Meditation

March 8, 2017

When a man meditates daily. First thing in the morning. He can only be anchored thru out the day to reality.

Come what may in the course of a working day….it will not shake him.

As the man who meditates is always centered and clear minded.


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‘Meditation cannot possibly be an easy concept to sell to modern man. It cannot be. As firstly, it is a very unnatural thing to attempt to still a restless mind. Hence most people who try their darnest to incorporate this habit into their daily life are likely to fail.

The second hurdle has to do with their over inflated ego – since meditation is always considered to be a religious practice. Most people can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea of sitting quietly to just breathe. Even that simple idea of stilling the mind usually comes encrusted with so much propaganda along with politics and power that eventually most people prefer not to dabble in it.

But if I say to you – sit down and allow your eyes to rest on this flower while you focus on just breathing in and out smoothly – what has that got to do with religion?

But if one is able to set aside all this worldly nonsense and simply say, it is simply a way to sharpen one’s mind. To tune it in the way one adjust the various tensions and slack in a musical instrument to produce a harmonious tune – then I imagine most people would have absolutely no trouble whatsoever to give it a go.

Only be very kind and gentle with yourself when you meditate for the very time in your life….it’s after all your first attempt. Don’t expect it anything for the first week. Better still if you can come to terms with the idea it may even be a giant waste of time and effort.

But should you decide to set aside fifteen or twenty minutes each day to meditate – at some point your perception of reality will begin to shift.

You will find that you will get less irritated by the small stuff in life. Suddenly you will see the bigger picture. You will also be less judgemental of others and situations as well as since you see the world without the slightest trace of illusions – you are always closer to the truth.

Businessmen who meditate daily are in my considered opinion the most dangerous category of men. For one it’s impossible to wind them up – as since they are always emotionally rock steady, it’s impossible to unsettle them.

These men can see it coming even before you can conceive the idea – in the way of the sword, Kendo. We refer to such category of men as the shadow warrior. They are formidable and it’s virtually impossible to unhinge them. Neither is it possible to game them – as since their mind is functioning at a superior plane of consciousness……nothing can stop them from delivering the spirit blow.

In the art of war it is virtually axiomatic – only a shadow warrior can bring to heel another shadow warrior. To try to do so with force of numbers alone would only end in a massacre.

But never be in any doubt where this extraordinary power derives from. As what confers Superman powers to the shadow warrior is not the mere firepower of muscles and sinews and cheap strategy. Rather it is the accretion of a superior mind that is calm and composed take on an even defeat a numerically superior foe.

Study and research this well. As it applies to all things in life.’

‘Phosphate’

March 8, 2017

Kee Kee

March 8, 2017

So far I had to keep Kee Kee in my city house. As all Ritchie seems to ever want to do is to kill him.

Kee Kee is just about three. He should be mature by now. Mellow even. But he is still very playful and lacks the focus that would render him an excellent plantation guard dog.

Nonetheless I will take Kee Kee with me when I return back to the plantation.

He would not be able to step into Ritchie’s shoes….but with training….hopefully he can try.

Ritchie & me

March 7, 2017

We were together for so many years. I do miss him. I can’t help it.

Now I wait for his reincarnation. He told me last night, master I will never leave you.

Believe. Believe it. As it will happen.

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‘I do not fear death. I do not. I know love will find a way. I just know it. You will return back to me. There is no need to feel sad. Love will find a way….you will return.’

If this inspires you. Then it inspires you and I will not take anything from it.

That you can very well say is my nature. As if I have nothing good to say, then in all likelyhood I much prefer to keep quiet.

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‘If you ask me….farming is really only about one thing. Money. Specifically maximising one’s return on investment.

I am mindful what I have to say about farming differs only very slightly from how one might run a factory or for that matter any other commercial enterprise under the sun. I do however apologise profusely for this prosaic take especially if it happens to spoil your sentimental views concerning how I have always viewed this vocation. But to me the money formula will always be at the forefront of all other considerations.

Thereafter other things may certainly follow in their wake….but first and foremost it has to all make excel spreadsheet sense otherwise it’s no bloody good!

Can farming be edifying to the soul? Can it nourish the human spirit? Can it even be a prescriptive cure for autism?

That is not for me to answer.

Understand this clearly! If I am going to sit down with you with a row of very serious planters in a meeting. It’s not going to be pretty sight. As firstly no one on my side is ever going to indulge in such talk. You could even say, we much rather stick to the business end of matters and that is really all that matters to us.

Truth is each of us venture into business for our own personal reasons….only as I said earlier and it bears repeating only because what I have to share happens to be an omnipresent reality – ultimately any business proposition has to first make hard nose commercial sense. That simply means, the enterprise proposed must be able to maximise yield on every square milimeter of land. Otherwise my advice is don’t ever step into that conference room because you wouldn’t have either the business maturity to come across as competent or for that leverage on the balance of power to negotiate a good deal!

For me it is very clear – if you’re a restauranter in Boat Quay hoping to get a few pots of thyme. Then I say, I don’t have time for you! I can even state categorically the probability of you being able to talk to me stands at zero. Please understand. This is not personal. It’s strictly business. As I don’t nearly have the latitude to chase small fry. If you happen to be a hotel chain or supermarket with serious volume. We might probably touch base. Go for a round of Golf and even finish off the evening over a bottle of cellared wine.

Just as if I am going to make a bid for a land concession to grow let’s say coffee to the Singapore government – I don’t ever expect the otherside to cut me any slack when they ask, can we see your five year financial projections? Just as I don’t ever expect anyone on the otherside to bear out patiently my personal recount on how magical it is for a farmer to watch the sun set with his dog.

I will negotiate hard….the other side will sweat bullets…but to do this. I must be certain that I can cut the supply of cash crops from Malaysia…to me this is a form of war that is not so different from laying seige to a castle.

Please understand. I am not throwing cold water on your dream….I just feel the need to inject reality into this picture.

