Daniel Liew

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In the rear view mirror of 2013

Most would have written a good old post of the memories of 2013 on the New Year’s Eve by now, but I was greeted with fever on the day itself thus just spending the hours before midnight struck snuggling in bed.

It’s funny how time passes and how we choose to keep track.

In 2013, most of the 365 days passed at a much different tempo. While life in Kuala Lumpur has been a constant records of highs and lows, my pilgrimage plan to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day was put off for some personal reasons, but overall life was great. Jaunts east and west in Peninsular Malaysia in search for islands and sandy beaches from the Straits of Malacca to the beautiful South China Sea. Managed to realise my travel plans to Indochina where tales and legends live.

In 2013, a friend invited me to join the church choir team which I accepted with an open heart. It has been a year in the choir and I have so much to gain than to lose, our choir master is a great teacher. In a year my singing has improved considerably and was given the opportunity to sing the gospel acclamation in mass. Last month, we sang for the Christmas mass and the reception was welcoming.

Christmas Choir

Family. We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

No man is an island. “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods”, said the philosopher Aristotle. We live in a world where many of us have a lot of friends on Facebook or Twitter but yet we have lost human connection. Indeed I am truly thankful that I have my family and friends who are ever supportive and understanding, and fun to be with. But if you ask me personally, I prefer having few friends around rather than hanging out with a big bunch of friends. Having few friends allows me to put more value into each of those relationships. Also I’m never stuck having to juggle plans with multiple people. Just ask me out for coffee, I’m more than gladly to show up.

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Finding balance

Just read Robin Sharma’s The Greatness Guide, currently on Chapter 32 “Getting What You Want While Loving What You Have”.

For quite some time now I have been struggling with my personal philosophy – of finding balance. Balance between being contented with what I have and the striving to achieve more. Balance between living in the present and pushing for the future. Balance between the now and the then. The constant struggle to achieve a balance between the two extending pans of the scale is not easy.

I’ve been told by some gurus (from self-help books) that we need to enjoy the moment and appreciate what we have. And that constantly striving for more is unhealthy and is the primary source of discontentment. Others also said to me (through self-help books) that as human beings we were built to push beyond our comfort zones and reach for something higher, something greater. And that we ought not to complacent with what we already have.

“I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not yet ended.” – Nelson Mandela

The late Nelson Mandela has this to say in his reflection, “After climbing a great hill, one finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not yet ended.”

To me, Mandela suggest truly what we call balance. Enjoy the view, savour the moment, be grateful that I have come this far in this life journey and the gifts and grace that I’ve received. And then be reminded of my responsibilities as a citizen, a community, a son, a brother. Look back at the lemons life has presented but linger not on past failure nor success for this journey has not yet ended. Most of all not to lose sight of that goal – to make more of this life.

I’m grateful that this chapter serves as a self-reminder in my struggle to find a balance. Love what I have, go for what I want. Enjoy the climb up the mountain but never take my eyes off the summit.

Cambodia: Siem Reap

Continuing from the previous post, after having some local Angkor beer and a good sleep, we hopped on a tuk-tuk to get to the bus station.

We took the Rith Mony bus company since that was what the airport taxi driver recommended us when we sent us to the hotel yesterday. The bus was supposed to arrive at 8am but ended up arriving an hour later. Very much to our surprise, the passengers were mostly locals. The bus ride from to Siem Reap was exceptionally long considering the bus often made frequent stops to pick up passengers along the way. I remember there were even women who got on board to sell locally grown produce when the bus made a stop.

Rith Mony

Unless you want to travel with the locals and don’t mind the longer-than-usual ride (usual ride is around six-hours), always ask for an express bus. These buses only stop in the major town and once for a comfort stop and are more reliable. I would recommend taking the Mekong Express, it is on time and only stop for lunch, on top of that there’s an attendant on board who can speak English.

Mekong Express Limousine Bus

There’s nothing more comforting than to arrive at Siem Reap. The hotel that we stayed for a night, Mekong Angkor Palace, provided us pick up from the bus station to the hotel. It is a really decent hotel with a reasonable price, we booked via Agoda and it cost us only USD 48 (MYR 160) for two rooms.

Mekong Angkor Palace

Mekong Angkor Palace

Mekong Angkor Palace

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Pebble: Precious Stone

“Hey, what is that on your wrist Daniel?”

“Wait, wait… Is this that cool smart watch from Kickstarter?”

Pebble4

These are the questions I always get whenever  people around me see my watch. Pebble!

