Saturday, November 17, 2007

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"In matters of great concern, & which must be done, there is no surer argument of a weak mind than irresolution; to be undetermined where the case is so plain, & the necessity so urgent. To be always intending to live a new life, but never to find time to set about it; this is as if a man should put off eating, & drinking, & sleeping, from one day & night to another, till he is starved & destroyed."

(John Tillotson, 1630-1694, English theologian & Archbishop of Canterbury)

Friday, November 16, 2007

MOVIE REVIEWS: 'ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13' & '16 BLOCKS'

Recently, I watched two great cop action movies on cable television;

1) 'Assault on Precinct 13', starring Ethan Hawk, Laurence Fishburne & Gabriel Bryne;

2) '16 Blocks' starring Bruce Willis, Mos Def, & David Morse;

Both movies shared a common theme: a bunch of rogue cops vs one good cop, with explosive, pulsating action sequences.

The first movie was supposed to be a remake of an earlier movie made during the seventies & bearing the same title. I did not watch it. Nevertheless, the story in both movies came from John Carpenter, the master of horror & suspense.

I had watched many of John Carpenter's movies, which includes 'The Fog', 'The Thing', 'Ghosts on Mars', 'Village of the Damned', just to name a few.

(I also read that the earlier movie was based on Howard Hawks' cowboy movie entitled 'Rio Bravo', made in the late fifties & starring John Wayne, Dean Martin & Ricky Nelson. No wonder, as I come to think about it, there was some notable resemblance in the plot.)

In the first movie, a pill-popping police sergeant, Jake Roenik (played by Ethan Hawke) inside a police station that was about to be closed down for good, had to rally the ragtag group of police personnel as well as prisoners in the station to protect themselves against a massive assault on New Year's Eve.

A bunch of rogue cops, led by Capt Marcus Duvall (played by Gabriel Bryne) & equipped with high-tech weaponry, had surrounded the station. They had planned to kill all of the station's occupants in order to keep their deception within the ranks.

As a matter of fact, one of the station prisoners was a drug dealer as well as a cop killer, Marion Bishop (played by Laurence Fishburne), who was actually their prime target, as they feared that he might finger them when he went to court the next day.

In the second movie, a burnt-out aging police detective, Jack Mosley (played by Bruce Willis), was assigned the unenviable task of transporting a fast-talking, small-time crook, Eddie Bunker (played by Mos Def) from jail to a courthouse 16 blocks away. The setting was New York city.

However, along the way, he learned that the crook had made a prior deal with the District Attorney's office & was supposed to testify against Mosley's colleagues, spearheaded by another police detective, Frank Nugent (played by David Morse). One of the colleagues was accidentally shot in the leg by Mosley during a skirmish.

As a result, practically the entire NYPD wanted him & the crook dead. Mosley had to choose between loyalty to his colleagues & protecting the witness.

Both movies also shared an intriguing twist to the ending part of the story, which really made the movies worth watching. You just have to go & watch both movies to know what I meant.

In the movies, both good cops had to use their anticipatory wits to outsmart & outmanoeuvre their rogue colleagues in order to stay alive.

For me, as a fan, these were two cop action movies without the intervention of CGI, & the action sequences were eye-citing as well as heart-warming in some ways.

In fact, in the first movie, I was very impressed by Bishop's philosophy of 'self-preservation' & also, Roenik's unwitting extension of professional courtesy to Bishop, as dictated by the course of events, while the latter reciprocated Roenik's kind gesture at the end of the movie. Sometimes, your enemy is your best friend.

In the second movie, Mosley did not believe that crooks could change or turn a new leaf. Bunker proved him wrong by sending him a birthday cake, plus a picture of his new cake shop in Seattle, with Mosley's name on it.

UNDERSTANDING FEAR, INDECISION, PROCRASTINATION & SELF-DOUBT AS IMPEDIMENTS TO SUCCESS

According to most motivational speakers &/or success coaches, these are often the four critical factors that can impede one's progress in life pursuits:

1) fear: the feeling of agitation & anxiety caused by the expectation or realisation of danger, real or perceived;

2) indecision: the reluctance or the inability to make up one's minds; irresolution;

3) procrastination: the act of putting off doing something, especially out of habitual laziness;

4) self-doubt: the lack of faith or confidence in one self; also, the feeling of uncertainty, disbelief or skepticism about one self;

I generally concur with the list of critical factors.

