Join Me for Next Training

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

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Munnster's photos gets published in the Straits Times

That's right. Even though the company is claiming credit for it, I am the rightful owner of the photos published in the Straits Times.

The photos used in the print edition and online edition are different, but both were taken by yours truly.

The online version can be found here:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Award winning local producers tasked to direct Youth Olympics opening

Singapore. It's official: Local producers Jack Neo and Royston Tan have been tasked by the Youth Olympic committee to direct the opening ceremony for the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympics. In a bid to out-do, out-class, and out-perform Beijing's recent stellar Olympic ceremony showcase to the world, both producers were given the mammoth task to produce the 'world's best' show on earth for many years to come.
Reporters who were left out of the Beijing media entourage were at the closed-door press conference yesterday for the public announcement to engage both producers. When asked if he had immediate plans for the extravaganza, Jack Neo said "Actually I (am) very happy to hear I (am) compared to Zhang Yimou. I will do my best to produce (a) very exciting and big performance." Royston Tan, the director of the hit movie 881 had no comment, but Jack Neo indicated he would like to call the show 'Medal No Enough'.
It was also understood at presstime that the committee is working with the ICA to extend honourary Singapore citizenships to the various 'brains' behind Beijing's performance.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's in the print edition of the Straits Times

Woohoo..... my letter got published in the print edition today, albeit edited to suit the context. A Straits Times editor contacted me yesterday to clarify. Although edited, the content is and intent to seek clarification from the authorities is there.
I reproduce the edited letter here:

N-Day song's music concept video a copycat?
I WAS proud of Singapore when I first read the lyrics to this year's National Day theme song Shine For Singapore.
The song made me reminisce about songs of past National Day Parades.
All of them, whenever sung or hummed in the head, invoke pride and belonging.
Our usual complaints of fare hikes and increase in Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry prices are overshadowed by the fact that our pragmatic Government has boldly moved forward to be one of the best in the world in many aspects, including prosperity, security and technology.
The songs make us feel that we're part of the nation's progress.
But here's the glitch. The music video concept popularising Shine doesn't seem original. It mimics one that was aired by the Japan Ad Council, about two years ago, which, ironically had a tagline that said: 'How to encourage your child? Use your imagination.'
The uncanny similarities between Shine and the Japanese ad, can be viewed on the Internet's YouTube, titled Imagination Whale.
I hope it's coincidental. If it isn't, what does it say about our imagination and creativity? How do I call Shine my Singapore song if the music video copied its Japanese predecessor?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Have you seen a whale, one that guided someone to make this year's MTV for NDP Theme Song?

I sent the following letter to the Straits Times Forum. Let's see if they'll publish it.

I was so proud of Singapore when I first read the lyrics to this year's National Day theme song "Shine for Singapore".

"Have you heard a song,
One that moved you, one that made you sing along?
Your dreams and hopes will all come true
If you believe that every vision begins with you.....
Shine for Singapore
This is your song
Deep inside your heart where it belongs
It'll always stay, strive for your goals.
You will achieve with visions so bold..."

The song made me reminisce the rest of the national day songs of past NDPs. All of them, whenever sung or hummed in the head, invoked a sense of pride and a sense of belonging. Our usual complaints of fare hikes and increase in ERP gantries are all overshadowed by the fact that our pragmatic Government has boldly moved forward to be one of the best in the world in many aspects including prosperity, security, technology, etc. We cannot really deny the fact that we've all been part of our nation's progress to what it is today.

"Shine for Singapore. This is your song." And then I saw the MTV for the theme song. It reeked of plagiarism and the total lack of originality and creativity. The MTV is the same as one that was done by the 'Japan Ad Council', one that ironically had a tagline that said "How to encourage your child? Use your imagination."

The uncanny similarities between 'our song' and the 'Imagination Whale' version on youtube lean towards what I see as a lack of respect for intellectual property, much less imagination and creativity. It's even worse when this is meant to be our national song!

What have we become? I'm totally disappointed. I'll still shine for Singapore in other ways, but acknowledging this song as 'my song'? No thanks, I don't need the accolade.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Imagination, Whale - Japan Ad Council

See the similarity between this ad from Japan and Singapore's MTV for the new NDP theme song?
To think that this ad encourages imagination. Ha! And Singapore copies the concept. Talk about creativity and IMAGINATION! gosh....
For the record, I first saw this japanese ad a few months ago when a friend sent me a link. And when I saw the NDP MTV, I immediately knew that someone copied the concept.
The Japan Ad Council should sue whoever did the MTV for the theme song.... and Singaporeans should feel ashamed that we are in total lack of creativity and imagination. Or perhaps on the positive note, we're just excellent plagiarists.

Shine For Singapore (NDP 2008 Theme Song)

Alright, here's the new theme song for this year's National Day Parade. Lyrics are not too bad, and the tune is rather nice and soothing.
But I've got doubts about the MTV. Find out why......

Thursday, June 26, 2008

CSI: Grandma decodes the TV

We were having trouble with the TV remote control last Sunday at Grandma Popo's place. We figured it was probably either the batteries of the remote control (RC) unit or just plain bad contact between batteries and RC. In any case, we managed to turn on the TV after a few palm slaps and hard button pressing of the RC.

Well, Grandma Popo witnessed the entire episode and got rather concerned that there must have been something wrong with the TV signals.
Popo (in cantonese): Ah Munn, I've got a new television in my room and there are words on the screen that just wouldn't go away! See? Even this TV in the living room [she points at the one that we just switched on] took such difficulty. I've never seen those words before and they are also on the TV.

