I bought flowers

I bought flowers

Dear boys,

I seldom buy flowers for your mum. I don’t buy flowers for her any of our wedding, ROM, her birthday, anniversaries. Valentine’s Day is absolutely out, those bloody thirsty florists, making a killing out of poor blokes buying perishables for dames.

The last time I checked, I bought your mum this bouquet, back in Dec 2014, thanks to google photo, I managed to have this picture in my file.

She likes sunflower for the bright, big cheery colours, who wouldn’t agree with that?

As much as she likes sunflowers, she wouldn’t want me to spend money on such frivolous things. I wouldn’t too.

But there is a reason why I buy flowers.

Simply because I love your mum.

And she is the only woman I allow myself to buy flowers for; my Wife, your Mother. I cannot see myself spending, or wasting money buying flowers for other members of the opposite gender, no matter how close we get. Not even for female relatives. This deed, I only reserve solely for your mum.

I think it is nice to buy your mum a bouquet or two every now and then, although flowers have no pragmatic purpose whatsoever, it does, helps make her feel appreciated, makes her know that the flower is for her, and her only.

Having a relationship is not just about pragmatic, purposeful bonding. when things between spouse gets too functional, the love is diminished. We must not stop doing silly little things for each other, to make each other feel appreciated, and delighted.

Bright, Glorious Sunflowers!

So recently, recently I bought another stalk of Sunflower, three long years after the last one. I bought this from an ‘auntie’ florist near my office. There were 4 stalks of these beautiful glorious flowers that caught my attention across the road. I had to get one for your mum.DSC_0134

Flowers have their own psychic powers to make a person feel good. It is not only for my wife to feel good receiving it, it is also for The Husband, to feel good, giving her nice wonderful, albeit slightly non-practical gifts. These kind of spontaneous gesture helps as smooth out a life long relationship, so always remember never hesitate to get nice things for people you love, as and when you feel like, not necessarily, nor out of schedule. Never hold back, never reserve your feelings of expression. Life is short.

$6!

The girls in my office saw this stalk, and overcame with curiosity Siew Ting couldn’t help but ask me, what is the occasion. To which I told her, there is none. And to Dorothy’s shock, the single, poorly wrapped stalk costs me S$6, while she didn’t say it was freaking expensive, her expression, is like a MasterCard’s advertisement, priceless. $6 is probably a good decent lunch for any hungry person. For Liting, she’d say if she gets flowers from her boyfriend, she’d take the bouquet and beat her beau with it. Well, if her beau gets beaten by her with the flower, then I guess the flower’s sacrifice is well worth it. Die flowers! Die for love!

Let’s be frank, to which I asked them back, which of them would mind it, if their partners, buy them flowers? Would any of the girls say no? Would any girl mind, random expression of love using flowers? That is the power of flowers, notwithstanding that Liting would use the flower as a bludgeon. Well, as the Chinese saying goes “打是疼,骂是爱”. The demise of the flower will be worth it, well worth it.

When your time is up…

A few evenings back, we had our class in a small room, which is long and narrow. It wasn’t the best place to train, but it was the best place to listen to Harry sensei, because in the enclosed confines, we can finally hear our soft-speaking sensei clearly!

He is 78 years old this year, and he spoke about a lot of things, many of which was memorable, one specific thing that stayed with me was the existence of our lives.

Sensei is 78 years old.

He mentioned something like, ‘When someone reaches 80, and asks god if it is time, and sometimes god will decide, well if this person is still useful to others, let this person stay for another year or two.’

That is not in his exact words, but it was enlightening.

What Harry sensei said forces us to think above and beyond ourselves. Specific to training in martial arts, we tend to get caught up in ‘my’ movement, and how ‘I’ throw the opponent, and ‘I’ control the situation. Everything we made up to be, it is all ‘we’.

Although the lives we lived are often a very egocentric, we are born, live a life, and die in the most personal way, no one else can die for us, except ourselves, and no one else can live our lives except us. But the irony is, our existence will not have happened the way it did, had it not been for other people. We cannot be who we are today, without the help and assistance of other people.

So we fear death, and try to hold it at a distance, hoping to live a few more years, doing the things we love. What Harry sensei say urges us to be above and beyond that, we need to live our lives helping other people, make ourselves useful- to other people. Let us become a tool for other to become better people, we extend our lives and longevity as long as we continue to be useful to other people and the world and society at large.

