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I am the "IBM Collaboration & Productivity Advisor" for IBM Asia Pacific. I'm based in Singapore.
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Metawork, nobody is capable but all participate grudgingly

This article is a translation/paraphrase of Professor Gunter Dueck's original post titled DD265: Metawork – keiner kann’s, aber alle machen ärgerlich mit (Mai 2016). Professor Dueck's philosophy resonates with me, so I'd like to make his thoughts available to a wider audience. Bear with my Gerlish. Remarks in brackets aren't part of the original text and are either my comment, extension or explanation. Here we go:

Metawork is your own effort to organize work (your's and other's), not performing the actual effort. It is about coordinating your contributions, more often than not, across multiple projects. This includes managing decisions (through eMail) and the communicate with all stakeholders. E.g. you can use efficient (Dueck used the word "fertile", but I'm not sure if that has the same resonance in English) meetings to establish the approach how to structure and execute working together. Over time a corporate culture emerges where a common good metawork forms the enabler for efficient execution of the core work (we'll learn another term for this just below).

In reality, however, there are quarrels in meetings, about who does what. Conflicts surface, everyone speaks their minds unfiltered, meetings drag on and on. People get a grudge and are annoyed and are left with the feeling to have wasted valuable time, they won't get back. Dueck checked the web, what it has to say about metawork. His favorite place is the the Urban Dictionary  where ordinary people contribute to difficult definitions and provide lots of suggestions. The best of them are the odd ones.

You rant online to be overburdened with unproductive responsibilities, unable to get anything done. People share that in a development project staffed with eight people only two of them code. The rest warms seats in the meeting room and is first in line for promotion if the project is successful. What a mess!

Hmmm. So your own work is productive, anything else a distraction. Not thinking about what your project members see as their "productive work". An example: If the developers miss a deadline, it generates a lot of distraction for the rest of the team. "Everything would be perfect if the coders would work properly! We have to integrate into SAP, everybody is waiting. What a cluster f**k (that's the closest cultural equivalent to "Supergau" I could think of)" - The two developers retort: "You could have contributed code, instead of babbling in all that meeting, we would be done by now"

This a clear indicator, Dueck sees in all corporations, that the different project members have no understanding of the tasks of their fellow members. If they do know them, they doubt the importance or usefulness. One's own work is important, anything else is a distraction. Others only interrupt. Then they quarrel in in meetings

  Why oh why? All are well trained for their own tasks and complete them quite well. However roughly none have been educated on metawork: how to get organized and collaborate. They do some of it every day, limping along without having or wanting to learn about it. It never had been a topic. They bitch the whole day about the drag of metawork without being able to fully grasp it, lacking a word for it, not aware of the term metawork. Managers and project leaders follow the prevalent methodologies and press forward. More often than not, they aren't aware of metawork. The manage or lead as "their own work", but hardly spend a thought on the work as a whole

Even when managers would know how to coordinate well and fuse the parts to a whole, how to deal with unknowns and avoid conflict - it falls short when their reports have no clue what is metawork?

When team members only spend half of their time with "their own work (e.g. programming)" and  are irate about the "stolen" time spend in meetings otherwise, they haven't understood the very nature of work - or metawork is done mind-boggling bad.

Metawork is about the principles and foundation of performing work. Those who haven't given it a thought, bungle in each project, wondering how it could work. Every conflict is new, different and unique. Each project has its own singular surprises. What a madhouse! Lots of literature reenforces that point of view.
However that's because one only focuses on their own tasks at hand, and never learn to pay respect of the significant other contributions.

Dueck suggested in his book „Verständigung im Turm zu Babel“ (Communicate in the tower of Babel) and his blog to contrast meta communication and mesa communication. „Mesa“ is greek meaning „inside“, „meta“ is like „and beyond“. In the context of work „mesawork“ would be the individual task at hand and „metawork“ anything beyond that. Dueck sees it over and over again: Nobody is really good at meta communication, anybody communicates off their chests. Similarly we are good at mesawork but bemoan the complexity of the world, since we can't relate to metawork.

Shall we leave it that way? Half of our time being experts, half of it clueless N00bs? Isn't the balance tipping towards cluelessness, since the need for metawork is raising in a increasingly complex world? How about you? Happy to continue only fretting?


Midget Imaginaire - Scheinzwerg


The imaginary midget

This is an attempt to transpose a concept deeply rooted in the German cultural context into another language. Bear with me.
Over at Omnisophie Professor Dueck has a column titled "Scheinzwerge" (loosely translated: imaginative dwarfs|midgets|gnomes), dealing, besides others, with the Greek crisis.
It draws heavily on a very German childhood classic "Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver". In this famous children book and string puppet play we meet Mr. Tur Tur who is a imaginative giant (Scheinriese). From a distance Mr. Tur Tur looks like a huge giant, but the closer you come, the more normal he appears until you close enough to see that he's a normal person.
Now the "Scheinzwerg" in Dueck's article is just the opposite: the further away you are the smaller it appears. Once you are close, you see the real dimension, which tends to be way bigger than estimated, imagined or even feared.
In real life that doesn't refer to people but rather tasks, problems or missions.
We are all familiar with "Scheinriesen", that impossible huge looking task (learn to swim, to cycle, to play an instrument, or ask for permission), that shrank when we got close.
The other type is as common, but hidden in plain sight. So I shall name it "Midget Imginaire", short  MI - which is the accepted abbreviation for what it turns into when getting close enough: "Mission impossible". Now if you happen to be Ethan Hawke, all is good. For the rest of us some samples:
  • We will grow double digits, faster than the market
  • Just change the application architecture the week before life
  • The [insert-crisis] can be easily solved by [insert 140 characters or less]
  • They are just 5 little changes, the deadline must not  be moved
  • Become world champion, we know how: run 100m in 8 sec
  • Hire 9 women to give birth to one child in a month
The MI are the single biggest source of eternal tension between management (corporate and political) and executing experts (anyone: "I don't want to hear problems, I want solutions, you have 10 minutes").
Since management has (necessarily?) distance to operations (the big picture needs a vantage point to be seen), a lot of MI appear really tiny (just lets hire the right talent, never mind that pay, reputation and markets that don't have them available to us) and stuttering in execution is interpreted as incompetence or defiance.
In return the "Gods from Olympus" are seen as living in heavenly spheres (also known as management reality distortion field).

The solution is simple (I hope you can see the irony in this statement): We need to add "watching out for Midgets Imaginaire" to our professional portfolio of conduct.


Double-O Bike Light Review

I backed the Double-O bike light Kickstarter project and use them for a while now. This is my verdict:
TL:TR Highly functional light with clever features, some teething problems
If you like to ride through the unlit woods at night, Double-O isn't for you, but that would.
It is a commuter light with a rather clever design.
DoubleO front and back open

The Good

  • It is huge. With the LED arranged in a circle you get a big patch of light, a much bigger surface than the bike lights you commonly find in the market. That alone improves visibility quite a bit.
  • Two of the 3 light modes are what you would expect: blinking and steady. The third one I haven't seen elsewhere: the odd and even numbered LED blink alternate. This is quite clever. Someone looking at it (that's: the other traffic participants) sees something moving, creating similar attention as blinking, but for the rider it is a steady light since the same number of LED is on at any given time. That's especially useful for the front light lighting the path (to some extend) in front of you.
  • The case is sturdy and the threaded cover that you use to screw it open and close (to change batteries) reliably keeps moisture out (trust me, my environment has plenty of that
  • The rubber band mechanism and the rubberised back making fixing the light at a handlebar or a seat stem very fast and reliable. My package even included a set of spare rubbers
  • Locking the lights with your bike lock works as advertised (but someone could steal the batteries if they get what it hanging there)
  • The low power LED lights make the batteries last quite long

The Bad

The original specifications proposed to use USB chargable fixed batteries and a magnetic fix for the light. The rechargable option was abandoned in favour of longer lasting standard batteries (and rechargeable battery in the Kickstarter delivery). While I generally understand the design decision for a general market offering, I would have found USB charging suiting my personal style (I'm used to have a zoo to be charged after my rides: The Garmin, the Bluetooth entertainment, the phone and the helmet).
The rubber band to fix the light at the bike works and it more efficient to produce, but the magnet solution has a way bigger cool factor. Also: When there's no pipe (read saddle stem) available or you want to fix it at your pannier rack, the rubber isn't the best fit. Eventually Double-O might release the fixtures design files, so I can print one for my purpose.

The Ugly

The battery holding mechanism (see the picture above) is flimsy. For a hipster ride that might be sufficient, but in a little rugged environment where I ride (kerbstone jumps, potholes, very uneven surface, the occasional trail) the vibrations make the batteries move, in my case even to the extend of bending the electrical contract latches. The batteries loose contact and the light goes off (or won't switch on).
I haven't found a solution, but I'm contemplating using a rubber ring around battery and latch or hold the pieces in place using a little dense sponge rubber.


The engineered society

While waiting at my favourite tailor, a fellow Singaporean chalked up a conversation. Unsurprisingly education became a topic. Singapore regularly scores in the top bracket in the PISA test (probably empowered due to lots of homework) and the US is adopting Singapore math.
However my counterpart highlighted a different aspect: "The Singapore school system drills you to build an ever growing portfolio of problem solutions and hone the skill to match any occurring challenge to this portfolio" he continued "Devising new solutions is not part of the package".
I hear the howling, that creativity is a much honoured skill in Singapore. Sit back for a moment and muse my (admitting biased) thoughts on the fabric of Singapore:
In its oldest part Singapore is a trading post. It has deal makers (traders) and kulis (fulfilment, carrying merchandise from and to ships). This old structure shines through until today, where "becoming rich" is the ultimate Singaporean achievement, enshrined in the 5 C. Deal maker is the most revered profession. Contemporary Singapore however is different. It is essentially an

Engineered Society

What does that mean: everything is planned out, desired outcomes are executed diligently, known solutions are applied to apparent issues, quality is controlled, margins for errors are specified and tolerance is a measured quantity.
It seems that approach has worked out very well for Singapore so far (even when some dislike it). Let me backup this claim:
  • Being land and resource scares, the founding fathers designed a system where service excellence made a difference: engineering, a world class port, a swift and impartial legal system for trade disputes, an educated workforce, a secure environment and top financial institutions. All this was planned, it didn't just grow
  • Few genuine inventions originated from Singapore (not surprisingly due to the limited size of available R&D budget), but the, relative to the country, huge budget has been spent to excel in engineering disciplines. Point in case: Singapore stands out in water treatment, land reclamation, airlines and aviation support industry, defence industry and specialty electronics
  • The system of Pension Fund and Public Housing with its racial quotas ensures a standard of living that is worth working for. The prevention of the formation of "cultural living quarters" supports the idea of a harmonious multi-racial society. Good education helps too. And from what I see: it's working
  • The world class tuition industry can only exist when the mode of examination is "pattern matching" - recognise the given question and match it to the pool of known solutions. The tuition centres cater to the perceived need of expanding the pool of known solution (a trade seemingly shared with Korea).
  • Even the maker movement has been integrated into government planning and startups are catered for in Block 71 (more on that later this year)
  • Political engineering: To ensure minority representation, some districts elect a group of members of parliament instead of electing individuals. (You wouldn't suspect other motives, would you?)
Engineering however has its limitations. As my friend Alvin reminded Dr. Balakrishnan: "Progress needs the square pegs in round holes, the misfits, the odd ones, the different thinkers, the experimentors, the tinkerers".
The biggest challenge ahead could be the very fact, that made it so successful in the past: the engineering mind set. As the joke goes: "We love the latest and greatest, bleeding edge. Just provide us three reference cases where this has been successfully implemented for at least 3-5 years".
Engineers identify challenges, apply and optimise known solutions. Engineers don't venture into the unknown (Scientist and artists do). The future however is unknown, the flying car thing didn't really work out. So the challenge ahead (can we engineer a solution for that?) is to reconcile the engineering with the early Singapore spirit: venturing into the unknown.
As Antoine de Saint Exupéry would remind us: "
Your task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it "

Happy future to everybody!


Karma and Wealth

Karma has gotten some attention lately, while I muse it for some time. The common short explanation is "What goes around comes around" or in other words: "Every action (or inaction) you take has consequences, you ultimately will be confronted with". We are reminded by various spiritual traditions , that nothing good can come from a bad deed and that good deeds will yield (in mysterious ways, somewhen) good results.
This is where the trouble starts. Our and the mystic perceptions what is "good" and what is "bad" differ greatly. Pop literature links wealth, affluence and influence to "good Karma". Someone poor or suffering easily gets dismissed as "(s)he has bad Karma".
I think that misses the point completely.
Taking a step back: Buddhist (and others in similar ways) believe we are trapped in a cycle of Samsara that leads us through many lifetimes. Ending Samsara and suffering is the goal of enlightenment (I'm simplifying here). The main force holding us in Samsara is Maya: the illusion of existence. Now adding nice things to our life binds us deeper to Maya, making liberation more remote, so I doubt that this is a good thing per se. And happiness somehow works differently anyway.
If luxury would be the answer, the road to enlightenment would lead through the god realm, which Buddhists believe is a detour. Some scholars argue that our western civilization is god realm like (I'll add a link when I rediscover it) and there's leisure displaying compassion and joyful effort.
Looking at it from a different angle might explain it better: The currency of Karma is compassion. Compassion for all living beings. That includes yourself, so no point moving under the bridge since "it isn't real". Looking after yourself is a requirement, so you can sustainable look after others. IMHO Good Karma is what makes it easier to be compassionate. Your good deeds will make it easier for you in the future to make good deeds. Any ulterior motive might disqualify your actions as good deeds. So if you think improvements in your financial situation are the result of good Karma, you mix cause and effect (which anyway only exist interdependent). An improvement in your personal situation isn't the reward, but the enablement for greater compassion - and it makes you happy for a while, happy people are contagious.
This also reconciles Karma and free will: Contrary to the common perception "It was Karma, that this happened" you end up with "Life offered a situation, I made a decision, now I'm presented with the consequences". Of course all consequences turn into offerings of situations. I think it is a folly to conclude: hardship is automatically an indication of bad Karma (it might).
The best analogy: there is a weight of 100kg you are supposed to lift (quite a hardship for most of us)! So what's the conclusion? Bad Karma? Nope: if you have trained hard, that might be the final test and reward that you mastered your training and you will lift it. Same with life: a difficult situation could be anything: a result of a bad deed or an invitation to show your skilfulness: maintain compassion no matter what.
In the words of beloved teacher: "Life dealt you cards, you make your Karma how you play them"


LifeBEAM helmet first impressions

After quite a wait (they were sold out) my LifeBEAM helmet arrived today. The helmet is based on a Lazer design. Here are my unpacking impressions:
A big black box
There are no experiments on the box. Black always has been the new black.



"Follow your dreams" sounds good at first sight. Usually it gets grounded by "I need to make a living". Now Timothy Huges nicely summed it up: It isn't about passion or dreams, but purpose. Purpose is the intersection of four entities: Passion, Mission, Profession and Vocation
Click on the image for a bigger version


Warriors of Light

Inspired by Paulo Coelho's manual for the Warrior of the Light:

Warriors of Light
We were born from the stars
Descended from the heavens
Armed with compassion
Determined to end the suffering
Subjected to the human condition
Battling ignorance with wisdom
Laying our lives for the liberation from illusion

When you look in the mirror - remember!
You are one of us.


Cycle where?

I like to cycle, I do that often and from time to time I have fun with traffic participants. One of the interesting challenges are multi-lane crossings (note to my overseas readers: Singapore follows the British system of driving on the left, so cyclists are supposed to cycle on the left edge of the road - which makes me edgy in some situations. So for right driving countries, just flip the pictures) where the outer lane allows more than one direction. Like these:

Empty road
Road rules do require the bike to stay on the left (I didn't find the cycle symbol in SmartDraw, so I used a motorbike, just picture me on a bike there).
Staying right
What then happens, I've seen that quite often, is a vehicle closing up next to the cyclist. After all the reason why we stay on the left is not to obstruct other traffic. But that's Roadkill waiting to happen. I've been kicked off a motorbike once (got my shoulder dislocated) because a car felt it is ok to turn right when I was right of it. So I'm sensitive to this problem:
Roadkill waiting
As a result, when there's more than one lane in the direction I need to go and there is ambiguity where traffic in the same lane might be going, I make sure, that it won't happen by occupying the same space as "the big boys". I however pick my trajectory in a way that I end up at the left edge once I cleared the crossing:
Learning new Hokkien
Unsurprisingly some of the motorist aren't happy, after all they loose 2-3 seconds on their journey. So I wonder: is there a better way? Is that behaviour compliant with traffic rules? What do all these rude sounding Hokkien terms mean I do hear?


