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A Reunion Dinner with a secret to hide. Click here.

Have you taken all the modern comforts for granted? Behind every modern device there is the technology and with them comes the management and risks. Interested to find out what goes on below the hood? Click here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cat's Play - Come back!

Two days ago, we were much saddened when we found Greygri, our grey cat laying dead by the main road. We brought the body back and buried it in our garden. Then curiously during the night, we heard the little cat door flapped, as if Greygri was back! Next morning, in a bizarre turn of events, we even noticed that the cat food was consumed and the dish moved! Then, as we were standing there, to our astonishment, Greygri came through the door. We were stunned!!!! “HUH? Wasn't Greygri supposed to be dead?” I thought. Then did we realised that we had buried the wrong cat!!! .
Also two days ago, an old and good friend whom I have tried contacting many times since the year 2000, but to no avail, turned up online on!!! I had earlier assumed that he is 'no longer with us'. Anyway, he revealed that he had just came out of prison after 8 years, allegedly being framed for a crime he didn't commit. While he was doing time, he studied and achieved a first class honours degree and continued halfway into a PhD. Now out on good behaviour, he has enrolled in an engineering degree. He has also got an application for a patent pending for an online user authentication algorithm; and also waiting to test a concept he has, that would generate energy from a renewable source.
I admire his strength living through all those years in prison and having attained those academic and intellectual achievements. He must have gone through immense agony though. I told him that the past is now behind him and he ought to endeavour to live in the present. That he says he will.
For other posts about Cat's Play, read here
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Friday, July 17, 2009

5 Steps To Intellectualise Your Hair Salon

Photo: The strange 'spaceship' that runs Singapore
There is this strange 'spaceship' that sits on this grand old building in this straight-jacket country. Down from this 'spaceship' lies a salon very true to its name that hosts affairs of many subjects. There in Salon "Hair Affair", the proprietors would reveal that they are from the same father and same mother and tell guests that they are even willing to die dye for them.

Photo: Joo Hock
The intellectualisation of this salon happens much by accident. It started 14 years ago when one of the proprietor, Joo Hock, was looking for the 'meaning of life'. He eventually wrote on a piece of paper, "Dear God, Need Help! Please help!" Then he put it under his pillow.
After a few days, a friend called and told him about a "Money and You" (business training) programme. Actually, he was not interested, but this friend persisted and told him that he had already booked a place for him.
When the day came, he attended the programme and it absolutely blew his mind away, upon the introduction of the life and philiosophy of Buckminster Fuller (Bucky). Joo Hock was very impressed with Bucky's teachings and even more impressed that Bucky actually had a spiritual belief in 'a force more powerful than men', despite being a highly scientific person. This is the genesis of the intellectualisation of "Hair Affair".

Photo: Buckminster Fuller & the Geodesic Dome
So, these are the essential steps:
1. Choose a Belief
Choose a belief that resonates with you. Something that you can put your full heart and soul to it. In Joo Hock's case, it is the visions and works of Buckminster Fuller. Today, fourteen years later, his 'Bucky Group' is still going strong!
Photo: Acceleration Aware Singapore (aka "The Futurist Group")
2. Be Inclusive
Your belief should be all inclusive, regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, caste or creed. Here, Bucky is a safe icon to adopt. The Bucky Group embraces all and include people from varied and contrasting backgrounds.

Photo: MSN Live with friends from Atlanta
3. Give
Hair Affair extended the free use of their premises further, to other interest groups like the Writers' Group, the Futurist Group and the French Language Interest Group, every week. Be sincere in giving. Thanks to the Internet, the Salon even connects to some of their members out of Singapore, like in Atlanta in the USA sometimes.
4. Allow
Allow diverse views and opinions. It is not necessary to agree all the time. There is also much to learn from disagreements. That way you also allow spontaneity in the Salon.

Photo: Walk in the Sungei Buloh Bird Sanctuary in Singapore
5. Fun
Most of all, there must be fun to perpetuate the flow of intellect. Besides mere talk, we also take walks in nature, trips to farms and plantations in Malaysia, screen movies, gather for BBQs, karaoke nights,...etc. There is also a plan to put up a musical about the life of Bucky.
Try this in your salon! It need not be a hair salon. It just need to be a place of passion and intellect.
For the record, Hair Affair is not underground, but a salon in the basement of The Adelphi Mall. :)
Read about the Bucky Group, click here
Read about the Futurist Group, click here
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Futurists - Bucky's Vision