At his ripe old age, Harry sensei is a far more optimistic person than I am. Prior to the class, I was caught in my own familiar self-depreciating mood, questioning my own existence, and the seemingly ‘groundhog day’ mentality. Everyday seems to be the same to me. Even Aikido training feels the same… perhaps it was a plateau…until you hear an old Aikidoka says that. At that age, and pretty much sees whatever he has seen in life, he is still learning, still thinking of how to contribute to others.

While we think of the ‘I” in an egocentric circle, we want people to need us, so we try to build ourselves to a level of importance that makes us feels as if we are the centre of activity. Contrary to that, we need other people too, and these people are as fragile as us. As much as I like to dwell in my own finite existence, Harry sensei said something that tells me, we have to be nice to other people, because as much as we will not be around for our next breath, others are also having the same existential crisis. They might not be around for the next breath, and we might lose that opportunity to show kindness and love to these folks who, we need, and needed us.

My Black Belt

My Black Belt

I got my black belt status like everybody else, when I got my 2nd Kyu, that allows me to wear a black belt, but not a hakama, which will be one more grade away.

It was a bummer because I was wearing a Brown (obviously!); and I was young, who could see the need to spend money getting a black belt. In the spirit of being ‘eco-friendly’ ( truth is, I was quite poor then), I wanted to dye the brown belt black, and bought some colour dyes, it wasn’t very successful, due to my inexperience. I don’t know how the conversation came about, but I told Steven about it, and we promptly headed down to Liang Seng to get a Black Belt. Steven bought me my Black Belt.

Since it was a gift, I didn’t choose the thickest, most expensive one. I choose an Adidas brand, a thinner, cheaper one. I was thinking that I might get another one a better one, with my name stitched in gold or yellow, maybe sometime later.

There are many black belts worn by people who spend money getting their names and other fancy words stitched to their belts. I took out the Adidas logo and got my wife to hand stitch a simple ‘林’ on it, and because ‘林’ can be read from both sides, it saves us the trouble of hiding the stitches on the wrong side. And because 林 can be read from both sides, one side of it pays homage to the person who got me my belt, Steven Lim, and of course, the other side, is the surname of the owner, moi. Incidentally, Steven shares the same surname as me, and for his generosity, the ‘林’ will stay with my belt.

My belt is purely pragmatic in existence. The hand stitching is not so much to make this belt unique to me, it serves as a form of identification, as I’ve been to hombu dojo, and seen Gis, belts and hakamas placed all over the changing room. Without a name to your person item, someone might mistakenly take yours and that wouldn’t be a very gracious thing to have happen in Hombu. Hence there is a need for identification. Albeit a simple one for me.

I never got to buying another belt, as this one serves me really well. Although it is thinner, and sometimes, it doesn’t hold the hakama up as well as I’d wanted to, there is still no need for me to get another black belt. I rarely wash it, so it still looked almost the same as the day I bought it. The black is a little faded, the strings coming off in places here and there, but it still serves its purpose, hold the gi together, and let me wear my hakama.

Some people out there will put their belt to wash, not for the purpose of cleanliness, they want to age the belt, so that it look old and seasoned. I never see a need for that, and it has never occurred to me to have a belt that looked aged. It is all there for a practical reason, and I’ll wear it until it falls apart, and only then will there be a need to replace it, and that only after I’ve mend it until it cannot be mended.

I think I’ve been wearing this belt for almost ten years now, and I don’t think I’d be replacing it anytime soon. This is a gift to me and I am reminded of the kindness that was shown to me, every time I put it on.

CHC- Your Dad’s Opinion

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Dear boys,

One of the longest court case in recent times is the CHC case. To sum it up in a nutshell, 6 senior leaders of City Harvest Church was hauled to court for misusing church fund for as much as $50 Million. They were found guilty, and has been sentence to jail. Part of the scandal was Khong Hee’s wife, a superstar wannabe, Sun ‘The Geisha’ Ho. I used to confuse her with Stephanie Sun, who is the real deal, who really can sing one, and don’t need to prance around in undies to get attention. Sorry Steph, I know its insulting to get mistaken for that cheap Sun.

Anyway, while the case ebb and flow with legal technicalities complex enough to ground even the best legal eagle, your dad is not here to tell you boys about the virtues about the case, I want to tell you boys the virtues of Religion, from my perspective.

