Thursday 31 May 2012

Early Winter For The Bear

The brown bear looked back and sniffed at the late autumn air as he slumbered into his den.

Winter has come early.

While waiting for sleep to take over, the bear smiles as he recalls the irrational exuberance of his youth.

Fighting with other male bears to establish his place in the hierarchy of bear society during the blossom of spring; chasing the female bears in the heat of summer; and fishing with his mates down by the creek soaking in the autumn breeze.

All fun and games while forgetting about the cold and dark of winter.

That winter, the bear recalled waking up from his hibernation as he had not prepared for hibernation well by fattening himself fully during the months of plenty. 

Distracted by play and lust…

Hungry and cold, he was lucky to have found carrion that winter to sustain him till spring finally arrives.

Now older and wiser, the bear makes sure he fattens himself before pursuing other extra-curricular activities…

Even though winter has come early this year, and it has surprised some of the younger bears, this bear knows it will sleep soundly this winter.

We can make mistakes; but it’s never good to repeat the same mistake twice.

North American Brown Bear And Your Investing/Trading Styles

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Singlish and Making Decisions

First, a little joke.

Two Singaporeans - Ah Lim and Ah Peh - entered a pub in Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong.

Ah Lim: "Send me a girl!"

Ah Peh: "I want a Thai girl."

The ang moh lady bartender looked shocked and offended: "Sir, we don't provide such services here.  If you want girls, you have to go down to Wanchai's girlie bars."

Ah Lim and Ah Peh looked at each other with puzzled looks. 

What talking her? What girls?

We only wanted a San Miguel and a Tiger beer!?

LOL! (OK, pathetic laughing at my own joke hor?)

I remember my Swiss German boss telling me that he found Singlish hard to understand. We don't speak in complete sentences.

The above misunderstanding can be avoided if we speak in complete sentences:

"I'll have a San Miguel beer please."

But that will take the fun and brilliance out of Singlish!

Where else can you express so much with so economical use of words?

"Why cannot?" versus "Why is it not possible?"

"How much?" versus "How much do you charge love?" Opps! I meant "How much does it cost?"

Isn't it brilliant? See? So fake.

Power right? That's better!!! (save one word and three syllabus what!) 

Singlish relies a lot on being "understooded". We are expected to "fill in the blanks" ourselves. 

So imagine if we can make decisions like we speak Singlish?

Power or not?

But no. 

For some Singaporeans to make decisions, we need to first check with mother, consult with our superiors, check dictionary this and check thesaurus that, and even want to refer to the whole bloody encyclopaedia or SOP manual just to be safe!

Why can't we "fill in the blanks" ourselves with the limited information - like in Singlish?

For investors who buy high sell low, I guess that's the price to pay - for waiting for confirm and double-confirm - whenever you make an investment decision ;)  

Sunday 27 May 2012

Bee Gees and Robin Gibb - I started a joke (Retirement)

When stars we have grown up with have moved on, I am reminded of my own mortality.

Robin Gibb died at 62 last Sunday on 20 May 2012.

The Bee Gees, Boney M, ABBA, were my 3 favourite bands that accompanied me during the late 70s and early 80s.

I still remember fondly those early days where I would visit Queensway Shopping Centre to buy those $2.50 cassette tapes.

62 years old is the retirement age in Singapore.

When I flipped through the obituaries in the papers, I can't help but take a second look if the person's age is around 65.

Imagine planning all the wonderful things you would like to do after retirement and we don't get a chance to execute them...

It can be a joke on us. 

What if tomorrow never comes

Thursday 24 May 2012

Marina Bay Sands - A day in reflections

From the depths of hell to the heights of heaven all in 4 days!?

Yesterday, another family member invited me to their staycation in Marina Bay Sands to cheer me up.

Here are some philosophical reflections:

That's the "wow" view that hits you as you enter the front entrance of Marina Bay Sands.

Is it a chicken coop? Or is it a cloud? 

