Thursday 25 February 2016

Early bird or late arriver?

By assigning a score out of 10, where a score of 0 means you 'Strongly Disagree' and a score of 10 means you 'Strongly Agree', how much do you agree with the below quote?

"Better to be too early than a little bit late."
I'm an 8.

Andre Lim

Sunday 21 February 2016

Desmond Tan

As with Nick Onie, someone introduced me to Desmond before uni started. I am thankful for Desmond's friendship over the years so here is my tribute to him!! :)

The first thing that automatically comes to mind when the name 'Desmond Tan' is mentioned is his exceptional ability with the piano. So much so that his musical prowess is often just taken as a matter of common knowledge. However, in my view, to take this fact as granted would be a major discredit to the hard work and practice that Desmond has put in over the years. An extraordinary sense of discipline would have been required to practice those drills and pieces on a daily basis, especially while juggling dreaded university exams and part-time work.  It would, therefore, not come as a surprise to anyone that the fruits of his labour manifested in the form of him making the 2011 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards** (Keyboard Final) in tandem with my school friend, Nicholas Young. Although Desmond might play this achievement down, the fact that he made it that far is an amazing achievement, especially considering his other academic, work and family commitments at the time.

Additionally, I feel that this aspect of his life mirrors his character well in that he is a studious and persevering individual. For example, I seem to always recall him starting - and even nearly completing - our university assignments well before any of us had even started them LOL.

It is 2016 now. Although I'm aware that it may well be the case that Desmond no longer practises the piano as much as he would like to (given the transition into full-time work), I feel that this aspect of his life should be acknowledged and recognised. To attain such a high standard in musical performance is certainly not an achievement to be taken lightly and speaks volumes of his character and dedication.

Given what I've said above, perhaps it should come as no surprise then that Desmond is one of the harshest critics of pop music. And certainly there's nothing wrong with (and in fact, good on him for) demanding higher standards from the music industry LOL. However, notwithstanding the above, I hold deep, deep reservations regarding his interest in that Icelandic artist Björk LOL. In fairness, I suppose it is always good to look for something different... and to try new things, a concept just as applicable to music genres as it is to life in general.

My other strong impression of Desmond is that he is a loyal friend and family member. He holds a genuine concern for his friends and is willing to hear them out. I have a distinct memory of him helping me out during a tough, dark time in October 2013 for which I am still thankful for. I also recall that he is a dutiful son to his parents, and is very respectful towards elders. Even if the going is tough, that will not put him down from performing his duties to his family and friends.

At the time of writing, it's been about 2+ years since I properly met up with Desmond. In many respects that is largely my fault, but that does not mean I think of him as any less a friend.

Thanks for everything over the years, and I look forward to our next eventual catch up Dezman Tan.

Andre Lim

** I only found out somewhat recently that these Awards have been cancelled!! What a real shame - as I understand it, the Awards had been ongoing from about the 1940's up until 2015. Despite my lack of musical training, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Desmond and Nick Young performing at the 2011 Awards and I think it is a real loss of an opportunity to aspiring classical musicians in Australia.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Diana Liu (劉家慧)

I first met Diana in my first year of uni, although to be honest, I cannot recall the exact circumstances surrounding our first meeting.

(Sadly, my earliest memory of our friendship was me deciding to crash her Micro Economics tutorial on one occasion.*)

In many respects, Diana is something of a 'queen of courtesy and manners'. Not only is her politeness apparent in her conversation as well as her body language, but you'd also be rather hard pressed to hear her say anything negative about her friends. To the contrary, Diana almost always has positive things to say about people, which demonstrates her kind and caring nature. If I'm not mistaken, Diana is no stranger to etiquette classes on table manners and courtesy which shows you just how far she goes!!

Perhaps this personality trait may explain why she is such an avid fan of figure** skating, one of the more gentle sports where athletes grace the ice with charm and flair. Of course, in this discipline, athletes compete ferociously to the best of their ability (as in any other sport) but that ferocity only manifests in the performance itself: there is no place for, and indeed, it would be disrespectful to demonstrate, hostility or aggression against one's fellow contestants while on the field. When put that way it is easy to see why Diana would fancy such a sport.

