Sunday, November 02, 2008

A father's chronicles (Brave and Courage)

One of the good thing that came out of Theophilus' good appetite of reading is that I get to read some of his books too. And I must admit that we are quite good at getting nice books for him. Reading is a very sensitive thing. We feed our brains with tons of things, and if we get poor quality content books, the result can be quite destructive.

Anyhow, the book that I read was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. You can find it here.

Quite a nice book - you got to bear with the slow moving start, but it moves better subsequently.

Here is an abstract of it which I find it very good.

"But," he went on, as his hands moved with their sure and practiced motion, "I will tell you just a little, because you were so very brave."

"Brave?" Annemarie asked, surprised. "No, I wasn't. I was very frightened."

"You risked your life."

"But I didn't even think about that! I was only thinking of - "

He interrupted her, smiling, "That's all that brave means - not thinking of the dangers. Just thinking about what you must do. Of course you were frightened. I was too, today. But you kept your mind on what you had to do. So did I....."

Well, I often asked myself whether that is bravery or courage. To some, that is nothing but semantics, and perhaps it really is.

For Aristotle, courage is dependent on sound judgement, for it needs to be known whether the end justifies the risk incurred. Similarly, courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to feel the appropriate amount of fear.

To me, courage is really doing what is right in spite of fear. I often do not see "Brave" having this notion, even though above passage puts it that way. In fact, most of the time, I do have the picture of "recklessness" for bravery, which I do not feel in the fabric of "courageous".

I admit I am not a good student of language, so I should not be too dogmatic about this.

Whatever it is, I want my children to know that doing the right thing does not mean that there is no fear. As a father, my role is very important. The first step is not to teach about bravery or being courageous. The first step that we should embark is: teaching them what is right.

Without knowing and understanding the truth, our sacrifice could be wrongly directed and misguided.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A father's chronicles (Zoo again)

We renewed our Zoo membership (again)!

I guess this is one membership that young parents are usually armed with. My company do have weekend tickets to the Zoo, but to queue for the opportunity to get the ticket will take far too long. So, a renewal is inevitable. Anyhow, it can be quite fun. Theophilus has been to the Zoo for so many times that he recognized most of the corners by now. Well.... almost every. The good part of the Singapore Zoological Gardens is that they do upgrade it ever so often. That to me is really good value.

Here are some pictures taken in our recent trip.

What do you think the giraffe is doing? He got really nice eye-lashes...

Taking shots of feeding that tall fellow can be really tricky, you got to do it really quick.

Sometimes, it licks your hand too...

The new play site is up. The kids took a little ride.

Overall enjoyment points: 85.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A father's chronicles (Gracia's birthday celebrations)

She is three. Three wonderful years. Three years which is filled with laughter, worries, hopes and smiles. She is so different from Theophilus.

As usual, birthdays is not celebrated in a single day. There are quite a few days of celebration (not to mention the company).

The similarity between Gracia and Theophilus is their view towards birthday: It is not the gifts. It is the singing of birthday song, the happy moods that really brighten them up. They could very well be happy with any birthday gifts. They are just happy to have everybody around to clap along and sing them the birthday song.

You should be able to see her smile quite visibly. She is delighted - yes, we are singing her the birthday song at grand-ma's place.

Aunty Eunice gave her a big gift.

She celebrated in school with her classmates too.

And how can the brother stay away from his only sister's celebration?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Kent Ridge Park

We have a nice late morning walk with Theophilus' cousins at Kent Ridge Park today. Here are my two kids... very few shots taken...

If Dad can do the vertical rob climb, I can do too... let me teach you...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A father's chronicle (Grade 1)

He did his grade 1 piano exams in July (couldn't recall actually, but I only recalled that I prayed quite a few times for his piano exams on the day itself). And now his results is out.

Yes, he made it! Hurray!

He took a photo-shoot with his piano teacher.

Well done for the first grade!

Couldn't help it.... we celebrated! Ha ha ha ha...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Apology, forgiveness and friendship (A father's chronicle)

Lately, I came across a rather interesting situation which brought me to a few days of deliberation. It came from an incident in Theophilus' class. To make the story short - he apparently have offended a mild tempered classmate to the point of great anger.

Nay, that's not the interesting part. The interesting part was that Theophilus was told that his classmate will not forgive him (unless punishment is met out) and that he needs to earn back his friendship. Yes, even with apologies given, forgiveness is not given.

