Saturday, July 4, 2009


While waiting for my wife just at the entrance of the Mango retail outlet in the Basement 1 of Ngee Ann City on Orchard Orchard, an alluring poster of the face of a woman, with rosy pink cheeks, suddenly caught my personal attention.

For a moment, despite the translucent curtain veil, I got the distinct feeling that she was watching me, in sort of a disapproving manner.

Actually, she was part of the shopfront display of the MAC Cosmetics retail shop, located just opposite the Mango retail shop.

Intrigued, I just took a digital snapshot of it. Upon checking on the net, the model display was part of the cosmetic giant's 'A Rose Romance' collection. You can go to this link for more information.


I took this digital snapshot of a jean retail shop front at the basement 1 of Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road, primarily because I was intrigued by the question.

Can somebody out there enlighten me, please?


Writing in his book, 'The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need - & What We Can Do About It', education expert Tony Wagner, who is also co-director of the Change Leadership Group (CLG) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, highlights the 7 critical survival skills — the core competencies which he deems necessary for success both in college & in the 21st century workforce.

They encompass:

1) Critical Thinking & Problem Solving;

2) Collaboration Across Networks & Leadership by Influence;

3) Agility & Adaptability;

4) Initiative & Entrepreneurial Opportunity Finding;

5) Effective Oral & Written Communication;

6) Assessing & Analysing Information;

7) Developing Curiosity & Imagination;

For additional information about the author, his consulting work & the book, please go to this link, from where readers can download, upon free registration, a copy of his keynote presentation, 'What Does It Mean To Be A Change Leader'. Even though it is targetted at educators, you can nonetheless pick up some interesting stuff.


According to a recent issue of the 'Health News' report, entitled 'Have a Purpose in Life? You Might Live Longer', based on a study by Dr. Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center & an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago:

"If you have a purpose in life — lofty or not — you’ll live longer. . . It can be anything — from wanting to accomplish a goal in life, to achieving something in a volunteer organization, to as little as reading a series of books. . . What this is saying is, if you find purpose in life, if you find your life is meaningful & if you have goal-directed behavior, you are likely to live longer.”

Interestingly, in the same report, & commenting on the findings, Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, has this to say:

"I see a number of people who have lost that purpose. . . Their health declines. . . It’s not clear (whether) there is cause and effect between a sense of purpose & longevity. Perhaps the longevity could be explained by another variable the researchers did not examine."

Napolean Hill was absolutely right in the 1930's when he taught about the definiteness of purpose, even though he didn't foresee the connection. So were Richard Bolles, Frederic Hudson, Richard Leider, & many others.

Definitely something worth thinking about, especially if you have yet to establish your purpose in life.

If you are interested in exploring your purpose in life, this weblog link of life coach Brad Swift is worth exploring.

Additionally, from my personal perspective, the following two consutancy outfits offer superb resources:

- The Inventure Group (Richard Leider);
- The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara (Frederic Hudson);


What does it mean to be ‘literate & educated’ in today’s knowledge-based digital age?


This beautiful visual display at the ground-floor front entrance of Takashimaya Departmental Store in Ngee Ann City is a very creative integration of the word/image of 'Sail' with the intended message to customers visiting the store, under the ongoing 'Great Singapore Sale'.


“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

~ Gloria Steinem, 75, American journalist, & social/political activist;

Friday, July 3, 2009


What have I learned from this experience?

What value can I find in it?

What will I do differently next time?


"In speeding up, we need to think smart, act fast, & maintain a regular diet of learning new brain skills for immediate application!"

~ Dilip Mukerjea, Learning Chef, Braindancer & Managing Director of Braindancing International, as he writes in 'Surfing the Intellect: Building Intellectual Capital for a Knowledge Economy';


"It is essential for the leader of an innovative company to be poised at the edge. It is essential to be sufficiently open to the needs & the thinking of those who challenge even the leader's thinking, & also the needs & thinking of those who need to be led. The real success of the company depends upon keeping the contributions of the two populations integrated."

