Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Affair with Golf

I love golf balls.  I don’t play golf though.  Did a number of tee-off shots while I was in Genting’s Awana club some years ago just because I got challenged by our CEO.  I’m kind of suspicious he doesn’t take kindly to people who don’t play golf.  Anyway my only relationship with golf is; I keep a golf club by my bedside.  One that a neighbor wanted to throw away.  That is for adjusting the air conditioner flaps manually.  If you think that’s for security, my opinion is that it wouldn’t serve any real purpose if there’s an intruder in the house.  I believe the better answer would be to make as much noise as possible, like triggering the car alarm, for example, to scare him away rather than confront him.  But it's still better to keep something handy just in case.

My only other involvement with golf is I’m in the habit of picking up stray golf balls in, of all places, football fields.  I think there are some budget conscious wannabe golfers who find the tee-off practice ranges at the clubs are charging too much for their pockets.  So they do their stuff at housing estate football fields.  I think they pose a danger to kids and other residents, but so far I haven’t heard of any complain yet.  The drawback is that they lose their balls often.  I must have picked up at least 4 of these around the fields in our four adjoining housing estates.

The 5th one cannot be counted because the guy was still practicing at one corner of the field.
That was one early morning when we were passing through the field.  I said to wife, 'Someone just lost another golf ball'.  I picked it up and slipped it into my pocket.  Someone said, 'Aah!'  Then I saw him.  He was standing near a clump of trees in a far corner of the field with a club on his shoulder.  Embarrassed, I said, 'Sorry. I thought it’s someone’s lost ball.'  I placed it back on the ground.  He said, 'It’s ok, you can have it.'  Generous guy, I thought.  I said, 'No, thanks.' 

I think nobody’s doing tee-off practices on football fields after that.

Now, the thing I noticed about golf balls is that they’re made to perfect symmetry.  You can place one on a flat surface and the tiny flat area on top of the ball would be perfectly central directly opposite the tiny flat area on the bottom.  That’s how I could clamp one on a bench drill and make a hole right through the center

of the ball.  4 balls drilled this way are enough for me to replace the 4 pesky casters on my wife’s clothes drying rack. Those casters came with fine American inch-thread fittings for which I couldn’t find replacements anywhere after running through every hardware shop and supermarket in town.  Almost had to throw away the whole rack just for want of some spare tires.

So, it’s thanks to budget conscious golf players.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

That empty nest feeling...

When they were small we sometimes wished our kids would grow up faster.  Hell was when they were sick or naughty.  And the fun was when they were cute and when they achieved something for themselves.  Agony was when they went camping with other scouts, and later when they went out with friends and stayed out late.  All too soon they were grown up and one after another, started to leave home for further education.  And then they moved on to work in the city.   

Yesterday my funny girl, the baby of the family went off to National Service camp.  And now it’s so quiet and the house does begin to feel like an empty nest.  That perhaps explains why some neighbors end up keeping dogs and pampering them like they’re their own kids.  Others turn their homes into baby-sitting centers.  We don’t like having animals in the house and wife doesn’t intend to go back to baby-sitting, (especially other peoples' pampered brats...) 

Those who've gone on before me would like to say, 'so, what's new'?  I’m going out to look for a better guitar to replace the old worn out and weather-beaten China made ‘Kapok’.  Oh, for a rocking chair too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Honest + Simple = Loyalty?

Damien's comments in Damien's Den triggered these thoughts:

Cousin Sheow Sun once told me about a Chinese book that described 'the Ugly Chinese'. It had one story that described two types of employees. One was a straightforward simple person who, if given instructions to buy 10 oranges, would go out to the nearest shop and get the items and come back without question, with the goods and the change. Another given the same instructions, would go out and shop around for the best and cheapest oranges he could find and come back with the goods and the change.

The typical Chinese employer would rather hire the 1st guy than the 2nd guy. Why? He can trust the 1st guy. To him, the 2nd guy seems to have a more devious mind. In other words, the employer prefers an honest and simple employee to a street-smart and intelligent one because in the presence of the latter, he has to keep watching his back. Thus, honest + simple = loyalty.  

Well, that story was told me about 30 years ago. I don't know if Chinese world-view has changed or not over these years or will it ever. Perhaps not, because that old saying, "Rivers and mountains can be altered but but human character will remain unchanged".  Perhaps that explains why some family fortunes never last more than 3 generations.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


This one's too good to let pass.  Just sums up everything Dilbert says except in more words.  Since I ain't a qualified engineer, not all these qualities apply to me.  I have immunity whenever I screw up.  And I just use the 'Rules of the Lab' liberally to cover up.  Of course, the Titanic wasn't the engineer's fault.  It was human EGO all the way to the bottom.

Thanks, Jayne.



Engineers have different objectives when it comes to social

"Normal" people expect to accomplish several
unrealistic things from social interaction:

*Stimulating and thought-provoking conversation

*Important social contacts

*A feeling of connectedness with other humans

In contrast to "normal" people, engineers have rational objectives for social interactions:

*Get it over with as soon as possible.

*Avoid getting invited to something unpleasant.

*Demonstrate mental superiority and mastery of all subjects.


To the engineer, all matter in the universe can be placed into one of two categories:

(1)things that need to be fixed, and (2)things that will
need  to be fixed after you've had a few minutes to play with them.
Engineers  like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily
available, they  will create their own problems. Normal people don't
understand this  concept; they believe that if it ain't broke, don't
fix it. Engineers  believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have
enough features yet.

