Thursday 30 June 2016

CAF 2018 WCQ - Group of Death

Look how ridiculous this looks.

Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia are all in the same group!!

That's madness.

Algeria is the top-ranked side in Africa and look at the reward they get: powerhouses Nigeria, pioneers of the African football movement Cameroon and 2012 African Cup of Nations Champions Zambia.

I hope Zambia or Nigeria go through.

Andre Lim

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Quote of the day - Young and Old

"....whenever we attempt to read the signs of the times it is helpful to listen to young people and the elderly. Both represent a source of hope for every people. The elderly bring with them memory and the wisdom of experience, which warns us not to foolishly repeat our mistakes. Young people call us to renewed and expansive hope, for they represent new directions for humanity and open us up to the future, lest we cling to a nostalgia for structures and customs which are no longer life-giving in today's world."
Young people are just as important as old people - neither is greater than the other.

Andre Lim

Euro 2016 - Quarterfinal predictions

Poland to beat Portugal 1-0

Belgium to edge out Wales 2-0

Germany to beat Italy 1-0

France to beat Iceland 1-0

I am hoping for another Icelandic upset though!

Andre Lim

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Iceland v England



So glad I woke up at 5am.

Brexit part 2. Are Iceland wearing Leicester City blue?

Andre Lim

Sunday 26 June 2016


An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman went to a bar.

They all had to leave because the Englishman wanted to go.

(From Reddit)

Andre Lim

Saturday 25 June 2016

My Childhood Influences

I thought I would make a list of all the 'childhood' influences (Primary to Year 12) that have made me who I am today.

To make this more of a challenge, I have decided to give myself only 3 main entries per heading, and 2 'special mentions'.

If you're reading this as a result of me sending this to you -- and if you have a bit of spare time and don't mind doing it of course - would you like to share with me your list so that we can have a laugh? =D 

I'd be interested in seeing yours!

Most Influential Artists/Bands 
1. Avril Lavigne
2. Gorillaz
3. Spice Girls

Most Listened to Genre of Music
(In no particular order - all about even I would say)

Soundtrack/Video Game

Most ...Memorable... Songs
1. Creepin' Up Slowly - Taxiride
2. Big Yellow Taxi - Counting Crows featuring Vanessa Carlton
3. A Thousand Miles - Vanessa Carlton

Special Mention:
Afterglow - Taxiride
All Star - Smash Mouth

Worst Achievements
3. 10/20 in a Year 11 Physics Assessment - it had to do with the rule V=RI which I had no practical understanding of.
2. 40% in sewing/textiles - I still passed the home economics (whatever it was called) subject because I got 90% in cooking class.
1. Drawing a tripod with four legs (see diagram below). My science teacher initially gave me 2 out of 3 marks for the diagram - she then had second thoughts and crossed out the 2 and wrote '1'. I think she was too generous.

I deserved 0.

'Tripod' I drew in a Year 7 or 8 science exam

Most Influential Games
1. Final Fantasy VIII
2. Crash Bandicoot: Warped
3. Street Fighter Alpha 3

Special mention:
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising

Most Influential Animated Cartoons
1. Rugrats
2. Pokemon
3. Rocko's Modern Life

Special Mention:
Courage the Cowardly Dog
The Power Puff Girls

Most Influential Shows
1. Play School
2. Sesame Street

Most Influential Book Series
   1. Sherlock Holmes - never finished reading
= 1. Harry Potter - never finished the last book
3. The Keys to the Kingdom - never finished the last book

Special Mention:
Deltora Quest (I finished this!!)
The Hardy Boys

Bad Habits
1. Usually failing to finish a book series
2. Shaking legs in class - to the annoyance of people in front of me, behind me, and next to me
3. Only asking the teacher a question if they happened to pass by (never if I had to shout it across the classroom for fear of asking a stupid question LOL)

I have/had an inherent soft spot for these nations:
   1. Korea
 =1. Nigeria
3. Canada

