Sunday, May 31, 2009

The World Of Babahuskis

A page from Dr. Roch’s journals, May 3073

Several million light years away in the Lidebo Galaxy, lies the Planet Babahusk. In many ways, it is much like Earth. Air, water and sunlight are among the essentials for survival.

Before I force myself into a scientific account of the planet’s composition, structure and all — which is certainly not my intention for I do not consider myself qualified enough in this field — let me give you a short account of its very amusing inhabitants, the Babahuskis. Intelligent beings and culture are after all my expertise, my so-called cup of tsaw-tsaw (tea in Babahuskian), having earned multiple degrees including doctorates in Alien and Cultural Studies.

First, let me give a basic description of the Babahuskis. They are very much like Homo Sapiens, with a complete set of the major bodily systems found in the human species: nervous, digestive, reproductive, circulatory, endocrine, immune, integumentary, lymphatic, muscular, urinary, skeletal and respiratory. In more simplistic terms: they think, eat, talk, walk, breathe air, get sick, and like all biological beings, they perish.

I shall leave my dear Italian friend, Dr. Jocani Pagi, to discuss the similarities and differences between humans and Babahuskis in greater scientific detail while I dwell more on their alienus nature.

The Babahuskian civilization is a proud one and although its roots are probably as old as the planet itself, they are certainly modern and their technological savvy is perhaps surpassed only by us Earthlings. For all their pride and scientific know-how, they have one particular weakness. They are not a very neat life form.

Deodorants are but a recent discovery. I daresay as much as twenty percent of the Babahuskis I’ve encountered don’t make use of this practical invention. I initially thought that perhaps their olfactory system has not completely evolved. Maybe they smell things differently. But then I asked myself how is it possible that quite a number of them don’t appear to emit that distinctly sour and foul odor? What about the few that use deodorants and wear colognes and perfumes? Could it be that they choose to ignore this unpleasant reality or are they just being courteous not to point out what is obvious in the same manner that we, their guests, never speak to them about this even as a matter of science lest we offend them? My educated guess is that their culture has a different belief about the need for deodorants and whether bodily odors are offensive.

Another observation I’ve noted is that at about 6 p.m., when their two suns start to set and when their air cooler in the offices automatically shut down, the acrid smell starts to fill the air ever more strongly. I fail not to write this observation based on a serendipitous yet unfortunate circumstance – it is now exactly 6 o’clock here in the Feteo Center of Excellence.

While it can be scientifically proven that their musky smell can be attributed to the food that they eat, I have also noticed that several of them hang their clothes to dry in their kitchen and don’t bother to remove them when they cook, leaving them to absorb the aroma of their food. Still, the scent of food on one’s clothing is tolerable. What is unbearable is the stink of body odor, whether emitted from the armpits or elsewhere, especially when they can be effectively controlled through the use of substances known as deodorants. Dr. Pagi and I share a common view that allowing bacteria to continually thrive in the underarms so as to ferment sweat, which leads to an overpowering odor when left alone, is highly irresponsible especially when the intelligent being on the spotlight possesses qualities such as self-awareness, sentience and wisdom.

Much like humans, Babahuskis are social by nature. Their social structures are as complex as ours and law also shapes their society in countless ways. What is most interesting is that they have stricter and more numerous laws than us humans ranging from what food are allowed for consumption during certain days to what is allowed in the intimacy of a couple’s bedroom. Their implementation of environmental laws is astonishing – smoking was a perennial part of popular culture until a law declared that “it endangered the environment… and is a harmful activity…

The Smoker Rebellion is very interesting but to give a more thorough account of it is not within the scope of my intended topic for this writing. Suffice it to say that millions of Babahuskis perished in this bloody ten-year rebellion before the government finally succeeded in its campaign to totally outlaw smoking and bring an end to the rule of the Puffer Industry.

