Life lessons: Soya Bean Milk and Milk

Dear Ian,

I bought 2 cartons of Soya Bean milk back one day and you handled the groceries for me, and I realised later in the day, that there only 1 of the 2 carton is in the fridge. To my suprise, you put the unopened carton with the milk carton at the shelf, which is not in the fridge, obviously.

There’s an opportunity for a life lesson.

You came over and explained to me that all cartons are to be place on the kitchen shelf, together with the milk.

Then I showed you the difference.

The soya bean milk is pasteurised, which means it was not treated with UHT (Ultra High Temperature) like the Milk carton on the right. Pasteurised products need refrigeration constantly and has to be treated differently from the UHT Milk, which can be kept in room temperature, and only needs refrigeration after opening.

It’s not your fault you didn’t know, but had you paid closer attention, you would have noticed the soya bean carton was kept at the refrigerated area at the supermarket, and the UHT milk isn’t.

Anyway, the life lesson is that you really cannot judge a book by its cover, or in this case, judge the carton all the same. The cartons might look the same, but the produce inside is different and has to be treated differently. You need to read and understand the content and of course know where it came from and give it a different treatment.

This is of course the same for people, never assume that when people came from the same place, country, religion, race and/or education, they are the same. Always read the ‘labels’, understand where they are from, and treat them the way they need to be treated. Of course, if people are so easy to read like they have instructions printed and labelled, the the world will be a much better place.

 

 

 

 

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New Year Resolution…Again?!

Dear Boys,

Happy New Year! We hear this every last day of December, and first day of January.

People always tend to take stock of what was done for the entire calendar year, based on the worldwide approved Julian Calendar. Unless you live in an island on your own, where you are the king, prime minister, president and citizen all rolled into one, everybody else uses the Julian Calendar.

it is always a human fallacy to know the things that are good for us that we don’t do enough…

After taking stock, comes this ‘resolution’ thingy, which usually means trying to do some things as a goal, aim, or target to hit for the new year, and then take stock again, end of the year. It never gets old, because every January is a Happy New Year!

I’m not a resolution person. I can tell you boys why on a blog, but it will take an entire  blog to tell you why I am not a resolution person. I’m just not.

But I was reading this self-help book, at random, 101 Tiny Changes to Brighten Your Day by Ailbhe Malone, and she was talking about well… small things, tiny things we can take notice of that can either brighten our day or darken it.

It’s something like don’t sweat the small stuff, except that you do, because when you take care of the small stuff, the big stuff will take care of itself.

Well, it’s not as if I don’t know about the small stuff and we need to focus on it, it is always a human fallacy to know the things that are good for us that we don’t do enough. So reading that book is a good reminder for me to look into the minute details of things, my daily actions, and let the rest worry itself. Of course there will be consequences of our actions, but sometimes, our consequences is beyond our control, what else can we do? Micro-adjust our next steps, and the next and the next, until we get what we want.

Aikido, it is all about the small things.

I ought to know this since I’m in Aikido, as Aikido is all about the small things. Heck, life is about it, and Aikido as a martial art, is only a fraction of what we succeed or fail in life. In Aikido, we work from a large circle as a novice to a small and barely perceptible circle of a long-time Aikidoka. From small circular movement, you can displace a larger momentum. Our aim is to make our circle smaller and smaller, and the only way to achieve that is to focus on our small movements, a little muscle twitch here, or even a fleeting thought there, that might delay our decision to move a fraction of a second, or too soon.

All the small things

This is not a resolution still, but for 2019- I want to go back to basics, and focus on the minute, nano-scopic details of my actions, and how these little small actions can affect me in a large way, positively or negatively.

That means I need to work on being a more sensitive, delicate and considerate person. Not for a better world, but for a better me, which in turns helps to better the world.

Body protection-wearing head protection

Body protection-wearing head protection

my helmet

Dear Boys,

Back in my days, when I was mountain biking, I never gotten the rationale of wearing a helmet. But as I read magazines about the sport, I realised the importance, and yet still bike without one, as the price of helmets back then was too expensive for a youngster like me to get.

These days, you can get cheap helmets, that offers good protection. Always try to wear head protection, no matter how stupid you look.

True story

I never forget that day when I went to fetch Ian and I had your bike with me, and helmet of course. You’re off your training wheels but still having some trouble balancing it. You strapped on your helmet and got on your bike.

But you fell, losing balance moving off. You didn’t know it, but I saw it, your head glanced off the kerb, and it was your helmet that absorbed the impact. Well, it could have been your head.

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biking on Coney Island

Why a helmet?

Its elementary, stupid.

You have a head, the head have an organic helmet called a skull, and it is always good to have another helmet for the organic helmet, because if you crack your external helmet, you buy a new one, and if you crack your organic helmet, good luck.

