Half-year thanks

Towards the end of last year, I restarted doing something I had stopped doing for a long time – sending out gratitude notes, emails and SMSes to folks who had touched my life in 2013.

As I sit here thinking about how fast the year has passed, I’m thankful for three choices I made last year.

1. I went on stage for the first time on the 4th of June at Comedy Masala. Since I’ve started performing, I’ve had the chance to become part of an awesome family of folks working on their craft.

2. I joined LifeOpp.

3. I found a great group of folks and started playing football more regularly with them.

Musing about Life

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Standup Comedy

I started watching standup comedy live in Singapore in earnest around the time after Demo Asia 2012.

From the start of my experience as an audience, I wanted to go up to perform. It took me about one year before I had the courage, albeit dutch courage, to email Umar for a spot on Masala.

Two key moments led to me taking the plunge:

1. My trip to San Francisco. There was something about watching comedy in a foreign city that made me really want to perform in Singapore.

2. Googling my heroes of the local scene Jinx, Fuzz and Rishi. I saw clips of them performing when they first started out and realised how much growth they had experienced over the years. I had to stop giving myself the excuse, “when I’m good I’ll go up”.

None of us are instantly good at what we do, and it is the constant act of doing that will make us better.

I went up onto the Comedy Masala stage on the 4th of June 2013. It has been a crazy crazy journey and every moment of killing and dying on stage has been a learning experience and to be savoured.

do or do not there is no try

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Zen Pencils comic ‘The Man in the Arena’.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Zen Pencils’ Ira Glass ‘Advice for Beginners’.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Musing about Life
On Singapore

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A Better Way To Ask (Part 2)


However, there are two other possible ways the social graph can be used to help an individual get information. The first way requires search – a search engine understands the social graph of a site like Facebook and helps us find the best person to ask the question to. This way is similar to how Google understood the web with structural analysis and PageRank – websites and people are the nodes; profiles are similar to content on the page; relationships and links are the edges.

This way of trying to use the social graph prevents us from seeing that the nodes of a social graph can be interacted with – after all, these nodes represent people. The second way I would suggest the social graph can be used does not need an algorithm to try to figure out who is the best person to ask a question because the nodes in the social graph already know that answer. So why not just ask the nodes?

The second way would be to just ask the people, who you are connected to, in the social graph (i.e. your ‘friends’) most likely to be able to answer your question. This question is the message. Your friends might not know the answer to that question but they probably might know a few people who do. What is needed in this second way is a mechanism to propagate that message easily through the social graph; each node redirecting a question to a few other nodes who might know the answer. The mechanism is able to keep track of the chains forming and finally send the answers back to the originating user and whichever other users along the chain interested in the answer.

I would probably not be too presumptuous to say that this way of using the social graph is already being done by most of us, albeit there isn’t some Web 2.0 site helping us do it. We simply do it by forwarding emails, smsing or calling friends who might know the answer to the query of another friend, or passing the contacts of people who might be able to help to a friend.

Aardvark’s system of message propagation is based primarily on first passing the message to a central location which is then responsible for the algorithmic determination of who will be the next to receive the question. Aardvark as a system facilitates the transmission of messages as well as the intelligent routing of these messages.

* Post from 2009/07/08, please meet Jelly

Tangled Web We Weave


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Helping others take photo

Last weekend, there were a bunch of kids (four guys) celebrating the birthday of one of their friends (one girl) at the garden below our HDB block. They had arranged a couple of candles to spell the name of the gal whose birthday they were celebrating with a heart below the name.

Some idiot called the firemen and police on them.

1. These young kids were considerate enough to put the candles in holders. No spilling of wax on the pavement.

2. They were bloody quiet for a birthday celebration.

Anyway, these really sweet kids were taking turns being the photographer. Halfway through our stakeout of their celebration, my gf looked at me and said, “you should go down and volunteer to take photos for them so they can all be in the picture at the same time.”

So I changed into my jeans and ran down to volunteer to be their photographer.

It is little things like this that I know I want to spend the rest of my life with this lady.

On Singapore

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Totally arbitrary number to start.

