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New Year Resolution for 2008: Swim faster, Run longer, maybe return to cycling.

Monday, December 31, 2007

WhatAreYouTryingToSay and Other Thoughts of Singapore for the New Year

String up the following sentences:




Yes, say it a few times. Does it sound familiar? No? How about if I were to hint 'Japanese Restaurant'? Rings a bell? Okay, how about if the phrases sound like those coming out from the mouths of the non-japanese greeting staff at Japanese Restaurants? They just blabber japanese phrases as if they were robots spewing out excess lubricating oil. I honestly have no idea what they are trying to say. With that, I question the sincerity of such greetings. Mere formality or true courtesy from the heart? I choose to believe it's the former, as I've never seen any such staff smile with the right kind of enthusiasm. It's utterly rude, if I must say.

Say say say, and that's exactly the point I'm trying to drive at - the social corruption of a beautiful culture due to the inept nature of a restless and young mixture of youths. DOn't get my point?

Look around you (in Singapore). There are so many foreigners residing in Singapore. Globalisation works both ways - we bring in the people, we also bring in the cultures from overseas. In recent years, a plethora of restaurants from different cultures/countries/ethnicity have sprung up. Yes, it is undeniable proof that Singapore is becoming more and more globalised. In fact, it has become so globalised that I think we have somehow lost focus on who and what we, Singaporeans, really are.

Are we - because of the rapid rise in 'culture exposure' - too overwhelmed by external media-induced globalisation?

Does the proverbial 'When in Rome, do what the Romans do' apply in today's Singapore context? Or is it conversely true that 'When in Singapore, do what the Others do'?

Where is the 'Singapore' flavour? What is so unique about 'Uniquely Singapore'?

Our museums such as Images of Singapore (in Sentosa) and the Discovery Centre celebrate the multi-racial 'uniqueness' of Singapore. They present to us that our forefathers have come from the four corners of the world to set up shop here to make Singapore what it is today. They came when Singapore was still establishing itself. Some may say that the current throngs of peoples from all over the world is analogous to what our forefathers did, but somehow it is different.

We are Singaporeans. We grew up on government campaigns that encourage us to be courteous, to stop at 2 babies, to keep our hair short, to drink our milk everyday. Growing up in the late 70's and 80's, we've always been exposed to the ubiquitous posters from the People's Association and other government agencies. We've always seen 'the 4 races' depicted ever so commonly in our national holidays and festivities. What do we see on our posters now? Your MP's face? Is that it?

Perhaps it may not apply in today's context because we have moved on and we have moved up the social ladder of developing nations. But we have a different set of issues today and we cannot expect the government to constantly remind us to stop littering or stop spitting on the streets.

And yet we have educated idiots who cannot read signs, and they think that amusing kids by shamelessly feeding wild monkeys is a form of 'education'. To think that such idiots come out with the stupidest of excuses!

A melting pot for migrants. The Land of Opportunity. Is that what Singapore has become? With that, have we lost our sense of direction such that we become selfish with no commonsense. Is the true Singaporean a dying breed?

What's a true Singaporean? Simply put, he's one with the zest for challenge and community spirit, serving the country without complain and with pride and honour. He shall not succumb to external pressures that compromise his patriotism for Singapore.

You laugh. Sure, coz he's a dying breed. After all, such examples in public service are a rarity.

Friday, December 28, 2007

So Your Grandmother Wears Army Boots?

Well my Grandmother wears different hats! Ho Ho Ho!
Have a merry and blessed Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

SWET needs more than bra supports

Indeed, the Singapore Women's Everest Team (SWET) needs more support for them to achieve their dreams of becoming the first female team from Singapore to conquer the world's highest mountain.

Some say these bunch of lasses are crazy, especially when you see their profiles on the official website. I bet many people will remark that they just look too demure and frail to even attempt climbing Bukit Timah Hill. Look further my friend, these very lasses have scaled mountains that'll make you think twice about them.

A friend sent an email to me, informing that SWET were raising funds for their top-of-the-world mission. They've got calendars (with awesome black & white photography) and T-shirts for sale. Donors may also adopt-a-meter through ebay.

I'm gonna get a calendar and a T-shirt, and I'm gonna rile up the crowd in the triathlon community to help these lasses.

Just like we train ourselves for races and aim to achieve our dreams in each distance we attempt, these girls are also living their dreams. They are working very hard towards it, and we should share their joy of achievements when they make it to the top. I know conquering Mount Everest is something many have done since Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing. But these girls - human beings with great spirit in them - are also working professionals, just like many triathletes. They are going the distance (and altitude!). Our hearts and support should go out to them as fellow sporting Singaporeans and as fellow human beings with the spirit to aim high.

They are also our inspiration. So what's stopping you from supporting?
(You may either go to their website to see how you may help, or send me an email by Christmas Eve - that's tomorrow - to tell me if you'd like a T-shirt and/or a calendar)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's a Festive Season of Bad Spelling

It's the season of Christmas where the world typically honours the birth of Jesus Christ.

But it's meant to be - remembering Jesus Christ. Remembering a fulfillment from God to us.

Alas, there's gifting, santa claus, snow, winter atmospheres, etc. It's so 'westernised'. No wonder there's a missing link somewhere.

And everywhere we all see the misuse of the word 'Christmas'. Commercialisation has negated the true meaning of Christmas. Sigh... shopping centers, advertisements, the newspapers, and even some churches have begun to misspell 'Christmas' as 'Xmas'.

It's a cardinal sin. How can 'Christ' be replaced by 'X'? What's Christ to you? And what's X?

In mathematics, X is an unknown;

In pirate-talk, X marks the spot;

In the categorisation of media, X means content that is unsuitable for the young.

Some say that 'Xmas' is just a simple way of writing 'Christmas'. Is that why some Christmas cards are so impersonal? (Dear Cyclingturtle, Merry Xmas! From so-and-so) Isn't that so sweet and warm to receive such cards in the mail? Save the card stock and stamps lah!

It's so difficult to spell 'Christmas'? C'mon, for all it takes, perhaps this might just be the saving grace to actually remembering what Christmas is all about!

Have a blessed Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Some Commercials Should Undergo Climate Change Also

Did anyone catch more cheesy low budget commercials from Carlsberg?

I'm not referring to the cliffhanger-with-the-table-soccer-parachute one. That one is not too bad.

I'm referring to the one with local celebs Michelle Chia and Tay Ping Hui bobbing to some club music and going "Yeah.... Yeah" (or something to that effect). Gosh they even had 2 extras bobbing (not dancing) behind them! Terrible! Talk about creativity? Whoever came up with the idea ought to be shot in his/her legs with paintball pellets (then they'll know what 'bobbing around' means!).

Carlsberg should stop wasting money on such low budget commercials. It not only cheapens the beer brand, but it's.... well... literally tasteless in every aspect!

(and I also think that Michelle Chia and Ping Hui should stop endorsing the brand as well. It's just suicide to their own image)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bucking Up!

I went for the Trifam swim session last night after almost a hiatus of 2 years. It's now temporarily held at the Buona Vista Swimming Pool coz the regular one at Bukit Timah campus is undergoing renovation.

There were only 6 of us training - Julzz, Lloyd, Dion, Teryn, Yanglyn, myself. Perhaps it was because of the continuous rainfall we've been having in Singapore. The weather is also kinda chilly at 23C, so it wasn't really a welcoming condition to head down for some pool sessions.

Nevertheless, the skies took a brief break between 7pm and 8pm, and I took the opportunity to train with the boys again.

It's been awhile. Perhaps it was the cold weather.

Whatever it was, the supposed 15x100m sets were tiring! I only managed 10 sets. I was out of breath very fast. But we still completed the 100m in less than 2 minutes, averaging some 1min 40sec each set. It was fast.

Very shagged, but if I continue to train with them, I should be able to get back to easy sub-30min timing for my 1500m swims.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rich Bank; Poor Boy

Come save with POSB but pay $4.50 to deposit coins

Basically, this boy (and many other children) was given a free piggy bank from POSB to encourage them to put aside some spare change on a daily basis.

The boy religiously saves his spare pocket money, fills up his piggy bank to the brim, and happily trots to the local Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) to deposit his coins into his account.

I know how he must have felt. After all, there was a (somewhat) similar scheme when I was a kid. It was called Squirrel Savers or something like that. I still have the ceramic piggy bank. I say 'somewhat' because things have changed.

You see, the boy deposits his hard-earned 500-plus coins and finds out that he has amassed a princely sum of $86.60. For a kid his age, it must be a fortune. To suddenly see a figure of $86.60 is akin to a windfall!

Alas, there's a catch. The article goes on to explain that this poor boy has to fork out $4.50 to get his coins counted. It's an administrative fee from POSB.


Let's do some financial analysis here:

$4.50 is 5.20% of his savings;

At current POSB interest rates of (a meagrely) 0.25% per annum, this poor boy has to save $1800 (ONE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED) a year just to cover his stupid admin fee of $4.50.

Is this fleecing or what?!?!??!?!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Politicians Should Endorse Hindu Priests

Amidst the UN Global Warming conference of sorts held in Bali, Indonesia, some hindu priests are urging a day of complete silence in a bid to fight global warming. Apparently, it stems from an ancient Balinese tradition that requires the entire resort to totally 'switch off' everything and all activities for a day, just so that ghosts and spirits will perceive that Bali is 'uninhabitated' and souls of the living will not be stolen. It also requires that all islanders keep silent - not even uttering a word - to ensure that spirits are convinced.

