Archive for March, 2008

Two Letters to the ST Forum

Since it’s been a few days since I sent them, I assume that they won’t be published.

Letter #1:

Dear Editor,

I refer to the letter “Aesthetic guidelines: Leave it to the doctor” (ST, March 25) by Mr Oh. The role of the doctor is to prevent and
treat health problems. Aesthetic problems are not necessarily health problems. Ugly skin and ugly hair are not always symptoms of poor health, and when they are, they should be tackled by removing the root cause, rather than by removing only the symptoms. Excess fat should be combated by dieting and exercising, rather than by short-term fat-removal. Furthermore, it is not a general practitioner’s job to help his patients “become more self-confident”. If someone is having issues with his self-esteem, he should be seeing a psychiatrist, not going for aesthetic treatments.

Furthermore, Mr Oh draws a false dichotomy when he asks if the authorities would prefer that “consumers go to questionable sources of aesthetic treatment”. The whole point of the recent discoveries of malpractice and misinformation by GPs offering aesthetic treatment is that some GPs have themselves become “questionable sources”. As it is, both GPs and beauty treatment salons offer treatments that are scientifically unsubstantiated. But surely we should expect the medical profession to differentiate themselves from unscrupulous entrepreneurs by demanding a higher threshold of evidence for the treatments they offer. Only then will the consumer be able to reliably differentiate between doctors and the pseudo-doctors of beauty salons.

Finally, Mr Oh’s mention of Viagra as an example of a medically sanctioned drug that does not have “purely medical benefits” is
misleading. The relevant difference between Viagra and some of the aesthetic treatments recently highlighted by the media is that Viagra has passed double-blind clinical trials, and said treatments haven’t. In other words, Viagra has been proven beyond reasonable doubt to be effective for the condition it claims to treat, whereas those aesthetic treatments have not.

Letter #2:

Dear Editor,

I refer to Mrs Susan Yeo’s letter, “Ensure zero tolerance for danger by schools”. Mrs Yeo complains that prior to school-organised activities, parents are often given indemnity forms to sign, thereby absolving the school of responsibility for accidents during said activities. However, she is concerned that some of these activities might be unsafe. In this case, the obvious solution should be to simply not sign the indemnity or consent forms, hence ensuring that her child will not be involved any activities that she deems unsafe. Instead of taking this obvious action, though, Mrs Yeo would prefer that schools refrain from organising activities “with any element of danger”. She thinks that safer activities can provide the “same learning experience” for students.

Apart from the absurd notion that activities such as sports, all of which involve risks of physical harm, should be banned from schools, she is mistaken that safer activities can indeed provide the “same learning experience”. Suppose that the purpose of organizing camping expeditions is to teach the students outdoor survival skills. How else does Mrs Yeo propose to impart such skills other than by taking the students into the wilderness and bringing them into contact with the actual challenges posed by the natural environment? Virtual reality technology has not advanced to the extent that we can simulate entire rainforests and mountains, and however often you pitch a tent in the school field, it is simply not the same as doing so in the rainforest. Similarly, it is hard to imagine how one can teach students open-water canoeing without actually canoeing in open water.

The more disturbing aspect of Mrs Yeo’s proposal, however, is that she wishes to deprive other students of the chance to undergo the learning experiences she so deplores. Just because she is afraid that her child will come to harm, she would propose that an entire nation of children be deprived of the opportunity to learn more about nature, to acquire useful outdoors skills, and to improve their mental resilience. These are just a few of the many unique learning experiences that can be provided by outdoor activities. Under the guise of concern for students’ safety, Mrs Yeo ends up selfishly insisting that her child should be protected from all possible harm by depriving other children of the opportunities to develop themselves.

