Monday, May 31, 2010

Under the sea - Dayang 2010

This was the way the sea and sky looked at Dayang Island just before we got on the boat for a dawn dive. Diving was pretty magical this time around and it's so hard to come back to Singapore from that. Plus the company was pretty awesome!

Have been bitten good and hard by the diving bug now and I can't wait for the next dive trip! It would be so much fun to do a leisure dive trip, no exercises and theory lessons, just dive and learn more about buoyancy and look for more interesting fish. Next up, Manado!

Oh and folks, do remind me to tell you the story of the trigger fish attack. It's a good one :)

Monday, May 24, 2010


Oh such a busy week but there's a dive trip coming up this Thursday so it's busy shot through with excitement and anticipation. Besides, it's almost June! ~hugs one self in happiness~

I'm going off to see the sister in the UK in June and I can hardly wait. I *need* to get out of Singapore. Hopefully, in between diving and the Lake District, by end June, I should have gotten the restlessness (and need for open spaces) out of my system.

I haven't seen any squirrels on my way to work recently so that photo up there is just for fun :) I heart my housing estate and its odd out of the way location, trees and suburban feel. It's sometimes difficult, transport-wise but that feeling of slipping away from the world at the end of the day is pretty magical.

I used to joke with my friends that I ate like a cat because some meals, I'd just be lazy and eat tuna out of a can and cornflakes with milk. Well I helped feed Mr Grey's cats for the first time last night! And realized that those tins of cat food look almost exactly like my tins of tuna - ugh. I hope I've never bought/eaten the wrong thing.

Any book recommendations anyone? I just finished a book by C J Mahaney and am halfway through Lee Strobels' The Case for Christ (not liking his writing style over much though)so it'd be fun to tackle something satisfyingly thick and rich fiction next(Alexandre Dumas? Dickens?). Otherwise, I'll stick with the David Wells books I've got.

Speaking of Wells, there's an extract from him below.

Christianity is not just an experience, we need to remember, but it is about the truth. The experience of being reconciled to the Father, through the Son, by the work of the Holy Spirit all happens within a worldview. The worldview is the way God has taught us in his Word to view the world. That is why the bible begins with Genesis 1:1 and not with John 3:16. It begins by setting out the distinction, as against paganism, between Creator and creation. It then lays out an understanding of God in His nature and redemptive works as well as an understanding of who humans are in their nature and in their fallenness. All of this sets the stage for the coming of Christ, for his incarnation, life, death and resurrection. It is on this basis that God’s wrath is assuaged, our sin is judged, our alienation is overcome, and we who are by nature unrighteous are made righteous in Christ. This happens only because of his grace and only through the empty hand of faith by which all of this is received. A Christian worldview, then, is one that rests upon a biblical understanding of the world, God, ourselves and the redemptive work of Christ.

-- David Wells


K, so that's all for now! Cheers guys (whoever it is who reads this space)! Am off to go look at corals and fish :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

What is my favourite song?

I don't know.

Apparently one year ago, when I signed up for my itunes/Apple store account, I filled that in as my security question.

When I forgot my password (yes yes I am that type) and that question popped up, I stared at it in horror for a full two minutes, taken aback by the depths of my idiocy - I mean, seriously, what is my favourite song? That changes every 24 hours!

*face palm*

Yes, of course I spent the better part of the next hour desperately trying to remember.

I tried all of these...

Beyond the sea
Fly me to the moon
Amazing Grace
Ave Maria
Symphony No 9
Walking on sunshine
I can see clearly now

... to no avail. Apple rejected me every time.

Why why WHY did I fill that in as my security question? Which alien descended from Mars, took over control of my body and made me do something as colossally silly as that?

*bangs head against keyboard and slumps over*

Friday, May 14, 2010

“Why I Write for Children” by Isaac Bashevis Singer

There are five hundred reasons why I began to write for children, but to save time I will mention only ten of them.
Number 1. Children read books, not reviews. They don’t give a hoot about the critics.
Number 2. Children’ don’t read to find their identity.
Number 3. They don’t read to free themselves of guilt, to quench their thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation.
Number 4. They have no use for psychology.
Number 5. They detest sociology.
Number 6. They don’t try to understand Kafka or Finnegan’s Wake.
Number 7. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff.
Number 8. They love interesting stories, not commentaries, guides, or footnotes.
Number 9. When a book is boring, they yawn openly, without any shame or fear of authority.
Number 10. They don’t expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity. Young as they are, they know that is not in his power. Only the adults have such childish illusions.