Me: What are you talking about, Popo? Don't worry about those words on the screen. They are subtitles.

Popo: No they are not subtitles! I know what subtitles are! I noticed this discrepancy ever since we got the new TV in my room. I've been monitoring the situation.

Me: And how have you been monitoring it? [Popo's got all the time in the world, and she's very capable of thinking of very innovative ways to solve certain 'mysteries in life'].

Popo: Wait. I copied down those words that wouldn't go away. I'll go take it (the paper) from my room. See if it makes sense..... [she scurries into her room and comes back with the slip of paper, then thrusts the paper into my hands]

Popo: Here. Take a look at it. See... these are the words!
On that small slip of paper I'm holding were these words, painstakingly copied letter by letter, line by line.....
My beloved Popo..... always the Sherlock Holmes in her!

Featured in Redsports!

It's been almost a year since winning gold at the Sporting Singapore Inspiration Awards. YZ, representing Redsports, interviewed me last weekend. His article is here: Tham Chen Munn - An inspiring sporting Singaporean.
Thanks YZ and 'Uncle' Les!

PS: 'Uncle' Les happens to be my first 'coach' and trainer when I started in 2005. We were part of the Soulrunners. Looks like it's time to resurrect the team again, eh?
PPS: Sorry Smallcircle sir... I didn't notice the 'wet area' until the article got published! I just provided whatever pictures I had!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dis Sox - The Sequel

And the answer to Wotz Dis? is:
It's a pair of Sock Guy socks with my palm in it.
I used it - for the first time - at the Sundown Marathon, and 42km later both sides had gaping holes in them!
Moral of the story: eh..... I think I run with a heel strike, which probably explains I don't suffer from black toenail syndrome.
Did anyone get the answer correct? Not exactly. So only half cup of latte.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Wotz Dis?

Can anyone guess what this is?
Answer the usual Why, Where, How, What, Who questions.
Starbucks Ice Latte for the right answer.
Deadline Sunday 15 June 2008

Singapore's Got Talent

They thought out of the box - literally.
They were quick-thinking; siezed the 'perfect' opportunity.
Through their actions, they managed to set the government thinking.
Some public agencies even had to go through a thorough review, while some had to undergo a revamp.
They provide jobs and income for the private sector because of the necessary makeovers.
Besides their wit, courage, and gutsiness, one of them even trialed for the 100m sprint. Another one has been confirmed in the marathon distance (at least).
One (maybe two) fell swoops, and everyone is woken up (or is it?)
Thanks to Mas Selamat who escaped, and the 2 blokes who tried to escape.
Singapore should be reassured that we do have local talents amongst us!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Someone noticed my bib number...

Winston noticed that my bib number - 4201 - seemed to indicate that I was doing the full marathon (42.105km) for the first time.

It's not a mere coincidence, dear Prof. I actually bid for my bib. I thought it was alright to donate $50 to Beyond Social Services, for youths who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. I figured that I'm fortunate enough to be what I am today, so why not?

Why not remind myself that I am doing my first marathon not only for my own personal achievements, but for some kid out there who might not even know what a marathon is?
Why not achieve something significant, while achieving it with purpose?

4201. My first marathon indeed, and I completed it.

What's next?

Friday, May 30, 2008

All Set?

1. Collect race pack? Checked.
2. Got a set of running gear? Checked.
3. Race nutrition plan? Almost.
4. Self-imposed 'jet-lag' conditioning tonight? - okay, will watch a midnight movie then go for supper till at least 4am. Sleep till at least noon on Saturday in time for the night run.
5. Adequate training? Eh... what is adequate training?
6. Progressive training? Does running almost regular 8-10km count?
7. Tapering? Oh yes, plenty!
8. All set? Well, I've got my fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Best Masala Thosai and Bee Hoon Goreng in Singapore

This is the best masala dosai and bee hoon goreng in Singapore, and it's found at Casuarina Road, just off Upper Thomson Road. Specifically, the little restaurant is called Shibly Muslim Food and they aren't lying about their claims for the best crispy pratas!

Warm Russian Welcome

Our team was greeted by these signs which were scattered all over the airport arrival terminal when we got off the aerobridge.
To know what it really means, scroll down. Well at least they bothered to translate the sign into English! Have a pleasant stay in Russia...... thank you.

Singaporean Woman Gives Up on Everest Climb but...

... but that's no excuse for bad English!
Article here:
The reporter from 'my paper' didn't do justice to Linda, who attempted to climb Mt Everest but had to give up because it seemed that she was running into physical difficulties. In any case, perhaps both reporter and editor should be sacked for bad English.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pectopah and Gayachaya Shukalat: Russian Impressions

I just returned from a working trip to Russia. Yet again, as with most working trips, my eyes are opened to new cultures and most often than not, an entire new world. Russia did not disappoint when it came to gaining new insights and experiences.

Whenever I travel, I always have the habit of borrowing city guidebooks and phrasebooks. So for my 1.5 week stint in Russia, a Lonely Planet Russian Phrasebook and an Eyewitness Guide to Moscow were always with me. They have not failed so far in providing me with the most important information. Short of a personal tour guide, this was the best hassle-free alternative. I didn't find guidebooks on Perm, Omsk, or Rostov-on-don, but information from the internet (especially provided me with sufficient knowledge to get by. After all, we would have been taken care of by our clients in those cities.

