Saturday, April 16, 2016

I Will Be Back With More Time.

It is more than two years since I last blogged! Not that nothing interesting happened. In fact, plenty happened! Shifted house, shifted office, boys grew, had Hand Foot Mouth Disease (ouch!)! Just to name a few. There were gains and losses. Life's ups and downs. Of me, and those around me.

I haven't been doing much deep thinking and thus less writing. Not enough time? That is probably an excuse. But it is true that I have not slept well for quite awhile. It is hard to explain the stress from work, where nothing goes smooth, and every step forward is a hurdle. Technology also had made it simple and addictive for us to mindlessly share. Share our thoughts in bits and pieces. Forming persona of ourselves to acquaintances and friends I hardly meet anymore. I remember experimenting with Tumbler, finding ways to post once, publish everywhere. It didn't quite work out.

Even when technology made it is so easy, I have not been diligently editing and uploading photos of my darlings. I imagine Nate questioning me next time why his brother has two photobooks, while he has none. I promise myself to do one for his three-year-old birthday.

I am brought back here by a recent comment on my entry about visit to Cappadocia, from someone who shared a similar memory of that place. Another comment asking me for travel advise around Cappadocia. I am enjoying my new workstation (and my can of cold beer) and may start to blog again.

Perhaps, the first step is to consolidate status messages from Facebook and post onto this blog.

Another project is to copy my anime collection from the old DVDs and CDRs into a single hard disk, and then cataloging them nicely with information from OMDB. On the latter is easy, I have figured out the code. It is the copying that is rather tedious.

I also have not finished the deco of my house. Bert has swimming lesson tomorrow morning, Nate is down with another bout of HFMD-like symptoms. I have not done up slides for next week's monthly update yet. The project milestone is in less than a month's time and the System Design Document is not ready. I want to play around with Caravel and Microsoft Cognitive Sciences APIs. What about the Udacity Deep Learning course which I progressed no further than the first hands-on? Oh, I need to file my tax too! Don't we all excel during crunch time?

Oh well, I will leave the writing to another day. It is enough for now. Back to my dramas. :)

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Hurtful Pride.

It hurt when someone commented I should let the mother handle the crying baby. 

Being proud that I am a hands-on Dad and make good logical decision most of the time, that hurt my pride. Why would I not handle my children as well or even better? If the father is always there for the children, the bond with his children is never less than that of the mother's.

Of course, there is no shame in letting the mother share the burden. But it is hurtful to say I can't do it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Last 24 Hours, Twenty-Thirteen.

If you were wondering... Yes I did it for the fifth time on the eve of New Year.

Just two of us, made the journey from Marina Bay Financial Centre to Kampung Glam, via the newest Downtown line.

You can see my photos here.

Still looking for people to join us end of this year. :)

Resolutions 2014.

In "Resolutions 2013", I mentioned I posted thrice in 2012. Well, in 2013, I posted once - progress! Can shut down this blog lah... hahaha...

Nevertheless, I think I should review the year and set my resolutions, although it is already half a month into January. Why? Well, lists are very useful for remembering things, especially for old people like me. Although there were few posts, twenty-thirteen was not short of ups and downs. Not in any particular order or preference...

The downs: car accident, one pathetic blog entry and...

The ups: became a father again (arrival of my darling Nathaniel - gift of God), visited Göteborg, Stockholm and Paris again, spent lotsa fantastic time with my family, pushed for Scrum, clocked one more in-camp training and got to know some fun people along the way!

That's a short list... You see, I can't really remember what happened and a check on my Facebook time-line revealed mostly happy occasions and photos of my sons. It is better that way. Why hang on to unhappy memories? One of my changes over the years is getting less emo and more nonchalant (not bochup k'), apart from the occasional out-burst of unhappiness which my lunch kakis may observe.

Perhaps two words can describe my 2013: "Family" and "Work". I think I did work my a** off for in these two areas in 2013 (never mind that I went home on time on most days and seem to be just talking and nagging at people). It gave me great satisfaction. Besides working for myself future, I hope I had improved the lives of people around me too - it would be lucky if my team don't think that I made their lives worse! :p

Towards the end of 2013, I started buying photography books from book depository. It is a wonderful experience to look at printed photographs and share with my wife. In 2014, I will read more.

So what are the rest of my resolutions for 2014?

Besides the usual "exercise more" (we really really really have to restart our lunchtime gym routine ok?), spend more time with my friends (yes you and you and you whom I barely meet like once a year now), my wife said I should include getting Bertrand to learn swimming (perhaps that's his resolutions bah... haha).

One of the two reasons why I decided to set resolutions for 2014 is this article by Clayton Christensen, which Stephen shared with me last week.