Extracts from his Nobel lecture:-

The storyteller and poet of our time, as in any other time, must be an entertainer of the spirit in the full sense of the word, not just a preacher of social or political ideals. There is no paradise for bored readers and no excuse for tedious literature that does not intrigue the reader, uplift him, give him the joy and the escape that true art always grants. Nevertheless, it is also true that the serious writer of our time must be deeply concerned about the problems of his generation. He cannot but see that the power of religion, especially belief in revelation, is weaker today than it was in any other epoch in human history. More and more children grow up without faith in God, without belief in reward and punishment, in the immortality of the soul and even in the validity of ethics. The genuine writer cannot ignore the fact that the family is losing its spiritual foundation. All the dismal prophecies of Oswald Spengler have become realities since the Second World War. No technological achievements can mitigate the disappointment of modern man, his loneliness, his feeling of inferiority, and his fear of war, revolution and terror. Not only has our generation lost faith in Providence but also in man himself, in his institutions and often in those who are nearest to him.

I am not ashamed to admit that I belong to those who fantasize that literature is capable of bringing new horizons and new perspectives - philosophical, religious, aesthetical and even social. In the history of old Jewish literature there was never any basic difference between the poet and the prophet. Our ancient poetry often became law and a way of life.

-- Isaac Bashevis Singer


If you begin (as you must) with God as the creator, then it stands to reason that all poets and the gift of poetry were also gifts from him - part of the common grace extended to fallen humanity.

But I'm even more sure of it when I read some of the more beautiful passages of the bible. The bible, as noted by one commentator, is a revelation of the divine mind and a revelation of the character and acts of God but the fact that this revelation has been couched in such beautiful language and imagery cannot be something of penumbral significance.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not a haiku

"A thousand years, you said,
as our hearts melted.
I look at the hand you held,
and the ache is hard to bear."

-Lady Heguri


... but poignant nonetheless.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Finding colour - the light of life

From Canelle et Vanille, a gorgeous food blog filled with light, colour and the love of life.


Eilonwy: Even if it doesn't happen, we're still saved and still going to heaven. I say it's a win-win situation.


Good definition for those who've always wondered:what on earth is worldliness and what does leaving the world and not being of the world mean?


Worldliness is that system of values, in any given age, which has at its centre our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and his truth from the world, and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange. It thus gives plausibility to what is morally wrong, and for that reason, makes what is wrong seem normal.

--David Wells, Losing Our Virtue: Why the church must recover its moral vision

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Something rotten in the state of capitalism

The weekend edition of the Business Times featured an interesting conversation with the economist Roger Bootle. Interesting because the Business Times is ... well, a newspaper about business and the economy although on weekends it deigns to feature selected restaurant reviews (usually expensive) and articles on fashion (also usually expensive).

This article was unusual because Bootle seems to be arguing against some of the fundamental premises of capitalism and economics - that is that society is best served when self interested individuals make rational decisions based on that self interest. His line of thought began when he went from a meeting discussing the outlandish bonuses to be paid out to the hospital where his wife was about to give birth. The juxtaposition between the remuneration of the midwife, who'd held his wife and child's lives in her hands and the work and remuneration that the fat cat City bankers were about receive struck him as being very very strange and a signal that there was something wrong with the financial world.

The reason I got so interested in the interview is because he's doing something I wish people would do more - that is - question the key premises and assumptions of economics. In some of the excerpts from the interview below, Bootle discusses how some of the basic assumptions of economics contradict the entire field of psychology and sociology.

Think about it - as a Christian - what does it mean when the entire field of economics is based on the premise of self interested individuals acting rationally? How does it square with the Christian faith? Shouldn't it at least raise some questions - or doubts - in our minds as to whether such a system could possibly coexist comfortably with Christian ethics and morality?

