What really transpired in Hong Lim Park. No! I am not asking you what you read recently in the beloved daily rag. Or even what you understand it to be from watching grainy Youtube vids. To the perceptive reader…you probably realize the first sentence is missing a question mark – that’s because I am not asking a question as much as posing an open ended statement.

To put it another way. I am simply suggesting the notion that the ‘truth’ as you understand it to be may well be an abstraction. An understanding of sorts that has nothing whatsoever to do with truth as you know it to be.

Did I manage to confuse you along with myself? If I did. Do kindly move on to the next excellent blog elsewhere. Still here? Then read on….

Strange don’t you think so that I should even take issue with the whole idea of the truth?

Or maybe not…..

After all. I am often reminded the retelling of a tale or for that matter any tale is hardly objective business. Often what’s usually recounted…depicted…and splayed out to be the unvarnished facts….the truth is so conflictual, they have nothing whatsoever to do with any objective reality.

We only assume they reflect truth. But at best they represent only a vignette of what really transpired – many a time, what’s usually touted as the truth and nothing but the truth is embellished, exaggerated, lied to satisfy certain needs. All worldly wise people know of this ‘failing’ that accompanies any such ‘truths.’ Yes, often the truth is matter of faith with its own special axes to grind. Those who are less willing to question the truth. Do not know of this. It doesn’t mean they see the world clearer than all of us – it just means. They much prefer to less skeptical of how any depiction of the truth is at best a product of vantage (depending on which camp you belong too) and conscious bias serving specious ends.

Experience informs me, the truth. For what it’s worth. Is often to be found somewhere between that grey area that I call the discomfort zone…that no man’s land of true and false meshed in the barbed wire of imprecision…sketchiness…paucity of evidence.

True, in that they present an accurate portrait of what actually transpired. Or at least what the witnesses believed the saw, heard and experienced. False, only because a failing common to all humans is their tragic inability to be totally honest about themselves. They cannot talk about the truth without embellishing it.

They cannot….

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‘Rashoman. Akira kurosawa’s film noir is perhaps one of the most powerful movies that transformed the way I saw the whole idea of the truth and the anatomy of the female form. Till then, my understanding of the truth was so open minded my brains were literally spilling out. I didn’t really question the whole idea of the truth. Didn’t need too. Most of the time, I just took and ran with it. But that all eventually changed.

Paradoxically the reason why I felt the need to ferret out the truth about the truth back then was because I was dating this Swedish girl who was studying film history. And to impress her. I would hold myself out to be a cognoscenti of sorts. A flanuer. A film critic who specialized in esoteric works by kooky directors who filmed time lapsed movies of rotting veggies etc. So we would go to the Everyman theater in hampstead Heath and watch loads of film noire along with do other unmentionable things in the darkened corners.

Eventually Eva. That her name found out I was phoney and provably more interested in her tits than her brains and promptly dumped me…..well that’s the truth and as they say…nothing but the truth. But the strange thing about dabbling with the truth is – it’s a bit like one of those Indiana Jones adventures where you discover some parchment with Latin printed on it. You follow it and eventually it leads to another room and so on and so forth. And what I eventually discovered was how tawdry many of our assumptions concerning the truth can be. How crumbly even the idea of the truth can be.

I guess someday I would probably write a whole disquisition about what I really think about how shambolic the depicted truth is in general. Or how it so often misleads, misdirects and serves it’s own specious ends….but my feel is, this is really a topic that everyone owes it to themselves to take the initiative to peer deeper into to gain wisdom on.

Now let’s dive in Rashoman and the movie.

The story opens with a priest, a woodcutter, and a peasant taking refuge from a downpour beneath a ruined gate in 12th-century Japan.

The priest and the woodcutter, each looking stricken by the perpetual downpour. Eventually settle on discussing a hot topic that has griped their kampung – the trial of a notorious bandit who is accused of rape and murder.

As the retelling of the trial unfolds, the participants in the crime — the bandit, the rape victim, and even the murdered man testimony retold thru a medium — tell their plausible though completely incompatible versions of the story.

In the bandit’s version, he and the man wage a spirited duel after the rape, resulting in the man’s death. In the woman’s testimony, she is spurned by her husband after being raped. Hysterical with grief, she kills him. In the man’s version, speaking through the lips of a medium, the bandit beseeches the woman after the rape to go away with him. She insists that the bandit kill her husband first, which angers the bandit. He spurns her and leaves. The man kills himself. Seized with guilt, the woodcutter admits to the shocked priest and the commoner that he too witnessed the crime. His version is equally feasible, although his veracity is questioned when it is revealed that he stole a dagger from the crime scene.

Just as all seems bleak and hopeless and the truth no where in sight – an abandoned baby cries. This fills the woodcutter with an indescribable mix of grief and guilt. As if to redeem himself for stealing the dagger of the deceased before all humanity and the priest, the wood cutter adopts the infant…confirming that even his seemingly objective account of what transpired in the woods that fateful day may well have been nothing more than a self serving lie.

Everyone it seems lies. As for the truth. That could well be a sort of lie as well.

On Sunday manuring started. The day started earlier than usual with a brisk morning walk with dog to survey the various sections of lands planned for fertilization. This season my formulation is different from all other years – it will be touch and go, this year.

I am convinced El Niño. The harbinger. The great up setter will sink its fangs into the land somewhere down the last quartet of this year…could even be as early as mid October when the rains will suddenly cease…it’s very hard to say. But I am convinced that bitch is hiding like a snake somewhere down the future – for the low lying sections, NPK with lashings of Muriate of Potash and Christmas Island rock phosphates will be used. I have decided to ignore the palms in the higher sections this time round. Especially those adjacent to the rubber estate. If a prolonged drought hits. They will die! There is nothing I can do about that.

What I can do… I do. What I cannot. I let slide.

Sections forward, aft and behind the BH. Orders have been given to broadcast only on inter row fronds to mitigate against run off – NPK and Muriate of Potash. Front facing terraces NPK with CIRP.

This time round. I supervised the work personally. It’s vital that the farmhands do it my way – the circle has to be as tight as drum to be just right. Otherwise it’s no good. I must have walked at least 20 kilometers yesterday, possibly more…twelve hours on my feet with only a 15 minute break for lunch. At the end of the day I was exhausted.

Today at 1715. The rains from the Andanman sea broke over head. The droplets were warm. The weather front I had been tracking, that first started somewhere in Bengaluru india the week before had successfully crossed the great expanse of the Bengal ocea as I predicted. Bringing with it much needed nitrogen rich rains. On the opposite direction to the East, a massive low pressure ridge which had been building up the whole week before collided with this easterly weather system somewhere in the Straits in the West coast….could have been 20 kilometers before the shoreline…possibly further…it’s hard to say for certain and it was then that the heavens roared and a down pour ensued – the rains fell straight as an arrow this time….a happy pattering rains. The sort that children would play in. The sort that I just know will do the job of getting the fertilizers to sink deep into the soil without being washed away like the last time.

This is just one of those rare moments where everything comes together marvelously. like one of those well oiled machines, with each sprocket finding it’s place to torque at just the right tension to make possible the great turning of fortunes where both luck and serendipity comes together in perfect harmony…somewhere in this raging sea of fate. I could visualize my little plastic boat slipping thru the eye of the needle from the realm of theory to reality with relief.

I am safe…….for now….I am so very safe.

Now all I want to do is put my heavy head on a soft pillow and allow all my rag tagged self to melt like a lemon drop into pristine white bed sheets..to be taken completely by the langarous amber of sleep….to just dream of rust color rhinos wadding in muddy waters in the Gambezi…to dream of gazelles running carefree in the tall reeds of the savannah somewhere in Africa where the skies are always a deep paraffin blue….to sleep, the sleep of the just in sweet repose under a curelean sky. To sleep, the sleep of a man who knows that…it’s a job well done…I live to fight another day.

For now I am happy…..I don’t know how long this will last. But I will savor every drop of it for as long as it last.

The Teochews and Hokkiens don’t get along very well with each other in my kampung. It’s been this way since everyone can remember. As for the ‘beef’ between them. Even less can be recalled. Not even those who have more white hairs than they can count can recount with any measure of accuracy – it’s fair to say, it’s one of those historical artifact that stretches all the way back to the days when the first Chinese settlers came to Malaya.

This is the way politics is conducted in a kampung. The waters usually run long and deep thru the stream of consciousness……

Every year without fail, these two clans would jockey to be the first to stage their traditional pre-harvest makan (dinner gathering) in the only town hall in the village – it’s a delicate matter of face and has to be managed with a deft hand to avoid unnecessary complications.

Since I am of Hakka stock. I am considered a neutral party. So every year I find myself having to sit beneath the shade of a tree to hear the petition of both clans. To resolve the contentious question of who should have the first right to stage their pre harvest dinner – two years ago. I suggested that they take turns. One year it would be the Teochews and the following the year the Hokkiens and so on and so forth. The system worked well…the peace was maintained…the laws of heaven and earth were suitably appeased.

This year, one of the village elder experienced a rare moment of epiphany and suggested – there was no reason why the dinner could not be held concurrently by both clans in the same venue. His argument…on the surface appeared compelling. The venue was amply large enough…. they only needed to hire one caterer and since the expensive cost of the pre-harvest renovation could be shared – the cost savings would be significant – it would be as he mentioned, win-win.

When the dinner was staged. A fight broke out between the two clans. Thereafter both sides insisted they didn’t do anything and the blame game ensued with both sides producing their list of suspected troublemakers who started the fight.

Not long thereafter. I found myself sitting beneath the shade of the tree again. This time having to arbitrate over the impasse to determine who was at fault and who should bear the cost of the damage. This time the three alleged troublemakers were before me….one chap, was the bicycle repair apprentice…he was accused of calling another man’s mother a smelly bear. The third man took it as a clan directed insult. Presuming the insulter had called his clan, descendants of smelly mountain bears. This man took a beer bottle and hit the insulter over the head. Thereafter all hell broke loose.

When my opinion was asked as to whether these three troublemakers should bear the brunt of paying for the damage to the town hall. I merely mentioned cryptically,

‘Whose fault is it when it is agreed that a dog should be put into a small room with a cat. Only for both of them to fight and overturn the oil lamp and set the entire house on fire? Huh…whose fault is it! Does it really matter whether it is the cat or dog who tipped over the oil lamp? Have you all lost your senses – is this what all of you have walked up the hill to ask of me? Are you all trying to insult me by asking me to quibble over meaningless details? Tell me….Do I look like a bloody fool to all of you! Can you all not understand the house is now burnt into a pile of cinder!’

I put my plastic pipe in my mouth. Clenched it hard making a stretched leather sound. Then glared at the clan leaders and their retinues sternly. They bowed their heads. That was when, I saw a momentary reflection of the face of that man on a car window – it reminded me of the crimson warlike angry features of the god of war, Kwan kong…..I shuddered.

I demanded the names of the elders who approved this dinner. They stepped forward. And told the crowd there and then. These men are solely to blame…the rest are innocent – they will bear the cost of damage to property.

That was when I noticed the elder who suggested the great idea holding the pre-harvest dinner concurrently was ostensibly absent from the proceedings. I remembered wondering to myself…….how convenient….how very convenient.

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‘What transpired is NEVER as important as the cogent question – was the outcome FORESEEABLE?

Specifically, could it have been avoided?

After all if we can all buy into the common sense school of thought without too much difficulty – it’s never a good idea to store inventories of matches and dynamite in the same confined space. Or to even allow vampires apply to hold positions of power and influence in the national blood bank. Along with discounting people who regularly break out in tongues whenever they are stressed to apply for jobs as air traffic controllers.

Then pray tell. Why even sign off on the bad idea of putting cats and dogs in a confined space? Or two groups of people who have nothing in common with each other and who really can’t bear the sight of the other?

What possible good can come out of this? Can anyone please tell? Because I really can’t see any pluses where I am squatting in the five foot way.

To me. The measure of culpability turns entirely on the decision makers as only they have the requisite knowledge to determine the issue of foreseeability – that is the priori onus that accrues from those who have the power to approve and disapprove an application to use the public square – they owe a duty of care to scale the threat level of any event competently irrespective of who uses this space to advance whatever cause.