As at the end of the day it all boils down to money. Money. Money and very little else. But perhaps only money.

I am not saying self actualization and the means to find yourself is not there….somewhere in farming. It is. Just as it might exist in probably all other vocations as well.

Only you will find no one will ever buy your produce or even hand you a land concession…if you don’t bother to pay respect to their imperative to rent seek based on commercial rates. So perhaps what I am really saying is farming cannot be so different from the business rules and conventions of all other enterprises.

That is the defining difference between the professional planter and the hobbyist gardener. The former always has the end in mind from the very beginning. He’s always fixated on the nuts and bolts of the profit margin and along with how best to maximise yield per hectare. Above all he is the man who pays respect to the business imperative of the those who sit across him and institutions in the long table.

As for the tinkerer, let us just say he has his own Dao. He’s a free spirit whose beholden to an ideal that is not real.

Why am I spending so much time on fleshing out the ‘right’ attitude? Why is it so important?

Because I don’t ever want anyone to buy into the belief commercial farming can be such a thing that is so far removed from all other enterprises. Or perpetuate the sugary illusion where it might work with a bunch of post modernist gypsies who harbor the valecdorian dream that it’s a way of reclaiming the soul. No! It is a very serious endeavour that requires the highest level of professionalism and skill of arms.

As it is the only business in the world where the farmer buys everything on retail and sells all his produce at wholesale.

Above all this is a vocation that requires a hard no nonsense man who sees the world prosaically without the slightest trace of illusions – by this I mean. To hell with all these herb gardens! All those small and insignificant stuff are not going to get you that Hondajet. That’s not going to make one dent on the broader issue of food security and sustainable urban farming in Singapore.

For urban farming to work. It first has to make commercial sense. That’s to say it has to be profitable and efficiently operated. Whether it rest well on the eyes or smells nice is not important to me – the only thing that matters to me is money!

Run around if you want too – but at the end of the day. What you’ll find is what I have to say on this subject can only be true in every sense of the word when we speak about farming in Singapore.

Business is war!

Forgive me if I happen to see the world in such cold, narrow and metallic terms.’

Ritchie 2008 – 2017

March 6, 2017

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It was a very good run. Probably one of the very best ever between man and dog. I am very sad, but with that sort of innings. It’s very hard not to suck it all in and say, travel well my friend.

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‘When I look back. You were always there…..always. Loyal, steadfast and courageous. I knew it the time was nearing. I could sense it. Large breeds rarely ever make it beyond ten years.

I could even it deep down in the marrow of my bones as far back as a month back ago. But I didn’t want to see it. I wanted to push it as far back as I could to one dark corner of my mind.

Last night I woke up in city at 4.00 am. I knew you were gone. Don’t ask me how I know – I just knew.

I drove back to the plantation the next morning only to find you there at your post, slumped and not breathing.

I drove back to the city and attended a few business meetings. Thereafter I walked aimlessly around the city lost in my own thoughts.

I found this keychain.

It’s a tiger.

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I don’t believe in coincidences. I know it’s a sign from the otherside.

I never said this. I love you. I am truly alone now.

All my money is so meaningless without the power to bring you back!

If they had the common sense to just kept it short and simple. It would probably fly. All they had to do was a pitch it like so – water is a scarce resource….it’s fast running out, not only in Singapore, but everywhere else in the world. For the sake of the environment….followed…by blah blah blah blah and loads of pictures of the world drying and shrivelling up like a prune.

Had they done just that most reasonable people would probably go Ho-hum…and just carry on.

But no. They had to bring this and that person in to add their two cents and now it’s just like the proverbial snowball that gathers momentum as it rolls down a hill.

City….

March 5, 2017

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El Niño 2

March 3, 2017

This week some chatter was getting around Twitter and within climate circles about the possibility of El Niño returning in 2017. Wait, El Niño? Didn’t we just have a major El Niño in 2015? The answer is yes. The 2015-2016 El Nino was a very strong El Niño. It affected weather patterns around the world, the Atlantic hurricane season, and global temperature records in 2015. With the “shares” and “retweets” about another El Niño returning so quickly, back to back against the last one, it certainly felt very much like another ground hog day.

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‘Man is very funny thinking animal. He invents the aluminum can, plastic bags along with ten thousand other things that would probably survive after him well after he has gone. Then one fine day, he discovers a rare of moment of epiphany and exclaims….look at the mess!

Thereafter he steps into his gas guzzling machine and drives off spewing so much shit into the air that it poisons both people and planet.

It’s not so different from a man who sees something brown one day while walking, decides to smell it only to say, it’s shit! Then he proceeds to wipe this brown stuff all over his face as if it’s sunblock only to say, it feels like shit. Thereafter he takes a bite out of it and concludes, it taste like shit and after a moment of deliberation he smiles and tells you, luckily I didn’t step on it.

So the question is how does one even begin to engage this sort of character in a deep spirited and intelligent conversation about how can we reach some form of resolution concerning how he’s killing the planet by the way he lives.

The short answer is it’s pointless. You might as well go and plough the sea!

But if you say to this very same man. Here’s a bag of seeds. There is the land. From today onwards. This is your only means to make ends meet. Have a great life! Bye bye see you in ten years!

Now let’s assume this man can bear out patiently what it takes to run an enterprise. And the only reason why I feel the need to say this is because that has to be a very frightening life proposition no matter how one decides to cut it – as commercial farming is far from easy street – I can think of a hundred other ways to turn a buck.

But let us assume after ten long years we go back and talk to this man. Let us even assume he’s made it!

Now the first thing you would probably notice about this man is how small his carbon footprint is – he seems to only dress in khaki. Why because he probably recycles his detergent to first wash his clothes and then his dishes. That’s normal with planters as since they live in a plantation. They don’t have piped water.

