Monday, September 29, 2008

The Kanna Know-How

The Kanna Curry House along Jalan Gasing has a feature I don't often encounter in Indian and Malay (and, come to think of it, Chinese) restaurants. From the moment we sat down - in fact even before we sat down - it was gastronomical warfare all the way.

The banana leaves were on the table before we could even pull out our chairs. Barely two seconds warming the seats, the three kinds of veg were splatted down. Not forty seconds of restaurant orientation passed and a guy had come over carrying a tray with half a dozen meat and fish dishes. I take four steps towards the sink and a dude was offering to special-fry seafood of at dazzling variety.

I almost felt shy with our meager order of two banana-leaf rice, one tosai and a small plate of fish. And each time a new tray was brought over, a mild yet definite temptation arose to try it out. Towards the end of our meal, as was the case at the start, a tray of soya-bean jelly was brought over. It was all I could do to say no.

Now, this was a banana leaf restaurant, but the way service was conducted, it could've been a dim-sum parlour! (Hence, I'm sure, the huge success of dim-sum places; as with Kanna, when the food is thrust in your face so often, the percentage of 'conversions' naturally rise by quite a bit!)

And then I thought back to the restaurants I usually frequented, especially those near my apartment. 

How come no one goes around the tables with freshly cooked delicious goodies, offering it to us? Most of the time they don't even tell you what they have; at Kanna, they showed it to ya!

Why do so many other eateries think customers would be  sufficiently enticed by the name of the dish being uttered? And why spend so much money on posters and fancy menus, when it isn't going to complemented by real food in all their tasty splendour being presented to guests?

The F-Form

I've attended plenty conferences and in almost every one there's a part, neither hot nor cold, which simply begs for a renovation of some kind: The feedback form.

I don't like filling it up because:

  • the chances of anyone getting back to you on your comments and thoughts are as high as that of Tottenham Hotspurs winning the English Premier League

  • you never know what everyone else has written (a truly heinous sin in an age of connectivism)

  • should you write down your most confidential pieces of financial information, it might not matter because nobody's going to read it anyway

  • it smacks of form and formality (the dreaded F-words in the flat cyber-frentic world today)

What about a simple contest for the most helpful or creative recommendation on the conference? What about the promise that all ideas will be posted on a post-seminar blog for all to take note and take back? Or how about a digital mind-map which acts as the platform for communal feedback i.e. all participants gets a username and gets to key-in data into the map?

Redemption can begin anywhere.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bullet-Points on Christian Education

The Church's philosophy of education has always been :

  • mono-directional (one to many)
  • concerned with truth/certainty
  • focused on abstracts and post-worldly issues

The effects of these are:

  • Christians remain dependent on the pastor (and his views!)
  • Christians are VERY uncomfortable in the face of ambiguity and pluralism
  • Christians feel they have to 'fight' for the truth all the time (which is often counter to learning of the rich and fun kind)
  • Christians remain 'irrelevant' because our theology is so 'stratospherical' and we have no resources to make an impact on the world

Therefore, we need to transform Christian education to become more (though not solely):

  • multi-directional (many to many)
  • concerned with practice/service/diversity
  • focused on hands-on / high-tech / this-worldly issues
This will hopefully create:
  • Christians more concerned about learning and exploration rather than 'knowing the correct things to believe'
  • Christians more concerned with 'winning friends' than 'winning arguments'
  • Christians more concerned about practical service/giving rather than abstract hair-splitting
  • Christians more in-tuned with what's happening in and with the world and constructing Christ-inspired solutions

Scary Scenario

It was a red-light. Like everyone else, the lady driver was waiting.

Suddenly, two guys jumped into her car. Within seconds, she was forced out, half-screaming, fully-crying. The guys took off with the car.

I actually saw this happen in Penang one time. It's also happen to some friends of mine and once almost hit my late dad-in-law.

Pray you'll never have to do this, but if some dude(s) jump into the car, intending to drive it away minus you, and you're alone (it's unlikely anything will happen if you're with someone), there's one quick strategy you may try (if you can still think clearly): Throw the keys away.
Preferably into a drain.

Melamine Poisoning

Dr. Alex Tang provides some much-needed clarity on the melamine-poisoning issue. His advice is:

(1) There is no need to panic. Most infant formula in Malaysia are sourced from Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Check with the local papers to see if your children have been drinking milk that are on the banned item list.

