Friday, 4 November 2016

I'm not making Tools; I'm making Art

You know what?

I missed out Technical Studies completely from my previous post!?

Did I study so many subjects during Sec 1 and 2? Now that's what I call a broad education!

Subconsciously, it probably showed how much I hated Technical Studies....

I'm a klutz when it comes to DIY. So how did I ended with a DIY company!?

Yes, I'm the kind of "dainty" Singaporean male who will pay for someone to assemble the furniture...


My Gan Eng Seng School (Anson Road) did not have a workshop. So we had our Technical lessons at Bukit Merah Secondary School.

I'm terrible with woodwork. Can't saw straight. Cannot hammer the nails in straight. I think I have a talent for veering off tangent!

Metal work slightly better. I enjoyed this thing we do with the metal file to get a rounded corner on a metal plate. And remember countersunk? That's the fun part where we widen a hole to fit a screw or bolt to make it flush.
Guess what?

I often failed. Lots!

Why? I never adhere to the instructions when it comes to measurements. When it says 5 cm, I'll produce something like 4.98 cm or 5.3 cm... I'm more a "agar agar du hor" (estimate can oredi) kind of person...

Don't ever hire me as your renovation contractor! No matter how cheap I quoted you!

As for my woodworking instructor, he "sees" me as transparent. So I shan't talk about him.

Now this metalwork instructor couldn't take it anymore one fine day. He called me out during break time and threw the handheld garden shovel tool I've submitted back to me on his desk.

"Why did you countersunk on the reverse side?"

"They looked pretty...The 2 silver rings."

"Do you know how to use a ruler?" You can almost hear the exasperation in his voice...

I can't say I don't care about precision; sure get scolding. Till this day, I don't know what transpired me to reply in Mandarin...

"我不是打造工具,我是创造艺术品。"   (I'm not making tools; I'm making art.)

He was surprised by my answer; and he stared at me through his glasses for quite a while. Then he waved me off saying never mind...

From that day onwards, I never got into any trouble with the metalwork instructor. He still fails me; but now he will speak to me in Mandarin whenever he passes my workstation. Curious to see what product adaptations I'll be making next!

Years later, when reviewing my Jedi skills (EQ), I realised I had intuitively replied in Mandarin as I knew the metalwork instructor was Chinese educated from his English accent.

I showed him respect and created a closer bond by speaking in the language of his heart.

I do this too during my weekend sales gig by speaking in broken Malay to my Malay customers. They laughed; I laughed. Rapport created.

As a Chinese educated instructor in a English educated world, he definitely has a hole in his heart.

I'm purely guessing here, but I think for that instant, he realised what I am going through was similar to his hole in the heart... A broad brush stroke trapped in a CNC (computer numerical control) precision world...

He cannot pass me like my Art teachers - this is after all still a Technical class - but by seeing me in a different light, he wasn't angry or exasperated with me anymore. Phew!

This is why I can poke and debate vigorously with bloggers holding complete opposite views, and we still can have coffee together. Wink.

I don't need to stick only with my "own kind".

As for the woodworking instructor?

Well, it shows my "bawu" (Jedi mind trick) will not work on everyone.

And this is very true as they would prefer to see me as "transparent". 

Especially if your worldview is based on - either if you are with me; or you are against me.

So serious!?


  1. Hi SMOL,

    Haha, I'm opposite from you :) I love technical studies and I am better with plastics and woods than with metal. I can be very precise, but you guess what, I got the same problem as you! I measured everything exactly, but failed to realize that when I bent the wood or plastic, the measurements need to add in a few mm here and there, and boy do these mm add up eventually LOL

    I learnt to make precise measurements AND also to give allowance, but's pretty much the same thing as agar agar :)

    I love these stories :)

    1. LP,

      Hey! That's an interesting extension to my story!

      A bit like when I was learning Discounted Cash Flow Analysis for the first time.

      It gave an "illusion of precision" until I realised with so many assumptions employed, its as good as guessing! LOL!

      You are good. Can use both left and right brain orientations ;)

      It interesting why we can recall certain episodes of our lives more clearly than the rest.

      That episode with my metal work instructor made me realise I can talk my way out of trouble.

      Which meant I also can talk others into buying when I started working after my O' levels ;)

      Its fun to connect the dots back!

  2. I measure, measure, measure (three times) before I cut the wood.In Spore we know it as kiasu and kiasi

    1. CW,

      Somehow I'm not surprised! LOL!

      Once again, we are polar opposites.

      I'm "agar agar du hor" and "crash got sound".

      No surprise I ended up with top down global macro - just as long I get the general trend right, I can forget about the bottom-up details ;)

  3. Smol,

    I am not good at technical, but I quite like it.

    If u ask me what subjects I like, I say I like the subject I can score. History, literature, maths, score, I like, cannot score ... dun like.

    I still pick up history and literature books once in a while. Maths book nah... investment I also like the prospecting part than the formula.

    When I was in university, I know nuts about Chinese literature and Chinese Language. That is where the "awakening" comes in.

    I did horribly for both and rebounded strongly for both subjects from year 2 onwards . When there is time
    To major in one, the choice is obvious. But language is just a tool and I stopped, but I still like "literature"

    U must be very kuai lan student.

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      You are unique as in there are very few Singaporeans who can teach Chinese.

      And a male Chinese teacher some more!

      I am not "kuai lan".

      I prefer to live in my own world while at school.

      Lucky school did not do any lasting damage to me ;)

      My concept of getting an education differs from mainstream. For example:

      I like History; but I got F9 for my O' levels.

      I just don't see the point of memorising 10 year series answers just to score distinctions in exams.

      That's study for exams; not for interest.

      Because of my interest in History, I read widely outside the syllabus. It's for enjoyment ;)

      Try carrying a conversation on historical events over dinner and I'll show you who makes a more interesting conversational partner!


  4. I know what u mean SMoL,
    Those history I remembered, are not those "tested" but sometime it is just a steeping stone.

    History is very fragmented in my learning.

    Three kingdoms is my favorite. Then it went on to Pre-Qin

    Then I tried to get a general picture of the flow. All these are not "testable"

    But if u test me on 3 kingdoms, I will
    Most prob still fail ... lol


    1. Sillyinvestor,

      Same goes for me if you test me on history ;)

      Why the need to commit to memory when I know WHERE to get the information?

      春秋战国 is the best if you interested like me on how to "read" people.

      Nothing has changed for the past 5,000 years.

      We still see the same techniques used over and over by land owners and shepherds to leverage on Other People's Talent/Time (OPT).

      History is written by the victors. Very interesting if we read the perspective from the other side ;)

  5. Yup 春秋战国,refer to 先秦,pre-qin

    It is actually 2 era to be actual, c

    the separation is not so distinct by time but by the awekening of different school of thoughts in politics as influence by the most vibrant period of philosophy( 九流十家),nope buddishism has not come to china yet ...

    If u like 春秋,read the comic I recommend. Modern 春秋

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      Nah, I prefer 龙虎门.

      Its amazing the HK comic of my primary school time is still running albeit as a re-run of the original.

      Most of my Eastern philosophical readings came from the comics of 蔡志忠.

      I not so highbrow ;)

    2. Hi SI and Smol

      Modern 春秋 and 龙虎门 from 黄玉郎。

      My Chinese teacher other than the "orthodox" school. The rest came from the "unorthodox" side of hk comics.

    3. Small Time Investor,

      Nostalgia. I got initiated into HK comics from my barber during primary school.


      It's been more than 10 years since I've stepped into a barber shop!?



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