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Sunday, 30 October 2011

My England not Powderful (and what it means to financial freedom)

I love this Singlish phrase: My England not powderful.

It means "my English not powerful".

Although we may laugh ourselves silly and pride ourselves on our "Singlishness", there is also a not so funny side to it...

Imagine if you want to be a beauty queen, or a politician wannebe, and all you can speak is Singlish... Notice how our fellow "fake" Singlish speakers turn on these aspirants? It even borders on cyber bullying. And quite sad - not for the aspirants - but for the tormentors.

We are actually a bunch of bigots (whether we admit or not that's another matter). No? See how you react if your son or daughter brings home his/her partner that speaks only "powderful England" in real life... (The labelling of Bengs and Lians will come to mind)

Take for example the popular TV spoof: "The Noose" or popular websites that use Singlish as a medium for humourous communication. The actors and bloggers are in fact fluent in proper English. Make no mistake about it!!!

And that applies to most Singaporeans - we actually can speak proper English, if we want to.

It's the ability to switch from proper English to Singlish that gives us the comparative advantage over the "monolingual" speakers. It's no different from speaking a 2nd or 3rd language/dialect - be it Hokkien, Manadrin, or French.

It's an important distinction to make. Whether people are laughing with us, or at us.

How is this relevant to our journey towards financial freedom?

When getting advice (especially the we pay them kind) from others who are ever so glad to show us the "short-cuts", look carefully at these "shepherds" - are they sheep like us, or are they wolves in sheep skins, or are they humans telling us sheep what to do?

(I leave it to you to figure out why I find all 3 types of shepherds above distasteful and not suitable for me)

That also includes salespersons (like me)  who are able to switch to Singlish to build rapport, but all we really want is to make a sale. Like teenage boys sweet talking to the girls that all we really want is to be your "friend". Yeah, right!

Again, ask are they laughing with us, or at us.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Limitations of imitating others beyond our league - 东施效颦



I would like to share an oriental story for a change to balance the western inspired stories I've written so far.

During the Spring Autumn period in China, there was a lady named Xi Shi whose beauty is so mesmerising that it was said that fishes in the pond will stare in a daze, "forget" to swim and sink to the bottom... She is also the "head" of the 4 great beauties in China.

As with all things in life, there is balance. Though beautiful, Xi Shi suffers from chest pains from time to time. One day, she had such an attack... Xi Shi would gently pound her chest and frowns her brow in pain.

Fellow villagers who witness this scene find Xi Shi even more beautiful and alluring. Soon news of this chest pounding scene spread throughout the neighbouring villages.

Now there is another lady by the name of Dong Shi that lived in a nearby village. She likes to doll-up herself in her spare time - despite her "plain" looks.

Upon hearing the buzz that Xi Shi has generated, Dong Shi thought she could illicit the same response from others if she copied Xi Shi. So Dong Shi will deliberately pound on her chest gently and frown her brows while walking down the main street.

Well... Dong Shi's contrived efforts and her "plain" looks caused more people to look away...

There lies the origin of this chinese idiom: 东施效颦


I am writing this story as a mockery and reminder to myself. I too was caught up by the interest in Steve Jobs' biography and the snippets of information that was released in the media.

I stopped myself from buying the book. I remember I am still flushing out the Warren Buffet "poison" that is remaining in my body. No, I am not dismissing the work or words of great men and gurus much wiser than me. On the contrary, I love to "borrow with pride" the wisdom of others that make sense to me.

The problem lies with me.

I tend to "justify" my actions by saying to myself that if so and so can do it, so can I... And realise after the fact guru is guru, I am I. Principles and ideas - that I can "borrow with pride" - but the problem starts when I try to imitate the actions of gurus who are very different from me... 

Painful lessons I've paid when I tried to invest like Warren, only to find that I am more a John Neff's growth and income guy - with a dash of Jessie Livermore; and a splash of Jim Rogers.

Steve Jobs? Except sharing a common bad temper (I have self awareness of this flaw; but it's so hard to correct... Especially when I snap at people I love due to over familiarity); there is little else that we have in common. I am far far away from his league. It's not false modesty or self-deprecation. For goodness sake! I am a Teochew, and "taking pride" is what I do.

Maybe it's silly thinking. But I now pay careful attention to what and who I read. Again, it's a me thing. Some information that once sinks into me, just can't seem to go away...   Also, reading and learning from too many gurus can get me confused.