He is also very frugal in the way he uses electricity as well. He much prefers to sleep without an air conditioner. As there is really no need to do so since the temperature plummets to a comfortable 23 degrees usually four hours after the approach of darkness.

But if you ask why he does all these things – it’s probably because he loves the land. The man may not tell you this. As love is a very private and intimate business….but be in no doubt he loves her!

That’s how the land really is. In the beginning she comes across as one of those Russian countryside beauties complete with big bones and even a moustache – she’s not pretty. Not at all.

But as time goes on and one gets to know her better – she’s the type of gal that grows on you. Till at some point, she becomes the only woman who you really want to be with and all others just disappear.

That’s how it is with men – once they get over the fuckability rating, it just boils right down to settling down with someone that you want to sit down in the evenings and talk too.

And if you are perceptive. You will be able to seek this one indelible aspect out of all men who have turned the wheel of life from the land – they’re all passionately in love with her.

You will never find a farmer cursing the land. Never! That sort of ingrate doesn’t exist in the farming world. He will always make excuses for her even when all she seems to do is to throw pots and pans at him….the moon affects her. She can’t help it. Etc etc.

And you can even see the determination of his love in his eyes whenever he speaks of her.

That I feel is what’s really missing in city folk….they know nothing about what I am speaking of. That’s to say they don’t love her….if they did. They wouldn’t do so many things to hurt her.’

On friends

February 28, 2017

Friends are always good. But never use them to ward off loneliness. As when you do that then all you’re really doing is using them like a crutch to fill up the emptiness deep within you. And when they’ve gone or moved on…you will always be lonely again.

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‘The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely – that is the first paradox of loneliness. The second is, no matter how many people this man may surround himself with – he will still feel lonely.

But the man who dedicates himself to the deep study of learning how to be whole mentally and complete spiritually alone can only be at peace with his own loneliness.

I have discovered this to be third paradox of being alone. As at some point. This man will prefer this reality to the illusion of merely superficial companionship. He will feel so at ease with being alone – that is all he wishes for in this world.

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For many years I could barely fathom what makes some men retreat away from the world into the quiet solace of the wilderness – where they might live all alone in a deserted windswept nowhereville far removed from all other forms of human interaction.

At first I was inclined to believe it may have something to do with despair or an epic fall from grace. Gradually as the years passed. I started to realise how meaningless some things in life actually were. Money only seems to be everything when one has none or very little of it – the irony is when one comes to money, it’s like having a orgasm. After that brief ripple of ecstasy – there’s really nothing else after that.

At some point it becomes very meaningless.

I do however envy those who believe in the idea of a creator. I even know they aren’t faking it – it’s the way their eyes glisten and their voice quivers ever so slightly whenever they speak about everlasting love that leaves one in doubt…it could really only be god that they’re talking about. There have been many times when I have looked up into the myraid of stars and asked – are you there? But nothing. Always nothing.

It’s not as if I didn’t will all of my being to believe. I did. And much more. At times, I even reckoned the act of believing was like running a marathon, where one may begin with laboured breathes only for it to get easier with time only to eventually plane off happily when one crosses that mythical line when pain gives way to runner’s high. But it never came for me.

Never…

From time to time I still ask – are you there? Is anybody there?

But there was always nothing.

That realisation was always followed by the sensation of feeling cold like a frigid carton of milk in the fridge. For some strange reason – I remember always wanting to drink cold milk whenever I was assaulted by the finality of how I stood apart from the rest of the world.

It was as if, I was always on the outside peering in – when I was surrounded by people in the city. That familiar sensation of estrangement was most acute – I remember one time some years back ago when I revisited the city after a prolonged expedition deep in the jungle – everything felt like pins and needles in that dreaded moonscape – the pavements were all so flat I found myself losing my balance; even the air felt as if I was breathing in needles. The texture of the linen sheets had the texture of sheet metal and everything about the city merely served to confirm the terminal state of my alienation from the rest of the world – it’s as if there’s my world and theirs and no matter how hard I tried to fuse these two worlds into one – they simply couldn’t quite mix without separating like oil and water. Soon the chatter of the world would die out and all that remained was the silence of my own world – my reality, which I eventually came to accept as my life.

I guess what I am trying to say in a round about way – was I went into farming because I needed to live without the need of putting on a mask for everyone, including myself. I needed to find myself, might turn out to be someone I didn’t like. But that didn’t matter to me – to journey into the nucleaus of my being was at the very core of this impulse to return back to the land in the way a fish flailing on land would yearn to jump back into water. The core of who I might really be as a man not to other, but myself.

My plan to find that mystical core consisted of three changes of khaki clothing, a pair of sturdy work boots, three changes of underwear (two of which disintegrated leaving me with one which eventually became a cleaning cloth) and the daily litany of rituals.

Labor that tested not only every strand of muscle and sinew – the sort where a man would have to get dirty, walk in rain till he could no longer remember how it felt to be dry any longer. I didn’t particularly have much fondness for the work. But physical work has a charm about it that strangely appeals to me. The sort of repeatitive work resembling litany where one seems to be able to continue doing what one does with roughly the same processing power it took to tie shoe laces especially appealed to my body – day by day without me realising it. I was reclaiming the person who I was really meant to be. A sort of man who didn’t need numbers in the face of watch or even require hard lines to make him feel oriented.

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You could even say somewhere in this endless wheel of grind. I even became aware of a kind of spiritual need to go far enough to leave everything I had ever known in my life, the need to touch the hard edges of who I really am, and begin from there.

By returning to the quiet moments of wonderment when I was a boy holding a crystalline ball of ice lashed with colourful syrup, of pure attention, to become aware of myself and things around thru my own perceptions rather than thru the borrowed perceptions of others.

I was learning to trust a more generous reality, one that even made plenty of allowances for my impatience – one where I was even prepared to accept myself though all I could really see was a jumbled heap of a man in the mirror.’

Excerpt of a log entry from the Suriman Expedition into the jungle.

