When I made that other decision…

… to study plants in 2007, the colour green (my favourite) was not a key factor. That I would come crashing out of the forest all dishevelled, muddy and unglam, and not walk out of the waves dripping seawater from my body oh-so-sexy like a marine biologist, were. The further disruptions to my sense of self-esteem when I imagine the sneers and derision of zoologists at my study subjects were also important considerations. I had some ground to believe that plants form the physical structure of habitats and make 99% of the food for 99% of ecosystems, without which all those cuddly bambis, that people with very superficial understanding of biodiversity think all the world of, would have no homes to hide in and will die of hunger. So it is with trying to get more undergraduate minions into our plant lab. If the balance is tilted in the future, it would make it harder for anyone considering a career in botany.

Sorry, couldn’t stop making another.


When I made the decision…

… to be a conservation biologist in 2010, pay was (certainly) not a key factor. The mindsets of government funding that research must bring tangible economic benefits, the restrictions that such funding must be for Singapore projects only, and pressure on us not to reveal any inconvenient findings, were. The disruptions to your study sites, when the government claims to want you to study the biodiversity of certain places but they are already beginning to bulldoze them before you have even begun, were also important considerations. I had some ground to believe that the complete lack of meaningful biodiversity conservation laws would drastically change one day even as we point out the hypocrisy of Singapore’s actions in pretending to be a “green” city. So it is with more recent wayang shows. If the balance is tilted in the future, it would make it harder for anyone considering a career in ecology in Singapore.



That’s it. I’m moving to wordpress. Live spaces sucks.

A post that touchd me

Bhante Dhammika’s blog post
It was the official launching of our book The Buddha and His Disciples at Borders Bookshop. Our publisher had arranged for an interview with Susan (she did the illustrations) and I to appear in the Straits Times the day before to publicize the book. The launching was a great success with about 250 people lining up to have us sign the copies of the book they had bought. Towards the end of the book signing a man appeared before me, gave me his book and while I was signing it he said to me ‘Do you remember me?’ I looked up at him, rummaged through my memory for a moment, then smiled and said, ‘No I don’t. When did we meet?’ ‘You used to know my father Dr. Chee’, he said. Immediately memories flooded in although not of him but of his father.
Some 10 years before when I first came to Singapore an Anglo-Chinese doctor names Chee used to attend my talks regularly. He stood out from the crowd because he would often asked questions, sometimes even challenging ones, something Singaporeans rarely ever do. I liked him for this, it made my talks a little more stimulating, and we became friends. He took me out for lunch a few times and would often ring me up to ask for clarifications on aspects of Buddhist doctrine. He had been brought up by particularly narrow-minded Christian parents and this it had left him with a strong dislike for the religion, although he continued to have a spiritual yearning. During the years he built up a highly successful medical practice he had no time to explore other approached to spirituality but now that he had retired he did have and he had become fascinated with Dhamma. Despite his deep interest I noticed a strong restlessness and dissatisfaction in him. I encouraged him to do mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana and it helped a bit but I suspected that his mind was too ‘set in its ways.’ Then, after not having seen him for a while I got a telephone call from his son, the one who stood before me now, inviting me to his father’s funeral. A bit surprised, I asked what had happened to Dr. Chee and was told that two days previously he had booked a room overnight in an expensive hotel, ordered and consumed a bottle of the best whiskey and then hanged himself. I was quite shocked. I went to the funeral which was in a church and never having met his wife or children spoke to no one and as is typical with Singaporeans, none of them introduced themselves to me. It was a bleak affair and I went feeling rather down.
I handed back his book, asked him how his family was getting along and then said, ‘So why did you come today?’ He replied, ‘Well, I saw your picture in the paper yesterday and it reminded me that my father often used to mention you and say how much talking with you had helped him. Then I recalled that when you came to the funeral none of us even spoke to you. So I just came to thank you.’ He took my hand, looked me in the face and said ‘Thank you. Thank you very much’, turned and then disappeared through the crowd. I was deeply moved, so moved in fact that that tears welled up in my eyes. Even though there were still a few people waiting to have their books signed I had to take a break for five minute. Its funny but this ‘thank you’ was more important to me, more poignant and meaningful for having come after a gap of so many years. It was one of the nicest gifts anyone had given to me for a long time.
This story touched me.
It reminded me of my grandfather’s suicide. Choosing to jump off a wrong spot on the roof at the Singapore General Hospital, he came crashing down on a marble bench.
It reminded me of my dad’s last years. Teach him meditation I could not. Calm his own mind he could not. Angst, negativity, karmic ignorance coming with age and a life lacking in spiritual cultivation, his last breaths passed with a tear from his eye.
This is why I must wait no longer to save myself.
This is why I must waste no time to save those I love.
This is why I write this blog post. For you, the reader.

