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The Death Of The Pull-Up In Singapore

When I was 13, I couldn’t do a pull-up and I was in despair.

I had joined the National Cadet Corps as my extra-curricular activity and being able to do pull-ups like a real adult in the army was a big deal. You were often admired if you were a “pull-up king”.

My good friends Derek, Eu Jin and Jerry appeared to have no problems doing pull-ups and I kept struggling to get my chin over the bar just once. I remember I even had a dream where I managed to do ten repetitions and I was so happy, then I woke up.

Over time, with many push-ups and help from my friends who had to keep pushing me above the bar, I earned the ability to do my first pull-up and I was over the moon… err, iron bar.

Doing pull-ups became a regular affair as I later joined the ACJC dragonboat team and through the army days. Even today, nearly 20 years after I was enlisted, I still do pull-ups as part of my regular exercise regime.

This week, the Singapore Armed Forces announced that it was revamping the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) to have just three stations – 2.4km run, sit-ups and push-ups – instead of the current five. The SAF eradicated the standing broad jump, shuttle run and pull-up stations.

The Defence Minister said the change was to make the test “easier to pass” and “to train for”. The Chief of Army disagreed with the bit on “easier to pass”, focusing on saying that the test was “easier to train for”

Although Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had said the new three-station IPPT test format — a 2.4km run, sit-ups and push-ups — will mean more servicemen will pass, Major-General Lim stressed that the intention behind the changes was not to make the test easier to pass, but easier to train for. ~ “Change was to make IPPT easier to train for”

What we can all agree on is that the Gahmen continues to flunk at basic public relations when it cannot be consistent with the right message. “Easier to pass” vs “Easier to train for” are two very different things.

A lot of people have opinions on the IPPT changes. My personal take is that it’s a real cop-out and a poor case of problem solving by the SAF to solve the high failure rate in the IPPT test.

It has also effectively killed off the pull-up, an exercise which has caused much pain, and perhaps joy, with us SG guys.

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A Practical Guide For Motorcycle Owners In Singapore

Now that you’ve decided you want to ride a motorcycle, passed that really difficult Traffic Police riding practical test and have purchased your dream machine, here are some ownership tips that I’ve learned from others, or from trial and error over time.

Many people think that owning a motorcycle is easy and low-maintenance, but to be honest, it’s not.

A motorcycle requires a minimum amount of TLC and your personal time because it needs to be road-worthy and safe to ride. It is also easily stolen or vandalized. Many great motorbikes are works of art and deserve to be properly cared for. Some of the tips here may sound shallow but they’ll resonate with more experienced bikers who will get it.

Updated 28 July: Added “Lane-Splitting”, “Modding” and “Upgrading”

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The Age Of Decluttering

An odd thing happened over the past year as I cleaned up my diet and changed my taste palate – I started to declutter the rest of my life too.

To most people, decluttering is a matter of throwing out old junk from the house. I did just that over the past few months as I finally got around to renovating my HDB flat for the first time since 2003, and fixing many of the things I implemented but didn’t know better back then.

For example, I custom-built a TV cabinet that was designed to hold an extremely heavy CRT TV and store as many DVDs and CDs as possible.

Who would know that over the next decade, TVs would become a fraction of the weight with LCD technology and that physical media would become obsolete?

Books, for me, have become a thing of the past as I moved to ebooks, freeing up an incredible amount of storage space. People say they miss the feel of paper under their fingertips. I say I don’t miss that yellowing piece of tree bark at all.

Another thing I learned over the past decade was that the more storage space I had, the more I would fill it with junk. So in 2014, I no longer have big cabinets or coffee tables in the living room. I have enough storage space to store the essential things, but every few weeks I’m going into my tiny storeroom to see what else I can throw out.

So one key trick in decluttering is preventing future clutter.

The next thing that I started to declutter was my social media life.

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A Ducati Monster 1200S review by a Monster 1100 Evo fan

Monster 1200 at Sports Hub
The Monster 1200S outside the new Sports Hub

I did something I haven’t done so for a long time today as I was riding my motorcycle home from work – Instead of taking the CTE highway, I took the “scenic” route with the most number of traffic lights in heavy peak hour traffic.

To my surprise, I didn’t feel irritated or tired when I arrived at my house. It was actually a rather relaxing ride where I was going at a slow speed of 50kmh most of the time and was at peace with other car drivers on the road as I kept running into red stop lights.

That is the Ducati Monster 1200S experience in the congested city – it can be really easy-going even when other temperatures are flaring up around you.

This was not really possible on my older Monster 1100 Evo, where the engine would jerk and shudder violently below 70kmh and always insist on either going fast or engage the half-clutch constantly to rein in the unruly beast within.

That’s not to say that the 1200S is a meek bike.