On quietness and quiet people

February 27, 2017

The strangest thing about quietness is that when you seek it, it’s almost impossible to find it. That I imagine is only natural. As when one strives frantically to find a thing, anything even such a thing as quietness – one can only be filled with anxiety and restlessness.

Being restless or impatient. Being anxious and always frantic produces jerkiness that is in itself a form of noise.

One can of course try to block every layer of noise from within. But as soon as one layer of noise is silenced, another rises up again. Till eventually you become either so exhausted or exasperated – you find yourself overwhelmed by an orchestra of noise.

Only understand this. All this noise is coming from within you – as noise need not just be sound alone – noise is merely a form. When we are stirred up from within. It’s very noisy. So noisy that at times even when we are sorrounded by the tranquility of nature, it seems as though we are standing in Bedok bus interchange during rush hour.

It is only when we make a conscious effort to attune our mind to the sky or to the ocean or to the myriad trees swaying in the wind, or the vastness of the stars, the mind gradually stills and the heart is slowly filled with quietness.

Remember noise need not be sound alone. It is simply a state of mind.

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‘Just because you don’t seem to say much doesn’t mean people don’t notice you. It’s actually the quiet ones who often draw the most attention. Imagine this. You in a whirlwind of sound and all around you everything is in the blur of motion, and there in the middle of this riot is the quiet one, the eye of the storm. The contradiction. The question mark. Yes, of course they all notice you. Look at the way they stiffen ever so slightly when you walk in. Watch how they eyes flutter. Yes, of course they notice you.

You don’t seem to talk very much. And even if you do – it’s simply a curt yes or no. Nothing ever seems to come out – yet there’s an invisible under current of heaviness that seems to prevade the atmosphere – it’s as if you’re there. Yet not there at the same time.

They know you’re planning to make your move. But since you hardly make a sound – no one knows. They may send someone to test the waters – but the leaden weight keeps going down and further down till there’s no more rope and yet it hasn’t reached the bottom yet. As since you’re the quiet sort – nothing ever comes out.’

New sardine curry recipe

February 26, 2017

This recipe for sardine curry is seriously good! Just made it in the field served with bread. If I have any recommendations (this is not the first time I’ve followed this recipe) it is simply this – increase the tumeric powder content by half a teaspoon. Use dried red chilies instead of fresh chilies. As frying fresh green chilies makes it bitter. Mix the salt with the water and add only much later on during the simmering stage. As sprinkling it in the beginning when frying with onions imparts a metallic taste.

Aside from that, it’s a delightfully tasty dish that is nutritious yet easy to whip up.

The sustainable person

February 25, 2017

A man once asked me. Why is it that you do not fear loneliness?

I told this man – when one is fearful and anxious, then the sense of loneliness can only sharpen.

The man remained quiet for a while only to ask later – I don’t understand. Please explain.

I went on to explain this to the man. To be comfortable being alone. One must strive to be calm. Am I right? That is at least what most people say. But why? Let me open the back of the watch so that you can see the movement.

You see it is like this. If you don’t want to be afraid of loneliness. Then it will not do to just chant mindlessly ten or twenty times, I am not afraid to be alone….I am not afraid to be alone. If you do that. You will end up so petrified of loneliness that it will probably drive you mad.

But when one starts by first cultivating a calm mind.

When one is calm. The ego can only remain very small and quiet since it is not constantly feeding and getting larger on one’s fears and anxietixies.

Only when the ego is deprived of all sustenance can one seek to understand and seek oneness with loneliness.

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‘Observe very carefully those around you. Do not judge. Do not even say a thing. Just observe like a silent witness….and you will see it occuring all the time.

People criticise and find fault with others because they don’t want to feel small.

To put it in another way – it’s really just a way to feed their ego by holding one version reality in their heads like a death grip. If that reality doesn’t exist. Then they will manufacture their own version and believe it even if they know it’s not true!

So long as it makes their ego feel better. They’re happy.

But that also means they’re making their ego bigger and meaner as well. And since the ego is always hungry even after eating ten roti prata’s in one sitting – it will always demand more and more. And even if you say ‘No more. You have had enough! Soon the ego will stir fear and anxiety and the whole vicious cycle starts again.

This is what I refer too as the ego trap. When one is in this state of mind – one can only be critical and find fault with others all the time.

But the very moment you decide to ask – what does he really mean? Or when you peer deeper to ask, might he mean by this or that? Then you will find yourself seeking to understand the person who you were once always critical of – then you may even come to see his point. You may not always agree with his point of view. But since you have already started a process to understand why he thinks the way he does – you are no longer just feeding your ego mindlessly with fear burgers and anxiety milkshakes.

This is why if you are passionate about some of your objects of interest. Never just defend your point of view blindly. If for instance you are an environmentalist. Then read more about people who like polythene bags so much that they even take more than they really need for their groceries in NTUC. If you are passionate about a political position – then read more about the people who are on the otherside of the political camp. Get to know them. Don’t just mix with your own kind.

You will find when you do this regularly. You can only be more open minded and most importantly it is you that is really talking and not your ego.’

Not very long ago when I was in the billiards room of the Planter’s club banging balls into holes (real balls and real holes) all by myself. A fellow planter who considers me a despicible poor excuse of a pariah dog masquerading as a human stormed into the room. Naturally, I ignored him. As since I felt compelled to reciprocate his charming assessment by doing the same whenever I saw him – what else was I supposed to do.

The man raised his voice – this cannot go on! I replied without looking up. I agree.

That I could tell disarmed the pariah dog as he took a seat and even had the courtesy to wait before I cracked the last shot. Black Ball side corner pocket.

Thereafter I joined him and asked – what do you propose? The man leaned forward and exclaimed, why do I have to be the one to propose?

That was when I got up strolled to one the French windows and looked out. Then like a whispering rush the words came out – you know it’s going to be a very hard year to turn a decent profit. Even if one of us is going to bankrupt the other, it makes absolutely no sense if both our boats go down.

