Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Formal Complaint

Some years ago, I opened a savings account for JJ in a bank along Jalan Gaya, and because she was then under 12 years old, I had to be her guardian. However, I have since lost her savings passbook. A few weeks ago, I went back to the bank to enquire what should be done, and was advised that I should close that account, and then reopen a new one. But since JJ is now over 12 years old, she can own a savings account independently; there is no need for my name to be there as her guardian. Just that she is required to appear in person to sign some documents, thumb prints etc.

That is a little inconvenient; school is from Monday to Friday. I asked the teller if they're open on Saturdays. He said as a matter of fact, they will start operating on Saturdays beginning from 21 March. So I went to the bank on that date, which was last Saturday, only to find that it was closed!

This afternoon I went to that bank again to investigate if perhaps I understood them wrongly when they said they're going to be open on 21 March. Well, they were supposed to be open on that day, but somehow they weren't. I'm not sure why. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I shared the above on my facebook, and then asked, "What should I do?" 

My cousin replied shortly later, with a suggestion to "put in a formal complaint maybe."

I couldn't help but smile when I saw that suggestion. It's almost like a knee-jerk reaction. I was, like, that is so typical of Malaysians. Elsewhere in this blog, I have posted on the curious favourite national pastime of Malaysians in general—lodging formal complaints. I bet if the chicken crosses the road, many people would react almost instinctively by lodging a police report or some sort of formal complaint, perhaps just for the sake of lodging a police report; because that's what's expected of Malaysians.

Have you ever wondered what would the recipients of all those tons of so-called "formal complaints" do with all those documents? My best guess is maybe file them in an orderly fashion in duly-referenced files and then put them in a huge cabinet somewhere to be forgotten. Then each day perhaps retrieve a couple of those files for reading pleasure?

This reminds me of the time when I myself lodged a police report for my stolen motorbike as posted here. It was a very long time ago, of course, when I had a different idea what police reports are all about. If you are not careful, you may even be in danger of becoming impressed when seeing how these people do their job of recording the reports! 

Let me tell you that the making of formal complaints is almost like a beautiful art. You spend a lot of time making it; and some people spend a lot of time staring at it in admiration. And then in the end, you just hang it on the wall where it shall remain undisturbed for a long time.

That's how things go; get over it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

113 Triathlon Sabah

Shortly after the Putrajaya 70.3 opened for registration last year, I decided to sign up for the race. It's a Half Ironman triathlon race comprising a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run to be held on 5 April. I had just embarked on training, when I broke my right arm in a freak accident at the end of December. Consequently, I had to stop swimming and cycling for the months of January and February. However, I continued running and eventually ran the Tokyo Marathon near the end of February.

While I was still nursing my broken arm, I registered for the 113 Triathlon Sabah, which was also a half Ironman distance race. As soon as I came back from Tokyo, I resumed cycling the following weekend with a 90km workout with Mia. It felt horribly exhausting, having been away from cycling for over 2 months. I also resumed swimming, but I was careful not to overdo it, as the muscles in my arm were still recovering.

When I arrived at the start line of the 113 Triathlon at Nexus Karambunai Resort last Sunday, I've had 2 90km rides, and several 30-minute swim in the pool. I was a little doubtful if I could survive the swim, especially after I saw the rough sea condition that morning. However, just as a precautionary measure, I took Celebrex, just in case.

Many of my readers would've known that I'm not a good swimmer. Ordinarily, however, I'm not worried about the waves. But on this particular morning, I was rather concerned that I would injure my arm again. I had planned to take it easy, and then hoped to catch up during the bike and run legs.

There was a bit of a delay for the flag off, and all of us lingered around the start line for some minutes. Now waiting for something that one fears is quite a torment; the longer the wait, the more painful is the punishment. We tried to create small conversations, but I  never took my eyes off those forsaken waves.

Photo credit: Shahzan/Najib

I spent quite some anxious moments adjusting and readjusting my swimming cap...

