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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

One Minute on a Typical Street in Hanoi

Thought I'd share with everyone the road user behaviour in Hanoi. As a traffic engineer, I look at such 'anomalies' and research on the best ways to improve future conditions. I took this video on my recent business trip to North Vietnam.

This is a typical traffic junction in Hanoi. Organised chaos - my cup of tea! haha... Listen to the incessant honking. Observe the carefree (and finer)ways of crossing a busy street. Check out the cyclist crossing the street towards the end of the video. It's a traffic engineer's delight! Just one minute's worth of footage, and you'll understand the conditions in Hanoi.

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gooooooooooood Morning, Vietnam!

Woke up this morning at 5:45am local time to catch sunrise (I always do that when I'm in foreign countries; just so I can experience how the city wakes up).

The roads were rather quiet from the obvious lack of incessant horning and honking. The sky was still dark. I decided to lug my cameraphone and diary to the cafe for the complimentary hotel breakfast buffet spread. The cafe is on the 8th floor, and I reckon the Tray Hotel must be one of the tallest, if not the tallest, building in Hai Phong. I could look out the cafe window and see a sea of 2-3 storey houses; as far as the eyes could see.

Sun rose, but it was overcast, and spectacular sunrise was amiss. The honking and horning came together with the first rays of sunlight; almost like clockwork. Typical morning = Sunrise + Honking.

Anyway, took couple of shots of the port city and had a hearty pho (vietnamese rice noodles) breakfast and vietnamese coffee.
I'm now getting ready to pack and check-out of Tray Hotel. It's a splendid hotel. Gonna meet the higher officials this morning for a presentation, then back to Hanoi.

Till then... ...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hai Phong

If there are 3 words to describe Vietnam, it's gonna be:
Padi, Horny, Faith

I'm not sure if it applies to entire Vietnam, but the 2.5 hour road trip from Hanoi to Hai Phong clearly describes these 3 words.

Padi: It's fields and fields of padi for slightly over half the journey. There is water everwhere, and the land is almost entirely flat. One thing unique about the padi fields are the numerous graves that dot each plot of padi field. Perhaps remnants of past wars or just family burial grounds, the graves and rice fields seem to be one with each other. Choose any given padi field, and you're certain to find a few graves amidst the fertile soil.

Horny: That's the way it is. Every vehicle on the road is horning each other. They horn when they warn you. They horn when they intend to pass. They horn when they are passing. They horn everytime! It's so melodious! And yes, it's so noisy that I can't fall asleep on the car journey to Hai Phong!

Faith: If you need to cross the road, just cross. Just walk across the thoroughfare. By strange Vietnamese miracles, you will get across safe and sound (full of horning sounds). Indeed, the vehicles travel at optimum slow (not crawling speed) and they 'graciously' avoid you. But whatever it is, don't try this in your own home!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Water Fiesta @ Queenstown

Alright. I signed up for this easy peasy sprint biathlon only because I don't exactly have the time to put on the training this year. I already signed up for Singapore Biathlon on March 1, so I needed some kind of yardstick to benchmark my training distances. By completing the Water Fiesta, at least I know I can train longer distances towards the OD biathlon. (Actually not that I'd like to boast, but can do it lah. It's just a self-consolation that 'I'm still able to do the distance).

Anyway, the race was a 15 lap pool swim followed by a 12 lap run around the Queenstown Stadium track. Total distance adds up to 750m swim and 5km run (the extra 200m is made up during transition).

Total time: 53min.

Slow... but steady. Can do faster lah.. but doing laps and running round and round and round the track was one super boring race! haha.... Overall it was a fun race coz of the atmosphere. No pressure! :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Eagles Have Landed, but...... (Spoiler Alert: Natural Science lesson ahead)

Today's Channel News Asia reported that two White-bellied Sea Eagles made an unexpected and unusual visit to a local home in Singapore. They were apparently injured after an aerial battle coz both raptors were totally slumped after landing at the Jalan Kayu home. One of them stood up after an hour, while the other remained motionless. In any case, the homeowner - a Mr Lau - tried in vain to get help from 'some authorities', and only got a response some six hours later.

Perhaps it was a case of pushing the responsibility by the 'relevant' authorities (it's so Singaporean civil service...) . Either that, or Mr Lau probably didn't know who to contact but the Police (again, a likelihood coz singaporeans just don't have the commonsense).

Anyway, the article goes on to advise readers on the 'relevant' authority to seek help from. (The article is actually quite useless coz it mentions the NEA, Jurong Bird Park, AVA, and the Police for specific types of 'unwanted' guests in various situations. Alright, so it's not everyday that birds-of-prey land at your doorstep. I wonder how the officers of the 'relevant' authorities would handle it.

What? Pull up this article and say "Look! Look! A white stork landed on my doorstep with a baby girl in a sarong! I should call the Police! No.. but it's not harming me, so I should contact the AVA (but which department ah?)! Wait! What if the big white bird is gonna eat the baby? How?"

Actually, what disturbs me is the statement cited from the AVA spokesperson, and I quote from the article:

"It cited bats and iguanas as among the animals that have made their way into homes."

Iguanas? Does the AVA spokesperson know what iguanas are? Can you even find iguanas in Singapore besides the Zoo and Night Safari?

What the spokesperson probably meant was Monitor Lizards, which are more common in the Singapore landscape. It's quite pathetic that the public is misled to think that monitor lizards are the same as iguanas. It's like calling an elephant a horse.