In this case, you have decide whether the decision makers who were responsible for managing this space had sufficient information to draw the straight line conclusion that it was reasonable to conclude it would have panned out the way it did….what happened thereafter…who is right or wrong is obiter. To me, the only question on the table….is, was it foreseeable.

That I shall leave to you to answer.’

This was sent to me recently by one of my readers. It’s a commentary posted in Facebook by a CEO of a local company and he appears to be lamenting about how challenging it is to hire native youths these days.

This post is to highlight that it is getting more challenging to attract quality local workforce over the years. The mindset and attitude of certain Singaporeans especially the young ones are appalling.
While I am writing this as the CEO of a company, I’m waiting for a candidate who is late for 60 mins (without informing). Most of the times when they do turned up, they “demand” unrealistic expectation with very little results to show. In fact, it seems that these young Singaporeans find working in an environment for more than 2 years disgraceful. In another word, “job hopping”, showing a lack of perseverance. Ironically, they dream about working 4 hours work week and yet becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or Ma Yun.
I nearly flipped when one of them asked me about work life balance when she’s only 24.
One asked what can the company do for her? It seems the world evolve around her.
Another one looked daze when asked about his vision and passion.
One shook her head when asked whether it is ok to take on a slightly bigger responsibility.
The attitude of local workforce worries me.
The young people in Singapore worries me.
They lack of courage, hunger and fire in them.
It seems that they have been living in a cotton candy world called Singapore.
Is this the future of our country?
Can you blame company and entrepreneurs like us seeking foreign talents?
I’m concerned about our country competitiveness if this is the quality of our young generation.’

The question is do I agree with this CEO. To be perfectly frank with all of you. I don’t really know. What I do know is. There is no basis to take his rant seriously…At best it’s just a gross generalization….a gross simplification…a gross reductionism of what appears to be a very complicated problem. Definitely not something serious people would regard as anecdotal. Though I am very sure since the letter was addressed to the government of Singapore, it would undoubtedly be given serious treatment.

This should prompt us all to ask. If we had to boil it all down. What’s the crux of this CEO’s lament?

To me he’s just saying certain native youths these days just don’t have what it takes to make them appealing to firms. So he much prefers to place his bets of foreigners. To paraphrase, the hopes, aspirations and definition of personal success of native youths are simply irreconcilable with the goals of his firm. There is no way in which individual and firm can see eye to eye, let alone craft common ground to even work together and if this continues this will sound the death knell of Singaporean firms.

Since I run my own business. This is definitely not terra incognito to me lah. It’s really part and parcel of managing myself and others.

For me I don’t buy into the populist stereotypical view, youths these days necessarily suffer from an ‘entitlement mentality.’ They lack conscientiousness. Or they’re even somehow less worthy than the generation of workers that came before them. If anything they’re just not as gullible and even a tad cynical about their prospects when compared to the generation before them.

I mean this hardly requires any elaboration to the perceptive reader. Not when one considers many of these youths who are now entering the workforce all grew up sitting in the front row – watching in full technicolor and THX stereo – the sad life of daddy, mummy or someone who they once heard about being played out by the big bad company who rewarded their hard work, dedication and impeachable work ethic with mass retrenchments, cheaper talents, pay freezes and having to work till eight.

Having to live thru an age when all firms seemed to do was to chase unmitigated profit relentlessly at every turn and opportunity – till the timeless covenant that once cemented the worker and corporation became a joke has to be like going thru cancer of the confidence.

After all given that this generation that is now entering the labor market witnessed first hand – the equities of work along with how cold, calculating and heartless firms can be and how not even the once robust idea – if you work hard. You will be rewarded was just surreptitiously sweep away when the government decide to open the floodgates to FT. Wonder no more, why they’re now blasé about the whole idea of giving their all to a firm. Why should they? When the whole idea of hard work doesn’t even hold true to its promise of delivering the good life? How can anyone possibly blame them for smacking of self centeredness and even being pushy about their terms of employment?

The irony these days while millennials now entering the work force are consistently panned by firms as not having the ‘right stuff.’ But no one ever seems to ever these firms – why should any prospective worker with two brain cells to spare above the IQ of idiot have any good reason to place their mental and physical well being…let alone their future, in the hands of firms when all they seem to do is to squeeze every milliliter of blood from the worker only to throw them out like squashed oranges.

When one sees it from this vantage. Then it becomes all too clear – why things are the way they are.

Nope! My gut feel tells me. This is a generation that doesn’t need scolding. They need constant affirmation and understanding.

A little understanding goes a very long way….with perhaps some soul searching on the part of firms and policy makers.

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‘Look here! This is not new – not at all. It’s just old dressed as new. Gripping about youths on the cusp of adulthood being bloody useless happens in every generation. The first graffiti archeologist found in Luxor when they were digging some tomb was, ‘fuck those young good for nothings! They don’t know a circle from a fucking square!’ That was a lament of an old master concerning his less than conscientious apprentices. And if you peruse thru the classics even before the birth of Christ – it’s a reoccurring lament in every age. It’s just a generational divide, that reflects the way old people have always seen young people.

No da Vinci code there lah. No mystery even.

Having said that. I will give you this! That doesn’t mean there are no differences between this generation of workers from other generations. Or that if there are differences they are only marginal.

No! You are all not listening to me.

There is a difference…but it relates to degree and intensity. If before the scale of the difference from each successive generation was 3 or 4. Then today it must be a perfect 10 lah! This accounts for why its so hard for millennials to dock with mindset of folk who run businesses these days.

So this should prompt intelligent folk to ask why such a big margin now, when before there was at least some resemblance of similarity that allowed for continuity and mutual gain.

The answer in my opinion resides in the changing attitudes of firms brought forth by the evil forces of globalization. Firms these days are just lousy purveyors of la Dolce Vita especially so if you happen to be young and just entering the workforce. Today these differences or a better word would be shift in working attitudes are so acute and disproportionally magnified. They even pose a real and present threat to the whole idea craving competitiveness for a nation. That is why they need to be understood. As if the imperative is to craft a solution – then we don’t need whiners like that CEO. He’s and others who regularly scold the millennials can never be part of the solution…because they are the problem. So they’re good for nothing in my solution workshop.

First of all. I don’t think it’s productive to be presentist about this whole problem. Not if we are going to get to the root of the causal factors.

As when one looks at the business landscape today and compare it with the past – it’s really not the same place.

Most the hiring managers I feel don’t consciously know how good they had it in their time – and this failure of imagination on their part to understand what youths are facing these days as they prepare to enter the workforce renders their power to influence somewhere at zero lah – wonder no more whenever they speak about this subject – they even sound like old soldiers talking about modern warfare in an age when war was still waged in trenches with fixed bayonets and horse drawn carriages. This can only exacerbate matters.

But these erudite lot are also the same people who are only to quick to forget – they were probably the most affirmed generation in human history.

We were all without a single exception from that generation, where it’s possible for one to believe wholeheartedly in the idea – a job meant security. Hard work pays out steady dividends. And being conscientious would get you that car and somewhere in that happy diorama of your life. A sweet girl in a short skirt could always be counted to appear and babies would just pop up like delicious hot toast from a toaster. Things were stable then…they were dependable and one felt, anything was possible….

This is what it means by not been presentist and understanding that every age has with it’s own unique drivers and histories that shapes attitudes and opinions.

But look around you these days. The only thing that is certain is there will be more uncertainty.

I am not saying the business landscape is bust! Far from it. Or that we should all shave our heads and go to some monastery and live on diets of sunflower seeds. But even you cannot deny. This is a certainly a less confident age when compared to past ages – as for firms. They can’t even be trusted to keep their end of the bargain that once cemented worker to corporations. That sacred relationship has been used and abused so many times by firms in the name of financial expediency to a point where it’s worthless and totally evacuated of meaning!. Firms these days are literally willing to do anything just to turn a buck. They hire and fire as if people are just faceless statistics on some excel spreadsheet. They put profit before people. There is this Cantonese saying – ‘mo Yang Cheng,’ – no honor. That is the age millennials live in.

Since the definition of organizational success just turns on one key performance indicator – money…money….money. That relegates the employee to just a very expandable asset – and that sort of shitty culture is bound to have a chelating effect on the human spirit along with corroding confidence, trust and perhaps even the making a mockery of the idea – if you work hard. You will succeed!

That why today you get these millennials asking shoot me in the foot questions in job interviews like – is there work life balance? What can you do for me? Can I have the least possible responsibility and highest pay out?

To me these are signs of disenchanted people who have simply grown cynical. Mistrustful and have zero faith in the system…they no longer believe, the firm is a reliable purveyor of the good life any longer. And that may account for the me, me and me…take, take and take mentality that is so prevalent these days with millennials.

To exabecerate that dynamic. It’s conceivable the digital revolution has created a new type of individual that human history has never seen before. Einstein once said his greatest fear was when technology overtakes mankind – I say we have already intersected that line 10 years ago!

So what are you dealing with! An individual whose not accustomed to bearing out with patience the beauty of the written word. The individual who flits like a butterfly wantonly between Facebook…work…and ten other distractions. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the millennials suffer from some form of mass dyslexia or that they necessary require Prosac just to get thru a working day.

It just means the whole idea of how millennials define personal and organization success is so radically different from the last or any generation. It’s conceivable for firms to leverage on their strengths meaningfully – they too need to think radically about how to attract and retain talent in this age.

Gone are the days when youths will just take a run with what you have to say. You may say, no need degree go and work and you will succeed….and they will just give you the finger and go the opposite direction as there is a chronic deficit of trust of officialdom these days.

Because in the mind of the millennials, this whole idea of being able to reach for the stars along with the Hollywood promise of redemption and getting that girl that my generation believed in is broken…it’s kaput….finito. If anything that idea these days sounds valedictory and belongs to a bygone age.

Many things these days that we once took granted. The youths of today can never aspire to own, cars, houses, the very idea of being your own man who lives life under your own terms….Let’s not even discuss the complexity of trying to juggle work, life and play in the world most expensive city? That’s why millennials don’t plan to start families these days – even Sengkang Sally these days is opting to hang up her eggs, because just to make the wheel of life turn is so darn hard.

When we look at the problem from this vantage. Then it’s has more to do with a crisis of confidence that the two dimensional stick argument that is usually forwarded – millennials don’t have the fire in their belly. They are lack conscientiousness. Suffer from an aversion to hard work and can’t seem to get it together to perseverance — if anything this attitude has more to do with the recognition that no company they decide to work for can actualize their hopes and aspirations any longer. If they don’t fuck me in the ass by working me to the bone. I should consider myself lucky. So they don’t look at work in the way our generation did – as a magic carpet that makes the whole idea of upward mobility possible. No they don’t. To them it will always be a grind. That to me is the attitude of defeated people.

To me it’s conflictual at so many levels of understanding – the mental…spiritual….and what it means to suppress and kill one’s hope in an age when everything is so far from one’s grasp. As one instinctively knows it’s unreachable…unattainable even. So why even try, like a crie de couer and that is something that will always be very sad to me…..very very sad.

Because if I had to start life under present day conditions like many of these millennials. I really don’t think I would have lived my life that way I did – For starters I wouldn’t even dare to dream. I would probably work for a few months in a fast food chain, save up, travel and try to find some sliver of happiness somewhere in that life of dissipation. After all what’s the point when everyone is out to screw the shit out of me!

The pathos our time when seen thru the eyes of youths these days is not the rosy picture that I had. It can at best be summed up succinctly in Yeats dystopian poem.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. Or that from now it’s downhill all the way to long kang land. No far from it – that’s only possible if you believe millennials have nothing to offer – but they do. They can multi-task effectively unlike moir. They’re sublimely clever when it comes to cooperating and keeping the peace unlike all of us who are busy sticking daggers into each other’s backs. And they’re nibble to change. If we lost our jobs. It would probably hit us hard. But to them it will bounce off like shell on a Tiger tank. Good to go again!

So to me they have a natural built in resilience…we just need to work on their strengths and fill out those deficits. Black holes like – lack of hope and faith in the whole idea of a better tomorrow. And that in a nutshell is the executive summary of how I see the problem!

Hope and very idea of faith in the idea of being able to create a better tomorrow is key.

