The Earth was here first

The Earth was here first

The irony is that every time humans tries to better something on Earth, we seem to screw up more things. The more we try to better something, the worse something else becomes. We fixed what is broken, by breaking other parts which was not broken in the first place. the more we try, the worse it becomes, and it will be a long time coming before we realize that in full stupidity.

Hey, look over here, The Earth was here First.

Whatever we do, or don’t do, or overdoing, or ain’t doing enough, will not change the reality that the Earth exist first, long before you, me, our forefather, and before there was a country, before there was global warming.

As much truth as there is to us saving our world for our children and the children’s children, the reality is that we are all here living for ourselves. We are not saving anything for anyone else, but ourselves. So we can take care of us, the Earth will take care of itself, it has been and always will be for such a long time ago and will be for a long time to come.

And even if you spend your entire life saving the Earth, which say, a generous 60 years of adult living, what can we achieved compare to what the Earth has achieved over billions of years and will continue to achieve long after we are dead? So don’t kid yourself, saying that you can save the earth by recycling a couple of plastic bottles and tin cans.

And stop pretending to save the animals, save the sharks. Save the ecosystem, save the forest. and all those wonderful things out there to be saved. We simply cannot save anything else other than ourselves. And no matter what we do, species will go extinct, nothing lasts forever, evolution makes sure of that. Some species will die, some will thrive, too bad, no amount of saving will save anything else other than our own skin.

Photo by Marc Pell on Unsplash

So who are we then? We are all visitors to this great amusement park called Earth, so don’t waste you time trying to fix what was ‘wrong’, just hang around, enjoy the rides and shows, and please remember to take out YOUR trash when you leave the park.

Posted on September 24, 2012

Meeting my MATADOR (Army Story)

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Dear Boys,

Let me tell you an Army story.

During your father’s Reservist, he has fired a MATADOR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MATADOR). This is an Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW), that is in used with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Our unit was given some organic weapons training, the NSmen were given a few choices: M-16/SAR21, Ultimax 100/SAW, GPMG, or the MATADOR. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I chose MATADOR.

I mean, who in this world actually get a chance to fire a real anti-tank rocket? It was a chance too good to pass up!

Of course there was a familiarization lessons to go through. We handled the dummy version, understand the immediate action (IA) drill in case the weapon malfunction. This mainly have to do with the weapon not firing and we have to leave the weapon, more gently than you put a sleeping baby down! Any jerk could set off the malfunction weapon and blow everybody up with the most unintended consequences! The reality is that it can be nerve wrecking to know if that high explosive thing you put on your shoulder failed to go off.

Anyway, we went through some technical handling and we made it to the MATADOR range, which was actually an open area where we get to shoot at some metal targets simulating vehicles. Since a single live MATADOR cost more than S$10,000, the army has to make sure we are familiar with it. So we were given to sub-munition rounds to get ourselves familiar with whole drill of handling the MATADOR. There were 2 rounds of sub-munitions for us to shoot at the targets. So when we squeeze the trigger, a small projectile will be sent flying towards the target. Piece of cake.

When it came to the real thing, all of us got somber and serious. We were told that the MATADOR packed a nasty back blast, and true enough the amount of back blast was phenomenal. Anyone standing 5 meters behind it will be severely injured by the back blast. No joke, it threw a blast a good 10 meters or more.

Matador

Because it was an expensive round to fire, everyone only have one chance. and due to some military mess up, I was the last shooter for the entire cohort.

It was an exciting moment as I hefted the real thing onto my right shoulder and as I peered through the simple sights, I took aim at the big vehicle shaped metal sheet, about 250m ahead, well within the MATADOR’s maximum 500m range.

So I repeated the commands and grasp the pistol grip and flicked the safety off. The moment of truth.

Nothing prepared me for what was going to happen.

BOOM!

I squeezed the trigger and was totally taken by surprise the amount of recoil of the weapon packed. And the amount of smoke! I totally lost sight of the target momentarily.

When the smoke cleared, I couldn’t hear what the trainer was trying to tell me, I pulled my earplugs off while I exited the little mold of earth making up the firing point, everyone at the training shed was on their feet cheering!

