07 July 2017

Your House Owns You

If you're expecting an article about property legality or something like that then you are going to be disappointed. This is more of a philosophical piece, so bear with me. It is more about the perspectives we have towards ownership of materials and the mindset we have towards success. It might also seem a bit unstructured and that is because I'm writing this at the spur of the moment. I have intended for this post to be longer and touch more on feminism and filial piety but I ran out of time so I will probably touch on it in another post.

When you really think about it, society has thought us that success is about having either fame or fortune or both. It is as if happiness can only be achieved when we are able to, as nonsensically put forth by the infamous Robert Kiyosaki, get out of the rat race. If you have played his popular board game, Cashflow 101, let me tell you something that is at the back of your mind, and this is true for real life and for the board game as well, the rat race doesn't end. It just gets bigger. You will just have bigger things to worry about.

Once you've top a mountain, there are just other mountains to climb. The more things you own, the more things you have to be insecure about. What do you think will happen once you've gotten "out" of the rat race? You would be eternally happy? Eternal happiness is the pot of gold at the end of rainbow. The cake is a lie. Would you loose your self worth if someone took everything you own? The things that you truly own and no one could steal them from you are the skills that you, the experiences that you've made, the connections with people around you.

Still not convinced? Don't take it from me then. Take it from these famous people:

The list goes on, it is not just limited to these well known, "successful" people. So if wealth and glory is not the answer then what is? Honestly, I don't know the answer to that question but I some have suggestions:-

Work on yourself -  listen to yourself and learn more about that person in the mirror. Throw away this term from your Chinese vocabulary: 幸福 - it doesn't exist and the term is quite sexist... Perhaps, this is a can of worms that I best leave for another day and so I digress.

Work on your relationships - be more emphatic. Relationships are tough to maintained. This is kind of hard for me as well due to my introverted nature but I think it's the right path to pursue. If you are more inclined towards a scientific reasoning then perhaps this research could sway you: 

I have seen this mindset coming from a lot of my friends and family. Everyone is pursuing to get "out" of the rat race, to retire at an early age, to "invest" in properties. You work and stress yourself out in order to make payments for these properties that will supposedly make you successful. Hence, here's a question I leave it for you to answer because only you can answer it. Does your house own you or do you own your house?

19 May 2017

Take Me Out Malaysia: The Stranger Truths

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.
- Mark Twain -

Take Me Out was a televised dating game show that aired on NTV7 from late 2011 to early 2012 for 15 episodes. Reality shows are usually nowhere close to reality. Some are thoroughly planned to go a certain direction and some are even down right scripted but what about Take Me Out? Let's just say there were things that was going on behind the scenes that wasn't really brought to light. Honestly, I am not sure if I would get into trouble for revealing some of these things but since it has been so long ago and my blog isn't really famous, I am guessing that it's going to be fine. If not, then you better read it before I have to take it down.

For those who are not familiar with the show, let me give you a bit of background. It was based on a similar Australian TV show called Taken Out but I believe that you, the reader, would recognize the Chinese version, 非诚勿扰, which is more popular among the Chinese community here in Malaysia. The point of it is for the single males to showcase themselves as possible dating candidates for one of thirty single females. If you were interested in appearing on TV while looking for someone to go on a date, you go for one of the audition sessions and hope you get selected. I decided to join one of the audition out of curiosity and one other reason which will remain to be not publicized. Lo and behold, yours truly got selected and went on his way to be a televised game show "contestant".

Right off the bat, there's one big issue in bringing shows like this to Malaysia and that is that it has to be sensitive towards Islamic values. Even though that every episode, the participants were a mix of Muslims and non-Muslims and it was made to seem like there were no issue whatsoever but this was told to all of us before each recording was done - Muslims are not allowed to choose a non-Muslim and vice versa. You may leave your lights on for a guy but at the end of it, he can't choose you. Bummer. The choices available shrunk in an instant.

So, was it scripted? No, it wasn't scripted but that doesn't mean that there weren't any form of manipulation involved. The procession of the show was generally kept in the way you saw it; there were no re-shoots (at least none that I know of) but there were technical issues that caused the recording between segments to be delayed. You can imagine moments where the male candidates had to stand in the middle of stage whilst having 30 thirty ladies staring at him awkwardly without having any interactions, waiting for the technical issues to be resolved.