I am not really upset with not getting the forgiveness, what I was truly sadden was the apparent lack of wisdom that it was not quickly pointed out that forgiveness is NOT earned. It cannot be earned. Apology is not the price of forgiveness. Having said that, it is not to say that there is no ground for apologies when one has done wrong. Repentance is the evidence of the authenticity of an apology.

Again, I must restate the point: forgiveness cannot be earned. It is actually given. Given (willing) by the offended party. It cannot be bought. Punishment does not bring about forgiveness. This is that part that I felt was not really taught correctly to Theophilus in the incident that occurred in school. This has to be pointed out and taught. And the more interesting part is that the offended is often required to let the offender knows of the offence - at least from a biblical perspective.

The other interesting lesson was that Theophilus was taught to earn back his friendship. As much as this might sound right, it is still wrong. We do not earn friendship. Friendship, like forgiveness and love are given. Given to another, freely and willingly. What does it mean to earn back your friendship? To loose a friendship has to be initiated by the one who gave it out. He takes back what he has given freely.

So when Theophilus offends someone, the burden is on the offended to point out the offence. The bad part is that most of us are scared to take this step. Reason is simple: we are afraid of a second blow - being waved off as a trivial matter when you bring up the subject to the offender. But how can we ever reconcile or allow the chance for the offender to see what he has done if it is not told to him? We are blind in so many of our ways, and our sensitivity varies from one to another. So, it is the duty of the offended to bring the offence to the offender.

It is the duty of the offender to consider the offence to the offenced, and not trivialize it. An apology is required. An apology is not a magical wane. It does not remove the pain which the offence brings along as a sting. It is just a statement of an genuine attempt to see the entire offence from the offended's point of view. To understand the hurt. It is not to be used as part of the "repayment". It can never justify the offence. True "sorry" is really shown subsequently, and that's the test of character. For our words will be weighed by our character which is displayed through our actions.

It is through the apology-forgiveness-repentance-reconcilation cycle that friendships are restored. For in those moments of tension, friendship could be abruptly disrupted. Friendship is withdrawn from the offended. However, friendship is offered afreshed once reconcilation takes place. Forgiveness is given. Repentence lived out. Friendship offered. Repentence is not the wages to friendship, neither is it part of the wages for forgiveness. Punishment is just part of the equation to justice. It is not part of the equation of forgiveness. Both friendships and forgiveness are gifts. And can only be genuinely given out when you truly want to leave the past and move forward with the relationship.

There are duties to both parties. But it is wrong to teach him that he needs to earn back his friendship. And it is wrong to put the burden of forgiveness upon his shoulders when he is the offender. His burdens are of a different set.... he needs to live out his repentance.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A walk among the silent

It's holiday here. 4th July. Independence Day. Back home, I hardly find the time to be with myself. Now, I have the opportunity to take a walk among the silent. I am not going to join the crowd in Jack London Square.

I like to take a walk to the cemetery. Last week, I took a walk to the lake. I find it surprising that people give me a morbid look when I bring up this point. Sure, it is not an everyday place to walk around. Then again, if death is a certainty, shouldn't we contemplate about it and take a stroll around the park where you are going to hang around for quite some time?

Unlike the way when I was in Munich some 10 years back, the walk around the Jewish cemetery was different. I surveyed the tombstone. Desperately trying to figure out the Hebrew inscriptions, reading out their names in my mind.

This is the first Hebrew community that settled in Oakland.

BTW, the walk from 10th street from Broadway took me an hour, so by the time I reached the Jewish cemetery, I was quite thirsty. Two sips of water, and that will do. Water discipline, they used to call that in my military training.

As I said, I read their names. The year they were born and died. Taking a mental average of lifespan.

Reading the words or inscriptions on the tombstone. There were a few variants:

1. XXYY, beloved son/father/grandfather...
2. XXYY, loving husband/father/grandfather...

Very seldom do I come across:

XXYY, loving and beloved...

People are treasured by relationships. These relationships are marked by the love you give and the love you received. They are finally ropes that still remains after you leave.

As simple and obvious as it is, it is often missed out that relationships are only forged through time and devotion. Time and devotion are the base commodity when we want to have relationships. Yet, how often we give that up for something else. We trade it with career. We trade it with folly.

There were a few other tombstones that struck me hard. One of them belonged to a father and a son. It only have the left side of the tombstone marked, therefore, I presumed that the wife/mother is still surviving. He was six when he died. He was forty. For that six years, he must have been their joy. Barely three years after the boy died, the father passed away too. A complete tragedy. Reminds me of Naomi in the book of Ruth.

