Today while running errands in the city. I came across a distraught man who was screaming at the top of his voice that he has been terrorists by a monster snake that has slithered into his car. The man was running around like a headless chicken and soon a crowd of burly men armed with all sorts of instruments ranging from hockey sticks to Golf clubs started to form. There was even a girl with a coat hanger but I shan’t go there as that would make the story too bizarre.

Soon the crowd began to look beneath the car. They were all hell bent on killing the snake.

Since I was attired in my No.4 field bushjacket. I stormed before the crowd and asked in an authoritative tone of a landowner, what is the meaning of this commotion. Someone in the crowd blurted out, a monster snake has attacked an elderly Uncle and it has now managed to sneak into his car. This men and others went on to conclude the matter in the following terms – we have to kill it!

I trained my eyes on an elderly Indian gentlemen who I assumed to be the owner of the silver saloon and proceeded to ask him the following questions, ‘have you been wounded?’ The man though still in a state of shock blurted out, ‘No! I am OK.’ Then I asked further while looking at the crowd of men armed to the teeth, ‘but these men say that you have been terrorised by this snake.’ That was when the man screamed out, ‘The snake scared me….I am afraid of snakes.’

That was when I laughed and turned to the crowd and said, ‘So what we have here is a man who suffers from a morbid fear of snakes…the snake was just going about his business.’ At that point a fat man wielding a Kung fu pole of sorts stepped forward and said angrily, ‘but it is a big monster snake…we need to kill it!’ I told this man in a very stern voice, ‘you will do no such thing! After you are big and obese as well…do I have the right to kill you?’

I then demanded the keys to the car from the owner and proceeded to open the door, start the car and pop up the boot, bonnet and opened all the four doors……there was nothing.

That was when someone in the crowd asked in a sarcastic tone, ‘are you some ambassador for the nation of the snakes?’ I merely quipped, ‘it would seem they would certainly need one….after all this car park is next to jungle clearing, so who has encroached into whose territory? Does the snake not have the right to be simply a snake? What else do all expect the snake to be other than what it is? And now all of you want to kill it.

Let me put it this way. Just around the time when Yingluck Shinwarta was elected into power in Thailand some years back ago. A think tank that I have never heard of before took the trouble to phone me all the way from Washington to ask – how will it all go down? In exchange for my cooperation they offered me a free coffee mug. I told this person prosaically, if she is like her older brother who suffers from a morbid fear of spending time in jail. Then she will not last in which case it is better that she avoids politics completely and dedicate herself to authoring a Thai cookery book. She will be a success. Many people took offence to my comments and some even label it as very chauvinistic response, some even demonstrated their ESP powers to call me all sorts of nasty names.

When someone asked further – why my prediction hinged entirely on Yingluck’s capacity to spend time in jail. I did not mince my words. I told this person, she is dealing with first class gangsters who are prepared to do anything to hold on to power. That is a fantastic motivation.

However I went on to qualify my commentaries as such – if she has the capacity to do jail time, Yingluck and the Pu party will definitely win. As the military junta can only push the rice farmers in the north to a quantifiable extent. If it goes over the top. They will certainly take up arms and there will be civil war in Thailand. Just like the South of Thailand. The country will slide into chaos and anarchy.

As for the complimentary coffee mug it never came…..(to be cont)

The key word is to reclaim your own identity from what the world has taken from you….the only reason why I feel compelled to frame the delimma in this way is because when we look at how the world is arranged around the individual. It is really designed to do only one thing that is to enslave him to the will of faceless mob….infact very little about the world supports individual freedom and true emotional liberty.

That is not how the world wants a relationship with you….rather what they want is to reduce you to a miserable dependent like a drug addict who is always waiting desperately like a slave for his next hit from his pusher. That is why the world is always creating an imaginary deficit in your life. This it does by drumming into your head..you need this and that to make you complete, normal, functional, loved, respected….you MUST be like this or that otherwise you are abnormal, dysfunctional, failure, lousy team player etc etc.

It is only when a man renounces the world and retreats deep into the jungle that he can see this contradiction in the world.

Not long ago a woman came before me frantically and exclaimed ‘I need to find a man!’ When I asked this woman what accounts for her desperation and anxiety, she replied, ‘all my friends are hitched…except me!’ That was when I drew this woman’s attention to a clump of wildflowers growing in my yard. I asked of her, do you see that some of them are in full bloom and others have simply not reached their time? The woman asked, but what does that have to do with me having to find a husband.

I merely replied, everything and much more….

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‘If you are easily thrown off balance mentally and emotionally, then this might be the surest indication you are truly a prisoner of others besides yourself. To me this is the worst kind of slavery for three main reasons. Firstly, you believe it is you who is consciously directing your mind on this or that when actually it is others who have total control over your thought content. Secondly, you can never win under this arrangement simply because it is not you who makes the decision where your mind and emotion should go, but since someone else decides, you can only be in a lose lose position. Thirdly, someone else gets to decide what you should be thinking about along with how Long and that can only mean they will also be able to determine what will to you. If somebody else has that sort of power to set into motion your thought agenda tell me!

Isn’t that itself the clearest proof that you are in slavery?

What clearer proof do you require beyond what I have just shared with you…if this is not the gold standard of the burden of proof then I don’t know what is or should be.

But don’t fret, truth is everyone who is part of the world is experiencing this sort of slavery in lesser or higher degrees that is all there is to it. The only consolation is when you suddenly have this insight then very slowly you will begin to see what thoughts are theirs and yours and hopefully this will allow you to slowly reclaim who you are that you have subsconsciously mortgaged to the world for a tuppence.