Special Mention:

Most Commonly-Eaten Snacks
1. Potato Chips - packet chips
2. Starburst jellies - or similar things
3. Aeroplane Jelly

Special Mention:
Hot Chips and Gravy LOL (I distinctly remember rushing to the shop at the train station after school)

Most Bought from the Canteen
1. Chicken tenders
2. Sushi
3. Burgers

Favourite Meals
1. Pizza
2. Deep-fried Calamari
3. Burgers

Favourite Soft Drinks
1. Mountain Dew
2. Sprite
3. A&W Root Beer

Most Common Past-times during school recess and lunch
1. Handball
2. Sitting and doing nothing
3. Bridge

Special mention
Big 2

Favourite childhood sports
1. Badminton
2. Touch football
3. Long-distance running

Special Mention
Soccer/Football - I only started to take notice in 2006
Track & Field at the Olympics

Most Influential Teachers - I have to break my rule here
(No particular order)

Mr Colin Jones (Commerce/Economics) - for his no-nonsense teaching style
Mr Colin McAulife (Physics) - for his laid-back teaching style
Mr Grahame Steigler-Peters (Visual Arts - but he was deputy principal when I was in year 7) - friendliness
Mr Bruce Dennett (History) - for his teaching style, friendliness, frankness and being different
Mrs Cheryl Caraian - most persevering teacher who strived to help all of her English students with their essays - I have massive respect for her.

Special Mention:
Mrs Chin (Science) - for her teaching style
Mrs Harwood (Science) - for her teaching style
Mr Mick Filewood (Social Science) - also for his laid-back teaching style

Influential Celebrities
1. Posh Spice
2. Gwen Stefani
3. Lin Dan

Ridiculous/Embarrassing things I've done
   2. Bringing a massive teddy bear to school for a girl I liked.
= 2. Buying flowers for a girl at school I liked.
1. Buying flowers for someone else.... so that they could give it to a girl they liked....and accidentally giving it to that girl and telling her it was a gift from him (when really I should have given it to him so that he could give it to her himself LOL - so ridiculous)

(All in year 7 and year 8)

Milestone Achievements
1. Learning to be comfortable with my own skin and the type of person I was at a very early age.
2. Consistently being able to run for period of 1 hour or more on a regular basis without being forced to - from the humble beginnings of not being able to run for even 3 minutes.
3. Mustering up the courage to talk to a girl I liked and asking whether she would like to watch a movie with me.

And all these things have made me who I am today: it is what it is.

I may consider doing another "Influence" list covering the period when I was at uni.

Andre Lim

Thursday 23 June 2016

Euro 2016 - Round of 16 Predictions

Time for some quick predictions.

Poland to beat Switzerland: 1-0

Croatia to beat Portugal 2-1 -- Portugal to awaken from slumber and give Croatia a hard time.

Hungary 1-1 Belgium, Belgium win on penalties - Hungary to put up a strong challenge against Belgium.

Wales 2-1 Northern Ireland - harder match than most think.

Germany to beat Slovakia 2-1 - a tougher fight than most think.

Italy to beat Spain 1-1, penalty shootout. Italy retain their better record over Spain.

France to beat Ireland 2-0

England to perhaps edge out Iceland 1-1 on penalties (to everyone's surprise).

In my heart though I would like: Slovakia to beat Germany, Ireland to beat France, Iceland to beat England, Hungary to beat Belgium, Spain to beat Italy and the balance as above. I am too predictable - I always support the underdog.

My fantasy team has also undergone a drastic change, due to this crazy draw:

Andre Lim

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Euro 2016 Knockout Draw - madness/chaos

So this is absolutely insane

Spain and England 'stuffed up' BIG TIME by failing to top their groups.

This, in turn, has caused the knockout stage draw to be RIDICULOUSLY bottom-heavy with all the traditional super powers of European football clustered together.

