Friday, October 31, 2008

Not By Preaching Alone

If there's one continual rant I'll make (until the Rapture or otherwise), it's the sheer lack of learner-centered education in churches. There's still a lot of "I-Talk-You-Listen", one-way monologuing.

Which is why perhaps all pastors and preachers may wish to try the below exercises. What's the best way of ensuring the trainees below learn well? Tip: It's not by preaching!

1. Trainees : 10 young trainee managers. Learning outcome : To practise good interviewing techniques

2. Trainees : 12 trainee motor vehicle engineers near the end of their training. Learning outcome: To apply the wide range of skills learned during the previous two years

3. Trainees: 4 classes of day-release learners in four simultaneous 1 ½ hour classes. Learning outcome: To become familiar with the first part of an eight-week module in World of Work on ‘Technology and Society’

4. Trainees: 14 adults. Learning outcome: To apply certain general principles of production management and gain increased awareness of the complexities of actual problems

5. Trainees: 15, 16 - 18 year olds. Learning outcome: To consolidate information received in a preceding talk given by a visiting speaker, on AIDS

6. Trainees: 16 learners on Basic DIY course. Learning outcome: To make simple shelves for the home

7. Trainees: 10 learners on a catering course. Learning outcome: To apply the skills of cooking, waiting and associated tasks in a realistic situation

8. Trainees: 14 shop stewards. Learning outcome: To understand the techniques of negotiation and bargaining

9. Trainees: 10 social workers. Learning outcome: To understand how people behave in times of stress

10. Trainees: 8 trainee managers. Learning outcome: To order their problems and tasks in priority so that they can decide when and how to tackle them

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Robert Kwok Quote

"Make money slowly."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Two Clicks

Facebook's definition of a friend is, well... two clicks.

Want to add me as a friend? Click on the button next to my name or face - the first click - and click another time to convince Facebook you didn't tap your mouse button by mistake.

That's it. One more click at my end to confirm your request and, hey, we're friends.

Never mind I may never do anything other than glance over your photo or one-liners. Never mind I'll probably ignore every message, invitation and request you send me and vice-versa. Never mind we may never communicate or do anything resembling what humanity considered a 'relationship' over thousands of years (let alone something like John 15:13)

Never mind all of that. In the world of Facebook, we are 'friends' - two clicks and another. Nothing else matters for the label.

MPH-Alliance Bank Short Story Contest 2009

Between Order and Outcome

We ordered one strawberry waffle and a cup of coffee. We were told it would take twenty minutes and would we mind? I certainly did and was going to leave, but my wife exuded the kind of patience I could only imagine this evening.

The waffle and coffee eventually reached the table in less than six minutes.

Of course I brightened up but my curiousity's stabbing me: Why tell us it was going to be twenty in the first place? If the concern is to 'prepare' the customer for a long wait, why leave it at the information stage? Why not do something to compensate your guests for the long wait? 

In a word, why give bad news with nothing in return?

Note: This isn't like pizza delivery where customers expect a certain (even semi-substantial) time-gap between the call and the knock on the door. For that, yeah, go ahead and say it'll take 45 minutes, then surprise the family by reaching them on the stroke of the clock. Or better yet, 15 minutes earlier.

The Bad, The Good and the Monstrous

First, the bad news:
  • Greenhouse gases could be four times higher than previously thought (you know, this makes me feel worse than the fact that influential people are locked up without trial for alleged sedition); perhaps David Keith's ideas on geo-engineering (read: climate manipulation)need to be accelerated
  • Windows 7 is coming out (pointless upgrades are always a bad thing, don't you agree?)
  • China's milk scandal isn't over...