Lotus de la Mancha

One of my personal heroes is Don Quixote de la Mancha. He is a bat-shit crazy knight, who is true in his courtship of his Lady Dulcinea and never tired to pick a fight with a giant (windmill). His charge against the windmills, is regarded as a result of his craziness, but digging deeper you will find a nobility, worthy of a true knight: stand in for what you deem is right, regardless of the odds of success.
Being true to your calling resonates with me. Wikipedia has an image of the crest of La Mancha.
Based on it I hereby present the coat of arm of Lotus de la Mancha
Lotus de la Mancha - Crest of arms


Communicate with a German

It was going around for a while, how to decode what an English man actually means when he says something. A Harvard Business Review article attributes the insights to Nannette Ripmeester's research and insights. What I was missing in all those tables is the reverse translation. So here it goes:
What a German saysWhat the British should hearWhat the German meant
Bad idea!Please think about that some moreBad idea! But I will still drink beer with you
This won't workInteresting approach, quite innovativeThis won't work, but I will still drink beer with you
I like itThat's not badI like it and I want to drink beer with you
What a crapThat is interestingWhat a crap, but I will still drink beer with you
Du bist ein Idiot
(You are an idiot - informal addressing)
With respect...You are not thinking straight today, but I will still drink beer with you
Sie sind ein Idiot
(You are an idiot - formal addressing)
With the greatest respectYou are an idiot, go away!
You are insaneThat is a very brave proposalYou are insane, but I will still drink beer with you
This is nonsenseVery interestingThis is nonsense, but I will still drink beer with you
Shut up and go away!I hear what you sayStop talking, you can't convince me, let's drink beer instead
As usual: YMMV


On a quest for the best biking application

Preparing for my June adventure, I'm tracking my cycling progress. So far I tried Endomondo, RunKeeper and had a look at Strava. They all have their ups and downs:
  • Endomondo doesn't provide a open data API and I never got the live broadcast working, but the UI is readable on a bike
  • RunKeeper UI is too tiny for cycling mount, but live broadcast works nicely and the data API is open
  • Strava doesn't seem to provide live updates, but rather tracking after the tour
  • Battery live sucks for all of them
A cycling screen (quite close to what Endomondo does) ideally could look like this:
A UI I would like to see for my cycling app
The big numbers are augmented with subtle hints on median performance using a bar display. Would be nice to see an app like that


The perception of emptiness

In an ACI Singapore class I'm studying Master Shantideva's famous work "A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life" (Bodhicaryavatara). A recurring tenant in his, or any other deep Buddhist teaching, is the concept, that the perception of the world around us isn't coming at us, but from us. Objects around us have no inherit nature without being observed (did the tree in the forest fall if nobody sees it?). The true nature of things is emptiness which Buddhist practise tries to perceive on the road to enlightenment.
My scientific mind screams: that cannot be! Nature is as it is, it doesn't care if it is perceived or not. Gravity was there, long before Newton was hit by an apple and works as it works, regardless of our understanding for it.
I have a tried and tested strategy to deal with things I don't understand: I try to explain it to others. Works more often than not. Here we go:
The perception of Lightning changes over time.jpg
(image based on a Wikimedia original)
Looking at the perception of a lightning: over time it moved from "the gods are angry" to "a weather phenomenon" to "an electrical charge" etc. With each scientific discovery our understanding of the phenomenon changes - this is by the way the beauty of the scientific method: adopting our view of the world based on our expanding abilities.
With each insight we commonly believe to get closer to the real nature of things, unless you ask really smart people who confirm, every answer poses more new questions.
In a nutshell:
Our perception of "reality" is limited and defined by the filter of our abilities, preferences or insights (one man's delight can be another man's poison). Whatever we discover, we are stuck inside our ever expanding balloon of perceptions, not able to see through the skin and encounter the reality outside. To perceive the ultimate reality we need to pierce through that shell called the "I". Buddhists suggest to use deep mediation for that. Leaving the I behind, the duality between observer and observed breaks down. At that moment the realisation kicks in, that the ultimate reality is emptiness.
Sharing such an experience is (almost?) impossible, Lao Tsu tells us why in the:Dao De Ching:"The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao". So here you have it, the spiritual triptych of attempts to label what defies labeling: "Emptiness, Ultimate Reality, TAO"
Something to chew on: when the I dissolved, who had the realisation?



Just a little facial hair


iOS vs Android

My Samsung Galaxy S4 decided more than two months ago to take a different flight. At the same time SWMBO declared that she had enough from her iPhone 5 and demanded a bigger screen. So I took the opportunity and switched to an iPhone (for now). Here is my completely biased, partial and unscientific - but 100% accurate review for the most important use case for me: my Smartphone usage:
I'm not much of a photography buff, player or mobile music listener. I check and answer emails, social content, get around and track activities. My experiences are based on that.
Topic iPhone Galaxy S4
Battery live Lasts half a day with my usage pattern. In cycle mode: 2h screen operation Lasts half a day with my usage pattern. In cycle mode: 2h screen operation
Screen After having used a large screen is feels oddly small. I got big hands, so it can be larger. At the edged the screen touch precision is bad (planned obsolence?) Barly readable in sun light Crisp, readable in most conditions, responsive, big
Keyboard The biggest let down on the iPhone. I can't customize it. The caps lock is only visible on the caps lock button. Emoticons don't show up in Whatsapp. To get to the # I have 3 taps (unless the app requested the # like in Twitter). Auto-correct doesn't do multiple languages and I have to move fingers into the entry screen if I disagree. You can't navigate in text - try in a long URL that scrolled away to get to the front and change http to https - good luck with that. I use Swiftkey that learned my vocabulary and also allows swyping. An ideal tool for frequent peckers. Wins hands down.
Home screen Square icons, no spaces between them, max 9 icons per folder page: a joke when you had a customized Android home screen before. The swipe from top or bottom depending on the function is confusing. More than once, when I wanted to swipe up a website, article in Flipboard or Economist I ended up opening the control center. Customization to my taste: my key applications (including IBM Notes Traveler) are configured as widgets, so I don't open them to glance on them (would be interesting to compare that with Windows phone) and there is space between my logical app groups
Music & Camera iTunes and iPhoto make it easy to manage all the stuff Music is a headache, camera works for my level (a.k.a Knipser)
eMail gMail works similar on both devices. Apple mail shows its age. I can't swipe left/right for new messages but have to aim for the little arrows. I need a companion app for encrypted stuff the Notes mail application works nice with swipe and support for encryption - and I can keep it separate from private messages
Contacts One word: primitive Allows to combine contact information from different sources into a single profile. And I can access my different services directly: Whatsup, Skype calling etc.
Accessories Works quite nice with my Mio Alpha and Fitbit. There is also a bloodpressure monitor. Until Android 4.4 hits my phones making low power bluetooth available, the Mio Alpha won't work. Fitbit works.
Quantified self There is one aspect on the iPhone about Endomondo, haven't made up my mind if I like it: when starting the screen locks with a slider and keeps on, so I see it all the time. On Android it times out and locks with the passcode. Nice to watch on iPhone but a hug battery drain I use Fitbit, Endomondo and WiThings. They work equally well
Control center More than once when browsing a website or flipping upwards in Flipboard I end up pulling up the control center, unless the keyboard is displayed, then I can't pull it up at all. I like the flashlight. The control center is in the main pull down, with all settings I need and an easy to target pull area
Tasks switching iOS lets me switch back to the menu (single press) or the task list (double press). There is no concept of an universal back button, so when switching from one app to another no back brings me back to the previous, it is there sometimes depending on the app The back button lets you backtrack nicely
Sharing Apple knows best, so the share menu is what they tell me. I'm missing the IBM destinations (Connections, Sametime, Notes), Dropbox, UbuntuOne, WhatsUp, Evernote etc. Any anyhow, how can Apple know best if SWMBO already does? Any application can register with the OS the capabilities it has to share things. Items appear in the Share via menu and live is good
Applications All that I want to use can be found in the iTunes store All that I want to use can be found, mostly in Google Play (some on my corporate server)
Development ObjectiveC and Mac required. While I have a Mac at home, my workhorse is a Ubuntu Thinkpad Java and any platform. My ObjectiveC is worse than my Mandarin (ask SWMBO how bad it is)
I most likely won't stick with an iPhone, while others want to ditch their Android


Evolution of the Self

We all are are somebody, some body more than others, but at least we want to be somebody. Interestingly build into us it the opposite wish: disappear, be nobody. We are masters to disguise that wish: 3 hours in the movies, when it sucked you in, where were you? Working on something exiting, getting into the flow, where where you? Your self disappeared! But it doesn't stop there
Evolution of the self
There is a third level of self: the Everybody self. The Rotarians would call it Service above self. Lama Marut calls it the Everybody self. When you, deep in meditation, break down the barriers of Maya you will realise, we are all stardust, children of the sun, all one, all the same. When you enter this mindset there is no difference between you and everyone else. Service to others becomes service to oneself, you become egoistically striving from everybody's happiness since you are everybody. Musing over this though with an unprepared mind is like staring at the sun when leaving a long tunnel. So head over to the geeks and prepare yourself and lobby to get the next generation prepared too.


The Science of Gastronomy - Week 1

To understand a new phenomenon, often a good way to get a grasp is full immersion. So I decided to participate in a MOOC at Coursea namely The Science of Gastronomy. The course description reads quite appealing:
This course introduces students to elements of science behind cooking, cuisine preparation and the enjoyment of food. The ultimate goal is to help students recognise the importance of scientific principles being applied in everyday life, so that they will appreciate and be able to apply some of these principles in their future cooking practice, including the manipulation of human perception. (emphasis mine)
The first week went of to an enjoyable start and I'll report on progress. One of the topics was the categorisation of cooking methods, here is my summary:
How we cook
(Click on the image for a larger version) - Stay tuned


MAMIL gone mad

Don't worry, there won't be another Mamil picture in this post. Yesterday I went on a nice joy ride with a group of outdoor enthusiasts.
Thanks to the planning efforts of T.S. Chua we navigated 100km of Singapore's Park Connector Network and a few connecting roads. Including getting from and too the meeting point that was 120km for me, the longest bike ride I ever done in a single day (so much for can't teach an old dog a new trick).
100 KM Ride
I found the company a rather pleasant and cheerful lot and I'm looking forward to the big round.
P.S.: I didn't get the Montague X70, but the Paratrooper pro from the friendly folks (all bikers themselves) at Mighty Velo. Next stop: Ride home from the office.


Air Quality Measurements

Singapore is facing a severe haze crisis. Besides the subjective "this is bad", I got curious how the official air quality gets reported. Singapore's National Environment Agency uses the US devised Pollution Standard Index, but reports that onlt only as 24h, but also 3 h average for different places in the republic. Besides that they report the 2.5µ particle (PM2.5) count that isn't part of the PSI ( PM stands for particulate matter).
So far it feels like the information is genuine. Nevertheless knowing how an abstract number is formed is the first step to independent verification. With a little digging NEA provides the detailed instructions how the value is computed. The substances measured are: Sulphur dioxide (µg/m³). Particles with 10µ or more size (µg/m³), Carbon Monoxide (mg/m³), Ozone (µg/m³) and Nitrogene dioxide (µg/m³) which NEA publishes separately including a haze map:
Regional Haze Map
Source: NEA
A quick check on Google reveals, that air quality measurement is quite a popular application both with Arduino as well as the Raspberry PI (there are more). It seems the Arduino has an edge when it comes to coupling the sensors, while the Raspberry PI shines in aggregation and web accessibility. Probably a combination of both would be a winner. Something like the Pinoccio meshed with a Raspberry Pi powered CouchDB for aggregation.
The real challenge however are the sensors (and their calibration later on). The PSI measurements are in weight per volume, while most of the data sheets for the sensors I found state sensitivity in particles per million (PPM) or particles per billion (PPB). Luckily LennTech provides an online calculator to transcribe the values for us:
Substancerange (weight/volume)Parts per millionParts per billion
Sulphur dioxide80-2620 µg/m³0.0284 - 0.928928.4 - 928.9
Carbon monoxide5-57.5 mg/m³4.05 -46.64050 - 46600
Ozone118-1180 µg/m³0.0558 - 0.55855.8 - 558
Nitrogen dioxide1130 - 3750 µg/m³0.558 - 1.85558 - 1850
The PM concentration can't be converted from weight/volume into ppm using a static formula, since particles can be anything with different weight. It needs to be measured.
So the hunt for suitable sensors starts. SO2 seems to be the biggest item on the list. I've looked so far at the following providers: I would be grateful for more hints of suppliers. Once the sensors have been settled, further planning will commence. stay tuned!


I want one




Cycling in Singapore can be fun once you:
  1. Find the right group
  2. Do it at night
  3. Are not afraid to cycle along an unlit Cemetery or ghosts
Middle Aged Man in Lycra

* Middle Aged Man In Lycra


Age of first interest – Teach what is interesting, useful or captive! Black holes, Dinos, Knights and Smartphones

This article is a translation, paraphrase and comment of Daily Dueck 180, Dezember 2012 titled (with the friendly permission of Prof Dueck):

„Age of first interest“ – Bringt bei, was interessiert, nützt oder fesselt! Über Schwarze Löcher, Dinos, Ritter und Smartphones

I find translating a text into my second language much more challenging than back to my native language. While it is comparable easy for technical text, it becomes more challenging for philosophical texts, especially when it deal with subjects that have a high cultural context, like this one. Nevertheless I give it a shot. Where it deems necessary I'll add remarks for readers with no exposure to German culture and world view (and I know we are often perceived like this). Anyway here you go:

Parents want the [German] child to be able at the first possible moment to: crawl, walk, get teeth, speak, be potty trained, say thank you, clean up the room and brush teeth. Kids are taught that, whether they like it or not. "Cut your teeth! Other babies already have an advantage!" What interests the child itself is perceived rather irritating. "You can't do/understand that yet". Other stuff shouldn't interest them. Better never: Sex. This adult posture conditions the children instead, where one could be helping them to develop their potential.

Maybe I have a bad-Google-day. I searched for "Age of first interest", „Earliest age“ or „first interest“, but only got hits like „first age of intercourse“. Is there a list about one's first interest for: Dinos, planets, atoms, knights (In the US it probably would be rather cowboys or Jedi knights), witches (alert girls like witches better than princesses) or computers? Couldn't we just make all that, what generated a keen interest in kids, subject to the school lessons, at least for a large chunk?

Once kids get interested, they bombard us with questions. Why don't we take advantage of it? They learn ten times faster and much much more. If it is useful, kids (actually anybody) learn even ultra boring stuff, like the written driven test (That's a 50+ multiple choice test you must pass otherwise you can't even get to the car to take the real test), which is passed by EVERYBODY, even high school dropouts and illiterates. Why do we grumble about the kids' clueless use of the internet? We could demand that they pass an internet driving test, in stages like the swimming badges. They will do that! Happily! Free surfing!
Anybody likes to learn if one or more of following applies to the learning subject:

  • it is [personally] useful and enables progress
  • it arrests attention or is a source of joy and fun
  • it opens doors to new interests

Driving school is useful, first aid is useful. Witches, zoo animals and smart phone capture. Often knowledge opens a new view and creates a life-long interest. Construction kits "create" engineers, books humanities scholars (we do value them in Germany), an internship in a retirement home a career in human care. Role models help, as do impressive experiences, victories in sports, music, going on a journey - encounters that stick and often unleash huge amounts of energy: delight, creative enthusiasm, entrepreneurship, conscientiousness or self control.

But there is "no system behind it". If there would we just could follow it. However our education systems gravitate towards rigid systematic structures leading to an industrialisation of education (Note the irony of that. We concluded the post-industrial age, moved on to the information age, but the education system is still working on industrialising, so it is 3 ages behind). The structures seem immune against reproaches like these:

  • Boring to the death, annoying, way too abstract
  • Useless. Nobody needs that in life unless you want to study it
  • No examples, it is not real life

Again and again people are interviewed in TV: "How much [of your education] could you actually use?" The answers are always sobering. In real life one could use economy, psychology, communication, management, law, business processes or medicine, but they are not school subjects. Why learn Latin? Why are the scientific subjects organised that way? It seems the whole science curriculum (mathematics of differential and integral computations, chemistry and the atom model) had been lobbied by early 20 century physicists, so A-level would perfectly prepare one to study physics? Are Horace, Faust II (You might need to add your own figures of history and literature here, the examples are very German) und quantum mechanics the destiny of our existence, that unfortunately is about anything else both during and after school? Did the physicists, literature teachers and classic scholars imprinted our lives for ever?