(2) Eating from melamine plates and bowls does not cause melamine poisoning.

(3) Bring your child to see a doctor only if your child has been drinking milk on these banned list in the last twelve months. It is not necessary for you to bring your child if your child has drunk a glass of the ‘banned’ milk or eaten a White Rabbit candy ten years ago!

(4) Your doctor may suggest a urine test if he or she suspects anything. The urine test is a good screening for injury to the kidneys.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Learning Pyramid Rant

Many educational institutions at least know about the pyramid and are actively seeking to push their education 'downwards' (even as they continually battle the tempation to do nothing but lecture).

But do you not get the feeling that churches don't want WANT to reach the 'bottom' of the pyramid? We're barely at 'Practice By Doing', aren't we?

And what kinds of 'Demonstrations' are we providing?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


My (strange) dream come true: I'm a Marketing lecturer now (grin). Check out our class blog.

A word about e-learning and e-conversations, though: Unless they're tied to assessments, it's not gonna work.

You need to give people a negative effect of not participating, after which you slowly transform it into a positive reason for joining in, climaxing in self-fulfilling impetus for being the best at it.

From threat to glory. That's one route motivation can take.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

(Re)Making the News

NTV7 News does a viewer poll every evening.

The audience is asked to give a YES/AGREE or NO/DISAGREE answer (via SMS) to a given question (e.g. "Will Dr. Mahathir's re-entry into UMNO be good for the Opposition?" and so on).

The rationale is clear: To keep viewers tuned in until the news end, so viewers won't be hooked to another channel for good. Judging from results, at least some viewers are responding.

But isn't it a little lame? I mean, why should anyone care what answers the viewers prefer? Or let's phrase this another way: How can we make more people care about the results? How about:

- making the forthcoming programs dependent on the votes (a'la American Idol?) - maybe viewers can vote on the importance or quality of the news items presented? Perhaps viewers can state their preferences of news topics (e.g. typhoons, Obama, ISA, etc.)?

- offering prizes (a'la EPL's Man of the Match contest?) for, say, the most catchy response to the news items? Or for a remarkable newsworthy photo?

- providing an opportunity for viewers themselves to report on selected news items?

- offering a platform for viewer comments on the news items? Like a running multi-commentary at the side-bar?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Windows 7

Here are shots of Windows 7, the post-Vista version supposedly to be released next year, presently nicknamed W7.

What does Microsoft do apart from producing updated versions of Windows every other year, gobbling up smaller companies and trying to out-think Google?

We needn't care. But maybe we can get this multi-multi-billion dollar company (or one like it) to help the community.

Don't they have loads of equipment which could be donated? Can a few of their people run short workshops for those badly in need of computer skills but who can't afford any formal classes? Can they lend their name (and some resources) to a clean-up project? Maybe we'd like to bring an entire rural or indigenous community online?

Do you have an idea for your community which such organisations can help spark? You can offer a new vision of meaning - a fresh vista of hope - to these corporate behemoths.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

True Lies

You don't think the person will tell you what he really thinks.

Either he'll be too polite or he wants to hide his views or he's shy or he doesn't feel comfortable expressing his preferences.

But you want to know what he thinks anyway. What do you do?

You ask him what he thinks everyone else thinks.

Unless he's a really good liar, he'll be - not unlike most of us - projecting his own views on the larger community.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Simulate the Problem

Here's a tip for new drivers from Tyler Cowen: Go over the curb. Hit the tree (softly, of course). Go into 'Reverse' when you're moving (slowly). Knock another bumper (gently).

When you experience a simulated error you're usually better able to cope with an actual one when it occurs.

Driving lessons shouldn't be all about avoiding errors but must include dealing with them. In fact, this applies to all kinds of lessons, no?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Customer Levels and Leverage

You've probably got some regular clients. These are regular folks, except they don't always appear very enthusiastic about your services or stuff.

They keep the revenue coming but they don't share ideas, they don't attend your dos', they hardly return your calls/emails, they hardly recommend you to their friends and they sure as hell don't upgrade.

You can live with this, but why should you?

Maybe we can think about treating customers they way Accenture treats its consultants i.e. reach a certain 'level' (e.g. Senior Manager) by a given time or you're out.

