Keinian ideals: Paying it forward in a gift economy

Watched this video today, quite impressed with the quotes presented.

‎”We have to find ways of maintaining the belief that when you take care of other people, you will be taken care of. If you trust this, you don’t spend as much time protecting yourself.

It’s become a dangerous way of living, but it’s a beautiful way of living.”
– coumbe toure, cultural worker and educator

Of course, this was just another chunk of inspiration among the many other nuggets I have read, in the years of my refusal to become yet another total cynic on this earth. Charles Eisenstein’s The Ascent of Humanity is another excellent read, one that I always recommend without reservation.

So, a few things I would like to highlight.

Trust
Despite the constant rejection and withdrawal by other people, I still (perhaps naively) hang on to the belief that everyone should always be judged with kindness and trust, and I should try my best to help them until they repeatedly prove themselves to be undeserving. Trust is perhaps, one of the finest gifts you can ever endow upon someone. Which is why some people go by the good old rule: “Trust is not lightly earned.

Protecting yourself from harm is important, and being bitten makes one shy. Cynicism is a necessary evil at times. But learning to trust others is something that should always be attempted; no man is an island, and how are we to live on without interacting with others?

Giving
Helping someone, is always a good thing to do. And what better way to do it than to do it with a clear heart, without expectation of being repaid in kind? The act of giving from the heart is, in a word priceless. Being forced to give with reluctance, only strengthens that hidden desire to be repaid.

Learn to give, and give only when you believe in the act.

Paying it forward
Should you feel that need to repay the favour you received, what better way than to give it to someone else in need? A circle of kindness will only encourage the movement to grow, to benefit countless others (as opposed to a trade, where only two people gain from the exchange), and to ultimately make society a more generous one.


I was reminded of this at dinnertime today, when baby Elly started fussing for milk and the pizzeria we dined at did not have any hot water available.

I then walked over to the Indian restaurant next door and explained my situation; the lady at the counter smiled, agreed and filled my glass. It would be typical to view the situation with suspicion, and think that I would have had to buy something at the restaurant to get hot water. But I simply trusted in the goodness of people, and that a small favour like this should be given without expecting anything in return, so long as I explained myself and asked with respect.

After dinner, we were walking home and the busker at Bourke Street was beatboxing really well, thumping his heart out in the evening chill with a fellow drummer musician in tow. The least I could do, was to show my appreciation for his passion with a bit of coin. The two dudes nodded in my direction and said their thank-yous with smiles, drumming and beatboxing away with barely a pause.

Paying the good karma forward, and making their night a little bit better, the way the lady at the restaurant made my evening easier.

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Melbourne: The Road to Residency VI: At last!

So.

I got my CoC back from Singapore after a month, dropped it off at DIAC Melbourne the very next day (Mar 15).

Tip: Mornings are a good time for this, the queue is short and clears quickly.

Unbeknownst to me, my application was finalised and granted on Mar 16. I was blissfully unaware until the visa grant letter came via registered mail on Mar 22. And the best part, it was a grant for subclass 801 aka permanent residency! Life is good.

So, to sum it all up.

  • Application for subclass 820/801 submitted 07 Sep 2011
  • Case officer assigned 13 Jan 2012
  • Visa granted 16 Mar 2012

Not too bad I’d say, and this finally brings to an end the vague gnawing uncertainty that was always in a corner of my mind about my life in Australia. Cue huge sigh of relief, at long last. I have to thank V for helping me to organise the application to begin with, and my case officer Natalia for getting through my case so quickly.

To all the other applicants out there, my best wishes and I hope you guys get through soon!

Links to The Road to Residency series:
Part I: IT residency options
Part II: Tips and tricks on subclass 801/820 visa application.
Part III: Case officer assigned!
Part IV: Information on preparing for police clearances in Australia and Singapore
Part V: Clearing the fingerprinting.

Planned obsolescence and the perils of consumerism.

It’s actually scary, and yet at the same time a sad acceptance on reality that planned obsolescence is an integral component of the economy.

Wikipedia: Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time

There’s a conspiracy theory that talks about how the Phoebus cartel regulated the lifespan of light bulbs to 1000 hours, so that consumers would be forced to buy new replacements.