Date: 24th June 2009
Time: 7.30pm to 10pm
Place: The lecture room next to Hair Affair, The Adelphi Mall, Singapore.
Buckminster Fuller is the visionary in the 60s of the future. In between, there is a gap. Tonight, we are going to discuss about the difference between the Bucky's vision of the future versus Singularity, which is what is contemporary.
Steffan believes that 'Singularity' will be achieved in the next 10 years. Singularity is based largely on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the accelerating computing power based on Moore's Law (that processing power will double every 18 months). AI will be developed and progressed to a stage where the human can't keep up with it anymore. It'll be beyond the human scale.
Joo Hock said that Bucky illustrates this rapid exponential progress in "the chronological rate of acquisition of the basic inventory of cosmic absolutes - the 92 elements" (page 243, Critical Path). In that Bucky plotted a graph of time vs the number of elements discovered. It started with very few, the first one being arsenic in 1250 AD in Italy. The rate of isolation of elements started slowly, then accelerated rapidly around and after 1810AD.
Also in the transportation sector, the adoption of new modes of transport accelerated - initially with the sail boat, steam ship,... to spaceship.
Now we have reduced travel time, we require less resources by combining different elements to gather new alloys that give more strength per given weight.
Bucky questioned if humankind have a function on Earth. Do we have a function?
He discovered that whatever something that happens here, there is a complementary phase somewhere else.
Then when Einstein discovered E=mc2, he realises this is bringing things back to order. That there is an order, because the mind generalises. So Bucky propounded a set of generalised principles that applies consistently in the universe.
From there he developed artifacts that illustrates those generalised principles. He then developed the Dymaxion Map, Dymaxion Car, Dymaxion House, the Geodesic Dome, the World Game...etc.
Bucky asked how we can work for the entire humanity without ecological damages and without disadvantages to anyone.
Joo Hock: Can AI asks questions instead of answering questions?
Replies: AI is no different from the evolved intelligence of humans. Can machines ask an original question? Bucky thinks not, but there again, may be he changed his mind later because he said, "only the impossible happens".
The top 10 jobs 20 years ago does not exist today. Similarly, the top 10 jobs in 20 years' time does not exist today. Some of the top jobs of the future could be:
  • Reputation Managers
  • Consultant, but run by a computerised network (similar to crowd sourcing)
Common to these two jobs will be a term called "Ping Quotient", which is a measure of your responsiveness to other people's requests for engagement, your propensity and ability to reach out to others in a network .
So what is Bucky's vision for humanity in the future?
Will it be like "Cloud 9" - cities floating in the sky?
Bucky has a vision of the use of technology on every front in our life.
He conceived the idea of tetrahedral cities submerged in the sea.
He derives the generalised principles from how nature works. From the principles, he created artifacts. For instance, he demostrated that a chain with many links have many degrees of freedom of movements. Then as the links are reduced to 3 links, it stopped having the freedom to move. Then, Bucky realised that a triangle is a basic structure. from a triangle, he proceeded to discover the tetrahedron as the basic structure, and so on.
So science is putting our experiences in order.
Bucky's 10 Anticipatory Design Leadership qualities:
  1. Think comprehensively
  2. Anticipate the future
  3. Respect gestation rates
  4. Envision the best possible future
  5. Be a trimtab
  6. Take individual initiative
  7. Ask the obvious and "naive" questions
  8. Do more with less
  9. Seek to reform the environment, not man
  10. Solve problems through action
Bucky also spoke about the illusion of 'ownership' - that ultimately, we don't really own anything. Indigenous tribes were perplexed with European colonisers of land ownership. To them, it is impossible to own the land. To them, the land owns them. And so they got cheated by being asked to sign a treaty to give the land away to their colonisers.
So from an ownership model, we proceed to a service (rental) model. We are here to use something, then put it back.
A dangling comment:
We have been discussing about 'Good' and 'Evil'. In between, there is 'indifference'. For instance, a cockroach is probably indifferent. :)
Steffan feels that Bucky is the futurist of his time. Then, humanity needed structures for housing, transportation...etc. There was little said about organising information. Perhaps now Kurtzweil (author of "Singularity") is the futurist of this era, as he works extensively with 'information'.