Dell/Microsoft has a pleasant way of doing this. Go with the latest Windows Vista or i. get a truly cheapskate system or ii. find another vendor. Citibank, too. Upgrade to the Silver or your annual fee waivers will stop (and who'd want to pay $70 a year to go into debt?).

Some churches as well. Develop into a cell-group leader within 2 years or else....

As with the Citibank case, that's the beauty about charging fees you really don't need to collect - they can always be used as leverage. And if you've got good leverage (and, hopefully, services your customers can't afford to do without), why, it helps.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Meltdowns are happening. First Lehman Bros, then Merill Lynch, now AIG (which owns Manchester United, btw).

And it's all due to one word : subprime (which happened to be the topic of a recent exam I took).

The paper below examines this phenomenon, compares it to the East-Asian financial crisis of 1997 and looks at what the Fed plans to do about (as at May 2008).

Advice? Don't lend loads of $$ (but feel free to give) to people who can't repay you and quit speculating.

Greed is bad.

9/16, Jesus and Caesar

9/16 didn't happen. At the very least, it hasn't yet. But I'm concerned.

Because there's an unmistakable tendency/inclination to associate the 'Malaysian 9/16 narrative' with the story of God's kingdom being realised.
Why do we talk as if our deepest hopes for the country relies on something like 9/16 happening?

Why are we pushing the community to focus on virtually nothing else?
Is 9/16 the new promised land? Is Anwar the 'returning King' (Tolkien fans heads-up)? And is removing the Barisan Nasional leadership the will of God??!! (So far not many have said this OUT LOUD, but the silence is deafening...and what about the Christians serving under the BN right now? What do PKR Christians think about them, and vice-versa?)

Caesar didn't give the church her power, her calling, her tasks. And Caesar cannot take it away either. So why are we getting all excited about the possible replacement of one Caesar with another?

Granted the new Caesars appear to be more concerned about justice than the old ones (although this really depends on who you read, doesn't it?) and if more justice and less corruption happens, praise God.

But Caesar is still Caesar and as Caesar he still rules via the sword; the Kingdom community consists of people of the Cross.

The Sword. The Cross. One is about putting down the bad guys (justice). Another is about dying for the worst guys (mercy).

The Sword. The Cross. One involves the politics of power (remove the cronies). The other is a politics of suffering and forgiveness (transform them).

The Sword. The Cross. One is about the 'will of the people' (which raises the question: which people? the high/middle class? rural/urban? and will over what issue?). Another is about willing in the kingdom via our actions and words and prayers regardless of who is in government.

Am I saying we shouldn't care which party is in power? Of course we should. I'm personally quite keen on seeing 9/16 happen, too. I also hope that politically motivated arrests-without-trial will be abolished.

But Jesus didn't spend a whole lot of time rooting for a better human government, did He? Jesus didn't spend much of his prayer life praying for a transition of political power, did He?

Jesus wept when his friend, John the Baptist, was ISA-ed and even killed. But that event didn't revitalize Jesus' efforts to DE-THRONE or REPLACE the Jewish pseudo-government, did it? Whilst I'm sure He didn't condone it, Jesus didn't go around protesting these unjust laws, did He? And complaints and criticisms about the reigning administration were hardly Jesus' concern, were they?

Instead, He spent more time preparing and nurturing a community who would think and love on a scale and intensity never seen before.

Again, the kingdom of God doesn't require a Caesar and even works well even/especially(!) when Caesar objects.

If Caesar helps, great, though let's not pretend that:
1. The new Caesar will not himself bring new problems and injustices i.e. that it'll be an utopia (which is what, I fear, 9/16 seem to symbolize in the hearts of many - a new political Canaan)

2. That the mission and power of the Church is at all dependent on the new Caesar or, worse still, that the coming of the New Caesar is at all equated with the vision of the Malaysian church(!!) or plays an integral part in her calling.

Matthew 22:21.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On Jojo - Sharing a Hands-on Passion

I can count on less than one hand the number of Jesuit priests I know personally - until I met Jojo.

In our conversations, he usually speaks the least. When he does talk, his volume never rises above a (very) low level. If you've ever seen Jojo upset or angry, take a photo. There are few rarer moments.

