Monday, 29 December 2008

A Ripple From The Coin Drop

"My mother taught me to devalue her. Even that sentence — let it stand — blames her for everything, including the shame I feel for having been ashamed of her. I grew up watching which fork the others were using, what they were wearing, what they were talking about, what they seemed to be thinking. They, whoever they happened to be, had the power to find us wanting. 'I'm not going to take you anywhere anymore unless you learn how to behave,' my mother said.

"So I set out to 'learn how to behave,' to acquire what Marx called 'cultural capital', or what’s more simply called learning to 'pass'. This aspiration, celebrated in the phrase 'upward mobility' is rooted in shame and, in its undermining of authentic selfhood, creates the vulnerability required by all manner of predators from child molesters to military recruiters to advertisers and financial institutions. After all, aspiration is not an identity but the rejection of one’s identity."

Audio Candy:
Disturbed - Into The Fire

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The Grand Plan

Economics, psychology, the Theory of Evolution, quantum physics, the infinite, probability, the Holy Bible, God. It is well and good to be able to see the nexus between each seemingly vastly different element from science to mathematics to art to religion. It's like Jesus is out there if you know who He is to you. Faith is but a personal adoption and commitment to one of these disciplines knowing that there is something beyond oneself, because pushing the limits of knowledge here is a foray into the unknown as much as it is determining the science of subatomic particles, seeking the answers in a Church, determining causality between variables, pondering the quantity of infinitude - all fuelled by the desire of knowing, if not the Creator, then the design with which He has formulated for us and the universe to tick.

Audio Candy:
The Superjesus - Down Again

Monday, 22 December 2008

Carpe Diem

All I ever wanted, all I ever needed
Is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm
Enjoy the silence

I've been thinking about probabilities lately. However unrealistic they may seem, probabilities reflect some kind of powerful order that underlies the more apparent surface. Let's say for example we have a dice that somehow produces the result '2' 90% of the time. It seems logical to think that we would more or less always get 2 if there was a way to 'reset' things, like throwing the dice only once a day. Each time we throw the dice in a particular day, most of us would assume that the result would most likely be 2. And if we always think this way, then it would be reasonable to think that we'd always end up with the result 2 all the time, since this 90% thing is independent of the previous attempt.

But as probabilities go, in the long run, if the probability is true, the result will always reflect the probability as it were law. Given enough tries, the number of 2s returned from throwing the biased dice will reflect a 90% return rate. It is quite fascinating when we think of it likewise in everyday scenarios.

I recall a huge drain we'd jump across back then in navy camp because it was a useful shortcut. If the probability of falling into the drain is 3%, then given enough people attempting to jump across the drain, no matter how careful they are, 3 out of every 100 people will fall into the drain.

I think it really reflects another one of those bigger design-at-work things, for which we will always be mere pawns within.

I was just also thinking the other day. The purpose of art may not entirely be to exact change, but it is driven by an inherent desire to change, and create.

Anything worth taking seriously is worth making fun of.

Audio Candy:
The Shins - Pink Bullets

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Lazy Ramble

If this week is anything to go by, it would've been one of the most physically gruelling and demanding weeks I've ever had and yet strangely I don't feel a thing. Today being Sunday marks a week since the 42km run and between now and then I've played soccer 3 times and attended 2 days of Capoeira Batizado.

Most people don't fully recover from a marathon until at least slightly over a week after it; I must say I've surprised myself when I was back on the pitch on Wednesday. Perhaps it's a physical peak at the moment, so clearing my IPPT soon should be a prudent choice, not particularly because it is rather constrained by the fact that my window will end mid next month.

I've practically slimed all of today away, the climax of which would be a short badminton session with my brother who is even slimier and much a wuss which is only mildly pardonable because he's still in primary 5. After merely 10 minutes of game, he started complaining that his arm felt wobbly and that he was tired and didn't feel like playing anymore. I'll give him awhile more before I'll have to whip him into shape because this really just can't do. :\

Anyway I tried talking to him about politics and economics awhile ago, hoping to pique some interest and get his lazy mind to start rolling its wheels. I've always seen a side of economics that exists beyond its textbook idealism and unrealistic, pompous way of insisting how the world should work - very much the side that is killed by school, syllabi and excessive math - and have always been fascinated with the simple truths that undergird it. The idea that influence is determined by incentives and everything that is vital for survival is more or less a limited resource, giving rise to the supply and demand curve and just about everything else that follows.

