Saturday, December 6, 2008


"The secret of the truly successful, I believe, is that they learned very early in life how not to be busy. They saw through that adage, repeated to me so often in childhood, that anything worth doing is worth doing well. The truth is, many things are worth doing only in the most slovenly, half-hearted fashion possible, & many other things are not worth doing at all."

~ Barbara Ehrenreich, a widely-read American columnist & essayist; also, author of nearly 20 books;


Having read so much about Albert Einstein, especially his early life from a curious young boy to his later years on becoming the smartest person in the world, & also having realised that his image is often widely recognised as an iconographic for creativity, it didn't come as a surprise when I saw him playing a cupid for a change, in the romantic comedy movie, 'IQ'.

I had watched the movie the previous night on StarHub cable television.

I had in fact rewatched it last night because I was entranced by the story of Albert Einstein (played by Walter Matthau), together with his quirky pals in Princeton, New Jersey, during the 50's, namely Nathan Lubknecht, Kurt Godel & Boris Podolsky, helping a young grease monkey, Ed (played by Tim Robbins) in a local garage, who had a fascination for 'Popular Science'.

The latter was also in love with Einstein's niece, Catherine (played by Meg Ryan).

In the movie, Einstein had concocted a scheme to allow Ed to play a great physicist on cold fusion, of all things, temporarily - to borrow Einstein's brain for a couple of days, so to speak. The whole idea was to give Ed an opportunity to attract Catherine, playing a scatter-brained mathematician, & who was already engaged to be married to James, an old-fashioned, uptight behavioural scientist.

Apparently to Einstein's dismay, Catherine had this weird idea of marrying a smart guy just to produce genius kids.

Throughout the movie, the theme of accident vs deliberate intervention occurred repeatedly as I watched the machinations of Einstein & his fun-loving pals.

Come to think of it, I now truly understand what Einstein had once said: "Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love."

Packed with a witty dialogue, often in short staccato bursts between the varied characterisations, sometimes with subtle sexual innuendos, to plant that smirky smile on your face, the movie was really entertaining, almost hilarious, to watch, which explained why I had watched it twice.

Here is one beautiful example, during one of the opening scenes:

When Catherine & James brought their troubled car to the local garage, Ed was instantly smitten the moment he saw her.

As Ed opened up the bonnet to take a look, he blurted to them, "You have no sparks!". As James insisted on finding out what was wrong with the car, Ed replied: "My guess is that you have a short stroke & premature ignition."

Ed continued, while looking at Catherine, "Does it ever feel that way?" Catherine was somewhat bewildered & responded: "I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

For the left-brain oriented, I guess, one can also get to hear Einstein & his pals discussing about "time doesn't exist", "uncertainty principle", "certainty vs chaos", "God doesn't play dice with the universe" & "cold fusion" in the movie.

For me, there are a few more endearing segments in the movie:

- when Ed took Einstein on a short ride on Ed's motorcycle, Einstein was so delighted that he kept yelling "Wahoo!". Upon returning to Einstein's home, Catherine told Ed that he shouldn't do that again.

Ed's rebutted: "When was the last time you had a "Wahoo!"?". She was stunned by the question;

- in an unwittingly romantic routine between the two love birds, during which Catherine made a rambling attempt to elaborate on an "attraction in a distance" to Ed in the restaurant, which was an apparent play on Einstein's "action in a distance" theory;

- in one particular scene, Einstein related to Ed the significance of the compass, which all of us know from history that it was the driving force behind Einstein's curiosity as a young boy;

- while coaxed into pretending to be a physicist, Ed asked Einstein what if Catherine had asked a difficult question. To that, Einstein passed him a pipe, & asked Ed to respond, after a few puffs, by saying: "That's an interesting concept!"

There was also something else in the movie dialogue which had continued to pique my personal attention after the movie.

Einstein said "every thing affects every thing" to his pals. That certainly resonates with what Leonardo da vinci had once said a long time ago: "Every thing is connected to every thing else."

A friendly advice to readers: Go & watch the movie. Words can't describe exactly how I really felt about the movie.

Yes, it was obviously a fictional story, but for me, the final message from the movie was very clear in my mind:

"Don't let your brain interfere with your heart."

That were the exact words uttered by Einstein in the movie. I fully concur with Einstein.