I mean if you give me human material with a hope and faith deficit and expect me to make things happen. It’s like giving micheangelo clay to work with and denying him fine Italian marble – he would just turn out great flower pots and no more. Understand this! We can’t send young men to Africa to farm…not if they do not believe in the idea they have no control to better their lives. Not It’s not good! It’s infanticide!

So do you all see why ‘hope’ now needs to be seen in terms of a strategic asset. A strategic precondition before anything can even be done. When I once spoke about the idea of ‘hope,’ restoring the traditional patriarchal compact between the corporation and the worker – you all called labelled me ‘Adolf hitler’ in the Imperium.

No gentlemen. These days I am not so sure any longer the way to progress meaningfully is by barreling headlong mindlessly on the path to globalization that seems to chelate everything that makes life worth living. I have already written tomes to sink a battleship concerning how this is at best a fail human experiment and today we have arrived at the endpoint when this circle has closed.

Rather I believe as I have always believed – when we vex endlessly about how difficult it is to get millennials to lead purpose driven lives these days – the perverse result may well be the firm or political outfit that can revive the old compact between worker and firm and citizen and state in the traditional way I once mooted in this house…..is set to win. To put it another way. To make progress by going backwards….and that my friends would certainly be irony of the highest order.’

I’ve got to hold it all together. No. Not all is lost. Early this morning I surveyed my lands to asses how much of the fertilizer has remained after the great wash out. I lost about 30% I reckon. Yes…no more than 30%. If I keep telling myself it’s just 30% and no more. I wouldn’t feel so crummy. Doesn’t matter if it isn’t actually 30%. What matters is what I choose to believe it to be even if it requires me to adopt a militant refusal to accept the truth.

30%…..30%…..30%……30%

On my long solitary walk back to the house. There was still a lingering mist that clung to the land like seaweed. A dog barking some distance away rents out. It was the in between period. The hour of hesitation just before day break when everything around me acquires an eerie paraffin blue opalescence.

I remembered muttering to myself, ‘it’s only 30%….I am still to good to go!’ Strange isn’t – when one chooses to see the world only in terms of a fait? To see it all in the sheen of faith. To believe….to be even prefidiously faced convinced that absolutely nothing changes except what and how you choose to see. Stranger still is how one selects this lens to view the world, one even magically acquires the agency of power to be less fearful and less anxious and generally more confident – isn’t it amazing that a self selecting delusion…a thing of fabrication that one conjures during a solitary morning walk can actually feel realer than anything I’ve ever experienced before? One see things more clearly. And at that moment when the first virgin rays of the sun fingered over the shoulder of hills – suddenly it all came to me then – there it was standing there illuminated in its marvelous completion in the all seeing light of dawn…the truth within that delectable lie…. this is what it means to love….this is what it means when the poets wax lyrical Quiero que sepas
una cosa. Si de pronto, me olvidas, no me busques, que ya te habré olvidado.
Yes, this sensation I felt just then when I turned the corner and broke into the light. This is it. This is all anybody who talks seriously about love and being loved in return is ever talking about. Moments precisely like this when one just knows….anything is possible and nothing is impossible.

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‘I spent the whole night right thru into the morning pouring over weather charts and satellite pictures. What do I have to show for it? A big fat nothing. Truth is I like a man whose flying blind, can’t beacon out the murk. Don’t even know whether I should begin fertilizing again to make out for the short fall – can’t be bloody fucking sure! What if it all gets washed away like the last time…again. Then again if I wait too long – what if El Niño decides to show up suddenly and all the rain ceases.

Either way I am fucked. Don’t sound so pessimistic! You’re still in the game. It’s not as if you didn’t plan for this fuck up. Besides this round you made double sure. You even provisioned for 50% more fertilizer than what’s usually required – that gives you two bites at the cherry. Granted, first round is toasted….or maybe it’s just 30% toasted. Yes 30% definitely sounds far better than 100%! Even if it’s delightful lie. No a necessary lie…..is there such a thing as a necessary lie! I bet you just made that all up in your head this morning during the walk….yes you made it up!

No! I did not make it up! Truth is we all lie to ourselves to make our unbearable life more bearable. What else can account for millions of anti wrinkle moisturizing cream being sold where the only active ingredient is water! You…they….we all lie to ourselves…all the time. In the way cripples convince themselves wheelchairs are far more kinetically efficient than limbs or every school is a good school – and should there be a difference, then those are merely kinks in the greater scheme of things.

Get yourself together! This is what you know. Fact. A cold front is moving down the Andaman sea – these are rain bearing clouds. The weather boffins predict it will come down hard, as it’s moving at 70 knots across the seas…but the high pressure ridge in the Pacific and she’s closing in too in the opposite direction – so whatever rains that’s to going to hit the west coast will be mild. A drizzle. The happy times rain.

Give the order to begin manuring this Sunday!

Is that a lie?’

Wash Out 24-09-14

September 24, 2014

Somedays I can only term as epic fuck days. These are the days when everything just seems to conspire against me. Last Sunday I started manuring certain sections of my lands with a special concoction of drought resistant fertilizers. That was four days ago. Today at 1530. A mother of rains that I haven’t seen for the whole of this year washed most of it away.

All my hard work on Sunday just got swept away like a giant tsunami along with thousands in fertilizer cost.

Or maybe I am just being pessimistic. I know the BH front section is maybe 50% toasted. I checked this morning, the fertilizer was only 50% broken down in some parts. But since I broadcasted on the fronds as well. I think that area is good to go.

On the terrace behind the BH. I will give it about 50% as well. The application for that section was ramped up @ 4 kg of NPK and 1 kg of CIRP. Run off is partially mitigated I reckon my earlier frond cutting exercise conducted two weeks ago – this I expect would reduce the run off.

Terrace section after road overlooking the lowlands. I think that’s 50% as well. Possibly better. Maybe 70% with the remainder lost to run off. As the fertilizer was broadcasted around a very small circle close to the palm to mitigate precisely against this sort of shitty rain – I am good to go there.

Terrace next to rubber trees and beyond to river, that area is maybe 70% with the rest lost to run off as the same set of instructions were given.

All in all. The call I made was about 7 out of 10. As since I did not manure the run off prone sections such as the low lands and the steppe terrace section at the front. I made the right calls there.

All things considered the lost to run off was about 30% I reckon. I can’t be sure. Like I said maybe it’s just a very pessimistic assessment. One good thing was the super rain did not last very long – maybe less than 30 mins.

Spent the first 20 minutes walking around the plantation when the super rain started to flood the lands. Couldn’t help feeling lousy when I saw some sections being washed away before my very eyes.

There is nothing worse I reckon in this whole world than to work really hard only to watch helplessly when everything goes up in smoke. This is not how life is fucking supposed to pan out!

I feel like punching the shit out of the guy who once wrote, what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger! Truth is if someone took a hammer and whacked your big toe. You have every right to scream your lungs out and jump as if your pants is on fire! Pain in any form of tautological.

The only wisdom pain and loss is able impart to those who are unfortunate enough to experience it, is that it will always be painful and a sort of grief follows in the wake of loss.

There are no great philosophical lessons to be gleaned, no mysterious arcanum to be learnt from very idea of things and conditions that try to kill you!

Let alone forward the preposterous idea pain or loss can somehow make us stronger.

No man can ever have the reservoir of sagacity, forbearance and meditative spirit to go thru pain or loss elegantly….no man in the real world of course discounting the theme of redemption that is so often forwarded by two dimensional plastic characters in the movies.

The best we can ever hope for when we take a fall – is to pick ourselves up and cobble together whatever confidence we can find from the carnage and put together some semblance of courage to try again.

That’s life. Welcome to the land of the defeated!

‘Living smack in the middle of the jungle away from civilization all alone can be ravaging to the human spirit. Yes testing to the soul even I reckon. So very testing it seems – that I fear not even the dictionary meaning of this word has the ability to embrace the breadth or profundity of what man has to go thru to retain his sanity in the frontier.

At times I can feel my humanity leaching away ever slowly like a drop of red dye giving all of it’s color away in a beaker of water…till it’s hard to make out any semblance of color. I can sense a sinister sort of hardness creeping up on me..encrusting all my thoughts…fossilizing every aspect of how I see the world in a hard shell…life at the edge of the frontier can make a man hard that way. So I hold on as best I can like a man marooned in the infinity of sea to this driftwood called humanity.

On rainy days. When it’s impossible to work. I read only the Illiad. There could be other ways to retain one humanity….but I have settled on this way.

I find there are many themes in Homer’s classic, The Odyssey that shackles me down to the idea of what it is to be human.

I reckon that may well be a touchstone you don’t really need back home in Singapore. But to me since I live alone, it’s just a way of staying connected – there are many lessons in Homer’s classic on how to be a more rounded human – the steadfast loyalty of Penelope, who waits faithfully for 20 years for her husband’s return. Duty, Telemachus, who stands by his absent father place and though just a boy, he tries as best he can to protect the virtue, honor and good name of his mother against the loutish suitors who have invaded their family home. Servanthood, Emacus the lady in waiting to Penelope who servitude compels her to accept sufferance..quietly…elegantly….and honorably. Sagacity, Eumaeus, the swineherder who has to bear the cruel barbs of the unruly suitors. But stays on as he continues to nurse the solitary hope against hope – his master will return one day. Diligence in Philoetius, the cow herder who continues to bring milk despite having not been paid for years as he remembers his master’s kindness and benevolence. These are all exemplary qualities that makes us all human and separates us all from animals. Our ability to remain steadfast in a storm of doubts, loyalty, service, sacrifice, hope, faith and honor.

These are the things that make us all human.

But the theme that resonates most powerful for me is Odysseus himself – his tragic loneliness and how he tries to cope stoically as best any man can or for as he searches to return home to his loved ones despite his many setbacks….he’s unrelenting…always surging forward…never once losing the idea of hope.

I don’t think many men can appreciate Homer like I do. No! They cannot. As it’s one of those books that first requires one to experience a sort of estrangement. Or maybe that’s not the right word….but you get my point.

So I read it slowly savoring every sentence all the while wishing I had a neck as long as a giraffe to take it all in….every drop. Yes…the idea of home can be so very compelling to a man who believes he is marrooned…so near, yet so very far that it might even belong to another age…another life – like one of those stars I find myself staring at from time to time…wondering to myself whether perhaps the faint light that streams out is all but a remnant of a star that has long since cooled and died…

I understand. I understand completely. Life is indeed….cruel.’

In business time is the most valuable resource. That’s why interest rates and consultancy fees are pegged to time. So the last thing you want to do is waste time wadding thru nonsense. If you do that. I can almost guarantee you. You will be stuck in the mud. Success will always be so close and yet so far.

There is really only one rule…..

(1) KEEP THE GOAL CRYSTAL CLEAR AND REMIND THE OTHERSIDE TO DO THE SAME!

Recently. During a hunt for a very rare and specific fertilizer compound to increase my yield. For some curious reason the sales girl who was assigned to me appeared highly confused that my goal was either to increase my social circle by making friends or to improve my socializing IQ. During the meeting I found both the combination of her body language and what I can only describe as her lack of preparation concerning the product very distracting. She seemed more interested in marketing her fun bags and probing about why I live alone in a big house on the hill and even asked whether I felt lonely. So I looked her straight in the eye, paused and told her in a very serious business tone, ‘Please understand this is strictly business and never personal….but I have no intentions to fuck to you. I just want to know whether your product fulfills the criteria to increase my yield.’

Thereafter everything fell perfectly into place.

(2) KEEP THE GOAL CRYSTAL CLEAR AND REMIND THE OTHERSIDE TO DO THE SAME!

That same morning while having breakfast in the village kopitiam. One of the villagers who I am acquainted with only casually asked me whether I could extend him a loan. I looked him straight in the eye, paused and told this man in a very serious tone, ‘Please do not take this personally, it’s strictly business. I do not lend money.’ The man asked, why not, you are a wealthy landowner! I told him that is a question that he has every right to ask. But I do not have any obligation to answer. I went to add firmly, what’s important is, the answer to your question is ‘no.’

Before I left. I suggested he try his luck at the local village bank…the Ah Loong.

Thereafter everything fell perfectly into place.

(3) KEEP THE GOAL CRYSTAL CLEAR AND REMIND THE OTHERSIDE TO DO THE SAME.

