Monday, October 31, 2011

Kindness to others

In Matthew 25:40 (in the parable of the sheep and the goats), The Lord says: "...Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

This verse speaks of the deep of love of God for even the least of his subjects. I love my mother very much. I feel indebted to anyone who extends a helping hand to her in her old age. For example, I feel indebted to my niece who regularly makes sure she has the right medicine. The more we love a person, the more we are touched when another person shows kindness to our loved one.

Everyone should always show kindness, respect, and love to his or her spouse's parent. In this way, he or she will touch the heart and earn the gratitude and indebtedness of the spouse. Well-brought up children learn this from young. I stopped at a coffee shop yesterday and ordered a coffee. After I was billed, I asked the person about his father (he didn't know me), and immediately he insisted on giving me discount on the coffee. The young man left a positive impression on me. Even though he did not know me, he did for me what his father would have done.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Earthquake survivors after 100 hours

It has been a hundred hours since the earthquake in Turkey struck. Survivors are still being rescued from underneath the rubble. The thought that occurs to me is the ordeal of being trapped for that long.

Imagine being unable to keep warm; not knowing day or night; and not hearing any voices for days. Imagine you have no room to even move a limb - solitary confinement in a prison cell is a luxury in comparison. Now imagine you cannot even scratch an itch. To endure an itch even for a few minutes is enough to drive many insane,try enduring for100 hours. The mental torture of being trapped in a tightly confined space is just unimaginable to me. Count your blessings every day and appreciate what you have: your health, clean air, warm bed, your liberty, food on the table... etc, etc.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A History of the Jews

I have always been interested to read what history has to say about Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed. I found a very interesting book called "A History of the Jews" by Solomon Grayzel. This is history from a Jew's point of view. The author portrays Jesus as a holy man and a prophet, but stopped short of saying he is the Messiah. While Grayzel accurately narrated the life and death of Christ as told in the New Testament, he did not narrate the numerous times Christ appeared to his disciples after he was resurrected. If you are interested to read Grayzel's account, go to:

Grayzel also mentioned the rise of Prophet Mohammed and how he founded Islam. What I found interesting is that Grayzel says Prophet Mohammed expected the Jews to hail him as a great prophet and redeemer of mankind, failing which he vented his anger at them and took actions to destroy them. If you are interested in this bit of history, see: .

(The above given links are temporary and will be eventually removed. Download to read while you can)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Programs, browsers and apps

This blog is motivated by an article I just read in PC Magazine, written by John Dvorak called "It's an App World After All."

Back in the 70's, using a computer means opening up a program that has been developed in-house or through a third party software developer. Gradually this evolved into using commercially developed and mass marketed software, which reduced costs and increased standardization and ease of use. This was Microsoft's golden years, as this environment was very OS-centric.

In 1984 when Sun Microsystem started the mantra "The Network is the Computer", it must have triggered others to take online computing seriously. Ten years later in 1993 the first browser Netscape emerged. Many years after that, Google successfully challenged Microsoft for the computing throne. Browser-based computing is now as important as OS-centric program-based computing. Through the popularity of its search engine, Google took computing to its next era, leaving Microsoft befuddled behind.

Steve Jobs made app-based computing popular. Apps, short for "applets" (and nothing to do with little Apples) is now gathering momentum. People seem to be more at ease with buying and installing apps, than on buying and installing "programs". Even browser-based applications like Youtube and Facebook are finding their way to computer-illiterate people when packaged as an app. I have no doubt that apps-based computing is the new wave of computing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street protests

This movement started last month in New York, and has now spread to 1500 cities throughout the world. People are finally voicing out what all of us have slowly come to realize: there is something inherently wrong with the economic system in the world today. Bankers and financiers are the target of this growing wrath. As the protesters say, the financial systems benefit a handful of banks at the expense of the taxpayers.

I wish the protesters well. During the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) of 1988,  the US government used its taxpayers' money to bail out the banks, with very little of the US$800bil directly benefiting the man in the street. As the crisis in Europe unfolds today, it is again clear that governments all over Europe are more concerned about keeping the banks safe than letting the banks pay for their years of recklessness and greed.

In Australia, the four major banks are now saying they are going to retrench workers, in spite of the fact that they are forecasted to have profit increases of between 10% to 21% in 2011. Here is what the news report* says: "Australia's major banks are under pressure to cut jobs in response to flagging demand for credit despite being on track to deliver a record combined annual profit of more than $23 billion. Three of the big four lenders - ANZ, Westpac and National Australia Bank - will release their results in the coming weeks, and analysts warn they may unveil cost-cutting plans." It is all greed, greed, and more greed. If the banks are not retrenching staff, they are always looking for ways to increase charges to their customers. Where is the line drawn, I wonder?