Have a look at the bottom half of the draw:

If you're not a football fan and are wondering why I am making such a big deal about this, perhaps I could compare this to a tennis Grand Slam tourney draw, say the Australian Open or Wimbledon.

It's almost like putting Djokovic, Nadal (at his peak), Federer, Murray, Wawrinka etc etc on one half of the draw, and letting everyone else have a 'free' (easier) ride on the other side of the draw. The big guns fight it out for one place in the final, and everyone else gets a shot at the other place in the final.

Some fans are blaming all of this on the new 24-team format, but I think that's a bit unfair. The key reason for this anomaly is simply because two of the seeds (England and Spain) failed to live up to their ranking on paper.

Take a look at the top half of the draw:

Certainly what is 'easier' is all relative.

On one view, based on current tournament performance in the group stages, each team is receiving their just rewards. Croatia topped their group, and deserve an arguably weaker 3rd team outfit. As do Wales who topped Group B.

However, based on what everyone accepts to be the 'powers that be' in world football (which is either grounded in subjective perception or, more probably, the objective number of World Cup trophies and European Championships won), this is certainly a fascinating draw where all the titans have been forced into a corner so that they can all eliminate each other.

I mean just look at this:

  • Germany have 3 Euro titles and 4 World Cup Titles
  • Spain have 3 Euro titles and 1 World Cup title
  • Italy have 1 Euro title and 4 World Cup titles
  • France have 2 Euro titles and 1 World Cup title.
  • England have only 1 World Cup title, but are for some reason always highly regarded...

Meanwhile, as far as I can see, the top half of the draw contains teams that have a grand total of:
No titles.

It's madness I tell you.

So on the above draw, there is certainly a case for a Croatia v France final.

In any event I do hope that there is a brand new winner this year.

Groups E and F

Now take a look at Groups E and F

Group F is too hard to call. But I will make these non-committed predictions that have probability on their side, just for the sake of discussion:

  • Italy will beat or draw to Ireland even with a 2nd string side;
  • Belgium will draw or beat Sweden
  • Hungary will draw or lose to Portugal;
  • Iceland scrapes another draw against Austria
It seems likely that Portugal will top Group F or at least come third. If they top Group F they will probably play Belgium. If they come third, they play Croatia. 

If Portugal come second, they play England. 

I really hope Portugal comes second, because that will make the knockout draw truly crazy. Portugal can come second if they beat Hungary and if Iceland beat Austria by the same or greater margin than that which Portugal used to beat Hungary. A very unlikely prospect.

At the very least, I hope Iceland scrapes through. Hungary are already through regardless of what happens, because the lowest they can finish is 3rd, and their tally of 4 points will prove to be comfortable should they land themselves in the table of 3rd placed teams, below:

I think Albania are gone now, I really do --- because as much as I am hoping for a hot Hungarian salami upset, I don't think that will happen. But I would love to be proven wrong.

I think Turkey are comfortably safe. It would take a Swedish 4-goal-margin victory or an Irish miracle (both certainly possible), coupled with Hungary's failure to win, to unseat them.

We will see what happens.

I am too excited.

Andre Lim

Tuesday 21 June 2016

England finish Runner-up in Group B

The foreseeable consequence of this is that England potentially meet France in the last 8, assuming they can get past the Runner-Up of Group F (the identity of this team is still up in the air) -- assuming  of course that France do their job.

Andre Lim

Monday 20 June 2016

Euro 2016 State of Play: Albania's Chances

Albania's chances of reaching the knockout stages hang by a thread. Remember, only the top 4 third-placed teams will go through to the next round.

Note that if there is a tie in points, Goal Difference and Goals For in that order appear to be the tiebreakers.

Albania's prospects improve if:
  • Slovakia lose to England by more than 2 goals (possible but unlikely)
  • Northern Ireland lose to Germany by more than 3 goals (quite possible, but unlikely if NI park the bus which I am sure they will. Arguably from their point of view, probability is in their favour as all NI want to do is concede as few goals as possible - - - a draw would be nice but a 1-0 defeat seems OK)
These two scenarios seem more unlikely than likely to occur, so let's discount these to make this analysis easier. This is certainly an assumption I am comfortable with making, just going by the form of the teams in Groups B and C.