Where is the dying to self - so critical to the Christian walk - when your entire world is premised on one acting in a self interested and 'rational' manner? Could it be that the field of economics itself with all its underlying assumptions about human behaviour is antithetical to christian values and mores? Adding on to that thought - given that our world is now run by giant MNCs and governed by huge interlocking economic and financial systems - could it also be that in the process, it somehow undermines our humanity?

Bootle comes close to this conclusion when at the end of the interview, he talks about the need for recovering a sense of public purpose. He asserts that the older bankers in London had a sense that they were contributing to the society at large, that "the financial activity was there in order to achieve some purpose outside the financial world".

Link to the full interview is here. Extracts below.

"'So then I jumped on the train, went to the hospital where my wife was due to give birth later that day, and suddenly, amidst all these, I came across this nice midwife who was extremely helpful and dedicated. And the contrast struck me very strongly because what she was doing was extremely important in some human sense, and there was a woman who was completely in her hands, namely my wife giving birth to a child, and of course there was a child. What could be more joyful than that?

'And of course she was earning a mere fraction of what people in the City were earning. I got interested in this business of motivation, because I thought to myself, if you're a midwife, obviously it'd be quite nice if someone came along and gave you a big bonus, but what actually motivated you, where did you get your satisfaction from? At the end of the day when you went home, did you think to yourself, you know, I've earned another couple of thousands of pounds today. I thought the answer was no, and it really alerted me to questions of motivation, purpose and reward, and I came to think then that there's something profoundly sick about the financial markets"

"While some bankers profess to be doing God's work, Mr Bootle declares that much of the activity in financial markets 'achieve no good for society at all and, in some cases, may actually harm it'. Obviously, financial activity has its place and worth, but 'if you look, for instance, at the sheer volume of trading that's done in shares by institutional shareholders, who are supposedly acting in the interests of their members, you have to ask yourself whether that actually achieves a great deal', he says.

And one fundamental assumption of economics and economic accounting is that 'if transactions take place between freely consenting adults in a market environment where people aren't being compelled to do something, then the activity must be generating human welfare', he points out. 'And I've come to believe, more and more, that as far as the financial sector is concerned, that's simply not true; a lot of what's going on is just moving stuff from one place to another, one pocket to another.'

But society is obsessed by the business of measurability: 'If it's measured and it's called GDP, then we tend to assume it will be good, and so society is devoted to increasing this thing called GDP but that may not actually have that much connection with fundamental human wellbeing.'

Likewise, basic financial market theory assumes or asserts that if a new market springs up and trading takes place, something 'good' is taking place as the activity is meeting some market need.

'But what I think is becoming increasingly obvious is sometimes new markets emerge, so there is something that's traded, and because it's traded, then other people have to monitor what's happening to the price. Because the price is changing, then other people - mainly executives and companies - get concerned about what's happening to the market price, which makes the need for activity......

That said, economics is simply 'a very, very funny subject, very odd indeed', he declares. 'It's psychologically extremely weak. You've got, after all, a whole academic subject called psychology which is all about human motivations, how humans behave in groups, a huge subject and with practical issues on how to deal with people. Then you've got another academic subject called economics that basically says that human beings are quite simple - they're interested (only) in themselves and they just want more and more of this thing called enjoyment or well-being or money or utility, whatever, and they're like a machine, and they just do and do, and of course they're rational in the process of all these.

'It's very odd, really. It's almost like the insides of that other academic subject are just worthless, just thrown away! And now, economists are realising what behavioural finance is all about - the psychological dimension to human beings. Related to that is also the issue of groups. Economists and economics don't really have an understanding about groups - the only concession economists make to groups is they recognise they exist but assume they behave just like individuals and firms. In the process, of course, they're throwing away another academic discipline called sociology!'

"He adds: 'I think we need a system which quite consciously has a sense of public purpose. I've talked quite a lot to older bankers - you want to talk to them, get their wisdom before they die - and what these people tell you is they had a sense of purpose in the organisation, the sense that the organisations were doing something for the benefit of society.

'If you talk to older merchant bankers in London, for instance, people who worked in London before the Americanisation of the city, again, they had more of a sense of purpose - that the justification for what they were doing was something outside the world of finance. The financial activity was there in order to achieve some purpose outside the financial world. It was that that gave justification to what they did, it was from that they derived their pride and self-respect, whereas we've moved into a system where people derived pride and self-respect from their bonuses"