No engineer looks at a television remote control without
wondering what  it would take to turn it into a stun gun. No engineer
can take a shower  without wondering if some sort of Teflon coating
would make showering  unnecessary. To the engineer, the world is a
toy box full of  sub-optimized and feature-poor toys.


Clothes are the lowest priority for an engineer, assuming
the basic  thresholds for temperature and decency have been satisfied.
If no  appendages are freezing or sticking together, and if no genitalia
or  mammary glands are swinging around in plain view, then the objective
of  clothing has been met. Anything else is a waste.


Engineers love all of the "Star Trek" television
shows and movies. It's  a small wonder, since the engineers on the
starship Enterprise are  portrayed as heroes, occasionally even having
sex with aliens. This is  much more glamorous than the real life of
an engineer, which consists of  hiding from the universe and having
sex without the participation of  other life forms.


Dating is never easy for engineers. A normal person will
employ various  indirect and duplicitous methods to create a false
impression of  attractiveness. Engineers are incapable of placing
appearance above  function.

Fortunately, engineers have an ace in the hole. They are
widely  recognized as superior marriage material: intelligent, dependable,
 employed, honest, and handy around the house. While it's true that
many  normal people would prefer not to date an engineer, most normal
people  harbor an intense desire to mate with them, thus producing
engineer-like children who will have high-paying jobs long before losing
their  virginity.

Male engineers reach their peak of sexual attractiveness
later than  normal men, becoming irresistible erotic dynamos in their
mid thirties  to late forties. Just look at these examples of sexually
irresistible  men in technical professions:

* Bill Gates.

* MacGyver.

* Etcetera.

Female engineers become irresistible at the age of consent
and remain  that way until about thirty minutes after their clinical
death. Longer  if it's a warm day.


Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and
human  relationships. That's why it's a good idea to keep engineers
away from  customers, romantic interests, and other people who can't
handle the  truth.

Engineers sometimes bend the truth to avoid work. They
say things that  sound like lies but technically are not because nobody
could be expected  to believe them. The complete list of engineer
lies is listed below.

"I won't change anything without asking you first."
"I'll return your hard-to-find cable tomorrow."

"I have to have new equipment to do my job."
"I'm not jealous of your new computer."


Engineers are notoriously frugal. This is not because
of cheapness or  mean spirit; it is simply because every spending
situation is simply a  problem in optimization, that is, "How
can I escape this situation while  retaining the greatest amount of


If there is one trait that best defines an engineer it
is the ability to  concentrate on one subject to the complete exclusion
of everything else  in the environment. This sometimes causes engineers
to be pronounced  dead prematurely. Some funeral homes in high-tech
areas have started  checking resumes before processing the bodies.
Anybody with a degree in electrical engineering or experience in computer programming is propped  up in the lounge for a few days just to see if he or she
snaps out of it.


Engineers hate risk. They try to eliminate it whenever
they can. This  is understandable, given that when an engineer makes
one little mistake,  the media will treat it like it's a big deal
or something.


* Hindenberg.

* Space Shuttle Challenger.

* SPANet(tm)

* Hubble space telescope.

* Apollo 13.

* Titanic.

* Ford Pinto.

* Corvair.

The risk/reward calculation for engineers looks something
like this:

RISK: Public humiliation and the death of thousands of
innocent people.

REWARD: A certificate of appreciation in a handsome plastic

Being practical people, engineers evaluate this balance
of risks and  rewards and decide that risk is not a good thing. The
best way to avoid  risk is by advising that any activity is technically
impossible for  reasons that are far too complicated to explain.

If that approach is not sufficient to halt a project,
then the engineer  will fall back to a second line of defense: "It's
technically possible  but it will cost too much."


Ego-wise, two things are important to engineers:

* How smart they are.

* How many cool devices they own.

The fastest way to get an engineer to solve a problem
is to declare that  the problem is unsolvable. No engineer can walk
away from an unsolvable  problem until it's solved. No illness or
distraction is sufficient to  get the engineer off the case. These
types of challenges quickly become  personal -- a battle between the
engineer and the laws of nature.

Engineers will go without food and hygiene for days to
solve a problem.  (Other times just because they forgot.) And when
they succeed in  solving the problem they will experience an ego rush
that is better than  sex--and I'm including the kind of sex where
other people are involved.

Nothing is more threatening to the engineer than the suggestion
that  somebody has more technical skill. Normal people sometimes use
that  knowledge as a lever to extract more work from the engineer.
When an  engineer says that something can't be done (a code phrase
that means it's  not fun to do), some clever normal people have learned
to glance at the

engineer with a look of compassion and pity and say something
along these lines: "I'll ask Bob to figure it out. He knows how to
solve difficult technical problems."


Rules of the lab

1. When you don't know what you're doing, do it neatly.

2. Experiments must be reproducible, they should fail
the same way each time.

3. First draw your curves, then plot your data.

4. Experience is directly proportional to equipment ruined.

5. A record of data is essential, it shows you were working.

6. To study a subject best, understand it thoroughly before
you start.

7. To do a lab really well, have your report done well
in advance.

8. If you can't get the answer in the usual manner, start
at the answer and derive the question.

9. If that doesn't work, start at both ends and try to
find a common middle.

10. In case of doubt, make it sound convincing.

11. Do not believe in miracles---rely on them.

12. Team work is essential. It allows you to blame someone

13. All unmarked beakers contain fast-acting, extremely
toxic poisons.

14. Any delicate and expensive piece of glassware will
break before any use can be made of it. (Law of Spontaneous Fission)