Don’t Run For The Train

19 08 2011

Well, that would be another reason not to run for the train. Photo from ManiacWorld

How many times have you missed the train by just that smallest fraction of a second?

How many times have you run onto the platform, only to have the cruel train doors slide close in your face?

And how many times have you thought to yourself, if I had taken a shorter shower, or had chewed my toast more quickly, or walked a slightly faster pace, I wouldn’t have missed the train?

I’m sure we’ve all had those painfully annoying moments.

But what if we were to take this entire mindset and flip it upside down on its head? What if, instead of running madly for the train, we instead teach ourselves not to run for the train?

It sounds high-brow, perhaps even naive and idealistic,  but the concept is somewhat appealing. Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the idea in his book The Black Swan. Here are some of his words of wisdom:

Snub your destiny. I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule. This may seem a very small piece of advice, but it registered. In refusing to run to catch trains, I have felt the true value of elegance and aesthetics in behaviour, a sense of being in control of my time, my schedule, and my life. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking.

You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside of it, if you do so by choice.

He sums up this idea with some powerful words:

It is more difficult to be a loser in a game you set up yourself.

In Black Swan terms, this means that you are exposed to the improbable only if you let it control you. You always control what you do; so make this your end.

Hm. Idealistic? In a sense, yes. After all, you can’t justify, say, failing an exam by proclaiming ‘I wasn’t aiming to pass it anyway! I’m above the pecking order, I don’t need to play the exam game!’. In another sense, it would definitely feel infinitely fulfilling to walk up to a just-departing train, and think, ‘Ha! You haven’t snubbed me. You think you’re so important?! I wasn’t running for you anyway, you egotistical sleazebag!’





Watching the Hongkers: Things you Learn from Living in HK

25 07 2011

Expanding on my earlier post, ‘Watching the Hongkers’,  here are a few things that you tend to pick up – consciously and unconsciously – after years of living in Hong Kong.

1. Very good agility in extremely crowded areas like Central MTR station at peak hours. This means being able to get from point A to B despite having a million people blocking your way. How? Keeping your head held high, making quick nimble movements with your feet as well as your entire body, weaving in and out of people, abruptly (but smoothly, somehow) changing body positioning so as not to crash into other strangers

2. Becoming squeezable. Squeezing yourself into the smallest possible area on the bus, tram and MTR – before the doors close, millimeters from your face.

Not quite HK, but you get the idea. Squeezable, squishable sardines. Photo by yushimoto_02

3. Very Serious Multitasking. Seen someone watching a movie on their iPhone, getting off the train, maneuvering between the crowd all at the same time before? They’re probably Hongkers. Time costs here. So we make do with some Very Serious Multitasking.

4. Eating super fast. You can’t really help it if your meal arrives in front of you, piping hot, within 60 seconds of you ordering it – as is the norm at the famous cha chan teng Australian Dairy Company.

5. Keeping off grass. There’s not a lot of grass in HK. And when there is, there’s probably a sign telling you to KEEP OFF. So we’re pretty good at doing that too.

This mean is by no means exhaustive. It’s just a quick little fun brainstorm that I though I’d do. So if you have any other things that you’ve learnt and don’t mind sharing, pop them in the comments below!





Training for the 2XTRI Triathlon

25 06 2011

I’ve just signed up for the 2XTRI Double Triathlon – a triathlon which, as the name implies, is double that of regular triathlons: (300m swim + 12k bike + 3k run) x 2!

Hm. Double the distance. Double the effort. Double the pain. But, double the movement and hence, double the love! I’m excited.

To kick start my training, this is today’s training:

Morning session:

Afternoon session:

  • 1.5km run to the swimming pool
  • Pyramid swimming: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 lengths (25m pool)
  • 300m freestyle kick
  • 200m single armed freestyle drill
  • 300m freestyle pull
  • 100m breaststroke, 100m backstroke cooldown
  • 1.5km run back home

2XTRI here I come!





Watching the Hongkers

20 06 2011

‘Watching the English’ by the anthropologist Katie Fox is an absolutely fascinating read. She basically observes, dissects and analyses each an every aspect of English behaviour in the most amusing ways possible.

Reading through the book, I thought: If I find it so fascinating to read about English behaviour, why don’t I try observing Hongker (that is, Hong Kong-er) behaviour? So here it is – my crude attempt at observing my fellow Hongkers’ behaviour on the train.

Hongkers on the MTR

Photo by t-a-i

There are two types of Hongkers travelling on the MTR (train) at any given time: 1) Those glued to their phones; 2) Those not glued to their phones.

1. Those Glued to Their Phones:
People in this particular demographic group are clinically addicted to their mobile phones. The symptoms for addiction are numerous:

  • tapping/swiping/scratching furiously away on their touchscreens all for the purpose of some game.
  • incessantly swiping their fingers down the touchscreen to renew their live Facebook speed, and chuckling to themselves when they see an amusing picture of their drunk friend.
  • watching some trashy TV show
  • texting
  • talking very, very loudly on the phone about personal issues which no one else could care less about. This symptom may also point to an inability to recognise the fact that: 1) you’re not invisible on the train, and 2) everyone can hear you on the train.

2. Those NOT Glued to Their Phones:
People in this group exhibit more diverse behaviour, which I have summarised as follows:

  • the sleepers: commuters trying very hard to stay awake, but in failing to do so, nod off in the comfort of their hard metallic train seat with their head bobbing madly from left to right, much to the demise of those next to them.
  • the fashion-junkies: mostly females who decide that the train has transformed into their bathrooms and thus justifies their taking out their make-up kit and boldly applying their mascara, eye liners etc.
  • the newspaper-aficionados: mostly middle aged men reading the horse racing guide on Apple Daily
  • the love birds: couples who can’t resist the temptation of cuddling on a jerky train while being squeezed on all sides by sweaty commuters, or who for some reason deliberately choose to publicly and physically display affection.

Of course, this fun little experiment of mine to observe my fellow Hongker commuters is far from complete or fully representative of the Hong Kong population. If you have any other observations to chip in, feel free to do so in the comments section.

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