I thought they were cheering since I was the last firing, so I lifted the empty, and light MATADOR casing in bravado. It was later when I reached the training shed that I realise what my buddies were cheering about.

As I didn’t prepare for the recoil, the warhead was jerked upwards when it left the MATADOR. Hence with an upward trajectory, the warhead totally missed the target and instead flew for its maximum 500 meters and landed beyond the range parameters!

It probably blew up some tree and killed some ants. What a way to waste a $10,000 weapon!

Link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10154083797606063

How Relationships Breaks Apart

How Relationships Breaks Apart

Dear Boys,

Last weekend I happened to ‘walk’ into one of those moments where you both were arguing about something. I asked tersely: ” What is going on?!” There tension in the air and 弟弟 is looking the way he looked downcast when there is certain accusations flying around, and the 哥哥 has a hard tone, and walked out, telling me to ask the 弟弟 instead.

I did and of course, I will not get the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, all I got from Wayne was snippets of “I said something, and kor kor is not happy with what I said and…”

It’s typical for anyone, not just you, Wayne to hide the truth about what has actually happened, especially when the person in question is the perpetrator.

I called Ian in and hears from him: “Wayne was saying that he sometimes feels like a dog and simply follows his feelings and moods.” ” I cannot take it anymore and so I told him off.”

Pushing People Away

Sometimes the reality is too much for us to handle, we can get overwhelmed and suddenly we say ‘Enough is Enough!’ Negativity can be infectious, and brings the collective mood down, granted that 弟弟 says such a downer statement on 哥哥’s birthday, can add to rain to the parade.

So we start to push people away in a bid to protect and collect what little optimism we got left, or we got so hung up and focused in our work, we shove people away, people who needed our help. It happens when resources is scarce and we are left fighting for ourselves. We often want to find a hole, jump in and disappear from the world’s problem. We want to tell people:

“GO AWAY!” “LEAVE ME ALONE!” “HAVEN’T I GOT ENOUGH PROBLEMS ALREADY?!”

The Consequences of Pushing 弟弟 Away

The issue here is, that person you pushed away, is your 弟弟, he confides in you, and you only. Everyday when he comes home earlier than you (more often than not), he will look out of the window, constantly waiting and eager for you to come home. You are the only one he share little nonsense with, the inside brothers jokes, chit chats, and things as a parent wouldn’t understand.

He will confide in you, good and bad, and sometimes the bad can be a little irritating, I know 弟弟 is still young and learning, and in the process he can be whiny and clingy, emotional and self-depreciating. So if he don’t confides in you, who else can he go to? Me, or your mum? Sure, but we have a different vibe, we are his parents, dad and mum, you are his brother. It is not the same talking to us, talking to you.

Don’t Tit for Tat

Not forgetting that you will confide in him sometimes during your times of need and share your brotherly bonding time, and sure enough, you wouldn’t want him to push you away and say he have enough of your Bulls**t and negativity?

You are his only brother and if he don’t confide in you, would you he rather confide in his friends and end up joining teen gang because they appear to care more about him than you do?

Pushing him away now may look insignificant, but doing this often enough to form a habitual response, will build a rift so far apart in future, that you will eventually forget what you guys are fighting about, and just simply fight because that’s all the strong emotional response you both can remember. Small cracks sinks big ships.

I know because that’s what happened between my elder brother and me.

Properly Expressing Yourself

Ian, you are just coming 16, you cannot solve the world’s problem, you cannot shoulder your 弟弟’s problem; you don’t have to, we are around, you can refer your little brother to us, if you are up to your neck with issues. Instead of blowing up and shoo your brother away, and leaving him to fend for himself, and deal with his own sh**ty emotions, you can ask him to come to us.

We are your parents, and we have been there, done that, and here to help you with your problems, escalate to us and we can come together with a solution. There is nothing we cannot figure out as a family. So instead of saying:

“I don’t want to deal with your problems, you negative, whiny little boy!”

try saying

“Frankly, I’m kinda not in the mood to handle this, I think we can talk to papa or mummy, and maybe they can help you.”

or

I’m kinda not able to take in what you are feeling now, because I’m swamped myself, can I come back to you when I am better?”

