Vincent Liu

The Doorman

Train Ride, a Squeeze No More

For a moment, I was convinced by mum’s explanation that I was able to get a seat on the train at Raffles Place station during rush hour was because most of the Chinese migrant labour had returned to China for the New Year festivities.

But after some reflection, I can’t convince myself this can be true; surely most of the people working in the offices blocks around the Shenton Way area would be white-collared workers, mostly whom would be local?

Given that it’s been more than a decade since I’ve returned during CNY (in the past years it had always been in December, as it was an easier to take a long holiday that’s lined up with the Western holiday seasons), I had to give it a benefit of a doubt.

I was on the train again today, and with mum in tow. We returned to the same station at Raffles Place, as I had been a few days ago, returning from a stroll through town. This time, it was past 6 and well within the confines of the evening rush hour. We boarded the train, and unlike previous years, there’s a notable difference between the volume of people – in the past, I had to assiduously avoid 5-7pm period or risk being packed like sardines. This year, I get to sit down, both times!

While narrowly missing a previous train from the one I boarded, one on-station staff member helpfully mentioned, “the next train would be in 2 minutes.” He meant it literally. The electronic display indicated that all successive trains are arriving in 2 minute intervals. That’s what appears to be the real answer to why I haven’t been crushed in the MRT this year.

I recalled coming across a headline that SMRT had been upgrading their signalling systems a while ago… this time, before the crowds grow to an unwieldy number, they get shuttled away in the 2-minute interval. Or that’s my theory anyway. Whatever the trick is, it’s working, brilliantly.

Why I Don’t Post on Facebook

As much as I try not to post technology-related posts on my personal blog, this one possibly merits so, given it clarifies my thoughts and position on why I generally don’t post anything at all on Facebook.

If you are in the the IT industry, then you should already know all about Facebook – much has been said about this high-profile public company. In a nutshell, they are an entity that makes profit out of people’s personal data. Now, there isn’t anything inherently wrong about that, because users are the ones who are willingly giving up this information, and the company so far had not attempted to use this information in a morally repugnant, or distasteful way by today’s social standards (although some of you might argue otherwise).

Technology as an enabler is a good thing, but I can’t help feeling using your personal information in exchange for easy accessibility with friends and family is like a Faustian pact. Tell me, how many of you know that, by posting your picture up on Facebook, the company retains perpetual rights to your pictures? Even if you choose to delete your copy of your picture, Facebook retains the legal rights to use that picture, for any purpose forever.

Facebook is also at the forefront of facial recognition, where its DeepFace technology boasts the capability of recognising a posted picture of you with up to 97.53% accuracy.

Put that together and Facebook has the capability to track you directly, and indirectly, though your friends’ postings, and build a dossier about you – one that knows about you more than you do. I sure am not sure about the wisdom of allowing so much information to be tracked about you involuntarily, and definitely a little too 1984-esque for my liking.

If there’s one thing as certain as death and taxes in the software industry, it would be programming bugs. And if one’s information can be hacked from Ashley Madison’s data breach, it is only a matter of time that will happen to Facebook. Leaking your private information, can ruin lives.

Why some people would risk sharing sensitive, private information, is ultimately one’s personal choice, but I am not that totally comfortable that a corporation has the capabilty to gather in-depth information about me, which I have no rights, ownership and control over, which is indirectly acquired through the actions of friends, rather than myself.

Friends, I’d prefer if you’d generally not post pictures with me in it, or keep the tags out of pictures of me – my sense of paranoia will thank you for it :)

(Image Credits: SMBC)

Update on Progress

It’s close to the end of the year again. I am off target from my goal of attaining “6000 Punches, 6000 Kicks”, by a margin of 2000 thereabouts at worse, or 1000 at best. It also comes down to the actual definition – when I mean “Punch/Kick”, I meant a dedicated style of punch or kick.

If counting my combination of elbow attacks and varying punches, I should have exceeded the 6000 mark. For kicks, it would likely be at around the 4000 mark – it’s harder to perform kicks compared to punches, due to the flexibility needed to perform kicks upwards of the waist (I’m kicking into a sandbag). Certainly more exhausting too.

At least I’ve managed to get to the midway mark of my grand target of 10000.

In terms of feedback, the difference in the fluidity of movement can definitely be felt. What used to feel like something that requires active thought is more or less a reflex action now. The only thing that still requires attention is the awareness of the movement of the bag, so as to land the strike as accurately as possible – I’m not sure if that is possible to reflex away that too, but we’ll see.

Where it used to bleed with striking bare knuckles, they are callused enough now where strikes doesn’t cause any raw-ness anymore. And silly self-injuries from bad positioning of the wrist while striking have reduced by a good margin. I’ve realised from punching bags that it actually isn’t reasonable to angle the wrists while driving the knuckles into your intended target, as some martial arts would advocate in order to cause ‘more hurt’ to your opponent.