Although the choices were remained in the hands of the participants, persuasion and manipulation were made from behind the scenes such as the way the short introduction and the interview videos were made. Many question were asked in order to compile the videos but not all of it are in the videos. There were question like "what do you dislike about him/her?", and "what do you want in a partner?" The final pieces were edited just the way the editors wanted it to be. The bottom line was still all about commercial value - dramas needed to be stirred, angles of controversy needed to be dug, all in the name of ratings. Society just likes to watch other people's conflict for entertainment.

At the end of it all, I'm still glad that I joined the show. It was an experience that I might not have the opportunity to try again and through it, I've made many new friends. Many of us have kept in touch even till today and some of us have became long term friends. And, although none of the pairings that were paired officially on the show were successful, some of them that met behind the scenes and engaged in dates through traditional means are - at least, one couple I know are happily married and recently have a lovely new born baby.

Oh yeah, one last thing, even though the episodes were aired weekly and that the hosts would say things like, "This week, we have someone new", the episodes were not recorded weekly. They were recorded on weekends - 2 episodes per weekend. Sometimes 2 episodes in one day. They just changed outfit.

28 April 2017

Being an Atheist in Malaysia

This is not to preach, debate or de-convert anyone. It is merely a documentation of the experience of one single atheist.

I am an agnostic atheist. What that means can be summarized by this simple statement: I don't know if there is a creator god but I don't believe there is - a liberating worldview as some of my fellow heathens would say. The world made more sense when there isn't any supreme beings in sky governing it and I no longer have to worry or be afraid of the supernatural. There isn't an exact date or is there any ritual to do when someone turns tail from the god concept. Although, I have heard of a de-baptism ceremony involving a blow dryer but I digress. It was a gradual process that took a couple of years. Looking back at it, all I can say for sure is that it was a period during my early 20s - before the new atheist movement began.

By current estimate, the population in Malaysia is at 31.7 million with an ethnic composition as follows: 68.6% Malays, 23.4% Chinese, 7.0% Indians and Others at 1.0%. This was from the Department of Statistics Malaysia, Current Population Estimates, Malaysia, 2014 - 2016. As for the breakdown for religion, it was not mentioned in this publication. However, in the 2010 report, where the population was estimated at 28.3 million, those who professed themselves as practitioners of Islam were at 61.3%, Buddhism at 19.8%, Christianity at 9.2%, Hinduism (6.3%), and others. Those who have no religion? 0.7% - this put the estimated number to be close to 200 thousand; this number is actually surprising for me as well. Personally, I have only made the switch, in the official records, from Buddhism to Tiada Agama (no religion) 2 or 3 years back.

So, depending on what background that one was born into, the experience would be quite different. I was raised with a mix bag of Buddhism, Taoism and traditional Chinese religion. In any official forms or records, I was told to just put Buddhist. I did not really questioned, learned or talked about other religions until certain militant individuals came along - Christians. They were aiming to convert university students - quite active around my campus I would say. They would invite me to their church to join in their social activities. It was odd, they sang songs about this one guy and they capitalized the word "him" or "he" in mid-sentence of their lyrics. It was so annoying; My English teacher would so mad when I do something like that - still annoyed now. They asked difficult questions, questions that I have never really thought about. Questions like what do you believe in? How did the birds and the bees come into existence? What if you are wrong?

I didn't have the answers to them but I certainly couldn't accept answers like "the truth is all written in this book" or "you must have faith". Hence, in this period of endless questioning, I was beginning to be gradually more inclined towards disbelieving religious claims. I only learned that there was a word to address people who do not believe in gods from a movie named Hot Fuzz. It is a really awesome action comedy by the way - highly recommended. No, this movie did not de-convert me. I was already an atheist. Those Christian sketches and movies didn't convert me either. Please don't ban movies because they bring up issues that you don't like. I went too far off course here.

Anyway, it has not been a social suicide, for me at least. It is not a secret but then again I am not explicit about my "atheism" either. It is not the first thing that I would tell about myself whenever I meet someone. Friends of whom I have known for long time are still friends. Even after gaining this piece of information about me. Maybe there are those who had secretly unfriended me but I have no knowledge of that. No acquaintances had come up to me and said, "You're an atheist?! I want to unfriend you". I have not lost my job and in fact, I was once asked about why am I an atheist in a job interview and I got the job offer (certainly not because I am an atheist). I do have this one colleague, however, who is more than eager to point out that, "Mike is an atheist! Mike is an atheist!" whenever the topic of religion comes up with a new colleague.