As you grow up, you will need to learn how to use such coping phrases to help you stave off certain onslaught of strong emotions, we cannot deal with everything and anything that comes our way so learning to better express ourselves can help people understand that we have limitations too.

Lean on each other

Unfortunately, the elder brother is the elder brother, Ian, there is no way around it, you will have to have the strength to save your little brother’s ass again and again, never failing him. He will always look up to you as the elder brother he can depend on and emulate. Ian, you become a leader because you are in a place to be one, Wayne you will become a leader because you learn from your elder brother how to be one.

So learn to lean on each other, I will be tell the both of you again and again, and there will be times where both of you have nothing left except each other, so instead of pushing each other, with ignorance, hate and defensiveness, hold on to each other and your world will be all right.

Winning and losing is not competition

Winning and losing is not competition

We have a competitive nature, it forms the basis of our existence, we see competition in all aspects of life. Even in the animal kingdom, some animals have to compete for the alpha male position, and mate with the best female member of the tribe.

Competition helps us not only survive but thrive. When we compete in with a constructive spirit, we develop ourselves, we make things better for others. When we challenge status quo, and succeed, we inspire others to make the impossible, possible. We set a higher standards for ourselves so that others can emulate. Well, that isn’t so bad, when we look at the spirit of competitiveness in a positive manner.

When we add in an element of winning, that changes the entire equation, and puts the ego in charge. You see, life is about competition, winning, and the other poor impostor, losing, isn’t. In life there is no losing, nor winning. There is only the strive to exist, for some to be the best they can be. Which is still fine.

When you pit one human being against another, and determine, who wins and loses. Then that violates the spirit of competitiveness. All human beings are equal, like no other, and because each of us is unique, we can never be better than anyone else other than us. We can only be better than ourselves.

“No one wins, no one loses. We all compete and we all become better.”

To say that there are no competition in Aikido, would have taken things a little bit out of context, there are still some level of competition, but there are also a lot of compassion. We see each of us in Aikido as strugglers. I see my junior belt students struggle, I can understand that and will try to help them the best I can, so that they can be a better person tomorrow, so that they can compete against themselves, and become a better person. The junior belts are not competing against me to win something, and when they get the better of me, I didn’t lose anything, we are all humans and we have slip ups, and to put a win/lose duality into competition, that would have skewed the reality.

This is compassionate competition. We push ourselves to be a person better tomorrow, than the person today. I help them, and they help me, we all help each other compete, and sometimes, we offer an external level of competition, just to help our fellow Aikidoka get out of their own shell, out of their own comfort zone. No one wins, no one loses. We all compete and we all become better.

This is the true meaning and strive of competition, not to win, not to gain medals and look good being a champion. We become our own champion, and held our strife as the ultimate trophy. We struggle, fall down, get up and fall down, this is life’s journey, not to win any thing, just to compete and make ourselves proud of who we are, a race of competitors, striving to make sure we become the best human being ever.

Posted on September 23, 2015

Class Chit Chat

Class Chit Chat

Before I start any class, I made a point to gather the students and did some pep talk. Well, you can call it a chit chat, a nag, or telling tales and stories. Perhaps it is public speaking practice for me.

I think as an ‘evergreen’ class, NUS Aikido will constantly face a challenge of a doctrine bleed. Which means certain practices and culture in the class will leave when the NUS student graduate and start their new life as working professionals. Very few will return to NUS to continue training and uphold the tradition, it is a fact. They will take away the experiences and practices, replaced with another batch of freshmen. So the reality it someone has to constantly remind them of Aikido etiquette and culture. Why we do this and that, and the dos and don’ts in the dojo.

So those newbies come with no idea how the Japanese conducts a martial arts class, so I pep talked them, doing some Corporate Communications perhaps, some Public Relations, making sure that Aikido’s brand values and propositions is constantly being upheld. That’s business jargon anyway.