I’m already down to $500 on the second day.

On Singapore

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150 on the red dot

5 dollar challenge:

According to the Department of Statistics, 105,000 families in Singapore are earning on average $1,500 or less per month. This means that life is a daily struggle for some 387,000 Singapore citizens and permanent residents. After paying utilities, schooling, housing rental or loan instalments and medicals, they are left with about $5 a day for food and transport per family member. How do they do it? Can they? How does it feel to be their shoes? Whatever you think or feel, suspend your disbelief or judgement and find out
for yourself!

So it is about $150 a month. Outperforming Dr Vivian Balakrishnan’s ‘290 a month in Singapore‘.

On Singapore

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The Future of Organizations

In NUS, while taking business courses, one of the buzz phrases was “Flat organization“. It was like a magic phrase, that if uttered during boardroom meetings will transform any organisation.

Recently, I began to think that what we really need are networked organisations after hearing Meng share about matchmaking within an organisation: go to Department A, find someone interesting and then introduce said person to another interesting person in Department B.

Ignore the phrase ‘networked organization’ for a moment; I don’t even know what a networked organization is supposed to be like. But it is interesting how organizations are finding different ways to run.

1. Valve’s Handbook for new employees.

2. Somali Pirate Business

3. Buffer Open Salaries.

* This post sat in my drafts until I learned of Holacracy from the article announcing “Zappos Is Getting Rid Of All Titles And Managers“.

Tangled Web We Weave

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You’re only like that because

I might answer them as Themistocles answered the Seriphian who was abusing him and saying that he was famous, not for his own merits but because he was an Athenian: ‘If you had been a native of my country or I of yours, neither of us would have been famous.’ And to those who are not rich and are impatient of old age, the same reply may be made; for to the good poor man old age cannot be a light burden, nor can a bad rich man ever have peace with himself.

from “The Republic


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Tech In Asia acquires SGE

It has been six years since I started being part of the SGE family when it was just a side project started by Gwen and Bernard.

Two years ago, when Terence joined us as our first full time employee, Gwen and I had already started working on changing SGE from a side project into a company.

Terence's second day at the office.

Now it is time to say farewell to a project that has been a big part of my life as Tech In Asia has acquired SGE.

I won’t be joining Gwen and Terence as they move over to work for TIA.

I wonder if TIA knows how lucky they are to get this team that’s a little bit of Wonder Woman and Clark Kent.

Good beginnings

So much more to write about the experiences over these six years. As I take time to remember the stories, and write them, going to start by remembering the different looks of SGE. I remember the first redesign I did, sharing the new look with Bernard in a bar at Clarke Quay. I think Daniel from Young Upstarts was also there.

the site when I joined:




Entrepreneurship & Startups in Singapore and Southeast Asia : SGE

SGE - The Business of Technology & Entrepreneurship in Singapore and Asia_SGE_20130905-150412

Side note:

The first article I wrote was “Overused Buzzword: Community

Looking back, it is fitting that the first article for SGE was about community as it has been the folks I interact with via my work on SGE that has been sustaining me throughout the years.

We hear a lot about how in this phase of the Internet we call Web 2.0 that Community is very important. I believe that the overusing of this buzzword ‘Community’ is very dangerous because it prevents entrepreneurs and companies from thinking further about the actual people who comprise the entity we call a Community. The buzzword prevents us from seeing that communities are not all the same and that there are different groups of people within a particular community. Growing a community isn’t just about attracting lots of people, setting up a forum, allowing them to comment and add friends.

Beyond knowing that Community is important, we need to understand who is the Community and learn how a company can engage this people in the Community.

There are four main groups in any community that come together on a website. In decreasing order of size, they are:

1. Users of the site.
2. Members of the site.
3. Participants on the site.
4. Contributors to the site.

The last group, the contributors could also be called the 1 Percenters because as studies of online communities have shown, usually only 1 percent of the members of a site actively contribute any form of content – this could be by starting a new discussion thread, a new group or answering the questions of other members.

Slightly more people (around 10%) participate in the site. They do this by adding comments, votes and ratings to the content created by the 1 Percenters. It should be noted that these people (i.e. participants and contributors) provide 100% of the utility for any Community.

