Audiobook review: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

This thought-provoking insight from Malcolm that will jump right at you: “We cannot detect a lie not because we have no doubts. The truth is when there are not enough doubts, we revert to truth.”

In hindsight, with someone’s failure to spot a liar, we can say that there are all kinds of red flags. That is the wrong way to think about what had happened. The right question is: “Were there enough red flags to push you over the threshold of believe. If there weren’t, by defaulting to truth, then you are only being human.”

Malcolm states that it is human nature to default to truth or else society cannot function properly.

This insight really shifted my mindset. Sometimes, we wondered why there would be still be other people who get cheated when in the media, there are reports of how scammers work. With this insight, it might be there were not enough red flags, and being humans, we tend to believe in the goodness of people, which is why those people chose to believe.

Malcolm explains that research shows that even the best in professions such as policeman, judges, interrogators, who we believe has the training and skill to spot a liar, only achieved slightly better than the flip of a coin. The truth is every person, even the supposedly untrained person, is able to perfectly spot a liar when they match – that is when the liar exhibits behaviour which we associate with lying – shifty eyes, nervous demeanour, incoherent speech. However, when people do not match, which happens when their behaviours do not match what we think they should behave, it is when our judgements fail us. Maybe watching too many sitcoms which tends to exaggerate a person behaviour based on his thoughts, could make us believe that we can really read a person’s thoughts from his demeanour.

In reality, this might be further from the truth than we think. People behaves in different manner, even in the same kind of situation.   

Malcolm says that the search to understand strangers has real limits. We will not know the whole truth. Malcom advises that the right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.

A distinct kind of audio book. This is read by the author himself and includes snippets of interviews – truly a book coming alive in audio format! I recommend this book to those who likes to know more about how to communicate better, not only to strangers, but to those around us. This audio book with the interview snippets makes the ideas behind the book much more explicit.

Be Faithful

A church in Yangon, Myanmar

Be wise with your decisions

Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

Hello Halloween

Although it originated in ancient times when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off evil, now, it is more an event for both children and adults to dress up in their favourite costume and have some fun with friends and family. It’s also a happy day for kids as it is when they can demand lots of sweets – Trick or Treat!

In Singapore, Halloween is not celebrated until recent years, and our celebration are unlike those in the United States.

Community event in the West

Many are small scale community events and I supposed our American friends would deem them uninteresting.

I didn’t think Singaporeans would give more interest in dressing up for a Halloween costume contest. So I was surprised with the effort people put into for the Halloween Costume Contest at my neighbourhood in the West – Halloween Walk 2019.

I see that a few had made their own costumes (using boxes – like bumblebee), some might have borrowed costumes like a little girl in Snow White costume (so sweet!). Others were gory – with makeup, gory masks and 3-D hair accessories with toy knife (courtesy of the goodie bags that we were given when you got a ticket at $3).

For those who were less keen on the costume segment, we could just go for the walk. That was a great work-out as for an hour, we had to walk or run around to spot the ‘monsters’ and collect goodies. The monsters turned out to be just friendly uncles dishing out tidbits. I supposed there was lack of man-power to play the monsters and also the organisers might not want to scare the residents by dressing up as monsters since it was around the market area with shops and other people dining or shopping 🙂

Photo booth
Photo Booth
Another Photo Booth
The contestants for Best Halloween Costume Contest with Minister Mr Desmond Lee

Night at the Library

For the second year, the National Library Board organised a Halloween event at the National Library Building. I wasn’t aware of the event last year and at that time, it was unlikely that I would be keen. After the community event, I was game to go for the Friday event, as Saturday is a non-working day.

There was horror story telling although I didn’t find the story scary. As this was opened to all, including young children, I supposed the author didn’t want it to be too gory. The fact that the author is a poetry writer and not into the genre of horror could be another reason. There were some harsh critics of the story written, but I feel we couldn’t fault him too much since horror is not his specialty. There were horror films, which were again not too horrifying. As the films were opened to all, I supposed there were some selection restraints.

The night talks and walks were only limited to those age above 15 though as there were so scary element (and some violent scenes in the video clips being shown in the talk). These were quite good and I recommend those who are game for some scare to join this. Entrance is limited and only opened to those who borrowed 4 books in October (for those who did not, you can just borrow the books in the library on that day).

This event was on 25th October and today, 26th October evening – so you are still in time to go for the Saturday one. Have a good scare, starting at 7.30 p.m.

Why Travel? Enjoy our own Cherry Blossoms in Singapore

There is no need to buy a ticket, pack your bags and fly to Japan just to enjoy the Sakura.

We have our own ‘Sakura’ season in Singapore, just right at our doorsteps.

Spotted this beautiful flowering tree, which resemble cherry blossom, which I read is called trumpet tree (scientific name Tabeuia rosea) right outside MacPherson MRT Station on 16 September 2019 on my way to work. The flowers were just floating down and several of us took out our phones to capture the scene. Lovely isn’t it?

Trumpet tree just outside MacPherson MRT Station

In The Straits Times 18 September 2019, there was also a short article about these trees. I gathered the name of the tree and noted there are two flowering seasons of these trees in Singapore – during March to April (oh, so much like the Sakura season in Japan) as well as in September to October. Showers after a long hot and dry spell will cause these trees to flower.

So there is really no need to travel far to be amazed. Often, we just need to slow down, stop and smell the roses, in this case the ‘trumpet flowers’.

I noticed that these trumpet trees can be found just right next to my block. Today, I discovered that they are also planted at the Jurong East Stadium carpark area near the main entrance.

Check out this lovely collection of cherry blossom lookalikes photos shot by the public and collated by NParks.

But be quick if you want to enjoy them, as this lasts only for a few days!