Sunday, June 29, 2008

riding with a 7-year old

i'm 28.

he's 7.

I'm learning how to ride a bicycle. right next to this 7-year old kid who has been already riding it for years.

yup, you hear me right. I'm LEARNING TO RIDE A BICYCLE. and my sifu is 1/4 of my age. maybe this is why they call me - "budak bandar".

he was teasing me all the way, "c'mon, this is so easy..." but I was all too excited (like a 7-year old kid) learning how to balance on two wheels for the first time.

I still remember my first attempt. Me legs were short at that time (not that it's very long now but...) and they can't reach the floor when I'm sitting on a bike. So when I fell, I fell hard! After some bruises here and there, I gave up altogether.

It was not until 25 (whoa!), when I was in UK studying for MSc degree, that I next attempted this arduous task. I secretly borrowed a bicycle from a Malaysian friend, and carefully timed my practice session to be at 9pm at night such that not many people will notice this over-grown man trying to learn a kid's trick. Alas, what I did not realise was that during summer in UK, the sun doesn't completely set until past 10pm!! But I decided to endure the embarrassment anyway and kept on trying.

After trying for hours, I finally managed to move in straight lines! But whenever I try to start some circular motion (or turning), I will wobble out of control.

3 years after that.

28 June 2008.

My mom returned from shopping mall and bought a bicycle!!!! (I really sound like a 7-year old here...)

The bicycle was for herself, of course. But I borrowed it anyway. And today, I continued my lesson - trying to move in a circular motion without getting either feet on the ground. I ended up bruising my knee!!

But this time, I ain't giving it up.

(to be continued...)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Understanding what I do not understand

Sometime ago, I attended a training which revealed an interesting theory on 4-stages of learning (i.e. the process of gaining competence from incompetence).

Stage 1: unconscious incompetence
Stage 2: conscious incompetence
Stage 3: conscious competence
Stage 4: unconscious competence

The best way to describe these few stages is to consider driving lessons as an example. At stage 1, you do not know what are the skills required for driving. At stage 2, after attending some classes, you now know what are the skills you lack (traffic law and the principle of balancing clutch and accelerator, etc) and thus are conscious of your incompetence. Then comes stage 3, where after numerous hands-on lessons, you are now prepared to take the on-the-road examination and pass. At this stage, although competent, you are still very fully aware of what you are doing. But after driving for years, driving becomes an instinct. Pulling brakes, stepping on the accelerator, balancing on the cliff, all these comes naturally to you (subconsciously). At this time, you are at stage 4 - performing your task without fully aware of it.

It'd be intrinsically implied that the transition from stage 1 to 2 and stage 3 to 4 is a natural progress. For the former, all that is required is for someone to inform you of your incompetence. And for the latter, all that is required is constant practice.

However, the same can't be said of the transition from stage 2 to 3. Because, simply said, it is not a natural progress to become from incompetent to competent. In fact, I'd like to argue that there will be an important transitional stage here, which I will call it - understanding what you do not understand. I think, this is the most frustrating stage of all learning processes.

Let me cite you an example, drawn from my recent personal experience.

I'm studying micro-magnetics in preparation for my PhD later this year. Now, I'm definitely conscious of my incompetence in this area and I'm trying very hard to achieve competence by reading a lot of texts in this area. As I read, I came across sentences such as this:

"..the competitive effects of the micromagnetic energy contributions upon minimization determine the equilibrium distribution of the magnetization..."


I understand EVERY SINGLE word of it.

But when I put them together, What the %@$%& does it mean??

This, is the classical case of me not understanding what I do not understand. And how am I going to gain competence through this?

I realised that I am not alone in such situations. Many people have problems expressing what they do not understand. It is very often difficult to express what you do not know into a valid question. And when we fail to do that, we cannot seek to gain competence or ask guidance from someone else, as no one (including yourself) would know what you do not understand.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008






第二,有人说拿督黄家定限定任期是为了打造黄氏王朝,而不是健康的政治文化。是不是为了打造黄氏王朝,说真的,我这个平民百姓不清楚所以不愿胡乱猜想。可是,限定任期是个比较健康的体制应该是无疑的。限定任期当然不能确保最高领袖是十全十美,但是能确保如果这个领袖贪污腐败,他不会任期超过3 届。就如民主一样,它不能确保选出来的领袖一定做出对的决定,但是一个屡屡犯错的领袖会被人民谴责并且在大选中被拉下台。横看大马,又有哪个政党领袖勇于作出这样的改变呢?近日在幕后高喊要马华总会长下台的人又是否是在此体制下无法得到利益的同一个人呢?



Saturday, June 14, 2008

the marketing of war

everything is about branding and marketing these days. Even when waging a war. A democratic country like U.S. can no longer just wage war as they like. They have to package it, re-brand it and "sell" it to the people. Then, the people would have to buy it.

And you know what? the Americans bought it.