More importantly, some of them have never met and only beginning to know Harry sensei, whereas I’ve been training with him for 2 decades. Like all human beings, he has his idiosyncrasies and there will be potential misunderstanding. It’s no secret that I am immensely proud to train under him and I constantly remind the student the privilege to receive Harry sensei’s teaching. And we must never take the class for granted, and do sloppy techniques, in doing so patronize him and pissing him off. I’ve said our class is ‘limited edition’, only a small group in Ceylon Sports Club and then there is NUS Aikido. Harry sensei is very well respected regionally and when I tell other people I train with Harry sensei, I always get a certain level of response as if there is an expectation on me to perform and conduct myself in a level reflecting that I’m Harry sensei’s student. I make sure that the new student knows that. Well, that is a heck of a lot of salesmanship there!

Also I explained to the newbies what Aikido is and is not, in my personal opinion, and this is to manage their expectations. I share with them why I joined, I was drawn into it by the Steven Seagal hype, many of the boys and girls don’t even know who Steven Seagal is anymore. I guide them into preparing them what to expect in class, not so much talking more doing, and certain unspoken rules and cultures.

Honestly, I’m not sure if my chit chat is appreciated or not, frankly I’m more bothered that if no one does it, the Aikido in NUS will lose the Aikido spirit, I can see that many of the students take Aikido class as another ‘class’ and other ‘lecture’ Yes, NUS Aikido is conducted in a University campus but in no way Aikido is another ‘lecture’. There are certain practices I hope to see discontinued when the opportunity arises. We need make sure that when an NUS Aikidoka visit other Aikido dojos, they carry with them basic courtesy and etiquette to help them forge ties and build friendship and most importantly, not bring disgrace to Harry sensei!

Posted on September 14, 2015

Collective Idiocy-Army story

bus buttons
picture sourced from google

Dear Boys,

I want to share a story about ‘collective idiocy’ that involved your father.

When I was an Army recruit, my training camp was back in Pulau Tekong and when it was time for us to book in, we have to find our own way back to Commando Jetty. So when it was time for us to book in, it is no surprise that you will see many botak (bald-headed) recruits on the same bus, since we are all booking in at the same time.

So this fateful night, we were on the bus, and heading towards a common destination, we all have to alight at the same bus-stop and of course we need to press the bell so that the bus driver will know there are passengers who were alighting.

A 2021 version of The RPL- Ramp Powered Launch-that takes us to Tekong

What happened was a matter of group-think towards collective stupidity.

We all, the recruits in the bus, knew we are all alighting at the same stop, and we all waited for one of us to press the bell, and anyone of us can, but no one did!

So we looked wide eyed as the bus zipped past our stop and everyone started pressing the bell in frantic. Too late, the bus driver simply ignored us, and take it that the bell we pressed was for the next stop.

So the bus alighted at the next stop and the whole group of us has to dumb,  dumb walk back to the earlier bus stop and towards Commando Jetty. No one said a thing about the incident, we didn’t have to, we all made a fool out of ourselves, and now thinking back more than 21 years later, the whole incident seems petty hilarious.

Posted June 18, 2015

Leaving a Legacy

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Dear Boys,

Joel’s Ah gong did one heck of a job with his garden. He took an empty piece of land and turned it into a little oasis that everyone can enjoy.

More importantly, he has build something to be left as a legacy. All of us will leave something behind when we die, the question is the what we leave behind. As your parents the biggest legacy I have and will continue when I die is the both of you, this is the most direct form of legacy. You will continue my genes, my stories and carry on my history. you will tell you children(if you plan to have children) about my stories, and your children(if your children plan to have children) will tell their children about my stories and yours. Legacies usually goes from word of mouth to word of mouth.

Sometimes having a legacy means that you leave your work undone, for people to continue. Work can be large or small. Mr Lee Kuan Yew left us the entire country as his legacy for us to continue, that is a monumental task!. For Joel’s Grandpa, his garden will be his legacy.

