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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Wesley Grows Up

Here's my cousin Wesley. He's in California and he's just got his driver's licence. Woohoo! Now he can drive us around when we visit. Yeah, getting the ID is a rite of passage - a symbolic gesture that indicates adulthood; a legal acceptance by public law and order, given the authority and the responsibility to paint the town red.
I recall 12 years ago in January 1995. I passed my driving test on the first attempt, having diligently take driving classes in the night at Bukit Batok Driving Center (BBDC). I had no choice because I was still serving NS, and BBDC was near Kranji Camp. I was alittle bit nervous in taking my test because it was held during the daytime. And daytime traffic was very different from night traffic - there were lots more container truck traffic during the day in the Bukit Batok area. Come test day, it was raining cats and dogs the entire day and I took my test. No choice.
I passed! I think I got 6 points or something.
That night, I took my family out for a spin. There was Auntie Chinchin, Wesley and Mckenzi too coz they were here for a visit! It was still raining cats and dogs. Damn stressed! haha.... memories.....

Oxymoronic Newsworthy News from Channelnewsasia

$1,000 Found Missing From Clementi Drinks Stall

'Found Missing'. How oxymoronic.

Then you read the article and you wonder: How newsworthy is that?

Then you see that there were 2 journalists who covered the story, and you slap your forehead exclaiming, "Wah! They got nothing else better to write is it?"

CNA - and other local news agencies - need to sieve out the newsworthy from the absolutely-no-impact stories. Please, I beg of them.

Otherwise we'll see such headlines in the future:

"3 juvenile mosquito larvae found in flower pot"

"Misplaced spectacles found in refridgerator"

"Schoolboy takes wrong set of textbooks to class"

"Grandmother takes cab to wrong destination"

Might as well have such news in

Book Review: An Ordinary Man

Where were you in April 1994?

I was just beginning my Advanced Continual Training (ACT) phase after BMT at 3rd Guards Battalion. The 2-month training was tough. But I remember the times the entire Alpha Coy got together on the parade square one night. With a small television hooked up to the main office, we all got to watch the Singapore Lions LIVE! - with the likes of Abbas Saad, Fandi Ahmad, Malek Awab, V Sundramoorthy, and Alistair Edwards - battle their guts out against other Malaysian states to eventually lift the Malaysia Cup later in the year. Then there were the fast marches in FBO and blistering push-ups on scorching tarmac. Bonds between my sectionmates were formed. I missed out on my birthday nights-off because I had the fever. Some of the guys went on to the Section Leader course, and the battalion finally won the coveted Best Combat Unit, beating the Commandos in 1995. Most of us became Men after ACT.

No big deal - on hindsight, that is - especially after what I've just finished reading.

In April 1994, innocent lives were slaughtered in Rwanda. Approximately 800,000 lives were killed - mostly hacked to pieces by machete - in 100 days. It is the most efficient (most number of lives taken within such a short period) genocide in history. So far.

Innocent lives killed not by armies from enemy states, but by neighbours and buddies and colleagues and teachers who, just 1-2 days earlier, were joking and laughing and eating alongside their victims. What led ordinary Rwandans to such madness? What made them kill their brethren? In a span of less than 100 days, neighbors against neighbors, husband against wives, wives against husbands. The list of probable insanity goes on. The method of killing was not like mass poisoning, or a suicide bomb that could kill several people at one fell swoop. No. The order of the day was a method unimaginable to sane human beings - a concerted effort in brutality and madness - hacking terrified ordinary fellow citizens to death by machete.

How did this happen? Ethnic cleansing. The Hutus against the Tutsis. A flaw in history, allowing the gradual ebbing of society and harmony in a once peaceful nation led by sovereignty. Then the Belgians kinda screwed it up along the way - or so the natives say - when European nations were playing the 'divide-and-conquer' game with each other in the 19th century. The Tutsis were seen as the elite, the favoured race. The Hutus were labeled as farmers and the lower caste. Identification cards even even segregated Rwandans if they were Hutu or Tutsi. Hatred was subdued. Tolerance was still bearable. Until there was a tipping point, and like they all say "All Hell Broke Loose".