The article can be read here.

Since many of the world's leaders and politicians are in Bali for the talks, perhaps they should follow suit and endorse the hindu priests.

After all, from a very practical point of view, politicians are so full of hot air anyway. Their silence will certainly fight global 'warming'!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Someone Shares My Views, 2.5 Years Later...

I wrote a post in June 2005 about the impracticality of wearing long-sleeved business shirts in Singapore: (referenced here)

And today, some 2.5 years later, some valient hero writes about it in the Straits Times Forum. Only now, there is more worldwide focus on climate changes and he's coming from the very practical way of looking at it from the energy conservation angle. Way to go Francis! (I don't know him). His article is reproduced here:

Energy conservation - do away with suits and ties

DESPITE numerous articles and discussions regarding the low temperature setting of air-conditioners in Singapore, we still observe waste of such energy.

Last week, at the opening event of the Energex 2007 conference in Suntec, various distinguished speakers highlighted the point of energy conservation. It was ironical that the room in which the participants were gathered was uncomfortably cold.

While I am sure that the National Environment Agency is trying to educate (why not enforce?) those in building and facilities management roles, I feel that changes are not happening fast enough. This issue is not new as Minister Lim Swee Say's inspiring speech on April 28, 2001, at an American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (Singapore Chapter) event already highlighted this challenge.

Perhaps the reluctance to change stems from the fact that Singapore has adopted the Western dress-code (for men) of the tie and long-sleeved shirt. Is this practical for our climate? I have not met a single person who was unhappy to remove his tie when the opportunity arose. Because we, in Singapore, have set a social decorum on 'business' dress-code, on top of the culture of 'giving face', we have created an impractical fashion in business.

It could be that the air-cons are set so cold to accommodate those in ties (and suits). Well, that looks like a problem that could be solved.

Boldly, I suggest two possibilities:

1. The Singapore Government sets a rule that it is absolutely acceptable if participants of their meetings (with vendors, corporate companies, international visitors and also internal) need only dress smart (that is, neat). Do away with ties and long-sleeved shirts, and I'm sure that the private commercial organisations will follow. Essentially, donning a suit and tie is voluntary, and at the wearer's own risk of discomfort. Is this too radical? Check out the Japanese government which introduced the 'no tie' summer look, breaking decades of tradition. They have removed the fear of 'not giving face'.

2. Create a new Singapore business dress-code. Each time I travel to the Philippines, I am always impressed with how the barong shirt is accepted as business attire. Yes, we have the batik shirt - but how many of us truly accept this as normal day-to-day business wear?
If we dress right, we eliminate another reason for setting low air-con temperatures unnecessarily. Coupled with the increased awareness and education programmes regarding energy conservation, I believe that Singapore will be seen as a nation that 'walks the talk'.

Francis Wong Tai Yin

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The weakest link during ICT will propogate and be the cause of our downfall in battle

Note to my foreign 'fans': ICT is the acronym for In-Camp Training, which is the annual military stint that most Singaporean males go through after actively serving the military in their 'younger' years.

It's the end of 3 weeks worth of high key ICT. The large scale military exercise no doubt involved many reservists who come from all walks of life and all sorts of working backgrounds. From production workers to managers and directors of companies, the men donned their SAF uniforms and took on their respective roles and ranks to serve the country.

It was not uncommon to find officers who work as entry-level technicians, and ranked men who are supposedly corporate bigshots in their respective fields of work. Alas what they say in the army that it 'separates the Men from the Boys' is very true. Regardless of civilian background and salary scales, the moment we wear the camouflage fatigues, we are all Singapore Soldiers. 3 weeks will bring out the best (and worst) from all soldiers.

When it brings out the best, you wonder why they are not having leadership positions in the corporate world.

When the ugliest side of a 'soldier' is portrayed, everyone wonders why some hold such high jobs with high pays in the civilian world.

There are heroes. And there are also assholes.

We're all in it for the security of our country. You say 'bah humbug?' Yes, there will be the naysayer amongst us, but come on; I beseech you, almost remind you, that we're already adults. No one is shouting at us anymore in the army. Gone were the days when the drill sergeant yelled down the thin fabrics of your fatigues. Discipline, decisiveness, responsibility, vigilence, honor and glory. These are the very attributes and more that should be in-built in every one of us reservists by now - simply because we've gone through regimental training, and we're adults. We think and act better, and therefore we should think and act like adults. Adult soldiers.

And this is the very issue why I cannot fathom how certain people can function as a higher-upper in civil society, yet behave like scum upon donning the No. 4 uniform.

For those of you who know who I'm referring to, good. If not, I'll just refer this scumbag as PC (not to be mistaken for Platoon Commander, please).

PC is the epitome of the 'chow-keng' soldier. In English, it refers him as the ultimate skiver. In military terms, he's the worst enemy within.

PC claims he shouldn't be recalled for ICT since he's of a certain medical PES status. But hey, he had 6 months to act on his 'deferment' and/or his medical issues. Alright, so we give him the benefit of doubt. Sure.

PC goes on to remind us that he's 'only suitable for peacetime operations and sedentary work'. Okayyyyy.....

PC complains that he can't even step into the store, because it'll be deemed 'operational'. I start to wonder if he's allergic to weapons and signal equipment.

Then everyone had to get up at 4am to prepare for mission. Okay, let's all get ready. Nooooo... but Mister PC insists he's only recallable for 8am to 5pm reservist. Perhaps he's afraid of the dark. Poor boy.

I finally found a very valid reason why almost every Singapore soldier has brilliant knowledge of a multitude of vulgarities in all known local languages and dialects: to use it on sabo kings like PC.

He goes on to boast about his corporate status, his age, and the fact that this'll be his final ICT (which doesn't mean anything especially when he deferred so many before). But the Men of all ranks have eyes, and they have ears. Best of all, they are all thinking Adults.

PC skives. PC makes excuses. PC doesn't want to do this. PC doesn't want to do that. PC complains the whole day. PC pretends. PC is just an embarrasement to his civilian appointment. That's all I can say.

He may have had a negative experience during his active days (eh... in Commandant's office? I doubt he 'suffered'). I shall reiterate that we are already adults. We are all in ICT together and so we take the time to get to know each other better and catch up on past year happenings. We learn new stuff and discover new things because we all come from different backgrounds. It's a chance for everyone to network. Newer (younger) soldiers pass on new knowledge to us, while we pass on the experience to them. The army unit has to work like clockwork for rapid deployment and action, and everyone's maturity is paramount to the success of the mission. Ultimately, our attitudes determine our survival.

And that is why some skivers are our weakest link, our worst enemy within.

As a commander, I am prepared to sacrifice one such 'enemy' for the sake of my entire troop morale and functionality.

PC: You cannot really blame the 'system' for certain faults. It was within your control, just like it was also within your control how you wanted your ICT to be. It seemed to me you didn't enjoy the stint. Was it too boring for you - because it was 'operational'? Could you have at least lifted a feeble finger of yours to help in certain 'non-operational' ways? Could you have - out of initiative - perhaps helped your fellow comrades to install the comms sets? After all, many of us saw you handling a weapon (must have been your first time touching a SAR). You left a sour taste in many of your brothers. You think they would be there for you when disaster strikes? You think - by your example - we all respect you for who you are in the corporate world?

Sorry PC. You're still a small boy. Enuff said.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I couldn't get my hands on breasts, so...

So I had to settle for the whole bird.

It was Popo's birthday last Sunday, which coincided with Grandparent's Day and a few days after Thanksgiving. While Singaporeans generally do not celebrate the american holiday, I (being educated in the US) use it as the period to roast some turkey for all to savour.

This year, I decided to contribute Tandoori Turkey. Honestly, I did not follow any recipe coz my principle in cooking is always to adopt the Go-for-It and Experiment with edible stuff. "What goes in Edible, should come out Edible." It was that simple. I've previously roasted turkey breasts in past years, but somehow I couldn't find breasts this time round. I then settled for the whole 12kg worth of turkey.

For the purpose of notekeeping, here's my recipe (of course everything's based on perceived amounts coz I tend to use... commonsense):

Tandoori Turkey
Sharwood's Tandoori spice powder (1 bottle) bought from Jason's at Tanglin Mall;
Plain Yoghurt (1 tub);
some olive oil;
pinch of salt;
fresh lime;
whole turkey

1. Make sure the turkey is fully defrosted. I immersed the frozen turkey in a basin of water overnight.

2. Take out the gizzards and chopped neck from the cavities (read: ass portion and neck portion) of the turkey. Keep gizzards for stuffing, and neck for soup.

3. The turkey I bought (Norbest brand) had a thermometer that'll pop out from the breast portion when the bird's cooked. It's a red button. Make sure you don't remove the thermometer!

4. Prepare the tandoori paste: Mix half the bottle of Sharwood spice powder with a quarter tub of yoghurt, some olive oil and pinch of salt. Squeeze a fresh lime into the paste. The paste will look pale orange in colour.

5. Spread the paste all over the bird. Oh yes, do it over a roasting pan so everything gets messy within the pan and not all over the kitchen!