This is my 4th timepiece since I started buying my own watches. The first was a Nike+ Sportswatch which was a total disappointment, it lasted for slightly over a year. Then I switched to an analog watch (Crocodile), sadly it lasted only for a year too. I was almost convinced not to wear watch anymore when my third analog watch (Esprit) also failed on me.

It’s safe to say that Pebble made it to my selection at a time when I have given up hope on analog watches, citing parts failure. I decided to get a digital this time. It’s an timely Christmas gift as a reward for the achievement earned and hard work for the year.

At first I have some reservations paying $150 for a watch. However I held back my reservations when most reviews I read are mostly positive. This is not some mainstream smart watch nor a fashion statement or timepiece. This is an extension to my phone where I can have notifications, shortcuts and apps on my wrist.

I placed the order on Friday, it was shipped on Tuesday and received my watch on Wednesday. Delivery took less than 5 working days. Pebble price of $150 is inclusive of free shipping via DHL express. It was an exciting moment to unbox the watch, mainly because there’s none of my friends who has a Pebble watch. I consider myself an early adopter and tech enthusiast.

Pebble1

It comes in a very nice cardboard package. The packing is minimalist! Inside the package lies the watch and a magnetic USB charging cable. I chose the Jet Black colour as it’s easier to go about with almost any attire and situation.

Pebble2

Setting up was a breeze. The ‘drift’ (jargon I learned from Pacific Rim) was almost instant. At the time of installation, the firmware received a new upgrade – version 1.14.1. The watch works well with my HTC One. I use the Pebble for its notifications for Facebook messages, Twitter mentions, SMS and calls. When I’m  wearing my Pebble, my HTC One is always unlocked while I’m carrying it.

It is basic, plasticky and has that rubberised feel. I can change the black rubber strap to metal/leather strap if I want to. Despite its simplicity, it’s rather attractive and sleek.

Pebble3

It uses the E-ink technology, hence making it less battery consuming, even with Bluetooth on 24/7 it only needs a recharge every 7-9 days.

I think wearable technology is slowly gaining its ground after smartphones and tablets. Do I think Pebble is for everyone? Well, yes, if you’re sick of analog watch, you want to be non-mainstream and is a tech enthusiast (hipster). I would say that Pebble is a chic-looking digital watch that lets users customise the clock interface and sends notifications for alerts.

Get your Pebble watch here. Get a trusted screen protector as companion from GadgetWraps.

My Favourite Carols

Just got back from church this evening, it’s already the 3rd week of Advent and today the priest wore a pink robe signifying a brief joyful interlude in the season of waiting and anticipation for the birth of Our Saviour. Last year I joined Lifeline’s carol group, we sung carols in the shopping malls, old folks homes and children’s homes. This year I decided to join the church choir instead, it is a proper choir with a combination of soprano, alto, tenor and bass. I’m a tenor.

There are a few carols which I really like. Some because of their tune, some because the words struck a chord to what I’ve experienced.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

The word Emmanuel translates to “God is with us”. I like this carol mainly because of the tune. It carries a sad tune in the beginning but quickly escalate to that of hope when we sing “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel”. Israel is the name for God’s people. It tells of  how God sets his people free from captivity from slavery in Egypt and the great exile in the Old Testament, and subsequently the coming of Christ who frees us from the laws of sin and deaths.

O Holy Night

Being a choir member, one of the choir groups I like is the King’s College Choir.

The text reflects on the birth of Jesus and of humanity’s redemption. He taught us to love one another for His law is love and His gospel is peace. The best part is it’s sung softly, just like a mother who would sing a lullaby softly to her child before bed.

Sussex Carol

When sin departs before his grace, then life and health come in its place;
Angels and men with joy may sing, all for to see the new-born King.

All out of darkness we have light, which made the angels sing this night:
“Glory to God and peace to men, now and for evermore, Amen.”

On Christmas all Christians sing… This is a popular carol in Britain, its free-flowing and upbeat tune always brings a smile to me. I do remember when I first fell in love with the tune was during our first carol practice last year. It carries a very profound meaning, it is through God’s grace that we may gain life and health.

Little Drummer Boy

This is the a-cappella version sung by Pentatonix.

This carol relates a poor boy who has nothing to give to the infant Jesus but only his drum. He played his best for Him and the infant Jesus smiled at him. It’s also a mental note for myself that, despite the limitations that I have I will still serve Him, the Church and the community to the best of my ability.

We have every reason on earth and in heaven to rejoice.

© 2014 Daniel Liew. All rights reserved.

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