One of the long term aims of any community organizer when engaging the community should be to move people from being users to members, members to participants and participants to contributors. Each stage down the list increases the involvement and the investment in time, energy and emotions of the individual.

Participating and contributing content can be seen as a hobby for these individuals as they often do it without being paid. Any community organizer should understand the motivations of the people participating and contributing. They could be doing it for altruistic reasons, wanting to contribute to the common good in terms of knowledge. They could be doing it for status as the community has a mechanism for ranking users based on their participation and contributions. They could be doing it because they find the information relevant to themselves and use the site to organize the information they have found.

There are two key groups in any community – Filters and Facilitators (these two terms are part of a group of four coined by Ben Mcconnell and Jackie Huba of ‘Church Of The Customer‘). The Filters are those that collect, select and package information for other people to consume. The Facilitators are those that create communities by encouraging conversation between users, answering questions, helping new users get assimilated into the community and ensuring that users connect in a way that conforms to the community’s standard and practices – they are the support group for a site, company, product or brand.

To engage the community that is on your site or those that have risen online with your company, brand or product as the focal point, it is important to help the Filters and Facilitators engage in their hobby. For Filters, information and the tools to organize the information are the two most important aspects you can help them with. The company, brand manager and product manager should identify these Filters and provide them additional information that are usually inaccessible to them. Allow them access so that they can repackage this information for other users who will most likely be interested in the information chosen by similar users.

Another way to engage such Filters is to discover the tools they find useful when processing information relevant to the site, company, brand or product and provide or enhance those tools. For example, Filters may use a disparate set of tools like del.icio.us or Google Bookmarks to keep track of the information they have found on other websites. Allowing these Filters to easily bring all these external information into your site is one form of engagement.

Facilitators are like volunteer managers. They help watch out for new users and deal with trolls. For your own site, the best tool that can be given to them is to establish at the beginning of the site a set of standards and practices that guide how users can connect and communicate with each other. Working with the Facilitators to nurture a culture for the community is an important step in engaging the community. Trusting the culture that is established is the next step – getting too involved by trying to censor or lay down the law could be detrimental to the efforts to engage the community and subsequently negatively affect how people feel about the site, company, brand or product.

Facilitators tend to be the people that help answer questions of other users. While you can be directly involved in constantly answering the questions from the community that has been built on your site and around your company, brand or product (and you should!), also engage the community by providing these Facilitators the information that can better help them answer questions. You already have a group of people who want to help so why not empower them! These Facilitators also tend to start discussions about topics they are passionate about. Engaging them means listening to them and learning about how they feel and think about your site, company, brand or product – the gems that could be found just by listening might just save your site, company, brand or product. If you think women want someone who listens, customers want that even more. Remember though, it is listen. Not hear. It is to converse. Not talk.

Everything in this post is not meant to be an exhaustive list of what you need to think about when thinking of the buzzword ‘Community’. Hopefully, it has served its purpose to spark further thinking about what ‘Community’ and ‘engaging Community’ actually means. There are lots of resources online and books you can read to further enhance your understanding of this area – the book ‘Citizen Marketers‘ and the blog by Ben Mcconnell and Jackie Huba are good places to start.
Remember, Community is important. More important though is the people in the community and the things the community says and does.

Musing about Life

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City Harvest & The Crossover project

I was there in the beginning. One of those who supported (then) Pastor Sun’s endeavours and also contributed to the building fund. Though I’ve stopped attending church, I remember my time at City Harvest with fondness.

Even now, as a practical atheist, I’m following this case with particular sadness.

Year ago, when my best friend shared with me his discomfort about the crossover project, I fiercely opposed his views and was upset with the naysayers. I remember sharing two points about the naysayers:

1. The ‘older’ and more ‘traditional’ Christians are more concern about The Crossover project failing than the supposed ‘right’ way of reaching out to non-believers.

2. The naysayers want the project to fail because they want to be able to indulge in smug self-righteousness, confident in the comfortable old ways and be able to say, ‘told you so’.

