Monday 29 August 2016

I got pwned by the Army Half Marathon (again)

When I first ran the Army Half Marathon in 2013, I got pwned.

I made a couple of mistakes like drinking too much water during the run and stopping too long at a choke point, thus ended up with a nett time of 3 hours and 36 seconds.

Last year, I improved to 2h 42m 16s at the 2XU Compression Run.

After that, I was done with half marathons because they were simply too hard. I just stuck to mostly 10k races.

But the registration fee for this year's Army Half Marathon was too cheap to pass up. It was only $13 for early birds.

I was optimistic enough to aim for a time of two and a half hours.

After all, I have changed so much as a runner since 2013. I'm more conscious of my form. I know more about shoes. I got more gear.

Remembering how I felt weighed down by my sweat-soaked clothes during my first AHM, I bought the super-light Adidas Adizero running singlet and super-short Nike running shorts.

I found the perfect running shoes in the Under Armour SpeedForm Gemini. So light, so cushioned and so comfortable that I wore them without socks.

I also wore my Compressport calf sleeves, mostly to protect my ankle from being scrapped by the heels of my own shoes.

Flag-off was at 5am yesterday.

Once again, I worked the night before and took a taxi straight from the office to the race.

But despite not getting any sleep at all, I felt great. Two and half hours seemed doable.

I tried to start the race slowly to avoid tiring myself out too early. (It didn't work.)

I even caught a few Pokemon (plus a guy with Dragon Ball hair) along the way. I was enjoying myself.

When the 2h 20m pacers ran past me with their balloons, I thought never mind. I would start worrying only when the 2h 30m pacers overtake me.

And that happened after 15km on Nicoll Highway, but I still believed I could catch up to them and make my target time.

Then came the U-turn on Republic Avenue.

I still remember this stretch of road from my last AHM. This was the part of the course that broke me three years ago.

And yesterday, it broke me again.

I had lost sight of the balloons of the 2h 30m pacers ahead of me and any hope of catching up to them.

My right leg started cramping up. I was now limping,

And then the unimaginable happened - the 2h 40m pacers overtook me.

This meant I wouldn't even be able to beat my previous time of 2h 42m!

Just as in my previous half marathons, I was jogging so slowly that the walkers were overtaking me.

It was over. I was done. I got pwned by the AHM again.

But I told myself, no matter how slow and tired I was, I would not walk the remaining few kilometres.

And so I struggled to the finish line.

My official nett time was 2h 52m 56s.

I have never felt more disillusioned after a race.

I started to question my self-identification as a runner. All the money I spent on shoes and running gear. All the reading up on running. All the actual running.

Finishing the Urbanathlon, aquathlons and all those trail runs meant nothing when I can't even run 21km in two and a half hours.

My one excuse is that a small muscle ache in my right buttock due to a new exercise I did last week acted up late in the race, which resulted in the cramp.

I also find it curious that my running apps recorded a variety of distances longer than 21km, all the way up to 23.8km.

Does this mean I wasn't as bad as the official timing may suggest?

The only way to find out is to run another half marathon.

Guess I have a new goal in life.

EARLIER: Half marathon, full experience – but I walked a quarter of the way

Sunday 28 August 2016

Still hazy after all these years: Where's our 11 months of 'nice air', Indonesia?

Hello, haze, my old frenemy. I’ve come to talk with you again.

Is it really you or just smoke from the Hungry Ghost Festival?

No, it’s you. You have a distinct odour.

Can I get you a drink?

How about that popular Taiwanese milk tea, Chun Cui He?

No, wait, it has been recalled.

The Straits Times reported that the product could be available in Singapore again after more than a year.You could come and visit us again then.

On second thought, don’t.

No offence.

As you may or may not have noticed, people aren’t very happy to see you.

Actually, it’s more like because of you, people can’t see very much of anything.

And you do stink up the place. Again, no offence. Maybe you can try a new deodorant or breath mints or something.

It’s not a good sign when we can smell you before we can see you.

And you look, uh, as hazy as usual.

How long has it been?

The last time the PSI was in the unhealthy range was October last year. It’s August now. So that makes it 10 months.

Hey, I thought the Indonesian vice-president said we get 11 months.

Mr Jusuf Kalla said last year, referring to the neighbouring countries’ complaints about you:
“For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us.”
So he owes us one month.