During the afternoon. Since I had agreed to help out a friend who sought my advise last week. I had to sit thru a 45 minute agronomy presentation in the field concerning a plan to improve yield in his troubled estate. Ten minutes into the presentation when I had to pop two extra strong Panadols – as one part of my brain had to jump thru hoops just to follow the consultant. As he was deploying a host of mind boggling and confusing words such as ‘right sizing’ instead of ‘down sizing.’I looked this man straight in the eye, paused and told him in a very serious tone, ‘please do not take this personally, it’s strictly business….but I would appreciate it if you just continued this presentation in standard spin free English. I went on to remind this confused person by taking him to one side away from the ear shot of others. His goal is to get a buy in for his solution. Since his target audience are planters who are very serious no nonsense men. They should never be confused with folk who wear colorful ties and work in an arty farty advertising agency.

The consultant apologized profusely for his oversight, changed tack and the presentation resumed. My headache subsided. Thereafter everything fell into place.

(4) KEEP THE GOAL CRYSTAL CLEAR AND REMIND THE OTHERSIDE TO DO THE SAME.

After sun down. During the drive home via the back eastern route to my plantation. I spotted a lorry with five men blocking the road. They were all armed with parangs. I knew instantly these were fruit thieves. It was just the way these low lives carried themselves. I stepped out of my car and asked them what are you doing on my land. They looked at each other somewhat surprised. Then one them asked, aren’t you afraid of us. I ignored this person and turned my attention to an Indian man with a fierce handle bar mustache, pot belly with 99.9% body fat who I assume was the leader of this gang.

From where I was standing I knew these were amateurs with zero art of war skills. Two men were still in a lorry. The others were standing in a straight line six feet apart with the leader at the very front. Big mistake. I did some quick mental calculations and surmised. I could easily take out the leader with my tactical pen. With element of surprise, it would be 100%. Use his fat body as a shield and take out the second man with a knife throw, two revolutions at best…100%. Wrestle the parang from the first man hack the third man. In the confusion, it would be 80 to 90%. But I was assured. That would leave only two men in the cab sixteen paces away…too far….besides I had no way to make out what they were armed with – this reduced everything to a lousy 50/50. So I decided to talk my way out instead.

After lighting my uncle power plastic pipe followed by a long pause. I looked at the leader straight in the eyes and said ‘please understand this is strictly business and never personal. Now let’s think this whole business thru clearly. The furthest all of you lowlives are willing to go – is to put me in hospital. And that’s as far as you lowlives are prepared to go. No further lah! As your goal is to steal fruit, earn some easy money to buy beer. I can understand that. I am a reasonable man. But let’s get back to the goal. None of you came here tonight to end up with a murder wrap. Nope. None of you! That’s the last thing any of you want…to complicate your already complicated lives. That was when I looked at every man. That’s the big league…for professionals…for people who are prepared to go all the way on that one way ticket trip. I could tell the seed of doubt had been planted in every man’s head. Their resolve began to wane. They looked nervously at each other. There was a slight quiver in their eyes. Then turning to the leader. I continued very slowly this time…..no you lowlives don’t have what it takes to take another man’s life. That requires a certain understanding…..a certain acceptance…of a certain form of hell on earth. None of you want to go down that road. All you want to do is drink free beer….forget your problems…be happy…and tomorrow the world will continue again. I understand. I am a reasonable man. That is the goal….to be happy. By now, some of the thieves were even begin to nod quite openly. But even should you all decide to put me in the hospital. Then sadness will search for you in darkness like many hands of the Goddess Durga. You will all be like the Pandavas wandering the wilderness…lost…sad….afraid…wondering, it is not worth it! As when I recover. Since the world is round. I will hunt you all down like Arjuna, then I will take your daughters out for a nice candle light dinner….with soft music and wine. You can all even watch if you like. Do you all understand. Am I clear. Now get off my land!

Thereafter everything fell into place….

Managing people who hate

September 23, 2014

For one to stand an even chance of succeeding in life and business. It’s not really a case of mastering the seven habits of highly effective people. As it remains the very unpleasant business of being able to intelligently manage – the seven habits of highly INeffective folk.

One dominant characteristic of ALL highly ineffective people is their uncanny ability to hate others for no apparent reason.

Contrary to popular urban myth. You don’t have to disrespect, malign or diss these people for them to hate you. It could be hate is just their preferred means of dealing their their frustrations and everything that’s not going well in their world. You just came along into their line of sight. If it is not you…it could just as well be the person next to you.

Could well be. They hate you. As you come across as different and seem to share very little in common with them. Might even be, they hate you because of the way you walk, carry yourself and come across to others. It’s really horses for courses lah for people who hate and it’s ultimately self selecting.

You could even be sitting in one corner minding your own business doing nothing except breathing and enjoying the simple pleasures of life such scratching your guli’s and these people will just hate you.

But all haters share one thing in common – they all secretly yearn to be like you in some way or another. Trust me they do! That’s to say. There is something that you have that they simply wished five chili hard they had and when they see you – it just reminds them how inadequate, unfulfilled and utterly disappointing it is to continue living without that thing. So one way of dealing this pent up emotion is to hate.

And because they are so terribly far off the mark. They can only be overwhelmed by an acute sense of insecurity. Insecurity leads them to succumb to feelings of inferiority. This leads to fear….specifically the fear they are been threatened. And that leads to fear…and fear is the firewood the fuels hate.

Business is war. The highest acme of war is not to engage those who may hate you in a protracted and expensive battle. Any bloody fool can do that. But if you’re going to invest so much of yourself in zero value activities then how are you going to make headway?

Hence the importance of mastering the art of subduing your enemy totally and completely with highest level of economy.

To accomplish this feat. It’s jugular to FIRST understand rather than to respond automatically with hate and derision to who hate you. Once you understand the rest as the Americans say is easy peasy.

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‘It’s a misconception to believe some people hate you because you may have done or did not do something that somehow deserves their ire.

Truth is for the man or woman who hates for no apparent reason. He and she can hate for an infinite range of reasons ranging from the way you look to whatever lah.

So if you respond hate with hate. Then all you’re really doing is supplying firewood to fuel their grand furnace of hatred that these people have fashioned soMewhere in their heads. To put it another way, you’re actually giving them the means to legitimize the reasons why it’s perfectly valid for them to continue hating you. That to me is a very inefficient way of managing people who hate.

A better way would be to get into their heads and understand them in the way one opens the casing of the bomb to cut either the blue or red wire. This is key. This also requires social ninja skills.

Sun Tzu once wrote, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” What this means is you have to understand the reason for why this person hates.

I once had a boss who used to single me out for bullying. One day I went to his office and I said to him, ‘you can’t figure it out can you?’ And I just left. He was of course perplex. Who wouldn’t be. But what this man did not realize was that I had planted a suggestion in his head…..a seed that can only germinate and grow, grow and grow and overshadow everything in his averagely miserable life.

From time to time when he encountered me in the water cooler, he would ask, ‘what is it that I cannot figure out.’ I would smile at him knowingly and reply cryptically, ‘when you are through pretending to be Mr I have life all figured out….then we will talk further about this matter…..I don’t believe you are serious.’

In the weeks that followed, this man who was once a paragon of authority and command was reduced to a nervous wreck of a whimpering mass – this is the power of psychological warfare. And one fine day when he could bear it no more and must have felt like a hand grenade ready to explode into a million bits. He came up to me and said, ‘you are right….I can’t figure it out….I have a Porsche. I even own landed property. I gym. I even spend money on skin care products….but you…you…I don’t understand.’

I told this man to let it all out as the truth will set him free like a bird. And eventually he confided to me. When it came out, it was like a tsunami of emotions that had till then remained repressed and now like some leviathan that had broken loose from its underwater moorings….it all bubbled to the surface…nothing could stop it. In a gist the root for his hatred stemmed from his lack of success with girls. To paraphrase. No girl wants to fuck him lah! So naturally he harbored a pathological hatred for all men who girls are naturally attracted too.

This sad man would often go around with a shard of glass stuck to his head…wondering why no one wants to fuck him despite his best efforts. It seemed as if he was cursed. Meanwhile I just listen impassionately.

To cut a long story short. After listening to him for two hours, when he asked me for a prognosis – at first I agreed with him that it’s conceivable, he might be unfuckable after all given his Guiness Book of Records, lamentable trek record. Then he asked whether perhaps I could help him. I went to ask him whether he could offer me anything in return. To cut it all shorter. After that day. I never ever had any problems with my boss again. Could even keep a crisp card board and whip it out for a siesta providing I wasn’t caught by the panopticon CCTV brigade. He would confide to me regularly and I even managed to earn consultancy fee as a personal coach. We got along like a house on fire thereafter….but I reckon, it could have turned out to be very different….yes, it could have…I could have hated him….but tell me, what would that really accomplish?’

Well I really don’t know. To be perfectly honest with all of you. I never really given the whole idea of university the philosophical breadth of thought it probably deserved. To me it was really just a ‘right of passage,’ something that I was always expected to step right into. If I really had to sum up my thoughts during the moment of my youth concerning the whole idea of higher education, it would probably be couched in terms of blasé…..blissful ambivalence.

That’s probably because when one is busy degreeing. The only thing in one’s mind is how to impress girls to get a date. Or trying to figure out how to reuse a condom. Along with figuring ever more inventive ways of getting drunk on cheap subsidized student union beer.

Besides what will eventually become valuable or worthless during the long course of ones life journey doesn’t always reveal itself in the very beginning.
Sure you can probably approximate and perhaps even make an informed guess on whether pursuing this or that degree or not degreeing may take you further in life in ten or twenty years somewhere down the future etc etc. But my point is YOU WILL NEVER EVER KNOW FOR CERTAIN. And anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar…all you can do is take a chance on your gut feel….and that’s really all you can do. Anymore and you probably need a time machine or be a descendant of Nostradamus.

As the chastening passage of time is forever transforming the world even as we speak. So when we speak about whether this or that is worth doing – it’s really at best a stab in the dark. Since it’s predicated on the vagaries of so many unfolding social, economic, political and cultural trends that will culminate somewhere down some timeline in the distant future. For example what was valuable….timeless….or even worthwhile during my age looks possibly shambolic these days. Mechanical typewriters. Pagers. Cars with no airbags. High cholesterol food. Shoulder pads. Oily hair cream. Book shops. The list goes on and on.

Then again with the benefit of hindsight. Some things have simply not changed at all. The demand for people who can solve problems hasn’t diminished at all. The demand for people who can convey their thoughts professionally, coherently and confidently without coming across as charlatans who have no idea of what they’re talking about has in fact increased. Sure, those people may have once read Geography, Classics, Theatre or Foreign Relations in university. They may even be now invested in vocations and trades which have absolutely nothing to do with what they once pursued their degree on…..but that doesn’t mean it’s all gone to waste!

As what will always remain timeless and have the capacity to endure unchanged through the ages is one’s ability to compare, contrast, distinguish and synthesize a train of thoughts that you can truly call your own and can credibly defend when challenged.

Those skills will always be in demand. They’re ever greens. Only understand this! Those skill sets can only be had by pursuing degree course. There is no way of short cutting this in life. It doesn’t matter whether it is from an Ivy League or a tin pot university – they all without exception have to abide by this rigorous format of managing knowledge in a seemingly intelligent way. And since university throws out a ton of mental choices at its students. How best should they manage their time? What excuses should they come up with not get disqualified when they hand up their papers late? How long can I smile at that pretty girl in a cafeteria without coming across as a craze stalker? Along with how to dabble in a spot of gambling by spotting what question are likeliest to come out in the final exams? Will I still go for that rave party,get pissed and still wake up sober for an exam at 9 o’clock on Monday morning? How to make homemade beer in students accommodation without blowing up the whole building?

Of course, I understand all these examples might come across as rather infantile and trivial. But do bear with me. I guess what I am really trying to say is as humans, we are constantly learning, bettering our lot, problem solving. At times, we have to do all this without any roadmaps, guidebooks and without the benefit of experiential knowledge.