*see Herald Sun Oct 16th, 2011:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The money illusion

Money has no absolute value. The value it carries is relative to the area in which it is used. It may not be a geographical area, but rather, it is the area where money is competing between its owners for similar goods (kind of like supply-and-demand situation). For example, in a city the value of money is much lower than what it is in the rural area when it comes to competing for real estate. Yet the same currency will have the same value in both places when it comes to buying a car or a TV set, because the same item could be moved across the country to even out the demands.

Here is the money illusion. People with little fixed assets other than their homes (which means >90% of the population) generally measure their wealth by how much savings they have in the bank account. With the cost of utilities having risen by at least 30% over the last five years, people have been "robbed" right from under their nose without so much as a whimper. Indeed, experience has shown that when a country undergoes hyperinflation, the purchasing power of money can devalue to just a fraction of what it used to be. Inflation and hyperinflation differ only as a matter of degree. Money should be tuned into a fixed asset as soon as one can afford to put it aside, not as a fixed deposit or a big fat bank account.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guitar apps for my Android phone

One of the nicest things about having a smartphone or a tablet, for that matter, is that you can keep adding apps with little or no cost. For a gadget lover like myself, this equates to having countless gadgets at my disposal. The Android apps store is rich hunting ground for anyone who cares to look. Here are a few guitar apps (all free) that I have installed on my phone.

The first one is called Solo Lite. With over 63,000 downloads, its popularity speaks for itself. You can play a tune on it by touching the strings or the chords. While not a serious application, it is rather fascinating to use.
You can find many drum kits and drum machine apps, but the curiously-named Silicon Oxide app is one that I like most. It gives you the basic drum beats and you can easily change the tempo using the slider. It is very useful for practice sessions. Plugged in to my speakers, it sounds just like a real drum beat. This app has only 105 downloads but it is a real gem.

Of course, who doesn't need a chord finder every now and then? Basic Chords has only slightly over a 1,000 downloads but I like it for its simplicity. It shows you all the different variations of the same chord, as well as plays the chord when you touch it. You can also choose other instruments like ukulele, mandolin, etc.

gStrings is one of my favourite apps. This app has been downloaded over 40,000 times. I have checked it against my faithful old tuner and I find it equally sensitive and accurate. You can also change the setting to tune violin, ukulele, etc. This is really fantastic for people who play multiple instruments.

Apple without Steve Jobs

Here is what I think will happen to Apple without Steve Jobs. This is, of course, just pure speculation on my part. In my opinion, I think Apple's greatest days are over unless another genius like Steve Jobs takes over. I don't know much about Tim Cook, the new CEO. All I can say is that it is hard to replace a genuine innovator of Jobs' calibre at the helm.

Here are some companies that are struggling to produce innovative and lifestyle-changing products, but never they have never hit the same level of success that Jobs has managed to achieve. Bill Gates was never the great innovator he claimed to be. As CEO, he failed to make the tablet PC a success, despite working on it for 15 years before the iPad was announced launched.

Motorola invented the mobile phone, but failed to reap the benefits of worldwide dominance in mobile phones. Its CEO failed to move in the right direction of technological progress, spending billions instead on developing the Iridium network which became an absolute white elephant.

More recently, HP spent US$1.5bil to purchase the PalmOS, hoping to gain a head start in its own tablet PC. One year later, this was completely written off.

How about Nokia, which hired its present CEO from Microsoft and ended up adopting Phone 7 for its mobile phone future? A team of conscientious senior managers tried to make a stand against that decision but eventually relented. It is now clear that Nokia has made a huge blunder, as the Phone 7 is all but completely ignored by the market.

From the above examples, it is clear that CEO's are key to making the right technological decisions, especially when we are talking about high tech companies. Their influence cannot be underestimated. Unless Tim Cook is another genius like Steve Jobs, I can only say that Apple has already reached its pinnacle of innovative prowess.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spending the way to prosperity or doom

Many politicians and their economic advisers believe that the way to get the economy moving is to get people to spend. That is undeniably the right thing to do, but only up to a point. This is a flawed argument in times of prosperity.. Many, if not all, of the developed countries that are now in trouble do not save for rainy days. Their governments spend through bad times to stimulate the economy, and then continue to spend in good times to win votes by making people feel good. Of course, when people spend endlessly, the economic indicators will tick upwards. Unfortunately, the ensuing prosperity is ephemeral. The day of reckoning will eventually come, and come it has.

This is perhaps a time for our government to reflect on what is good and responsible economic management. If it is not able to spend within its revenue, perhaps it should relinquish the job of running the government to the opposition. We should have a law to prevent those in power from spending over the budget, which is what they like to do as it helps to garner votes by giving everyone some goodies. Only that the goodies are obtained by incurring debt, to be paid for by the future generation.