0020 – Amanat, good logistics and speaking Tamil

It’s been a couple of days or so since I last did a word vomit and I can’t let this die out so here I am again. I’ve been thinking about a few things- I was thinking about how I love good logistics, and how I’d like to re-learn how to speak tamil well, but today the main thing on my mind is the death of “Amanat”, the 23-year-old medical student who was savagely gang-raped on a moving bus in Delhi.

It is a sad day today, and I’m almost ashamed to be Indian- to know that I participate in a culture that has, in recent years, at least, objectified women and systematically oppressed them. We have a long way to go, as a species, and I can’t help but mourn the loss of not just her life, but her incredible fighting spirit. I hope her tragic death captures the heroic imagination of the Indian people, and that we come around and face the monstrosities within our own psyche. We have a long way to go before we can even think of calling ourselves civilized, really.

To talk about what’s been on my mind: I’ve been helping my dad out at work the past few days- every two years, there’s a religious Sikh festival held at the Singapore Expo, and my dad’s company is contracted to dispose of all the waste. (Vast amounts of waste!) This year, I was especially impressed by how good the logistics were- the garbage bags are neatly tied and then put in giant trollies, which saves us incredible amounts of labour, because now we can wheel the garbage from the garbage point to the dump truck. I’m reminded of Nassim Taleb’s description of the wheels under baggage, and how that simple “invention” saves effort for millions of people around the world- and how that idea took nearly 30 years or so to be implemented, because it simply hadn’t occurred to anybody.

I remember two years ago, and two years again before that, getting rid of the trash at the festival was an incredibly daunting affair- huge piles of trashbags, some poorly tied, food waste spilling everywhere… it was a bit of a nightmare, really. I find myself thinking about how little actual effort it takes to implement all these little “policies” that lead to far less chaos in the long run, and far less problems for everybody. And I realize there’s a certain piece of life-wisdom buried in there- if we take the right actions moving forward, we can always make cleanup much, much easier. I don’t do this enough in my own life.

(Immediately upon writing that, I think- how can anybody call a little food mess a nightmare, when there are people getting visciously gang-raped elsewhere in the world? And then I think about how, to have that thought, we have to have an emerging global consciousness of sort, and how that’s a good thing, and something to be grateful for, even amidst all the monstrosities and actual nightmares that exist. They have always existed, and while some of them have been confronted in the past, I think we’re starting to confront them even better today- of course, I might just be indulging in generational bias, generational hubris- every generation thinks it’s better than its predecessor. Well, I hope with all my heart that the next generation will be better than mine- that it will be more thoughtful, more compassionate, more caring- I think that’s a good thing.)

One of the labourers that helps us is an Indian national, and he works with me and my dad to get rid of the trash. He’s quite an intelligent guy, I think. I notice that my dad is very effectively bi-lingual. (Tri-lingual, actually- he speaks fluent malay, too!) It’s especially interesting to me to notice how my family speaks english to me, even if they sometimes speak tamil with one another. My dad and brother speak to each other in tamil most of the time, occasionally lapsing in english whenever things get heated. (That’s another funny thought/observation.) I think it’s because everybody knows that I just suck at tamil- it’s almost as if they speak to me english just to spare me the indignity of revealing how bad my tamil is. Even the worker guy tries to speak to me in english, which I feel bad about, because in a group of tamil guys, I ought to be fully capable of speaking tamil.

Then I find myself thinking about secondary school and how I always kind of resented having to speak tamil in any circumstance whatsover- I sort of resented the language, because I associated it with things that I didn’t like. I didn’t like tamil class, I didn’t like modern tamil pop culture (I still don’t, to be honest), I couldn’t yet appreciate tamil history yet (I love it now, I think a lot of it is wonderfully complex and beautiful). I also often thought of tamil as a dying, archaic language that would quickly become irrelevant and inconsequential, so I might as well learn english.

Somewhere along the line I’ve been starting to realize that tamil will definitely be around to stay for quite some time, at least during my lifetime and a couple of lifetimes afterwards. I realize, from my Indian/Tamil followers on Quora, that there’s a huge market/pool of tamil speakers outside of Singapore. Even in Singapore itself, it makes sense to speak good Tamil so as to reach out to the tamil-speaking community. It’s an entire target audience that I’ve been neglecting simply because my tamil sucks. I guess I’m sort of meandering around- the point I’m trying to make is, I would love to be able to speak good Tamil. I was actually trying to learn Spanish for a while, because I thought it would be cool to learn another language, to get another point of view in the world- but then I realize, I can already speak Tamil, so I might as well just get better at it! All the mechanisms are already there, I already have almost everything I need- all I lacked was a reason, and I feel like I kind of have one now.


0019 – scale of influence, redundancy

So I went to bed at midnight and I just woke up (at 3:45am) and I’m not sure why exactly that is, considering how sleepy I was. My eyes are still sensitive to the light (I’m squinting) and my throat is parched (drinking a glass of iced water) but I couldn’t quite get back to sleep, so I thought maybe it might be productive to throw out another word vomit before trying to get back to sleep. Here I am.

I’ve been thinking about things like scale of influence and productivity. I’ve got 434 Likes on my Facebook Page now. Is that impressive? I don’t mean impressive in the “ooh I feel important and it makes my personal ego swell” kinda sense, even though perhaps at the root of it, that’s what it might be- I’m more interested in thinking and talking about the amount of useful influence I can have on people, if that makes sense. I want to make a positive difference to people, and I’ve always thought- with distribution models being the way they are, why would we unnecessarily limit our audience? I’d like to reach out to thousands of people. But yeah, that sounds egoistic, so I’ll just stop at that for now. I need to figure out how to express that in a way that is meaningful. I honestly feel like the conversation will take on a qualitative change when there are more people invested in it.