As I traverse on life with this worldview and being a slave to the human condition, I have seek out those who are like minded and my story is mild compared to my other blasphemous friends who are an ex-Christian or an ex-Muslim. Letting the cat out of the bag is near impossible as a Muslim. You could be faced with passive-aggressive family members who thinks that you will go to hell. You could receive death threats from anonymous extremist online and offline. You could be wondering when the religious police will come after you. I know of a few who have exiled themselves from the country due to this. I wish that the environment here could be friendlier towards atheists but as of now, they are better off elsewhere.

Will I ever see a day where someone I know is killed just because he or she no longer subscribes to religion? I hope not. We are not that different. We still go to classes to learn of the world. We still go to work to earn a living. We still love. We still get heart broken. We still hang out friends to talk about the day before and the days ahead. There are many gods that you (the theist) disbelieve in, we just disbelieve in one more. Even though our opinions may differ, but it does not mean that we cannot be friends.

24 March 2017

The Reasons I Love to Climb

Photo Credit: Ramon Fadli Photography

Rock climbing is a form of physical activity that has been gaining more and more interest over the years. Last year, sport climbing has been added into the 2020 Summer Olympics. Although the inclusion is somewhat controversial within the community of climbers, sport climbing is only one part of rock climbing. Personally, I am neither for nor against the addition. The reasons I love to rock climb are a lot but none of which are of glory. Before I begin stating those reason, let me just say that I do not consider myself a good climber (I knows tonnes of climbers who does it much better than me) and the reasons I state might not resonate with every climber.

There’s a lot things to learn
Learning is a never ending journey. To teach is to learn and to learn is to live but boy, is there a lot of things to learn in climbing - techniques, rock tiles, inspirational rock climbers, safety gears, safety protocols, knots, route grading, different climbing practices, bouldering, top roping, lead climbing, crack climbing, multi pitching, and list goes on and on. I still have a lot to learn.

It is social bonding session every time
You can’t climb alone. You shouldn’t climb alone. You need a friend to help you top the routes safely and to make it a fun and challenging experience. When you watch others climb, it's like seeing them dancing to the wall. You get to meet many climbers at most the sites around KL. There are a lot of climbers both outdoors and indoors. If you ask nicely , they are friendly and willing to give you an advice or two about a route you are doing, or help you more about the climbing lingoes like the ones that I have just spewed out in the previous paragraph.

Every route is different and it is about problem solving
I have an inclination towards logic and reasoning. Every route is an itching problem waiting to be scratched. Some routes are easy and some are hard. When I am in queue for my turn to climb, I would look at how solve the routes around or analyze how other climbers did them. There would be times where I couldn’t top a climb but when I do find the correct technique or move for me to do so, it is like something just clicked - a eureka moment.

It is a full body exercise
From your fingertips to your toes, almost every muscles will get a workout - finger muscles, forearm, biceps, abdominal muscles, calves, etc. and after countless number of climbs, I still sometimes strained muscles that I never thought was involved in this physical activity (This is not a good example. Please do proper stretches or warm up before loading your muscles. Although some were caused by improper technique). Also, do I need to mention that exercise is good for health?

I don’t have to compete with others
Popular sports like badminton, football, basketball has the goal of you being “better” than the other team you are playing with. There must be a loser in every game. I don’t want my happiness to be based on the expense of other’s grief. I am not against competition; many would consider it good source of motivation. My motivation also stems from rivalry - a rivalry with myself.

It is a mental challenge
I remember when I first started climbing, it was frightening. My hands would clench firmly onto the rock tiles while I fight the fear of falling at every step up. It was exhilarating when the top was finally reached. Now, I don’t even notice the height when I top rope even when the route gets tough; Only when I lead, I will get that I am psychologically challenged. Every lead route, I will have to mentally prepare myself for it. If I don’t and I got onto a tough section, panic ensues, I will grasp the hold too tightly and use up my energy more quickly than I should. An easy route becomes a tough route. That skill of controlling your fears not only assisted me in climbing but in other aspects of my life as well.

Memento mori is a Latin phrase that translates to "remember you have to die". How ironic that my biggest motivation to live life is death and in this practice of a sport, I am constantly reminded of my mortality. Hence, I wrote these reasons down and published them as a reminder to myself and to all my climber friends to keep climbing.