Good news:

  • Spurs get their first win of this EPL season (phew!) - I hope the Redknapp revolution continues, what with Arsenal and Liverpool coming next
  • Copyblogger recommends a few sites to grab great images
  • Sonia Simone shares ten commandments about the new social media (cute! I like #9, "Thou Shalt Not Pontificate About Shit Thou Knowest Nothing About"!)
  • A new book's coming out, The Monstrosity of Christ, which has Slavoj Žižek and Jon Milbank in (what promises to be a) stimulating dialogue), check out the two 'promotional quips' (Milbank:"What matters is not so much that Žižek is endorsing a demythologized, disenchanted Christianity without transcendence, as that he is offering in the end (despite what he sometimes claims) a heterodox version of Christian belief." Zizek: "To put it even more bluntly, my claim is that it is Milbank who is effectively guilty of heterodoxy, ultimately of a regression to paganism: in my atheism, I am more Christian than Milbank.")
  • Tom Peters and Seth Godin appear together in dialogue about new perspectives on business (topics include blogging, loyal employees, social networking, etc.)

Finally, Diwali is turning out to be a very restful day indeed. Can't wait to go to Kuala Terengganu tomorrow - my first time in the Peninsular's East coast (what a sorry bloke, eh?).

Rushdie's Children

It was 1998, my first year after graduation. I remember crouching to examine one of the books on the bottom rung of the shelf titled 'Matured Readers' in a bookshop with a strange name, Bookazine (long since closed) in Section 14 next to Jaya SuperMart, also closed earlier this year.

My saturation with theology and apologetics made me want to read something new, something 'thick', something which would 'come at me' from an angle I'd have completely no reason to anticipate.

I only knew Salman Rushdie's name from the famous fatwa associated with Satanic Verses, a book whose thirtieth page I could barely reach without giving up (at the time - I've since read and talked about both the book and the controversy to many friends and students).

But here was a book with a strange name and sufficiently intimidating thickness, Midnight's Children. I must've turned it around a few times, contemplated exchanging with another book, felt the smoothness of its cover and imagine what it would be like to actually finish a book like this. It would be my second attempt at Rushdie. And besides, the book cover included a line about it winning the Booker Prize (in 1983). It also won the Booker of Bookers in 1993.

Now, 27 years after its publication, 25 years after it won its first Booker, 15 years after it established itself as a 'best of the best' and 10 years after my buying it in Bookazine, Midnight's Children has won yet another Booker of Bookers. Its shortlist rivals were:

  • The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (1995) - never heard of the author nor the book...

  • Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988) - bought the book about THAT for a coincidence?

  • Disgrace by JM Coetzee (1999) - a little too disturbing for my taste...

  • The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (1974) - heard of the author, not the book.

  • The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell (1973) - never heard of either

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Bean Beaten

In SS2 (Petaling Jaya), the Coffee Bean died. It was killed presumably by its arch nemesis, Starbucks.

For over half a decade, CB thrived. Corner-lot and numerous restaurants (and a karaoke) nearby - smack inside a river of money.

But it died anyway. To a rival which opened less than a year ago.

And it wasn't like CB was bad or anything. The seating was comfortable, lighting serene and inviting, staff were fine. Overall, nice ambience and good food/drinks.

But it died anyway. To a rival which offered ambience, service and products (and prices) which were near identical, except for the colour.

Holding the brand quality constant for a sec, there's a lesson here: When two organisations are of near-equal quality and 'positioning', the newer one wins.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The First Habit of Highly Effective People

"Every time you think the problem is 'out there',
that VERY THOUGHT is the problem" - Stephen Covey.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blog Rules

A slide I shared with my colleagues.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Rare Look

Welcome to Alwyn's lair at KDU...

New Qs'

There's IQ. There's EQ. And there's SQ. Today I heard two new ones:

XQ - Execution Quotient (invented by Stephen Covey, I think). Too manufacturing-ish for me.

SQ - Smile Quotient. Very nice.

What's next? A Jesus quotient?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mental Warm-Ups

I'm really no warm-up freak.

Like breakfast, prescribed textbooks and best-selling novels, I used to think that warm-ups' are part of the many social needfuls our community presses into us from young (thus our often unquestioning acceptance of these items).

Stretching, yes. But to get to a light-sweat condition before the 'real' workout begins? To raise the heart-beat a little before absolutely pushing your blood-pump? Ugh.