I was thinking about my Singapore-centric perspective, and how I’d like to eventually do something with global impact. I love my country, I love our food, our lingo, our roads, streets and shores, but I’d also like to love the rest of the planet. I’d love to fall in love with another city or town, or several. I’d love to make a difference somewhere else. How do I know for sure that the place I’m born and raised in is the place I would be best able to contribute to humanity? I will always be a Singaporean at heart to some extent, because so much of my memories and cultural identity belong here, but what could I do for the broader global community? How can I contribute, how can I make a difference to a greater number of people? Are we limiting ourselves when we think local?

At the same time, it helps to have at least a local surge of traffic, that makes you look a bit better on the broader stage. God it feels like I’m continuously talking about impressions rather than depth, like I’m talking about the icing on the cake rather than the cake itself. Let’s flip that around- how can I produce the best content I can possibly produce? How can I share what is most meaningful, valuable and relevant?

I’ve been thinking about progress in the world and I’ve been wondering if we’re really doing everything we possibly can as a species (obviously not). How much faster or more effectively could we be progressing? What are the greatest or “highest-leverage” tasks or quests that we should converge on? Should we lift the lowest-of-the-lowest out of poverty? Focus on education? Women’s rights? On clean water? On disease prevention? Can we afford to focus on one at the expense of others? Can we afford to try and do all at once? What’s the best strategy moving forward, to resolve as many of those issues as quickly and effectively as possible? What is the path to a healthy world? Like, if you’re fat and sick, the first steps are- get hydrated, take walks, take medication if you’re seriously ill, nourish your healthy relationships… I’m sure there are parallels between individual human wellness and collective human wellness.

I’ve been thinking about redundancy and how wasteful it is when people have to do the same thing over and over again. Think about how many lectures are happening around the world in every single school, every single day, when modern technology would allow us to simply share the best possible lecture, over and over again, distributed endlessly. Why not?

There are a few educators who are heads and shoulders above the rest, and it is, to me, outrageously wasteful if their talents and perspectives are limited to a few, especially in this age. I find it sad when people with amazing talents and abilities and gifts to contribute to the world are limited by a lack of distribution.

The whole world should know and celebrate amazing people, and share in their gifts. This should be happening a lot faster, I feel. Our collective enterprise of human learning should be progressing at a much greater rate, with people sharing knowledge far more effectively. Right now it still feels like the main thing we share are cat pictures and cute videos… I want to contribute to a world where we share thoughtfulness, compassion and reason. I understand that these things will probably never light up our caveman brains the way sexy pictures do, but I think it’s worth a shot. We need more passionate educators- no, I don’t even think we really need more, we just need a better and more equitable distribution of the educators that we already have. We already have a lot of amazing, beautiful art in the world, we just need to share it better. We have an abundance of good stuff, but somehow the curation process isn’t moving as quickly as I envision it. Data is shared, but not information- do you know what I mean? People aren’t learning nearly as fast as we could be if we helped each other out, and made it a priority. It’s like we’re using chainsaws to chop down trees, but we haven’t quite figured out how to pull the chain and get it started.

I guess that’s a big picture perspective and the only way to really get moving forward on that is to continually and consistently put stuff out, share important stuff, and go back and forth from big to small.


0018 – internet addiction and an early night

Going to do a wordvomit before I go to bed let’s go. I sat down at the computer at like what, 10:15pm, and now it’s already 11pm, and when I’m done with this it’ll be 11:15pm. It’s ridiculous how much of a time sink the internet is- I literally lose all sense of time when I’m online, if I’m not careful. It is clear to me that if I am to proceed and be successful at whatever I want to be, I will have to place constrictions and limitations upon my web-surfing time.

I can accept this, because it is clear to me that restricting a little bit of freedom in this regard can and will most probably lead to a large increase in freedom in many other places. I need better habits and routines, and I think the damage control on this one could be the highest-leverage of all (second to “sleep well”- but my internet addiction and poor sleeping habits are both highly related. I sleep well when I’m not trapped in an online quicksand pit.)

What else is there to say- ah yeah I’ve been decluttering my stuff a little, and I’d like to get a whole lot more crazy about it. I’ve been throwing out bookmarks- that’s purely virtual stuff, I know, but I have all these accumulated plans and ideas and thoughts that have been just this huge burden on my shoulders- and they’re not even really responsibilities or anything, just things that “I’d like to do” or something.

I have to keep promises to myself, and every so often it may be necessary to break a few so that I can keep a few others. That seems somewhat contradictory but it’s a superior solution to “try to think you’ll do everything, get paralysed by choice, do nothing”.

I should always be doing something. Doing nothing is okay if I’m okay with doing nothing, and sometimes I love nothing better than to sit around doing nothing. But I think it’s important that that doing-of-nothing is a comfortable, peaceful and happy silence- not the sort of tense restlessness you get when you know you have something that needs doing, but you can’t do it, or you haven’t done it. Like going on “vacation” but being burdened with the thought of all your backlog work.

Rest should be restful, else it’s no rest at all. Work hard, play hard, rest hard, etc.

I have a huge list of projects and ideas and blog post ideas and stuff like that and I need to systematically go through them and eradicate whatever’s non-essential, and start making progress on whatever is good. I wish I could get more feedback from my readers than I do now, but that’s wishful thinking- most of you guys are lurkers and I have to accept that as the reality of things until I get much, much more established. The irony is, once you’re that established, it’s not that big of a deal any more- you know what to do.

Follow your gut, follow your bliss. Only way forward.

I don’t NEED to do anything, of course, but I really want to and I know what would make me happy and fulfilled. Tonight, that would mean getting a good’s night rest, waking up bright and early before anybody else, decluttering my bookmarks list, going through some of my notes to myself and transcribing them, maybe hit the gym and do some heavy lifting (god, it’s been so long since I’ve done any heavy lifting)

I saw a few old people today and I’m always really disheartened to see old people with limited mobility- when they can’t stand or sit or walk without assistance. I’ve seen videos on youtube of people who are 60 or 70 and they are FIT- they can run, they can jump, they’re in great shape. It seems to have something to do with musculature- it’s the muscular folk who do reasonably heavy lifting that last longer. This seems to be a fairly recent understanding, and not everybody seems to know this.