Still, Dr. Pagi and I find it odd that while they have very strict laws on all sorts of things, a decree to regulate outrageously horrible body odor has never been considered in its long and colorful history.

On the lighter side of things, I am happy to report that I have made quite a number of Babahusk friends. I feel fortunate and honored to have found a few Babahuskis who share my interest and appear to be delighted in my company. I have come to conclude that I was wrong in my initial assessment that most Babahuskis are undesirable and civilly hostile to humans. You could say that I was at the wrong side of the planet in my first six months and was unlucky enough to have met Babahuskis who thought they knew everything, who loved exaggeration to the extent of saying “101% sure” only to end up totally being wrong and even though this is statistically impossible (Math is truly a universal language), and Babahuskis who are lazy and put their creativity to use by finding ways to avoid work that belonged to them in the first place.

Allow me to end this entry with a quotation from Dr. Pagi, “Not all Babahuskis are created equal. There are good smelling, bad smelling and ugly smelling Babahuskis.”

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Singapore Passion Run 2009 Experience

I went straight for the 10 km category on the first running event I joined. It was one of the ways I thought I would be able to force myself to run consistently, knowing I wouldn't be able finish without proper preparation. After a few weeks of hitting the track, I had been able to run at least 7.5 km without feeling like I was going to pass out. I knew I could handle 5 km and I'd just be complacent if only went for that.

I'd say I didn't do so badly with a gun time of 66 minutes on that first attempt. In contrast, I thought I didn't do so well in my second run, the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge. Was it time to scale new heights, er, run longer distances after that? It took me sometime before I could decide and when I finally did, I was out of the country. I had to ask a friend to register me for the 10 km non-competitive category. I had chickened out and opted not to go for 15 km yet.

With the busy schedule at work, it took a lot of effort to get running at least twice a week. I made it difficult for myself to miss the weekend runs by agreeing to run together with two other friends who were also joining the Passion Run. To keep it more interesting, we went for a different venue each week.

Come D-day, I had no trouble waking up from a good night's rest. Except that I was just recovering from a bout of sore throat and bad colds so I didn't feel a hundred percent. The doctor saved me from missing my second 10 km attempt by prescribing me antibiotics early during the week.

I had two slices of bread and a sunny side up for breakfast, resisted the urge to eat more than I should, but was afraid to consume too much water as I thought of my experience during my first 10 km. I didn't want to run with soaked feet again.

It took me less than half an hour to get to the venue, East Coast Park. Since the run came in a series of waves, I wasn't exactly sure what time I was supposed to take off. A countdown was ongoing when I got there.

I was just about to start exploring the place when it was announced that all participants to the 10.4km category wearing green and yellow bibs were up next. I went to the start line and joined my fellow runners. A number of others approached the race officials standing on a stage near the starting point, inquiring if they were too late or too early for their take offs. Some were asked to start running immediately as they've already been left behind.

The siren that signaled the start of race sounded and we were off and running. I was near the starting line so the effect was immediate, unlike the previous times I was near the back. But I was slow to realize the full repercussions of being near the front.

In my previous races I was usually overtaking others but that certainly wasn't the case during this time. I had totally forgotten about the advice a friend gave me, which was to resist the urge to go too fast in the beginning. In keeping up with the other runners, I was going at a faster pace than I was accustomed to. My legs began to feel heavy after only two kilometers.

It didn't help my overall psyche that my phone was constantly ringing in my belt bag. I couldn't bring myself to answer it because talking and running at the same time seemed like a gargantuan effort. But then I was getting paranoid and began playing scenarios in my head on why people were calling me. When I saw the first u-turn I thought perhaps I might have gone off too early and was running the 5 km event. Were my friends calling to tell me I was running the wrong race?

Calling to find out was certainly out of the question. I decided to slow down to a walk and think my options over. Should I come back to the starting line? Should I sit down and just call it quits? It took me about a minute to realize that I wouldn't find out for sure if I didn't finish the race. I started running again.