In the book, "How Will You Measure Your Life?", Christensen (who is well-known for his work in innovation and not his view of life), shared his thoughts on guidelines for life and ways to pursue happiness. This HBR article, from his speech to a HBS graduating class, eventually became the book. I have a deep impression of his takes on humility:
By the time you make it to a top graduate school, almost all your learning has come from people who are smarter and more experienced than you: parents, teachers, bosses. But once you’ve finished at Harvard Business School or any other top academic institution, the vast majority of people you’ll interact with on a day-to-day basis may not be smarter than you. And if your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited. Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good about themselves, too. When we see people acting in an abusive, arrogant, or demeaning manner toward others, their behavior almost always is a symptom of their lack of self-esteem. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.
In 2014, I will listen to people without prejudice.

The second reason is this article my wife shared with me today. In 2014, while we occupy ourselves daily with challenges of bringing up the children, I will cultivate the good habits of a healthy relationship. 

Finally, it is satisfying to blog again. Hope I can do better than just one or two posts in 2014! Have a great year ahead!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Last 24 Hours, Twenty-Twelve.

It is becoming a tradition. This is the fourth time for me. This year, two new companions joined me for this journey in the last 24 hours of 2012.

As usual, is only for a few hours in the afternoon. But I like the sound of it, "last 24 hours".  It started out in 2008 for me, a ala  Eye é City. For the record, it was another rainy new year's eve.

We started our journey at Thian Hock Keng, Amoy Street and ended at Raffles City Shopping Centre. It was interesting for me as it was my first time to Thian Hock Keng. This year, instead of posting the photos here, I have uploaded them to my Flickr account. The photos look better there as I don't have to reduce the size of the photos for this blog. I will re-edit the past photos and upload them as well when I am free.

Who will join me next year? You can sign up now!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Resolutions 2013.

In 2012, I posted only thrice (excluding this) and one of them was "Resolutions for 2012".

While posts have been few and far between, 2012 was a really significant year. It is tradition for me to review of the year:

Bertrand turned two. The terrible two? Hardly. He is our love, joy and pride. Our lives are centred around his growth, progress and learning. Our happiness stems from his adorable smiles, creative dance and conversations.

He speaks cheem stuff for a two-year-old. But it can be quite embarrassing when he describes everything he sees. Imagine him saying, "Daddy put-put (farted)". Luckily he didn't say that in public. And one time, he said loudly when he saw our neighbour in his flat, "uncle bo cheng sa" (topless).

He loves music. Any melody can set him dancing. He hums to tunes like Barbra Streisand and We Are Young. He wants to listen to Halls of the Mountain King on youTube. He tries to play instruments, from the drum, the zither, the ukulele, the organ, the piano, to the xylophone. Recently, he started singing with random words and tune while strumming his ukulele. The choice of his lyrics is little to be desired...

There is also a fair share of frustrating moments, especially since he does not fancy eating. But it is all part the experience of being parents, and 2012 has been really special for us. The magic about parenting is every day brings a new challenge, every day brings a new joy. That is why I am enjoying every moment.

I had a surgery to transplant replace my broken ACL with my spare tendon. Now, I am a proud owner of some "cute" scar on my knee (from far it looks like a smiley face with crossed eyes). The rehabilitation was slow and tough. I had to attend many physiotherapy sessions. It is not 100% well yet (there are occasional stiffness), but I can walk long distances and chase after buses. In fact, I have been exercising at the gym to strengthen my knee. My friends are really motivational and we have been going to the gym twice a week although our objectives are different. I can't believe we are doing it!

I took a vacation to the Big Apple and watched Roger played live at the Flushing Meadows. It was my first overseas vacation in two years. It was also my second trip to a Grand Slam tournament (as a spectator :p). There are much to see and do in NYC - I will want to return one day. The city is a paradise for art lovers too (the Met, the MoMA, etc.). We also made a trip to one of the grandest waterfall in the world, the Niagara Falls. Looking forward to another trip in 2013. What destination shall it be?

Just six months ago, I drove for the first time since getting my driving license. Driving my in-law's car, we avoided the hassle of taking taxi to bring Bertrand to my mum's place every morning and back at night. We have also brought Bertrand to more places than before - the Zoo (twice), the Night Safari, Gardens by the Bay, the Underwater World at Sentosa, Lower Seletar Reservoir (lost count!), shopping malls, Saturdays breakfast at Chong Pang Market with my parents. And recently, I decided to drive to work as well. It meant we can get back earlier in the evening to spend time with our dear son. I hope to remain a safe and patient driver in 2013.

