I don't want to be Chinese again

Yesterday, I went to the public library to renew my borrowing of Joe Chung's controversial book I Don't Want to be Chinese Again. Before even checking the computer system, the young man at the counter said: "The chance is slim. This book is very popular." A glance at the monitor confirmed that he was right. "It has been reserved," he said.

The hugely popular book was inspired by an online poll conducted by a Mainland Chinese website, the result of which showed that the majority of Chinese people taking the poll were unwilling to be Chinese again if they were to have a next life. As expected, the poll was quickly banned.

So is this book by Joe Chung, which is about the problems with the Chinese people and culture. The book is available in Hong Kong but not in China. This is another example of the inequality between the people of Hong Kong and the Mainland in terms of access to information, even though we are people of the same country. We Hongkongers are the lucky ones here, but we have to be wary of the injustice.

It is heartening to see a book on this subject being so popular. While it shows that many people do care, it is important that the readers reflect on the scathing attacks and see what lessons there are to be learned.


Notes left behind

The short life of Elena Desserich, a six-year-old girl who lost her battle with brain cancer, is bound to inspire millions of people in the same way that Rany Pausch did with his "last lecture". Only Elena never quite planned to do so. All she did was just something very simple. When she had only days to live and was too sick to speak, she hid notes and drawings all over her house telling her parents and her younger sister Grace "I love you".
This absolutely wonderful act by a dying child teaches us all above love, family and life.
Elena's notes have inspired her parents to keep a diary which has now been transformed into a book called Notes Left Behind, and to create a charity to fight pediatric cancer called "The Cure Starts Now".


The high cost of eating meat

A meat-based diet is largely responsible for the global warming problem because of the emission of greenhouse gases associated with meat production, according to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The report reveals that livestock farming generates 18% of the earth's greenhouse gas emissions, compared with the 13% emitted by all the world's cars, trains, planes and boats combined. The sources of greenhouse gas emissions associated with meat consumption include:

  • clearing of forest for the production of animal feed
  • rearing and slaughter of livestock
  • transport, refrigeration and cooking of meat
  • nitrous oxide in the manure of animals
  • methane produced when animals, especially cows, belch

Unfortunately, when there seems to be a growing awareness of the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, global meat and diary product consumption is also growing. It is estimated that the production of meat and milk will double from the turn of the millennium to the year 2050.


The wisdom of surrender

There are lots of wisdom imparted by Eckhart Tolle in his book Practising the Power of Now. One of the most important kinds is the wisdom of surrender. According to Eckhart Tolle,

"Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. The only place where you can experience the flow of life is the Now, so to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation. It is to relinquish inner resistance to what is."

It is that "inner resistance" to things not going our way that brings us pain and misery, and in life things do not go our way quite often. Eckhart Tolle says that "it is precisely at those times that surrender needs to be practised if you want to eliminate pain and sorrow from your life".

He says: "To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness. This state is then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad."

And he puts it quite poetically here: "Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now.Let it teach you Being.Let it teach you integrity - which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem."

Maybe life then becomes poetic when you are able to take it by the scruff of the neck like that.


Children of the world

These pictures, from today's news, show children who are worlds apart - not just in terms of geographical location but also in terms of fortune.

This one shows Japan's three-year-old Prince playing with a rabbit at a zoo.

These children are playing football in a slum in Rio de Janeiro.

This Palestinian boy in a refugee camp in the West Bank is dressed up in military uniform and playing with a toy gun.

This child and his mother, displaced by fighting in Pakistan's South Waziristan province, are queueing to receive aid.

This picture shows two children and their mother at the site of a car bomb in Baghdad, Iraq.

Apparently, who a child is and where he is from matters a great deal.


Not an empty room

This photo shows the room in Auberge Ravoux, Auvers, where Vincent van Gogh lay dying after he shot himself in July 1890.

The inn is now owned by a Belgian called Dominique Janssens and there was a bit of a drama in the way he came to purchase it. In 1985, he was sitting in a stationary car just outside the inn when another vehicle hit him at very high speed. He realised that he was lucky to be alive, and when he later learned about the building's connection with Van Gogh, he decided to buy it and turn it into a fitting monument to one of the world's greatest painters.

Dominique Janssens visited houses of the famous all over Europe to pick up tips on how to operate the house, and finally he got his inspiration from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam - that the room should be kept virtually empty so that people have to supply their own thoughts and images.