I walked further. Snapping pictures of the serendipity. Yes, one of the greatness of coming over to the cemetery is that nobody is going to quarrel with me. Nobody is going to scold me, or shout at me, or demand me to do things or tasks. It is quiet. Time is somewhat frozen. It is good. I like it. I like the convenience of city life, but I like the peacefulness here.

The last tombstone that struck me was one which have kept me thinking. It must have belonged to a baby. Death has no respect for age.

It was a sad story. Written by a brother to another.

To my baby brother... born 6 months 24 days.

I felt the pain. I am lost to what tragedy happened that rapped off the joy of a new coming. It was a terrible sight. The words were few.

I sipped in the last look, capturing the sights and sound or lack of it. Embedding it into my being. Regaining strength within. Returning to humility that God still holds our every breadth, and I am not immune to death. I need to focus on what I really want to do with this short journey in light of the lessons I have learned from the tombstones.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A bit lost... not just sometimes

I don't like to watch advertisements. Well, not all at the least. But being in a hotel room, I notice that I have the tendency to flip through the channels. And today, I stumble upon an advertisement that is promoting a christian CD. Amy Grant's - Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet, was aired.

It was breadth taking. Stealing a moment of my life. I was time-ported to worship. It is a beautiful song and I like what Amy spoke about in her performance:

Erm,... it is a good thing to remember this song.
It's a... the choruses is from Psalms.
'Cuz all of us get a little bit lost in life.
Sometimes we are lost when we are young.
Sometimes we are continuously lost.
But it is easy to loose your way, especially when life last a long time.
I got a letter from a woman the other day,
she handed to me which is kindda crumpled and...
she said, "My mother has just passed away, she was in her 90s. [And] I was her care giver. I am probably a little too old to feel this way, but I feel just a little bit lost."
And I thought, "Well, I've known that feeling myself."

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.

When I feel afraid,
And think I�ve lost my way.
Still, you�re there right beside me.
Nothing will I fear
As long as you are near;
Please be near me to the end.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.

I will not forget
Your love for me and yet,
My heart forever is wandering.
Jesus by my guide,
And hold me to your side,
And I will love you to the end.

Nothing will I fear
As long as you are near;
Please be near me to the end.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.
And a light unto my path.
You�re the light unto my path.

I've know that feeling myself....

The words are so familiar.

The are so very familiar. I could recall those words were embedded in so many places in the bible. Being lost. Being tempted. Being sad. Feeling lonely. I recalled Him saying, "I know that feeling myself" (Hebrews 4:15).

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

I am glad to have known Jesus since childhood. Feeling a "little lost" does occurs, and when they do come... it is good to know that His Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. I never have the chance to hold a real powerful lamp that shines the whole city. The torchlight that I use in periods of blackouts only shines nothing more than just a few feet away. Similarly, during those periods of a "little lost", the Word of God provides just that sufficient guidance for me to move forward. There is still a lot of darkness infront, but the light is just enough. Just enough... ah, just enough. Reminds me of another verse that is hidden somewhere in my heart:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 12:9)

His grace is just enough for me.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A father's chronicle (A little walk with our friends)

We have a little walk with our family friends - Tom, Carol and Hannah, at the McRitchie on Sunday. Actually, I was there for my regular (ahem, not so regular these days) run. Some shots that I have taken with the kidz having fun...

Hannah is Theophilus' sunday school mate and Primary school mate too.

Our kids have grown a little... more funny. Look at Gracia! She is really having fun.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A father's chronicle (Our last trip to the Zoo, before membership expiry)

Like all typical Singaporeans (or is it?), we maximized our last bit of our Zoo's membership this weekend. Honestly, I still find our Zoological Gardens as really world-class. This is not just about "national pride", but I have visited a few other zoos. The Singapore Zoo is really a nice place to visit.

Here are some shots taken.

Gracia in a supermart with us just prior to going to the Zoo... we need to load up some food to fill our tummy just in case, right? It is another "Singaporean" characteristics - must have food.

We have a "special treat" today. Went really near to the Giraffes.

So, who is this "tall dark and handsome" fellow?

A victory sign from Gracia...

Some evidence that the younger always follow the elder....

Well, we might not renew our membership since I am able to get "free" tickets from my company for the entire family. Nice perks, huh?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A father's chronicles (He is writing)

It has been a long journey in teaching Theophilus. Reading, writing, values, play.... one of the most rewarding experience is teaching him to read and write. We have so many story-making together. Kingdoms fighting against each other. Smoke, fire, clouds,... arrows, and shields.