And the fascination with this links up with my bigger interest in the way people work and how and why they behave the way they do, especially within the context of a group or social framework which often overrides individual personality traits, which is one of the reasons why I study psychology and have grown to love social psychology as a more specific subject very much. My interest in organisational behaviour then also stems from the same concept - that given adequate tools, we can tinker with the system and work with people like chess pieces and how each piece is placed produces a unique outcome.

It's almost as if being influenced by the environment and social contexts is the deterministic aspect of life with individuality and personality representing the free-will side of things, and as if God was applying his own concept of economics to the blueprint of life and the way things work. Social contexts and personality then represent 2 limited resources to be tinkered with, resulting in human behaviour.

I'm not sure if my brother quite saw it that way. :]

I'm watching Superman Returns on Channel 5 now. I've always thought the biblical sentiment behind the Superman concept is rather well symbolised. Superman Returns avoids any subtlety in recreating those connections. Jor-El, the father of Superman, tells his son, "Even though you've been raised as a human being you're not one of them. They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all—their capacity for good—I have sent them you, my only son." The plot also includes a resurrection scene.

Holidays always present opportunity for experimenting and trying new things out. At least for me they should represent a chance to do something new. So Angie and I dabbled in paints and I tried a bit of acrylic painting.

Quantum physics - The dreams stuff is made of.

Audio Candy:
Gym Class Heroes - Shoot Down The Stars


"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Audio Candy:
Broken Social Scene - Stars And Sons

Saturday, 13 December 2008


I got a little bored and Wikipedia-ed Kickapoo after I had a dose of Joy Juice and found that the Kickapoos are actually a tribe scattered around certain states of America. The name for the carbonated soft drink, created by Monarch Beverage Company and distributed in South-East Asia, was originally coined as a name in the Li'l Abner comic strip, an American satire that ran in many newspapers in the United States and Canada from 1934 to 1977.

The name Kickapoo Joy Juice comes from a pair of the comic's supporting characters Hairless Joe and Lonesome Polecat: The proud purveyors of "Kickapoo Joy Juice" - a moonshine elixir of such stupefying potency that the fumes alone have been known to melt the rivets off battleships. Concocted in a large wooden vat by the inseparable cave-dwelling buddies Lonesome Polecat (he of the Fried Dog Indian tribe) and Hairless Joe (a modern, hirsute Cro-Magnon), the ingredients are both mysterious and all-encompassing, much like the contents of their cave, which has been known to harbor prehistoric monsters. When the brew needs more "body", the pair simply goes out and clubs something (often a moose) and tosses it in.

Hahar nandayo man, majide!

Audio Candy:
A Perfect Circle - The Outsider

Friday, 12 December 2008

Measure Of A Man

Not - How did he die? But - How did he live?
Not - What did he gain? But - What did he give?
These are the things that measure the worth
Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.
Not - What was his station? But - had he a heart?
And - How did he play his God-given part?
Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
Not - What was his church? Not - What was his creed?
But - Had he befriended those really in need?
Not - What did the sketch in the newspaper say?
But - How many were sorry when he passed away?
These are the things that measure the worth
Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.

The Measure of a Man
By Richard Jones

A friend of mine once read an immensely popular book that claims to disclose secrets about men that every woman should know. As I listened to my friend divulge the book's "secrets," I couldn't help feeling that there isn't anything secret about its "secrets" and that it's little more than commonplace drivel about appeasing emotionally disturbed, controlling, and abusive males who just aren't recognized as such.

I later perused the book and reached the same conclusion as a reviewer who stated succinctly, "If that does describe your relationships, much better advice to you is: Stop hanging out with losers!" Excellent advice, I thought, because a real man isn't a little boy trapped in a grown man's body looking for a mother figure. Neither is his highest aspiration to be a "benevolent dictator" or King Kong of his so-called castle. He doesn't need his ego stroked by subservient women or his alleged manhood validated by engaging in violence.

Indeed, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Alas, ours is a society in which a man is usually measured by his looks, job, status symbols, gift-giving, sex appeal, or tough-guy exterior. As noted in that venerated anthology called the Bible, people are all too inclined to look on the outward appearance when trying to decide what manner of man someone is. Consequently, it is nearly always the case that little more is expected of a man than that he has good looks, a good wardrobe, a good job, some or all of the most fashionable material goods, and that he is a good provider, a good sex partner, a good fighter, or just able to show a woman a good time. It is long after a man has been judged on the basis of such 'cryteria' that serious consideration -- usually, too little too late -- is given to whether his inner person is as good as his public image.