Looks like I accomplished most of the things I set out for 2012. The world didn't end on the 21st Dec 2012. I will need to make some plans for 2013:

- Learn more about astronomy. I want to go stargazing with my boy.
- Create some creative works with my new iMac. Bro, I still owe you your wedding video. :p
- Stay healthy. It means lowering my bad cholesterol  blood pressure, stress level, and continue to exercise (more-more-less-less-also-good lah).
- Stay focused at work. I know I am losing it (my technical skills), but I hope I can replace it with new skills.
- Enjoy life as it is. Appreciate life.
- Be less harsh and critical about others, we all make mistake someday.

Now let's review my predictions for men tennis in 2012:
1. Roger did return to No. 1, but it did not last till the end of the year, and he won neither the Australian Open nor the US Open.
2. Andy Murray did win his first Grand Slam, it was the US Open, not Wimbledon.
3. We are still searching of the new star in men tennis. But there are plenty in women tennis.
4. Rafael Nadal did seem like fading away. In fact, he is still injured.
5. Djokovic ended the season back at No. 1 again. Not too far from my prediction of No. 2 spot. :p

Any predictions for 2013? I think Roger will still hang around the top 3. Andy will continue to improve but it will probably be a while before he wins his next Grand Slam.

Let's look forward to a more productive and wonderful brand new year! HUAT AH! Advanced Happy New Year!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What Do You Think?

What makes a good leader? Some will say a good leader is someone who can bring the best out of his/her people.

How do you bring the best out of his/her people? Some will say by giving pointers and guidance. 

How do you give pointers and guidance? Some will talk. In fact, most will just talk. 

I think a good leader should be someone who walk the talk, not just talk. A good leader gets his/her hands dirty to show his/her people the way.

Some may say this is spoon-feeding. I think otherwise.

For example, if your staff ask you for guidance on work, most bosses would dispense some wise words, "Do this, look out for this, highlight this...". At the end of the day, the staff will come back to the bosses with the work and bosses will say, "no no, do this, not that".

I would think a good leader should draft out the frame on the actual work (may it be slides or documents), then dispense his words of wisdom. The staff will do his/her thinking along that frame and fill in the "meat". That is real guidance.

Take the first step, show the right way. This is an effective way to impart the leader's high level thinking. No amount of demoralisation or "humiliation" can make the staff learn faster and better than walking the talk.

Do you have to do this for every piece of work you assign? No need. Your staff will walk your talk next time.

This is not limited to drafting slides or reports. I know a colleague who coded out skeleton of the program for a really-really inexperience staff to implement. Alas, the staff rewrote almost everything and badly.

Last but not least, a good leader provides real help, not just talk.

So, what is spoon-feeding then? What do you think?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Neil Gaiman's Keynote Address at University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

My posts have been few and far between lately. But this is worth the time to share with everyone. Neil Gaiman, my favourite author, gave a commencement address at University of the Arts in Philadelphia. This is the third commencement transcript I have ever posted. First, Mr Steve Job's speech at Stanford and second, Mr Chan Yen Kit's speech at my commencement (IDA seemed to have taken out the speech). Yes, I am seeing the testament of my choice now... Anyway, Neil's advice is applicable for everyone beyond the field of Arts. I find his following points really useful:

  1. We need to try and not be afraid of making mistakes. Do things others have not tried before. The tried and tested way gives you the same result. But your new way may yield great rewards, just keep trying.
  2. We also need confidence to believe we are able to do it, pretend to be someone who can. Often, we are tasked with work we never do before. Think beyond your experiences and skills. Imagine how someone is good at it will do so.
  3. It is easier to work when we put in passion than just looking forward to the paycheck at the end of the month. Money is the bottomline for most of us, but we need to like our work to make it a more pleasant experience.
  4. Be nice, deliver work on time, deliver a good work - two of three is good enough. I think it is in the order of the ease of doing. 

Below is his speech, reproduced below, for your reading pleasure:
134th Commencement May 17, 2012.

I never really expected to find myself giving advice to people graduating from an establishment of higher education.  I never graduated from any such establishment. I never even started at one. I escaped from school as soon as I could, when the prospect of four more years of enforced learning before I'd become the writer I wanted to be was stifling.

I got out into the world, I wrote, and I became a better writer the more I wrote, and I wrote some more, and nobody ever seemed to mind that I was making it up as I went along, they just read what I wrote and they paid for it, or they didn't, and often they commissioned me to write something else for them.
Which has left me with a healthy respect and fondness for higher education that those of my friends and family, who attended Universities, were cured of long ago.

Looking back, I've had a remarkable ride. I'm not sure I can call it a career, because a career implies that I had some kind of career plan, and I never did. The nearest thing I had was a list I made when I was 15 of everything I wanted to do: to write an adult novel, a children's book, a comic, a movie, record an audiobook, write an episode of Doctor Who... and so on. I didn't have a career. I just did the next thing on the list.