Until I tried to better my 3-rounds-in-6-minutes running time. There's definitely more stamina, rhythm and confidence if I precede my run with a 1-round jog. Now I'm a believer.

I've also heard that Michael Johnson warms up for a full hour before his 200m races. And haven't we seen all those EPL substitutes folks run up and down the touchline before coming on? Now why didn't I pick up on the fact the pros' are doing it?

So, okay, warm-up is good. Which suggests that psychological warm-ups are cool as well. To get the adrenalin pumping prior to a talk, presentation, crucial meeting, etc.?
  • How about taking an informal class of 4 before giving that formal lecture to 90?
  • How about tele-marketeers selling to each other, before turning to that client list?
  • How about sales-folks pitching to colleagues half an hour before rolling out?
  • How about taking 5 minutes to explain the kingdom of God to a friend before taking the pulpit? (assuming you're not the pastor, but even sometimes one is able)

This gives your face and gestures an immediate 'vroom' each time you take the stage. It's almost as if you've been doing it the past half-hour...which of course is exactly the case.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Student-Centered Education?

When is a topic always interesting? When do students never fail to pay attention or be 'present'?

When it's about them.
  • Does the environment reflect their (colour and deco) culture?
  • Are the materials related to their likings and media preferences?
  • Have the learning outcomes been set with their collaboration? Do they agree on the relevance to their lives (as opposed to some pre-set curriculum)?
  • Has the instructional stimulus been fine-tuned to connect intensely with their feelings and lives?
  • Has the method of assessment been agreed upon by them? Can they assess each other?

It's not about ensuring that a resounding Yes is given to all of the above. Hardly.

The critical thing is: Have we asked questions like the above? Are we listening to the unasked ones half-crying out from our students/learners, regarding their education?

Redeeming Corporate Team-Building

If academic lessons (and sermons) are all content and no cheer, corporate team-building is the opposite.

This is a common sequence at many Rah-Rah sessions:
1. Team Building Activity = Fun and games! = Great stuff! = Yes! (followed by...)

2. De-briefing = What did you learn? = Cheap corny clichéd one-liners = Yuck.
How do you communicate a coherent set of complex ideas without suggesting that the participants are a bunch of unread, turtle-under-shell, naive simpletons? How much sense does it make when, after half an hour of running up and down, the speaker says: "This game is to teach us that we must all communicate clearly as a team".


I can swear I hear the participants' inside voices going, "Wow, man! You got me all the way into this conference room, made me miss my Saturday morning trip in DreamLand, jump through hoops (literally) and perform all manner unnatural endeavours, in order to say that to me?! Couldn't you just have gotten my boss to email me a frickin' memo?! %#$!@*"

The fun and games are, well, loads of fun. That's a must.

But corporate trainers need to find a way to avoid the corny 'party-line' quips which all but deflates the energy. For sure, I've never read a feedback comment which went like, "I already knew that and you didn't have to waste my time". People don't always tell you what they think (duh). All the more why we shouldn't wait until a client finally drops the bomb.

There's lots of thinking to be done, and I'm very new at this, but off the top of me scalp, some ways to ensure the content is high-class include:

1. D
o away with general, common-sensical 'teaching' for good i.e. decide to never EVER to conclude with things like, "Listening carefully", "Working together", "Doing your best", "There is no I in T-E-A-M" and all this Junior School stuff.

I'll be blunt: It's insulting.

2. Include at least one piece of cutting-edge theory, something you've read recently from a hot new best-seller, or a blog, or forum, etc. This obviously presumes you need to update yourself constantly.

There's nothing like a trainer who has been keeping up with his reading and self-learning.

3. Include many skill-based learning outcomes and ensure that the session is about practising a new skill, NOT doing activities which 'illustrate' some abstract pithy phrase. E.g. negotiation, public speaking, writing coherently, etc.

In a world starve of action-oriented relevance, providing folks with a safe 'space' to perform something new can be an invaluable thing.

4. Obtain a commitment from the participants and their bosses that there'll be follow-up, at-work assessments, etc. True, this may take SOME pleasure out of the session but if conducted well, there's no reason why anyone should dread being evaluated on what they've been trained.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Game You Play Thrice A Day

When the class looks and feels like somebody's died, it's time for a diversion. Of any kind.