A few minutes and several hundred meters later I started wondering why I was out of rhythm and why my legs were really bothering me. I looked ahead to see a toilet on the left and noticed that several runners were taking their sweet time going for a break. I decided to go for one too. I relieved myself of excess fluid, washed my face and took a good look at myself in the mirror. I was going to finish the race even if I had to walk most of the way or run as slowly as I could.

I was soon back on the race, jogging past stores that haven't opened yet. I was beginning to enjoy myself. Several minutes later I felt like I was back in my usual form. I breezed one kilometer after another. When I saw a familiar figure running just ahead of me, I knew I was okay. I had been able to catch up with someone who I remember overtaking me just before my toilet break. It was time for me to do the overtaking, never to stare again at his back for the duration of the race.

I finished 10.4 km in 1 hr 11 mins. It wasn't what I had aimed for but it wasn't very bad either. Never again would I forget that my body requires several minutes to get warmed up before I could go at a faster pace. I also learned that I did run earlier but I couldn't blame myself totally — how could I know there was green and there was light green? I vowed to be better prepared for my next run.


I think the Passion Run 2009 did a pretty good job of organizing the event. I found their posters along the route quite inspiring. Even the volunteers who untiringly and enthusiastically cheered for the runners did an amazing job. Also, there was no long queue to be able to claim the freebies after the race. Finally, the results were out in less than a week.

The only not-so-great thing I noticed is that they began allowing cyclists, rollerbladers, runners and all other people in the race route long before the race was finished. The race became an obstacle course for a lot of runners. I thought they might have at least restricted them to a single lane. Maybe they'd implement that suggestion next time around.

I'm already looking forward to the Passion Run next year.

Next race: Mizuno Mount Faber Run, June 14.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Meeting Robin Sharma

Over the years, various books have found their way to me through different paths and varied means. Gulliver's Travels was the first book I remember having received as a gift, while The Old Man And The Sea I found in my grandfather's bookshelf. I can still remember learning the words scanty and lure from these great classics as a child. In elementary, a classmate influenced me to read Hardy Boys. We raced to finish the entire mystery series along with Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. In high school, Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy was shoved down our throats as a required reading. Not that I ever got to finish the three canticas, but I do remember learning about simony, among other things. More important than how I got my hands on each book, there was always something to take with me after every reading.

I first came across Robin Sharma's The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari in the library. Nothing is supposed to be unusual about that, except I wasn't intending on reading an inspirational or self-help book, at least not during that time. I had read a few before and I thought the lessons from them were enough to last and experience in a lifetime. It so happened that the library had a promotion allowing bookworms to borrow up to three books for an entire month. I was on my way to the checkout kiosks with the two novels I had already chosen when I decided to get a third book and went for the nearest shelf. I didn't have a very hard time choosing. The combination of Monk, Sold and Ferrari in the title intrigued me, as it was probably designed to. I thought it wouldn't do me any harm if I at least tried to read it. I ended up reading it from cover to cover, felt inspired and compelled to act and quickly decided it was going to be one of my favorite books, filed in my own practical category.

I discovered another of Robin's books several months later. It was titled The Greatness Guide. I liked it. I thought it was a practical, unconventional, easy-to-digest kind of book, similar to a Tom Peters book I've read a few years back.


I think there's a certain kind of joy in meeting the person who wrote a book you really like. It's akin to watching your favorite artist perform in front of your very eyes, or being a few feet away from an actor you truly admire, or watching a live game of your favorite sports team or athlete.

I learned from a comment in one of my posts sometime ago that Robin Sharma was coming here in Singapore for a seminar this May. I wanted to attend but my money had to go to more urgent things. And there was no way the company I worked for was going to sponsor me. So I was settled on not attending.

To my surprise, a friend sent me an e-mail on the first week of May informing me that Robin was going to be in Borders Parkway on May 16 at 3 p.m. and said that we should go. I had given him a copy of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari at a time when I thought he needed it. It must have had the desired effect for him to want to come and meet the author in person.