Jojo gives me the impression that every word of his mouth has been scanned and re-scanned for politeness and reasonable intelligence.

This doesn't mean he can't get the crowd roaring with laughter. At last year's conference with Brian McLaren, Jojo was clearly the toast of the final forum on World. I mean, how many people do you know would urge Christians to learn from the pig?

Jojo is an anthropologist. His ministry is immersion - into the lives of those he's reaching out, into their culture, their very rituals. To the Jew, one becomes a Jew. To the Gentile, one turns Gentile. To the pagan, a pagan - so that all avenues are covered in the work of salvation (1 Cor 9:20-23).

For our written submissions, he's usually the fastest. For our meals, the most casually intense. A good writer who loves practicality and good food, a nurturesome double-helix.

Jojo also inter-weaves his passion for the nation's marginalised into his theology. One's thinking is most authentic when it's done from one's hands and heart. And our active service is given life by our reflections.

The strands flow in and out of each other. Come see how Jojo combines them all on October 10.

What's wrong with this picture?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cash 4 Kind

Daimler-Chrsyler (Malaysia) has a policy on Medical Leave I've never come across: Personnel are entitled to $1,500 should they manage a year without M.C.s'

The numbers certainly add up. An average post-fresh grad salary does come up to about $100-150 per day and MC entitlement is about a dozen days a year.

So a person who works all year-round rather than stay sick at home certainly 'saves' the company around $1,500. And the higher the person's salary, the better the trade-off for the company.

What's worth 'milking' is creative ways to think of cash-for-kind.
  • What would a company be willing to pay its employees to reduce their official lunch-hours? (Might be relevant especially for factory workers, although from an ergonomical, humanitarian point of view I wouldn't recommend this)
  • What should be charged to a person who takes up more than X amount of time in delivering his report at a meeting? Or for talking beyond the alloted time?
  • What might the local town council be willing to give motorists who don't commit single traffic/parking offense in a year? (This is VERY different from the police giving discounts on summons...*eyes-rolling*)
  • What might a division head be willing to reward an employee who receives the best peer reviews? (This goes beyond "Employee of the Year" awards and might apply to anything from Most Helpful Email, Kindest Remark, Most Innovative Idea, etc.)

Bonhoeffer & Hitler, Bomb & Cross

Something from Greg Boyd's blog, where he shared about...

"(Shane Claiborne's) response to Colson's citation of Bonhoeffer's attempt to assassinate Hitler as an example of how Christians need to participate in politics and sometimes resort to violence.

"Shane told a story of a film he watched that interviewed Hitler's chief secretary. She said that it was "miraculous" how Hitler escaped unharmed when the bomb Bonhoeffer's group planted exploded.

"This reinforced Hitler's sense of divine mission at a time when it was wavering and encouraged him to carry out his genocidal programs more enthusiastically. Shane said that as much as he respects Bonhoeffer, "the cross lost when that bomb went off."

Any relevance to the situation in Malaysia, you think?


My preaching met with mixed responses yesterday. Not that I expected full agreement, especially given the Malaysian politically climate and the I-Simply-Arrest events of Friday night.

I felt that someone had to issue the reminder that whilst Jesus spoke out against the injustices and oppression of His day, He nevertheless willingly prayed, suffered and died for the very people who would see Him killed.

For whilst it is extremely sad that Raja Petra Kamaruddin may be severely risking his life, the kind of 'revolutionary' action hinted at in the People's Parliament blog, exciting and enticing as they always sound, is a dead end.

And even as we hold virgils for RPK's release and as we pray for his family (sigh, don't you feel they are suffering just as much as him?), please let us remember that RPK's way is not the way of the Cross (I almost feel shy repeating this, but it's the easiest thing in the world to brush aside, given his popularity).

It would be the height of irony if thousands of Christians prayed ceaselessly for RPK's release only to continue cheering him on and emulating his style and words as he continues his 'no holds barred' and verbally ferocious tirade.

By all means, pray and petition for his release (see? I bolded it, so please don't say I don't care). But do so not because he is RPK but because he is an unjustly imprisoned citizen of Malaysia.

And, one more time: We must not fight cruelty with curses, oppression with hatred, and malice with similar menace.

