Q: The CFE recommends building a globally-competitive manufacturing sector, at around 20 per cent of GDP, over the medium term. They plan to target advanced manufacturing activities, to encourage growth of areas that sit at the confluence of high-tech manufacturing and high-end services such as advanced manufacturing and the Industrial Internet of Things. What is your take?

A: Kompf. It bears repeating only because I have repeatedly requested you very politely to ask me only one or two questions at a time and not pile twenty questions on top of each other.

Be that as it may. Let me dive me. What do they mean by advanced manufacturing? Second question what exactly do they mean by growth?

Now if you ask me how should the new Singapore engine of growth be designed and built – then I say it doesn’t pay out big dividends at all to put all your chips on the high tech, space age quadrant where we regularly talk about innovation and creativity at the highest level.

In my assessment Singapore does not have the skill arms of play that game – now I want to be polite. This is not the first time where people sitting in a committee who don’t even have one registered patent to their name or who have ever conceived a idea in the form of a product or who has ever had to take it from blue print stage to finished has come up with this road map of growth.

In the past there have been many grand plans to leverage on innovation and creativity – result many dead guppies. Again I want to be polite.

The way I see it – policy makers need to acquire a very deep understanding concerning the chronology of how a nation shifts gears from low end to a high tech economy that leverages on innovation and creativity.

It’s a long history Kompf and unless one understands this skeleton key. Then words like thinking out of the box, innovation, creativity, passion are all just two dimensional words that really mean absolutely nothing.

Q: We’re having a morning coffee session. We have time. Why don’t you share with the Guilds your version of the definitive history how a nation makes that transition from low end to higher value added products?

A: One word. Copy cat. If you examine the chronology of every single nation that has been able to successfully migrate from from low end to high value added products and services. Every single one of them copied from the greats – Japan is an industrial juggernaut – but how did a backward agrarian society where all the elites carried samurai swords instead of modern firearms transition during the Meiji period in such a short span of time into a super power? Did they start with the prologue of innovating and being creative? No! They copied. Now the polite parlance in manufacturing strategy is reverse engineer – but I prefer copy cat. Because that was what Japan really did – the Sumitomo’s, Mitsubishi’s and the conglomerate merchant class known as the zaibatsu were all without a single exception fantastic copy cats – that was really how Japan became an industrial superpower. Of course if you go around spouting all this in a polite conference where everyone has an orchid pinned to their suits. No one will want to associate with you.

But they were all exceptional copy cats. Even the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was essentially built ground up based on that one doctrine alone. After the war when Japan decimated economically and was militarily emasculated by the prolonged American occupation. How did MITI manage to revivify it’s industrial might again – again the executive summary to their economic strategy was copy, copy, copy and copy like a super cat.

Today you look at a Nikon camera. But where did it begin? This is a very agricultural way of seeing things – as one cannot be presentist. Instead one goes back. Why don’t you google up on the first Nikon camera that was ever manufactured in Japan. You will find it’s an exact one to one facsimile of the Leica. Pls go. Sony same story.

Fast forward to today – China today can manufacture bullet trains that are comparable to the best Shinkansen gold standard. Ask yourself how did a country that relied entirely on coal furnace locomotives manage to make that leap?

This is where the Harvard Business Review doesn’t tell you – they copied. And for lack of better word or phrase copying is the most reliable way for a nation to build core competencies that will allow it to one day make the leap to high tech.

Today Chinese train technology is no longer in the copy cat stage – they are now beginning to synthesize new technology that it’s proprietary to even call it’s own – it has successfully commoditized this technology to even export it and conceptualize the one belt, one road global economic strategy.

Korea did essentially the same thing – only this time round they copied for the greatest copy cat in the world Japan.

Q: At the risk of interrupting. What you mean to say is pursuing a manufacturing strategy based on reverse engineering is one evolutionary step towards migrating upstream to high tech? What do you think about the idea of getting innovative and creative people in one place to create value wouldn’t that work?

A: That would work. Like perhaps the Manhattan project that successfully weaponized atomics. Or maybe Bletchley Park where you had really smart people who could always manage to come up with seven letter rows in scramble. But you’re forgetting – those countries had intellectual critical mass. Even so, the US rocket program would not have proceeded as fast as it did without the covert paperclip program that specifically recruited ex Nazi rocket scientist – so don’t think the Caucasian race is some master übermensch race that has a superior helix when compared to Asians – they too are great copy cats as well. Only as I said, don’t go around spouting all this in some seminar or conference. Otherwise they will blacklist you.

My point is simple. Take this case of our MRT blues back in the home front where Khaw Boon Kong is equally confounded as his predecessor the dearly unfortunate Liu Tuck Yew. You know what my advice to him would be to make trains run reliably in Singapore. One word. Copy. Copy with the highest fidelity possible how the Japanese run and manage their trains. Because the Japanese are immensely proud of their trains. It’s like first class roads in Canada. Or maybe great outdoor boots to Americans. They have elevated their core competencies in those area to a theoretical science to be the best in the world.

No need to brainstorm. No need to even come up with home grown solutions. Just copy. Everything from standard operational procedures right down to drivers wearing white gloves when they’re on shift.

It’s axiomatic.

Q: How should this strategy of copying be implemented in Singapore?

A: I think it’s very difficult in Singapore. As one of the worst things that retarded and possibly stunted Singapore to make the leap from the built to blueprint cost center to a higher value added society that is comfortable with synthesizing new ideas that can be commoditized into products and services was the corseted intellectual and copyright laws.

In my considered opinion from a manufacturing strategy stand point that was a ill conceived to say to put it mildly. So that really created conditions where growth in innovation and creativity could really only begin from the very apex of the cutting edge of innovation – in my view, Singapore missed out on a very important evolutionary step that was a strategic precondition that would have allowed to be grow industrially like the rest of the tiger economies.

I want to be polite. But I also need to be accurate and succinct. I have a lot of respect for Philip Yeo. I happen to think he is a top drawer bureaucrat – only the whole idea of trying to build up core competencies from the top of the mountain will always be fraught with risk. I mean retrospectively. It’s easy to blame him. But hey at that time firms listed in NYSE doing research on growing ears and lovers in Petri dishes had 20 to 30 times profit earning ratios – it was reminiscent of the dot.com boom days. There was a lot of enthusiasm and perhaps even run away train exuberance. But for me the skeleton key to grow an economy that leverages on innovation and creativity always has to begin from the lowest rung of the ladder. At the level of the desk of the lone tinkerer or inventor who struggling to make things work with ductape and superglue. It’s garage stuff. Weekend warrior stuff. That to me is the crèche of innovation and creativity and to me it doesn’t even necessarily have to be high tech – it could just as well be really mundane low tech stuff like how to create a better traffic cone that can be seen better under low light conditions to really boring stuff like better hand rails that can assist the aged when they decide to take a dump. Or even how to design better poles to hang clothes in the HDB without it dripping down on your neighbors clothes.

You’ve got to start from there. In the land of everydayness, litany and the boring.

Q: Can Singapore learn the bottom up strategy from some countries that have successfully pursued this strategy?

A: Yes. You know take a look at Sweden – it’s a small country, but it has the highest patent per capita. Germany. Or rather some parts of it is similarly orientated. Where if you have an idea to develop a better mouse trap. There’s a clearly defined road map that is state inspired. For example I have this idea how this new super duper mouse trap might work. But I need a work shop. The state facilitates you with a work shop. It’s all there – everything from lathes to even prototyping using wire mesh 3D programs. You still have a day job. You haven’t registered a company yet. Because you don’t know whether this new mouse trap is something that’s going to shake up the world or go bust. Again no problem. There are pathways where you can tinker and still keep your day job without having to go thru the hassle of registering a company and all those stuff that is just friction on cost and time. You need a certain spring to be tensioned at a certain poundage. You figure titanium is good. But since firms don’t deal with individuals and they have minimum quantity orders to make it worthwhile to even engage you professionally. Again no problem – these agencies will facilitate you to get maybe just a box. So if that doesn’t work. Maybe you wouldn’t be landed with sunk cost on springs that have no use. You decide on stainless steel instead. You say maybe it will work better. Again they get you those things. At the end of it – you have a working prototype. But you need equipment to test and rate it – again these agencies have all these test facilities. Everything is there. From machines that can hydraulically stretch a strip of metal till it snaps to printing out the data that will allow you to improve on your mouse trap.

Now once you’re confident your prototype works. These agencies even have a panel of Meisters – these are dead serious professionals in manufacturing. They’re like ace fighters pilots with patents like kill flags on their fuselage – it’s all state driven – I think the certification is called Meisterbrief. Now they will advise you how to build this commercially. Who to go engage as a contractor. How to even put it all together in the least possible steps using time and motion optimizing techniques and the system is so good that should your mousetrap ever makes it to the market and some housewife in Munich sets it wrong and clips her finger, there’s even a legal team that will give you follow up advise.

It is a three hundred and sixty degrees definition of the word innovation and creativity – that is to say it is the A to Z of what needs to be done to leverage on innovation and creativity.

The problem in Singapore is you have many leaders who can use these words but they are clueless when it comes to the cogent question of how to translate it from theory to reality.

That to me is what Singapore should be doing – but what do I really know. I am just a simple farmer.

Q: So what you are saying is our SME’s should be going towards that direction?

A: You disregarding what I am saying here again. Maybe I should charge the Guilds USD$1,000 per hour consultancy?

My point is to grow a manufacturing enterprise. You’ve got to understand every stage of it’s life cycle. It is not so different from planting a seed. And the seed sinking roots and a plant pops up etc etc.

So if you say something like I think we want to help our SME’s to encourage them to leverage on innovation and creativity. That is well and fine if you’re talking to people who know little or generally about manufacturing strategy. But if you start that sort of conversation with me – I would ask, what do you mean exactly by SME? Can have a look at your excel spreadsheet for the last five years. What is the nature of the business? What are they manufacturing?