Turkey Stuffing
Barley pearls (about one third of a small bag). Soak overnight in water.
Boiled chestnuts (broken into bits)
raisins (small box)
some dried cranberries
shiitake mushrooms
cinammon bark
star anise
black pepper seeds

1. Boil the soaked barley pearls for about 10 minutes.

2. Drain the barley, then transfer it to a wok and lightly stir fry with the chopped gizzards, chestnuts, cut mushrooms, raisins, cranberries, cinammon bark, star anise seeds and black pepper seeds.

3. Let it cool.

Into the oven!

1. Pre-heat the oven at about 175 degrees celsius

2. When the stuffing's cooler, stuff the stuffing into the ass. Yes, use a long spoon or a chopstick. Alot of stuffing can be stuffed into that crevice. Make sure it's compact but doesn't spill out. You may need to sew the crevice up using some turkey skin and thread (or satay stick).

3. Once done, loosely cover the stuffed bird with an aluminium foil with the shiny side facing inwards (heat reflects off shiny surface back towards the hot bird; simple physics)

4. Roast the turkey! Check on it after 2 hours. Take it out again and spread more tandoori paste on the half-baked bird. Yum yum....

5. My turkey was done in almost 4 hours. Check the thermometer. If it's popped out, it's done.

For the record, everyone loved the turkey. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Would You Buy Slimming Products from A Fat Person?

Would you buy slimming products or exercise equipment from a fat and sloppy person? Would you even think of purchasing a sports car if the salesperson seems to know nuts about cars? Would you order from a waitress in a high class restaurant if she has no idea what's the difference between chicken and beef?

What does it take to do effective advertising?

I'm not an advertising guru. Neither am I a marketing person. I'm a consumer, and I guess II'm the best person to judge the effectiveness of an advertising campaign. All I have to do is to be convinced.

Good advertising: Adidas.

Their aim was to get ordinary mortals to advertise for them. Awesome achievement especially in tune with the upcoming Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. I'm sure Adidas sold alot of their running shoes during this campaign. It's an example of simple yet effective advertising.

Bad advertising 1: M1 Communications.

Squirrels and Einstein?

Bad advertising 2: Most commercials featuring local celebrities. Have you seen the commercial for Grassland coaches - the one with Christopher Lee? His command of english is atrocious, and to think it's not even a live interview with him. A few years ago, was it Carlsberg beer with the cheesy chinese new year commercials? It's quite obvious the commercials came with low budgets. Terrible.

Friday, November 16, 2007

State Secret Revealed: Soldiers Earn More, Save More

Singaporean guys doing their National Service (NS) are now earning more and have more opportunities to save their hard-earned allowances. Back when I was in full-time service in 1994, I remember my monthly 'allowance' was a little over $195.00 a month. It was typical for us to book out during the weekends and we'd spend it on cover charges at Zouk or Hard Rock Cafe (it was THE hangout place in the early 90's).

Some may argue about inflation and the fact that Singapore has economically grown by leaps and bounds since 1994, but I have a strong case to argue here. And this is about the legendary army cookhouse food.

You see, back then it was a well-known fact that army food sucked. We all hear true non-exaggerated stories: Rice that smelt like it was cooked in rat's urine (probably so) and it was hard and lumpy. Vegetables that was either overcooked or cooked together with roots still attached; sometimes you might even find the rubber band that tied the bunch of kailan together. Meat dishes were always suspect. Breakfasts were just loaves of bread slapped with Plantar magarine and over-boiled hotdogs. On a good day, the cookhouse might serve fried rice, but even then you'd suspect it was overnight surplus rice and finely chopped dunno-whats. The army cooks were also dubious characters with tattoos more colorful than the food they cooked.

The food was so bad that we would sneak out to the canteen at every opportunity to buy 'better' food from the canteen lady. Canteens were commercialised and they served a larger variety of food ranging from fried noodles, fruit juice, minced meat meepok, etc. Prices then weren't too bad either, but tagged on to the meagre $195 allowance, our daily canteen breaks took on a huge proportion off our wages. A day's worth of canteen food would easily have cost us $4.00, and this meant about $100 per month just going to the 'better' canteen food expenses.

There was no other choice then: food that tasted like shit, or slightly better food that tasted less like shit. Which would you have chosen?

Fast forward to 2007 and I'm now doing my highkey ICT reservist. It's the same old cookhouse structure, but army food is now prepared by aunties and uncles from Singapore Food Industries. Let's just say that we just had pasta and french onion soup for lunch today. Yesterday we had bryani for lunch, and a chicken dish that was so awesome, I made friends with the auntie chef and she let me pack some chicken home!

See my point here? Soldiers don't even have to spend a cent on canteen breaks because there's no need to. By doing so, they save a huge chunk of their allowance!

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Special Attachment for Dubai, Or Not?

It's probably no big deal since Dubai (the booming Metropolis) probably means something to quite a substantial number of people, especially those from the construction and/or civil engineering industry.

Looking at the sheer number of developments springing up in the city, it is not rocket science to realise that many people have been (or are) involved somehow or rather in its physical growth. Planners, architects, engineers, construction workers, and even supporting crews; each and everyone has had a hand in Dubai.

My own personal contribution began in January 2004 when my first project at MVA was for the Dubai Mall. Touted then as the world's largest retail mall, I had a hand in the design of one of the largest basement car parks in the world. I didn't get to go Dubai then, thanks to advances in technology coz most, if not all, of the design plans were done through the internet and email.

Not until recently I saw with my own eyes the fruit of my labour (well, almost). I didn't get to go to the Dubai Mall site but it was unmistaken because it is situated next to the Burj Dubai Towers - currently the world's tallest building.

While I bask in personal glory, I take a step back and realise it's not a big deal after all. Coming back to the first couple of paragraphs, there are many others who have toiled to make Dubai what it is today.

Modern-day Great Wall of China? Remember the tens of thousands who died while building the Great Wall? (of course you don't remember! I meant haven't you read History books?) I'm not suggesting that many have perished while realizing the gargantuan growth of Dubai, but there are stories of ill treatment and extremely low wages suffered by construction workers in the oil-rich emirate.

Just last week, thousands of indian construction labourers went on strike in Dubai to protest against low wages and poor working and living conditions. I checked with Jabar, our indian driver, on my last trip to Dubai. He confirmed that the indians weren't a happy bunch. He mentioned that other nationalities were not happy as well. The wages were insultingly low. It was not uncommon for a construction worker to earn only USD150 a month.

Geez, where we were in an ordinary foodcourt, a meal already costs USD10! With the almost parallel booming economy in India, this meant that the Indian rupee correspondingly gets stronger. Translated to currency exchanges, indian workers were earning less rupees.

Less rupees for more hardship in such an expensive place to live in.

No wonder it is also common to find depressed labourers killing themselves by crossing Dubai highways.

It's really sad to know the backstage happenings behind the architectural wonders.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Dubai Minutes

  1. Business class seat on a B777 and it arrived in Dubai earlier than usual. Hazry wanted to give me a surprise but he was a tad bit 'late'. He reached the gate but I was already way ahead at the immigration! It was the classic 'so near yet so far' situation. We were literally separated by a glass wall. That's as near as I got to having breakfast with a buddy in Dubai.

  2. I had preconceived ideas about Dubai. Having seen Sharjah a couple of weeks ago, I had expected Dubai (only 10km from Sharjah) to be drab, overcrowded, boring, and dusty dirty unkempt. I was only right about the traffic congestion (Level of Service F+). But the city is booming with modern skyscrapers and amazing urban growth. From a planner's point of view, it's a nightmare (albeit a professional challenge).

  3. Our Indian driver always took advantage of fast stretches of highway. Despite the massive jam, there were still pockets of freeflow highway. It was typical to travel at speeds beyond 160kmph. Yes, even old rickety passenger buses from the suburbs.

  4. Visited the dhow wharves in the evening after a 2.5 hour jam. Surreal. Old fashioned trading boats in a big city.

  5. I reckon I saw a few moneychangers in Deira that were run by chinese. Hmmm.......

  6. Ate dinner at Karachi Darbar. We each had one roti and we were stuffed. Our driver said the Pakistanis usually eat 4-5 rotis at one go!

  7. Thousands of Indians here. All seem to be in the mood for Diwali, but the UAE does not have a holiday for them. It's heartwarming to see them celebrate despite their very low wages and distance away from their families in India. Our driver from Kerala is not different. We made sure he ate with us to celebrate Diwali too. Might give him a small angpow later, in the spirit of the season.

  8. Hotel gym was boring. There was a weighing scale and it was a Beurer. I smiled.
  9. Construction, construction, construction. Dubai is booming like nobodys' business! You turn your head left, you turn your head right, you look up: it's all construction. If it's not buildings, it'll be roads. Picture above epitomises the current scenery now: Burj Dubai Towers will be the tallest building in the world when it's built. Next to it is the world's largest retail mall - the Dubai Mall. I worked on the car park design about 4 years ago and now I'm seeing Dubai Mall being built. There's a sense of awe and a sense of pride.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

By the light of the silvery.... watch?

In the lead up to the Standchart marathon, I admit I haven't been piling up the mileage I had initially planned to. With work, travel and the upcoming reservist stint, it's probably just sane to maintain a level of fitness.