So I thought I'd tell you everything I wish I'd known starting out, and a few things that, looking back on it, I suppose that I did know. And that I would also give you the best piece of advice I'd ever got, which I completely failed to follow.
First of all: When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing.

This is great. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can.
If you don't know it's impossible it's easier to do. And because nobody's done it before, they haven't made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet.

Secondly, If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that.

And that's much harder than it sounds and, sometimes in the end, so much easier than you might imagine. Because normally, there are things you have to do before you can get to the place you want to be. I wanted to write comics and novels and stories and films, so I became a journalist, because journalists are allowed to ask questions, and to simply go and find out how the world works, and besides, to do those things I needed to write and to write well, and I was being paid to learn how to write economically,  crisply, sometimes under adverse conditions, and on time.

Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes  it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you'll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.

Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.

And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.

I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work.

Thirdly, When you start off, you have to deal with the problems of failure. You need to be thickskinned, to learn that not every project will survive. A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back.

The problems of failure are problems of discouragement, of hopelessness, of hunger. You want everything to happen and you want it now, and things go wrong. My first book – a piece of journalism I had done for the money, and which had already bought me an electric typewriter  from the advance – should have been a bestseller. It should have paid me a lot of money. If the publisher hadn't gone into involuntary liquidation between the first print run selling out and the second printing, and before any royalties could be paid, it would have done.
And I shrugged, and I still had my electric typewriter and enough money to pay the rent for a couple of months, and I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn't get the money, then you didn't have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn't get the money, at least I'd have the work.

Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me. I don't know that it's an issue for anybody but me, but it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn't wind up getting the money, either.  The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I've never regretted the time I spent on any of them.

The problems of failure are hard.

The problems of success can be harder, because nobody warns you about them.
The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It's Imposter Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.

In my case, I was convinced that there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard (I don't know why he carried a clipboard, in my head, but he did) would be there, to tell me it was all over, and they had caught up with me, and now I would have to go and get a real job, one that didn't consist of making things up and writing them down, and reading books I wanted to read. And then I would go away quietly and get the kind of job where you don't have to make things up any more.

The problems of success. They're real, and with luck you'll experience them. The point where you stop saying yes to everything, because now the bottles you threw in the ocean are all coming back, and have to learn to say no.
I watched my peers, and my friends, and the ones who were older than me and watch how miserable some of them were: I'd listen to them telling me that they couldn't envisage a world where they did what they had always wanted to do any more, because now they had to earn a certain amount every month just to keep where they were. They couldn't go and do the things that mattered, and that they had really wanted to do; and that seemed as a big a tragedy as any problem of failure.

And after that, the biggest problem of success is that the world conspires to stop you doing the thing that you do, because you are successful. There was a day when I looked up and realised that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby.  I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more.

Fourthly, I hope you'll make mistakes. If you're making mistakes, it means you're out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once misspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, “Coraline looks like a real name...”

And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that's unique. You have the ability to make art.

And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that's been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

Make it on the good days too.

And Fifthly, while you are at it, make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do.
The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that's not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we've sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.

The things I've done that worked the best were the things I was the least certain about, the stories where I was sure they would either work, or more likely be the kinds of embarrassing failures people would gather together and talk about  until the end of time. They always had that in common: looking back at them, people explain why they were inevitable successes. While I was doing them, I had no idea.

I still don't. And where would be the fun in making something you knew was going to work?

And sometimes the things I did really didn't work. There are stories of mine that have never been reprinted. Some of them never even left the house. But I learned as much from them as I did from the things that worked.

Sixthly. I will pass on some secret freelancer knowledge. Secret knowledge is always good. And it is useful for anyone who ever plans to create art for other people, to enter a freelance world of any kind. I learned it in comics, but it applies to other fields too.

And it's this:
People get hired because, somehow, they get hired. In my case I did something which these days would be easy to check, and would get me into trouble, and when I started out, in those pre-internet days, seemed like a sensible career strategy: when I was asked by editors who I'd worked for, I lied. I listed a handful of magazines that sounded likely, and I sounded confident, and I got jobs. I then made it a point of honour to have written something for each of the magazines I'd listed to get that first job, so that I hadn't actually lied, I'd just been chronologically challenged... You get work however you get work.
People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today's world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They'll forgive the lateness of the work if it's good, and if they like you. And you don't have to be as good as the others if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.

When I agreed to give this address, I started trying to think what the best advice I'd been given over the years was.

And it came from Stephen King twenty years ago, at the height of the success of Sandman. I was writing a comic that people loved and were taking seriously. King had liked Sandman and my novel with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, and he saw the madness, the long signing lines, all that, and his advice was this:
This is really great. You should enjoy it.

