Thursday, August 30, 2007

law of diminishing returns

i'm no economist, so i won't pretend to understand it. my perception of this principle is rather simplistic, like this...

a tree drops 20 fruits a day, & if a man A collects all 20, he's gain is 100%. the next day, this tree drops another 20 fruits, but this time another man B joins A to collect them. if everything else being equal, each will collect 10, or 50% of the fruits.

assuming, each man only require 3 fruits a day to etch out a basic living, eg. 1 each for breakfast, lunch & dinner, then both should be happy because they would have their fill, plus 7 extra each as reserve. however, A might be discontented & felt hard done by, because he's so used to having all 20 fruits to himself ie. 3 for daily sustenance plus a massive 17 extra, but now his number has dropped 50%. even if a 3rd person joins in, each should still live comfortably with 6-7 fruits each.

now, imagine the men are doctors in private practice, the tree & fruits are the medical centre & patients, respectively. previously, Dr A gets to see & collect fees from all 20 patients. then Dr B joins the center & A's workload is immediately halved. but note, there is still more than enough patients for both doctors - 10 each, or 3 for sustenance & an additonal 7, for's extras.

therefore, i can't comprehend why A, who :
1) has a working wife & grown up children,
2) lives in a bungalow & drives a 5-series,
3) collects rent from several other properties,
4) lectures part-time at university, &
5) professes faith in religion,
is throwing temper tantrums a month before B is scheduled to join the centre, considering the vast amount of fruits he has accumulated during the 10 years that he had monopoly in the practice??

this is how i see the law of diminishing returns operate in private practice. or, maybe it's just plain maths : same pie divided by more people ------> less share each.

but Paul saw it differently :
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Tim 6:10

Lord, lead me not unto temptation. Amen.

note : law of diminishing returns states that, in a production system with fixed and variable inputs (say factory size and labour), beyond some point, each additional unit of variable input yields less and less additional output. (source)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

it's the boy's turn

even when the 2 kids are 8 years apart, they have similar likes, eg. fast food & school holidays, as well as differences, eg. the elder girl wanted to watch evan almighty while the boy preferred ratatouille. since the timing for the latter was unsuitable last weekend, i took the girl to evan 1st, while promising the boy i'd take him to the "rat show" another time. the wife's not much of a movie buff.

well, today that time arrived. since i got off early from work, i offered to take him to the afternoon show. naturally he was thrilled. i could sense his anticipation as we took the bubble lift up to the cinema, got the tickets & i suspect his joy was complete with the box of popcorn.

truth be told, other than the rat chase scenes, i doubt if he really understood the movie (he's 5). for my part, i explained that anyone can be a cook, & even he can help mummy in the kitchen. (in the movie, chef gusteau did proclaim that anyone can be a cook but only the fearless can be great.)

i think he was just happy go out with his meant, me. kids can be easy to please & a good animation movie (with popcorn) is a safe bet.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

man in the mirror

"if you wanna make the world a better place,
take a look at yourself and make the change."

how many can forget this iconic message from michael jackson's 1987 hit single, the impact of which was further emphasised by images of starving children in the accompanying music video?

it was this song that came to mind as i watched evan almighty last nite with the daughter.

after all, evan baxter was elected to congress on the premise that he would change the world. despite the mediocre reviews this movie got, from "almighty dud" (read here) to "mildly amusing" (read here) or even "poor" and "lousy"(read here), i felt there were far more important lessons to be learned than merely looking out for entertainment value.

somewhere during the movie, i thought i actually grasp the essence of the director's objective (other than the misguided wish to emulate the success of bruce almighty, fronted by the inimitable jim carrey), specifically the part where God explained to evan's wife, that he wished for man to work side-by-side with each other, to face & overcome world problems - in this movie, it's the destruction of the environment by greedy politicians. hence, the portrayal of paired animals marching up the ark. he hit the nail on the head when he teasingly asked how we can make the world better? simply starting with Acts of Random Kindness. whoa...!

i'm almost completely sold by the movie for its sunday-school-like intent, except that i still think "man in the mirror" should have been included in the original soundtrack. imagine playing those lyrics when evan was looking into the mirror as he tried to shave off the newly-grown beard. fu-yoh!!

oh, BTW, no props (planks, window panes, roof tiles, etc) were wasted at the conclusion of shooting as they were auction off to DIYs & hardware stores, with proceeds contributed to the conservation of natural resources, in line with the discourse of the movie. & the ark could soon be found at a theme park near you.