I need to focus.

Like learning kung fu, I must master a few skills well, than to learn a bit of this and that but master of none. And most important of all, chose a kung fu skill that suits my physique and natural abilities.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The fox and the rabbit (Do safety nets help or hinder?)

Once upon a time (not another bloody farm story!), in an enchanted forest where the animals talk like humans do (you happy now?), there lived a big bad wolf who was the big boss man of the forest.

The wolf has a lackey in the fox. The fox never fails to seize every opportunity to please and suck up to the wolf. It’s not all altruistic. By siding with the wolf, the fox can gain from the scraps that the wolf throws at him from time to time…

One day, while both of them were searching for prey to ease their hunger pangs – they have not eaten anything for 2 days now – they spotted a rabbit nibbling at the carrot patch some 20 metres away.

The fox said confidently, “Boss, I see dinner! I will catch the rabbit for you. No need to trouble yourself for this small prey.”  

The wolf looked at the fox and then spied at the rabbit and smiled, “Don’t bother… I bet you can’t catch it.”

The fox was not offended. He just gave the wolf a wry smile and gave chase to the rabbit immediately. The fox thought to himself, “The silly old wolf thought I don’t know. He is using reverse psychology on me to spur me on!”

After 10 minutes of fruitless chasing in circles, the fox finally gave up and walked sheepishly back to the wolf.

“How did you now I can’t catch the rabbit?” asked the fox and he tries to catch his breath.

The wolf patted his front paw on the fox’s shoulder and laughed, “My young friend, you ran for dinner; but the rabbit ran for his life!”

Both of them had a good laugh despite their growling stomachs. And off they went searching for “less motivated” prey.


Acknowledgement: This story was inspired by La Papillion’s comment in a blog quoting Star Wars' Jedi master Yoda: There is only do or do not – there is no “try”.

Can you see the link between the fox and the rabbit and the below pairs?

1)   A salaried worker and an entrepreneur?

2)   A part-time trader trading for extra pocket money and a full-time trader trading for a living?

3)   An investor investing to protect his wealth versus an investor investing to grow his wealth?


The ancient Chinese in their infinite wisdom have 2 idioms for it:

破釜沉舟; 背水一战


So would more safety nets help or hinder our journey towards financial freedom?

Monday, 24 October 2011

My kind of Singapore Girl!



Can speak England and Hokkien. Ex-model somemore. Beauty and brains. Where to find?

Singapore lor!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Santorini, Greece - Oct 2011



The black volcanic island of Nea Kameni as seen from the cliffs of Firostefani. The craters on this island was a bit of a "let down". I guessed I should not have watched all those National Geographic channel documentaries on volcanoes. No bubbling lava and sulphuric smoke. Was hoping I can throw in a toad (can't find so I threw a rock instead) and wished for a princess in return. Nope. It did not worked...  


The sail boat that I took to come ashore the Nea Kameni volcanic island. The cove reminds me of Pirates of the Carribean. Ahoy there matey! On 2nd thought, the Somalia pirates now have dashed my "romantic" notions of being a pirate... How come real life not as fun as in the movies?


The main town of Fira on Santorini. It's where the big cruise liners dock at the bottom of the cliffs. You can either ride a donkey, walk up the 500 plus steps, or take the cable car to the top to reach this Fira town.  It's full of tourists as you can see. Can you spot the woman giving me the: "Hey! Why you take my picture!?"

I buat bodoh (Malay for play dumb)!


What to do? Must take one of those post card copy cat pics on the blue domes of Santorini mah. Very cliche and touristy of me!


Man! Look at the quaint and atas (Malay for high class) houses on top and by the edge of the cliffs! Is this living or what? Note the different colouring of the cliffs - each layer tells a different story on Santorini's geological past. I heard Angelina Jolie has a house in this Oia town of Santorini. See high see low never see her... I infatuated with Angelina's bee-stung lips - all natural and no botox, I think!


Another view of Oia town. This time with the wind mills. Besides China's Yan'an caves, I now know another place where people live in caves. The "houses" are actually caves dug out from the lava cliffs. Now if next time "people" dare to laugh at my mainland Chinese brethen for living in "caves", I can now shoot back that they don't know what they are missing - cave houses are cool in summer and warm in winter. Vacation still must remember my heritage also ;)

By the way, 1/4 of the tourists are mainland chinese when I was in Oia. How's that for a leading indicator of where the future money trail will come from? PRC has bought one of the ports in Athens. Red tide rising... (Some complain; I brush up on my Chinese) 


See the man chilling out below? This is what I would do when I return to Singapore. OK, cannot afford the same kind of setting and view; but I can also sun tan at the Queenstown swimming pool near my place. Got water (Olympic size you know!?), got sun, got deck chair, and all for SGD 1.00 - is Singapore great or what!? Must quickly be patriotic after my post above. Majullah Singapura! (I can bend like the willow or what?)