To me the interesting thing about the photo is that somehow it has the feel of a Van Gogh painting in it. And Dominique Janssens was right. The empty room inspires lots of imagination.


"Your faith has made you well"

The story in the Scripture today is one that I have read and heard many times, and I always take heed of the way Jesus responded to those who asked for His mercy.

This time it was a blind beggar. He cried out for Jesus to have mercy on him. Jesus asked: "What do you want Me to do for you?" The blind man said: "I want to regain my sight!" (Mark 10:51)

Like this beggar, we are blind - blinded by our ego. We take what we experience in this material world so seriously that we fall prey to the limitations and fail to hold still and explore the inner being and inner peace inside us. It's all very well for us to ask Jesus for His mercy, like the blind mand did. And of course, Jesus will do all He can to help us, but essentially, we have to have that faith for the miracle to work, and that is the most tricky part because most of our problems and weaknesses lie exactly in our lack of faith. So when we pray, not only should we ask for the help, we should also ask for the stengthening of our faith. For, as Jesus has told the blind man, "your faith has made you well" (Mark 10:52).


Prix Pictet 2009

On a different kind of photography award, Prix Pictet 2009 has been awarded to Navin Kander, a British-based photographer, for his "Yangtze, The Long River" series.

The Prix Pictet, according to the official website, is 'the world's first prize dedicated to photography and sustainability'. Its goal is 'art of the highest order, applied to the immense social and environmental threats of the new millennium'.

The theme of the competition this year is 'Earth'.

Here are some of Kander's work in the series:


The most expensive flat in Asia

A luxurious apartment of about 6,000 square feet was recently sold in Hong Kong at a price around 450 million Hong Kong dollars, with each square foot costing around HKD75,000, making it the most expensive property in Asia.

Hong Kong's GDP standing at about HKD240,000, that means it takes 3.75 months' income of the average citizen to buy one single square foot of space of that flat. That also means it takes 1,875 years for the average citizen to earn enough money to buy such a flat. That, given that the average lifespan of a Hong Kong man is 79.4 years, is 23.6 lifetimes!

Not only is this sheer madness, one also has to ask how a Hong Kong property can justify that sort of price. Whatever way you look at it, the value is simply not there!


Wildlife Photographer of the Year

These three photos deservedly won the takers the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award in the last three years.



"All inner resistance is experienced as negativity in one form or another. All negativity is resistance. In this context, the two words are almost synonymous.

"Negativity ranges from irritation or impatience to fierce anger, from a depressed mood or sullen resentment to suicidal despair...

"The ego believes that through negativity it can manipulate reality and get what it wants. It believes that through it, it can attract a desirable condition or dissolve an undesirable one.

"...The fact is, of course, that negativity does not work.Instead of attracting a desirable condition, it stops it from arising. Instead of dissolving an undesirable one, it keeps it in place. Its only 'useful' function is that it strengthens the ego, and that is why the ego loves it."

(from pp.98-99, Practising the Power of NOW by Eckhart Tolle)


Flooding scenes

A flooding scene for today - in a school in the Philippines after two tropical storms have swept the country.

A possible flooding scene for tomorrow - after greedy consumerism has swept the world.


The world's first underwater cabinet meeting

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet staged what was billed as the world's first underwater cabinet meeting on 16 October to highlight the threat of global warming to the world's lowest-lying nation.

Some words of the President touched me deeply:

"If the Maldives is not saved, today we do not feel there is much chance for the rest of the world."

I totally agree.

"What do we hope to achieve? We hope not to die. I hope I can live in the Maldives and raise my grandchildren here."

Do we have a part to play in making such a humble wish so difficult to achieve?


The demons in us

In today’s Gospel, Jesus talked about the abilities that believers of him possess:

"These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16: 17-18)

I have to say that I used to look at such seemingly mystical promises with scepticism. Cast out demons? Speak with new tongues? Not hurt by deadly poison? Curing the sick? Oh, well.
But as I get to know more about the spiritual aspect of our existing, I begin to see the truth in the promises and the great power of the faith. The demons that need to be cast out are not those that roam the street in Halloween but those beings that reside in us and do dirty tricks there. There is one in each of us and it is our own ego. While it affects us in all aspects of our life, it is extremely tough to handle because we have so identified with and are so taken over by it that we are not even aware that our ego and our true self are different entities, and there are ways for us to break away from it.

