Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Forgiving hurt versus trust: worlds apart

Note: The contents of this post applies to me only. Any references outside of myself (other than Linda's post, which served as a source of inspiration) are purely unintentional.

Read Linda's post a week ago, and it has been fomenting in my mind ever since. My first reaction was to dismiss it as an invitation to an indulgent exercise in self-pity. In fact, I even recalled a poem by David Herbert Lawrence:

Self-Pity (1928)

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

Stoicism is a great trait, IMHO. It allows one to soldier on even if the world is crumbling all around. But there is a very real danger of mistaking denial for stoicism. And it is denial that keeps us back. Denial that chains us to the past. Because when we deny the hurt that was committed against us, we reside in that period before the hurt / betrayal / insult / attack / disappointment occurred. I am no psychologist, but I reckon this is a very large part of what holds us back.

Acknowledgment of the hurt caused, and recognition that things have changed, and may never be the same again is the first step towards liberation of the self.

I started rock climbing at the end of my secondary school (high school) years. When I was 16, my mother was chasing a cockroach with a can of bug spray when the critter dashed across my bundle of rope. Needless to say, the coil received a liberal dose of insecticide-laden oil. Now, climbing ropes are made of specially treated nylon fiber that stretches slightly under load. That way, the shock to the falling climber's body is greatly reduced. However, this treatment renders the fibers extremely susceptible to contamination. Oils, acids and solvents can dramatically reduce the strength of the rope, with no visible changes to the material.

Understandably, I was upset. It would cost SGD$280 to replace the rope. I am no son of a tycoon, so, at 16, $280 is a princely sum to me. But I could no longer trust that rope with my life and limb. Sure, I could practice "selective vision" and pretend the rope is all right, much like how the spouses of alcoholics, drug addicts and wife-beaters pretend that their husbands are just, honorable men. I was the only one in possession of that knowledge. And if my climbing buddies used the rope, as long as I shut my mouth, they would never know.

But what if?

What if it breaks?

The question haunted me. I couldn't use the rope again. I just couldn't. The trust is gone. I scrapped it. I saved up for a new rope.

The loss of trust, I believe, is why I walked away, walk away, and will continue to walk away from friendships and relationships I cannot or refuse to fix. I cannot--will not--put myself in situations where trust can be violated. I will not be left hanging. I will walk off before the rug is yanked from under my feet, thank you very much.

Trust forms the foundations of relationships, friendships, etc. There are ground rules to follow, and you rely on each other's roles within those rules. When trust is broken, then what is the point of the relationship or friendship? Why hang around to wait and see if the situation deteriorates?

Will you rappel off a cliff on a rope that may be unsound?

Will you SCUBA dive with regulators that may or may not deliver air?

Are you going to comfort yourself that perhaps you will have grown wings by the time the rope breaks?

Are you going to hope that when both regulators fail, you would have evolved gills?

Shall I continue to use that rope, rationalizing with gratuitous sentimentality, "Oh, this rope and I have such a long history together. I am sure it will never let me down"?

Let go of pain, yes, but do not be deceived into thinking that trust is regained.

Linda, I salute you for having the courage to risk what I can't and won't--our emotional sides.

Be careful and good luck.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Turkey Day Ride

Among the long list of blessings that I am thankful for, some of them are health and simple contentment.

Ride report: click on the image or here.

Happy holidays.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Photocopiers and lard asses

And I just wrote about losing weight... LOL!

Confessions of a photocopier repairman

By Will Sturgeon of
Special to CNET
Published: November 23, 2005

Photocopier supplier Canon is warning customers to take better care of their office equipment during the Christmas period, claiming that the festive season traditionally leads to a 25 percent hike in service calls due to incidents such as the classic backside copying prank.

Such a stunt, a mainstay of the office party, often results in cracked glass on the copier, with 32 percent of Canon technicians claiming to have been called out to fix glass plates during the Christmas period after attempts to copy body parts went wrong.

Tim Andrews, a Canon employee from London, said: "We always fit lots of new glass to copiers after New Year due to 'rear-end copying.'"

In fact, Canon claims a shocking 46 percent of service calls are in response to non-work-related breakages.

Geoff Bush from the north of England said one case he'd attended, where a young lady had cracked the glass mid-scan, also jammed the scanner so that it wasn't until the machine was fixed and her colleagues all sober that copies of her backside starting pouring from the machine.

Partly in response to this trend--or perhaps because of the "supersizing" of the western physique--Canon has now increased the thickness of its glass by an extra millimeter.

However, one of the most alarming tales comes to us from service engineer Steven Mannion of northern England. "I had to repair a machine with a photocopy of a man's groin jammed in it," Mannion said.

We can only hope he meant it was the photocopy that was jammed in the machine.

Mannion added: "The manager suggested an office identity parade to see who Canon could charge for the call-out charge."