When the big mama turned a looked at me, I thought got chance to be invited to join her... So I sucked in my stomach and flashed my "I am available" smile back at her. But no cigars... I think see didn't see me. I should have wore a hat. My shining bald head was reflecting too much sun that she must have been blinded by the glare. That's how you recover from a "rejection". Anyway, it's her lost. Hmph!


Let the bells toll as I sail into the sun. I am sailing, I am sailing...


I have a silly question. How to tell whether a picutre is depicting a sunrise or sunset? Look at the 2 pics above - which is sunset and which is sunrise?

Eh... Both are sunset pics. Gotcha! (Investors may want to read my "Known and Unknow" post)


The red beach near Akrotiri is very interesting. The sand is red! Hey! We also have our Bukit Merah (Redhill) in Singapore; but has anyone seen it? At least now I can visualise what Bukit Merah must have looked like - if it ever existed. Are there sword fishes in Singapore waters long long time ago? Or is it just a story? So many questions I ask! Now you know why my teachers always shed tears of joy when I pass my exams and leave their classes. LOL!


I saved the best for the last to reward patient (male) readers who have stucked with me ;)

If you enlarge the pic, you may see something interesting. I swear I didn't know about it when I took this shot at the Karmari black beach. Yup, the sand here is made up of black volcanic sand (more like stones). 

If I knew, I would not have taken a zoom shot; I would have walked close close and took a wide angle shot instead! Talk about bird watching! I should have brought along my binoculars! LOL!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Known and Unknown?

1. I know what I know – now that’s easy! 


2. I know what I don’t know – it’s more a simple matter of whether I want to spend effort to remedy the situation.

For eg: I don’t know calculus, but I have no desire or have any incentive to learn it.

I don’t know Japanese, but I have a big incentive to learn it! I have a thing for porcelain white (SKII?) “cherry blossoms” in pretty pretty kimonos – so kawaii!


3. I don’t know what I know – OK, this is a bit tricky; but it’s still easy to remedy.

Remedy: Expose myself to new experiences! Try new things. Meet new people. (Hey! You married men; it’s not an excuse to have mistresses! Zip up!)

Sometimes I give myself pleasant surprises on the “hidden” talents or skills that I never knew I had in me.

Like after too many meaningless business meetings, I can “space out” with my eyes open. And if someone asked me a question, I will I arrow my other sleeping colleague: “That’s interesting… What do you think Peter?” LOL!


4. I don’t know what I don’t know – now here’s a killer. Talk about blind-spot!

More often than not, it’s frequently after the fact that I figure out what I don’t know what I don’t know. Huh?

For eg: I thought I can market time the market by reading charts. After being kicked around and suffering multiple whiplashes, now I realize that I didn’t know that I have no clue about charting and market timing!!!

I thought I knew, but I didn’t know that actually I don’t know what I don’t know. Say what?  

I pray some enlighten souls out there can help me out. How do you overcome this I don’t know what I don’t know in advance?



Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The willow and the oak tree




In a distant land, there lived a farmer with his lovely wife, 2 boys of 12 and 10 years, a lovely daughter at the precocious age of 7, and a pet dog named Elfie.

They all lived in a picturesque 2 storey farmhouse in a meadow just off the hills to east where you can see the most amazing sunrise.

At the front of the farmhouse, there is a pond about the size of a football field where the children can swim during the hot summer days. Next to the pond, there is an old willow tree that sways in the breeze, gently and elegantly as if it’s dancing with the wind in a waltz or tango.

And between the pond and the farmhouse, the farmer had planted a young oak tree. Although young in age, the oak tree has spread its branches wide, providing a natural shade from the sun, underneath where the farmer has placed a rustic wooden table and 2 benches. It’s where many a family barbecues and birthday parties have taken place.

As the oak tree steadily grows bigger, both in height and girth, the more majestic it looks. The willow tree watched in envy, but at the same time, was growing worried for his young friend.