Few people are wise and patient enough to measure a man by where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Most people are content to see that a man seems to have it together when he's self-indulged and self-satisfied. Even women seeking male partners often do little or nothing to learn how a man might hold up under the weltering heat of adversity. Despite the problems and perils of having a fair-weather friend or fair-weather lover, most of a man's so-called friends and lovers will have forged relationships with him without tarrying to observe his character while he's enduring trials and tribulations.

Regardless, the most important things about a man are revealed by how he conducts himself when he's displeased, distraught, or distressed. It's easy for a man to get along with others and feign strength of character when he thinks the going is good. It's easy for him to have a great attitude when he thinks life, kith, and kin are treating him well. It's easy for him to be Mr. Right when he doesn't perceive that there's something wrong (with him!). And it's easy to think that favorable circumstances are the best light under which to see a man for who he is. Nevertheless, a man who's always at his worst during the worst of times doth not a good man make. A good man gives the best of himself even during the most trying times of his life; even when he's suffering and struggling with the issues of life. A good man brings forth good things from the good treasure of his heart, regardless of the situation.

Unfortunately, most people believe that hard times are excuses for exhibiting character flaws and weaknesses rather than opportunities to (show that one has) overcome them. Besides, this logic continues, no one is perfect, so it's to be expected that a man will not be himself under the stress and strain of difficult and demanding situations. Thus, a man's "acting out of character" is constantly overlooked and forgiven in spite of the other lives he wounds and wrecks. He's a good man, they say, even though he can be counted on to make poor decisions when he's under pressure or just downright peeved.

Abusive men and their victims tend to think that way. In the most severe cases, both the abuser and his victim completely disassociate the man who commits domestic violence from the same man who at times doesn't. In pleading his case, the abuser might say something like, "That wasn't me," and, for a while at least, his victim might agree. The problem in such cases isn't just cognitive dissonance, but a misunderstanding of the positive roles conflict and crisis can play in the maturation and manifestation of a man's character.

Not only do we need to understand that hardships and personal issues are not excuses for putting others or ourselves through hell, but we also need to understand that it's more desirable and constructive for us to learn ways of transforming the same into growing pains and experiences through which we empower ourselves to exhibit integrity, wisdom, inner strength, and noble intentions.

For most men in our society, this is a revolutionary approach to conflict resolution and character recognition, especially since it demands of each of us a thorough and ongoing reassessment of our sense of self. Our society teaches us that a "real" man doesn't take anything and that he gets his way by almost any means necessary. It also leads us to believe that the more imposing, intimidating, impervious, and independent we are, the more people, especially women and children, will think of us as "the man." However, a man who can only resort to aggression isn't any more resourceful and redoubtable than an insecure ignoramus who attempts to use vituperation to cloak his vacuity and limited vocabulary. That a man must coerce others into letting him have his way doesn't mean he's strong. It means that he's too weak and insecure to meet them on the level playing field of equality and mutual respect.

Dr. King's words of wisdom behoove us to remake and renew ourselves as men who are magnanimous even when our lives and relationships are not magnificent -- as men who are charitable, courteous, and chivalrous, not just when it is convenient, but even when it takes all the positive energy we can conjure. They call on us to open our eyes to the realization that true men of stature are strong enough in mind and spirit, and secure enough in themselves, to be compassionate and considerate of others even in the midst of confusion, crises, and the crucible of unrequited love; to admit and amend their own faults as well as forgive others; to repay evil with good; to be insulted but insult not; to be angry and yet sin not; to dialog rather than dictate; to be deep enough to delight in diversity and enlightened enough to live and let live.

Adopting such an approach to dealing with adversity, a man distinguishes himself from the great mass and majority of misguided males who believe that kindness is a weakness. He joins the company of courageous men from around the world who are no longer fearful of being friendly and fair through thick and thin. He becomes one with the true men of distinction who recognize and respect the dignity of others, especially women and children. He becomes a man worthy of honor because he consistently honors the worth of others. He becomes outstanding because he never leaves a woman, man, boy, or girl standing out in the cold of injustice and insensitivity. He becomes one of a few good men who have learned to seek the good of others as well as themselves. He becomes a light in dark places because he's now part of the solution rather than the problem. He becomes a real man because, finally, he is more than just a man.

(This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission from Richard Jones.)

In my own personal and succinct idea, the measure of a man's class is in his control and consistency.