Jesus loves Petra, but JC is no RPK.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Roti Bola

The scenario is familiar: Close to 15 tables, about a dozen of which are occupied with only one patron who orders a single teh, or kopi, panas (if you don't know what these are, write me).

This is weekend football night at the mamak restaurant at my apartment.

We, the customers, are all there to watch the game. We're generally not hungry. All we want to do is sit and enjoy flat-screen English Premier League. Our one beverage order is a (really cheap) grunt of reciprocity.

It's not a pretty sight for the manager, who maybe comforts himself by saying well at least I still have customers. Of course he does. And yet I imagine it would make him more comfortable if he labelled, bannered and declared Football Night as special, giving an occasion to offer any of the following promotions:

  • A special menu whose items are 20-30% cheaper than normal
  • 'Set Dinner' or 'Set Supper', $5.55 for noodles/rice, roti and one beverage
  • 10% off the (usually) pricey steak or chicken chops
  • Special dish just for Football Night (maybe mini-footballs in the form of powdered meat-balls?)
  • Buy-3-get-1-free
  • New 'Roti Bola' (to complement Roti Pisang, Roti Bom, Roti Telur, Roti Sardin, Roti Planta?)

These would be *especially* for the weekends, say, between 9pm and midnight. If people ask, he can say it's special and he loves serving lots of good lower-priced food on soccer night.

And if people say it's nothing more than a gimmick, why, he should just wink right back.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dinner at Morton's

I was at Morton's, Singapore. Fantastic menu presentation.

I had the biggest steak of my life with an old friend. It was a Porterhouse steak. Loads of mashed potatoes by the side.

I didn't have a mobile at the time. My friend's phone rang and the conversation went a little like this: "Yeah...I'm at Morton's... what?... a plane what?... landed on the building?... what?... hit the towers?....ok I'll go back and watch the TV."

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: centre trade)

What We Stand to Lose

Steering ourselves away from anti-life practices (also known in spiritual communities as 'sin') is about maintaining and enriching what we cherish, possess and are enabled to do.

Regularly stuffing ourselves full with crap-loads of meat, carbs and sweets translates to incapacity. We lose the ability to:

  • appeciate healthy eating (when fruits, vegetables and nuts - the healthiest foods in the world - seem 'inferior' and yucky) i.e. we stop cherishing goodness
  • move around with properly digested food and a high-quality stomach ("take care of your stomach for the first 40 years, and it'll take care of you for the next 40") i.e. we no longer possess good 'parts'
  • control our craving (and thus think clearly) i.e. we no longer possess 'ourselves' (in a sense)
  • perform with a clear mind (with all that blood pushed from brain to guts, and loads of energy lost in malfunctioning digestion) i.e. we no longer enabled, period.

And this is just gluttony. Probably the least attended to vice (if at all thought of as such, especially in Asia).

Maybe we need a more loss-oriented view of the things God has told us to avoid.

What do we lose from promoting blame, mockery and ridicule in politics? What of us is decapitated when we sexually objectify of others? What do we give up when we can't keep quiet about our own achievements and let others talk for a second?

Forget hell after death. Hell on earth is what'll kill us.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Athlete as Teacher as Ballerina as Presenter

I know I get hyper at times, but Peters does have a (50-second) point.

What Must We Un-Learn?

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." (Alvin Toffler)

1. Vocalising the words as we read, and to quit reading from left to right.

2. Typing with all your fingers (if you've been using only two your whole life). This is especially tough if you're a relatively fast two-finger typist.

3. Looking for value and usefulness in ideas. We need to unlearn launching into criticism (i.e. analysing why it won't work) as a knee-jerk reaction to every new proposal we come across.

4. Responding to menace with mercy. 'Nuff said.

5. Thinking of "spirituality" in the abstract/invisible/only-me-and-God sense.

6. Having an answer to every objection to our most cherished beliefs - we could explore the value of silence or a waiting period so the question can be sharpened and the issue re-focused.

7. Believing in the necessity of meetings - we must unlearn accepting their inevitability and experiment with other alternatives (e.g. Wiki-meetings?)

8. Reading the same authors over and over again - they sometimes anchor us down in unhelpful places.

9. Requiring a teacher/lecturer for complex theoretical topics, without which we feel that 'real learning' hasn't occured 

Repeating a similar course of action when nothing substantial is changing, whilst continuing to believe that something different will eventually happen from the repetition...(I think Einstein called this 'insanity')

What else do we need to un-learn? I'm compiling a list. Please add to it.