The war on Iraq was packaged with the idea that Saddam had chemical weapons and other WMD that he will not hesitate to use. And I remember vividly, in pushing for the war on Iraq years ago, Bush used the slogan, "let there be no doubt..." (it was used as the beginning of all the speeches given by White House during that time)

During the recent visit to Europe, Bush re-iterated that he has no regrets over the war he waged in Iraq. Despite the fact that the initial motivation behind the war was completely flawed. Iraq has no WMD, has no intention of having WMD and has no capability of WMD. So all he can say now is that the world is a better place without a tyrant like Saddam.

The world is a better place without a lot of people (including Bush). Saying that the leader of a country is tyrant is not a sufficient reason to wage a war! I am pretty sure he wouldn't have make a case for war in 2003 if all he got on Saddam was that he is a tyrant.

Tyrants are abundant on this globe. And there's a handful of them which are more despicable than Saddam.

Iran and North Korea, both have confirmed WMD capabilities, but U.S. did not declare war. Myanmar's military junta refused to acknowledge the results of the election, put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and put the citizens in grave danger after refusing international aid for the recent disaster - U.S. did nothing. And how about Zimbabwe and other war-ridden countries in Africa? Are these tyrants any less dangerous than Saddam?

So why don't Bush just invade them all?

Being a tyrant doesn't give Bush the green light to invade. And the least he could do is to apologise to the world for causing thousands of unncessary deaths.

And what is appaling to me is that the Americans are only concerned about the death toll of the American soldiers. How about the death of the Iraqis? Collateral damage you say? What gives the Americans the right to say those innocent Iraqis killed everyday are called collateral damage but those that were killed in the world trade center are called heroes?

I believe that the Americans have to show that they take responsibility over this war that should have never happened. They will have to take responsiblity by not voting for the Republicans in the coming election. By telling the World that they are sorry. And that they promise the world that this will not happen again - that US will not abuse its intelligence and wage war as she pleases. Bush is like the murderer and voting for the Republicans again just made the Americans the accomplice in this homicide. That's how democracy should work.

It may sound a bit pre-mature to vote against the Republicans based on the war alone. But I think that waging a war is not a game. It's a serious decision. And a wrong move here should be punished by the stepping down of the President, at the very least. This wrong move here should eclipse all other economy candy that the Republicans may offer.

I am happy that Obama has won the party nominee for the Democrats. And I hope he will continue to win in the coming presidential election in November. Hilary, was equally worthy of the nomination. As Obama put it, "she has shown the women around the world that there is no limits to your dream"

Either way, I hope the Republicans will not win.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


That's her name.


Pity, that we no longer talk.

They say, the first is the hardest to forget. It's true.

But the one that you want to spend the rest of your life with, usually isn't the first.

I am living a good life now, a life that I want. And wherever she is, whatever she is doing, I want to wish her well too.

Weina, that's her name.


when we meet again, I want to say "hello".

Godspeed my friend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

AP Varsity Chinese Debate Forum

Just got back from a 5-day hk trip for the Asia-Pacific (AP) Varsity Chinese Debate Forum, organised by RTHK. As a member of the University Malaya Chinese debate coaching team, I went there with 4 outstanding UM debaters.

This coincided with 3 days of incessant heavy down pour (categorised as black strom, the highest rating given by the HK govt. to a storm) and the outbreak of bird flu virus in Hong Kong. Whoa!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

the petrol price, greener cars and railways

"...the increase in petrol price should be in smaller steps instead of a whooping 40% overnight; the income per capita to petrol price ratio in Malaysia is unreasonable; the govt. should have a better control over the distribution of the petrol in view of the price hike; the govt. did not consider a holistic compensation for increase in petrol price; there will be a domino effect..."

I think almost all blogs in Malaysia will be about the increase in petrol price today. But I think my stand on this issue will be different from the rest, because I'm in favor of the price increase!

Yes, all the arguments against the price hike has its merit. And as a consumer myself, I can feel the pain too. But from a country point of view, it was necessary.

For long, our country's economy has relied on exports of raw material. In particular, oil export has proven to be a lucrative business. However, our dwindling oil reserves means that we can continue to enjoy this business for only another 10 years (or so). This means we need to plan ahead and 10 years is pretty short from a country's economy point of view.

For every cent of subsidy in petrol price, we are in fact taking away funds that could be use to prepare our country for the years after our oil reserves are depleted. The profit obtained from the price hike should be invested in building infrastructure, transportation and help building more research centers and improve our university such that we are still competitive when our oil reserves are gone.

The ratio of income per capita to the petrol price in Malaysia is obviously unreasonable and the price hike will definitely have a short term impact. But to improve this ratio, the govt. have to either reduce/maintain the price or to improve the income per capita. As of the current situation, it'd be difficult to improve the income per capita without having to resort to the increase in petrol price. Hence, this price hike is a necessary short term pain for a long term gain.


I have a proposal, which will perhaps kill two birds with a stone - the environment and the petrol price hike. I'd like the govt. to exclude all hybrid and electric cars from the import tax. Encourage car manufacturers (including Proton) to produce and sell green cars. This may just work in Malaysia because our car import tax is ridiculously high. And by taking away the import tax, you can probably buy an Honda Civic hybrid car for around MYR90k.