But if we are going to do these things confidently. We need to be trust our minds 100%. We can’t trust the idea government to deliver the good life. As often what’s good for the country may not necessarily be good for the individual. If we really want to get to the other side and earn the right to say, ‘phew that was close!’ Then I believe nothing even comes close to the rigor of intellectual training one goes thru to earn a degree. A degree to me will always be the best insurance against stupidity. If I had to put a name to only one thing that’s going to put wings on you to believe nothing is impossible…it’s a degree. As when push comes to shove in any situation in life – doesn’t matter whether you’re a farmer whose trying to maximize yield under conditions of drought or a middle manager who is just trying to get a decent return on investment in a business environment of resource scarcity. At the end of the day, the only thing that can keep you out from the proverbial shit pot, win the day, allow you to past from the realm of theory to reality with room to spare is going to be your ability to reliably call the right shots by making thoughtful decisions!

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‘When we talk about farming in the context of the cool factor. It’s currently located somewhere at the very bottom in the sauna uncool quadrant. But all that is going to change not very long from now. Mind you, when I use that sobriquet term of endearment, ‘one day,’ I am not referring to some distant future when we would all be driven by robots or holidaying in Mars. I am not even talking about a timeline of ten years! But possibly less than even five years, when the whole idea of driving a tractor will be cooler than a Ferrari.

Granted that notion may seem a tad preposterous to you. As whenever we think about farming. The imagery it so often conjures is provincial….parochial…insular…and downright backward. But when one begins to ask strategic questions like: how is the world going to feed 9.1 billion people in 2050? How can yield be sustainably increased on a same given hectarage without environmental degradation? How is it even possible to have a intelligent conversation on food security in an age of unprecedented environmental change?

Then what begins to emerge is the very kernel of an idea that farming will require massive intellectual firepower, if it is to stand a chance of reliably delivering the goodies.

I read recently URA is experimenting on driverless car technology. But the first commercially produced autonomous robots that can navigate via GPS. I bet you will not be driverless cars. But mundane robots programmed to perform repetitive work on a farm!

Drone technology is now just used to take pics where one can upload in youtube so that everyone who watches it can post ‘wow!’ But I bet you my last dollar once they sort out the teething problems of having to live with superglue, duct tape, lousy code and gps clinches – the first commercial drones will be performing aerial surveys in farms to facilitate precision farming. Short cake Khaw boon Wang has absolutely no idea how to gainfully make use of so many empty car parks in HDB these days – because at the helium rate COE’s are going both Sengkang Sally and Buangkok Beng can no longer afford to buy cars. But I bet you. Someday all these car parks will be turned into highly productive modular farms growing everything from blue mountain coffee beans to Provence Carpenthes truffles. Even Pinot noire will be grown in Singapore. Along with near extinct Caspian Beluga Sturgeons swimming in computer controlled tanks in some skyscraper or some industrial park.

My point gentlemen is farming cannot stay the same. There is only finite arable land. The supply chain can only stretch so far. Perishability can only be mitigated to a point. Beyond that and it’s no longer a viable business case. Those are the constraints. But the constants remain more needs to be come out from less.

So what we have here gentlemen is the creation of a tipping point. In the parlance of the Laanstrad, a decision nexus.

This means the time is just about right for a precipitous shift in how we have always viewed farming. The condition that makes this highly probable is already there – the mathematics of necessity or ‘no choice’. And when that day comes a new breed of farmer will have step into the field to produce more out of less.

It doesn’t take a lot to trigger this perceptive shift. Not at all. You have no possible idea how fickle people really are. How fast trends can suddenly tack and change. All it takes is a few cool guys to come right in and do their thing like what the Koreans once did for staid soap operas and pop music that no one was willing to vote with their wallets….and wham…bang. It will all change in a blink of an eye!

That’s all it takes based on the understanding of the art of cool. But never underestimate what will make this paradigm shift possible – never deny the engine that will make this whole idea possible – it will not be hard work. Or even the fait accompli of a degree is nice but not necessary if you want to succeed in life – that to me is just rhetoric. If anything, the catalyst to set into motion this revolution, cannot in my opinion run away from the doctrine of precedent that once set into motion all other revolutions such as the industrial, space, financial or digital. It cannot.

It will be raw intellectual firepower. To put it another way, the ability for one to manage information intelligently by comparing, contrasting, distinguishing and drawing nuanced schools of thoughts to permit for experimentation thru innovation. It will be a game of cerebral fitness gentlemen. So if some stupid people who you came across in TV tells you, they can do all this without the benefit of a degree then all I can say is good luck to them lah…..as that’s all they can ever hope to have.’

They came during the half moon. Orpuk has a way of climbing over the high wire fence without stirring the dogs. He is the only man I know who can do this. Many villagers don’t consider Orpuk and his kind humans – they call them, the Orang Bunyan…..as they have the power of invisibility.

To me. Orpuk has always been flesh and bone. Whenever he visits. He just squats on the bonnet of my land cruiser for hours. Never says a word. Never makes a sound. He just squats there quietly…contently with his shadow. Together they make the alphabet L in the cast of the moon beam. When I see him. Orpuk breaks out in a smile and hands me a bunch of leafs from the great mother of trees deep in the jungle. I put one beneath my tongue. It stays there as my second tongue.

Soon I feel a buzz. He puts another leaf in my mouth. This the tribesmen believe will reveal my true spirit – the magic leafs will give me strength, thoughts will acquire speed and my spirit will soar like an eagle.

I get into my “kip.” Its just a string underwear made out of hide with a flap of leather to cover my dick. When I enter the courtyard the rest of the braves are decked in my Manchester United T shirts. That’s how it is with tribesmen – they don’t have any concept of ownership….they take whatever they want. I don’t mind. One of them is wearing my football shorts over his head.

A tall brave approaches me, he spits on each side of my cheek and smears beetroot paste creating a menacing V shaped mask. The others chant moving with wavering palms like serpents around me. They’re weaving a spell to make me invisible like them – when they’re done. The leader lets out a shriek and without a word….. the pack is off.

I take my position behind Orpuk and his son, Noon. We run in single file to hide our numbers. Each man armed with a spear and bow and a fist full of poisoned tipped arrows. The younger ones as spotter with their mini blowpipes sweeping way ahead.

From time to time, the pack will stop….. suddenly Orpuk will stand erect and sniff the night air, his eyes say, ‘they are nearby by the river’– we are off again. No one ever says a word. Like birds flying in formation. Everyone seems to instinctively know their place in the pack. This is the killing time….the quickening.

Someone hisses like cobra. The pack begins to fan out in a tight crescent shape. We’re walking through tall reeds. I can feel the grass tips stinging me, they’re sharp as needles. Their edges cutting my flesh like razors. I push the pain out of my mind. The air smells of musk. The boars must be nearby.

Orpuk mimics a cry of an owl. The braves throw down their spears and bow and take out their daggers. One of them lunges towards a boar that’s just broken away in a clearing and wrestles him down. A dance of glints as the blades catch the half moonlight. One blink. Maybe two. They’re all dead.

Orpuk flashes a smile at me as he begins to skin the hogs. He’s done it so many times, he doesn’t even need to look at his hands. It’s as if his hands have a mind of their own. Soon we are off again – each man hauling a leaf wrapped slab of meat tied with reed roots. We are in single file again running alongside the riverbank towards the half moon.

I can’t carry it and run at the same time. Orpuk signals the braves to free me of the load – I can just about keep up.

Soon the tribe arrives. The rest of the tribe have been expecting them – The shaman had foretold their arrival on the half moon. A fire burns with lashings of hypnotic Kdu leafs. He hands Orpuk a vessel fashioned from coconut halves flavored with star aniseed – its a white liquid that taste like liqourie and stale 100 plus. When it’s my turn. I take two gulps. Orpuk puts three more leafs in my mouth – I chew slowly and soon one of the braves begin to go beat his chest with a flapping action. The rest start to follow. They all jump up and down thrusting their spears in the night sky. The shadows they create remind me of light sliced into ribbons. Some of the braves leap over the pyre. As they emerge from the flames. They writhe in pain mixed with ecstasy rolling their smoking bodies in the cool of the mud. Most prefer to dance around the fire. Like moths, being licked by a savage tongue of light and when they can no longer bear it any longer – they break away with a deep “uuuuuuuumhhh!” While the rest laugh. While the women thrust their breast out with each break out to acknowledge their bravery. Another brave dances to the fire. Another breaks out. And through the night this gyre would turn without end.

Everything seems almost to be slaved to this hypnotic ryhthm of the night – the younger girls in the tribe beat bamboo staves together, they add nuance to the rhythm of the night – they stand in the shadows alongside old toothless women who guard over them like old foxes. They can never come near the fire. It’s forbidden.

I see. But I see beyond. Time and shapes seem fluid. They seem congealed…compressed as I sink deeper….deeper and deeper into a thick resonance like amber moving ever so slowly that it’s still – this hypnotic rhythm bears so deep within me that I find myself wondering whether it’s even me. Or something imagined. Then Shaman comes over. He chants into my ears. Before he disappears. He blows a powdery substance into my face. The throbbing now begins to get more violent. I begin to cough violently as an indescribable fire begins to consume me from within. The braves seize my arms and legs. They tie me down with vines. One of them puts a stick in my mouth to stop me from biting my tongue – whole jungle is swirling around me. My eyes turn white as I begin to convulse. They chant A-mak, A-mak, A-mak.

Suddenly silence….I now see the world through night vision goggles. The perspective is low, as if I am crawling on the ground.

I have been reincarnated into the mythical albino monitor lizard.

A-MAK……hoi….A-MAK….the whole tribe is an a frenzy as they make a circle around me….after that the world switches off. All I remember is the perpetual swaying to the sound of this hypnotic ryhthm as it courses relentlessly through my being; the mysterious flicker of the fire; the languorous shadows that seem always to have a life of its own….the heat of the flames as they lick bare flesh.

And all through this layered thickness of primal consciousness. I am falling…falling like some rock cast into a cavern….sinking deeper and deeper across the ocean of time. Across the many layers of sights and sounds that all seems so alien….yet strangely familiar.

A-mak, A-mak, A-mak, A-mak.

I wake up somewhere in the Western terraces of my plantation. I am caked in mud. There is blood running down by knee caps. I remember nothing. Not even my name. And then it comes to me very slowly. Its a brand new day.

I am a man again…..I am a man again.

I wonder how I got here. I look frantically for any sign of my footprints. There are none….except the prints of a giant monitor lizard.

It is the beginning of the rainy season. This is usually the period when game is most plentiful in the jungle. It’s also the time when my gentle friends will come down from the mountains and pay me a visit.

They seem to be the only ones who can sneak up on me as if appearing from nowhere. Usually when they appear. They are either perching on a tree or I suddenly find them sitting in a row on the gate. Smiling with their deadly blowpipes. They do not seem to fear the dogs. Neither do the dogs bark. It’s as if they both know – they are all cut from the same cloth….kindred spirits who belong to the bosom of the wild.

Tribesmen shy from villagers. They much prefer to keep to themselves. It is taboo for them to form an association with anyone from ‘the edge of the world.’ Their tribal elders warn them from a young age – if they get too close…their souls will be stolen. So they hide. And since they all have the exceptional power of invisibility. No can ever see them…..absolutely no one.

Except me. I know their ways intimately like the lines on my palm. I can even speak their tongue fluently. As I often wander deep in the jungle to hunt and spend so much time in the floating world chugging down jungle moonshine – there I am known to all as A-MAK. The mythical albino monitor lizard. To the tribesmen the human form that I assume now is not the real me. They believe I am really one of them….a kindred spirit…. and this is just an elaborate disguise. A ‘haih!’ – spirit form. As I am really a spy sent to the edge of the world to intermingle freely with the living dead. This is how they see us – dead people who are just pretending to live. To them I will always be the mythical albino monitor lizard. A revered being who appears from time to time to their council of elders to warn them of impending misfortune and shifts. From time to time, one of them would turn to me and ask in a childlike manner, ‘when will you return home to us A-MAK……’ Then they will all huddle together and begin to weep, ‘you must be suffering here….there is no monkey brain paste to go with your yam……no game to hunt…..and you are so alone without your tribe.’