~ extracted from the book,'Rewiring the Corporate Brain: Using the New Science to Rethink How We Structure & Lead Organizations', by Danah Zohar, with specific reference to the 'Willingness to Change: R S Moorthy's Model';


I have stumbled upon an interesting article, entitled 'Great Communicators Are Great Explainers' in the Harvard Business Publishing weblog, by John Baldoni, a leadership consultant, coach, & speaker. He is also the author of 'Lead By Example, 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results'.

As he singles out explanation as a key attribute of leadership communications, he also shares three ways to become an effective explainer.

1) Define what it is:

"The purpose of an explanation is to describe the issue, the initiative, or the problem.

For example, if you are pushing for cost reductions, explain why they are necessary and what they will entail. Put the cost reductions into the context of business operations. Be certain to explicate the benefits."

2) Define what it isn't:

"Here is where the leader moves into the "never assume mode." Be clear to define the exclusions.

For example, returning to our cost reduction issue, if you are asking for reductions in costs, not people, be explicit. Otherwise employees will assume they are being axed. Leave no room for assumptions. This is not simply true for potential layoffs but for any business issue."

3) Define what you want people to do:

"This becomes an opportunity to issue the call for action. Establishing expectations is critical.

Cost reductions mean employees will have to do more with less; explain what that will entail in clear and precise terms. Leaders can also use the expectations step as a challenge for people to think and do differently. Your explanation then takes on broader significance."

For me, I often associate the ability to explain clearly with the extent of one's own true understanding of the issue or problem at hand. It's the acid test of one's understanding, so to speak.

Here's the link to the foregoing article.


I have found the foregoing article in the 'Sharp Brains' weblog.

It serves as an excellent reminder for us to practice high-performance reading techniques, so that we can remember what we read.

The article has been written by neuroscience professor Bill Klemm, also author of 'Thank You, Brain, For All You Remember, What You Forgot Was My Fault'.

Here's the link to the great article.

By the way, here's also the link to the author's personal weblog.


The following preamble is certainly good news!

Scientists at Duke University have found more evidence that curcumin — a compound found in curry and other dishes spiced with turmeric — may help prevent the onset of dementia.

The research suggests that eating curry a few times a week may prevent the spread of the amyloid brain plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

As far as I know, curry is a dish containing sautéed garlic, onions, & varying amounts of spices like turmeric, curcumin, coriander, ginger, red chili powder, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, fenugreek, & fennel.

Among the concoction of spices, the most notable one is curcumin, which according to nutrition experts, aids digestion, & also relieves flatulence, colic, & diarrhea.

It may seem that all my Muslim & Indian buddies already have this delicious built-in (culturally speaking) defense against the deadly disease.

Readers can learn more about how curcumin affects the brain at this link.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


On the first day, upon arrival in Nha Trang in the evening, & after check-in into the small Red Coral Hotel, off the Tran Phu Boulevard, we all had a brief fresh-up in our respective rooms.

After a short while, we proceeded to have our dinner in a local restaurant known as Nam Beo.

Our dinner actually involved typical Vietnamese street-corner cuisine, as shown in the following photos. It comprised two offerings:

- rice vermicelli soup with sliced fish cake (the local Vietnamese people calls it "bun ca");

- shrimps as well as mashed green pea wrapped in rice dumplings respectively;

plus a sprinkling of sliced cabbage & other fresh green vegetables, & not forgetting the requisite dosage of fish sauce, for which Nha Trang is also well-known for.

To satisfy our sweet tooth, we - to be precise, it was only me - even adjourned to the next door shop, which served Hue-style (from Central Vietnam) sweet dessert, comprising mainly lotus seeds, French or other beans, as shown in the last few photos.

[Destination Vietnam Schedule: 3rd to 10th June 2009, with 3 nights in Nha Trang & 4 nights in Dalat]


Riding on our private coach from Ho Chi Minh City, in an easterly direction, to Nha Trang was relatively pleasant, despite occasional bounciness when rubber met some pot-holes on the trans-national highway.