It is an understatement to say that I am happy to read his writings. He is a little like me. We imagine things and have pretty graphical imagination. We can stare into thin air and watch a movie made up all with the sight, sound, smell and taste. And yes, we get very drained by this kind of "little adventure" too.

Tonight, he came home writing. He is found of reading, but he is beginning to write lately. I am infringing into his copyrights now. But I want to share with you this beautiful piece of art. I am writing it in verbatim, all grammar mistakes, spelling errors and such. Perhaps, in a few years later we can catch his progress:

The pale moon hung across the cloudless sky. Four black swan flew in the sky. A boat rowed away in the shimmering water. It was very strange, because no one rowed the boat. It seemed that there was magic from the four swan's wing's, or the wings propelled the boat to a vast black mountain. As soon as the boat was on land, the swan's transformed to women. They carried out of the old lady. She had a scarred melted face and a emty socket. She cracked dryly, go now my sisters, I have work to do. As soon as I get my hand on the Pendragon, the owner of the sword will pay for this!

I must admit that some parts really caught my attention and I could sense his imagination very strongly as I read it. I am glad that he is writing. He is always very shy of his writings, but tonight he shared with us what he has written. I am so glad to take a peek at his work. He is growing. I am glad he is growing.

Well done, my boy. Great job!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A father's chronicle (Investment)

I was talking. Explaining how a system is working while I was at the church's bookends... at the side of my eyes, I could see them coming. Boys in blue. They are from the Boys' Brigade. They are walking around asking for donations. Theophilus also have such an experience a few months back - raising funds for Pei Hwa Pres. Pri. I often felt such fund raising is a good chance for them to train up their courage and toughen their resilience to rejection. While the organization gain in the funds, the volunteer gains something else... but not many people see it that way. For one thing - we don't enjoy rejections. We see it as a setbacks.

So, three of them came to me to ask for donations - two at first.

"Excuse me, can you help us in the donation?"
"Excuse me, can you donate six dollars?"

Errr.... if I give you six dollars, can you each get a book at the cost of $1 each? - I twisted it to be a business proposition. I often like to make opportunities as learning lessons. They gain donation, while I gain sale. At the end, they get their donation card done up - I could only see the up side on their end.

Nope, they didn't bite. To them this is not a good duel. I am left somewhat puzzled. I explained my business proposition in greater detail and explain their up-side. ... Nope, it is not biting. Nothing to loose on their end, why did they not do it (at least for the fun of it?) Perhaps, it is our culture? - we take and don't give back. We take everything from the society and does not give back anything. Perhaps, business ideas is too abstract an idea for them, they are ... perhaps 10 years old? Well, I must have overestimated the age which these things can be understood and taught.

Just when I was about to exhaust myself in explanation, the third boy came forward. He is a little cubby Indian boy. He said: "Excuse me, sir. Can you invest $6 in me?"

Boy! He strike a note in me immediately. I took out a $10 bill and smiled at him. To that, I responded:

"Yes! I would. Because I believe in people. I believe in investing in people. Not organization. Not groups. I believe in you and I want to invest in you."

Yes, I believe in people. I invest in people. Not things. Not groups. Not organization. Not property. Not stocks. Not shares. Only people. It is a risky business. Unlike gold, people change. But perhaps, it is also because of this .... that's why I invest in people! Change does not necessarily lead to decay. We can improve for the better.

I felt good the whole day. I walked away feeling satisfied. I have planted my $10 well into the heart of this little boy. As he walks away (I was the first person who signed on his donation card, and the one who gave the largest amount marked on the card), I reminded him: I only invest in people. I invest in you because I believe in you.

He walked away feeling happy, bewildered.... but happy.

Perhaps, he will understand this lesson when he is older. Perhaps, he might also be an investor. I pray that he will invest well.

I hope I will have the chance to teach Theophilus on this lesson on investing. Investment in people.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A christian father's chronicle (A song in times of need)

Being a parent can be rough, and a father has its own set of challenges. Last Sunday, this song was sung in church - "How Deep The Father's Love". I thought it is a really good song with strong anchors. So for those Dads out there who needs anchorage when the storm is wrapping you up, here is a little resting point.

Lyrics can be found here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring + Quartz

I have started to use Quartz within Spring last night after thinking about why I cannot run away from using a scheduler and how I could avoid using one.... in the end, I ran out of options, so I started to design the job and stick out a few lines of configuration.

There were two interesting lessons that I have learnt.

1. The cron expression for the org.springframework.scheduling.quartz.CronTriggerBean is not a standard unix cron expression. It is only "cron-like" definition (as written in the javadoc for CronTrigger).