"Do your work! Rid your houses of Cockroaches!" the national radio would blatantly proclaim, referencing the Hutus to slaughter the Tutsi 'cockroaches', even while they all lived under one roof.

The genocide was senseless. The support (or the lack of it) by the UN Security Council (then led by none other than Kofi Annan), the Clinton administration, and world powers, was even more unfathomable.

Yet, Paul Rusesabagina - a Hutu married to his Tutsi wife Tatiana - managed to keep over a thousand of his fellow human beings alive in Hotel des Mille Collines by pure guts and negotiation amidst the madness and danger surrounding the compound.

I've watched the movie 'Hotel Rwanda'. The movie gave you the sense of frustration in the world's attitude towards the genocide. The book, however, instilled a certain sense in the reader, an understanding of the entire situation.... that it should never happen again.

Never Again? It happened during the Holocaust and they said Never Again. It happened during Pol Pot's rule in the Killing Fields, and they said Never Again. Countless examples of genocide. It happened in Rwanda in 1994. Then now, the focus is on Darfur.

When will the senseless killings stop? Sometimes - based on the circumstances on how events unfold - you wonder if it would even happen in our own country.

Where were you in April 1994, when thousands of fellow human beings were being slaughtered?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Book Review: The Pursuit of Happyness

What's wrong with me?! I'm reading the movie tie-ins instead of watching the movies! First it was 'Flag of Our Fathers', then it was 'Letters from Iwo Jima'. I just finished reading Chris Gardner's inspirational autobiography 'The Pursuit of Happyness'.

And I haven't watched any of the 3 movies yet. Just to let you in, I'm now almost halfway through 'An Ordinary Man', an autobiography by Paul Rusesabagina. He was the hotel manager who inspired the film 'Hotel Rwanda'. Okay, well... I saw that movie couple of years back.

Anyway, back to my book review.

It's a classic rags-to-riches story but what makes it rather unique is the Black rags-to-riches story - and a very successful black dude too! It also has a special meaning to me, coz I can relate to Chris Gardner life... somehow.

  1. He came from a family consisting of his mom, his half-siblings, and his stepfather. He never knew his natural dad until much much later in life. When I was in the US, I had black friends who are also in the same situation as Chris Gardner. Just like Chris, it was not uncommon to have friends who have siblings from different fathers.
  2. He loves San Francisco.... so do I!
  3. Chris Gardner took it upon himself to learn the ropes, and to make sure he did his best in everything he was tasked to do - as a medical corpsman, a biomedical researcher, an analyst, etc. Okay, maybe I don't exactly fall into this category, but like him, I want to work hard... and when I work hard and yet I don't exactly see a future, then I'm also in this position to start searching for a CAREER (and not just a job).
  4. I also wanna own a Ferrari one day.

It's a great book. Only problem is..... What happened to his stepdad?

Caucus Schmaucus

cau·cus /ˈkɔkəs/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[kaw-kuhs] Pronunciation Key -
a meeting of party leaders to select candidates, elect convention delegates, etc.

Yeah..... I don't know about everyone else, but this is my first exposure to the word. This week alone, I came across 'caucus' twice: once for the Youth Caucus held in Singapore, and the other one is the NEA Black Caucus when I read about it in Chris Gardner's biography "The Pursuit of Happyness'.

So funny how there's something totally new to you and you experience it - in this case, the word 'caucus' - twice in seperate and totally unrelated events.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Youth Olympics in 2010?

Well.... let's see Singapore jump onto the bandwagon, since:
1) there are no host cities yet;
2) if Singapore gets the bid to host the inaugural Youth Olympics, we'd have somewhat achieved the 2010 sports vision;
3) aren't we in the process of building the Sports Hub now? We should be ready by 2010!