We had deliberately started off very early - at about 5.30am to beat the horrendous morning traffic.

After about two hours or so into the journey, we had stopped by a small restaurant, Quan Thuy Tien, in a small town along the highway, Dau Giay, to have our morning breakfast.

To be frank, breakfast wasn't that exciting to say the least - only beef noodle soups or bread with fried eggs. Nonetheless, it served its intended purpose.

Closer to noon, we had reached the small coastal seaside resort of Mui Ne (popular among budget travellers), located about 200 km from Ho Chi Minh City, in the province of Bình Thuận, where we had a quick lunch in one of restaurants by the sea.

My wife, being the tour guide as well as budget controller, wanted to conserve our cash reserves for Nha Trang as well as Dalat. So, our meal was also simple, with steamed prawns, sliced beef rolled in rice cakes, plus some other eatable stuff - but adequate, again to serve its intended purpose.

Along the highway as we approached the city limits of Nha Trang, our coach had passed by many green dragon fruit orchards. Nha Trang is famous for this Vietnamese fruit.

Our coach - after almost eight hours on the road, so to speak - finally reached the Tran Phu Boulevard in the city centre of Nha Trang in the late afternoon.

Upon arrival (3rd June 2009), we had noted that the city was already geared up with banners & decorations for the bi-annual Sea Festival, scheduled from 6th to 12th June 2009.

Nha Trang, located on the west coast of Vietnam, within the province of Khanh Hoa, had reportedly been voted by 'Travel & Leisure Magazine' to be among the 'Top 29 Seaside Resorts in the World'. It's only about 450 km from Ho Chi Minh City or about 1,300 km from Hanoi.

Its 200 km stretch of rugged coastline, with three strategic bays facing the South China Sea, is endowed with gorgeous beaches, clear waters, fine white sand, & best of all, abundant sunshine for at least 300 days of the year, which makes it a popular weekend hangout for local residents as well as foreign tourists from around the world.

Actually, there are seven major beaches in Nha Trang, from what I had read:

- at the southend: Tran Phu beach with almost 10 km stretch (which is fringed along the entire length of the city boulevard bearing its name; several major hotels, restaurants & pubs are located within a few steps from the beach; the small hotel with spartan but clean facilities, which my group had stayed for 3 nights, was located on a narrow side alley, just off the boulevard;) & Hong Chong beach;

- at the northend: Dai Lanh beach, Doc Let beach, Whale Island beach, Jungle beach & Bai Dai beach;

At the Tran Phu beach, it's often crowded with people - mostly local residents - from 5am to 8am, doing their morning walks or exercises. In fact, my friend, David, took some dips in the sea during that wee hours, since our hotel was only a short walk away from the beach.

In order for the kids to enjoy safe swimming in shallow waters, we actually visited the Doc Let beach (about 50 km further north of the city) & Bai Dai (or Long) beach (about 30 km further north of the city, on the way to Dalat) on two separate days. Our photos of the beaches will be displayed in a separate post.

These two beaches are generally more popular among local residents as well as domestic tourists.

The kids really had a great time frolicking in the crystal-clear waters of the two beaches.

From the kids' standpoint, I reckon the most exciting destination in Nha Trang is the Vinpearl Land, a large-scale seaside resort located on the biggest island, Hon Tre (Bamboo) Island, 3 km off the mainland, with its adjoining large-scale amusement park.

Within the park, in addition to all the fancy & spectacular rides, like Evolution, which offers thrilling aerial rotations in 3 directions, there is also a large 5,000 seat amphitheatre, a 1,500 seat event hall, a food village, & a shopping mall, on top of a 60,000 m2 Water Park & an Under-Water World.

Access to this island is by fast boats, ferry as well as by a 3.3 km cable car system.

Despite the very hot weather - I reckon it was at least 37 degrees C - we had actually - for the sheer benefits of the kids - spent one whole day on Vinpearl Land. The description as well as photos of our excursion into the Disneyland-like park will be displayed in a separate post.