I try to understand how those principles of education came to be. Anybody knows (maybe Ken does)? I sense the following principles:

  • The accredited historical and cultural values are taught, with disregard of time. Example: Latin is precious (precious in a sense of "valued by scholars"), English useful (insert your own second living language here, like Spanish or Chinese)
  • New stuff is only taught once it has been accredited, gained patina so to say. Useful is what has been time tested for decades
  • Teaching is abstracted and systematic - strictly sticking to scientific structures and principles
  • Everything is taught as early as possible and, if necessary, with multiple levels of abstraction
  • Education is organised by year of birth to ease logistics and form large homogenous classes
  • The driving forces to learn all this are: discipline, diligence, tidiness, sense of duty and suppression of aversion, delight and interest in anything else
  • A self-denying sense of duty isn't the goal of the education, but a prerequisite for its success. One has to have it (implanted by parents or if lucky born in)

These principles are the worst energy vampires you can imagine. Even Kant concluded, that life is easier when affinity and duty converge - but duty coming out on top. According to Kant you perform best when you do with delight what you have to do. Our education principles require this implicitly.

All other life forces remain unused, since they would challenge or weaken those principles. Who wants to unleash kids' "full speed ahead" has to cope with disadvantages and make unpalatable compromises (so it seems). Why do we all read Faust, memorise it and deliberately don't understand what he wants to tell us: „Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.“ = "Dear friend, all theory is gray, And green the golden tree of life"

Kids could learn ten times more, but that would require to grow their talents, gifts, aptitudes, powers and affinities as and when they surface. Sights on scientific approaches have to be lowered - in favour of individual content and exemplary problems, which would have more power as symbols or examples and simply could be fun, where science would be dry ("gray"). Sights have to be lowered in systematic and exam logistics! Yes "swallow toads"! (That is German figurative speech for making unpalatable compromises). We all bitch and moan about too systematic knowledge that inhibits, higher valued, networked, associative and creative thinking. Duty needs to be unthroned, it is the primary virtue of a weak underling, as seen by a ruler of times past - or the teacher/crammer of today.

Why not challenge that package of logistics-ruler-scientists-systematic-duty? It is to GRAY!

There is so much green and gold. Any child could master a bachelor in: dinos, comparative smartphonic, black holes, life carrying planets, pop-hit lyrics, witchcraft spells or Jedi knight science. Any! The very moment (s)he develops an interest for it, whatever age. No duty required - affinity alone.

Let us preserve rather than dismiss the largest part of human energy including all those humans who only carry alternative energy, with lots of affinity and not so much duty.

(Please pardon the Gerlish/Denglisch)


Calendars worked better when they were manual, did they?

Before calendars became electronic, having the right system in place was a signal of professionalism (admittingly abused as status symbols quite often) and calendars were very personal.
At the right level one had access to a personal assistant (the one without the D between the P and the A) who organized and maintained all aspects captured in the calendar. Inquiry of 3rd parties into your calendar was facilitated by a high powered neural network (a.k.a. the human brain) that translated the individual calendar entries into the information density deemed fit for the inquirer. "Information density" also called "information precision" is an interesting concept, that seems hard to translate into time planning software.
The information density decreases with distance to you
Your PA would know how to answer an inquiry about availability depending on your whereabouts, previous commitments and most importantly the relation/distance of the enquirer. It could range from a simple "No, try again another time" to "He's in Beijing, back next week" to "I'll slot a phone conference in for you at 17:00 GMT+8". With the rise of the digital assistants and calendars this flexible response got lost.
The first generation was entirely personal, while contemporary system will give you "available slots" or (if granted) a full detailed view. They still don't tell you where the other person is (you could use Google Latitude, Foursquare etc. for that) or will be (TripIt might be able to tell you).
Since calendars are no longer accessed only by a single person a conflict arises: one one hand we like it simple, on the other hand a lot of contextual information is needed to provide automated access at the right density level. Data protection and privacy concerns complicate matters further.
There are tons of solution attempts around which all fall short of taking information density into account. Some try to offer more than one calendar that you then can share with different people, some use tags, but I have yet to see one that can take an itinerary approach: I'm going on a trip to Orlando (usually in January). This sets timezone and location, but doesn't block time (unless a presence request indicates a different location outside a "reasonable radius"). Then as part of the trip I schedule sessions and meetings (that would block time then).
Short of having my own PA, that's what my calendar should be able to:
  • All the basic functions calendars have today: entries with and without people, repeating entries, reminders etc.
  • Hierarchical entries (the itinerary approach mentioned above)
  • Ability to switch into different timezones without altering the system timezone. Offer a shortcut based on where I am or will be in the day/week I'm looking at
  • Some clever mechanism to qualify entries, so enquiries (free time lookup etc) can return more or less information based on the enquirer (that one is really hard). Why can't a freetime lookup not include: "I need a specific location", "Online", "Phone" as qualifier. This includes what goes into my "public" calendar
  • A mechanism to figure out "What is the best option of the following given slots for the group of attendees" (probably online interactive)
  • The ability to track lead times (if I'm in the office and have a customer meeting at their place, I want the travel time blocked and eventually adjusted to traffic conditions)
  • The ability to plan preparation times when planning a meeting (that's a tricky one too) - so I can more efficiently plan time
  • Configurable meta data, so I can tie related calendar entries to customers, projects, goals etc.
  • Feature to drag task execution on and off the calendar - good for planning longer work (a task can have more than one calendar entry)
  • Ability to see public calendars on/off in my calendar in groups. Currently I need to switch them on/off one by one
  • more stuff I will think of, when working with the calendar again
Of course, your style would be completely different, so my wishlist wouldn't fit yours. Would it?



An old Zen proverb states: "When the student is ready the master appears". It implies that it is a student's task to get ready. But it also implies that the master needs to be ready to teach.

In traditional craftsmanship the transition from journeyman to master is accompanied with the right and pledge to take on apprentices. So mastery must include teaching to lay the foundation for the next level: "poor is a pupil that does not surpass his master". After all it is "Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery" what motivates us.
Purpose Autonomy Mastery
Have an nice weekend!


Business Travel Essentials

As working professional you are at risk of a sedentary lifestyle short of rushing at the airport. Getting some regular exercise is crucial. While hotel gyms seem to be a good place, it is better to be able to exercise wherever you are.
Enter FitDeck. The Office and Travel decks are my latest additions to my travel essentials:
FitDeck Travel FitDeck Travel
Shuffle the deck, pick some cards, execute, repeat. They have other great decks too.


Getting a Job Done

In a recent chat on the supersecret XPages </bitching><doing> chat Mark Hughes contributed an invaluable 3 liner, too good to miss. I added the 4th one:
  • You pay someone by the hour, they take longer than if you paid them for the job
  • You pay them by the job and it will get rushed
  • You pay them a salary and they dont care if it gets done
  • You unleash their passion for the task - you get results


Roots of Wisdom

The 21st knowledge society needs to teach different skills than recalling knowledge. I introduced the 9 essential skills a few days ago. Based on an article titled "Older and wiser?" in The Economist there are 5 critical aspects of wise reasoning to add:
5 roots of wisdom
  1. willingness to seek opportunities to resolve conflict
  2. willingness to search for compromise
  3. recognition of the limits of personal knowledge
  4. awareness that more than one perspective on a problem can exist
  5. appreciation of the fact that things may get worse before they get better
Can they be taught? I fear that the fifth aspect has been completely lost in our hypercompetitive business environments, short of the management pep talks of "no pain - no gain". Number one and two might be a difficult call for Testosterone loaded youngsters until they recognize that coming to an agreement isn't the same as giving in (or the hormone wears off). Number three clashes with manger's ego and number four gets brushed aside with "seeing other perspectives doesn't create the next iPhone". So when wisdom manifests, I believe it does, its roots run deep having weathered these storms.


Story Telling

Antoine de Saint Exupéry is attributed with the quote "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
Story telling is a powerful medium to get "your message" across. It reaches far beyond the confines of ones early years and the collection lovingly preserved by The Brothers Grimm.
All of business runs on stories, when unleashed to customers often compressed into 30 seconds in high color (super bowl anybody?).
We love to hear the latest stories about colleagues and celebrities (a.k.a. gossip) and spin our yarns how wonderful work will be when implementing [Insert the current fancy here].
In IT our stories are called use cases and transport the advantages of the new system or process to users who shouldn't care about the technical and implementation details. Since they tell a story about systems not yet in existence, could we call them "science finction"? Following our proposals will, in many cases, alter the way people work and perceive their work, so we should stick to good basic journalism to present it:
Story Telling using the 5W and one H
It doesn't harm when our stories are entertaining. Applying quis, quid, ubi, quando, cur and quomodo to other's stories helps to find the weaknesses in the plot. More often than not, the better story, not the better product wins. Despite the case for evidence based management stories beat facts by a long shot. So get your story right!


9 essential skills

Leo Babauta wrote a beautiful article on ZenHabits titled 9 Essential Skills Kids Should Learn. I would rephrase it as: "Your 9 essential live skills". It inspired me to this "plant like" mindmap:



Famous German chocolate manufacturer to cater to Singapore taste buds

Ritter Sport is famous Ritter Sportall over the planet for their square shaped chocolate. Now in an unpreceded move they designed a chocolate especially for South-Asian taste buds:

This is part of a wider initiative to extend their product range. The information probably leaked before the intended April release date (thx Thomas).


Geek toys - Part 1: ZEO Sleep Manager

The old management wisdom goes: "Only what you measure, you can track and alter" While not discussing the merits of that statement (I have serious doubts, since measurements go wrong too often), I decided to have a look into my sleep pattern. Sleep is an important contributor to wellness. So I got myself a Zeo Sleep Manager - Mobile.

It is a combination of a brain wave sensor, a head band, a bluetooth unit and a charger. There's an Android and an iPhone application that comes with it, as well as a personal website. Here is my experience so far:
  • The Good: Using the ZEO is dead simple. Charge the sensor, pair it with your device, start the software, wear the headband. When woken up in the morning put it back into the charger. No buttons to press, files to transfer etc. The sensor measures the brain waves about every 30 seconds, so it's sufficient accurate for home use. The statistics are well explained and the personal website helps you with the "now I have data, so what" question quite well. I like the system. Best of all: the smart wake-up function will wake you up when it is best in your sleep cycle, so no more being pulled out of deep sleep and feeling like s**t the whole day. That single function makes it worth while. The docking station uses a standard USB connector to charge, so it can be activated using an USB cable from your PC USB port
  • The Bad: Your mobile device serves as the receiver, so it has to be on during the night. So you have to keep it charged and thus move the charger station to the bed room. If you don't like that idea, you might want to look at the ZEO Sleep manager bedside (which unfortunately doesn't seem to do the automatic upload since it doesn't have WIFI). I had occasional drops in Bluetooth connectivity which I rather attributed to Android 3.2 on the Huawei Media pad than the ZEO. The ZEO software also can't cope well with an afternoon nap, since it seems to allow for only one sleep per night. So a 2h power nap in the afternoon messes up your sleep score (which actually should increase then). But that's software and can be fixed. What I wasn't convinced of is the headband quality, it seems ZEO wants to generate repeat business with them.
  • The Ugly: Travel use. Despite the name "mobile" the ZEO is not designed with a traveller in mind. The sensor starts transmitting the very moment it is removed from the docking station, where it is held with two small magnets. This is a very simple and elegant solution for a stationary docking station but a big letdown for travel. The docking station is way too bulky for its function (from a traveller's perspective, on the sideboard it looks nice and adequate) and most likely the sensor will dislodge in a suitcase (happens to me). So you arrive in a hotel after a 12h trip only to recognise that the sensor has discharged and you won't be able to record the night. What ZEO needs to do is to offer a travel charger, something in the shape of a spectacle case. It would hold the sensor and headband inside and serve as charger, so it would have the same connector as the docking station
As usual: YMMV


I want one - 2011 edition - Part III

How many blur pictures have you shot? For me - countless. The Lytro claims to change that. Now let Colani or Hundertwasser have a stab at the casing.


I want one - 2011 edition - Part II

While I rather wear a nicely tailored shirt I have a weakness for ironic t-shirts and is my long standing favourite for irony.


Doing one thing really well

One of my absolute favorite Android apps is Skitch (recently acquired by Evernote). It does exactly one thing: let you doodle on pictures and share them. While they market it for "fun and happiness" I can see applications for maintenance and evidence collection. Skitch is an excellent example of the principle Do one thing and do it outstanding that utilitarian applications should follow. Skitch is available for Android and for the Mac and according to their website for iOS soon.


I want one - 2011 edition

From the marketing speak:
The world’s first real smartwatch. Multi-tasking, easy to use and love:  touch, drag, swipe or pinch. Get your intuitive interface in a complex world.


The appraisal

Made me cringe with laughter:
John Doe, my assistant developer, can always be found
hard at work in his cubicle. John works independently, without
wasting company time talking to colleagues. John never
thinks twice about assisting fellow employees, and he always
finishes given assignments on time. Often John takes extended
measures to complete his work, sometimes skipping
coffee breaks. John is an individual who has absolutely no
vanity in spite of his accomplishments and profound
knowledge in his field. I firmly believe that John can be
classed as a high-calibre employee, the type which cannot be
dispensed with. Consequently, I duly recommend that John can be
promoted to executive management, and a proposal will be
executed as soon as possible.

Once you read it slightly different:


Symphony of Science: Beautiful science entertainment

Now I never will forget that the universe is composed of 12 particles and 4 forces of nature.
(They haven't counted SWMBO, so that makes 5 forces). This piece is just one of a growing number at Symphony of Science. Enjoy.


We know your OS, Browser and ISP

Made me laugh:


Ban the Urgentors!

Gunter Dueck being multilingual has the clear advantage of being able to pull from a larger pool of philosophers. One of my recent favourites is fellow IBMer Gunter Dueck. He has written a number of books, runs a YouTube channel and has coined his own philosophy called Omnisophie. His blog/newsletter/thought collection is aptly labelled Daily Dueck.
His latest entry is titled Ächtet die Dringendmacher! which you can translate to "Ban the Urgentors" (I took the liberty to create this new word Urgentors by fusing "urgent" and "tormentor" where they overlapped). The Googlish produces good giggles when you can grasp the German original and shows that machine translation isn't up to par with a wortgewaltig author.
Dueck pokes fun and bemoans the nuisance of people planning time poorly and then turning each request into an urgent action with complete disregard for the time of the receivers of their requests. Quoting Covey he reminds us, that efficient work happens when something is important, but not urgent. His examples are hilarious: a request sent 2am for the board meeting in the morning asking for an absolute useless statistic, a student asking for an overnight review of his master thesis that took him 3 years to make and a task force that will neither contribute to the bottom line, the core values nor reduce suffering.
I'm waiting for the howling comments that often important things are urgent - bring it on!
A lot of these Urgentors are totally unorganised people dallying away, suddenly realising that they urgently need to do something that requires other people. But there are additional archetypes available: the secondary urgentor who relays requests, adding some urgency to it; the neurotic urgentor: it has to happen now, because I say so; the sadistic urgentor who takes revenge just having escaped the receiving end of another urgentor; the management urgentors who believe that a pressure cooker not only works for food but also for people, the clueless urgentor who drank the Information at your fingertips cool aid and last not least task force and management staff who can't believe that others work hard too.
The prevalent urgentor however is just clueless, reckless and incompetent free from any awarness for the consequences of their actions. Often they are victims of other urgentors who numbed down the insight that unless they drop the habit the best results they can hope for are second class only.
Dueck suggests the remedy for these time pressure creating behaviours starts with oneself: check which of your own actions qualifies as urgentor's finest and stop them - a notion I wholeheartedly can endorse. The world isn't hectic by default, not even a quarter end - I can tell you the dates decades in advance! The going wisdom in business however is: Christmas every year comes as a sudden surprise. Dueck closes with an interesting perspective: the backbone of Germany's economy is "Der Mittelstand" (small and medium enterprises) which is very resilient avoiding the myoptic view "until this quarter end" thus preserving its sustainability. On the other hand complaints are plenty in large enterprises and government about short term thinking mentality (you get what you measure?). Eventually IBM shouldn't celebrate their 100th anniversary, but the completion of 400 quarter closings.


I know what you did last summer

What sounds like an old horror flick becomes reality. While geeks joke about it, privacy advocates see a loosing battle taking place. But it gets really Creepy when an application written as a thesis is the perfect stalking companion. Ubuntu users do:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jkakavas/creepy
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install creepy

Your mileage might vary


Build your own Atomic Bomb

Simple steps: buy a copy of  "Atom Bombs: The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man", read the CNN coverage and watch the briefing on Scary I would say!