Photo credit: Shahzan/Najib

I suppose you could tell how much I hate water getting into my ears? I was still in a kind of trance staring at the waves, when I was brought back to reality when we were about to be flagged off. I took my time to run to the sea. Actually, the toughest part of the swim was perhaps for a short distance of about 50m or so near to the shore. The swell was huge and the waves came beating angrily. After struggling for a few minutes, the waves were still quite rough, but it was possible to swim much easily. Unfortunately, we had to do 2 loops. So everybody had to go through the huge waves a second time. During the swim, I caught glimpses of my friends, Claire and Dr Shah, several metres ahead of me. I knew of several other local folks, of course, but I couldn't spot them then.

I emerged from the sea shortly after 40mins and was relieved to run up the shore. It was quite a distance running from the sea, up the sandy path, passing a shower area, and eventually to the transition area. By the time I reached my bike, I noticed that Claire was already gone. Dr Shah was already halfway into transition. Another friend, Stephanie Chok was also there. She had finished her swim about 10 minutes earlier (she was racing the relay event with her friends). Stephanie yelled out, "Go Corny, go Corny!"...

But I took my sweet time; I ate some wafer biscuits, chased it down with cola which I had prepared. Then I spent some moments applying sunblock onto my shoulders, arms, neck and legs. Wiping my hands with a towel, I took several more gulps of cola. Stephanie soon lost interest in me. 

As I was doing the chore, Dr Shah was polite enough to say that he's going ahead first. I said "Sure, I'll catch up with you later!" Now that I think of it, that didn't sound right somehow! Perhaps it would've been much better to say "I'll see you later", rather than "catch up with you later"!

As I was just about ready to go, Teo Chen Lung arrived into T1 from his swim. He had taken his sweet time too. But when he saw me about to leave on my bike, he shouted out, asking me to wait for him! I was like, yeah right!...off I went in a jiffy!

Then, to my horror, just as I started my bike leg, my Garmin 910XT suddenly went dead. I tried pressing the buttons, but to no avail. I had to continue the rest of the race without a GPS watch. Now the mind plays tricks on one's sense of speed and time. The whole time riding out from the Karambunai Resort, I felt like I was riding too slow. I was alone for a while, until I got to the main road where I overtook another cyclist. I was still unhappy; it seemed like the miles passed too slowly. At the back of my mind, I was thinking of Claire and Dr Shah, perhaps they were several kilometres ahead of me...

Bearing in mind that there's a 21km run after the 90km bike ride, I carefully refrained from overdoing it. Accordingly, I controlled my speed, but always feeling that I was too slow. There were several hills to climb along the way to Serusop, and each time I was climbing, I was worried about the drop in speed.

Imagine my relief when at about 28km into the bike leg, I saw Dr Shah several hundred metres in front of me. I took my time to catch up though. I duly made the U-turn, and finally overtook Shah shortly after. Keeping my speed, I calmly continued on that return journey. A few minutes later, I caught up with Claire and finally overtook her too. But there was still a lot of work to be done, as we were not even halfway through the bike leg. Emerging from Jalan Serusop and going back to the Kelapa Bakar, I saw Teo on the other side of the road. He was probably almost 10km lagging by then. I also saw Mia a little later down that road.

On the second loop leading to Serusop, I saw Dr Shah again, and he had by then overtaken Claire too. I'm not sure if it was because of the excitement, but I felt very strong on my bike. It was very tempting to surge ahead, but instead I maintained my speed. At the back of my mind I wasn't very tired because I was going slow.

Photo credit: Shahzan/Najib

It felt like almost 3.5hrs later when I was finally approaching Karambunai again for the transition, all the time convinced that I was far behind most of the participants. Arriving at T2, again I took my time. several gulps of cola, my secret weapon. Then a pack of gels. Calmly, I changed into my running shoes, and just as I was about to start my run, Shah arrived at T2.

Then came the most embarrassing moment of the race. For a runner capable of running 10km-11km per hour fairly easily, it was quite a torture to find that both legs were somewhat "frozen". Never mind about running technique or pace. By then, the challenge was to focus on throwing one foot to the front of the other, and keep repeating the process! With so much pain, I embarked on the 21km run.