It took me many years to trace all this out in my own thinking. Many people like to label those years spent alone in the solitude of the wild as my lost years. Usually I smile when they choose to describe those years as such. But when I reflect back sometimes to find oneselve, one literally has to get lost.’

We seem to be spending so many years of our lives, studying math, science, and history in formal educational settings – yet we rarely (if ever) take even a single class on love, relationships, or dealing with our being… Seems a little out of proportion wouldn’t you think so?

I am not saying for one moment math, science, or history are optional knowledge…they are vital for one to live well – only if one isn’t schooled on how to relate these hard knowledge to the topics of love, relationships, and dealing with your being.

How might this enhance understanding? I am not talking about knowledge. I am referring to the capacity to understand things for what they really are and not simply what someone put into your head.

When I consider why there are so many problems in this world and how so many people continue to suffer unnecessarily simply because they do not have the right understanding to manage themselves and others.

This prompts me to ask. Why don’t we spend more time immersing ourselves in the topics of love, relationships, and inner being when these are the very subjects that have the capacity to enhance our deepest understanding on such questions such as – why are we born in this timeline? How should we relate to others to live a purpose driven life along with deeper philosophical questions like what is the meaning of life etc.

A common mistake is to assume that all these questions and whatever answers they may produce all add up to a big nothing….I am not so sure about that pessimistic assessment only because when I ask myself what really makes up the core of our identities, purpose and way in which we choose to live and relate to others…..all these come directly from the core of our beliefs and if that should that core be empty, then is it such a wonder that we will also feel empty as well?

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‘The tragedy that afflicts most people who search for love is they begin their quest from a completely flawed premise. That at least is what I’ve gleaned from personal observation. They approach the whole idea of finding the right mate in the same way they shop for a sofa, refrigerator or car. By assuming they can only switch on to love mode only when they find a worthy partner.

Some time back ago I introduced a tractor driver from another village to someone who I referred to as the most perfect woman in the world. When man and woman met under a mango tree, the man asked me angrily is this a joke? I asked why. And that was when this fellow began to rattle off his 1,001 complaints about why this woman was so incredibly far from what I had represented to him – she is fat like a warehouse….she is ugly…she has a moustache etc etc. I told the tractor man….she is fat because no one has told her eating ten char Siew pau before lunch and washing it down with ten jumbo sized lychee flavoured bubble tea and a good figure doesn’t go together…as for the moustache that can be solved easily with a guardian hair removal strip that cost only $2. These are just very minor fixes.

I went on to rebuke this ungrateful fellow. You speak as if you don’t not have the power to influence her to be a better mate. But if you come into her life with the attitude that you have all the power in this world and much more to fashion a perfect mate…she might only have one or half a char Siew pau for breakfast and limit herself to one low sugar content bubble tea for the whole day. Of course this fellow stormed off and called me all sorts of unmentionable names….but someone else who could see value took up and offer and now he has a wife who is not only very slim, but beautiful as well.

My point is simply this – there is no point looking for the perfect mate….you should instead fashion one with your own hand. The word searching for a mate is wrong…it should be replaced with yet another better word, making…making a perfect mate.

Besides you will never find the perfect one. People think they will love only when they find a perfect man or a perfect woman. This is pure laziness and the highest form of nonsense! As what it negates is not only your power to influence, but it also suggest you don’t have the power to make the situation better.

You actually think I start off with perfect plots of farming land! No! And let me share with you my business philosophy, even should someone offer me a perfect plot of land. Usually I will say no! As i will probably be buying in at premium and paying sky high prices. I much rather get a swamp mosquito infested land that everyone believes is just good for landfilling or strip mining and make it premium. This is what agriculture is all about…it’s never about finding as much as making the imperfect perfect.

My point is perfect women and perfect men don’t exist. And if they exist, you will be buying in very high. So high that it will probably be a one sided relationship as you have zero bargaining power.

I much rather buy Low and make it a high value item with my own hand…this is what all wise men and investors do.’

In the moment of my youth. I had the exceptional privilege to be trained by a very wise master in the way of the sword.

One day I confided to him that despite my hard training I had not been able to pass my second dan examinations.

All he said to me was this,

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower. It is quite human and even natural to try to do everything and anything to avoid getting wet. So it may seem very sensible for one to run across the road. But trying one’s best to avoid the rain such as skirting under the eaves of houses like a cat or scurrying here and there like some rat, one still gets wet nonetheless. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will get soaked….you will not be perplex…the way of the world will suddenly be very clear to you and you will know what to do.

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‘I must remain very calm. As this is the period when so many of my enemies expect a reaction from me. But if there is no response. No reaction even….then it will be quite impossible for the strategy to move up to the next level of game play. Things will just stay where they are….they will neither be backward or forward movement only stillness. It is in the fog of this calm stillness that I will take my position like a hunter. I will impersonate a moss ridden stone and be so very still and silent….the other side will move and when they do so, there will an opportunity to strike.

I must remain very calm. All is not lost. There is still the prospects of rain today. There is just one rain mass off the coast of sokhang in the gulf of Thailand. If the cyclone off the coast of the Philippines pulls hard north towards the pearl delta estuary. It would generate enough momentum for this one rain mass to swing way below Pattani and we will certainly get rain in the afternoon maybe around two or three. After that the bucket will be bone dry. There is nothing in the either the Indian Ocean or the Himalayans.

The monsoons may even fail to show this year.’