And I didn't. Best advice I got that I ignored. Instead I worried about it. I worried about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story. There wasn't a moment for the next fourteen or fifteen years that I wasn't writing something in my head, or wondering about it. And I didn't stop and look around and go, this is really fun. I wish I'd enjoyed it more. It's been an amazing ride. But there were parts of the ride I missed, because I was too worried about things going wrong, about what came next, to enjoy the bit I was on.

That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places.
And here, on this platform, today, is one of those places. (I am enjoying myself immensely.)

To all today's graduates: I wish you luck. Luck is useful. Often you will discover that the harder you work, and the more wisely you work, the luckier you get. But there is luck, and it helps.

We're in a transitional world right now, if you're in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing, the models by which creators got their work out into the world, and got to keep a roof over their heads and buy sandwiches while they did that, are all changing. I've talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing, in bookselling, in all those areas, and nobody knows what the landscape will look like two years from now, let alone a decade away. The distribution channels that people had built over the last century or so are in flux for print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds.
Which is, on the one hand, intimidating, and on the other, immensely liberating. The rules, the assumptions, the now-we're supposed to's of how you get your work seen, and what you do then, are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen. YouTube and the web (and whatever comes after YouTube and the web) can give you more people watching than television ever did. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are.

So make up your own rules.

Someone asked me recently how to do something she thought was going to be difficult, in this case recording an audio book, and I suggested she pretend that she was someone who could do it. Not pretend to do it, but pretend she was someone who could. She put up a notice to this effect on the studio wall, and she said it helped.

So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.
And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Resolutions 2012.

While my one-year-old is going for his first steps, I am also learning to walk (again). 2011 was full of ups and downs. 

I was promoted for the 2nd time in my first job. Not fantastic but not bad either after six years. The challenging issues justifies for the few more dollars increment to the stipend. Murphy is my good friend. With only the final milestone left, I hope to overcome all odds and pull the rabbit outta the hat in 2012! If I am lucky, I may run another project. 

For the consecutive year, I expended all my medical leave. After hearing my story, some may say 父爱是伟大的. Some may think I was pure clumsy. As my son likes to watch basketball playing, I decided to show him how to do it myself. At first I felt good, I got it plenty of shots. Unfortunately, I broke my ACL while chasing after the ball. It has been two months and my knee is still weak and hurts occasionally. I plan to go for surgery in 2012, while performing the balancing act of pulling the rabbit and recuperation. Pray for me!

My darling son has taken over our lives. We have little time for other things. But this is not bad. He IS part of our lives! It is so true when they say parents want to come home and hug their children. I feel so everyday. On one hand, you miss having time to do the things you like, on the other, you miss moments spent with him. As he starts to walk more, talk more, learn more, 2012 will be really exciting. Hoping to bring him on his first trip to the zoo. He loves the lion and giraffe! Also hoping to go on vacation without him at the end of the year.

2011 was also a visual year. I wrote less, photographed more. Maybe I will invest in a prime lens in 2012. But what's important isn't the gear, it is to take more photos. I plan to continue recording the growth of my son in photos. See them on my dear wife's Facebook album. If I can manage my time better, I will write more. Writing trains the mind. A respectable person writes well. I am gonna write more and well.

In 2012 I will also need to pay more attention to people. People like my wife, my parents, my friends. I would want to create more sparks for my wife, be more filial to my parents, and catch up with my friends. My best friend is getting married! I will also pay more attention to my team mates at work.

Tennis! I hope my vacation will be to Flushing Meadows for the US Open.

And here are my predictions for men tennis in 2012:
1. Roger Federer will end the year back as No.1 with wins in Australian Open and US Open.
2. Andy Murray will finally win his first grand slam, Wimbledon.
3. A new star will be born, and he'll win the Roland Garros.
4. Rafael Nadal will slowly fade away as he is sidelined by injuries for most part of the season.
5. Djokovic will have a less successful year, with less wins and more injuries. He will probably be at the No. 2 spot at the end of the season. 

 As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. 2011 wasn't too good. 2012 will be terrific! HUAT AH!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Last 24 Hours, Twenty-Eleven.

In between taking care of my dear son, I sneaked out a few hours of the last 24 hours in 2011. It was the third year for me. Here is 2008 and 2010.

With a creaky left knee, I wondered aimlessly from Promenade MRT to Somerset MRT, with a 550D and my Dad's old Olympus mju film compact camera. While I snapped 139 shots on the 550D, I cautiously took only two shots on film. So it will be a while before I can see how the film turn out. :p

Nevertheless, here are the thirty crappy shots with no theme or whatsoever...

