One Hundred Thousand Ideas

2010 in review

Posted in Uncategorized by ymhuadao on January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 4 times

In 2010, there were 42 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 3 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 200kb.

The busiest day of the year was August 29th with 160 views. The most popular post that day was Many Chinese parents still say, “Don’t marry a non-Chinese”….

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, anotherlengua.wordpress.com, blogsurfer.us, twitter.com, and sg.linkedin.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for blendfusemash.wordpress.com, one hundred thousand ideas, “economic rise of asia”, challenges for new graduates, and 7 habits of highly effective organizations.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Many Chinese parents still say, “Don’t marry a non-Chinese”… August 2010
2 comments

2

Some Observations about Contemporary Marriage… October 2010

3

German 101 – First and most important 5 words to learn February 2010

4

The Rise (Rice) of Asia August 2010
1 comment

5

Why graduate in 5.5 years? November 2010
1 comment

A desire to develop a true passion for dance…

Posted in Uncategorized by ymhuadao on November 14, 2010

I am only able to dance some intermediate salsa today.

This means I only know a limited set of moves, I still have dance-fright when I have to ask beautiful, confident ladies just to have a social dance with me, and there are a lot of awesome dancers all around that make me feel both inspired and very unaccomplished at the same time.  Nonetheless, I’m already starting to enjoy the real benefits of dancing.  I describe two that are most relevant to me.

The most important benefit is – dance is a confidence builder.  Dance helps you become aware of new sets of muscles in the body that you never knew could be controlled.  It forces you to stand up straight and look at women in the eye.  It requires you to learn to listen to music and understand the sentiments behind it so that you can feel the rhythm and the beat more deeply.  And through these, you learn to be proud of whatever you have – your eyes, your ears, your body, your sentiments, your poise; at least proud enough to use them on the dance floor to lead and guide your partner and make yourself look as best as you can.  Of course, you could also carry forward what you practice there to other parts of life, and use what you learn there to move  you forward to become a more mature person.

A second benefit to dance: it gives you a reason to be physically healthy.  Dance is about agility, precision and coordination.  Only when you are physically healthy can you stretch your personal limits of these three attributes, and then perform better, and in a cyclical manner, improve your physical health.  This gives you a feel good feeling that you can take with your everyday, everywhere.

So now I have two hobbies.  Learning languages and learning dance.  I hope I can become really good at both of these.  These will be two things that will make me a richer, deeper and better person at 35 than who I am today.  No matter where I end up in this world, I will try to improve myself in these areas.

So much for HR departments trying to encourage personal development – I hope I’ve explained to you how I view it via one of my own interests.

Well, question now is, do you have a hobby that will improve you as a person over time? 😀

Why graduate in 5.5 years?

Posted in Short - Less than 500 words by ymhuadao on November 5, 2010

While most people in my circumstances (studies are funded by a full scholarship) took 4 years to finish an undergraduate engineering degree + a master degree, I took 5.5 years.

Many people question – why do you need 1.5 years more when others can finish in 4 and start earning a living?

The answer is: I didn’t need 1.5 years more.  It was a conscious decision to do more with my education, and I am proud of my decision to slow down even today, after spending a credible amount of time in the workforce now.

The person who inspired me to do so was Professor Anil Bajaj of Purdue, who looked at my jam-packed study plan and asked me,”Why are you rushing?”

I said,”I’m still going to get a perfect GPA.  It’s less time.”

He repeated,”But why are you rushing?”

I said,”Why take more time?”

And then came the life-changing answer: “During my time, we had to do it fast because life expectancy was 50, maybe 60.  But you’re going to live until 80.  What is one more year?”

When he said that, I realized that I didn’t know much about US outside my academic pursuit; I brought a Singaporean perspective over to the States and never learned too much about my new environment; my education was almost complete and I only had Asian friends in US, and few American friends.

My life changed from that day.

I did all I could in and out of the classroom, de-compacted my academic schedule, looked for an opportunity to go to Germany,where I did all my work in German and also got myself fully integrated into the culture so that I benefitted from understanding 2 cultures in one education.  I now have American best friends, German best friends, Turkish and Spanish best friends, and not just Asian friends.