Her courtesy may also explain why - and she is likely to deny this claim - she has had her fair share of popularity with the opposite gender. Not that she deliberately seeks such attention. And not that I would know first-hand either as our relationship has been purely platonic...but perhaps I shall not embarrass her further...

I should also state for the record that Diana is a hard-worker and very conscientious of the work she performs. She is resourceful and I get the impression that she is always happy to learn new things at work, and to continue building on her professional strengths. I am confident that she has all the attributes required to be a successful lawyer.

At the time of writing I understand Diana is going through a difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with you, if that even counts for anything, but I know you are a very strong person and you will find what you are looking for :)

Over the years I have found Diana to be open-minded and keen to talk about most topics under the sun. We have had our share of controversial topics where we disagree with each other's opinion but that doesn't stop us from expressing our thoughts freely and we respect each other's viewpoints on life. I think this is a very valuable and healthy exercise for anyone to engage in. Life is too short to engage in petty quarrels :)

I should note that, at this stage of this post, I suddenly and very randomly recall the various past-midnight video game encounters Diana and I have shared. But perhaps that is a story for another time. Video games are not something you would immediately associate with Diana, to be sure.

Finally, I'd like to close with this: Thank you for being a good friend to me Diana. I'm sure our mutual friends can also vouch for you too.

Andre Lim

* This was very uncharacteristic of me. So long as the course permitted me to, I would do everything in my power to skip classes. But I suppose this was first year after all.

** An earlier version of this post said ice skating which is incorrect.

Saturday 13 February 2016

Eng Ee Lim

This is a tribute to my father, Eng Ee Lim.

So often it's the case that much is left unsaid about our parents.

It's probably a combination of fear, embarrassment or sometimes it's just us being narrow-minded and refusing to acknowledge (or even forgetting about) their positive attributes.

However I feel that it should be stated for the record that I owe a lot to my father.

The first thing that I admire about dad is his discipline, duty and commitment to the family. He will not whinge, complain or make a fuss about doing something that is necessary even if it's something mundane or very unpleasant. He will do it with his head down and sleeves rolled up so to speak: not because he wants to, but because he must. And that almost always means that he will keep his burdens to himself because he doesn't want his family to be burdened as well (as many of our fathers do).

This sometimes means that my dad will consciously choose to sacrifice his own pleasure and livelihood, which is usually not a good thing. He will perhaps choose to eat simpler things or lead a simpler lifestyle so that his children can enjoy something better. Many, if not most, fathers do this. While on one hand I do believe that you should always take care of yourself too, on the other I find that my dad has proven himself to be quite resilient in the above sense. You would have had to catch him on an extraordinarily bad day if you saw him complaining about something he had to do.

While not exactly on point, to give you an idea of his resilience and his character, my dad is capable of driving from Sydney to Melbourne (8-9 hours' drive) without taking a break or stopping!!! That's just crazy.

If I could have even one-tenth of my dad's resilience, perseverance, duty and discipline, I think I would consider that a fine achievement in itself.

I only realised this recently but my dad is also a great entertainer. If we have a guest over, be it a new acquaintance or familiar friend, dad will make a more than solid effort to connect and engage in conversation with that person (of course, assuming he has the time and there aren't too many people to talk to). He always seems genuinely interested to find out more about them, be it by way of questions or just conversational topics. I find that he actually does this quite well and he is very strong in that department. He will always try to find a point of connection. This, of course, requires him to be a general 'all-rounder' in terms of 'world knowledge'. Again, another leaf I need to take out of his book.

My dad loves his sport and will happily share a conversation on most sport topics. He, of course, goes for Hawthorn. He takes a casual interest in Arsenal because I 'go for them', and in that sense, I am grateful for the interest he takes in my interests. On that note, he generally wants to know what his children have been up to and likes asking many questions.

One of the better 'lectures' (not really a lecture) from dad can be summarised in this quote (paraphrased):
"Andre, remember that when someone is generous to us, chooses to help us and spend time with us or gives us many good things, we cannot be selfish. It cannot be a one-way street. We must give back."
I pause here to note that, while I have said many good things about my dad, I of course acknowledge that no one is perfect, including myself and my father. We all have shortcomings and downfalls.

