Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Free Pass

My wife was studying for a law degree over 20 years ago, and I can still remember the daunting task of memorizing tons of sections and sub-sections of numerous statutes. She was dealing with a chapter on criminal law one day when the subject of "temporary insanity" came up as a possible defense. 

I was fascinated by the idea of how an accused person can escape punishment on account of a "mental blackout" temporarily; meaning that he was not acting with intent. Now I'm sure there is a better way to express it—in a lawyerly way, if you like—and of course I'd imagine that there are several very strict requirements to be satisfied first before one can rely on the defense of "temporary insanity".

There are of course many other circumstances when one is not in full control of his acts, such as when one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol; or when one has some sort of mental issues; or conditions such as autism. 

In the case of autism, however, it's not really a matter of not having control of one's acts; rather, the behavior or mental capacity is that of a mentally-underdeveloped person. Such is the case of Ahmad Ziqri Morshidi, an autistic man who was arrested for allegedly molesting a woman. According to the article, Persatuan Child Sabah has launched a petition, calling for "Ahmad Ziqri to be treated fairly", and that it has received over 17,000 signatures.

I can readily accept that an autistic person should be treated like an autistic person, but it shouldn't just end there; I'm afraid it's not that simple. If he is liable to act in a way that can cause harm or disrupt the enjoyment of freedom to others around him, then preventive measures should be put in place to minimize the possibility of that from happening. If he needs to be put under counseling, or even strict supervision when he is in public, then I suppose that's what needs to be done.

I honestly sympathize with Ahmad Ziqri, it's not his choice to be born with autism. But the reality is that there is no such thing as a "free pass" on account of mental or medical disorder, because fairness is a two-way street—while we want fairness for Ahmad Ziqri, we should also not forget that we must be fair to all those people around him too. It is entirely possible that one of these days, Ahmad Ziqri may end up molesting one of those people who've signed the petition, or their loved ones. It is very easy to sign petitions when we don't know the victim, but I suspect maybe we might think differently if we ourselves are the victims.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ironman 70.3 Bintan 2018

I can't remember how I got to know about the Ironman 70.3 Bintan race. Perhaps some of my Whatsapp friends mentioned it, and I ended up visiting the organiser's website. It must have been about half a year ago when I decided to register for the race. Mia decided to join too, but of course because of habit, she almost never do things early. No, she would wait till the very last minute to register, and even that was because I was nagging and reminding her to do it on a daily basis.

As soon as she registered, I embarked on making all the arrangements, i.e. flights, hotel reservation, ferry tickets etc. I had to be the one to make all those arrangements, because if I leave it to Mia, she won't do it till the day before we fly, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, it was then that I found out that practically everything about Bintan is expensive—astronomically expensive. There were some other friends from KK who've registered for the race, i.e. Ahmad Syuaib a.k.a. Peechee, John Kok, Anslem and Amy. Some west Malaysian friends were also going, i.e. Quentin and Felix.

In the months prior to Bintan, I bought a new trisuit, i.e. a single piece which I wore without any underwear (please remain calm, ladies). I also shed about 2kg as I heard that the bike course elevation was 700m. I used to believe that losing weight is very easy, but actually it's extremely tough if you eat like me; and have an obsession for ais kacang.

The journey to Bintan was quite something, to put it mildly; from KK, we took an approximate 2-hour flight to Singapore last Thursday. It was an afternoon flight, and it was about 6pm when we emerged from the arrival hall of Terminal 4 of Changi Airport. We then took a taxivan to the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. After checking in our bike boxes and luggage, we had dinner at the terminal while we waited for the departure. The ferry ride was just about an hour, but although I thought the ride was very smooth, Mia was at the verge of getting sea sickness when we disembarked on the other side.

The next morning we headed down to breakfast at about 7am; and oh boy, we ate like there's no tomorrow! It's so easy to get carried away with the concept of carboloading. The athlete check in wasn't till Saturday though. Having set up our bikes, we took the shuttle bus to the race venue. We checked in and got our ID tag. We spent perhaps 5 minutes to ride our bikes to make sure that all's in order.

The race day was on Sunday. We took the 4:45am bus from the Bintan Lagoon Hotel and arrived at the Lagoi Plaza at about 5am. Then we went into the transition area to set up our stuff at the bikes. Soon, it was the flag off for the pros—first the males, and then followed by the females. After that, the so-called age groupers were flagged off in waves, and I was among the last to be flagged off.

The Swim

It was low tide that morning, and we probably had to wade in the water for about 70 metres or so before we started to swim. And the swim was as always very chaotic despite the calm water. The kicks and elbows are something that I can never get used to, and for the life of me, I can't quite understand why some people would grab my feet from behind; I had the right mind to just give him a good kick. But I remained calm. It must have been about halfway through the swim when Quentin came from behind, and we swam abreast for a couple of minutes before I lost sight of him. I was tempted to swim faster, but I'm not a fast swimmer, and I knew that trying to swim faster would mean a higher energy cost for me. Accordingly, I decided to just swim my own pace. The tail end of the swim was again an approximate 70 metre's worth of wading, and I was pleased to see that I did the swim in about 45 minutes. I took my time to make my way to the transition, stopping by at the shower for a moment to rinse my body.

