger. Is that altruism? I would love to think so, but let's not get ahead of myself. I see it as my meaning in life.

But be careful though, there are scheming people out there that preys on people like us, so it's not just simply bulldozing your way to helping others, but also to analyse the situation before doing so. Con artists are just one of them. You can check out the TV series Real Hustle USA to find out more. If you would rather not know cos of fear, I urge you to throw away that detrimental thinking of yours and really start living, for Christ's sake.

Many wouldn't dare to question their religions, nor their bosses, nor their companies, nor their family in fear of rocking the boat or perhaps it's their way to stay blind from the truth, as the famous movie taglines goes "You can't handle the truth". While life is not about truths, it's about really living, not living in a life of deceit and denial.

And only until 3 days ago, I reached yet another epiphany, that there's more to "Living a life without regrets" than it is. It's not just doing things that you won't regret, it's also looking back at the mistakes you make in your life and not regretting them, because we are bound to make mistakes every now and then, don't expect a perfect life, it's the imperfections which make life perfect.

Well it made me a more positive person, more forgiving person.

One of my greatest regret is not having a brother to help me jaga my 2 reserve tables during my wedding banquet which took place last December (2013). Because there were quite a handful of guests who didn't turn up for my wedding despite saying that they would, I could in theory squeeze my guests into the empty seats of the different tables which would save me about S$26K or so. That's almost like flushing down 26K into the toilet bowl just because I didn't allocate someone to help me collapse the reserve tables because I trusted all my guests to turn up. Trust is a bitch, sometimes.

It was an expensive lesson learnt alright, and have regretted inviting some guests who didn't even bother to apologise for not attending my wedding or even didn't even explain themselves for a no-show, but instead of blaming them, I took the blame to myself, for not having the foresight to address this issue in the first place. But ultimately, the arrows of blame were shooting around, so much so that it affected me greatly.

But it wasn't until recently that I have been sharing these advice with my friends who are getting married that it made me realise, that I could  potentially help others save thousands, and if indeed I do, then it's worth it. My thousands for many more of others.

7. Knowledge is power

I'm sure many of us have heard of this quote one too often, but do you even understand it? Really think about it. Apply it and you will truly understand what this means. It's power because if you have more knowledge than another person, you have an edge over that person. But like Peter Parker's uncle said "With great power lies great responsibility", it's time to take responsibility of your power.

There are many selfish people out there, who only wants to know, and not share. That's a different kind of "power", a "power" that would either drown the person with isolation, or either make him "God". Before I continue, I have to lay this out once and for all, I am not an atheist, I believe in all Gods, with a larger part of that belief tipping on the Christian's God side. I believe it's not the religion, but the people who run them, humans like us, that distorts the true meaning of belief.

I shan't comment further on this sensitive topic, but if you were to ask me what my religion is, it's Religious Harmony.

With great power, a person can become "God". Think of David Copperfield. When I was young, I've heard so often that David Copperfield worships Satan and had a pack with him to give him magical powers. Though he wasn't quite "God", he became the devil, because of his knowledge in magic. Nowadays, there's tons of information, magic exposees online, like Breaking the Magician's Code and all.

I've delved into magic ever since I was 17-18 years old, and I have to say, that learning magic really opens up my mind. It shows me different perspectives and forces me to think out of the box. Just because with whatever knowledge we think something as impossible, doesn't make it impossible. With new information, it makes the impossible, more possible, and with even more information, it makes the mundane, a miracle.

While I didn't swear by the secrecy of magicians, nor am I bounded by any oaths, I'm not one to disclose the secrets of magic. Not because I feel powerful by not doing so a sentiment most often mistakes, but because I want you to experience the wonders of magic, be awed by it instead of just knowing how they're done so that you can "move on with life". If you just want to know how it's done, the easy way simply by asking me, I'll give you more riddles to mindf*** you instead.

To test someone's sincerity, I have often taught them a very basic sleight of hand, and if they were disciplined enough to master it, then I'll probably (I say probably cos no one has passed that test yet) teach them more, or even be more open in sharing. Being a magician, a closet one in my case since I'm not professionally doing it despite having spent tons of money and time on it, can indeed be a rather lonely affair.

