Sick

I fell sick.

I was going for my usual long run during the weekend. As it was my first long run after the physically exhausting Sundown Marathon, I decided to just run 10km and go home. The moment I started running, I knew something was wrong. I was feeling really tired, could not find any energy, and was perspiring more than usual. In the end, I stopped after 5km, went home, showered, and slept almost the whole day.

Two days later, feeling slightly better, I decided to go for another run after work. Again, I felt terrible after my run, my throat was itchy and painful. Next day when I woke up, I knew I was sick.

The first thought came into my mind was that I will not be able to run. I think it says a lot about how much running is becoming such a major part of my life.

There is nothing that I can do in the meantime except to rest more so I can quickly recover and go back to my running. The next race is end of August, there is not much time left to train for it.

7 Habits of a Singaporean

7 habits of a Singaporean

By Tommy Koh, Published The Straits Times, 11 Sep 2013

IN TWO years, Singapore will celebrate its 50th anniversary as a sovereign and independent country. The Government of Singapore has appointed me to the steering committee in charge of the celebrations.

In this essay, I wish to share my reflections on what makes me a Singaporean.

– First, I am a Singaporean because I was born here, grew up here, went to school here, married here and live and work here.

My wife used to ask me: “Where would you like to spend your retirement years?” I would reply that I wish to work until I die and would like to die in the land of my birth. I have spent my whole life working for Singapore and, although I have never signed a bond of service, I feel bonded to Singapore.

It is, of course, true that you don’t have to be born in Singapore to be a Singaporean. One of our founding fathers, Mr S. Rajaratnam, used to say that being a Singaporean is not a condition of one’s birth but of one’s conviction. In that spirit, we have welcomed many, who were born elsewhere, into our family. I count among our compatriots friends like Mr Asad Latif, born in India; Mr Alain Vandenborre, born in Belgium; Mr Ray Ferguson, born in the United Kingdom; Mr Simon Israel, born in Fiji; and Mr Gautam Banerjee, born in India.

– Second, what makes me a Singaporean is the fact that my close friends include Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians, Arabs, Jews, Armenians. I venture that hardly any Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian or Indonesian can make the same claim; and few even among Americans, from the land of the melting pot.

In the short space of half a century, we have succeeded in achieving a level of acceptance – I would even call it celebration – of the diversity of the human family, which no older nation has done.

I believe that, if presented with a worthy Malay candidate, the electorate of Singapore would elect him or her as our President. I also believe that Singaporeans are ready for a non-Chinese Prime Minister.

– Third, the Singaporean’s cultural DNA includes a gene that respects all faiths.

Although Singapore is a very small country, our Inter-Religious Organisation consists of the representatives of 10 of the major religions of the world. A good Singaporean may or may not have a religion. However, he is schooled to respect all faiths, and no matter how much he may believe that his faith is the one true faith, he may not denigrate the faith of others.
This is why Singaporeans reacted so strongly when a Christian pastor was caught bad-mouthing Taoism and Buddhism. It is not only against the law to do that but it is also against our social norm. Inter-religious harmony is one of our most precious achievements.

– Fourth, I believe that Singaporeans share certain core values. The Singaporean is honest, hard-working, law-abiding and reliable. We believe in meritocracy.

I know that, as imperfect mortals, we don’t always reflect these virtues in our daily lives. But I would maintain that, on the whole, they are the values that Singaporeans live by. For this reason, Singaporeans are head-hunted by the private sector and sought after by international organisations. The fact that Transparency International ranks Singapore as the cleanest and most non-corrupt country in Asia and one of the top five in the world vindicates my view.
I was also very pleased by how well Singapore did in the Reader’s Digest’s exercise, in which a certain number of wallets is randomly dropped in different cities around the world. The exercise was to find out how many wallets were returned. In Singapore, seven of the 10 wallets dropped were returned by the finders. This was a high score. I am also convinced that Singapore’s taxi drivers are among the most honest in the world.

– Fifth, Singaporeans speak English in an identifiably unique way. I don’t mean Singlish. I mean our accent and intonation.

I had a very close American friend called Miriam Levering. One day, she was on a street car in Vienna. She heard several men talking to one another in English. She went up to them and asked whether they were from Singapore. They said yes and asked her how she knew. She said: “You speak just like my friend, Tommy Koh.”

Although I have spent more than 20 years of my life in America, I have not acquired an American accent. I therefore cannot understand why some Singaporeans, who have had much less exposure to the West, speak English with a fake foreign accent. We should be true to ourselves and speak English in the Singaporean way. There is no need to put on an Oxbridge accent or an American accent.

– Sixth, one of the things that make me a Singaporean is my love of our hawker food. Cooking and baking are two of the greatest inventions of the human civilisation. When I was living in New York and Washington, I would often ask Singaporeans what they miss most about home. In their replies, they would always mention family, friends and food.