Lift heavy and hard to live long and well. I’d like to stop being skinny. It’ll require a total lifestyle change, so I’ll start with small baby steps stuff.

I have been taking cold showers every morning, I do my pushups and my squats. Really, I think my number one priorities after that should be to limit my aimless internet surfing time, and to go to bed as early as possible. It’s 11:10pm now. I’m going to set some goals for tomorrow before I sleep, so that I know what I ought to do, then I’m going to take a cold shower, sit in silence for a while and go to bed.

I’m in an interesting place right now. Not too hot, not too cold, I sort of know what I must do, and I’ve been sort of doing it, and things haven’t been amazing but they haven’t been bad, either. I think I just need to keep at it, make some minor adjustments along the way, and I have a feeling that things will start to look really good, really soon.

Of course, I could be inflating the possibility of any sort of good outcome. More likely than not, things are just going to stay the same. I’m noticing that I struggle more with these word vomits if I spend some time online BEFORE getting to writing. Writing should be the absolute first thing I do. Somehow my mind is clearer then, and more flows through me. Start stoning online and I’m sunk.

I wish I knew this back in JC, or in secondary school- man, I fucked myself over big time with my TV and internet addictions. I accept this, though, and I will try to make the most of it- I believe that I have some degree of perspective that is of value, I just haven’t fully managed or learned to adequately express it yet, in a way that is good and useful.

Did I say I was having difficulty with this? Nothing seems powerfully meaningful right now, but I actually completed 1000 in under 3 minutes. Perhaps this is a sign that I should start summarizing the previous word vomits instead of continuing forward. I’ll meditate on that thought and get back to you tomorrow.

cheers and love.


0017 – slovenly slovenly

Today I am feeling a little weak and naked and insecure. I have not yet showered, I have not yet brushed my teeth, my fingers still smell of the cigarette I smoked last night, one too many, I told myself 3 a day until New Year’s, then 0, but that was number 4…

today I woke up after going to bed too late, and lying in bed too long, and my hair is thick and long and unruly like a bangla worker’s (and I’m sorry bangla workers for profiling you, for saying it like there’s anything wrong with being a bangla worker, like the term ‘bangla worker’ means anything)… and there are ants crawling all over my table, god knows why, and it is a mess.

today I haven’t done my pushups, i haven’t done my squats, i haven’t finished my resume, i haven’t mailed it out, today i am wondering why i sometimes allow myself to fester in the filth of my own inaction and ineptitude.

today i stumbled upon the blog of a peer from secondary school and man he’s doing well, he was an officer in the army and he’s in a foreign university and his commentary gets lots of likes, and i do feel a pang of jealousy- man, that guy has got it together better than i have. at the same time i remind myself to be happy for him, happy for his success, we both want the same thing, him and me, we want a more beautiful, compassionate singapore, a more beautiful compassionate world, and jealousy simply will not do

today i’m tidy up my bookmarks because it takes less effort than writing new things, and they have been such a painful weight on my mind this past year or so, and maybe later today you will see a nice elegant post of bullet points and bold headlines about the bookmarks i’ve accumulated over the years, why i’m keeping what i’m keeping, what i have to do, elegant plans, elegant ideas, everything nice and tidy… both sides of me are equally valid, equally true, i am a mess trying to make sense of itself, complexity borne out of chaos seeking order

today i am a tall skinny indian guy, too skinny, bad breath from dehydration and a smoking habit that needs to change, thankfully no body odor, a ring on my finger and a thick clump of hair that needs thinning, an ulcer in the mouth, itchy, slovenly, gross

but i am equally me, later i will take a shower and i will scrub real good and i will brush my teeth until my gums are a little raw and i will scrape my tongue and i will do my pushups and squats and i will feel my heart rate climb and i will tidy up the mess and i will deal with life because that takes a certain element of courage

yeah well fuck your courage when there are people in the world dying of cancer, people with gangrenous intestines from having been raped with iron rods so forcefully that they were ripped out, and she still has the will to live, she wakes up in hospital, asks for water, asks if the rapists have been caught, is determined to make a fucking difference

i will not be down i am not down there is much work to be done there is no time to feel sorry for oneself longer than the context of 15 minutes 1000 words

life needs living

ought to be focused on other people, think about other people, think about helping, think about doing something that matters, serving others, make a difference, help, contribute, be a part of something greater, don’t be bored, don’t stagnate, grow, grow, learn, grow, grow

at the very least capitalize your i’s for god’s sake you’re getting unbecomingly lazy

well sometimes i like to be lazy… it’s funny that i’m talking about being lazy while i’m typing as fast as i bloody possibly can so that i can’t slow down (i had to slow down at that moment, lol, because grammar)- go as fast as i can so that i don’t have the time to stop and overthink about what i’m trying to say, go as fast as i can so that my thoughts spill out before i can censor them, and maybe then i can look at them afterwards and find out who i really am

but of course there is no i, there is no really, there is no am, tis all an illusion, useful make-believe borne out of the self-interest of consciousness

but anyway this too will pass and it’s just interesting to think about it and 50 cent and robert greene came together to say turn shit to sugar so hopefully that’s what i’m doing, capturing some semblance of a wannabe snapshot of a mind in a mental state that it wouldn’t normally like to be captured in because it isn’t particularly in its best interests

no it isn’t particularly in its own perceived best self interests…

sometimes what is in your best interests is beyond your immediate imagination, this is the problem with a lack of imagination, logic will not get you anywhere beyond what is immediately accessible, the best solution may require a leap of faith, that’s not religion or spirituality talking, that’s how science is advanced, that’s how everything is advanced, that is the science of complexity

the science of complexity tells me that what i think is best for myself isn’t necsesarily what is best for myself and that I should try random fucking shit just to see what happens

and then of course it’s important to be rigorous after that, to take notes and make sense of yourself

today i am a slovenly sloppy lazy guy but I have been typing with great fury and now i will do a few other things, take a shower, get my hair thinned and sort myself out



0016 – expressing the repressed, and art

Just got back from my run and am still in my sweaty shorts. Have a few things on my mind. The first is how so much frustration and ennui tends to come from being unable to speak one’s mind, to say what one truly feels, out of fear of persecution or some other form of social punishment. I think this is how some perversions and obsessions develop- not all, of course- I can only speak for myself.