I have always wondered about the inability of engineering to innovate and improve upon the lifespan of light bulbs. And there’s a light bulb out there, which has been lit for a hundred years. A fewkin’ century mind you! The lights bulbs I use burn out at an average of six to eight months, depending on usage.

Another aspect of planned obsolescence, is driving consumer purchase through perceived design or feature improvements every so often, effectively baiting the consumer into wanting (and buying) something which is not needed. And in the process, driving the economy along. Demand drives product manufacture, which gives jobs, which gives money for spending. An easy example that comes to mind, would be the epitome of classiness and ease of use – Apple. A new product every year, minimal upgrades at times but the masses are still fascinated.

It feels morally wrong to produce something that’s planned to fail within a specified time period, rather than making something to stand the test of time. With that being said, is it more tragic if we all had products that last fifteen, twenty years, but instead be out of jobs? And let’s not get started on the waste of resources that occur in this vicious cycle.

Does this tie back to the necessary evil that is the modern economy? Call me a caveman, but getting older made me less and less of a believer in the way the world works.

In my younger days back in Singapore, I used to shop a lot. Bought a ton of clothes, which in retrospect was quite a waste of hard-earned money.

My spending took a huge plunge ever since I came over to Melbourne, and I only buy what I need, for the most part. I spend my money mostly on books, and PS3 games. Even so, I do my best to avoid paying what I deem as overpriced products. I buy secondhand books online (Better World Books is awesome, as is Amazon and Booko), and wait for game prices to drop before buying. Either that, or a quick play/refund if the game’s not a keeper. I have to admit though, the occasional huge purchase on some nifty tech product or other usually had me hooked.

Right now, I’m more convinced than ever that I should not spend frivolously, and mindlessly support this insane spiral of consumerism. Spend only what I need to, and even then after careful consideration. Watching performances are fine, but products should be purchased with extensive afterthought. An excellent example would be the mobile phone; I will strive to use it, and not seek to upgrade just for needless features.

I can only hope that I can pass on my beliefs to my child (hopefully children) in the coming years.

The passage of time.

It’s funny how you look back, and something that seemed like yesterday has become a fond old memory.

On our way home, I was describing her old workplace at a factory (she was a seamstress); the shophouse-like exterior, the green grass slopes outside, the big drain that lined the walkway. It was probably just a normal drain, but everything takes on gigantic proportions in the eyes of a toddler.

(Hell, that might be why I always remember the MacDonald’s of yesteryear being absolutely massive.)

And fondly remembering the trips of recent years.

2008, the year when I had so many wonderful friends visiting, and their virgin ski trip to Falls Creek. The road trip to Puffing Billy, to Mornington, and Nanzhen’s proposal to Meishan at St Kilda beach.

2010, with the memorable trip to Bali with the same bunch. Shipwreck diving, setting off fireworks at the beach, endless car rides, boozing in the pool. A trip to my favourite Bangkok with the FG, endless chomping and sightseeing.

2011, an unforgettable trip to the States with the brother.

It just makes me happy to have experienced all these in the years before Elly was born. And that reminds me of our plunge into the unknowns of Melbourne back in 2007, forsaking the comforting familiarity of good old Singapore. Armed with nothing but a vague idea of staying on after a mere semester’s worth of studies, impossible by anyone’s calculations. After five years of building our lives over here, I’m still surprised that time has gone by so quickly. And with residency so close at last, it’s yet another step forward.

And of course, counting myself blessed with every day of my life here; the place where I’m free to live my life the way I want it to, not the way it is “because everyone does it”.

Five years since I left Singapore, and it’s been missing five years of frequent conversation, suppers and bullshit with my beloved friends back there. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. But one takes the good with the bad, and life is never perfect. So this is dedicated to the friends who still care enough to stay in touch – love you guys, definitely awesome in my list.

Cheap food FTW!

So.

I just realised that cheap bites have been appearing lately. A lot of them.