One of the embarassments of being a gentleman is that you are not permitted to be violent in asserting your rights.
- Nicholas Murray Butler

Audio Candy:
Weezer - Hash Pipe

Monday, 8 December 2008

Still In The Heat Of Things

The disputed but popular story behind the 42km marathon (from Wikipedia):

The name marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming "Νενικήκαμεν" (Nenikékamen, 'We have won.') before collapsing and dying. The account of the run from Marathon to Athens first appears in Plutarch's On the Glory of Athens in the 1st century AD who quotes from Heraclides Ponticus's lost work, giving the runner's name as either Thersipus of Erchius or Eucles. Lucian of Samosata (2nd century AD) also gives the story but names the runner Philippides (not Pheidippides).

Before the race

During the last two or three weeks before the marathon, runners will typically reduce their weekly training, gradually, by as much as 50%-75% of previous peak volume, and take at least a couple of days of complete rest to allow their bodies to recover from any strong effort. The last long training run might be undertaken no later than two weeks prior to the event. This is a phase of training known as tapering. Many marathon runners also "carbo-load" (increase carbohydrate intake while holding total caloric intake constant) during the week before the marathon to allow their bodies to store more glycogen.

Immediately before the race, many runners will refrain from eating solid food to avoid digestive problems. They will also ensure that they are fully hydrated beforehand. Light stretching before the race is believed by many to help keep muscles limber. Some runners will wear an ice vest before the race to reduce their core temperature so as to avoid overheating later in the race.


An ultramarathon (also called ultra distance) is any sporting event involving running longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.2188 mi).

There are two general types of ultramarathon events: those that cover a specified distance, and events that take place during specified time (with the winner covering the most distance in that time). The most common distances are 50 and 100 miles, or 50 and 100 kilometers. Other distances/times include double marathons, 24-hour races, and multiday races of 1000 miles or even longer. The format of these events and the courses covered are quite variable, ranging from single or multiple loops (some as short as a 400 meter track), to point-to-point road or trail races, to cross-country rogaines. Many ultramarathons, especially trail challenges, are characterized by severe course obstacles, such as inclement weather, elevation change, or rugged terrain. Many of these races are run on dirt roads or mountain paths, though some are run on paved roads as well. Usually, there are aid stations every five to fifteen km apart, where runners can replenish food and drink supplies or take a short break.

Timed events range from 6, 12, and 24 hours to 3 and 6 days (known as multi-day events). Timed events are generally run on a track or a short road course, often one mile or less.

I think my 42km prep was at best non-existent and at worst horrendous, with my first, last and only long distance prep run done like only a few days before Sunday itself.

And ultramarathons! PWNAGE.

You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming.
- Frank Shorter

Audio Candy:
Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Snow

Sunday, 7 December 2008

42.195km Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon

I had my first marathon today, fuelled by 3.5 hours of sleep, no experience and minimal prep, and clocked 4 hours 57 minutes. It was a truly humbling experience - just me and the kilometres passing by in an agonized daze.

[09/12/08 0226h edit] I just received an official email telling me that the time I actually clocked was 4 hours 50 minutes and 9 seconds. That's not too bad considering that my sub-5 timing doesn't seem like such a miserable shave anymore. Cameras only caught one photo of me, and it seems like I'm not wearing my headphones in that one so it must've been shot at somewhere after 35km.

I actually started out pretty strong and I felt like yesterday's last minute high-energy diet preparation worked wonders for the first part of the run.

I remember entering East Coast Park from the Mountbatten Road side, which was somewhere around 12km to 15km, and seeing the Kenyan and Ethiopian race leaders running back out of East Coast Park. It was just fucking incredible, and I would later realise the full weight of that feat when I finally got to where they were at around 28km. The East Coast Park stretch seemed to last forever, and at the entrance was where I saw their exit. Last year's fastest runners came in at 2 hours and 15 minutes. It is truly a tribute to the limits of human capability.

When I reached the end of East Coast Park, which was way past OBS and the midway point at between 20-21km, and made the turnaround to head back towards where I entered East Coast Park itself, that was when the whole physical limit ordeal started to kick in. It was like I learnt about the merciful relief of deep heat rub only today. I've never really suffered from cramps before and while I didn't cramp up throughout the whole run, it was always threatening to happen. At parts my legs just felt like they were disappearing. Every bodily fibre gets messed up - muscles, joints, bones - and when your leg muscles start to lose power it just draws energy from elsewhere - your neck, your arms, your back - such that everything just feels like hell.

