Sunday, December 23, 2007


A collection of essays, biographies and Nobel lectures from 10 Nobel Laureates. The literary styles were contrasting and for some, I just couldn't read beyond 2-3 paragraphs so I skipped them. Those in asterisk were the ones I really got down to reading as they were styles that appealed to me more. I liked especially the one by Amartya Sen and he also wrote about Rabindranath Tagore in this book. which is interesting as Amartya was a student of Visva-Bharati in Santiniketan, the school which Tagore had set up. So there was a good insight about how the school was run from a student's perspective. Genuine interest and curiosity in subject matter was more important than academic excellence in the school and most of the time, classes were held outdoors if Tagore had the choice as he believed a natural setting was conducive.

Memorable quote from Tagore as he described blind following of tradition - "lost in the dreary desert sand of dead habit"

I enjoyed reading VS Naipaul as he wrote in a simple style that was pleasing and relaxing and not at all flowery, which I can't take to. The life of Grazia from Sardinia was also interesting and dramatic and the education of the very learned Amartya Sen was impressive to read as he went from one reknown university to another as an academic.

Sir V S Naipaul (United Kingdom, born in Trinidad)*
Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)
Derek Walcott (St Lucia)
Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt)
Patrick White (Australia)
Ernest Hemingway (USA)
Grazia Deledda (Sardinia, Italy)*
Amartya Sen (United Kingdom and the USA, born in India)*
Rabindranath Tagore (India)*
Nelson Mandela (South Africa)

*ones that I read fully, others were skimmed through.

Books read (starting Nov 2007)

1. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

2. The Monk who sold his Ferrari - Robin Sharma

3. Universal Father, A Life of Pope John Paul II - Garry O'connor

4. Five Minds for the Future - Howard Gardner

5. Nobel Laureates in Search of Identity and Integrity: Voices of Different Cultures - Anders Hallengren


An Ode to Whales

There is something fascinating about whales and dolphins. I remember giving a lecture in school on Lipids (an 'A' level biology subtopic) and as a digression, I told the class a story about Whaling in Nantucket in the 18th century. Its somewhat related to lipids as the whaling industry was mainly based on the lipid found in the spermaceti of the sperm whale. A large whale could provide up to 3 tons of that valuable wax which was odorless and non-oily to the touch.

Anyway, I played some sound clips of whales singing (yes, they do sing and in different dialects too, depending on which pod they belong to) and after that auditory experience, the students (about 300) clapped and cheered. There must be something mesmerizing about whales in our human psyche. I was glad to know that most students displayed a sense of biophilia, sensu E.O. Wilson.

Scientifically, Cetaceans are animals belonging to the Order Cetacea, which, include whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Actually the reason why I am posting here is because I came across this article about whaling in Japan and its just inexplicable that whaling still occurs. Hey, I understand if the Iñupiat Eskimos do it to survive (see my post on a book I read about Eskimo whaling) but to state scientific reasons for whaling is entirely beyond reasonable acceptance. Its like killing cats randomly and saying we need data.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Whaling: The Japanese position

Note this statement - "Over a six-month period, it will kill 1,000 whales as part of what it says is a scientific research programme."

I am no whale fanatic but they are just lovely creatures. I have had nice dreams about dolphins and whales too and those were deep and meaningful ones for me. They at least represent the wonders that nature has produced. And at most, are inspiring to many people. Scientifically, the are really peculiar and interesting ends of the evolutionary tree. See link below about the recent fossil discovery that shed new light on the evolutionary research to trace which extinct land-dwelling mammals were the probable ancestors of Cetaceans

Deerlike Mammal Was Whale Ancestor?

Ivan's Dolphins Galaxia and Into the Deep feature some whale and dolphin sounds. They are so enchanting and give a sensitive dimension to the music.

My point is "Stop Whaling!"

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Zendogs ride again - part deux!!

The fact that we even embarked on today's ride was a feat in itself as the last ride was just 3 days ago. What's important in a zendog ride are the kakis...becos that means there's gonna be good conversation and some good makan. Most importantly, the kakis are motivation to wake up at 5.45 am to get ready.

Otterman's speedometer showed a total distance of 84.19km, in 4hrs 48 mins and 11s.