More I-can’t-help-myselves


Although I would caution myself that Jack Cafferty is also the moron who called Mainland Chinese "Goons and Thugs" and refused to apologise.

But this is different. I have watched Bimbo Palin’s interview by Kate Couric from CBS on YouTube. Those answers were so empty headed, I’d say that my mum would have done better in that interview. Never, ever let Singapore even allow a similarly vacuous person, male or female, step half a foot into Parliament, or I shall consider emigrating. Vice President of the most powerful country in the world? Don’t blame Matt Damon for getting so worked up.

More bashing by Jack Cafferty:


Matt Damon deriding Sarah Palin

I couldn’t resist myself…

Some calculations

Actually it finaly hit home today why the normal Singaporean materialist’s life is so stressful. It hits home only after doing some calculations on a financial calculator and a bank book.
Eh but before anyone lambasts me mentally, the use of the word "materialist" is not really derogatory. It’s a fact. We live in a material world. There’s nothing wrong with most of the affairs surrounding a material world.
Reasonable goals in life: a marriage, a roof over the head, and enough investments to achieve financial freedom before we are too old.
Added wants on my list: a (100% carbon-neutral) car, travelling around the world, etc… I think that might be when the trouble starts… Auxiliary goals in life… That’s when living in the material world starts giving us problems and I get sucked into become a MATERIALIST for sure.
Imagine now: I’m 25, still studying some stoopid masters that doesn’t even give me higher pay when I go NIE at 27, then drawing measely teachers’s salary of 2,500. At 29, imagine paying the down payment for a 320k 5-room HDB flat. Fork out 64k. Then ROM?? Must have wedding or not?? Another $$ in the sink. At 34, wanted to invest in a condo by this age. If so, I will have to vomit a 140k downpayment?! No need to buy car before that already. Then imagine the baby comes at 35. Jialat. Milk money. Doctor’s fees. Diapers. Gone.
So, between 27 to 29, I will be furiously saving to pay for a HDB flat.
Between 29 to 34 I will be FURIOUSLY working to pay for a stoopid real estate investment.
I’d be shagged out after slogging, bitchy over low pay raises, grouchy over not being able to have money (or time) to go off on holidays, disappointed over not being rich enough to afford a car…
By 40, I will be holding a toddler on my left hand, paying out 3k in mortgages on my right hand.
This is on top of giving mothers money, paying insurance premiums, allocating money for other investments…
All for that elusive goal called financial freedom, aka retirement.
And even if we’re 40, there’s no letting up. Time to save up to send your kids to University.
When you’re 60, the kids are out at work, and you think you can relax already… Then you realise you’re going to live to 90 cos medical technology is too advanced for its own good.
You realise you don’t have enough money to last you your last 30 years, and your kids need money for their own samsara. You’re gonna have to continue working.
No round-the-world trips.
No relaxing in rocking chairs.
At the golden age of 60, you’re gonna continue working SO THAT YOU DON’T STARVE.
And that’s why, staring at that scenario, you today at 25-30 years old is getting hot and bothered about money, remuneration and compensation.
Where got time to do Dharma work?? No wonder so many Dharma talks aimed at the Urban Dweller. Such a madcap life. It’ll be like I’ve never stopped being busy since I stepped into the University, and I’m never going to be, till I die… Never will have that time to rest, to take a breather to enjoy my blue sky, white clouds, green grass, birdsong, bug hums, beetle calls, cool breezes, warm sun and cute raindrops…
Maybe rule#1 is: don’t have kids.
But maybe rule#1 is: you didn’t need that financial freedom anyway?
Rule#1 is: I’m getting carried away before I started.
Through all that madcap pursuit, nothing should stop me from
looking at the blue sky, white clouds and green grass,
listening to the birds, the bugs and beetles,
feeling the wind, the sun and the rain…
And maybe that’s what the Urban Dweller’s Dharma should be all about.

Dharma In Action – Buddhist Youth Conference 2008


Calling all engaged Buddhist youths and Buddhist Youth Leaders!

You believe in Buddhism and its value to today’s society. You have always thought of doing more for Buddhism and you are constantly seeking new channels to reach out and share the wonderful Teachings.

Dharma In Action: Buddhist Youth Conference 2008 (www.dharmainaction.net) will be a platform for all Buddhists to gather and share experiences in organizing Buddhist activities and Dharma propagation. On 23 August 2008, we will be discussing milestone Buddhist events organized both in Singapore and overseas. Major lessons learnt will be shared together with the ups and downs of organizing such activities. The speakers will also be sharing with us on their motivations and what keep them going.