Bucky's books:
Cosmography: A Posthumous Scenario for the Future of Humanity
From Fuller's last work, nearly finished when he died in 1983, is composed of short sweeps--for Fuller--of afterthought, and some additions, to the main themes of his previous books. As always, Fuller spikes his science with anthropology and sociology, as he did in Critical Path (1981) and Syngergetics I and II (1971-1979), but for hardcore Fuller fans the heart of this book will be the long chapter called "Cosmic Conceptioning." This section includes a note Fuller wrote to himself, at his wife's hospital bed, on "spheric experiences" of the structure of gases--a raw example of Fuller's special "geometry of thinking." (It is dated 1983 and signed "with thanks to God, the eternal sum of all truths.") "History of Structure," on the other hand, reads like a guest-lecture speech, summarizing the future world millenium according to Fuller. While obtuse wording, such as "omninteraccelerating cosmic concept" can seem to mock his brilliant insights into the grand geometry of structures, topology, chemistry, metallurgy and, perhaps, society, nearly a decade after his death, Fuller is still ahead of the parade.
Critical Path
From Critical Path is R. Buckminster Fuller's masterwork - the summing up of a lifetime's thought and concern - as urgent and relevant as it was upon its first publication over 20 years ago. Critical Path details how humanity found itself in its current situation - at the limits of the planet's natural resources and facing political, economic, environmental, and ethical crises. Fuller's analysis has been proven correct in many areas since then and his options for the survival of mankind are as compelling as ever. Critical Path is an essential text for any student of humanity.
The Whole Earth Catalog
From Wikipedia: The Whole Earth Catalog was an American counterculture catalog that granted "Access to Tools" published by Stewart Brand between 1968 and 1972, and occasionally thereafter, until 1998. Apple Inc. founder and entrepreneur Steve Jobs has described the Catalog as the conceptual forerunner of the World Wide Web.

Andrew Kirk in Counterculture Green notes that the Whole Earth Catalog was preceded by the "Whole Earth Truck Store". This store was conceived of as the "first phase" of his Whole Earth idea and was "an alternative library" and an "abbreviated version of Brand's earlier hope to tour the country with educational fairs. The truck was a store but was also a lending library and mobile microeducation fair." It was created in his 1963 Dodge Truck. In 1968, Brand and his wife Lois went "on a commune road trip" with the truck. The "Truck Store" finally settled in its permanent location in Menlo Park, California.
Brand's intent with the catalog was to provide education and "access to tools" so a reader could "find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested." The Catalog's development and marketing were driven by an energetic group of founders, primarily Stewart Brand, whose family was also involved with the project. Its outsize pages measured 11x14 inches (28x36 cm). Later editions were more than an inch thick. The early editions were published by the Portola Institute, headed by Richard Raymond. In 1972, the catalog won the National Book Award, the first time a catalog had ever won such an award.
Brand's publishing efforts were suffused with an awareness of the importance of ecology, both as a field of study and as an influence upon the future of humankind and emerging human awareness.
The catalogs disseminated many ideas now associated with the 1960s and 1970s, particularly those of the counterculture and the environmental movements. Later editions and related publications edited by Brand popularized many innovative ideas during the 1970s–1990s. Read more

An Autobiographical Monologue/Scenario
An excellent primer written in plain English.
Documented and edited by Robert Snyder. Amiable prophet of the future, "the planet's friendly genius," R. Buckminster Fuller is, at 84, the best-known living American thinker. (Order)
Architect, author, designer, cosmogonist, scientist, inventor, philosopher, and not the least, astronaut aboard the "beautiful little spaceship Earth." The torrent of ideas and inventions that flow from his active brain have widened our vision of man and nature and reshaped our view of the universe.
Based on Robert Snyder's films The World of Buckminster Fuller and Primer of the Universe, Buckminster Fuller: An Autobiographical Monologue/Scenario make skillful use of stills and text from the films as well as from Fuller family photographs and letters and the Fuller archives. Snyder has succeeded in capturing in the camera's lens the flesh and blood figure of the man beyond the myth, "warts and all." In this book, Bucky speaks for himself.
An Anthology for the New Millenium
From In 1927 R. Buckminster Fuller stood on the shore of Lake Michigan contemplating suicide. Suddenly he asked himself, "Could I use myself as a scientific `guinea pig'... on behalf of all humanity?" Fuller decided at that moment to "make the world work for one hundred percent of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone." From this auspicious beginning, Fuller quickly rose to fame as one of the 20th century's most brilliant inventors, architects and "poets of technology." Believing that "mankind has the capability through proper planning and use of natural resources to forever house himself," he devised the geodesic dome--a model of which now looms over Disney's Epcot Center--an architectural wonder designed to conserve both space and energy. Fuller's foresight that advances in transportation and communication would make the world a smaller place culturally led him to famously describe the global village as "Spaceship Earth." He also introduced the world to the now commonplace idea of synergy. In order to acquaint a new generation with Fuller, his former architectural partner, Zung, gathers selections from 20 of Fuller's 23 writings on topics ranging from education and environment to engineering and the Lord's Prayer. Admirers of Fuller--such as actress Valerie Harper, author Arthur C. Clarke and entrepreneur Steve Forbes--introduce each selection. Zung's anthology traces the development of Fuller's intellectual life and provides an excellent introduction for a new generation to the life and work of this brilliant thinker. Read more
Your Private Sky:
From Buckminster Fuller's talents bridged architecture, engineering, and industrial design, and his interest in prefabricated units, constructed from industrial materials, marked his designs as among the most inventive of the 20th century. In their economy and conservation of energy, his works far exceeded anything envisioned by International Style architects of his time. This volume, the result of an exhibition held at five European design museums, consists primarily of archival documentation from the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Each chapter examines a design, beginning with a brief descriptive paragraph and including substantial excerpts from Fuller's lectures, manuscripts, and publications in addition to sketches, photographs, patent application drawings, and engineering drawings. The result is engaging, visually stunning, and highly informative if at times also confusing, overwrought, and breathless. Regrettably, there is some ambiguity as to which caption describes which illustration. Nevertheless, this book well complements Inventions: The Patented Works of R. Buckminster Fuller (St. Martin's, 1983). For architecture and design collections.
-Paul Glassman, New York Sch. of Interior Design Lib.
Topic for next week: "Critical Thinking".
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vacuum State - Coming Up