And so it was on the first night in Moscow that our team were alone and without our Russian translator. The temperature was just slightly above zero degrees and we needed that oh-so-warm-oh-so-shiok hot chocolate drink.

Well, too bad our SGD700 per room per night hotel did not even have boiling water facilities, nor did it have any comfort tidbits in the room fridge! We had to walk to a nearby Kope (read: Cafe) for hot chocolate.

At the Kope, the menu did not state 'hot chocolate' in it. It was late in the night (about midnight) so we didn't want coffee or chay (tea). I whipped out my life-saver - the Russian Phrasebook.

Russian phrasebook says that 'hot' is 'gayachaya', and 'chocolate' is 'shukalat'. I tried ordering 'gayachaya shukalat'. Waiter seemed to understand. Moments later, we were served our 'gayachaya shukalat':

Check out the extreme lumpiness of the melted chocolate. We had to dilute the thick chocolate slosh to make it seem liquidty. Hmmm.. come to think of it, we never got to find out from Olga if 'gayachaya shukalat' was really a typical russian beverage (or is it a dessert?).

And as for 'Pectopah'? The signs were everywhere, and we always went to 'Pectopah' for our food. Our english phonetics would pronounce it as 'pack-toh-pah', but seriously.... 'Pectopah' is pronounced as.... 'res-tau-rant'. Really.

And I thought foto-mat meant self-portrait?

The Long Long CheeLee Debate

Today's news featured 2 articles. One was about this 17 year old boy who gets 15 months probation for threatening his teacher. His name is Longiness Roy Neo Long Long. Whatever he said to piss the teacher off, I get a kick just by looking at his 'long' name. (I wonder if Longines will sponsor this chap).
The other article is a long standing debate between Chee Soon Juan and the Lees (MM and PM). From the way the newspapers report about the court scene, it seems that Chee is having a field day airing his political views (which by the way, don't seem to be relevant to the defamation case against him).
Moral of the stories: Don't anyhow threaten anybody with stupid words!

Aeroflop Safety Presentation

Hey, I took this video on flight mode okay! This was taken during a recent trip to Russia. It was on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Omsk.

The Thing That Floored Ironmunn

Great. This is gonna be Spoiler Alert. I know exactly what destroyed Tony Starks. Alright maybe not. But I'm very sure what floored Ironmunn when he was watching Iron Man last evening!

Dang! It was the guy sitting next to me. Let's call him 'TOF'. Sounds villian enough? TOF stands for The Oral Farter. His breath (oh God have mercy) can paralyse anyone within a 10m radius. Trust me, it's been tried and tested at the cinema near you.

Every move TOF made, his breath reeked of gum disease. Small jokes during the movie? TOF's giggles could send the film censors to rethink the rating for Iron Man. Yes, PG means Periodontal Gum-disease, and not Parental Guidance (although parental guidance is strongly advised - Please teach your children to brush their teeth!).

Yours truly, The one and only Ironmunn, writhered in silent agony. I was hoping so bad that the guy up at the movie projection room would stop the screening and put on an ad for Chlorets or at least Mentos. Dammit, if projector room guy had a Baygone or Sheltox commercial, all the better!

The Breath was so bad that I was mistaken to be the culprit. Indeed, JQ thought that it was ME who had the sudden case of rotten teeth probably caused by the acidic reaction of an earlier meal of thai green curry and sambal kangkong. Alas, it wasn't me coz TOF was overpowering. Yes, The Breath actually permeated through the fabrics and every other molecular cell within me, and hit JQ hard on her face!

I just sat on my 4th row seat fixated by an invisible epoxy made up of peripheral bad breath molecules that chemically bonded with stale cinema air. Heck, I couldn't even fall asleep during boring scenes!

TOF was so powerful that the left side of my face felt as if it was melting after being shot by ammunition from Stark Industries. Sure, someone tell me about Virtual Reality!

On several occasions, I thought I had garnered sufficient taiji energy to vaporise TOF into a heap of rotten cinema popcorn. Then I remembered that stale popcorn smelled like.... well... stale popcorn. At other times, I just felt like shouting at TOF to redeem his cinema ticket for a lifetime supply of Colgate and Phillips Electric toothbrushes. Yeah, and then set TOF on a wild goose chase. Can you imagine a ordinary looking man running around the mall and asking people for directions to the Colgate and Phillips redemption point... yeah, and dig the fact that here's some dude with excruciatingly caustic breath asking for toothpaste?

TOF ought to be banned from cinemas. No... wait. He should be annihilated by The Justice League. Darlie toothpaste should work with major disinfectant companies to produce anti-TOF agents to prevent offspring of TOFs.

At the end of the day, The Oral Farter won. How did he impact the world? The Ironmunn felt so sick after the movie that he actually rushed to the toilet. Yep, you guessed it: The Breath was so horrific that it induced the Ironmunn to purge!

Someone's gotta save the world from TOF! Help!

Monday, May 26, 2008

I hear you loud and clear!

Yes... alright. It's been 'awhile' since I last blogged. My faithful fans have been asking me to update my life, my thoughts, my travels, my blahblahblah.... In other words, everyone is just plain tired reading about 'Hills' in my blog and 'Hillary (Clinton)' in the news.