And, oh, happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
Try not to stuff your fat faces with too much food now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Passion Burning II

A sequel to the Passion Burning post. While the original dwelled on losing weight for health, this focuses on losing weight for performance.

From a forum:

A picture of Michael Rasmussen before the last Tour de France. Is he lean, or is he lean? Weight-to-power ratio is everything when climbing. They even compromise upper body strength to keep those pounds off.

Fellow riders dubbed Rasmussen, "Rooster Cogturn," for his skinny frame (132 lb / 60 kg), while respecting his ability to turn a mean crank.

Seven-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, doesn't look too different either.

They may look unhealthy, but they are actually in the pink of health. Their resting heart rates (HRrest) are easily less than half of the typical office worker's. Lance Armstrong's resting heart rate, for example, is 32 beats a minute (bpm). Greg LeMond was once almost sent to cardiac intensive care after a routine check up because the doctor didn't realize that a resting heart rate of 30 beats per minute is considered relatively normal for a Tour de France cyclist. Miguel Indurain's heart is a statistical anomaly even in this class of super-athletes: his resting heart rate is an unbelievable 28 bpm, and it recovers from 160 bpm back to 60 bpm in 30 seconds. This may explain why, in spite of his massive 6' 2" (187 cm), 176 lbs (80 kg) frame, Indurain soundly beat lighter riders in the mountains during his reign.

For a sense of perspective, an average individual's resting heart rate is 70 to 80 beats per minute.

What does that mean?

It means that when the typical office worker, Joe Blow, is huffing, gasping, turning purple, dizzy and about to fall off his bicycle to puke his guts out struggling up a 4000 ft (1219 m) mountain pass, Rasmussen, Armstrong, LeMond and Indurain will still be chatting, their heart rates barely registering above 90 beats per minute.

Furthermore, since an individual's theoretical maximum heart rate (HRmax) is approximated by the formula,

HRmax = 220 - age

this means that an individual with a lower resting heart rate is capable of generating a higher power output. This is because the fitter individual has a higher Heart Rate Reserve (HRR):

HRR = HRmax - HRrest

There is also another benefit of lowering one's resting heart rate: since the "Fat Burning Zone" is around 60 to 75% of one's maximum heart rate, this means that a cyclist with a lower resting heart rate can actually plan to burn fat instead of carbohydrates and still maintain a reasonable speed.

Also, as fat possesses a higher concentration of energy compared to carbohydrates (fat contains 9 calories per gram--more than twice the number of calories in protein (4) or carbohydrates (4)), this means one can carry less food along, and refuel less often. While not very useful in regular racing (no one rides at 60 to 75% max. heart rate in races), this is very valuable information for endurance racing or long distance touring. There are actually energy bars made with a lot of fat for this purpose.

930 calories of fat versus 930 calories of carbohydrates.

When I run out of carbs, I lower my intensity and burn fat instead. It is extremely useful. Think of it as a reserve tank. Upon weighing myself 48 hours after the completion of the Livermore-to-Santa Clara-via-Mount-Hamilton ride, I discovered that I lost 2 lbs (~0.9 kg) of body fat. This was confirmed by the body fat percentage meter.


I normally weigh 160 - 165 lbs (72.7 - 75 kg) during racing season, but two years ago I got down to 148 lbs (67 kg) and climbed like my ass was on fire. I felt pretty damn good as well. I'm 5' 10" (178 cm).

I am 6' 2" (~187 cm) and fluctuate between 148 - 154 lbs (67 - 70 kg). I go ape shit when I put on 2 lbs (~0.9 kg). 909 grams is almost 1 full water bottle's worth of weight. I.e. 1 liter = 1 kg. It feels like you have an under-inflated tire back there or something. I was once in the body building craze and got myself up to 185 lbs (84 kg). Sure, chicks checked me out more often, and guys gave me a wider berth, but I was constantly getting passed on my favorite climbs. Once, I even had this 64-year-old man pass me on Montebello Road (a 2600 feet climb over 5.2 miles), going "On yer left, sonny!" Ugh! That was it, and so here I am :p

Monday, November 21, 2005

Quiz: What is important in your life?

Health is most important in your life.

Having a high focus on health indicates that you are very health-conscious and you realize that if you don't have your health, you have nothing. You are devoted to living healthy.

Life Piechart -

Take this quiz at

While most people ask about what you do for a living in a conversation, I am more likely to ask what your resting heart rate is.

The way I see it, it is a zero sum game. If you abuse your health now for your career / children, you will pay for it later, be it in the form of medical or burial fees.