When I was in military service, of course we also have helmets to wear. Back in those days, I wore a steel pot type, with a inner liner, it was heavy, clunky and hot. Kevlar helmets was slowly phasing in, and when I was in Reservist, I had Kevlar types.

I used to ride a motorcycle and needless to say, helmets is a must.

And now, when I got mountain biking, I always wear a helmet, and I cringe every time I rode past a cyclist, e-biker, skater, or roller-blader without a helmet. Sure you look cool, until you crash, crack a skull and then we’ll see if that’s cool. I cringe more when I see parents with their kids, not getting their kids to wear head protection.

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wind in your hair, brain spilled on the road

You speed, you need a helmet 

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senselessly risking his own life

We tend to bike a lot these days, and as much as possible, please wear a helmet.

As long as you are on anything that travels faster than 10km/h, please wear a helmet.

If you go rock climbing, please wear a helmet.

Don’t let your friends tell you helmets are stupid looking, or it is hot wearing one. Look at it this way, even the most elite special forces soldiers wear head protection because they know it saves lives. So if it looks stupid, but it works, then it is not stupid.

Every kind of high risk sport will have their own kind of head protection. Use them, find a good fit and make sure the helmet is strapped on. Even a big helmet is better than no helmet, so try to get one that fits, and tighten it till it doesn’t wobble on your head. Shake your head side to side and front to back, the movement should be minimal.

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Even our pioneer soldiers wear helmets. photo courtesy of Steven Lim

Biking, driving, trucking and walking

Biking, driving, trucking and walking
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My second MTB

Dear boys,

There is a lot of controversies these days about the use of road space. Some say share, some say they pay road tax, and well others, simply pirate the roads. E-scooters are a boon or bane?

The biggest machine your father has operated was a truck, 10 foot-truck to be exact, which I rented when we needed to move house, a long time ago. I was also a motorcyclist, I love mountain biking, I’m very much a wheel guy, not so much a ‘ ball’ guy, both being round in their own way.

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My first motorcycle

I’ve stopped riding my motorcycle many years back, as it was no longer the safest thing to do. I remembered back in the days, after finishing my night class, I would ride the CTE back home, around 10-ish and the traffic being light, I can just cruise, it was a good feeling. These days there are so many factors that can get a motorcyclist maimed and killed. There is no luxury of a cruise, you have to be on the defensive all the time. Recent news and stats says motorist finds the road no longer safe.

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Bandung Traffic

My earlier trip to Bandung Indonesia opened my eye to how congested their roads are and how lucky we have it here. We have well organised roads, 2-3 and even 4-5 lanes roads, for Bandung, as an old town, at best, traffic around the city make do with a 2 lane road, 2 for each directions.

The amazing thing is that, they can make do with that limited shared space, as I wrote in my last blog. It was an amazing concoction of cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, motorcycles, and even an occasional bullock cart.

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Driving a rented car in Gold Coast

Back to Singapore

I don’t drive so often, we don’t own a car. But I bike a lot, and I have a pecking order in terms of giving way. The largest will always give way to the smallest. And the smallest denominator being a pedestrian, the largest, well it can go as large as an aircraft carrier. You get the idea. So when I am on a bicycle, I have to give way to a person walking, and if I am driving, I have to give way to a cyclist, and the pedestrian and if I am operating a big ass truck, I have to give way to the smaller folks.

It’s a logic that the larger the machine you operate, the more responsibilities you have towards others, and no one operate in silo or vacuum, we will always have a impact on other people, in good or bad way. So when we have a larger machine, we need to exercise greater care and responsibilities.

Passenger jet vs fighter jet

Of course that is just being generalising, a passenger jet needs to give way to a fighter jet, in the case of my logic, but a fighter jet can shoot down a passenger jet. Sometimes, my rule of thumb doesn’t work but it does gives a gist of the kind of responsibility one has relative to the machines they operate.

The point is…

We cannot clamor for space. Space is always shared. Cyclist have to understand that road kills. And even in large numbers, there is no safety. One wayward car can careen into a group of cyclist, kill and maim a good part of the group. A speeding E-scooter can crash into a family, injuring the elderly, bruising the kid. Who is going to bay for blood, when the unfortunate event has already occurred?

Give way and prepare to stop

More specifically, give way if you can, get out of the way of those who can’t give way. Sometimes, as much as a larger vehicle wants to stop and give way, there are inertia and it can take a while for the large lorry to come to a complete stop, by then it would have mowed down whoever and whatever in its path. So be alert and get out of the way of large vehicles if possible. Those who are driving a large truck, give way where possible.