The Bike

What can I say, the bike leg was akin to a nightmare to me—hills, hills and more hills; and then winds, winds and more winds. Some portions of the bikes course were also quite technical as we had to make sharp turns and make our way into some villages where young kids would rush out to the road to ask for sports bottles from the cyclists.

I had recently bought the Garmin Forerunner 935 which is equipped with a heart rate sensor. I tried to keep my heart rate within 140 bpm, but I went beyond that whenever I was climbing hills. The head winds were something to be reckoned with. The rest after each climb was hardly any rest, because just a few seconds later, it's another climb! I caught up with Quentin again about halfway through the bike course, and swiftly overtook him. I caught up with Mia too, as she was flagged off about 20 minutes before me.

As I was climbing a big hill just a few kilometres before the end of the bike course, I caught up with Amy. She was also struggling up the hill. So far there was no sign of Anslem, John and Peechee. But I wasn't even expecting to be able to catch up with them, as they are strong cyclists.

The Run

When I arrived at the transition for the second time, I felt like my quads were just at the verge of seizing up. I briskwalked for a good 50m to test my legs, and after a while I started jogging. Soon enough, I arrived at the aid station where I grabbed iced sponges to cool myself down. As I had expected, it was an extremely hot day, and there was no shade at all.

And then to my surprise, about 3km into the run, I caught up with Anslem. In my mind, he must be running his second loop. But making some calculation in my head, if it was his second loop, then that would mean he's extremely fast! Shortly later, I saw Felix coming from the other direction. Felix is perhaps about 2 years younger than me, but his body is as strong as a teenager. I'm not sure if he's got the genes of either Edward Cullen or Jacob Black of the Twilight Saga.

A little further down the road, just shortly after the turning point, I overtook John who was obviously melting in the hot sun. But little did I know, Amy had caught up with me by then. From that point onwards, Amy and I took turns taking the lead, but my main focus was on keeping it steady till the end of the race. Sadly, by the second loop, I started to run less and walk more! If only my legs could speak, I can imagine what they'd say to me! The sun was brutal, but thankfully there were aid stations approximately 1.5km apart.

Just as I was approaching the finish line, I saw Mia running very slowly, and she hadn't even finished her first loop. I can never get used to seeing my wife suffer. Just a brief advice to say "take it easy" as I was overtaking her, but I knew it won't be easy in that ridiculous heat.

Soon, I was already running the homestretch on the red carpet towards the finish line.

And I finished the torture in about 6.5 hours. It was a big relief...

After I had crossed the finish line, I went to the tent for participants. There I sat down on a plastic chair. Oh it was such a joy giving the rest that my legs deserved. After about 10 minutes, I collected my street bag, the finisher T-shirt. I had coconut water. I had Indomie and some chicken. I had some ice cream too. I walked around a bit. I sat down. I walked around some more...

A little over 2 hours later, Mia arrived at the finish line, and I became a little emotional seeing her making the finish line but beyond the cut off time. She did get the finisher T-shirt though. Well, she has a few more months till November before attempting to conquer the same distance again in Langkawi; whereas I only have approximately 5 weeks' worth of training before I attempt the full Ironman distance in Penghu, Taiwan, in October.

In the end Peechee finished a few minutes faster than I did. Amy finished in about 6:49. Anslem, due to lack of training suffered cramps during the bike leg and eventually finished in about 7.5 hours. John did a 7:18. Decidedly, it was a tough, tough course.

So the diet continues for me. Have to maintain an optimal weight for racing in Taiwan, which I heard is a tough race. Bring it on!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Measure of Success

I recently made a comment on a facebook post, and I used the word "success" in it. Without touching on the rest of my comment—which is characteristically long-winded—I concluded my comment like this:

"Just remember that if you want success, not just in this profession, then you must make an effort to achieve it. Don't just complain all the time, because you just have to trust me—complaining very rarely can guarantee success!"

However, the trouble with that word "success" is that it is a relative term. Success to one person may not be success to another. Someone from a very humble beginning, say from having nothing to his name and living life with very little luxury such as having to travel by the public bus, going to school with no pocket money, frequently having to skip a meal or two because he can't afford it; when he ends up having his own house, his own Kancil to drive around, and enough means to support a family of his own, he might consider himself as having achieved success.

But on the other hand, for someone born into a rich family, having the above may not fall within the definition of "success" at all. I dare say perhaps to him that is not even an average achievement in life. He may even become disappointed if he can't achieve more than that.

A lady friend has been under medication for a long time for depression. I once had the opportunity to have a long conversation with her. Basically, I was curious to know what was it that she's so depressed about to the extent of needing medication. There were many, many reasons which to me were petty, but to her they were obviously major issues in her life. She was depressed about her job, because she felt like she's trapped in her job; she felt like it was a struggle to get out of bed each day to go to work. She was depressed that at her age (about 40 then) she hadn't a house of her own; she hadn't a lot of savings in the bank. She was also depressed that she was still single at her age. She was depressed that she's been driving the same car since 10 years ago. 