Photo credit: Jannette Hiu & team

The run started along the pleasant shaded stretch, but it soon became a frightfully long exposed road in the scorching afternoon sun. There was no cloud in the sky. At the back of my mind, I was thinking of Shah. He made sure that he dressed for the occasion, and I was conscious of Darth Vader hot on my heels...in fact, I could almost feel his breath on my neck!

Photo credit: Jannette Hiu & team

There isn't much to tell about the run leg, except that it seemed like a never-ending workout in hell. I made it a point to stop at every water station to douse myself in cold water, a process that can very easily become addictive. I was humbled by the harsh weather; I slowed down to a walk several times, and in my mind I felt like I must have taken more than 3 hours to finish the 21km!

Imagine my surprise when I saw 6hours 27minutes when I crossed the finish line. I received the finisher T and medal. I sat on a chair for a long time and felt relieved. I watched the other participants arriving one by one at the finish line. Not long later, Shah crossed the finish line. We congratulated each other. I continued waiting, until I decided perhaps I should go take a shower and change into fresh clothes.

It was rather amusing that I actually rode for about 3hrs and not 3.5hrs. But I took almost 2.5hours to run the 21km. Claire eventually finished in about 7:20, and Teo in about 7:30.

Then the final surprise of the day. At the prize presentation, I was announced as the runner up in the veteran category. The funny thing was that the main reason was because there were just 8 competitors in my category, and if not mistaken 3 of them did not even start!

I have to admit that I didn't expect this to be a well-organised event. But after I have experienced it, I think it was a good job, considering the shoestring budget. Perhaps there is still room for improvements in terms of the number of volunteers at the water stations; and marshals to enforce the non-drafting rule etc. But on the whole, I would say the organiser passed with a flying colour. The size of participation really did not do justice to the 113 Triathlon Sabah. But perhaps it had something to do with wrong timing. On the same day, some of our local triathletes were racing the Penang Triathlon. Others were at the Viper Challenge.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely that I'm able to join the Desaru race by the same organiser, but I'm seriously considering the Bukit Merah event in September. I look forward to the 113 Triathlon Sabah 2016. I'm sure it will be even better!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Borneo International Marathon 2015—Medals

My friend, Teo Chen Lung, has an incurable fetish for medals. I reckon he must have accummulated up to a few hundred medals of wide-ranging sporting events as well as other non-sporting competition. I dare say he even considers himself something in the order of an expert when it comes to medals in general.

I'm not in the habit of discussing about running medals for 2 reasons. The first is that I don't think I'm qualified to give any meaningful comments or suggestions as far as the design and beauty of medals are concerned. And the second is that I think these are all subjective assessments anyway and depend very much on personal tastes.

This morning, a friend brought to my attention that the organiser of the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) had unveiled the medals for this year's races which include the 10km, 21km (half marathon) and 42km (full marathon) in its facebook page.

Apparently, Teo is of the view that the medals appear a little "messy", but as I said earlier, it's difficult to agree or disagree as it depends on personal tastes. I'm not sure whether "messy" is a good thing or not in this case. Personally, however, I think this year's medals are much more colourful than those in the previous years, and that is an exciting and refreshing departure from the "norm". I must congratulate the organiser for its efforts. The new design satisfies the requirement of "uniqueness" to me, and I'm guessing the colours and ribbon are more appealing to the younger runners. Some people are very sentimental though, and there will be bound to be some who're not very happy with the new colour scheme.

Looking at the comments in the organiser's facebook page, it seems that the majority are happy with the new design, although admittedly, some said they preferred the previous medals. But there are some who raised the issue of the missing mascot. They noted that the "orangutan mascot" is no longer found on the medal. For those who have not seen any of the previous BIM medals, here is an example from BIM 2011.

Notice how colourful the medal has become for the coming race. However, colours aside, I find the comments about the missing mascot very interesting. I note that several of those commenting about the mascot were Sabahans.