Monkey see, monkey do

I spent a lovely day at the Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. Click on the image and enjoy the show
Monkey See Monkey Do
Now back to my own monkey work.


Blooper Galore

When you go for a coffee in Singapore, don't forget your plastic bag:
Coffe in a bag


What happens when you blame Domino for not working and I review your setup?

And I find: borked DNS, wrong IP entries, messed up replication settings, broken cluster setups. And I don't find: a proper disk setup, activity trends, Domino Domain Monitoring, DCT and network management. Well then I go through a little metamorphosis:


Manager vs. Engineer

Found at the OMG Ubuntu joke contest
: A man is in a hot air balloon and he realizes he is lost. He spots a man in the field below him and calls down:
Excuse me, can you help? I promised a friend I’d be somewhere half an hour ago but I’m completely lost. Can you tell me where I am?
The man replies:
You are about 30 feet above this field, you are between 40 and 42 degrees N. latitude, and between 58 and 60 W. longitude
You must be an engineer” says the balloonist.
I am!” says the man, “How did you know?
The balloonist laughs, “well, everything you’ve told me is correct, but I don’t understand what you are talking about and I’m still lost
Ah, you’re a manager” says the engineer
Indeed I am!” replies the balloonist, “How could you possibly know that?
Well…” says the engineer, “you don’t know where you are and you don’t know where you are going. You’ve made a promise you can’t keep and you expect me to solve your problem. You are in exactly the same position as you were before we met, except now somehow it’s my fault!


The future of (e)Learning

For a very long time teachers and text books have been the single or at least major source of educational knowledge. Until today textbooks are very much subject to political bickering believing in the power of trust students have into the printed word there.
With the arrival of the internet things started to change and slowly we realise that we do live in exponential times where the internet is displacing books as primary source. As early as 1999 Sugata Mitra showed how kids teach themselves and based on further studies makes his case for The child driven education (on a related note my firstborn Anthony remarked: "Couldn't learning be like Fruit Ninja? I just play and learn at the same time"). Mitra's core insight is that learning is a self-organising system. His vision is: "An educational technology and pedagogy that is digital, automatic, fault-tolerant, minimal invasive, connected and self-organised." Short of Summerhill that reads like the anti-theses of how schools run today.
eLearning hasn't been a stellar success in the past. E.g out of 47 large players in the market in 1999 only 6 are still around (IBM/Lotus is not one of them). Or is it the sign of a highly dynamic market? The tendency however seems to be clear: there is a loggerhead fight between OpenSource / OpenAccess and commercial content providers. It looks very much that OpenSource is winning and the money is to be made by running and maintaining these systems rather than selling software licences.
The larger market is in educational content, where the lines between general applications and eLearning applications are blurring. Today one can organise and conduct complete learning experiences using Wikipedia, a bookmarking service (delicious, digg, Lotus Connections), a collaborative platform (Google groups, Lotus Live) and Chat. Only the task assignment and skill verification seem to warrant specialised systems. (Someone has yet to explain the difference between enterprise content management and learning content management. One of the most successful (in terms of impact and attention) learning content providers, The Khan Academy uses youTube to manage their content. Universities like Standford use standard CMS to make their lectures available online. Textbooks are now available under Creative Commons licences from multiple sources: Open Educational Resources, Wikibooks,, Textbook Revolution and many more
So LMS seems to be an endangered species. There are however promising developments under way: self organising, socially connected, mobile learning experiences.
Tools I would watch (in no particular order): Canvas LMS, Moodle, JotterLab, BigBlueButton, JamBok, SpaceED or Rypple. Keep updated on eLearning Learning.
The biggest inhibitor for progress here might be a large frightened body of educators who need to reinvent themselves. The late Arthur C. Clarke told Mitra in an interview:"If a teacher can be replaced by a machine, he should" (Would that be a task for Watson? #tongue -in-cheek). I would translate his remarks like: "Human educators should work in the area beyond the mechanics of learning, they can be guides, counsellors, encourage the struggling and help the bright to excel".
Education IMHO is the key to most of the problems (short of greed, but moral education could fix that too) our planet is facing, so we see a struggle between the inertia of the current system and the nascent possibilities of progress for the better. Of course one question stings: if less and less people are needed, what do do with them? We might not like a possible answer for that (It does have a happy end, go read it). We live in interesting times.


Timex Ironman Sleek 150

My favorite workout actually is swimming. Since the Polar FT80 doesn't count laps and its button shouldn't be pressed in water I was looking for an alternative. Turns out the Timex Ironman Sleek 150 fits the bill. With its large display it is easy to read under water

and its TAP technology allows for a buttonless operation. The reviews were rather mixed to negative but I tried it anyway based on a recommendation from the sales guy at House of Times who I regard as competent (and savy: he can repair watches - I watched him doing that). It turns out the "tap" rather needs to be a distinct "peg" under water (pegging onto glass surfaces is all the rage these days isn't it). Force and speed to get a lap counted are stable, so once I got used to it operation is as designed and as expected. The large numbers make a huge positive difference. I love it. Now I only need to get back to my 19" for 1000m breast as I swam them at university days.


Polar FT80 Customer Service

I'm using a Polar FT80 watch when working out to monitor my heart rate and training progress. I like it a lot since it allows me to upload training results to Polar Personal Trainer to keep track. When Polar released the Mac version of the upload software I finally could upgrade the S10 Netbook to Ubuntu.

Unfortunately my firmware was to old, so I gave the unit to Polar's service center in Singapore via the shop where I bought it "House of Times" in Orchard road. Something went wrong with the upgrade so I wrote an angry eMail to Polar support. Less than an hour later I got a reply with a mobile number and the name of the service person who would look into my problem. So I brought the unit back. After a short check he told me, that he has to send the unit back and that it will take some days. The "some days" to my pleasant surprise turned out to be 4 only (with new year in between!) and I could collect the unit today. He wasn't around when a staff handed me the phone back. Half an hour later he called, apologized that he wasn't around and asked if I'm satisfied with the result of the repair - which was free of charge. What a pleasant customer service experience.


Uncle Pitt promised us a robot, but what is this?

Escaped from snowy Europe my old friend and partner Peter de Waard visited us for XMas in Singapore. To get the boys exited we announced that Pitt will bring them a real robot. In disbelieve they looked at the box after ripping it open:
CT Robot assembly kit
Luckily curiosity isn't in short supply when you are 10 years old and the world is your cupcake. After seeing where it might end they started bogging their grandfather to teach them how to solder (luckily he is a retired electrician) and are looking forward to bring that CT Bot to live. They even might pick-up some German along the way.


Ubuntu Christmas

This just came in:
Ubuntu Backpack Ubuntu Cycling shirt
Happy camper I am!


World of Warcraft - Improvements on family accounting needed.

The gentlemen have discovered WoW and were bogging me to get them an BattleNet account, so they can play get access to a strategy and leadership training ground. BattleNet requires a parent to have an account too in order use the parental controls. So far so good. I got an eMail with the URL to access the pages that allows me to limit what they can do and how long they can play, per day and/or week and when. I also can opt into a weekly play statistic. So that works rather well. Only downside: you have to keep the eMail or bookmark the page, since your BattleNet account won't reflect your parental status and show the URL to you. From there it went downhill.
When I created my account I registered the game serial number in my account. I learned very quickly, that that wasn't a good idea. So I contacted helpdesk through their online form only to get a reply: Sorry we only handle Starcraft for SEA, please go ... and then the link to exactly the form I just had filled. Lousy service. After another round of forms/eMail I finally got the right eMail to the US helpdesk. The replies to my questions very badly formatted standard answers, that just missed the point. I at least would expect cookie cutter answers to be more appealing. Finally I found out: To transfer that to one of my sons I have to go through hoops and loops including faxing identity documents. I haven't seen a fax for years - and I won't send a private company and of my identity documents. My second question: Can I buy a subscription for my sons, pay it with my credit card in my BattleNet account. Turns out that isn't possible. I would have to enter my credit card details in their account, where I have no control (I encourage them to have their own passwords)- another fail. To clarify this took 3 rounds. The only alternative is to find an retailer and to buy battle cards. Every contact with support was followed by an "rate how we doing, click here" email.
In summary: WoW fails:
  • Online support is confusing
  • Account transfer between family members is overly complicated
  • Parental controls are functional but could be easier to access (and why not have a playtime dashboard instead of a weekly eMail)
  • Family payment option (from a master account) is missing (That also might work for companies as a perk for the Geeks)
Guys you can do better!


How to setup functional network based internet parental control?

I'm firmly in the camp "Teach kids to swim rather than keep them away from the water". Nevertheless due to strong suggestions from SWMBO I'm looking into setting up parental controls. Being the geek dad my requirements tend to be more complex. First of all we have a zoo of internet capable devices: PCs (Windows, Linux), Mac, iPhone, PSP, WII, DS and even a OLPC. The gentlemen switch between all these devices. On the PCs and Macs they do have their own accounts. So a parental control needs to be implemented on a router level (I would be OK with dd-wrt or OpenWRT.The general idea is to have a time and duration based access. So based on school day / weekend / holiday there would be a time from to where the internet is open. There would be also a time limit for total access (e.g. the Internet would be open for 12h/day but total time might be 2h only). On top of that there would be a list of constraints and extensions:
  • Obviously there is a permanent black list. I don't want them to surf to adult content
  • There is a permanent white list. Places like The Khan Academy, OpenCourseWare Consortium, the MIT, their own School, The yellow bubble or comparable sites would be available any time (even outside the core internet time) and would not count against the time limit.
  • There is a "gray list" that list sites (like that are only accessible during "off hour" periods. Off hour would be a time frame inside the general opening hours (or its own time slot if that is easier to implement). Gray listed items could have their own time limits
  • For the devices with user accounts I would expect no authentication prompt but an automatic propagation of identity (am I dreaming here?) from Win, Mac, Linux. For the devices without user identity (iPhone, WII, DS, PSP) a authentication prompt would be required (more dreaming?) - or alternatively: have their own Ethernet-ID bases access control
  • Special challenge: a lot of site (like the Khan Academy) store content on YouTube. But YouTube also hosts content like the annoying Orange. How to allow the former and block the later?
  • Bonus challenge: have a request mechanism where they can click and request an URL to be added to the permanent white list
What would be a workable approach to implement this?
P.S.: Now If I could control the TV as part of the setup (I rather have them surfing or playing WoW that couch potatoing.


Boys and their toys XI

This landed firmly on the gentlemens XMas wish list:
Rovio WiFi Roaming Bot
Shipping from the US migh be a killer.


Boys and their toys X

The biggest showshopper (besides attitude issues) for getting an iPhone has been the lack of a decent keyboard option. That has been remedied by good folks of ThinkGeek with the TK-421
iPhone Keyboard case
Do I want one?


Universal Studios Singapore

On Friday we took the plunge and visited the Universal Studios Singapore theme park. It was a day before Singapore's school holidays would start, so we were expecting limited waiting times.
Anthony and Ernest in the Universal Studios Singapore
The park has 7 areas with various attractions and rides we did savour to some extend. Here's the verdict:
  1. Holiwood: We had burgers and fries at Mel's drive in and enjoyed the display of nicely renovated vintage cars including the police car above. We watched the "Monster Rock" show in the Pantages Hollywood Theatre. I liked it a lot and it was (besides loud) a nice R&R pot puree. However I had to explain to the gentlemen what the different monsters were and we added some of them onto the "watch-movie" list.
  2. New York: The Lights! Camera! Action! Steven Spielberg show was quite impressive. Universal loves collapsing stuff and pyrotechnic. We skipped the Stage 28 show about movie making.
  3. Sci-Fi City: The only open ride was the Accelerator, which the gentlemen rated "quite lame". Luckily we didn't have to queue more than 5 minutes when we reached there. In 2011 Sci-Fi City will add a Transformers attraction and hopefully open the Battlestar Galactica double roller coaster "Cylons/Humans" which looked impressive.
  4. Ancient Egypt: features 2 rides, the "Trasure Hunters" which we skipped (rated "too kiddie style" by the gentlemen) and "Revenge of the Mummy". On our first go we queued about 30 minutes for a nice scary ride with good effects. Towards evening (about 7:30pm during extended hours) Anthony and I had a second go with merely 10 minutes wait while in the afternoon waiting times would have been around 90-100 min. We had lunch at the Oasis Cafe with some Falaffel and Kebab. Food was OK.
  5. Lost world (best to enjoy in the early morning): We queued a full hour for the "Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure" ride (after checking the ride twice when the waiting times were 90 and 120 min respectively). Nice splashy going with good animated Dinos along the way. Of course a theme park ride about a theme park ride has its own little irony. We skipped the Canopy Flyer when the gentlemen budged at another 90 minutes boring wait. They rather had their go at the "Amber Rock Climb" probing their skills in rock climbing. Singapore style we had to sign a form first to remove injury liability from the operators. The highlight in the Lost World however was the WaterWorld show based on the Kostner movie. Good special effects, amazing stunts and actors driven to make it an experience brought fun to the session. You will get wet.
  6. Far Far Away: The Enchanted Airways roller coaster features the Dragon 380 wide body cabins and is a nice mid-level ride. Good to enjoy with very short waiting times when we were there and again and again. The "Shrek-4D Adventure" is a funny Shrek based short 3D movie with a set of extra experiences (hence the 4th D). Good innocent fun. We skipped Donkey LIVE.
  7. Madagascar: The main attraction wasn't open, we skipped kiddie rides, food or merchandise.
I liked that every ride did display waiting time information. Probably we will come back once all rides are open. If you go there. Head for the "Lost world" first in the morning - it's the remotest part of the park - to beat the crowd. On Fridays and Saturdays the park has extended opening hours until 10pm. When you start in the morning, depending on your stamina, that would all you need to cover the rides. Of course if you want to sample all the foods, you want to come back another day, but for the food aficionado there are better places in Singapore after all.


Nokia BH905i, Apple gear and final verdict

I conducted the next series of test with the Nokia BH-905i with rather surprising results. First I paired the headset with SWMBO's iMac running Mac OS/X 10.6.4. The Mac recognized both profiles and out-of-the-box played iTunes in admirable quality. When it came to making a Skype call the headset failed. I could switch to the Bluetooth phone profile, so the sound settings would see the microphone, but not a sound. So iMac and microphone don't play together at all.
Next step (after deleting the pairing, not to run foul of competing Bluetooth connections): testing with the iPhone 3GS (with the latest iOS version). Pairing went smoothly and the headset was available as output option in iTunes. The play/pause button works, however: not a sound. Seems that the issue that had been sorted out for the BH905 and iPhone still plagues the 905i. So use with Apple gear stays problematic. As mentioned before the "outgoing" noise cancellation was non-existent, so I ran a comparison with a Jawbone. The Jawbone reduces a blasting radio or a rumbling train to a barly audible background whisper for the person you call, while the Nokia lets your counterpart hear every detail what it filters out for you. On the other hand: the jawbone loosely sitting on our cheek does nothing to dampen your ambient noise.