Take tennis for example. This paragraph from an online article called “Tame Your Inner Voice” says it all:

"More than three decades of work with tennis players has helped me understand that the real power broker, in terms of on-court performance and achievement, is your inner voice. The voice that can be brutal or supportive, discouraging or inspiring, childish or mature, is, in fact, the architect of your reality and provides the meaning and context for every experience you have."

The writer goes on to cite research evidence that a negative inner voice is more powerful than a positive one. This is nothing short of recognising the destructive power of the ego. In life, we are also taunted by the negative, dysfunctional inner voice, possessing the characteristics of those people to whom Jesus’s great promise is addressing – fearing, mourning, weeping, unbelieving.

Lord Jesus, please strengthen our belief and help us cast out the demons in us.


International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

"At a time of multiple global crises, the poorest and most vulnerable have a special claim on our attention. We know that, in any recession, those hurt first—and worst—are the poor. According to recent estimates, the global economic crisis has claimed at least 50 million jobs this year. As many as 100 million more people are expected to fall below the poverty line in 2009.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
17 October 2009

According to the latest data released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, one in four children in Hong Kong belongs to the lowest income group (based on a classification system under which families are divided into five equal portions based on their family incomes). This is about ten times worse than Denmark, and is the worst situation among developed nations such as the US, the UK, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, France and Sweden. There is also research evidence showing that upward mobility is a big concern. According to a study conducted by the University of Hong Kong in 2005, children of fathers coming from the lowest income group are much more likely to be poor than children of fathers from the other groups.

How much attention have these poor children got from the government of Hong Kong, where the Chief Executive made the astonishing claim yesterday that poverty means those with income below the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance level?


Festival of Lights

This picture shows some Indian women celebrating Diwali - the most important festival of the Hindu calendar.

Diwali is marked with joyous celebrations on 17 October. It is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. Here is how Wikipedia explains its origin:

In Hinduism, it is the homecoming of Rama after a 14-year exile in the forest and his victory over Ravana. In the legend, the people of Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) welcomed Rama by lighting rows (avali) of lamps (dĭpa), thus its name, dīpāwali.

And of course that is why the day is referred to as "the Festival of Lights".


Mindlessness at its worst!

There is a Cantonese slang for this: "Farting with your pants off"!


Too much rain? Now how about too little?

While climate change has caused heavy storms and flooding in some parts of the globe, it has led to serious droughts in others. The drought which has hit East Africa, for example, has decimate the herds of livestock of the region's pastoralists. Even the most resistant camels are dying.

The livestock of the herdsmen in the Turkana district in Kenya have become so fragile (see photos below) that they are left with the painful options of (1) selling them for much less than the market price, (2) slaughtering them to salvage some revenue before it gets too late, or (3) watching them die for no return. Not much of a choice, especially the second one. As Kephas Indangasi of Vets Without Borders said: "For a Turkana to bring their goats to slaughter is like putting their life on the line."

Pastoralism has been a way of life for the people of Turkana for thousands of years, but many have now been forced to abandon their lifestyle. And their situation is predicted to get even worse because the climate is changing. As Joseph Elim of Riam Riam, the organisation which aims to protest the interests of these people said: "We can no longer predict the rainfall patterns. Temperatures have also increased as well as diseases. And when rainfall comes we get floods. If that is what is called climate change then it is here with us now."


People in agony

What do the people in these pictures have in common?

They are in desperate situations. It may look like there is sunshine, but both the old woman in Bangalore, shown in the photo above, and the family in the Philippines, in the photo below, are in crisis because of flooding. These days, storms which are billed as "the worst in XX years are the order of the day. Irresponsible and unrestrained human activities in the modern era have led to dramatic changes in the global weather. Such extreme weather leads to natural disasters of unprecedented scale. People in poor countries are usually the most exposed and helpless, as have been so clearly shown in these photos.


Mind if I rip you off?