The man shifted in his chair. I took it as a sign of agreement. Thereafter I suggested that we come up with a schedule as to when each of us would visit the club. In the beginning of every month. I would take the even days. He the odd. On the following month. We would switch.

In the event where there’s a function where each is expected to appear – I will take the furtherest point to the North and stay only there – while he would keep to the South and do the same.
We would take turns to rotate, if the function falls on a even day – I would take North. If it fell on a odd day, he would occupy that position and this way we would hopefully never have to see each other.

Thereafter we both straightened our bush jackets and shook hands like gentlemen pariah dogs.

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‘Imagine two men seated across a table looking at a glass of milk – the first man only sees a half empty glass of milk. The other sees a half filled glass of milk. They’re both right and wrong. But even if these two men disagree on what stands on the table before their very eyes. Being able to realize that the other person has a valid point, even if you happen to disagree with it, is a sure sign of a mature mind.’

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She was just a simple girl from a rice growing village far removed from the bright lights of the city. Like all village girls. She may have entertained distant dreams of becoming a famous singer one day – or maybe all she wanted in life was to appear on TV. It’s very hard to say with village girls. They are all very impressionable and so suggestable.

Eventually she finally made it to the bright lights of the city – she probably got to experience many of the delightful sights and sounds she could only dream about when she was stuck in the mud in that epically going nowhereville of a rice village in Vietnam.

One day the simple village girl met a nice Korean man who was probably not so simple. He persuaded her to pull a prank on someone. She is after all a simple village girl who probably doesn’t even know there is such a country called North Korea. Korea yes, but North and South? That has to be just weathervane talk as she’s just after all a simple girl from a rice growing village.

Neither does she know about VX nerve agent. She was probably motivated to carry out the ‘harmless prank’ for a new handbag.

After all what harm can possibly come from wiping some oily stuff on a persons face? Surely he’s not going to keel over and die like her water bufallo once did one day when that dumb beast stuck his whole tongue into a drum of herbicide – only to die with four legs sticking straight up like an up turned table LOL!

After that capper. The simple village girl returned back to her hotel room and logged into her Facebook account to talk to her imaginary friends. She was arrested shortly.

As the complexity of the case unravelled – the life of the once simple village girl became so complicated that even people following this story seem to be popping Panadol like candy. She is now finds herself embroiled in a diplomatic assassination involving a North Korean dynastic scion using James Bond chemical weapons – along the endless intrigues of geo politics and power struggles in distant lands involving people who she hardly knows. The simple village girl is clueless what the fuss is all about – as for the not so simple nice Korean man. He and his buddies have skipped town.

The trail is cold like a snow man’s tracks…she’s landed with the bag.

The simple village girl is now behind bars and her life is so very complicated that she may even end up facing a murder wrap.

The irony is she finally got to make it to the world stage. Everyone now has logged in YouTube to hear her sing. Everyone has seen her prank, it may be grainy and the lighting is so-so but she’s finally made it to TV! She is now an international star for all the wrong reasons.

It’s very sad. Life is very cruel.

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When people say – you have to do your best to you learn to accept yourself for who you really are. Or should they say, you must learn to be comfortable in your own skin.

What do they really mean?

The only reason why I feel the need to bring this subject up and discuss further on the deeper meaning of these phrases is simply because so many people have written to me to ask – what does it all really mean.

I guess what it means is really just this – if you are really honest about learning from your mistakes to make yourself or those who you work, play and live with wiser. At some point after trying to deflect blame, negotiating away what you could have said or done better. After the last shot has rented out and the battle is well and truly over. In your private moments. You have to take responsibility, look honestly at what was said and done and above all learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes means you practice honesty – this is not easy. Not even for me. As for one to see oneself honestly and truthfully – simply means we all have to come to terms with reality. Reality at times may not be pretty. But if we are honest – then we will strive to come to terms with it and even keep practicing this Dao.

Without honesty there can be no real improvements. Only the god of illusions.

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‘Never take yourself too seriously. As once you fall into that ego trap – it’s not so different from painting yourself into a miserable corner. You’re trapped!

Men. Especially those who come to power via the easy street tend to commit this mistake – they take themselves too seriously for their own good. They even go thru great efforts to broadcast to everyone they’re the best in the world and they can do no wrong. When something goes wrong. They sweep it underneath the carpet and just go right on as if it’s business as usual – soon they become so detached from what is real and false that they end up living in ivory towers and when that happens it can all only go down hill.

You know recently I told everyone that La Niña is going to be a no show. Even put my money squarely on my mouth and spent a lot of money preparing for another round of prolonged drought – and there I was one afternoon. Over lunch. In the company of very serious no nonsense planters. Then it came, first in cautious drips – someone mentioned, ‘it’s raining buckets…I thought. You said it would be another bone dry year! I clucked my tongue and quipped. Even dug plenty of holes around my land along with building dykes to retain water….some had begun sniggering by then and even throwing side long glances my way. That’s was when. I went on to press home the punch line – it’s probably a good idea to climb into one of those holes and take a nap. That was when everyone on the table laughed out loud.

Thereafter we all went about discussing the serious business of what to do this year to maximise yield along with how best to deal with falling prices of commodities.

I guess what I am trying to say is it doesn’t pay to take yourself too seriously. Doing so only makes one look ridiculous and stupid. Above all it impairs progress at some many levels and ultimately only serves to undermine one’s competence and authority.

Being able to laugh at oneself however – is a way of saying, hey I am not perfect. I can make mistakes just like anyone else. Above all it gives others around the permission to do the same without incurring the wrath of making the wrong call….it encourages people to stick their necks out and take calculated risk or well argued grounds.