Obviously, Nha Trang, with a population of about 300,000, relies largely on tourism revenue, in addition to its provincial income from fisheries (with lobster farming as one of its predominant activities. Having said that, we had the opportunity to sink our teeth into some fresh lobsters during one of our beach visits!).

Nha Trang is fast becoming a popular destination for international tourists.

As a matter of fact, Nha Trang was chosen by Donald Trump's company as the venue for the Miss Universe 2008 Pageant.

Historically, Nha Trang is associated with French bacteriologist Dr Alexandre Yersin, a protege of Dr Louis Pasteur, who had discovered the city of Dalat, & who had also established the Pasteur Institute in Nha Trang during French colonial rule which ended in 1854. He died in the city, which today has a street named after him.

On a political side-track, Nha Trang is not to far away from a ragtag group of small islets known as the controversial Spratly Islands, scattered over some 400,000 km2 in the South China Sea.

Vietnam is apparently one of the adamant territorial claimants in the international dispute.

Political overtones aside, & to our chagrin, Nha Trang accounted for the biggest chunk of our total holiday expenditure in Vietnam.

In Nha Trang alone, we had spent a hefty sum of S$300+ at Vinpearl Land just for a group of 12 & another S$200/- for one sumptious lunch with fresh seafood - sorry, the crustacean species had got to take the blame!

Fortunately, as a counterpoint, the street-corner cuisine as well as quick meals in a handful of recommended restaurants in Nha Trang didn't hurt our pockets. Please find descriptions & photos in a separate post.

[More information about VinPearl Land is available from this link. Additional touristic information about Vietnam in general can be found at this link, from which the city map of Nha Trang has been extracted.]
[Destination Vietnam Schedule: 3rd to 10th June 2009, with 3 nights in Nha Trang & 4 nights in Dalat]


"It doesn't matter what you do for a living as long as you are able to do whatever you do very well. . . If you end up being a ditch digger, be a great ditch digger."

~ Bob Johansen, president & CEO of the Institute for the Future from 1996 to 2004, as he relates what his parents had taught him, in his book, 'Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present';

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Writing in the CBS, Robert Pagliarini, financial planner, wealth building strategist, & author of 'Six-Day Financial Makeover' as well as 'Your Other 8 Hours: Get More Time. Get a Life. Get Rich', shares his insightful perspectives about 'The Art of the Elevator Pitch'.

An “elevator pitch” is a concise, carefully planned, and well-practiced description about you, your company, or your product/service that your mother should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator.

Whether you are an entrepreneur with a start-up company trying to find investors, a recent graduate trying to find a job, a mom with ideas on how to improve the classroom, or a nonprofit looking for donations, you are in the business of persuasion and a good elevator pitch can help you sell your ideas.

But in today’s ADD information overloaded society, how do you gain people’s attention? The answer is to craft an elevator pitch, but don’t think “sales pitch.” Don’t suffer from “diarrhea of the mouth” - this is a phrase one of my teachers was fond of saying to his students (okay, he really only said it to me!).

An elevator pitch isn’t about cramming as much information into a minute as possible. A well crafted elevator pitch is much more about finesse. It should evoke emotion more than thought.

The elevator pitch has gained fame with entrepreneurs who need to quickly tell their story to prospective investors. “Give me your pitch” is a common phrase among angel investors and VCs.

If you’ve used part of your other 8 hours to invent something or start a company, don’t be caught off-guard. Follow these rules:

Six questions your Elevator Pitch must answer:

1. What is your product or service?

Briefly describe what it is you sell. Do not go into excruciating detail.

2. Who is your market?

Briefly discuss who you are selling the product or service to. What industry is it? How large of a market do they represent?

3. What is your revenue model?

More simply, how do you expect to make money?

4. Who is behind the company?

“Bet on the jockey, not the horse” is a familiar saying among Investors. Tell them a little about you and your team’s background and achievements. If you have a strong advisory board, tell them who they are and what they have accomplished.