In this age and time, people have almost stopped writing to each other. I mean really WRITING. The last handwritten letter I received was sent to me by a complete stranger in Zimbabwe many months ago. Here is part of the letter:

"My name is XXX and I am now the guardian of YYY. I got your name and photo from a letter that you wrote to YYY some time ago and I am not sure if this child was meant to receive more of these letters from you but I am sure he only got this one only. I am now XXX's guardian after both his parents passed away coz I am married to his aunt his father's sister and XXX is now in Grade One first grade in Primary level.

The reason why I wrote this letter is becoz I am looking for donor sponsorship to help look after XXX and my family in any kind of help. Clothes, food or cash. I am not employed at the moment after the fishing company I was working for closed down due to the problems we are facing in Zimbabwe. Please help me find some donors. I am a hard working guy and if I find some capital funds to run a project I can do it and I am sure if I can get a chance to do what we were doing with my ex-employer I can do better coz I have had enough experience in packing and selling Kapenta fish... and if I get capital to start buying kapenta and re-packing for resale I can do it. So please Mr Chan help me please find help from all your good friends any kind of help will do and I will be happy if you can help me to look after the two orphans that I am looking for and my family too..."

How thick did he think I am? But what got me angry was how the guy got my address. World Vision Hong Kong, the organiser of the adoption programme, was supposed to keep the donors' contact information confidential, wasn't it? World Vision Hong Kong should have only sent that letter the guy mentioned to the child, not my address.


Seek and ye shall find

While playing tennis the other day, I noticed that a player at the next court had set up a video camera to film himself playing. Obviously, it was for self-improvement purposes and I think it was a smart move. One may have played a sport for years and never noticed that there is something about his form or movement that can be adjusted for much greater effectiveness, simply because one can never see himself play. With video recording equipment so handy and affordable, recording and analysing one’s own game is a good way to seek improvement.

The same can be said about oral presentation. It is amazing how the speeches of so many speakers, including (or should I say especially) the clowns who make out as financial analysts and comment on the market on a daily basis, are infested with mannerisms which they believe give them a more professional feel but are actually extremely irritating. I’ve long noticed that if you take away expressions like “in terms of”, “in fact” or “in other words” from such speeches, the outcome will be much more fluent and tolerable. If only the speakers can record and review their performance and work on how it can be improved.

The big question is, do they really care? In our culture where the expectation on a speaker is typically rather low, I am afraid the answer is quite negative.

I am sure that the guy who took the trouble to record his own game will be a better player in the time to come. The one who works hard to seek improvement shall be duly rewarded.


The most annoying song of all time

The Huffington Post of the US is running poll inviting the Americans to vote for "the most annoying song of all time".

To me, the songs that will always be high on my "most annoying" list have to be the ones in which some local artistes are commissioned by the government to promote events or politically correct messages. Those songs typically have zero aesthetic value but are full of platitudes and contrived passions. Take the example of this "You are the Legend" crap which is the theme song of the 2009 East Asian Games. Take a look at the lyrics:

Open your eyes
The moment that you've been waiting for
Deep in your heart
There is one dream worth fighting for

Breaking the barrier to deliver
Your spirit flying high
To the unseen future

You are the Legend, this is your time
You are the light of the stars that shine
Across the sky
Now you are shining with bright light
You are the Legend, the Legend of your life

Open your eyes
Watch your dreams fly and soar
Your heart's beating
To show the strength you are having

Feel the flame, see the passion burning
Breaking down the walls
With your heart, filled with passion
Salute your rival
And stride towards victory

You are the Legend, this is your time
You are the light of the stars that shine
Across the sky
Giving all you've got to win the prize
Standing stronger, feeling alive

You are the Legend, the Legend
You are the Legend, this is your time
You are the light of the stars that shine
Across the sky
Giving all you've got to win the prize
Standing stronger, feeling alive
You are the Legend, the Legend of your life

If this is not enough to send shivers down your spine or drive you completely insane, try watching the video.


The beauty and power of sport

Passion, intensity, fun. These are what sports is all about. That's why I like sports photos in which these elements are captured.

One person who has been doing this so well for over five decades is the great American photographer Walter Iooss. He is able to capture the beauty of sport are not just from sports greats but also from street children, as seen in the photos of Michael Jordan and some Cuban children below.

The photo of the children playing "stickball" in a street of Havana is one in which, according to Iooss, everything came together. "If you look closely, every eye is on the ball," he said. "Even the dog's."
I'm afraid I can tell from the photo where the dog is looking, but I'll take Iooss's word for it.