Working with tribesmen is not easy. It requires a lot of patience and understanding. As to them our ways will always be incomprehensible and peculiar. Since there is no concept of ownership in their community, it is not unusual for them to take whatever tickles their fancy. They can also get confused like children and it is not unusual for there to be plenty of miscommunication. For example, when I ask for the wheelbarrow – it is not unusual for them to all assume, it is because I want to be wheeled around like a tribal chieftain (as in the video). When I ask them to carry a thing, it is also not unusual for them to keep on carrying this thing and walking beyond the boundaries of my land, if I do not stop them.

To manage them. I use hunting language known to them as ‘unshar’ – this is when the lead huntsman says, ‘you go here….as for you, stay seven paces behind him….as for you keep us within thirty paces…..we will only communicate with hand signals….and bird sounds. All this is done with only grunts and hand signals. It is the most economic method of communication.

When the chieftain scrawls these hunting instructions down on dirt. Everyone is dead serious and the work is as good as done. It is a scene as old as the hills itself and goes back to an ancient time when our ancestors were roaming around the jungle in just skins.

As for the villagers they can never see my gentle friends…..to be honest, I don’t think you can either. Not even if they were just sitting around in the jungle beside you…..they’re literally invisible. That to me is not such a bad thing. As some things I never ever want the grubby hands of the world to ever spoil. As for A-MAK. One day when he finally grows sick and tired of living in the world where the dead pretends to live. He might just decide to make the epic return journey…..home….someday…..but for now the whole idea of home seems so far like a distant faraway star….so very very far.

 

 

 

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Four times a year my field office looks like a fertilizer wholesale. This is just a fraction of what is usually required for one round of manuring.

Farming commercially is really just about one thing – maximizing opportunity cost to produce high yielding crops at the lowest possible price. To reliably accomplish this goal. The clever use of fertilizer is jugular.

Judgement is key. As since every season presents it’s own unique set of challenges. No two seasons are ever the same. This year I have tweaked the fertilization regime to take stock of the expected prolonged drought along with rainfall deficit. There are many things I had to throw out of the window. As the freaky weather really rubbishes many time honored practices that one would usually deploy to manage a plantation.

So far by and large. I’ve cut all the right moves. My yield is still way above the industry median average. But at times I feel as if I am like a solitary pilot flying blind as a bat. I don’t even know whether I can trust many of my calculations. As since many of my methods this year is really a polyglot of retrofits ranging from how the Israelites would grow Jaffa oranges to whatever I have managed to cobble together. I am just not sure as all my methods thus far can at best be described in terms of a ‘great experiment.’

if I get it right. I stand to reap a bountiful harvest despite the looming threat of El Niño. And even if she hits with all her fury somewhere around the end of the year. The survivability of my crops is assured. But if I get it all wrong. Then I will just have to roll with the punches the best I can. In my mind there is no other way and it all just comes down to one spin of the roulette wheel.

So far I’ve cut all the right moves and I often tell myself – you’re good to go. But I remind myself – if I did slip thru that sliver of opportunity not so long and breathe a sigh of relief….luck certainly played a preponderant role. It’s very easy for a man to allow himself to be lulled into a false sense of confidence…..to bloat up and lose all sense of scale and perspective as to what he’s up against. Especially when that man seems to always beat the curve while others fall helplessly by the wayside. This man who looks at mother nature with defiant eyes in the way a lone climber would flare his nostrils and just up her skirt to the summit her just when her back is turned – but this year is different from all other years. This year is so bloody ridiculous hard. If last year was a leisurely walk in the park. This whole year feels as though I am just throwing out canon balls out of my boat to make headway!

If I can believe in the idea of God. I could perhaps seek resolution in prayer. To leave it all beneath the feet of the great architect. The endless litany of caprice…vagaries…..along with the never ending intrigues of fortune to regard victory and defeat as one of the same face of a coin. But I don’t!

If only I could be sure about how the weather would pan on in the weeks ahead. I could just as well take comfort in the metallic certainly of mathematics….units of measurements…photosynthesis….periodic tables…the anatomy of the tree and how it would perform under X or Y conditions – but again I cannot as there seems to be no way to beacon out the murk.

So there I am….a man with just the mere morsel of his humble courage. So small that it’s like a tongue of flame that fits within the palm of his hands. This man who looks out across the treacherous desolation of no man’s like some faceless soldier who is just about to storm out of the trench line. He checks his rifle to see whether he’s chambered a round. He looks at his watch for then tenth time and somewhere between the fifteen and sixteen….he wonders whether he should leave it in the trench with a letter impaled with a bayonet….he bobs his head up again to make out the machine gun post…he knows it’s there…somewhere….but he can’t make it out. He looks at his wedding band furtively. Then he steels himself.

Soon the whistle would blow and with it all of hell would be unleashed.

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‘The idea of valor has to be at best the sum of what others prefer to see. Usually they see what they want to see. The travesty is what they see. They believe it to be true. I know. I know this well. As I belong to a category of men who derives so much of his being vicariously from the whole idea of what others prefer to see….and believe.

You know the sort of mysterious man who walks into a beer hall in Munich that only climbers frequent only for everyone to fall silent as they all whisper to themselves while stealing furtive glances…he’s the one….he did that….what a jolly good fellow. The sort of man who has at least a dozen Polaroid framed pictures behind the bar counter in every happening city from Beuno Aries to Brooklyn, New York of himself summiting that mountain…sailing that sea…crossing that desert. He even looks the part with his penchant for sport cars….lean frame…the sinuous way he moves…the slight pause like a panther when something piques his interest. A man who all others in the fraternity of the brotherhood considers the man who went further than any other man. The one who others talk about with intonations reserved for only fandom…the one who other men touch the things he touches hoping that it would leave them with some lasting residue to be like him.

Yes. He certainly looks the part. He even has just enough gruff to go with his Rolex Submariner…wear on his Austin Reed jacket sleeves….even has a broken side mirror on his Masserati. All the accoutrements to supply the belief. He’s still reaching out across that infinity of time and space into and beyond that mythical equatorial line somewhere in one’s head where fear and fascination resides in equanimity.

The man who to others always seems to have just the right eclectic mix to be in his element anywhere….a flanuer with a dash of sympatico….like the ever dissipating aristocratic. Monsieur Swan in Marcel Proust remembrance whose content to prowl the Parisian streets as if he’s only function in life is to supply valence to the idea – the sole function of life is to decay and give oneself to the atmosphere bit by bit like a ball of camphor – as he struggles in vain to comprehend whether life perhaps might perhaps be to imitate art instead. Otherwise what can possibly account for with obsessive compulsion to fuck Odette – which he seems to be only able to love my imagining her as one of Botecelli’s nymphs.

Yes I don’t imagine this man can be so different from the poor Swann, his one and only mistress is fear.. Imagine a hand curled with shards of nails. That is how this man sees his mistress….fear.

But the greatest irony that befalls this man – has to his irrevocable belief what others think about his exploits. Real or imagined, has to be hogwash…make belief….the stuff of comic books and CGI rendered movies – as since he knows fear only too well. Yes, he knows it. Often he murmurs to him – if only he can tell it the way it really is…..but who would listen to this man who knows fear intimately. Who? In a world where people prefer to see what they want to see?

There lies the dilemma for the man who knows fear better than anyone else. As the closer this man reaches out to the end of fear. There’s really less to say. Except maybe to reconcile his sense and sensibilities to the idea – this realization can only bring with it a variant of the end……the finality of his estrangement from his fellow men followed by a sort of bittersweet acceptance that he would always have to live alone with this unabridged version of all there is to say about……fear.

As surely even to this man who knows fear like the touch of a lover knows only too well – the end or for that matter any ending…. is only imagined, a destination invented to keep one foot ahead of the other like some perpetual wheel in motion – only for this man. He differs from all other men…..it’s a vampire thing….as he intuitively know he will never get there. Nor even understand it fully either….his delightful torment…mistress….the source of all his fascination and trepidation….fear……fear. And so when this man who till now is contend to roam following his nose wherever it may take him like some restless flanuer comes to a salutory stop, that is only because he knows the very one thing….no other man can ever share with him. He has the rare privilege to fear better than any man alive. This he knows……that which all other men prefer not to see, nor believe.’

 

 

 

The first monsoon rains

September 19, 2014

From a distance,
the incessant chant of monsoon from south west,
sounds like an old witch practising her craft,
she is all evil and dark, one would think,
the overcast sky her sinister cloak.

She is feisty with her lashing of lightning bolts
I watch this coy gyre as she weaves her spell,
A crackle of a solitary thunder and virgin rains,
now she walks with me step to matching step,
She tries to entice me with her soft tunes,
Her tender cool, waxing my cheeks,
her lover’s touch unmistakable, passionate, eager
I shiver, she wants me to get in to her arms, she is monsoon..

Tactical Living

September 17, 2014

There are some people after looking at my life, roll their eyes and exclaim, ‘paranoid’ ‘psychopath’ Not that what they think ever bothers me. Not at all.

As these people regularly get robbed, car jacked and since they take zero ownership over their personal protection and only seem to outsource it to the police all the time – these are also the same people who are very often constrained by fear. Real or imagined. Fear consistently holds them back. Fear keeps them poor.

In many cases it even stops them dead in their tracks from doing business in the world’s fastest growth regions. No I am not talking about New York, Paris or London….but rather places where folk regularly point guns at people. These are incidentally the best places to make your fortune abroad. As since the polite air conditioned addicted crowd considers them basket cases – land is usually dead cheap. Rental is non existent (even comes with a sky view, if a bomb renovated it). Labor is plentiful. As everyone wants to get out of refugee camps and as far as the laws are concerned, you can just make it up as you go along.

These are of course nuggets of wisdom – they never ever teach you in Harvard Business School. As they since tactical living is not a module that is usually taught there. They have no choice but to go in high. While those who are skilled in managing risk can go where angels fear to tread and pick up goodies for free.

I kid u not! I happen to know bus loads of people who regularly read my blog and they’re all prospering and very happy doing what they do all over the world – as we all share the common philosophy of living a tactical life.

To me cultivating a Tactical Mindset is not paranoia. It’s good business IQ. If you happen to believe that it is of no value…then you are stupid and ignorant. The end!

It is wisdom. As since I work in a dangerous environment. I makes perfect sense to have a complimentary thoughtware. I don’t ever have to live in the shadow of fear. As since I spend a lot of my time training, training and training….I have every confidence in being able to defend myself and those around me.

Tactical living to me is attitude where one makes a conscious decision to declare war against complacency and to be prepared to maintain the status quo thru the knowledge of Warcraft.

It is preparing constantly for the unthinkable. It is living in a state of heightened awareness where one is conscious of everything. Nothing is ever what it seems when I am in this heighten state of consciousness – I take nothing for granted. Not even simple everyday acts like driving up to my gate*

There is so much more that could be written on this one subject. But since I don’t want to overload your brain till it explodes like a hand grenade. I hope this short piece will provoke you to consider taking ownership of your security seriously.

*When you drive a car into a house head first. You literally lose every strategic advantage. You’re a duck! If there is an ambush. You can’t step on the gas and make a lightning getaway. You can’t even weaponize your car to ram the baddies or take off their knee caps either. And since all ambushed contain within them the element of surprise. They all invariably take advantage of the blind side and when your back is turned to a possible threat. You are literally a sitting duck. That’s why the right and only way to drive a car into a house is by reversing in.

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‘The greatest solvent that militates against 100% preparedness has to be complacency – to me that’s really just a zombie attitude when everyone goes thru the motions without having the goal firmly superglued in their heads. It’s just aerobics. Usually with roughly the same processing power as tying their shoelaces. They’re not situationally attuned. They’re not covering the bases tightly with the right attitude. It’s sloppy and worst of all they don’t bother to train realistically and everything is just dumbed down to a routine. Wonder no more when the shit hits the fan like little India everyone is twiddling their thumbs, mumbling and waiting for someone else to make the decision.

In that case. They did not lack the equipment. Rather the one factor that undermined their capacity to annul the threat rapidly had to be complacency. That’s to say they had the wrong attitude.

That attitude is well and fine in Singapore. I bet you could even live up to the ripe old age of eighty with all your hands and feet intact. As all one has to do is pick up the phone and outsource the whole idea of personal security to the police. But over here in the frontier. There is no law. Not after you cross the first two rows of the palms as you drive into a plantation.