In the end, I think we ought to remind ourselves that our parents were children once too: when they suddenly became parents they didn't really have anyone to teach them what they should be doing. Sure, no one is perfect but we should learn to embrace our parents' positive sides.

I respect my dad for all the above reasons and, in that sense, am proud to be his son.

Andre Lim

Thursday 11 February 2016

Mt Victoria Speed Camera

This is probably old news, but apparently Mt Victoria boasts an ingenious Point-to-Point speed camera (PTP camera).

So gone are the days where a car can slow down near a speed camera and and, then later, when out of reach, speed up past the speed limit again.

How the PTP camera works is as follows:
  1. Over a stretch of X metres (let's call this stretch point A to B) there will be 2 cameras, one camera at point A and one camera at point B.
  2. If the speed limit is Y, the cameras will already know how long it should take you to get from A to B. Say T minutes.
  3. However, if you slow down at A, speed up, and then slow down again at B, you will still get a fine if the time it takes you to go from A to B is less than the time it would take a car to get from A to B at the speed limit Y (T minutes).

So for example, say you are driving along the Hume Highway from Cabramatta to Liverpool.

Say the speed limit is 80km/hr for the whole stretch (a bad example as there probably will be traffic lights - but assume there are no traffic lights).

Say that there is a PTP camera at Cabramatta where you start, and a PTP camera at Liverpool where you end.

If it should only take you 5 minutes from Cabramatta to Liverpool at 80km/hr, but you only took 3 minutes to do the stretch, then it doesn't matter whether you slowed down at the PTP cameras - so long as your overall time was less than 5 minutes, you'd be booked.

The logic being of course, that you must have sped up to reach Point B in that period of time.

Apparently tolls use this feature too but probably do not need to use it so often as the highway is usually jammed.

What an interesting, cunning and ingenious idea. It will surely earn extra revenue for the government if implemented all over the shop.

(I overheard this all from a colleague at work.)

Andre Lim

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Bob Lin

Bob Lin, my second 'victim' :)

I met Bob at some orientation day lecture for uni.

If I remember correctly, he was sitting towards the back and I must have sat near him or next to him. I'm glad I met him on that day because he has proven himself a good friend :)

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Bob is his courtesy and respectfulness in one-on-one conversation, particularly when talking about things that have happened to each person ("catch up" time, if you will).

I find that Bob is not quick to judge or assume something about someone, and always genuinely has an interest in what you have to say. He engages in conversation well and is open to lots of ideas and thoughts. Like most of our friends, I think Bob is also very objective and reasonable in the way he analyses things. I also find that he respects your privacy and is somewhat sensitive to your thoughts. Of course, this is not to say that no one else I know does this (LOL), but what I AM saying is that I find that these traits are, at least to my mind, apparent in Bob.

For example, on one occasion I have a vague memory of Bob asking me about something to which I gave a half-hearted ambiguous answer. I suspect it must have been on a topic I didn't want to talk about (I can't recall). Despite my terrible cop-out answer, I noticed that Bob did not press me further and he just cheerfully changed the topic. At the time I remember thinking that was very good of him. He accommodated my desire to have a bit of personal space.

On another occasion, I recall Bob lecturing someone (say, "X") who had been constantly pestering me about a topic I didn't want to talk about. I recall Bob later saying words to the following effect:

"X, you kept asking Andre about this when it was obvious he didn't want to talk about it. I don't think you should have done that, it was disrespectful."

I was surprised by this response, but once again, I thought that was very good of him too. He spoke up on my behalf without me even saying anything.

In conclusion, beneath the jokes and laughter to which you will no doubt encounter with Bob, I feel Bob is an empathetic person underneath.

On a more trivial note, I think it was on Bob's initiative that I learned how to appreciate the Subway Meatball Footlong. It is difficult not to convert to his philosophy when comments such as these are commonplace:
 "Pizza subs are good...except they don't have enough meat in them. You should try the meatball footlong instead, it has more meat."
(This may or may not explain why he is such good friends with Nick Onie.)