Following lunch, we will continue our discussion on the various efforts expended by Buddhists in both music and entrepreneurship. We will explore music and its role in Dharma propagation. We will also be speaking to Buddhists who are entrepreneurs to hear their thoughts on how Buddhism helps them in their businesses.

If you are looking to meet like-minded Buddhist youths or seeking new ideas in Dharma propagation, join us at the conference!

For more details on the event, please log into our website at http://www.DharmaInAction.net or contact the following:

Bro Victor Lim

Bro Teo Puay Kim

Egoistic Men Working Under Egoistic Women

Hmm did I just pass the whole of May without a single entry?
Okay, I’m not a prolific blogger anyway.
I’ve been lending a hand over an event in the past weekend, and the pissed-off-ness that built up as I tried to do my job gave me some insights into some of the people I’ve worked around with since secondary school.
I hope this doesn’t sound sexist, but it’s a fact: I always run into problems when I’m placed in direct subordination to women.
Probably the earliest I could remember was in Secondary One and Two in English Drama Society. I’ve told friends about how I was scarred and disillusioned when Grace Lee told me that the other girls were badmouthing about me and saying that I was trying to impress the teacher whenever I tried my best to get in the act. I lost much of my confidence over that issue, and became very withdrawn and afraid to give my best during those Drama sessions. But very likely, another reason why EDS was a mini-hell for me was because of all the bossy, opinionated ladies that squashed our ideas down whenever we were discussing how or what to act out.
Now, on hindsight, the bad experience I had with these girls set the tone for me when I interacted with my new classmates in Junior College. People like Teddy and Hong How could never understand why I seemed to dislike the girls in my class so much. It was probably not "dislike" in the beginning… It was a distrust, which later biased me to view whatever happened in negative light of them. Not all of them were the insistent-and-untactful type, but I had this generalization that girl’s school girls tended to be more domineering than co-ed school girls, so I gave them a wide emotional berth from the start.
The most obvious fall-outs I’ve had with women was with Cynthia in HQ21SIB during my NS days. She was the first chief clerk I came under. People around me would tell me how surprised they were that I had not gotten pissed off at her attitude yet, because so far, she had quarrelled or turned off most of the boys that were sent to help her. One-by-one they had requested to be posted somewhere else or they snuck off to help other chief clerks. Actually, I WAS pissed. But at first I swallowed it all, ate humble pie, accepted all the blame and glares that she heaped on me… Until I tipped over and totally ignored her and showed her how pissed I had gotten. We never talked after she got the hint that I was really angry over something, but I think she never bothered to find out what she had done wrong to make her best clerk eventually take the path of all her other clerks.
In university, for some modules, I’ve had to work with ladies too. But one thing about ladies was that they are more concerned about the overall result than guys. Guys tend to be more relaxed about the outcome, and not show frustration or blame over the slightest step that was imperfect. Some of the ladies in some of my project groups, however, were always so overly excited about some tiny parts that weren’t perfect, and always give that kind of look as though they felt you weren’t taking it seriously. I seriously detest this kind of psychological warfare: live and let live, please. I don’t nit-pick your work for the slightest mistake, can’t you show the same courtesy too? Once again, not all my project groupmates were like that. Only those that were overly excited, insistent and indulging in covert blame-mongering tactics really pissed me off, and they pissed me off real quick.
At least, at the very least, I’ve never had such an experience working with the ladies in NUS Buddhist Society. It’s surprising. Even though I had alot of conflicts of opinion with Katrine, she never once rode roughshod over me. She always made the effort to be polite, at the very least. And I appreciated that. In fact, I probably pissed off many of the ladies in NUS BS with my own ego. I’m ever quite apologetic about the way I always seem to shoot down Suey Lein’s ideas. I never meant to appear to be against her, so I’m really glad that she’s willing to forgive me. The other (more senior) ladies in NUS BS always set a tone that I believe to be ideal: frank, but tactful. Never to pressure blame unto others. Always willing to listen first, talk later. Never openly criticising others or shouting down others halfway in their tracks.
Yes, I have an ego. But, short of reducing my ego which takes time, there are two ways of handling my pissed-off-ness when I have to work with such women: (1) let her know; (2) swallow my anger. I have been taking option 2 this weekend, because I could not figure out any way I could do option 1 without showing my anger. So rather than hurt her, I suppose my fellow Buddhists would have had me keep the fourth precept for the weekend. But I do hope one day someone can communicate her shortcomings to her though, otherwise she would run into more conflict if she worked with even bigger egos than mine.


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