“You may want to go slow with the growth. Don’t stand up too tall, and fold in your branches. Better to keep a low profile. The more you stand out, the greater the risk you are putting to yourself,” the willow whispered to the young oak tree.

“What do you mean?” asked the oak tree, with a quizzical look on its face.

The willow shakes his head slowly and continued, “You know the wind? When you are in agreement with him, he is oh so gentle and soothing. You do like the rustling of our leaves as the wind gentle caress our tired branches. No?”

“But the wind does not like it when others oppose its path. If you continue to grow taller and spread your branches far and wide, you may incur the wrath of the wind…”

The oak tree smiles but would have none of it. Perhaps it’s the folly of youth, and partly because of his wish to stand by his own conviction, the young oak tree thanked the old willow tree for his good intentions, but continued the path towards his destiny – to grow into a majestic oak.

As years go by, the wind tried to teach this young up-start many times by trying to blow it down. The oak tree just dug in his roots deeper into the ground, and held on. Yes, some branches of the oak may break, but new shoots will re-appear in defiance to the wind.
 
This went on until the children of the farmhouse are now grown up. The boys are now strong and handsome men of 22 and 20, while the little girl is now a budding young woman of 17.

The wind could no longer stand having the oak tree being the thorn in his eye no longer. Getting help from his tornado friend, they came quietly one night and blew the oak down; using the cover of night and darkness to hide the shame of their deed. The mighty and majestic oak has finally been uprooted!

You can see how defiant the oak tree had fought back by the amount of earth its roots had clung on to. Even when felled, its roots were like talons tightly grasping the earth within its grip – signaling that it never gave up, never yielding, or never compromising its convictions and beliefs.

On the morning after, the old willow tree was weeping for his fallen companion of 10 years.

“I told you so… But you just wouldn’t listen…” whimpered the willow, and shedding a tear of regret.

“Don’t cry for me old willow,” smiled the oak tree in his dying breath. “I have lived the life the way that I am destined for – strong, stubborn, never yielding, and majestic. It’s something you may not understand; but I have no regrets.”

“What I am and stood for will be remembered even when I am gone. In fact, I worry for you willow. Now you are all alone…” And with these parting words, the oak tree closed its eyes…

Now the grown-up children of the farmer were all heart-broken. Many memories and happy moments of their youth were spent with the oak tree.

Instead of letting the oak tree disappear from their lives, each of time honoured the memory of their oak tree in their own ways.

The farmer’s elder boy hollowed-out the trunk of the oak tree and fashioned a canoe out of it. Now they can go canoeing on the pond.

The younger son hacked the branches, trimmed, and built a wooden swing and placed it outside the front lawn.

And the sweet farmer’s daughter took the roots and weaved it into 2 half-egg shaped cocoon like seats, and hung them outside the front porch.

Time passed, and the grown up children of the farmer married and moved into the cities. But often they will return with children of their own for them to visit grandpa and grandma. The grandchildren had great fun with the canoe, wooden swing, and cocoon seats. And the tale of the majestic oak from which they were fashioned from will be passed on to the next generation.

The willow watched on and in time finally understood the dying words of the oak tree.

The willow may live till time immemorial, but no one on the farm will notice it except for the fact that it’s part of the background scenery. The price for forever yielding and bending in the wind, and not making a stand…

Monday, 17 October 2011

I am back!

Hello everybody and everybody hello!

I'm back from vacation!

The 3 weeks of "cold turkey" was great! No emails, no internet, no phone calls. (OK, I did cheat one time when I ventured into an electronics store - got free internet on the display notebooks, so I surfed for only 15 minutes - honest!)

Sometimes we need to press the "reset" or "reboot" button. I've proven to myself that I can walk away, when needed - it's an addiction if we can't walk away - be it blogging or speculation ;)

The only sad thing is that I was still glued to CNN or BBC news in the hotels that I stayed. I guess that's a "top-down speculator's" disease... But its also interesting that I can "ignore" the day to day noise and stick to my plan - when confused, walk away. STI is back when I left for vacation despite the volatility in the recent weeks.

I've met quite a few Australian tourists (with appreciating AUD currency, if not now when is the good time to travel?) along the way, and would blog about my encounters soon. Just need some time to choose the right photos to use. The thing about digital photography is that I am a little more trigger happy...

It's great to be back!


P.S. I am so glad "The Barbarian and the Bard" made it to my top 10 posts of all time!!!
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