My definition of fitness maintenance: Able to run 15km comfortably - no walking; just steady pace.

Hopefully in time to come, my 3-week posting to a camp on the eastern side would allow me to head for the beautiful stretch of beach for some run training.

Anyway, I've been doing my regular runs of between 5-10km, and heading to the open sea for some cardio and recovery during the weekends. (note: regular runs of 5-10km is not my training target, that's why I mentioned that I haven't been piling up on the mileage. I should be clearing at least 15km by now to be comfy with the half marathon in Dec).

Speaking of open sea swims, I was at Tanjong Beach on Sunday. It wasn't that crowded at the beach, thanks to the huge 13,000 crowd at the Barclay's Open at Serapong Course! High tide at Tanjong is always my favourite time to tackle the lagoon waters - it's a nice mix of waves, surface current, and water clarity. (in comparison, low tide is like... shit).

And so I got in and swam. My target was to do 2 lengths with increased stroke rate while maintaining glide techniques.

Water was - as expected - nice and warm with the right amount of underwater visibility. I could see slightly beyond my outstretched hand.

I was wearing my silver Timex Ironman watch coz my usual Polar HRM was still at AC. As I swam, the watch was glimmering in the noonday sun even when it was submerged in the water. Ahhhh.... I thought to myself..... How nice it is to swim in the sea, with sun and sand and achieving the most basic of fitness goals for the day.

And then the glimmering silver reminded me of fish tackle.

Science popped into my head: Fish tackle (bait) is made of shiny metal to attract fish. Big Fish. The shiny glimmering metal attracts big ass fish!

And that's how I managed to achieve a higher stroke rate at Sentosa.

Mission accomplished.

Next time, no more shiny glimmering Timex watch for open sea swims.

Remember that folks. It's not a nice feeling to have when out in the open sea.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Something's wrong with this picture...

I'll be travelling to Dubai this week and like all serious athletes (serious; not professional) I was browsing over the internet to check out the fitness facilities of the hotel I'll be staying in.

Not bad with an indoor gym and indoor swimming pool, although it didn't mention the length of pool. With the very brief mention of facilities, a picture of the gym was included:

Notice anything that's VERY flawed?

Alright.... who in the world runs like that?

Still don't get it? Okay, now try running (or walking) with left leg out with left arm. Yes, swing your left arm out with your left leg. Follow suit with your right leg and arm. Got such thing or not? Don't tell me you run like that..... soldiers who marched like that were known to have been the first in line to get tortured by friendly forces!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Confirmed: PB set at NIE Biathlon

Credit goes to championchip.

1.5km swim - 0:36:35
T1 transition - 0:01:16
10km run - 1:03:08

Total - 1:40:58

Rate of Increase of ERP faster than Rate of Vehicular Growth

And that's precisely the point. It's basic economic sense to curb road usage by increasing ERP rates so that road users (aka drivers) feel the pinch everytime the government decides to increase ERP charges.

I liken it to shock therapy: the authorities start you off with a teeny weeny current. The first time we get a shock, we feel the pain. Then we'll gradually get used to it, most likely even get immuned to the level of shock. The current increases and we'll feel the pain again until we take it for granted. Slowly but surely the shock keeps increasing and the cycle continues. Until the shock kills us. In this case, we just stop driving on the roads.

Am I implying that I'm sitting on the side of LTA?

Yes and No. I believe there are demand management strategies to help curb the usage of road space. My guess is that the general population of drivers in Singapore don't understand the gist of congestion charging. The fundamental issue is not in the way the government 'punishes' a driver for using road space. Instead, drivers are supposed to rethink their route choice and travel start times with ERP in place.

If the charge is going to be $5 per gantry at 0900hrs, then either start making your trips earlier or later to avoid the $5 charge. 'Spreading' traffic across a wider period of time makes sense when the peak congestion hours are thinned out.

But to be truly successful, the general public must also embrace tolerance towards flexible working hours. Most jobs in Singapore typically start between 8am and 9am, and give and take 30 minutes on each end, that's smack in the middle of peak hour.

And that's where I'm NOT for the government's view of charging high ERP rates, simply because the authorities are NOT recognising this social fact and yet they take advantage of the situation (by gaining as much revenue from congestion pricing).

While I'm not suggesting that all policies are the evil-doings of government (by gaining as much revenue from congestion pricing), I still choose not to believe that our sound policies have gotten down to such below-the-belt measures. Therefore I'm refuting the coffeeshop talk because there is no basis.

That said, the LTA should work with MOM to push flexible working hours, or even working from home to complement the notion of demand management.

Coming back to the basics, all it means is this: Use the roads only if you have to.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Return of the British Empire?

The last 2 weeks were crazy for fans of England.

England lost to Russia 2-1 in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. David Beckham's much hyped about LA Galaxy didn't even make it to the playoffs (lesson learned: football is football. Don't mix media stardom with football).

British Lewis Hamilton ALMOST became the first rookie to win the F1 Driver's Championship (thanks to Alonso's childish sour grapes attitude).

The Rugby World Cup also pitted England with South Africa in the Finals, but the Springboks (that's South Africa) emerged champions.

But someone made it at Kona: Rookie Chrissy Wellington beat the favourites to emerge the women's champion at the Ford Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii. (Golly, she's only slightly over a year into Triathlon and already a world champ!)

And the cyclingturtle got the honour of meeting the inspirational champ last Friday.

Way to go Chrissy!

Cyclingturtle sets a PB at the NIE Biathlon

I only got wind of the registration about 2 weeks before the event. I signed up for it on a whim; on the pretext that this race would make up for the Frog Race and 3km Open Water Swim. I missed them because I wasn't feeling well.

Leading up to the race, I was 'only' doing lunchtime trainings over the 2 weeks, putting in at most 3 sessions per week. It's paltry considering that most triathletes would've known better.

The day before the race I was still getting frantic at work, attempting to set everything right before the Dubai business trip. I went to Changi General Hospital for the athlete health screening. I did the usual package for endurance athletes: blood test, electrocardiogram (ECG), 2D Echo test, and threadmill test. No obvious 'problems'. Doc said I was good to go for Saturday's race. Still, the uncertainties at work bothered me. I guess it was a welcome respite when - at the very last minute - the travel plans were shifted from Sunday evening to Tuesday evening. I told myself that at least I have some time to breathe.

Saturday morning - race day. I woke up and felt kinda lazy. It was a nice morning to sleep in. Here were the things that ran through my head:
  1. Do the race because there were less than 150 participants (??). The Men's Open only had 78 guys;
  2. Weather was good.... but it looked as if it was gonna rain;
  3. BUT I haven't done Oly Dist for the longest time! A 10km run after a sea swim didn't seem delectable;
  4. No powergels! How? (I didn't get them beforehand - that was how prepared I was for this)

In the end, it was JQ who dragged me out of my bed (oh the comforts of my slumber!) to do the damn race.

Race site: Not many participants were there. It was expected because 78 men for the Men's Open IS extremely small. Anyway, the clouds were looming over the horizon. Then there was lightning and thunder when most of us were preparing ourselves at Transition Area.

The organisers decided to delay our race start from the initial 0825hrs wave. Bummer! This years' races have mainly been rainouts! I hung around, and so did Ken, Lum, and Fatboy.

The race got on after about half an hour of delay coz the skies were clearing. Aiyah what the heck... JUST DO IT! And I plunged into the deep blue yonder......

2 loops of the triangular course for a 1.5km swim. It was easy.

Then the 10km run. JQ paced me. The weather was perfect. The race support was superb. The volunteers were excellent. Perhaps it was the fear in me that the sun would threaten to blare its full strength that I was determined to complete the race as fast as possible (but within limits).

I did that. And it was done (unofficially) in 1 hour 40 min.

I shaved 13 minutes off my previous best at the 2007 Singapore Biathlon held in March.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oopsy on me diet plans...

Dang! I realised I just shot meself in me backside:

Looks like no more KFC for me.... :(

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Singapore 2010 bid video

It's worth a shot at bidding for the Youth Olympics. It's about time... It's gotta be a collective effort. There's no easy way out. Come on Singapore! Get out and support the bid!

You may be asking how you may help in the bid. Simple: first stop is the Singapore 2010 website. I'm gonna do my part to help out here so I'll be keeping in touch with the relevant dudes at MCYS. I'll post some feasible ideas as we go along. Stay tuned.

My Diet Starts Today...

I've been trying to resolve this personal issue for the longest time. Don't get me wrong: it's not that I've been eating and eating and offering no control whatsoever with regards to my intake of food. I've been trying. In fact, at times I even make sure I don't go beyond the proverbial 70% fullness 'feeling'.

Maybe I haven't tried hard enough. My principle was simple: I train hard, I eat hard. I came up with excuses that I should 'replenish my stores' as soon as I'm done with a hard day's worth of training.

Alright, it's not a 'maybe'. I've got to admit I haven't tried hard enough. My resolution has to start today: I should be consuming more vegetables, more fruits, NO chicken skin, NO fatty meats, more fish, NO char kway teow, NO laksa and anything related to coconut-based gravy, less salt, less oil, NO trans fats, NO animal fats, etc.

It's a matter of putting in more discipline into my food intake. It's not as if it's impossible to achieve. Right? I can do it. Must be more conscious.

