Words are powerful things. One little word can bring up a whole web of allusions, assumptions, memories… Cultural things, and individual things.

I mean, think of “bossy” right now. Yup, that’s right. Bossy. What image springs to mind?

What did you get? Maybe it was that annoying primary-school teacher you recall telling you exactly what to do and how to do it? Or someone from your current circle of friends who has a tendency to over-organise everyone? Or a boss or manager who manages to annoy everyone just by giving instructions?

Here’s another thing. Was it a woman? Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook thinks it probably was. And she has gone on record that she thinks the word “bossy” should be banned in the workplace for this reason:

Every woman I know, particularly the senior ones, has been called too aggressive at work. We know in gender blind studies that men are more aggressive in their offices than women. We know that. Yet we’re busy telling all the women that they’re too aggressive. That’s the issue.

I suspect she is right in saying that most of us associate the word “bossy” with females (i.e. women or indeed girls), but surely there are plenty of male equivalents, aren’t there? Well, take “jerk”, for example:

I think [jerk is] less male than bossy is female. And it doesn’t correlate with leadership. Jerk is being a jerk, and women can be jerks, too. But this is about leadership. A woman who works at Facebook sent me her daughter’s report card this week, which said, ‘X has a tendency to be bossy’.

Fair enough. Women certainly can be jerks. But do they get called jerks as often? And what about the plethora of other words – asshat, twat, wanker and many stronger ones – that are applied every day to men all over the English-speaking world? Bossy really does sound pretty mild by comparison.

If Sandberg’s issue is the comparatively low – very low – percentages of women at the top of the corporate world, then certainly I can see how she might feel that sniping about the leadership styles of those women doesn’t exactly encourage more women to seek promotion. But I’d be wary of any suggestion that those women are delicate creatures who require special “kid-glove” treatment in order to survive. We’re talking CEOs and top management here. These are the winners in the rat-race, the ones who’ve already achieved stratospheric status and a salary to match. And if it is indeed still harder to win that particular race as a woman, then surely the likes of Sandberg should be particularly able to withstand a bit of sniping?

And if someone – male or female – is overly controlling and/or aggressive, then I can’t see any problem with calling them bossy. Perhaps not to their face, but if this is an accurate descriptor then I definitely don’t think it should be discouraged – let alone put into the same “banned” category as racial slurs. At least not until all criticism is similarly banned. And I doubt that Sandberg, or any other manager, would wish to go so far!

But there’s more. While on the one hand wanting to ban the word bossy, Sandberg’s fellow campaigners seem entirely happy to push the concept of bossy as a good one for leadership (, like Jill Filipovic here, writing in the Guardian).

To be fair to Sandberg, I’m not sure she’s gone that far, and her advice to girls and teachers strikes a more balanced note: for example, few would argue with the notion of teachers calling equally on boys and girls to contribute in class, or with encouraging girls to run for leadership positions while in school. Some of the other bits of advice, however, could be more contentious. Like this one:

Stop Apologizing Before You Speak:
Girls often introduce opinions with apologies (“I’m not sure if this is right, but…”). Others use upspeak to make statements sound like questions (“Martin Luther King was a civil rights leader? He believed in peaceful protest?”). Pay attention to the little ways you might be making yourself smaller when you speak up in class, like playing with your hair, saying you “kind of” think something, asking if what you just said “makes sense,” or speaking so softly that no one can hear you.

Some of these things are definitely not helpful, like inflecting sentences upwards at the end (boys do this too, sometimes, and it’s annoying whoever it is!), or indeed “apologising” for speaking. But what about phrasing a statement as a genuine question? Something like “Do you think we should…?” or “Maybe you’d all prefer if we….?” Being able to consult others and agree on things as a group is all part of growing into adulthood; if girls are doing it naturally then isn’t that a strength?

And I think we’d all agree that being able to consult and delegate is a good quality in a manager. Even when there’s something that needs doing immediately, it’s possible to avoid the appearance of being bossy. Compare “Now that we’re all here, shall we start the meeting?” and “Would it be possible to pop round to my office for a quick chat” with “We will start the meeting now” and “Please come to my office”. Things will get done either way; it’s just that in the first two examples the boss comes over as friendly and humane, and in the latter two he/she appears high-handed, abrupt – and, dare I say it? – bossy.