So I am not really talking about SME’s per se. I am referring to people who want to start enterprises by leveraging on innovation and creativity – just like that fat guy who invented a nifty wrench. If you play the video you will find workers banging away in the background – but I am not interested in that aspect. The nub of my point is how did he manage to get his idea to a working prototype?

It’s a basic, first stage question. How? May look like a simple lever wrench with just a closing set of claws to you – but I see serious machinery that needs to make those components. I just postulating. The sheet metal has to first stamped out and water cut to fine tolerances. The claws that grip the nut, they have to be tensile steel. Even the simple lever needs to be metal stamped with a mould and powder coated. The grip needs to be injected moulded with rubber resin and finally all these need to be assembled at a cost effective price – these machines cost millions. So how did he do it?

That’s where you have to start when we talk about putting petrol into the engine of innovation and creativity. Otherwise it’s useless. It’s all just talk.

Now China man comes along and sees it in Walmart one day – he goes back to Xiamen one day and strips it apart and starts manufacturing the selling essentially the same thing for half the price – do I have any sympathy for that fat guy?

Why don’t you ask me that question?

Q: Do you any sympathy for that inventor?

A: The moral and politically correct answer is yes – because he invested his time and energy and creativity to bring to market a product. But bear in mind this is something that I would only really say if I am wearing my Zegna suit and circulating with corporate people who some hotel where they serve drinks with tiny paper umbrella’s.

You think the China railway development head gives two shits about patent law suits from Kawasaki drive trains when the latter copies their bullet trains? Do you think the Chinese gave two hoots when they copied the Israelite defunct Lavi fighter jet and called it the J-10? What about Isoroku Yamamoto’s surprise raid on Pearl Harbor? Do you really believe for one moment he didn’t copy that idea of the British raid on Taranto?

So let’s side tracked here by ethics, morality and philosophy of being a gentlemen – because like I said, there is no shame associated with copying. You want to sue? Go ahead. File a writ of summon send. We will see you in court meanwhile we will still be selling. Again this is not new. This is what Sony and even Nikon and most Japanese firms did – they went to court, but eventually they reached the sweet point where they managed to acquire the critical mass to synthesize their own stuff to call it their own.

Paradoxically it was when the Japanese zaibatsus began to take exceptional pride in their innovation and creativity to such a point where they became so arrogant to the point – where copying or reverse engineering was seen as a dirty word in corporate Japan that was when firms like Apple took them all to the cleaners – now the Japanese is just a pale shadow of their former glory. Why?

Because they forgot the first cardinal rule of business – business is war!

Q: How many do you think will be persuaded by your logic?

A: It is not the number it is the quality of men who read my blog. Putin reads my blog so does Trump and many at least forty very serious movers and shakers – if you want quantity please go to Mr Brown or Xiaxue. I blog mostly about very serious things which to be perfectly honest will always be boring to most people. Because that is their Dao – there is no way to say this politely just as it is impossible to make an omelette without breaking eggs. I hope you can appreciate my reasoning along with candor as the last thing I want to do is to inadvertently cause offense. But then again Kompf to move mountains you don’t need many to be persuaded – only a few are needed and that my friend is exactly how I want to keep it. I have to cook now. I hope your will join me. As it will be delicious.

Spy craft

February 9, 2017

In the past. Not even secret agents had access to stuff like this. But today anyone can just walk into a tech shop, swipe his card and in no time he has exactly the same gear that James Bond would probably drool over.

This is another nifty product. During the Cold War this device was so large that it needed two people just to carry it and had to be mounted on a tripod. But today, it can be used for night hunting to making out intruders in absolute darkness. Again remarkable.

This is yet another indispensable tool for espionage and clandestine operations – a pocketable camera with super duper high resolution to capture details in high fidelity. Again this sort of stuff was only available as far back as ten years ago with people lugging around bulky cameras with lens the diameter of a thermos flask.

I mean this something that leggy chicks would probably see you driving in and consider that you’re maybe in the nuclear waste disposal business or something. Maybe it just needs a cost of pink or baby blue paint to take off the rough and sharp edges – but again this is commercially purchasable and if it comes right down to a face off – there is very little that needs to be said about the outcome.

I am an accomplished technical mountain climber – but this piece of kit is so incredibly advanced and well designed that I could just as well throw out 90% of what I currently have in my medieval climbing box and just use it as a stand alone for practically every single climb condition. If James Bond had just this alone – he would have to be jumping out of windows or struggling with flimsy drain pipes to get into high security buildings. This is fits it all with the unparalleled safety features.

Q: Why has the ringgit depreciated so badly in comparison to other currencies? Do you think this has anything to do with the Trump factor?

A: Trump? No. But I am sure some pundits may finger him as one of the factors. The way I see it, it all boils down to two main factors – first is the price of oil has bottomed out to all time lows where the cost of extraction, processing and funneling it thru the supply chain militates against profits.

Malaysia is very relied on oil.

The second reason is China. Growth is slowing in the coastal regions in China. Alongside they have oversupply issues which will all create friction on demand.

Q: Do you see the 1 MDB scandal as a factor that has affected the Malaysian ringgit?

A: The fall of the ringgit has been gradual – if you track back it started somewhere around April 2014. So this predates the 1 MDB scandal. Besides most of it has already been factored into the calculation by investors – and so far although there is certainly the perception that Najib is involved – the fact remains he has not been directly named. Or for that matter indicted.

What I do know is there is a lot of allegations in the public square and it’s really anything goes galore and the fact that last year there was so much schism within UMNO along with Mahathir factor certainly didn’t help in the way of stability.

So I don’t see the 1 MDB case as having a big impact at all on the fall of the ringgit.

Q: Why has the ringgit fallen despite Najib securing massive investments from China. Doesn’t it seem like an economic paradox to you?

A: Paradox not at all. As most of these massive investments take a long gestation period before they can actually work to revivify the local economy – but what Najib has very skillfully accomplished is to parlay with Chinese to buy more oil palm and that has certainly had a direct and immediate effect on the local economy.

Q: You seem to have a lot of faith in oil palm as a savior of Malaysia. Do you see it as a saving grace for Najib as well?

A: let me put it this way. The price of oil palm currently stands at RM3,209 per metric ton compared to RM2,500 last year, as for rubber prices they have tripled and will quadruple soon. Now all this may seem like just meaningless numbers to you. But you’ve got to understand the social cultural realities of how politics has always been conducted in Malaysia – if UMNO is going to win in 2018, they need the Kampung votes. The city votes is increasingly getting optional. That’s the mathematical reality of how votes and seats all stack up to form the next government.

Now oil palm is the life blood that drives most kampung (rural) economies the rest are just side dishes – understand this! We are not just talking about planters like me, but downstream you have millions of Malaysians in the shape and form of harvesters, pickers, lorry drivers, mill workers right down to grannies and grandfathers who gather palm fronds to weave baskets and make brooms.

Now I live in the kampung – it is to my interest to keep tabs on the local sentiments. That’s why I keep a log on the price of everything from fish, cockles or eggplant – has inflation hit the kampung. Yes. But it’s been off set by the high price of oil palm – so the executive summary is most villagers are very happy with Najib.

Reuters likes to interview city folk who complain no end about Najib & Co. But why don’t then go and do the same with millions of Felda small holders who work the land and see whether anyone is complaining. That to me is the paradox.

Truth is the depreciation of the ringgit along with Najib’s recent deal with the Chinese to get them to buy Malaysian oil palm is what saved him – had the kampung economy collapsed. Then it would be a different prognosis.

My point is Malaysia is not like Singapore – it’s a big country with a lot of people – so it’s not entirely true to say that every Malaysian regards Najib as predation. Many do see him as a savior.

Q: Do you see Najib as a stabilizing or divisive figure?

A: You’re not listening to me again – it depends who you ask in Malaysia. If you ask the city folk who all turned out for Bersih. Of course they will say Najib is the devil. But these same ingrates don’t seem to realize their quality of life is improving with new MRT’s. Tell me what did Mamak do? He built twin towers with oil money. But did he put in place modern infrastructure and amenities that actually improves people’s lives?

So to me I see these city folk as just a bunch of ingrates who don’t ever seem to count their blessings.

Q: How much damage did Mahathir do to Najib?

A: Correction Kompf. The question is how much damage did he do to the country!

You’ve got to understand. We are dealing with two opposite personalities here. Mahathir is a street fighter. That’s how I have always seen him – he blames the habuan (corruption) culture that has riven Malaysian politics. But he was the one who propagated it to the level of theoretical science. Now he’s playing the race card with Forest city – from day I said I will bring him down with the power of the internet.

Najib on the other hand is an old school public school boy – he’s a gentlemen – is he white as spring snow? No. But then again which politician is.

The problem with Najib is he’s got shit advisors! The only one who seems to be calling the right shots is this character called Nazri – but the rest are full of shit because they’re so out of touch with the internet and the ground they have absolutely no idea how to prosper in this new age.

The way I see it – Malaysia always needs a leader with one feet planted in the West and the other in the kampung to prosper in a globalized age – I am very realistic in my appraisal of Malaysian politics. Because if you have a kampung hero – then it’s finished.

But the problem with Malaysian politics these days it’s riven with so much noise – a lot of Fitna.

It’s hard if one is not educated and perceptive to winnow truth from lies. And that is where I consider Mahathir a very dangerous element. As he is an expert in sowing the seeds of schism.

Q: What do you think Najib should continue to do to stop the ringgit from falling further?

A: It’s beyond his control. The ringgit will continue to fall. But please let us not run wild Kompf – as every single major currency in the world has gone that way. It’s not specific to just Malaysia alone.

Scale and perspective is jugular here to make an informed decision.

Q: Do you think Najib has done anything that has exacerbated the fall of the ringgit?

A: This is my personal take. I think the recent Bank Negara warning to foreign banks to restrict trading in offshore non-deliverable forwards (NDFs) on the currency, was ill conceived.

As that will only serve to spook traders who are already nervous. When Bank Negara issues such an edict. What they don’t seem to realize is it bring back bad memories of capital controls which Mahathir once imposed in Malaysia twenty years ago.

