Monthly Archives: June 2011

Fort Lights

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At first glance, the above image may not seem strange…

Actually, this little piece of sorry traffic lights has been knocked down so many times in Cyberjaya already. It is also noteworthy to mention that everytime it is hit, it would take the relevant authorities like ages to fix it up.

The the other day, as I was passing it, I notice that not only was the traffic light nicely fixed up, it was also now heavily surrounded and protected with barricades and accident beams…haha.

Honestly, if it ever gets hit again, they should just spare the poor traffic lights its misery and just burying it…

Scrabble Ecstasies

In word games like Scrabble, exciting plays like basketball buzzer shots or football Hail Marys are noticeably few and far in between. No kidding.

Trust me. I have been keeping track of some of the more exciting plays one could ever achieve in Scrabble. For example…

1. Score a BINGO, ie. using up all 7 letters in your same rack, giving you an additional 50 points….CHECK.

2. Score a BINGO on the very FIRST turn…..CHECK.

3. Holding both BLANK tiles on the same rack….CHECK.

4. Forming a word that crosses TWO double word squares, ie. total points X4!…..CHECK

5. Scoring above 500 points in a single game……CHECK

6. Scoring a BINGO on the very last play to win a match……CHECK

7. Scoring a BINGO that touches two triple word squares, ie. (total points X 9) + 50!…….(finally) CHECK!!!

Ever since I started playing Scrabble, this was one of the items on my checklists to achieve that I thought I could only dream about. The simple word THIRDING gave me my career-best single word score of 158. Woo hoo!

Hmmm, I wonder what’s left for me to target in Scrabble? Scoring a similar word spanning two triple word scores with a Z or Q on the light blue double letter square, perhaps? 😛

 

Facing Failures

There will be times in our life when we will be faced with some form of failure. What usually results from that, if the failure was an epic one, is the million dollar question is how are we gonna deal with it?

Typical answers given would be to forget about it and move on with life! Start afresh! Or something along those lines.

So, when I chanced upon this intriguing article in the Postgame.com by Eric AdelsonВ where a psychologist explains what happens to most athletes when they choke or fail, and offers some unorthodox method on how to move on from failure. The article used LeBron James recent ‘tanking’ in the NBA Finals as reference point of discussion. Here are some relevant extracts from that article:

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Why do great athletes sometimes fail to show up in important situations? Why did James, so dominant in fourth quarters leading up to the NBA Finals — don’t forget his incredible finish against the Pistons in the ’07 playoffs — start making high school mistakes when it counted most?

And is there a way he can confront this problem and overcome it?

There are answers, and they go all the way back to the 1989 Stanley Cup Final. One of the Calgary Flames, coming back to the dressing room right before the opening faceoff in Game 1, turned to the team’s sport psychologist and made a confession:

“I’m scared.”

The psychologist was named Hap Davis, and he has spent more than a generation examining why athletes succumb to pressure. He thinks he’s found an answer, and it sheds light on both LeBron James’ poor play in and Dirk Nowitzki’s emotional response to winning in a whole new way.

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In moments of fear, the human body produces cortisol, which helps its fight-or-flight mechanism. When you hear a story about a mother lifting a stalled car off her child to save his life, that’s cortisol at work. But cortisol is not what a great athlete needs in a defining moment. In fact, cortisol may get in the way of an essential ingredient for athletic performance: Testosterone.

“That’s what comes with ability to stay in the moment — frontal cortex activation, motor cortex activation and elevation in testosterone,” Davis says.

Translation: Athletes who “stay focused” (to use a clichГ©) keep producing testosterone, which stimulates the part of the brain wired for motor skills such as shooting or dribbling.

 

“What we’ve seen in winners is huge testosterone-to-cortisol balance,” Davis says. “When they’re on their game, we see evidence that there may be an elevation of testosterone. When people are losing, they are overwhelmed with emotion. That’s cortisol.”

Now here’s the twist: Davis has found that when top athletes have a traumatic experience in a game or event, and then return to a similar moment (such as the fourth quarter of the NBA Finals), they often start producing cortisol. Davis has worked for years with the Canadian Olympic team, and he’s seen swimmers do perfectly well for years, in every competition, and then fall apart when they get to a scenario reminiscent of one where they struggled four or eight years earlier. It’s the exact same stroke or race, but it’s a completely different moment. The athlete responds not to the event, but to the moment.

In fact, whenever athletes start thinking about the pride or pain of winning or losing, they can become overwhelmed with emotion and unable to perform the basic duties of playing in the present.

“The moment someone thinks about the reward,” Davis says, “they are in a whole different space.”