Your dad has been to CHC

Yes, I was there once when they still had their session in this old ‘Hollywood’ Cinema, in Joo Chiat area. I was invited by a friend, when I was still serving my National Service. And Yes, it was held like a rock concert, everyone was highly energetic, ecstatic, and enthusiastic. All the right ingredients for fanaticism. With emotions running so high, they basically bypass your logic and rationale. You cannot think reasonably, you want to feel the high, and you will give whatever you have, to feel the love of God. You want to come back to this place to get the high again, and you’ll pay, and any amount of money is well worth it, in fact, for God, you forgot about money. So while I left that place generally quite pumped up by the copious does of positivism, and good feeling, it didn’t stick with me. Perhaps, I was poor then, and money was more important to me than any God. To be honest, back then I wasn’t sure if there is really such a thing call ‘God’, I wasn’t sure then, I’m nowhere near as sure now!

Spirituality and Religion

I have never considered myself a religious person, spiritual, yes, religious, no. My opinion? Religions are generally shams, no apologies there; why am I so skewed? Well, religion is never about religion, truth to be told, it is always about people, the gathering of people, and when you have a group of people, coming together, you’ll have to deal with 2 inevitable, Money and Politics. When you gather enough people, you will need to feed them, organize them, and all these activities need money and leadership, and politics is part and parcel of leadership.

Spirituality on the other hand is you, your existence, and your relationship with the immediate and not-so-immediate surrounding. Highly spiritual people can understand and relate to God, and you don’t have to have a religion, or be religious to know god.

Let’s be realistic, what do you need to know God? Time, not money.

What do you need to pray? Time, not money.

Religion, attachment to money, and politics, is in fact an impediment to anyone’s journey to get closer to the divine.

So how did money get involved, to such a large and dirty state?

It again, goes back to the gathering of people, when enough people gathered together to want to know a specific type of god, they will build a structure to host these ‘Gods’, Temples, Churches, Mosques, and these buildings need to be maintained, and it cannot be maintained for free. So you need money to pay people to come and fix things in these buildings. When things breaks down, you want to buy replacements, and heck, since you are getting replacements, might as well get the bestest ones, how can the house of god be subject to sub-par, second hand stuffs? So there we go, the spiral goes up and up, and you’ll end up with mega churches, adorned with air-con comforts, rock star stage, lightning and sound system that would have made Bon Jovi proud. Money, more money is need to maintain these places, and how do you get more money? Get more people to join! And the loop goes on. Make hype, stir emotions, build publicity, so that more people will come, this sham is even better than the best MLM sorcery! You cannot go wrong selling faith!

Tithing

I think this is the basis of how a good deed gone really bad. When you have a building to maintain, everyone must chip in, put in some money to support the upkeep of the building, that’s all. I don’t think money, spare money should be spent, making a specific Sun Ho dress so little and have everyone else use their body parts to touch Sun Ho’s exposed body parts in a  thinly vile attempt to cover these body parts and keep her warm. Tithing is important as a form of personal sacrifice and giving for good faith (pun intended) and to make a stupid, tasteless video like China Wine is absolutely horrendous bad faith!Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 6.50.56 PM.png

If there is spare money from tithing, then it can be put to other uses, but of course, there are other ideas once you have lots of spare cash, we can all get creative! We can all get corrupted!

Its just greed.

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To know God, any god is simple, just search within yourself, and if you have to, pray. Sorry, I don’t have an academic approach to praying. No one has, praying is something unique to us, and special to us, If you believe in God, a prayer is your own personal intimate conversation with god. You don’t need money, nor give people money to know god. And you don’t need anyone to help you pray, you pray, for yourself, and if you love someone deep enough, you’ll pray for that other person, really, it is just that simple.

I’m going to hell, see you there!

So boys, while I am skeptical about religion, you are free to choose whichever religion you want, as long as these endeavors are religiously realistic. Please stay away from people who are too fanatical or fervent. Be careful when these religious folks start saying things like, “If you don’t join us, you will go to hell!” F**k ’em, your dad has a one way ticket to hell, and when I see these shallow, greedy bastards there, they’ll get a personal tutelage from me on what hell really is.

Links:

http://mothership.sg/2017/04/chc-put-up-an-11-qn-faq-on-the-still-guilty-outcome-heres-our-verdict-on-it/

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/legal-costs-may-run-up-to-record-15m-for-criminal-trial

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/in-depth/city-harvest-trial

New form of Aikidokas

Not too long ago, I chatted up an Aikidoka, when I was on my way to NUS for my Aikido class. I sat down with this chap and once we started talking, I ended up late for my class, very late.

The gist of the conversation bothers me, and makes me wonder, again, the state and quality of the Aikido practitioners in Singapore.

Instructor in one school, Student in another

We started the chat, talking about the weather, stuffs about Aikido of course. I didn’t know this chap so well, and thought he was working in some corporate office, like me, and takes Aikido lessons in the evening.