Any result in Group B (apart from Slovakia losing to England by more than 2 goals) will not, as far as I can see, affect Albania's chances as the outcomes of the matches will always result in a situation where the points of the third placed team from Group B remain higher than Albania which is already the status quo.

Ie. regardless of the outcome of Wales v Russia, either Wales or Russia will be on at least 4 points which does not help Albania.

The only key match in Group C is Germany v Northern Ireland which has been covered above. Second-placed Poland's match against already-eliminated Ukraine doesn't matter as Poland's point tally is on 4, well above Albania's 3.  Ukraine will always be last in the group no matter what - Ukraine lose to Northern Ireland on head-to-head record,

So far, I have advocated in favour of ignoring the results of Groups B and C on the assumption that there will not be a goal fest.

Other Groups

Group E seems critical to Albania's chances. Albania will want the favourites to win their last matches.

Similarly, in Group F, Hungary and Iceland need to win their games.

1 match in Group D is also critical.

Albania's prospects decrease if:
  • Czech Republic win against Turkey full stop [This will leave 2nd and 3rd place on at least 4 points - higher than Albania's tally]
              OR Turkey beat Czech Republic by 2 goals or more.
  • Ireland win full stop (given this, the results of the Sweden v Belgium match will always leave one team in 3rd place on 4 points)
  • Sweden beat Belgium by 3 goals or less regardless of the Ireland result (this would cause Belgium to take up third spot who have a strong total and goal difference relative to Albania).
  • Portugal beat or draw to Hungary full stop (given this, any outcome of Iceland v Austria will leave one team in third place with at least 3 points with a better goal difference than Albania)


It seems extremely likely that Portugal will EITHER win OR draw to Hungary.

It seems unlikely that Ireland will win against an Italy who is yet to concede a shot on target!!!

It seems somewhat unlikely that Sweden will beat Belgium by 3 goals or less based on tournament rank and form (a 1-0 shock win is possible of course!).

It seems more likely than not that EITHER {the Czech Republic will beat Turkey} OR {Turkey will beat the Czechs by more than 1 goal} [both outcomes are bad for Albania].

If any 2 of the above 4 'conditions' are fulfilled, this will cause grief for Albania as that means 2 teams will overtake Albania.

Therefore it seems to me that Albania is more likely to not reach the knockout stages.

However, perhaps if there is one match that could change the balance, it would be a Turkey (1-0 or 2-1) upset or a draw to the Czech Republic which is arguably the most realistic possibility Albania could hope for.

Should this happen Albania are probably safe.

The other thing to consider is that Portugal have had a shocker of a tournament. Could Albania rely on them to lose? Maybe, but that would be hoping for too much.

Andre Lim

Sunday 19 June 2016

Euro 2016 - ranking of third placed teams

Portugal are in a bit of a pickle but can still top their group.

Actually three of these teams are still able to top their group, while Czech Republic, Romania and Sweden will not be able to top their groups.

If I had more time on my hands I'd work out which permutations of knockout matches involving third placed teams are more likely to eventuate...but that would be a little too crazy.

All I know is I'd like to see Northern Ireland, Iceland and, perhaps Hungary, proceed to the next stage.

Andre Lim

Thursday 16 June 2016

Copa America Centenario 2016 - Knockout Stage

Is this an easy path for Argentina from herein on? 

Is the most competitive quarter final fixture Mexico v Chile?

Can Peru and Venezuela continue their underdog story?

What about the 'lucky' hosts, the USA, who started off on the wrong note but somehow managed to top their group in ridiculous style - especially after Colombia's gaffe?! 

Well you'd think that Ecuador would put up a good fight, wouldn't you?
So many questions...