When you have a clear line of communication open with your enemies – conflict is unlikely to escalate beyond the point of zero control. This is because whenever things threaten to boil over, there is still a quorum to air grievances and resolve disputes in a civilised way.

Bear in mind everyone is still trying to kill everyone!….nothing has really changed at all…you are still well and truly in a state of war with your enemies.

But the paradox of pursuing this counter intuitive strategy of keeping the channels open is premised on the logic – since war even a intercinal trade war will always be costly to yourself and your enemies and fraught with countless uncertainties for both parties. Usually war will only acquire an urgency when and if diplomacy fails.

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In business it doesn’t pay to take grudges and gripes too personally. One could even say that is a luxury that one can ill afford in business stratagem. Infact it makes far more sense to engage one’s enemies….as the saying goes, keep your friends close….but keep your enemies closer.

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‘Last week I had breakfast with a group of businessmen. As the youngest landowner on the table I served tea to everyone. The mood was very jovial and relaxed. Some of the larger landowners congratulated me on my successful replanting….to which I responded by informing all of them in a jocular tone …I hope it turns out well, as I have absolutely no idea what I am doing…it seems my trees are all shrivelling and dying as I don’t seem to be very good at reading weather charts.

Everyone laughed out loud. That is good. As I want them all to continue believing that I am an inconsequential light weight.

After breakfast I invited a few landowners who had expressed a keen interest to take a closer look at my new replanting – the land is just a few minutes drive from the village Kopitiam. When we reached the site. I asked my workers to load a few trees* that had not been planted in their cars. Many were very appreciative of this kind gesture.

When they drove off. Many waved at me cheerfully.

* The trees that were loaded on their cars contained false manifest and certificates of origins from Indonesia. You may ask why is there a need for such an elaborate deception. The answer is because if these crooks know where my trees come from. They are likely to choose the same strain for the own replanting that is scheduled some time next year. I don’t want them to ever have access to the type of trees I have chosen. Neither do I want them to know why I choosen this specific strain and not others.

What many people do not know is the genus of seedlings I have chosen originate from Africa. These palms are very drought resistant. They can even go for months without water. Even if they look all shrivelled up and dead as salted fish….on the first rains. They will spring back to life again.

No one must know this….my trees are secret weapons.’

Still no rain….

October 19, 2017

I walk for acres and acres and acres and all I seem to be able to make out are my lovely trees dying one by one. I tell myself it must be very hard for a man who works with his hands to bring life into this world to watch by helplessly.

Then again I am no ordinary planter. This you must understand. I am very experienced. I’ve seen a lot…more than most men my age and sometimes too much even… and I’ve seen far worse and most importantly I am very accustomed to hardship…..even should it all go down the tubes.

I might perhaps drink myself half blind and dance in the moonlight that very night itself. But come morning the next day. I will simply put it all behind me, roll up my sleeves, pick up the broken pieces and do it all over again…one tree at a time.

The rains will not come…it’s finished.

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‘The ideal of courage is very quiet and unstated and at times very boring. I don’t imagine for me at least, it can ever be the story of the action man hero figure…the man who climbs mountains…sails the seven seas or even the solitary explorer who battle all the slings of the elements to plant a flag on some rock.

No. The ideal of courage is very quiet…it’s just a murmur. Maybe just a whimper caught by capricious wind. As all those things that we usually associate with heroism and uncommon valor aren’t really real. For one they don’t nearly demand anywhere near the sagacity, forebearance and character of what it really takes to be a real hero. As for one they all have a definable start and end point…the action man hero can’t climb beyond the summit…he can’t fight on valiantly after the last shot has rented out and when silence descends on the front….neither can he sail beyond where it all started from…it all comes to an end. And it is this final curtain call that always guarantees the promise of the Hollywood ending that comes complete with the sobriquet sweet promise of redemption. But it is also the reason why these seemingly great acts can never command the true appellation of a hero.

The true hero is quiet and unassuming….there is no such kitsch promise that it may end happily, no cut off point, no clear start or end even…only perhaps the litany of the long unending road of everydayness…the grind of daily life.

The parent who has to raise an autistic child despite everyone telling them it’s a lost cause…the family man who holds down two jobs so that his kids can have a bite at a better tomorrow…the rail technician who goes that extra mile to keep the trains running even if it means when nothing ever goes wrong it’s just another day…the eagle eyed cop who protects and serves the bovine public by sticking his neck out when all he could just well do is hand it all over in the next shift to someone other grunt. Above all the man who has the courage to keep at it…with no prospects that it may all end happily at all, with just a grasping hope…for how long, he can’t even be sure….I know all these acts to be real…real courage. Not the bullshit of what Hollywood so often depicts as courage and valor.

Above all I hope that if you fall…you have to courage to pick yourself up again, brush off the dirt and try again. As that is what it’s all about…life that is.’

SPH states due to challenges in the industry and difficult economic conditions, it will be laying off employees and merging My Paper and The New Paper (TNP) to form a revamped TNP.

This comes after a review of its core media business that will also see the company cut up to 10 per cent of its current staff force of more than 4,000.

The “right-sizing exercise” by the public-listed company, which reported an earnings slump last Friday, will be done over two years through attrition, retirement, non-renewal of contracts, out-placement and retrenchment.

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‘I hope many of you do not mind should I decide to speak plainly on this subject. The only reason why I choose to do so is because so many things that should be said are not said. Firstly what headwind in the industry are these senior management in SPH talking about…hello, headwind your bloody head lah!

Which part of the anatomy of failure do the senior management in SPH not understand?