Capital controls would make it difficult or impossible for investors to remove cash from the country, rendering it complicated for them to recognize revenue and as a result it would only make make Malaysia less desirable as an investment destination.

Bank Negara shouldn’t intervene. As disrupting the NDF market doesn’t make one ounce of business sense to me – after all firms need to hedge foreign-exchange flows, that’s what business is all about – so by being heavy handed my fear is all they would end up accomplishing is hurting exports, economic growth and the external balance.

Bear in mind always there will always be certain realities that the Malaysian economy cannot run away from – for instance the high foreign ownership of Malaysia’s government bond market – so that last thing hon want to do is precipitate capital outflows by spooking people who want to make money.

Malaysia is particularly vulnerable as 40 per cent of Malaysia’s government debt is held by foreigners or non-residents. I can’t recall the figure but it’s definitely over USD$50 billion – so I think there was definitely room for improvement in the planning over there.

Q: Do you see the depreciation of the ringgit affecting the local and surrounding economy?

A: In the short term. No. Infact this year the haze is going to be a no show because of La Niña – so the lower ringgit will definitely auger well for the tourism industry as a whole. As for exports – that’s a mix bag. As what you need to understand is even manufacturers that leverage on localized commodities such as for example latex to produce rubber gloves need to import nitrile and that means there will definitely be some winners and losers.

The problem as I see it is the industrial base in Malaysia is still very dependent on US pegged imports in the conversion process from raw material to finished goods – machinery, chemicals and even stuff like cables all need to be imported from either to EU and US – so to me there is no such thing as a hundred percent manufactured product that doesn’t need something from abroad. Even plastic coat hangers in the pasar malam need specialized steel for the moulds, plastic moulding machines parts and only a certain percentage of plastic resin can be recycled. All these come from abroad. And this is across the board from every sector ranging from fisheries that need parts to even my sort of business where fertilizer is imported from Canada to Germany.

That simply means in the long run – inflation will bite. The cost of living with ratchet up and I see this all as a function of two factors.

Firstly Malaysia has been too dependent on oil revenues. Secondly, the Chinese economy is definitely slowing down. And the causal factors for the slow down are at a systematic and structural level – so things are not going to improve in the short term.

Oil it seems. The price per barrel may go up. But I am not optimistic as OPEC is mired with so much disunity and each member state has it’s own agenda – so I don’t see any upsides at all. As all these problems I mentioned will take time to sort out.

Q: What do you think is one area that holds out the greatest revenue potential for Malaysia to ride out this economic storm?

A: I think foreign investment from specifically China is one area that should be aggressively encouraged. But unfortunately, in Malaysia it’s been politicized to such an extent that it’s hard to say where it might go – but there is plenty of potential in that area.

The other is tourism which in my opinion has been not really been given the priority it deserves and should be revitalized especially since the US travel ban will alter the tourist industry dramatically. Malaysia has a lot of potential there but the problem is the nexus between officialdom and the tourist providers are way to weak. For example I am trying to get the traders in Bukit Bintang to organize themselves so that they can be more strategic in the way they attract tourist at different times of the year – before Ramadan for example Arabs like to travel. So if the streets there are all lighted up and dressed up – that could be good. In my view too much emphasize has been placed on malls and shopping – and that is a very bad mistake as who in their right mind wants to come all the way to Malaysia just to visit another mall that they could just as well do in Sweden or for that matter Dubai.

There’s also the potential the kampung tourism which shouldn’t be underestimated as a serious revenue generator – I am not talking about beaches. But forest reserves. And even really everyday stuff that Malaysians would take for granted. You know recently I chanced on a few cyclist from Norway who were ridding from Singapore to Thailand and I showed them how oil palm and rubber is harvested – it was fascinating to them. It’s everydayness to me. But to these people who have never ever seen it been done before it’s was certainly an eye opening exercise. They stayed in some home stay in the kampung in one my harvesters house. They enjoyed it immensely. So far all these tourist activities are not really well organized – they could be better done.

Q: What do you think Najib should do to improve his perception with Malaysians to help him win?

A: 1MDB is a big stone that weights down not only Najib. But it also puts UMNO and the BN in a bad light as well – as by just being part of the system one is seen as condoning corruption or at least complicit. There is definitely a need a resolution here.

Now the question you have asked is – what should Najib do in to win?

The first is to manage the perception intelligently. Strategically. This is where I go back to my point – Najib has advisors who really have shit for brains! There is no way to soften this. As it is what it is.

Firstly. Forget the idea of trying to clear his name. He will never be exonerated from his involvement in 1MDB. That is a hard point that he can never hope to win decisively – it’s like hand to hand combat in Stalingrad. As there is really so much Fitna out there in the internet – that’s a battle that if he invest resources fighting in. The best case scenario is he will just reinforce failure. The worst case is that he will just sink deeper into the scandal.

What he needs to do is broadcast a very strong and unambiguous message that he and his team are against corruption. This is 101 psychology.

Look at it this way. How do I go about effectively convincing people who believe that I am corrupt that I am not corrupt? The best way to do this is to expose and bring the corrupt to book! I set a zero tolerance bar on corruption. Right across the board. I make it so widespread every single day that when average Malaysians flip their newspaper the first thing he reads about is the corrupt being brought to book on a regular basis.

Like I said this is psychological warfare 101 by using specifically reverse psychology – keep on doing this. And at some point public perception will certainly change – because it’s pointless to try to neutralize the internet. That to me is a lose lose proposition that pays out very little.

You know. People can be malicious. That’s a fact of life. Even in my case. Some people say I steal fruit that is why my yield beats the national average – so what do I do? Do I spend one hour talking to every small holder trying to convince him that I am not a wolf in the sheep’s clothes? That’s stupid. What I do is impose zero tolerance on stolen goods – I round out all the fruit thieves in the area. I organize villagers to patrol their fields on a rota basis. Soon that negative perception dies a natural death and all that everyone can remember is this guy is a straight as an arrow no nonsense fellow.

Whether that is factually true or not is immaterial – what I am trying to illustrate here is how malleable people’s perception can be and how it can be managed effectively.

The second strategy is leverage in soft instead of knuckle duster power – in my considered opinion the controversial Sedition Law should only be used sparingly. Better if it’s not activated at all. As it simply too authoritarian and out of synch with the times. Every time it’s invoked the average Malaysian’s discontent with Najib spikes dramatically – it’s like one those tools where every time it’s used the user suffers a self inflicted wound – the job gets done of course. But the nett result is a total loss.

The third is engage the Malaysian intelligentsia. If you read your history. You will find one constantly repeating leitmotif – leaders who don’t make an effort to reach out and engage the intelligentsia in meaningfully ways always end up in the garbage heap of history – as a leader one always needs the thinkers to be in your breast pocket. Because they are the people who can plant flags in the mind of the masses with just the power of words and ideas – it’s a very cheap and efficient weapon system that requires a lot of firepower to blunt.

The paradox is if you look at the goals and aspirations of most Malaysian intellectuals – what do they want? They want exactly the same thing that Najib & Co is working for – there is no divergence. But because knuckle duster tactics are used. These erudite group take up hardened positions and now it’s like trench warfare – this needs to all end.

There is a desperate need for a Mao and Nixon moment – where there is a dialogue to set aside the divisiveness, enmity and parochialism that is so prevalent these days in Malaysian politics.

Q: What do you see as the most serious long term problem that will afflict Malaysia if the economy gets worse?

A: Brain drain. This hardly requires any elaboration. Look at India, Africa and most countries that continue to haemorrsge the brightest – to me the idea of economic growth goes in tandem with intellectual capital – it’s like a bicycle with two riders – if guy in front is good, but the guy behind can’t pedal for nuts. It’s uphill. If it’s the other way round, they will both end up with tubes sticking out of their mouth in hospital – it’s axiomatic. Anecdotal. Factual. Growth prospects have a direct correlation with the capacity of a nation to grow and most importantly retain intellectual capital. That is why India and the entire continent of Africa continues to languish – having said that, there is silver lining – if the economy and political climate stabilizes in Malaysia – many of brightest and upwardly mobile may return. This was what makes Taiwan such a resilent and dynamic economy. As in the 70’s when the KMT was around. Most Taiwanese went to the US. Not all returned. But enough did to bring back the innovative and creative culture that allows them to create value added products and services. In Singapore. No one returned. Or at least not in sufficient numbers – so nothing happens. It’s still a rubber stamp FDI economy. Same thing with India. Today India is the Silicon Valley of Asia – this was only made possible in the past two decades exclusively by this repatriating Indian diaspora, which brought risk taking, capital, core competencies and a western corporate culture of approaching and solving problems.

Left to those who stayed back. Mumbai would still be cow powered by the bullocart.

Bear in mind brain drain is not only on an individual scale it is also at a corporate level. Why do you think Tata bought up Land Rover? Even state own ever greens like Hindustan motors are looking to relocate abroad. As many businessmen are disillusioned with India’s political sychozephia and seemingly ineradicable corruption and layer upon layer of red tape. Facts are brutal. They can’t find neither the quantity or quality of intellectual capital to make their businesses turn. Hence Tata, Mahindra, Birla – are all running from India.

Malaysia has a big problem – education standards are declining at an alarming rate because the Chinese want Chinese schools that only teach their circular in Chinese. The Tamils for the same reason and Malay schools do so for the very same reason – there is prioritizarion on English. Only the rich can send their kids to international school – so what you have is a polyglot society that is very ill equipped to plug into a globalized society.

You know recently when I was fixing my car I asked the mechanic to hand me a monkey wrench – he told me that they only have that in the zoo. I go to hotel and ask for a room with a double bed and they bill me for two rooms.

But again I am realistic – education in Malaysia has always been mired only because it comes encrusted with cultural pride, identity and perhaps even self interest on the part of those who rather keep the status quo even when it doesn’t produce the goods.

It’s uphill. I think the Malaysians should learn from Singapore. In just the last ten years a steady influx of wealthy businessmen and financiers has made Indians the highest-income ethnic group in Singapore – that speaks well.