We talked about the respective Aikido school, and I learned that he actually teaches Aikido in a school that is specifically tailored for children, it is related to one of the Aikido school in Singapore.

He lamented that because of the large size of the school, there are multiple instructors holding classes, and because the head instructor is the head instructor, there is limited opportunity to train with the head instructor, in depth, in person. So those different instructors have different interpretations, dependent on the understanding of the instructors. So he ended up getting a variety of style. This is quite common, since owing to the large size of the school. No matter how much quality one can put into the instructors, it will always get watered down, as the numbers gets bigger. It’s elementary, really.

Regular Army, Rangers and Delta Force

In military terms, you have the regular Army, then you get the Rangers, which is better trained than the regular Army, then you have the Delta Force, which is the creme de la creme of the Army. A regular Army unit? Corps size, which is perhaps 50,000 men. A Ranger unit? It is about 3,500 men, and Delta Force? even smaller, maybe 1,000 or less?

The point is, when you want something to have quality, you cannot have quantity, an vice versa. Martial arts is subject to the same equation. You want good quality practitioners? Have a smaller class, a smaller group. The larger the class, the worse the quality.

Of course, you need a bigger class, if you are aiming to make it profitable. You need economies of scale, so that you can be sustainable, so that you can make money, and keep going. This is the perpetual enemy of any Aikido school, any martial arts school, any business. You need constant, repeating customers to make money, and the larger the better!

Back to this chap I met…

So he is effectively a paid, full time instructor. And the simpleton in me, expects him to learn from his sensei.

Instead, he told me, as a matter of fact, he is going to another smaller, Aikido school to learn. A school that is not affiliated to the one he teaches in.

Sorry, this blew my mind.

This chap has no reservations in loyalty. Well, who am I to demand that he has? He is a paying student, a consumer in the broadest sense. Nevermind that he is a paid instructor of another Aikido school. I don’t know how to wrap my logic around such matter.

Perhaps it is not about loyalty, it is about being drawn towards quality. Perhaps, as an instructor, he is compelled to deliver the best Aikido curriculum to his students, and the current curriculum in his Aikido school isn’t measuring up, so he has to use his own money to go and learn from another school, so that he can bring back what he learned from another school to teach his students. It is like a Mercedes driving instructor, going to BMW to learn how to drive better, and use what he learned in BMW to teach Mercedes students how to drive better. I don’t know how that sounds like, but for marital arts this just sound weird.

Stick with one school

Although I used the word ‘loyalty’ here, I don’t think, I train with Harry sensei for the longest time, because I am ‘loyal’ to him. Neither am I disloyal, in any sense. When I train long enough with Harry sensei, his understanding becomes my knowledge, and through a thorough understanding of his movement, I learn my own unique style. This process is deep and takes years. Of course, you can throw in the fact that I am ‘lucky’ to have direct, and intimate access to a 7th Dan Aikido shihan, I can build my knowledge on a dedicated, single sensei platform.

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer out of this. I think is all boils down to your own path and what you want out of it. I cannot see myself training in one place and teaching in another, there is just something not coherent in that method of thought.

Anyway, here’s a list of Aikido schools in Singapore. I don’t know if the list is a complete one, as the community is still fragmenting. By the way, they are not listed in any order, its completely random.

Economics of life 101

Dear Boys,

We have had this house for a while. There are things that comes and go, and we are quite pragmatic about what can lasts and what doesn’t, so that we spend our money prudently. There are some of the items we buy and my opinion on them.

Fans

fan 1  VS  fan

There is no need to get a cool looking Dyson Bladeless fan, which easily cost S$500 to S$1,500. Sure it is a cool (pun intended) looking piece of technology. But hey it comes with a 2 year warranty, like most fans, what does that mean? Will it break down 2 years plus 1 day? You guess is as good as mine. The normal fan next to it? Costs perhaps at best S$150, warranty? 2 years for most. When, not if, either one of them breaks down, which one will you ache over? A $500 fan or a $150 fan? I can buy 3 normal fan and cool 3 rooms compare to a Dyson Bladeless fan, to me that works better than plonking down big bucks for the sake of asthetics. No matter how good the Dyson fan is, I only need it to blow air, that’s all

Watches

casio VS  wacthes

Unless if you are into investment, I’d get a watch for day to day use, a Casio will do. Expensive watches are expensive to maintain as well, every time you send one in for servicing, it’ll cost a couple of thousands.

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew also wears a Casio for his day to day. He got a Rolex, which was a gift.

And yes, watches, do break down, and unlike time, it does not lasts forever.