Last week, I stopped the Consumer Buying Behaviour lecture to talk about eating. Not many people know this, but food combinations are important. The kinds of food you mix and match shouldn't be of just any kind.

Most importantly, one shouldn't combine protein with carbohydrates. That's the cardinal rule. Get this right and your life (not to mention your weight) might just change tremendously.

Why not combined these two? Now...hmm...I'm not expert, but I read it's got something to do with digestion. Protein enzymes and carb enzymes cancel each other out i.e. digestion is poor and energy is lost. Result: Fatigue and increased likelihood of disease.

So, what kinds of dishes should you avoid and how can you modify them?

  • Chicken rice! - Eat the chicken, leave out the rice, make you eat lots of cucumber and lettuce (because vegetables can be taken at all times)
  • Burgers! - C'mon, you know these aren't that healthy anyway, skip 'em! Or, if you absolutely have to, call one of those avant-gardish vege burgers or somethin'...
  • Chow Kuey Teow! - Not really a big deal, just leave out the prawns and cockles! (See? It's not that difficult)
  • Spaghetti! - Select one of those with only mushrooms and veg, I assure you they still taste bleedin' good
  • Noodles (wantan, prawn, pork) - now this is a tough one; what I've been doing is avoid these altogether (apart from that occasional moment of weakness, *grin*)...nowadays I take my noodles with bean-sprouts, greens and mushrooms. Alternatively, for wantan noodles, you can skip the noodle and eat the wantan alone
  • Dim Sum! - tough luck, virtually all the dishes are protein-&-carb this case you either i. avoid it completely, ii. give your diet a break and go for it (but make sure you eat loads of veg-based stuff) or iii. pick and choose only meat+veg items (which sucks, I know)

But overall treat it like a game you play three times a day. As with all games, you get better with practice and with each success.

And because it's a game, eating becomes more fun and, certainly, more healthy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Apart from my 2-hour toilet ordeal in the middle of the night, the Carnaval experience is something I'd recommend to one and all.

Apart from my having to take half a day off to let my stomach and sleepless head recuperate, the Brazilian Churrascaria BBQ is a must-try and is perfect for meat-lovers and generally anyone who can 'hold their portions' all evening long.

Apart from my sleep being interrupted, probably due to the nearly rare beef romp served - which was simply superb, I might add - I'd say: Make a trip there at least once a year. Find a time when you've skipped lunch and haven't had a decent meal the whole week. The beef and the lamb are so good, my wife abandoned her anti-lamb stance for an hour.

No other place offers you twelve kinds of BBQ dishes served at your table in skewer form. You feel like Genghis Khan having the luxury to choose the choiciest meat.

Apart from having to scour the medicine box for diarrhea pills and stomach pain tablets, I'd say it's not only the food that was welcoming. Service was the most polite, helpful and efficient I've come across in the entire Damansara area.

Apart from paying the price with your guts in the wee hours of the morn, I'd say it's really worth it to pay the RM50 for the Adult Meal, and have yourself a blast before blasting the basin six hours later.

For the money, there's nothing like the Churrascaria BBQ. Only be careful you don't have important assignments the following day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Un-doing Dilbert

She didn't like my initial email, so she wrote back with some thinly veiled sarcasm.

I didn't entirely get the point of her response, so I counter-responded with some bite of my own.

I then sat and waited. And waited.

Until I decided to go up to her cubicle. I went up to her, shook her hand, said I didn't mean to offend with my earlier email, and things were back to normal after less than a minute.

Peace-making. Never leave office without it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Malaysian Politics & A New Kind of Humanity

It was, from the start, unlikely that many would find the below presentation totally agreeable, but I appreciate the feedback nevertheless (from ROH Merdeka 2008 participants and non-participants alike).