Whenever I visit national parks and observe old folks hobbling around on walkers or being pushed around on wheelchairs, in the attempt to "experience the great wilderness" for the first time, I feel a certain sense of sadness. Where were they when they were younger? Why didn't they do this when they were younger, and able to run, jump, climb, leap off trees into chilly lakes, ponds or rivers, camp overnight in the snow? Why? Now, even if they had 100 times the wealth of Bill Gates, they have no means to even leave the paved trail without assistance, let alone trail blaze and travel cross country. All they can do now is to take in the sights, live vicariously through their scion, and hope for a painless death. Poor bastards.

Noticed that Family scored 0.0%. Man, this is going to give more ammo to my brother (who constantly snipes at me with the fact that my name and "Cain" end on the same letter).

Be that as it may, I believe this is an appropriate moment to bludgeon my readers with yet for another quote from Edward Abbey:

One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for awhile and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards.

Have you lived today?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A culture with the longest history, and one not too far from the world's oldest profession

A month ago, I forwarded to a friend, news of China's complicity in the fur trade, where dogs and cats are slaughtered for their fur, which are then mislabeled for US markets. Being an animal lover, she was outraged. Outraged enough to passionately denounce the mainland Chinese, and how China's technological advancement and growing economic might mean little, if any, to her--the measure of progress being moot if a society or culture cannot deign to treat another life form with decency.

I totally agree with her sentiments. In my opinion, when a society or culture treats animals with such unflinching cruelty, it will only be a matter of time before people are treated in the same manner. All too often, people forget that they too, are animals.

My prejudices against Chinese culture notwithstanding (a relic of having been forced to learn Mandarin for a decade on a certain sunny tropical island city state), I am appalled by the indefensible stance of the Chinese Culture Chauvinists (CCC). First, they force Mandarin down the throats of students on the pretext that Chinese culture is morally superior to "Western" culture. Later, when the degree of repression and magnitude of atrocities committed by the government of China comes to light, and with that, their claim to "a higher morality" argument gets tossed out the window, they quickly replace it by being the shameless whores of Mammon. I.e. "It doesn't matter what China did or does. As long as there is money to be made by doing business with/in China, it's all good." Arbeit macht frei, indeed.

Of course, it is not only Asian companies that are guilty of aiding and abetting China, but at least there is no sickeningly sanctimonious pretense to cultural superiority in the act.

On Oct 12 2005, the Metro: Silicon Valley published an article, "Gag Orders," on how Cisco Systems is helping China repress her citizens with their routers and technology.

Some excerpts:

A Swipe at Freedom

According to China expert Ethan Gutmann, a Beijing beat cop need only swipe a citizen's government-issued identification card and up pops the last 30–60 days of the suspect's emails on his PDA. This is the kind of technology Western companies are developing for Chinese internal security forces.

Cisco is not alone in this:

Project Golden Shield

But membership in a banned organization isn't required to become a target of the police state. Typing "Tibet" and "freedom" in the same email can produce a visit from the Man. How? Unlike the chaotic morphing of the government-university Arpanet into the spam- and porn-choked Internet of 2005, the Chinese web was designed from the get-go with strong social controls in mind. If America's web is a few million tributaries and a couple dozen major rivers dumping into a totally accessible ocean of data, China's is four Amazon-wide man-made rivers with 30,000 Coast Guard boats patrolling every turn.
[-ben: I guess, with its 3 proxies, it is 3 rivers for Singapore?]

Cisco does not deny building more than 75 percent of the pipes and dams routing the massive rivers of data entering China from the rest of the world. With thousands of Cisco routers installed at $20,000 a pop, this deal has been a platinum profit center during a period of negative or tepid growth in the U.S. market for networking gear. IBM even got into the action by providing "high end" financing to the brutal and now swimming-in-cash government. Dubbed with Orwellian flourish "Project Golden Shield," the five-year multibillion-dollar project will be completed this year.

Nor is the company the first to be complicit in such practices:

Axis of Technology

This isn't the first time a company in San Jose played the pivotal role in providing a totalitarian country the cutting edge technology it required to create and maintain a brutally effective police state.

As excruciatingly detailed in Edwin Black's IBM and the Holocaust, nothing—from the success of Hitler's blitzkriegs, to the identification of Germans with 1/32nd or greater Jewish blood, to the efficient murder of 6 million of those identified—would have been accomplished without the cutting edge technology of 1940, the IBM punch card.

But as airtight as Black's indictment of Big Blue was in providing custom gears for the Nazi death machine, publication of his book a half century after the fact created barely a ripple in the media and had even less impact on the public consciousness. With all the culpable IBM employees long since retired or dead, America shrugged its collective shoulders. Long removed from the company's display case of notable achievements, the photo of IBM chief James Watson Jr. accepting a Nazi trophy from the hands of Adolf Hitler was once equally uncontroversial.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a potentially lucrative business plan to draft up for a test market in China: setting puppies on fire for amusement. My command of Chinese (Mandarin) will certainly come in handy.

Sieg heil!

Or, shall I say, Ni Hao!