Here is the thing… if you are a Christian, then you must in some way believe in the power of prayer and spiritual warfare.

I’ve always felt that the older and more traditional Christians opposed The Crossover project with the wrong perspective.

Wrong perspective:

“God, please let Pastor Kong see the error of his ways and stop the crossover project before more are led astray.”

A more useful perspective:

“God, Kong and his church is trying something new to win souls for you. Please guide and protect him and the church as they find their way.”

From my interactions with the naysayers, it was always more of the former, not enough of the latter. And if you believe in the power of prayer and spiritual warfare and the devil wanting to corrupt all that is good, then, the current state of affairs isn’t that surprising. To me, the older and more traditional Christians wanted this to happen.

Pastor Kong and his team are still responsible for their actions. But, like I said, if you believe in spiritual warfare, the devil, and the power of prayer, then those Christians who currently delight in this failure and had hoped for it, well, gave the evil one more power to nudge matters along in the spiritual plane.

Ignore This


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Rules of using your Portable Time Spanning Device

These are the rules of using your Portable Time Spanning Device.

1. You can only travel back in time.

2. You can only travel to each year once.

3. While in the past, if you do anything that creates a paradox, the trip (and thus the action) will be nullified, and you will be snapped back to the point in time you previously jumped from. You can never jump to that year again.


Your mother is murdered. You traveled back in time to the point of the murder to prevent the murder. That’s a paradox. Your trip back in time will be nullified.

4. You cannot take any actions that will affect your memories.


Apple shares were worth $10 in 2000. If you had bought shares then with all your savings, you would be a millionaire now. You travel back in time to tell your younger self to set up a trading account with Kim Eng and buy shares in Apple.

This is not allowed since the present you that traveled back in time did not remember setting up a Kim Eng trading account or buying any shares. You cannot rewrite your memory. The trip will be nullified and you will be snapped back. You can never jump to that year again.

5. Each time you jump back into the past, you will only be able to stay there for 24 hours. After 24 hours, you will be snapped back to the point you jumped from.

6. The Portable Time Spanning Device must be on you when the 24 hours time limit is up. If it is not on you, you will be stranded in the past.

6.1. If you do not exist in this past (i.e. you are not born yet), you will be allowed to continue living without ageing or illness. However, if you commit any action that affects your memories, then you will cease to exist.

6.2. If you are stuck in the past where you have already been born, you will instantly cease to exist.

6.3. While stuck in the past (and without violation of rule 6.2), you will be able to live without ageing or illness until the moment you are conceived (based on the scientific definition). At the moment of your conception in the timeline, you will cease to exist.


Why does your Portable Time Spanning Device work like this?

Because “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey-stuff”.


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ITV Divided

ITV Divided is an intriguing British game show that seems to bring out the worse in the participants at the end of the game.

This episode does give one some hope.

Are there other games like this?

I know of Golden Balls:

Someone has uploaded a fair number of episodes for the show Divided.

Can these type of games be brought online?



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Why doesn’t anyone love me?

When you’re young:

Why doesn’t anyone love me?
Why doesn’t everyone love me?
Why does that person (whom I desire) not love me (when I’m so awesome and deserve that love)?

When you’re older:

Thank the heavens there is someone who loves me (despite all my flaws).

Musing about Life

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Aaron Swartz .

Aaron Swartz is dead.

While one will never be able to know the actual reasons for the suicide, his family has attributed it to the U.S. Attorney’s case against him.

Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

As a male in Singapore, I had to spend 2.5 years of my life doing my National Service. Women in Singapore generally are either indifferent towards the complains from the males about it or worse they mock us for not being man enough to suck it up and just do it. Empathy and Sympathy are two things you can never get from Singaporean women when it comes to National Service.

Most of us Singaporean males, taking into account most practical considerations, have no choice in this matter.

Reflecting on my time doing National Service and its impact made me realize how much power the State has over us and how little say we have at the start of our lives, lives we didn’t even choose to start. At the point of birth, we are entered into a social contract with a society and government based on the decisions of our parents.