Hmm... Looks to me like a fengshui net to trap the monies from all the gamblers. 


How's this for geometric art? 

I can't decide to call it "Railway To Heaven" or "Stairway To Heaven"?

Why heaven? I don't tell you! You figure it out ;)

In our pursuit of what's "right", we sometimes see things in black and white.

And we forget the most important ingredient - the human element.

Can you see when we add the human element, it gets "brighter"?

Ah! Shades of grey. That's better! 

A life that's dull and grey can better appreciate the accents of colour when they appear in our lives.

Similarly, a life that's a riot of colours may long for the simplicity of black and white.

A tunnel vision is great for the single-mindedness needed in pursuing our "SMART" goal. 

But what if an opportunity appears in our peripheral vision?  

 I've always found curve lines pleasing. 

Then I realised why.

Here's looking at you girls!

The lotus flower. Untainted by the mud from where it has sprouted. 

Judge a person for who he is today; not from his birth place.

Least we discover our roots are joined to the same ancestry and motherland.

I've found a lovely spot to meditate on a lazy afternoon. How nice! Reflections under and beside the lotus :)

Spent 2 hours dipping in the waters and bathing in the sunlight. 

Bukit Timah hill is in the distance and it's fun picking out the buildings below.

So this is what's like to "live" on top of the world!?

Wait, something's not right in this picture!

Can you spot it?


Now you know why property developers always use the same technique when advertising in newspapers. Boys will be boys...

We need more power women executives in the boardroom and in the advertising circles. 

It would be interesting to let men see from women's eyes for a change. 

"Woman, you have worked hard and played hard (buy this condo). Look! Here's a toy boy with a mean six pack (buy this condo). What are you waiting for (buy this condo)? You deserve it (buy this condo)! 

The subliminal message is that if you flaunt your wealth and status, bimbo men will come!


Tuesday 22 May 2012

I am flawed like that tulip in tulip mania

I added the below comment in a blog that I felt I have a connection to many moons ago:

"The most expensive and prized tulip strain during the tulip mania was a "damaged" tulip - the unique red streaks on its petals were the result of a virus infection. 

People didn't know then.

It was prized because it was unique and rare."

Semper Augustus, the most prized tulip during the tulip mania

Little did I know I was subconsciously cheer-leading myself.

For I am a flawed person too. 

Medically, suffice to say during NS I was PES C - or what others would call "sick chicken" soldiers.

I am not complaining. My 2 years of NS was relatively easy and "senang" compared to my 2 neighours who were guardsman and commando during their NS- now that's what I call warriors!

But that's not the flaw I care about. 

On Sunday, I had a tiff with a family member. I said some harsh words and once the words came out, I immediately regretted it.

But the damage was done.

I knew which buttons to press and boy did I twist my bayonet...

I treat strangers better than I treat family. That's the flaw I hate myself.

My quick wit in retort has been extremely helpful in my career - I stood out because I don't suffer fools easily and can defend our department when we were "attacked" or blamed in the usual politics of office life. Or when it comes to fighting for resources and the "limelight".

I've removed my mask; but I've brought along my armour and weapons of war back home...

I need to discard them away and find the old me back. The me before the street smarts...

It's OK to be vulnerable. I don't have to be on my guard all the time.

I am home with family now.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Chess Playing And Investing/Trading

My classmate taught me how to play chess during my secondary school days.

Remember those wonderful weeks after the school exams where our teachers leave us to "study" on our  own?

As a newbie, I was very surprised to be checkmated in 4 bloody short moves!? Huh? 

I was "taught" how each chess pieces move; but was not taught "how" to play chess.

I learned from my mistakes and now I am puzzled how my classmates were able to counteract my early opening moves without much thinking on their part.

That is until I realised that they have memorised the popular chess opening moves. No wonder! 

I too started reading chess books.

And learned the classic chess openings like Ruy Lopez, French Defense, Queen's Gambit, etc.

Now some of my classmates don't seem so smart now. I started to win more games.