5. Who is your competition?

Don’t have any? Think again. Briefly discuss who they are and what they have accomplished. Successful competition can be an advantage-they are proof your business model and/or concept will work.

6. What is your competitive advantage?

Now that you’ve identified your competition, you need to effectively communicate how your company is different and why you have an advantage over them.

A better distribution channel? Key partners? Proprietary technology?

What your Elevator Pitch must contain:

1. A “hook”

Open your pitch by getting the Investor’s attention with a “hook.” A statement or question that piques their interest to want to hear more.

2. About 150-225 words

Your pitch should go no longer than 60 seconds.

3. Passion

Investors expect energy and dedication from entrepreneurs.

4. A request

At the end of your pitch, you must ask for something. Do you want their business card, to schedule a full presentation, to ask for a referral?

Once you’ve written your elevator pitch, it’s time to practice it over and over and over. Make sure it flows well. Say it to family and friends. Get their feedback.

But what if you aren’t an entrepreneur? You still need an elevator pitch to concisely tell your story, attract interest from employers, raise donations, etc.

Invest part of your other 8 hours to nail your pitch. Use the template above to get started so whenever you hear, “tell me about yourself,” you can take a deep breath, relax, and wow them.

Here's the link to his original post in CBS

For me, the elevator pitch as suggested is an excellent way to fine-tune the intellectual output of one's strategic thinking process down to the bare essentials without losing the critical essence.

By the way, he has also written another interesting post, entitled 'The New ABCs of Success: Always Be Creating', which is worth reading too. Here's the link.

If you are hooked, you can even go to this link to download a free copy of his 76-page ebook, entitled 'Plan Z: How to Survive the 2009 Financial Crisis'.


"You have a choice. You can throw in the towel, or you can use it to wipe the sweat off your face."

~ Gatorade Advertisement;

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


According to world-renowned psychiatrist & gerontologist Dr Gene Cohen, writing in his book,'The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life', we can keep our brain young & agile with the following simple activities:

1. Play challenging games that stretch your mind;

2. Indulge in some hobbies or crafts;

3. Take up a course e.g. foreign language;

4. Craft your own autobiography;

5. Volunteer your time in the community;

6. Consider a new career or venture;

7. Visit some new places;

8. Organize a lunch or dinner discussion group for a circle of good friends;

9. Write letters or emails regularly to family members or friends;

10. Start a daily or maybe a dream journal;

From my personal perspective, I would like to throw in a #11:

Hang out with young children! They may sometimes drive you bonkers, but they do stimulate your mind with their naive questions & their seemingly unquenchable sense of wonder about the world!


In a nut shell, an autodidact is a self-taught person.

The first time I had come across this wonderful term was during the late eighties, when I had read Charles Hayes' classic, 'Self-University: The Price for Tuition is the Desire to Learn - Your Degree is a Better Life'.

To me, an autodidact is one who practises self-directed learning.

That's how the ball started rolling in my relentless search for understanding & executing self-directed learning.

Around the same period or so, I had also found excellent classics by learning guru Ronald Gross, namely:

- 'The Lifelong Learner: A Guide to Self Development' (published in the late seventies);

- 'The Independent Scholar's Handbook' (published in the early eighties);

- 'Peak Learning: How to Create Your Own Lifelong Education Program for Personal Enlightenment & Professional Success' (published in the early nineties);

I had found them to be great companions to Charles Hayes' classic.

In a way, all together, they had heavily influenced my personal decision to become a knowledge adventurer & technology explorer, as the foregoing resources present a complete set of myriad skills & techniques for self-directed learning.

Unfortunately for today, 'The Lifelong Learner' & 'The Independent Scholar's Handbook' are out-of-print & hard to get. A new edition of 'Peak Learning' is currently available from Amazon.

Recently, while surfing the net, I have learned that the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars has released a digital re-issue of 'The Independent Scholar's Handbook'.

Here's the link where readers can go & download it.