The verdict: The Nokia BH-905i is an excellent headset when you want to treat ambient noise for crystal clear music indulgence. If you are a frequent traveller it is a must-have. The use with a PC or Mac via Buetooth is problematic unless you only want to listen to music, for VoIP use you better get an AD-77 adapter. This is not the fault of the headset, but the way Bluetooth is implemented on Linux or Mac (sorry no Windows here). Listening to teleconferences (a popular sport in IBM) is a pleasure, regardless of where you are. On the other hand talking on the phone (or VoIP) using the BH-905i is severely limited by the lack of outgoing noise cancellation. While you can enjoy a conversation crystal clear without audible distractions you still transmit all that noise. Now if the BH-905i could be upgraded with the Jawbone noise cancellation technology you would have the perfect communication headset. Lacking that the BH-905i qualifies as "universally connecting outstanding music headset". Here it has to compete with Bose, Sennheiser, Sony and others, which it definitely beats on connectivity and recharge options. It also allow to use it for a call when ambient conditions allow (what the others don't). I wonder if a Pilot headset would fit the bill (it blows any budget anyway)? Anyway, there's room for a BH-906


BH-905i - the good, the bad and the ugly

Round two of testing: I paired the Nokia BH-905i with my Blackberry Bold 9700. Then I hopped onto the MRT to visit a close by mall, especially the game arcade with very loud and noisy games going on.
  • The good: I didn't had to pick any profiles and stuff, it just worked. The accept call button on the right side of the Nokia headset works as advertised, as does the play and volume buttons. Calls are clear and music from the Blackberry player is processed in high quality. The noise in the train was pleasantly quiet only sounds in the human spectrum, like the PA announcements and unfortunately the squeaking of the breaks, were clearly audible. Switching active noise canceling on/off makes a huge audible difference. Especially inside the arcade it was almost quiet, a pleasant walk through a place that usually gives me a headache in less than 30 seconds
  • The bad: Noise cancellation seems to be for the headset user only, not for the person you talk to on the call. Either I haven't worked that out or we have a case of massive #fail. I did a few conference calls today with the kids playing FPS in the back. I didn't hear a thing, but my partners on the other end complained about the background noise. SWMBO called me in the arcade. I heard her crystal clear and she couldn't understand a word of me. In disbelieve we switched phones. She went into the arcade to enjoy the active noise cancellation. When I called her I could hear the full spectrum of the surrounding sound inferno - and barely her voice. I hope that is either a setting mistake (I studied the manual but didn't find anything) or something that can be fixed with a firmware update. I'm actually surprised about this failure. I'll run a test against the Jawbone to see if that one is better in preventing sending noise.
  • The ugly: You can hear yourself walking. With headset on and noise cancellation on every step becomes a pat-pat-pat. Quite irritating. Anyway walking with a headset that mostly covers your ears in my climate here isn't something I plan to do. The other interesting finding: you can actually hear the noise cancellation. Anthony (junior #1) pointed it out: there is a very faint, very deep hum. Seems the sound and anti-sound are a tiny tipsy bit phase-shifted creating a very long and low wave.
That's for now. More testing with iPhone, iPod and iMac coming up, as well as the calling death match with the Jarbone.
Stay tuned

P.S.: The adapter cable I missed yesterday is called AD-77 adapter and just not part of the package (I don't know if that is the package in general or just my demo set)


BH-905i arrived today - first impressions

WOMWorld sent me a Nokia BH-905i headset for testing and review after I bitched about my difficulties to get a unit in Singapore. THe unit arrived today in an unspectacular DHS courier envelope. Inside I found the padded leather (not genuine one) of the size of 1.5 DVD boxes (in case you remember what a DVD is).The headset is cleverly draped around the pouch that contains an assortment of cables, adapters and the charger. My unit came from the UK, so it has the bulky UK style charger which we also use in Singapore. With quite an unique mechanism for the ground pin it was pleasantly small packed. There is a 3.5mm extension cable, a 2.5mm to 3.5mm male/male extension cable - the 2.5mm end plugs into the BH-905i. the 4 adapters are: 3.5mm to 2.5mm 4 pin (= Stereo + Mic), Airline adapter, 3.5mm to 6.3mm 3 pin Headset only and 3.5mm to 3pin 3.5mm. What's missing is a splitter, so one could use a cable connection to a PC which has separate plugs for headsets and microphones. But there is Bluetooth. So I put the headset into pair mode and clicked on the Bluetooth icon on my Ubuntu 10.10 workstation. Pairing was fast and easy. I fired up Banshee to listen to some tunes. It sounded horrible. A quick check revealed, that in the sound preferences the BH-905i provides 2 profiles: "HSP/ HFP Telephony duplex" and "A2DP High Fidelity Playback". HSP/HFP was preselected. Once switched to A2DP the sound became crystal clear, much better than the (cable bound) entry level Philips and Sennheiser headsets I used before. A2DP doesn't provide the microphone profile, so I need to check how things work out when testing Skype, Google Voice or Sametime Voice. I'm curious if that's a limitation of the Ubuntu sound menu or the BH905i Bluetooth capabilities.
A first test of the noise cancelling showed interesting results. The ambient noise (cars from the street, TV from the other room etc.) disappeared 100%. I then had my sons sitting left and right of me playing some obscure FPS game with a lot of gun sounds, dramatic music and Anthony and Ernest screaming updates to each other. Anything not like a human voice was cancelled out and the screaming part reduced to normal conversation strength. So human voice won't get suppressed. I haven't tested it the behaviour changes once I use the microphone for recording (like VoiP for voice memos). So far very promising. The headset is light enough to be worn for a longer period of time. It doesn't cover the ears fully which makes it bearable at 30C room temperature (I don't have Aircon in my study). So far my first impressions. My test plans:
  • Pair with Blackberry 9700 Bold II
  • Cable connection to Grandstream GXV3140
  • Cable connection to 2nd generation iPod mini
  • Bluetooth to SWMBO iPhone 3 on i/OS 4.1
  • Bluetooth to SWMBO iMac
  • Test with VoiP
  • Test with Voice Recorder
  • Music playback
  • Use in office
  • Use in train
  • Use in taxi
  • Use at the beach promenade
  • If time permits: use in plane
Stay tuned


Progress in data structures

Four decades ago COBOL ruled business IT. Its DATA DIVISION. contained all the data structures we ever would need. COBOL had clever constructs like REDEFINES and (in the procedure division) MOVE CORRESPONDING. Of course during the last fourty years we made progress. COBOL data was un-throned by XML (OK I skipped some steps in between) which is getting un-throned by JSON. Comparing the formats you clearly can see the progress made:


            01 Customer.
              02 Name.
                 03 Lastname   PIC A(40).
                 03 Firstname  PIC A(20).
              02 Address.
                 03 Street    PIC X(25).
                 03 Street2   PIC X(25).        
                 03 City      PIC X(25).
                 03 Zipcode.
                    04 Zipbase       PIC 9(5).
                    04 Zipextension  PIC 9(4).
              02 DOB.
                 03 Month  PIC 99.
                 03 Day    PIC 99.
                 03 Year   PIC 9999.


     <Lastname />
     <Firstname />
      <Street />
      <Street2 />
      <City />
        <Zipbase />
        <Zipextension />
      <Month />
      <Day />
      <Year />


function Customer() {
   "Name"    : {
   "Address" : {
                 "Zipcode" {

   "DOB"     : {

Now can someone explain how to do a redefines or a move corresponding in JSON?


Management Summary

Geek & Poke hits (as so often) the nail in the middle of the head. I suspect a lot of large corporations inability to adopt stems from the fact that corporate reporting gets more and more optimistic when going upwards the corporate ladder. Blogging rules forbit me to share if that happens inside my current employer too (or not)
Management summary


Visualize using Mindmaps

Mindmaps are an incredible tool to collect and share thoughts on any topic in a very compact and comprehensive format. Just look at the sample Ernest did for Water (his current topic in science):
Mindmap about water, click for a larger version
He used iMindmap which has the most natural look from all mindmap software offerings I've seen so far (and is available on Win, Linux, Mac and iPad). It is the commercial offering of Tony Buzan who claims the invention of mindmapping. If you like eProductivity, you might want to look at MindManager, which is primarily Windows (there's a Mac version that's usually behind and there's no Linux version) and can be imported into eProductiviy. Notes user will find MindPlan intriguing. It is available on all Notes client platforms, can show data in MindMaps and Gannt charts and uses NSF as its storage engine. Sharing and collaborating on MindPlan is a breeze. For fans of OpenSource there is FreeMind also available on many platforms. A very different approach is used by The Brain, which allows to dynamically navigate the map and put any topic into the center. Once you are ready to get frequent updates on what's up in the mindmapping software scene, subscribe to the Mindmapping software blog.


The Pursuit of Happiness

Happy independence day to everybody in the US. The Declaration of Independence is a remarkable document. Its preample sums it up: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness ". Read it twice: "pursuit of Happiness". A common critique of today's United States is that "happiness" gets confused with "property". Common wisdom says "You can't buy happiness" (while Garfield thinks you rent it). But what is happiness? Since it is mentioned as a fundamental right equal to Life and Liberty it is worth to have a look. Luckily there are sufficient words to explain the different aspects (while in German we only have one word "Glück"). Lets have a look and start with Søren Kierkegaard who is attributed with "The unhappy person is never present to themself because they always live in the past or the future". This is in line with The Buddha's teachings: "Here and Now" or the advice from the peaceful warrior: "Whenever attention wanders to regrets or anxieties, come back to the present with this reminder: Here and now, breathe and relax.". Being in the here and now you can recognise five types of happiness (in no particular order):
  • Community: Love, relationships, being with family, friends, kids and loved ones. Appreciate, foster, procreate
  • Serendipity: Opportunities, funny encounters, the lottery ticket that wins, the coin on the street. See, encounter, enjoy
  • Pleasure: The piece of chocolate, the new car, the cool beer in the hot afternoon (small doses work better than more of it). Take your time, sense, indulge
  • Flow: Challenge yourself, leave your comfort zone. Flow, grow
  • Bliss: Beauty of nature, the unexpected smile, connected to the creator. Endure the silence, experience nature, be - don't act (the Chinese would say 无为 - Wu Wei)
(adopted from Glück kommt selten allein .. by Eckart von Hirschhausen).
Serendipity is the most unreliable, pleasure the easiest to achieve and the first to turn shallow, flow the gate to bliss and community the foundation and goal. The Buddha for a reason offers refuge to "Buddha, Dharma, Sangha" (The Enlightened One, the teachings and the community).

Happy independence day!


The pattern behind self-deception

Nice summary why it is so easy to believe in something.

(found here)


There's a storm coming, Harry

Thanks to an article in the OMG Ubuntu blog I'm using the Real-time Sunlight Wallpaper. It updates my screen background every 30 minutes with a current satellite picture. Casually glancing at the background I saw this (around 1500GMT):
Is that a hurricane
Hagrid would say "There's a storm coming, Harry" and if I'm not very wrong in my geography that one is heading toward Hawaii.


Boys and their toys IX

Photo frame meets DECT phone:
Alcom APD 7100 cordless phone
Do I want one - maybe the manual will tell?


Busy Day Ahead - Shanghai World Expo 2010

Official Expo Map
I will need a foot massage after this.
Update: My impressions:


Wer den Schaden hat spottet jeder Beschreibung

The biggest man made environmental catastrophy in the US brings out irony even in US based companies (I suspect they have foreign talent in their ranks)
We're bringing oil to American shores.
We're bringing oil to American shores.

While we are on it, how do you like this tag line: "Have a blast" (would apply to them too)


Boys and their toys VIII

Segway is soooo yesterday (you can tell, they even put up shop in Singapore. The new kid in town is called Orbis Urban Mobility Vehicle

The big differences to the Segway: only one wheel and it is light and foldable.

Now if that one would come in Yellow!
(via Yanko Design


What type of Engineer is god?

A mechanical, an electrical, a chemical and a civil engineer fell into an argument what kind of engineer god would be. Using man, the crown of god's creation as an example each of the engineers argued his case. The mechanical engineer explained: "Look at the skeleton, the joints, the spine and the delicate balance it is capable of. God must be a mechanical engineer". "Wait a second" replied the electrical engineer. "Look at the nervous system, the eyes and the brain, that is electrical engineering at its best. God must be an electrical engineer". The chemical engineer stated: "The digestive system, the blood circulation, the liver, the lungs and the intestines are the best of the best in chemical engineering. God must be a chemical engineer". The civil engineer smiled: "You are all wrong. Of course god is a civil engineer". Astonished the other engineers demanded him to explain.


Boys and their toys VII

The good Movie Bag is loosing shape and SWMBO insists on replacement. SoI had a look at Varier:
Varier Gravity


Quote collection

A collection of quotes I like:
  • Thomas T. Nagle:
    Sustainable cost advantages are realized not by constant belt tightening,
    but by the efficient use of resources
  • Edsger Dijkstra
    It is never enough to satisfy your own intellect (since it will be laid in your grave with you), but one must teach others, to use their mind.
    The more one focuses on these two tasks, the faster one realized that they are the two sides of one coin:
    Who teaches himself, discovers what can be taught
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    • If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders.
      Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
    • As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it
    • You know you've achieved perfection in design,
      not when you have nothing more to add,
      but when you have nothing more to take away
    • It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
      What is essential is invisible to the eye.
  • Anonymous
    For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong
  • Nathaniel Borenstein
    The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident. That's where we come in; we're computer professionals. We cause accidents
  • Alan Cooper
    Most people know more about how the Vatican works than what programmers do.
  • Albus Dumbledore
    You have to choose between what is right and what is easy, ... because what is easy is often not right.
  • Derek Bok (a former President of Harvard)
    If you think education is expensive - try ignorance
  • Linus Thorwald during the Lotus Devcon 1999
    If you love somebody - set them free
  • CenterGate Research Group, LLC
    Technology so advanced, even we don't understand it!
  • Leonardo da Vinci
    Poor is the pupil who does not surpass their Master.
  • Soren Kierkegaard
    The unhappy person is never present to themself because they always live in the past or the future.
  • The Koran
    They deserve paradise who make their companions laugh.
  • Lao Tzu
    • As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.
      The next best, the people honor and praise.
      The next, the people fear, and the next the people hate.
      When the best leader's work is done, the people say, 'We did it ourselves'
    • A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step
  • Shi Quin
    When you gaze at the cloudless sky, you either see the emptiness of the sky (xu1kong1) or the emptiness of your heart
  • Hugh MacLeod
    Choosing an easy live rarely ends up with much of either.


Boys and their toys VI

It is a public holiday here in Singapore, so I can catch up with blog reading while the gentlemen are busy to collect hong bao (red packets). The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is on with a lot of new toys:
Samsung I8520 Halo (Picture from Heise)
The Samsung I8520 Halo running on Android with an integrated projector

Sony Ericsson X10pro
Sony Ericsson X10/X10pro

More coverage at Heise (German), Engadget and elsewhere


Augmeted (Hyper)reality - brain still needed?

Amazing visualisation of hyper reality. Something to look forward to or to be scared of. It's in the eye of the beholder.

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

Via TheNextWeb


When reality catches up with fiction

Walking military vehicles were a novelty in the earlier Starwars® and I always wondered what are they good for other than stumble over rebel wires.

Now Boston Dynamics is actually building them (and they are much smarter than me, so they know what they are good for):

Boston Dynamics has a wide range of really kewl robots and it probably is fun to work there, even if some of the robots are outright creepy and really small.


Boys and their toys V

I want one:
ultimate rubber band minigun/chaingun
It is part of the Lego Mindstorms Universe and comes with instructions and plenty of inspirations. Since Robotics is a CCA I have the perfect excuse to buy.


Boys and their toys IV

I want one
2010-Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 8V SE
Update: fixed the picture, yes comes with vouchers for ambulance, sample wills and divorce lawyers


Boys and their toys III

I want one:
Parrot flying drone
It flies via your iPhone. Remember that old Bond movie where he drives with a phone as wireless steering? Driving a car with a Nokia 9300i seems lame in comparison.


Ski Holidays in Adelboden Switzerland

The next stop on our XMas Europe tour is Adelboden in Switzerland. If you are into Ski World Cup, you might know Adelboden for their world cup races. The next one being in 9/10 January 2010. We stay at a private guest house Adelbed. The owners Angelika and Ruedi go a great length to make us feel like family. A highly recommended place to stay. Of course our main attraction is skiing. Since is is new to Anthony and Ernest and has been 20 years for me, we started with some ski lessons. Robert and Jakob our ski trainers yesterday and today did an excellent job and we had tons of fun.
Day 2 of our Ski lessons
Skiing in the cold weather makes hungry and we enjoy Swiss specialties like Rivella, Kaesspatzen, Roesti, Trockenfleisch and tons of Swiss Cheese.


Web Site Design - Singlish Edition

Web designers are from Mars, customers are from Venus. There is a hilarious Singlish take on this. Enjoy.

Of course there is more to customer relations


Snow ride and Hertz customer service

The gentlemen are having a good time. We had our first sledge ride after a 1.5 hour climb up to the Drehhütte which is run by one of my relatives. Downhill was a little faster (about 20 minutes)
To travel around we rented a car from Hertz in Munich. The sales assistant at the Hauptbahnhof was very helpful and we got a Opel Zafira (a car that won't make it onto my favourite list any time). The guys at the service station weren't. It turned out, that there weren't any winter tires mounted as promised (which I figured only after we starting sliding on a snowy road). When I called the hotline the lady wasn't helpful at all. "I can't do anything about it, are you sure the tires are wrong" and so on. Finally she patched me through to the Hertz station in Füssen. This station is run by Mr. Braun and his wife. He was the exact opposite to the hotline. We exchanged phone numbers and within a short while he called back with a solution. He helped me to find a gas station instead of charging the day-robbery Hertz refill fee and made sure I feel comfortably at any time. Highly recommended customer service.


The books you read the stuff you know

I see customers a lot. Business people, IT people, sales people and sane people. Since I'm not an IT graduate small talk often turns to the source of my knowledge. "Study hard, play hard" is the opener I usually use. While the internet has taken over as dominant source, I still fancy books and have collected some over the past few years. When I moved to Singapore 10 years ago, I left most of them behind, so I had to rebuild my library. In the section "Computer and Internet" I have currently 64 items which you are welcome to review.
I'll add other books about business and leisure some time in the future. So stay tuned.


