Watching the Wearables

Did you know that over 1.2 billion watches are sold annually? And high as that 2012 number might seem, it’s still less than the 1.8 billion phones that was sold last year.

Watches and phones are the most personal items that we carry about every day, yet have always operated independently of each other.

That’s changing rapidly as “wearables” begin their inevitable ascent, and I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities that went through my head as I started using a Moto 360 smartwatch this week.

The Moto 360 was not launched in Singapore but I managed to buy it from Amazon at the MSRP of $250 USD ($330 SGD) with free overseas shipping. The affordable price (well, at least compared to other watches) sealed the deal even though I was well aware of the Moto’s flaws and limitations. In Singapore, there are online retailers selling the Moto 360 for over $450 and you should avoid them since Amazon offers free shipping (which takes about 2 weeks).

This not a review of the Moto 360 (there are so many online), but it opened my eyes to the changes that are coming. This is a long post, so bear with me as I have much to say on this topic.

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Why and how to buy a UHD TV

This is not a great time to buy a new television for your home as the industry is in transition from the old full HD 1080p standard to Ultra HD (UHD) standard, otherwise also known as 4k TVs.

But if you’re like me, whose faithful Samsung HDTV died after six years of service and it needed to get replaced, you would still have to figure out what type of TV to buy. I learned a lot of things when I was TV shopping back in June and am finally putting down my learnings here for people getting all confused about 4k, UHD, Full HD and all that jazz.

TV-buying is not as easy as buying a PC or a smartphone, so here’s the crash course.

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Common questions on losing weight

After I shared the first few editions of my free book Anyone Can Lose Weight with friends, I received many questions that made me realize how difficult it is to change mindsets and habits about food. I also realized that the same blinders prevent people from even starting to diet. Here are some of their questions and my responses.

Are you saying we should stop eating tasty food and just consume bland, healthy food in order to manage our weight?

No, that’s what I find difficult to explain to people actually – that I’m not depriving myself of good food, and neither should you.

In Singapore, we’re surrounded by great hawker stalls and restaurants. You will go crazy over time if you refuse to have any tasty local fare, and your friends will undoubtedly mock you for being such a “food prude”.

People look at my current body shape and assume I eat like a monk – then I show them that I’m actually eating conventional and tasty Chinese meals. They then claim that I’m exercising all the time to burn it off, but I usually only go for a casual jog two or three times a week.

Other people boast to me that they’re eating Western salads for lunch, but then they have problems keeping their weight down because they guzzle a high-calorie milk coffee right after the greens.

The trick is really to know the caloric value of every dish you eat. It doesn’t have to be very accurate, but it’s always good to know that a bowl of white rice is 200kcal and a similarly-sized bowl of fat-infused rice from the chicken rice stall is 400kcal. That’s when you will make the informed choice.

Another trick is to share the good food with family or friends. If our family wants to have a classic Coke instead of drinking plain water, we buy just one can and pass it around. A few sips of Coke brings you the same taste satisfaction as an entire can.

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The wrong way to read calories

If you want to people to eat healthily, you really should not freak them out to begin with. One of the reasons why people are scared of calorie counting (to lose or maintain their weight) is the way calories have been demonized and positioned as too difficult to burn off through exercise.

When I travel in the United States, I see many fast food joints like Burger King printing calorie values next to their burgers and drinks. This is due to legislation signed by Obama back in 2010.

Calorie counts at the counter display of Burger King in the US. Photo from cockeyed.com
Calorie counts at the counter display of Burger King in the US. Photo from cockeyed.com

The initial impression is that this is a great initiative on educating people about the calorie content of each burger or meal. But as other people have pointed out, it’s only useful to people who know how to use the information correctly, or people who want to know the information to begin with.

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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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