Nonetheless, I must forewarn readers that most of the resources listed in the book are already outdated, but the "do-it-yourself" stuff is still intact, & also applicable even in today's Internet Age.

Charles Hayes has once summed up best the pursuit of intellectual passion & being a free thinker, with this great quote:

"The caterpillar is condemned to crawl, but the butterfly has the potential to soar above with an all-inclusive view of the world. As humans we complete our caterpillar stage when we reach mature physical growth. If we are to soar like the butterflies, we must do so through the development of our minds."


What comes to my mind quickly when I think flexibly?


I am often fascinated by supercomputers.

This inadvertent fascination came about in October 1989 when I had learned for the first time that a human being, in the person of world-class chess champion Garry Kasparov, had "outsmarted & outmanoeuvred" an IBM supercomputer, known as 'Deep Thought', the precursor to the famous 'Deep Blue', which was built primarily for chess gamesmanship.

Our Russian hero went on to beat 'Deep Blue' on two more occasions, but finally lost in the end of the nineties, when 'Deep Blue' was upgraded with more powerful parallel processors with deep search/evaluation function capabilities/grandmaster tuning!

To me, 'Deep Blue' had won purely on sheer brute force, in terms of computation & evaluation & of course, memory storage (of all the grandmaster chess games ever played); it couldn't get tired; & it wasn't intimidated at all by human crankiness.

Recently, I came across the 33rd edition of the TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

Holding onto the No. 1 spot with 1.105 petaflop/s (quadrillions of floating point operations per second) is the IBM Roadrunner system at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

In June 2008, it became the first system ever to break the petaflop/s Linpack barrier. It still is one of the most energy efficient systems on the TOP500.

The question that bugs me right now is when will the supercomputer be smarter than us, not just playing a game of chess, but in terms of human ingenuity, imaginative exploration, & philosophical introspection?


"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort & convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge & controversy."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, June 29, 2009


While capturing this cute digital snapshot at the City Link underground shopping mall near the City Hall MRT station, two apt quotes came flashing through my mind:

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

~ Will Rogers;

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

~ Aneurin Bevan;


"If you only give people what they already want, someone else will give them what they never dreamed possible."

~ Saatchi & Saatchi;

Sunday, June 28, 2009


"When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices & motivated by pride & vanity."

~ Dale Carnegie, 1888-1955, whose thoughts & writings since 1912, starting with 'How to Win friends & Influence People', evolved from one man's belief in the power of self-improvement had spawned to a global performance-based training company;


The first night upon the arrival of my couple-friends, David & Jenny, & their beautiful young daughter, Vivien, & together with my wife & her vivacious girl-friend from childhood days, we went to the city centre - the locals often refer to it as 'Saigon' - to visit the Ben Thanh Night Market.

Actually, the Ben Thanh Market was closed at 5pm. However, the surrounding streets, often very busy & congested in the day, were sealed up by the local authorities to allow make-shift vendors to display their assorted wares, targetted primarily at foreign tourists.

[This is the place where you can get cheap knock-offs of branded goods - you name it; they have it!]

Also, enterprising food vendors with their wide choices of Vietnamese street-corner cullinary concoctions to meet varied gastronomical needs, all executed systematically on the spot in full view of customers.

After a brisk walk, & with hunger pangs looming, we decided to pop into one of the food stalls as displayed in the following photographs.

According to my wife, the prices were comparatively reasonable.

I noted that, despite the confined spaces, the cooks & waitresses worked furiously to serve all the eagerly-waiting customers, but with ultra-efficiency.

To our delight, my wife had ordered snails, clams, frog-legs, steam-boat, green as well as flower vegetables, pancakes with squids & bean sprouts, & glutinous rice-balls, which we devoured with relish.

Nothing was left in the plates or bowls. Even the dazzling array of complementary sauce concoctions was not spared. As all typical Singaporeans will agree - we just love good food!

After all, besides chasing the 5 C's & shopping, eating out is Singaporeans' favourite past time.

Our final verdict: sumptuous, yummy & value for money!