So you see the brilliance of what Dirk Nowitzki did in Game 6. He held his emotions back until the second the game ended and the title was won. Then he hustled to the locker room to cry. He was completely unemotional and then he was completely emotional. It was the opposite of what so-called “chokers” do.

So what’s the best way to overcome this? How can LeBron James turn back into the fourth-quarter beast he used to be? Move on and forget the 2011 NBA Finals ever happened?

Nope. Davis says the best way to erase the past is to dwell on it. Watch the failure again and again and again on tape until it evokes zero emotional response. Watch the disaster until you’re so numb to it that it feels like someone else is doing the failing.

“I’ve worked with too many athletes who say, ‘Screw it, it’s a bad game,’ ” Davis says. “Some people will get away with ‘Forget about it.’ But most athletes will find that’s a bad idea. They haven’t got past the emotional experience.”

 

Davis assisted on an experiment in which athletes were asked to watch a video of themselves in a game, and then perform squat jumps. Athletes who watched themselves doing well jumped significantly higher than those who watched themselves do poorly.

So according to this theory, LeBron should spend the summer watching the fourth quarter of every Finals game. At some point, he’ll be able to break down that wretched film just like a coach would. Then, when he returns to the waning minutes of a Finals game, he’ll be driven more by the desire to correct the mistakes than the fear of reliving them.

And what happens if an athlete finds himself coming undone in a game? Well, that’s what happened to the unnamed Calgary Flames player in 1989. Davis pulled him off the bench and told him to get on the exercise bike and race like mad for a couple of minutes. That got the testosterone flowing and stimulated the motor cortex. The player took the ice and did fine. The Flames won the Cup.

LeBron James will probably get back to the Finals, maybe within a year. The sports world will be watching to see how he reacts at crunch time. But how he reacts this summer might make the difference between “choker” and “champion.”

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Pretty scary huh? Sounds like we need to be mindless like robots to be able to forget our failures and move on for greater glory in the future. Do you think this method would work? Or, how do you handle failures?


 

When a Papaya Ponders…

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“How long do I need to hang here?”

“Will I grow any bigger?”

“Sigh…I just realised it’s quite scarily high from here I’m hanging!”

“Damnit…the snail is here again..”

“Can’t we get any air-cond out here?!”

“Ahhh…here comes the dog again, providing nutrients to our roots…”

“I wonder how they gonna pluck me when I’m ripe?”

“Hey, why did some of them get designer newspaper wraps?!”

“Sigh….can’t our leaves function more like an umbrella when it rains?!”

LOST in Thoughts…

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There are two kinds of people in the world. One that never liked Lost and never understood it. And one that liked Lost and still never understood it.

Although it has been approximately a year since Lost aired its series finale, it is still lingering in my thoughts because I have only just managed to complete the sixth and final season a couple of months back. I still cannot believe that the series is already over. After following this incredible series for 5 solid seasons, I passionately watched the final season with mixed reactions, knowing that it is the last season. Oh well, all good things must come to and end someday…

The question that begs an answer from all Losties after the final season is…”So, was the ending worth the ride?”

Whilst I firmly belong В to the category of people who loved Lost but never really understood it, I have to say that I was remarkably surprised with the ending. It wasn’t quite the ending that everyone would have wanted, but weeks after I watched it (and again and again..), I began to realised how GOOD the ending really was.

The finale of Season 5 had set the tone for an exciting final Season 6, which many people had hoped would bring more answers and less questions. So, did Season 6 give us all the answers? Well, I would say…YES…and NO. It is Lost, after all, so I had already expected half-answers too. Hah!

Anyway, these are some of the answers or revelations thatВ unravelledВ in Season 6. Since some of them are SPOILERS, kindly highlight the portions below to see my content:

1. Did LOST finally answer the No. 1 question everybody wanted to know?…ie. Charlie’s question at the end of S1 referring to the mysterious island – “Where the hell are we?”. Nope. It didn’t. But it did answer what the island was NOT. And strangely, it was good enough for me. :-)

2. Lost started with plenty of wonderful flashbacks of their main characters that helped the viewers become more engaged as these characters were revealed more and more. The at the end of S4, we were introduced to the first ever flashforward, which was then used quite remarkably throughout S5. In S6, we were surprised once again, this time with what most Losties would call flash sideways. All through the final season, we would see stories unravel seemingly inВ parallel with each other – one with the main cast on the island, and the other with the main cast safely arriving in LAX, as if the crash in the very first episode of S1 never happened..this was finally explained in the final moments of the series finale – all events that happened on the island was REAL. The best theory about the island being purgatory was partially right. I liked the way how the writers spun this around to eventually reveal the events that took place off the island in S6 was purgatory instead – a place where people who have died waited before they are taken to another place. So, it was explained that all the main characters on Oceanic 815 ‘made’ up this place so that they could meet up and remember their past lives, histories, friendship, love, etc. that they had with each other on the island. Truly touching , indeed.