If I started work 1.5 years earlier, I’d have had a Master’s too, but I’d never have understood what I know today about the US or Germany.  And I wouldn’t know Turkey, Iceland, Spain, and understand how my friends from these countries really think.  And in a one-year Master’s, I’d not not have had the chance to complete a real hands-on thesis and hence understand what it means to do some hardcore lab work.  I would not have had a more global exposure that an education in another country is supposed to uniquely offer to you.

And so, I urge students who read this to consider going out of their comfort zone, or even extend their studies, to experience a little more about the world.  In our generation, you will work until 70 if you are living in a developed country.  You can shorten your life in the workforce if you start a bit later.  And in any case, let’s start off in the working world with a high note by seeing more of the world first, and let’s find ways to do so and believe that it’s possible. 😀

Some Observations about Contemporary Marriage…

Posted in Long - More than 500 words by ymhuadao on October 17, 2010

Based on my observations, girls in the contemporary world want a few things:

  • they want to have kids before 35 so that the kids are healthier
  • they want to see and experience the world before they settle down
  • they want to have some kind of career, maybe to become a mid- manager at least, and typically let their career peak be determined by family commitments
  • after they have their kids, they need their supportive husband + family to help out with the kid if possible, so that they can try to transit back to working again; the thought of being permanently dependent on the husband’s income is too hard to accept today.

You can deduce a few things from here.  First, girls are happy to get married around 27 or 28, after getting some kind of success in their career, and seeing the world on their own, with their own money from 22 to 27.  Next, if they get married at  27 or 28, they could afford to enjoy 3 years of married life uninterrupted, have the first kid, and then maybe the second one all by the age of 35.  Finally, from 35 to 40, they can slowly transit back into the working world again; they will need the husband to be supportive here, while they aim for a mid-senior post, and progress through it for the next 10, 15 years, while balancing this with commitments to make sure that their kids have a good life growing up.

If we look carefully at these observations, you will realize that what the girl wants will translate into what is expected of the husband / boyfriend too.  So as guys, we are expected to be patient about the right age of getting married (when she is 27 or 28), we are expected to wait for her to want to have kids (when she is between 30 and 35, for 2 years), we are expected to support her while she transits back into the working world from 35 to 40 (when the house is well set up so that the kids cannot accidentally hurt themselves and the wife is confident that the husband can also play certain roles in taking care of the kids).

The key thing is: Doing all these would not delight your wife / wife-to-be.  It satisfies only the basic expectations.  To delight her, and hence have an opportunity of having an exceptional marriage, it is important to do three more things:

1)  Plan nice breaks and getaways for her and yourself in all parts of the process.  In the first 3 years of marriage, have honeymoons in different parts of the world.  When the kids come, plan holidays in a way that she can feel secure that the kids are well taken care of.  During the transition back to work, plan breaks that foster family closeness as a whole.

2) Have excellent career progression.  This gives the additional security while she is having kids that things are well covered, and she perceives a permanent option of being a homemaker so that she can dedicate her life fully to her kids besides the ‘original’ plan of transiting back to her career when the kids are more grown up.  Not likely that she would do it, but having the option will make her feel “wow, i am such a lucky woman” and she will be delighted.

3) Treat her as if she were the same person all this while.  Treat her like the same sweet, young, adorable girl that you fell in love with, and make it feel as if nothing has ever changed even though physically everything is different, including yourself.  As she goes through these changes and feel depressed about how life has become tougher and not the same as before, you ‘wow’ her by not changing the way you hold hands with her, care for her when she is unwell, and ask her out and date her.

So am I asking you to give up everything so that your wife / wife-to-be can feel blessed?  Actually, no.  I’m asking you to choose the girl you want to spend a good part of your life with carefully… only with a girl you really like, you would be able to do all these without feeling like it’s going to be a chore.  I’m also asking you to choose this girl in a practical manner – if most girls want to get married at 27 to 28, and you want to be at most 55 when your kids leave for college at 18 so that you are still ‘young’ enough to connect with them, then you can do some math and realize that the age difference between your wife-to-be and yourself is +/- 3.

You may argue that in places like the US, this 27 – 28 year old thing is not true.  My counter argument is: many Americans marry at 21 or 22, get divorced at 26, and the girls still follow the plan I just described after their first divorce (if they learned something from it).  You may also argue that in places like Germany, girls don’t even consider getting married at all.  My counter argument is that: German girls will happily live with the boyfriend from 27 – 30 and liken it to the first 3 years of marriage I described.  Between 30 and 35, it is easy to convince them to get married and have kids because they’d know that this is the last window left to make a decision.  If they decide to have kids, then it is very likely they will conclude to go with the plan I just described.