Being a Sabahan myself, I take pride in posting this article in the hope of educating not only the foreigners, but also some of my Sabahan comrades. That mascot you see on the BIM medals all these years is NOT an orangutan, would you believe it! Actually, it is the proboscis monkey. You'd probably know why when you look at its nose. These are two different species, although both are famous in Sabah.

I'm including in this post the photos of these animals of what they really look like in the wild:

Proboscis Monkey


One more final thing—as some of the commenters on facebook have correctly pointed out, the mascot has always been a part of the BIM, so I can appreciate their reaction when they didn't see the mascot on the medals. But please calm down, folks, the mascot is in fact there—just that it's on the other side of the medal. Here is another shot of the medals (as per Medal Depot) showing both sides.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Marathon—Pride, Ignorance & Achievements

I spent some years of my childhood living a seemingly-perpetual nightmare at my grandparents' house. In some ways, I'd say it was a worse nightmare when compared to the one at Elm Street. Notice that I'm not even using the word "home", because to me it wasn't a home at all—it was just a "house". I can still remember that it was for the most part a place I had hoped to escape from as soon as I could. Those of you who've just recently started reading this blog may be curious to know why. Here is a post to give you some idea of my childhood.

One of the many chores that I did as a boy was to do grocery shopping. As a routine, I'd ride my grandfather's bicycle to a shop in the village a few miles away to buy stuff almost on a daily basis. In the shopping list, you'd find words like Colgate, Lux and Kodak. And the word that I hated the most in the shopping list was Kotex, but that's a different story.

You see, many people are not particularly concerned about using the correct words when they speak. If they could be understood, that's good enough for them; they shall not waste the extra efforts in finding the best word(s) to convey the message. But sometimes, it's also because a word or brandname that has been used way too many times, that that brandname itself is adopted to take the meaning of the item. So when a toothpaste is required, there's that tendency to say Colgate, even though it doesn't necessarily have to be Colgate, specifically—Lion and Close-Up toothpastes are also fine. In a similar way, instead of saying soap bar, the preference to use Lux, although Palmolive or Dove can also do.

Since I started running seriously in mid 2008, I've seen and heard the use of that word "marathon" in the wrong context a number of times; and along with that, many people, especially those who've run the 42.195km marathons, criticizing the use of "marathon" to refer to races of anything shorter than 42.195km. In fact, I myself have tried to elaborate on the meaning of "marathon" in the Kota Kinabalu Running Club facebook page, of which I'm a co-Admin.

Those who've conquered the 42.195km race are of course proud of their achievement, and rightfully so too. The pride and bragging rights that last a lifetime. The pride that annoys them when others appear to equate their achievement with that of a mere 10km or less. They may suffer the pain akin to a bullet wound when some organisers of short races promote their events as "marathons".

The debate continues as to who's right and who's wrong. So here I am to give my two cents' worth of opinion on the subject! 

Let me start by addressing the organisers of running events first. My view is that whenever the word "marathon" is used in the context of running events by organisers, it should only be used to mean the 42.195km race. Likewise, when running clubs and journalists publish articles on the subject of marathons, that word should take the meaning—and only the meaning—of a 42.195km race. It is in that sense that saying something like "10km marathon" is wrong.

Having said that, however, I'm more lenient when people in general use the word "marathon" to mean any distance shorter than the 42.195km race, even if it's as short as 3km or 5km. After all, in most dictionaries, "marathon" has at least 2 meanings, apart from the name of a place in Greece. The first meaning is that of the 42.195km footrace that I speak of above. The second meaning is that of a general reference to a long, and often difficult, undertaking. It is in the context of the second meaning that a mere distance of 5km may be a "marathon" for some people. 

I can accept a novice runner's declaration that he has just completed a 10km "marathon", because, to him, that is a distance to be reckoned with on foot. Much the same way we can understand what one means when he says something like "I've just had a shopping spree marathon!"