Which quadrant do you belong to?
Stop and adjust yourself.
He fumbles with the map. She wonders where to go. Or is she? 
Another of the 鸟 problem in 2011. Pigeons. Call AVA. Crows. Call NEA. Mynah? Easy, M for McDonalds.
Setting up the metal barricades for the New Year countdown road closures. 
What are the enchanting moments in 2011? 
Giant Mentos on the river or another bureaucratic publicity? 
Rising to the future.
A reminder of our past, on my way down to the subterranean new world. 
Spick and span. Squeaky clean. The task of keeping Singapore clean does not end, even when the year is ending.
An old wood in the City, which caught my eye. 
Christmas wasn't that long ago.
Behind these windows, boys in green shorts used to roam the corridors. Catholic High School at Queen's Street.
Just to be very very sure... we need the extra guiding poles. 
SMU School of Information Systems. In 2011, we had a new colleague from there. 
Energising the greenery.
Just chilling. Third time I visited the National Museum of Singapore within one week. 
Old pillar. Young Soul. Latest fab of 2011 - Angry Birds. 
"Feed and I'M expansion tank".
Bombs, Banks, the McDonald House has seen it all. Will it bask in glory forever or make way for some intergalactic highway soon?
Ponding in Orchard? The good old Stanford canal has more to offer than solving our bi-century water problem.
They ran out of spoons.
Taking a break.
He loves his books. Just look at the book spine. 
What are they looking at?
Elephants left their mark in 2011.
It doesn't matter who they are. It's SALE! Now!
So What Do You Want in 2012?
Till we walk again.
Happy 2012!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What Can Siri Do for Me?

It is no secret, deep down inside, we all want a Siri to do our bidding. I don't own a iPhone 4S, but there are some things I wish Siri will do for me. Below is my top 10 list:

  1. Siri, order some roses and deliver to my wife for our wedding anniversary. Include some sweet words in the card.
  2. Siri, edit the photos and upload them to Facebook.
  3. Siri, blog about my incredible date last night.
  4. Siri, download my favourite drama, sitcom and animes.
  5. Siri, give me the gist of today's news (as what the President may receive).
  6. Siri, upgrade my competency status.
  7. Siri, sharpen my monthly progress report.
  8. Siri, cook me dinner.
  9. Siri, take out the trash.
  10. Siri, feed my baby, change his baby diapers and coax him to sleep. (Woah, Siri doubles as the latest domestic helper in the market?! Okay I cheated abit on this one, there are three tasks.)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Just In Time, For Bertrand's Big Day!

Twelve months ago, our baby boy came into this world. It was the beginning of our new journey.

The delivery suite was cold. I held the camera tightly, waiting for the moment. The gynecologist came in and told me to put it away. "No time for this." My job was to urge my wife to push hard. "One and two and three..." And then, came his first cry. "Where's my camera? Where's my camera?" I scrambled for it. First was the cutting of umbilical cord, then the body check, the weighing scale, and Bertrand was in Mummy's arms for the first time. Before I knew, it had begun - my journey as a father and Bertrand's dedicated photographer.

From the start, Bertrand is a natural when it comes to posing for the camera. He would look at the camera. The boy is cheerful. It was easy to capture him smiling. Not wanting to miss out any of it, I had the camera by my side, day and night. The first time he smiled, mumbled, laughed out loud, flipped over, crawled, sat up, stood, threw things, cruised around his cot, clapped his hands, waved his hands, blew bubble, grew a tooth, ate solid food, spat out his dinner, pulled out his socks, said "organ", shook his head to reject something, read a book, poo-ed in the potty, pointed at things, moved to the rhythm, exclaimed at the sight of little birds and guinea pigs, combed his hair... we were there! The moments were captured in our memories and through the lens of our camera.

Over seven thousand photographs later, our boy is almost one-year old. I have learned many lessons about my son and photography through this journey. It had been an extremely satisfying experience. And the journey will continue. This book is a collection of our favourite photographs. These images may not be extraordinary or brilliantly taken, but they are beautiful and filled with love. We hope that Bertrand will grow up to be a wonderful gentleman, and flip through these pages.

This photography collection is Mummy and Daddy's gift to Bertrand, the moments of intimacy, laughter, and kinship which belong to him.

Still in the wrappers!
The hardcover book in the sleek Apple box. The only problem was, it was sticky as well. I had trouble getting the book out.
The cover...
The sleeve...
The centerfold...
And the back cover...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery.

Why does the Chrome Web Store look so much like the Apple App Store? I am not just referring about the overall look. The placements and naming of the various categories are really similar as well.

For example the Ad on the top, the "New & Noteworthly" below it, the "What's Hot" aka "Popular" at the bottom, the "Top Charts Paid Apps" aka "Favourite Paid Apps" at the right panel.

This is a fantastic layout! Blackberry should really learn a thing or two from this...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When Leslie Met Dalí.