Andre Lim

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Happy Chinese (Lunar) New Year!








It's celebrated in Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam and China.

The Chinese of Malaysia and Indonesia also celebrate it.

And, indeed, the Chinese diaspora who are found in pretty much all countries of our world celebrate it too.

So..Happy Belated New Year!!

Andre Lim

Sunday 7 February 2016

A History of Southeast Asia (Part 1)

After returning from my trip of Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia in January, I promised myself that I would make a greater effort to learn about the history of Southeast Asia, and just cultural and country history in general.

So I bought this fantastic book called A History Southeast Asia written by Arthur Cotterell.

I am only at the Introduction (which summarises the whole book) but I have already learned so much!!

I have decided to take down some notes as I go along so that I can remember what is going on.

Full credit goes to Arthur Cotterell for teaching me these concepts, most of which are new to me (but note that some of these points I added from my own research):

  • Southeast Asians are strongly influenced by 'spirit world worship' and indigenous spiritual beliefs, sometimes akin to black magic - known as "Bomo".
  • China's impact on Vietnam caused France to call its colonial empire of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia "Indochina". This area is, in a sense, a halfway point between what the author describes as 'secular' China (who mainly played a political role in the region) and 'religion-oriented' India (who was the main source of religious ideas).
  • Buddhist monks travelling between India and China often stopped over the Straits of Malacca in Srivijaya (an old empire - see below).


  • Most Southeast Asian people originate from China, specifically from what is now known as southern China near the Yangzi (Yangtze) delta. Population movements started around 3000BC - though at this time the Yangtze delta was not yet Chinese.
  • The Han Dynasty added Northern Vietnam to China (and it was not until about 1.1 millennium ago that the Vietnamese became independent - China held on to Vietnam for about 800-900 years)
  • Even though the Arabs essentially  kickstarted trade in SE Asia, China seems to have dominated trade throughout the centuries - eg. trade with Srivijaya 
  • China's alternate religion is Daoism/Taoism which embraces the spirit world.
  • Ming China withdrew its navy from the South Oceans in the 1500's, giving the Europeans the false impression that the Europeans were the first to navigate the waters. Had they sailed in the 1420's rather than the 1490's, they may have bumped into Chinese fleets carrying 5x more than them. Eg. Cheng Ho/Zheng He was a sailing legend in the 1400's.
  • When Malacca was captured by Portugal in 1511, by then China couldn't be bothered with the ocean, possibly because Beijing was now its new capital up north. Apparently another possible reason is that attention was being placed on securing the Great Wall of China around this time (So Southeast Asia had to fight the Colonial Powers on their own).

Burma (now Myanmar)
  • India gave them Buddhism, but King Anathwrahta added indigenous spirit worship (nats) to make Buddhism more accessible.
  • Pagan (aka Bagan) was a great centre of Buddhism learning.
  • When Pagan was abandoned due to Mongol invasions, the Burmese revival began in Toungoo.
  • Border disputes between India (British Empire) and Burma regarding North-Eastern India led to the first Anglo-Burmese war in 1824.

Cambodia (Khmer)
  • They appear to have inherited Hinduism and Buddhism from India, but the caste system didn't transfer.
  • Their kings were called devarajas, which came from Hinduism.
  • The Mongol conquest of Nanzhou (Nanzhao, modern day Yunnan province in China) indirectly led to the fall of the Khmer - this increased the southern migration of Thais from Yunnan (Southern China). This, in turn, created patches of Thai groups that were difficult to unify, but eventually in 1351 the powerful Thai/Siam kingdom Ayutthaya (Ayudhya) was formed. This Thai kingdom would lead the kingdom of Angkor to its decline.
  • The Thai made Angkor so threatened that their siege in 1431 caused Cambodia to shift its capital south to Lovek, and then Phnom Penh.