Our hawker food reflects the inter-racial and inter-cultural diversity of Singapore. Eating is also an arena in which Singaporeans cross many boundaries. Thus, I have Indian friends who love Chinese food and Chinese friends who love Indian or Malay food. Our hawker centres should be preserved and enhanced because they are where Singaporeans of all races, ages and incomes meet and enjoy our unique culinary achievements. I am therefore very pleased to be one of the judges, for the fourth year, of the Singapore Hawker Masters competition, sponsored by The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao.

– Seventh, I love physical Singapore. I love our trees, parks, gardens, forests and beaches. Singapore should keep as much of our natural heritage as possible. We should also aspire to maintain a balance between heritage and modernity in our built environment. I regret that my primary school has disappeared and my high school has moved house twice. I am, however, happy that my law school has returned to its original home at Bukit Timah.

I am very encouraged by the new interest shown by Singaporeans, young and old, to preserve our memories, history and heritage. This is good because a nation is a people bound together by their collective memories of the past and their shared dreams of the future. We need to anchor our memories of the past to physical Singapore.

The writer, an international lawyer and diplomat for many years, is special adviser to the Institute of Policy Studies and a member of SG50, the steering committee to coordinate plans to celebrate Singapore’s 50th National Day in 2015.

SEA Aquarium

So I went to the SEA Aquarium in Resort World Sentosa during one of my leave days. It was big, taking around 2 hours to complete the tour. It was pretty good, except for the fact that they had dolphins. Dolphins that were captured in the wild. While the tank holding the dolphins were pretty big, dolphins are meant to be in the wild. It was heartbreaking for me to see the wild dolphins swimming in the confined space, especially since I have seen wild dolphins in Monkey Mia in Western Australia. They could remove the dolphins from the place and it will not affect anything. I really do not understand the logic of having dolphins in there.

Anyway, the place was not that crowded, just tourists who are more bothered to take pictures instead of trying to find out the marine life behind the glass. I tried to read and discovered many interesting information. For example, the deep sea  male angler fish are much smaller and bite on to the larger females, like parasites. The male’s bloodstream fuses with the female’s allowing the transfer of sperm from the male to the female. Several males may live co-joined to the same female, losing every part of their body except their reproductive organs, and may be totally dependent on the female for nourishment. Pretty neat eh?

Well, I did take some pictures after reading.

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Dwarven Song About Old Wealth

I was looking back at my old blog entries last year in December, and I came across my blog entry on the first release of the Hobbit trailer. I repost the words of the haunting ‘Dwarven Song About Old Wealth’. And I should really go watch this movie.

 

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.
The dwarves of yore made mightly spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

For ancient king and elvish lord
There many a gleaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
To hide in gems on hilt of sward.
On silver necklaces they strung
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
They meshed the light of moon and sun.
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeouns deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day,
To claim our long-forgotten gold.

Goblets they carved there for themselves
And harps of gold; where no man delves
There lay they long, and many a song
Was sung unheard by men or elves.
The pines were roaring on the height,
(The pines were roaring on the height)
The winds were moaning in the night,
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
(The fire was red, it flaming spread)
The trees like torches blazed with light.
The bells were ringing in the dale
(The bells were ringing in the dale)
And men looked up with faces pale;
The dragon’s ire more fierce than fire
(The dragon’s ire more fierce than fire)
Laid low their towers and houses frail.

The mountain smoked beneath the moon;
(The mountain smoked beneath the moon)
The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled their hall to dying fall
(They fled their hall to dying fall)
Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.

Far over the misty mountains grim
To dungeons deep and caverns dim
We must away, ere break of day,
To win our harps and gold from him!

The pines were roaring on the height,
(The pines were roaring on the height)
The winds were moaning in the night,
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
(The fire was red, it flaming spread)
The trees like torches blazed with light.
The bells were ringing in the dale
(The bells were ringing in the dale)
And men looked up with faces pale;
The dragon’s ire more fierce than fire
(The dragon’s ire more fierce than fire)
Laid low their towers and houses frail.

Mars Science Laboratory

The Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, landed on Mars today, at 1.39pm Singapore time. I was following live via the online streaming and twitter, and eyes went all misty when the team at NASA control centre went wild upon confirmation of touchdown.

Back when I was young, I always dream of making a difference to the human race. I dreamed of finding a cure for some disease, or inventing something that benefits mankind, or becoming the next Einstein, or Edison. As I grow older, and with more self-awareness, I realised it will forever remain a dream. But I have never stop admiring at the people who keeps pushing the boundaries, who manages the impossible, who makes a difference.

The few hundreds of scientists at NASA, working together, managed to send a nuclear powered SUV size rover all the way from Earth to Mars, and then execute the landing procedure which everyone thought was crazy. I mean, think of all the millions of variables, the millions of possibilities that can cause it to fail, and yet these scientists still manage to do it.

I believe in science. Together with arts and culture, they advance the human race, so that every generation of humans is steps further than the one before. We should increase the funding in science, and it is encouraging to find many people pushing for increase funding for NASA immediately after the Curiosity success.

I wasn’t there when they put a man on the moon, I hope I will be still around when they put a man on Mars.

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” – Edwin Hubble