If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Henry David Thoreau

I don’t normally make New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve always taken the line that if there was anything I wanted to change, I’d be best to start working on it right away – what’s the point of waiting for the next year to begin? And besides, setting oneself official targets on 1 January is a sure-fire way to invite disappointment come 1 February, right?

Well, maybe right. But I’m giving it a go this year.

Why? Well, over Christmas I’ve been taking stock. Thinking. A life-audit kind of thing. And I don’t like what I’m seeing. Not that I’m that bad, mad or lumpy in any moral or physical sense, but I’ve a feeling that I could be doing better than I am right now.

Sir John Falstaff. I’m healthier than him, but he’s jollier than me.

In fact, I have ten problems.

  1. I play too much. I spend a lot of time doing things that benefit nobody, poking around on the internet, reading part of a book and putting it down, rearranging stuff in the house but not throwing anything out. Diversions from the business of getting on with life.
  2. I worry and procrastinate, rather than doing anything I find difficult or awkward.
  3. I’m good at dreaming, but I don’t do anything to change reality. In my dreams, I’m capable of anything… in reality? That’s why I chose the Thoreau quotation at the top of this post: I need to start putting foundations under my dreams.
  4. I put too much pressure on myself to get a “lucky break”. I’ve done this both in my career and in my love life, and it only leads to disappointment. But now I’ve got a Kira to help me out with the romantic side, I realise that I can get out of my bad job-related habits too.
  5. I dwell on missed opportunities.
  6. I blame others for my failures and go around being bitter and jealous.
  7. I don’t/ can’t/ won’t give to others, either of money or of time.
  8. I have become lazy in my personal habits. I don’t do stuff unless I absolutely have to.
  9. I haven’t created anything, and this bothers me, because I like to see myself as an artistic, creative sort of dude.
  10. I self-congratulate when I shouldn’t, and I self-denigrate when I shouldn’t.

If these seem a little harsh, I did also write a list of things I’m good at/ can be proud of. But there were more than 10 of those, and as I said, I’m lazy. Anyway, this post is about improving myself, not about patting myself on the back for being awesome already.

And in the interests of non-procrastination, I’ve already forged on ahead and compiled eight resolutions for 2014. Yup, technically that leaves two problems extra, but the two lists don’t correspond exactly so I’m hoping some of these resolutions will solve multiple issues in my life. Besides, nobody wants to be perfect, because that’d be boring, wouldn’t it?

So, let’s be having them, then:

Every day I am going to

  • Study a foreign language
  • Do one thing to help expand my career
  • Stop blaming others and stop being bitter and jealous

Every week I am going to

  • Have a conversation with at least one stranger

Every month I am going to

  • Read at least one book

This year I am going to

  • Learn at least one new skill
  • Do 5 significant things to help others (who aren’t friends or family)
  • Compose one piece of music and create one piece of visual art

And one final rule

  • These are things I’m planning to do. I’ve written them down, and I fully intend to do them all. But should I miss my target with any one of these resolutions, I’m going to pick myself up, dust myself down and keep going.

Wish me luck!
And a happy and prosperous 2014 to y’all!!

– Erik

When Erik told me about his New Year Resolutions (oooooh, looks serious!), I wasn’t sure how I felt. I’m not big on them, for one reason mostly: They do not work. Year after year, I made resolutions upon the departure of a year and the arrival of a new one. By the end of the first week of January, I would have given up and realised I am not going to change. Not this way, at least. I also realised that it was peer pressure of seeing everyone around me making them that drove me to making up some for myself.

I have to agree with Erik, why should I wait for a new year to change, if ever? I am very self-absorbed as a person and I often think very highly of myself (too highly at times). I have been raised to always remember that there is nothing I can’t reach if I put my mind and efforts to it. Maybe that’s why, growing up, there wasn’t a pie I didn’t have my finger in. I have tried archery, astronomy, tried my best in NILAM (a Malaysian program in school to encourage reading among school children), I have built a robot able to play golf, played a few musical instruments that belong to the Malaysian natives, etc etc. I am sounding like a brag. My apologies. My point is, I have never had a belief that I truly needed a change in myself.

No, I am not perfect, no one is. But the way I perceive myself, I am close enough to perfection that I need not change anything. If anyone else thought otherwise, I would shrug it off and ask why should their opinion of me bother me at all? This is were Erik and I are worlds apart, I have never seen him think so highly of himself as I do. In fact, I think the way I think of him is almost hero-like. Maybe it’s infatuation, but I honestly think very highly of myself and him. I have what people often call, a superiority complex.