It wasn't only until recently that I realised knowledge isn't just power, it's poison as well. Sometimes knowing too much isn't good because it poisons your mind, making you think biasedly. Nothing is as straight forward as it seems. Facts are in fact hard to come by. Pseudo facts exists abundantly in this world, and until someone can prove Earth to not be round, it is still.

There are many pseudo theories out there, while they may sound refreshing and novel, it doesn't mean they are always true. But these pseudo theories could be detrimental or beneficial because they either poison your mind further, or they expose your minds to the real "truth". Which is why my first point is so important, "Never believe in something completely".

8. Never stop learning (it's where you gain life experiences, learn life lessons)

It has worked for me so far. Friends of mine would probably be wondering why despite having so much on my plate, I still wanna add more? I have learnt many skills in life, all the way from Abseiling, Rock Climbing, Kayaking, Diving, Driving, took up harmonica classes, self-learned guitar, magic, juggling, doing jigsaw puzzles, critiquing movies, joined aerobics (despite the odds because back then it was viewed as a "woman's" sport), joined basketball, joined track and field, went into toastmasters and dance (lindy hop and tap dancing), I still haven't really "settled down".

It's not just about knowing for me, it's not a reason for me to brag to my friends about, but I see each of them as a challenge. You would think that I'm a outdoor person, well, I'm not. I do love the Sun, because it makes me feel alive, and have started to appreciate it more during my later years not because of the Vitamin D that it gives us, but because of the life it gives to everything around. Just like Water and Air, the Sun makes up the final piece of the Essence of Life (somewhat like the Holy Trinity). They are all essentially one, they make up "Life".

I see each skills and "extracurricular activity" not just as a challenge, but also in most cases, curiosity got the better of me. I have to admit, that despite having learnt all that, going through all those, I haven't really found my niche yet. I haven't really found something I'm so good at that it just comes naturally and I don't really have to "learn" them. My top 3 would be Magic (lack real-life experience), Movies (my language isn't that good) and Jigsaw Puzzles (lack of practice due to space). I guess how I monitor this is by realising my threshold and comparing it to the best, and the speed by which I learn the skills. If I catch on much faster than others, I know that I could be fairly good in them and if I peaked my threshold early, it's probably not meant for me.

9. Different people have different kinds of geniuses 
10. Do not succumb to conformity
11. Self reflection is a necessity to better oneself
12. Embrace Loneliness to become a stronger person

Often I have thought to myself, why is it that I can't top my class, academically? Am I really that stupid? I used to the top few, in my lower primary school days that is, but those days being in the top few was like... trivial. I couldn't sustain it during my upper pri or secondary school days. My poly days passed with tons of ccas up my plate, Outward Bound, Mentoring and HI (hearing imparied) Club (sign language). I also joined other ccas but wasn't too active in them.

I wasn't never a fast learner when it came to languages. I took up Japanese (private course) and Spanish (school elective) but today, right now, I can't even speak a decent sentence in either languages. I knew I was a more visual person, and that was when learning Sign Language proved my theory right. I was bad at languages because it's just not for me, when I learnt Sign Language, I picked it up really fast, and gradually advanced to becoming an instructor.

It was through Mentoring that I found joy in teaching others. I guess it attributes to the sharing part. I find so much joy in sharing with others that I find it difficult not to. I'm an open person, if you don't already know me, and holding back information, isn't me. I mean I do hold back when the information is sensitive, but not for information meant for sharing.

Outward Bound really brought out the "wild" side of me. Abseiling and Sports climbing, they were ok, but Kayaking? Seriously? At one point I had a phobia of water, because of some stupid kid throwing my floating slipper further out at sea when I was very young. Afraid of being scolded, I ventured out further, the water level almost reaching my nose while my Dad and brother weren't looking. I did manage to get back my slipper, but somehow I kinda feared going into deep waters ever since. But it wasn't until Poly, when my group of friends helped me to overcome the fear of swimming, and I finally did learn to swim.

I did try to learn swimming during primary school and to pass the final test, I had to do some breadth swimming in different styles. I recalled backstroke being the hardest, because I couldn't see what was coming behind me, and because I couldn't see, I felt insecure and frightened. I just held my breath and kicked hard, swung my arms hard like a rotator blade but midway, I had to gasp for air. As a result I kept drinking the pool water but I persisted till I reached the end, so that I could be a certified swimmer. But of course, that "certification" was bullshit.