Letter #2 concerns an issue that particularly rankles with me. I hate to sound like an old hag but “youngsters nowadays” often seem too pampered to me. The more parents are unwilling to let their children actually get into situations of genuine strife and suffering (as one does regularly in endurance sports), the more likely it is that we will transform into a nation of oversized babies. It also seems that many parents, including my own, are reluctant to stop babying their offspring. In fact, they find the idea that they should cut them loose insulting — they find offensive any suggestion that their children could cope without them. But surely your having bred an independent child should be more cause for pride than your having to provide continual care for them. It all falls into place, though, if you accept the premise that most of these people are merely bringing up trophy children. It’s all about how they are manifested through their offspring, not about enabling new, independent minds. Once their children get out of their control, they can no longer force their personalities to be manifested through the little critters. And that’s what distresses them.



Arson and Arsenic reports that motorbike driving instructors tell their students that it’s illegal for cyclists to be on the roads.

Today was my first time attempting to cycle to work at 9am. I think whatever health benefits I gathered from the exercise were probably cancelled out by the pollution. Furthermore, it was a bitch trying to filter right. Two big filters that I have problems with are along Thomson Road (to turn into Chancery Lane) and Holland Road (to turn into North Buona Vista Road). When I stick to my usual starting time of 6am, I have no problems making those turns. Today at around 9.30am the traffic along Thomson Road was heavy and slow. Bloody taxi honked at me when I tried to filter right, even though there was a huge gap between it and the car in front, and I was travelling about as fast as the rest of the traffic on the road. And even after I’d successfully filtered, I had to wait a bloody long time before there was a gap in the traffic in the opposite direction that allowed me to turn into Chancery Lane. I should have just taken Lornie Road, hills and all. At Holland Road I had to take two pedestrian crossings to turn right.


The sole of my left Timberland boot is beginning to split away from the main body of the boot. It would probably still suffice for another weekend trip but I wouldn’t trust it to last a week of Tahan. So I have to either get new boots or go up Tahan in trail running shoes (of which I need a new pair too anyway, since my current Salomons also have incipient cracks between the sole and the shoe bodies). I really like the idea of going up Tahan in lightweight footwear, but I’m not sure how my feet would take to seven days of load-bearing trekking without proper ‘protection’. I’m not as agile and light-footed as your typical Malaysian mountain guide, so just because they can walk for a week in rubber water shoes, doesn’t mean that I can. And let’s not mention people (they exist) who did the whole thing in slippers.

Pros of going up in boots:
Better ankle support
Can splash in small puddles without getting wet
Potentially better padding
Possibly less toe-mashing compared to running shoes? Not sure on this point, checking with others who’ve done it in running shoes.

Will get wet during river crossings unless I bring an extra pair of water shoes along. Which would mean more weight, and also much time changing in and out of shoes (14 times!). Unless one wears water shoes for the whole middle portion of the second day?
Will get weight during heavy rain too (which is… almost guaranteed, for that mountain?). And when wet, will dry slower than trail runners would.
Less maneuverability when negotiating obstacles

Three Feet Minimum to Pass (in some places)

The Illinois legislature recently passed a law requiring motorists to pass bicyclists with at least three feet to spare. (I think we might have to wait till the next century for something like this to be passed in Singapore.) Willow Naeco, a.k.a. Chicago Cycling Chick, has come up with a 3-foot-long “foam claw buffer” to put on her bike, so that any motorists that hit it will have broken the law:


Since when did having your bikes stolen become an issue of national interest? If your extremely cheap bikes are getting persistently stolen, that tells me that you aren’t locking them well enough. Suppose you use a solid U-lock where almost everyone else at the same location uses cable locks. Unless your bike is significantly more expensive-looking than theirs, thiefs would not target your bike before theirs. Since, in my observation, almost every bike parked at MRT stations is locked with cable locks, I conclude that to get so many bikes stolen, you must be locking them quite badly (with lower security than your average bike-MRT commuter).

I pretty much regard locking your bike with a cable lock as the equivalent of leaving cash on a public bench. No one would think of writing to a national forum to complain that someone had stolen cash he’d left on a public bench. So why should anyone care that badly locked bikes are often stolen?

I Love Transport for London

Just for this ad, possibly the best ever made for cyclists.