Unfortunately, he only met Dalí's works. But what better way to celebrate a wedding anniversary than to visit the Dalí's exhibition? -sheepish grin- First, you gotta have a wonderful wife like mine, who enjoys accompanying me to museums. 

This year, we visited the three exhibitions are the Marina Bay Sands Art Science Museum: Dalí Mind of A Genius, Shipwrecked Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds, and Van Gogh Alive. My dear wife, all dressed up for the big occasion of our anniversary, walked with me for a three hours in heels. Ouchie! Thank you dear!

I had always wanted to visit a Dalí exhibition after coming across the Dalí Universe exhibition at London County Hall in 2008 (yes, its the same trip with the Terracotta Warriors at the British Museum).

So this post is mainly about the Dalí exhibition. Photos are taken using my Galaxy S2, not exactly perfect quality. Descriptions are mostly from the exhibition itself.

The exhibition featured 10 galleries of Salvador Dalí's 250 pieces of artwork.

"What is important is to spread confusion, not to eliminate it."

The Dance of Time II (conceived in 1979, first cast in 1984, bronze) greeted us at the entrance to the mind of the genius... It is the trademark soft watch in his famous oil painting, The Persistence of Memory.

The Woman Aflame.

This sculpture unites two of Dalí's obsessions: fire and a female figure with drawers. The flames seem to have a life of their own and represent the concealed intensity of unconscious desire, while the drawers represent the unknown of hidden secrets. This intriguing, faceless female symbolized all women as though a woman's beauty laid in her mystery.

The crutch is another symbol frequently used in Dalí's work. He also calls it the 'symbol of death' and the 'symbol of resurrection'. It represents a blend of authority, stability and sexual power.

Interestingly, Dalí used many symbols in his works. The following are some of their meanings:
Drawers - Secrets
Ant: Death and Sexual Desire
Crutch: Death and Resurrection
Grasshopper: Fear and Anxiety
Butterflies: Soul

Look out for these symbols in the rest of this post.

Space Venus (conceived in 1977, first cast in 1984, bronze).

Venus, in Greco-Roman mythology is the goddess of beauty. This sculpture represents a classic, marble female torso, and adds four Dalínian elements: a soft clock, an egg, ants and a separation of body into two parts. The clock is draped over the neck to give us two opposing messages: that beauty of flesh is temporary and will vanish, while beauty of art is timeless and eternal. The ants are reminders of human mortality and impermanence, while in the centre, the egg is a positive symbol of life, renewal, continuation and future. Dalí often referred to dual themes or elements such as hard and soft, eternal and temporary, dream and reality.

Yin and Yang (1968, bronze).

In Chinese dualistic philosophy, Yang represents the active, masculine and cosmic principle, symbolized by the sun. Yin signifies the passive, female force. Yin does not only symbolize 'moon', but also 'shade' and 'femininity'.

Woman of Time (conceived in 1973, first cast in 1984, bronze).

Holding a flower and dressed in gently flowing robes, this radiant young woman bears Dalí's most famous symbol. The clock poses the question - is beauty dependent on time, or is it eternal?
The Anthropomorphic Cabinet.
Over he years Dalí has made a number of drawings of the Anthropomorphic Cabinet with slight variations. Significantly, in all version, including the sculpture, the face is concealed by long hair. The sculpture is titled anthropomorphic, meaning 'in the form of a human'. The draws are empty, apparently suggesting that the cabinet may be a place where we can store images that rise from our subconscious. Like in Woman Aflame, drawers symbolize hidden secrets.

Adam and Eve (conceived in 1968, first cast in 1984, bronze).

Man with Butterfly (conceived in 1968, cast in 1984, bronze).

Lady Godiva with Butterflies (conceived in 1976, first cast in 1984, bronze).

Lady Godiva (1040-1080) was an Anglo-Saxon noble woman who took pity on the people of her city who suffered her husband's abusive taxation. According to the legend, she rode naked through the streets to gain a remission from the oppressive taxation. Dalí pays homage to her sensuous forms as she embodies earthly beauty, whereas the butterflies depict an ethereal world.

Unicorn (conceived in 1997, first cast in 1984, bronze).

The unicorn is a mystical creature prominent in legends and a symbol of purity and virginity. Its horn is believed to be capable of neutralizing any poison. Dalí chose to portray the unicorn as a phallic figure whose horn penetrates a stone wall through a heart-shaped opening, from which a drop of blood seems to be slowly falling.

St. George and the Dragon (conceived in 1977, first cast in 1984, bronze).

The classic interpretation of St. George and the Dragon is comonly seen as the saint's battle against heresy and evil. The dragon's wings turn into flames, and the monster's tongue into a crutch, a favourite Dalínian image. We see a woman with her arm raised in the sign of victory. Dalí again transforms a traditional image by adding new and unexpected symbolic connotations.