Frost Over Lime

Limewire Pro shouldn't be in operation anymore. Why pay for an application when there's a perfectly suitable alternative free?

Use Frostwire for all your turbo-charged download demands.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I've never come across a better definition of an ASSET and LIABILITY than the one Robert Kiyosaki gives : An asset is any item (tangible or otherwise) which generates income and a liability is one which creates expenses.

That's it.

So whatever it is you own, regardless of what it's labelled in an accounting textbook, if it is not generating income, it's not an asset. Worse still, if it's leading you to spend more, then it's a liability.

E.g. your car. Tradtionally, one would call it an 'asset'. But RK'd slot it under a 'liability' because it's taking up fuel costs, insurance fees, road taxes, maintenance, etc. (RK also spends lots of pages trying to convince his readers that their houses are also liabilities, given the amount of debt one gets into via the purchase).

The message of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, if I could cull it all into one sentence, is : Spend your money buying things which generate income i.e. buy assets.

The more assets you have, the more income you'll get, leading to even more assets, more income, ad infinitum. That, according to RK, is what the rich do and teach their kids. The opposite - i.e. spending on liabilities and getting stuck with ever-growing expenses - is what the 'middle-class and poor' folks do (ouch).

So when you get that bonus, instead of blowing it all on clothes or a new watch (all liabilities because they don't generate income), think about putting it into any one of the following:
  • Your Own Business (this could be anything from a worldwide conglomerate to a personal Web-page)
  • Stocks, Equities and Bonds (high-risk so do diversify, hedge, read more, get advice, etc.)
  • Mutual Funds and Unit Trusts (less aggressive but over the long-term the amounts can be substantial)
  • I.Ps', Patents and Copyrights (for the inventor/author types, or if you can afford it, buy one)
  • Rental Income (which tends to pay for and exceed the purchasing loan in the first place)

Money put into these items end up 'working for you' because time brings about the 'compounding effect'. Until one day you can quit your job because the income generated from your assets can pay for all your expenses and liabilities.

And thus, thou art truly wealthy. When your (newly defined) assets run the show for you even after you quit your job.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chrome in Comics

Wow, who would've thought of producing a how-to manual in comic book format?

That's what Google has done to help users acclimatise to Chrome.

Amazing. Small, no big splash, but amazing nonetheless.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ahmad Ismail & the Chinese

This post is also posted on the Micah Mandate. Bob Kee has also written a good response.

Funny how it happened soon after/during of a lot of fire over Ahmad Ismail's reference to Chinese as "orang tumpang" (i.e. migrants).

I was asked to preach at the Nepalese migrant ministry - on loving one's enemies.

1. Turn your left cheek. Surprise your enemy (via your own vulnerability) by inviting him to punch you with his right fist, an act which confirms his equality with you. A back-hand slap means the slapped is inferior; and no one hits another with his left hand (it's taboo).

Love your enemy by showing you are willing to suffer for the sake of an equal relationship.

2. Let him have your cloak too. Surprise your enemy by giving him more than he forced you to. The world will see him for the oppressor he is.

Love your enemy by your sacrificial (and revealing) generosity.

3. Go with him two miles. Surprise your enemy by serving him more than his exploitation desired. Show him that you're willing to look past his predatory demands and be his willing servant.

Love your enemy by your self-giving service.

Surprise and love your enemy. You might just break his heart, and win his soul.

And how should the Chinese respond to Ahmad Ismail and Penang UMNO's reluctance to apologise?

By inviting them to a Chinese (halal) dinner and sharing with them the history of the Chinese migrants, thanking the Malays for whatever assistance and goodwill was offered to build up the Chinese community (to its now prosperous status) and assuring Ismal and UMNO that the Chinese will do their best to work with the Malays for a harmonious and peaceful Malaysia.

"Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:44)

The Bane of Learning

I made a remark during a mamak chat session recently. I said, "Christianity is Socialism."

Although it was in (half?)-jest, the responses were an expected mixture of shock, get-outta-heres', duh-ism and the like.

A senior member of the group then said I have a tendency to speak in unqualified terms and recommended that proper explanations must follow.

