Saturday, February 28, 2009

What is a Conclusion?

So I said it. In front of the entire teacher-induction class:

"I'm not a big fan of 'truth'. I prefer to keep the ideas coming, the explorations on-going. I resonate with whoever said that a conclusion is where thinking comes to a stop and judgment owns the day. I feel truth often divides unnecessarily. And that ambiguity is the key to learning. Without the tension, what's the point of applying one's mind?"

I could've sworn some heads were shaking slowly, with that "What's-his-problem?!" tone.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Well-Loved Classic

CVs' from Manila

In the Philippines, undergraduates attend conferences like how Malaysian students watch movies - almost every other week.

Fresh grads' CVs' from Manila are loaded with lists of workshops, seminars, forums and external projects they've participated in. But Malaysian grads tend to stare at me starry-eyed whenever I talk about these things (and it sure ain't my looks, not in class anyway).

The "scoring As" mentality, whilst not entirely unhelpful, mustn't become the "As' are all I need" mindset.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Working in Teams

View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

No prizes for guessing why SlideShare featured this. Not exactly content-rich, but I'm glad the Hotel & Culinary Arts students seemed to like the session it supported yesterday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Did I miss something?

Somebody asked me today what I believed 'eternal life' means. I replied that whilst there could be one absolute answer, the response will vary. A Chinese businessman in KL earning zillions will not likely say the exact say thing that a leper in Calcutta will.

He said it's very clear from the Bible what 'eternal life' means - John 17:3, "To know God". I said whilst all may agree that's the Biblical answer, what 'knowing God' means is itself something which can be explored, applied and personally experienced in any number of (diverging) ways and perspectives.

He said he's not concerned about (human) opinions, view-points - he just wants to focus on what Jesus said. I replied that I believe Jesus would be very interested our personal response to the question and that the more important thing is to examine 'knowing God' in different contexts. I also said if you ask Paul, Moses, Noah, Job, James, etc. what 'knowing God' was all about, they'd give different answers which - whilst not contradicting each other and all having a discernible 'core' - could nevertheless sound very different.

He then said that Moses asked God to 'show him his glory' and that Paul counted 'all things as rubbish' when compared to knowing the glory of Christ i.e. there's a strong centering strain to 'knowing God' and it's best to focus on that (as opposed to looking at the divergences). I said I agreed there's an obvious commonality but if knowing God was an intensely personal thing then the personal (read: context-dependent) 'things' can't be ignored and in fact must come to the fore.

He ended the conversation. I thanked him for having it. Did I miss something? ;>)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Core Rigidities from IBM to Churches

(Something from my MBA discussions - I couldn't resist inserting churches into it)

Core rigidities are the dark side of core competencies. They’re our strengths left hardened into anti-innovative and anti-adaptive inertia-creating millstones around the organization’s neck.

Firms need to be on the lookout for this negative transformation because the consequences can be substantial:

  • Sales and revenue suffer on account of incompatibility with the way the world or community is changing; branding becomes archaic, no re-invention or re-imagination of the organization takes place
  • Competitors which are more flexible will overtake the firm
  • Partners and alliances (and even suppliers) may have trouble working with the firm if they have adapted
  • Rigidities may revolve around (or be supported by) selected individuals and these may have over time become very senior people; without checking this trend early, it may become very hard to do so in the future given the high-level of seniority behind the rigidities

By definition, a core rigidity would go against the trend of technological advancement. Thus, our core competencies need to be continually upgraded to ensure it doesn’t run behind or fit awkwardly with the latest applications and innovations.

Major organisations/institutions which’ve had their competences become rigidities include:

  • IBM and General Electric (both seemed overly impressed with their size and market-share, until Louis Gerstner and Jack Welch shook them up respectively)
  • American Express (hung on too tighly to the charge-card concept)
  • Microsoft (O/S dominance ‘rigiditized’ them to more important developments, e.g. the mastery of information a’la Google)
  • various Ivy League universities (unwillingness to fully embrace e-learning), and even...
  • mainstream traditional churches (the ‘fortress’ of their conservative theology makes it very slow in adapting to emergent thinking and culture)

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Traditionally it was always:


But we tend to have bad corporate and collective moments, and so very often we experienced:

1. READY 2. AIM..AIM...AIM...AIM...AIM...AIM...aim-aim? (you get the picture)

Then with the advent of post-rationality, the 'nano-second nineties' and creation-intensification jobs, it became:

1. READY 2.FIRE! 3.AIM (for what it's worth...)

Nowadays? It's usually just:

1. FIRE!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Office

Yeah, that's my 9 to 5(ish). Go here for the top article and here for the second one.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Marcus Ng (1985 - 2009)

I don't know Marcus Ng very well. But that didn't stop the sense of loss and sorrow from knowing he had passed away a few days ago. 24 years, in the prime of his life and a growing positive influence among his community. 

I have two distinct memories of him. I recalled crossing the hyper-busy Ampang Road to pass him some books I was selling him. We exchanged brief greetings and said our goodbyes. This was more than two years ago. The second time I met him was at the ROH Conference last October. We shook hands. I told him how I thought he'd put on some weight. He smiled and commended my memory! We didn't talk anymore after that.

I also wonder if he was the one who, during an Emergent Malaysia meeting many years back, said that his purpose for coming was to "seek a language to better help me articulate my faith". It could've been him. And if so, then Marcus' words will live on in even a near-total stranger to him, such as I was (but am no longer).

And tonight, reading the tribute from his brother, David, I'm moved to my core. I feel the full force of the possibility that at any second we could lose the ones we love most. At any moment, we could be parted and the memories could become utterly precious - because they've become the only reality left. At any instant, all the hurt and anger and pain we grudgingly hold - and allow in to barricade us from fully giving ourselves to those we love - will feel like rain splashing at our window i.e. we'll wonder why we even paid them any attention when there's so much joy and warmth and smiles to spend the fleeting moments sharing.

Farewell, Marcus. You've finished the race and entered God's arms forever. Rest in joy.

The Great Crash

Church today was unique. We've always had 'contemporary praise and worship' services before, but nothing so contrasted two different worlds as what we witnessed today.

Today we saw World X exemplified by...

crash and "quietly explode" (go figure) head on with World Y captured well by...

Something like X is the stronghold of the past (and still present). Something like Y is the emerging future (and already present).

They are two ways of being, two modes of experiencing life - of experiencing God.

How can we help these two worlds to co-exist, to be edified, to mutually learn and love, to be able to say in one voice, "There is no traditional and non-traditional, but all are one in Christ"?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Saturday Morn in Klang

So off it was to the Klang Open 2009. An 8-game, 20-minute, one-day chess tournament.

Why should we take some time to participate in activities which i. cost money, ii. induce stress (and possibly mental health problems!) and iii. has next to nothing to do with your goals in life, when you've got half a dozen great books to catch up on?

Why wake up at seven on a perfectly great Saturday morning (my only 'free' one in five, methinks), get half lost on rural roads and cursing the dude who drew up the map, making multiple wrong turns, only to find you're two hours early, so it mayn't be a bad idea to see Klang city at 8am, and have a small dim-sum breakfast alone when you could be enjoying the morning meal with your family?

Why stand around reading Stephen Hunter's Pale Horse Coming for an accumulated two hours whilst the organisers i. try to outdo other Malaysian chess tournaments in inevitably delaying the start of the tourney by more than an hour, ii. betray their sub-par professionalism by having their registration people sit around holding crumpled pieces of paper with no indication that they're the ones in charge of registration and iii. put together a venue so crammed most participants had to stand outside the playing area and even downstairs (check out the pic, see much maneuvering space there?)? [And all fairness, though, the organisers were real nice folks and doing their best within restricted circumstances]

Because. Because:

There's something about the idea of gaming competition which hooks the average man. There's something about challenging anonymous folks in a process which has, initially at least, a 50-50 chance of either party winning. Even if there's a high certainty you'll lose.

And lose I did. Twice out of the four matches I played (I decided to spend the second half of my Saturday back home).

The first loss (with a fresh doctoral grad in Physics - nice chap, if a little intense) seemed to go okay until I advanced my knight into enemy territory (Ne5) without first checking the consequences of it being taken by the opposing bishop. This resulted in an exchange of my opponent's queen for two minor pieces and a rook. Bad trade for me.