The only reason why SPH seems to be experiencing so much difficulty in discovering the requisite imagination to prosper in the digital age in my humble opinion that has led to this round of retrenchment has absolutely nothing to do with the prevailing economic conditions or for that matter their flabby business process.

Instead it has everything to do with their misplaced focus on how best to run a newspaper. As time and again the SPH has consistently failed to be a reliable purveyor of the truth. That is to say it does not prioritise the needs and interest of it’s readership and instead serves only to perpetuate the specious political interest of the PAP. As a consequence of this loopy focus. Many Singaporeans can only perceive the SPH as a third rate apparatus of propaganda that belongs to the PAP political machinery….why would anyone in their right mind vote with their wallets to read propaganda? Coming to think it of it – what’s the point of having a ‘nation building’ press at all when no one even bothers to read it?

To me it is very simple.’

Had SPH and the custodians of power placed the interest of its readership first and foremost and diligently positions itself as a trusted source for objective reportage and robust commentaries….then I don’t see how it is possible for so many people to give SPH the thumbs down.

Then the whole issue of retrenchment might probably not have happened at all.

Dry & hot month of October

October 18, 2017

One reason why I deliberately scheduled the planting of the seedlings in the month of October is because historically it is the wettest month in the whole calendar year for the northern districts.

I planted the seedlings on the 11-10-17. Today is the 18-10-17. Not a single drop of rain…..if it does not rain….the seedlings will all shrivel up and die.

I don’t understand.

It is not easy. And is some cases impossible to change the work culture. That is because the culture is so deeply embedded in the firm that it can only resist all attempts to change.

Not very long a proprietor of a papaya plantation sought out my expertise on how best to manage their estate…it seems the incidence of crop disease is so high that the family business which was once prosperous is now facing the prospects of imminent bankruptcy and foreclosure.

In total I spent three days reviewing every aspect of their operations. After that all the family members from the patriarch to the nieces were gathered around the table…the head of the family asked in a sober tone, how can we continue to grow papaya profitably learned one?

I told the old man prosaically….you are all fighting a losing battle. From this point onwards the land will gain more ground no matter how much you put in, no matter what is done she will outstrip you…it is now a war of attrition. You must raze everything to the ground and grow other crops except papaya for at least two generations.

That was when the patriarch of the ya ya papaya family that had dominated the trade for four generations stood up and drew my attention to a wall. One by one I reviewed the stern faces of the previous papaya barons who all seem to glare at me menacingly for even having the temerity to suggest to the clan leader that they should grow something else besides papaya.

The patriarch even went on to great lengths to explain they have been growing papaya’s since the time of the flying boats when the white planter ruled.

I told the old man….can you all not see that is the problem.

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‘There are some things that they will never ever teach you in Harvard Business School. Never! Not because the knowledge you would have gathered had you been schooled on the subject does not have the capacity to give you a good return on either your investment or energy. Rather the main reason why they will never teach you these things that I speak about is simply because to even mention them would be highly politically incorrect and secondly business management as a body of knowledge would find it quite difficult to keep so many useless driftwood gainfully employed….if people know the truth.

The awful truth is not all work related cultures are malleable to change. Some things just cannot change…they have become so encrusted that it is like a rock and the only way to change it is to destroy it and start all over again. That is because that culture which includes all the good along with bad has taken so many years to layer one on top of the other like kueh lapis and to exacerbate matters it also comes with so many taboo areas where it is quite difficult to talk plainly about certain sensitive issues without coming across as a bigot.

The long and short of it is simply this. At times it is not about how good or bad the management that drives change is. After all if Michangelo was only allowed to work with clay and denied marble….is it so surprising that he only ends up being a great flower pot artisan.

To paraphrase at times the current culture is not only entrenched, but so fossilized that it has managed to permeate every aspect of the organization that they only way to manage change is to introduce a stronger culture to eradicate the corrosive culture that is holding back progress.

Frequently many managers fail to see a cut off point or remain reluctant to this option as they perceive it to be entirely destructive. But this interpretation of how to manage change effective misleads – as one can very well argue if the current culture is so broken beyond all attempts to either economically repair or rehabilitate it….then maybe the best thing to do is to burn everything right down to the ground and start all over again.

True to the aphorism of the frontier man…one can certainly succeed in taking a man out of the jungle, but frequently taking the jungle out of the man is quite difficult to impossible.

Over two weeks after World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) launched their campaign to switch to using palm oil that does not cause deforestation and haze, 11 companies have remained unresponsive.
Two of these companies, Old Chang Kee (Ten & Han) and Polar Puffs & Cakes, are now the subject of a new, independent campaign led by a group of ten youths. Through initiating a petition on Change.org and organising school talks, social media and outreach to customers.

Students of Singapore Against Haze (SOS), was founded by Gauri Shukla, who saw first hand the destruction caused by unsustainable agricultural practices on a trip to Bukit Lawang, Indonesia.

“I used to visit that place nearly every year to trek and raft. But when I visited in 2016, I hated what I saw. Lush green forests had given way to oil palm plantations and stacks of logs. The whole place was shrouded in thick smoke,” Gauri recounted.

The experience drove Gauri to understand how her consumption was linked to deforestation and the haze.

Gauri said, “I learnt how vast rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia were being cleared for agriculture, mainly oil palm. Yet, some farmers are already growing oil palm without using fire, while protecting the forests, peatland and indigenous people. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certifies palm oil produced in such a sustainable way.

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‘If you want to save both people and planet. Then you absolutely need to invest a bit of time, effort and energy to know the industry. I once asked a group of militant environmentalist – why should any farmer in his right mind give two hoots about some abstraction like a hole somewhere in the artic, when he has a hole directly in his atap roof of hut?