As in a globalized society – intellectual capital is worth it’s weight in gold.

Nothing personal. Even I am thinking of going to the Ukraine to grow wine and ornamental flowers. Infact North Korea is also good for Pomelo’s.

In my assessment. The new power train of growth will only be intellectual capital in an increasingly globalized world. Don’t believe me just switch on the TV and watch how much truck loads of rotten tomatoes is dumped on Trump by corporate America.

Again all this is axiomatic, anecdotal and factual – I am not sitting in a hut writing all this with candle power…this is the inconvenient truth that has to be discussed if Malaysia is to remain sustainably at the top of the game.

You really want to know what I see in you? You’re living with something that you keep hidden deep inside. Not just anything. But something that’s really so estranged from the whole wide world that you don’t even have faith to share it with a soul. I sensed it the first time I met you. You have that look in your eyes – as if it’s cut and dried and you have made up your mind that’s what you really want and everything else is just a side dish. To tell you the truth, that could be what attracted me to you – I saw the same look of desire that I myself carry with such conviction that I actually believed it would be pointless to share it with anyone else as well. Things that I know will just leave them with that dumb founded look as if they hardly know me at all and it’s too risky to do that in Singapore. But I saw it in you the moment you looked at me and from that that moment onwards I knew deep in my heart if there is ever a soul who ever lived who could understand me….it would this man with his fiery eyes.

You know what I really want now that I know all you want to do is wallow in mud and be a farmer. What I want is for the two of us to meet somewhere by chance and not the way we did, like maybe your or me taking a seat beside each other in the MRT, or having to share a table when a cafe is packed to the brimmed.

That way. I could perhaps tell that you’ve always wanted to leave the very moment we met. That way I could have sensed so deeply your yearning. If only we could have met that way, then I wouldn’t have had to take all these detours to get here where I find out there’s nothing.

I don’t think they way we met could have possibly led me to this conclusion that you would eventually leave. This is exactly what I never expected from you.

It was a lie. The way we met. My mistake perhaps. But it was your eyes that drew me to you like a moth to a tongue of a candle. That seemed as if you needed me as much as I needed you – I should have asked you straight then when you looked at me in the way you did – what is it? But instead I choose to regard it as a silent understanding how lonely we really were and perhaps how happy we were to have finally found each other. But I was silly. I am a sentimentalist. And we all make things that aren’t there in our hearts and heads. Above all I didn’t want to spoil it. I wanted you to slowly walk up to me without ever saying a word. As there are certain things that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.

Q: Where do you see it all going from this point onwards?

A: My position has always been super clear. Globalization as a school of thought to me has never been a sustainable idea – so my recommendation in the form of a solution has to be exactly the same solution that I have always advocated in the past.

There is a need to redefine the whole philosophy of globalization and free trade in such a way where people who work hard and who are industrious don’t get left behind simply because the system spits them out in the name of the profit motive.

Q: How should this philosophy be defined. By who? The politicians? Industrialist? Intellectuals?

A: I don’t think there is a need to reinvent the wheel – if you look around Kompf. There are some countries and even firms and we are not talking about mummy & daddy Inc here. These are very serious firms who make products or offer services that people are willing to vote with their wallets. It’s not true to say that every country has not emerged better, stronger, healthier and more optimistic from globalization – like I said there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

All that needs to be done in my considered opinion is to look at the underlying philosophy that governs these firms from every functional aspects ranging from the work compact between employer and employee to perhaps even how management and workers define organizational and personal success to derive at a list of best practices.

Q: When you speak about philosophy. Are you also talking about culture, attitudes, value and behavioral norms?

A: Of course. Let me give you an illustration. You know if you observe some firms around the world…the really good ones that have all it all together – they don’t ever promote workers who stay back after five. You want to know why because the philosophy of that firm defines that sort of method of approaching work as counter productive and in some cases it even reflects very badly on one’s productivity.

But conversely in Japan – it’s a badge of honor to die standing at your workplace – widows would proudly recount how their husbands died as he worked so hard.

Q: But isn’t Japan a great industrial power?

A: It certainly is. But it’s also going no where as well – economically at least from a strictly metric and KPI perspective – the Japanese economy has already made it to the Guinness Book three times over and a bit as the only nation that has the most prolonged period of stagnation. It’s also a nation with a huge lost or confused generation – where the youths these days don’t want to work any longer like those who came before them, simply because they have seen first hand how corrosive and hazardous work can be. So when you add and subtract all this – yes on one hand you can say Japan is certainly still a great country. But at the same time. You can deny it’s also going nowhere.

Q: So what do you see as the basic structural set pieces of this so called new philosophy that globalization desperately needs?

A: You’re not listening to me Kompf. Not as you usually would. Perceptively at least. As I said, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel – as there are already business models out there that can be retrofitted into the idea of globalization to render it more humane, egalitarian and even fair. Let me give you one illustration – at a time when both firms and government desperately need to craft a new covenant with society. Consider how crowdfunding as a business model has changed not only the way business is conducted. But alongside that change there is also a social cultural paradigm shift.

It’s not the shift that’s significant – it’s the social rammification of that shift where you could say power has devolved from officialdom to the individual – I know there is still a lot of skepticism about crowdfunding especially from a sustainability standpoint. But my point is simply to illustrate how crowdfunding has developed from just a kooky idea into a very serious and powerful finance model that can recruit ordinary people – I think the key word here is ‘include’ or inclusion. As one of the failings of globalization as a school of thought is it’s the direct opposite of that idea where you have people dressed in Italian suits driving BMW’s and staying in the four seasons sitting behind closed doors and brainstorming a grand economic architecture how we should all live along to what might make us all happiest – frankly that whole imagery was what Trump singularly leveraged on to win.

I think my second point is – when I brought up crowdfunding – It’s not really the funding part that is profoundly intriguing. Rather it’s how crowdfunding as a business model is transforming the traditional culture of how we all see things moving from the realm of theory to reality. Be it making parks funner places to perhaps even revivifying whole communities to of course funding weird projects like making elephants fly.

Q: So let me summarize. As you have thrown out a lot of ideas here. You’re saying the philosophy that governs globalization needs to be changed from the inside by the people and not top down by governments?

A: It’s a bit fuzzy now. Only because what I am proposing is so new – but it think Kompf, you’ve got the gist of it – the way I see it globalization is heavy on the top down approach it takes it’s cue from cod liver oil – as the general public is often told, it’s bitter, but good for you.

And to be honest – for the most part of globalization, it’s actually good. I am not here to say it’s a malevolent force that only produces good. But since it’s top down and non inclusive like the TPP where only those who stand to benefit most are privy to the conceptualizing the economic architecture all it does is marginalize droves of stakeholders who just feel whatever little power they still have is arbitrarily gazzumped by governments – it’s a PR disaster.

Q: Can you give us an illustrating where globalization has failed so miserably to the point where people no longer feel they’re empowered?

A: You know Kompf. Speak to any aid worker in Africa and they will probably tell one of the perennial problems is water, specifically transporting potable water. Speak to WFP, FAO, USAID. Speak to even the Aga Khan foundation to the Hare Krishna’s and they will tell you the same thing – you know what for the last fifty bloody years, the sheer amount of men and material that has been invested by all these good intentioned folk to transport water has failed. They put their best industrial engineers. Their best mechanical engineers to convince rural Africans to use their nifty water carrying contraptions and each and every one of these projects have failed.

You want to know why Kompf – because no one has ever just sat down on a rock early in the morning to watch African women walk to the well and carry water on their heads. May not deceptively simple but it’s not. As when the Africa woman puts twenty liters on her head and walks, her hips swings like a pendulum off setting the downward weight just enough so she hardly feels the weight – from a standpoint of physics, carrying water on the head is kinetically far more efficient than even military backpacks.

That’s why they all fail. What perhaps I am trying to say here is globalization isn’t an universal solution. You know I rue the passing of wet markets. I used to live in Tanah Merah. Then super big supermarkets came along and of course with volume they could provably deliver in the parlance of free trade – greater value at less cost to consumers. But if I go to Seng Shiong – I can’t my salmon deboned and cut the way the friendly uncle in the wet market knows then way I like it – I don’t get extra value. All I seem to get is stuff that I need to go back home and do extra work to get it the way I like it to be cooked. So I think globalization in some areas have gone so far that it just displaces people and most importantly the sense of community that makes living interesting. I mean if I pick up the phone – I don’t want to talk to a robot that will ask me twenty stupid questions before I actually end up talking to a human being who will ask me the same twenty questions I just answered.

My point is globalization needs a soul. Tell me ever heard of a word called simpatico?

Q: No…what about it?

A: Not going to tell you.

Q: Do you think businesses are earning too much at the expense of workers?

A: That’s a loaded question. And you know it! What I think is for way too long the trite corporate mantra is of delivering more value to the shareholder needs to be first tempered with the idea of the giving due respect to the idea of dignity of labor.

The problem with firms these days is so much of their corporate culture is an accretion of the free market in so many various shapes and forms ranging from arbitrage to how their stocks may perform in their respective bourses that the worker these days is alienated from the idea of dignity of labor that he or she is just a means to an end.

I don’t necessarily blame firms per se – I blame the people who wrote the rules of how the game is played.

And the cost to all this is staggering. Especially for a highly competitive place like Singapore that’s really at the leading edge of globalization. You know before it was just really well educated Sumiko Tan from Holland V who felt that work was more important than motherhood. But now even Sengkang Sally who works in an assembly line somewhere in Boon Lay has decided to it’s better to hang up her eggs – so at the end of the day the whole idea of the nuclear family is seen as a national liability.

Of course if you speak to politicians they will say, what to do? It’s inexorable. It’s happening all over the world! The trend is irreversible. Don’t blame us!

But what politicians will never ever tell you is, that’s one aspect of globalization.

So the whole narrative begins and ends there.

Q: What’s your point?