I, for one, am rather foolishly hoping for a Peru/Venezuela final LOL

Andre Lim

PS. I hope Wales upset England tonight.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Euro 2016 - First round of matches

It's pretty interesting how all opening group matches at Euro 2016 so far have ended up in 'classic' or 'guessable' 1-0, 1-1, 2-1 or 2-0 scorelines. There hasn't been a game with a 0-0 draw, nor has there been a game with 3 or more goals scored by one side. Nor has there been a game with more than 3 goals scored between both parties.

On one view of the matter, this might be considered boring for those fans who want to see a goalfest sort of game. On another view, I think this is pretty cool because it suggests how close and evenly-matched the teams are at Euro 2016.

Iceland and Hungary, for example, have certainly punched above their weight.

I'm looking forward to seeing more upsets this tournament. Go Iceland and Northern Ireland!!!

Andre Lim

Monday 13 June 2016

Brazil - Peru: 0-1


Peru score off a blatant 'hand-of-God' style punch from Raul Ruidiaz.

Now let's be clear on this: I wanted Peru to get through to the knockout stages...but not like this!!

I have mixed feelings about it all.

What I want to know is: why did the referee spend a good two minutes talking to his assistant referees about the controversy...only in the end for him to make the wrong call?!?!

The other interesting tell-tale sign is this: Raul Ruidiaz (I think) did not actually celebrate like crazy (as perhaps would be expected) when the goal was awarded - all he did was give a cheeky smile. Surely you could tell that something was up!!

Brazil will certainly complain about this. Given the scale of this grievance - we are talking about Brazil here - surely now is the time to bring in video refereeing?! Unless we are happy with controversial decisions like this?

Brazil were robbed! Their outstanding record of (as far as I am aware) mostly making it to the knockout stages of a major competition has now been tarnished.

Andre Lim

Sunday 12 June 2016

Northern Ireland

I think I'll support Northern Ireland??!

"Coming home as a major champion was one of the proudest moments of my career so far," 

said McIlroy, 27.

"It's an honour to represent Northern Ireland around the world - and to put our wee country on the sporting map.
"Tomorrow you will write the next chapter in our long and famous sporting story.
"When you walk out at that stadium in Nice, take a moment to think about our sporting icons, what they achieved, and how this is your chance to take your place alongside them."

Andre Lim

England v Russia

I watched a replay of England v Russia. I will be catching the SBS highlights in another 9 or so minutes as I type this.

I'm certainly no football expert but, from what I saw, a young England outfit played a very intense attacking game in the first half. Lallana, Alli, Sterling and Walker all seemed to understand each other quite well. All this attacking flair, youthful exuberance and pace, however, counted for very little as chances could not be put away.

Eventually, the cool and experienced Russian old-heads slowly got back into the game, absorbing the English storm.

I was pleasantly surprised when Eric Dier scored from a free kick, but this was slightly offset by the last-gasp Russian header which effectively cost me 8 points in Euro Fantasy...

Interestingly, this preserves England's "record" of not winning an opening match at the European Championships.

It was also interesting to see Harry Kane taking the corner kicks.

I should also add that Eric Dier made a brilliant comment here which I've highlighted below.

"Eric it's a point but does it feel like a defeat right now?"
Eric Dier:
"Yeah of course um, we're very disappointed in-- cause um, you know I think we played very well the whole game. And then to, to give away the draw like that at the end umm, yeah ...extremely disappointing..."

Eric Dier:
"...I thought we did everything right. We controlled the game, we, we played out from the back...we pressed when we needed to, we um we won the ball back, we countered. I think, I think we had it all from us but umm ..apart from controlling it at the end."
"Match that level of performance and England will qualify, England will go further would you say?"
Eric Dier:
"Yeah uh, uh I don't like to talk like that, I just like to talk you know game by game..."
It's good to see some level-headed perspective.

Overall it was an interesting match and I'm looking forward to looking at more highlights and replays over the course of this week including this long weekend...