Kindness with a heavy price

"Animal lover spared jail over maid for 200 strays”

This newspaper headline tells the whole story.

Animal lover: a 33-year-old woman described as “a selfless and loving person who devotes all her time and energy to caring for homeless animals”

Spared jail over maid: she was ordered to do 180 hours of social service instead of being put in jail for illegally employing an Indonesian woman to take care of her animal shelter

For 200 strays: her shelter takes care of about 200 stray dogs

The woman pleaded guilty for paying the maid a monthly salary of only HKD3,400 instead of HKD4,000 as required by immigration laws. Now she has to pay HKD7,000 to a local hired to do the job. With the cost of running the dog pound, expenses of which include rent, dog food and medical bills, amounts to HKD40,000-50,000, she has to get a job and receive donations to keep the shelter running. It is not easy, but it is something she insists on doing, otherwise, the dogs will be left to die.


The age of "mobi-uter"

Seeing a couple of passengers browse the Internet using a netbook plugged with a “mobile connect” USB stick on the MTR yesterday, I told the companion travelling with me that if someone could make a mobile phone which can be enlarged into a netbook with the press of a button, he would be very rich. Reading a BBC article today, I realise that my wayward remark may not be very wide off the mark.

The article pointed to the future of mobile computing and quoted people from the mobile industry by saying that “the smartphone-personal computer boundary will get fuzzy". As Google boss Eric Schmidt said: "The smartphone is really not a smartphone. It's really a GPS device, it's a camera, and a video camera and a place that you can play games and you can browse, and oh by the way, you can make calls.”

Notice how he used the present tense rather than the future. Notice also how the writer concluded his article:

"My vision? Your phone will hide an extremely powerful computer and internet access base station. Thin sheets of roll-up electronic paper would replace your computer monitor and phone screens.

When I put this vision to the chief executive of a rapidly growing Asian phone manufacturer, I get a startled look, then a wry smile: ‘You should visit our labs, you will find that we've got something very interesting there.’"

The device I envisioned is probably already on the drawing board.


Is this a V or a W?

"Is this a V or a W?"

No, this is not a question about the Volkswagen logo. It's a rhetorical question Michael Geoghegan, group chief executive of HSBC asked when he talked about the economic recovery the other day.

His answer?

"[I think] it's the latter. [If I'm right], we have to be very careful we don't grow the balance sheet so far before the recovery has come, only to write it back into the impairment line later on. I'm cautious about growing too fast... I think it's very premature to conclude that there won't be another problem at some point in the next year or so."

Stephen Roach, chairman of Margan Stanley Asia shared his view. He said that it is unlikely the world will be problem-free next year, as this recovery is not strong enough to support the economy. "In a weak recovery, you don't really have much of a cushion to keep the economies rolling in the event [of] some type of a shock," Roach said. "There's a possibility of a relapse at some point."

And how about billionaire investor George Soros?

"The US has a long way to go," he warned.

Investors, take heed.


Clichés for sale

The quote “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” in yesterday’s blog was one of the clichés quoted by Randy Pausch in his book “The Last Lecture”. Randy Pausch believed that “the reason why clichés are repeated so often is because they’re so often right on the money”.

The other clichés he quoted are:
"Dance with the one who brung you.”
"Whether you think you can or can’t you’re right.”
"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

The wisdom from these lines, and elsewhere in Randy Pausch’s book, is meant for his three children, whose growth he couldn’t get to see or support because of his death resulting from cancer. It is the legacy he would like to leave to them.

Maybe to us as well?


Was it just luck

Manchester United have done it again. The injury time goal helped them rescue a point and avoid a first home defeat against Sunderland in forty-one years.

Some people put this down to luck, as the equaliser was an own goal. Likewise, the last-gasp winner against Manchester City, scored in the sixth minute of injury time, was attributed to the referee’s favouritism (the extra time was supposed to be four minutes).

It pains me to say this, myself not a Scum supporter, but I have to honestly say that they have been able to pull off such late late winners and equalisers so often down the years that it is a big bias to put it down to sheer luck or some external factors. It is obvious that they have developed such confidence, self-belief and resolve that they are able to make the seemingly impossible happen. Such incredible late goals have literally won them titles, the most famous being the two last minute goals that overturned a one-goal deficit in the European Cup Final against Bayern Munich in 1999. But more importantly, that formidable reputation must have driven fear in their opponents’ minds and inspired similar successes in such tough situations. I would go so far as to say that the points they have won in those precious few last minutes have contributed to some of their league titles in recent decades.