3. Which meant the flash sideways were NOT actually flash sideways but some period of time much later than the present ‘drama’ on the island when all the characters had already died. Nicely done twist. :-) Confused yet? :-p

3. The intriguing black smoke monster was finally revealed to be the ‘just as mysterious’ Man in Black. Apparently he could take the form of people who have died on the island. Looks like it only works on one body at a time though, because he seemed to be stuck in Locke’s form since Locke’s death.

4. S6 also revealed to us how the ‘ageless’ Richard came to be on the island (one of the better episodes of this season), and how he was ‘touched’ by Jacob. It was also nice to see how happy Richard looked when he discovered his first grey hair later on…:-D

5. There was also that strange episode that tried to explain the beginnings of Jacob and the MIB. Not quite nicely done since it still left many unanswered bit here. What were their ‘rules’? How did ‘mother’ made sure they couldn’t kill one another?

6. The series title LOST was also explained as how Jacob called the characters to the island because at some point of their lives, they were all ‘lost’. And that was the similarity between all the people on the plane.

7. В It was also interesting to see how their lives would have been had the crash not happened – as it unfolded, it seemed like eventually they would all cross paths eventually too. Nice idea to explore here, especially Losties who have grown to know and love these characters. I found myself analysing further to see how much a lot of these characters would have missed had they NOT crashed on the island.

8. I also liked the way the entire series ended – with the close up eye view of the main character, Jack.

 

All in all, I think the series ended decently for me.It was not over the top nor did it try to explain too much. I must admit looking at how Lost started out as, it must have been quite a challenge to manufacture a perfect ending for everyone. And with that, I must tip my hats off to the excellent writers and producer for this ‘satisfactory’ ending. Thanks for SIX fantastic seasons! 😀

For more of Lost, do check out the Lostpedia – an entire wikia dedicated to the series, overflowing with info, stats, theories, chats, images, etc. about Lost.

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Have You Daiso-ed?

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In one sentence, DAISO is a place where you go in questioning how on earth are they gonna make any money with all stuff priced at RM5 each, but you come out answering your own question with bagfuls of stuff you’d probably will not use for months…

In recent times, the Daiso fever has really caught on in Malaysia. These Japanese shops that can be found in most malls with a Jusco in it sells everything inside for a shocking price of only RM5. Yes, that’s RM5.

And you’d be pleasantly surprised at the variety of things they sell there – from photo frames to chopsticks to mobile pouches to aprons to bath toys and even toothpicks! However, I think many people are lured to Daiso not because of these things but also some of the Japanese-like innovative products they are selling.

For example, I have seen some silver rock which they claim can act as hand washing soap?! And also there are those cute ‘socks’ that are apparently table or chair leg skid guards! And what about animal rice cutters?! And an assortment of animal magnetic toys. The list goes on.

Top it all off with the accompanying non-stop Japanese music playing incessantly into your ears, there is NO WAY you’d be able to resist buying more things than you orginally planned when you enter the ‘dangerous’ world of Daiso. Be warned!

So, do you think you are man enough to Daiso?… 😛

Remembering Victorious Vindications!

It has been 4 days and I am still basking in the celebrations of Dallas securing their first ever franchise NBA Championship. You would really need to follow the struggles of this franchise to truly feel and understand (a little) of what they are really feeling right now.

A bunch of battle-hardened, ageing veterans which had been collectively carried around the ‘no-hoper’, ‘choker’ tag for half a decade, had finally exorcised the ghosts of 2006 and are now Champions. I’m just tearfully happy for Dirk and Kidd who are both now officially OFF the ‘list of NBA’s best who have never won a Championship’. Everything still feels unreal at times, and I must admit I shivered in anxiety in the final 12 minutes of Game 6, listening to the play-by-play being streamed over online radio.

In remembering the incredible classic of a Finals that Dallas and Miami served up over six games, where both teams had a very even chance to win every single game going into the 4Q, here are the recaps:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYr-xMNTd-0

Game 1

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y_SHyVpS-k

Game 2

Game 3

Game 4

Game 5

Game 6

 

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The Papaya Project

Finally! After much anticipation and months of waiting, we managed to ‘rescue’ one of our papayas that is already ripe from being feasted along. And boy oh boy, did it taste really good!