Again, in short term, it may hurt. This policy may hamper our local automobile industry as they try to adjust from selling conventional cars to electric cars. Malaysians will also be skeptical about such technology. But I think it's a good time to start to change. I hope this, could be the first of many steps that the govt. would take towards a greener society.


This petrol price hike could be a good thing for Malaysians, really. But if and only if the profits from this increase in price is put into good use. And knowing our govt., this should be our grave concern. Out of the 70 cents increase, how much of it will go to corruption and how much will go to developing our nation? Unfortunately, without transparency, we can only hope.

If the funds are used to build another twin towers, then please "kill me". I'd rather if the govt. use the funds to build infrastructures that could promote economic activities, to build things that will be catalyst to economic growth. For example, improving our transportation system, communication system, research centers etc.

Another proposal I have here (which YTL has already proposed something similar) is to build a high-speed train that connects our major cities - KL, Penang, JB and possibly to Singapore too. The main purpose of such a train service is not because that these routes are lucrative, but because by connecting these cities we are creating a synergy for our economy.

Imagine if you could be in KL in the morning and then travel to Penang for a meeting in the afternoon in a comfortable short trip. Imagine if you are staying in Penang and want to come to Midvalley for a shopping spree. Imagine if you are in KL and want to go Penang to try out its famous laksa. Imagine if I prefer to stay in Penang with my family but I can travel to work in KL everyday because of the advent of such high-speed train services.

KL has overgrown. We need to offset KL's cons with Penang's pros. And vice versa. These cities can complement each other. We need such a high-speed train service that connects these cities. It will be like combining 3 major cities into one location. Maybe the ROI of this railway won't be as lucrative, but the economic consequence of such service will be.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The world is grey

It's easier to see things in black and white, when in reality there's a lot of shades of grey in between.

Hollywood movies, politicians, etc, they all like to portray things as either good or bad; you are either a hero or a villian. I still remember what Bush said when pushing for a war with Iraq, "If you're not with us, you're with them!". How clever of him. And how stupid of Americans to be fooled by him.

The world is not either black or white.

But there's an increasing tendency for the people to believe so. Because it's easier to do so. Truth, however, is never easy.

It is indeed sad to see how rationalism has faded. People believe more in capitalism, emotions and blind faith more than anything else in this century. It should be understandable that during the 1st and 2nd millenium of a.d., people are shrouded from the truth, and are often incapable of reasoning due to their inept understanding of nature; lack of information and education; and constant oppression from tyrants that ruled with an iron-fist. People are made to believe kings and emperors got their mandate from heaven and gods. People are made to believe that gods manipulated weather and life sacrifices would alleviate bad weather.

But as we read in history, philosophers and scientists have then come together over the past few centuries to provide us the tools to see the truth for ourselves. And for that, I used to think that with the wide-spread of education and technology, people's ability to rationale things will improved. In reality, it is the opposite.

Come to think of it, I shouldn't find this reality shocking. During the pinnacle of the Chinese technology in the 14 century, Chinese officials were corrupted and blinded by money too. They showed no sense of rationalism, only a heightened sense of blind faith.


I truly believe that only in rationalism can human transcend.

Yes, we need love and faith. But when definition of love is blurred, when different faiths of the world are warring each other, when emotions are turbulent, it is rationalism that will provide the solution.

And it will be because of rationalism that we will be able to distinct ourselves from other beings. Only will then, we will be worthy to be called - "intelligent" beings.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

white horse ain't horse

Remember Venn Diagram? Subsets and sets?

So white horses are subsets of horse. Therefore, white horses are horses. But horses are not white horses, since horses can be black horses, brown horses, etc...


"White horse ain't horse". This is the title of a Chinese book I read as a young debater - when I was 15 in Catholic High School. It's about logical deduction and I found it useful throughout my life using the principles learned from this book.

It's not surprising though that our MPs in Parliament seems not able to comprehend such idea of sets and subsets, despite their age being triple of what I was. They keep on saying that the NEP's objective is to help the poor, but it will then always end up with helping the poor Malays (only) as the conclusion.

How in the world did the premise ended up in such a conclusion?

Poor Malays are subsets of the poor Malaysians. So poor Malays are Malaysians. But Poor Malaysians are not poor Malays. Get it?

NEP is supposed help the poor, Chinese and Indian can be poor too. Get it?

Malays are not the only one who is poor. Get it?

Still don't get it, do you? Sigh, then I guess you are as smart as our MPs. Or maybe you can act dumb as good as our MPs.

The economic disparity between the races are no longer in acute condition as during colonial times and society restructuring based on race is no longer required. So there's only one reason left to implement NEP - $$$.

But more surprisingly, editors of Berita Harian always put up headlines like "Ketuanan Melayu tercabar". Why are they then so afraid of opening up the NEP to all deserving people regardless of race? That's another reason - $elfish.