Forget about SEA Games, Asian Games, and the Olympics! Might as well BE THE FIRST (as always) to host the Youth Olympics!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Deja vu: Campus shooting at Virginia Tech

Monday morning comes and at least 30 faculty staff and students are shot dead on the campus of Virginia Tech. Many more are injured. At this point, nobody knows the real reason behind the killings. The apparent lone gunman committed suicide in the ensuing chaos. Breaking news of the Virginia Tech campus shootings here.

While almost everyone is asking why, I can still recall what happened back in the fall of 1996. Yes, I've been there, done that, seen it all. I was a freshman in Purdue and I was attending Econ 251 class at that precise time. One of our classmates came into class and just casually said, "Dude! Did you guys hear someone just got his brains blasted out? The cops are all over Wiley Hall now!" Then someone else added that there was a hostage situation as well.

Late 1996. Handphones were still a luxury and there weren't many readily-available computers to check the internet. SMS and Wi-fi hotspots? Unheard of. The news that came to us in that classroom was either by word-of-mouth or by the presence of police helicopters hovering above campus. Should we hide in class? Should we even walk out of the building? No one gave instructions. All we knew was that the shooting was 'isolated'. If anything else happened, it'd probably just be plain bad luck.

We later found out - albeit briefly - that a Liberal Arts freshman Jarrod Eskew was warned by his floor counselor Jay Severson for having some marijuana in his possession. I guess Jarrod got pissed, so he went home and got his 12-gauge shotgun. While under the influence of drugs, Jarrod approached Severson and blew his head off. (Actually I don't even know if his head got blown off... but you get the messy picture - someone gets blasted by a 12-gauge shotgun isn't gonna be a pretty sight). Then Jarrod hid in his room. Someone said he took with him a hostage. The cops and FBI surround Wiley Hall. Tarkington Hall was also shut off. The drama ended when the SWAT team stormed into Jarrod's room, only to find him alone... dead. He shot himself.

Here's a fellow Boilermaker's account on what happened in October 1996.

And some news from the Exponent here.

There was talk everywhere. I remember calling my family in Singapore to tell them everything's fine. Basically everything went back to normal the next day except for those who were directly affected by the shootings - residents of Wiley in particular.

Mind you, those were the days before 9/11 so I suppose things were still kinda laid back. Even so, the police at Virginia Tech should have learned from past events such as the Purdue one and the few others in between: Columbine, etc.

My deepest sympathies to all affected in VT.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Paper faces on parade . . .
Hide your face,
so the world will never find you!
Every face a different shade . . .
Look around -
there's another mask behind you!
Flash of mauve . ..
Splash of puce . . .
Fool and king . . .
Ghoul and goose . . .
Green and black . . .
Queen and priest . . .
Trace of rouge . . .
Face of beast . . .
Faces . . .
Take your turn,
take a ride on the merry-go-round . . .
in an inhuman race . . .
Eye of gold . . .
Thigh of blue . . .
True is false . . .
Who is who . . . ?
Curl of lip . . .
Swirl of gown . . .
Ace of hearts . . .
Face of clown . . .
Faces . . .
Drink it in, drink it up,
till you've drowned in the light . . .
in the sound . . .
Grinning yellows,
spinning reds . . .
Take your fill -
let the spectacle astound you!
Burning glances,
turning heads . . .
Stop and stare
at the sea of smiles around you!
Seething shadows breathing lies . . .
You can fool any friend
who ever knew you!
Leering satyrs,
peering eyes . . .
Run and hide -
but a face will still pursue you!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Darfur Crisis

The crisis in Sudan is now featured in Google Earth. Read it here.

I've been hearing so much about Darfur and the senseless killings there. Terrible things are still happening in this time and age. I need to be educated on this. I think all of us need to be educated on such atrocities. It's another issue entirely if we intend to help, lest our aid gets into the wrong hands.

Sometimes all we can do is continuously pray for our fellow human beings.

