Rules of the Garage

January 31, 2008


Apparently this is an old HP ad from the 1990s.  I chanced upon it while doing some research for work and love the inspired hope and wide-eyed curiosity embedded in it.

Believe you can change the world.  🙂


Yesterday, a friend sent me a great blog post, which in turn linked to a great sermon. The general message was about fruitfulness (as a Christian and in general) and how after a while all the talk is cheap if you are still going to behave like an idiot.

Two points really resonated with me –

1. “In Zen Buddhism, questions are often asked that perplex the spiritual seeker. After hearing or asking the “question” the Zen Master sometimes gives the seeker a slap on the back or face, or strikes the floor hard with a staff … the “Whack!” … so as to shock the student, and help them attain “awakening.” Sometimes, the point is NOT to ask questions that confuse you or lead you into non-productive religious discussions and arguments that keep you from acting in an authentic and compassionate manner and thus “awakening.” Here we see the discomfort with heartless intellect and religious dogma that is so characteristic of Zen. The whack on the back is to remind you to stop asking such stupid questions and too avoid too much rationalizing. The “Whack!” should forcefully remind you to not rely on religious dogmas or the dry words in “holy books” to help you live a compassionate life and move towards your spiritual enlightenment and awakening.”

Okay. So I’m not Zen Buddhist but the same can be said about Christianity. Sometimes, the point is NOT to ask questions that confuse you or lead you into non-productive religious discussions and arguments that keep you from acting in an authentic and compassionate manner and thus “awakening.” I will over-rationalize things with the best of them (I’m a total INTP) but it was an excellent reminder that an excessive amount of self-indulgent navel-grazing is just unproductive. Sometimes, I just need to get a “whack” on the head.

Cheryl, make like a Nike ad and just do it. If you are not living it out, your faith is dead. It’s not brain surgery.

2. “The will to produce ministry, not just consume ministry, is crucial for the individual members and friends of the church as well as the church as a whole.”

I’ve been doing some reading on Web 2.0 technologies and the participation age and one of the key takeaways is that when the consumers become producers/creators, there is a fundamental shift in the business models. In a funny sort of way, the same can be said of ministry. Things will drastically change when there is “the will to produce ministry, not just consume ministry”. And God knows, my heart bleeds for the day when that tipping point comes.

Sad to say, I’m inclined to also currently believe that the statistic that only 1% of internet users are content-generators also translates to ministry, i.e. only some dismal percentage of Christians have “will to produce ministry”. Which brings me back to my first point – It is time for a “whack” on the head!!

Ending this with the wonderful closing paragraph of both articles –

“Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Thought is the blossom, language the bud, action the fruit behind.” Where is the evidence of fruitful Christians in a fruitful church? It is not in wishful wishing or talky talk. It is in tears dried, mouths fed, calls dialed, hands held, bread baked, letters written, hugs rendered, money channeled, laughter shared, confidences kept, ears unstopped, bodies clothed, justice sought, doors opened, fences mended, seniors visited, babies cuddled, evil confronted, wisdom studied, minds awakened, help given, friendship cultivated, peace waged, fear calmed, promises kept, failures forgiven, hearts healed.”

From William McDonough’s 2005 presentation at TED:

“Imagine this design assignment:  Design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro climates, changes colours with the seasons and self-replicates.”

Lent: I am not a groupie!

January 23, 2008

I realized with horror today that Ash Wednesday on 6 Feb, which also happens to be Chinese New Year Eve! And seeing how I actually observe Lent fairly strictly (by Protestant standards, which is not very strict at all), CNY is going to be real test of willpower. I suppose that this year is as good a year as any to be clashing with CNY since we won’t really be celebrating anyway. Thank God for small mercies?

Curiously, every year, I still find it hard to explain why I observe Lent. Protestants generally aren’t very good with their church calender and frankly, most don’t even know what Lent is.  In case you didn’t, it is a period of sober reflection, self-examination and spiritual redirection for 40 days (not including Sundays) to prepare for Easter Sunday. I guess I’m a big advocate for the spiritual disciplines and they have consistently been a means of grace for me.  It is probably too self-indulgent to expound on here, suffice it to say that a period of fasting seems to be highly correlated with profound spiritual insight.

(The random “I am not a groupie” exclamation in the header is a reference to an article I read earlier about how “some people only celebrate the happy times in Jesus’ life: Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, and Christmas. But I think as true friends, we should also watch and pray with Him on Maundy Thursday, stand by Him at the cross on Good Friday, and retreat with Him into the wilderness during Lent.”)

And I’m still praying about what to fast from.  If I want to one-up last year, I pretty much have to go vegetarian.

So help me God!

If by Rudyard Kipling

January 21, 2008

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

I love this poem. It’s inspiring and motivational and represents some of the ideals I aspire to (or at least will die trying).  I guess my question is how to get there? I’m hard-pressed to find an answer to that which doesn’t involve God. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to “watch the things you gave your life to, broken,and stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools” (and other worse things) without some powerful external motivating force.  Without it, any life philosophy that isn’t “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” just seems stupid.

Build a bug

January 17, 2008

Okay, I know that the idea isn’t new and that Lego Mindstorms is much of the same concept but still!  I think BugLabs is totally awesome.

From their website

“BUG is a collection of easy-to-use electronic modules that snap together to build any gadget you can imagine. Each BUGmodule represents a specific gadget function (ex: a camera, a keyboard, a video output, etc). You decide which functions to include and BUG takes care of the rest letting you try out different combinations quickly and easily. With BUG and the integrated programming environment/web community (BUGnet), anyone can build, program and share innovative devices and applications. We don’t define the final products – you do.”

Lego of the gadget world.  It’s modular and open-source.  Too cool.  It almost makes me wish that I was an engineer/programmer so that I can have a little gadgety fun myself and if they could make these this in a way that is totally idiot proof so that a gadget-loving-economist could figure it out, I would be sold!

(Random thought – Just by likening it to Lego, the product has an immediate resonance with people in their 20s and 30s.  I mean really, who doesn’t adore Lego!?)

Expressive Pen!

January 15, 2008

From New Scientist –

“Now the consumer electronics company Philips says it has a breakthrough that could change the way we use pens forever.

What the standard pen does not do so easily, Philips notes, is record the mood of the writer at the moment of writing. So it has developed a pen with sensors in its shaft that detect physiological factors, such as heart beat, blood pressure, skin temperature, and finger pressure.

The pen also has a small actuator that can change the properties of the line that the pen traces out by switching inks and modifying the shape of the writing tip. A built-in chip then determines the writer’s emotional state and changes the colour and quality of the trace accordingly. The result is a pen that produces a continuous record of how the user felt while writing.”

I like this idea. I’ve kept a journal for years and  change writing material along with mood etc so a quick flick of the pages gives a pretty good visualisation of my state of mind, without actually needing to read the content. (I’m currently journaling with a wooden pencil – very retro. I wonder what that says about my life at the present moment.)

Although as with a lot of technology, I don’t see how this necessary value-adds hugely to my life since the same result can be achieved at low barriers to entry (by changing from a blue biro to a pink pen!) Cheryl thinks of the millions of dollars that the Americans spent developing a pen that can write in space and the Russians just sent up their astronauts up with pencils…

Actually, one interesting (and far simpler) extension of this would be for your keyboard to track the pressure / speed at which you type and other behavioural signals. Hypothetically, if you were typing an angst-ridden email to someone you didn’t like, how you would type it – banging away at the keyboard etc – would be different. Oooo!!! If the keyboard detected you were angsty, maybe it could send a signal to itunes to change to more soothing music! Haha.