  • Big M Chocolate Honeycomb Twist milk for $1 at 7-Eleven, when you like their Facebook page and fill details up.
  • Boost chocolate bar for free at 7-Eleven, when you like their Facebook page and fill details up.
  • Sausage McMuffin for $1 at Maccas from 0900hrs to 1000hrs.
  • Double cheeseburger for $2 at Maccas from 1200hrs to 1400hrs. (Expired, good while it lasted.)
  • Quarterpounder lunch deal for $5.95 at Maccas from 1200hrs to 1400hrs.
  • Whopper and fries for $2 at Hungry Jack’s, when you buy in on the crazy HJ Scoopon deal going on.
  • Cup of chips for $1 at Kamil’s Kebabs (Melbourne Central), when it’s closing time.

Looking like a good time to save money and still get decent chow! If you think of fast food as decent chow of course.

Basketball: Rounding out the shooting form

So.

It is a little embarrassing, but I have been playing basketball for fifteen years, and it took me this long to finally evolve into a consistent shooting form that can be replicated easily, and performs even when I am tired, cramping legs and all.

Key points to note on form:

  1. BEEF: The all essential basics! Balance, Eye, Elbow and Follow-throw.
  2. Squaring up: Always make sure to square up, or line yourself up to the basket. I do it with my left foot in line.
  3. The missing link all these years: Always stretch your fingers as wide as you can to palm the ball. This gives much more contact with the ball and helps smoothen your shot. The difference between a normal palm and a wide palm was so obvious, I was mentally kicking myself for never noticing it all these years.
  4. Rhythm: Develop a smooth rhythm from receiving the ball, to going up, to the release. Hanging or jerky movement equates to wasted energy.

Simple tips, but I’m really happy at the way I’m shooting now. Hopefully I can continue to maintain confidence and shoot well, more especially in game situations. Proves my point about gametime never being enough to improve, and only dedicated practice being the key – it took one morning shootaround practice by myself to figure it out.

I love morning shoots, especially when you are the first into the dim-ly lit courts, and the sound of my bouncing ball reverberates off the walls, going boom, boom, boom, the hollow echoes sounding throughout. And I can focus in the silence, and figure out kinks or seek to practice shots. Only fellow ballers can appreciate times like these I guess.

Makes me wish I have my own gym to practice in.

Basketball: Simple things are always the hardest, part VI

So.

I decided to stop playing in the league for a bit.

I’m mentally exhausted, and just flat out on optimism. I remember times when I would write encouraging posts, track game scores across the season, rewatch and analyse videos, write reports on who and why turnovers were being made. And at the beginning of this season, I was still focusing on tightening defense; the box-one was my idea. Giving up on the three line was mine too.

But once the line’s been crossed, enough is enough. Just like everything else, you can’t just keep giving without receiving in return.

In the interests of continuing my entries, here’s a repost of what I wrote in the group.

Stan was saying I should write things out clearly, so I’ll write about my motivations on not playing.

1. Half court offense.
This has been bad since last season, everyone knows that.

Summary: There is no gameplan.

  • Everyone who can handle the ball, sets up camp at the three line. Passing is almost exclusively done around the perimeter with three, sometimes four (!) guys standing outside. Having that many guys outside makes it easy for a zone defense, all they do is to make sure you don’t get an easy shot since they KNOW for sure we are not going to do anything inside.
  • There are almost zero passes to the interior. It feels like we are AFRAID to pass inside. Where’s the trust? People who setup at the high/low post, do not get the ball 99% of the time. Don’t take my word for it, look at the game videos. Look at how hard Franco runs. Look at Anthony.
  • Cutters never get the ball. I like to cut, and I spend a lot of energy running around. But do I ever get the ball? Nope. Everyone is just too occupied on passing the ball left and right.
  • Setting picks for the ballhandler does not work, because no one knows how to use the pick properly. Either that, or they are afraid to use the pick. In our entire playing time so far, I only know of one person who utilises picks well and that is Martin. In other situations, when I set a pick, I usually ends up rotating out to the three line to take the ball.
  • The possession ends up with a drive from Julian/Jason or anyone jacking a three.

Conclusion? There is no sharing of the ball, and insufficient off-ball movement.

Have we tried to do anything about it?
Yes. We have had a few training sessions during weekdays last year. We practiced a few simple plays with options on them.