Okay, I'll restart my engines. Hang in there.... and stay tuned.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Running hills can be key to improving performance

My calves were screaming and my quads felt like jelly. My shoulders felt as though I was lugging a fully loaded ALICE pack. If my HRM was working properly, I won't be surprised it would've read 95%.

That was how I felt DURING the run yesterday. Today, I'm feeling kinda tired, but I'm still going for the flat 10km in East Coast.

Am I normal? Am I unfit?

Okay, I managed to find some 'feel-good' articles on Hill Running and its benefits:

"Running Hills Can Be Key to Improving Performance" by the American Running Association

"Everything You Need to Know About Hill Training" by Runner's World, UK

Looks like I'm on the right road to building stamina and power.......

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It was like dragging a tonne of bricks!

Alright I'm worried. I wore my new pair of Mizuno Wave Creation shoes and went for a hilly run after work this evening.

It was only a 5.6km run, but it felt like I was dragging a tonne of bricks! I took a very mortal but un-runner-like time of 40 minutes to conquer Telok Blangah Hill.

Notes to myself:

1. The Mizunos are much heavier than my previous lightweight NBs and Adidas. Why did I get the Mizunos? Well, since I'd be training and running the marathon, I figured I needed to protect my knees from over-pounding. Moreover my experience with the lightweights on runs beyond 20km didn't go too well with my feet. My priority was therefore to get some comfort running, hence the heavier Mizunos. AND HEAVIER IT WAS! My calves were screaming murder.

2. OOooooooh....... Heavier brand new shoes on a brand new route and a totally new running experience. Yes, I haven't done any hill runs in 2 years. My calves and thighs wouldn't forgive me for the 'new experience and new shoes'.

So what should I do now? Any coach out there?

I think I'll go for a 10km flat run at East Coast Park tomorrow evening with the Mizunos. At least I'll train my calves to take some punishment. How?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

No Time to Eat, Shit, Sleep, or Train

Excuses, excuses, excuses. That's what the naysayers would say about my lack of time management.

Honestly, I'm overwhelmed - no, in fact, my entire team is - with a lot of overseas master planning projects. We're not stressed yet, but we've just got too many things in our hands. So far it's been challenging because each project is unique, and handling every project head-on requires a quick mind.

It's analogous to retrieving the correct folder in the file cabinet brain of yours.

Attending meetings for Russian projects in one instance, then going for another workshop for a new city in Abu Dhabi. Immediately after lunch, it's tackling the social issues in the heart of Mumbai. Meanwhile, we get calls from architects seeking our advice for the various projects in Vietnam. Oops, the boss sends an email asking if we could take on a project in Bahrain. Then there's the local developer client who drops by the office to say hi.

Corporate juggling. It's a circus here!

But like I said, it's challenging. I shouldn't throw in the towel yet (or even think about it) coz it's a matter of time management and working smart.

It's been long hours in the office. Even the lighting timer on my fish tank turns off before I pack my laptop for home. I've had to compromise on relaxation time and training time.

Dang! And the Sundown Marathon is in about 6 weeks time! Perhaps my (unglorified) half marathon in Kuala Lumpur a couple weekends ago should be some sort of consolation, but we all know that that isn't enough for a good comfy 42.2km run at the end of May.

I need to incorporate lunchtime workouts again. Work smart, train smarter. I may not have the time to put in the mileage, but I could certainly work on the core muscles, some interval training and active recovery routines. 5km runs, some brick training at SAFRA, perhaps a couple of stationary bike workouts for the heart rate, pilates on the ball, etc. It's gotta be purposeful training.

Yes I'm overwhelmed with projects. But am I stressed? Nope. Not yet at least. Look, it's still better to do overtime with different projects than with one single boring project. I can't imagine spending my every waking moment on a single project for a few years! I mean... where's the challenge? Talk about creativity stagnation!

I take it as a learning experience. Time management and project management. I also need to manage my resources properly as well.

Pssst, and taking a break by updating this blog is about time management too... I've been sketching road networks in Vietnam, India and Russia for the past 3 days already!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Rwandans Came, and We Learned...

Almost a year ago, I read the book 'An Ordinary Man' about the genocide in Rwanda. I wrote in this blog in April 2007 about my feelings towards such atrocities; my disbeliefs and horror as to how such terrible things could happen to fellow human beings. To think that genocides have been part of history seems unimaginable, but to know that it might happen again because of history and the extremist radical thought of some people is just scary to say the least. The most unfathomable thought that keeps ringing in my head is: How can ordinary citizens be so easily influenced to hate his fellow mankind? As we speak, such atrocities are happening in Darfur, Sudan.

And so it happened in Rwanda in April 1994. Apparently, genocide had been going on in the African nation even before 1994, but that fateful year was the worst: about 1 million people were murdered in just 100 days. Between then and now, it's been almost 15 years.

I met up some young officials from Rwanda a couple of weeks ago. They were here in Singapore to learn about urban planning and how Singapore has progressed as a nation for the past 40 years since independence. I lectured on transportation planning in Singapore. The initial template presentation on our ERP systems and uber high tech traffic systems was reviewed. I insisted that the gameplan was to focus on Singapore's growth through the years; a rags-to-riches story to put it loosely.

Through the entire process of preparing my presentation slides to the time the Rwandans left, I learned several things:

1. Singapore's history of her built environment can be understood by the chronological progress of urban planning. In a short span of 40 years since independence, her struggles and overall stability can be traced to good governance and political willpower to survive.