24 February 2017

My Personal Goals for 2017

Photo Credit: Strandkorb On Beach by Dreamstime Stock Photos

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
-Unknown -

Yes, I know, it is kinda late to be writing down new year resolutions. However, I am a master procrastinator (still working on this one) and this is not really a new year resolution - it is more like goals for 2017. Personally, I had taken the stance that new year resolutions doesn’t work; the period is just too long and you don’t need to wait for a new year to re-evaluate your life and the things you want to do. The calendar is just a tool we use to measure the passing of days, but it is lie to state that these labels of days does not affect my mind in any way. It does affect my psyche, somehow. Hence, here I am, figuring out what I should be doing for this year. What changes I should make to give the best chances for me to obtain my goals.

Here lies the underlying rules that I am following:

  1. Five goals are to be written down in public so that others may keep me in check for self-control is unreliable. I am giving permission to whoever that is reading to pester me at any time for not following through with my goals.
  2. Achieve them in 6 months and not a year for continuous sense of urgency. A year is just too damn long. For me at least, a goal for half a year would keep me more on my toes.

And here are the goals that I have set for myself:

1. Rescue Diver
It is no secret that I love to dive. Every time I dive, I am immerse into a deep sense of tranquility. I am mesmerized by the beauty presented to me by the deep sea. I could not get enough of it. I want to do more of it and be more competent at doing it. Getting certified as a rescue diver is just the next step in my diving journey. Once I’ve gotten that, hopefully, I will be able to go for dive master certification.

2. Run a 10km Race in Under 1 Hour
In the runners’ cycle, it is called a sub one. This is something that I have wanted to do ever since I started running so let me just put this in the bag. It is a reachable goal but mind you, I have not been training for running in a long time and I am talking in terms of years. My aim is to do this for a race on the 21st of May, which is the Standard Chartered Marathon. I have already started my training and I am getting a doubtful as I have gotten my knees inflamed for just a mere 5km but I will persevere. If not this race then another one after. You can follow my progress in Garmin Connect or Strava.

3. Calisthenics Everyday
I want to have regular exercise almost everyday and calisthenics is a form of exercise that can be done almost anywhere. This is especially appealing when travelling; you don’t need go for expensive hotels that has a gym or a swimming pool. It doesn’t really have to be everyday but what I am aiming for is to make this a habit by doing it almost everyday. When I’m able to make this a habit, I will consider this goal achieved. You can follow my progress here.

4. Write an Article Every Month
(This one counts as one by the way)
Writing has been kind of a secret interest of mine and I want to get better at it. The only way to get better at anything is to keep doing it even when you don’t feel like it.
I am quite unsatisfied by the pieces I come up with. It just doesn't seem to be good enough to publish. It doesn't seem interesting enough for anyone to read. Probably the biggest reason I write so little is due to impostor syndrome? I don't know. Even implying that I have such a syndrome, sounds arrogant. I am just going to publish whatever once a month and try to get better at it. Please do comment and provide tips. Your help is much appreciated.

5. Cover a Song Every Month
Another interest that I wish to get better at is music - singing and playing an instrument to be exact. Honestly, I wish I have better equipment to be doing this and that is part of the problem. I always keep thinking that I don’t have enough equipment, know-how or just doesn't sound good to be doing more of this. I need internalized this great quote from this excellent musician - music itself should be its reward for playing it. I'm paraphrasing and I got this from Dave Grohl by the way. What it means is that we should play music for the sake of the music and so that is what I will be doing. Don't worry about what others think of my music quality and just play on.

Once any goals is achieved, I would just replace them with another and I already have some in mind. Anyway, I need to focus on these 5 first. The whole idea here is to write down achievable goals, focus, and be accountable for them. If anyone wants to follow, please do. If you need me to bug you, I'll be more than happy to help. I am not positive if these methods would work any better than anyone else's methods but this is an experiment. I am just trying a different approach. It might work for me. It might not. We won't really know until 6 months later. Until then, let's just keep an open mind and work for our goals.

01 June 2016

Dare to Hug a Stranger?

This was a free hugs campaign done by yours truly back in 2011 around September or October; I can't exactly remember which month though. It was filmed by a dear friend of mine and yes, it is overdue for publishing. It conveys all of the good that had happened but it is not all that I wish to unveil. Henceforth, lies the nitty-gritty details that are not in the video.

Why Did I Do It?
The first free hugs campaigns was started by Juan Mann. It was a one man's mission to reach out and hug strangers just so that he could brighten up their day a little. He seeded the world to follow in his footsteps and I was one of them.