Here are some practical ideas to deal with them:

1) Make a list of them on paper - writing them down help you to accept them;

2) Jot down how they affect your life & how you can choose to deal with them in your own way [Remember, you have the power to choose];

3) Be aware of your 'self talk' & note all the negative messages that come into your mind;

4) Start building a supporting system with family &/or friends; [Choose your friends wisely]

5) Join a support group, if any;

6) Think of possible positive & constructive affirmations to help you displace your negative thoughts; [Remember, your brain follows the direction of your dominant thoughts!]

7) Read inspiring & motivational books, e.g. 'Think & Grow Rich', 'Giant Steps';

8) Learn to let go off past failures - just treat them as learning experiences [Remember R Buckminster once said: "There's no failed experiment; only unexpected result."

9) Check out your life goals, priorities & actions;

10) Take one of the planned actions in (9) every day & execute it, one step at a time; [Remember Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: "You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step!]

Here are some of my favourite quotations in connection with the above critical factors to share with readers:

"Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something & stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use."

(Earl Nightingale, the man who pioneered the personal development industry since the late fifties, starting with 'The Strange Secret')

"Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate & live on the 'Someday I'll.." philosophy."

(Denis Waitley, internationally renowned success coach)

"No one can you make you feel inferior without your consent."

(Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962, who used her influence as active First Lady, 1933-1945, to promote human rights)

"If doubt is challenging you & you don't act, doubts will grow. Challenging the doubts with action, & you will grow. Doubt & action are incompatible."

(John Kanary, professional speaker & success coach)

"Your confidence in the people. & your doubt about them, are usually related to your self-confidence & your self-doubt."

(Kahlil Gibran, 1883-1931, poet, philosopher & artist in Lebanon)

"When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative & acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell? Leap!"

(Cynthia Heimel, humourist & author of many witty books)

"We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over."

(Aneurin Bevan, 1897-1960, British Labour politician)

"There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, & for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising & going to bed every day, & the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation."

(William James, 1845-1910, American psychologist & philosopher)

"You need an infinite stretch of time ahead of you to start to think, infinite energy to make the smallest decision. The world is getting denser. The immense number of useless projects is bewildering. Too many things have to be put in to balance up an uncertain scale. You can't disappear any more. You die in a state of total indecision."

(Jean Baudrillard, French semiologist)

"The word 'tomorrow' was invented for indecisive people & children."

Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev, 1818-1882, Russian author)

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this basic attribute we would all still be anaerobic bacteria & there would be no music."

(Lewis Thomas, 1913-1993, American physician, researcher, author, & teacher best known for his essays, which contain lucid meditations & reflections on a wide range of topics in biology.)

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)


What are the thoughts that empower me to move forward?

What are the thoughts that impede my progress?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Each of us is a pioneer in our own lives. We're each charting new territory every day. The people I admire are the people who willingly go forward, no matter what the odds."

(Senator Hilary Clinton)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

MEMORABLE QUOTES FROM THE MOVIE

Last night, I watched the movie, 'Maid in Manhattan', starring Jennifer Lopez & Ralph Fiennes, on cable television.

This is a classic Cinderella story. Marisa Ventura (Lopez), a single mother born & bred in the boroughs of New York City, works as a maid in a luxurious Manhattan hotel.

By a twist of fate & mistaken identity, Marisa meets Christopher Marshall (Fiennes), a handsome candidate for senatorhood, who believes that she is a socialite/guest at the hotel.

Fate steps in - plus a little bit of cajoling from her fellow maids & also her young son - & throws the unlikely pair together for one night.

When Marisa's true identity is revealed, the two find that they are worlds apart, even though the distance separating them is just a subway ride between Manhattan & the Bronx

Upon being explosed & subsequently expelled from the hotel, Marisa left with Christoper running after her:

Christopher: Caroline. Caroline. Caroline. Do you have somewhere else you have to be?

Marisa: No, I just have to leave.

Christopher: Well, I don't think you're leaving. I think you're running. And what I can't figure out is, are you running towards something you want? Or are you running away from something you're afraid to want?

Another memorable quote from the movie:

Lionel Bloch, the room service supervisor at the hotel (played by Bo Hoskins) who more or less suffered the same fate as Marisa: What we do does not define us. What defines us is how well we rise after falling.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose & imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary."