And of course I agree this is necessary - if one was teaching individuals who were incapable of exploration, self-learning, evaluation and networking with other learners. In a word, if we're dealing with small children.

The obsession with providing answers is a bane of learning. Unless you're teaching prep or junior school, it really should be the last of your priorities. When you give people full-blown answers, people stop thinking. But when you provoke them, a new journey can begin.

So, yeah, I'd join the Socialists because they best reflect Christian values. Go figure.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Why Raja Petra Remains Popular & Dangerous

My friend Bob shared his take. Here's mine.

RPK is popular because we love the exposés. We delight in the classified information rendered free-for-all. We punch our fists in the air when the 'bad guys' are taken down in the virtual arena.

Every line RPK writes is like a slap in the face to the corrupt, every paragraph a punch in the guts of the greedy, every post a missile slammed into the villas of the vile.

And we love it because it's so easy to look past our own corruption, greed and violence when staring into the fiery furnace of The System's crimes and corruption.

If porn is unbounded sexual indulgence, and if the movie 300 can be seen as action porn, then RPK's writings deserve a XXX-rating for non-stop corruption smut.

In porn, viewers often end the show feeling they want to 'do it'. Likewise, every other day reading RPK has created a generation of online readers who wants to 'do it' to the leaders. After each article, we shake our heads, click our tongues and whisper quiet (or not so quiet) F-Yous' to the culprits.

And as with porn, we'll never get enough of it, will we? We have to see more. We must get our fix.

Yet, just as porn brings us no nearer to a healthier sexuality (and watching boxing matches don't exactly promote better self-defense), RPK's writings - whilst certainly unveiling the dirt of present and previous administrations - is taking the country nowhere towards healthier politics.

The reason is simple. With all due respect to RPK, his writings make us hate and despise our leaders. That is the primary effect his work.

The very title of his column, No Holds Barred, implies a slugfest and is miles away from nurturing sound leadership.

RPK is about about declaring war on our enemies, about destroying them rather than sacrificially giving ourselves for the community to which our enemies also belong (Matt 5:40-ish).

But, of course, we love to fight. We're eager voyeurs of violence done to those we hate. (This is why the readership ratio between Malaysia Today and The Micah Mandate is surely no less than 10:1...the latter's way too peaceful and constructive)
  • How many of us feel like serving the country more after reading RPK? Aren't we more likely to consider leaving it?
  • How many (and I know this sounds cheesy) think about "knowing and loving Malaysia" after reading RPK? Aren't we more inclined towards 'noting and loathing' everything bad about the country instead?
  • How many, after visiting Malaysia Today, feel like building up their community? Don't more feel like tearing down the community's leaders?

That's why RPK is so dangerous. He's trying to put out a fire by exposing the fire-starters, revving up the crowd so much they're more eager to spit on the culprits than to quench the flames and begin rebuilding.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Self as Data

The class was very silent today. Our facilitator then upped the ante by using the example of our power-down mode to teach Action Research.

  1. Define the area of investigation: Why are we so quiet?
  2. Define the mode of investigation: Ask the students!
  3. Obtain the data: She asked the students
  4. Interpret the data: The answers were grouped according to whether the factor lay in the students, the facilitator herself, the subject, the environment, etc.
  5. Recommend action.

It's not the method itself. It's about using the particular scenario as a way of teaching the method, employing the present context as data for introducing the tool.

Learning is never so motivated as when it's about one's self.

Friday, September 5, 2008

From Farm to Fridge

If you still need a good reason to reduce your meat intake, look no further.

On Sherman - Rhythmizing Dynamic Orthodoxy

I'm doing a 'series' of sorts on the team from ROH, the same team which running the upcoming Merdeka 2008 event. This won't be just a straight-forward e-bio, as I wish to specifically include what you can learn from each one of them. First in line, the crew-chief, Sherman Kuek.

First, he's a brand new doc, so congratulations are in order. He shifted from Accounting to Theology - good reinventional move, I'd say.

Second, he's one of the coolest, calmest dudes around. His facial expressions don't oscillate much between serious joy and gentle thinking. It's hard to feel agitated when you're speaking to him (unless you have an agenda he won't buy). [How do people feel in your presence?]