What’s stopping us (me) from doing or saying anything we (I) like? I mean, I think I’m already opinionated enough as it is, and I can’t help but comment on almost everything I see. What is the point of such endless babble? I have a habit of actually reading aloud anything I see that is written in legible English- “Hock Seng Trading Company”, I’d point out while walking with my friends. Why? Why this endless thirst for words, why must something always be said? Isn’t the first rule “Speak only if you believe you can improve upon the silence”? I feel like I’m not enlightened enough to reach that stage, I am but a mere pupil, fumbling, fumbling, fumbling. I’m like a child that puts everything she sees into her mouth.

Is this sort of frustration the eternal condition of the wannabe artist? I don’t think so, I think we romanticize that. I’m sure we can struggle with expression in a comfortable manner- or rather, I’m sure we can embrace discomfort and grow to be comfortable with it. Or could it be said that, upon being used to discomfort, one should “try something else altogether”? Is that even possible? Can one truly be comfortable with discomfort? I  imagine not. I imagine people in war zones and emergency rooms will tell you that you get desensitized to the violence and madness, but there is always something around the
corner that will rip your guts out- and I think that’s the job of the artist, we’re  supposed to pursue that.

I suppose we get comfortable with that role, that our role is to pursue discomfort and do battle with it- we can embrace that role, and that allows us to be “discomforted” in full when the time comes. We all yearn to weep, to be overwhelmed… I suppose that is what
religious folk have God for. Even scientists need to have faith in the process that they have rigorously tested- the scientific method has worked for everything so far, yes, and we can believe that it will continue to work, but it takes an element of faith to believe that I, as a human being in the pursuit of any sort of inquiry, might have anything at all to contribute to our species’ collective knowledge, to our well being.

Sometimes I think I like to talk about art more than I like actually creating art, lol! But I think if I dig a little deeper into that I’ll find that it’s untrue, I like to talk about art because partially I have this delusion that talking about art helps you make better art… I’m increasingly being persuaded by the idea that this is untrue, and that the best way to make better art is to make shitty art. If you’re making stuff, then talking about it might help, but first and foremost it is important to be making stuff. If you’re not making stuff, all the talking in the world won’t help you. (Yes, I am oddly self-aware of how this begins to get a little blurry and hazy if talking IS your art, or in this case, writing- so if you make art about making art, is it still art? Everything is art! And nothing. And eventually you just give up and do and say what you believe matters.)

Speaking of art- now that we’re talking about it for some reason- I honestly do believe that genuine, real art is being created on the internet everyday. There’s a lot of art happening every day on Quora, and Reddit. Art is connection, art is magic, art is when people find themselves challenged and provoked, when we think and learn and breathe a little deeper. Art is when we break past the veneer and shields that we put up to keep ourselves from ourselves, and we discover that we are not discrete we are continuum. Art is wit and conversation and it should be alive. Museums are cemeteries-  it’s where art goes to die, preserved in a grotesque reaper-form. Art shouldn’t be static, it should be alive, it should be part of conversations, it should provoke and inspire us daily, at a human level, on the ground.

Actually I think that’s all I have to say at this point. 800 words on this particular word vomit. I went over 1,600 and 2,000 on a couple of posts so I should still hit my arbitrary 1,000,000 word target at the end of it all… #boliao



0015 – waking up early + smoking

Word Vomit: 1000 words in 15 minutes unedited

I was up at 640am due to natural causes. I had a rather strange dream involving the tacit witnessing of some unorthodox sex practices, but regardless I went to bed before 2am, and I woke up at 640am. I had several hours of sleep the day before, too- from 2pm to about 6pm, maybe, so I think I did get a full 8 hours of sleep last night. I do feel rather well rested. This hasn’t happened in months and it feels amazing. (I spent the last 30 minutes on the internet, though, and if I hadn’t cut myself off before that, things could have gotten ugly.)

I have with me an ice cold glass of water, as is my morning routine. My eyes are crusty and my lips are charred. My lips are charred because I was smoking before I went to sleep- I had maybe 3 or 4 cigarettes yesterday, which is fewer than I normally do when I meet my friends.

It occurs to me that, if I had started smoking in 2007, that I have been smoking for half a decade now. Wow, that’s a really long time. That’s 60 months of smoking. At 5 packs a month, that’s 300 packs of cigarettes, or 6,000 cigarettes. That almost seems too little. I suspect I might have smoked more than that. Maybe I can somewhat take comfort in the fact that it’s unlikely that I’ve hit 10,000 cigarettes yet. Maybe I don’t want to hit that number.

You know, there’s no way you can do something consistently for 5 years and not have it change you somehow, both superficially and at a deep level. It becomes a part of you, both good and bad. It changes you, in ways both good and bad (though I suppose health-wise you could say more bad than good, for sure.) I’d like to steer away from romanticizing smoking, but I’d also like to avoid an overly harsh “I am a slave to cigarettes” perspective either. I find both perspectives to be overly simplistic, brutish and ultimately unconvincing. I’d like to be honest and real.

How much right does a person have to talk about something if they’ve only been at it for 5 years? I’m more of a smoker than someone who just picked it up, but that old uncle at the coffeeshop who’s been smoking for 60 years, he knows some things that I definitely don’t. I wonder what those things are. I almost wonder if I’d like to find out.

The answer will always be changing, there is never a definitive moment, as far as I can tell. I do know that I don’t want to reach a full decade of smoking. I don’t think that’s something that I want on my life-resume. Half a decade seems about good enough. I have learnt most of what I want to learn from this process, I have met the people I’d like to meet, I have done the time, gotten the insights and perspectives, I can sit and meditate and reflect on all the 6,000 smokes I’ve had without smoking 6,000 more, I’m sure.