A: It boils down to the whole idea of how one goes about measuring success – that’s what determines the rest of the loci that follows thereafter. Again this is not new Kompf. The soviets found this out the hard way – they set five year plans on measuring organizational success for their glass factories in tonnage and what they ended up with were glass goblets which were so heavy people were using them as door stoppers and paper weights. Then someone said, we are still short of glasses in the Soviet Union – so they changed the metrics to quantity of glasses produced and when that happened factories began churning out thin delicate wine glasses that were so fragile that they had to spend a bomb on just packaging them with extra stiff cardboard that cancelled out the gains.

My point is globalization is a bit like that – since it’s driven by only by the metric of delivering greater value to the shareholder, it optimizes everything in the name of the profit motive – you’re in your forties, well there’s even an actuarial software that can calculate what your utility against your renumeration would be in cold and metallic utility terms. Next thing you know. You’re retrenched. Because for what they pay you – they can probably get three graduates from some third world country to not only do your job, but probably out perform you.

To exacerbate the workers lot these days. Now you have automation and robots – today you still see humans driving trains, buses and planes. But one day all and much more would be done with digitalization and programs and where do all these people go? What do they do? Do they sit at home and watch TV all day?

Q: I do get the feeling you do actually share some of Trump’s sentiments, especially when you talk about the idea of dignity of labor, respect for the worker. How much does your thinking converge with his?

A: The difference between Trump and me is he’s I suspect a sentimentalist – where he might even harbor the belief it’s possible to return back to the good olde cottage industry days of little house in the Prairie or that other TV serial Bonanza – where everyone including Hop Seng has clearly defined roles and they all have jobs.

I on the other hand am a realist. Globalization as a school of thought. Even state of mind is irreversible – the tragedy is that it’s not as if globalization makes compelling sense that perpetuates it – it’s just that most nations these days are so addicted to the narcotic of growth at all cost. Even destroying the environment is just a punctuation mark – that it has become the only game in town.

And let me be prosaic. In any game. In the beginning. You may exert control over the outcome. But at some point – it’s no longer a case of how well you play the game as much as how it will play you.

And that’s really where we are in the chessboard of world affairs.

Q: What would your advise be to the average Singaporean worker in the background of these changes that you see between the altering compact between firms and employees?

A: Globalization is a self perpetuating equation that will only sharpen and heighten as time goes by – it’s like one of those machines that squeezes out every drop from an orange. And that simply means the life cycle of a job will get shorter. If it’s twenty years now. In five to six years may be fifteen or even less and that means the aperture for upward mobility for most workers will get shorter. Those are the lucky ones – most will just get retrenched before the end of their natural life cycle.

Of course government being government will always prescribe training. But anecdotal evidence suggest this is at best rain dancing.

For me the only sustainable approach is to start an enterprise. To have the end in the mind from the very beginning when one enters the workforce – to always be curious and even be inquisitive enough to always ask, how can I insert myself in the value chain as an independent contractor, product or service provider….when I decide to start my own enterprise – it’s doesn’t necessary have to be high tech based. Don’t be drawn in by that hype and spin. To be honest with you all this preoccupation with innovation and creativity pays out lousy dividends. Just look at the Fortune 500 list. How may high tech companies even make it for a full ten year run. Very few. The ones that sustain. The ones that growth steadily and pay out good dividends are the boring firms that only use high tech to balance their accounts and very little else. So don’t fixated with technology.

Because if you fall into that trap you’re just cutting off an entire field of possibilities for yourself.

You know I happen to know of hotel workers who eventually started laundry services when hotels decided to outsource their entire laundry cleaning to contractors. There are many doors that can open when one is inquisitive – but don’t do stupid things like start a cup cake shop or a gourmet coffee outlet just because everyone is doing just that – that’s not business. It’s just infanticide when you decide to follow what everyone is doing.

Find your own niche. It takes some time. And you might not always get the recipe right the first time – so be kind to yourself. As most of it doesn’t come by following the yellow brick road that everyone else is walking on – just go your own way. You know I happen to know this cycling enthusiast who makes specialized components for stuff that’s not even profitable for big companies to produce. He started small with a mini lathe the sort that hobbyist would use and worked in between his day job and now he has steady orders that keeps him busy 24/7 just fulfilling global orders.

Today he’s big and his products are even on aircrafts.

Like I said it doesn’t have to be necessarily high tech or even space age – it just needs to be something that fulfills a need that people are willing to vote with their wallet.

I mean Singapore is not exactly a stimulating place to inspire enterprises so it takes a lot effort. With dead wood outfits like HDB and URA who have been around for over fifty years and they don’t even see the value in investing core competence in tropical architecture…it’s very hard to get inspired. Or just having enterpenuers who seem to only know how to build malls and run hotels and very little else.

But don’t let that demoralize you – my point is try to look at it all from the inside out. That’s what a job gives you. A vantage to see opportunity. Like even in my job as a farmer. There are many things I want to buy, but it doesn’t exist – I want a wheel barrow that is power assisted. So that if I press a button it would allow me to conserve energy uphill. Go do that and I promise you that I will pull up to your drive way in a Mercedes 500SEL and write a cheque there and then for four containers of battery powered wheelbarrows. No talking!

To me there is something very wrong with the picture when all everyone seems to do is to make cars drive by themselves when the basics like pushing a wheelbarrow hasn’t even been sorted yet.

And leads me to my second point – there’s a lot of myopia, blinkered and tunnel vision out there that hasn’t really been clear commercially harvested yet – but know the process – how do I know there is a demand for this sort of thing? Because I happen to have a habit of working alongside my farm hands from time to time – and that enables me to see and understand their work from the inside out to get insights.

So that is what I mean by looking at things from the inside out – it’s not a complicated metaphysical thing or even zen attitude where you have to sit cross legged for one hour every day – it just means you have an attitude that is strategic where before you even start a thing. You already have the end in mind.

But do it your way. Rely on no one. They will just let you down or tell you stupid things that will just demotivate you.

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I’ve just returned from the jungle. I like collect wood. Not any run of the mill timber – but the weathered and hard variety with fascinating burrowed shapes and rustic tones. Usually I just let them dry out naturally and hang it on the wall as a decorative ornament.

Maybe one day I will take a few pics and show you all my collection….these aren’t just wood to me. As some of these trees can be as old as a thousand years. They’re like fossilized wood.

I like to be close to nature even when I am indoors in jm safehouse in the plantation.

During my hike. I found a gem of hard wood that I eventually shaped into a decent handle for my Golok – left most of it as it is, only the inserted section had to be whittled down.

A Golok is a tool every frontier man needs in the field – since they tend to be heavier and shorter than parang, machetes, bayonets – they’re usually characterized with a heavy and thick spine that could just as well double as an axe.

This particular Golok blade came from a section of a WW2 Japanese propeller of a plane – it still has a faint Hamilton Standard marking on it. Most traditionally smithed golok’s have distinct convex edge to prevent the blade from getting wedged when cutting heavy green timber. This one doesn’t because it was probably constructed out of the leading tip of the propeller which explains why the black smith could even shape a hollow tube to hold a handle – but the spine is super heavy like an anvil. So it’s good to go in the field.

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The shape of the wood for the handle looks old – it’s probably some hardwood that’s being sitting around for hundred of years…so hard that not even termites can put a dent on it. That fits the bill. As a Golok is a tool that one really swings full toss – before setting a handle for a Golok make sure you don’t go about doing it in one sitting. That’s the wrong way. Do that and it may fit snugly, securely and look sexy, but as soon as you use it to bring down a tree in the wild – with every strike the vibration will just get transferred to your bones and muscles and in no time – you will feel as if your arms have turned into jelly.

That’s the biggest No.1 mistake most people commit when setting a handle to a Golok.

The correct way to set a Golok is to bind a thin strip of rubber lining tightly along the end of the handle that is inserted into the slot. I’ve used an old bicycle inner tube – knock it in gently. It should be snug, but not so loose that when you swing it hard, the blade takes flight or the alignment shifts. That’s no good.

Find the balance with constant micro adjustments.

Use it that way for a few months. Eventually will happen is both the wooden handle and the steel slot will gently be shaped by each other with every strike – it takes a fair while. Be patient. Don’t rush it. It takes time to settle in.

If you observe the pic carefully. I’ve left about an inch of the remaining handle sticking out to provision for widget space.

The advantage of having a rubber lining between the slot and handle is firstly it’s form of waterproofing and secondly, whenever you strike, it’s acts like a shock absorber and doesn’t rattle your bones…it’s a very comfy. Can cut all day without feeling tired or pain.

Eventually what will regular and frequent – the handle will work it’s way deeper into the slot. The slot will shape accordingly to the handle as well giving both a very snug and secure fit. That’s the time when a small hole should be carefully drilled right thru the handle and the slot to insert a rounded bone, horn or a brass pin to secure handle and blade for life. Never use steel. As it will rust.

PERCAUTION: During the settling in period. When the handle gradually slides deeper into the steel slot. ALWAYS Swing the Golok AWAY from you. Make sure no one is around the vicinity. IT CAN FLY RIGHT OFF AND TAKE OFF A HEAD! I KID YOU NOT!

SAFETY FIRST!

SAFETY FIRST!

SAFETY FIRST!

Another thing when it comes to very old Goloks. Don’t do stupid things like take an electric grinder aggressively to the blade and strip it right down to bare steel – if you do that your Golok may certainly look like a show piece, but you have probably ruined it as well by altering the happy balance of weight from a functional field tool that is supposed to leverage specifically on momentum during a cut. Looks count for nothing in the field. Just let the surface rust remain even if it’s ugly…besides it’s just superficial rust…harmless – as with regular and frequently, the blade just naturally assume a polished and bright sheen in no time without compromising it’s happy balance.

Another word of advise – if you’re a NS man specializing in jungle warfare. Don’t read this and go to ebay to buy a Golok. You may certainly look cool – but packing one in your kit is like carrying two bricks. Even I try not carry one myself – usually I strap it to a harness on my Doberman whenever we go deep into the jungle – remember always. A Golok is just an axe pretending to be a parang. It’s heavy like a GPMG. But in field craft – there will always be occasions when you simply need fire power – it beats an axe or hatchet fifty to one – as a Golok is so versatile.