The pond.. where little fishes swims

It is a beautiful piece of work, and it is all him, he got the land from his Resident’s Committee, did the planting, and segregation, there is a little pond, some chilies plants, there is a small corner for cactus and it is all well spaced out. It is a simple piece of joy to walk in it and it will be a spot for everyone to enjoy! He is still working on it and every little plant and flower has been touched by his green hands.

Of course, he couldn’t have done it alone. But if he hadn’t started something, then other people can’t follow. His garden draws fellow gardeners there, to help him, and also to work and make the garden nicer.

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And gardening is a never-ending job, if you do it well, it can go on and on. There are constant challenges, in making sure the plants are watered, pests, kept at bay. When the plants bear fruits, you can distribute it to the community. when plants whiter and die, you grow new ones. and when Joel’s Grandpa dies, his garden will continue and someone has to take over the task. To keep up the good work. and when people look at how magnificent the garden is, they will remember the person who first bring about its fruition.

We will also remember him, because he has given us place that we can enjoy.

Posted July 22, 2015

Dakota Crescent in Pictures

Dakota Crescent in Pictures

Dear Boys,

This is a throwback to our visit to Dakota Crescent before it was torn down. Our visit was inspired by a 2016 MediaCorp TV Series Hero (大英雄), it was quite an enjoyable show, and we want to capture some sights before it is gone forever.

The Main Lawn of Dakota Crescent

Recently there was another article by Channel News Asia that reported the fate of the old residents of Dakota Crescent and how they are doing in their new flat and many of them missed the good old (pun intended) days where time literally stood still in their neighbourhood.

You can read more about the article in this link:

In 2016, Dakota Crescent residents were moved to new flats. Some paid an intangible price.

Blk 12

We climbed to the second floor of Blk12 and marveled at the greenery protruding out from the corridor, the uncle was really a passionate green finger, and from the photo, you can see the myriad of greens protruding from the railings

Blk 12
The other side of Blk 12
The iconic ‘TIAN KEE & CO.’ of Blk 12

The Schindler Lift

Man that is real old school, we took it up to the level 6, and while it was very rickety, it did it’s job, creaking and squeaking from more than 5 decades of use and abuse. It’s arthritic old but it still worked!

I felt that it was really a rare privilege to take that lift, knowing that we will never get a chance to do so any more, and back then, having 5 people in the lift is already a technological marvel.

Waiting for the lift
in the Schindler Lift

The View from the Top

From some of the top floors, we caught some views, as well as peeped into some of the unit’s interior.

The view was actually not very spectacular since the flats are not high rise, but the feeling of standing of these long gone monuments gives us good memories to tell stories about.

We were quite surprised that despite of the place being vacated and vacant, it was pleasantly clean and neat. There is still a sense of order, as well as nostalgia when the occupants left their old abode. You can feel a quiet dignity in the air, knowing that these buildings stood the test of time, built homes, laughter, sweat and tears, families, friends, memories and played a very integral part of Singapore’s nation building.

Street Directory 2007

Thankfully I managed to save a Mighty Mind 2007 Street Directory which I can pull out a map of the entire Dakota Crescent neighborhood, as you boys can see, back in 2007, Mountbatten MRT was still U/C (uncompleted)

You can compare this to Google Map 2019 and you can see that in 2007, Dakota Crescent stretched beyond Blk 32, as of today, the plot of land after Blk 32 has been turned into condominium, called Dakota Residences.

Blk 32
The playground behind Blk 16

Google Maps View

Google Map view dated 2019

Amazingly you can still get a very good view of the entire Dakota Crescent on Google Maps, dating back 2019, you can see a top view of the unique shape of the flats and where Blk 12, Blk 16 and the rest of the blocks are sited. Of course by then, Mountbatten MRT is already up and running.

More photos

Time and Tide

At the end of it all, boys, sometimes these places have to give way to development, and while it is unfortunate, the needs of the future will always takes precedence over the needs of the past, and while we need to carefully balance our memories, we must make sure we are not too caught up in the past, we cannot look forward and prepare for the future.

I’m really glad that we managed to capture some memories of Dakota Crescent and these are hopefully some of the highlights of your childhood.