Monday, June 30, 2008 10k Run

I hear it in the radio and see it in the papers. It's almost inevitable that I'm sucked into it now. Bloody Nike has managed to capture a lot of attention whether they are runners or not.

But that's typical of Nike. All runners know they're not in the business of running. They say Nike makes running shoes and everyone buys them, except runners that is. What irony! Haha!

Sorry if I'm hurting people by this snide remark. I hope none of my running mate bloggers have sold their soul to Nike for a pair of shoes in exchange for good reviews in their blogs.

I have already signed up and pledged to run 600km by the end of July. It's only today that I registered for a 10km race on 31 August 2008 at the Wembley Stadium. It's the most expensive 10k race I've ever signed up to - £30! (The London Marathon is only £26). Oh well, I've chosen a charity where the money should go, so that's not too bad.

I heard Singapore is charging S$45. Isn't that quite prohibitive for Malaysian runners to do a 10k race all the way to Singapore??? Judging from the Facebook update, there seems to be quite a few Malaysian runners who have already signed up.

Wondering what's the 600km and then the 10km?

You see, Nike has also made runners to pledge some mileage in the run up to the 10k race.

It's non-obligatory but I have pledged to finish 600km by the end of July. That works out to be doing 20k every day for the next 30 days starting tomorrow.

Can I do it?

Knowing that I can't do 20k everyday for 30 days back to back and refusing to break my pledge, I have started two weeks earlier, running 20k every time I hit the roads. So I buy more time doing so and thinning the daily distance on the double.

The weather has been superb - dry, warm and sunny. With such great weather, there isn't any point staying in the office because no one does after half five! (Well maybe 10% would. That's the beauty working in the UK). So I had been fortunate doing my 20k for almost 4 times a week for the past two weeks.

That's 160km clocked so far.

440km more to go.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wellness 10k Run

Held at Crystal Palace, London it was one of the many "run and return" races in this country. I call it the no-frills race i.e normal road race minus all the pretty stuff like advertisement, promotions and goodies.

They did have a mascot run, an inflatable finishing archway, water stations and medals though! So it wasn't as no-frills as I thought. Good enough for a 10k race.

There's really nothing much to talk about the race. It's just a 10k race that took place in good weather and in a weird park with some funny looking dinosaurs in a vast area that looked like the Roman ruins. According to the BBC, this place is cursed by bad luck and financial crisis. The ruins I saw were the results of disasters that happened one after another.

Sir Joseph Paxton, founder of Crystal Palace
A place that looks like the Roman ruins

Number wise, I am quite satisfied with my performance and thank God, nothing that's indicative of a bad luck.

Time: 44mins 39secs.

Wimbledon 2008

I am not a tennis person. Am not even a ball person!

But I was at Wimbledon last week to see the matches. It was purely for experience sake. I just wanted to see what the hype was all about.

As soon as I reached and saw the queue, my mood level plunged. I was debating whether or not it was worth paying 14quid to get in! I conceded that I should wait since I would still need to queue even if I were to return the next day. Everyone queuing was given a queue card. I was number 12,836 for the day. Winson who came an hour earlier was 11k plus. So you can imagine the crowd.

Card number 12100, counter number 10 please.....

It took me 2.5 hours to get in. In Malaysia, you would only see people jostling for two things - one is when something is free or two, at the highways when someone is killed in an accident for the car number plate.

At the ground where I was queuing there were already many tents. People were camping to get in the next day! I could now understand why. More so if you're a tennis fan!
The tents and the queue

Once inside, I met up with Winson. He told me a friend had given him a pair of Court One tickets which cost £44 each. He gave one to me. I was really thankful and happy. Court One, Two and the Centre Court are where all the top matches are held. So I considered myself very lucky. It was Igor Andreev against David Ferrer at the time.

The ticket and Court One

Adreev against Ferrer

Surprisingly I found myself watching the games in rapt attention. It didn't take a tennis fan to know the nail-biting moments. Time whizzed pass just as adrenaline was pumping high. The next thing I knew was the time was 9.30pm when the matches ended and it was time to go home!

Wimbledon was a great experience. Court One made it even more special. Now when I read the papers and tennis talk with my colleagues, I know what's happening and who's who in Wimbledon.

What you don't see from ESPN is the preparation

...and that dressing smart is only half of what you see

Going to see a match and seeing it in the news are two very different experiences altogether. I have learnt something new too - the tennis ball is in bright yellow because it will appear the clearest in TV at ambiance temperature. Now for my next learning experience - a football match.

Monday, June 23, 2008

When UKM drops its M

That’s quite a struggle when you want to be accredited as a Chartered Engineer in the UK but holds a Malaysian engineering degree. That’s what I realised recently when I was making attempts to be a “professionally qualified” engineer in this country.