Do a news search on Darfur and learn more about what's happening there. I believe BBC brings the best unadulterated news on this.

New Aviation Security Measures Teaches The Art of Packing

Singapore authorities recently revealed that the airports will implement new aviation security measures for hand-carry luggage on flights departing Singapore from 8 May onwards.

For the benefit of everyone, here are the new security measures (quoted from here):

The new measures restrict the carriage of Liquids, Aerosols and Gels in hand-carry luggage on all flights departing from Changi Airport and Seletar Airport. The following restrictions will apply:

a. Liquids, Aerosols and Gels must be in containers with a maximum capacity of not more than 100ml each. Liquids, Aerosols and Gels in containers larger than 100ml will not be accepted, even if the container is partially-filled;

b. Containers must be placed in a transparent re-sealable plastic bag with a maximum capacity not exceeding 1-litre. These containers must fit comfortably within the transparent re-sealable plastic bag, which must be completely closed;

c. Only one transparent re-sealable plastic bag will be permitted per passenger;

d. The transparent re-sealable plastic bag must be presented separately for examination at the security screening point.

There you go - your packing problems solved.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Idiots of the Opera

It was supposed to be a great evening at the Twin Durians watching the Phantom of the Opera. Great acoustics, I must say......

But my enjoyment was marred by many species of Idiots (please notice the capital 'I').

Idiotus Skoolkeeds:
I feel like suing the Twin Durian Establishment for allowing same-day ticket sales for students and real theater-goers. I was very irritated by the incessant banter from secondary schoolchildren (or were they tertiary 'kids'?). Kids will be kids and they were making so much noise and not behaving themselves. Should we blame the school for being responsible? Or should we blame SISTIC for allowing school excursions to be mixed with the true theater crowd?

Idiotus Brightbacklit:
I know there are verbal announcements to turn off handphones during performances, AND THAT MEANS YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SMS AS WELL! And do you know why? Coz your bloody backlit display is bloody bright and it irritates the shit out of every one around you! And yes, it's so damn bright, I can even see the wallpaper picture of your pet shih tzu even when you're 5 rows in front of me! I feel like hunting down your shih tzu and then I'll.... I'll castrate the stupid dog! And it's all because of your inconsiderate insistence on SMSing during the Phantom of the Opera!

Idiotus Pygmy:
This is a mild variant of the Idiotus Skoolkeed. They are young and nubile and they wear very sexily. Perhaps it's the 'prestige' of a world-class musical (but it isn't. Thanks to these idiotus) and they feel the strong need to wear something very glamorous, almost as if they're attending the Academy Awards. Alas, their clothes probably belong to their mothers, grandmothers, aunties or elder sisters - coz they don't fit.

Idiotus Smile-n-snap:
Another variant of the Idiotus Skoolkeed, this species will take every opportunity to fill up their built-in digital cameras with pictures, movie-clips and audio recordings of musicals, ordinary scenes, and farts. The theater authority already has policies to ban these species, but it is hard to identify them.

Idiotus Ah-sher:
This species actually reside within the Twin Durians. In fact, they are very hardworking and are usually very polite, very friendly. Their main prey is the Idiotus Smile-n-snap. Once spotted, a very unfriendly, firm, and aimed-to-embarrase "DO NOT TAKE PHOTOS IN HERE!" will bellow from the sphincter of the Idiotus Ah-sher. They thrive on such sudden attacks. It makes me wonder if photography is really NOT allowed within the theater. I can understand the distraction of flashes during performances (see Idiotus Brightbacklit), but what is the rationale behind not being allowed to even take a picture during the interval?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Beware: Do Not Take SMRT Cab SHC 4055E

I had a terrible encounter with the driver of SMRT cab number SHC 4055E. He's the rudest driver I've ever met, and here's my story:

I hailed the cab this morning near where I stay. It was at 0726 hrs. Destination: Jurong East MRT Station. I was on the way to International Business Park (IBP - which is very near the MRT Station) to conduct a trip rate study. My intention was to meet my IA students at the MRT Station to brief them, and then make our own way to IBP.