The second one was more depressing because, as always (sigh), my downfall came from sheer yippee-doo-da blindness. Why in the name of all things purple didn't I check before advancing the pawn to f5? How do I control this impulsiveness, this non-caution, this hasty eagerness to believe that no further analysis is required before moving?

I won the other two, but none of them left me with much satisfaction as my opponents were virtually holding a garage sale of key pieces!

The good news: The fact that over 400 people can get together in tight conditions to negotiate black and white pieces over a 64-square board in the midst of economic and political 'heavy rains', perhaps, is a sign that life will go on in its own strange way no matter what the bankers, industrialists and (increasingly untrustworthy) law-makers do or say.

As Ian Malcolm (of Jurassic Park fame) said, life finds a way - for the love of the game.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Palace Problems

When is it necessary for waiters and waitresses to undergo weight-training?

When it's waitering at the Jaya Palace Restaurant, Petaling Jaya (JP herein). This super-ambienced restaurant, not far away from the Tai Thong outlets in style and price, serves food in bowls and plates so heavy your average female Starbucks barista would've trouble lifting a full portion with one hand. Still, that's the restaurant's problem, right? Why should guests care about the weight of the plates and how carrying them makes the waiters look like movers? Should we care? Unfortunately, yes. Because in a Chinese restaurant those who are eating often have to move the food, too!

I italicized the above because since JP's planners completely ignored this, it's obviously not a big deal - until you, someone hoping for a good time eating, are expected to shift the prawns in order to make way for the sea-cucumber, and the prawn-pot is as heavy as a flower-pot filled to the brim, and you realise that hoisting dumb-bells at dinner was supposed to be on the menu.
I don't doubt that the larger silverware and more antique-looking surroundings adds to the illusion of better (if only because grander?) food, but the JP should've considered serving up some essentials given that they've already invested heavily in infrastructure.

The p(a)lace was clearly understaffed. About four personnel handling more than a dozen tables? That's logistical suicide. It's also aesthetical deathrow: what's the point of having lavish curtains and a flowery fountain if the people serving your guests look like a football team down to eight men? The only smiles shone our way were semi-forced ones and none of them looked relax (I almost felt guilty eating when people were working so hard - is stress a virtue for Chinese businesses?).

In the London Chinatown, a single portion of fried rice or noodles (costing no more than 5-6 pounds) can be equal to about two and a half in Kuala Lumpur. I really truly madly kid you not. Guess what a THREE-portion serving of frieds noodles at JP looks like? Barely enough to make me feel like I've eaten. Are you getting this, all you Malaysian food Googlers out there (should I write that twice for effect?)? A plate of noodles meant for Papa, Mama and Kiddo is sized at what the Kiddo ALONE normally eats. In a word, it's the reverse of London Chinatown portions.

But the real straw(-mushroom) that broke this guest's back was the story of the Thai-style fried chicken. Was it tasty? Heck, yeah. Real crispy, no half-blood seeping out (as was the case with the roasted chicken, but don't get me started), nice toppings of Siamese veggy slices, served on a light plate - all good.

Except it took 45 minutes to arrive. A full half of football.

Being polite guests, we didn't wish to cancel this dish and pay less. We told the Captain about the late arrival, which is only natural, right? Sure, except we had to tell it three chicken-poop times. And each time we hollered, we got the same response, "You're still waiting?! Daniel, where's that Thai-chicken?!", at which the dude called Daniel - probably under the impression we weren't looking - would wordlessly brush the question aside with his head, the Captain would leave and there we'd be waiting again.

I'm not fussy but I usually don't appreciate the last thing I eat being a spicy TFC with an arrival time longer than a Qantas with a busted engine, and me being treated like I didn't know it!

And the finale. Receipt items printed in Chinese and nothing else. So here's a tip (not for the waiter, for you the aspiring luxury Chinese-food connoisseur): If you can't read Chinese and you want to take some folks out for a good chopstick-eaten meal, either blow the entire roof by going to Tai Thong or save and savor the cheap, greasy stuff at five out of ten corner-shops in the Petaling Jaya area.

At least in the latter haunts, you don't expect great service.