One thing my driving instructor taught me, which stayed till now, when in doubt, stop.

It is a good mantra, especially when I’m cycling. I’ve seen cyclists and motorbikers trying not to stop, as they will lose their momentum and balance, so they want to keep a minimal level of motion. I get that, I bike too, but when in doubt, stop, and push.

Its not a cool factor, if there is an old man walling in front and just for me to preserve my motion, bang into the poor guy, stop, get of if necessary and push. It’s just biking, and the road space is shared, whosoever wants to walk and travel at whatever speed, it’s their wish. Everyone goes through life in their own pace and speed, and try not to be in such a hurry to get from point A to point B, you end up in hell, and killing other people in the process.

Last but not least

We cannot wish away the e-biking trend. I do not like these battery powered wheel-chairs. They are fast, convenient and extremely lazy. If you are on a bicycle, you still get a reasonable bit of exercise, even on a motorcycle, you have to be generally fit to operate one. An e-scooter? It’s the laziest form of transport. It’s so convenient it is bad for health.

Nonetheless, it is here to stay, and since there is so much brickbat about it, I have a couple of rules, simple rules.

  • Anyone operating an e-bike above the weight of 7 kg, needs a license, they need to take a damn course to get some general feel and understanding of sharing the road.
  • Any e-bikes which can travel faster than 10km/h, capped at 15 km/h, needs to have a helmet, front and rear lights, helmets on, light on at all times. (this is a rule of motorcyclist, by the way)

Singapore is going to become car-lite soon and these things going around isn’t going to stop growing in numbers, so we just need to be mindful, the pecking order, and the road space is shared, no one owns them, well, I guess the only one who really own the road is the Grim Reaper, anyone wants to challenge that?

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Never Bring Your Work Home

MjAxMy1mY2ZkZDg5ZWY4NDY4MDdkDear boys,

You will hear a lot of work-life advise in your life. Some say this and some will say that. It all depends on what works for you and what kind of a person you grow up to be.

You can either learn to take stress well, and be a tough guy, and be a Type A personality, that’s fine.

If you both gets married and have kids, you must make sure that you have a spouse you can talk to. Whether you choose to talk to your spouse or not, that is entirely a different matter.

Well, actually it is not that entirely different, becoming husband and wife and being in a marriage is building new habits, and the old ones evolve.

What I’m trying to say here is, at this stage of my marriage to your mum, I’ve learned to open up a lot more and tell her a lot of things. It didn’t used to be like that; in the past, I hate being on the phone, as part of my job requires me to be on the phone 6-8 hours a day. Enough of phone conversations!

These couple of years has evolved and I’ve taken to calling your mum ever-so-often, and you boys would have heard me calling home during lunch time and have a quick chat with your mum.

So what do we talk about?

Mostly work stuff, for me and also some work stuff for her and maybe somethings about you boys.

There will be people out there telling you not to bring work home, and when you leave the office, leave the work in the office. It means that you need to sort of compartmentalize some parts of your life and when you go home, you take off your ‘office manager’ hat and put on a ‘husband’ or ‘dad’ hat. Well I wish life is as simple as that!

Psychologically, it is quite impossible to draw a clear line as where your work ends and your family begins. sometimes, you get so heated up with a home argument, you are still carrying that anger into the office, and vice versa. And sometimes, our work and colleagues become our bona fide ‘relatives’, and we start to treat them as such.

What I’m saying is you need some skills to de-personalise your work and profession to be able to not bring work back.

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That’s not my practice. I have full transparency with your mum, and she does the same with me.  

It helps in our relationship as she knows what I am doing in my work. Its not so much about trust, but having someone to share your stories and also your woes. We are married and there are times where we have to fight the battles alone. For me, I sometimes fight those battles, with the full blessings from your mum.

Bringing work home also helps the “You don’t understand me!” department. While this will still sometimes occur, it is mitigated because there is a lot of banter. It’s not really a conversational technique, as it is something unique within a marriage and it differs from couple to couple. It is such casual banter that allows us to weave context into our relationships and when we misunderstood each other, we can pull out past banters ‘records’ and cross reference to help us work between the confusion and ambiguity.

That’s said, I don’t usually bring my family to work, despite of the fact that my wife and you boys are a very big part of my life. It is again a judgement call dependent on the kind of people I am working with. There are colleagues who are family oriented, because they are parents, husbands, wives who can relate to me. If such a connection can be explored, then I’ll sometimes share a bit more. But more often than not, I’d like to keep my personal, family life away from work. After all work is work, you can always find another work, but you cannot find another family.

The Problem with Aikido

Osensei

COMPETITON

People are always comparing.

People are always critical over things they don’t understand.

People are always wondering the efficacy of Aikido.