The question sums up the problem succinctly.

Oil palm farmers, big and small resort to open burning only for a variety of compelling reasons. Firstly, burning is a very cheap and effective way of clearing land. Nothing comes near it in terms of effectiveness and cost efficiently. Absolutely nothing. So that will be your target. Secondly, to sanitize land without resorting to open burning requires specialized machinery and technical know how like surveying. We are talking about high technology aka scientific farming methods that only very big plantations have access too. Small holders can never hope to have access to such technology and know how….simply because it is very expensive and secondly there is no critical mass of vendors offering such services. Nothing near to even bring down the cost to a level where it can be mass consumed. As many of the machinery is not only exceptionally specialised, but requires skilled operators who simply do not exist in sufficient numbers to bring down the cost.

If these lazy enviromentalist keep pressurizing firms to only use certified oil palm then what will eventually happen is only the big plantations will benefit. As for the small holders since they are subjected to an arbitrary apartheid system – they will only gladly continue to burn baby burn till thy kingdom come as since they already have absolutely nothing to lose since they don’t have either the financial lattitude or the technical expertise to comply.

A better way to save people and planet for these lazy and air conditioned addicted environmentalist is to first learn about oil palm cultivation and to invest some time to develop the core competencies and complimentary technology so that they can provide an alternative solution to small holders besides open burning.

But since that would require real work under the sun, sleeping in tents and most critically waking up early at dawn to put in a honest day’s work….most will probably give that a miss.

Instead these incredibly lazy people who have never ever worked so much as one single hour under the hot sun actually and have actually no intentions of ever dong so even have the temerity to believe that all that needs to be done is to pressurize firms to use only sustainable oil palm products….when in fact the real culprits are the big plantations.

This is what invariably happens when lazy people who do not want to invest in knowledge in their objects of interest dedicate themselves to saving people and planet….they make the situation worse never better, worst of all what little they know…they hold on very stubbornly to it at the great expense of the common good.

I want a gps controlled land based robot. A military specification model, not a toy. Please go and develop one go now!

I also need a drone, a military spec model. Not a toy again. With FLIR vision capabilities. GPS controlled. Go now!

Develop it. Bring all these goodies to me and I will show you how to really save people and planet the right way.

Go now! You have plenty of book time to chalk up…this is real work, not the air con bull shit work that your boss does….please don’t waste time playing Pokemon Go…go bring all these wonderful things to me. We will start from there! You will get to learn the ropes first hand from an iron cross with oak leaves and swords and diamonds farmer how to nail this problem….I dare you!

But as usual there will be no takers. As all of you are lazy people who only know how to make noise!’

It is mid September. It should be raining every day. But instead we have been under the spell of an unusually dry and hot spot of weather. This is the last thing newly planted seedlings need right now. They need rain…otherwise they will simply shrivel up and die.

Where are you rain? Please come.

The good news is I have finished planting the last tree…that means I have officially completed my replanting.

The bad news is the power disruption is far more serious than what I first assumed to be. It seems the subterranean cable needs to be replaced. This is a very big job and requires many days.

I would have to live on candle power and rely entirely on rain water. My life is going to be not so different from those folks who used to live before the invention of electricity. Nonetheless I am very glad that I have finished my replanting project….now I can really take off my boots…and just rest.

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‘I broke ground on the 15-06-17. I completed my project on the 15-10-17. That’s just about four months. That’s how long it takes to clear land and replant new trees again. I cannot begin to explain how big this endeavour is or even begin to elaborate how complex it is….all I can say is if one reviews the sheer scale of the undertaking and the amount of labor of what is required to squeeze into the dustbin and divide that with the sheer quantity of contraints and to make good for a new planting of trees….it has to be incredibly daunting no matter how one choose to cut or splice it….scary even as so many things can go wrong. No one has taken on such a big project with this level of mind boggling complexity this size in these parts…the last time it happened was during the days of empire in the bygone age of the colonial planters.

In kampung folklore there has always existed a mythical figure who is well known to all as the great planter. He first appeared during the era of the flying boats and white linen in these parts….the man of steel. The one who tamed the capricious rivers, cleared vast tracts of feral land and planted row after row of rubber trees as far as the eyes could make out….but despite the seamless nature of this legend and how it has managed to insert itself into the psyche of those who turn the wheel of life in the provinces.

However. Such a man never once existed…that at least is what I believe to be so very true.

Frequently the man of steel was closer to a wobbly man of jelly. He was scared, so petrified of the scale of the undertaking he was tasked with. Often he much preferred not to think of work. Often distracting himself perpetually to remove himself from the sum of all his fears. And on those moments when he appeared larger than life and even came across as surefooted, he could hardly believe his good fortune and those occasions when all others believed only he and he alone could have pulled it off…..even all that must have certainly surprised him.

But if there’s such a thing as a sun or moon…a constant as to why this figure of the great planter has managed to root itself so stubbornly in the mythology of so many villagers….it probably had even less to do with the man of jelly himself. Rather the magic spell that makes such an implausible fairytale possible lies very much in the hopes and aspirations and dreams of most mortals – they have to believe in such a man and even if such a man never once walked this earth….he would have to be fashioned out of their fervent hopes and the sum of all their fears.

As belief even if it is nothing more than an elaborate fairytale slakes man’s thirst for what he can never hope to ever understand….it gives him strength in his hour of need to believe in the existence of the superman….the übermensch.