Conclusion: I think I’ve given some observations that could be useful in planning for marriage and the way forward in the relationship.  You could use it to evaluate the status of your relationship, and perhaps discuss if what I’m saying makes sense.  The only pinch of salt you need to take from me is that I’m not married at the point of writing this. 😀

What do you think?

When I was on crutches…

Posted in Short - Less than 500 words by ymhuadao on September 11, 2010

… I learned a lot.

Few people knew about this, but there was a time where I was not able to walk for a few months properly because I snapped my anterior cruciate ligament, located on the knee.  It happened in Germany, on 31st October 2007.  I had an operation on 31st Jan 2008.  I recovered suitably in April / May.  It impacted the amount of time I could spend on doing my thesis.

And what did I learn from that?

First, an incredible amount of German.  This is because I had to go through all sorts of medical documents, work with the nurses and physiotherapists who don’t speak much English, and interact with other patients who speak dialect.  One of the greatest challenges was to understand what kind of ‘narkose’ – anaesthetic – was the best for my operation.

Next, I experienced an incredible amount of human compassion.  I was a foreigner – non-German – but I got an incredible amount of care, lots of friendly words, people driving down all the way just to visit me at the hospital, and assistance to clear my paperwork.  How do I know that everything was genuine?  Easy – I was a student.  I had no money.  Why else would people help me if not for the sake of helping?

Finally, a special insight into the lives of the physically less fortunate.  After my operation, I was on crutches.  I started to understand how inconvenient it could be first hand.  After some physiotherapy, I didn’t use my crutches anymore, but it didn’t mean that I was any more physically fit.  However, without my crutches – no one could tell that I just had an operation and I was still suffering from atrophy.  People stopped giving up seats to me in trains because they don’t see the crutches.  But I learned to notice people who were struggling, and became more sensitive.

Do we really need to be injured to learn all that?

Not really.

Just try a little harder and be less focused on yourself.  We get a pretty good chance to open our eyes as a result.  😀

Which mistake do you want to make?

Posted in Short - Less than 500 words by ymhuadao on September 10, 2010

The mistake you make earns you a special adjective (for others) to describe your personality.  Which mistake you make determines which adjective you earn.  Let’s take a look at some of these adjectives.  Let’s first explore mistakes made by people of different age groups.

So – both young and old make mistakes, but in different ways.

We, the young, think the impossible can happen.  We are called naive.

Our predecessors, the experienced, think that the possible cannot happen.  We call them conservative.

And hence this endless, cyclical issue about generation gaps, both at home and in the workplace.

Let’s expand to other mistakes:

What happens if a young chap think that the possible cannot happen?  We call this group of people jaded.

What happens if the older folks  think that the impossible can happen?  We say that they are ridiculous.

Let’s go one step deeper and explore two examples of the impact of defying all odds:

Case 1: Making the impossible happen

When a naive chap makes the impossible happen for the first time, he becomes a wonder, and the conservative chaps still remain conservative.  When he makes the same impossible thing happen, and keeps on doing it all his life, younger ones start to call him conservative.  One day when he grows old and claims loudly – hey, I’ve made the impossible happen all my life – he becomes ridiculous.  Whatever he did has always been possible.

Case 2: Showing that the possible will not happen

When an old chap shows that the possible will not happen (e.g. because timing is not right), he is called prudent, and the naive chaps turn jaded.  When the same old chap shows that the possible cannot happen too many times, he starts to show that the impossible can happen (he is always right).  His friends in the same age group remain conservative, he makes more young ones jaded, and he becomes ridiculous.  Anything besides what he did is not possible.

So what’s the point of writing all this?

I guess some observations from the two cases are:

1. If you prove your point too often, people call you ridiculous.  If you don’t want to be ridiculous, don’t prove your point too often.

2. If you want to be a  wonder when you are young and prudent when you are older, make the impossible happen just once and show that the possible will not happen just once.

Between that, live a good life, make a few more friends, and put sincerity and openness ahead of many other things. Do you agree?