Now I regret going to the website at to thank Indonesia for “11 months of clean air”.

But since you’re here, that gives a chance to catch up.

How long have we known each other now? How many years?

Let me read you something:
“The haze over Singapore worsened last night after a comparatively sunny day. By 9pm, practically every part of Singapore was fog bound. Even in brightly-lit streets like Orchard Road and Nicoll Highway, motorists had to drive with full headlights on…

“The meteorological station at Paya Lebar airport reported that visibility was good in the afternoon but deteriorated to poor at about 10pm. Flight movements, however, were normal. A pilot who brought in an aircraft at 11pm reported: ‘There is haze at 3,000 ft, but visibility is still good.’”
That’s from a Straits Times article. Guess when it was published.

I’ll give you a clue.

My favourite song that year was Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard by Paul Simon, who once wrote a song called A Hazy Shade Of Winter.

Was it about you?

Even though the article could have been written today (well, maybe except for the Paya Lebar airport part), it actually came out on Oct 14, 1972.

More than four decades ago.

My god. How young were we back then?

We had never even heard of PSI.

Or Gangnam Style.

The only mask I wore was when I played Zorro.

We didn’t even celebrate Halloween back then. We were so backward.

But Singapore has come a long way since 1972.

We now have an airport at Changi. We have even won a gold medal at the Olympics.

If you had shown up two weeks earlier, you could have caught Joseph Schooling’s victory parade.

On second thought, it’s a good thing you didn’t.

We have already given him a deferment for his national service so that he can win more medals for us. We don’t want you making him sick.

But for all the advancements Singapore has made in those 44 years, we still can’t get rid of you for good — and by the looks of it, probably never will.

Again, no offence.

Hey, we used to think we would never win an Olympic gold medal too.

So we can still dream.

And if we ever do see the last of you, there would be a parade surpassing even the one for Schooling. We would even put Mr Kalla on the open-top bus.

So don’t say we never thank Indonesia.

But alas, I probably will see you again next year.

It just better not be in less than 11 months.

No offence.

- Published in The New Paper, 28 August 2016

Wednesday 24 August 2016

The most popular Singapore blogs by monthly visits (July 2016)

This is a follow-up to a blog post I wrote a year ago, re-ranking the top 25 blogs listed by Alvinology.

But that list was puzzling in terms of what Alvinology counted and didn't count as "blogs".

So this time I decided to expand it considerably to include what I think are noteworthy local blogs and websites, which admittedly may also be somewhat arbitrary. But hey, Alvinology started it first.

As before, the data is from Similar Web.

This list is by no means comprehensive or definitive. If there is any blog or website you think should be included but isn't here, let me know.

I decided the cut-off would be 30k visits. If a website had fewer than 30k visits last month, it won't be listed here. Sorry, Eunice Annabel (29.6K). That also leaves out my own blog, which had only 8.20K.

(Blogs with the blogspot subdomain name, like Xiaxue's, are listed twice because Similar Web counts the subdomains and separately.)

Here are the most popular Singapore blogs (or whatever):