And even though I did learn how to swim in Poly, when it came to NS (National Service), I almost drowned because I lacked goggles. I swam in freezing cold water and because my short-sightedness degree was so bad (600+ right eye, 700+ left eye), I couldn't see a thing. It was another test, we had to swim a full length to pass the test, and passing the test means no extra training, and no extra training means we get to rest more in our bunks. I was determined to pass the test, which I did, not without, yet again, drinking a chunk load of pool water.

Till this very day, while I'm not good at swimming, I dare say that I have more confidence in the water and have discovered the cause of my fear... freezing cold water coupled with the lack of visibility coupled.

If I ever become a superhero, my Achilles heel would be cold water.

In University, I wanted to push myself beyond my own limits, academically. I gave myself two years, I studied hard, was diligent in attending tutorials, super attentive in classes etc. The first year was fairly good, but wasn't good enough. But my 2nd year, was a total flop. My results were so bad, I finally came to terms with it, I'm not smart. But that was when I also learnt something very important, that different people have different kinds of geniuses.

It was Steve Job's Inspirational Stanford University Commencement Speech 2005 which made me "connect the dots". It wasn't that I was stupid, most of the geniuses (I'm not saying I'm a genius but the word is used just to exaggerate intelligence) were school drop outs, but it was because I was on the wrong track. My "genius" came with empathy. While I'm not psychic, I dare say that I am more empathetic than others I'm able to accurately assess the emotions and feelings (which are commonly not spoken) of others, and to react accordingly.

I look back in life, and tried to connect the dots. I self reflect all the time, run through the wrongs and what ifs most days of my life, but it was a different kind of self reflecting, it was picking out what I subconscious was drawn to, and realising that that could be what I'm good at.

And self reflection, is definitely a most important "tool" to better yourself.

I have never been a slave to conformity, rarely felt the pressure "to go with the flow" or the majority because I believe the choices we make, are our own to make.

The same applies to your cliques. Be if friends or colleagues, if you don't "click" with them, don't force yourself. If you find that their ideology or morality is against yours, don't stick around just because you're afraid to be lonely. Embrace loneliness, and you will be a much stronger person. Once you embrace it, there's nothing to fear. You become more independent and have defied one of the defining evolutionary traits of humans - humans are social creatures.

I have often said, "True loneliness isn't being alone, it's feeling lonely when there's tons of people around you." Before you indulge in self pity, comes my next point...

13. Think positive, to improve your quality of life
14. There's no definite right or wrong, accept it
15. It's not the job, but the person which makes the job

It was during my 1.5yrs in my job that I reached a career burnout. I have been working almost my entire life, ever since I was primary 6, I landed my first job, as a christmas card seller. I would go around HDB flats, knock on their doors and use my puppy face to convince them to buy a card or two. I distributed flyers, worked as a waiter, retail shop assistant, telemarketer, call centre operator, helped out with events companies, went into financial consulting and finally am where I am today.

Speaking of my previous job, I have often regretted taking up the job. I created a stigma for myself, and to those close around me. I met up with friends (warm contacts they call it) and felt so bad when I had to let go of my previous job due to the unstable income. Though I made the "right" move, it felt wrong. And even though I had always been rather cynical of financial consultants, I couldn't believe I actually at some point in my life, became one of them.

I guess it was because the recruitment personnel told me that I could be there for my friends when they need me the most, during illnesses, deaths, pregnancies etc. I guess that was my "hot button", the invisible button that sales personnels need to hit to be able to make the deal. It felt right, good, to have an "excuse" to stay in touch with my friends, be it close ones or even distant ones whom I would probably never contact again, and play such an "important" role in their lives.

I have often tried to convince myself that it's not the job, but the person which makes the job. But the truth is, even though it's true, its not me which requires convincing, but others. I guess there's no definite right or wrong, most often in our lives, the apparently straight forward rights could turn out "wrong" resulting in undesirable consequences. And doing the "right" things might not necessarily lead to "right" consequences. That's why life's so grey, and that's why the saying "There's a thin line between right and wrong" exists, cos it's true.