And so, together with another friend, we made arrangements for us to go. The plan was for us to meet there at Parkway Parade, see Robin Sharma, proceed to my house to celebrate my grandmother's seventy-fifth birthday, and jog together for about an hour in preparation for the following week's Passion Run 2009.


I was there forty minutes before he was set to arrive. I grabbed four of Robin's books and paid for them at the cashier — I was certain he was going to do some signing. I then proceeded to Dome, just beside Borders, and got a cup of tea to pass away the time. Not too long after, I came back and joined the crowd forming near the entrance where a table had been set up and several of Robin's books lay atop.

I participated in the conversations, hearing of the others' delight in reading Robin's books. A guy shared that he liked The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari but not The Greatness Guide and thought the latter was a book that had to be written probably to make some money. One other guy chose to be polite and seemed to agree with him, and then, like a scene from a movie, Robin came in before I could share what I thought.

With no time to waste, the representative from the Sharma Leadership International's local partner gave a short introduction, after which, in a twist of irony, Robin read a few lines from The Greatness Guide. He then gave a short talk and entertained some questions. Robin didn't fail to mention, as if he were telekinetic, that The Greatness Guide was meant to be a practical book. I couldn't help but smile.

I got my books signed and had a chance to pose beside him for a picture.


For those who haven't read The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, here's a short review, a good summary and an excellent mind map:

From Kuzzuk Singapore: Review of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma including Mindmap Summary

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Life Is Unfair

An office. Over a year ago.

A woman was talking to someone on the phone.


By this time, most everyone's head within a 10-meter radius was turned toward her.

"What do you mean unfair?!?!"

A bit of silence. The person on the other end must be talking.

And then...

"Of course, I'm unfair. Life is unfair!"

It would be a week before we stopped using that line on one another.


I need to stop writing and start working now. I know. Because life is unfair. :P


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Friday, May 1, 2009

Singapore 2009 JP Morgan Corporate Challenge

The Start Line

I had been running even before the race began. My meeting with a client dragged until 5:30 p.m., thirty minutes before the official start of the run. I hurried to the office to join my colleagues who were also participating in the event. It made perfect sense to leave our belongings there and just get to the venue in our running attire. We were out of the office in less than five minutes after I arrived. Getting to the venue by foot seemed like our best option and so we raced against time, jogging towards the Esplanade, slowed down only by people traffic and pedestrian lights. When we finally got to our destination, we had about three minutes to spare. At least we were all warmed up.

With the enormous number of people in front of us, I could barely see the starting line from where we stood. They couldn't have numbered less than five thousand. From the time we heard the signal that the raced had began to the time we reached the starting line, the official timer had already clocked 6 minutes.

Coming from my first race —this just being my second—, I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed with this experience. I must have set my expectations a little bit too high because of the name attached to the event. After all, I had quite a pleasant experience with the Suburban Run. How could I go wrong the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge? Or did I have the wrong frame of mind coming in to this race?

No Official Results

It's a race; it has winners; it has an official timer. But there are no official results.

While another blog mentions that it wasn't supposed to be a serious race, given that there are official winners, an official timer and official registration fee, some of us expect official results to be published. By official, I mean the time for each runner being officially recorded by the event organizer. In this case, the race depended on the team captains submitting the time for each runner on his or her team.
How are the results compiled?
We score three categories — Men’s Team (four men), Women’s Team (four women), Mixed Team (two men, two women). It is solely up to the Company Captain to determine what participants go on which teams after the runners have turned in their times that evening. You cannot place an employee on two separate scoring teams. You do not have to enter everyone's time.
Their web site explicitly states that the registration fee is not able to cover all operational expenses incurred from the race. Thing is, the registration fee for the Suburban Run is substantially lower but they managed to attach chips to the back of the bibs that automatically register the time for each runner.