As humans, we don’t adapt easily to sudden changes, which is why I believe New Year Resolutions are ineffective. However, I am extremely respectful of people who make them and even more of those who successfully stick by them. As it is, I am extremely proud of Erik, for wanting to change for the better. I even envy it a little, because I am so stuck up in my own “awesomeness” that I cannot fathom why I need to change. I am being extremely honest here, that my superiority complex is so bad that I foresee myself as a high-achiever in the future if I am not one already.

Please don’t judge me, or rather, don’t judge me too harshly. I am as I am, and I believe that changes come gradually. Nothing works overnight, especially things like, “I will stop being so lazy”, “I will shed 20 pounds this year” and “I will be the best person I can be”. I do, however, stand firm on my healthy respect for people who strive for a change. They deserve a lot of respect for the amount of courage. Note too, that I am rather fearful and wary of changes in my life. Perhaps that is why I am somewhat against resolutions for myself.

Let me not rain on your parade however, if you believe you are in need of a change, then go ahead and do. Let resolutions not remain only as dreams or even foundation-less castles in the sky. I wish you the very best of luck. As for me, I am and will always stand strong beside my Erik and supporting him regardless of any resolutions he has expressed all while letting myself change gradually with lessons Life has in store for me.

Happy New Year and have a blessed 2014. 🙂

– Kira

Changing Myself

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Music Genres and their Differences

Music Genre and their Differences

Erik and I are both avid music listeners, though we don’t always agree on which genre is the “best” genre (think Pierce the Veil for me and Jethro Tull for him).

I also felt this is rather funny and cute, so up up up it goes on this blog. ^^

– Kira

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Why Erik thinks it’s wrong to pardon Alan Turing – and why Kira doesn’t agree.

Alan Turing

News came through today that Alan Turing, the mathematician and computer pioneer,
is to be pardoned by the UK government for offences under public decency laws of the 1950s.

In short, Turing, being both gay and a high-profile figure, became a victim of official persecution following his successful exploits as a WW2 codebreaker, leading to his agreeing to undergo chemical castration. Not surprisingly, given this abysmal treatment, he committed suicide in 1954, two years after his arrest.

The reaction to the pardon has been mixed, with some activists welcoming it and others pointing out the unfairness of rehabilitating Turing while ignoring other, less illustrious men* who fell foul of the authorities in the same way. While this second view seems a fair one in many ways, one suspects that Turing was singled out because of his brilliance and fame; in turn, it would seem reasonable to single him out for rehabilitation. I don’t see a major problem with that aspect of the story.**

What I do find repellent is the sheer hypocrisy of the authorities in seeking to benefit from linking themselves with Turing. Let’s not pretend there’s anything altruistic in this ‘pardoning’ lark; Turing is a gay icon, a symbol of British cunning and fortitude in wartime, and a man famously wronged. He has been voted on to lists of the Greatest Britons, and if he were alive today there is no doubt he would be feted as one of the UK’s greatest achievers. The government is well aware of this, and so the idea to pardon Turing comes less as the righting of a decades-old wrong and more as a means to curry favour with a public increasingly liberal on issues of gay rights.

Let’s consider who benefits from this. The present government, clearly, in underlining its liberal credentials. Journalists, perhaps, in having something that appears vaguely controversial to write about. And Turing’s descendants? Wait…… no, there were no descendants, and the man himself is dead now for almost six decades.   So what was the pardon actually for? Just so that the authorities of the present day can engage in a mutual back-slap about how progressive we all are?

Turing deserves better than this. Rather than attempting to rewrite history through a royal pardon, surely a more fitting approach would have been to celebrate his life, first of all, and then to memorialise his sufferings. Let the conviction stand, and let the UK remember, with shame, how it treated a man who dared to live outside the social mores of his time.

* As far as I’m aware, the anti-gay laws of the time applied only to men.

** Besides, given the UK’s long history of influentiapeople having gay relationships and in many cases getting away without arrest, I suspect the persecution of Alan Turing resulted in part from his other attributes, as a difficult, “different”, sensitive, Indian-born atheist: all factors which made him a target for bullying. And most damning of all, he refused to apologise or ‘repent’ after his arrest; one can imagine it was this which most enraged the authorities of the time.