Oh far from it.

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Higher aspirations, higher cost of living?

The 11 May 2014 article from Today newspaper
The 11 May 2014 article from Today newspaper

In recent years, I’ve been hearing this line “Control what you can control” more and more often. I think it’s a very useful line for time management and job prioritization but it is increasingly used when people are handed a lousy situation not of their own doing, and asked to “just deal with it”.

That thought came to mind when I read this news story in Today where our Defence Minister insists our cost of living here has become more expensive because of our personal aspirations in life:

SINGAPORE — Having higher aspirations in life is a reason why Singaporeans find the cost of living here expensive, despite real wages having gone up, said Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen yesterday (May 10).

But Singapore has to ensure that opportunities to get out of poverty must not be priced out and remain abundant to fulfil the dreams of younger Singaporeans, said Dr Ng.

The Defence Minister was speaking at a Singapore Medical Association dinner and responding to a question from the audience concerned over the rising cost of living in Singapore.“If you look at household goods, per household, what people have – handphone, TV – has actually gone up,” said Dr Ng. Unlike the past, mobile phones are almost an essential item for children, he added.

That Singaporeans find costs of living expensive due to higher aspirations is a reason that will not please people, including himself, said Dr Ng, as the reason is “objective” and does not address “issues of the heart.”

Dr Ng added that while the Government makes sure that nobody should have their potential stunted just because their family cannot afford it, this is “difficult argument” to sell as some parents pay large sums of money to provide tuition for their children.

Before writing this post, I’ve actually spent the past three days mulling frequently on the story and on my personal situation.

I’ve asked myself – so is this true? Have my aspirations led to the increasing costs that we’re all experiencing around us? I’ve always respected Minister Ng (hey, he’s an old ACS boy, so he can’t be that clueless right?) so I kept asking myself if it was me and not him. Continue reading

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The art of weight maintenance

The Pandan Cheese Roll from Bengawan Solo is a constant temptation that I resist.
The Pandan Cheese Roll from Bengawan Solo is a constant temptation that I resist.

Losing weight is a science, but maintaining your weight is an art.

I coined this phrase on Facebook a few months ago as I realized that it was actually more challenging to keep one’s weight constant than to lose weight.

You see, as I’ve found out and written in my book Anyone Can Lose Weight, as long as you stick to some simple calorie counting, you will lose a predictable amount of weight.

The science is rock-solid reliable as long as you don’t give up - every 7700 kcal that you remove from your food intake over time, will result in approximately 1kg of weight loss. (Read my book to better understand this simple science that nobody teaches in schools)

But when you’ve finally reached your desired weight, it gets very tiring to keep counting calories, and your body is telling you that it deserves better than the minimal calories it has been enduring for weeks or months.

The risk of lapsing back into one’s old eating habits is extremely high.

There is also no fixed diet anymore to follow, as I have to eat just my daily requirement of calories to maintain weight. So what dishes should I eat today?

At the same time, your weight can never remain absolutely constant like a non-living object – your body’s fluid and mass is constantly in flux daily as it goes through hormonal changes, water retention, illness, responses to weather conditions and so on. That’s why some diet plans advise you not to weigh yourself daily, but perhaps once a week.

That’s why I believe maintaining weight is an art – it requires a lot of flexibility and there is no hard and fast rule to follow. There are some general guidelines to remember though. Here are some of my personal findings and opinions after maintaining my weight for the past six months. I’m still figuring this out every day, but here goes: Continue reading

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Please stop wasting our public money

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For a couple of years now, I’ve been increasingly annoyed by the poor use of taxpayer dollars by the Singapore government for frivolous or impractical things, while cost of living continues to shoot up and everyone is unhappier than ever with the state of things.

Today I read a news story which really took the (50th birthday) cake. Continue reading

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Should I Ride A Motorcycle In Singapore?

In recent months, I’ve seen more people considering taking up motorcycle riding lessons in response to the dismal Certificate of Entitlement (COE) situation for cars.

It’s a natural outcome, given that riding is always going to be a cheaper transport solution than cars, even though the motorcycle COE premium is now hitting new highs of over $4,000 (nearly three times of what it was last year).

But I’ve also heard many people express doubt and uncertainty, because motorcycling is seen as an undesirable and dangerous form of transport. I’m writing this to help shed light on some important things before you make the decision to go on two wheels.

You might think that my immediate answer to the question “Should I ride a motorcycle in Singapore?” would be “Yes”. Actually, serious bikers focus so much on safety, that you should be asking “Am I able to commit to being safe on the roads if I want to ride a motorcycle?”.  Many inexperienced bikers think that the Traffic Police is too preachy when it comes to road safety – well, you wouldn’t think that way if you know more about road riding.  Continue reading