Everyone is struggling with life. Everyone is just figuring things out as we go through life - be it your parents, your friends, your spouse, your boss. Everyone could use a hug or a smile. Maybe it could brighten up your day just that little bit and help you get through some tough time.

So How Was It?
Most of the hugs I gave and received in the 1 to 2 hour campaign were from foreigners. There was an incident where one of guards from the buildings nearby had asked me to clear the premises. He told me that I needed to stop what I was doing. A lady pulled me away after that. She told me that I needed to move to some other place to continue. She was trying to help me and I offered a free hug but she declined politely stating that she is a lady and that she can't just hug a man.

Will You Do a Campaign Like This Again?
I'm was a very shy guy. It took a lot of self-convincing to do it in the first place and it has taken a lot of that again to publish this video now. I have asked others to join me in this campaign but none have stepped forward.  Whenever I mentioned to my friends about doing this, there were a lot of silence, and some slight criticism, but I went and did it anyway.

Here is the short answer - maybe. Maybe if I'm not doing it alone. The concept of a friendly hug is still foreign to a lot of Malaysians. I have to discern which of my friends are okay with a friendly hug and which are not. Sometimes that line is not so clear cut, but if you're having a tough time and need a little hug, all you have to do is ask for it. I am still giving hugs. Overall, it was an interesting experience and I am happy that I did it.

15 September 2009

What I am grateful for

Well, today, I'm going write the things that I am grateful for. Hey, we don't always have to write about the things we don't like or don't have right? It's time to stop complaining.

I am grateful that I am still a healthy person. I am grateful that I don't have to worry much about food. I am grateful that I have friends, that I have my parents, that I have siblings, that I have my own car with the plate number that I wanted, that I have a job, that I still have my mind, for my guitars (Jazzmin and Sync-dy). There's a lot that I could write but let's just sum it up for now. I am grateful for everything that I have and everything that I will have. The end.

25 February 2009

Random Update

I like to play with photoshop but lately didn't play with it so much. Since I started working, I haven't really play with it. Mostly because when I get off work, I get really lazy.

Somehow, today I force myself into editing this picture that I wanted to edit for such a long time but didn't really get to it. The picture didn't really turn quite the way I wanted it to be. The right building is totally blocked by the trees and I can't go retake the picture now. Oh, well...

Now, let me share a little fact about the mahal. The left building is actually a building for prayers and the right building was a guest house. It never really house any guest. It was built solely because the maharaja wanted the mahal to be symmetrical. The mahal itself is symmetrical in every direction, inside and out except for the maharaja's own tomb. Why? It's a sad story so I won't tell it here. Go and find out yourself in wikipedia or something.

That's all for now. Bye bye.

06 February 2009

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!!!

Everyone still in Chinese New Year mood. I'm still in Chinese New Year mood also. Visit the relatives here and there. So many small children in the relatives house now that I can't remember them all. Since when so many wan???!!! You see also headache.

Sorry dun have their pictures to show you all cause I still haven buy a digital camera. Thinking maybe I should just buy a good camera phone and skip the digital camera. Anybody has a good suggestion or idea? will be much appreciated.

I'm gonna buy a motorcycle soon so maybe save a bit on the camera or handphone. Anyway, that's all for now. Bye.

23 January 2009

Penang Hiking Trip

Really sorry about the last post. If you all didn't guess by now, actually, I didn't forget to post; I didn't have time to come up with something to write. XD

Anyhow, I went for a hiking trip last Saturday. I hiked to this place :-

Photo courtesy of crazee85
(Haven't buy a camera yet. Hoping for price drop)

I went hiking with two other friends. All of us never hike up Penang Hill before so we ended up getting a bit lost. We had to ask an auntie, that was hiking up too, for directions.

Luckily, we manage to find our way up. It took us about 3 hours to reach the top. When we reached the top, we had our breakfast(nasi lemak) at a stall there. We were quite tired from the hike up and we said to ourselves, "Actually, the train ride very cheap only". XD

We had to hike back down because our car is not at the train station but I was kinda glad we hike back down because I get to learn something new: If you hike down an asphalt road, hike down backwards. It's a little more controllable than hiking down the normal way. It's also good for the knees and I get to workout some target areas that I rarely workout, my calves.

Calves pain for about 3 days but I was a good kinda pain. I was glad I went for the hike and most probably gonna hike again when I come back from Chinese New Year.

Thank you all for reading.