I admit, I am a strong advocate for LGBTQ people. I often believe that the right to one’s choice of sexual orientation should never be interfered with by the state. Jack Andraka, a teenage boy who made leaps in the research for cancer detection highlighted my attention on the case of Alan Turing. Alan is Jack’s idol as they share several similarities, 1. They’re both brilliant minds and 2. They are both homosexuals. There is however one huge difference in the both of them, Jack would never be legally prosecuted for being gay as Alan had once been because it’s no longer a crime to be homosexual.

Erik had raised an interesting point to this topic. Instead of just applauding the royal prerogative of mercy as the majority have done, he had curiously pointed out why it’s wrong to pardon the poor chap. I agree with him, that the issue seems to have been politicised, as many things are. It’s inevitable, politicians will get their hands in anything if it meant publicity and more support for them (even their secretaries’ shirts, but that’s another point *winks*)

Rather than to see it as a politicised issue, I would be glad just to see the man being pardoned, even if he has been dead for more than half a century. Sure, it doesn’t change much but it does show a progress for the LGBTQ community. I would rather see it as that, than to see it as a means to show how the current UK government that they are more liberal about gay rights now. Seeing how this would never happen in my own country, to see it elsewhere is enough to restore my faith that somewhere, there is still a growing acceptance for the LGBTQ folks.

Also, Merry Christmas, everyone! 🙂

– Kira


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In my hometown..

..a man was murdered last week, drowned in a vat of Golden Syrup.

The mayor described it as “an appallingly viscous crime”.

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My Heroes (1): Larry Walters, the Lawnchair Pilot

A man can’t just sit around

Okay. So Tolstoy, with his airy-fairy notions of “being”* might not have approved, but these were the words of my hero Larry Walters in June 1982.

The occasion was his arrest, in Long Beach, California, for operating an unlicensed aircraft. The aircraft in question was a homemade one, comprising 40 weather balloons, a stout rope and a garden chair; the pilot a Vietnam veteran and one-time wannabe pilot who just got tired of “sitting around”.

Walters’ plan was to float up to a height of about 30 feet, peacefully drift over houses and gardens for a few hours, then let himself down gently in a field. To this end he bought the helium-filled balloons from an army surplus store, rigged up his impromptu flying machine and made sure to pack his camera, some sandwiches and a BB gun to pop the balloons one by one on his descent.

In the event, the balloons proved to be much stronger than he had predicted: instead of floating, the contraption shot up precipitately to about 16,000 feet, and Walters lost his glasses and his gun in the process. Fortunately he had also brought a two-way radio and was able to alert the aviation authorities, who failed to see the funny side but at least ensured there were no collisions with more conventional aircraft. He eventually came down in some power lines, stumbled out of his chair and was promptly arrested and fined.

It’s easy to focus on the amusing parts of this story, and hilarious they are too. However, on a deeper level Walters’ exploits deserve respect, in my opinion. Here was an ordinary man, living a humdrum life, who one day took the decision to challenge himself. He made a few crazy plans, broke a few rules, and ended up doing something amazing, outlandish, unprecedented. Something that only Icarus and arguably a select few others have ever come close to achieving. And Icarus didn’t exist.

Icarus also got caught upon landing. But not by the LA police department.

Tragically, Larry Walters never recovered from the excitement of his lawnchair flight, and took his own life a decade later. But I like to think he died a richer, more deeply fulfilled person than if he had simply bowed to convention and continued to “be”.


Here’s the fullest account of Walters’s story:

And here’s another, with photos:

* Sorreh, Lev. Sorreh, Kira. I didn’t really mean that. Just liked the words “airy-fairy” 🙂

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Being Happy

“If you want to be happy, be” – Tolstoy

Tolstoy made it so simple, the very idea of choosing to be happy. I’ve always wondered if one can simply choose to be happy, and then one automatically is. Is it just a subconscious boundary we have to leap over, or is it more than a mental block one has to overcome?

Think: A family of eight, living together in a ramshackle house with only one room and rationed meals. Being confined in such a small space with seven other humans, all with needs and moods of their own. Can a member of the family be happy, just by deciding “Oh, I am happy, even with such harsh living conditions”?