It’s only you and them. So to me there will always be an understanding of sorts that differentiates me from all other men whenever the subject of life is raised. This will always be the attitude of those who turn the wheel of life in the frontier – nothing is ever what it seems. Nothing can be taken for granted. If no one is trying to kill you. That’s because you put in the effort to make those basic living conditions possible with the sweat from your brow. It never came for free. As for the idea of government, it might as well be on written on some rock on the moon.

The frontier man can step right into the field and put it on like a jumpsuit and just as well be the invisible man. With the certainty, there will always be 12 ways to walk in plantation in the dry season without ever making a sound. If the other side has FLIR. On a moonless night there are at least six ways to confuse him. You can’t defeat it, but you make him pull out his hair! If it’s thermal, there are at least seven in the dry season and only two in the wet with a possible three with the intelligent use of kerosene. In the wet season, there are four shades of camouflage. In the dry three when the sun is high and seven more when the arch of the sun sinks below the 3rd azimuth. Three methods to turn a lorry turtle on the flats with just three sticks. Six on the slopes with only two and one when it’s crossing a bridge in a plantation. Four to make a lorry stuck in the mud during the dry season. By falling just two mature palms, it’s even possible to bring an entire column of lorries to a halt. Two methods to bring down a bridge. Four to make it sweep away in a heavy storm and only one to slowly bring it down crashing….yes, there will always be an understanding of sorts I reckon whenever the subject of life is raised…but that is only to be expected don’t you think so. After all it’s hardly as if we live the same, but rather separate lives.’

(1) Always keep your word. If you say, you are going to do something, do it. Even if you lose money. See it thru to the end. Even if you have to end up in ICU or the police station. Do it. If you cannot do it. Never commit.

(2) Get use to calling a spade a spade. The goal is to get it right the first time. Never use a family of bullshit words like ‘right sizing’. In my opinion it’s a bullshit word usually used by bullshit artist to sell invisible bullshit! Just speak plainly and honestly. Granted you may not be known as a very diplomatic person. But at least you will never see the need to waste time clarifying what you meant or keep having to explain to others your words were taken out of context. Get it right the first time!

(3) Be prepared to make enemies. In business conflict is unavoidable. Because by just being in business. You have by default taken an aggressive position. So do not ask why. Simply accept jealousy…backstabbing…character assassination… etc come with the territory. Some businessmen are unethical (do not ask why, it is what it is) and they are very accustomed to cheating and resorting to underhanded techniques to gain an advantage. If you come across someone who tries to cheat you. Make him an example to the others in your business circle -be ruthless and do not take any prisoners….there is no Geneva Conventions in business. So do it a la ‘this is what happens to people who try to cheat me’ style. Agreed. It may be very crude some people may even consider your methods unsound or that you may be psychopath, but do it enough times and all the cheaters will simply say, this fish has too many bones. Best look for easy meat. Otherwise you will always be harried…distracted…and find yourself following dead ends or worst still chasing rainbows for that pot of gold.

(4) Respect the idea of dignity of labor. Pay a man his due. No more or less. As I can almost guarantee you 100%is the people who work for or with you are either dim witted, lack experience or are simply bad decision makers. They will commit to an impossible figure and because they fail to factor in the complexity and extraneous cost – they end up losing money. In such a case, be flexible and pay them an equitable sum. This way they will regard you as a fair man who respects them.

(5) Never give your knowledge for free. Never! Doesn’t matter whether it is a church or for a charitable cause. Volunteerism lagi worst. Because anything free will invariably be transformed into the worthless even if it is valuable. But when another man pays to hear what you have to say and the results turn out to be good. He will be more appreciative and value what you have shared with him.

(6) Be a man of few words. Empty barrels make a lot of noise. If you are the sort who talk too much, no one will ever take what you have to say seriously. Less is always more in business. Instead be sparing with your words and cultivate the habit of observing those around you.

(7) Business is war. The enterprise of waging war is and will always be a very serious affair that requires the utmost personal discipline. Along with a gamut of black arts involving espionage, infiltration, deception, misdirection along with ten other unmentionable Mossad skill sets. No one can and should ever be trusted. As in business there are no friends or enemies…only your pets are the exception – they are all merchants of convenience and it’s best to work on the assumption everyone can be bought for the right price. Anyone can betray you! Anyone can let you down!

(8) Be mindful of alcohol, women and boastful people. Alcohol impairs the judgement and is a truth serum. If you must drink. Do so in private. A drunken state invariably leads to accidental fornication. I can almost guarantee you this 100%. You will wake up in strange places with no reliable recollection of how much information has been divulged. Fornication also leads to emotional upheaval, lack of focus, lethargy, sloth and of course back ache. Which means you end up buying a super expensive OSIm chair (refer to point 10 for further elaboration). Fornication also compromises your personal security. Remember business is war – to possible blackmail and intelligence gathering along with seeding a delusional state. A delusional state will make you bloated with false pride…thereafter you are good for the proverbial fall! If you need to blow off steam. There is always Ipad porn, it is good to go 24/7 and since it improves the power of your imagination, it is also prevents you from Alzheimer’s.

(9) Carry yourself seriously like a uncle. Mastering the full range of uncle power is one of the skeleton keys to success. As age is synonomous with wisdom and stability. This is very easily accomplished. All you have to do is go to Cash Converter and buy used clothes of dead people. Start sentences with the words, ‘young man…I will have you know…. when I was young like you….is this what young people like you do these days are up to….In my time. If people ask you how old you are, just tell them you take Vitamin E, laugh sardonically and head for the toilet or change the subject. Grow a mustache. Style your hair like Chow Yuen Fatt. Wear a singlet. Steal toothpicks after every meal. Make strange bodily sounds. Pretend to be long sighted. Be seen only with the company of old men. Talk about sicknesses. Avoid topics like the internet….if they know you blog instant Matilah!

(10) Lead a simple life and be very careful not to provoke jealousy in others. If your peers insist you are doing well. Ask them whether you can borrow money from them or introduce you to a good bankruptcy lawyer. The goal is to confuse them. With your farmhands always look at them with an expression that you have migraine – this way they will pity you and whisper to their wife’s, thank God our lives is not as complicated as his! We may be poor but at least we don’t have to pop Panadol like sweets! Never mix with plastic people like the Joneses. Never take to their poisonous ways. As when you cultivate the company of this jet setters you will always find yourself living a life of dissipation.

Pruning of the palm takes it’s cue from the art of diamond cutting – if just the right amount of leafs are cut off….and no more. This would enhance the carat, clarity and value of the diamond. If too much is taken out. This will reduce the value of the diamond to crud….the magic cannot happen….it all goes to waste.

It’s a task reserved for only the most experienced oil palm farmer – it’s like attaining the mythical level 85 of the world of Warcraft – and its not unusual for plantations to engage professional pruning crews who just specialize in this one task.

If too much leafs are recklessly taken off. This will not only impair the capacity of the palm to perform photosynthesis effectively – it may even trigger a self destruction mechanism in the genetic make up of the tree resulting in certain death.

However if just the right amount of excess leafs are removed. And this would depend on a host of factors that requires a variety of judgement that is closer to an art than science, such as the location of the tree in relation to the arch of the sun, it’s age, girth, soil type etc.

Pruning when done well will have the desired effect of stimulating the tree to produce longer and broader new leafs thus increasing yield.

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‘When one reflects deeply about life – the metaphor of a gardener vexing over which branch to prune along with how much goes a long way to describe how most of us go thru the long journey of life.

Pruning….is the only thing we regularly seem to do throughout our entire life – this life long procession of discarding things, people and ideas – we consider worthless and to only keep that which we consider worthy.

That is why I believe a large chunk of life is to be found somewhere in the Tao of pruning – this continuous process where we see ourselves cutting off ties with the people who we believe can do nothing but hold us back or throw out ideas that we once considered useless along with consigning old clothes to the Salvation Army depot.

You could even say that is all we ever do in our life….prune….prune and prune.

Some people are better than others at the art of pruning. They can just go chop, chop and it’s all gone, they even have the pruning thoughtware to go just right on without skipping a beat. I don’t have that single mindedness when it comes to cutting off things from my life. I tend to vacillate…..hold off a decision as long as I can…I am just lousy at it.

What I do know is at times, we can be down right reckless with the people, things and notions we decide to cut off from our life. We may decide to slam the door on someone just because all that person seems to give us is grief.

That could possibly explain why I don’t seem to have many hits as a blogger after blogging for so long.

Only I am one of those men who believe very strong – if we decide to cut off someone from our life. Throw out a thing. Or change the way we see the world – we should at least know what we are getting into.

That’s another way of saying. We need to understand the wider ramifications of our acts and omissions and how it may come back to either bless or bang us up somewhere down the future.

It’s not something that I would ever consider doing by just listening to some funny man I came across on TV or over a casual conversation or even if it’s something that promises me a short term gain.

Most people I feel don’t think compellingly about the things, people and ideas they they decide to prune off from their lives. Not deeply enough…at least. Not seriously enough to consider the wisdom of withholding that sort of decision till they truly know about what they’re getting themselves into.

They just don’t…it could well be, they’re just not bothered. Or they feel this is not something that they want in their lives any longer. Could even be, they feel it’s the biggest mistake in their life and all they want is to move on without that thing, person or thoughtware.

Only understand this! prune away a thing, person or thoughtware from one’s life – that which is allowed to fall away will have to go the way it has to go.

I will say it one more time only because it bears repeating – that which is allowed to fall away will have to go the way it has to go.

If it is a thing like a tractor that is just left to rot in some shed – then don’t expect it to start on the first turn of the key should you decide to go back to it, just because you experienced a rare moment of epiphany, its less reliable, user friendly and endearing than your new sexy tractor that you were once smitten with…..expect a hefty repair bill, if you want it to get it up and running again. Accept even the idea the bill for the repair may probably even cost your more than a new tractor!

Those are the facts of life when you prune the wrong things and they fall away from your life…..you pay a hefty price!

The same I imagine applies to people as well. Not all broken relationships can heal and repair themselves. Not even if you put in the effort. Even less if you pray to God. As Mr 10% is highly optional lah!

A relationship left to neglect will and must die and eventually it will be reincarnated into another form….only….without you!

As some wrongs can never be forgiven. And even if they are….they’re unlikely to be forgotten as the scars run too deep. It’s best to accept these things and move on as best one can.

Again. These are the facts of life when you prune the wrong people and they fall away from your life….you lose that special him or her forever!

Then there are some ideas that we may have once renounced, considered stupid, a waste of time only to realize later on in life, we could have gone further, if only we have that thoughtware between our ears….if only we went with the flow then, gave it the benefit of a good light – it could be deciding to do a degree…learning a skill or just being able to get along with folk who are so different from us.

Instead we were righteous and deluded ourselves: there is only one way to see the world and it is ours. As for the rest….they’re are merely details in the greater scheme of things. So we censored, killed, threw out, stop it from growing in our minds, drove it out from our lives with mindless mantras and now after so many years when we look back at how that once ridiculous idea could have taken us further…served us well…make us happier….we know, deep down, it’s too late for those things we once pruned off to ever return back to enrich and better our lives again….they’re gone forever…the door closes…and all that remains is the faint memory, that which was once worthy nestled firmly within the assurance of our palm….is now just dust blown away by the restless wind of time.

Prune wisely and you will have sweet heavy fruit.

Prune foolishly and you will have to eat bitter fruit.

It would be difficult like robbing the Bank of England…but not impossible la. Not at all.

As I believe I am the world best farmer. I can grow anything….even iceberg lettuce on the moon.

There are probably less than ten farmers in the whole wide world who have the arrogance and temerity to pull off this caper. One needs a certain swagger of a conquistadores anything less and it’s no good. Like I said its like a bank heist. Besides I am eminently qualified since I have the natural advantage of a diabolical criminal mind.

My winery will probably be just 4 acres in an temp control enclosure. Could even be in an industrial park or where freight containers and tractors go and die. I am not particular. Or maybe Bukit Timah since its closing shop for two years. I may just grab me a piece of land like one of those South American Grileiros.

I will try my hand at an Alsace strain of grapes… a Lambrusco cross with Torrentes….yes. A Pinot or Cab is definitely too long a shot….a bridge too far…just too finicky in the tropics.