There was a period of time I contemplated suicide as the only way to escape this contract, a contract that, unsurprisingly, increasingly seems to be in existence for the benefits of only those with power and wealth.

I’ve since had reasons not to have suicide as the number one option, and decided that in consideration of existing parameters the resulting trade-off from optimising personal utility with suicide against the diminished utility of others is a price I will not pay.

Yet, reading about Aaron’s death, his past writings, and the circumstances surrounding the death, I’m reminded again about the sometimes apparent hopelessness and meaninglessness of our existence.

Musing about Life


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290 on the Little Red Dot.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan’s reply to PAP MP Dr Lily Neo when she asked Dr Vivian to increase the monthly allowance of Public Assistance (PA) recipients from $290 to $320 monthly.

“How much do you want? Do you want three meals a day at a hawker center, food court, or restaurant?”

I can’t believe I shared about the project I have been experimenting with on-off with those folks.


1. The public assistance amount has been increased.
2. Dr Vivian acknowledges the statement he made was wrong.

Live != Survive.

On Singapore

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2.4. The President – Internal External Security

2.4: The President – Internal External Security

Peter slumped back onto his chair after the door shut behind the departing Tom. He loved Melissa and wanted her to be his official Partner. Since Elites were allowed to have non-State sanctioned children, it was decided by Peter’s Nation that Elites were not allowed to be part of the Partner Group Therapy program in the event that accidents occurred and one of the female Partners became pregnant. This was to avoid complications in matters of social and financial inheritance should a female Elite decide to keep the accidental baby.

If Melissa was to be Partnered with Como, it would almost certainly be the end of any informal relationship Peter had with her.

“David,” Melissa announced. Peter smiled weakly at her. He wondered if the Director had briefed her on the next step in her life.

David was the Director of the Internal External Security Department. Although Peter had been Vice President, Peter had minimal interaction with the third most powerful man in the Nation.

“Hello Mr President, ” David greeted Peter.

“David, take a seat.”

“If you don’t mind, I would rather continue standing. Could you please ask Melissa to leave.”

Before Peter could raise any objections with the request, Melissa left the room.

“Let’s begin Mr President. Most things about the IES you already know from your duties as the Vice President. Today’s briefing is to share with you the one thing you do not know. This information is made known only to four people. The current President, the Prime Minister, Julian Septius Wong and Christian Octavius Lim.”

“How about previous Presidents?”

“None of the previous Presidents are alive.”

Peter stood up and turned to face the window. Peter wasn’t sure if David’s last statement was a threat, warning or admission that David knew about Peter’s involvement in the murder of the last President.

“After the Universal Tracking System was implemented, we were able to monitor all the vital biological details of every Trackable in the world. During the roll-out phase, we started observing anomalies in the system. Andrew who was still alive theorized that the radiation from the attacks of June 26th had created a condition where some human babies who were born in the aftermath of June 26th was mutated in significant ways.”

Peter turned to face David.

“What does this mutation mean?”


“What sort?”

“Different for different folks.”

“Do you know the powers for every mutated individual.”

“No. Only the more noteworthy ones.”

“Am I one of them,” Peter asked.

David smiled. Most Presidents never ask that question.

“Yes, you are.”

“I was born before the attacks occurred,” Peter said.

David smiled. Peter was paying attention.

“Yes, you were. Andrew noticed from the data that humans who were within a certain age near the attacks also were affected. Radiation works in really mysterious ways. I believe you were nine when you were in San Francisco on June 26th.”

“What are my powers?”

“Power. You just have one.”

“What is it?”

“You have the ability to cause physiological and neurological change in other humans which will impact their ability to execute desired actions.”

“Which means?”

“You have the ability to increase or decrease the confidence of other individuals thus impacting their physical and mental performances.”

“Please explain it like I am an idiot,” Peter asked. David’s information would have fazed most individuals but Peter took it with the equanimity of a man who always knew he was special without knowing what made him special.

“Let me give you an example. The first tennis competition you won. You were playing against the then National Champion. And you won. How did you think you did it?”

“You tell me.”