2. The Rwandans have the willpower and yearning to progress. They have seen it all and some have experienced the tumultous genocide times (the others who escaped to neighboring countries before 1994 have returned as Rwandans instead of Hutus or Tutsis). They want to make positive things happen to their country. I understand they have a young and pragmatic President in Paul Kagame.

3. The Rwandans practice the Gacaca (pronounced "gachacha") Court System, which is a traditional judicial system that was reinstated by the new Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) as a means to justly try the atrocities of the 1994 genocide. I understood from one of the Rwandan delegates that he is the guardian of 2 children whose parents are in prison for genocide. And these were the very parents who killed his family. I know, it's another unfathomable thought, but that's how the Rwandans want to reconcile and move on. Apparently it is part of the Gacaca system and our delegate friend has taken the liberty and responsibility to take care of his 2 charges, in the move to progess with the nation.

4. According to the delegates, Rwanda is now the safest country in Africa. Apparently 'one can walk in the middle of the night without fear'.

Well, the delegation (including some mayors and top officials) has left and I reckon they've also learned alot from their experience in Singapore. The questions they posed to us were very real and one could sense a tinge of hope in their eyes after they've realised that Singapore could progress to today's current state in just 40 years. I actually managed to relate their current GDP status, which is almost to the GDP that Singapore had in the early 1970s. To put that in perspective, that's about the time when Singapore was at the infancy of her independence and nation building. Perhaps that's why the Rwandans have the glimmer of hope.

I guess it's now up to them to make it happen.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tackling the Dharavi Problem from the Planner's point of view

I've been thinking and reflecting for the past couple of days since returning from Mumbai. The trip to Dharavi has certainly opened my eyes to another dimension in my career as an infrastructure/transpo engineer. It's not as simple as it seems, and surely not a simple masterplanning exercise. The planning for the rehabilitation and redevelopment of Dharavi involves more than just planning expertise.

First of all, let's ask ourselves these questions:
1. Is it just about moving/relocating the slum dwellers to vertical slums?
2. What are the social implications?
3. What do we need to consider in the overall design so that we have the edge over the other bidders?
4. Do we understand the dynamics of slum dweller thinking versus the developer (Mukesh Mehta) who might have vested interest in redeveloping Dharavi?
5. The idea of relocating slum dwellers in Dharavi has been going on for at least 10 years, so why are the slum dwellers reluctant to move?
6. Are our designs socially acceptable in terms of practicality and functionality?
7. What needs to be considered so that private developers are able to maintain good living conditions for at least 15 years?
8. How will our designs complement the rest of Mumbai, in particular Bandra-Kudra Complex (BKC)?

Now allow me to state down what I understand about Dharavi from these past few days of site visits, research and reflection:
1. Dharavi is not 'poor'. The people of Dharavi are not living in 'poverty'. Why? It is only perceived as 'poor' because of the ubiquitous bamboo and tin roofed structures and the way-below-WHO-standards of sanitation and hygiene. Beyond the physical outlook (and accompanying stench), Dharavi is a unique vibrant and thriving cottage industry complex. Production and process of raw material and final product are carried out at the same location, sometimes all under the same roof the people live in! Slum dwellers and families have refined their trade over some generations and it has become a self-sustaining, self-sufficient 'village' community, albeit an economically very low income one. Everyone seems to be doing something, earning that meagre amount of rupees to survive. But we did not encounter any beggar or children pestering us for candy or spare change.
2. In this aspect, we're not just looking at simply 'relocating' the slum dwellers into vertical slums. We are in effect, disturbing their very established and orderly means of livelihood.
3. Do we then just plan and design for new and funky vertical slums?
4. We ought to provide enough liveable space for them to operate their trade as well, besides providing them with a roof over their heads. How to consider? There needs to be more than sufficient community space for them to 'replant' their operations. The dwellers of Dharavi (and most Indians I know) are very organised people. They are also a very social community. Whatever they do, they will do it as a community. This includes how they live, work, and play. This was very evident during our observation trip there. This is precisely the mindset that will prevail and will go against all planning initiatives if our design does not suit them. We therefore need to apply several conditions planned in tandem with our design:
a) Bear in mind that infrastructure must be improved no matter what. Currently, the ratio stands at 1 toilet seat to 800+ inhabitants. That's why there's human defecation and urine all over the sidewalks and public space. We also need to suggest for implementable (practical) methods of waste disposal, water treatment, etc.
b) Building and development guidelines must be in place and enforced. (e.g regular repainting programmes, boundaries to ply trade & industry, etc.)
c) Private developers must assure the authorities that policies and guidelines are implementable for at least the next 15 years. This would require our mindset to keep things simple and implementable. We have the expertise to apply our Singapore example to them.
d) Keeping things simple also means using tried and tested models such as HDB townships: self-contained, self-sufficient, social / community areas, good governance, good infra facilities, etc. Anything 'extra' in terms of aesthetic design is a bonus but we need to convince the authorities by helping our clients achieve implementable results.

Finally, our architects and planners need to realise and understand this social implication aspect of our design and planning. For infrastructure, it is certainly a major overhaul - an extreme makeover - but we must think of practical and functional ways.