While all of these sound extremely depressing, it's not. How many times have we heard advice like "Think positive, think positive" but never really tried to understand what it really means. It's easy to say words like that of course, I mean the other party will never know how shitty we feel and all, so it's just a sensitized advice we so commonly hear.

But if you're able to step out of your circle of misery you locked yourself in, then you'll truly be able to see, that you have the final say in the choices you make.

I told myself that, that I should stop thinking negatively because of my career burnout, so much so that I was dragging my feet to work every morning, with a heavy heart, with a heavy soul. It started to get worst, and it slowly made me feel so jaded I almost hated going to work. It wasn't a new feeling, I've felt it before when I was a telemarketer, but the times have changed, back then I was only a temp staff, but now, it's my career. My career's at stake if I allow such negativity to rule over me.

And that was the point in my life, that I finally grew stronger, mentally. I forced myself to think positive, and held back about how "sucky" I thought my job to be. Instead, I spoke about its fun parts, and I also made a decision to speak up to my management about it.

Well it turned out it wasn't that difficult to overcome afterall. I believe it's similar to depression, where most of us nowadays might fall into, and depression is no joking matter. Once you're in it, it takes a mammoth effort to get out of it. I haven't fallen into depression, that I'm quite confident of saying, I mean I have been depressed, utterly depressed before, but I just move on.

I think the best way to come out of depression is to self-reflect, and think positive, and the most important ingredient, is that you have to do it yourself. Don't depend on others to help you out of it, because if they do, you'll slip right back into it in their absence. I know so because I've friends who are suffering from that, and it saddens me because I know the only way to make them stronger, is for them to overcome it themselves. To even fall into depression in the first place, means you're not mentally strong to prevent it from happening, let alone snap out of it.

There's where the "loneliness" factor comes in. I realise my friends who are in depression relies too much on others, they haven't felt what true loneliness is, and that it's actually not as scary as most of us think. True loneliness makes us stronger, and once we become stronger, true loneliness will cease to exist.

16. Sincerity is the foundation for connections

Always be sincere in what you say or do. And really listen, not just hear what others have to say. Your body language, 70% of communication is non-verbal, will tell it all whether you try to hide it or not. So just like speaking the truth all the time so you don't have to remember anything, be sincere all the time so that you won't have to hide anything.


And that's the last advice I have for you. These philosophies, life lessons are an integral part of my life, and if you're wondering why I'm disclosing this only now (of course there's a reason other than sharing, haven't you learnt anything from my first few points?) is because of my trip to Cebu tomorrow.

I've no stranger to travelling abroad, but Cebu pose certain incalculable risks, typhoons and kidnappings. Live a life without regrets. And that was why I finally pushed myself to "pen" down my life philosophies, in hope that it would benefit others, just as it has always benefited me. I guess life lessons' can't really be taught, it can only be experienced, and most parts of my life, I have already disclosed in this post. If many of you don't know me personally, I'm actually a very private person, despite the love to share, I'm very careful with posting things online, be it ideologies, comments, or photos, because ultimately, I still want my life, to be mine.

And finally, why did I end at 16 points.? Isn't it weird? Why didn't I "bother" to round it up to 20 or round it down to 15 so that it looks better? My reply... why not? Why should I conform to the norm of a nicely rounded number just so that my points seems more complete? Why should I force myself to squeeze out 4 more points when I don't, or collapse one, when each and every point comes straight from my heart?

The truth is, I had initially planned for 10 points, but I refuse to be confined by my own limitations. My wife made a comment once, as to why my life always seem to be so interesting. I'm not sure how true that is, it could be because I expose myself to more things, giving me more opportunities to experience more interesting events, it's a numbers game, or because I'm more open in sharing what seemed to be rather mundane or perhaps my recounting of them's entertaining. Either way, my encounters about my near-death diving experiences, my broad daylight mugging in Barcelona Plaza De Catalunya, and my real-life encounters with the unknown have all taught me a thing or 2 in life, all contributing to the life lessons in the post.

I guess the only constant is change, but it isn't the most important part of an equation. It's the variables. It's the variables which make each and every equation different. And the most important variable, is you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mo Far Kor - A Nostalgic Delicacy

I've been wanting to take this off my chest, to tick off my to-blog list for quite a while. I believe it was 2 months back, where I bought this bottle of Mo Far Kor, some preserved fruit from Cheers Supermarket near my office. 