It’s easy once you cultivate the habit of laughing at yourself – anyone can do it. All you have to do is relax. Let the muscles around your jawline just relax, sink right back into the chair, feel yourself giving in to a wave of humour and the next thing you know everyone is laughing at you…..some may even believe there and then…you’re so full of shit. Others will be thinking…he was so dead serious in the position he took….he even used the words, there is not but’s or maybe…this is it! Followed by more rounds of laughter.

Yes. You certainly look like a fool!

But once the laughter has died down and the serious men of this world begin the task of planning for the next year – at least everyone is convinced. They dealing with someone whose honest and above all genuine to make progress.

You should try it one day – laugh at yourself!’

What humans fear most

February 23, 2017

Today a man who travelled a great distance to search me out. Asked – is there life after death?

I looked at him and smiled for very long time.

He asked again. This time in a quivering voice – is there life after death? Please answer. I really must know.

That was when I shared with this man my philosophy – whether there is life after death is not an important question. As that is a bridge that is somewhere in the future. The really important question is – are you truly alive now?

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‘Man does not fear death. How can he. As death is such an abstraction. If he fears anything at all it is the seemingly simple idea to live. Yes. To be alive is the biggest fear humans have ; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express who we really are. Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of all humans. We have learned to live our lives from cradle to grave by trying to satisfy other people’s demands. We have learned to live by other people’s points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough to be welcomed by others. Man does not fear death. He fears life. He fears to be himself and that is the root of all human suffering.’

Today a man remarked that more Singaporeans working in Silicon Valley should return home and remake Singapore into the next Silicon Valley of Asia.

After saying this – the man looked expectantly at me.

I asked of this man. Tell me if you construct a replica of the Eiffel Tower complete right down to the last nut and bolt in let’s say Sengkang. Do you think for one moment that you will be able to recreate Parisian life in Singapore?

The man turned to me with a scolding look and demanded there and then to know what has my reply got to do with his opinion.

I told him – Nothing……. absolutely nothing.

And that is the whole point of my argument….nothing….absolutely nothing.

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‘To me it is not how many will return back from the knowledge centers thru out the world for them to sensibly remake the economy of Singapore from what it is today. That question can only be intelligently posed if there is already a critical mass to leverage on intellectual capital to produce something meaningful.

For the moment. In the absence of such a strategic precondition.

The cogent question is: why are so few Singaporeans willing to go abroad to learn and broaden their scope of experience in these knowledge Centers located outside Singapore?

Hence for the time being. For me at least – it can really only be the case of more Singaporeans will have to go to these knowledge centers.

Only when more are prepared to go till the tipping of point where one can say…enough. Can we then sensibly pose the question – how can they return back to remake Singapore?

In life one cannot possibly put the cart before the horse and hope to make meaningful progress.’

*If you impersonate a fly on the wall in one of those forums where young people bitch about their bosses and lousy pay in Zhongguancun, China. It wouldn’t take you very long to figure after you’ve winnowed out all the noise – how everyone seems to share the same dream. I wouldn’t exactly call an aspiration. No that word lacks verve – solidarity would be a much more accurate description.

It begins like this. Take night classes to learn English. Watch as many American movies as one can on YouTube to practice how speak with a pleasant Bostonian twang. Save up enough to further a master ‘s degree in the US. Get an internship in a software company where everyone dresses as if they all live in rooms where clothes or overnight pizza goes to die. Get hold of a green card. Or find a firm to act as a sponsor and eventually it ends with this common white picket dream….work in Silicon Valley.

You know it’s scary. As you can tell alot about people from just being a humble fly on the wall.

And even if they don’t manage to get into first base – they try very hard to work in a Chinese software firm where everyone has a pot cactus on their table just like America. They go around in sneakers and hoodies just like they do in America. They even have kistch Americana pantries where everyone seems to make the effort to drink as much coffee as they can without getting the shakes.

They do all these things…..and as a fly on wall one can even feel the weight of this atmosphere. They do all this. Even when everyone knows – they much prefer pur er to cappuccino. Noodles to Subway sandwiches. That’s how powerful dreams and aspirations can be when they are clarified where all the colors pop right out and the lines are razor sharp – it’s mesmerizing – as if they’re all driven by the same indestructible idea – a collective consciousness that is like some vapour in the very air they all breathe. Even if it’s just car smog from the Beijing highway.

Yes, watching them like a fly on a wall can really be so scary. As it is so hard not to believe one is in Silicon Valley even when it’s all taking place in China.’

If increasing tap water by 30% over a two year period spurs home grown technologies in desalination of sea water, water treatment and management. Then I think it’s a very small price to pay. As one day these local firms will build core competence in this field and eventually hire more natives. As this know how can also be exported to other countries that face this problem perennially. Such a business model will also create a solid base of SME’s that can supply parts to local big water treatment firms.

In the long run these SME’s who specialise in this new field of water treatment will also be able to develop home grown products which they can commoditize in the form of intellectual capital and sell it to other water treatment firms abroad as well. Thus creating more jobs and opportunities for natives.

This is because at the sheer speed man is destroying the planet – clean water can only be increasingly challenging for many countries to reliably supply to users.

But if it is just a blanket 30% increase that just goes straight into the piggy bank of the government – then let us be very clear and call a spade a spade like a farmer – it’s just another form of consumption tax. Then it’s no good. As since it’s not plough back into developing water based industries. Then further increases will likely take place in the future. As government being government will always be addicted to the narcotic of tax revenue in one form or another.

Alternatively if the goal is to conserve precious water because water levels in the Linggui dam are at a precariously low level – and that is understandable given the freakish weather we have been experiencing for the last two years – coupled to the fact, in a land scarce city state like Singapore that has very limited water catchment areas.

If it is an issue of only cost.

Then a better alternative would be to treat water like a commodity such as gas or oil where the rate varies according to amount of precipitation and water capacity holding rates along with usage. Go up even fifty percent if it runs that dry – it would hardly matter to the bottom line of most families or even businesses – as since the cumulative cost of water can be sensibly averaged thru the course of one calendar year – that formula would be significantly less disruptive than an arbitrary rise of 30%. With modern computing software that comes with billings – this is hardly problematic to implement in Singapore.