I miss fresh air. Pure fresh air. I’ve had it here and there, when I go a few days without smoking, but I get the sense that it can get a lot fresher if I let it. I also miss NOT having my lips charred and burnt. Smoking really fucks up your teeth and gums- I’m pretty sure my gums are actually beginning to recede, and my teeth are stained, and… I don’t like it. I don’t. I am not curious as to what it will look like 6,000 cigarettes from now. I have plenty of people to study for that.

I don’t suppose I will ever quit 100%, you know, and I don’t suppose you ever really can… maybe I will, I don’t know, these things are really silly and stupid and hard to talk about. Why do we pretend like we know anything about our future selves, why do I? (There’s an answer to that, I guess- we want to feel prophetic, we want to have power and dominion over our past and future selves in some way, but least often by actually putting in the effort and time to do the meaningful work that needs to be done).

My friend’s dad is dying of lung cancer, and the doctors say he has about 6 months left. He’s not a smoker. He’s a nice, cheerful and healthy old man, as far as I know, and he would chide us for smoking, I am sure. He lived a good life, and life threw him a little fuck you towards the end that he didn’t quite deserve- but life is life and trying to make sense of it in human terms, in teleological terms- is a fruitless endeavour.

He’s still alive lah so I don’t want to be too dramatic but I will carry him with me and I will think of him when I smoke. My dad’s over 60 and he’s been smoking for like 50 years and today when I was carrying furniture down from a friend’s HDB flat I recognized his cough from 4 storeys up. Cigarettes do something to you, they do. They change you. They whittle you. I think we do it because we like that, in a way.

I was hoping to say a lot more, to do a lot more, and maybe it will come to me while I run. But I got to head out now, I have 80 words to go and nothing much else to say except that I think I want to quit smoking, I want to make a change, and I have said this multiple times, always meaning it, and never, not at all, all at the same time. If I know anything I know that it will not be a dramatic shift but it will be a slow and gentle decline.

I never had much of a flair for the dramatic.


0014 – privacy, sexposure, doing the right thing

1000 words 15 minutes unedited donch read

I did something naughty last night, and I do regret it. I think. I was surfing EDMW and I found a thread about emergency contraceptives. Some guy had been having unprotected sex with his girlfriend, and was worried that she might be pregnant. The people on EDMW are a little merciless, and will exploit such situations for laughs- jokes like “Happy Father’s Day” and “quick, make use of the current christmas and end-of-year sales to buy baby clothes and other necessities” are quick to pop up. There’s some decent advice, too. The TS (thread starter) should have known this in advance- he has been an EDMW member for 6 years, and he should know very well what to expect.

So I joined in the fun, mocking him for his ignorance, suggesting that he get married quickly while he’s still in NS, so that he can get the $300 hamper that the SAF provides. I then noticed that he had a blog URL in his signature. I went there, and I saw his name, his school and his course of choice. Ctrl C, Ctrl V into the searchbar, and I immediately find his personal blog. On his personal blog I find out that he’s an Officer of the SAF. There is a link to his Facebook page, and and on his Facebook page is a photo of him and his girlfriend- and he tags his girlfriend, so I have a link to her page, too. I infer from her URL that she’s born in 1994, and I can tell from my mutual friends with her that she’s from YJC.

I could figure out all of this in a matter of seconds, because all of the data was right there. I didn’t have to think at all about how to obtain it, it came to me almost on its own. Without a second thought, I posted the information in the thread, “for the lulz”. It was senseless and mean of me. I took down the information a while later. To the credit of the guys on EDMW, they didn’t publicize or sensationalize the issue. I think most of them were just curious to know who the TS was, and what his girlfriend looked like, but from what I see, there is no harrassment. (Then and again, perhaps there are some people who harrass behind the scenes. I don’t know the TS personally).

That said, the guy is pretty damn stupid. He posted some very personal information on the forums themselves- I won’t go into the specific details while writing this, but let’s just say he posted some really stupid stuff that he shouldn’t post lah. Surely, if I hadn’t posted his (freely available) information in the thread, someone else would have done it.

But as I read his blog, I thought to myself- this guy is a human being, not a bundle of data. He’s a real guy with a real life going through real struggles and difficulties, dealing with NS, spending too much money. He likes Mass Effect too. I would’ve liked to be his friend. He’s smart but stupid, you know? I like thoughtful and articulate people in general. I would’ve liked to be his friend.

A part of me thinks- this isn’t heroism, Visa, this is villainy. You didn’t have to do this. You were seeking cheap approval from the mob, that just wants to see people being torn down. Your curiosity for information and gossip was satiated when you saw the pictures of the couple, why did you have to share it?

I realize, from contemplating the issue afterwards, that there was a superior alternative to the path I took. What I should have done is- I should have PMed him personally to warn him. I should have told him about my findings, and how easily I found them, and how he ought to protect himself and his loved ones by being a little more careful with his data, by not throwing around his username and his real name so easily. (Well- I personally use my real name everywhere on the internet, and everything is traceable back to me, but I don’t write about anything that might potentially get me or my loved ones in trouble. I think. Haha.)

So there’s two things to talk about here. The first is- how should I carry myself on the internet? The second is, what should I do with other people’s data on the internet?

This isn’t the first time this happened. There was a girl from VJC (now NTU)- a pretty, articulate girl who made a YouTube video to communicate her linguistic abilities, as a potential tutor. She had the quintessential “good girl” vibe about her- prim, proper, etc. I watched the video (which is in the public domain). I can’t remember how I found it- I think someone else was sharing it on Facebook, but the focus was just on “wah, this tutor pretty ah” or something like that. I noticed she made a quip about “emphasizing the oral skill”, and I went to town with that, making innuendos all over the place. Somehow it just sort of caught fire from there- I got tonnes of Likes and Shares, and views on her video were skyrocketing.

I then received a PM from a friend of hers about what an asshole I was for doing what I did. I agreed with her assessment, apologized, wrote an apology to the girl herself, took down the link to the video (she took down the video altogether).