XPages - the full documentation

As seen on Geek and Poke.


Boys and their toys II

Do I want one?

While announced in January you now can actually see the watch in shopping windows (I had to stare at it at Hong Kong Airport's Duty Free mall). It looks much better in black and it isn't oversized (at leat not for my wrist). Interestingly the main LG site does not know about the GD910 while results on Google are plenty and colorful. The irony of the LG wrist watch? The knock offs (with things like dual SIM support) were in the market first. Now if they had SyncML or ActiveSync.


Boys and their toys

I want one:

If only drivers here would be less reckless.


Leadership, DaoDeChing and Technology

Currently I'm participating in IBM leadership training. Naturally leadership is a hotly discussed topic during the training (which is an interesting mix of online and physical meeting). I'm a big fan of the DaoDeChing and its advice on leadership (verse 17 and verse 66):

The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
The next despised:
They have no faith in their people,
And their people become unfaithful to them.

When the best rulers achieve their purpose
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.

For IT people there is a translation into our reality (part of The Unix Power Classics):

The greatest project leaders hardly make their presence known.
Next best are those who are loved and honoured.
Next come those who are feared.
Next the PHBs*, who are despised.
The demand to be trusted is not enough; indeed, it finds no trust.

The true leader shuts up and shows us the code.

Then when the tasks are accomplished,
  and the project is complete,
  all the contributors say,
  "We did it ourselves."

Subscribe to updates to the UPC (Unix Power Classics)
* = Pointy Haired Boss


Original Wiener receipt rediscovered!

I knew you couldn't trust those sausages


New Desk for my Study

With the help of Richard and Tony I found out, that the material I'm looking for is called hardwood plywood (the image shows 10 layers). Now I had to design the table. This is what I came up with (using Google SketchUp:
Design Study for Study table
I'd like to keep things simple, so the plywood sheets would be just waxed or clear painted and wall mounted using metal triangles (you can see one sticking out on the left). The sheets would have a nice finish at the edges like the picture below.
Plywood furniture quality

Now I need to find a carpenter who can do that. My kitchen guy unfortunately doesn't have the quality of wood I'm looking for (other than that: he did a real good job in our kitchen).
Update: As Nick suggested - Rubber Wood would work too!
Rubber wood seems to be more popular here
Update: It seems rubber wood is used for kitchen table tops and only comes up to 65cm wide. I would consider rearranging the layout to have a 10cm stripe of something else at the back (maybe a stripe of perforated sheet or ?). When you look at the edges of the wood, you can see, that the edges are not 90 degree, but rounded. Makes it more pleasant when resting one's arm on them. There are three potential forms which are listedt in the sequence of my preference:
Having are more professional edge for a desk


Lazyweb: What is the correct translation for "Multiplex Platte"?

My study is equipped with two Ikea Jerker computer desks. The Jerkers were great as long as SWMBO and I were the only constant users. However now "The Gentlemen" use the equiment increasingly often, so the Jerkers have to go and make space to a bespoke solution. Being a carpenter's brother I have direct access to good advice (unfortunately too far away for actual work). We decided on make and material. Then I hit the wall: What is the correct English translation of "Multiplex Platte"? It is a layered plywood panel, but I only got a blank look from the local carpenter I asked here. So I have tow questions: What is the correct English translation and (for my Singapore readers): where can you get them in Singapore?


Mini Sun Power Saver - How Real is Real?

Over the weekend I took a stroll over Singapore's premier consumer electronics and IT fair Comex 2009. Besides the usual suspects like all the big brands in PCs, printers, cameras and TVs one can find curiosities and strange things. One of them was the "Mini Sun Power Saver" aggressively marketed by the H2H group. The flyer claims it can reduce domestic power consumption by 30% and stabilise your power supply. The strange part here is, that you just plug the device into a socket. So it sits in parallel to other consumers. The sellers claim the savings effect is due to the stabilisation of the power flow weeding out spikes and irregularities. The picture they use shows a zigzag line which isn't entirely accurate for AC, which is a sinus wave. Also the label reads "German's technology" which is at least a grammatical error. So out the question to the lazy web: Can anyone explain how exactly such a device would work (some complicated formulas are OK for me) and/or if it is just a repackaged snake-oil variant?
Update: CASE (our SG consumer watchdog) thinks it is Snakeoil.


Do I want one?

Christmas season is coming, the mobile contract is up for renewal. So I'm device hunting. This looks promising (full Linux):

On the other hand. My favorite China-fake-phone-chipset supplier has recently published a Android capable chipset and once you get used to TV and dual sim card the phones are actually nice:

(did I mention that I'm used to use beta quality software only).


Gangsters, Thugs, Thiefs and Media Users

I like movies. My family and I go to the cinema quite often (a movie is only half the fun without the coke and the popcorn) and we own quite a number of VCDs and DVDs. What p****s me off more and more: in every movie I get a advertisement about how bad "burning movies" is. Every DVD starts with an FBI warning telling me: "Hey you spend your money with us, but we tell you you probably are a thug". Grab any DVD from a Bangkok street vendor and you are not bothered by advertisement you can't skip or a warning about your obvious criminal intend. I don't mind to pay for media I watch, but I very much mind being called a potential criminal after I actually paid due to greed (?) of the media industry. Economy of abundance anyone?


How to be happy in business

Bud Caddell likes bubbles just like me. He has a very compelling view How to be happy in business. It makes rounds and is available in German already. I love the graphic, I jusr didn't like the colors, so here you go:
How to be happy in business
(Click on the image for a highres version)


Thought for the day

When you look in the wrong direction, you don't see it coming!
When you look in the wrong direction, you don't see it coming! (Original picture here)


Genting Highlands Resort Reflections

After exploring Kuantan and Sungei Lembing we continued our personal Discover Malaysia trip to Genting Highlands Theme Park. After having seen the orginal a number of times it was obvious where Genting's inspiration came from (Wasn't there something with "flattery"). They have to practice with their website however. With NoScript active you don't see a thing. The theme park is divided into an indoor and an outdoor area (tribute to the weather here) with the indoor area actually containing a number of rides including a ferries wheel and a roller coaster. After the beach and nature in Kuantan that felt a bit creepy. But it operates well. SWMBO went - what Genting is all about - gambling and won the family dinner last night. One of my favorites are animal pictures. The body of a snake (a must have accessory over here) is muscle pure - quite a stretch target for my gym exercise.
Who is the animal and who is the human?
Of course the main attraction of any theme park are the rides. Genting has a number of them: The Corkscrew, Space Shot, Sky Venture (a body flying tower, very cool, Flying Coaster, Snow World (the only way to see snow in the tropics) and more. All of them are pretty new and feature impressive structures.
The structure of the Flying Coaster
However when you embark on a ride on the Cyclops you enjoy Malaysia's first roller coaster ever,


Gartenzwerge* Chinese Edition

Germany is well know for its Garden Dwarft culture. Now I discovered, that the Chinese too have them!
Gartenzwerg auf Chinesisch
There was more to see in that monastery garden. A collection of statues (I need to find out what they mean) that invite to contemplate.

* Garden Dwarfs.


Got a torch light --- will explore

Near Kuantan in Malaysia is the old mining town Sungei Lembing where Anthony's and Ernest's grandparents were born. The mines went out of business in the 1980ties, but the shafts are still there. Of course it is strictly forbidden and dangerous to explore them.
Anthony and Ernest as miners
When you translate "strictly forbidden and dangerous" into the languge of 2 nine year olds it awfully sounds like "fun and excitement".
The gentleman in green is Ernest Jian Long, the one in purple Anthony Bau Long.


No you can't date her

Ida Cheong
She is married and has 2 kids.


Not your usual Starbucks

Imitation is the strongest form of flattery. So a successful brand (or more accurate: excellent execution of a great idea: providing a 3rd place besides home) attracts imitators. Today at Xi'an's airport I was spotting a familiar sign, only on the second look it was quite different.
SPR Coffee at Xi'an airport.
While SPR shamelessly borrowed typeface, colour, style ideas (lights, seating or counter) and charming girls in green, they added their own style. There is full service at your table and you get a wide selection of Asian food. The coffee is good, but the late is not even close to the original.


Solving (Math) Problems

Over the weekend Anthony and I tried to figure out why his latest Math test results didn't match his grasp of Mathematics (nice way to say: he did badly and had a lot of "slips of the pen"). He loves to jump right into the calculation skipping the "Due diligence" part. So we came up with a mind map to outline the steps he needs to take. It turns out, that this map serves as a general guideline to problem solving (admitting high level). Here you go:
8 Steps to solve a math problem
Update: Forgot one rule (thanks to Steve Pridemore): Don't do mental math at 1am


全体德国人是恐怖分子 - All Germans are Terrorists

There has never been an international planned terrorist attack in Germany (we had our share of domestic terrorism). But now it became clear that Germany is housing 82 million terrorists, at least when you gauge it by the level of observation these 82 million are subjected to. See for yourself:

Du bist Terrorist (You are a Terrorist) English subtitles from lexela on Vimeo.

Via vowe


I want one - 2009 Part 3

This one:
Moto Guzzi Le Mans III
Actually: I had one when I was wearing a younger man's cloth. With the driving style in Singapore I don't see me on a motorbike any time soon.


I want one - 2009 Part 2

The designers run wild now that foldable or even textile displays are a not so distant possibility. Yanko design has a really nice one.
Mobile Internet Device


I want one - 2009 Part 1

Kyocera design phone
It is just 8 month to Christmas. The thing is called Kyocera EOS and is the current hype.


Professional Traveller

I wake up. It is Shangri-La
Not that mystical place of my dreams
but a well run hotel. Carefully
maintained beauty, flawless service.
I'm connected, my social graph is with me,
posts, tweets and sweaks try to lull me
into the illusion of closeness.
Another day, professional excellence is expected.
The keyboard has a precise pressure point,
but I'm longing for a human touch.
I loath to join the club of lonely hearts
convening at the hotel bar every night.
Memories tell me travel was exiting, ready like
a minute man heading to the airport.
Gone. The call of duty remains. I watch
in the cafes happy chatter
in languages I don't understand.
I'm the professional Traveller,
ready to go where I'm needed,
all by myself.
Loneliness my faithful companion.
What city is this?


Self Portrait

Stephan Wissel April 2009
Create your own at Mr. Picasso Head


What makes a good April fools story?

It is April fools day and we are waiting for the stories to come in. But what makes a good Aprils' fool? The story needs:
  • Within the bounds of regular reporting: This is easy for general newspapers, a little more challenging for technical publications/technical blogs
  • Plausible: A reader must think: yes that is possible
  • Disguised: Best mixed with facts, so facts and fiction melt together
  • Falsifiable: With a little effort it should become obvious (most cases: nobody else reports it)
I'm blogging for a number of years now and had more or less successful entries:
Of course: Funniness is in the eye of the beholder


Tales of 2 cities

From the "the-world-is-still-not-flat-department":
I just returned from Cambridge (MA) to Singapore. Cambridge is home both to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Both are without doubt world class, top standard educational institutes. On my way back home on SQ21 I read in Singapore's premier newspaper about an incident in the National University of Singapore (NUS). Students had a naked run (probably fueled by sufficient intake of socially accepted intoxicating substances) between two buildings on the campus. and are now expelled from the hostel and risk being expelled from the university too.
Switch to Harvard: Every year the night before the exams Harvard students gather at the campus at night, run around the centre court screaming at the top of their lounges - completely naked (quite a task with late winter temperatures). To participate is a question of honour.
Flat world anyone?


Khet - lasers and logic

The gentlemen have a new favorite game: Khet. After 10 minutes you understand the rules, but it will take you years to master it. For a reason Mensa (The club of really smart people) loves it. In a nutshell: you have a laser beam that you can redirect by 90 degrees using a mirror play piece:

You either can move or turn one of your pieces per turn.

Once any beam hits a pharao the game is over and the owner of the remaining pharao has won. (Download the rules)
You can buy it from Khet or Amazon or ThinkGeek
Happy playing!


A Visitor from Home

This weekend the son of an old friend is visiting us. He came back from an ANZ trip and will explore South East Asia for a while. Since he has deep roots in the German coffee culture, he is wondering if he should visit Java or Vietnam first.
So we created a little presentation and he will see important people on his trip. If you are looking for high quality coffee in Germany, look for this logo:


Advertising with LinkStar?

This arrived in my inbox today:

Hi ,

I work for Linkstar Media, a leading broker of online advertising, dealing with many thousands of independent webmasters worldwide. We currently have a client in the Telecoms industry for whom we are looking to acquire advertising from quality websites.

We've had a look at and think that it would be a good match for our client, whose target demographic is similar to your own.

We would be interested in purchasing advertising in the form of a text-based link on your site. To reduce unnecessary admin and hassle, we prefer to pay a fixed annual upfront fee for such advertisements. Once the ad has been placed, payment can be made quickly by PayPal or money bookers.

If you are interested, please get back to me with your rates etc. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,
Jill Green

There was some more stuff below the fold, might be a disclaimer or so, but I never bothered to scroll further down. Feels fishy. Anybody knows who they are?


IBM Opposes the Buy American Provisions

The "Buy American" provisions of the US stimulus package has caused quite a stir. The Economist likened them to the raise of long buried zombies. However there seems still the voice of reason available in all that madness. A broad coalition of US and multi-national organizations has formed expressing their concern to the president and the senate leaders. The list reads like the who is who in business: ABB, The ACE Group of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Aerojet, Aerospace Supply, Chain Solutions, LLC, Alcatel-Lucent USA, Alticor, Inc., AgustaWestland North America Inc., Avaya Inc., Axcelis Technologies, Inc., BAE Systems, Inc., BASF Corporation, Boston Scientific Corp., Case New Holland Inc., Caterpillar Inc., Cisco Systems, Inc., Citibank N.A., Cummins Inc., Dassault Falcon Jet, Diageo PLC, The Dow Chemical Company, ESIS, Inc., EMC, Eastman Kodak Company, Finmeccanica North America, Inc., Freescale, Forsberg International Logistics, LLC, Fujitsu, General Electric Company, Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM Corporation, International Bancshares Corporation, International Bank of Commerce, ITT Corporation, John Deere, Lexmark International, Inc., Lockheed Martin Corporation, Manitowoc Company Inc., The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., McKesson Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, NEC Corporation of America, Nestl?? USA, Nestl?? Waters North America, Nestl?? Purina Petcare, ldcastle Inc., Oracle Corporation, Panasonic Corporation of North America, PCS VacDry USA LLC, Philips Electronics North America, Pinkerton Government Services, Inc., Plantronics, Inc., The Procter & Gamble Company, SAP America, Siemens Corporation, Sony, Spirit Electronics, Inc., Stone Construction Equipment, Inc., Sumitomo Corporation, Symantec, TEREX, TIGHITCO, Inc., Teradyne, Texas Instruments Incorporated, Transact Technologies, Trimble Navigation Limited, Unilever United States, United Technologies Corporation, US Trading & Investment Company, Volvo Group North America, Windings, Inc., XOCECO USA, Xerox Corporation, The Advanced Medical Technology Association, Aerospace Industries Association, American Business Conference, American Chemistry Council, American Council of Engineering Companies, American Meat Institute, Associated Builders & Contractors, Associated Equipment Distributors, Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, Inc., Business Roundtable, The Associated General Contractors of America, The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Brazil-U.S. Business Council, Business Software Alliance, California Chamber of Commerce, Canadian American Business Council, The Coalition for Government Procurement, Coalition of Service Industries, Computer & Communications Industry Association, Computing Technology Industry Association, Consumer Electronics Association, Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition, Emergency Committee for American Trade, European-American Business Council, European Council of American Chambers of Commerce, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Hong Kong-U.S. Business Council, Information Technology Industry Council, International Wood Product Association, Middle East Council of American Chambers of Commerce, National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones, National Association of Manufacturers, National Defense Industrial Association, National Electronic Distributors Association, National Foreign Trade Council, Ohio Alliance for International Trade, Organization for International Investment, Retail Industry Leaders Association, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International
Semiconductor Industry Association, Software & Information Industry Association, Technology Association of America (formerly AeA and ITAA), Technology CEO Council, Telecommunications Industry Association, United States Council for International Business, US-ASEAN Business Council, U.S.-Bahrain Business Council, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, US-China Business Council, U.S.-India Business Council, U.S.-Korea Business Council, U.S.-Pakistan Business Council, U.S.-UAE Business Council, Washington Council on International Trade.
The RIAA is absent, but that is hardly surprising.