The Europeans' Involvement
  • Apparently the Dutch eventually pushed Portugal out of most of Southeast Asia.
  • The Dutch did not touch the Spaniards in Philippines though and the Dutch also experienced tension with the British who were in the Straits of Malacca in 1879
  • The European withdrawals were greatly propagated in 1945 when the British Labour Party was elected. The Labour Party believed in a Commonwealth of Free Nations - in contrast to the war approach adopted by the French and Dutch.
  • Britain withdrew itself in an orderly way (eg granting India and Burma early independence), but the Dutch and French tried to hang onto their territory.

  • See Srivijaya for ancient history.
  • Was a Dutch preserve.
  • Gained independence from Holland in 1949.
  • Military interference with the government since gaining independence in 1949 has plagued the country.
  • Despite President Suharto's fall in 1998, it was not until 2004 that the first democratically elected president took office.
  • Rainforests depleting at an alarming rate, like Malaysia.

  • Malacca was captured by the Portugese in 1511
  • See Srivijaya for ancient history.
  • Although corruption has hindered its politics (as in Indonesia), it has done well in the post-colonial era did need Commonwealth help when President Sukarno of Indonesia wanted to invade Malaysia in the 1960's.
  • Rainforests depleting at an alarming rate, like Indonesia.
  • Author opines that maritime Southeast Asia may fall into decline because of the replacement of forests with palm oil estates.

Japan (which is not part of SE Asia)
  • Japan tried to exploit and conquer SE Asia with the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere propaganda programme.
  • Japan did not understand how the USA, the first peoples to escape from European colonialism, could try to restrain Japan from conquering Asia when the USA were colonising Asia themselves. Arguably this was a case of USA double standards?

  • President William McKenly of the USA was happy to add Philippines and Guam as a means of fortifying the US's position in Asia (a rather weak one at the time apparently given aggressive Japan) - they were happy to add the anchorage at Luzon to the facilities just built in Pearl Harbour in newly annexed Hawaii.
  • The destruction of Manila by the Japanese cast a shadow over their independence on 4 July 1946.
  • Democracy has not been that successful and has had a rather chequered history (like Thailand and Myanmar).
  • See Majahapit empire under Srivijaya for ancient history.

  • Empire that included modern day Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei in late 680AD to 1200AD++?.
  • Big centre for trade
  • Attacked by Cholas (South Indian dynasty) in 1000's
  • Later becomes the powerful Majahapit empire in 1293AD which added modern day Phillippines, New Guinea and East Timor to the above

  • Ejected from Malaysia in 1965. Malaysian Prime Minister Tunkul Abdul Rahmen opined that this would avoid bloodshed between Chinese and Malays - there was bad blood regarding the positive discrimination (affirmative action) policies favouring the Malays. The Parliament of Malaysia voted 126-0 in favour of the expulsion.
  • Chief Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, did not want Singapore to be separated from Malaysia.
  • Singapore proved the world wrong regarding its prospects of survival and has thrived like crazy.
  • Lee Kuan Yew remarked that the younger generation of Singapore took for granted Singapore's affluence - all Singapore can do is "take the world as it is; [Singapore] is too small to change it."
  • LKY in his book Hard Truths said that Singapore did not truly become independent until it had its own water supply (prior to that it had been getting water from Malaysia).
  • Now a modern-city state dominating the region economically.

  • In the 1400's or so, they really liked the culture of Angkor in Cambodia and borrowed it - The Khmer King Jayavarman integrated Buddhist concepts with the Hindu ideas of kingship.
  • See Srivijaya for ancient history.
  • See Cambodia.

  • Like Korea, although Vietnam was impacted by Chinese culture, Vietnam did not lose its identity. One of the main reasons for this was its totally different language which, in a sense, offered a defence mechanism against the Chinese (they learned their native tongue in addition to the Chinese language).
  • The Chams blocked the expansion of Vietnam until 1471, possibly because of their maritime language. The Chams moved to Indonesia and now speak 250 separate languages.
  • Emperor Le Thanh Tong contributed much to Vietnam but his two sons caused disunity in the country (how?).
  • From 1672- 1806, the Nguyen dynasty ruled the south from the river Hue while the Trinh Lords ruled north.
  • France occupied Saigon in 1859 - prior to that, the Nguyen emperors who reunified Vietnam had a Chinese-style administration which apparently proved to be no fight for the French.
  • The Vietnamese led a resistance against the French in the First Vietnamese War - this resulted in devastating losses for both sides especially once USA was involved.
  • The Second Vietnamese War proved Washington's failure to understand that all Ho Chi Minh wanted was the unity of Vietnam.