“I think you intuitively knew of your ability. You made him believe he could never beat you. You made him lose all confidence in himself, in his training, in his abilities. He couldn’t play the right tennis strokes to beat you because he didn’t have the confidence to. His body reacted accordingly to the vanishing confidence.”

“So this ability can be directed.”

“Yes, it can. But normally, from what we have understood, subconsciously you emanate an aura outwards which just reduces the confidence of the people around you.”

“Are the effects persistent or localized to my presence.”

David started laughing.

“What’s so funny.”

“I’m sorry Mr President, ” David apologized, “if I may have a little indulgence, I would like to compliment you on your intelligence. No President has ever asked me such a question.”

“What’s the answer?”

“From what we have seen, it is localized though there are residual effects which dissipate only after a fairly significant amount of time and distance.”

“You mentioned that I can decrease and increase confidence.”

“Yes, ” David confirmed Peter’s statement.

Peter sat down and leaned forward, his elbows resting on the table. He covered his face with his hands. If what David said was true, that would explain why he could never effectively motivate a team of people. Peter had always seen himself as a possible who could be a winner, but never the leader.

“David,” Peter said, looking up, “Tell me how I can train myself to control my ability. To be able to direct it and to increase confidence.”

“One of my analysts will contact you.”

“David, you mentioned only four other Elites who know about humans with Powers. What about these analysts? Who are they.”

“There are only five Analysts. All of them are Nurtured. They do not have any emotional ties with anyone besides me. They are loyal to me.”

“And who are you loyal to,” Peter asked.

“No one. I’m loyal to an idea.”

“Which is?”

“Never to let June 26th happen again. Not even something close to it.”

“Does my power affect everyone?”

“No. It does not. For example, it does not affect me or Tom, your Director of the CI Ministry.”

“Why not?”

“Some humans have inhibitors. Another manifestation of the mutation occurring within the human race.”

“What then is your Power?”

“I have none save for the inhibiting mutation.”

“As President, do I have the full list of all humans with Powers.”

“No,” David replied, “there is no such list. Only what my Analysts and me can remember.”

“So will you tell me about all the humans with Powers.”

“No,” David replied firmly. David knew he was treading on dangerous territory here. None of the previous Presidents took kindly to David’s insistence that the knowledge of all the humans with Powers be kept from the them.

“I understand,” Peter said.

David allowed himself to reveal his pleasant surprise.

“But one last question for now, does John have any Powers,” Peter asked.

“Yes, he does. Which is why he has been so valuable to you.”

“What are John’s powers,” Peter asked.

“He has the ability to cause physiological and neurological change in other humans which will impact their ability to attribute failure or blame to him.”

“Basically, he is always blameless,” Peter wryly added.

“Yes,” David chuckled, “Basically if you grew up with him, he gets all the icecream and mother will always scold you for breaking the vase.”

David started walking towards the door.

“Wait,” Peter instructed, “actually, there is one more individual I would like to know about.”

Ignore This

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Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Had to memorize this speech about two decades ago. Never forgot the first line. Would always recognise the others.

Ignore This

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Balloting for a HDB Flat 1 – First Timer Applicant May Not Mean What You Think It Means

From HDB’s ‘Privilege for First Timers‘:

“As First-timer applicants generally have more urgent housing needs than second timers. HDB safeguards at least 85% of the flats available for public application for them.”

Define: Applicant

A person who makes a formal application for something, typically a job.

Recently, applied to ballot for a queue number. Did a little research and it seems that there is a fair amount of misconception because of the phrase ‘first timer applicant’.

What some folks think ‘first timer applicant’ means: Someone who is applying to ballot for a queue number for the first time.

What a first timer applicant actually is.

From HDB’s “Eligibility to buy new HDB flat”:

You and the essential family members listed in the application for purchase of the flat must not:

  • Be the owners of a flat bought direct from HDB, a DBSS flat or an Executive Condominium bought from the developer
  • Have sold a flat bought direct from HDB, a DBSS flat or an Executive Condominium bought from the developer
  • Have received the CPF Housing Grant for the purchase of an HDB resale flat
  • Have enjoyed other forms of housing subsidy (for example, enjoyed benefits under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, privatisation of HUDC estate etc)

The constant use of the phrase ‘First Timer’ and word ‘applicants’ together seems a little disingenuous.