In other news, Colombia lost 2-3 to already-eliminated Costa Rica after changing 10 of their regular first team they may face Brazil instead of Peru/Ecuador as runner-ups. Granted, Brazil aren't as strong as they could be, but it's usually better to face the pool runner-up isn't it? The coach could rue his decision to field 10 from the bench...

Andre Lim

Saturday 11 June 2016

Quote of the day - Fear

"In any case, robbing people of their fears is never a kindness. At best, it is a mistake borne of compassion. Without pain, and fear, and failure, we cannot learn. We cannot grow."
- Divine Justinia V from Dragon Age: Inquisition

Andre Lim

Friday 10 June 2016

Euro 2016!

Here's my Euro 2016 fantasy squad.

I'm somewhat excited and keen to see an underdog country do well at these finals. Group F in particular looks interesting.

Let's hope for a Greece 2004 special.

Andre Lim

Sunday 5 June 2016

Beginner's Chinese (2nd Edition) - Yong Ho

A handful of my friends have expressed an interest in learning Mandarin, which is a fantastic interest to have (=

I write this review for their benefit, and for the entertainment value of anyone interested in seeing what is inside a language textbook such as Beginner's Chinese by Yong Ho.

I suppose I am the type of person who, on a very selective basis, doesn't mind biting the bullet and taking a gamble on something to see if it is a good or bad thing, especially if it is something that interests me. In the case of shopping, sometimes I discover that the choice to buy was a horrible one; but every now and then (as is the case here) the choice proves to be well worth it.

I do intend to review more titles: after Mandarin, it is a medium to long-term goal of mine to learn the bare basics of Cantonese, Spanish, Arabic and Korean - possibly in that order.

My messy-looking book

Length: 326 pages, inclusive of answers to exercises, references and glossary.
269 pages for the 10 main chapters + Introduction.

Publisher: Hippocrene Books

Two CDs included

Cost: About $37 to $40 (AUD). Book Depository.


Beginner's Chinese by Yong Ho is a gem of a book. In short, it is probably one of the better books that you will find on the market given its:
  1. Travel-sized compactness - it fits in my bag for easy reading on the bus to/from work;
  2. Fantastic written coverage of the basics of Mandarin (including pin-yin, pronunciation and practical conversational/dialogue practice);
  3. Interesting cultural discussions;
  4. Helpful translation and written exercises; and
  5. Perhaps most importantly, its inclusion of 2 audio CDs (one for pin yin practice; and one for the new sentence patterns and new vocabulary introduced in each of the ten chapters).

Beginner's Chinese condenses the basics of Mandarin into ten lessons (or chapters):
  1. Greetings
  2. Names
  3. Places
  4. Family
  5. Time
  6. Nationalities & Languages
  7. Money & Shopping
  8. Food & Eating
  9. Travel
  10. Weather
Each chapter is usually about the theme it is named for, but that doesn't mean the words you learn must strictly adhere to the theme. Often you will learn other new words as you go along.


Pinyin and Tone (!!) Practice

Prior to the chapters, the book introduces the reader to Mandarin, including its cultural history and the phonetics of the language (Pīnyīn - 拼音). There is a whole CD dedicated to Pin Yin pronunciation. This is obviously critical because if you can't get the Pin Yin right, you will have a difficult task of learning all the sentences in this book.

Fortunately the 1st audio CD is generous in its coverage of this area, with 23 tracks covering what appears to be all possible sound combinations including the 4 tones, initial sounds and final sounds.

There is even a helpful chart at page 14 which lists all the sound combinations.

Pages 16-17 outline a useful guide to tackling tones as well.


Each chapter is structured with sections that appear in this order:

1. Sentence patterns - these are the sentence structures the lesson will focus on.

2. Conversations - this section features practical dialogue used in everyday Chinese. It uses, and expands on, the sentence patterns previously introduced.