Homage to Terpsichore (conceived in 1977, first cast in 1984, bronze).

Terpsichore, in Greek mythology, is one of the nine muses ruling over dance and the dramatic chorus. Dalí used a reflected image, setting the soft, carnal muse against the hardened, statuesque one. The lack of definition in both faces underlines the purely symbolic significance of these figures.

The Bible.

It is one of Dalí undisputed masterpieces. The myriad of tales of humanity, with all its virtues and vices, are depicted by Dalí with vigour and versatility, using bold lines and vibrant colours. Despite the fact that Dalí's father was an atheist, Dalí felt the influence of this mother who was a devout Catholic. After attempts at renouncing Catholicism, Dalí proclaimed his faith in the Church.

Snail and the Angel.

Dalí brings together the angel and a giant snail. By creating this fantastic sculpture, he transports us into another universe where reality and dreams are inseparable. The snail, which is very slow in its movements, has been given wings and is now fluidly moving.

Triumphant Angel (conceived in 1976, first cast in 1984, bronze).

Vision of the Angel (conceived in 1977, first cast in 1984, bronze).

The strength and supremacy of God is here represented by a thumb from which life emerges, symbolized by the tree branches.

Surrealist Warrior (conceived in 1971, first cast in 1984, bronze).

The image of this Roman warrior represents all victories, real and ethereal, spiritual and physical. Dalí surrealistic interpretation of the warrior includes the addition of a window of light, portrayed through a 'hole' in the warrior's chest.

Besides bronze sculptures and drawings, the exhibition also featured Dalí's works in Daum glass. At the end of the 1960s, the artistic collaboration between Dalí and the prestigious glass making company, Crystal Daum, gave birth to one of the most interesting collections of colour-glass sculpture. Glass offered the perfect medium for the expression of metamorphoses which was ideal for the surrealistic perception of reality. Glass easily allowed for melted forms and transformation of light and colour. Many pieces were inspired by abandoned objects and debris washed up by the sea. Others, instead, derived from his fascination with liquid, rubbery and soft materials.

Melted Clock (1988, created for Crystal Daum, glass paste, cobalt blue and gold).

In 1865, Lewis Carroll published his famous novel Alice in Wonderland. In this fairytale, Alice goes through a series of incredible adventures, meets odd characters, encounters dangers, and has to adapt to all these astonishing situations. She represents the eternal child who responds to the confusion of the world with the naivety of her childhood. After her meetings with the inhabitants of this fantastic world, Alice returns to reality unharmed and unchanged by her surrealistic experience. Like Alice, Dalí travelled a long and arduous road through the land of dreams. Dalí was drawn to both the incredible story and the extravagant characters in this fairytale. Alice is one of Dalí's favourite images and is an ideal representation of Surrealism.

Alice in Wonderland (conceived in 1977, first cast in 1984, bronze).

Space Elephant (conceived and first cast in 1980, bronze).

Dalí created the image of an elephant carrying an obelisk, a symbol of technological progress in the modern world. The almost invisible spindle-like legs emphasizes the contrast between robustness and fragility, weight and lightness. This phantasmagoria creature seems to be coming out from a dream.

Persistence of Memory (conceived and first cast in 1980, bronze).

This sculpture is named after Dalí's famous painting Persistence of Memory (1931) now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It is a simple figure, a limp clock draped over the branch of a dead tree. The unexpected softness of the clock represents the time, while precise in scientific use, is widely variable in human perception.


Horse Saddled with Time (conceived and first cast in 1980, bronze).

The horse is saddled with Dalínian time: time which controls man's passage. The famous melted clock is used in place of a normal saddle. While man believes he is in control of the voyage, it is always 'time' who is the ultimate rider.

We indulged ourselves in the Dalínian surrealistic world with these funny mirrors.


This spectacular painting is a result of unique collaboration between Alfred Hitchcock and Dalí. Hitchcock's Oscar-winning movie Spellbound (1945) starred two of Hollywood's biggest names, Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, and was one of the very first films to present Freudian psychoanalysis. Alfred Hitchcock commissioned Dalí to create a film sequence which is now an integral part of Hollywood history. Spellbound was used as the background to the filming of the dream sequence. Dalí vividly captured the illusory nature of the subconscious state where reality is blurred and the mind is animated with suppressed thoughts and hidden codes.

While this exhibition had been an eye opener for us, the most enjoyable part of the celebration had got to be the dinner. We did not dine at some posh restaurant. We had a simple meal at Kenny Rogers' @ Marina Square. Incidentally, our first date was at Marina Square's Kenny Rogers (the old one)!

Happy Anniversary!