I see purpose and real challenges in this project.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Yamato MTV - Shrimp of the Rings Dance Mix

This video was taken on a 'lazy' afternoon in the office. There weren't anyone around and I needed a break from writing and researching on Dharavi. The Yamato (Amano) shrimp were only bought a few hours prior to the 'MTV' shoot. I just hope they don't get eaten up by the German Blue Rams over the remaining Easter weekend! (the smaller cherry reds were gobbled up by the Rams... dang it!)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dharavi Dreaming

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then perhaps the smell of Dharavi would tell the entire story. No amount of words and photos can express the level of filth and uncontrolled living conditions in Asia's (2nd?) largest slum.
Dhobies (laundrymen) stand barefoot and do their laundry in pools of wastewater outflow.
Slums and shanties are built dangerously below high-tension power cables and alongside busy railway tracks. The dhobies dry their laundry by laying the large pieces of cloth next to the tracks - the only place that is almost void of every imaginable type of trash.
The ubiquitous old-fashioned taxi cabs that ply Mumbai are sometimes decorated. In a predominant Hindoo society, some cab drivers also have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dharavi is always busy with scores of people. I'm told the majority come from al parts of India seeking work and 'a better life' in Mumbai. It's terrible, yet the colours of Dharavi portray the spirit of India.
And barebodied and barefooted children roam the streets playing with their makeshift toys. Funny how they did not beg from us, perhaps they're not used to foreigners in the area. They pee and shit everywhere, yes... even the adults. Yet they are a happy bunch.
And that's why it'll be a challenge for us urban planners in relocating them. That's only part of the story......

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Mother-of-all News Report on Mas Selamat

Talk about anti-climax!

Please tell me it's an excuse for media blackout. First, the authorities only released information - a crucial 4 hours later - that Mas Selamat escaped from a 'high-security' detention center. The information given then was that 'Mas Selamat Kastari walks with a limp'.

So all responsible citizens of Singapore, pledging themselves as one united People, regardless of race, language or religion, got all hyped up about the search for the fugitive leader of the JI terrorist group. Everyone peeled their eyes for any limping suspect.

100 hours later (or just about 4 days after the infamous Toilet Break), the authorities revealed that the Mas Selamat dude only has a limp when he walks briskly or when he runs. Well, thank you very much Mr Policeman, now our 4 days worth of the Elimination Process does not work anymore! What ever happened to our first glances and quick scans for limping people? Don't tell me the authorities received a telephone call from Mas Selamat saying, "Oi, idiots. You set people to look for a limping man? HAHAHAHAHA... bladdy imbeciles! I only limp when I run or walk briskly lah! Please try again!"

Back to the drawing board, and every Singaporean who's building a democratic society that's based on justice and equality, is trying damn hard to remember and recall if they encountered a non-limping person that vaguely might be 1.6m tall and perhaps donning a moustache and/or goatee.

Meanwhile, someone from up there in the public sector confidently says that Mas Selamat is still in Singapore. Yet even the Malaysian and Indonesian police are already hot on his trail. Oh... and the Interpol is involved too. How globalised. Probably tipped off by Mas himself on another phone call, "I'm still in Singapore lah. Try Bukit Batok Nature Park. You may find me feeding the monkeys."

Couple of days later, another piece of news from the police to the public. Man, this is becoming like a 10-course wedding dinner! What's the news after 1 week since Mas escaped? Geez... it was on the clothes he might have worn. Reason for releasing the news 1 week later? So that the public can look out for his discarded clothes. Does the police think we are so damn free to ransack laundromats, the Sharity donation box, and my neighbour's lingerie drawer? WHAT IS THE BLOODY USE?!?!?! I wonder if the authorities have tried searching for his underpants in the deep jungles of the Amazon. After all, 1 week is all it takes to get there, right? (or maybe they could just try more luck there)

I have this strange feeling that the police doesn't want us Singaporean citizens achieving happiness, prosperity and progress for the nation. It reminded me of the time when I had the accident in M'sia which left my hand broken in pieces. The doctor there told me, "You have compound fractures on your left hand and we need to work on it immediately..... but our operating theater is closed today. You might have a slot tomorrow depending on the queue." Indeed... WHAT'S THE POINT!?!?

So what's the latest news on Mas? Someone still says he's in Singapore. But we haven't heard any more news of Manhunt 2008 for the past few days. So silent.

Perhaps it's because of the Mother-of-all News Reports here: Mas Selamat can hold out indefinitely: experts. Win already! It's like saying he'll be on the run forever, so no need to report anymore.... now let's get back to news on Edison Chen (or something like that). In any case, what 'experts' are they referring to? Someone who claims that we can eat IGUANAS in Singapore? I've said it before and I'll say it one more time: THERE ARE NO IGUANAS IN SINGAPORE!

Experts... yes... just like the 'expert' fugitive sniffers from the police. Maybe they're thinking of hiring foreign talent to search for Mas (hint: get the cast from CSI Miami). I'm sure they'll know more about Bukit Batok more than any heartlander in Singapore.

Monday, March 03, 2008

What's the Difference Between Benedict Goh and Mas Selamat Kastari?

Benedict Goh won the Manhunt Singapore first (back in the 90's), then went to jail for drink-driving in 2007.

Mas Selamat Kastari went to jail first, and now is in the running for Manhunt 2008 (if he gets recaptured, that is)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Singapore Biathlon 2008 - Same Course, Better Timing

My 'virgin' Olympic distance biathlon at the 2005 Singapore Biathlon took me 2 hours to complete. I missed the 2006 edition, and got back into the Singapore Biathlon circuit in 2007 with an improvement, finishing strong at 1hr 53min.

Yesterday's timing was even better, coming in at 1hr 47min.