As I think about it months later- what should I have done? The two of us have a lot of mutual friends, though we’ve never met and we don’t know each other directly. It’s an inherently political situation- and political situations have to be dealt with. If I may, I do think both the girl and her friend were full of shit- I didn’t TECHNICALLY do anything wrong, and she was pleading a sort of ignorance that was inconsistent with the sort of media-savvy life she lives in (pretty girl in classy, sexy dresses pretending she doesn’t know anything about sexual innuendos- really?), and her friend was attacking me with such vigor and fervour that I was tempted to retaliate- but I will acknowledge this- whether or not I had any right to do or say whatever I did, responding like a little bitch to claims of hurt and injustice would make me the asshole they insinuated I was. So I swallowed my pride and did the right thing- I gave the sincerest apology I could muster. And I am genuinely sorry if she felt any pain or suffering or received any harassment because of my actions- causing hurt is the last thing I would ever want to do.

Both with this girl and the previous guy, in both cases, their information is publicly available, it’s just that nobody prior to me seemed to have bothered to really pounce on it and extract the maximum lulz value out of it. I honestly thought, in both cases, that it would be lots of good-hearted fun. Naturally, in both cases, it could potentially lead to some horrible harassment and objectification. My “defense is”- I personally try my best to avoid harassing or objectifying people, but I don’t really owe you anything. You put your stuff in the public domain, I have every right to do whatever I like with it, no? As long as I don’t defame you, tell lies about you, etc.

BASICALLY– I respect you as a human being but at the same time if you’re posting stuff that I find silly, stupid or questionable, I feel like I ought to have the right to call you out for it, at your expense. I’m personally consistent about this- I have had people call me out on my bullshit, and I’ve been insulted and attacked for my mistakes. I don’t want to turn into an abusive person who abuses because he/she was abused. I don’t want to be abusive, period. But I don’t want to have to be saccharine-sweet-nice, either. I want to be real. I guess it’s a matter of degree, and tact. I ought to take people down to the mat in a friendly, respectful and supportive way, and help them up after- instead of giving them a brutal takedown and then teabagging them afterwards so that “they learn”.

I do understand and acknowledge that the honourable high road to take is to speak to you privately about it, and I do realize that a lot of the people I respect and admire publicly frown upon such “calling out”, and so I think I have had my behaviour adjusted through socialization, whether I like it or not.

So my question to myself is- while I’m aware of a “more honourable path” or a “more noble path”, should I take it simply because it’s more noble, simply because it’s the right thing to do, because I want to be perceived as lofty and ideal rather than base and corrupt? But what if base and corrupt IS to some degree what I am? Going through the trouble to be some sort of noble white knight- that seems to be somehow pretentious, false, overly political.

I haven’t made up my mind about all of this. I want to be honest and true, without pretending to be someone I’m not. At the same time, I do want to take a noble and honourable path- but I want to take it because I believe I should, not because of social or political pressure to do so.

Honestly, I can never pretend to be apathetic. I care too much about everything. The most I can do is to choose to focus on the things that I consider most important of all, and then the rest will have to be displaced out of necessity.

OH YEAH- privacy is a fucking illusion and we should stop pretending we have any of it whatsoever. People WILL know everything about us, if they don’t already. This is the reality of the situation. Lots of people don’t seem to acknowledge this, and the people who do acknowledge this have to make concessions for the people who don’t.

The political game remains what it always has been. We’ll just have to learn to play it better. I will do it, but I sincerely refuse to compromise my personal integrity.


0013 – notes to self, websiting for others (sharing useful info)

word vomit 1000 words 15 minutes unedited

Just woke up. I swear, I woke up at 8am, or 8:15 or so- I remember looking at the time on my phone and being rather impressed with myself. And then somehow I went back to sleep. I fell asleep onto my open phone, and it is a testament to the durability of old phones that it didn’t break. (It’s an old samsung flip phone). Now it’s 11:22am. I’m bothered that I “wasted” 3 hours, but I’m rather well rested, and I did ultimately fall asleep at about 3am. If I had slept at midnight, perhaps I would have woken at about 5am, fell back asleep and woken up at 8am. Can’t be sure! Need to test these things carefully. Waking up early is so much better than going to bed late, yet for some reason the latter habit seems easier to cultivate.

Once again I’ve sat down and gotten started without planning what to write. My mind draws a blank. Last night I was doing some decluttering, throwing out large stashes of paper. I’ve also been working on “distilling” my notebooks- I’ve written hundreds of little notes to myself across about 10-20 notebooks over the past couple of years, and I’ve been meaning to kind of consolidate everything that I find relevant or important so I can get rid of them. A friend of mine would say- that’s just living in the past, you’re wasting your time and you’re being self-indulgent- and I can’t disagree, he’s absolutely right. At the same time, I feel like it’s something I really need to do. I grew up with little appetite or habit for self-reflection, I’d just coast along and do whatever is convenient at each step of the way. I’m terrible at taking people’s advice, and I used to think quite highly of myself… so I think the thoughts and reflections I have had would be useful to me, because I should certainly take my own advice, no? That’s what it’s all about.

I have to avoid the trap of living in the past, of course. The pareto principle comes into play- 80% of the value will come from 20% of the time. So there’s no need to obsess about it. Just get it over and done with quickly, then discard it and live well.

-stretch- I was thinking about this- when I was a kid, I had a website. It was quite pretty and elegant. I can still remember what it was like. I developed a lot of my design aesthetic from putting up websites- I wanted them to be easy to navigate, simple, not too cumbersome. I kept things black, used white text, but I avoided the overly stark/dramatic thing with a subtle white-stars background. It was very tasteful, I swear! It’s interesting for me to think about what I used to write about. After all, I was a child, I didn’t have any insights worth sharing, I didn’t really have an opinion on anything. The main content I had were jokes and games. That’s the interesting part. Somehow, at that time, my only intention was to have a cool website that people would go to- and so it may seem that I wanted to create a pleasant and useful web experience for people, and so I shared things that might have been interesting or useful- jokes, games. I had a guestbook, a counter, little things like that. I think I had an “About Me” page where I wrote about my life. I had a poem on the front page. I find it deeply tragic, on hindsight, that I didn’t save copies of that site, and that I lost my diary-x blog afterwards.