While in some cases it did look like they were very lucky, as in yesterday’s match where the Sunderland defender was unable to get out of the way of an off-target shot and deflected it into his own goal, but as Seneca, the Roman philosopher said, "luck is indeed where preparation meets opportunity”. I happened to see those two comeback goals. The build-up was measured, self-assured and purposeful. Such confidence and discipline in the dying seconds had to come from great preparation.


For some, the moon is not full today

Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival. Along with the Lunar New Year and the Winter Solstice, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a day where Chinese families celebrate being together. As the saying goes, “may both the people and the moon be full” (no, no, they don’t mean the people should eat until their stomachs burst, although on this day people do feast).

But a six-year-old child I know cannot celebrate the festival with the whole family. His father has deserted the family and run away.

His mother is still holding back the cold truth, just telling him that his father is in China for a 10-day business trip.

This phone conversation I had with the boy this morning was quite heart-wrenching.

"Where’s your dad?”
"I have no idea. Mom said he’s in China.”
"When will he be back?”
"Seven more days. He’ll be away for ten days and three days has gone.”
"Has he called?”
"No, mom said where he is, there’s no phone reception.”
"Do you miss him?”
"I do. Yeah.”

It’s going to be a dark day when he has to know that what he is being told now is not the truth.

The moon maybe full today, but not for everybody.


An outlier's last lecture

"Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed… Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities – and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them…We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth… But they don’t. They are the products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”

The above is taken from the last chapter and the epilogue of Malcolm Gladwell’s book :Outliers”. It sums up what Gladwell thinks does and what does not contribute to the success of outliers.

Now let’s turn to another book, Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture”. Randy Pausch is of course the American university professor who gave a stirring last lecture before he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2008. Here is how Randy Pausch is introduced in the official website of his book:

“Randy Pausch was a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. From 1988 to 1997, he taught at the University of Virginia. He was an award-winning teacher and researcher, and worked with Adobe, Google, Electronic Arts (EA), and Walt Disney Imagineering, and pioneered the non-profit Alice project. (Alice is an innovative 3-D environment that teaches programming to young people via storytelling and interactive game-playing.) He also co-founded The Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon with Don Marinelli. (ETC is the premier professional graduate program for interactive entertainment as it is applied across a variety of fields.)”
Randy Pausch was well and truly an outlier. Both his last lecture and his book were about how he managed to achieve most of his childhood dreams. It is interesting how, reading his book, one can see that the circumstances which contributed to his success fits in nicely with what Malcolm Gladwell said in “Outliers”. Just look at these three sentences:

“I won the parent lottery.”
“I grew up comfortably middle class in Columbia, Maryland.”
“I live in the computer age and I love it here.”

For details about how crucial these factors were, watch Randy Pausch’s last lecture or, even better, read his book.


Ain't it cold enough today, so let it rain

I know I owe it to the National Day for the holiday I have today, but boy, how I wish for this 60th anniversary saga to be over. I’ve been sickened by the extensive media hype that has been going on in the last month or so. For this sort of propaganda which has been happening in China for 60 years to hit Hong Kong of this scale to be happening in Hong Kong whose media are supposed to have a free will is a perfect illustration of how the “One country two systems” pledge is working.

I always shudder at the patriotic sentiment that China is trying to instil in the people for a motive that is all too obvious, and I pity today’s generation of children in Hong Kong for having to be brainwashed like their counterparts in China. What is so ludicrous is that far from being foolproof, the messages being promoted are so often full of contradictions and fallacies. The only condition for such rubbish to work, and unfortunately it often seems to have worked in our culture, is that the lies have been told and repeated so often that eventually both the liars and the listeners become believers.

Nury Vittachi, my favourite newspaper columnist, asked the most fundamental question in his column yesterday: What exactly is being celebrated on October 1? This is a very thought-provoking question. To it I would add another two: Why should the day be celebrated? And why should it be celebrated the way they do?

As today’s Google logo shows, there will be fireworks displays. The last line of the song “He was me, he was you” springs to mind:

"Ain’t it cold enough today, so let it rain."