But I know many things that most men do not know….you see I see it all…the before, during and after…have even stood there ramrod and allowed the sum of all my fears to wash over me like some giant wave…only to watch it leave its wake and go right by leaving me….the man who has seen it all.

I keep a copy of Homer’s classic, The Odyssey by the side table at camp….it is a constant source of comfort and solace for me…..as there are many heroic themes that I constantly draw from in my moments of deepest doubts – the steadfast loyalty of Penelope, who waits faithfully for 20 years for her husband’s return. Duty, Telemachus, who stands by his absent ather against the suitors who have invaded their family home. Servanthood, Emacus the lady in waiting to Penelope. Sagacity, Eumaeus, the swineherder who has to bear the cruel barbs of the unruly suitors. Diligence in Philoetius, the cow herder who continues to bring milk despite his master’s absence are all exemplary in their loyalty, service and honor to their master and his possessions.

But the theme that resonates most with me is Odysseus tragic loneliness and how he tries to cope stoically at best he or for that matter any man can as he searches to return home to his loved ones despite his many setbacks.

I read it slowly savoring every sentence all the while wishing I had a neck as long as a giraffe. 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…

No! I don’t ever imagine there was ever such a man….no great planter and even less of the man of steel….perhaps just an ordinary man. A simple hard working man who dares to hope for a better tomorrow and go by his business quietly like some faceless ant turning that mythical wheel of life…so very ordinary that should you ever chance across him in Singapore. He would hardly create a ripple.

And that is the truth and nothing but the truth. Today is the 15th September 2017…I’ve complete it….I wish you all well.’

No electricity

October 14, 2017

The supply from the power company is OK, so it seems. The problem is from the power box to my safe house up the hill it’s quite a distance into the wild of the plantation. To summarize power is not getting thru…something is very wrong in between these two points.

But I am prepared. I have back up batteries and an emergency gas cooker. Filtration systems to recycle run off water. I even have a generator but since it is noisy….I don’t want to switch it on. As this could be an ambush.

I will be good for a very long time. I just need to ration my batteries. It will be a bit uncomfortable, but I am very accustomed to living this way……I’ve trained for this many times….I even have enough canned supplies to last for six months.

I’ve be good….it’s a just a bloody hassle that’s all. As with the final stage of the replanting….I have to work very hard and it would be nice to return back to just rest. Instead of having to fight to just survive like the Apollo 13 crew three minutes after reporting home….Houston, we have a problem.

But that is life in a plantation. There will be pain, but suffering is optional.

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‘If you want to run things really well like trains, a company or just make sure you don’t end up in the ICU in a coma with tubes sticking out of your mouth. Learn from the Jews. The Jews are the master race of thriving in adversity. They are the only race on this planet who are unfuckable.

And the reason is very simple…they train very realistically…and most importantly they never goof around…everyone takes it very seriously…infact since being blindsided by Yom Kippur in 1973. They have been doing very little else except training, training and training.

I have learnt a lot from the Jews. But the curious thing about the Jews is they are acutely aware of the limits of their security services. Hence ordinary citizens practice active three hundred and sixty degrees security 24/7. For example it is impossible to leave a bag in a public place in Jerusalem or any crowded area in the state of Israel. Someone will stop you! It will all occur in a matter of seconds…not minutes. Soon a crowd will form and they will even hang that bag around your neck. It doesn’t matter whether the crowd is young or old…everyone seems to know the importance of taking full responsibility for their security.

In Singapore the culture is very different. You could for instance leave an unusually large object the size of a refrigerator marked atomic bomb on a train platform…the cartoon variety some more with wires connected to a ticking clock and everyone will just walk by as if it’s very normal.

Nothing will happen for hours. For me there is something awfully wrong with this picture.

Maybe the cure for this malaise is to send everyone to live in Etiophia or Nicaragua. Not in the city. But in the outskirts where if you call the police. They would even tell you outright in an unabashed tone….I am so sorry, we don’t go there.’

The Planting goes right on

October 13, 2017

There are so many many trees…..it just goes right on and on and on.

‘I wake up at around five. I cook for the dogs and after feeding them. I make myself a delicious gourmet coffee….an Americano or Long black. I am very particular about my coffee….it has to be packed just right and I make it using an old stove expresso machine. After that I whip myself an omelette. I make it a point to proceed as slowly as I can…it’s a form of meditation…I never rush it and I usually eat so very slowly and take my eggs with two WASA biscuits. I need to ration them as I can only get it in the big cities and I rarely go there. After that I will plan what needs to be done for the day. This usually involves a map, compass, divider, calculator, pen, tabula data and paper….it takes about a hour and a bit. If I finish in time I may download the latest satellite photos to get a quick preview of how the day is likely to unfold.

I take an extraordinarily long time to get my feet into boots….that’s because I have very sensitive feet that injure very easily….first i powder my feet and make sure it gets right in between my toes. I always wear two pair of socks. The first is the thin cotton sock to absorb the sweat….then over it a professional hiking sock that is much thicker. Then I work my feet into the boots in a rocking motion to ensure my entire foot fits snugly into the boot. I usually lace by boots really tight that’s very important as I work for many hours in uneven terrain.

After that I start up my car. I never just start and drive. Usually I would warm it up a full ten minutes. And check the tires very carefully. This is very important in plantations. After that I would usually make it a point to bond with the dogs. As day break is usually the time when they are most frisky play and check their teeth and pelts to make sure they’re healthy and problem free. After that I hit the field just when the sun breaks over the blue mountains to the east.