I came in at last year's NIE Biathlon in 1hr 40min, but the route was slightly different from the usual Singapore Biathlon route. While I set a PB in the NIE Biathlon, I reckon the improvements made at the Singapore Biathlon would be a slightly better gauge.

All things equal for the Singapore Biathlon races, my timings have improved. I'm contented despite the lack of training put into the race and the marked increase in the number of newbies in the multisport scene. It was a fact that the currents were strong on the return leg, and that there were plenty of breaststrokers and lots of open sea punching and pulling. I admit to 'defending' myself as well.

The run was shiok. It rained and it was a welcome respite. I was enjoying the run with ease, although I could have gone a tad faster (and forego a shiok shiok run in the park?- no way!)

exiting the open sea ahead of some white cappers who started (15 minutes) a wave before mine.

at the start of the run, looking relaxed

at the end of the race, still looking bloody relaxed! Damn could do another OD!

one more finisher's medal to my collection!

Friday, February 29, 2008

"This Should Never Have Happened"....

...... and DPM Wong goes on to say sorry for the security lapse that led to the escape of Mas Selamat Kastari, the JI leader.

This must be one of the 'Sorry seems to be the hardest word' moments. After all, the escape has sparked off a massive manhunt for the fugitive. Even the Interpol has roped in efforts, together with the goverments of Malaysia and Indonesia.

With it are also pressing issues that even I cannot really fathom:
  1. This guy is a JI leader who once plotted to crash a jet plane into Changi Airport. With such evil terrorist intentions, then why is he just kept in a 'detention centre'? Seems like a minimum security place to house such terrorist, right?
  2. Why is the focus - for a couple days running - seemingly at the Goldhill area (immediately next to the detention centre)? Dude, if I was an escapee in Singapore with her world class transport system, I'd have the luxury and ease of hopping into a cab and fleeing far far away. After all, news of the escape was only made public a few hours later. Therefore plenty of time to escape.
  3. Likewise if I were a terrorist leader capable of plotting massive harm, would I be running around on unbeaten paths in a small forested area in Singapore?
  4. Again, if I was running away, would I run into an all girls' school (SCGS)? Heck, the mere sight of a man (whether limping, beard, clean-shaven, Muslim, or what-not) would have triggered some suspicion, right? Or can male strangers just walk in freely into all girls' schools? Another 'security lapse'?

But honestly, despite such pressing questions, I actually have some faith in our homeland security matters. Perhaps it's - as usual - the way the media plays things up. They portray schools as possible hiding places and such. I don't know, but it makes the whole operation look so silly and carelessly put together.

I just don't believe that a security lapse occured. Even if it truly occured, I would think that our homeland security planners would have looked more professional. It's an uneasy feeling... it just seems kinda 'relaxed' on the homefront, yet the Interpol and our neighbours are on high alert.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Left Behind? For 18 days?

I just saw this article in the Straits Times. It's about a M'sian girl who "was accidentally left behind by her university group" in Gunung Tahan.

The article goes on to say that she fell into a river and she survived on a few sticks of chocolate (won't they melt into gooey stuff?), and that she was eventually discovered by a Russian couple and their guide when she was screaming for help.

Thing is: If she was supposedly 'accidentally left behind', then why for the longest time did no one send for search parties? Was she THAT unpopular?

This is classic SABO case.....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Confidence Paid Off

There are some things that you just have awesome gut-feel. There's a sense of certainty and surety that borders along the lines of complacency, yet you take the backseat approach because it's just gonna happen....

Some things. You just know......

and these are the reasons why I know Singapore can! Coz I'm a Singaporean.

Here's pride and I'm not showing off. We've worked hard and we reap our benefits.

Youth Olympics in 2010. That's what I said in April the moment the president of IOC made the announcement in Beijing.

Well done Singapore. Let's get to work!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

and 15 years later... ....

circa 1993

14 Feb 2008

Now let's play a little "Spot-the-Difference" game

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Teaching is Indeed Rewarding

I received a telephone call some 2 weeks ago from a former student of mine. I was doing relief teaching at CJC for almost 7 months in 2002. He seeked some advice on overseas universities, and apparently he clinched several offers from colleges in the UK. Only thing was that (at the time of phonecall), he hadn't heard from the university of his choice (a highly-reputable one) and so he was kinda concerned if some further steps needed to be taken or not (appeal, transfer, etc.). The former student of mine was the least known to be academically-interested in his studies. I knew him as a playful chap with a streak of leadership abilities in him. He was in the SC but his focus on studies was below par amongst his peers. Then again, boys will be boys. Been there, done that myself. Who was I to nag? I could only encourage him to do his best, and let him be responsible for his own actions. We fall once; we fall twice. Sometimes we keep falling, but we always get up and move on. Failure is the route to Success.

And so the phonecall took me by surprise. Here was the very same student who has dreams and aspirations. Aiming high and getting there. I'm very proud of him. Keep up the good work, ZJ!

In that short 5-minute conversation, I sensed a tinge of fulfillment. It was a feeling that perhaps only some teachers would understand - a sense of reward, a certain sense of security to know that your former wards are doing fine.

Last night I met up with Mrs Low my former Vice Principal in CJ. She has aged quite abit (oh come on, it's been 15 years!). Together with Anston and Angtau, we had dinner in Marine Parade. It was great meeting up with Mrs Low, and I'm sure she's very happy to know that we are all successful people in our own right.

This morning (13 Feb 2008), she sent me a picture we took together w-a-y back in 1993.