Whatever the case is, one thing is certain—nobody can deny that when one conquers a distance that is tough for him by any means, that is an achievement worth celebrating. Taking the second meaning of the dictionary, a double-amputee completing a 5km race in a wheelchair has conquered a "marathon"; an obese person spending 6 months to lose 30kg has conquered a "marathon"; and a parent seeing his autistic child graduating from university has conquered a "marathon". Those are all extremely huge achievements that last a lifetime too; and they are all "marathons" of epic proportions, worth to shout about.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tokyo Marathon 2015

I ran the Tokyo Marathon last Sunday, and although I failed to achieve a personal best (PB), I must say that I enjoyed the trip a lot. I went with my family and some friends, and we arrived about a week before the race. In the days leading up to the race, we visited Mt Fuji which was quite a long drive from the city. The tour included a visit to Hakone and we spent the whole day touring by means of a bus, cable car, a boat and finally the bullet train.

We also visited Tokyo Disneyland which was quite an experience for me. It was a rainy day and I could hardly endure the freezing temperature despite having 3 layers of clothing, a beanie, scarf and a pair of woolen gloves. I walked around for perhaps half an hour and then had to leave Mia and JJ on their own while I took refuge in a cozy confectionery shop. There, I found a godsend bench. I sat there and supported my chin with my hand; I watched the people buying an assortment of chocolates of numerous sizes, shapes and colours...

The next thing I knew was a commotion outside the window where some kids were swarming around Mr Smee, the character from the Captain Hook's ship in Peter Pan. Little did I know that I've been sleeping on that bench for about an hour! It's the kind of experience you get to remember for the rest of your life for all the wrong reasons, if you know what I mean. Figure it to yourself—I spent 6,500 Yen for the entrance ticket, and then spent almost the entire time sleeping on a cold hard bench. Mia and JJ, however, went around and JJ was quite excited that she had the chance to see Princesses Elsa and Anna as well as Olaf.

We visited a few other places and on Thursday evening, Doctors Peter and Liaw arrived from KK. It was kinda fun to be reunited once again for a race. It's been quite a while since the last time we ran together. The last one was the Sundown Ultra Marathon in Singapore. The next day we went to collect our race packs together, and there was such a huge crowd at the Expo. The venue itself was very big and one could easily get confused with one's location in the building. After a while, I said to Peter that I've lost my bearing and wasn't sure how to exit the building. Peter replied thoughtfully, asking me which bearing, the left one or right one.

I spent a long time checking out the booths and the many sports merchandise on offer. This booth, that booth, and then we somehow found ourselves at the Mexico Marathon booth. There, we became quite an attraction for the day when we posed for this photo.

I'm not sure what song Peter was singing as I was focusing on the camera. But looking at the photo now, I must admit that his gaping mouth looks very convincing! I dare say that wig suits him too!

We did not stick together all the time though. Peter and Liaw went to tour Mt Fuji on their own on Saturday morning, and I must say that I'm impressed that they actually found their way there too! I would have given them a full score that day, except that they somehow got onto the wrong train and ended up in Haneda Airport. To be fair, however, Yoke Lee and Alex, as well as Mia and JJ took the wrong train to Haneda Airport at different times too!

On race day, it was a torture for me from the beginning. We had to take the subway to the race venue. The race flagged off at 9:10am, but we started from the hotel at about 7am. We reached the race venue before 8am. It was a very cold morning, and the thing about cold morning is that you want to pee waaaay too many times. That morning alone I visited the toilet twice, but when I was depositing my drop bag, I felt the urge to pee again. I queued up for the portable toilet. Let me tell you that it was an extremely long queue. After spending about 45 minutes in the queue, I had to abandon it because they were about to close the entrance to the running blocks. Accordingly, I made my way to the allocated block, which was actually quite a long distance from the starting arch.

Standing there for almost half an hour at near freezing temperature with only a piece of running attire, though "thermal" attire, was quite a torture for me. I was shaking uncontrollably, and let me just say that suffering the cold like that while holding on to my pee wasn't amusing at all!