What comes next is the exciting middle game of chess. Rote learning does not help here. Strategies and tactics matter more.    

The more chess games I played, the better I become. 

I realise its because I got better at recognising the patterns of the chess pieces and it's relation to the spatial positioning on the chessboard.

When to sacrifice material for positioning advantage; and when to give up positioning advantage to win back the initiative... Books can't teach you all these. We have to learn it through trial and error. Or practice, practice, practice!

Some of the best learning came from defeats by better opponents. I can "borrow with pride" their winning strategies or tactics that were used on me in my next game ;)

Soon, I've reached my bottle-neck in chess playing. The end game is where the boys (me) are separated from the men.

Mediocrity is hard to conceal when there's simplicity. An empty chessboard with only a few remaining chess pieces. You either know or don't know. Period. 

You got to think and make your own decisions. You're on your own! 

And now you have your answer to the debate between nature versus nurture...

Non chess players do not fret. Just substitute chess playing to another game or sport that you love playing passionately - just like in investing or trading.

I think golf is another great analogy to chess playing :)

Fellow investors and traders, can you relate to the chess analogy above? 

It's humbling to know that after so many years in the markets, we sometimes fuxx up the end game don't we?


Some externalise and blame. 

Some internalise and reflect. 

Not everyone can be great investors and traders. Good is enough for me :)

Friday 18 May 2012

We are all coloured

I remember watching a US movie about a trial where a group of white southern senior teenage boys were being accused of raping a young black girl of around 13 years old.

The white prosecutor had the difficult job of winning the trust of the black family and fending off attacks from his white community for being a “nigger lover”.

Guess what? The jurors were all white too.

This story happened in the 60s where people went to church on Sundays believing all men were created equal and we should love our neighbours…

Even though slavery was abolished in 1865 after the Civil War, prejudices and segregation continued in the Southern States as the hearts and minds of men were not so easily won over by a mere act of legislation.

During the closing argument of the trial, the white prosecutor asked the white jurors to close their eyes as he vividly replayed the rape scene in the jurors’ minds. 

How a group of teenage boys set themselves on the poor young girl. How her dress was torn and shredded. And how her soft and small body were beaten and bruised as the boys took turns on her… 

The climatic ending was when the white prosecutor said these words to the jurors:

“Now imagine the girl is white.”

It’s interesting to see the amount of vitriol and discriminatory comments made in cyberspace under the cloak of anonymity; or putting a brown paper bag over our heads when we speak ill of others.

I guess these people cannot be people of religion. 

For even if no one knows who you are, the higher authority up there will know during Judgement Day. And for some religion, the mere thought will have consequences, never mind if you never put your thoughts into print…

They must be agnostics like me, or atheists. Or can they be Jekylll and Hyde personalities? Man of religion in real life, and neo-nazis in cyberspace?

I do not believe in consequences in the afterlife. But I do believe in consequences during my lifetime.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Taking Care Of Ourselves First

When travelling on airlines, as part of the operational safety procedures, we will hear:"Please put on the oxygen mask on yourself first before tending to your children."

Isn't it counter-intuitive to our natural instinct to protect our young ones first?

Or do you know that experienced life-guards will let swimmers in trouble "drown" first before attempting to bring them on-shore for resuscitation?

Before you start kicking life-guards in the press, maybe you can pause and reflect whether it's easier to rescue one drowning person or two drowning persons - never mind if the other inexperienced rescuer is just trying to help...

I love to follow my heart over what my mind says.  But on this topic, I constantly have to remind myself to heed the sound logical reasoning of the mind over the emotional instinct of the heart.

This is also one of those "right" actions that may incur lots of public criticisms and rebuke after the fact. It takes courage to do the "right" thing.

Successful people who took care of themselves first are able to contribute back to society. You see their names on roads, hospitals, university halls, etc. 

Most just see the generosity and kindness part. If these philanthropists cannot take care of themselves first, can they help others?