Friday, December 5, 2008


"If I had to live my life again I would have made a rule to read some poetry & listen to some music at least once a week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied could thus have been kept active through use."

~ Charles Darwin, from his 'Autobiography', 1887;


I have stumbled upon an amazing idea from an interesting as well as insightful article by Thaddeus Johnson.

It's entitled 'Increase Your Vocabulary by Browsing Online Book Stores'. Here's the link.

I certainly concur with the author that reading - & jotting down new &/or unfamiliar words from - the descriptions, synopsis, excerpts, & editorials of most publications provides many wonderful opportunities for vocabulary building.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet."
~ William Gibson, American-Canadian science fiction author;

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: 'THE A2Z DIET', by Adrian Yeo

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." (Confucius, 551-479 BC)

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955)

The foregoing fitting & memorable quotes have been deliberately selected by the publisher to preface the new book, 'T.H.E A2Z Diet', with the tag line, 'Dieting made as SIMPLE as possible', by our former Singapore cabinet minister Dr Yeo Ning Hong.

I have been introduced to the book by a bank teller mentioned in an earlier post.

I must concur that the book certainly explains, in very simple language, why we overeat, why we find salty, fatty & sweet food so tempting & addictive. It then zooms into the simplest & most basic principles of effective dieting, which the author has used over the past quarter of a century with success.

The book therefore distills a very simple formula for successful dieting, which the author aptly calls the 'T.H.E A2z Diet', thus forming the focal point of the book, as follows:

T = Ten glass of water daily;

H = Halve your daily food intake;

E = Exercise, by walking at least 10,000 steps a day;

As I have already spoken to a number of people, including my gym buddy who has also bought the book to read, the author's formula makes pragmatic sense.

I feel the author has rightly asserted at the beginning of the book, "Dieting is a very individualistic activity. If T.H.E A2Z Diet works for you (as it does for me), fine - stay with it & make it part of your daily routine. If not, try another approach, bearing in mind that the fundamental principles of T, H & E, are absolutely essential . . ."

Personally, I find that the act of eating only half of what we normally eat is the greatest challenge, both physically & psychologically.

In contrast, I find MM Lee Kuan Yew's personal suggestion of eating up to 80% full more readily acceptable.

Nonetheless, the book starts off with a personal story from the author - about how his stressful job as a young cabinet minister while he was in his late 30's almost killed him.

The rest of the book contains his generous praise of & eloquent argument for water, exercise, fruits & vegetables, with some basic stuff on the science of nutrition.

There is also a FAQ that addresses the key questions that so often confuse dieters, plus a simple graphic record to help track your dieting progress. There is also a brief chapter on sustaining motivation.

Although there is no ground-breaking stuff, I find reading the book a light breeze, because the publisher has also deliberately interspersed many colourful photos, white spaces, & boxed selections, within the 120 odd pages in the entire book layout.

In the end analysis, it's a relatively simple guide on dieting, nutrition & healthy living.


"The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be."

~ Isaac Asimov, 1920–1992, American science fiction author;


This afternoon, on my way back home from the gym, I have spotted a young boy wearing a black T-shirt with the following cheeky statement as shown. The text is in white colour.

As I didn't have my handphone camera with me, I have taken the liberty of extracting the picture from T-Shirt Outlet, which is your online source for hip, hilarious novelty tees & gifts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


"We shall not cease from exploration & the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started & know the place for the first time."

~ T S Elliott, 1888-1965, American poet, literary critic; also Nobel laureate (Literature, 1948);


Does my current schedule allow me to be happy, fulfilled & personally empowered?

If not, what am I going to do about it?

Monday, December 1, 2008


"Have the courage to be ignorant of a great number of things, in order to avoid the calamity of being ignorant of everything."

~ Sydney Smith, 1771-1845, English scholar;


What do I stand up for?

What do I consider as "acceptable"?

What does the statement "good enough" means to me?

What do I consider as "intolerable"?

What do I no longer accept in my life?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I have just finished re-watching another exciting thriller movie, on StarHub cable television, involving the US Presidency, entitled 'Murder at 1600', starring Wesney Snipes as Harlan Regis, a Washington DC-based police detective, & Diane Lane as Nina Chance, a US Secret Service Agent.

Against the backdrop of a deliberate cover-up by the top echelon of the Secret Service, they eventually worked together to resolve an intriguing murder case involving a young lady in the White House.