Sorry I have been busy with many activities and hadn't had the time to post here as much as I wanted.
Here is a glimpse of what is coming up:
The Futurist
  • Buckminster Fuller's view of the future
  • Critical Thinking
  • Artificial Intelligence Drives
Bucky Group
  • Bucky Basics - the generalised principles, the artifacts, Bucky's products like the Dymaxion car, Dymaxion house, ...etc.
The Power of Numbers
  • More about my recent experience reading for people: the accuracy and the need for coaching and encouragement
  • About using the brain's own waves to train and improve itself.
The last 100 visitors come from...
21 -
Thanks for visiting Vacuum State. Do feel free to leave your comment, suggestions or criticisms.
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Caravan Himalaya

Guest Writer: Tiger Ng
Movie: Caravan (Himalaya)
Screened at the Buddhist Library.

This movie is simple, no “big-shot” movie stars, no over-budgeted advertising trick! What Eric Valli used in this movie are the breathtaking views of the Himalayas, the courageous caravan, and the completely non-professional cast (real chiefs, lamas and local villagers) which provide the film with a sense of “authenticity” that is not found in the “money-hunting” Hollywood products.

“Himalaya” delivers a strong message that revolves around power, leadership ability, tradition, and change. A simple question: “When superstition, tradition and culture collide with our own conscience, what would you have done best to avoid conflict?” Probably we can make use of what is uttered by one of the main character in the film, Norbu: "When two paths open up before you, choose the hardest one." Talking about this, Bhante Dhammaratana (The Buddhist Library Spiritual Advisor) has opined that one should always take the hardest path. [This is my own view: there’s no easy way or short-cut in everything we do in our life (be it spiritual or secular). Obstacles in fact serve as our “spiritual teacher” that makes us matured over the course of time].

Indeed, “Himalaya” reflects what is really happening in our modern society today: struggle between old and new, as well as between god-fearing society and self-reliant upstarts. How do you challenge the tradition and belief systems that have been practised for thousands if not hundreds of years? Especially when things happen in accord to what is “prophesised” by those so-called superstitious predictions…

Well, to relate this subject to what is taught by the Buddha, we may want to reflect upon the Kalama’s Sutta. Following is an excerpt from the Kalama Sutta: “It is fitting for you to be perplexed, O Kālāmas, it is fitting for you to be in doubt. Doubt has arisen in you about a perplexing matter. Come, Kālāmas. Do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a collection of texts, by logic, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it, by the seeming competence of a speaker, or because you think, ‘The ascetic is our teacher.’ But when you know for yourselves, ‘These things are unwholesome; these things are blameable; these things are censured by the wise; these things, if undertaken and practiced, lead to harm and suffering,’ then you should abandon them.”

My principle is simple. I always respect the ancient belief system, even though some of them seem to me rather superstitious. They have survived for such a long time, there must be some reasons for them to exist until now. Some of them are simple innocent belief [for example, whenever someone has urgent toilet business, but there’s no nearby toilet can be found, he would have to settle his “business” at a nearby tree. Before doing this, we were always told during our childhood time that we must ask for “permission” from whatever “things” residing at that tree to allow us to proceed with our urgent business. For me, although this might sound superstitious, but it is a form of respect for all the living (and non-living) things in this world, who knows there might be a tree Deva at particular tree?]. However, if the practice of such belief systems become an obsession and start to disrupt my daily life, and could probably lead to the unwholesome consequences, I would not tolerate them, will try to challenge and clear the “clouds”.
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