Some understand this truth but is hesitant or reluctant to be seen to be taking care of themselves first. They fear public accusations of being selfish, egotistical, and putting me first.

No? Is reputation or the viewpoint of strangers more important than the well-being of your child?

In an airplane emergency, you put on the air mask on your child and expect your child to take care of a passed-out you? Now that's pushing the "play victim" role a bit too far...

Have we seen examples of these in our everyday lives outside of the airplane analogy?

You probably noticed I don't talk much about the investments and speculations in my blog. You've guessed right! I am busy trying to stay afloat myself!

If I can take care of myself, it will be better for my family, my neighbours, and country.

Handouts or subsidies have to come from somewhere...

Sunday 13 May 2012

Noise Cancellation And Retirement

Have you seen some passengers wearing their own noise cancellation headphones while travelling by air?

I think is super cool and a better way to "drown-out" ambient noise than to pump up the volume. It's better for the health of your ears and the "happiness index" of the passenger sitting next to you ;)

I remember watching a documentary on how it's done. Instead of blocking or minimizing the pesky ambient noise, these speakers emit another sound that produce a wave length that is the direct opposite. 

Presto! Silence. (Please don't ask me about the science. Mine is a layman's understanding) 

I've noticed that there are now more reported divorces amongst couples 65 and beyond in Singapore. Japan had a head start over us. 

I remember reading 10 years ago that more Japanese elderly women are divorcing their retired husbands. It's manageable when these housewives only see their husbands in the nights and early mornings; but to have their retired husbands all day in the house is simply unbearable!!!

These housewives reminisce longingly when their husbands would spend their weekends with their golf buddies, but now are no longer fit for golf... Bad backs, bad knees... Ahhhh!!!

Perhaps instead of avoiding each other or going at each others' throats in their twilight years, if only these retired men can continue with hobbies or activities that take them outside the house during the day.

And that's what most of us forget.

We spend all our working lives planning our career moves and growing our passive cash flows to secure our "golden age" retirement.

I am not sure about the golden part... I thought our golden age is when we are young, fit, and healthy? For women it's in their 30s and men it's during our national service days. Or am I mixing sexual prime with golden age?

Anyway, back to life after retirement. The non-financial bits.

Don't assume your work buddies will be around to keep you company:

1) Colleagues may still be working (and you now no longer have networking benefits to offer)

2) Friends may no longer be in good health or they may have moved on to a better place

3) You may have become a grumpier and angrier bitter you. (And you wonder why people don't like your company?)

Imagine after years of "after thought", you now starts to "care" how your wife should do the laundry, tend to the garden, or how she does her marketing?

I know. I've made the same mistake after my return. 7 years of independent living has spoiled me. 

I am now a Zen minimalistic guy who hates clutter; while mom is the same mom when growing up - she's a hoarder and never throws away anything!

So you can imagine the tensions she must have felt. The joy of having me back must have lasted only a few weeks until I start secretly throwing away her stuffs. LOL!

We now have our peace. My room she don't touch. And I become "blind" when I step out of my room. 

She has not changed; I have.

People first, things second.

Guess what? The reason I can "see" everything in the house was because I was too free! Or to be precise, spending too many hours in the house.

Glad I'm back to my usual mix of activities. For that scary few weeks in the wilderness of not knowing what to do, it's not fun I assure you :(

Who knew that life after retirement is not about doing less?

It's like the noise cancelling technology - we need to come up with activities that can cancel out the ambient noise of: 

a) Boredom 

b) Sense of lose
c) Diminished self-worth 
d) Desire to be needed

You can add your own to the list above!

Whether it's early or normal retirement (whatever that means), there's more to it than the financial part. 

The soul bit is just as important ;)


Friday 11 May 2012

To All The Children On Mother's Day - Anak by Freddie Aguilar

I would like to dedicate this song to all the children on Mother's day.

Instead of focusing on Mothers, I believe the spotlight should shine on the children in all of us.

1 day of "quality time" do not make up for the rest of the 364 days of "after-thought".