From HDB’s ‘Privilege for First Timers’:

(ii) Higher Chances in the Ballot
First-timer applicants are given 2 chances in the shortlisting of their applications, as compared to a Second-timer applicant, who will get one chance. In addition, First-timer applicants applying under the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS) will receive 2 more chances as compared to other First-timer applicants, i.e. total of 4 chances. Please see illustration below:

What ‘First timer applicants’ really are: Folks who have never been owners of a HDB flat (simplification. For more detailed criteria, refer above).

It really should be ‘applicants, who are potentially first time owners of a HDB flat, of the ballot exercise’. But damn long to keep typing same thing over and over ago, so the, to me crucial, word ‘owner’ is removed.

I cannot possibly know the actual reason why HDB chooses to use such phrasing, it probably isn’t for any nefarious reasons, but at least within my own emotional experience, I know its impact.

We (the gf and me) had assumed that after finally deciding to move forward in our relationship and find a place to settle down properly, applying for the ballot to get a queue number for the first time, we would stand a good chance to get a good number. We didn’t.

On a perfectly rational level, it makes sense. There are a lot of fellow Singaporeans with similar circumstances and similar needs, and with a random draw, there are bound to be folks who get lousy queue numbers. That’s Probability 101 for you.

The reason why the disappointment was so great was because the expectations were unrealistically high. And I attribute it to our naive misconceived understanding of the word ‘First Timer applicants’. Even after reading the criteria of what a ‘First Timer applicant’ is, our expectations weren’t tempered. After all, we were applying for the first time. Right? Right?

I’m putting the next part more for ourselves but i hope others who are also disappointed will find some comfort too.

We may not have gotten a chance to get a physical place to stay, but take heart that we have at least made a decision to step forward in our lives. The flat is just a place to stay. It isn’t home.

Home is where I know you will be. Home is where you know I will be. Where we both take refuge and comfort in each other’s arms.

And we will, no, we must never, let the capricious nature of Luck dampen our hope for the future we want to build together.

On Singapore


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Lessons learned about running a company after two years

It has been two years since I decided to start a company with a friend. Along the way, we had some successes but a lot more failures.

Not too long ago, a friend delivered a brutal assessment which triggered a period of reflection. Truth was, we weren’t ready to make the leap from developers to company owners. When working in a company, we got insulated from a lot of stuff we didn’t value. And it was painful failures that forced us to learn and appreciate these stuff.

Some lessons.

1. Learn to say No.

If the schedule is not possible, say No.
If the price is not right, say No.
If the project and team is not the right fit, say No.

2. Know your team’s abilities.

Sometimes you aren’t able to do something within a given time frame or can’t accomplish something because of a lack of a certain skill set.

Don’t accept project.

You aren’t doing a school project where you can gamble that you can deliver. There is no grading on a curve. There is no, “just pass can already”.

3. Know what kind of external folks your team can deal with.

If you don’t know how to say No, best not to do projects or work where you are constantly put in a position where you have to say Yes.

Look, it isn’t their fault they want you to say Yes. You are just being a dumb fuck who says Yes.

The onus is on you to say No.

4. Know what kind of software your team is able to deliver.

Once you are honest about your team’s abilities, then you will be able to be honest about the customers you can provide value to.

5. Know the cost and time it takes to deliver project.

If you don’t know the cost and time to deliver project, you will say Yes to stuff that you should be saying No to.

6. Don’t juggle.

Don’t do more projects just to meet cash flow. If the price isn’t right, say No. Each project has to make sense by itself. Don’t lower price just to get a project.

When you juggle, you can’t provide the best work for each project. One, if not all projects, will suffer.

7. Say No.

Really, learn to say No. All our company’s failures stemmed from this simple rule that we failed to learn fast enough.

Finally, while you may do client projects for friends, starting a company and doing client work isn’t a friend-friend endeavor. You aren’t doing favors for a friend. You are being paid to provide value.

Business Experiences


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In Good Faith & Ubuntu!

