30 Hours in Singapore

Singapore airport is a major hub, so I suppose I was bound to end up there sooner or later. It’s also a small country, so when you do end up at the airport, why not take an extra day and see the city?

Singapore Collage

According to Malay legend, Singapore was founded in the 14th century, though it was apparently mostly destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century, sending the island into obscurity for the next two centuries.

That obscurity ended in 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles decided that Britain should replace the Netherlands as the dominant power in the region, and that Singapore was an ideal place to build a new center of trade and influence.

The British established a new free port in Singapore - meaning any vessel of any nation could come in to trade without tariffs - and the boom began. Singapore attracted immigrants from all over, and grew rapidly. The trade volume went from $400,000 Spanish dollars in 1819 to $22,000,000 by 1824, with the city’s population growing rapidly during this time. The British resolved their dispute with the Dutch in 1824, and cemented Singapore as British territory, with Britain giving up influence in modern-day Indonesia. The city continued to boom and expand on the strength of its trade.

Singapore was occupied by Japan during 1942-1945, and after a brief 2-year union with Malaysia that did not go well became an independent state in 1965.

Since independence, Singapore has rapidly modernized and remains a trade hub, with per capita GDP of some $66,000 (7th in the world - just ahead of the US), with a Gini coefficient of about 46 (indicating medium inequality; about the same as the US) and Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.932 (9th in the world). Population is about 6 million, made up ethnic Chinese, Malays, Indians, and others, who all seem to get along fine.


A lot of this was achieved under Lee Kuan Yew, aka LKY, who was the country’s first Prime Minister, serving from 1959 to 1990. LKY “is recognised as the nation’s founding father, with the country described as transitioning from the “third world country to first world country in a single generation” under his leadership.” wikipedia

The amazing story of Singapore is well-told by the National Museum - go there if you’re in town.

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30 Days in Australia

30 Days in Australia

I spent most of October in Australia - good fun!

Collage of photos from Australia

By the time the first Europeans arrived in the 17th century, indigenous Australians had inhabited the continent for some 65,000 years. Australia’s eastern half was claimed by Britain in 1770, and initially settled by the relocation of criminals and undesirables.

That was a long time ago, though. Today, Australia has the 10th highest per-capita income, and “the third-highest human development index and the eighth-highest ranked democracy globally, the country ranks highly in quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, civil liberties and political rights, with all its major cities faring well in global comparative livability surveys.” Australia’s Human Development Index (HDI) is 0.939 - “very high”, and third in the world (behind Norway and Switzerland). wikipedia


Queensland covers the northeast corner of Australia, and provides great access to what drew me here most: the Great Barrier Reef.

The reef is amazing - it just seems to go on and on forever. I saw a reef shark, a stingray, and a whole lot of fish.

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Shoe Dog - Book Notes

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE
by Phil Knight
Goodreads link

I just finished Phil Knight’s memoir, Shoe Dog. It’s a thoroughly enterntaining read, and I highly recommend that you read it.

Besides its entertainment value… what business insights might one glean from it?

Unwavering Conviction in your Ability to Get Things Done

“The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way. That leaves us.”

Knight grew up in Portland, Oregon. Many times through the book Knight brings up that quote from his old teacher, referring to their common ancestors, those hardy souls who made it through the Oregon Trail: “The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way. That leaves us.”

This belief is with him through the entire book. He and his associates are tough. They are tougher than regular men. Whatever life puts in their way, they will overcome it. They can do this.

This reminds me of one of the principles Jeff Collins identified in Good to Great: “Confront the brutal truth of the situation, yet at the same time, never give up hope.” I think that’s the gift of belief in that strong Oregonian heritage comes in - it imparts an unwavering belief that you are strong, and that whatever the challenges before you, if anyone can overcome them, it is you.


Knight summed up his thoughts on the importance of passion like so: “I’d tell [people] to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years. I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.”

Yes, I think that’s it. Knight sucked at selling encyclopedias, and was ok-ish at selling mutual funds, and hated both. Shoes, on the other hand, he sold almost on autopilot. He was just telling the truth, and people could feel his passion, feel his earnestness, and wanted more of that in their lives.

Nietzsche wrote “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” I’d wager Phil Knight would agree.

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30 Days in Indonesia

30 Days in Indonesia

Indonesia is big. Really, really big. So perhaps rather than saying “I visited Indonesia”, let’s say I visited parts of Bali, Java, and Komodo National Park in Indonesia over 30 days in September 2019.

A collage of photos from Indonesia

Let’s start with a bit of history - I think this is always helpful, and puts everything else in context.

The Netherlands began colonizing the area that is now Indonesia in the 17th century, and kept their hold (with brief interludes from some other colonial European powers, as well as occupation by Japan during World War II) until 1949, following an armed as well as diplomatic conflict.

It was at that time that the Indonesian language - bahasa Indonesia -was born; it’s a modified form of Malay, with many words borrowed from Dutch. There are over 700 local languages, which locals still speak. Even schools are often taught in the local languages rather than in the official bahasa.

Bahasa is a very interesting language. It has very low specificity (check out this article for a fascinanting discussion of linguistic specificity): there is no conjugation or tenses, and there is only one word for he/she: “dia”. Plurals are formed by repeating the same word twice - for example, “kucing” is cat, and thus “kucing-kucing” is cats. This repetition pops up elsewhere, too - “hati-hati” is “be careful”, for example.

The country is developing quickly, with GDP growth hovering around 5%. You can see this in the high amount of construction happening all over. Some of the large projects are financed through China’s Belt and Road initiative, which does make some locals nervous.

In Bali, for example, there is lots of investment into infrastructure for tourists, with many new resorts and restaurants. A lot of the restaurants were quite nice even by Western standards, and were sitting mostly empty even at dinnertime. Either a lot more tourists will come, or I don’t think they’ll be able to stay open.


My good friend from LA, Julian, moved to Bali years ago. The surfing is great, the lifestyle is great, and the cost of living is substantially lower than LA… so why not? Julian now owns TYGR Sushi, which is a great place, and I strongly recommend you visit it if you’re ever in Bali. Julian built up the Bali branch of Deus Ex Machina (who are famous for their beautiful custom motorcycles)… and now rides a perfectly ordinary scooter (though it naturally has a surfboard holder).

And me, well… after seventeen years of living in LA, I finally learned to surf - over the course of three days in Bali.

Krystof surfing in Bali
Krystof learning to surf in Bali

The photo above is from day 2 - during day 3, I was able to catch some 5-foot waves, feeling like I finally got it… like I was a long-lost son of Poseidon, riding his waves and good vibes. I get why people wake up at 5am for this.

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