Archive for the 'Equally good stuff' Category

Nightmare come true

October.20. 2018

It’s a classic case of killing off your competitors by buying them up and then closing them down.

That’s what happened to OSH, an old venerable hardware store chain, started in 1931, bought over by Lowes in 2013 and this year closed down for good.

Sure it took Lowes five years to complete their plan of elimination, but you can’t do these things in a hurry, or it would seem too obvious.

During the closing down sale at the local OSH store, I found a few Craftsman tools made in the USA. It was a surprise. I didn’t even know these things were still being made in the US.

As it turned out, they were the last of the old stock.

Because all Craftsman tools are now made in China.

So I bought them all, what I could find.

These days, increasingly, it looks like there’s only one country manufacturing everything.

I was in New Zealand recently and every screwdriver and pliers I found in the stores were made in that one country.

But not just screwdrivers and pliers, my favorite brand Swanndri, my old high school jersey, the raincoat I bought for the rain shower at Milford Sound—all were made in that one country.

I did manage to find a school scarf still made in New Zealand, and cookies, and yes the same full cream milk that I used to drink years ago.

But it seems like a nightmare come true.

Everywhere you go, it’s the same generic stuff staring at you.

You can’t escape them, the cheap knockoffs—the dollar store-supersave-flea market stuff, and they’re all made in one country!

I haven’t been to South America or Africa, or Europe recently but I bet the situation there is not that much different. (I’m hoping the latter will be the exception.)

What do I have against stuff made in that country?

Nothing, I’m particularly fond of my iphone which is a product of that country too.

But it is a worrying trend.

When one country manufactures everything, you end up with very little choice.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it’s quality stuff, but far from it, most of what you get are junky stuff that will work a few times and then you have to toss them.

I know because I just threw away an old adjustable wrench made in that country.

For all intents and purposes, it looks just like any good wrench, but to adjust the screw mechanism, you’ll have to use a pair of pliers because the darn thing has been stuck for years.

So why did I throw it away?

I had gotten for myself a couple of Craftsman wrenches made in the US from the OSH sale.

The difference?

The screw mechanism on these wrenches is so light it practically glides under your fingers.


The purpose/2

June.1. 2018

To live a fulfilling life, to live your life to its full potential, you have to know two things.

First, in the real world, you count for absolutely zero. This may dent your ego a bit but the truth is, no one really cares about you.

You may want to believe they do but they don’t.

The only person people care about is themselves (and people here include you, even if you don’t know it.)

You may say this is an overly dark assessment of human nature but take these scenarios to see how truly altruistic you are.

Suppose you have a neighbor who’s constantly throwing trash into your yard.

Would you continue to let them do it? If you truly care for them yes, you would. After all, they have to get rid of their trash somehow.

Or perhaps there’s this guy in school or at work who’s constantly picking on you.

Would you just put up with it? After all he’s got to let off steam somehow and if that means picking on you, your super altruistic nature would say yes to this one too.

Or perhaps you know someone who’s so full of themselves, all they do is talk about how great they are all day long.

How long will you continue to stand there and listen to them? If you’re truly altruistic, you wouldn’t mind doing it. After all, you got nothing better to do with your time.

Yes, these are simple examples, but they show one thing.

At the end of the day, we’re only concerned about ourselves and our self interests.

This has one big implication.

If you want a good fulfilling life, you must always consider the impact of your actions on the other guy.

Not because of your good nature but because you care about how they respond to you—because how they respond will affect your ability to live a fulfilling life.

And this leads to the second thing you need to know.

There’re only two kinds of impact—the positive kind and the negative kind.

The positive kind produces good outcomes for others and the negative kind, bad outcomes for them.

Again, this is simple to demonstrate with our earlier scenarios.

Understand that if you throw trash into your neighbor’s yard, they will not be happy and they will respond in equally negative ways.

If you pick on someone at school or at work, they will not be happy and you might even lose your job, which is not a fulfilling thought.

Or if you’re so full of yourself and all you do is talk about how great you are, people will start avoiding you and soon you will have no friends.

Here’s another example (a real life one actually).

I once had a grumpy colleague. He was not the most pleasant person to have around.

You would say good morning to him and he would simply shrug and walk by without even acknowledging you.

(Amazing, but these self centered individuals do exist.)

It so happened that the chair of the department wanted to resign, and this guy, whose contract was also ending, wanted the job, badly.

Well, you can guess the blow back.

No one wants a grumpy guy, especially not in a supervisory position.

He might be a legend in his own mind, and he might think that he didn’t have to be nice to anyone. Well, life has a funny way of returning your negative energy back to you.

So not a very fulfilling outcome for him.

These are the two simple truths you need to know to live a fulfilling life.

First, people do not care about you; they only care about themselves, which means you have to care about the impact of your actions on others.

Second, there’re only kinds of impact, positive and negative.

Knowing these two truths will enable you to master your destiny.

You get to control what happens to you tomorrow by carefully controlling what you do today.

Being in control means you have no one to blame for what happens to you but yourself.

This is the ultimate in self empowerment.