This one bites me a few hours. Reading the documentation at first glance gave me the impression that the expression used to setup the cron job is the standard unix crontab expression. Oh, how wrong I was!!! In the end, I was battling with a strange error message (a snapshot shown below):

Invocation of init method failed; nested exception is java.lang.NoSuchMethodError: org.quartz.SchedulerException: method (Ljava/lang/String;Ljava/lang/Throwable;)V not found
Caused by:
java.lang.NoSuchMethodError: org.quartz.SchedulerException: method (Ljava/lang/String;Ljava/lang/Throwable;)V not found
at org.springframework.scheduling.quartz.SchedulerFactoryBean.registerJobsAndTriggers(
at org.springframework.scheduling.quartz.SchedulerFactoryBean.afterPropertiesSet(

Of course, when you read this blog you already have the wisdom it is due to the cron expression. But that's hindsight. Looking at the error message gives you a few misleading indicators. It was actually saying something really different. The underlying class have a mismatch method signature or using one that does not exists. So, I try other Quartz library... 1.5.1, 1.5.2 or even 1.6.0 which ships with the Spring that I am using. Nothing works until I changed the cron expression to the one that follows EXACTLY as in the documentation, then my unit tests start to fire up again.

Actually, a hint that there might be something wrong with the crontrigger bean happens when I commented out the portion of loading of triggers to the SchedulerFactoryBean. The error message is no longer showing up, ... and of course, neither was the job firing up.... but it was hinting something to me...

This is when I started to go back to the javadoc for CronTrigger and discover to my horror that the cron expression IS NOT the standard cron expression. Perhaps, Spring could put a liner of warning to the documentation too (not just the javadoc). Not their fault, I should have better known this.

2. Strangely, Quartz 1.6.0 that ships with my Spring 2.0.8 did not work on runtime. It works on compile time.

Well.... there is a strange liner when the Spring's javadoc for SchedulerFactoryBean have this liner:

This version of Spring's SchedulerFactoryBean requires Quartz 1.5 or higher.

So, I resort to Quartz 1.5.2 and it works again.

So, just make sure that all these are out of the way and ... enjoy the fun of firing up your jobs.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A father's chronicles (Learning to ride a bicycle on two wheels)

I should have written this in late January, or was it in February.... in any case, the time dragging part of me won the better side of my being.

I did write on a post previously on teaching Theophilus how to ride a bicycle. I often wonder how we "magically" learn how to ride a bike. It is a strange thing. How to start? Where to start? For me as an engineer by profession, I have the evil tendency to sit by the side of the road. Dig out the Bike's User Manual. Read from page one, and until the point I get too bored and then locate the index page or content page, and zoom in to the specifics... perhaps - Which direction should your bike be facing while you peddle forward? in the FAQ section. OK OK common sense (some call it cow-sense or horse sense is not that common, OK?)

Anyway, credit really have to go to Yan. She has determination that surpass mine in teaching the boy how to ride a bicycle. We have two different approaches: I usually hold the handle of the bike while the boy rides on and I will let it loosen as the days goes by. While, she does it differently. She holds the back of his bike, allowing him to freely handle the bike (which can swing from left to right and back to left again... you know? How first timers does it?). There are many times, I sit by the side of the pavement and watch how she does it (and yes, mock at the idea and methodology of it all). I think it is a human thing to always think YOUR method is THE method. Anyway, I now know that it was wise of me to marry her! And [her] wisdom have a way to mock at [my] folly.

OK OK OK... the bottom line is: Her method works better (at least on Theophilus).

Shorting of writing a manual or an Idiot's guide on "How to teach your child riding a bicycle". I am giving out some pointers from the lessons that I have learn from the entire episode:

1. Gravity is still switched on.

Yes, your child will fall off the bike. So, don't get too stressed out over that. I put this as the FIRST pointer because well... to be honest... I often felt Singaporean parents tend to get too upset over the bruises and scratches that comes along as a learning fee to how to ride on a bike.

One way to minimize the bruises or cuts is to wear gears. Theophilus was wearing them initially, but along the way felt they are very uncomfortable and getting into the way of things.

It is natural to get bruise. It is part of the learning. It is part of the cost to learning. And I must say... unless you get really hurt... the price is a small price for a skill of a lifetime!

2. I recommend that you hold the hind of the bike and not the handles.

This is something that came out of the lessons of Yan. And I must admit that it is more effective. Just ask the kid to peddle and waggle the handle (never mind of that). Hold the back of the bike for balancing and control... but let him control the bike.