The Great Economic Crisis

"Dire warnings of impending economic doom started being heard above the euphoric shouts of the million who had recently vaulted into the middle and upper classes. Suggestions to balance budgets and limit credit at all levels of the economy were ignored. Instead, creative effort was expended to come up with one way after another of putting more spending power in the hands of a populace that had forgotten how to say 'wait', much less 'no' to itself.
The global stock market began to sputter in January ... and there were predictions of a coming crash. But to most humans spread around the Earth ... the concept of such a crash was beyond comprehension. After all, the world economy had been expanding for over nine years, the last two at a rate unparalleled in the previous two centuries. World leaders insisted that they had finally found the mechanism that could  truly inhibit the downturns of the capitalistic cycles. And the people believed them - until early May ... three of the largest international banks announced that they were insolvent because of bad loans
Question to the audience: Where was this published?


What Kind of Kid Were You?

You Were an Inspired Kid
When you were a kid, you tended to see things from a unique, inventive perspective.
In class, you were either asking lots of questions or getting lost in a daydream.

You excelled at brainstorming. People were always amazed with what you came up with.
You didn't do as well with structured activities. Giving you freedom was the only way to make you shine.


Global recession - where did all the money go?

The Guardian is running an excellent story to explain the Global Financial Crisis. In a nutshell:
(Amount of Money) * (Velocity of transfer) = (Price of goods) * (Economic Output).
The velocity of transfer is slowing down much faster than the amount of money can be increased. While $1.9 trillion stimulus looks big compared to the $3.9 trillion cash in circulation, it is merely a drop in the ocean of the 290 trillion "great asset bubble" (the whole global GDP was $55 trillion only). Go read the full article.


Ideas for a stimulus package (German edition)

All over the planet government are throwing (more or less) money into their economies to get them back on track. Throwing money is easy, everybody does it. In the US president elect Obama thinks a little ahead: he realizes that a working infrastructure is bitterly needed. After all rolling power outages are an indicator of a 3rd world country. Looking towards Germany that won't work. The infrastructure is pretty good and Germany surely won't need Japanese bridges going nowhere. Some more creativity is needed. Home ownership im Germany is still low. One reason are the cost of building a house which are much higher than in countries with similar climate like Denmark or the Netherlands. A major reason are the myriads of laws, regulations and bylaws. Same applies to starting a business. So here comes my unsolicited advice:
  • Take the German tax code, pile it high and put a match to it (what a bonfire that would be). Visit smaller countries like Slovenia, Switzerland or Singapore and buy their tax laws (allow for some adjustment to fit the German federal structure, the Swiss approach looks appealing). Set the tax rates so this would be result neutral. A strong signal is send to all Citizens that this is serious, borrowing a line from the US: Change is possible. (Unfortunately public servants and tax consultants have a strong lobby and are over-represented in parliament, so it is a pipe dream)
  • Take all the public servants you don't need anymore in the ministry of finance and redeploy them. Part would take the building code and eliminate all regulations that don't have a proven track record or equivalents in other countries. Stop only once 95% of the regulations are gone. Retrain the rest to become teachers and trainers and boost the education level of just everyone who has any single of the five senses still working. After all Germans value education very highly (at least it used to be so).
  • Once the building code is cleansed take on the business regulations. Wear your Teflon underwear and carry a big stick, there are many fiefdoms who will resist you.
  • While you are on it: clean out the rest of over-regulations and re-establish a firm rule of the principle of subsidiarity (German Version)
  • In a little deviation from simplifying the tax code: give a tax break to anybody who participated in education or health improving activities (Yoga, Tai Chi and Sports in General)
  • Make it mandatory that at the end of each visit to a doctor the patient gets handed out a printed bill. While here in Singapore you have to settle the bill immediately (mayor credit cards accepted) you could still keep the settlement system you have in place. Just make it 100% clear in black and white to the patient
  • Publish all public finances on a website with business analysis tools, so they can be scrutinized for efficiency. Put a process in place for review (you have all the surplus people from the ministry of finance).
That would boost the economy with a big lever.


The story of stuff

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.


My Blog in 50 words



I want one - Part VI


This time strictly for the kids. I had my stab at Elektromann. And I still remember its slogan: "Alles baut Elektromann was man mit Strom betreiben kann!"


I want one - Part V

And I thought the only vehicles the Danish were good at were Viking battle ships.

For the record: I don't own a car.


I want one - Part IV

Just watching the ZEN like concentration of Anthony playing the guitar is worth it!


I want one - Part III


I couldn't resist.


I want one - Part II


What do I tacitly acknowledge here?


I want one


Even if it is the tacit admission, that I need to get back in shape


What type is that blog?


The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type:

INTJ - The Scientists

The long-range thinking and individualistic type. They are especially good at looking at almost anything and figuring out a way of improving it - often with a highly creative and imaginative touch. They are intellectually curious and daring, but might be pshysically hesitant to try new things.

The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communcating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use conrete examples. Since they are extremly good at concentrating they often have no trouble working alone.

Check your own Blog at Typalizer


Freddie, Fannie and an old blog entry.

Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy, Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae have been nationalized, but in world. Seems like the financial crisis will stay with us for a while. Forclosures seem to become a hot US election topic. How many of them can be avoided if morgage payments get substantially lower. But how? Socialism anyone. If the government would own your house it could lower your payments. But wait... they do own it now and I might have been almost right, except it's not about additional consumption, but basic capital service.

The old Chinese curse holds true: "May you live in interesting times"


Explaining the human condition to an eight year old

Anthony told me: "Ernest has a girl friend now". Both have visited the Singapore Science Center multiple times to mavel at the sequence how new babies grow in a mother womb. So I felt it is time to sort a few things out with them along the lines: daddy explains how the world works. Before diving into the biological details (which I think would be a bit early) I felt explaining the confusion of feelings and finding a vocabulary would be important. I found a good starting point in the book Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different - And How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men which talks about the difference between, Like, Lust and Love. So it put that into a picture.
We agreed that Like and Love is easy and that the grown-ups make a big huh-hah around everything remotely connected to Lust and that each of these three feelings has a place in the body. We also agreed that since the grown-ups make all this huh-hah it can't be that big a deal and that we will do more research into that topic when they are older. Also the three feelings are very different in nature. Like can exist on it's own, while Love mostly builds on Like (unless you got a broken heart). I didn't emphasis on "Lust can stand alone" that would be subject to later research. And once you find someone where you feel all three strongly, you want to be with that person for a very long time. "Is this why you stay with Momy?" Ernest asked. "Yes my son, this is why" I answered and with a smile Ernest went to sleep.


What Superhero are you?

Your results:
You are Green Lantern
Green Lantern
The Flash
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz


What Reptile Are You?

You Are a Crocodile
You are incredibly wise and knowledgeable.
In fact, your wisdom is so deep that it sometimes consumes you.

People are intrigued by you, but you find few people intriguing.
You are not a very social creature.

You are cunning. You enjoy deceiving people a little.
You are able to find balance in your life, and you can survive anything.


Bargaining Power

My style to explore a city is to vaguely set a goal (e.g. a famous road or landmark), use public transport and let me drift through the city. So this evening I set my eye on 天安门广场. I didn't go to the Forbidden City, just stand outside, since they are closed after working hours (mental note: come back as tourist). I walked down Chan'an Avenue, well equipped with an umbrella taking in Beijing's vibes. I ended up at the Silk Street Pearl Market (That is about 3-4km distance).
It is a six story building divided in endless 2-10 square meter stores selling everything from textiles, shoes, bags, leather ware, toys, (fake) watches, jewelry, pearls and art. The sales girls on the textile floors try to trump each other in attracting customers by luring them with English as it is broken to look at stuff. If you are prepared for it, it is hilariously funny. Equipped with a calculator they invite you to bargain for their wares. Of course their initial price it at least 3 times the real sales value (more rather 4-5 times). They even assure you, that you are a nice guy and therefore didn't get another ridiculous price. I'm not very good at bargaining, but that shop could become my training ground. Once I mentioned, that my wife is Chinese (without explaining Singapore-Chinese vs. Chinese-Chinese) all prices instantly dropped by 40-50%. After buying a few things I think I learned a few lessons: even if you get 80% discount from the starting price it is very likely that you overpaid. Being a Caucasian male doubles the starting price. It seems to be a code of honor between the sales girls, that once you started to bargain, that they have to close the deal. So when you start making moves to leave prices drop again. Then the biggest lesson: it is a 1005 buyers market. I actually don't need any of the items (skipping 2 fancy dinners instead would save me more money), but the sales girls must sell. That's their reason for existence. So you can change the game from: she tells her price, you tell your price and you meet in the middle to: you set your price and it is deal or no deal. Of course for the sake of the ritual you give in once or twice, meaning the price you set mentally would be slightly higher that was your first statement is. The bargaining is a ritual and it is important for the girls to look like they are actually driving a hard bargain. But once you reach your price you actually will get it (at least if you are soft like me and set it way to high). Great fun to be on the power side of the bargain. Next time I'll bring the camera.


Off the grid

Surprisingly they agreed. The Nintendo DS will stay home together with the laptop. While the hotel claims to have Internet access Ernest, Anthony, SWMBO and I decided it doesn't fit to bring high-tech to a jungle holiday. We will fly to Kota Kinabalu with Silk Air and continue our trip to Mulu on a Fokker 50. I'm looking forward to a lot of activities like: bat caves, canopy skywalks, long boar river cruise and plainly doing nothing. Ida likes to have proper accommodation and wasn't exited about sleeping in tent and hammock. Luckily all these activites are within reach of civilized places.

Have a look, you might spot us at the pool.


I want one!

I have a weakness for beauty. And there are beautiful things around:

via Smashing


Is that the motorbike of the future?

This is surly not for the faint of heart:

I wouldn't mind giving it a spin.


Not save for the workplace?

See for yourself ....


Technology and Magic

The 3rd of Clarke's laws states:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
(While Ponder Stibbons of DiskWorld fame muses "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. ").

Catching up on my blog reading I found a sinister addenum to Occam's razor and its cousin Hanlon's razor( "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."):

"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. "

(via raganwald'07)


Which Transformer are you?

I couldn't resist...

Take the Transformers Quiz


Top ten signs you work for IBM by David Letterman

10 IBM You lecture the neighborhood kids selling lemonade on ways to improve their process.
9 IBM You get all excited when it's Saturday so you can wear shorts to work.
8 IBM You refer to the tomatoes grown in your garden as deliverables.
7 IBM You find you really need Freelance to explain what you do for a living.
6 IBM You normally eat out of vending machines and at the most expensive restaurant in town within the same week.
5 IBM You think that "progressing an action plan" and "calendarizing a project" are acceptable English phrases.
4 IBM You know the people at faraway hotels better than your next-door neighbors.
3 IBM You ask your friends to "think outside the box" when making Friday night plans.
2 IBM You think Einstein would have been more effective had he put his ideas into a matrix.
  And, the number one sign you work for IBM...
1 IBM You think a "half-day" means leaving at 5 o'clock.

Update: This seems to be old news.


I want one

One of these.


Bangkok, Starbucks and a holy man

Being on a journey makes you meet all sorts of people and hear their stories. Today before going to the airport in Bangkok I had a coffee at my favorite place. A large size hot late (venti as called in the current Starbucks lingo) is 100 Thai Bath which is about USD 3.16 or 2.24 EUR. I was approached by a man who introduced himself as Mr. Yogi. We had an very interesting exchange about life, purpose and spirituality. He shared, that he is following a holy man who has a temple in India that is helping the poor. The story sounded plausible, but in this day and age anything can be true or not. I know I have some readers in India, so eventually someone could confirm the existence of the holy man:
Gurmeet Singh
House No 3464 St. No 5
New Janta Nagar
Ludhiana, Punjab - India.
Please post a comment or drop me an email.


See you on the other side

I won't bring the laptop here and I'll leave the mobile phone at home. Family time.

See you next week!


On dead students, guns and the US constitution.

It is sad to read that innocent lives have been taken. A man made disaster, that lines up in a series of similar senseless events. But thinking of it, the sadness turns into anger. Why does that have to happen? Well guns are so readily available and seem to be part of manhood accessories, thanks to these gentlemen. The NRA sings you the siren song, that having a gun is part of being a free man, is part of the civic liberties of the United States. It is even protected by the constitution. They will recite the second amendment like a mantra: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." And this liberty is more important than a life.
But wait a second. What does that sentence really mean? Sometimes it has its advantages not to be a native speaker, you have to lookup words and meanings.
The first striking point: the sentence starts with militia and not an individual. Is that right only meant for members of a "well regulated militia"? Given the time and context the constitution was formed, that looks rather obvious. And what does "bear arms" really mean. Webster renders two meanings: a) to carry or possess arms b) to serve as a soldier. So in the context of militia it could very well mean: "keep arms to serve as soldier in the militia."
In 2004 there were 11624 people in the US shot dead, that is 3.92 per 100000 (for comparison: Canada, just a few miles north: 0.54, Switzerland 0.50, Japan 0.04). How many more people have to die until they learn? Of course fear is a convenient control mechanism, so maybe everything works according to plan? For a more complete discussion check out the Wikipedia article.


Why is Enterprise Web 2.0 like Teenage Sex?

  • It is on everybody's mind all the time.
  • Everyone is talking about it all the time.
  • Everyone thinks everyone else is doing it.
  • Almost no one is really doing it.
  • The few who are doing it are
    • doing it poorly
    • sure it will be better next time
    • not practicing it safely.


Five things you don't know about me

So Kevin thinks it's my turn.
  1. As a pre-tenager I was singing in our school chorus. I had a beautiful alto voice and according to my teacher talent. Then the hormones kicked in and brought an abrupt and terminal end to my aspirations
  2. My college paper was about thermos dynamics and the Carnot cycle. As part of the preparation I acquired a set of old fridges, which I hoped to turn into a heat pump. The endeavour utterly failed but helped to found a urban legend at my college with wild stories about that student, who had all sorts of mishaps turning fridges into heat pumps.
  3. I was working for Club Aldiana as computer trainer for a while. As part of that job I had to bring computer equipment to Tunisia. There I spend a whole night being trapped at a police post since I refused to pay the officer a bribe for letting me go. I only got of the hook when the head of police arrived, who was a golf buddy of the local Aldiana manager.
  4. I was member of a motorbike club named "Die Kuhle Wampe" (named after a movie by Berthold Brecht). The club was politically active and the federal board was heavily infiltrated by the West German Communist Party. On the regional level we were much more pragmatic running campaigns for safer driving and we poked fun on the infiltrators. After that I never understood how my NATO security clearance for my national service at the German Airforce got approved.
  5. As a young IT contractor I moved to Munich. The company I was working for got into trouble with a large project delivery and couldn't pay the salaries. We were all hanging in to finally deliver (what luckily worked out and gave me both the outstanding pay as well as first-hand experience in crisis management). Due to the lack of cash I had to survive on ten bucks a week for about three month. My pride stopped me from going back to my family and ask for help. In that three month I even did a weekend trip to the Netherlands. Then hitchhiking was still an acceptable mode of transportation.

Let's see who is next.


Chrismas wishes

Could be me:

(The Santa or the boy?)


vowe is a good mother!

In time for my birthday vowe mentions my take on Lotus Expeditor on his blog. And when you get v-dotted, your page views look like this:

Thats a nice birthday treat. Thx vowe.


Web 2.0 anyone?

Web Two Point Ohhhh


Locate any GSM cell phone online

Curious where your spouse is? Check it out!


I belong in Fall, so why I'm living in the Tropics?

You Belong in Fall
Intelligent, introspective, and quite expressive at times...
You appreciate the changes in color, climate, and mood that fall brings
Whether you're carving wacky pumpkins or taking long drives, autumn is a favorite time of year for you


Before you call hotline the next time

Watch this


What Does Your Birth Date Mean?

I always knew it <g>
Your Birthdate: November 16
You're incredibly introverted and introspective. You live inside your head.
You spend a lot of alone time meditating and thinking.
People see you as withdrawn, and at times they are right.
You are caring and deep, but it may be difficult for you to show this side of yourself.

Your strength: Your original approach to thinking

Your weakness: You tend to shy away from others

Your power color: Pale blue

Your power symbol: Wavy line

Your power month: July


What's Your Ideal Relationship?

Better not show this to she-who-must-be-obeyed
Your Ideal Relationship is Polyamory
You want to have your cake... and everyone else's.
Which isn't a bad thing, if everyone else gets to eat too!
You're too much of a free spirit to be tied down by a traditional relationship.
You think relationships should be open and free, with few restrictions.


Idealism and Materialism

The two forces of Idealism and Materialism seem to struggle in an eternal fight for being the true success for mankind. As a twist of irony some of the most materialistic people (think Jacob Fugger, Henry Ford, George Soros, Bill Gates etc.) turned into the most benevolent idealists (remarkably outside their respective businesses). Now Master Nishijiama offers the conclusion: Apply Buddhist practise to both and Idealism and Materialism will form something bigger than the parts: Realism.
The planet could need much more of that!