It’s not that it will make a huge difference in status or that it’s valued when I go home. But since I’m here, I might as well work towards something that is valued here.

Then again, I found myself caught in a logistical quagmire - going in circles and trying to clear a path through the dense forest with no clear directions. There are like hundreds of lines of explanation and things to remember in order to get to point B from A, but every time when I feel like I’m getting somewhere, there are obstacles. It’s like one of those Indiana Jones treasure hunt experience – it’s in front of you but you have to wade through scorpions!

At some point I wished I were a Singaporean or a citizen in any of the Washington Accord signatory countries. Their engineering schools are first of all, accredited by the engineering institutes here and secondly, their professional qualifications are convertible into a UK one! Recognition is not only confined to engineering qualifications but also other qualifications like driving.

So what if Malaysian engineering degrees are not accredited overseas?

Not a lot if you aren’t thinking of progressing to be a Chartered Engineer or anything more than just being employed. But if you are, there’re a few steps extra and every stage of progression is £££. That means it can be “costly” without accreditation.

I did find myself disadvantaged and peeved in some ways. Our entire engineering education system is based on the British systems. We have good researches happening at home. It’s understandable if the US demands some form of topping up courses because of the irregularity of standards between two countries. But not being recognised by the country that we based our engineering standards from is just strange. It seems wrong too!

Okay, though I must admit we used AASHTO and the ASTM in some areas. But that’s because they appear to be more robust and sound in areas where the BS-es aren’t.

I want to blame someone but I do not know who. Sometimes I blame our government for not doing enough. I can’t help but think, “why aren’t we bloody signed up to the Washington Accord??!! What’s stopping us??” Then I would concede that we may not measure up to international standards after all? We have too much to do with existing undergraduates who are not meeting industries’ expectations. So, that’s like asking a toddler to run before knowing how to walk.

Sometimes I blame myself for not doing my undergraduate overseas. The thought of turning down a scholarship to study in Singapore highlights one of the bad decisions in life. Or why don’t I just blame the UK institutions for being such a snob, right?


I think the reason is multiple and complicated. Perhaps the question is: Is it really important getting into the Accord and trying to be known by the signatory countries? Why should we when the rest of the hundred over countries aren’t? Why the UK? Why not Japan? Why not Germany? After all, these countries are also known for their engineering prowess worldwide.

I have stopped passing the buck. In fact, I don’t think there is a buck to pass. Complaining isn’t going to solve problems. Making the first move is.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

SLSC Aquathlon Series 2

Organised by the South London Swimming Club and held at the Tooting Bec Lido, this is a four-series swim and run event. In Malaysia, we call it a Biathlon Race. Here it's Aquathlon. Oh are the numbers....

1000m Swim time : 20mins 37 secs
8km run time : 36mins 02sec

It is the most rubbish 1000m swim time I've ever achieved in a race. It's so slow that Pat's kids would have reached puberty by the time I finish.

The Fear

The water temperature was 16 deg C. Anyone who's not Malaysian, who doesn't wear Arena or not lacking in common sense would probably come in a wetsuit! But not me. I was only in a tri-suit. Fortunately I didn't look too awkward. A few others were just down to basics - just swimming trunks!
The Challenger

I was shivering. But shivering before the race started was a bad sign. When I started changing into my swimming attire, the body reacted like someone who's trying to drive a car in 5th gear from rest.

The whole incident altered the way I see rubber now!

90 of us were divided into two starting times. They put me with the faster swimmers in the second wave. The pool was 100 yards in length, one of the longest and rarest in the UK. So we just needed to swim 11 laps to complete the swimming event.

Once in the water, it wasn't too bad. Just needed to keep moving. That's when the body felt less cold. The people in wetsuits were like seals. Their added buoyancy provided the lift to swim pass me without an effort! I was left competing speedboats with two oars!

When I started overtaking a few swimmers in wetsuit, I gained confidence. But I was still far away from the rest.

The marshals were very observant. With so many swimmers to track, they were able to keep time of my laps. On the 11th lap, they shouted for me to get out of the pool and run!

Wearing a tri-suit has its advantage during transition. People in wetsuit may need an extra minute or two to peel off the suit.

I was reeling while wiping myself dry and picking my pair of shoes. I couldn't balance at all. I looked drunk to the spectators. Of course, that translated to a funny moment to the crowd and me. I wished I could smile back but my mouth was still shivering.

I didn't bother with the socks so I just slipped on the shoes, picked up my bib and shot off. The treads were heavy and confined. The body was still recuperating from the cold.

After 6 minutes, the legs started communicating. My speed picked up and some participants were within sight. After a few push, I was able to overtake a few more runners. Of course I was also overtaken by one really fast runner who made up for lost time during transition!

The run was three loops around Tooting Bec Common.