It’s a lifestyle thing, of course, there are many merits one will sell you for getting a S$20,000 watch to slap on your wrist. But after than telling time, what else can you do with it? Kill bad guys by shooting laser?

Personally, when I do have the money to afford a really expensive watch, I’d get a Rolex. Why? In my time, you’ll hear about watch sales. But you will never hear about a Rolex sales. Thing that has value, do not need to go on sale for the sake of selling.

Wedding Rings

wedding rings

The one your mum and I have, is a simple Platinum band, which costs S$700 a pair. None of us have diamonds on them. I didn’t get your mum any engagement rings. She didn’t get carats from me. We like it this way, because while the ring is symbolic, it must symbolizes the meaning of the relationship, simple, pure and lasting. If your wife wants a rock, think again, while I wouldn’t your choice is ‘bad‘, you just have to make choices you can afford.

Shoes

We will go through many, many pairs in our lifetime. And all shoes wear out, if it is a S$10 pair or a S$600 pair. And when you put them on your feet, they mostly look the same. You can hardly tell an expensive pair of Oxford shoes from a average pair unless you have really sharp eyes.

Again the deal here is wear and tear. For shoes, I won’t go for the cheapest, I’ll go for one that is mid price, with a good brand, which I have heard of. I will not buy basement price shoes, because it matter what we put on our feet. Bad shoes can cause discomfort, or worse injuries.

For running, sports shoes, I’d choose mid price one, heck, I’d get lower price range. My rationale is, if I can run, I’d be running with any decent jogging shoes, and I’m no athlete, so I do not need high end performance jogging shoes, these costs more but do the same thing for me. I will not spend more than S$150 for a pair of running shoes. As long as they are comfortable, I can run in them, its good to go.

Pens

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Pens are another money wasters, while I have a fetish for pens, your mother will agree to that! I’m not a big fan of expensive pens. Pens are small and you’ll lose them. And ink will run out, and people buy expensive pens for the same reason they buy expensive watches, it is a matter of image, style and for the rare few, too much money they don’t know where to spend on. If you are a great writer, any ordinary pen will be suffice to convey your ideas, if you are rubbish, even a S$600 Mont Blanc will end up writing nonsense.

So no, I will not spend more than S$20 bucks on a good pen, most of the time, a plastic, ball point pen not more than S$2 is enough to make me happy. Anything more, you’d be better off writing with your blood.

Computers

computers

My mantra is to spend as little as possible on computers. I bought a Lenovo laptop which eventually became a white elephant. When I traded it in for charity, all I got back was a S$30 voucher. So no matter how expensive your gadget is, once it is sold, to you, and you trying to sell it off, will turn that $1,000 thing your bought into dirt cheap $100 preowned, preloved secondhand goods.

Bags

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No I didn’t get your mum any expensive S$2,000 bags, such as the famed Louis Vuitton. She didn’t want me to spend too much money of these kind of things. Her current bag is a Cath Kidson brand I bought on sale, I think it didn’t cost me more than S$200. It is a hardy bag, which is stylish, it does the job and you cannot ask for anything more.

While I write about this, if there is any bag brand I’d splurge, it would be an LV. Again, this boils down to the same ‘Rolex phenomenon’, you will never see an LV sale anywhere. They are a good brand, with a value and do not need to stoop to a level of ‘Sale’ to sell their bags.

Electronic vs Electrical

There are many items we use that relies on electricity. And nowadays, there are many more electronic stuffs than electrical. And electronic stuff typically do not have a long lifespan. There are modern myths and urban legends that hints towards manufacturers making thing that has a short lifespan, so that we can consumers can get trapped in that buying spree, so as to stimulate profits and the economy.

There is some truth to that as my Asus Zenfone 5 went kaput shortly after its 12 month warranty expires. Well, that is one of the many, I guess, but there are also electronic items that lasts and lasts, so the truth is really out there.

Nothing lasts forever

When we buy something, there is a certain high to owning new things, so while that is a great feeling, even some bragging rights to it, after a while it will feel like the same old thing. Everything settles down after a while and all items, not matter how expensive, will break down, so while you are prepared to spend top dollar for a material, will you still be thinking about it when it breaks down, and when you have to throw it away?

We are not stingy on things, but we tend to place value on the things we buy, and these values are more than monetary costs, which is ironic, since people mostly put a lot of money into things, therefore these things becomes ‘valuable’. We tend to differ, we value things, not matter how ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’ they are, and when the needs calls for it, we will not hesitate to spend to get the best product money can buy, but when you think on the side of pragmatism, you seldom have to do that, most reasonably priced stuffs are quite lasting and does the job decently well.