Only the cutting edge (3 inches along the length) and NOT the entire length of the Golok should be sharpened with two wet stones – grit 200 and 800 for the finish.

Work safely! Remember SAFETY FIRST!

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We can invest a lot of ourselves time and energy to know another person, but in the end, how close can we really come to that person’s essence?

Yes…I imagine. We could perhaps take comfort in the idea that we put in more of ourselves – we would eventually know the other person well, but do we really know anything at all?

Do we?


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‘There was this time when I thought I would always stay in Singapore. Forever and ever and ever. I know looking back now, it sounds rather silly. But that was how I saw it back then.

Or shall I say that’s how other’s saw it – usually thru their eyes.

I even told Dotty about it….I would stay. But she never believed me.

One day during one of our mid afternoon cycling trips, when we were just lying on the grass and looking up at the birds in Changi Village. She turned to me sadly and told me that one day I too would just take off like a bird.

It wasn’t what she said. It was the way she said in a tone like someone would express themselves years after that event happened.

I laughed. But when I looked at her I could sense the depth of her despair…the finality of her belief that it could only turn out that – it wasn’t just a run of the mill despair, it was a like an invisible vine with tendrils that could reach out from one soul to touch another – the sort of despair that could even whirl it’s way right into the narrow of my nines, winding and squeezing me from deep inside.

It was so disturbing that I found myself holding her head with both hands as she refused to look at me and asking her – how could she be so sure?

Dotty told me it was the way I looked at the birds whenever they flew overhead – she said it was the yearning that she saw reflected in my eyes. She said it was as thought – I could feel the same tug those birds felt – the very same stirring only birds could sense just before they took off. She went on to say, that I may believe I am a man, but in reality I have falcon blood running thru my veins – I am really half man, half bird and nothing in this world would ever change that, not even if I willed myself to be normal like everyone else – a day will come, when I too would sprout wings and take to the heavens like a bird.

I told her she was just in one of her crazy melancholic moods. She was dead wrong. I would always stay in Singapore. I even promised her.

Years later when I shared with Dotty my plans to seek my fortune abroad as a planter. She reminded me of the promise I once made to her – and whenever she did so, there were always long lapses of silence that I always felt the need to fill with words. Anything. It really didn’t matter what came out of my mouth. Could even yaba daba do. I just wanted to kill that awful hole of silence by filling it with as much sound as possible. To even banish it away with a hail of words. But try as hard as I did, every now and then I would feel a violent stab of loneliness….no. Estrangement. The very water I sipped, even the air I breathe, would always left a metallic and foreign after taste…reminding me that I don’t belong here…I am not supposed to be here. Even the linen on the table felt strange – when I ran my fingers across it, the texture reminded me of fingernails against a blackboard. It was a sound that only I could hear and all I could do was surrender myself completely to this sea of loneliness like some flotsam.

We met a couple of more times thereafter. But whenever our conversation lapsed into those awful moments of silence I always felt same threatening sensation of estrangement. It was as if this feeling that swelled inside me was some creature with razor-sharp tendrils gnawing deep inside me. It was so crippling, so devastating, and unrelenting that all it seemed to ever want to was to work itself out of my bones burrow thru my muscles and lance right out of the flesh of my backbone – wings….

Eventually that was what I did – I flew off without saying good bye. I did it as she said I would, like a bird that just wakes up one September morn, joins a flock of birds on a line and take right off into the blue yonder.’

There is so much anger…

February 5, 2017

If you switch on the TV these days. It’s like the evil eye. As there is so much anger, resentment and enmity in the hearts of so many because of Trumpism – understand this! Hate is pure. It is perhaps one of the most powerful forces in this world. Since man has never seen fit to study hate – it will always be a mystery. So when so one hates….trust me. They will hate you with all their heart.

My greatest fear is despite every effort by Trump to make America and her allies safe…all he has really done is galvanize the forces of evil against her.

Only the accomplished practitioners in the art of war can save us all.

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‘Many planters are very surprised that my yield has only been moderately been affected by El Niño. Of course I make it a point these days to pretend like everyone else that I too don’t have fruit – but eventually the truth always comes out.

In the kampung where superstition is a way of life – many prefer to believe this is a form of magic. Some come to my lands. They take a clump of earth with an air of expectancy in the hope that should they mix it with their own…their crops might grow as well.

But if you really want to know the real reason why El Niño didn’t so much as put a dent on my bottom line – a large part of it had to do with the litany of preparing and training.

Back in May 2015. The weather boffins in NOAA had begun discussing in their cloistered forums about the warming waters off the coast of Honduras. This is the first sign that presages the weather formation known as the phenomenon of El Niño. I listened mostly. Hardly ever posting as they all discussed the various possibilities.

Meanwhile I began to conduct secret surveys on my lands and even on my neighbors lands and began to diligently keep a log registering rainfall, wind direction and humidity – by July I started a series of earth works to divert water from the rivers. This was done secretly.

But…El Niño was a no show. I remembered feeling cheated and even slightly stupid for putting in so much effort for nought.

In January. Again the weather boffins has begun to speak about El Niño again – only this time, they prefixed it with the word monster…monster El Niño. It was hard to have faith in what they had to say by then. As since they got it so wrong the last time. It’s hard to take them seriously.

But since I’d diligently kept a historical weather tabula since 2015 – I could just about make out that what they had to say was not entirely nonsense.

That year I began to redouble my efforts at landscaping my lands further – some of what I did was so radical that you might even say I threw out the farmers almanac right out of the window and wrote my own farming guideline.

I remember that day when Mother Nature curled her fingers nails like razor sharp talons….that very day….I saw all in full technicolor and THX sound, it might have started and ended like any other day.

But that day was different from all other days.

Standing the edge of my lands with one foot on the fence post. I imagined even my dogs could all sense the silent approach of foreboding…the swiftlets flew in ever tighter circles. A sign of nervousness. Perhaps they too had registered a dramatic drop in the atmospheric pressure that spooked them. Animals I imagine can sense the impending arrival of evil far better than man ever can. I remembered standing there thru the night – even long after the afternoon light had waned and filled the inky darkness of the skies with the heaviness of waiting….just watching as terror curled like some restless serpent that had just awakened.

Mars was bronzed that night – cureleaned like a dull brass doorknob which could only mean the air at the upper reaches of the stratosphere was warmer than usual. The dipper wavered and blinked with so much loneliness. As if she too desire to belong to the rest of the other stars. Shimmering in the night heat. I stood there the whole night. Occasionally, I’d notice I’d lost track of time itself; even sleep it seemed had no dominion over me….I was simply watching for the signs, still having imaginary conversations with characters in my mind….even wondering whether perhaps I was like than mad sultan I once read about who marched out with war elephants and pike men with banners to declare war on the evil wind called the Harmattan…I remembered the owl had hooted mockingly at me that night as I sniggered to myself like some deranged mad man. But even then amid it all by the time my whisky flask was emptied. I had the feeling that even the owl was trying to tell me somewhere in my mind – farmer something evil comes this way.

True enough…the following day it all began.

In the thick of it all – it was really just a blur. I can’t exactly tell you what I did or didn’t do – there’s really too much to tell like how a lone sailor in a plastic boat tacks the capricious winds to ride one giant wave only for another to line up against his approach.

And once the storm is over – I don’t imagine I would ever remember how I even made it through by the slimmest of margins…or maybe she just got tired of me and spat me out like a pea that rolls right out of the melee…it’s hard to say when so many things comes at it from all directions

What’s important is I made it thru to the other side safely without even a single scratch to show for it.

Yes…it was a good fight. I imagine. I even rushed up her skirt a couple of times, when she wasn’t looking my way and was too preoccupied throwing pots and pans. 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 is all about.

I guess somewhere in all this there’s a lesson where we could perhaps say with that air of satisfying air of redemption – we live and learn! But maybe the real moral to this a blog entry is when you suddenly and unexpectedly feel cocooned in joy and feel so safe – never take it for granted

I am not like most of you who read this – no. I am not. For one I stretched too thin and the margins are just enough to keep my nose above the waterline….failure is not an option. Not for me at least. Perhaps that’s why I regard business as war!

Don’t ever take your joy or happiness for granted…be paranoid if possible. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed just on the account of that blasé attitude. We may not always be wise, and not very often kind when we expect tomorrow to unfold exactly like yesterday. And much can never be redeemed. Still life at even the razors edge has some possibility left. Perhaps all the preparations I did before wasn’t wasted after all – it was my way of fighting back to protect whatever little I have to call my own, that in the event sometimes something bad happens – you’ll be ready to give as good as you take…punch for punch…kick for kick.

Now all there’s left is a tired man – like some forlorn foot soldier standing on the top hill after last rent of a long and bitter drawn out battle – drawing on a cigarette with trembling hands, muddied, caked with blood….turning inwards and watching with his mind’s eye to see the very end of El Niño’s destructive wake….and perhaps reminiscing to himself with a deep sense of pride that at least…it was a good innings…a good fight…where fear has gone only I stand….only I.

I saw it all the before, during and after….I am the man of all seasons….listen to me carefully…listen…in peace prepare for war. In war prepare for peace.’

During lunch. I chanced on a table on well heeled plantation ladies. As soon as they caught sight of me – one particular lady who I can only assume to be the most dominant lady amongst these ladies extended her hand. Naturally. I bowed low and kissed her hand. A chair was presented. I took my place and no sooner had I done so. This impeccably dressed lady turned to be in and asked, ‘do share…are you with or against Trump?’

I happen to know the history of this lady. She was educated in Paris. Hence my reply, ‘après moi deluge.’ To which the other ladies all laughed out loud….except this one lady who continued to look at me suspiciously…maybe she senses that I am holding back….yes, I think she can read my mind. She did after all kick me very hard on my shin under the table when the rest of the ladies laughed….but no. I am never going to let the cat out from the bag.

Instead I smiled supremely….ouch! Trust me I would rather take on my guli’s.

Never…it’s just too painful and dangerous.

No one will ever know my thoughts.