Here is the photoblog detailing this yummy occasion we are still savoring for more to come! Yay!

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The papaya ripeth..
Collin helps to pluck it down from the tree..

 

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A peek as to what is inside...
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Papa dish is served!

Reflections from the River

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“When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river.В He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah,В where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh.В Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.”В (Ezekiel 47:7-9)

I believe that God speaks to everyone. On mission trips, He seems to speak louder…

My last mission trip to the jungle interiors happened so long ago, when I was still a student studying in university. Nevertheless, I still remember very clearly the many, many things that happened during that trip. And not only do I remember all those wonderful memories, I know and treasure them dearly for the lessons God thought me through that mission trip changed my life and played a big part in shaping me to who I am today.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to take part in a similar mission trip some jungle interiors again. Only this time, my role was more like a ‘guardian’ to the many youths from our church who had eagerly signed up for this mission exposure trip. That didn’t mean that I would not be learning anything from this trip! Trust me, I sure did.

It is always exciting to see how God amazes and teaches us things everyday in ways that we would never have thought possible. One key highlight of this mission trip was the magnificent river that runs by the side of the village. This river was literally the source of life to the villagers. It provided ‘free’ running water for their everyday needs – cooking, washing, drinking, bathing; and us city folk were just simply taken aback by its cool, refreshing and rejuvenating properties when its strong rushing current strokes past our weary bodies when we went in to bathe and chill.

It has been about a week since we came back from the trip but I’d bet the majority of us still do miss the river dearly. I certainly do. So, as I look back over the moments spent in the mission trip, I am once again humbled that God has spoken very clearly to me about the many things I need to learn from these reflections from the river

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1. Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will provide)

Before the trip took place, the team needed to sort out quite a number of logistical headaches such as securing sufficient number of 4WDs or pick-ups that were able to venture through the rangy dirt track road to the village. Over the course of the final few weeks (or days even!), God continued to provide more and more people who offered their ‘big wheels’ to the mission team. There was even a relative of one of our church youth who stayed in the very town we were going to. He also just happened to have a pick-up truck and helped to buy and transport some of the essentials like canisters of cooking gas and chicken into the village.

When I looked at the list of wheels that was supposed to go into the village, I seriously thought we had more than enough wheels. Again, God showed me that whenever He provides, He does it so that it is always sufficient. On the morning when we started packing the stuff we needed to carry into the village, I was shocked to see the amount of stuff we were bringing in there. However, we managed to pack in all the stuff, needing every last inch of all the vehicles. Amazing. Indeed God reminded me that He is the Lord that provides.

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2. God is in Control

Personally, it was a terrible month to be taking leave from work because I had a couple of critical events that I was managing throughout June. So, when we were driving into the interiors last Friday, I was frequently bugged by some phone calls and SMSes from my office. Suddenly, we entered the area where there was no mobile reception whatsoever. None. Not even a blip. We had been completely cut off from the outside world. No emails. No Facebook. No Twitter. No news.

It was as simple as that. God reminded me that He is in control of things. I learnt to trust Him to handle whatever that was happening in my office and focussed instead on the work He has brought me on this mission trip to do.

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3. Never Too Busy

One of the days, I was talking to one of the ibus of the village and was kaypo-ing about how the villagers cook those wild boars that they sometimes catch. She told me that it was the men who hunted the wild boars who would then cook them too. The boars would not be cooked in the kitchen like other ‘normal’ dishes, but it would be cooked near the houses of the village leaders. Apparently they have some cooking or grilling apparatus there. She seemed excited to show this culinary experience to me so she promised to take me to the men when they were cooking it.

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Some 2-3 hours later, when I was leading some small children inside a tent, this ibu went around and finally found me and beckoned me to follow her to see the grilling of the wild boar now! I was deeply touched that she remembered her promise, put in the effort to look for me, and showed genuine interest in sharing a village experience I would remember for life.

There were others like her as well, these ibus of the village who would spend most of their time cooking, and yet always kept a watchful eye on the kids, and also had this uncanny ability to tell which kid is from which village, and also if there were any new visitors to the village. Definitely many things I could learn from them with regard to sheparding and developing a heart that is never too busy to care for my flock.

4. Poverty is Relative

Some of the youths were sharing that most times, we the city folk tend to go on mission trips with expectations of being able to give and help the poor. When we arrive, we realise that we are the ones who may be poorer than the villagers. Much as we gave a lot during our trip, I am sure we also received, perhaps even more than we gave.

They may not have a lot of material possessions, but they do live a very simple and contented life. They have so much land to play with, refreshing water in abundance, and a warm-loving community, etc. When William asked them about their Goliaths or challenges, none of them raised their hand. I am now begining to believe that they may not have any worries at all!