I haven't the slightest clue what it was made of back then, I definitely tried the "older" more "ancient" version of it. And when I picked up that blue cap bottle sitting on a shelf together with other bottles of preserved stuff, it was the first time I read the ingredients. It says "Figs, Papaya, Sugar, Salt, Citric Acid, Permitted Preservatives" and is a product of Malaysia. 

Before I continue, the main purpose of blogging this is because I wanna leave a piece of "cyber" heritage out there in the cyberworld... for fear than in the near future, this hmm... how should I call it... delicacy becomes "extinct". 

Back in the 1980s, I used to eat it quite a lot, though I didn't know what it was. It used to come in little packets, then it came in bigger packaging bottles. And finally, fast forward to present day, it's like "MFK (Mo Far Kor) Bottle 10", similar to the nomenclature of Samsung Notes (by size). Yup, I measured it alright, the bottle's 10cm tall, including the blue bottle cap, about 6cm wide. It weighs 80gm and cost $2.35. 

As for the "older model", its "MFK Bottle 7.2", 7.2cm tall including the translucent cap, about 3cm wide and weighs 10gm. It costs 50cents (Sing dollars). 

Calculating it, despite the smaller bottle costing 50cents and which appears to be a better deal, if you multiply it by 8, it would amount to $4, which would make it $1.65 more expensive than the MFK 10. Then again, it's not that accurate because the bottle sizes are different, which also means they have different weights, which also means it's not exactly 8 times more for MFK 10. 

Now that we've, ok I have thoroughly examined it's packaging, let's move on to the design. 

MFK 10 sure looks more plain, and less characteristic of MFK 7.2 with its distinctly "uncle face" packaging. It brings back nostalgic memories, and was almost convinced there's no way of buying the old packaging until I came across it at City Square Mall, top floor where the Rooftop Kopitiam is. There's a push cart there which sells those "ancient" nostalgic sweets we used to have back in the 1980s. I also saw a rectangularish "Doraemon" chocolate box, which features a rather "pirated" looking Doraemon, and looks nothing like him, more like his evil twin. But I recall the soft biscuit filling which holds quite the bite. 

Anyhows, back to MFK.  

The old bottle, MFK 7.2 has a rojak-style description. Chinese words on the front, Uncle's face at the back with Malay words, and the ingredients are in both Malay and English. Truly rojak. So much so that I had to seek my colleague's help to "decipher the coding" on the bottle. A special thanks to my colleague Nazhar Bin Anuar (haha, bro, as I said, full credit of the translation goes to you! if you ever read this post that is...)

The literal translation means "Mo Fa Kor is a traditional product that is produced through a process which is modern and clean. It contains herbal ingredients and "kamcu" that helps to reduce sore throat and bad breath. It also lightens the problem of headaches while in a journey."

Well... it's a little ambiguous here... I have no idea what herbal ingredients are being used... and as for "kamcu", am unable to find out what it means exactly. But it sure does sound miraculous that it reduces sore throat, bad breath and headaches... all in a salty bottle of who knows what its made of. 

Even though I bought the 2 bottles around the same time (bought another bottle of MFK 10 recently just for the purpose of this post), the expiry dates are 7 months apart. MFK 10 expires on 30-12-2015, while MFK 7.2 expires on 02-05-2015. 

What's surprising is that MFK 7.2 has the Halal logo on it, but not MFK 10. 

And finally... the taste test. The taste cum texture, cum color, cum... basically the food test. Googling it, there isn't a source which pinpoints the exact ingredients of the older version, but perhaps since today's food regulations require producers to be more transparent, I can safely assume that both foods are made of similar ingredients, even though they taste slightly different. 

Mo Fa Kor is a kind of food which looks like a smoothened out grenade. Apparently it's a Cantonese dialect which translate to "fruits without flowers". Based on someone else's blog (one of the top searches if you search for Mo Fa Kor on google) you can cook it and is supposedly good for clearing your bowels. The inside of the fruit is spongy and white, which makes me wonder if MFK 7.2 was actually made of Mo Fa Kor instead of Papaya and Figs... 