I usually drive very slowly in the plantation always looking on for anything unusual. At times I see my friends…Toby a tank hog who I was once raised usually blocks the road. At other times it’s Sammy the giant python…it takes a lot of effort to move Sammy. Sometimes he tries to kill me…so I have to knock him really hard in the head to remind him who I am.

Boonyi the giant eagle always flies high above….I feel safe with her around.

I like this time of the day best….only because I never see anyone, it’s as if I am the only person in this world. It’s as if this hour belongs to only me and no one else that I imagine makes it always special. Everything about it is infused with a very pleasant eriee quality, the way the moonlight clings desperately to the last vestiges of darkness…the momentary indigo in between darkness and light. The langarously long shadows cast by the first rays of light…the rapture of the birds as they take to the flaming skies.

There are many times when I wish…I could just hold on to this brief moment in time….it doesn’t last very long….but it’s always enough for me.’

Iran under the Shah

October 12, 2017

Amazing documentary…

More photos of planting

October 11, 2017

This is a very beautiful day for me. It was slightly spoilt by what happened early in the morning when I discovered the window of my car was smashed. But it is still a very beautiful moment to be savoured.

I know the trees mean very little to you….but planting them signifies the end of a very long and arduous journey for me. It’s as if I’ve come full circle.

I don’t know how long this moment will last…maybe it will all end tragically tomorrow….but as long as it goes on. I want to be part of it.

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‘I don’t know whether you have sailed before. But I am a pretty good sailor. I could for instance drop anchor on Easter Island with just an old sextant, divider, a watch that keeps good time and maps. I used to sail by myself all over the world. Went everywhere in my plastic sail boat.

Farming is a lot like sailing. Sometimes you find yourself like a small boat in a raging storm. Everything is just tops you turvy and all around there is sheer walls of terror. Waves that are so big that they could just as well blot out the sun and stand before you like skyscrapers…..one feels so very small…so very fragile and crumbly. You change direction to but the storm chases you. You tack this way, but the storm follows….its unrelenting…like a hunt. Only you’re the one doing all the running. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death…like a moth drawn inextricably to a tongue of light….each circle drawing tighter and closer to the sum of all your fears and fascination. Why didn’t I just stay at home….why can’t I just curl before a TV with a packet of crisp and some Ribena….what the fuck are doing man!

When what you’re up against is so big and formidable all you can do is give in to it, step right inside it’s gyre, plugging up your ears so the sea doesn’t get in, squinting your eyes to make sense of whether you’re still standing straight or upside down….that’s how it is when you take on something really big. You just have to learn to walk through it, step by step like running thru hot coal. There’s nothing there yet there’s everything within a catch of a breathe. Just this perpetual swirl where you try to keep your compass bearing true the best you can as each pulverizing bone wave comes right up before you. There is no time to think, no right or wrong…just the metaphysical and symbolism of you being right in the storm.

Then very suddenly the wind dies down and soon the waves begin to even out and the skies clear and it’s as placid as a mirror lake. Not a puff of wind, not even a whimper just the aching silence of having made it safely to the other side or maybe she just spat like a seed.

Who really knows.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to put so many hats on at the same time that you even look like a clown. You would never really know…you laugh out loud. Take a swig of whisky and decide to polish off that last slice of ham that you’ve been saving and all the while there’s just this silence all around you.

But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s really what a storm’s all about….farming is a bit like that.

The silence after it all ends……the beautiful silence.’

This is for the record…..just in case I disappear suddenly and unexpectedly one day.

Last night after my epic 800 over kilometre round trip. I arrived back at the plantation house at precisely six minutes past midnight. I was quite exhausted.

At around fifteen minutes past one – I hear a loud crashing sound…it must have been the glass shattering. I did not think much about it then as the dogs have a habit of playing very boisterously at night and it’s not uncommon for them to make a racket or trip heavy objects like gardening tools over.

This morning I walked to my car at quarter past seven. I noticed the driver’s window was shattered. It was still standing, but shattered as that is the nature of tempered glass and there was a hole the size of tennis ball at the section of the window closest to the wing mirror. I did not touch the car for a very long time and examined the window.

When I opened the car door, the whole shattered pane of tempered glass disintegrated. This suggest no one had opened the car at all. Or maybe they did and closed it so very carefully. As if they had just slammed the door shut the entire glass would not be still standing. All my valuable were untouched. I had two mobile phones splayed out on the front passenger seat. A very expensive Garmin gps and even a set of duplicate keys in the glove compartment….nothing was taken….from what I could make out nothing was unusual in the cabin, there was no sign of an intrusion of any kind….this is very strange.

I looked around the scene for what may have made the impact, no tools were found nearby. But I did find an angular stone that had no business being there lying direct below the shattered window. By itself it would have been too light and small to have shattered the glass if thrown, but if it was used with a catapult it would certainly have been possible.

These are things that I do not understand.

(1) Why was nothing valuable taken from the car? Why break the window then? Was it just a vengeful act? If so why not ambush me as I drove up to the main gate?

(2) How was it possible for the person or persons to break the glass since I had parked the car with the passenger window facing the wall of the safe house. There was absolutely no line of sight from the fences to take a clear shot….if a shot was taken using a catapult. This person would have to scale the fence and negotiate the dogs to enable him to have a clear line of sight to break the window. If it was a vengeful act what is the difference between breaking the passenger or driver side or even the front or back window….why go thru the extraordinary risk of breaking the driver’s side of the window.