Then the flag off was in waves. First was the whellchair category. Then the elites followed by all the rest. Runners were let go according to their respective speed, so the faster runners were in the front blocks. It was hard to maneuver through the crowd for at least the first few kilometres. And the crowd never really thinned out because there were so many runners. One would always find that he is running in a crowd.

I ran a decent pace of about 5:30 min/km, thinking that that should be easy enough to maintain. It was a pleasant run except that all the while the thing that bothered me the most was having to hold on to my pee! I was conscious of the several toilets along the way, but each time I get to a toilet stop, I noticed people queuing up. Not wanting to waste time, I kept telling myself to hold a little longer until I get to the next toilet stop. And then the same thing happened at the next stop; always people queuing!

Eventually, I reached the 20km point in about 1:48, which I thought wasn't very fast. I wanted to pace myself well to achieve a PB, but the thing that I found disturbing was that the distance markers seemed too far apart. Somehow, my Garmin recorded at least a few hundred metres more than that shown on the distance markers along the route. I wondered if my Garmin was wrong. I'm not sure if perhaps my Garmin was affected by the cloudy sky.

Anyway, I reached the 30km point in about 2:44, and I thought I was still good for my 3:50 target. And even if I can't make that target, I could at least beat my old PB of almost 3:53. However, much to my horror, I felt the distance between one marker to the next was getting bigger and bigger, and by Km35, it dawned upon me that the 3:50 target was drifting away. To add to that, my legs were also becoming a little tired. I fought on, however, but it was obvious that I was beginning to slow down. Then I came to the climb at about Km37. Looking at my Garmin, I realised that even the 3:53 was already gone. I gave up and walked up the slope, dejected. There were several other short slopes to climb after that. I kept my cool, until I realised that far from achieving a PB, I was at risk of even losing a sub-4hour finish! Suddenly, it became a race to me once again. I started running—by then with cramps all over my legs, eventually finishing just a whisker under 4hours! The official time was 3:59:32. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed, but I'm happy with that result anyway. At one time, I thought it was impossible to achieve a sub-4hour marathon no matter how hard I tried. But I now have a few sub-4hour marathons under my belt. Interestingly, my Garmin recorded a distance of 43.18km. I know of at least 2 other runners recording 43.3km on their GPS watches; and other friends up to over 44km. It would be very interesting to know what's the actual distance of the course.

The highlight of the day was that Dr Liaw achieved a PB with a time of 3:38:56. Dr Peter achieved a PB too in 4:07:21 which was an awesome 15 minutes improvement from his previous PB. Yoke Lee finished with a PB of 4:22:15. Alex and Georgina both finished their marathons too. It was a well organised race, considering the crowd of about 36,000.

There isn't much more to tell, except that I achieved a PB in holding on to my pee for approximately 6 hours! That's an achievement that I don't think I can outdo for the rest of my life; not that I want to!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Living Up To The Standard

I've been on an annual blood screening for some years now, and the latest one was just about 2 weeks ago. The results were out just a few days ago, and I can say that I passed with flying colours, except that I received asterisks for "Total Cholesterol" and "LDL Cholesterol". An asterisk indicates an abnormal reading from what is considered the normal range or standard.

The above is just a portion of the results. Specifically, it's the part under the heading of Lipid Profile. At a glance, although there are asterisks in the results, the above figures are not considered to be alarming, because the readings are just slightly outside of the standard normal range. However, I must point out that I've been on statins for many years now, and when taking into account the kind of sports that I've been doing all these years, it's kinda worrying that I'm still getting asterisks in my lipid profile test.

I've read up quite a bit on this subject, and what I've gathered so far is that there is no clear-cut consensus as to the so-called "safe" range. Some medical scientists are not even looking at cholesterol as an isolated factor for heart disease. Nevertheless, it's still disturbing to have an "abnormal" reading, you see. One would like everything to be perfect; to be within the standard normal/safe range, which would then (hopefully) translate into minimizing the risks of getting a heart attack.