Newaz, MFK 10 packs more of a bite. It's bigger in size, looks more whitish and smells sweet. It was highly addictive, I couldn't stop popping the strands into my mouth when I first bought it... and had to pace myself to ensure er... a prolonged pleasure (it sounds wrong but what the heck).

As for MFK 7.2, it's smaller in size, looks more blackish and smells dull, almost flat. Salty. I remember one of the greatest complain I have of it is the bitter, disgusting seeds laying at the bottom of the bottle, which always forces me to throw the bottle away sacrificing several "leftover" bits but which I couldn't bother with sorting out. MFK 10 doesn't have much a problem with that, with only a few bits of bitter "leftovers". It packs less of a bite, mainly because it's so small, so the best way to eat it and enjoy it is to put a chunk of it into your mouth. 

MFK 10 creates more satisfaction individually, by that I mean eating the strands individually.

The aftertaste for MFK 7.2 is more unique, it almost feels powdery, like eating the the meshed-up version of this round bitter brown stomach pills called "Bao Ji Wan" - but of course MFK taste much nicer. 

Both leaves me equally thirsty after eating it, more so for MFK 10. 

Since I'm not suffering from any sore throats, bad breaths or headaches, there's no way to validate that claim. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that MFK 7.2 isn't made of the MFK fruit itself, which would mean I'll prolly wake up in the middle of the night to air strike my toilet bowl since I'm eating chunks of it now while typing this post. 

I believe that's all there is to it. Let's just hope this Mo Far Kor delicacy will stay in years to come. Who knows, eldest brother MFK 20 might just come along in the near future...

Ps.: I have wondered who the man is on the face of MFK 7.2, but I'm sure he's one of the pioneers who came up with the product, Malaysian, since the product seems to originate from there. So I guess I'll leave this last "homework" for those of you who's curious enough to uncover his identity...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Meaty Truth

A random conversation with my wife when we were having Bak Kut Teh for dinner sparked a puzzling question... Why is the meat of cows called beef, the meat of pigs called pork, the meat of sheep called mutton, the meat of deer called venison, but the meat of chickens called... chicken? I mean, shouldn't there be another term to describe the meat of chicken? So I posed this question to my wife, thinking aloud, and we realised that for edible birds, the names of their meat are all the same as what they're called... duck meat, patridge, pigeon, ostrich etc. 

One spectulation my wife had was that because we could serve chicken as a whole, and probably most other birds too, and that was why the whole term is used to also describe their meat. Then we realised there isn't another term for fish meat as well, since the entire fish could be served on a single platter. This reasoning made perfect sense, but still, I had to find the "cause" of it. 

Strangly enough, this question has been asked before. A google search will quickly disclose the "truth" behind this seemingly trivial wonder. 

From wiki.answers.com, as quoted: 

"Beef is from the French "boeuf" which means cow, and por from the French "porc", pig. Likewise mutton is from the French "mouton" sheep. Back in Norman times, these were the main farm animals - turkey, chicken, etc. cam later. The poor farmhands who tended the live animals called them by their Anglos-Saxon names of cow, pig, sheep. The rich Norman lords called the meat they ate by their French names boeuf, porc and mouton. As the two languages merged to form the English we now speak, the meats kept different names from the animals. Later arrivals did not have this split."

Well, case closed. Already?! If anything my 29 years of living has thought me, majoring in science and intrigued by magic, is that we should be skeptical of things (though being too skeptical isn't good). I wanted to confirm this, so I proceeded to find other sources to make sure that my "results were replicable". True enough, it wasn't. It's gonna be a long long post, so if you're not one who's patient enough to read through the post, just scroll to the end for the "answer". 

From www.straightdope.com, the explanation above is not proven. The one who posed the question initially also had a pretty strong argument, that it acts as a means to distance people away from the source of the food, mentally, so that they don't feel bad about the meat they're eating. Interesting point, but based on the discussion thread, no hardcore "truth" behind the question. 

From askville.amazon.com, as quoted: 

"Cow is the name for a FEMALE member of the Bovine species, BUT it is also the name of the female of many other speices such as a whale.   Therefore, we do not refer to meat from cattle by the name of the female member of the species.  We could call it cattle meat, but it is referred to by the word beef, which means the flesh of cattle prepared for eating.   From old French boef."