(3) If the stone was used why was there a gaping hole the size of a tennis ball…shouldn’t the projectile be found inside the car if this was the case. Is it possible for stone to break tempered glass and still leave a gaping hole and remain outside the car? Or was the hole made after the glass was shattered by fist to open the door from the inside out? I do hope some ballistic expert here can add or subtract from to what I have said here.

(4) If someone wanted to break my car window. It would have been easier for them to take a shot from the fence and break the window or windows on the passenger side. Why go thru the hassle of scaling the fences and negotiating dogs to do that?

Hypothesis:

(1) Someone tried to burglar the plantation house. Amateurs. They didn’t mean to break the car window. Maybe they shot stones at the dogs using a catapult because they were frustrated I came back at midnight. Maybe they thought by doing so it would pacify them. Although I only found one angular stone. This projectile was meant for the dogs. But it some how bounced off a rubber tire that’s usually left in the yard…the dogs use it as a toy and it richotte and hit the glass….but this still does not explain the gaping hole the size of a tennis ball. Neither does it explain how improbable it may be either.

(2) Something very incriminating has been planted in my car. Could well be narcotics or even something that is prohibited by law and carries a heavy sentence that guarantees I will put away for a very very long time. That could very well explain why nothing was taken from the car. Not even valuables. Only professionals have that sort of single mindedness – someone who has the same abilities as me to neutralise fierce and noisy guard dogs. Someone who has mastered the art of invisibility in the jungle.

(3) This is a warning. The people who did this are trying very hard to convey a message – we can touch you right where you feel safest. We know you are very comfortable and feel safe in the wild. But we have the capability to project into your comfort zone.

If that is the case then it is a form of psychological warfare. One that would compel me to spend a lot of time and commit a lot of resources fighting ghost.

What am I going to do?

(1) Absolutely nothing…..because the people who did this want a reaction. Their strategy is predicated on a reaction that has to fist come from me. They want me to jump up and down like some one whose pants is on fire…..they want me to ask for help…they want to see signs of fear….but I am going to pretend as if nothing happened. I am going to fix that window and go about my business as if nothing ever happened. I am going to confuse the shit out of them. Because there is a failing common to all strategies that are predicated on a reaction….if there is no reaction…absolutely none whatsoever, the strategy cannot be enabled…the ball is still superglued on their side of the court…it is impossible to proceed to the next level of game play….I am not even going to make a police report.

I cannot trust anyone. I have very good reasons to believe this. As these people are very well networked and connected in the local community…they have been here longer than me and they know much more people than I do.

The only record that this has ever happened is this blog entry. Can’t trust anyone where I am. They are all crooks. And crooks never play by the rules. That is how it is here – what I am going to do however is take my whole car apart very slowly from the very top to bottom. When the sun goes down. I am going to wear camouflage paint on my face and go out into the wild and hunt this person down….let’s see how good he is.

Please excuse me. I have a lot of bases to cover today and tonite.

Special note: I am going to make a blog entry religiously every single day from today onwards. If for any reason I don’t. Please get someone somewhere to some how find me. I am not kidding. I am dead serious.

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‘I don’t get many happy days. This was supposed to be certainly one of them in my life. I tried not to let it affect me – but when one considers what is at stake. It has to be slightly depressing.

I am reminded when one is autistic. You’re bound to make some people mad and angry at you. It’s much worse I reckon when one is autistic and very good at one’s job that one chooses to do in life and on top of all that one is very successful as well. Then you’re bound to get people who will even stand right up and tell you straight in your face – why can’t you be a success cleaning toilets or clearing up trays in a food court.

One sees this malevolence in people all the time – even in the internet. Recently someone who goes by the handle of matilah Singapore impersonated me in that blog My Singapore News. I guess it’s quite pointless to ask why these nut cases do what they do…but when they do these things it says more about what they stand for and what might be in between their heads than it will ever say about me….I am just living my life – truth is it doesn’t really do anything to me. I can replace my broken car window or write to the blog owner and tell him I didn’t write this and that blog comment…someone is impersonating me….and you should do me and others the basic courtesy and consideration to keep your shit in the four walls of your house.

Now you know why I don’t allow comments – if you have anything to say, you say only to me. Because that is all I can ever hope to control….myself, never others or what they may even think or not think about me.

Is it inconvenient…sure it is. I’ve got to get my window fixed and that means taking off time from work. Sure it is. I have to regularly pop into blogs that I don’t care to read. Not even on a lazy Sunday, just because inconsiderate blog owners don’t seem to understand the difference between freedom and basic courtesy.

My point is really this – when you’re autistic you have to be able to take more shit in life than even ‘normal’ people. For one no one would ever stand on your side simply because they have more in common with ‘normal’ people than you…even if they’re just hating you outright…it would always come across as normal…well adjusted…perfectly justified and above all right. As there are always more of them than you. And even if it’s not right, they could just as well make up the rules as they go along to make it all seem righter than right.

And even if all you want to do is live your life privately and do your own thing without even bothering a soul – they will never let you be. Because in life, I realise people need a circus or freak show to make their unbearable lives that much bearable and even if they have to be cruel, hurtful and inconsiderate…they will do it, just to have their fill of mirth and laughter.

That’s why when you are autistic all you can ever hope to do is to be very forgiving of others even should they hate you simply because you are who you are only because one cannot be someone else…that’s impossible.

One day I know I will find a place where people will accept me for who I am. I know such a place exist….I have often dreamnt of it. I just have to be patient and I am sure I’ll find it one day.’

Planting seedlings

October 11, 2017

Today is a very exciting day for me. As I will be planting the seedlings I selected the day before. The seedlings arrived at nine this morning. We proceeded to plant.