Mothership 2.10M

Goody Feed 1.70M

All Singapore Stuff 1.70M

The Smart Local 1.60M

Hungry Go Where 1.4M

Daniel Food Diary 1.30M

Seth Lui 1.30M

Lady Iron Chef 1M

Money Digest 954.50K

Money Smart 933.50K

The Independent 725.20K

Parka Blogs 578.40K

Miss Tam Chiak 507.10K

Passport Chop 423.40K

The Online Citizen 377K

I Eat I Shoot I Post 330.80K

Noob Cook 307.20K

My Fat Pocket 296.2K

Beautiful Buns 245.90K

The Middle Ground 245.20K

Johor Kaki 233K

Sgag 229.20K

Bun Bun Makeup Tips 213K

The Ordinary Patrons 211.80K

The Motley Fool 192.50K

New Nation 174K

Viva Woman 173.90K

TR Emeritus 165.60K

Bumble Bee Mum 155.10K

Salary 146.60K

Dollars And Sense 139K

Aspirant 138.70K

Must Share News 137.80K

Xiaxue 135.10K

Just Run Lah 130.10K

Mitsueki 121.60K

Jeraldine Phneah 113.40K

The Domestic Goddess Wannabe 128.90K

Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow 123.90K

Cheekie Monkies 122.80K

Xiaxue 120.90K

Investment Moats 106.50K

Remember Singapore 99.70K

Alvinology 96.20K

Bong Qiu Qiu 96K

Run Society 86.60K

Spring Tomorrow 86.20K

Fiona Seah 84.50K

Super Adrian Me 83.40K

SG Food On Foot 77.10K

A Singaporean Stocks Investor 74.10K

Bong Qiu Qiu 71.30K

Camemberu 71K

The Halah Food Blog 70.60K

Pinky Piggu 69.50K

The Ranting Panda 68.50K

Tech Goondu 63.3K

Peony Kiss 59.20K

Celine Chiam 58.70K

The Baking Biatch 57.80K

Mr Brown 57.20K

Sparklette 57.10K

Yina Goh 57K

The New Savvy 56.80K

Working With Grace 54.20K

The Wacky Duo 53.70K

Missus Chewy 51.90K

Lester Chan 51.80K

Johor Kaki 50.30K

Thoughts Of Real Singaporeans 50.10K

Techie Lobang 47.30K

Transitioning 47K

Only William 46.90K

Makansutra 46.60K

Five Stars And A Moon 45.10K

The Fifth Person 44.70K

The Wedding Vows 44.60K

My Wok Life 44.50K

Mummy, I Can Cook 44.20K

Darren Bloggie 43.40K

Cuisine Paradise 41.40K

Limpeh Is Foreign Talent 41.30K

Chords Haven 41.3K

The Bonding Tool 41.20K

Tiffany Yong 40.80K

The Heart Truths 39.90K

SG Young Investment 39K

Little Miss Bento 38.70K

I Eat And Eat 36.40K

Roseanne Tang 36.30K

Delishar 36.20K

Budget Pantry 34.60K

Naomi Neo 33.20K

Bagaholicboy 33.20K

Singapore Daily 33.20K

Zit Seng 33K

Budget Babe 32.80K

Nicole Choo 32.70K

Dairy & Cream 31.50K

Sunday 21 August 2016

Celebrating Joseph Schooling: Victory parade accidents, leftover fried carrot cake & free McNuggets

And this is why we can’t have nice things.

When it was announced last week that a victory parade for Singapore’s first Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling would be held, some were quick to criticise the move as insensitive to Singaporeans who were still competing in Rio.

As someone commented online:
“Why don’t they wait for all the Singaporean Olympic athletes to return then do it together? They did not put in any less effort to compete for Singapore.

“Oops, I forgot we are a society that focuses on meritocracy. No medal or glory, no talk.”
But did many care? Not the thousands who thronged the parade route and pit stops such that crowd control became a problem.

A parent at the Marine Terrace market pit stop recounted:
“My kids and I were there and we left angrily. There were many kids standing at the front and the adults were the ones pushing everyone.

“Luckily, I held on to my kids. If not, you would see many kids and people being stepped over!”
And you thought the Pokemon Go crowds were crazy.

Even Schooling couldn’t manage more than a mouthful of his beloved fried carrot cake because of the mob.

So much left over! It would have been a waste to just throw the food away. Did anyone eat it and maybe have a taste of his DNA?

As for the parade itself, which had Schooling on an open-top double-decker bus, it caused two road accidents and Schooling confessed to being responsible for one of them.

The 21-year-old swimmer told
“So I was eating a pear in the bus downstairs. I was trying to make funny faces at this lady with her two kids through the glass and they’re freaking out. They’re like ‘oh my god!’

“So this lady tries to get her kids to wave at me and she has her steering wheel turned towards the bus. So when the bus starts moving, she gasses it and her car goes straight into our bus and rams — T-bones our bus.

“And I was like ‘oh my god!’ That just happened. I just caused an accident.”
(For those unfamiliar with the University of Texas student’s Americanisms, “gassing it” means stepping on the accelerator and “T-bone” in this case doesn’t mean the steak but a vehicle colliding with another at a right angle.)

Someone even questioned the wisdom of putting Schooling on top of an open-top bus in the first place:
“The weather is so hot lately. Are you guys trying to ‘barbecue’ him?”
Well, he does look pretty tasty.

And on top of all that, some were unhappy that the parade was on a Thursday:
“So kiasu… want public to support but conduct it on week day. Why no authority to ask companies to give half-day leave to line the street to support a historical event. Really shameful!”
And this is why we can’t have nice things like a victory parade.