I must say it is a back-breaking experience. So a little warning here.... because their bike is a little small and lower than our adult ones... we need to bend over to hold the hind of the bike... and you are running or walking fast with your back bent... for some period of time, and it is painful after some time - believe me, it will take more time than you anticipated and your back will tell you so.

3. Go to an open space to train

We started out lessons in a pavement at the sidewalks. Naturally, this is one of the more challenging places to learn and to teach. Why? Because he got to maneuver in a rather rigid straight line. So, forget it. Go for a big open area. Maybe a basket ball court?

For us, we went to the highest level of a multi-storey car park. Yup, we carried his bicycle (with water bottles and such) up to level M (or was it M?... ok, many many levels up).

Teaching him there is easier, and when he finally master the basics, he has a lot of room to really move around and execute turns and bends and try out foolish stuns.

If you trying out on the top level of a multi-storey car park - do still be on the lookout for cars. We teach him in the mid-morning, so there is very few cars coming up.

Now, some photos.

Evidence that Mommy carried the bicycle up and down the flights of steps.

Now, some evidence that Theophilus is really brave and determine to learn how to ride on a two wheeler. Falling is a common experience in the beginning.... you have to respect gravity - it is a good teacher.

Victory comes only many attempts of working on a problem. It is a basic principle of life - only tough people last, tough situation won't.

You should see the satisfaction on his face whenever he sees someone older than him riding on 4 wheels now...

Since then, we have many sessions riding as a family together. Gracia is riding with me, of course.... it is a very nice family experience.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Yeong Sheng sent me a podcast by Mr. Brown on ERP (Electronic Road Pricing). I find it so funny, so here is the link to it for your enjoyment. The lyrics can be found here. Beep! Beep!

BTW, some of the things that were in the lyrics are hard truths that we are struggling. To some they are perceptions, but I don't think so. Some days back on radio there was an "expert" who commented that there is only a small fraction of the drivers who encounters the ERP gantry. I wonder whether he stays in Singapore or in the digital world. I used to drive along the PIE to work. When they put up the gantry just before Stevens Road, I have to avoid it using Bukit Timah. Now, I have to avoid BKE gantry... and I thought I was wise enough - I drive along upper Bukit Timah... guess what? Yes, there is one just outside Hume Park Condo. So, there is absolutely no chance to avoid the gantries except to go to office later. But that is tough for a parent - since I drive my daughter to school. Put her on the school bus - but guess what? Ask the school bus companies how much have the jacked up the fees! And BTW, driving her to work is a good bonding opportunity between father-and-daughter. So, I guess the hard and dry answer from LTA is probably: Too bad, this is the ONLY solution that we have come up with and the one that works (with a smile, of course).

So there is some truth in the phrase:

Cos car is only luxury
Build the road for Fellari
Normal car will up lorry
Ji Pa Ban (uh!), Ichiban (uh)
No million dollars you Lan Lan
CTE is the place to be
Singapore road for VIP

In practical terms: how much improvement can the public transport achieve? I think it is already very good from a global standard. But I don't think that can address all our needs. If I were single, I think that is an ideal solution. If kids? Hmmm.... perhaps, I have to "Lan Lan" and accept whatever fast birth rate of gantries and ERP charges.

Ah, I know what? Why can't there be a law to have everybody work from home? That will solve the driving around in large numbers. Or at least have the government encouraging companies to move towards that direction and gives incentives for that?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Something interesting I learnt about Singapore

Hmmm.... I am a Singaporean. Born here. Educated here. Working here. Have kids here. Still here.... but little did I know about something interesting that happened in the past.

OK, I was watching a movie and it mentioned something about raining of fish. That is, fish literally raining from the sky. Not just one. Not just a couple of them, I guess.

Did a little check, and it seems that fish raining happened in Singapore before! It happened in 22 February 1861 (close to 147 years ago). It seems to be mentioned in American Meteorological Society (AMS) Journal in 1917 in the article "Showers of organic matter", check out page 7, paragraph 2.

Hee hee hee hee.... they should rain some fish this week. It is coming to the Lunar New Year, and that will be a good sign for everybody - but not too good to the fish sellers, the prices of fish have just gone up due to the festive season.

Friday, February 01, 2008

There is good and ugly (Maven2)

Well, thought I might just add some thoughts in the debate on Maven that started a couple of days back. Didn't want to add to that blog's long list of comments as it already is a long list and honestly, took me sometime to read all the valuable experiences of others.

I must at least quantify where and what I do: I am a Development Manager. I look at development processes, and toolsuite is part of my constant concern as it impacts how my teams get their work done. There was a kung-fu movie (StormRiders) that has some nice wisdom:

Cloud: Which is better, martial arts or a good sword?

