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

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... ...