"Actually, chicken does have another name - poultry. Poultry can also mean other birds, but unless another is specified it almost always means chicken. So chicken is to poultry as cow is to beef."

The answers from the 3rd source, askville gives a good lead. There's a high possiblitity that the "problem" boils down to the english language. Oh, how did I forget about the term "poultry"? If poultry does mean chicken meat, or if beef could also mean the physical cow, then my question would be much ado about nothing wouldn't it? And also, if cow doesn't just refer to the bovine species, then in a way it would make sense to give the meat of the bovine cows another name. 

With that knowledge, I guess the best way to find out the answer, isn't about finding out the origins of the terms, but on what their definitions mean. The definitions from oxforddictionaries.com: 



  • 1a fully grown female animal of a domesticated breed of ox, kept to produce milk or beef:
    a dairy cow
  •  (loosely) a domestic bovine animal, regardless of sex or age.
  •  (in farming) a female domestic bovine animal which has borne more than one calf. Compare with heifer.
  •  the female of certain other large animals, for example elephant, rhinoceros, whale, or seal.
  • 2 informal an unpleasant or disliked woman.
  •  Australian/NZ an unpleasant person or thing.



  • 1 [mass noun] the flesh of a cow, bull, or ox, used as food:
    there was the smell of roast beef
    [as modifier]:
    beef cattle
  •  [count noun] (plural beeves /biːvz/ or US also beefs) Farming a cow, bull, or ox fattened for its meat:
    a beef sent to the abattoir
  • 2 [mass noun] informal flesh with well-developed muscle:
    he needs a little more beef on his bones
  •  strength or power:
    he was brought in to give the team more beef
  •  the substance of a matter:
    it’s more a sketch than a policy—where’s the beef?
  • 3 (plural beefs) informal a complaint or grievance:
    he has a beef with education: it doesn’t teach the basics of investing
  • 4US informal a criminal charge:
    getting caught with pot in the sixties was a narco beef



  • 1a domestic fowl kept for its eggs or meat, especially a young one:
    rationing was still in force and most people kept chickens
  •  [mass noun] meat from a chicken:
    roast chicken
  • 2 [mass noun] informal a game in which the first person to lose their nerve and withdraw from a dangerous situation is the loser:
    he was killed by a car after he lay in the road playing chicken
  •  [count noun] a coward.



[mass noun]
  • domestic fowl, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese.
  •  the flesh of chickens and other domestic fowl as food:
    I haven’t eaten red meat for 19 years and poultry for 12 yearsraw or cooked meat and poultryanyone handling raw poultry should wash their hands thoroughly

Well, it would seem that poultry does refer to the meat of chicken and could also refer to the collective term of fowls, chickens included. This means Poultry is like Cattle (hoofed animals), as well as Poultry is like Beef. "Cow" does not only mean the female of cattle or the bovine species, it also refers to the female of the alligator, dolphin, dugong, elephant, giraffe hippopotamus, rat, reindeer, sea lion, termites and even whales (not exhaustive).

And the female of the chicken is called "hen", which is also the same term for the female of the crab, lobster, squid and other birds such as ostrich, lark, parrot etc. 

The answer seems clearer now. "Cow" refers to the term for the female of the bovine species, not the animal as a whole. Whereas "Chicken" refers to the animal. It's as if light has finally shone on the darkest.... wait a minute, before I get complacent, lemme extend my search to pigs... Alas, my explanation failed. 

"Pigs" also refer to the animal. And while finding this out, I also came across another puzzling question... why isn't it called "pig chops" rather than "pork chops", whilst we call "lamb chops" and "chickn chops" as such? Lamb is the young for sheep. Which means it should be called "piglet chops" or "chick chops" rather. 
Or "sheep chops", "pig chops" and "chicken chops". 

Adding a chop at the back really screws things up. Anticipating a life-long quest to uncover this linguistic mystery, I've decided to come up with my own explanations. 

Before I digress, my initially question has been answered. The meat for chicken is called poultry, so there is indeed a term to describe the meat of chicken. However, the fish part still remains a mystery, as the meat of fish, is still called fish meat. 