(Cecil Beaton, 1904-9180, one of the world's most successful portrait & fashion photographers. For five decades, he used his flattering lens & acute eye to turn celebrities into timeless icons.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

MY FIRST PORTABLE COMPUTER

In the early 80's, while working as a Divisional Manager, responsible for planning & research, I bought my first computer, Otrona Attache, a portable - transportable is a more appropriate word to describe it as it weighed 8 kg, - after seeing an advertisement in the Straits Times.

As a matter of fact, the Otrona Attache was meant to run on AC power, as batteries were not part of the whole package.

Nevertheless, at that that time, it was the smallest of the portables, when compared with the Osborne & Kaypro machines, which preceded it.

It was assembled in Singapore & built to military hardware specifications. It was therefore compact & sturdy for mobility.

However, it certainly costed me a bomb - S$12,000 to be exact. I had to take out a one-year personal loan from my employer (UMW Group), who also owned a financing & leasing company.

I read that the computer was designed by a former HP engineer, & that the first user was the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in USA.

In fact, it was also featured quite prominently in one of the earlier James Bond movies.

My first encounter with the Ottrona Attache was quite funny - in fact, a true learning experience.

As it was my first encounter with computer technology, I did not realise that I need to format the 5-1/4 inch floppy diskettes in order to use them. I even called up the customer service to complain.

The Otrona Attache ran on CP/M operating system, probably the precursor to today's Windows.

It had a Zilog processor, running at 4 MHz with only 64 K RAM. It was also fitted with a 5.5 inch green colour CRT screen (320 x 240 graphics; 80 x 24 text) & two floppy diskette drives, with 360K each.

It had a detachable keyboard & when attached to the unit, it protected the CRT display & diskette drives.

The S$12,000 price package included a Epson L-1500 dot-matrix printer.

The first lot of complimentary softwares that came with the machine comprised Valet (for switching off from a program & screen dumping), Charton (for simple charting), MBasic (for programming), Wordstar (for word processing), SuperCalc (for spreadsheets) & DBase II (for database management).

I had a terrific time learning - & playing - with my Otrona Attache. Being a visual-kinesthetic learner, I spent practically every day toggling between browsing the thick operating manuals & hands-on exposures with my expensive toy.

My first productive as well as professional output from the machine was a weekly digest of business & commercial news for the subsidiary companies of my employer. This was followed by number crunching of sales forecasts.

During my spare time, my first 4-page newsletter prototype, entitled 'Mind/Brain Fitness', & a progenitor of my 'Left-Brain/Right-Brain Newsletter', was printed on the dot-matrix printer. It was distributed to my friends & associates for free.

About a year later, I upgraded to a newer model, designated as 8:16, with 256 K RAM. It had an enhanced green colour CRT (640 x 240 graphics).

Best of all, it had a dual processor arrangement, one operating at 8-bit CP/M with Zilog processor at 4 MHz, & the other operating at 16-bit MS-DOS with Intel 8086 processor at 8 MHz.

However, I could only use one system at a time upon boot-up. It was not 100% IBM compatible, but I could use the early version of Lotus 123 & DBase IV.

In many ways, the Otrona Attache had empowered my personal as well as professional productivity during those early years.

To my personal delight, I was subsequently featured in one of the local assembler's advertisements in the Straits Times as one happy & proud user of the Otrona Attache in Singapore.

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve & conquer."

(Arnold Schwarzenegger, body-builder, mail-order salesman, movie actor & now, Governor of California)

Monday, November 12, 2007

7 MAJOR CHARACTERISTICS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI

Leonardo da vinci is well-known as an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, engineer & scientist during the Renaissance era.

He has often been described as the archetype of the universal genius, a man whose seemingly infinite curiosity was equalled by his acute powers of invention.

Among many other notable contributions, & as a painter, his greatest works include the 'Mona Lisa' & 'The Last Supper'.

As an engineer, he conceived ideas vastly ahead of his own lifetime. Relatively few of his inventive ideas were constructed, or even feasible during his lifetime e.g. helicopter, submarine, tank, just to name a few.

According to many researchers, & as I understand, these are the seven derived characteristics of Leonardo da vinci's creative approach to life & work:

- an insatiable urge to question, challenge & explore the world & an unrelenting quest for continuous learning;

- a commitment to test knowledge through experience & a willingness to learn from mistakes;

- the continuous refinement of the senses, especially the sense of sight as the means to enliven experience;

- a willingness to embrace uncertainty, ambiguity & paradox;

- the development of balance between science & art, logic & imagination, seriousness & fun;

- the cultivation of wholeness through grace, ambidexterity, fitness & poise;

- a recognition of & appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things & phenomena i.e. every thing is connected to every thing else;

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

"Chance is a world void of sense; nothing can exist without a cause."

(Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire)

TODAY'S Q2P (QUESTIONS TO PONDER)

What do you stand for?

What do you fight for?

What do you live for?

What do you die for?

(Inspired by the compelling movie, 'Lions for Lambs', starring Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, & Tom Cruise)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

TODAY'S VIP (VERY IMPORTANT POSE)

‘To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.’

(Henri Bergson, 1859-1941, French philosopher & Nobel laureate, Literature, 1927)

RETURN FROM ITALY

I have actually returned to Singapore on the early morning of Sunday, November 4 after spending nine solid days of holidaying in Italy with my wife.

It took me several days to get out of jet lag & also a few days to sort out the digital photos. On top of that, I have to spend some time to read & clear out my emails.

My wife & I have indeed a great time in Italy - sightseeing, eating & of course, shopping.

As a matter of fact, it has also been a wonderful eye-opening cultural experience for my wife. This has been her first trip to Europe.

We must say, once again, many thanks to the impeccable & thoughtful leadership of our tour leader, Johnny Tan of Tradewinds/Singapore Airlines.

The group, comprising 23 passengers, has travelled through the Lazio (Rome), Campania (Naples, Pompeii, Capri & Sorrento), Tuscany (Florence, Pisa), Umbria (Assisi), Veneto (Verona, Venice) & Lombardy (Milan) Regions. We even made a side trip into Lucano in Switzerland.

Throughout the trip, the weather was really fine, with the sun shining on some days, but temperature was still hovering around 16 degrees C. It was a bit colder in the north, especially during the mornings.

We had a chance to eat Risotto - an Italian signature dish in the north (too hard & crunchy for Singaporeans as a whole!) - & Pizza Margherita - an Italian signature dish in the south, with tomato & cheese only (frankly speaking, we prefer pizza in Singapore because of the large variety of concoctions available).

Best of all, we also tried out the famous Florentine steak in Florence. It's a chunky T-bone steak from the Chianini cattle breed, originally served rare, but we had the tempered version.

For me, & from the intellectual standpoint, the greatest highlights of the tour are the visits to the Vatican Museums (including the Sistine Chapel) in Rome & the Uffizi Museum in Florence.

This has been my third trip to Italy (first time in 1983, second time in 2000) & I am still amazed by the awesome beauty & true elegance of the century old masterpieces by artists & sculptors from the Renaissance period.

Again for me, I have the opportunity to revisit & reminisce on the adventurous exploits & marvellous handiwork of famous Italians in history, e.g. Leonardo da vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Galileo Galilei, Marco Polo, & Amerigo Vespucci, who was believed to have discovered America.

Italy is definitely a shopper's paradise with its own exquisite designer brands, & shopping is always the favourite indulgence of all Singaporeans while holidaying overseas.

In fact, shopping for international visitors has been institutionalised in Italy. Practically in every major city, there is a Factory Outlet Shopping Mall (each mall having some thirty or more units), where prices of branded Italian goods e.g. Gucci, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, to name a few, are almost 50% of the original.

Since this has been my third trip to Italy, I have bought for myself another Loro Piana vest (I now have three of them). I have also bought for my wife a Gucci handbag, a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo jeans, & half a dozen of Nara Camacie blouses, plus some Murano glass jewelry.

Many of our fellow travellers went after Louis Vuitton handbags, with some buying at least half a dozen models each. While in Lucano, they also bought the Rolex Explorer watches.

My only complaint about Italy this time is the Euros currency which has made eating & shopping in the country rather expensive, when compared with yesteryear's. Just imagine you have to fork out 10 Euros i.e. S$21.00 for a McDonalds meal for two, against a similar sized meal for S$7.00 in Singapore!

The current exchange rate is 1 Euro = S$2.10, while in the old days, S$1.00 gave me more than a thousand Italian liaras.

I plan to share more of my travelling experiences in Italy with readers in subsequent blogs, as I have more or less completed my digital photo album.

[To follow all my subsequent posts from here & in line with the planned itinerary of the Tradewinds tour package, '11 Days Best of Italy', please proceed to this post:)]