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

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!