Cloud's father: A good sword can help a novice and make a expert really powerful. But the most important is who is using the sword.

That's the subtitle, yurks! Let me paraphrase it using my Cantonese:

Cloud: Which is more important? Martial Arts or a good sword?

Cloud's father: A good sword can make someone without martial arts mighty, and also can make a master conquer the world. But most important is the character of the person who uses the sword. Remember, there is no enemies to kindness.

And that's perhaps my starting point.

There were a few things that drawn my attention to Maven2. And yes, the push factor is the documentation (more of that later). The most important part was a clear definition of a project structure. It is not entirely easy at first I must admit coming from the pure ant environment. Took some time to familarize with it. And I have also similar problem with "moving" or "shifting" artifacts. One way to control this is really to host an internal repository and we control what is really needed (together with fixing the version of the dependencies). This is a fact of life - there are many "untested" or "ill-tested" artifacts. The original developers might not have meant to do a bad job, it is just a reality that we have to live with (even with commercial products!). Rather than whinning and crying, I control this chaos.

Oh, I forgot to mention - why is it important for me to have a clear project directory structure. Of course, to be honest, I could define one and the rest of my teams follow it. But think: Is this what you want your guys to learn? i.e. YOUR structure, and YOUR way of organization? Well, what I want is this: I want to enhance their productivity. If I can follow some open way of structure, and there is wide adoption (i.e. other companies are also adopting - which is of course a dream), then it will be easier for my team to move onto another job or role in another company. Or for other skilled engineer to join my team too - it works both ways. Let's be honest: this is NOT their first company or team, and won't be the last. If I enhance their role and skill, I think I am on a better bet to retain good skilled teams.

Furthermore, I often think when running multiple projects with my teams, it is really best to have a "common" structure, so that when a "new" team member is dropped into the project, productivity will not be affected too adversely - it is a reality of life, at times we do need some help from other teams.

So, there is a plus if we have a proper project directory structure. i.e. where we place our codes, where we place the configuration files, the web stuffs, etc.

Maven provides that. I do not have experience with Ivy (yet). But I think I will take a look at it soon from all those good words that were said, not to forget a few others in the blog mentioned above.

All said, I admit the documentation of Maven was more of a hinderance to me than of a help. In fact, at times I do better without it! Why is it so? well.... blame it on us! I thought it is supposed to be an open source project, isn't it? And one with a good intention. Those who complained about the documentation (like me), are NOT the ones writing the documentation. If we want it to be better, well... roll-up your sleeves and help out by contributing to the quality and detail of the documentation. In fact, there are so many "experts" who have used Maven and complained about the quality of the documentation, yet I don't see them on the list of contributors. Is Howard on the list? Is Jay on the list? Is Jon on the list? Is Gabriel on the list? Carols who is from the maven team commented "documentation could be better way" in the long series of comments. Notice there is no ivory tower talk - he is already contributing to the project. I think his credential blows the rest away (and mine too when I say the documentation is a hinderance because I have not helped in the documentation either, so shame on me). It is because of this, that's why I kept much of my silence. If it is not good (enough), most likely it is because we are not contributing to its success when we see the problem. Just admit it.

The point is simple: This is an open source project. Complains will go that far. The better thing to do is to help out when you see the problem. Of course, as end users of a product, we can fly to another product which gives us better stuff (that's seems to be a prevalent behavior when you read those comments)... but honestly, I think that is a ... not so good attitude to life in general. When we take something, it is always good to give back something too.

So, what is said in the StormRiders quotes above is true: But most important is the character of the person who uses the sword. Remember, there is no enemies to kindness.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A father's chronicle (Staying on the same page)

There are so many things to do in order to keep up with our kids. Cartoons to watch together, toys to play together.... and yes, for me now at this late hour of the night.... books to catch up.

Theophilus have read The Phantom Tollbooth for .... 4 or 5 times. And I think it is a great book. Actually, it was Yan who stumbled over the book while browsing through Amazon. She read a portion of it to him and both of them were rushing to the bookstore!

So, here I start.... I want to be on the same page as my son. I am going to read the book that he read.... and walk the same alleys of imagination which he has journey. I wished we have read it together.

Oh, I must confess: we bought him more books over the weekend. I think 6 of them. It will be gone in no time. Two classics - The Treasure Island, and The Secret Garden. The rest are for real nice fun with language. I wished I have had so many books when I was at his age. This is going to be real fun.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A father's chronicle (School orientation)

OK, this is fun. It is not just Theophilus' first day (yesterday) in Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary school, it is also Gracia's first day in Glory Kindergarten too. Unbelieveable. It is school time!