Some responses raised to the idea that peace-making, reconciliation and forgiveness must be the Church's defining role (in politics and all domains of life) included:
  • Jesus has many facets, not merely the suffering/dying one e.g. His Temple action
  • The Church also has a prophetic role to play i.e. Christians have a responsibility to rebuke the world as the Biblical prophets did - attempted response here
  • "Love thy enemy" doesn't apply to societal/institutional evil (e.g. we are not called to love apartheid) - a teenie-weenie response of sorts here (argument still to be developed)
  • One doesn't tell an abused wife to 'love her husband'
  • The book of Revelations was filled with tirades against Rome (e.g. it labeled Rome a beast) - attempted responses here
A good friend even said that whilst he wouldn't mind inviting Ahmad Ismail (who made racist remarks against Malaysian Chinese) to dinner, he would also call UMNO to fire him.

Can you add (or counter-respond) to the above? I'd love to hear more.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

4Ls' of God

Glenn Miller, arguably the best online Christian apologist today (certainly the most verboise and intellectualy vigorous one) posted a very rare entry in his letters section.

This one includes what he calls the 4Ls' about God: The living, loving, laughing and lamenting God.


Preachers not only have to be good teachers; they often need to be watchful psychologists.

The average church worship service can be - let us agree - very dull at times, no?

The music doesn't connect. The message is overly stratospherical (unintentionally, of course - God forbid the preacher would leave out down-to-earthiness and everyday relevance, right?). The congregation's attention isn't there. The passages sound like Greek and Hebrew (smile). Everyone's in outer space or yawning their way there. Heck, even the pews aren't friendly.

The point is: States are value-neutral. There is nothing sinful or evil or godly about how people feel physiologically wherever they are (even and especially in church). If they're tired, they're tired. If they're moody, then they are.

But - unlike 95% of preachers in the world - one doesn't need to remain helpless. Preachers needn't do nothing if they're aware that they're "losing" their audience. Think about it: it only takes a FEW minutes of the service time to:
  • get people talking to each other (about the sermon, about the day, about one thing God has impressed upon their heart in the past 24 hours, etc.)
  • get people to write down two things they like best about the sermon on post-it notes and exchange them w each other
  • get people to find out one interesting thing about someone he doesn't know very well
  • get people to massage the person on the left / right
  • get people to play a quick game or do a quiz

These activites (and others like it) take up little time, are not at all 'ungodly' and helps revive a tired congregation's spirits. Given that merry hearts doeth much good, why shouldn't these be encouraged (more) in church?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


If you're a Malaysian driver, you'll be an irony on wheels. Because it's unlikely you'll have too much trouble:
  • waiting about an hour to get cheaper gas
  • waiting almost half an hour to get to some super-cool shopping mall or nightlife area 
  • waiting more than an hour (or a few) at the garage to give your car a new body job
  • driving long distances, which could take you about two hours, to eat at some famous restaurant (or 'restaurant')
You'll endure jams, queues and other manner of long lines for the trivialest of reasons. Time 'stands still'. 

But if some dude cuts into your line on your way to work - an urban tragedy as it eats into an incredible twenty seconds of your mission-critical schedule - you feel like shit.

That's twenty seconds of fuel, twenty seconds of moral right to be car at no.X position on the road, twenty seconds of wasted waiting. You've been cheated and you want your pound of flesh, only you know there's next to nothing you can do about it.

Except blast your horn and mutter (loudly) that some people are impossible to understand. 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Face to Face With Malaysia

I've only done two 'politics-related' presentations my whole life. One's - titled Agents of Reconciliation - over here, another's the below.

It was something I prepared for the young adults group. Slides 7-17 is mine, everything else is Tricia's. I kinda like slide 17 (smile).
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: religion society)

A third presentation will happen this Saturday at the ROH event.

The New 4Ps'

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Giant Gaffe

It's the holidays. So why give your customers any reason to wish they were somewhere else?

The Giant superstore in Kelana Jaya must have about twenty check-out counters. This evening, the fourth day of Hari Raya, there were barely three counters opened.

The queues were snaking like an ants on a sugar grab.

Of course everyone knows the store's (mainly) Muslim workforce was depleted. Everyone, however, wouldn't care - not when they have to wait half an hour to pay for their groceries.