When I finished the third loop, I returned to the pool where the finishing area was. I checked my time; 56mins 39 secs in total.
The Finisher

For the hard work and £14, this is what I got...

The Reward

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lots happened today

It was as if there's no tomorrow.

Just outside my house, there's the Coin Street Festival. Lots of performances.

While walking along the Southbank, there was a book launch by Terry Pratchett. I suspected something amiss when there was an unusually long queue at the Foyles book shop.

Terry Pratchett

Even though I didn't know who that guy on the table signing autographs was, a quick search on Wikipedia revealed that he was the best selling author in the country in 1990. He is a British fantasy, sci-fi and children's book author. I asked my housemate and she instantly associated him to "Discworld".

I also knew there was a Thai Festival happening in Trafalgar Square. So I went for a visit.

This is probably the most hygienic Thai food I've ever witnessed!

There was some sort of an event hijack in Trafalgar Square as well. Up the sky, the RAF was in action when the Thai festival was going on. The planes were basically streaking and screaming across the Square. If this were a conversation between two people, you'd probably say, "How rude!"

I don't know if they were practicing for an event or rehearsal for a show since George Bush will be in London today.
Event hijack by RAF

At another corner in the Square was a demonstration by Kyrgyzstan and Cuban activists. So much were happening here.

Demonstration by activists

Not too far from the Square in Hyde Park Corner, a group of cyclists were staging a naked protest against the use of car and oil. The event was called World Naked Bike Ride. Thousands of them gathered and cycled around the city in nude. I call it a demonstration of love for nature that is not skin deep but deeply in skin!
Naked Bike Ride started in Hyde Park Corner (A more subtle photo I picked from the lot. Don't click to enlarge if you don't want to see details!)

Them passing Leicester Square

Monday, June 09, 2008

Every little helps...

I am beginning to like shopping in Tesco.

Last Friday evening I was there replenishing grocery for the week.

I took a Marmite since it was only 96p. I don't remember paying anything less than £1 previously. So it was cheap.

I have picked up the habit of checking the receipt after paying at the checkout. This was due to several bad experiences of finding things in the receipt and not in the bag.

The price of the Marmite in the receipt was printed £1.29. I was a little hesitant to ask about the difference at first but after thinking that I may have paid for the bigger size one, I might as well get the bigger one. After all, that would probably save me the hassle of buying anymore Marmite for the next 15 years!

So I went to the Customer Service desk and enquired about the price discrepancy. The officer went to the aisle where the Marmite shelf was located and checked if there was an error. He came back and explained there was a mistake on the price at the shelf.

"I'll give you a refund of…err…" he was struggling to come out with an answer.

"33p?" I said.

"Right, so that's 66p. We double the refund of any price difference that's due to our fault. That's our policy." he explained.

I didn't protest..of course not!

With soaring food and oil prices worldwide, one can't be more right than to feel excited getting a Marmite for 30p!

Every little helps...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Working in the Square Mile

That's what they refer to the City of London.

My office is in Holborn, across the Waterloo Bridge from where I live.

View from nearby where I live

I have settled down pretty well in the last few days and observed many new and different things from a conurbation into a metropolitan city.

The daily walk across the Bridge makes me think of two things which I'm still in denial - that I've joined the rat race and two, the sole of my leather shoes will wear off quicker now!
Rat race and Waterloo Bridge

The office is overlooking a musical theatre near Covent Garden. Next to the building is a sports centre which I'll join for obvious reasons - corporate rates, facilities and most importantly, location!
View from the office. Do you see streets or a fan?

If I were blindfolded for 15 days and cut off completely from the sense of time and sunlight, I can now easily guess which part of the day it would be in London. In the morning, the streets would smell coffee and fresh bakeries; evenings there will be Londonpaper or Lite newspapers on the walkways.

I am still trying new routes to work. There will be some trial and errors from time to time. I am thinking of drawing to a close if I couldn't bring down any further the 15-minute journey time from Waterloo. It took me 35 minutes on the first day! It could also be because I've improved my strides and pace!

Cycling into central London can be another way to kill myself easily. I am wary of the recent stabbing cases here. That's quite a stretch to my risk appetite already. I better not cut corners into getting more risk of being ran over by a double decker.

I have been to the Olympics site in Stratford, on the first day of work. I couldn't usually follow what's going on in a meeting as a new joiner, but this time, I could. That's good omen. Well, it's still too early to tell if I like my work. But so far so good.

Where on earth did they come from?

When I first arrived into Cambridge, I took with me a piece of luggage.

When I moved to Reading last year, I had to use a compact car.

When I moved to London two days ago, I had to get a wagon.

On both occasions, they were packed to the roof!

If the maths are right, I may have to ship a container by the time I return to Malaysia!

Thing is I have never felt squeezed for space nor realised that I have bought many things in the past eight months. But when I had to move, I wonder where on earth did these things come from?!