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‘So far it is merely a theoretical possibility – but as Trumpism as a school of thought and state of mind begins to define itself in clearer terms to it’s various objects of public and business interest – eventually even firms will be compelled to choose which side they want to stand on. CEO’s would have to take a position – they can’t be neutral. Not at least without coming playing both sides – neither can they take sanctuary in the notion that politics should best be left to politicians either, that will be suicidal!

As I see it. It’s really only a matter of time before the pressure will begin to slowly intensify.

This is the what usually happens when business interest becomes so encrusted with politics…it’s inevitable. Absolutely nothing can stop this process where it all ratchets up in steady increments till something gives.

Meanwhile the idea conditions for a more chaos along with opportunity is all there – there parts are not there yet. But they will be soon. As it is, it’s still early days – there are no parts yet, there’s no need to replace one thing with another. No yet at least. Besides what’s the bloody point when I don’t even know where it’s all going…who even knows – so really what is the urgency to remove anything or add anything. You don’t have to think about difficult things just yet – take a seat…watch….and trust me eventually the bough will give way and water will find it’s level.

It’s best to remain pleasantly neutral as best as one can for the time being.’

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This afternoon while returning for lunch at my plantation house – a dead will pigeon laid lifeless in the yard. Wild pigeons are good flyers. Perhaps even one the best – they don’t just fly into a building and keel over and die, or maybe I am just making a mountain out of a mole hill. Perhaps this pigeon did get disoriented and accidentally hit the building.

In Taoist mythology. A dead bird may come across like a bad omen. Actually it’s a good and bad sign. As it presages the end to turmoil or pain. A dead bird doesn’t necessarily portend physical death. Rather it is metaphorical death. Perhaps this means whatever hardships I am going through will now slowly begin to bow out to a new season of hope where things may get better. Perhaps this dead bird marks the end to my yearning and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.

On the other hand in the language of the old country. There is also a sinister side to finding a dead bird in the yard – it is veil warning to abide by the covenants that one has entered into – in the language of the old country, the bird represents freedom….and when a man discovers a dead bird it simply means if you value your freedom then abide by the rules of heaven and earth.

Yes….maybe I am just making a mountain out of a mole hill. It’s after just a dead bird in the yard.

Unusual locks

February 4, 2017

Q: Tell me. There is a rumor circulation in the mercantile Guild that you. You see opportunity despite Brexit and the Trump win – how true is this?

A: Would you prefer that I answer this in German or English? I feel German would allow me to express myself in a concise manner without necessarily indicting myself….if you really want to know ich habe die Nase voll davon…that is to say I don’t give a shit what the guilds think.

Q: I don’t mean to come across as a corporal interrogating a general – but if you could do us all the courtesy of responding in standard English. I assure you many of our readers would appreciate it.

A: If you like. The way I see it is prosaic. Brutal. Like a boot pressed on a face of man. Let me put it this way whenever the status quo ante is threatened with change – there is both strife and opportunity.

Herr Kompf. We don’t do this for fun! There is the investment of time, intellectual capital and resources to attempt to beacon out the murk.

I want to be clear. This is not about a group of bored intellectuals sitting down over tea and scones and discussing the world as a general past time – we all without a single exception see this as a very serious and significant turning point in history and we would all like to be a meaningful part of this change.

There is opportunity where there is chaos Kompf. As it is. I know most people can only seem to see a lot of nervous and anxious people – I much prefer to see this as an opportunity for an opportunity of a lifetime.

Q: How would this opportunity present itself to the average Singaporean?

A: Don’t talk as if the IMG conduct it’s affairs in a cave – look what’s happened in the last week alone. Most people just see an executive order to impose a travel ban on certain Arab countries – but I see this as an interruption in the flow of intellectual capital along with a reorientation of how people and possibly goods flow from point A to B.

Q: What is your assessment of the political rationale for the imposition of the travel ban – do you agree with it?

A: I am neutral. I only concerned about the opportunity cost that may create other opportunities.

Q: Again how might the average Singaporean benefit from this travel ban?

A: Try to see it from my point of view – intellectual capital is like petroleum that fuels firms to do whatever they do. Whenever that flow is interrupted for whatever reason – it creates a deficit or imbalance that needs to be addressed. If you look at firms nowadays – they’re all like mini United Nations.

To me it’s an opportunity when the US decides to do something like impose a country specific travel ban – especially for Singaporeans.

But bear in mind how that may translate into an actual opportunity is entirely on whether you choose to take my advise seriously or regard it as just rhetorical – for me, if I am working in a specific field where many of these nationals have been banned from entering the US – I would be surfing day and night for maybe an internal transfer within a firm or even prospecting to offer my services. After all let us be realistic – not everyone who comes from the Arab world is stupid – they’re a lot of sublimely clever and well educated people in those countries. So whenever there is a summary ban – there is always opportunity.

Q: Why would the US look elsewhere for those skill sets which they would usually procure from those countries that have a travel ban?

A: Its not the US per se – it’s the firms within the US, especially those who are at the leading edge of technology that constantly need intellectual transfusion. What is your politics? That’s highly negotiable in the US. Truth is the US is not like Singapore. No one gives a shit how many times you have posted a Facebook like on Mini Lee’s page – that counts for zero in the US. The only thing that matters is the flow of intellectual capital cannot be constricted in such a way where it may militate against corporate interest.

The US as I see it is a very apolitical work environment – they don’t care about your political leanings…you as an individual can believe or not choose to do so in any object of interest ranging from politics to religion. But so long as you’re not making bombs in your basement kitchen or present a clear and present risk to society – you’re good to go!

And this attitude is very much part of the US corporate culture that even US politicians have to live and accept – you know during the final days on WW2. The Americans secretly recruited Nazi rocket scientist – it was known as the paper clip project.

Now let me you ask you a question – do you actually believe the people who tasked to grow rocketry really care whether Werner Braun was a major in the Waffen SS? If you look at the Apollo documentaries today – do you see anyone quibbling that this was the same chap who once rained intercontinental missiles on London from Penemunde? No one cares – as the demand for intellectual capital is what makes America…America.

Keep it clear – it’s business and never ever personal.

Q: The Singapore Prime Minister recently set the tenor of the new economic prospects for Singapore. He expects us to lower our expectations for future economic growth. Do you think this US travel ban can reverse this trend?

A: Frankly I’m not confident that mini lee and his crew can even achieve lower growth – as so far from what I am able to make up the bulk of what accounts for growth is Singapore leverages heavily on a massive infusion of labor inputs from abroad. That unfortunately is diametrically against real and sustainable growth that should be premised on enhancing productivity, which has always been the axiomatic gold standard for quality and sustainable economic growth – this has remained largely flatline in Singapore for the last 4 years. The main thing that’s propping up growth these days is labour inputs.

There is definitely a very strong correlation here between labor inputs and growth – the very fact that last year’s economic growth was only 1.8% — which incidentally is significantly lower than all our neighbors to such an extent where journalist are now labeling Singapore as the new sick man of Asia has to coincide with the reduced inflow of foreign workers – it is an indication that our economy has been overly dependant on foreign labour force growth.

The way I see it, PAP governments need to migrate further beyond just as gate keepers along the value chain – so far they have just focused on rubber FDI’s and what happens thereafter is really something that they don’t seem to want to get involved in – this to me is a great omission. As when no one in the economic development unit understands the dynamics of what goes on in a firm to make it work – then it’s really a nonsense to talk credibly about investing in natives by equipping them with the necessary skills, especially stimulating an entrepreneurial or merchant class to off set the inexorable reality that job cycles are shortening – in the past we speak about forty year old PMET’s being put out to pasture as they are largely seen as liabilities in this technological age. But in the foreseeable future we may even see workers as young as possible 35 to 40 reaching the end of their utility value – this of course is all driven by market forces.

My personal opinion is government should be less fixated on getting the best to join the civil service – they should instead turn the whole on the idea on it’s head and ask whether That is wise – instead we should try to get people to work elsewhere and return after a couple of years to start new enterprises – this is of course a reversal of sorts. Because we have always seen this idea of growth as government led. But in reality it has never been that way to me – enterprises will always be the drivers of growth. As for governments I just see them as traffic police. So if you’re configuring the so called best to work in the civil service and after a while they get programmed into only working in that kind of environment – then I see it as a great waste of human resources.

Many things will happen with the Trump travel ban – as you must understand people are like walking and talking repositories of information, not unlike thumb drives – so if you so much as even interfere with the equilibrium of that flow – information will degrade, blank spaces will develop and most importantly new pathways will emerge.

A good example is tourism – it will thru a radical revolution – so far I don’t think the Singapore tourism board has put much effort in encouraging tourist from the gulf states, so that’s one illustration of opportunity generated by the travel ban.

On a broader scale – trade and commerce will also be affected. After all if people from the Arab world can’t travel freely to the US without having to jump thru hoops – that also means they can get many things that are needed from the West and again there is opportunity there as well.

I think it’s important to understand the imposition of this travel ban is not just on countries where people live in mud huts, commute to work on a camel and communicate only in sign language – Trump has a very poor feel of that region. If you go to some countries like perhaps Syria – they have the highest per capita satellite dishes in the world. Not only do they consume transponders like bread. But they are also import the highest volume of co-axial cables in the world along with the ancillary equipment to support that sort of infrastructure. So again there is opportunity there as well for Singaporeans to venture out and tap.

But I think you first need to know the region and have a feel of it – for me personally, this travel ban is great for agricultural opportunities.

Always remember a travel ban is not unlike a trade war – you do this and those countries who are affected with problems recognizing capital the financial rammifications from a capital in and outflow will be dramatic – so if you ban an Arab don’t do for one moment think it’s a one way street – they will hit back! And one way to do this is by saying, I don’t want to do business with you!

This is where the wise man comes right in and uses that sort of negative sentiment to create opportunity.

Q: As I understand it these travel ban is limited to only a few Arab countries – they don’t seem to have a far reaching effect…what is your comment on that?