More to come.

It's fun to be learning again.

Andre Lim

Friday 5 February 2016

Nicholas Onie

Nick was one of the first friends I met at university.

Actually, if I remember correctly, someone introduced me to him on MSN Messenger even before we physically met.

There are a couple of things to admire about Nick.

The first attribute that always stands out in my memory is his exceptional ability to pull-off the dreaded "all-nighter" that uni students are so infamous for. Of course, all-nighters are not unusual. However, being good at them, I find, is VERY unusual. Nick is superb at all-nighters, and can cram for exams very well. I think he told me that he crammed for his Advanced English HSC paper on the train on the way to the exam LOL.

No wonder he is now in the investment banking industry where his last-minute skills will be put to good use.

The second attribute perhaps lends itself from the first. I feel that Nick has a good sense of 'cunning' (the word used in the positive sense). More specifically, I feel he is good at knowing when to be aggressive and when to be passive, and therefore when to toggle between those two frames of mind to fit the social or other situation he is in. To that end, he is not lacking in confidence because you need confidence (and a sharpness of mind) to know when you are supposed to be doing what. And you need to read people well to do this properly. There is a time and place for everything, so they say.

For example, I feel that I should be more aggressive in certain situations but, more often than not, I find myself staying somewhere in the middle.

So I hope I have not embarrassed him in this post, but there is certainly a lot I could, and should, learn from Nick Onie.

And I mean that in all seriousness.

Andre Lim

*Update (7.2.16):

My friend, Diana Liu, read this post and kindly shared a very nice thing regarding Nick Onie (aka "Nonie"). With her permission I have put what she has to say below:

"I will always remember Nonie's kindness on a dark rainy night after a function when he drove me home. 
His home is quite far from mine, some 40 minutes to 1 hour from where I live. Although I was just a friend to him - not a special person of interest - Nonie insisted on driving me home. 
Not only did he drive me home but when we arrived at my place, he came out of the car and stood in the pouring rain to watch me get into my house safely - through the door and into my home. I'll never forget it :)
He is such a gentleman in that sense, and I feel that this aspect of him isn't often recognised as it should be."

I appreciate Diana's input - thanks Di :)

Actually now that Diana mentions it, Nick did kindly drive me home as well one night when I was without a car, and my house is also quite far from his. So Diana puts me to shame as even I had forgotten his generosity with giving lifts to people!

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Hard Work v Raw Talent

By assigning each quote a score out of 10, where a score of 0 means you 'Strongly Disagree' and a score of 10 means you 'Strongly Agree', how much do you agree with the below quotes?

Quote 1
"Hard work always overcomes raw talent."
(That is, someone who works hard will, in the end, always 'be better than' someone who is exceptionally gifted.)

Quote 2
"Hard work tends to overcome raw talent when the 'raw talent' chooses to remain idle."
(That is, someone who works hard will, eventually, in all probability, 'be better than' the 'raw talent' where the 'raw talent' chooses to do nothing to hone, maintain or improve their exceptional ability.)

Quote 3

"Hard work tends to overcome raw talent, where the 'hardworker' works significantly harder than the 'raw talent' who is not idle but works as well, just not as hard."

(That is to say, the hardworker will still be better than the 'raw talent', even where the 'raw talent' does not stay idle and puts in a moderate amount of work so long as the 'hardworker' is willing to go the extra distance.)

Assume the following:
  • The hardworker or the person who has to work hard is someone who is not very talented but not that bad either at what they do - say an average person of their field.  
  • The 'raw talent' is someone who is gifted with exceptional talent and can outperform most.
  • You can think of the above quotes in any context, including but not limited to sport or professional work.

My (preliminary!) scores:

Quote 1 
5 - possibly even 3

Quote 2
8 or 9, I think

Quote 3
This is tricky.
Maybe 5 or 6.
Hard to say, it can work either way.

Andre Lim