After all it’s reasonable and intelligent to assume not every year can possibly be a bone dry scorching El Niño dry year. Not every year can the Linggui dam be in the danger zone. Neither does the water Singapore gets from Malaysia require extensive treatment like in Denmark where most of the water are from underground catchment areas that requires advanced treatment before it can be consumed straight from the tap.

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‘What do I know? I am just a farmer. But I do know this. Price hikes especially in these stressful times. When so many people are rightly anxious about their future and tightening their belts to the very last notch must make sense.

If for any reason the dots don’t connect to make sense – then even simpletons like even straw hat wearing farmers like myself will begin to scratch their head and wonder what’s happening here?

It has to make sense. Otherwise it’s no good.’

Q: Should government create an entrepreneurial class in Singapore?

A: What makes you think that they have not be trying to do exactly that? I read somewhere $40b has been spent in the last 20 years – despite this Singapore has still not managed to produce the innovation and creativity spins off’s of enterprises.

So they have tried, but since many of the horses they backed in the past didn’t manage to make it anywhere near the pole positions. I think it’s fair to say they have failed.

Q: Some people say the government is bad at earmarking business opportunities and should no longer back any more horses. What do you think?

A: It is very easy with the benefit of hindsight to say what Govt should or should not have done today – but that is not a very constructive approach. What you have to understand is many of the sectors the government once put their chips on really looked like high growth sectors at that time. Semi conductors, disk drives, life sciences – they all looked very promising back in the mid nineties.

Life sciences especially held out the exceptional hope as the new frontier in the business the environment back then – if you want proof all you have to do is trace out all the stocks dabbling with grow livers and noses in Petri dishes in both the NYSE and Nasdaq to verify how much confidence investors believed in that business model.

So I don’t blame the government per se for these failures – as many of these sectors where they once placed most of their chips really took unexpected bad turns which eventually led to their lack lustre performance.

The key word here is unexpected or unforseesble.

Like I said earlier it’s easy today to pin the blame on figures like Philip Yeo. But where were these critics then?

If I have any criticism it is this – it is conceivable government may now be shit scared of taking a higher equity of the whole idea of creating an enterpreneurial class in Singapore. They’re like those scady cats in the control room of NASA during the space race with the soviets during the 60’s when every rocket launch in the Cape exploded in the launch pad. While the soviets seem to be successfully launching bigger and bigger payloads into space – so I can well understand their reservations to play an proactive role these days in business. But I think they should just brush the dust off, get up and try again. Only this time conduct a honest review of what actually went wrong and glean valuable lessons from that tragic episode so that they can break out from that bad habit of reinforcing failure.

Q: What reasons can you give to argue the case government should continue to grow an entrepreneurial class in Singapore despite their past history of failures?

A: You speak as if doing nothing is a credible alternative – it is not. Not to me Kompf. As to do nothing is to condone stasis and fossilization of so many SME’s who cannot seem to discover the imagination to prosper by climbing the value chain. That’s OK if Singapore happens to be a hermetically sealed state like North Korea.

You think the Chinese are not taking a big equity in the development of their SME’s as a strategic economic asset? Do you really believe the Chinese planners trust the MNC’s that much that they will even consider relying on them alone as the primary engine to drive sustainable economic growth?

Q: Some can well argue. Quite sensibly I might add. It makes far more sense to leave it all to the free market to winnow the losers from the winners and all that government should do is regulate by keeping the field level? What’s your take on an non interventionist policy towards domestic businesses?

A: You know Kompf. The Japanese can manufacture everything under the sun – you name it, there’s probably a factory in or outside Japan that’s putting it together. Everything. Honda even rolled out an executive jet recently. Kawasaki heavy industries can manufacture everything from high speed bullet trains to military tanks.

Everything under the sun Kompf. Except farming equipment – all their farming hardware look as if they’re from Toy r us! They’re so small and cute and useless that they even look like those fifty cent rides for kids you see from time to time in malls – you want to know why Kompf.

Because only one sector in Japan is left untouched by every successive government since the Meiji era. Farming. By sheer force of numerical superiority. Farmers is Japan wield tremendous political influence, through the national network of local farm co-operatives called Japan Agriculture (JA). Farmers are so strong that they even own the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the agriculture ministry – the farming lobbyist is the reason why the tariff on rice on the date this blog entry is published stands at 779.2%, on butter it 360%, while sugar attracts a 328% levy. Let’s not even talk about peaches, grapes, oranges and all other fruits in Japan. Because you literally have to be a millionaire to be fruit lover. I am not kidding you – if you go to any Japanese household in Singapore. You will find they’re eating fruits from NTUC 24/7. As it’s so expensive to do the same in Japan.

But that is not the worst aspect of government absence in the agriculture in Japan. As the knock on effect is since the average farm is only three hectares! That also means all farms in Japan are really only for hobbyist – there is no such thing as economy of scale in farming. Not in Japan at least. All you have is old men and women who are all weekend farmers.

That’s what happens when government doesn’t come into a sector with a strong guiding hand, the assets that make up the sector will begin not only resemble a stunted bonsai plant, it will fossilize into hard points – the sector will begin to grow pear shaped. That is why Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda et al are all taken to the proverbial Cleaners by the likes of John Deere and catepillar. Those mothers manufacture serious farming hardware – they’re all over above three thousand horse power and some of them are so big and wonderful they even come with satellite GPS navigation – that again is a function of how Government has always featured prominently in the farming sector in the US.

But only in Japan do you have three hectare farms. You know how small that is Kompf – that’s the size of my dog house. Can you imagine three hectares!

Q: In what way do you think the LDP should intervene to nurture the farming industry in Japan?

A: That’s my point Kompf. Abe has taken on the formidable farming Lobbyist by entering the TPP.