When on Monday, Parliament “moved a motion” to congratulate Schooling, it also had the chance to move a motion to declare Thursday (or any other day) a public holiday to honour him even more.

But it passed the Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill instead.

Safe to say, more people would have preferred a Let’s Have A National Holiday Because We Just Won Our First Olympic Gold Medal Bill.

There wouldn’t be a seven-hour debate over that.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin probably spoiled the market by suggesting a National Schooling Day where “everyone will have to go to school” because he couldn’t resist the pun.

And this is why we can’t have nice things like an extra public holiday.

We can only envy Fiji, which did declare a public holiday after winning its first Olympic medal by beating Great Britain in the rugby sevens final to get the gold.

That is, if we can find Fiji on the map.

But even though we didn’t get a holiday, McDonald’s offered six free chicken McNuggets to the first 50 customers at all its outlets (excluding iFly, Resorts World Sentosa, Lido, Gardens by The Bay and institutional stores) on Monday from 11am.

Why free McNuggets, you ask, and not, say, a free Fillet-O-Fish? Since, you know, Schooling swims like a fish.

According to McDonald’s, it was “to celebrate our hero and golden boy Joseph Schooling, on winning his own golden nugget at Rio”.

So now you know why athletes bite their medals when they pose for photographs.

Ummm… because the medals resemble chicken nuggets?

They should start giving out curry sauce with those McMedals.

Trouble is, McDonald’s and other companies promoting themselves while congratulating Schooling are not allowed to do this.

The Singapore National Olympic Council told The New Paper:
“While we celebrate Joseph’s victory, we must also stand guided by the rules and guidelines protecting the assets and marks of the Games.

“Henceforth, we would like to advise commercial entities to comply with these rules and not infringe or exploit the assets for commercial purposes.”
And this is why we can’t have nice things like free McNuggets.

Perhaps everyone took Schooling a little too literally when he said to the crowd welcoming him home at Changi Airport last Monday: “This is not for me. It is for all of you.

Too bad the International Olympic Council isn’t as generous.

But on his part, Schooling has been true to his word, sharing the greatest moment of his life with all Singaporeans on the victory parade and elsewhere last week with a ready and winning smile.

And that’s a nice thing we do have.

— Published in The New Paper, 21 August 2016

EARLIER: Ode to 5039: I wasn't as fast as Joseph Schooling to buy 4D

Wednesday 17 August 2016

What's the deal with the hoarding outside the courts? It has been there like forever

So I saw this picture of Amos Yee outside the courthouse (again) today.

After getting over his Tarzan hair, I was irritated by something else.

I don't mean to scandalise the court, but how long has the hoarding been there?

It has been there like forever.

It was there when Yee was slapped last year.

30 April 2015

It was there when Roy Ngerng and gang went to court for "heckling" special needs kids at Hong Lim Park two years ago.

27 October 2014

It was there when the City Harvest trial started three years ago.

16 May 2013

What the hell are they constructing outside the courts and why is it taking so long?

I was annoyed enough by the constant sight of the ugly hoarding to find the answer.

And here it is:
The Straits Times, 28 May 2014
Building of new State Courts complex begins

Construction work on the new State Courts complex will commence in June, following the groundbreaking ceremony that was held on Wednesday.

The new complex, consisting of two interconnected towers, will rise behind the existing octagonal-shaped courts building at the corner of Upper Cross Street and Havelock Road.

It will expand the physical infrastructure of the State Courts without interrupting its day-to-day functioning, unlike an overhaul of the current building, said judicial commissioner See Kee Oon, who is the presiding judge of the State Courts.

He also noted that the State Courts was handling a growing caseload, which means the need for more court rooms.

The number of court rooms available for both civil and criminal cases will increase from 40 now to more than 60 when the new complex opens in 2019, while the number of hearing chambers will nearly double from 28 now to more than 50. In sum, the new complex will be three times larger than the current courts.

Of the open frame design of the new complex, which will have no external enclosed facade, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who officiated the ceremony, said: "This design intent aims to translate the vision of the State Courts, which is to inspire public trust and confidence through an effective and accessible justice system, into a physical representation.

"Standing as a modern contrast to the 'octagon', the new tower complex... is a powerful metaphor for the openness, transparency and impartiality of the judicial process."