3. New words and expressions and "Supplementary words" - this part will list the new words learnt in this chapter along with their meanings. The words are sorted under headings such as Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives and Adverbs. "Supplementary Words" are meant to broaden your horizons by providing words beyond the domain of that chapter.

CD/Audio help: As far as I am aware, it appears that all conversations, new words and expressions, supplementary words and expressions and sentence patterns are covered in the 2nd audio CD. The CD features 10 tracks, one track per chapter. This makes pronunciation and learning easier.

Each chapter has a vocab list -

4. Language points. This part will clarify some of the structures used in the sentence patterns and conversations, even occasionally explaining the cultural reasons and etiquette for why certain things are said the way they are! This, along with 'Cultural Insights', is one of my favourite sections.

5. Exercises - Usually this involves translating Chinese sentences or translating English sentences into Chinese. Every now and then (but rarely) more interesting exercises are given. Writing characters is given token consideration. To be honest, I would have liked to see more translation exercises. 

Answers are provided at the back of the book in pin yin.

Occasionally you will find some trickier exercises that make use of supplementary expressions not thoroughly covered - I do wish more of this was included!

6. Cultural Insights - I really enjoy this section of the book (it's the reason I choose to learn!). Yong Ho attempts to explain to the foreigner why certain things are the way they are in China, often tying this in with the chapter's topic.

After all ten chapters, the last sections of this book also explain to the user how one can improve and supplement their Chinese through the use of the internet etc.


Despite its relatively small size and compactness, Beginner's Chinese does a solid job of introducing the bare basics of Mandarin Chinese. It is a handy travel tool and a great course in itself. The sentence patterns and dialogue are easily accessible and useful in everyday conversation. One main downside is the lack of varied and better examples in the exercise/practice section of the book. However that is being a little picky as ample exercises are provided.

Another "downside", I suppose, is how short the book is - relatively speaking. The ten chapters already provided are good on a basic level, but it would have been nice if more topics were included to expand the reader's knowledge of Chinese. That being said, our friend Yong Ho has produced an Intermediate Chinese book which appears to make up for this.

I'd give this book a score of:
  8.5 - 9.0 out of 10.

I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in a casual-take-it-easy crash course on Mandarin Chinese.

I think Beginner's Chinese is suitable for:
a) Those who have never spoken the language before;
b) Beginners; and
c) Those who are in a 'transition phase' between beginner level and intermediate level (ie. those who haven't quite graduated from being a beginner and who would like to reinforce their basic foundations.)

I should note here that if you want a bulkier, meatier book, I highly highly highly highly highly recommend New Practical Chinese Reader (although there are 6 volumes of this altogether - at the time of writing I am stuck at the end of Volume 1). I honestly think NPCR is one of the best designed textbooks I have come across. That said, Beginner's Chinese is a good starting point and foundation.

Credit to my mum for the photos.

Andre Lim

Saturday 4 June 2016

Hari Raja (Pranav Raja)

Assuming my memory is still intact, it's Hari's birthday tomorrow!

I do recall writing a tribute for Hari back when I had Facebook pre-2011...unfortunately when I deleted Facebook, it didn't occur to me that I should keep a record of it. Nonetheless, I'm quite happy to write another one for Mr Raja.

There are many facets to Hari Raja that need to be properly understood, and indeed, appreciated.

Thinking outside the box

The first is this.

Hari is an intelligent individual who thoroughly enjoys thinking outside the box. This notion of "thinking outside the box" is very broad and covers several bases. When I was in highschool, for example, Hari would frequently whisper in my ear during our Physics and Maths classes:
"This teacher is teaching us the wrong stuff. This is not how you are meant to teach this topic. You are supposed to...

[proceeds to clearly explain how it should be taught from the ground up]."
Following from this, Hari is a firm believer in:

1) NOT being spoon-fed ideas or concepts; and (therefore)
2) Thinking independently.