I shared this disappointment with a friend, who happens to participate in running events in the Philippines, and she says that the runs there, be they for charity or some good cause, have official results published, with part of the race's staff officially encoding each individual runner's time at the finish line.

If other races can manage to take official results, I'm sure J.P. Morgan can find ways to improve in this aspect. I'm sure they want the yearly event to be a better experience for its participants. They don't have to stick to their old ways just because they've been used to it.

Walkers Galore

Having walkers is a good thing in running races because they give slow pacers like me people to overtake. It just becomes crazy when there’s too many of them — the race becomes an obstacle course. Maybe, just maybe, they could have a lane for walkers next time around.

Here's part of an entry from RepMan's blog citing his experience last year at the JPMorgan Chase Coporate Challenge in Central Park:
They also do a horrendous job of separating the walkers from the runners so, at almost every half-mile or so, I was running right up the back of an unsuspecting walker. There's absolutely no crowd control either, so we runners had to dodge everything from pedestrians trying to scoot across the course to, believe it or not, a woman walking her dog against the flow of thousands of runners. Someone should whisper in that dog whisperer's ears. Talk about animal cruelty!
I'm glad I didn't come across anyone walking his dog. But what RepMan is saying is not difficult to believe. From what I've seen, the race's staff found it very difficult to make the runners stick to the lanes and prevent walkers from taking shortcuts, eventually interfering with other runners.

I can't see how they'll ever manage to carry out the threat they've written in their web site as part of the Specific Race Day Rules:
Walker Policy: All walkers must start at the back of the field. They may not start in front of any runners, and may not start the race early. Walkers must complete the exact 5.6km course route and may not take optional or shortened routes. Violation of this policy may lead to disqualification of the entire company team from this and future Series events.
They are almost never able to find out who takes shortcuts. The staff don't make it too difficult for people to cross the boundaries either.

The same friend I've mentioned above says she's seen an effective way to control this being implemented at the races she's joined — color-coded strings are given to each runner at every major turn that they need to show at the finish line to prove they ran the entire route.

Chaos Claiming Shirts And Bags

The queue for claiming the freebies, or should I say part of the race pack, was very long indeed. It took longer for me to queue than to complete the run. Two flights of stairs had to be climbed and with the sheer number of people and their natural tendency to push forward, the risk of having accidents was not very low.

As we got nearer to the counters where the freebies were being distributed, people started becoming more aggressive. It turned out that there were several lanes, one for each shirt size. Some began cutting lanes, going over the rope barriers, eventually toppling the steel posts and causing those who chose to remain in their lines to complain. Some went for lanes that had fewer people queuing in them even if the shirts they were getting didn't match their actual sizes, while some pretended to do the same thing only to switch lanes when they were at the counters.

This made me the appreciate the arrangement by Suburban Run to have runners collect the race pack before the event. Maybe the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge can do this next time?

The Finish Line

In summary, I still enjoyed the race because I was with friends. At least I got to run, walk and then run again. In the spirit of the race's focus on promoting "fitness in the workplace", this was a first run for a number of my colleagues.

Friends and I share some of the disappointments I've noted down here. One such friend, who had been religiously monitoring her performance was puzzled as to how she could have done so badly in the last 600 meters. She was on right on track at the 5 km mark. Add to that the uneasy feeling that there will never be an official result coming out.

Imagine her frustration when a few days ago, I showed to her an article in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge web site saying that the distance was changed to 5.94km from 5.6km. Imagine how that could ruin things for you if you were planning to sprint the last 600 meters.

My friend comments, "The JPMorgan race organizers are like newbies... hmmm..."

Would we be joining the J.P Morgan Challenge next year? We don’t know.


To put a perfect ending to our adventure that day, friends and I decided to have dinner at the nearest food center. We found a one near the Singapore Flyer and took our sweet time feasting on Popeyes Chicken.

Next race: Passion Run, May 24.


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