On a warm island evening,
An old friend comes by in a daydream.
‘When you’re all pipe, slippers and rocking chair,
Can you pretend that you’ve lived?’
And then he took off.

Goodbye Sam.
You’ve gone long before it was okay.
Your humble, eccentric ways we have learned to love.
Your quiet strength I will always remember bolstering our quests.
Now, your reminder.
Rest well, friend.


You Will Be Missed

When you’re aged 25, you just don’t expect a friend who you’ve gone to school and rowed boats with to die — it just isn’t supposed to happen. I’ve had acquaintances die before, but nobody who was closer. Samuel Ling and I served the same club back in junior college, we fought the same fights, sometimes against each other, but mostly we fought as brothers-in-arms.

He was eccentric, to say the least. In a place where most people could barely manage to write and speak proper Mandarin, his grasp of the language rendered some of his deeper writings arcane to the common reader. On a boat, he paddled with sometimes berserk ferocity, throwing form to the wind; other times he would let the paddle prance above the water just keeping a straight back and perfecting form. Samuel had strength in his legs, as many doors in school would attest. And damn, could the man sweat!

Watching him compose and play at a piano, I don’t think he is anything if not at least a minor prodigy.

Although we did not contact each other very much after university — he being busy with work, and myself busying in school — whenever we did meet, there would be happy backslapping and laughter.

I hope I could write better about this, and maybe I will at some point, but for now, I’ll just miss you Sam.

The Dark Knight Rises: Thoughts

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises I think is a good superhero movie ending. It got me thinking about inequality a little.

We the common man constantly rattle our fists at ‘the one percent’ – the privileged few and their entourages. What happened in Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises is a revolution fronted by a deranged man. It is far out, but if allowed to breed and grow under the radar, the thought of such an angry mob actually forming is feasible.

The one percent whether they realise it or not, can only sit on top comfortably if the people under them are happy to stay where they are. Philosophers have argued this way and that on the matter, and my thought is this. The people on top should pay reasonably well, and make sure that the rest of society can live in relative comfort, only then can they sit happy in their nests perched atop everyone elses’s’. If not for society, then for their own sake.
A monster like Bane may not materialise, but the resent may breed malice as pure as his.


Nomad woman milking a yak on the grasslands of Sichuan, China after a snowfall the night before. (© John Quintero/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

Nomad woman milking a yak on the grasslands of Sichuan, China after a snowfall the night before. (© John Quintero/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

When people say National Geographic photographers take some of the world’s best pictures, this is the kind of thing they are talking about. The look, the vibrant colours, and the capturing of a life in one frame.

The Genetics of Stupidity

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The following post from Wiring the Brain gives some insight into the genetics of intelligence from the other side. The genetics of intelligence is probably better considered from the viewpoint of the stupidity.  Some really interesting insights into the correlation of  body symmetry and intelligence too.

This is an example of why more scientists should blog and write in Human, so that the rest of us peons can learn from their research while stumbling through the internet.

The Genetics of Stupidity

Whatsapp: ‘Why we don’t sell ads’

Whatsapp on why they don't sell apps

This is why Whatsapp charges instead of selling ads. A sound argument too. Fact is, when the service is as reliable as what Whatsapp offers, people are more than willing to pay for it. The following is taken from the Whatsapp blog (emphasis mine):

Brian and I spent a combined 20 years at Yahoo, working hard to keep the site working. And yes, working hard to sell ads, because that’s what Yahoo did. It gathered data and it served pages and it sold ads.

We watched Yahoo get eclipsed in size and reach by Google… a more efficient and more profitable ad seller. They knew what you were searching for, so they could gather your data more efficiently and sell better ads.

These days companies know literally everything about you, your friends, your interests, and they use it all to sell ads.

When we sat down to start our own thing together three years ago we wanted to make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse. We wanted to spend our time building a service people wanted to use because it worked and saved them money and made their lives better in a small way. We knew that we could charge people directly if we could do all those things. We knew we could do what most people aim to do every day: avoid ads.

No one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they’ll see tomorrow. We know people go to sleep excited about who they chatted with that day (and disappointed about who they didn’t). We want WhatsApp to be the product that keeps you awake… and that you reach for in the morning. No one jumps up from a nap and runs to see an advertisement.

Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought. At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out… And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen.

Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.

At WhatsApp, our engineers spend all their time fixing bugs, adding new features and ironing out all the little intricacies in our task of bringing rich, affordable, reliable messaging to every phone in the world. That’s our product and that’s our passion. Your data isn’t even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it.

When people ask us why we charge for WhatsApp, we say “Have you considered the alternative?”

Facebook: Colonising the interwebs one ‘Like’ at a time

Facebook's like button colonising the internet one like at a time

Facebook’s “Like” button. Does not look like much does it?

This little feature is one of the catalysts that propelled Facebook to verb-like (as in ‘I’ll Facebook him’) prominence on the internet today. Not convinced? Hear me out.

Sometime in 2008, many users were lamenting that Facebook was a “walled garden”, that it did not allow interaction beyond its monochromatic blue boarders. Conventional wisdom in the technology industry was that, and it stands true yet, that walled garden type technology will eventually see their users leave and seek greener pastures.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and his team were well aware of the problems that walled garden technologies present, but they did not seek to tear down those walls. Oh no, that was way too much trouble. Instead in Febuary 2009, they simply expanded those walls and invited the rest of the Web to come in and play.

They introduced the “Like” feature.

That was an ingenious move, from there onward, users will be interacting with Facebook even when you are not at To web developers, this was a win-win. For years and years, they have wrecked their brains thinking up ways to make their content more “social”, fully knowing that it was a sure way to create traffic (comments on blog posts and web forums literally operate on this principle). Suddenly, they could potentially have the entire Facebook population within their reach. 190-million

Now, we all know that Facebook was not the first to create plug-ins like these. Yahoo, Twitter and Digg have tried, with only budging success. What makes the idea tick was the staggering growth of Facebook. It currently has 500 million users, and that number is growing at a faster and faster rate. If we were to look at a graph plotting Facebook’s user population anuclear chain reactiongainst time, it would resemble that of a nuclear chain reaction before reaching critical mass (Fig. 33.3).

One of the founding principles of Facebook was to be useful, and in this respect, they have fulfilled it through and through. Not only have they enabled web developers to extend their reach, they have also allowed themselves to easily track user preferences, which is key to advertising. It is their ability to sift out such win-wins that will surely drive the company to further success.

At the point of writing, Google is still the undisputed king of the internet search and information profiling. Google, the one that everyone turns to in order to make sense of diarrhea of information that is the internet. Will Facebook overtake Google in that respect? It is not unlikely, but it would take a lot of effort on Facebook’s part, but when they do, it would be with astonishing, even horrifying personal accuracy.

What Facebook has succeeded in doing thus far is priming itself to be as ubiquitous and essential as Google, which in itself is no mean feat. The world’s biggest social network won’t be going away, and you, the Facebook user, are going to see to that, one “Like” at a time.

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