How the current courthouse will be used from 2019 is currently under discussion, said a State Courts spokesman. It had been previously slated to house the civil, family and juvenile courts. The current courthouse, which has been in use for nearly 40 years, has already been marked for conservation.

So now we know the reason for the backdrop behind Serina Wee.

Sunday 14 August 2016

Ode to 5039: Why I wasn't as fast as Joseph Schooling to buy 4D

That’s what you need
To beat the rest
And be the best
To get the gold
Before you get too old
And speed is what I lack
That’s why I’m always behind the pack
I wanted to buy the 4D number 5039
But it was sold out
Now all I can do is pout

Fifty point three nine
Was the history-making time
Joseph Schooling clocked in the 100m butterfly
Leaving the runners-up in a three-way tie
Even Michael Phelps who has the most gold
Couldn’t beat the 21-year-old

Just as Phelps wasn’t fast enough in the pool
I wasn’t speedy enough to get to Singapore Pools
Before it was too late
Condemning me to my fate
You know why I was so slow?
Because I was playing Pokemon Go
Why did I stop for the stupid Zubat?
I already have too many of that
The need to catch them all
Led to my downfall
And that’s why the game is evil
And should be made illegal

The gold medal Schooling won
Was better than finding a rare Pokemon

Oh, how the Lion City roared
Watching him top the leaderboard
We would’ve been aghast
If it were a delayed telecast

Even President Tony Tan was there in Rio
I hope he doesn’t get bitten by a mosquito
At least the pool wasn’t green
If I dive in, will I get gangrene?

I wiped the tears from my eyes
When I saw the Singapore flag rise
And heard our National Anthem
As Schooling stood on the podium
Majulah Singapura
It can still move us from afar
Does he remember the words?
If he doesn’t, it would be awkward

Detractors say Schooling is ang moh
His father says no
His son is Eurasian
100 per cent Singaporean
But his mother is Malaysian
Doesn’t that make him 50 per cent Malaysian?

For all Schooling has done, an online poll queries:
Should he be exempted from national service?
My answer is negative
NS should not be treated as punitive
To waive as reward for those you think deserving
Is a slap to those who have served and are serving

But do I think a public holiday should be declared?
Yes, that would really make me glad
Any weekday would be okay
Even though we just had National Day
If Fiji can do it, why not us, I say
Anything to get out of work and hit the hay
Is that too much to ask for?
We have never won gold in the Olympics before

For his 50.39-second feat
Schooling is in for a treat
He will get a million bucks
Meanwhile my life still sucks
I can’t even buy 4D
How hopeless can I be?
One thing I wish I knew
Does he play Pokemon Go too?

- Published in The New Paper, 14 August 2016

UPDATE: Celebrating Joseph Schooling: Victory parade accidents, leftover fried carrot cake and free McNuggets

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Is Singlish having a moment (again)?

I guess it's a National Day thing.

First, we have Hossan Leong in Today:

Then we have this Time magazine article:

The Today article references Dr Gwee Li Sui as expected. I predicted in May that "any discussion about the Government’s policy on Singlish will henceforth have to namecheck Dr Gwee Li Sui". The Time article doesn't mention Dr Gwee by name - but dredges up Phua Chu Kang.

On top of all that, there's also this Jetstar thing.

Power sia!

EARLIER: Singlish debate redux: Dr Gwee Li Sui is the new Phua Chu Kang

Monday 8 August 2016

Performance Series: Gardens by the Bay: Three down, two to go

Another Sunday morning, another race.

Although advertised as Gardens by the Bay, the third Performance Series run was more Bay than Gardens.

I have found all three Preformance Series 10km routes to be problematic. This time, much of the route was a two-way street, meaning you had to share the path with runners going the opposite direction.

I have complained about the narrow route in the previous races before and now the organisers had literally halved it.

Fortunately, the runners did get to spread out later on.

Despite having run around the bay a few times before, I was still impressed by the view.

Oh, I also caught my first Pokemon along the way.

The finish line was the same as the starting line:

At least the post-race experience getting better:

I appreciate the free shuttle buses to and from the Stadium MRT station.

They were the best part of the race, which may not be saying much.

It was not a good race for me because for the first time, I suffered a groin pull in my left inner thigh during the run.

I hope I recover from that and my plantar fasciitis in time for the Army Half Marathon in three weeks. Where? Around  the bay again, of course.

Performance Series: Jurong Lake
Performance Series: Punggol Waterway-Coney Island