Did it help?
No. In my honest opinion, whatever we worked on during training was NEVER applied onto game situations, because we NEVER have four guys camping on the perimeter during practice, and practice scrimmages were never done in a competitive manner. Things that happen in practice, never happen in game.

What did we do to try fixing the issue?
Nothing. We come down every week and do the same thing over and over again on offense, namely camp on the perimeter and jack shots.

Would more practice help?
I would like to be optimistic and say yes, but I’ll just be blunt and say no, not unless everyone works seriously on doing the same thing they do in practice and on the game court.

2. Defensive rebounding
Note: In case anyone hasn’t noticed yet, we are not NBA players. Not black, not white. We’re just a bunch of average-sized Chinese. I honestly doubt we can compensate with athleticism and just outjump the opponent. And that means we cannot afford to not box out.

It’s everyone’s job to box out. This means five guys, not only the three guys playing below. You are on top? That means you box the guy nearest to you, so that he doesn’t run in for a free board.

Boxing out means you are actually shoving a body behind you, so you know for sure he’s running in for a board. You don’t have to jump for the board, your job is to keep him away from the ball so that someone else gets it. It’s not about putting your hands up in the air and standing there waiting for the ball to come down.

I will be honest and admit that I do not box out on every single possession, but I do try.

Have we tried to do anything about it?
We talk about rebounding and boxing out but there are still guys who do not do it.

Did it help?
A little. Some of us are putting a slightly better effort on it. Especially Franco, who has improved a ton since I first saw him at MSAC.

3. Talking on defense

This is something that I have never understood. Is it that hard to just call out the number of the guy who just ran into the paint? Just a simple “NUMBER SIX CUTTING BASELINE!” Is that really difficult to do?

I always find myself shouting, even when I’m not playing center. I don’t know if it’s a tradition to not talk on defense, but from where I come from? Zone defense succeeds when everyone’s talking and understands where all the opponents are going. We’re not playing NBA 2K12, and everyone only has one pair of eyes. If you don’t tell your teammates what you see, someone’s going to get free for an easy basket.

Have we tried to do anything about it?
Ask yourself, when was the last time you talked on defense?


Honestly, I have never minded game losses.

I don’t mind playing like shit either, since it’s my fault I can always think about how to do better next game.

It is the fact that we are reverting to square one and doing the same thing over and over again that irks me. Practice doesn’t work, and playing an entire season together doesn’t work either. So tell me, what would you do?

Like I told Julian and William, I don’t want to come out and start pointing fingers saying “YOUR FAULT! WHY DIDN’T YOU DO THIS!” What’s the point in pushing the blame? The point is to understand the problem. I’m writing this because everyone seems to be sidestepping the issue and pretending it doesn’t exist. Even Darren, who has never played in our team can take one look at the video and point out exactly what is wrong. So if he sees it, why doesn’t everyone else?

Basketball, to me is a team sport. Everyone that’s been playing for a while should know that sharing the ball is important. It’s not about how good the individual player is, it’s about how good the teamwork is. It’s about what kind of team we want to be, and whether we want to improve together.

If you want to pass the ball back and forth among three guys and not involve the rest of the team, that’s fine too but think about what you are doing. Think about how the other two guys feel.

All I can say is, we are not improving, and we are not making enough of an effort to improve. And I’m pretty sure the rest of the guys who disappeared are not interested in playing because of the things I mentioned. I don’t care about playing minutes, I don’t care if I get zero points every night.

What I care about is making a difference to the team. And offensively, I don’t feel like I can make any positive contribution, and it’s not for lack of trying. If it doesn’t matter whether I play or not, and I’m spending all my energy on defense so that I can run upcourt and run back again to defend?

I should be resting on Monday night and playing more ball on the weekend elsewhere, where I can at least enjoy myself instead of being frustrated.

I took some time to write all this, so I’ve tried to be as honest as I can about the whole situation. It’s up to everyone to take it positively (or negatively) on this wall of text. I just hope that by pointing out all these, it would make things clearer for those who were unaware of the problems.

Julian says to improve as a team, and I hope that everyone can take criticism positively and look to improve with the proper mindset.