Most of the Zendogs couldn't make it but we are on leave. The park connectors were ours in a sense as there were few people about. The highlight of the day for Siva was when we met up with another cyclist who was testing out the park connectors at Loyang to Changi and we started talking. He said he was doing some cardio and Siva said,"Oh, we are just going for breakfast at Changi..." The guy must have been baffled when he found out I was coming from Sengkang and Siva from Holland Village, just to go to rustic Changi Village for breakfast... ha. Which was a kosong and egg prata.

This is the view of the Serangoon PCN which I use to get to Tampines Road. Its scenic and with quite a few users, young kids, people jogging and some fishing or doing taichi.

That's Siva on the Changi Coast PCN in the forest of rhus (Casuarina equisetifolia). It was surreal looking at the scene; it felt like I was in some pine forest in a colder clime.

That's Siva not on a PCN and being a dawg... and trying out a new route, which in reality was not a route but some grassy space near a longkang, with lots of fallen branches.

A helmet light courtesy of Siva. Which came in handy as my backlight konked off on the way back. More accessories for the bike!

I also bought a backpouch for the bike. I left my chain for locking the bike back home today - and boy did that make a difference. I now have to remove the basket (to reduce wind resistance), oil the wheels and chains. The long distance ride's pretty different from the short one (an hour) I take to work, so every thing counts. I also badly need a cycling shirt because today I realised I got abrasions. Well as Siva puts it, I am on the slippery road to getting a full kit... Now I know what I want for Christmas...

This is the Bedok Reservoir PCN.

I had a PCN map handy from Sungei Buloh Nature Reserves and I used that to navigate. It was extremely useful and using the PCN was pretty easy. But I got lost at the Bedok Reservoir area and I think those people at the bus stop must have been thinking I was doing laps as I rode up and down the same road over 3 times looking for the park connector but luckily a taxi driver and an aunty on a bike going to the market helped me to Bedok Reservoir where the PCN was.

Although the map is good, there are some deficiencies, minor ones - the Bedok Reservoir Road area is a bit misleading as it doesn't show the cross-roads.

Well, it was a nice ride and especially with things so quiet. The steady rain pelting on us along the Changi Coastal Road PCN was a nice feeling. At the end of the ride, at least my knees didn't complain like the ride on Saturday. But I am sure if i try to take a big step up the stairs, my legs will give.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Zendogs ride again

Its been a while since I joined the Zendogs for a ride. The Zendogs was conceived circa 2000. So this time it was the park connectors (PCNs) we were checking out. From Sengkang, I took the Serangoon river PCN to reach Tampines Road and that was a beautiful road to ride on at 7am in the morning. Somehow, it felt like old Singapore kampung and the sense of history could be felt.

The view from Old Tampines Road in the morning as the sun rose

Met the rest of the Zendogs at Loyang and headed to Changi Village and had thosai there.

The second leg of the cycling trip was the Changi Coastal road PCN and that was nice and we could ride 3 abreast and have a nice conversation and easy cycle. The nasi ayam, gado-gado, soto ayam beckoned so we had another meal (plus some length conversations - hence the name Zendogs cos we tend to forget we still have 40 km to go and start to relak-jack). Most guilt-free eating cos of the mileage covered.

One of the most pleasant cycling trips I have had so far.

These are the dogs - damn happy ones from the looks of it. Check them out sitting in pits they dug out for themselves in the sand... they ARE the true Zendogs.

And these are some Zendogs (2 on the left and one uncle on the right... he's enjoying the PCN too)
This is a Zendog contemplating the ocean on a Park Connector

More about the ride here at Otterman's post on the ride

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Friday, December 14, 2007

MarsEdit 2.0

MarsEdit 2.0 is just so good to use that I decided to pay the US$29 plus for it. Arrhgh


This is again this guy's fault


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Five Minds for the Future

Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, is the guy who came up with Multiple Intelligences. Basically, "In his conception, a child who masters the multiplication table easily is not necessarily more intelligent overall than a child who struggles to do so. The second child may be stronger in another kind of intelligence..." Nice huh? I like that. At least not all are left out of the intelligence game. Who wouldn't or who wouldn't want to think that their own kid has a shot at being intelligent?

Anyway, I stopped by the community library at Compass Point, Sengkang and chanced upon this book called Five Minds for the Future. I don't usually read educational references cover to cover but I guess this was no boring textbook reference but a book written in an easy to read manner. It starts with the introduction of the quintet of minds that we should have in the future, especially in a world such as ours. The minds he thinks we should have are: disciplined, synthesized, creative, respectful, and ethical. He is persuasive and reiterates his points in a nice manner so that it becomes easy to remember and to understand what he actually means by it.