But since I much prefer the challenge of a European Feinherb pedigree – it will probably have to be a ramrod stiff Riesling, can’t be rounded…..that’s impossible….or for that matter full bodied…cannot, it’s the heat..it will probably be sharp in the first note as that’s the best that can be done in loamy alluvial soil under tropical conditions – so it will probably be a great accompaniment to Char Kuey Teow or Jumbo chili crab – it wouldn’t be floral and fruity like all Reislings. Rather there will be hints of tropical fruit like Mango and along with rambutans (that’s unavoidable as the high sulphides will never be able to reproduce the mellow flavor of a thoroughbred “Feinherb”….impossible – don’t expect to bottle more than 5,000 a year.

As I will probably run it like a cottage industry and open my winery up twice a week for tourist to visit.

Yes…it would be game of cerebral fitness like a bank heist…..but no…it’s not impossible…..not at all.

Some day.

All of us like nothing better than to fit in and be accepted by our family, friends and business associates.

This is a very natural human yearning that you, I and everyone who is a member of the human species aspires too. Those who tell you they much prefer to stand as shark infested islands all by themselves are either liars or delusional.

Man is after all hard wired to be social animal. Our faces are built to convey a range of emotions. Our hands can sense warmth along with danger.

Hence as humans there will always be something intensely brain stem satisfying and edifying to be welcomed, accepted, appreciated and respected by our fellow men.

And when man is denied these stimuli’s, it’s very natural for this him to doubt himself….and even feel less of a man.

This is why there are so many perfectly sane and level headed people who are willing to do almost anything to gain the approval of their bosses, pastors and those who they look up too.

These people are prepared to do almost anything to be accepted…belong…and remain part of their chosen community – some work like slaves often canibalizing their physical and spiritual well being just to please their bosses…others are even prepared to sell their homes and donate it all to bent pastors….then there are those who are willing to even betray themselves like a chameleon just to curry favor with their political masters.

But since a wise man has invested considerable time and effort to know his strengths and weaknesses without the trappings of delusions and since he knows this one thing better than anyone else on this planet.

This man will NEVER give another the power to judge, measure or pigeon hole him. Never! After all, why should he? It hardly makes sense for him to do so….as he knows himself better than you can ever aspire to know him. All you really have is the illusion that you know of him – and even that could be something so well crafted that he has put in your mind.

So if you already invested time and effort in getting to know every aspect of yourself and another who hardly even knows you decides to compliment or say something negative about you – how can he really have the power to change who you really are intrinsically…elementally…and for real.

How is that possible?

Hence true confidence can only come not from embodying the trappings of success or by reading self improvement books to will yourself into a confident state or by displaying only the form of confidence without the complimentary content – rather it can only come through a dedicated process of investing in the self – when you strive day by day to be comfortable in your own skin.

Without this one strategic capability to manage yourself and others….your sense of worth….happiness….self worth will always be in the hands of others to do as they please.

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‘Life can often be ironical without us realizing it.

When I first ventured into commercial farming. I always made it a point to tell others how educated I was along with boasting how much land I owned.

I will be perfectly honest with you. Only because I don’t believe many businessmen are willing to be as candid about this whole business of confidence and ego as I am for reasons that hardly require any elaboration – my only hope is that you will understand why it’s jugular as you read on.

At that time, I felt it was important to project a confident, stable and reliable image.

As since I probably suffered from an inferiority complex. I’ve always felt acutely the need to chalk up credibility and the most reliable way I could do this was convey my worth thru an ostentatious display of wealth that usually had the effect of mesmerizing my audience.

One day when I was driving in the kampung. I came across an old farmer who was sitting by the road patching up a flat tire on his bicycle. The man waved me down. When I wound down the window. He asked, do you happen to have any glue? I told him that I would be happiest to give him a lift to the nearby tire shop. The old man shook his head and said, no I just need glue. While rummaging through my tool bag I told the old man the leak could be patched up for less than $2. He only expressed, ‘please do you have glue.’ Eventually I found the can of glue and handed it over to him grudgingly.

I must have sat there with the old man for over an hour as he patched up his leaky tube. During that time, he mentioned….he had heard a great landowner had come to these parts. I told him that person is me. To which he chuckled and asked me whether I could drive him to the nearest village. When I helped the old man load his bicycle. He spotted a old rag of a T- shirt and asked humbly, whether I was willing to part with it. He offered me 20 cents. Mumbling it would be something he could wear when we worked in the field. I told the old man imperially, it’s yours…take it. He beamed with joy.

When we reached the village. The old man asked me whether he could borrow my mobile to call for someone to pick him up. Again I obliged.

Within the hour a white helicopter landed in the school Padang. And men who looked as if they jogged a lot started to load the old man’s bicycle into the helicopter and soon he was off. Before he left, the old man peered at me for a long time and he said, thank you….great landowner.

As the helicopter lifted off. I was still reeling in a state of confusion. So I asked a bystander who was that old man. The crowd replied, that is the great landowner.

From that day onwards. I understood the real meaning of confidence and power. It hit me like a diamond tipped bullet right between my eyes. This one incident would have a profound impact on how I saw myself and the world around me. And that’s given – as when one knows a thing for what it is and not what others say or claim it is – it can really only be this way and no other way.’

A Super Dry September

September 12, 2014

September is usually the second wettest month in the whole year where I turn the wheel of life. Historically it rains 18 out of 30 days. We r already half way into September and there has only been 2 decent rainy days. The rest don’t count. As they’re Mickey Mouse rains.

Next month is supposed the wettest month in the whole calendar year. Will October bring the much needed rain or will it be worst than Sept.

I don’t know. Meanwhile I have to make a decision. Do I begin broadcasting my fertilizers now? What if it doesn’t rain and all my expensive fertilizer goes to waste?

This evening I spend hours watching the birds…only my friends can unravel this delightful torment. Just before nightfall at the Western plains overlooking the twin peaks some 20 km away from my lands – I saw flock after flock of bird heading eastwards. This is unusual and it can only mean one thing, the trade winds that usually bring the rain laden monsoon clouds have begun to die down earlier than usual forcing the birds to navigate by the stars and moon.

This is not a good omen as it means no rain or very little can be expected from the east.

Two weeks ago my farmhands found a baby elephant wandering in the lower Western sections of my lands – elephants are not dumb. They have a map of ancient watering holes imprinted in their brain passed down thru mellinia. No elephants have been seen here for over 20 years and if they return back to their ancestral watering hole in my lands that used to be a swamp a hundred years ago, it can only mean one thing. They intuit it will be dry. Very dry. I went close to this baby elephant and could make out that it must have journeyed across the limestone mountain ranges as it’s hide was stained with chalk.

Two weeks some of my farmhands came across strange tracks in the riverbank in the lower sections of my lands – they were afraid as they looked like Harimau tracks. When I was summoned, I scolded that farmhand and jested that it was just a bobcat.

But when I saw the tracks. I knew it was a tiger. I am an expert tracker, no one even the civilized world can even can close to me. If I was tracking a man. I could even tell you how many pounds he weights…just by looking at how deep the edges of his tracks cut into the earth. Could even tell you whether he is right or left handed by the slight curvature how much earth lifts off the ground….carrying a load or trekking free and easy…double quick step or just taking a lazy walk. I learnt all these secrets from the tribesmen…..the tracks I saw that day was definitely a tiger.

A male. Around 140 kg. Not your scrawny Harimau, but a muscular mother with firepower to match it….I asked myself then why would the tigers make the long 200 mile trek from the perfume hills to the lowlands….unless of course they know the shit is going to hit the fan….like perhaps Jumbo the elephant.

It seems the weather man is dozing again….an El Niño event declared…..my only hope now is the decaying trade winds will trigger a low pressure ridge somewhere in the Pacific. This if it occurs will bring a cold front right down from the Andaman seas into the Peninsular and hopefully we can get some rains from the Himalayans.

This is as good as it will ever get. It doesn’t get better than this. Not from where I am standing at least.

Tomorrow I will begin fertilizing the trees.

Come what may.

The wisdom of Japanese curry

September 12, 2014

I like Japanese curry. I like it a lot? It’s easy to cook and a well balanced meal. Super easy to cook. All you have to do is sauté the beef with diced onions and throw everything into a crockpot….and when I return back from the field later…it’s good to go for at least two helpings.

I much prefer to fashion Japanese curry with wild meat such as lizard, snake or hog. As the slow cooker tends to tenderize the meat.

When I was back in Singapore. I regularly stocked up on Japanese curry premixes from supermarkets. They come in many flavors ranging from Apple to even prune. It’s a Japanese thing….Japanese curry that is…as it hardly taste like curry as we know it.

But over here in the kampung. These premixes don’t exist. Probably too pricey. So I have made my own version from scratch. It’s about 90%.

ingredients:

- 500 g Beef (buy the cheapest beef cuts, hardly matters as the slow cooker evens out everything, cut into cubes)
– 1 diced onion.
– 3 quarters of garlic sliced
– 1 Cinnamon stick
– 3 teaspoon of meat curry powder
– 1 teaspoon of chili powder
– 1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce
– 1 small cup of prunes or sultanas
– 3 diced carrots and equal amounts of potatoes
– 1 can of tomato soup
– salt

Directions: heat a pan with oil. Sauté beef, onion and garlic till brown. Add curry powder. Stir fry for 15 min. Transfer to slow cooker. Add the rest of ingredients with half a liter of water and salt. Cook for at least six to eighth hours under low and serve with hot rice. To thicken sauce further, add corn flour.

The Japanese version of curry was the first MRE of the Imperial army. It was first adopted in 1910s by field kitchens where it featured onions, carrots and potatoes as accompaniments to beef. This recipe was adopted by the Japanese army because of its nutritional value and ease of cooking. In 1923, Minejiro Yamazaki (founder of S&B Foods Inc.) was determined to develop a Japanese curry powder. After much trial and error, he finally succeeded in his goal. Today, every japanese family dines on this meal regularly.

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‘I once had a man who drove up to my plantation house on the hill in a spanking new Range Rover and demanded in a booming voice that I open the gate. I opened the gate. I was having lunch dining on field cutlery, the variety where everything is made from indestructible stainless steel.

It was a simple meal consisting of something I had hunted the night before and bunged into the slow cooker. I think it was squirrel stew with tapioca. When one my farmhands offered some to this to the well dressed man and his entourage.

They looked momentarily disgusted and cringed away – thereafter the man asked again this time in an irritated tone – where is the landowner. When one of the farmhands pointed to me and told him – the disheveled man wearing the open collar khaki shirt with dirt underneath his nails – the man he shouted at and opened the gate was the landowner…the man told off the farmhand sternly, I don’t have time for this…where is the landowner.

Do you see how perverted society has become. Can you see? How vapid it has become to a point where the sum worth of a man pivots entirely on his nett worth or in this case the misplaced perception.

Do you see how a man by just the mere act of breathing and going about his regular daily business has the capacity to inflict pain on others callously – a man whose utter ignorance is only preceded by his terminal indifference to his fellow men.

As I watched this blunderbuss strutting around like a peacock the thought flitted briefly thru my mind’s eye of the man who once turned the wheel of life as a Cocoa farmer in the darkest bowels of Africa. The sort of man who wears flared ridding breaches and mirrored polished boots. Such a no nonsense man would have whipped out his revolver and put two holes into the car radiator with the words – get off my land! I felt a wave of shame sweeping across me thereafter, but not before I grinned mischievously – it’s the condition of a man who had succumbed to violent thoughts when he has promised to renounce his evil ways, in the way a child’s sweet tooth gives way to a box of chocolates.

It was then after composing myself that I began to wonder to myself what would happen if this persist? What will happen? Where would we all end up? Would the rich and the poor…the have and have’s not kill each other as since they have so little in common. Is this where the world is heading….I wondered.

Shortly thereafter I came out with a moral code for how one should live when one is fortunate to come into money….simply….considerately….respectfully like Japanese curry scrubbed clean of all pretensions and affectations.

If only the rich and influential can see the beauty of the simple life. All our problems will disappear….as when we ask ourselves truly what is the furtherest distance that separates one brother from another brother…it is not the two furtherest points of light in the whole universe.

Rather it is when I…the man a tands before you and…you do not even see me. How could you….as you only have $ in your mind and so you can only seek the landowner.’

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