The art of expressing complex thoughts…

Posted in Short - Less than 500 words by ymhuadao on September 4, 2010

… is seldom perfected in Singapore! And I can explain why. I can think of three reasons:

1. First,we have been living in an extremely simple and efficient environment. The best example of our simple life is to compare the way income tax is filed in Singapore, versus what they do in USA or in Germany. For employees, it’s not just simple – we’ve perfected it such that there is only a button to click!!! Your employer sends the prepared tax form to you, and you click ‘agree’.  You’re done filing your taxes.  When so many things are so simple, it’s hard to get Singaporeans to think of the necessity of doing anything in a complex way.  And hence what’s the point of expressing complex thoughts, if the need for complexity is not even there?

2.Second, this is exacerbated by the ubiquity of tools that simplify communication further.  For instance, instant messaging is well adopted, and it gives us a very easy manner to express complicated ideas using extremely simple (and further abbreviated) words because there is no need to contextualize the idea in an elaborate manner to get the point across.  And so, where’s the need for an art to express complex thoughts?

3. Finally, and most importantly, we live in a Singapore that does not know of tough times – we do not know of poverty, famine, drought, natural disasters, war, racial riots or crime.  The most we’ve seen are economic recessions, and tough = wage cuts, but not loss of jobs.  And so, what does ‘complex thoughts’ even actually mean?

Nonetheless, the lack of supply does not mean the lack of demand.  While people do not like to think about complicated things, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to appreciate the complex thoughts of others.  That’s why people like geniuses and the movie Inception!

Next, the lack of supply doesn’t mean that there is no opportunity to supply.  Tools like Twitter, a Web 2.0 social networking tool, could be a platform for us to learn to express a clear message in a crisp, consise manner using 140 characters despite how most people misuse it.  Doing this is probably more complex than you can imagine, because it requires us to refine our thoughts and languages so thoroughly to express this out.

Finally, the lack of supply does not also mean the lack of necessity of supply.  While poverty, famine, drought, natural disasters, war, racial riots or crime is not seen here, something can always change such that this would happen.  It’s important to understand what the complex people are thinking so that we never over-simplify our position and commit mistakes because of making too many assumptions.

So – how can you benefit from this post?  My question to you is, is there something complicated that you know, that you can simplify for somebody else?  It could be a great business idea! 😀

Uniquely Singapore…

Posted in Short - Less than 500 words by ymhuadao on August 31, 2010

I shared this yesterday when I was asked for feedback about Singapore’s National Day Rally speech, on the topic of Singapore spirit.  I think we have a lot of it, but you need to press the secret button to make us show it.

Here’s the secret: when asked about the Singapore spirit by a Singaporean, most of us just say that we don’t have any. But when we are asked by a foreigner about it, we immediately show it by telling them all the great things about Singapore.

Everyone probably has a different take, but for me – these are my views why Singapore is so special:

There are 5 things about Singapore that you can probably not find anywhere else in the world:

– We have the most interesting children’s games in the world.  Let me name five of them: marbles, rubber, five stones, chatek, and pepsi cola one-two-three.

– Religious harmony.  We have had Muslims and non-Muslims eating at the same table in our food centers for years (more than 28 – cos it was like that since I was born), while the rest of the world is still wondering about religious harmony.  (Trade secret: we mark our utensils to indicate what is non-Halal.)

– We have Bugis with the Chinese temples and street peddlers, and Little India with traditional Indian shophouses.  People actually live there and follow that way of life, and it’s not about remaking a historical site.  And we have all these right next to the western-style skyscrapers in our financial district!

– We have amazing linguists in Singapore.  The Indian who speaks Mandarin, the Chinese who speaks Malay, and all of us who speak Singlish.  Come on, what genius it must take to apply Chinese grammar to English and get it perfectly understood by 5 million people, right?

– Finally – and this is the best – the famous food of Singapore has pretty weird names… e.g. Hainanese Chicken rice – why eat this in Singapore, not Hainan?  Fried Hokkien Noodles – why eat this in Singapore, not Hokkien?  Fishball noodles – what the hell are fish BALLS? Lol.

My recommendation: The Singapore Government should stop talking about the Singapore spirit for one year.  We, the people will start to miss it.  Meanwhile, they could go on the internet and see what people say about it.  I think they’d be pleasantly surprised.  Trash talkers would be gone, or at least balanced with more reasonable people!