Many of us who have so many possessions, and yet it is never enough. Sure makes me reflect more about living an abundant and contented life God has blessed me with.

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5. Sharing is Loving

Wild boar is luxury food to the villagers. Although they do hunt these animals with the help of their hunting dogs, it is not everyday that they get to eat wild boar. So, apparently when they heard that most of us have not eaten this delicacy before, they purposely went out hunting the next day and caught a wild boar – specially for us city folk.

Half of the wild boar was cooked in three different manners – grilled, curry and stewed with herbs; and it was more than enough to feed all of us for lunch AND dinner! When we were about to leave on the final day, the villagers graciously gave us more of the wild boar to take home! Looking at the size of plastic bagfuls of wild boar we took back, I would have guessed they actually gave all of the other half to us!

Learning how to share from the villagers is truly an understatement. It is already very clear that they do not have many things, but the manner in which they choose to unselfishly give what they have is truly a remarkable lesson for all.

6. Building Meaningful Fellowships and New Friendships

It is always a joy when you go out with a group of friends to a restaurant where the food served is liked by everyone; or when you go out to watch a movie with a buddies with a similar taste of the movie genre. Likewise, mission trips like this one is always a good foundation to develop meaningful fellowships and discover new friendships with the group I am travelling with and also with the group we are travelling to.

When everyone in the mission team is going in with one overall purpose to share God’s love and bring smiles to their faces, stronger friendships are forged by unforgettable memories from the trip.

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7. В Of Simple Faith and Good Parenting

As a father of two young children, I was really amazed at the behaviour and attitude of the children in the village.

Let’s see: The children were very obedient to their parents; they never shouted back at the parents; they washed their own dishes without being told; they followed in our prayers with child-like sincerity; they were very attentive and participative during our lessons; they almost never whine; they had excellent table manners; they queued up for the food; the older ones would help to feed the younger ones…even if they were from different villages; and on and on..

Certainly gives me encouragement to bring up my children in a similar manner – with simple faith and obedience to God and parents.

8. The Maturing Youths

Every other day, and especially on Sundays when I would most likely see them, our church youths are just ordinary youths. During this trip, they have stepped out and demonstrated leadership qualities. Mission trips does have this extraordinary effect somehow.

It was pleasing to see how all the youths who participated had to literally break themselves out of their own comfort zones and forced themselves onto the next level of ministry – leading the kids in sessions, reaching out to them, playing with them, engaging them, and most importantly, showing and sharing God’s love with them.

I was very encouraged and amazed at how God was grooming the talents of these youths to be future leaders and also active in ministry.

9. Connecting with the God of Creation

In this city, we seldom get the opportunity to pause life and admire God’s handiwork every now and then. When we were on this trip, we were all delightfully greeted to so many wonders of His creation that speaks to everyone of us differently.

For example, every morning we would be woken up by the chilly, misty surroundings, treated to the fresh morning dew formed on the leaves and flowers, stand in awe of the sight of the majestic mountains, etc.

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At night, we would be able to see the myriad of stars seemingly decorating the night sky, lighting it up so brightly that at times they seemed to be within reach of our feeble fingers. Most of us admitted such sights are rarely found in the city, so I am pretty sure it is something we would certainly remember forever.

God’s creation speaks volumes of His power, love andВ sovereignty. It reminds me who is in charge of the stars, of nature, of all creation – including me.

10. God Heals and Restores

There was an evening when we spent some time playing football with the village men and boy, did we receive a footballing clinic that day. We played two brief games and although we ‘only’ lost 0-3 and 0-2, they really made us run everywhere with their superb passing and control of the game. Their goalkeeper could have literally gone home for a cup of coffee before returning because we almost posed no threat at all! Seriously!

At the end of the session, all of us were so extremely tired and beat. Fortunately, we all had this wonderful river to jump into and rejuvenate ourselves again! What a great illustration of how God continues to heal us in times of need.

Similarly, we often find ourselves so caught up with the rat race and other busi-ness that seems to be a regular feature in our lives. Most days, we would return home extremely tired and beat too. Whilst we all do not have a river to jump into back home, this experience during this trip reminds us all that amidst our busi-ness, we should not lose focus of resting our weary selves in the Lord every now and then.

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God has spoken. Now I need to be obedient and follow the lessons He has shown me through these reflections from the river…

 

The river of God sets our feet a-dancing
The river of God fills our hearts with cheer
The river of God fills our mouths with laughter
And we rejoice for the river is here

(Andy Park)

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