PS. i wonder if saving lives comes within the purview of ARK. hmm....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

defying the law (of physics, that is)

got home yesterday from a combined cell-group retreat at cameron highlands. 9 families were involved & we each drove separately, meeting at the bidor exit at the appointed time, for lunch. this stall came highly recommended by SY, one of the co-leaders of this trip, & he was not wrong, going by the saturday crowd.

we had to wait for 30mins before getting a table, but we helped ourselves to fresh deep-fried wu kok (yam balls) while waiting....

i ordered the signature dish, which is herbal duck noodles.

can you not see the ginger & kei chi among the ingredients for the soup? the thigh of the duck that came with it was fleshy & tender.

then it was on to the highway again, to exit at simpang pulai for the uphill climb to tanah rata. we know have arrived when we saw this sign.....

foreigners will surely wonder what "self pick strawberry" means.

yummy as this may appear...

......but unfortunately i'm not a fan.

after checking into our rustic english-looking bungalow...

....with a view like this..... was time to prepare for the barbeque dinner. with 9 families to feed, this was no stroll in the park, but by 7.30pm. the grill was running at full steam (or full smoke?)

doesn't this just get your stomach juices flowing???

of course, very much like anywhere else, if you have good food.... can expect a crowd.....

after singing some songs & sharing, it was time to call it a nite.

breakfast was at a hainanese stall....

.... where the owner was reputed to have been a cook at the royal household.

the lamb chop was recommended by SY's wife, & she's got it right.

then it was time for worship. i've always been fascinated by the implications of peter's walk on the sea of galilee (remember bruce almighty?) . was he steadfast? or, was his faith in God found wanting when it mattered most? i know God did not call him The Rock without a reason. there's a bit of Peter in all of us - enthusiastic, dutiful & obedient, yet when we lose focus on the Lord, we flounder. but nevertheless, as imperfect as we are, He is always there for each of us. story of my life.

lunch followed, at a nyonya restaurant.

i thought, after a western breakfast, i'd pass up lunch. however, the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.

was it my imagination, or did the veggies look greener & the taste fresher??

a trip to cameron would not be complete without a visit to ....

...the boh tea estate. but i have to mention that the drive there takes a treacherous route on the side of the hills, & at certain spots, it's a tight squeeze for vehicles to pass (pictures to follow later). i fear one of these days, someone's going to fall off the hill. seriously. the drive back kept us all at the edge, literally! it would be the 1st & last time for me.

some trivia...
...the hill was named after british surveyor William Cameron....
....but it was another Briton, businessman JA Russell who developed the tea plantation...
...Boh Tea (origin of name remains unknown) owns 4 tea gardens; 3 in cameron & 1 in selangor.

dinner was at a steamboat restaurant, & appropriately enough, it rained for the 1st time we were there.

again there were lots of fresh veggies...

then it's back to the bungalow for some games. i decided some weeks ago that i'd do a quiz comprising of a mix of biblical, general knowledge & entertainment questions. i also learned one or two things myself, like kids nowadays are well-versed in bible facts, & that it was NEVER recorded in the scriptures the number of wise men at Jesus's birth.

next morning, before departure, we were at the kea market... for fresh veggies, fruits & other farm produce. traffic was heavy & crowds thronged the street, confirming that it's the most popular market in the area.

although we all drove home separately, 2 other families had the same idea - to stop at bidor again for the signature dish.

fellowship is such a pleasing & fulfilling experience.

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." heb 10 : 25

Friday, August 17, 2007


a cell-group retreat should evoke feelings of solace & peace. a sense of proximity to the Maker. but i am experiencing more than that, like maybe a tad anxious & uncertain of myself.

that's because i've been entrusted with the dual responsibility of presenting the main message on sunday morning to about 25 adults, as well as leading the games/activities at night.

does "defying the law of physics" sound like appropriate inspiration for worship?

wish me well & God help me!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

a reunion of sorts

how long does it take to get a few guys together to reminisce the old times?

1 year, i was told. i was just informed last month that our rag-tag bunch of previously-voted-to-be-misfits-in-society have been planning since last year to meet in KL. apparently my friend KK has been working tirelessly to get the guys from s'pore, vietnam, usa, australia, & africa together.

they finally met on friday. i only joined them on saturday because of work commitment & apparently missed out on a sumptious dinner & a karaoke session that was somewhat a revelation. the highlight of the meet, the ultimate in male bonding, was a game of football where a bunch of near-fifties relive their glory days. the venue was at....

...Royal Selangor Club, no less.

these guys can really eat. just before the game...

.....they had capati, chicken, curry & beer. this was at 3.30pm & they just had lunch at 1pm!!

we planned for 7-a-side on half the regular football pitch, over 5 periods of 10mins each. after some warm-up exercise....... get the old muscles stretched & joints loosened, it's....

...GAME ON!!

in-between play, we resuscitated our weary battled bodies with life-giving....