Third, he's not argumentative at all (unlike me). This isn't to say he can't hold his own in a theological fist-fight (he can, and you'd better be able to) but I suppose he recognizes that much of what passes for theological debate is sheer ego-surfing i.e. time-wasting. [Is there stuff that you do which you consider highly important but which just MAY be pointless to do?]

Fourth, his mum makes a killer curry chicken!

Fifth, he's a paragon of theological imagination. He's unafraid to move in, out, around and between theological schools and denominations. To this day, I can't figure out his precise theological 'category' (an issue he probably finds irrelevant anyway).

And yet you know you've learnt from someone not when you've figured out which pigeon-hole he belongs to, but when you realise your thoughts couldn't have taken the shape they have without conversations with this person. [What conversations have shaped you? Are you, in fact, having enough conversations with enough people?]

Carl Rashke should concur, as he cites Sherman in his latest book, GloboChrist. Rashke takes seriously Sherman's inquiry on, "whether the project of contextualisation is ultimately about embellishing a 'static universal core' of the gospel...or whether it comes down to enunciating a 'dynamic universal core' (i.e.) a 'series of articulations which is time sensitive and perennially changing wiht the development of our theological understanding.'"

Sherman's expertise is Asian post-colonial theology, a form of contextual 'located' theology. From his writings so far, I gather his mission in life is to nurture thinking and transformed believers, aggressively in love and in tune with Christ, dancing heart in heart in the rhythms of dynamic orthodoxy. [What impressions does the word 'Christian orthodoxy' bring to you? What have you learnt about God and the church lately? Have you learnt by design, chance or rumour?]

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Google Simplicity

Did Google do a boo-boo? No Google Toolbar in Chrome? I can't even do a simple search within a site.

Harry McCracken's analysis concluded that the most widely used Google application is its Toolbar (you don't use it? where have you been?).

The thing about Google is: They tend to include whatever's really necessary. Which is why their famous 'start-page' is so (famously) bare. It just gives you what you need. If you want more, you ask/click for it.

In a world of infinite choices, its refreshing to see power-houses like Google stand out by accentuating simplicity and leveraging public opinion and word-of-mouth (remember how gmail spread? only if existing users chose to share their free accounts).

Still, they gotta clear of unforced errors like the lack of a toolbar!

ROH Event

please take note. The itinerary remains the same.

I'm co-presenting a session on Thinking Constructively & Practically for Malaysia (Sat morning), but the inside-joke is that I'll more likely de-construct than otherwise.

Still, forget about me. Come and hear the other people share their expertise. The panel collectively holds three PhDs', two Masters degrees and two soon-to-be postgrads.

Best of all, these are bona fide missional people with a heart for God, the nation and the community.

See you there!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Google Chrome

It's the latest challenger to Microsoft IE8 which can potentially transform the way browsers work. Try it.


A recent update on Kiva was encouraging. $41mil in online loans for the third-world - it's a good enough reason to celebrate.

Grooming Tip

Do you tuck your shirt in and move around a lot?

Notice how, about ten thousand times a day, your shirt tends to get loose and protrude awkwardly? And you have to find a hidden place (or a washroom) to re-tuck it in and do a tidying cum linen-icing job?

Naturally, the belt won't help much (without suffocating you at the waist).

So what do you do? How do you keep your shirt 'permanently' tucked?

Simple: Tuck your shirt into your underwear.

That oughta keep it down (almost) for good.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Is There a Downside to This?

A battery-powered electric car for Malaysia. It only needs an occasional 7-hour recharge from an ordinary power socket.

The car goes 200,000 km to a battery. Zero greenhouse-gas emissions. Available in 2009.

Any spare investment dough? Might be good to pour it into Detroit Electric and, alas, Proton.

Wise Groups

What groups are you a part of?

If you're going to choose an identity, find one which promises to take you somewhere instead of pushing you to keep looking back.

If you wish to be part of a group, choose one (or, better yet, create one) which is future-oriented and doesn't maintain constant (re)-view of the past.

If you're already part of a tribe which seems anchored to the past, the absolute best thing you may wish to do for it is to reinvent it. Bring in something new.

I'm thinking organisations. Or clubs. Or virtual communities. Or religious denominations.

Never glory in the past except in so far as the past has the potential to shape the future. The best groups to join or those which exist for the sake of her non-members.

Imagine a country (or company or church) like that.