I note with interest, however, that these so-called normal range, at least for lipid profile, have been undergoing some sort of evolution over the years. That word "evolution" usually gives an idea of a process that happens over a very long period, but the evolution that I speak of here is just a duration of a few decades.

As I said, I've been screening my blood for some years now, and if I'm not much mistaken, the normal range for "Total Cholesterol" used to be less than 5.6 mmol/L or thereabout. Somehow, over the years, the figure kept changing—gradually, it became lower and lower. I suppose it's entirely possible that new studies were conducted over the years, and then new findings were found, which in turn resulted in new conclusions, leading to changes in the standard safe range. The above result for "Total Cholesterol" would have been without an asterisk if the test were conducted a few years ago, because the reading of 5.2mmol/L used to be within the standard normal range. But that is no longer the case today.

If I were to look at the trend of the standard normal range, I won't be surprised that one of these days, the standard for "Total Cholesterol" would dip below 5.0 mmol/L. In fact, I foresee the time will come when the standard would be impossibly low that the only way to achieve it is with the help of drugs. And I'm failing the test now even with the help of statin! 

Of course I'm not gonna be overly worried about those asterisks. I've done my part; I'll leave the rest to fate. But it would be interesting to know what would the normal standard be if the studies and experiments were conducted by people who have nothing to do with pharmaceutical companies. I'm guessing maybe the figures would be different?

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Quest For Perfect Health

Way too many people have approached me to promote vitamins, and food supplements supposedly containing ingredients not only able to improve health, but also cure dreaded diseases such as cancer, heart problems and diabetes. I fancy that if I were to stand in the street right now and toss a stone randomly, there's a good chance that I'd hit a promoter for a direct-selling company. There are many such companies in Malaysia; all with big claims on the potency of their products. These are usually made of "pure" ingredients of the highest quality—typically of herbal origins—and prepared through very sophisticated processes.

I read with interest that a tiny pill, weighing a mere few grams, contains the same amount of the plant-originated ingredients that would otherwise be found in a few kilograms of that plant in its natural form. I see this as cutting out of an escape route for the would-be consumer; it's like saying that one has no choice but to consume the pill, because to get the same amount of the potent ingredient in its natural form, one has to consume a few kilograms of the plant.

This post is not an attempt to cast doubts on these products. After all, I haven't tried very many of them myself, and am therefore unable to prove, or disprove, whether or not these products actually live up to the manufacturers' claims. Despite reading this recent article about herbal supplements, I'm still convinced that at least some of them can do some of the things that they're supposed to do.

Nevertheless, even if I'm convinced that some of these products can actually help to improve my health, I don't fill up my cabinets with an assortment of vitamins and herbal supplements in pursuit of the perfect health. To be honest, it's not really a question of affordability; and it's not that I don't want to be healthy. Rather, I think as far as health is concerned, there is just no end to it—there is no such thing as "perfect health", and any attempt to achieve it is apt to end in vain. I try to do the things that I can, for however long that I can, to maintain and improve my health, in the hope of preserving the quality of life that I have. The point is that I will try to do just about enough to remain healthy, but without sacrificing too much of the things in life that I enjoy doing. 

So although I'm aware that simple sugars are not so good for my body, I still have my weekly ABC at Tun Fuan Park, Bukit Padang. I still indulge in a bit of KFC and McDonald's occasionally. I drink coca-cola and eat junk food too. But to counter all those, I maintain an active lifestyle—I run, I swim, and I bike a great deal. If I have to refrain from indulging in the things that I enjoy in life for the sake of living a few years longer, I see no point in living longer. For there is really no point to live longer if I can't enjoy living.

It's not that I'm not doing anything to remain healthy. To the herbal supplement promoters, who think that I'm an idiot for not consuming your products when I can afford it, let me hasten to tell you that I am keeping myself healthy by indulging in sports; perhaps not so much in the things that I eat and drink. It is to me, a kind of balance. I realise, of course, that instead of exhausting my body, it's much easier to consume herbal supplements and multi-vitamins. If I die earlier, it's OK, I'm satisfied. Honest, I am satisfied!