I myself have 7 years of neglect to make up for...

No, I don't have to "celebrate" Mother's day this Sunday. 

Everyone of us honour our parents in our own way. I just hold her hands when we go out.

And below is Freddie Aguilar singing Anak in the original Filipino version. This monster hit song was translated and covered by other singers - as many as a hundred versions in 23 languages - all over the world! 


Wednesday 9 May 2012

I used to complain I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet



Without contentment and gratefulness for the things we do have, how would you gain financial freedom?

How to be free when it's never enough?

How to be happy when there's always something that others have and you don't?

Catch yourself the next time when you say you "deserve" or is "entitled" to this or that ;)

What would you give in return for "inner peace"?

Or is it inside all of us all along?

Peace be with you.



Sunday 6 May 2012

The Mouse, the Frog, and the Hawk - Beware of who you hang out with

A Mouse, by an unlucky chance, formed an intimate acquaintance with a Frog. The Frog one day, intent on mischief, bound the foot of the Mouse tightly to his own. Thus joined together, the Frog led his friend to the pool in which he lived, until he reached the very brink, when suddenly jumping in, he dragged the Mouse in with him.

The Frog enjoyed the water amazingly, and swam croaking about, as if he had done a meritorious action. The unhappy Mouse was soon suffocated with the water, and his dead body floated about on the surface, tied to the foot of the Frog.

A Hawk observed it, and, pouncing upon it, carried it aloft. The Frog, being still fastened to the leg of the Mouse, was also carried off a prisoner, and was eaten by the Hawk.

Harm hatch, harm catch.

The above is one of Aesop's many stories that I've "borrowed with pride".  

Most of us can relate to it. I for one can share quite a few personal experiences:

1) Please drop me off right ahead. 

I will not take a free ride when I know the driver had a few drinks more than desired. You'll be surprised how many other people don't mind... 

There was once I politely asked my friend to let me off after a short ride - by giving a white lie that I just remembered that I need to buy something - when I discovered the way he drove made me uncomfortable, and he wasn't drinking!

I've been in 2 "light" car crashes - both driven by friends - to appreciate what Aesop meant. 

2) Join me for shopping?

Ever accompanied friends for shopping and you come back with "stuffs" you don't need? Its already hard to say "no" to good salespersons; why add "peer pressure" on yourself?

If you want to lose weight, what do our "friends" do? Eat lah! Won't die one! Have more! I treat you!

3) I made money! It's so simple!

Some friends when they make money - be it gambling at casinos, stocks, futures, forex, property, etc - they like to make it known to the world how "smart" they are...

Skeptical listeners who "capitulate" and join in the fray frequently find themselves buying at market tops or discover belatedly that "simple" does not equate "easy"...

And if it's "voodoo" alternative investments, and they turned out to be scams... Should we "blame" our Frog friends who reassured us it's "legit" and they have received real returns promptly as promised?
Or should the Mice reflect why they willingly let themselves be tied to their Frog friends?

4) Excuse me, can you be my guarantor?

Lucky I've not been put to the test yet. This one is a real tough one... Especially if the one asking is someone you love, respect, and/or is a blood relation....

The heart says "yes"; but the mind screams "no"! 

Friday 4 May 2012

繁華攏是夢 - 江惠 VS 音樂磁場 (Little trading lies we tell ourselves)

Getting "married" to a dead stock or a losing trading position is a big no no if we want to play "speculation" game.

Oh! We are not speculating or gambling... Yeah right! 

Fundamental "investors" that tell me that I can understand; but if "traders" tell me they are not speculating... I put a distance between them and me. 

Cannot let people who tell lies to themselves "poison" my mind and money management. 

If I believe there's a "system" - I will let my guard down.
It's the same with being married or loving the "wrong" person. In our hearts we know it.

But then we continue to tell little lies to ourselves....

For Hokkien song lovers, hope you will like this song sung by 江惠 and 音樂磁場.

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