(okay, maybe I could reward myself with the occasional ribeye steak and boiled vegetables on the side...)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Being part of the 98%

The Straits Times today published a report which was a study by Robert Walters about how employees react to counter-offers of higher pay.

The article is found here, titled 'I Quit'.

Excerpts basically says that the study has found that most counter-offers of higher pay would not work for employees who resign. Only 2 percent were likely to stay if the counter offer at least matches up with the new job. 21 percent would reject the counter offer outright, while 77 percent might consider the offer before deciding.

Well, looks like it's not about the pay any more. It's the quality of life.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

My Popo is a Sudoku Junkie

She's at it again. She's now at page 198 of Sudoku Fever - a Sudoku book Uncle S bought for her when he came back for a visit 2 months ago. Page 198 Sudoku Fever is also the Advanced #52 with a Difficulty rating of 5/5 flowers.

Armed with her Lyra 6B pencil and 1.5 inch-long eraser, grandma would religiously test her mental skills every day. Sometimes she would weld her magnifying glass as if she was a modern-day CSI Sherlock Holmes, scrutinising numbers along the way. Her pencil rhythmically taps her chosen puzzle-of-the-moment like she was a doctor listening intently and carefully to a patient's chest with a stethoscope.

Bent over the chair, full of concentration. The wind from the Mistral standing fan blows, and her naturally bleached-aged white hair gets mangled up. The moon takes over the sun and rises at the east coast of her apartment. Grandma is still at her puzzle.

She wouldn't give up.

Sometimes she peeks at the back of the book, reminiscent of the Singapore student stealing a glance at answers behind their ten year series assessment books. Grandma claims she was "just checking". I'm sure she was.

She completes her puzzle like a triathlete toeing the finishing line. She leans back on her hot seat, jubilant at her own mathematical accomplishments.

Popo. My grandma, the Sudoku Junkie.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

No Brick Today; Physio Instead

I had to set things right: my lower back was acting up again. It first happened last week and I don't know what caused it. All I did was climb a set of stairs last Thursday and the pain suddenly hit me as if someone struck my lumbar area with a pick axe. The pain was intense and almost numbing. It wasn't a sharp pain. It was as if I could feel the red glow of the pain. It was the very reason I was advised by adrwee not to do the Singapore Open Water Swim on Sunday. He said the lower back would act as a fulcrum when I swam. Couple that with battling waves and open sea currents was a recipe for disaster. So I missed the race. Then again, I tried to take very leisurely pool swims on Saturday and Tuesday, and it improved just a little.

This morning it hit the roof again.

I decided to call Saratha, my physiotherapist and sports masseuse. PL gave me her contact a few months ago when I had a terrible stiff neck. She was good, and that's why I'd go back to her for any internal sports injuries.

Getting involved in sports, training hard for races, and eventually racing in them are just part of the equation of a wholesome fitness regime. No matter how hardcore an athlete is, injuries are inevitable. No pain, no gain. Personally, this gives me a chance to understand my body and my limits better. I ask questions: What probably caused the pain? Was it improper movement of the body? Was it the shoes? Was it my gait? Was I over-compensating a particular motion such that it's unnatural? I try to seek for solutions. Perhaps due to my engineering background, I am inquisitive. I want to know what's bothering me, and how I can treat it. Knowledge of one's body is therefore important especially for an athlete. Prevention is better than cure.

Saratha takes the time to explain the dynamics of motion. Then suggests specific exercises to strengthen the weak points while massaging. Such is the art of physiotherapy.

This time, I found out that my pain was at the sacral lumbar area. It was heck of a pain when Saratha was rubbing it in (no pun intended). An ultrasound with Fastum and some heat therapy thereafter, I felt better. As expected, she taught me some specific exercises to relieve the pain and to strengthen the lumbar area.

It was $90, but worth the pain. Now I'm smarter about my own body and my limits. If there's anyone who needs a good sports physiotherapist (by the way, she was formerly from SSC, so she has treated many national athletes), this is her contact:

The PhysioLink
1 Raffles Link #01-03A
Tel: 6332 9086

Cyclingturtle Scores a 3-Pete!

Geez...... mere coincidence or what?

I just realised that out of the 5 engineering firms I've worked for, I'm under the supervision of managers with the name of 'Peter' in 3 of them!

And how many Peters do you know?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Topless in Chiang Mai, Thailand

taken by cyclingturtle in chiangmai, 27 Sept 2007

Would You Learn English Here?

Hey! I could master the English Language in between 3 and 6 months! What's more: the instructors provide flexible timing. The clincher: I'll get a certificate, even though I'm not too sure if I'll have to pass the course or it's a given anyway.
Would you learn english from U.K? What's U.K? I assume the poster meant United Kingdom. But I reckon 'U.K' English should be called 'Queen's English'. Maybe the poster meant 'Uncle Kong's English'. Seems like it.
We see so many of these 'fly-by-night' courses, obviously aimed at mainland chinese nationals who seek a 'better life' in Singapore (read: take away our jobs). The government should do something about this.
Geez.... I might as well start my own language school. Seems lucrative to me! Idea!!!!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I had to Diffuse the Situation by writing...

Aunt D recently bought some 20 packets of traditional chinese cough medicine for Uncle S. I was supposed to pass them to SY who would be bringing them back to the US for Uncle S.

Then I saw the neat individually packed bags of white powdery substance and it reminded me of drugs. You see the picture I took below and you'll know what I mean:

I placed the packets next to the mahjong set to give it a 'vice' look, and to give it some magnitude. See? It looks like news stories for a drug raid right?

How to tell Uncle S that it would be difficult to pass through customs even though it was sincerely meant to be a cough suppressant? SY could explain the medical efficacies but how to justify for the sheer volume of 20 packets?

I was compelled to make use of a technique called 'mitigation by writing nonsense', and here was my email to Uncle S (in the form of a news report, nevertheless):

Couple Nabbed At Mandarin Gardens Guardhouse For Suspected Banned Substances

Singapore. A couple were caught on Sunday evening by condominium security guards for suspected possession of illegal substances. Security personnel from the Mandarin Gardens were alerted by a 'huge bulging plastic bag' when the couple came out of one of the condominium's lift lobbies. "I saw this big plastic bag and inside seemed to have a few smaller bags of similar shape and size. So I suspected the bags contained drugs.", one of the security guards involved said. Reporters who were having a barbeque party in the area rushed to the scene with digital cameras and small notepads to take down the guards' statements.

"Then I opened the bag and to my surprise I confirmed my suspicions. There were some twenty smaller packets with white powder in it" recounted the security guard, who didn't want to be named for fear of retaliation by traditional chinese medical practitioners. The couple were handed over to police from the Mandarin Gardens Police Outpost, who arrived at the scene about two hours after the first call was made. The male accomplice insisted that the packets of white powdery substances were TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) goods meant for suppressing coughs. Police later found out from the couples' statements that the packets were to be airflown to the United States for private consumption. Police have classified this as Private Export of Narcotics and Illegal Substances (PENIS).

A grandmother who only wants to be known as Madam Lo scurried to the scene and offered to be an expert witness for the handcuffed couple. She told reporters "This is really for cough. My son takes it to get better. You have to boil the substance in hot water and you will feel good. I'm telling the truth because I vote for PAP every year, you know?"

A police spokesman who earned top honours at the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association course replied, "Drugs will also make a person feel good. At this stage, we cannot be convinced if the white substance is heroin-based or ground chalk. Lab tests have to be done before we can allow this to be exported. I'm sorry, but this will not even pass the gantry into Sentosa."

Before the couple were led into the patrol car, a picture of the white packets were taken by reporters.

I hope Uncle S understands. I think it's best to repack the medicine into something more presentable and to send to him by mail.

When "Technology" becomes a Bane

There's so much hype about new technology breakthroughs, and most of the time they are lauded as 'user-friendly' and 'efficient' and peppered with all the promotional jargon to justify their very existence (or the respective inventor's stroke of genius). Machines have sometimes taken over manual human labor, and the main purpose for automation is to cut waiting times and reduce the number of processes.

Then some of them are actually banes in our society; irritants that test the patience of the human species.

Within 24 hours, I've personally witnessed 2 of such irritants:
  1. AXS Machine. Yes I know the machines are 'convenient' for paying bills, paying fines, topping-up cash cards, topping-up calling cards, buying movie tickets, getting entered into lucky draws (win $10,000 every week!), and what-have-you. Perhaps the only thing it DOESN'T do is dispense paper underwear. The multiple uses for the one-stop machine attracts everybody with every possible thing to do! What happens? Long lines. Yep, mix long lines with different batches of instructions for each transaction. What do you get? Let's just say I stood in line (I was only the 4th person in line) for 25 minutes just to top-up my cash card. (Oh yes, parking and cash cards... ergghh..... another irritant). The 1st lady in the line was buying a movie ticket. She called her friend to confirm time and cinema, totally oblivious to the line behind her that was growing faster than Singapore's GDP. The 2nd lady was topping up her Starhub cash card but something was wrong with her card which jammed the system for a few l-o-n-g moments. I could tell the 3rd lady was getting impatient, and I thought she could probably have some civic-mindedness to get her stuff over and done with ASAP. But no.... she was paying her bills. From the corner of my eagle eyes, I could tell she was paying her Starhub bill, her Singtel bill, her Citibank bill and I think her boyfriend's/husband's/brother's/father's HSBC bill. And because she accrued these bills, she was eligible for the lucky draw that constantly flashed her tiny chances of winning $10,000 every week. She took her time filling out her NRIC, Name, Address, Blood Group, etc. And I wasted 25 minutes waiting for my turn to top-up my cash card. Grrrrrr....
  2. Second pet peeve: Websense. Websence is Nonsense. It is an irritant, and it pisses me off. Websense filters out so many sites from the internet. Grrrr..... I wonder if they filter out online stock watching. And then I wonder if there are Websense stocks that people trade. Then I wonder if it's actually doing well or not - not because it's tech savvy... but how to monitor Websense stocks if such sites are blocked? (disclaimer: I don't trade)

Tried and Tested: Lunchtime Quickie

Alright, so far so good. I tried out the following routine and I think it's worth the time spent during lunch:

1225hrs - Head for the changing room
1235hrs - Short uphill warm-up run to SAFRA Mt Faber
1245hrs - Start swimming laps
1315hrs - Out of pool; return leg to Bukit Merah Central
1335hrs - Showered, changed, and refreshed.
1340hrs - Back to work!