Giant has been opened for many years. And this isn't the first staff-diminishing holiday it's endured. So it's unfortunate that no real planning was done to anticipate and address this problem via, maybe:
  • giving the waiting customers a 10$ coupon for their patience (so what? at least you'll guarantee they'll come back and positively word-of-mouth you)
  • enforcing a '10 items of less' rule for peak holiday hours (if they want to buy more, they'll need to line-up twice/thrice, sorry)
  • minimizing the staff-force in other areas and channel them to the counters (I swear I saw at least two or three staff hanging around not doing much...)
  • closing the place for a day or two! (no one will blame ya; I think this is the option most stores in Singapore take during hols)
  • request more staff to stay back (I personally don't like to see junior staff missing out on the holidays, but somehow Giant could find people to man the fruit, the meat, the packaging sections - what's up with the cashiers?)
Still, well...I guess it's always easier to make the customers wait...and wait...and wait.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Was in Ampang's famed Korea Town last night. If you haven't been there, no prizes for guessing what the no.1 kind of business, which takes up a good 90% of the town's 'industry', is. (I don't actually have to say it, do I?).

The question is why so many. 

Granted it makes local tourists like me go ooh and ahh and everyone has a good time saying how difficult it is to find the 'best' place but loving the trial-and-error anyway.

Granted nobody complains about a lack of choice and every operator is pushed to excel.

But why, if you're gonna start a business, would you open almost exactly the same kind of shop next to not one or even two other identical ones, but more than three dozen in a very small area?

Is the market so huge and vibrant one expects customers by the (multiple) truck load to come overflowing into the community? (At this point I'd have to say that the evening activity in KoreaTown Ampang is nothing like that in ChinaTown Melbourne let alone London or San Francisco)

Is every other business taxed less? Or are start-up costs the lowest? Or do the K-biz folks feel that one 'cannot go wrong' with food?

The answer, I'd surmise, is related to the last question. K-restaurants have huge margins. Heck, three slices of cold pork can rake in RM30-40 in revenue. One doesn't need many customers a month to break-even. And I suppose when you're a food operator in an alien country (whatever else you might say about your 'second home'), the less risk the better. Maybe the fact that so many restaurants are even surviving proves the point.

Furthermore, indeed, no newcomer to K-Town should ever miss the food. There is frankly no point in going if that's the case.

And yet...I wonder...couldn't there be more grocery stores? More bakeries? More K-boutiques? More K, period?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

$80,000 Squidoo Charity Giveaway

Each vote is worth $2 for the charity of your choice. Make it and click it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Malaysia's No.51

According to the Heritage Foundation, Malaysia ranks #51 in economic freedom. That's 50 countries scoring higher (incl. Czech Republic, Bostwana and Trinidad & Tobago) and 111 scoring lower (incl. Italy and Greece) on the following principles:
  • The establishment of the rule of law
  • The principle of private property
  • The acceptance and encouragement of private wealth accumulation
  • The mitigation of government interference and regulation
  • The promotion of free trade 
And in case you're wondering where Singapore is, Blogpastor, well you're at #2.

Bad But Loving It

Her singing was way sub-par. She adopted an accent which made her sound more contrived than contemporary. Her vocal projection was so weak you weren't absolutely sure she had opened her mouth.

Yet, I'm recording this short note about the female singer who performed at the Horn Bill Restaurant two Saturday evenings ago not as a complaint, but as a compliment.

Because however poor her technical delivery was, no matter how the guests snickered, she never stopped slow-dancing where she stood; she never stopped exuding her oneness with the music.

She may have messed up bad with her voice but she let her body take over with a kind of passion you couldn't help but notice. It's as if she really didn't care if she sounded bad. She wanted people to know she loved the songs nevertheless.

She needs more training for her voice, definitely. But she could give/show a few tips to many a discouraged professional.

People may laugh and, yes, you may (and will!) suck at least sometimes - but you gotta find one thing you do well and do it like the world went round because of it. People will notice.