Problem-Solving Intelligence

In that sense, there is a lot to be admired about Hari. He is quick on his feet when it comes to solving puzzles and problems in his head. He thoroughly enjoys finding alternate solutions to problems. Indeed, in Year 12, Hari was an expert with, and heavily favoured, the latter portion of "Hence or OTHERWISE" styled 4-unit mathematics questions.

On that note, I remember asking Hari something along the lines of how it was possible for him to solve these complex problems (riddles, maths questions, brain teasers) in his head without using a pen or paper. I expressed to him the fact that I was wholly unable to do something like that myself -- without at least taking many weeks longer than people like him.

He cooly replied to me with words to the following effect:
"Just imagine you are writing on a piece of paper in your head."
This may or may not explain why he is so good at Ricochet Robots.

I also imagine, and am relatively confident, that this inherent intelligence and willingness to tackle problems head on has served Hari well in his current IT career path. I am sure he could apply it to any other field, including for example a career in the law. I note here too that he is, unsurprisingly, also well-read in science and mathematics (a major understatement given that his collection of books extends to Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid).

Willingness to engage in new activities

Perhaps this eagerness to explore new solutions to puzzles is the very same attribute that is behind Hari's enthusiasm with engaging in other extracurricular activities, be it Parkour, one form of martial arts whose name eludes me, chess, surfing, rock-climbing or the Tough Mudder race, to name a few examples.

Athletic prowess

There is another, somewhat related, dimension to Hari that rates a mention.

Hari is an all-rounder when it comes to sport. Being a natural athlete, he picks up the skills required in a sport very quickly even if he's never played it before, be it a stint at badminton or a game of reverse handball***.

This could be down to his years as a leg-spinner in the U-16 (?) NSW Blues cricket squad (cricket is a sport that, as many would know, requires - at bare minimum - flexibility and adaptability in fielding). There is another classmate from my highschool who I would put in the same category as Hari in the sense of being "naturally talented" - Kenneth Hee. Certainly the average mortal like me is not able to pick up these skills without training super hard.

A quick Google search of "Hari Raja NSW Blues" reveals:
"Hari Raja proved to be lethal (as he had all year) taking 4/15 off 9 overs."


And one of the enduring quotes from Hari that will stay with me is this:
"I don't really watch sport. I play sport."

Video Games and Humour

On a note of lesser (or, depending on how you prioritise, greater) importance, Hari Raja shares roughly the same sort of humour and video game repertoire or "range" as me (to a certain extent).

It was Hari who introduced me to The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. Since about Year 8 or Year 9, Hari had been nagging me to play the game. It was literally only on the last day of my Year 12 exams (Chemistry, November 6, 2008) when I actually decided to go home and play the blasted thing. Suffice to say he was, of course, right and I found myself wondering why I had deprived myself all these years.

This pattern of being slow to pick up Hari's recommendation would be a common trend over the years and, for that, I apologise Hari LOL (Game of Thrones being another example - but that is another story altogether.)

Generally Hari and I find it humorous when we observe phenomena in the world that are rather unexpected or surprising, such as when someone makes a special or secret/hidden effort to do something to impress someone or to excel at something. I know that is a rather vague or poor explanation of our sub-category of humour, but perhaps a good example is this from none other than Hari himself:

Hari once told me that he had studied basic Spanish so that one day, if he ever happened to find himself amongst a circle of people speaking in Spanish, he would be well equipped to just randomly chime in mid-conversation to surprise everyone LOL.

Actually to be honest it is my mid to long-term aim to study Spanish, Arabic and Korean for (almost) that very reason. But at this stage I am just focussing on Mandarin and I'm just starting Cantonese. Perhaps this is subconsciously Hari's influence as well.

Hari Raja, all the best for everything and thank you for being a good friend to me over all these years.

For the record, can I just say to the whole world that I am, for the large part of it, absolutely nothing like Hari Raja - if I had even 5% of any of his attributes listed above, I'd be laughing.

Andre Lim

*** An utterly made up game whose rules now elude me, though I think I have them somewhere in my email.