I also did a little bit of interior decoration in my cubicle. I managed to create some space to hang my towel on the sides of a cabinet, yet out of sight from accidental viewing. It's my personal open air closet space.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Reality Check please

I don't know whether to laugh hysterically (Wah Lau eh!), yawn at the feeble attempt (oh pur-lease), or swat the statement away as if it's a dengue mosquito (haah!). In any case, I'm just going to take it with a pinch of salt (whatever...). I think there should be a limit to realistic exaggeration and not make sweeping statements like that. Our leaders ought to take a reality check and observe how our local TV stations compare with others. We don't have to look far: I think (and most people would agree) that Hong Kong productions are much much better.

I think to claim such grandiose statements is quite dangerous, if not makes us kinda stupid for not being down-to-earth realistic. I mean, we've got many things to boast about based on our track records but I just feel that we should be humble sometimes.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Call me Al Munnster

3rd day into my new job and I'm already trying to figure out the Middle East region. Last count, I'll be involved in 6 projects in Qatar and the UAE region (there are more in other countries as well, but they aren't Al in any way).

I'm still learning the geography of the area, and trust me, it isn't easy remembering Al This and Al That. I think there are Umms also.

It's Al culture shock.


A Tale of Two Offices

Here's a rundown of old office versus new office:

From Beach Road to Bukit Merah;

3rd storey to 13th.

150 staff to 40 in the division;

local traffic jobs have now become international masterplanning projects.

My tiny space at the Concourse has made way to a cubicle about 4 times bigger at the former HDB HQ, and yes my cubicle has got lots of cupboards (with locks) and a private meeting space as well.

The number of toilet stalls and urinals remain the same at both places, but the ratio of employee to toilet differs (you do the math).

I now have a laptop while previously I had a desktop.

My backbreaker chair is now a proper ergonomic office chair with armrests.

There are proper recycling bins yet not much frantic printing and plotting of unneccesary wastes.

And I haven't talked about the other perks yet... ...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

It was a Steve Irwin moment in Bintan that I couldn't resist

Video was taken by LTM when a few of us were having a retreat in Bintan.

G'day. We were swimming at the Bintan Lagoon Resort pool when I spotted a large shadow at the bottom of the pool. Crikey! I immediately recognised the 'shadow' as a water monitor lizard. It must have come from the nearby natural foliage surrounding the lush resort. From nose-to-tail, it must have been about 2.5m long. Water monitors are large reptiles and are highly adaptable to their environment. They are known to be able to survive in sea conditions as well as fresh water conditions. It looks like our little friend here has even taken to living the good life at the resort's chlorinated swimming pool. Apart from sunning themselves at high noon (they are after all reptiles - cold blooded animals), they are also omniverous creatures. They are not known to attack human beings unless provoked (all animals are usually like that), and their bite is not usually fatal or poisonous but the saliva might carry harmful bacteria.

Every wise swimmer got out of the pool except for some nosy adventurous kids who decided to mess around with the reptile. I took the opportunity to whip out my trusty shockproof, waterproof Olympus 720sw for an underwater shot of the reptile. Then I got TM to video me as Steve Irwin. The video shown is actually the second take - the idiot TM forgot to start the videoing process at the first take. The first take actually saw me following the creature to the other end of the pool and running a commentary ala Steve Irwin style. I understand that VNN has got portions of the first take from his Panasonic camera.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Singapore's Bid for the Youth Olympics - A Make or Break Situation

Singapore's bidding to host the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010. First question to ask: Can we do it?

Off the cuff, it's a yes. We have the physical infrastructure (provided the Sports Hub is ready by then) and we certainly have the manpower resources (schoolchildren and NSFs will make the bulk of it).

But are we ready for it as a sporting nation? Before I answer this, let's look at several factors that might affect our chances of hosting.

1. Quality of athletes. We have athletes from many different sports. Are they good enough even for a sliver of hope within their specialities? Perhaps it's possible within the Asian context. It's a different ballgame altogether if pitted against the rest of the world. Maybe some 'sports' like bowling and snooker might make the cut, but how about traditional sports?

2. Support for athletes. It's so difficult to get funding and justification at the NSAs. There's so much politics. Sometimes you even wonder if the Sports Council is doing anything at all to facilitate (or are they just 'there' as a phantom authority of sorts)?

3. Community spirit. Lack of hype and exposure are perhaps the main cause for the lack of community spirit. Maybe it's how Singaporeans prioritise. Paper chase achievements are far more important than sporting achievements. That sucks because it only means personal pride rather than national pride.

4. Media priority and blackouts. Sure. Let's just concentrate on the English Premier League and David Backham's paltry performance with LA Galaxy. Forget about covering sports right in our backyard.

Honestly, we are a boring sporting nation. Check out how much pride we have? The best is perhaps a full turnout at the National Stadium during the Malaysia Cup days. But the Grand Old Dame will be torn down. Compare that with the Singapore Slingers of the basketball league. Did you even know that Singapore has a basketball team represented in the Aussie League? If you didn't, it's okay, coz you didn't miss much.

I'm sure there are many more reasons why Singapore might not be ready to host. The SSC has to go for a major overhaul. Staging the F1 is not going to cut it. Where's the oomph factor? Remember that the host country usually brings back alot of glory for the country in terms of medals and personal bests.

Can we do it? Honestly.

En Bloc Frenzy Threatens Fabric of the Nation

You've seen it in the Classifieds: Property agents selling 'hot properties' and 'en bloc potentials'. You've read it in the news: Neighbours separated into two camps - one for en bloc, other against en bloc sales. You might even have experienced it first hand, and depending on how you view it, en bloc sales are either a boon or a bane.

My personal view? As the title goes, my feelings are that the en bloc frenzy - if left unchecked by the government - will threaten the harmony of our nation. Already, friendly neighbours are split and unscrupulous methods of hearsay and gossip just to tarnish an estate is rife.

Whatever happened to the 'kampong days' of yore where community living, spirit, and cohesion were the unwritten rules of harmonious living? Not even the racial riots of the 60's could effectively break it, albeit tensed moments of brevity.

I've experienced property agents who want to nitpick on private estates, most of them matured estates with harmony built upon its very foundations. Finding fault in the process, inciting strife and unease amongst neighbours. It's bullshit and totally unethical.

Then there are the speculators - probably fueled by the very same agents who entice them with the supposed profitability of the potential sales of the estate. They buy property and expect to it to go en bloc within a year or so. On a wing and prayer, they hope the property might just fetch them a 10% profit. Idiots do idiot things to earn that extra buck. But these 'temporary owners' don't know the intangibles that are attached to the property: sentimental values, the 'kampong spirit', the size of each household, etc. They are only concerned about the dollars and cents. Myopic idiots.

The government should come up with policies that protect true owners and residents of private estates. Put aside 'property boom', generation of jobs, economic growth. There are other ways and means of achieving these. One thing that shouldn't be compromised is the already eroding harmonious living that we all share as Singaporeans. We ought to keep the spirit burning as one united people, and not a divided nation, thanks to loose laws on en bloc sales.

Speculation is a very dangerous tool, and if left unchecked, I'm very certain that we will become a nation of selfish bastards.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Celebrating the End of an Era

Monday 17 September 2007.

It was my last working day at MCS. It has been a wonderful 1 year 10 months at the Singapore office.

Professionally, I know I've brought exposure of MCS to many developers and architects; giving them the assurance of MCS' prowess in transport planning and traffic engineering. Alas, what they didn't know was the behind-the-scenes solo efforts in bringing glory to the consultancy firm. From marketing to business development; from tender stage to final report. The projects were completed, each with its own end-in-mind because of the uniqueness of place and problem. Such is the nature of the job scope.

And to think that most of them were done solo and without any help from the 'large family'.

There were times I thought of coming out and freelancing as an individual. After all, there were less than 10 of us in the entire Singapore context. I dismissed the constant thoughts because someone promised me that things would change. Someone promised that overseas opportunites would come our way.

But things remained status quo. Support was not provided, and internal strife was more prevalent. At least I remained professional in my field and in my thought process. I had to save the profession somehow, just so that due respect could be given to transport planning professionals. Expert views were given when they were sought, but undercutting was the name of the game and sustainability of the said industry was in question.