When the en route drink stations started serving 100 Plus, the first drink I had was quite a surprise because I thought I'd grabbed yet another cup of plain water and the sensation and sweetness was just overwhelming. 100 Plus became an addiction and for most parts of the run I was craving for every upcoming drink station, and they never came soon enough.

The final half of the marathon was laced with an intermittent pattern of starting and stopping and crazy hunger pangs. I lost sense of myself and the road at times, and I was overtaking people and those same people were overtaking me in a dull, monotonous cycle. Run labourously until the whoosh of another looming cramp disables you, stop and stretch, walk, painfully start running again. Insane.

I hit the 37km mark and thought to myself, "wow it's like now I'm starting to run a 5km cross-country." Then came the 40km mark and I was like, "people complain they have to do 2.4km runs." Everything seems unbelievably small and insignificant when sized up against a full marathon.

There were many elderly people of both genders running too and I couldn't match up to them at times, having some of them overtake me, and it was funny that I felt like it wasn't a shameful thing. There were very strong young female runners too. I just wanted to bow down to them. Everything was just an incredible testament to human spirit.

Being in such running mental zones always totally transform my perspective and paradigms too, which has always fascinated me. Songs suddenly meant radically different things.

At the 9km mark I remember running behind a girl who was wearing a shirt that had the number 8 on it and some words. So I recalled thinking, "hahah 8km runner, what a pointless shirt - we're already onto 9km in a full marathon." Then as I got closer, I realised the words on her shirt read: 8 hour endurance run. Hahar oops, pwned.

I saw all kinds of nifty pouch-like gadgets carried by people on their waists that looked like SBOs.

This is an unceremoniously disjointed end to a largely regurgitative post about my virgin marathon. Time for the repair works to kick in on the semi-disabled limbs and skin chafing.

Audio Candy:
Teddy Geiger - For You I Will

Monday, 1 December 2008

Paint Your Face And Proclaim Thy Warrior Song

Ah, fuck t3h people. Heheheheh!

It's hard to imagine that the male lead in City of Ember is supposed to be 12 years old. It's interesting to note how he has been modeled to portray a black, emo-grungy look with generally dark features and clothing and skinny jeans, showing that the box office is definitely keeping up with the times.

The movie reminds me of the Allegory of the Cave, or more fondly known as Plato's Cave, where, in a nutshell, reality is what people perceive it to be even when it is not necessarily 'real' in the objective sense of the word, and that even if subjected to the visibility of the 'real' state of things, one may not accept them as more real than what he has always known. And even if one attains enlightenment by somehow stepping out of the cave and then returns to it, those who believe in the reality of the cave may not welcome him and his enlightened state back. But this is a very thin summary of an extremely fascinating concept.

The movie seems to allegorize other things too, one of which is the concept of faith or truth - an enlightened minority's profound belief in a 'truth' out there - and the incarceration of those who know of it by the ignorantly conforming majority, and it could be in terms of theology or politics. It also touches on propaganda and scarce resources, which is interesting considering its rather young-audience slant.

I went for a long-needed aimless run again today, though I stuck to a more familiar route by travelling along Hougang to Eunos before cutting into the Aljunied side and travelling down towards Bugis and town area. Form was off, and I was getting pretty bad blisters, so I stopped running there and walked home along the NEL route. I need a pair of proper running shoes lest my Standard Chartered 42km run this Sunday will be a disaster.

Running and drowning in music almost feels dreamy to me, where a thousand things swirl through my mind in a rather uninhibited and haphazard fashion and I don't recall most of those things when I'm finally sober again.

I do remember toying with the thought of the knowledge of time as a limited resource though. Like what if, from a very early time, a cunning capitalist somehow gained control of the knowledge of time? There'd be no public clocks and no watches, and only through this capitalist's firm or corporation can you acquire the service of 'knowing what time it is' and having to pay for it. The alternative to this would definitely be learning how to use other manual tools to estimate the time yourself, but that's beside the point. It's quite a fascinating paradigm of thought, I think, and it made me wonder if there are any 'limited' resources right now that could have been exploited in such a manner that we are completely unaware of its inherently original 'public good' state.

Anyway I saw an Adidas outdoor bus stop advertisement that went:

"Crossing the finishing line.
You can never buy that feeling."

But Adidas can definitely sell it to you.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

Audio Candy:
Boy Hits Car - Lovefurypassionenergy