Yep, the 'anorexic' figure is me. Times were bad then (just joking).

I've been in different career paths, and I can vouch that the sense of fulfilment in different jobs are very different. Teaching is truly a rewarding career if one has the passion to nurture and guide - just like Mrs Low had a very positive effect on us.


Is it a national linguistic phenomenon of sorts? Only in Singapore (alright, I haven't heard it in M'sia or other parts of the world yet) that some people pronounce Melbourne as 'Mel-boom' or 'Mel-berm' instead of 'Mel-buurn'.

And since it is the time of romance, we often hear (even on national radio!) people pronounce Valentine's Day as 'Valen-times' instead of 'Valen-tyne's' Day.

Which cunning linguist started this trend? Why and How did the fatal phonetical mistake catch on with so many people here?

Thinking too much or too little

I read in today's newspapers that someone is querying on the potential health hazards of burying our beloved Singapore icon, Ah Meng the Orang Utan, near the edge of Seletar Reservoir. The author is concerned over the health hazards posed to our source of water supply.

I'm not sure what to make of the 'query'.

Is the author ignorant? Is he aware that most of our water bodies are in the open and are therefore susceptible to all kinds of contaminants anyway? Is he aware that there are live creatures that lurk within the waters as well? And yes, these live creatures will also die and decompose or are eaten up by other hungry ugly-looking creatures like snakeheads, monitor lizards, terrapins, and reticulated pythons. Does he know that our water supply will be treated by advanced state-of-the-art technology even before it becomes drinkable (potable)? Heck, even our wastes (shit, urine, puke, what-have-you) can be treated by Newater processes. What is a single Orang Utan compared to huge water bodies? By the way, contaminants are derived in parts per million (ppm), so the volume of Ah Meng is almost negligible to the volume of water.

Or maybe the author is thinking too much: Is Ah Meng buried in a coffin that might have lead content? Or perhaps Ah Meng the Orang Utan is a 'foreign body' because never before have dead Orang Utans been introduced into our water supply (hmmm... a little taste of Sumatra there?)?

I really cannot fathom why some people ask such questions anyway. Might as well say that while Ah Meng was alive, her fart might just have been a potential cause for the haze problem sometime back!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gong Hei Fatt Choy! MTV

Here's wishing everyone a happy Gong Xi Fa Cai! May the new year bring about health, wealth... and luck! :)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Poon Choy Diaries - Part Three: The Final Product

And here's the final installment of the Poon Choy Diaries. I brought the layered smorgasbord of yummy delicacies to grandma's house. In a separate container was the cjup (gravy) from the first layer and some 'clam juice'.

For the final gravy, I boiled the mixture of 'First Layer cjup' and clam juice with some cornflour.

Then I poured the gravy over the 'poon choy' pot..... and voila, it was ready for consumption. :)

Everyone liked it - the Munn Choy 2008 Special!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Poon Choy Diaries - Part Two

I woke up this morning to the fragrant smell of last night's preparation. Yum yum......

then I decided I'd add some tofu and fatt choy into last night's cauldron of yummy stuff. Then I covered the heated pot in the vacuum container and went off for church.

I came home and started on Part Two proper. Let the layering begin! First layer: the mixture of yummy stuff, but I drained off the gravy.

The I blanched some broccoli, and added the vegetable on top of the mixture (that's the 2nd layer, btw)

Ahhh... 3rd layer consists of fish maw. I crisscrossed them for the heck of it.

Then I opened a can of pacific clams and a can of razor clams; bathed them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then formed the 4th layer of goodies.

The 5th layer was more fatt choy (a kind of seaweed that looks like hair)... and voila, my version of Poon Choy (aka Munn Choy).

Gonna bring it to grandma's house for the reunion dinner. But before everyone tucks in, I'd have to prepare the gravy......

Stay tuned for the final installment of... The Poon Choy Diaries!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Poon Choy Diaries - Part One

The cantonese call it 'Poon Choy' and it's also known as 'pen cai' in mandarin. I first tried it almost 2 years ago with some colleagues at Crystal Jade. I thought it was worth the shot in making this dish since it's basically a smorgasbord of chinese delicacies all layered in a single claypot. My attempt last Lunar New Year made it look more like "Buddha Jumps Over The Wall" dish. This year, I'm attempting it again and I'll spend alittle bit more effort in learning from last year's 'mistake'. I'll specifically cook each layer and then separate them out carefully to achieve that 'layering' effect at the final presentation. I shall call this concoction the 'Munn Choy', coz 'munn' in cantonese sounds like 'braising', and I intend to prepare the dish like so.

To start the ball rolling, I prepared the first layer today with the hopes that keeping the mixtured broth overnight would make it tastier tomorrow (in time for tomorrow night's prematured reunion dinner):

Ingredients for first layer: pork belly, dried oysters, shitake mushrooms, button mushrooms (not shown), cinnamon bark and star anise spice (not shown)

Stir fry the pork belly until fragrant and slightly crispy. Make sure wok is hot (that means heating the wok for a couple of minutes before throwing pork belly into wok)

Then throw in the dried oysters (washed), and stir fry with pork belly.

Add water, shitake mushrooms, button mushrooms and the spices into the wok and braise the mixture. Oh yes, cover the wok.

I transferred the mixtured broth into a vacuum pot to cook it further (and overnight).

Stay tuned for tomorrow's Poon Choy Diaries......