I had to think of ways to keep my passion and my profession alive.

The initial decision to leave was not easy. I made many friends at MCS and apart from gaining exposure for MCS in the transport planning industry, many colleagues have also been inspired to exercise and achieve their personal bests in the sporting arena.

I must clarify that the decision to leave was made much easier by someone whom I initially revered as 'respectable'. The past couple of weeks were a great disappointment and I'm gravely saddened by the lack of serious thought in keeping to certain promises.

Sometimes a Commander is the reason why major battles are lost. No matter how dedicated or brave his men are, a Commander will lead them to their deaths if he is not a respected leader.

Such was the basis of my disappointment. I am serious in my work and passionate to keep the company going. Alas things have gone spirally downward without the assurance of positive change.

Shape up or ship out: I decided to ship out.

Stayer or Quitter: I decided to Quit for the better; for the opportunity costs were too high if I chose to stay.

Only my fellow colleagues and friends have assured me that things would be brighter on the other side of the fence. They have brought me out for lunches and dinners. The filipino community even prepared my favourite filipino dishes. I'm grateful to the dedicated staff who have toiled and tolerated to keep the name of the company in good books.

If only the leaders realised it with good on-the-ground management.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Munn Sells Consultancy Services

Japan's Prime Minister Abe has quit, and so has Bush's top advisor Karl Rove. The time has come for the Munnster to leave MCS as well. In an industry where market forces prevail in the dynamics of career movements, the Munnster's departure did not come as a surprise to many of his close friends. "It's all about economics - supply and demand. Someone else dangles more perks and benefits, you cannot really dismiss that fact about the real world out there." an industry spokesperson said. "The pull factors are very evident, ceteris paribus."

Indeed the lure of international master planning in the transportation field was the main pull in the Munnster's decision to move up in his career development ladder. "The world is expanding everywhere around us. I'm going to heed what our Minister Mentor Lee said about globalisation." the Munnster was quoted as saying. "I've always believed from Day One that we (civil engineers) build bridges and we don't burn them. As such, we look ahead in building our own careers in our specialised fields. Only then we will be able to forge ahead in the industry, and our profession be more recognised by others around us."

On his feelings about leaving Maunsell, he had this to add,"I will leave with fond memories," Munnster said. "I've met a great bunch of colleagues who have become great friends in many ways. I may not have had the opportunity to work with most of my colleagues due to the nature of my work, but I've certainly learned alot from everyone. If there is one thing I will miss about Maunsell, it's gonna be the uniqueness of Culture at Maunsell. We have Filipinos, East and West Malaysians, Indians, Hong Kongers, and 'Ang Mos' amongst Singaporeans. There's so much to learn in terms of getting to know each other's cultures. It would be a waste if we all work alongside without understanding each other's culture."

Elaborating on some examples, the Munnster cited the wealth of information that came forward the time when he seeked help from the office's Hindu community. He also mentioned the cohesion and community spirit amongst the Filipino community. "Without their additional help, I don't know how the drafting pool can churn out drawings." The Munnster was also visibly moved when he talked about the close-knit Maunsell family, "I can count on most of them because I know my friends and colleagues have in-built qualities such as integrity and accountability. There's this x-factor that binds most people together here on the 3rd floor of the Concourse."

The Munnster was also full of praise for the opportunities he made while interacting with fellow colleagues from other AECOM offices such as EDAW, Maunsell Australia, and Maunsell Hong Kong. "I learned a great deal from the KPE Congestion Management project with Stephen and Dave from the Melbourne office. They not only taught me the technicalities of transport modelling, but I also picked up important Public Relation skills from them. Interaction with the Hong Kong and Melbourne offices have made me realise my potential in my chosen field of Transport Planning. I also have John Endicott to thank. He not only sponsored our triathlon team last year, but he has always been a source of great inspiration to me in achieving a work-life balance despite the rigours of work".

When asked if there was anyone in particular to mention, the Munnster had this to say,"There are so many friends I'd like to pay tribute to. I'd like to thank Irene for being there when I needed someone to exchange traffic-related matters; to Juvena for ardiously taking over the reins from me; to Dr Yong for holding the fort and being my confidant; to Daisy for reminding me that all things are possible; to Julie for being the steadfast godmother; to Chng Yih for being my training buddy; and to Priscilla for being so ever willing to assist in the nitty-gritty stuff. If I missed out anyone, that's because I have so many positive things to mention and it'll bore everyone if I go down the list of names. However, I'd like to specially give credit to Vincent for everything. For once, I will not joke about Vincent because he has a heart of gold and he's always willing to stand up for me. He is a true friend and I've never seen him let anyone down (except when he cursed me before my Port Dickson Triathlon race last year, but he quickly made it up by visiting me at the hospital in my worst state!)."

The reporter then asked if the Munnster had any final words to say. "Yes, I have. Let's all move on with our professional lives without compromising on our moments with our loved ones. Remember to keep healthy and work towards a work-life balance. It's no use if we keep working and miss out on the beautiful things around us. And finally, please save the trees and keep up the good work with regards to the cleanliness of the male toilet!"

Thursday, September 13, 2007


13 September 1998.

I was baptised at Wildcat Creek, Indiana during a weekend church retreat with GCF (Grace Campus Fellowship). It was a wonderful experience because Papa happened to be visiting me at Purdue enroute to Tulsa (I think - I can't really remember the city).

Everything fell into place during that weekend of renewal and rebirth.

Several months earlier, I seeked the advise of Elder Gary about getting baptised. He prepared me and then I decided to get baptised when the church was having a retreat.

Then I found out that Papa would be visiting and I was ecstatic.

It was even more special because Papa was the one who brought Fye and me to church when we were little. He brought us to Grace Independent Baptist Church along Upper Changi Road.

It felt then that I came full circle, and Papa was there to witness my baptism.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Significance of Seven Seven

Here are my bib numbers from various races:

Singapore Biathlon 2005 - 1127
Standard Chartered Marathon 2005 - 11277
Bintan Triathlon 2006 - 577
Big Walk 2006 - 25770
Army Half Marathon 2007 - 3377

And the number '7' means 'spiritual perfection' in the Bible.

Six Years On...

It was about 8:15pm and we were all watching a local sitcom as a family. I had just returned to Singapore after 5 years in the US.

Then the CNA ticker at the bottom of the screen flashed something like "Plane crashes into New York's World Trade Center".

We all thought a light craft hit one of the towers of the WTC, and calmly brushed it off as poor piloting skills or technical fault.

The ticker kept ticking. And we kept assuming.

Then another piece of news flashed "Second plane crashes into WTC"

Soon after "Plane crashes into Pentagon"

I called Uncle Sam who was in California, still in slumber. He thought it was a joke.

The rest, they say, is history......

We all remember what we were doing at the time when significant events happen. And we've got the media to thank (or hate).

September 11, 2001 will be etched in many peoples' memories.


A certain 'somebody' visited the office yesterday. To say that I'm disappointed is just an understatement. If you ask me why, I'll just bring out the age-old rule of thumb that 'Leaders are only successful if they have the full respect of his subordinates; and Respect is earned'.

A leader is nobody if he doesn't make the effort to interact with his subordinates. Even George Bush pops into Iraq once in a while to chat with his troops. What is the use of being a leader if his subordinates don't recognise that attribute? A leader by name and title does not equate to a leader of all men.

What is the use of showing corporate videos when staff are not duly rewarded or praised for the combined efforts leading to the success of the company? What use is it just to show to a select few instead of the entire company?

You were here. You had the chance to introduce yourself to the new staff. But you chose not to present yourself as a leader.

He didn't impress me at all. Simple as that.

Next Big One

Slow and steady and I'll get back to doing full triathlons. Meanwhile my targets to pursue long distance races in swimming and running will take centerstage until I'm ready to get back to the saddle.

Next up: 3km Fuji Xerox Singapore Open Water Swim on Sunday 7 October 2007.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"Keong Cho" Soup for the Motherhood Soul

It's a tradition to concoct 'keong cho' soup for new mothers, and AJ was not spared the joy of consuming the sour brew during her confinement.

Last Friday evening, Grandma taught me the 'finer' ways of brewing the strong stuff. In the simplest of instructions, she said to me:

"Make sure you get pure Black Vinegar."

"For every bottle of Black Vinegar, mix it with 2.5 bottles of water"

"Boil with lots of old ginger; shaven and chopped to bite-sized pieces"

"Use only Gula Melaka" (but she said it in cantonese and I couldn't really understand. She gestured the size of the gula melaka though, and she also did mention that it's not the 'ordinary' type of sugar.)

"Boil under slow heat in a claypot for 2 days and make sure the ginger is totally soaked and soft to chew."

"Put in the pig's trotters a few hours to cook before consumption."

And those were the wise instructions of Grandma. So I took it upon myself to brew the 'keong cho' soup during the weekend - just a little project for AJ.

What turned out as an awesome 'experimental' treat for the family and a chance to visit baby Asher yesterday, also got me thinking about my future.

You see, I didn't just did the preparation and cooking, but I also did other household chores besides doing a 2.5km swim in the early afternoon. Basically by 3pm, I achieved duties in grocery shopping, having breakfast with Dad, preparing and cooking 'keong cho', cleaning the toilet and bathroom, doing some ironing, and putting in some mileage for swim training.