Diary-X was an interesting time, because I remember there was a period of time where I would blog every single day. EVERY single day, and it was always maybe 400-800 words or so. I would just talk about life, I think. I remember blogging about playing GTA3, and about how annoying it was when other people “copied” the way I wrote my MSN name (that was one of my earlier experiences with pissing off my friends by being a self-important prick). I remember that I copied the design from another person’s diary-x, and she wrote to me to scold me for it, and I apologized and we became friends and I ended up getting to know a lot of her friends, too. Somehow those things felt a little more special before social media really kicked off- those were the days when friendster seemed like a new and exciting thing.

It’s interesting to think about how, when Facebook was suggested, it seemed like a silly idea to investors, but now it’s become such a dominant, powerful force that it’s going to rewrite history, and when we look back at it in the future, it’s going to seem almost logically inevitable. Have I written about this already? Brr.

Thinking back about my original website- I wonder why I haven’t gotten around to embracing that games-and-jokes philosophy again. Somehow back then I wrote with a very clear sense that my website was meant to make other people happy, to give other people a pleasant and memorable experience of some sort, and I kind of lost that along the way as I developed an ego and sense of self. It’s really interesting to try and put myself into that mind again- I remember I would show off my site to anybody who’d look at it, so it’s not like I was some sort of altruistic service provider or anything. Still, the point of all this is- I’d like to return to that sort of service-providing mindset. How can I make my website useful, interesting and valuable to you? Because if it’s not useful to you, it’s a bit too much of a circlejerk (or a self-jerk, really) for me to find it particularly fulfilling.

Well, here’s another data point of proof that you CAN write a thousand words with absolutely no idea of what to write about, as long as you get started. I’m going to post this, check Facebook, shower and get around to transcribing more stuff, and maybe do my 90 weeks thingum. Oh yeah and I have an article for Poached to finish up.


0012 – improvised, internet addiction, thinking vs. doing

Word Vomit 15 minutes 1000 words unedited

Well let’s get one over and done with without thinking too much about it. I think this is the first word vomit I’m doing where I didn’t even have the slightest inkling of what I was going to write about before I started writing. I don’t plan out my vomits, of course, but I typically have an idea, motif or theme that occupies my mind before I get started. This time I don’t have one, so I suppose the natural trick is to begin by observing my present state, and then ruminate about it.

What’s interesting is how the internet numbs you. You spend some time on it and it numbs you, you stop thinking in a certain way. You take in information, yes, but there’s a certain process loop that takes priority- and what happens is that you forget about what you want to do, you forget about what you want to create. It’s quite scary, actually.

Sometimes I watch my girlfriend or my mother use the computer and I get a little disturbed by how intent they are on what they’re doing. Same for watching little children with iPads or iPhones. But then I realize: I’m no different. In fact, if I could watch myself, I’d be shocked, because I’m much worse than any of these other people. I have a debilitating internet addiction and I often don’t even acknowledge it. When I do acknowledge it, I don’t do much about it.

So how do you deal with something like that? Cold turkey is one way, I suppose, but that seems a bit excessive. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater again. There is much good to be had online as long as you remain in control, and you’re the one who decides what you do, how much time you spend, what you pursue, so on and so forth.

I have all these nagging little commitments that I haven’t done enough about because they seem to have such high “activation energies”- but really, all you need to do is to get started. I’m such an irresponsible person.

I was reading Taleb’s Antifragile (someone emailed me and subtly pointed out that I talk a lot about Taleb, and it’s kind of annoying. I acknowledge this. I need to start reading other things) and he made a dichotomy that made me think, even though I’m not entirely comfortable with it- he describes how there are talkers and doers, and people who are really good at talking tend to be really bad at doing, and vice versa. At face level, I find that distinction a little insulting- of course there are people who are good at both, and learning how to communicate your effectiveness makes you more effective, surely?

I think about how the best way to learn something is to teach it to others. At the same time, there are all these stories of these incredible geniuses who simply couldn’t communicate with anybody else because their internal language was so unique, unorthodox, sometimes even flawed- these negative things would (while being destructive, inconsistent, etc) create things of positive value. Sometimes your mental illness or colour-blindness or some other sort of disorder might be terrible for you, but great for your art. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should seek out suffering just to better your art. You should just seek to better your art.

But it made me grapple with an uncomfortable question, which is- if thinking (and/or talking) and doing are largely separate, isn’t it clear that I’m largely better at former, and pretty damn bad at the latter? I mean hey, I suck at getting out of bed, I do. I wish I didn’t. What is this a problem of? Willpower? Design? A raw “fuck it just do it” sort of thing?

I’ve gotten good at taking cold showers every morning, doing my pushups and squats. I guess I just need to take the next step and do something else productive immediately afterwards. Read, meditate, write. It’s the going online without a directed purpose that fucks me up. Nobody should go on the internet just to pass time without knowing what they’re doing. Nobody should just randomly pop on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Quora etc “just because”, until they’ve accomplished whatever they set out to accomplish each day, because those are massive time-sinks that will just swallow you up whole, unless you have a sort of discipline and willpower that I certainly don’t have. Could they be cultivated? I certainly intend to find out.

I was hoping for 2012 to be particularly special and insightful and I do think I’ve learnt quite a lot, and I’ve experienced quite a bit, and I’ve become a better person for myself and for the people around me, but there’s still so much to learn, still so much to do- and it’s not like I have a lot of things to learn- there ARE a lot of things out there to learn, but if I could, I’d just focus my learning on a few points. I need to learn how to focus, I need to learn how to say no, I need to learn how to recover from falling off wagons, and I need to design checks and balances into my routines… I keep thinking “I can’t wait for next year where everything’s going to be awesome”, but that’s not a healthy way of thinking- I should focus on the here and the now, and I should go and shower and then maybe have a smoke and then I should do more writing and finish up my resume and tidy up my blog and declutter my room and it’s really funny how a large number of activities can become chronically paralyzing.