To align the terms for a better comparison and understanding: 
[animals, young, female, male, group, meat]
1. Cattle: Calf, Cow, Bull, Herd, Beef/Veal
2. Chicken: Chick, Hen, Rooster/Cock, Flock, Poultry
3. Pig: Piglet, Sow, Boar, Drift, Pork/Ham/Bacon
4. Sheep: Lamb, Ewe/Dam, Ram, Drift, Lamb/Mutton/Hoggett
5. Deer: Calf, Doe/Cow, Stag/Buck, Herd, Venison
6. Fish: Fry/Fingerling, Nil, Nil, School, Nil

I strongly believe this is a linguistic issue. And the combined factors of other languages, ease of speaking (syllabus) and abiding by the "norm". 

So does the term for the meats only refer to a specific sex of the animals? No. Googling "Bull Meat", I get "Beef", same goes for "Cow Meat". However, Googling "Calf Meat" I get "Veal". 

As for chicken, "Chick, Hen, or Rooster Meat" were all returned with "Chicken". Both "Chicken" and "Poultry" can be used to describe chicken meat, but "Chicken" is more common. Also, an interesting find, the difference between rooster and hen meat: 

To summarise the article, they're killed usually during a young age so the difference is subtle, but females generally taste a bit fattier. 

The article also mentions the difference, more distinct than chickens, between male and female pigs. Which explains my next Google results. "Piglet Meat" and "Sow Meat" are "Pork", whilst "Boar Meat" is more common known as "Boar Meat". It seems to have an informal class of its own, which is probably due to its more distinct taste (leaner and gamier as opposed to tender and milder for the females). 

As for Sheep and Deer, despite the genders/ages, they are all called Mutton and Venison respectively, with the exception of Stag Meat, which is called "Stag Meat". The results on the first page all shows World of Warcraft items, so based on inference, it would seem most of the male meats of the animals have a different class of their own literal terminologies, perhaps because of the slight differences in tastes. 

So what have I learnt from my research? Apart from don't ask so many answers, and some questions are meant to be unanswered, is that some things are the way it is, just because they are. No explanations will be able to answer those questions. 

Every explanation above is flawed in one way or another, and it would have been perfect if the first explanation about the merger of the two languages is proven. 
If I were to guess, it would be because of the ease of the pronunciation of "chicken"as opposed to "poultry". Even though there's 2 syllabus each, there's an alliteration of "c" in "chicken", which makes it easier to remember, and say. 

As for Cow meat, it's a common mistake for people to associate cows to refer to the terminology for the animal, because of our early childhood education. It's only 1 syllabus, so instead of Cattle, Cow is easier to say and remember. And why draw the line so clearly to differentiate between the different sexes? Unless we are zoologists or taxonomists? 

As for Pig meat, there's a negative connotation behind calling someone Pig. So using Pig meat doesn't sound too appetising is it? Pork sounds more neutral, well, it could be called anything else, but it just so happened to be called Pork, sounds straight forward, easy to rem, and wa la, pig's meat is called pork. 

Sheep meat is a hard one to crack. Because "Mutton" is 2 syllabus and it's harder to pronounce than Sheep. Perhaps sheeps look too innocent and there is some truth behind people wanting to not associate the meat they are eating with the animal itself. 

Deer is understandable because most of the time, we don't call "Deer's Meat" "Venison" anyways, I mean, I'm sure most people wouldn't even be familiar with the term. If we wanna eat deer meat, one would just simply order deer meat and it doesn't sound awkward at all, despite having an official term to call it. Because deer meat is less common than cow, chicken and pig and sheep meats. 

As for fish, the term probably refers to too diverse a group that people would rather call  them by their names. Eg. I want Garoupa, Snapper, Ikan Bilis, Halibut, Salmon etc. The only exception is Fish and Chips, even though most of the time we know it's Dory fish being used nowadays in Singapore. Because the fish used in making the dish Fish and Chips may vary, based on season, the general term is used instead. 

Coming back to the "Chops". There's just 2 to compare, cos we don't have "Beef Chops" do we? It all comes back to the ease of prounciation. Poultry just seems harder to articulate, so Chicken is used instead. And there you have it. Case closed. Whether it's the real reasons, the "truth", I shall close this chapter once and for all because I'm convinced there isn't a definite answer out there. There could be, but it would take a historian to find it, and I ain't one. My answer to this question, is a cumulation of answers. And with that, I rest my case.