And allow me to throw you another scenario: A daughter of a tycoon, born with a diamond encrusted golden spoon in her mouth,but who still chooses to throw a tantrum over the fact that Papa got her the Ferrari in a different shade of colour from the one she had told him. She has all she could ever need, and possibly even want, yet she chooses to be unhappy.

The contrast between these two scenarios is great, in my opinion. However, it only raises the question whether material wealth is enough to guarantee happiness. Yes, I am aware of the proverb “Money can’t buy happiness”. But I question you, would you rather be crying on a bicycle or in a Mercedes? *wink wink*

I once read a story that goes;

There was once a little girl who found a fairy stuck on a branch. She helped the fairy to free herself and in return for her help, the fairy allowed her one wish. She thought hard, with a crease in her forehead, about what her wish should be. Upon deciding what she wanted, she whispered her wish into the fairy’s ear. With a smile, the fairy granted her wish and disappeared.

The girl lived for many, many years and people often remarked on her seemingly eternal youth and longevity. She lived to an old age, and upon her deathbed, she was asked on what was her wish to the fairy she met when she was a little girl. With a smile and her last breath, she rasped that her wish was “I want to be happy”

After reading that story, I came upon a realisation that the secret to longevity isn’t necessarily in our daily dietary intake, nor is it in a particular exercise regime we follow. The secret to longevity, and a
fulfilling life at that, is simply to be happy. Personally, I’ve always felt that there is no point to living a long life if one is morose and never content with what one has achieved and acquired through the years.

Perhaps I am just being naive as to believe that being happy would miraculously solve all my woes and worries. However, the way I see it, neither would frowning help to pay the rent/mortgage. Being happy will not be your saviour, being happy simply helps make everything feel better. It helps my sanity, trying to keep an upbeat mood while solving any problem I have rather than moping about it, unless moping would help.

With that said, I choose to agree with Tolstoy, that if you want to be happy.. then be.



I’ve always been unsure of what Tolstoy actually meant when he created that quote (if you can call it a “quote” ~ the first time around I guess it was just a pithy phrase, which became a quote once people started repeating it with a knowing smile and putting it in Oxford Books of Quotations and analysing what it means and similar shizz).

So… yup. Did he mean “If you want to be happy, be happy”? Or was it more like “If you want to be happy, just be…..”? Y’know? Be? As in the “Be-in”/ hippie sense. Or the one from the other quote (who said that?) about humans being human beings not human doings. That’s how I prefer to look at it. If you want to be happy, just get on with the job of being a human on Earth….. and you’ll find, soon enough, that there’s something to be happy about.

Getting back to the main thrust (giggity) of Kira’s argument, I used to have a theory that everyone in the world is somehow allocated (by God?) an equal quotient of happiness. If your life sucks in some ways, it’s probably blessed in other ways. If you’re rich and pampered, you’re in danger of eating/drinking/carousing/whatever yourself to an early grave. If you’re a starving child in a poor country, heck, at least the sun is probably shining where you are.

But I’ve had to revise that earlier thought quite considerably. I mean, for an extreme example, what about the children born into the North Korean concentration camp system? That is most surely a life of unrelenting misery. Or closer to home, those born with the most debilitating diseases. No, it is definitely an unfair world, in which some are born with severe disadvantages and some with huge advantages, not just in health or wealth, but in the potential for happiness too.

On the other hand, can happiness be a state of mind? Of course it can! Doing fulfilling things, things I love, is going to make me happier than sitting around moping about all the things I can’t do. Being satisfied with my life is probably a more healthy mental state than being envious or unsettled.

So, what’s to stop us, then? I daresay most people can find things to be fulfilled by, things to satisfy us and make us happy.

But. And it’s a big but. Isn’t there also something to be said for hunger? For ambition. For the state of dissatisfaction that prompts one to get up and change things. This, too, is healthy. It may not be happiness, but hey, happiness gets boring after a while! Let’s try a concrete example: your boss is being a prick, but your salary is OK. So? Well, you’ve got several choices. One is to be happy. That’s right. Just sit back and say “my life isn’t too bad, and I won’t let my boss trouble me”. But then… yup, you guessed it, there’s an alternative, isn’t there? Go look for another job. Or, if it’s more your thang, poison your boss and get promoted.

So what about Tolstoy’s pithy little phrase? Was it right?

Hmmm, I think it was. If you want to be happy, be. And if being happy isn’t enough, go and do.


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I’m too tired to write. Have some turtles.