However, there was a slight jam along the PIE and told the cab driver to drive to the MRT station to pick up the students and then carry on to IBP. I sensed from his reaction that he wasn't too happy. Come to think of it, he asked some stupid questions like 'Is your MRT station on the left or right?' I mean, come on... he's a cab driver. He doesn't know where the MRT station is? Nevertheless, I gave him the benefit of doubt and directed him to the MRT station.

"Are your friends there already or not?"

"Yes, they are already waiting at the taxi stand. Just need to pick them up and then we go to IBP."

True enough, my students were there and Mr Driver didn't even have to wait. And so we were off towards IBP.

Now... we were supposed to be stationed at various locations within IBP, and the road system within is a loop anyway. When my first student alighted, Mr Driver made it quite clear that we was unhappy.

"Can you tell me where you all going or not? Now is peak hour!"

"Uncle, don't worry. Only 2 more places within this place. Very short distance. Sorry ah. Okay turn left in front please."

As my 2nd student was about to alight, Mr Driver became very impatient, "Eh, don't waste my time. Now is peak hour. You all get out of my cab! I want to earn money!" I directed my student to alight at her stop immediately.

I was shocked! "Excuse me, the last stop is just ahead. Uncle, I don't want to argue with you. Please do not start."

"No, you get out of my cab. You never tell me where you want to go. Get out!" He stopped in the middle of the road yelling at me, and then turned behind to stare.

"No! You send me to my destination. You cannot tell me to get out with no reason."

"Now is peak hour! You are wasting my time! Get out! I want to earn money!"

"It's only in front."


I lost my cool! "Give me the receipt"


"What makes you so sure I'm not paying you? YOU give me the receipt NOW!"



"You complain! Go! Go! I don't care! Don't waste my peak hour time!"

"Don't worry, I WILL COMPLAIN!"

and so the transaction was completed, and I was left stranded in the middle of IBP.

Bastard. The more I think about it, the more I want to make this a case against such hooligan behavior from a cab driver. Sigh... perhaps it's the system that he's like that: an over-reliance on peak hour surcharges to make ends meet? Was he scared that I would take him for a ride (no pun intended). What the heck!

Some of my colleagues said that I shouldn't have paid him. Alright, I did think about that. I didn't want him to make a claim against me that I didn't pay. I want to make sure I'm clean and that he should be taken to task and punish accordingly. After all, he's not proud to do his job and obviously he's a bully.

Think further: cab drivers like him are perfect poster boys of road rage. He's also likely the type who will turn you down if you want to go to far-flung places like Tuas or Changi Point. Simply put, he has no right to treat customers like that!

I urge everyone to spread the news around about this cab driver. DO NOT TAKE HIS CAB!
He doesn't deserve his keep if he's not up to par with simple service.
I urge everyone to spread the word out.

Monday, April 09, 2007

She's one lucky bitch!

Goodness gracious! The extent some owners do for their pets! This pair actually had a lavish wedding - and that's coz the usually yapping shih tzu (the male) is unusually calm and collected whenever he's with the bitch. Uh-huh... wait till the honeymoon period is over, owners...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Movie Review: Freedom Writers

Simply put: This is a great movie to watch!

If you're looking for thriller, comedy, or action, then forget it. This movie is about inspiration and knowing what's right and what's wrong. The teenagers have seen it all in their 'hood - driveby shootings, racial discrimination, gangs, drugs, etc. Set in post-Rodney King racial riots in Los Angeles, I'm pretty sure that everyone employed the 'every body to himself' rule. Every ethnic group stood by each other, watching every single move of other groups.

I guess teacher Erin Gruwell might have come at the wrong time to a class full of racial tension. Then again, the teenagers must have been fully aware of the tensed circumstances fresh after the riots. Deep inside, they knew the senseless gangster life shouldn't go on although in reality they were just happy to be alive for another day. Deep inside, each teenager yearned for freedom in urban America. Yet the city was evolving towards social change after realising the evils of racial tension. Perhaps that was why it made it slightly easier for mutual acceptance between Ms Gruwell, her charges, and the rest of the city.