Well, it can’t be helped, as Aikido is a kind of mixed bag.

I think I’ve finally figured out what and why people think there is a problem with Aikido.

The Number ONE question is:

“Does Aikido Works?” 

Well, nobody really knows, actually.

Because Aikido doesn’t encourage competition, and without the typical competition, you really cannot tell who is better who, and what works and what doesn’t.

A typical Aikido (me included) don’t really experience loss, defeat or setback, bestowed by an opponent. No one in Aikido wins a medal, and since there are no winners, there are no bitter lessons for losers to learn.

There is no way to validate if Aikido is effective in a controlled, rule-based environment. There are no championships to decide who is the best Aikidoka out there.

Fake Aikido

Which leads to the accusations flying all over the place, ripping into Aikido that looks ‘fake’ and the mysterious ki force that ‘Grand-masters’ uses and causes people to fly all over the place at a touch, or worse, no touch. Almost every Aikido ‘Grand-master’ wants to look fantastic and awesome!

There are no fake Aikido, only fake representation of Aikido. Remember, it is the Singer, not the Song. If it works, Aikido works, and if it doesn’t, blame me as a lousy practitioner. This will apply in any martial arts, just as there are fake MMA fighters, and excellent street brawlers.

Aikido as designed and engineered by O’sensei in his days, isn’t capable of standing up to a variety of barrage in our current era. There is no concrete proof out there that really says conclusively Aikido works. Period.

We are not the sum of the medals we won, or lost. 

False Sense of Security

So most Aikidokas goes to practice in an environment, that doesn’t pit you against one another, so we will never know what works and what doesn’t. And Aikido works best in a constructive, helpful environment, unfortunately it also imbue into people that if your Aikido works in the dojo, your Aikido will work as a self defense platform. Which, is two totally different matter altogether.

Blame it on the spirit of Aikido, which is love, peace and harmony, all those hippy slogans. Hard, fighting people wants to know if it works, and proof that it does. No Aikidokas has appear to be so generous to step up and to put those questions to rest, one and for all.

So it might work, it might not, don’t get too comfortable with it! Just practice, practice and practice some more!

One of its kind

Then again, there are so many questions about the effectiveness of Aikido, precisely because it is a very unique martial way. As an Aikidoka, we are not walking mainstream, we don’t get into fights, just for the sake of proving if it works or not. Aikido takes away extrinsic competition, so that we can have the time to reflect within. We are not pressured by competition (which is plentiful nowadays!Robots and AI!) to perform. We prefer to tuck ourselves away, quietly work on improving our own techniques, help each other get better, build and collaborate, not fight to destroy.

True, putting other people into our performance and competition, steeps up the learning curve, which is precisely what we do not endorse. We, as humans bloom at our own pace, and we all with wither, sooner than we think. Why spend our time in vain trying to prove if it works or not? Sure it might not work as well as we wanted it to, which is why we practices right? We need to turn up at the dojo and practice like no tomorrow, since there is no right outcome. For an Aikidoka, the outcome is a continuum, a process, and it is never completed. We are not the sum of the medals we won, or lost.

Aikido is

There cannot be a comparison. O’sensei created Aikido in post-war Japan. I cannot imagine the horrors he has to witness and seeing friends and students go to war, and never return, those returned; never the same again. O’sensei himself fought in a couple of wars. While I have never experience war, (Thank goodness!), war changes people, and O’sensei saw that, I can only presume that he created Aikido to promote love, peace and harmony, which is so much lacking in his time and surely our time as well. So if you want to fight, compare and win medals, there is always an octagon around the corner, but please, not in an Aikido dojo.

Saving water

Dear Boys,

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I decided to put a pail of water for the both of you to bathe. Each of you, a pail of water; well as for Wayne, he gets about 80% filled, since his body mass is so little!

You boys took to it with novelty, and I was worried that you both might be resistant to it.

You see, water is a very precious resource, and once you turn on the tap, those water flowing out, cannot be recovered. (Well, you can, actually, but it does comes with a cost.) What I am trying to drive at is, we all have some bad habits; bathing is one of them. It cannot be helped when water is so readily available. You turn the tap on, clean, drinkable water flows. We never really took it to heart about those save water campaign thing.

Our PUB- Public Utilities Board, constant nagged at us to save water, but do we really? I too have been nagging at the both of you to stop taking long baths, but to no avail. I think this is a common problem in every household unannounced.

So I am glad that you boys like the pail bath idea.

This is nothing new, and people has been bathing like this for ages. And this primitive method works, as long as you stick to one pail, and not top it up after you emptied it.

Sometimes old school ways works and I hope the both of you can remember these ways, and use them constantly to make sure we keep our water usage in check.