It’s funny how I started out without any idea of what I was going to write about but I’m finishing this word vomit with 2.5 entire minutes to go. It’s funny to think about how, if this is the 12th word vomit, then I have spent 12 x 15 minutes, or 3 hours engaged in INTENSE WRITING- every second spent writing, no time to stop, no time to alternate-tab and surf the internet, writing writing writing WRITING. I’m guessing that’s the sort of hours that you have to put into the 10,000. So while we’re at 12/1000 for word vomits, we’re realistically at 3/10,000 for hourly expertise. That discounts all the hours I’ve spent before I started this… but you know what, I don’t actually feel daunted by it, I’m not intimidated, scared or helpless- when I look at these numbers, I go fuck yeah, bring it on.

Now this is how you start your day, motherfucker, not by surfing reddit or cracked. Showertime.

EDIT: I just popped by my Google Reader and I found an article by zenhabits’ Leo Babuta: The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do. That was almost creepy in its relevance.


0011 – I’d like to travel

word vomit 1000 words in 15 minutes no editing

Thing on my mind right now, oddly, is travelling. I’m walking around my house thinking about how familiar everything is. I went to the toilet to take a piss- and my living room and kitchen are in absolute, utter darkness because the prayer altar is off (God doesn’t visit your house when there’s a death in the family, or something like that- mother’s uncle passed away) and it’s interesting how I’m able to navigate it anyway, because it’s so familiar to me. I know my house inside out. No surprise there, I guess. I went to Al Salam in Tampines for the first time in a long time, and it’s amazing how familiar it all is. Everything. I mean, we can look at this at so many different scales. Singapore itself is so beautifully familiar when you come back after you travel.

I went on cruises as a kid, and I went to India with my parents a couple of times to visit my grandparents, but none of those experiences mattered very much. The travel experiences I explicitly remember are the times I’ve travelled either with friends, or with the missus. I think there’s something about travelling when you need to be responsible for yourself that puts you on extra “high alert”- and I imagine you don’t quite experience that as a tourist on package deals, because you’re kind of insulated from the world- the world presents itself in front of you, but it’s safe- you don’t need to directly immerse yourself into the local culture. My idea of travelling is going to coffeeshops and having conversations with locals.

I’m not like an obsessive die-die-want-to-travel sort, but there are a few things I’d really like to do. Interestingly, the things on my mind are- I want to go to New York to experience the sort of intensity that exists there. Maybe I’d like to visit Silicon Valley, but I have no real reason to, and I’m not particularly a techie anymore, so I’m not sure why- maybe because I’d like to visit the people on Quora. Yeah, I’d like to go on a roadtrip visiting Quorans. I’d also really like to take a long drive down the seaside highway in Australia. These are the things that kinda top my travel list. I’d also just like to travel and backpack around for the joy of it- Cambodia, Thailand- they’re all pretty nearby. I’m thinking, I want to do this because I want to see what happens to me, I want to know who I am when I’m outside of my comfort zone. I know, ultimately there’s only one journey, and it’s within yourself- one of the most amazing experiences I had this year was doing standup comedy. It was something always on my mind, somewhat, and I finally did it, and it was amazing. I felt so alive. I want to feel that alive as much as possible, all the time. I want to be happy and engaged and alive. I don’t think this will be a magic solution to my problems or anything, and I too am a little bit suspicious of living-by-a-bucket-list, but I think there’s a middle ground to be achieved.

Put more simply, I really don’t like the idea of living in today’s globalized world, but only having been born and raised in Singapore, and maybe travelling like a tourist to other countries. I’m not interested in going to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower to take pictures and post them onto Facebook. I’m more interested in say, learning Muay Thai in Thailand, and playing in a band in the UK or something. That sort of shit. I want to immerse myself in humanity and see more of it- I can’t shake the feeling that my experience is awfully limited. I would like to try some mind-altering experiences, as long as it’s safe and controlled. I just do,

I think it’s a shame to NOT experience as much of the spectrum of experience that life has to offer you.

This is my 11th word vomit, I think, and it’s interesting to see how my mind is working now. I won’t pretend to know what’s going on, and I’m not going to theorize too much about it- but it does feel like the initial “dirty water” has been hosed out and what’s coming out now is a little more “clean” or “pure”. Or maybe I’m just making that up to fit the narrative I’ve crafted for myself. Either way. It’s still interesting.

What else. I’ve been meaning to do monthly summaries, and I was kind of thinking of doing one for December 2012 in the form of a Word Vomit- or maybe I’ll do all of them this way. The plan isn’t to make a big deal out of it or anything- it’s just to have some reference material when looking back at my life- I want to be able to do battle against the narrative bias in my head. If you keep a monthly account of your life (without spending too much time on it, of course, because living your life should be a greater priority than chronicling it), I believe that you will capture elements that you will otherwise miss if you simply use hindsight recollection.

At several points in my past- once I wanted to go to Oxford, at some point I wanted to go to SAJC, at some point I wanted to go to Poly, NTU Mass Comm, then NUS FASS, then SMU Social Science, then I started going sour-grapes on the whole thing. At some point I wanted to ditch everything and tour with a rock and roll band, however that was to be accomplished… the point I’m making is, we tidy up our narratives on hindsight, but that doesn’t give us the whole picture… I want more of the picture. I want more of the experience. At the same time, I want to NOT fall into the trap of obsessing with more-more-more to the point where having things or acquiring experiences like notches on a bedpost becomes a priority over the actual joy of experience, of life.

I think there is a balance to be had between a sort of goal-setting and a goal of no goals, a kind of worldliness and a kind of ascetic zen, a kind of discipline and a kind of freedom. It will take time to emerge but I am developing the idea very organically, very naturally.