The purpose

May.31. 2018

At the basic level, the purpose of life is simply to live it. There is no other purpose to life, no higher calling.

It’s the same philosophy that applies to everything we own.

If you have a guitar, play it. If you have a car, drive it. No need to hoard it or save it. Save it for what? At the end of the day, you’ll leave without it.

So if you have a life, use it, or more precisely, live it.

Living it means experiencing it fully. With all its ups and downs, good and bad.

In fact, the very reason there is an up is because there is a down. If you were to strive to be up all the time, you’ll end up being down.

Simple common sense, so no need to wish it’s otherwise.

That’s the basic premise of life—if you have it, live it.

But at what level do we live it?

That’s the next point.

We can live it at the basic existential level, which is simply to scrape by.

That may be fine for some.

Or we can live a life of dependency, to be forever dependent on the scraps that others throw at us. That seems to be fine for some too.

Or we can live it with all its promise and potential.

Something we might call a ‘fulfilling life.’

Fulfillment is of course in the eye of the beholder. So how do we see it?

The simple rule is anything goes as long as it doesn’t impact others in a negative way.


Because negativity always produces negative results which means that whatever you find fulfilling will be negated at some point.

Which means you will end up not so fulfilled

Next, implementation.

A philosophical discourse

December.26. 2016

I had a discussion with someone a while back about reality.

The person said, “Reality doesn’t exist. It’s different for everyone. How do you know what my reality is?”

He’s got a point.

Everyone’s reality is different.

But at the end of the day, if you go into a bank and hand the teller a $10 note and tell the teller that it’s a $100 note because that’s your reality, he might have a hard time believing you.

The simple truth is, reality does exist.

There is an absolute reality out there.

It’s just that we interpret it differently, according to our personal experiences and biases. But just because we have different takes on it doesn’t make it less real.

A $10 note is a $10 note is a $10 note.

Nothing anyone can say will ever change that fact.

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

July.13. 2016

The Chilcot report came out last week, and it was interesting to see Tony Blair’s response.

In a statement, he takes full responsibility and ‘apologizes sincerely’ for taking the nation to war.

It reminds me of an incident a few years back in another country.

It was a case involving a few men who attacked another man. They bludgeoned him with every weapon they could find and beat his body into a pulp.

There was a huge outcry and the men were caught.

In front of the judge, the men were very contrite. One of them said to the judge, “Sorry Sir, we won’t do it again.”

Yes, sure.

That’s what Mr. Blair forgot to add, he won’t do it again.

Got come got go

July.7. 2016

Every human relationship is a transaction. An old Chinese saying sums it up perfectly, “Got come, got go.”

This means if something comes in, something has to go out too.

If you give me something, I must return in kind.

This may sound like a calculative and cynical approach to life. Is this the only reason for relationships, so that we can take advantage of one another?

But let me give a few hypothetical situations.

Suppose you have a good friend (or so you think), and every birthday (his) you send him a gift but when it comes time for your birthday, he conveniently forgets it.

How long do you think will you keep on sending him those gifts?

Or you have another friend, (again so you think) and one day, you need his help with a certain problem but at that critical moment (for you) he is nowhere to be found.

Will you still call him a friend after that?

In my business, people are extremely touchy about supporting each other.

The operative phrase is “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

So if they give a concert, be sure to show your face because if you don’t, don’t expect them to show up at yours either.

(In the event that you still expect them to come to your concert even if you don’t show up at theirs, you’re either an egomaniac or a fool. What makes you so special that people should come and support you if you don’t support them?)

Blogging thrives on this ‘got come got go’ mentality.

If someone comes to your blog and post comments, be sure to return the favor, otherwise don’t expect them to be back.

I had a few people who used to come to this blog and post comments. At first I made valiant efforts to visit their blogs and return the favors too. But there is only so much of their cute kids that I could take and need to know so I stopped going after a short while and sure enough they stopped coming to my blogs too.

Which is perfectly fine with me.

This leads to a corollary to the law.

To be sustainable, the ‘come’ has to match the ‘go.’

If the ‘go’ comes at great cost to you, the ‘come’ may not be worth the effort.

In other words, if the required investment in time and effort is too great, then sometimes, it’s better to dispense with the return altogether.

So why is this good to know?

It puts you in the driver’s seat. You get to decide how much ‘come’ you want in your life.

First, despite what you may think, you’re not that special. Ultimately, the only person people care about is themselves, otherwise known as ‘Number 1.”

If you want people to care about you, start caring for them first.

And weigh the effort versus the return.

If it costs too much to perform the ‘go’, then forget about it. But don’t feel bad if you don’t receive the ‘come’ one day.

A beautiful moment

May.27. 2016

I just saw the news today. Our great President at the site of the world’s first atomic bomb detonation in a populated area.

Very touching, very moving, very beautiful.

Now how about the Prime Minister of that country going to Nanking next and acknowledging the bloodbath that took place there a few years before that horrific event.

Because horrific events will set off other horrific events.

I think they call that karma. I prefer to think of it as part of the inner workings of the universe.