Letting in cheap foreign rice is what the TPP will do – but you have to understand in Japan rice is not just rice – as feasting on rice is really a spiritual and transcendental experience to the average Japanese.

If you know Japanese expatriates working in Singapore like I do as I am a Kendo instructor – you will find they love to dine in Little India. As that is the only place where there seems to be free flow of rice.

Q: But then again many can argue the case what has happened to the quirky Japanese sector has more to do with government interventionist policies that are responsible for creating all these price artificialities for rice, beef, butter, fruits etc etc. Had their government left it all to the free market – then all these artificialities would logically find equilibrium?

A: Yes, that was what I thought as well – but in the case of Japan. It is quite the reverse and even contradictory. All these price artificialities have nothing whatsoever to do with goverment interference – it is the result of government unwillingness to do anything whatsoever for the last 200 years to reform the farming sector. Some of these protectionist levies and tariffs are so old they go all the way back to the Meiji era.

However where MITI has been very proactive and even successful is in growing heavy industries and automobile sector in Japan – the auto industry in Japan is a very good example.

One reason why Japanese car manufacturers are world class and ahead of the learning curve in auto manufacturing is primarily because their government makes it so costly for the average car owners to hold on his car after three years.

Cars lose their value so fast in Japan that there are no old cars on their roads. It’s like snakes in Norway. The bloody thing doesn’t exist!

Of course their government will continue to insist on the need to maintain these rigorous and costly inspection standards when a car turns 3 years old, then every 2 years until the car turns 11, then every year on the pretense that it’s because Japanese roads are so lousy that they can’t afford to have old cars breaking down and holding back traffic on their decrepit roads.

But everyone with an IQ of five above idiot knows only too well – the primary reason for this stringent and costly inspection service after three years is primarily to light a bon fire under the ass of the Japanese auto industry to force them to innovate – by doing so. You can very well say the average car consumer is indirectly subsidising research and development for the Japanese auto industry.

Since the average car owner in Japan rarely ever keeps his car beyond three years – this is a very clever way by MITI to revivify the Japanese auto industry and their vendors to come up with new models in three year cycles as well.

Q: How does this benefit their SME’s?

A: That’s a question that requires may be ten pages to elaborate.

Q: Please summarize and share. The Guilds would be interested to know.

A: An auto manufacturer in Japan or for that matter any where else in this world makes absolutely nothing – that is the ultimate paradox of the auto industry. The only people who used to design and make everything in one monstrous building that goes under under the hood of a car were the Soviets during the 60’s. That’s old hat technology.

All car manufacturers really do these days is design, quality inspect, assemble and get pretty girls with mini skirts to stand next to their new roll outs every three years – the real engine that powers the auto industry is 100% dependent on their retinue of SME’s who supply the countless parts and componentry that goes to make up a car – and that makes a lot of sense. As not only are many of these SME’s who supply parts and components specialist in their respective fields – but in some cases they even own the proprietory technology.

I give you an example. Step into any car today. And if you look closely at the dashboard – you find the words SRS airbag – “SRS” is the acronym for supplemental restraint system. So if you’re sitting in a Toyota, Honda, Audi, BMW and at least twenty other cars – it’s probably designed and made by this company called Takata.

I wouldn’t call Takata a SME any longer. They may have started off as one when airbag technology was still new – because not only do they supply to just the Japanese auto carmakers. But they also sell airbags to most car manufacturers around the world.

But what allows them to do this is their skill of arms in airbag technology is so advanced that not only do they own all the patents for this technology but they also happen to own the patents for the machines to make airbags. They also own the IP for the crash test simulation software that auto manufacturers use to design how big or long their car windows can be along with probably a thousand other things I don’t know about that goes into manufacturing a functional airbag.

The reason why I have brought up Takata specifically is because this is how SME’s actually move up the value chain – they don’t just build to blueprint. I don’t doubt they may all have started off at that point. But as they proceed along this business model – at some point they will have to develop their own proprietary technologies to test, manufacture and in some cases even act as consultants to advise car manufacturers how to best design their cabins and dashboard so that if the airbag activates you don’t get a stainless steel Buddha or crucifix mounted on the dashboard impaling into your head – what many people don’t seem to fully understand is this is how all SME’s move up from just being Low cost Centers to higher value added – this is also something the Japanese copied from the Germans many years ago.

If you drive around Germany. You will not find big industrial heartlands like Detroit. Or Jurong. Germany is very perculiar. As when we talk about innovation and creativity it is not concerntrated in only cities like Stuggart that manufactures Mercedes Benz or even BMW based in Munich. Instead you will find very specialised SME’s in unheard of towns that even lonely planet doesn’t write about. You’re just cycling around Germany. You’re passing thru a village. You past by plenty of farms and cows. Suddenly you see a factory that in all probability, neither you or I have every heard of before. Now Kompf. What I’ve just described is very normal to you. But trust me. It’s very surreal to me. As most of these firms are so small that they are usually family owned and managed – they probably also drive the whole local economy of the village as well. But most importantly they don’t only make whole complete things – instead they make things that go into recognizable things like aeroplanes, power turbines, engines, switch boards etc etc. But their real strength lies in their skill of arms to develop new solutions to fit into complete systems – often they own the IP not only for the things they manufacture. But they have been able to consistently do one more thing that no SME in Singapore can yet do – they have developed their own proprietary based manufacturing systems that they sell to the rest of the world. To put it another way. They don’t just supply. They design and make the machines to make those things they once supplied – that is why Germany is the only country with SME’s in the world that doesn’t fear the China man copying and selling the stuff he used to supply at one tenth of the price in Pasar malam (flea markets) – infact the German is very happy to continue to supply machinery to the biggest copy cat in the world. China. When the German is reading news articles about how Kawasaki heavy industries is planning to sue the shit out of China Railway for copying their drive trains – he is shouts out wunderbar. As that means the Chinese will be buying more machines from him.