Do you prefere Microsoft or Open Source?

This is a topic of heated discussions up to a geek vendetta. Now there is a scientific spin to it. The folks at Harvard's "Project Implicit" use a test methodology where test items are mixed with value statements. First you sort a list Microsoft - Opensource with terms like: Powerpoint, Firefox, Windows, Linux etc. Then you sort a list good - bad with items like: pleasure, pain, joy, sad.
After the initial sorting the two sets are mixed: Microsoft - good, OpenSource - bad.... and the other way around. You sort again. based on speed and error rate your subconcious preferences are discovered. Go give it a spin.


Happy Easter!


And for the majority of other faith in this part of the world: Happy spring/fertility celebration (wasn't that what the Easter egg was all about?)


OpenNTF makes sexy!

This is what happens when you wear an OpenNTF T-shirt in public.

OpenNTF makes sexy

.. the kids like it too. (Shameless plugged from here)


Reality God and the Universe

Master Gudo NISHIJIMA God is the Universe, the Universe is God. And then the Fusion between God and the Universe is called Reality. And when we sitting in Zazen, we can sit in God, we can sit in the Universe, we can sit in act, and we can sit in Reality. Therefore we can sit in Reality.

via Dogen Sangha Blog


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?

image You scored as Moya (Farscape). You are surrounded by muppets. But that is okay because they are your friends and have shown many times that they can be trusted. Now if only you could stop being bothered about wormholes.

Moya (Farscape)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Serenity (Firefly)


SG-1 (Stargate)


FBI&#039;s X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?
created with


A Sure Sign Of the End of Civilization As We Know It

Sesame Street in Klingon.

(via Grady Booch)


4 things

So it is going around. Now it's my turn:

Four jobs I’ve had:
  1. Warehouse worker
  2. Mover
  3. Club Animator
  4. Tutor

Four movies I can watch over and over:
  1. Kundun
  2. Brazil
  3. Leon
  4. Spirited away

Four places I have lived:
  1. Goldbach
  2. Hain im Spessart (actually the websites background image is the house I lived in)
  3. Greussenheim
  4. Munich

Four television shows I love to watch:
  1. Starship Enterprise
  2. Moonbase Alpha
  3. Tatort
  4. I don't watch TV anymore

Four places I have been on holiday:
  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. Sri Lanka
  4. Bali

Four of my favourite dishes:
  1. Laksa
  2. Wonton noodles
  3. Rojak salad
  4. Sushi

Four websites I visit daily:
  1. Bloglines
  2. Slashdot
  3. Heise
  4. Google

Four places I would rather be right now:
  1. in the Yellow Mountains hiking
  2. In Tibet, sitting with the monks
  3. In Bali in a nice spa
  4. In a jungle camp

So, there you go, 32 things you didn't really want to know.


How many Zen Buddhists ...

does it take to change a light bulb?


One more reason to deploy Sametime

Employee frustration is a major headache for corporations. Instead of spending on corporate counsellors and motivational programs a simple Sametime Bot can play the role of the attentive listener. And don't forget some motivational posters.


What Muppet are you?

What Muppet are you?

You are Dr. Bunson Honeydew.You love to analyse things and further the cause of science, even if you do tend to blow things up more often than not.HOBBIES:Scientific inquiry, Looking through microscopes, Recombining DNA to create decorative art. QUOTE:"Now, Beakie, we'll just flip this switch and 60,000 refreshing volts of electricity will surge through your body. Ready?" FAVORITE MUSICAL ARTIST:John Cougar Melonhead LAST BOOK READ:"Quantum Physics: 101 Easy Microwave Recipes" NEVER LEAVES HOME WITHOUT:An atom smasher and plenty of extra atoms.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla | Join | Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code


Four ballons and three candles!

You have one guess..




Intelligent Design --- not for the Vatican


For Roman Catholics (still the biggest Christian group) intelligent design is a no topic. The Vatican issued a statement that sees Darwin's evolution in line with the Genesis. I'm curious how more fundamental Christian groups will take that. Anyway some of them still have to learn the difference between science and believe (via Slashdot / The Australian ).  


Beijing International Airport 22:00 (GMT+8)

The conference went very well and I'm on my way home. I arrived 10pm at Beijing International Airport, cleared checking and immigration and now have 90 minutes to kill. While a rather buy things at the airport shops, I do enjoy looking at the stuff. There are a number of beautiful shops here and even a Starbucks for a Tazo tea. There is only one little flaw -- they are all closed at 10pm. Seems there is some room for improvement. So I tried my luck with a vending machine, that promised alcohol free beer. Well out of luck too -- the machine dispensed a normal can and I don't touch alcohol for over 10 years now. But there is more to improve: China mobile provides wireless LAN at CNY 0.20/minute (that is ca. 0.024USD/minute). Unfortunately you need to be a China Mobile subscriber -- the English instructions at least didn't suggest anything else. Maybe I have more luck next time.


Photo model at the Great Wall of China

The conference is starting tomorrow, so I did some sightseeing. The Great Wall of China is on the regular tour calendar in Beijing, so off I went. I was impressed and amused.
Impressed by the wall and amused by the local tourists...
Being on a picture with a Westerner seems to equally attractive for male and female locals. So I had some photo model sessions. Unfortunately my command of Mandarin is so poor, so I couldn't ask to get a copy emailed. Good fun.


Drehhuette Fuessen

Over the weekend we celebrated a second degree uncle's 60th birthday on the Drehhütte in Füssen. Füssen is the city where Schloss Neu Schwanstein (a.k.a. Mad King's Castle, the template of Disney castle) is located. Being back to the fresh cool air of the alps was a very welcome difference to warm and humid Singapore. You could misstake me for a monk on holiday.


Coffee addiction not so bad after all!

According to an article on Independent Coffee can be considered a health food. It is high in antioxidants even more than apples or tomatos. So next time I sit at Starbucks I can righfully tell: "I just have my anti cancer agent".

Update: Paul Benhaim draws a very different picture. In a summary of the book "The coffee blues" he brandmarks Coffee as a dangerous drug. Seems another item to let go.


I made my first million today - Hanoi rocks!

Yes.... My first million. Holding cold hard cash in my hands. Well it's rather warm and flappy and one million Vietnamese Dong (which is about 63 USD). At least now I know how it feels to be a millionaire . Since I arrived early the afternoon I had some time to kill. I strolled from the hotel towards the "Old Quarter" where you can find a lot of early 20th century buildings filled with buzzing Vietnamese life. Originally I intended to walk but then Lam (see picture) convinced me to be my driver. For about 1.5 hours he drove me through the city Vietnamese style: Traffic signs and lights are decoration or suggestions, not rules; when you see a lot of traffic coming your way, jank your horn and keep driving. Some of the motorcycle riders actually wear helmets -- the ones you know from the Rambo movies. I had a good time, visited the old prison and the Temple of Literature, which was founded in 1070 as an university. Since my driver took some back roads I had a glimpse into Vietnamese daily life. In a rather shadowy narrow run down road, what do I see in the basement of an old house: an internet cafe (my guess about 40 screens) packed with young people. Some stuff seems to be the same everywhere.


Now listening

Seven Chakras
I am feeling a bit imbalanced and exhausted recently. Nothing wrong said the physician, so something more subtle needs a fix.
Playing this every evening for bedtime now, seems to help. From the cover:
Aeoliah: The Seven Chakras - Crystal Illumination is an interdimensional musical journey through the seven vital energy centres in man also known as chakras and energy vortexes. Each centre radiates a particular energy and activity that directly corresponds to all our emotions, feelings, desires and thoughts. Each centre also corresponds directly to our bodily functions especially the endocrine system which regulates the glandular and metabolic activity in our bodies. When these seven energy centres are in balance and alignment with each other, they radiate a purity of health, vitality and energy that reflects in our aura as crystal rainbow-white light. Each musical section corresponds directly to each chakra, starting at the base of the spine, harmonizing and balancing the energy in that area.


What Is your Dominant Intelligence?

Your Dominant Intelligence is Interpersonal Intelligence

You shine in your ability to realate to and understand others. Good at seeing others' points of view, you get how people think and feel. You have an uncanny ability to sense true feelings, intentions, and motivations. A natural born leader, you are great at teaching and mediating conflict. You would make a good counselor, salesperson, politician, or business person.



Birthday Surprise

baristasun.jpg  No, no surprise party, but a bunch of thoughtful business people. My friends at SUN Microsystems Singapore surprised me with a copy of Sun Java Desktop System. But the biggest one: Martin Coles, President of Starbucks Coffee International did send me the Starbucks book. I'm impressed.


Do I smell birthday cake?

I added some changes to Most visible is the layout. The sidebar turned orange and moved to the left. I also added an image that locates readers based on the IP address (When clicking on the image you see the big picture and how you can add that to your own blog/website). I would like to know who you are! Post a reply or send a message!
Happy day to all of you!


Now listening

A local cover band. Pretty good voices


Now reading...

Warrior of the light

Manual of the warrior of light.

Every warrior of light has felt afraid of going into battle.
Every warrior of light has, at some time in the past, lied or betrayed someone.
Every warrior of light has trodden a path that was not his.
Every warrior of light has suffered for the most trivial of reasons.
Every warrior of light has, at least once, believed that he was not a warrior of light.
Every warrior of light has failed in his spiritual duties.
Every warrior of light has said 'yes' when he wanted to say 'no'.
Every warrior of light has hurt someone he loved.
That is why he is a warrior of light, because he has been through all this and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is.

(C) 1997 Paulo Coelho, Published here without asking him.

... sounds so familiar to me ....


What is the height of globalization?

Princess Diana's death!
How come?


English explained

On a tshirt of a teenager the other day: BITCH



Shrek II- Hilarious!

Anthony and Ernest love their toons. Since we introduced them to the big screen with "Finding Nemo", they love the full movie package:
Dinner at the Sushi Bar, Movie tickets, big popcorn (the VERY big one) and "Gassy drinks" (soda pops are not citizens of our fridge, so they are special). This weekend we went seeing Shrek II. I'm usually a bit sceptical about sequels, but this one was hilarious. I'm well trained in Grimm's fairy tales, so I had a good laugh on all the tales jokes and I got some of the Hollywood jokes too.
What amazed me, is the thin line they were able to walk. The movie is innocent enough to be good family fun and juicy enough to send your phantasy spinning (if you understand the clues).
Best preparation: get into the mood by watching the DVD first. I'm waiting for the Shrek midnight double feature coming up.


Good or Bad - The man with the knife

Being educated in the West, I'm used to think in dualism: Nice - Nasty, Good - Bad, Love - Hate. Now I'm living in Asia and got in touch with Taoism and Buddhism. Both challenge the dualistic view, which is mind-blowing for a Westerner. It condenses in the first verse of the Tao De King: The true Tao is beyond words. As a trainer I always try to brake things down into easy digestible lessons, so here is my take one.
Imagine: In front of you stands a man. He is wearing a mask. He holds a sharp knife. He looks very determined to cut you open and he looks like that he is used to this type of action.

Is that good or bad?


Back to the dark ages?


In the recent issue of fortune magazine, there was a report on population growth on planet earth. Standing at 6 billion, there won't be the doomsday szenario of this number beeing doubled.

The estimates are, that earth's population will reach its peak at 9 billion, somewhen 20 years down the road and then start to shrink. This has a lot of implications (read the article for details).

One I found specifically frightening: while most people would reduce the number of children (if they have any) in favor of personal well beeing, religious conservatives (of any religion) would outbreed (be fruitful!) the more liberal minded population.

So withing 3-4 generations we could be back at the mindset, that made the middle ages the "dark ages". So will all progress in civil development, most notably the right of self expression, go down the drain?


Pali Chanting --- free online music

It's kind of interesting how communication channels work. After commenting on Volker's music industry boycott, quite a number of people, known and unknown ones asked me about the Pali Chanting music. Pali was the language Lord Buddha has spoken. You can find the music online free for download. And Lord Buddha will be delighted, when you listen.
There is also a translation into English available there, in case you don't speak Pali.


Been there, done that.

15% down, 85% to go...

create your own visited country map or write about it on the open travel guide


How Socialism will take over the US

I know the title is a bit provocative. Bear with me and follow how the idea unfolds. I'm not saying that this a good thing or a bad thing. It is simply something that is not too unlikely to happen. So here is the plot:
The growth of the US economy is fuelled by robust growth of consumer spending. This spending is financed to a good degree by borrowing against the increasing values of houses. So the interest rates and house prices determine the money available for consumer spending. This can't grow indefinitely and the number of jobs not appearing suggest, that the combined consumers spending power needs to rely on an increase of the individual spending, rather than an increase of individuals spending.
So, once the interest increases or the house prices level off, this would spell an end to the growth... Unless you make more money available otherwise. The government uses tax cuts, that might work for a while until the deficit strangles it. This is where Socialism, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae kick in.
We all know, that our monthly mortgage payments consist of interest and capital payment. Getting back the capital isn't that interesting for the lender, since they need to look for a new borrower to continue making money.
So it is only a question of time until the "perpetual mortgage" will be introduced by the Freddie & Fannie. With one strike your pocket will have the money you needed for capital payment available for spending. This possibility is so simple and so tempting, that you will see it happen big scale sooner as you might think.
Actually, since Freddie & Fannie are government backed entities, you do not actually own your house anymore, but the government (there are the security owners in between, but ultimately its the government).
Government owning the houses of its citizens is called Socialism <vbg>.

So what do you think? (I'm more interested in you view of the financial construct, less my provocative label, but every comment is welcome).


The Latte test

I have to admit that I'm a Cafe Latte addict.

Here in Singapore the big contenders are there: Starbucks, Spinelli, CoffeeBean, Coffeeclub and some smaller ones. The latest entry in the race is McCafe, McDonalds' take on Starbucks. McCafe is well styled, however you can see, that the staff is new and needs to practice. I wonder if McCafe is already active in the US?
Coffeclub has the best deal on WiFi (20SGD flat for Pacific Internet subscribers, 25SGD for the rest), but Starbucks has the most friendly staff (you actually can flirt with them and that is something remarkable in this part of the world!), the best locations (between my office, the MRT and my gym) AND the best Latte in town. The only drawback are prices. A local coffeeshop charges 0.80SGD for a coffee mug, the Latte goes at 5.25SGD. (The joke goes: Starbucks Latte goes at 0.75SGD, but you must buy a mandatory 4.50SGD Starbucks experience). Internet, provided by Singtel, is 0.30SGD/min with no cap and that's a show stopper for always on.
How much is a Grande Latte and Internet elsewhere?


Valentines day --- beyond the commerce

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon,
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain!
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own; without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without
cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even if it's not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from God's presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver moon, "Yes!"
It doesn't interest me where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary, bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.
It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself; and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
(from the book "Spiritual Intelligence")


What color are you?

Rock started it, so I had to follow. Deep Pink in my culture is associated with the high priests. So should I change my title "NotesSensei" to something more?

you are deeppink

Your dominant hues are red and magenta. You love doing your own thing and going on your own adventures, but there are close friends you know you just can't leave behind. You can influence others on days when you're patient, but most times you just want to go out, have fun, and do your own thing.

Your saturation level is high - you get into life and have a strong personality. Everyone you meet will either love you or hate you - either way, your goal is to get them to change the world with you. You are very hard working and don't have much patience for people without your initiative.

Your outlook on life is very bright. You are sunny and optimistic about life and others find it very encouraging, but remember to tone it down if you sense irritation.
the html color quiz


Who in Finding Nemo are you?

I'm the small fish with big plans!
You are NEMO!
What Finding Nemo Character are You?

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When I grew up, there was a time where I got very angry. Not angry on someone or something specific. Angry with the world. My parents told me, that this was a clear sign of my puberty kicking in full swing. They told me, that I'll become rebellious and will try to stem against the mainstream. Of course I dismissed that as an ol' folks lecture.... and became rebellious. I drove anything that had two wheels and an engine (finally a fast motorbike) and my leather suite became my second skin. As an IBM intern I was wearing espadrilles explaining the customers it is to avoid static electricity.
Later I learned, that this anger would cede once adulthood has been achieved. So now, 25 years later, I have to ask myself: did I miss it? I'm perceived as very calm, patient, listening, but under the hood that anger never stopped boiling.


What movie are you?

Well, I've been though the OS test (Slackware UNIX), the SiFi Test (Princess Lea), so now it's the movie..... CWINDOWSDesktopLotR.JPG
Lord of the Rings!

What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
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