More about the five minds described here in this blog from New Zealand.

Gardner also used positive exemplars such as Gandhi, Martha Graham and also negative ones such as Enron, Hitler to illiustrate why it is so important to nurture and cultivate such minds. At the end he prescribes that the respectful mind is one that should be cultivated first. The disciplined mind is not particularly about behavioural management but about disciplines such as thinking in the arts or scientific thinking...which he says takes about 10 years to fully master, at least.

More about Gardner at this website and some of his papers in pdf here which are "provided for research purposes only".

Anyway, the book read well and quickly too. Not too complex as some educational texts tend to be. Moreover his concepts mainly appeal, mainly because these five minds can be cultivated in all and not only to a select. It was nice to read it in Phuket as the sun set or rose.

The next book, also from the Sengkang library is about how Nobel Laureates searched for indentity and integrity.. The pictures of the laureates are on the front cover and one of them is RabindranathTagore, who is the ultimate writer in my view.

Books read (starting Nov 2007)

1. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

2. The Monk who sold his Ferrari - Robin Sharma

3. Universal Father, A Life of Pope John Paul II - Garry O'connor

4. Five Minds for the Future - Howard Gardner

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Matt's kooning until damn shiok again

Matt was smiling in his sleep one afternoon and Jen took this and sms'ed me. Its really calming and I must ask him what he was dreaming about...  Here's another one of him kooning in a post exactly one year ago entitled Tidur



There's alot more to him than meets the eye... His late teens to his twenties were the hardest, during the occupation of Poland by Germany. He somehow survived an accident by a lorry. By then, he was orphaned and lost his only brother, a doctor who died of some disease as he was working in hospital. Wojtyla* carried his brother's stethoscope even when he moved to the Vatican. He was passionate about theatre and wrote many poems and plays. A deeply philosophical person, he published many books on morality, sexuality in the church and also books on the emancipation of woman. It is said that the 20th century would have been different without him and indeed when you read this account, one begins to realise the role he played in transforming the political landscape of Poland, the Soviet Union. He particularly thought that Gorbachev was a Godsend and had several meetings with him.

*Pronunciation of Wojtyla (audio link). voy-TIH-wah

The book Universal Father was pro-Pope, but an excellent read in terms of fluidity and context. Context interms of what defined the man - i.e. his history, love for Poland, theatre, his relationship with others, luck, his father, the absence of his mother, his time spent in a chemical factory during the occupation. This context was a good background to Wojtyla's ascent to Papacy and how it influenced his stewardship of the church. He professed that he was a conservor as opposed to reformer in the Vatican and also in Krakow where he was Archbishop and later Cardinal.

So it makes for good reading and was engrossing. And like most good intimate books, once you pick it up, its hard to put it down.... It was a calming balm and it was nice to finally read about the man. I remember attending the mass that he held in the National Stadium when I was in Secondary school (Sec 2?). I went with my mum and it was raining but we just sat at the Kallang stadium, drenched in the persistent drizzle. It was there that I got reacquainted with my best friend Jee-hin.. We were friends since kindergarten, were in the same class for 6 yrs in primary school and then split apart when we went to separate secondary schools. So the Pope reunited us in some indirect way. Then we started the convention...

There was a quote in there that I liked a lot that autobiographer Garry Conner included and its from St Francis - "Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything."

Well, I am seriously quite behind my 20 books goal by the end of the year... hmmph, perhaps can buy or borrow thinner books... Next in line is something from Educationalist Howard Gardner who came up with "Mutiple Intelligences". But this is his new prescriptive book.. more on that when I am done....

Books read (starting Nov 2007)

1. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

2. The Monk who sold his Ferrari - Robin Sharma

3. Universal Father, A Life of Pope John Paul II - Garry O'connor


Monday, December 03, 2007

Free song to download from Queen

I love songs when they are free. But I also think we need to buy them... or else how the musicians survive.. then again, some of them survive too well.

Here's a free song from Queen entitled, "Say its not true". Its really a heartfelt song about raising Aids awareness dedicating it to Mandela's work.

Here's a quote from the website -

"Taylor wrote the song as a gift to Mandela and performed it live for him for the first time with Brian May and Dave Stewart at the inaugural 46664 concert in Cape Town that month. The song carries the message that HIV AIDS is something that can affect any one of us no matter our sexual or racial status."

Go download it. Click on the picture below to go to the website.

Queen Online › Official News Archive

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