Will it bridge the income gap or make it wider?

I'm just wondering aloud if the salary revision by the government (coming soon: 7 April 2007) will bridge the income gap or make it even wider than it is right now.

Seems to me that the focus is leaning towards having pay rise for civil servants, ministers, and top admin officers. Already the media is reporting the obscene salaries of our ministers and admin officers. No doubt some are the cream of the crop, and maybe some have 'talent'. But are all of them worthy of astronomical salaries? Sure they are compared to the top earners in other industries but perhaps I'm just naive because I don't really understand the rationale behind all the media hype. (In other words, I probably need to be very convinced).

I'm an ordinary citizen proud to have served the nation and ready to defend it without second thoughts. But where do I and my fellow Singaporeans stand along the l-o-n-g salary scale? It's a bottomless pit.

What disturbs me is the emphasis on paying top dollar to retain such 'talent'.

What about the backstage helpers? The dragon-boat rowers? The very backbone of the economy?

Do these 'top talent' always come up with great ideas? Do they run organisations or manage huge corporations? Or are they just good in managing bureaucracy?

It's rather sad to hear such media and all the justifications behind paying top dollar. The rest of the workforce needs to be considered too - they've worked really hard and supported the nation to where it is now.

When the word used to mean 'Joyful; High-spirited merriment'

This was taken at the new National Museum on Stamford Road. It's a pre-1965 (Independence) photo-article about Singapore's post-war progress and her road to Independence.

For once, I'm thanking the powers above for making Singapore a multi-racial, multi-lingual society. It's so wrong to use the english translation in modern context. Fortunately the other languages tell the real story - that Singapore was in a jubilant mood during Malaysia Day then, and not as if Singapore decided to come out of the closet in 1964.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Birthday Wishlist (The Alternative)

Hmmm... alright so maybe my previous entry is 'abit on the high-end'. That's fine. As engineers, we always look for alternatives.

And here's an alternative to indoor bicycles:

No worries, it's not the bicycle.... I'm referring to the bike trainer. It's the Tacx Satori. Nice orange colour; same as my Orbea.
More information can be found here. Did you know that you can even purchase a cycling video of famous cycling routes and view them on the TV while cycling? The video programme will tell the cyclist of which resistance to apply so as to replicate on-TV conditions. Not bad eh?

Weekend Footwear

Yeah, I know I'm supposed to conquer some hills during the weekend but I ended up doing other forms of exercise:

On Saturday, I was supposed to run around the Sentosa satellite loop. Instead I went for a swim and I decided to use my fins for training. It was only during fin-swimming that I realised it was a very good substitute for hill training. Here's why: it works the calves and ankles too, and it's low impact. How do I know it works the calves and ankles? Coz they're pretty sore after the swim. I reckon this is a good alternative without damage to the joints. Any scientific/medical/sport physiology proof to this type of training being an alternative to hill training - as in it works the right muscle groups, muscle memory, etc?

On Sunday, I wanted to tackle the hills behind my place but lazy me decided to rest for the soccer game instead. And so at 2pm, I put on my new Topper soccer boots (ONLY $42 from Queensway!) and played my first soccer game in 5 years. Post-mortem: Sprints-Jog-Stop-Turns on the soccer field is VERY different from steady and continuous 10km run. Also, I was wearing heavy hockey shin guards which -I must say - are kinda kiasu on the soccer pitch. But no choice lah, those were the only types of shin guards I could find at home. Believe it or not, the sprints and 'ankle weights' actually worked my legs too. This time I know it works my legs coz my legs actually got weak when I took off shin guards and boots (I think they weighed a ballpark figure of 1 metric tonne or something). And so here's another alternative to hill training - wearing ankle weights and doing sprint spurts.