Non-Singaporeans reading this – come over and take a look!  Beyond the facade of clean and clean, and the famous stories related to strict draconian laws, discover this truly unique side of my country!

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Layers of decision making explained…

Posted in Short - Less than 500 words by ymhuadao on August 31, 2010

Scarcity necessitates choice.  Both of them are central problems of important topics.  The central problem of economics is scarcity, and the central problem of decision making is choice.  Today I am going to write about choice, so that I can explain the decision making process and its associated costs.

First, let’s start with a simple problem of choice – let there be only two choices.

Choice 1: let it be inclusive – make it such that everyone can join in.

Choice 2: let it be exclusive – make it such that only one group can join in.

Both choices give you a trade off.  Inclusive can be intrusive (need lots of time to plan it and can eat into personal time) but exclusive can be expensive (need lots of money to cover the costs and can eat into personal cash).

And hence we often talk about reaching a consensus or a compromise in the middle ground.  But what is ‘consensus’ and ‘compromise’, and where is the ‘middle ground’?

So… Consensus is an agreement to approve.  Compromise is an agreement to sacrifice.  ‘Middle ground’ is like averages.  There is mean, median, and mode.  Depending on which you use, you can be either closer to  ‘inclusive’ or ‘exclusive’.  And truly middle could exist, but only if you don’t measure it.

The concepts above allow individuals to broadly understand the decision-making process.  For groups to make decisions, we need to understand two more terms.  They are: ‘Hierarchies’ and ‘Networks’.  Hierarchy makes it clear who the decision makers are.  Networks make it clear what decision the group has made.  A hierarchy changes its mind when the next person gets on top.  A network doesn’t changes its mind too often, but doesn’t make up its mind so quickly.

Now let’s connect the dots: A hierarchy is better at making compromises.  A network is better at coming to consensus.  A hierarchy that functions on consensus is softly authoritative.  A network that functions on compromise – hardly amiable.

Let’s connect more dots: Sometimes, we reach a consensus to compromise and this means we agree to approve a sacrifice.  Other times, we compromise to reach a consensus and this means we sacrifice to approve an agreement.

Let’s connect even more dots:

A hierarchy that makes a consensus to compromise must agree, approve, and then sacrifice.  They take hell of a long time to make a decision.

A network that makes a compromise to come to a consensus must sacrifice, approve, and then agree.  They don’t follow their core values.

Based on this framework – let’s evaluate the organizations we are in.

Are they hierarchies or networks?  Are they more inclusive or more exclusive?  Do they make consensus or do they compromise?  Do they make consensus to compromise, or do they compromise to make consensus?

The answers to this question explain to you why your organization tends to take forever to decide, or to never follow any values.

Just some thoughts I cooked up on the way home today… 😀 Hope you liked the read!

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The rise and fall of civilisations…

Posted in Uncategorized by ymhuadao on August 29, 2010

… is quite predictable.

This is what I’ve observed about building up a nation from tales of history:

When the land is new, there are hundreds of areas for a government to build up.

When these areas are built up, there are still hundreds of areas for the government to improve.

When these are improved, perhaps one hundred more can be enhanced.

After all that, perhaps 10 more can be further enhanced.

And we would have created a well-administered nation.  We could move on to help the world.

This is what I inferred based on the observations:

By the time we reach the task of further enhancing the 10 more areas, we should rely on a smaller government rather than a larger one.  The other areas that have been enhanced already should be automated; only maintenance and operational personnel need to be there.

I would imagine if a government did not grow or shrink its manpower according to these lessons from history, somewhere there will be conflict.  Either too many people doing too few jobs, or too few people doing too many jobs.

The ‘downsize’ stage to ‘further enhance’ the country is probably the most difficult.  The government, used to having power, needs to facilitate a transition of power to the people.  This is likely to be met with much resistance.

As we finally move on to help the world, we cannot neglect what continues to happen within the country.  Sometimes, pride and conceit follows success.  We may become more focused on the external achievements and not see that something is going wrong inside the system.

What’s the purpose of this post?

Nothing.  These are just thoughts that go on in my mind when I am not doing anything and allowed to wonder.  Maybe somebody will find an inspiration from it.

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