A: I don’t think that is an accurate assessment – as what you need to prioritize is how will it come across to most people? I mean if it’s North Korea talking about stopping certain people from coming in or erecting walls with piranhas in the moat and man eating dogs – that’s OK. Because most people will say that is North Korea.

But when America starts broadcasting that sort of message then don’t for one moment believe it applies to only those countries that currently fall under the travel ban – as there is not only the commonality of ethnicity, share values, identity, tribalism and to some extent even solidarity whenever you talk about restricting movement in laws or other physical means like walls.

What needs to understood in the psychology dynamics is for every act – there is an equal reaction. Even the soviets despite their pineappled eye efficiency of the KGB could not stop the samzidat movement from eventually undermining totalitarian rule.

So please don’t think this whole issue of a travel ban only applies to those countries affected – it is really much bigger than just that.

On Patience

February 3, 2017

I don’t think patience has anything to do with the cultivation of the special ability to wait. Neither has it anything to do with come what may acceptance. Patience has even less to do with resignation in the way a man murmurs to himself – I will see it no matter what happens.

If anything patience to me resembles hunting – it is to constantly take action to transform into the positive, to bear it out with a calm disposition to the very end and above all to have faith that it will all work out in the end while you are working quietly without complain.

Patience is to strive to understand a thing beyond it’s dictionary meaning….to even see it’s inner and intricate movements and complications from within…and not merely to watch it’s mysteries from the outside…it is to understand a thing for what it is really is and not what others say it is…..patience is the highest form of scholarship.

All other definitions of patience are merely pretentious.

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‘I don’t need ever need to go to a supermarket whenever I need meat. I just hunt. I hunt with a bow. The curious thing about hunting in the wild is it has absolutely nothing and less to do with how it’s so often depicted in the movies – where the hunter is always rushing here and there to chase down the prey. I guess that’s the way movie directors need to script the act of hunting otherwise it would be pretty difficult to sell tickets.

It’s really quite boring. Yes…it is. Actually.

Truth is hunting is unlike welding, drilling a hole and fitting a pin on post or just making sure your three pin is all wired right.

It’s a process, very orthodox that requires one to simply keep to the tried and tested rules.

It first begins by understanding the way of the prey – if it’s a hog. They move in packs during the dry season usually after dark. In the wet season a female hog is usually alone. She breaks away from the pack and that’s also the period when they’re the fiercest and would provably never back down when threatened….as she’s probably given birth or about to.

During those periods…the tables are turned. The hunter usually becomes the hunted.

A fully grown hog can charge from zero to forty kilometers in less than four seconds flat – with it’s head tilted charging at full speed – it’s virtually impossible to bring her down with a clean shot…impossible. As the head of hog is armor plated with at least three inches of bullet proof bone – it even puts military vest to shame. If you’re ever in that situation – you’re looking at spending the rest of your days in a wheel chair…that’s if you’re lucky.

The only reason why I am feel compelled to share this with you is because respect for the prey is the one single most misrepresented truth about hunting….no. Man is not at the top of the game. Granted he may have tools and even intellect on his side. But the prey has the home ground and that simply everything that you have on your side is at best 50/50.

Respect…..that is the first and cardinal rule of patience…know your enemy…know his ways. But never…ever disrespect him.

Like I said. It all begins with having the patience to understand the way of the prey and the wild. That’s to say, you’ve got to some how get inside the hog look at the world thru it’s eyes, ears and nose. Being on the outside looking in is no bloody good….you might as well go and try your luck when they’re having twenty five percent off lamb chops in the supermarket.

It’s just a bloody waste of a good Sunday.

Being inside looking out means you know there at least thirty two ways to walk during the dry season silently without once snapping a twig in the wild. There are only five to six times in a day when the wild goes dead quiet and the patience to know all this gives you the power of invisibility.

Invisibility is what gives you the element of surprise…without it. You might as well upgrade your premium on your personal insurance.

The best time to bring down a hog is just before a thunder storm – there’s not much time….it all happens fast. So try not to move or fidget too much. Find a spot and remain still like a lifeless stone. Go with the wild. Let it permeate you like the stillness of grass, moss amd all the little bugs that seem to move silently unseen.

When the storm heightens. The rich nitrogen air mucks up their acute sense of smell, that’s when the hog’s radar goes on the blink…it doesn’t work. And even when it seems to, it gives out false readings.

You can tell, this by the way the hog zig zags – that means he’s really entirely on sight.

Not smell…..that important because for the bow hunter you need to get up real close.

They’re also almost blind during the overcast just before a thunderstorm. Confused even. As they don’t quite know whether it dusk or dawn.

The profile of the head is low to the ground….distances becomes very confusing in the overcast.

As for their acute sense of hearing that can usually pick up a human two miles down wind – that’s masked by the rustle of the leafs just before a thunderstorm.

That’s the only time when a hog doesn’t behave like a hog. That’s the only time when it will break the discipline how to proceed silently with the cloak of invisibility in the wild. That’s the only time when you could even be right next to a 90 kilo hog and he wouldn’t even be able to see you.

Just before a thunderstorm is the only time when a hog is only preoccupied with finding high ground to dig a fox hole beneath a tree to keep dry. Nothing else matters to him. But even should he be within shot range…be patient…bite your tongue….wait.

Be patient.

Let him finish the dig. Let him even lie down. Let him even snuggle and find a comfy spot before the storm.

When the first distant lighting shards crackles thru the bitumen colored skies…it’s still not the right time to take the shot.

No. Don’t ever do that – as the first lightning rap usually alerts the hog…let at least four go by. Six is even better as he will get used to it by then.

Be very patient…continue biting your tongue till it draws blood….wait…wait…wait.

Only during the briefest periods just before the fury of the thunderstorm is unleashed – when the wind dies. When the hog is deep within the embrace of sweet repose. When the wild momentarily stands so still that there is neither sound or movement do you stand up, draw the bow and loose the hissing arrow to finally deliver the death blow.

It’s quick. Clean. Professional….and most importantly the end…the whispering death of the arrow finding the fifth column of the spine severing the central nervous system…instantaneous death.

Patience.

Patience is to strive to understand a thing beyond it’s dictionary meaning….it is to understand a thing for what it is really is and not what others say it is.

Time

February 2, 2017

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with the notion of time. I am not saying I don’t respect it to make it a point to be dead on the dot for every meeting. No! It’s not that sort of uneasiness. I guess it’s hard to describe as the notion of time has changed with me. Neither do I conduct my affairs in such a way where I am not beholden to the importance of time. It’s not that sort of uneasiness about time either.

If I had to describe my uneasiness concerning time – it simply relates to how we all choose to see time….that has always bothered me. The idea of reducing time into neat pigeon holes of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years.

That to me is just a way to track time…nothing more or less.

When I used to be a salaried man in Singapore. Even then I much preferred to time differently. Hearing the awakening murmurs of trains one by one pulling out from the MRT depot at Tanah Merah meant I needed to rouse myself for the first shift; the smell of pine scented disinfectant on linoleum meant I was probably the first to clock into the factory and there was still plenty left for a cigarette and coffee before work began. The faint rumble of the plumbing secreted above the ceiling boards meant the managers had probably just taken a dump and they would eventually make it downstairs to dump on all of us during the morning meeting. The way the light from the only window slices the photograph of President Nathan who always seemed to smile supremely even when there was chaos in the control room, meant it was the end the first shift. The faint hint of cloves in the wind when I walked thru the connector park to the trains after work told me that I was somewhere between January and mid march. When train lines twisted like plasticine in the mid day heat. I knew it to be hottest of months. Branches scrapping the eaves of houses spoke to me like oracles – the wind had changed direction and the soon the monsoon would arrive. When the winds blew at Bedok jetty blew smelt of red bull mixed with old brass keys – I knew the clouds would turn dark the following day. Staring at the sky, wisps of white speckled bands whirled across an inky blue night sky – I knew it would turn cold and December winds would send sails and flags fluttering. The stutter of birds from their usual three stanza to only one monotonous tone told me they were all preparing to take flight before the monsoon. The lull before the approaching storm – it’s tranquillity mixed with the smell of burnt wires told me the air was nitrogen rich. A lone ant clambering over a half eaten leaf upwards to the trees could only mean the rains would be heavy that season. A plastic bag dancing skywards to the blue beyond in the afternoon thermal like a jelly fish painted with the words NTUC supermarket…usually told me the rains would pass soon and the weather will get hotter. Sobbing cupboards that warped ever so slightly like rope being tighten told me that it would be hotter than what they weather boffins predicted.

You could say I’ve always had my own private relationship with time – time wasn’t a notion where I was somehow distanced from it like a man turning his sights to a clock tower just to tell time – it’s much more…..the scrapping sounds of my feet against sand as I walked spoke the length and breadth of time’s essence. I much preferred to be within the folds of the seconds, minutes, hours like some cog, wheel or spring shifting, notching, twirling in perpetual motion with and not against time – where I was within and never outside…peering from within and not just looking in like some hungry man at others in the warmth of candle lit dinners.

I don’t imagine most people can image how silly I see the way they see time – I can even imagine these same people thinking that I don’t have a right to judge them as bizarre. For trying to reduce something so profoundly omnipresent and intuitive into perpetual moving digits and sweeping hands on a face of a watch.

It’s I imagine another infantile attempt (a poor one at that) by man at reductionism…I really don’t have anything against that. I guess mankind is accustomed to holding on the belief he knows everything there is to know about everything.

But here in the solitude of the wild – time has it’s own rhythm that’s infinitely larger and more majestic than man’s snuffling regard of time. Here time is not only everywhere, but it’s so big that it even makes IMAX feel puny. Not maybe the concept of time that we are all accustomed too – the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months…chronology of tracking the chastening passage of seasons. Rather over here it’s the perpetuity of time itself that seems almost unstoppable – another concentric ring to mark the end and beginning of one cycle in time. The slow arc of the Milky Way that’s always so clear in the desolation of the wild…so clear that it always comes across to me whenever I am hungry like some giant jeweled speckled curry puff ticking and creaking marking time.

I much prefer this version of time.