Personally, from experience, it’s counterproductive to make any movement from your wrist while striking at high power/speed. As this is likely to cause injury to yourself, or inflict less damage to your opponent. I’ll be quite happy if my opponent takes a blunt, full-force impact from the flat of my fists, rather than a watered-down punch from a couple of my knuckles, and risk breaking them from bone-to-bone impact.

That’s the summary of what I’ve learnt the past year. I’ll leave the remainder of my other observations in a future post.

Do Something and Make It Stick

The most important thing I learnt about workouts (and for most things in life), is that it isn’t important how hard you go at it, but more on how to make it stick. If statistics is a guide, only 30% of people who signs up for a gym membership will make it past the first 3 months. 10% will remain after a year, and only 3% will keep the habit up year after year. It is pretty dismal, but it does line up with my anecdotal observations.

This is my 4th year working out in the gym, and it is only in the last couple of years did it feel somewhat effortless and automatic. And it is only in the last year did I acquire a dedicated approach to integrate workouts into my daily lifestyle.

As far as I know, it wasn’t grim determination that kept me there. Instead it was to ignore all reasons and expectations that you have for wanting to go to the gym in the first place. I know having sculptured body and a six-pack ab is a noble goal, but you will most likely end up killing yourself at every single workout, trying all manner of insane exercises prescribed by your fitness instructors (crossfit!), from well-meaning friends, or the muscled gym rats whom you would believe to have a clue about fitness.

And only to give up after 12 weeks, where after each workout, the only thing you got was feeling sore and miserable. Eventually you’ll just give up from feeling depressed and getting no results at all.

It’s not that workouts don’t work, but short of being genetically gifted, it is unrealistic to demand results in a short time span. The first time I recall seeing my own set of six-pack abs came after 3 and ½ years of training. But if that was a goal I had set from the start, it would have been a demotivating long wait to get there.

My approach is not to think about how much you are lifting today, and not to be thinking about how much you will be lifting tomorrow. It helps to not be affected by your own performance, or worse, by the performance of another person working out at a higher intensity than you. Remember, others are strong because they put in their dues. Over time, you will be there too, but you need to stick to it first.

Personally, it flips traditional wisdom on its head, but I find goal setting a major roadblock towards habit establishment. It puts you in a situation where you have to wrestle with your fears and aspirations on a day-to-day basis. Even if you’d like to do a little goal setting to chart your incremental progress, I’d say, skip that for now.

That’s because there will be days where there are negative gains. There will always be days in which your performance is actually worse than before. It could be for any reason – poor sleep, sickness, or sometimes, for no good reason at all. Knowing that dis-improvement is normal, is important. When days like these come, do your best, but ignore the results.

Better yet, don’t measure yourself. Whether intentionally or not, by measuring, you are allowing yourself to be affected by the results. It’s like telling you not to think about the pink elephant. (You just did, didn’t you!)

There will come a time where measurement is important for progress. But it does not matter, not at least until it you stick to it.

6000 Punches, 6000 Kicks

As new-age common wisdom popularised by Malcom Gladwell, 10000 repetitions is the magic number of times one has to practice before he’s proficient in a skill. Which obviously makes it strange to have chosen to practice 6000 punches and kicks over this year – that’s just barely above the halfway mark.

However, the answer is simple – it is reasonably achievable to attain this number over the course of the year. By piggybacking on my existing gym routine, if I am able to repeat last year’s attandence of 300 days, and if I am to practice just 20 punches and 20 kicks a day, by calculations, I would naturally come up to 6000 practices, give and take.

But does anybody truly believe that there is something magic about that 10000 number? Does it mean if you were to stop at 9999, it would have made you much less accomplished just because you’ve missed that 1 last kick for the count?

Ironically, as I’ve noticed in the gym, people get so obsessed with wanting to achieve quick results, to which after a few months, the vast majority will simply quit. You got to ask, “is it worth over-taxing yourselves with goals that are set with unreasonable expectations?”

Progress, not achievement, if there’s a secret to life that I’m able to share with you.

I’ll still be better off being able to stick to my goals. Sure, completing 6000 punches and kicks wouldn’t make me Bruce Lee, but at least I should be more accomplished than where I am today. And if I am able to stick to 6000 for a year, all it takes is another year to cross 10000.

Better be there slow, then not be there at all, so what do you think?

First Post!

This is my first post of the year! Not much to say yet, aside from that I’m still in the process of setting up this new blog. The old blog will stay as it is, so as not to mess up any permalinks for other sites that was kindly linked to me.

I hope to keep writing all the way this year, and after a few years of absence, let’s call it my resolution for 2014 then. Stay tuned!