Wait... he is having orientation. She is having orientation. They are having school orientation on the same day. It is nice at least to know that Gracia is having morning session while the boy is attending school in the afternoon, else this might have to defy some physics law.

So, it was fun. Drove the whole family to Glory Kindergarten. The girl have absolutely no problem in settling down in class. She has been going to Glory Kindergarten so often to fetch the brother from school anyway. It was only last month that Theophilus left the same kindergarten and now joins the "Alumni". Furthermore, she has been going to Sunday school and have been watching the brother. She wants to attend school. Just like the brother.... but a little more - she is often attracted by the goodie bags given out whenever there is a birthday party in class. She is already dreaming of parties after parties. Playgrounds, food... this is endless amount of fun for her. Pretty teachers....

In fact, we have a very interesting conversation....

Dad: So, Gracia, what do you like about school?
Gracia: Miss [name withheld to protect the innocent].

Dad: Why? You like her?

Gracia: Yup.

Dad: Why?

Gracia: Because she is pretty.

Dad: [Duh]

Theophilus: Ya ya ya ... she is pretty. But her homework is
pretty xiong! (means very tough in Hokkien)

So, school is fun.

There are things in Gracia's orientation that is still in my mind. Her leaving home for school....

Her walking around the class. Her sliding down the slides in the playground. Her happy face. Her laughter. Her teachers saying that she is really very independent. No crying. No whinning. No bully of others. Share. Not afraid to take a school bus on her way back home (yes, we pick her up at our home). She is so small (both physically and age), but she is really very independent. BTW, we really have a tough time getting a pair of school shoes for her. She is really very small in size.... even her uniform have to be XS.

Theophilus' orientation has a different experience. We prayed for his primary school explicitly. We went for registration, submitted forms. Waited for the outcome of the registration, and today I get to taste the reason of why I wanted him to get into this school.

The students went to the hall. They set down in neat columns.

They have a singspiration with the help of a chaplin. They sang. They sang! They sang praises to God. They actually sang praises to God in school. The hall have Bible verses around. The school have so many verses written all around. They sang the song - In whom I can trust. When they sung, I almost cried. This is what I want. This is the environment I want to grow him in. To be honest, I almost knelt down and worship God when they sung that song! It was like heaven to me. For that entire 4 minutes... I was immerse into a heavenly host. All our prayers pointing to here and now. A taste of things to come. Here are the meaningful lyrics:

You are the Lord
In whom I can trust
You are the Rock
I can stand upon
Every step of the way
You take my hand and say
You'll always be there right beside me
When I call on you,I know You'll come to me
You are the Lord
In whom I can trust
You're my fortress
You're my deliverer
My shield,my strength
For all of my days
I place my hope in Jesus
Who loved me with his life
The Rock of my salvation
In whom I can trust

Here is the video clip (recording using my poor handphone).

It was only like yesterday that Theophilus said he wanted to go to this school because they tell bible stories. Today, I am thankful that I am getting more than that. He has the challenge to memorise all the bible verses on every wall in the school before he graduate from this school. Too easy for him, a more challenging task is to meditate on it and let those verses infuse into him. Let them transform him.

Nope, I am not particularly impressed with their academic results. Yes, as a SAP school I expected more. But heh, that's not the most important thing to me for him. It is important. Just not the most important.

OK, some other stuffs.... caught him talking in class again... he has the ability to talk while listening to instructions actually... it is a weird thing... but he needs to be careful not to distract other classmates....

He is sitting with Emma who happens to be his Sunday school classmate too. So they see each other 6 days in a week!

Oh, the part of school which Theophilus look forward most is: recess!

They have a buddy-buddy system which the Primary 2 students will help the new arrivals (Primary 1 students) during the canteen break. They bring them to the stores. Showed them where to get food. Help them to calculate the change.... and some of them are so good. They have badges on their collar. One girl whom we noticed have 3 badges: Model student, Avid Reader (Chinese), Avid Reader (English)... wow....

I caught a boy who was wearing an English Avid Reader badge just before I left the school. A primary 2 boy. I couldn't help it. I stopped there. I held his collar and examine the collar pin and said "Well done, boy! Well done!" He beamed. He just beamed. I am happy to have given him the additional help along this long journey of growth. Growing in things that are good. Who knows? He might be my Prime Minister in the future? They are leaners today.... and they will be my leaders tomorrow.