Only towards the end of the movie, it was revealed that the President's National Security Advisor, Alvin Jordan, played brilliantly by Alan Alda, had a hand in engineering the murder.

Again, the witty dialogue between some of the principal characters in the movie has piqued my interest.

Here is one to share with readers:

Alvin Jordan: "A study at Harvard determined a person's longevity by the first thing they read in the paper."

Detective Harlan Regis: "I'm an obituary man".

Alvin Jordan: "Start with the comics, you'll live longer".


"Just the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown".

~ Carl Sagan, 1934 – 1996, American astronomer & author, who was world-famous for writing popular science books; one of his works, 'Contact', was made into a movie bearing the same name, starring Jodie Foster; in his works, he had frequently advocated skeptical inquiry & the scientific method;


I love to review books on Amazon as well as in my personal weblog.

Naturally, I am gratified by Amazon's recent recognition as one of its 'Top 500 Reviewer'.

Reviewing books just happens to be an unintended extension of my love for reading books, which is one of my favourite past times, in addition to blogging & exercising in the gym.

Frankly, I have enjoyed reading since the initial days of reading comics during the sixties. My reading repertoire has expanded exponentially since then.

For me, I take reviewing books as a disciplined exercise of keeping my mind intellectually active. It helps to sustain my senior memory in agile mode.

Frankly, I don't do a review of every book I have enjoyed reading. That would certainly be a gargantuan task. I will probably run out of life to do anything else. My selection of a book to be reviewed is often dependent on my fancy at the moment.

For me, writing a review requires that proverbial inspirational spark, so to speak. Oftentimes, I like to incubate the idea of wanting to write a particular review inside my head. I find exercising in the gym always gives me that luxury, besides jogging my memory.

In reviewing books, I have developed my own personal style. I often like to compare a book under my review with other books in the same genre which I have read earlier.

Recently, a fan who owns a networking website in the United States wrote to me with this comment:

". . . We've seen your work on Amazon, and are particularly drawn to your incredible sense of attention to detail in your reviews about books in the various categories that we found you in. Many people find your reviews helpful, and so congrats on being recognized as a Top Contributor on Amazon . . ."

Yes, I pay particular attention to details when I review a book. This is because, as a secondary objective of reading, I like to spot interesting stories, anecdotes, observations, quotes, exercises & even jokes, which I can make us of in my work.

I also like to spot new words or newly coined words or phrases to add to my power vocabulary, in addition to witty passages.

As I have mentioned before, I always read a book with a orange-coloured marker in my hand (fat tip on one end, & fine tip on the other) as I love to embrace marginal annotations.

Oftentimes when I read or review a book, I have my A3-sized scratchpad on stand-by to capture all the interesting stuff I have mentioned.

My primary objective of reviewing (also, reading) a book is innovation: are there any new ideas? new perspectives? freshness of perspective, if any?

In reviewing a book, I have to single them out for the reader.

Next, I look for potential in practical application.

For the reader, I probably have to highlight the overall applicability in terms of relevance & immediate utility.

I have to single out specific tools & methods &/or real-world case studies.

The question that comes to my mind is: how early or fast can I apply the good stuff?

Next is the writing style of the author.

The question that comes to my mind is: how readable? clarity of writing? crispness? conciseness? succinctness?

In this respect, I also look out for reader-friendly hands-on stuff, like elaborate diagrams or charts, self-study questions, reference checklists, end-of-chapter summary, end-of-book summary.

For me in particular, I like to look out for the author's bibliography &/or webliography, with appendices & footnotes, which readily allows a reader to explore the subject further.

Last, but not least, I look for the level of expertise on the part of the author, as manifested in his book under review, as well as his reported credentials. For me, I often use the author's other books which I have read before for comparative analysis.

That's why it is relatively easy for me to determine whether an established author has run out of steam.

Come to think of it, as far as my objectives of what to look for in a book are concerned, reading & reviewing a book seem to be relatively similar, even though I have mentioned earlier that reading & reviewing are two different things altogether.

I reckon the only difference I can think of right now is that, in reviewing a book, I have to defend my position about a book, especially about why I like or don't like a particular book.

Naturally, I do receive kind compliments from authors of reviewed books which I have enjoyed reading.

On the other hand, I do engender nasty bombardments from authors of reviewed books which I have made adverse comments in my writing. I guess that's the attendant hazard of being a book reviewer.