(what else?) beer & 100 plus.

in the end, we toiled for a total of 70 mins, a feat we were all outwardly proud of. it didn't matter who won. i found it surprising that most of us, while clearly out of youthful stamina, still retained some of semblance of dribbling, tackling & shooting skills. even more remarkable was that despite the shoving, falling & tumbling, other than minor scratches & bruises, no serious injuries were sustained.

at the end, we could still managed a smile.

after dinner at bukit bintang, we decided to go for foot massage at one of the many shops that lined the street. it was my 1st time - & may well be my last because i found it an excruciatingly painful experience. how was i to know that the slim guy with slim arms could torture the feet? i want to scream &%$#@!* murder!! was he trying to tear my feet off at the ankles? i was later consoled by some who regularly do it, that feeling pain was beneficial to the circulaiton of blood. thanks for the valuable lesson - my feet did feel somewhat lighter after that.

the guys played poker till 5am, with stakes sometimes hitting RM500, i was reliably informed. i just watched aston villa vs liverpool on tv & had an early nite.

it was one last round of camaraderie at breakfast before it was time to go. we unanimously agreed that we will meet every world cup year (next in 2010), the same weekend as the final match. that way, no one would be excused for forgetting - only the venue needed to be decided.

Q : did i learn anything from this meeting?
A : yes - no one can predict the future.

how do i know? because RY, who fooled around the most in class, footed the bill for the dinner-cum-karaoke session & the 2-nite stay at the 5* hotel apartment for everyone. oh, did i mention that he is now deputy chairman of a public-listed company & has a flame-red ferrari and E brabus in his porch?

it's amazing what chocolates you can find in a box.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

tag : 8 random facts on 8/8

thanks, bengbeng the longkang guy, who tagged me yesterday & it's just purely coincidental that i'm free to fulfill my responsibility today. here goes....

#1 : chess was the only game i played well in school & i went on to represent the state. this....

....was the 1st of many to come.

#2 : i just love soya bean milk, an acquired taste from young. the wife makes fresh brew at least once a week...

.....& in between those days, i'll settle for the ...

packed drink.

#3 : i recently picked up doing sudoku puzzles.....

but i still have ABSOLUTELY no idea how to solve the ....

...#$&%@#! rubik's cube (& there's a whole family of them!!)

#4 : i love junk food & i always have a drawer-full.

i know it's bad for health yadda...yadda...but everything in moderation is OK, right??

#5 : i suck at art. i have no interest & zero talent. so, can you blame me for being outwardly pleased that this non-artistic gene skipped a generation when the boy showed some enthusiasm? he brought his colouring/drawing home today & proudly ....

.....stuck it on the fridge door.

#6: my cousins taught me to smoke (cigarettes, that is) during the long break after the 5th form exam. i stopped after i started coughing up yucky black (like tar) phlegm & i was nicotine-free by the time 6th form started.

#7 : after the 6th form exams, i got involved with church, where i met my 1st serious girl-friend. the relationship with her lasted 5 years - the relationship with God remains to this day.

& befitting #8 : when i was, i mean, much younger, i played football. the last competitive (albeit friendly) game i played was for my department against the orthopods...

...& appropriately enough, i wore this shirt...

..which i've kept all these years!!

(#9 : i'm a sentimental fool!)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

little kway teow, green tea ice cream & herbal chicken.

i'm so predictable.
everytime we go back to see the parents, it's the same routine. start out mid-morning, try to avoid being caught by traffic cops known to stake out at equally predictable spots along the highway, & make our way to the favourite kway teow thng (flat noodle soup) stall to buy lunch for the old folks. but i didn't realise until recently, that a few stalls away is one that sells kway teow kia, literally meaning little kuay teow in teochew.
this kway teow, as the name implies, is much thinner in width, & is served in black sauce gravy..... are the side dishes that go with it, namely...

the tau fu, full-boiled eggs & lean meat. apparently, this is typical teochew fare & will not find many fans in other states.

after having lunch with the parents, we will go hang-out at jusco tebrau city, where the 1st stop will invariably be a shop selling tea leaves & freshly-made green tea ice-cream.

this is no baskin robbins, but at rm2.50 a pop, it's almost there. after letting the boy loose at toy R us & the girl at the bookstore, it was soon time to leave.

the next stop - a restaurant that sells the most delectable herbal chicken.

you can tell it's been marinated for hours because the flavour has seeped into the tender white meat.

it comes wrapped in aluminium foil & we get a few to take-away - to be frozen up & savoured at leisure later in the week.

the only difference this trip made was that i got to meet an ex-classmate whom i've not seen (or heard from) for over 20 years. Mike is one of those rotund jolly guys who's fun to be with. those days i used to help him with maths, but his being a certified financial planner, i will certainly need his advice now. my, has he turned the tables on me!!

oh, did i mention that this is johor, the state s'pore's ex-PM Lee Kuan Yew once famously proclaimed to be notorious for shootings, muggings & carjackings? (read here). perhaps there may be some truth in that, going by recent media reports, but we were glad we didn't encounter any of those perpetrators on this trip (& i pray, never)

we were home safely that nite.