If you want to do dastardly deeds onto other people, expect dastardly deeds to be done unto you.

No point whining about it.

The perversity of human nature or how to be a fool

March.19. 2016

Years ago, in one of my primary school textbooks, there was a story about a man and his camel.

The two were sleeping in the desert. It was a particularly cold night. The man was in a tent, the camel outside.

After a while, the camel said to the man, “Master, it’s very cold out here, can I stick my feet into the tent?”

The master, being a kind man, said, “Yes of course.”

The camel put his feet in the tent. Then after a while, he said, “Master, my legs are cold, can I put them into the tent?”

The master again said, “Yes of course” and the camel put his legs into the tent.

Well, you know the rest of the story. The camel ended up sleeping in the cozy tent while the master was left out in the cold.

Now, you can read this as a fable of human kindness or you can read it as an allegory of the perversity of human nature—the more you give some people, the more they want from you.

And if you expect them to be grateful, you’d be very much mistaken because the perversity of human nature is such that it includes zero gratitude for any kindness received.

Not only will they be ungrateful, in the end they will usurp your place and kick you out into the cold.

The perversity of human nature.

The kinder you are to some people, the less they appreciate and respect you.

To be kind to them the first time is to be a good human being, to be kind a second time is to be a fool.

The paradox of paradise

January.1. 2015

Every religion seems to have its own vision of the afterlife, of paradise, but they seem to tell more about the people who came up with the visions than the afterlife itself.

For example, people who are downtrodden dream of a paradise where they will be free. Case in point, the spirituals of the old South.

People who are poor, for them paradise is a place where they will attain a position higher than the rich. Case in point, the parable about Lazarus and the rich man.

And people who are beset with problems in their present life dream of a trouble-free and carefree paradise where they don’t have to work, where all they do is laze around serenaded by angels playing harps. That seems to be the definition for the rest of us.

So what does this say about those who dream of 72 virgins waiting for them in paradise? Clearly, lust is no barrier to paradise too

Somewhere in the Philippines, on some mountain, is a paradise on earth—filled with beautifully manicured gardens and pretty maidens presided over by the Son of God himself.

But who takes care of the gardens? Surely not the Son of God, he’s too busy consorting with the maidens.

I can just imagine some guy arriving at the paradise on earth to be greeted by the Son of God.

“Welcome to paradise, I have both good news and bad news. The good news is you’re in paradise, the bad news is you’re the gardener.”

The paradox of paradise. It can’t feel much like paradise if your job is to slave over the gardens.

Or some pretty maiden arriving at the afterlife to be greeted by another keeper of paradise.

“Welcome to paradise, I have both good news and bad news. The good news is you’re in paradise and the bad news is your job is to service some scruffy guy who has just laid down his life for the cause.”

Our concepts of paradise are so banal my local parish priest constantly makes jokes about it.

My favorite is this one.

Three guys arrived in heaven to be greeted by St Peter.

The first one came up and St Peter asked him. “So were you ever unfaithful to your wife?”

The man was full of remorse as he said, “Yes, but only three times.”

St Peter said, “Because you were unfaithful three times, you only get a compact car to drive in heaven.”

The second guy came up and St Peter asked him the same question and he answered, “Only two times, St Peter.”

“Okay,” St Peter said. “Two times, you get to have a medium sized car to drive in heaven.”

The third one came up and when asked the same question, he said proudly, “Not even once, I was a faithful husband all my life.”

St Peter said, “Well done my son, you get to drive a luxury car in heaven.”

Two weeks later, the first two guys met the guy with the luxury car at a stoplight in heaven and they noticed he was crying.

So they asked him, “Why are you crying? You should be happy, you have a luxury car to drive.”

He said, “I just saw my wife, she’s on a skateboard.”


December.4. 2014

You may have experienced this before.

You’re going through life perfectly happy, content with the way things are going, and then one day, something happens, and you experience a seismic shift in perception, and something you have never seen before suddenly becomes very clear to you.

Perhaps it has to do with a particular problem in life.

Or a deep philosophical issue.

(Or a guitar technique that’s been troubling you.)

When that moment occurs, it’s almost as if you’ve broken through a barrier.

One minute you’re on one side, the next, you’re on the other.

Now the amazing thing is, before the shift occurs, you have absolutely no idea what lies on the other side or that the barrier even exists.

But once it occurs, it’s as if it’s the most natural thing to have happened.

This is the greatest irony of life, the ultimate catch-22.

In order to get to the other side of the barrier, you’ll have to know it exists, but to know it exists, you’ll have to get to the other side first.

The only way, I’ve found, to break the cycle is to experience that life changing moment, that seismic event that alters your perceptions dramatically.

It happened to St Paul on his way to Damascus. (Yes, I know this is a mythical event but it does illustrate the point).

And it happened to me a few years back when I was involved in a minor mishap on the road.

And I’ve seen it happen to my students a few times.

I believe a particular group of religious adherents might call this moment ‘being born again,’ and that’s perhaps a good way to describe the experience. (This, however, does not imply in any way that I agree or disagree with the appropriateness of those terms to describe that particular experience.)