The last few months have been a humbling educational experience just by working around so many awesome crazy generous folks who are building the kind of future they want – from hackers to government folks (yes, even them).

Two main things I learned:

Assume Good Faith.

Not everyone is going to be a dick who will try to screw you over, so you don’t need to be by default an asshole. Doesn’t mean you be a pussy either. Totally mis-paraphrasing Team America.

A quote from Desmond Tutu:

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

Musing about Life
ship building

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The New Paper New Face 2011 Top 20

Today, the 11th profile for the The New Paper New Face 2011 top 20 has been released.

New Face 2011 Top 20

Working on the The New Paper New Face 2011 Top 20 site has been a great learning experience because it is giving us the chance to actually learn from the customer the features that are needed for the main project we have been working on.

Tangled Web We Weave

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Everyone eventually cheats.

I’ve always believed that everyone will eventually cheat (on their significant other). So I’m never surprised when I hear a story about cheating occurring. And I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the day it will happen to me. Cos it will. As it will happen to everyone else.

But does it really happen to you if you never find out? Would you want to find out?

My best friend thinks that it is best to fess up if you cheated. I disagree. You should only fess up if you get caught, so as to provide your significant other a form of closure. Cos once there is a hint of cheating, unless the truth is laid bare, the significant other is going to use his or her imagination to fill in the blanks. And the imagination is a vicious capricious master that delights in the torment that every new thought brings. Does he love her? Does she love him? Does he love him? What other messages did they send each other? Was she with him that night? Were they just fucking? Is it more than just mindless fucking? Is his dick bigger? Does he eat her pussy? Does she use the super-lick-on-his-balls-while-deep-throating-him move that she says she first tried on me? Fuck, did she learn the super-lick-on-my-balls-while-deep-throating-me move from him? Am I fooling myself that he loves me? Should we have gotten married earlier. Damn it, no wonder that kid looks white. Damn it, that $10,000 must have gone to that whore’s fake boobs.

Most people fess up because they can’t live with the guilt. They can’t bear to be the only one carrying the burden of betrayal. And to those people, I say fuck you. If you are man enough to stick your dick into another person’s hole, whichever one it might be, then you got to be man enough to carry the knowledge of betrayal all by yourself.

Now, if you get caught, that’s another matter. So don’t get caught.

Since everyone will eventually cheat, I think they should add this sentence to marriage vows and post-copulation sweet nothings.

I love you enough to never get caught.

Cheating isn’t a monolithic event that just occurs. It clearly exists on a spectrum. It comes in different forms. Some people will cheat physically. Some people will cheat emotionally. What you do isn’t cheating until your significant other finds it a form of betrayal. It is the betrayal the other feels that defines cheating.

Musing about Life

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We finally incorporated the company. Paperwork can be a bitch. One year ago, when I shared with a close friend that I wanted to leave my job to build my own ship, he cautioned that I would end up doing a lot of other things just to support the environment for us to chart our own course. He was right. But looking at the email sent by Acra, and all the code checked it, I really wouldn’t want it any other way.

The company’s name is in this image:

Business Experiences


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Celebrating the birthday with New Face 2011

It was a strange birthday.

While all the guests were busy mingling, eating, drinking, playing games (and it was awesome how the friends from different periods of my life across different age groups managed to just click) I was working on the Facebook tab for New Face 2011.

This was the one time it felt right to work late on a birthday. While working, I was surrounded by the very people I enjoyed working with and who I was working for – family, friends, partners and loved ones. It was a reminder of why we setup the shipyard one year ago – to build a place for ourselves and to be able to move in the directions we want to, together, on our own terms.

Working @ Desk

You can’t see it from the photo above, but I was surrounded by friends and family. The empty plate once had a slice of awesome awfully chocolate cake bought by one of our writers. Heaven.

Musing about Life
Whispering from the Cubicle

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Birthday On The Roof

Not exactly the same as climbing onto the roof of the old National Library, but Saturday’s party with close friends on the roof was one of the best times I had. The only thing missing was the friend who is on a top secret mission to learn how to convert water to wine.

Birthday on the roof

Ignore This

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