I came to realise that no matter what happens in the future, it would be essential for me to turn on that 'domesticated' part of me. Marriage is a step towards the future, and my parents will inevitably get older anyway. It dawned on me that I should after all, work towards the next step.

I know most people my age would have already started on this journey. But we all also know that some have gone through whirlwind preparations and some were circumstantial. I just want to adopt the Scout's motto in whatever that comes my way - Be Prepared. I'm the sort of person who will not jump into something 'big' without preparation and wholehearted thinking. You may call me a Procrastinator, but I just want to be the best Husband and best Father a wife or child can ever have.

No way will I succumb to a marriage of convenience. I will start thinking of 'the next step' only if I am ready for it - wholeheartedly.

For the record, the 'keong cho' soup was a success.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Humble Beginnings of the Singapore 70.3 Ironman Race

It was sometime in the early part of 2005. I was still at my previous company along Club Street. URA called for a meeting with SACA and inevidently I was tasked to attend the meeting as a member of the SafeCycling Taskforce and professionally as a Transport Planner. The meeting included Max (SACA) and Ser Luck. URA had a few planners and architects, including Jaynius.

The purpose of that meeting was to seek ideas for bicycle-friendly places that could be demarcated as recreational land use, including using space in the New Downtown area to showcase Marina Bay. Then it evolved to trying to sell Singapore as a brand and - coming from the viewpoint of URA - present Singapore as a place unique in its built environment. Naturally, the Marina Bay offered the best vantage points, with the Merlion, Esplanade, The Sheares Bridge, Chinatown and Shenton Way as ideal locations to showcase 'SINGAPORE'.

The idea of the Ironman was therefore mooted because it could at one fell swoop feature Singapore's built environment from past to present, and it could practically accommodate spectators almost in every nook and cranny.

Unlike other Ironman venues around the world, Singapore offered unparallelled proximity to the airport and tourist amenities. Ser Luck came up with the Ironman idea, but I reinforced it with the reasons to have the franchised race in Singapore.

It was phenomenal and URA was sold from the very beginning.

There were then 2 things to do: get an experienced sports promoter and WTC license to hold the Ironman series; and to conceptualise the swim, bike and run routes.

Through his contacts, Ser Luck was responsible for the former, while I looked into the latter.

The initial stages were tough, but Ser Luck managed to get X-Tri from Australia and I managed to draw up some possible bike routes and run routes. The initial plan was to have the swim within the Marina Bay but in those early days of Marina Barrage construction, the PUB had issues with water standards.

In any case, Hivelocity came into the picture and struck a deal with X-Tri (I was there too, recce-ing East Coast Park, lunch at Waraku, and having dinner at Spaggadies at Paragon)... and the rest, they say, is history.

It's great to have been part of the organising committee. It's even greater to know that almost 1200 mortals were transformed into Singapore 70.3 Ironmen on 2 September 2007.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Birth, A Death, and Blessings

AJ gave birth to little Asher at 1751hrs on Saturday 25 August. I went to see mother and child at KK on Sunday after the Army Half Marathon. Asher's so cute with hair and even sideburns! His little baby squirms and squeeks were a joy to savour, especially after a long absence of babies on my maternal side of the family tree. Asher's gonna be my first nephew, and I immediately took to doting on that little precious bundle of joy. Yep, within the hour I went to get baby wrapper blankets and a baby journal. haha...

A week later on 31 August, we got news that AJ was hospitalised for dizziness and fever. We later found out that she was warded for Dengue Fever. Wow... it was AJ's second time down with Dengue. On hindsight, isn't it a blessing from God? I mean, what if Asher wasn't born yet? It takes approximately 2 weeks for dengue to incubate and develop into a fever. This probably meant that AJ was bitten a week BEFORE Asher was born. It's a blessing because things could have become really complicated and might have turned worse if Asher's birth was delayed. After all, Asher was supposedly a couple of weeks premature. I understand that AJ is recovering well in hospital and her platelet count is stable. Thank God.

The weekend also saw the passing of an aunt. To be exact, she was my father's cousin's wife. She was 70plus and I understand she was ailing for awhile. I remembered visiting her home every Lunar New Year at Tanjong Pagar. It was only the past 2 years when we stopped visiting because of the sheer number of families we had to visit on the first day. It was surreal to see her lying in the coffin. The embalmer's handiwork made her look so much younger than her actual living frailty. It was even more amazing to imagine that the entire process of death, embalming, make-up and preparation for the wake was done in only a few hours. I couldn't help but realise that the entire process only took the time when I took a short swim and went to the office in the afternoon.

Yesterday (Monday) was the cremation at Mandai. My paternal aunts were crying. I'm sure my uncles and my dad were very sad too. The funeral procession through lunchtime CBD (Tanjong Pagar) was short, but there were tears. It's again so 'funny' how traditional chinese funeral processions are accompanied by long-winded and sorrowful music. It would be inevitable and unavoidable not to shed a tear or wail loudly. Such was the atmosphere; and somewhat very different from funerals of other cultures. So solemn and sorrowful... and I began to wonder about my Christian faith: aren't we supposed to be happy that heaven has received our earthly dead, while the taoist 'believed' in going through the 10 courts of hell before being considered for a chance at reincarnation. The views differ in each religion, and perhaps that's why the differing feelings to managing death.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Live To Be Your Best

How uncanny: A SAF Captain collapses and dies immediately after running his best timing (1hr 34min) at last Sunday's Army Half Marathon. SAF's most recent commercial epitomises the very axiom of the late Capt Ho Si Qiu - a military leader, sportsman, and inspiration. It's even more uncanny when the slogan for the commercial is "Live to be your best". I'm sure Capt Ho did.
My deepest condolences to the fellow endurance athlete's family, and may Capt Ho rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Subaru WRX drivers have small balls! Show 'em your pinkie!

Ad Campaign Should Target Some Singapore Drivers

No-speeding ads hit below the belt
Sydney targets male ego after previous scare ads fail to reduce accidents

SYDNEY — After failing to scare young men into driving more slowly, Australian authorities have hit on a new tactic: Questioning their virility.

An advertising campaign features passengers and passersby waving their pinkies — suggesting a certain lack of physical endowment — at show-off male drivers. “The message is: If you’re trying to impress people, this doesn’t impress anyone. People see you as a clown,” said Mr John Whelan, business director for road safety and policy at the New South Wales Roads
and Traffic Authority. “For a long time, nothing has challenged the fast car/big man image that car sellers sell,” added Mr Russell Watsford, a road safety marketing manager at the authority.
“This does.” The US$1.6-million ($2.4-million) state campaign, launched in late June, aims to cut a stubbornly high road death toll in the Sydney region. It is trying to slow down some of the main speed offenders, young men aged 17 to 25. From 2002 to last year, those drivers were involved in 34 per cent of the province’s fatal crashes, though they represent only 7 per cent of the state’s licence holders, figures show. “How do you make this behaviour socially unacceptable?” Mr Whelan asked.

Previous efforts to scare youths into slowing down — with ads showing bloody car crashes — failed, he said, largely because widespread violence on television, in horror movies and in video games has made younger people “more desensitised to shock-horror kind of images”. The new ads appear to have made an impression in a nation noted for its irreverent sense of humour.
Within days of their appearance on TV, in cinemas, at bus stops and on buses, the road authority’s website, which also carried the ad, registered more than 100,000 downloads and crashed three times. Now on YouTube, the ad has drawn more than half-a-million views. “It’s overwhelming,” Mr Watsford said. “What’s in the media resonates strongly with this group, far better than straight advertising.”

The slow-motion ad opens with a young man in a fast car, stopping at a red light as two young women wait at a crosswalk nearby. Grinning, the driver accelerates hard, smoke pouring
from his tyres. The two women lazily wave their pinkie fingers in the air and give each other a knowing glance.

In other segments, a grandmother also waggles her finger, as do teenage passengers in a show-off friend’s swerving car. “It’s great,” said Ms Katherine Ho, 27, a Sydney resident. “If you’re
in a car with your mates and they do it because they think you’re an idiot, there’s an immediate effect.” Road officials say they’ll look to year-end road death statistics as an indication of whether the new campaign is working. But, as with previous ad campaigns that helped cut the country’s rates of drunken driving and encouraged seat-belt use, the ad will be backed up with regulatory changes tightening penalties for speeding.

Under the new laws, provisional drivers — generally from 17 to 20 years old — can lose their licence if caught speeding. Road officials received overwhelmingly positive feedback from test audiences for the campaign before its launch and only 34 complaints on taste grounds. “People said, ‘This is a government ad?’” Mr Whelan said. “They found it empowering. A lot of women
of all ages said, ‘I do that anyway,’” referring to the key gesture. “We’re not trying to offend or be funny,” he said. “We’re trying to get in the head of these young guys.”

Impressed with the ad’s popularity, English and Irish road safety authorities have inquired about using it and “variations on it will get used everywhere”, Mr Watsford said. The United Nations, he said, has a new “empowerment” ad campaign urging bystanders to get involved
and take action against drunken drivers and speeders. The Australian authority is considering
following up with a positive reinforcement sequel to the ad — perhaps with careful young male drivers getting a different sort of reception from the state’s women. — MCT