I think the spokesperson should be fed to the Tigers and (mer)Lions.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Photography: A Play of Light(ning)?

Dad took this awesome lightning picture from our apartment on Sunday evening and sent it to Stomp. For the scientifically-challenged amongst us, it's a picture of a lightning strike on top of Faber Gardens condomimium.
To take this picture requires exceptional luck, steady hands, and a patient photographer. It's the proverbial 'right place at the right time'. After all, it's a split second moment. Dad was routinely taking pictures for the sake of documenting everything around him (yes, including heavy thunderstorms that caused a blackout!).
Let's just say he wasn't specifically taking pictures of lightning coz that'll require superhuman speed. Rather, the lightning strike happened when he was snapping a picture of the thunderstorm. You may liken it to some idiot blocking your view at the moment you snap pictures of your friends. Get the point?
In any case, there were the skeptics that suggested the picture was doctored with photoshop. Then there were also the 'true-believers' who defended the authenticity of the picture. Well, I'll just say that the skeptics just have got nothing else better to say. I shall only say that Dad is a total idiot when it comes to manipulating anything on the PC, let alone Photoshop. He may be an artist, but he's certainly NOT a digital artist.
The digital age has advanced to a point where even the most innocent of pictures are compromised for their authenticity. Some pictures are truly works of art, and one marvels at the works of Ansel Adams, Galen Rowell, Frans Lanting et al.
I still believe in film photography and I still shoot in monochrome. Some people say that I'm not keeping up with the times? What defines keeping up with the times? I choose to compose (not just point and shoot) in monochrome for I see greater challenge and resulting joy in it. I see beauty in shades of grey, and I'm certainly not colour blind.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Pakistani Cab Driver from Ajman

We were waiting for a cab outside the hotel in Sharjah at 6pm, trying to hail one to Dubai to meet a client from Kuwait. It must have been the coldest time of the year in Sharjah, coz 2 layers of clothes obviously did not do the "layering' trick in keeping me warm. (today's news reported strong winds and temperatures as low as 1 deg C in Ras Al Khaimah)

Singaporeans shouldn't complain about the recent taxi woes in Singapore. Those in the UAE is worse. No cab would take passengers into Dubai in the evenings, coz the traffic jams within Dubai would be so bad that the cabs just cannot come out! (yes, simple econs lah... cannot make money what..)

It must have been a good 50 minutes and a couple of rejections later that a cab pulled up in front of us and offered to take us for the journey to Dubai. Look, it's only about 10km into the city but like I said, the traffic jam could easily take more than 2 hours to get out! (yeah, now you know why I want to do the Dubai Marathon? - it's so much easier and faster!)

It was the Pakistani cab driver from Ajman.

What's so special about this guy? Well, he kept talking and talking and talking and mumbling weird stuff. 'Lahk doo, Bahl doo' he kept saying that phrase over and over again. When we asked him what he means by 'Lahk doo, bahl doo', he claims it was a chinese phrase. I don't know what he really was saying but he always ended every sentence with 'lahk doo, bahl doo'. IS that a pakistani bad word? Can anyone verify what 'lahk doo bahl doo' mean?

Anyway, he collects currencies from all over the world. He asked for Singapore dollars. I gave him a $2 plastic note - it's worth 5 dirhams.

Lahk doo, bahl doo.... whatever that is...

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Rajah in Sharjah

Am now in Sharjah, UAE. Arrived in Dubai at 3:15am this morning (again one of those red-eye flights). Got to the hotel by 5am thanks to a long queue at the immigration line, a delay in the baggage claims, and a missing hotel pick-up driver (where were you, Mr Abdullah?).

Took a nap and was up at 8am local time.

Thought would have a 'free' day today, but latest news is a meeting with the clients at 2pm. Dang it.. it's now almost 1pm already. Grrrr..... still haven't explored Dubai or seen any of the famed souks here. Only shopping so far is at the Duty Free in the airport.

Anywhere I finally had some time (albeit just a little) and composure to take some pictures.

The Sony Ericsson k800 has a panoramic stitching feature... and that's the view of the Corniche from my hotel room.

That was my lunch... called from the room service facility. It's lamb briyani and cream of mushroom soup. It's really alot.. and I'm stuffed after halfway through. Me?!!?! Stuffed?!?

Okay now I'm gonna get ready for work... ...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

My Vote for The Dumbest Question Ever Asked

It's gotta be "Will it rain tonight?"

Unless I'm God or if I have supernatural powers to dictate the various degrees of what insurers term as 'Acts of God', I would have no idea how to tell if perfectly good weather might turn into an evening of pelting rain.

Look, even TV weathermen can't tell if it would rain on any particular night. Alright, perhaps they would have access to satellite imagery and state-of-the-art weather radars and other weather forecasting paraphenalia, but still, we all know that such predictions (and not 'certainties') only closes in on the Law of Probabilities.

If someone on the street asked me - another person on the street - if it'll rain tonight, I'll just say 'yes'. Then I'll just leave it to the person's discretion to put me to task if it doesn't rain, or thank me for his/her purchase of an umbrella or something.

I just find the question dumb. It's not as if someone's asking: 'Am I fat?', or 'Am I beautiful?' Those are subjective questions that require objectivity and tact. Otherwise, just answer 'Yes, it will rain tonight' to those questions regarding outward image. Coz without tact and objectivity, a storm will surely brew.