The funny thing was that I was then in my twenties, and I practically had nothing to my name too. No house, no car. I had a motorbike, but even that was stolen in the end. I had a lot of disappointments in my life, but I wasn't depressed; certainly no need for medications to treat depression. The one thing that I was determined to do was to find ways to improve my life and be proactive about it. I knew even then that complaining and grumbling about my situation would do very little to help me achieve anything better. Today I'm not anything like Bill Gates or Michael Jordan—far from it. I'm not a multi-millionaire, unless of course if you're calculating based on the Philippines Peso, or the Indonesian Ruppiah. I just have enough with not much more to spare. But that, to me, is at least a partial success.

I've noticed that too many of the young people these days are spending too much time complaining and grumbling about their lives, but the irony is that they're unwilling to put in the efforts and sacrifice to improve their lives. They spend their days blaming their luck; blaming the many obstacles that they're facing; blaming the competitiveness of the job market. The list goes on and on. They forget that they have the power to make a difference; yet they're not using that power!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Child Marriage

It's a strange reality that most people have some sort of "standard" which they'd perceive as ideal when it comes to life partners. Of course these standards may differ substantially between people. For example, when I was a boy, I thought that the husband should be taller than the wife; he should also be at least slightly older than her. I'm not sure why I had that standard, but I have since changed my mind by now.

An auntie explained to me that the first time you meet a girl, you get to know her character first. Her general behavior; perspective about life and the world. Perhaps her hobbies etc. If she's the right one for you, does it really matter if you find out later that she is a year or two older than you? I had to reluctantly say no; if she is the one, then I suppose a year or two older doesn't really matter. I'm not sure if she is a few inches taller than I am though. But I have known a fair number of couples of which the wives are taller than the husbands.

Whatever it is, I'm convinced that everybody has a "standard" for compatibility between spouses. Just that some people are unwilling to admit it. I have come to a stage in my life where I can accept almost everything, including if the wife is 10 or even 20 years older than the husband.

Having said that, however, I'm having trouble accepting the idea of a man in his forties marrying an 11-year-old girl as reported here, even if the girl's parents have consented to the marriage. I mean, I have a 16-year-old daughter, and she's still just a child as far as I'm concerned.

A few questions came to my mind when I read the news. What does the man see in the 11-year-old girl that qualifies her as a suitable wife material? Was he inspired by Michael Douglas? What exactly are his expectations in a wife? Whatever those expectations are, apparently they were not met in full by the earlier 2 wives.

And then what were the girl's parents thinking when they agreed to the marriage? I don't quite buy the excuse that the girl will only stay with the husband when she's 16. If that were the case, then marry her when she's 16, not when she's 11. And even at 16, that is way too young to marry a man 30 years older than her. The point is that from the age of 11 to 16, the girl has a lot more time to think and realise what she's getting herself into, and may well come to her senses about the whole thing long before she's 16.

Love is a strange thing, it can neither be explained nor scientifically analysed. But I refuse to believe that a girl of 11 is old enough to truly know the meaning of love. There is still a lot of growing up to do, physically as well as intellectually.

Incidentally, I was out on an evening run with my running buddy, Dr Peter recently, and the subject of my daughter came up. I said that I'm an open-minded person, and if it is destined that my daughter falls in love with a garbage collector or the likes, I will try very hard to talk her out of it. For I'm just being a parent, and it's natural for me to give the best to my daughter. But if my daughter is adamant in the end, then I will let her marry a man of her choice anyway. 

Whether or not I'm happy with her choice, that is not so important, because what really matters is her happiness, not mine. If she is happy, then I will be happy for her. Nevertheless, she will have to wait till she is an adult—not when she's still a teenager—before I let her have that right to decide. I consider allowing a child of 11 to make a reckless decision that would have life-long repercussions as irresponsible on the part of the parents. I hope that the Malaysian authority can somehow nullify the marriage, and save the girl from doing something that she'd regret for the rest of her life.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

History and its Tendency to Repeat Itself

A few days before the General Elections 14 (GE14) a friend asked me for my predictions on the outcomes of the elections. I said Pakatan Harapan looked very promising in West Malaysia, but in Sabah, it seemed like Barisan Nasional was still very strong. However, if the Pakatan can win in Sabah too, it had to be by a big majority. If it's a marginal win, then complications would entail.

Sabah has always been famous with its politicians that can switch parties in a heartbeat. If the results of the elections are very marginal, we are bound to see a lot of activities among the politicians—they will be very active, hopping from one party to another; or at the very least, switching alliance from one to another under the disguise of "Gabungan".

That was actually what happened in the recently-concluded GE14, of which Barisan Nasional secured 29 seats; Warisan and its alliance secured 29 seats; and STAR took the remaining 2 seats. Living up to his reputation, the leader of STAR wasted no time to join forces—he called it "Gabungan"—with Barisan Nasional to form the new state government. So Musa Aman was sworn in as the Chief Minister, and Jeffrey Kitingan (from STAR) of course became his deputy. To be honest, I'm surprised that Jeffrey did not demand to be the Chief Minister himself. Well, maybe he did, I don't know. After all, he has always had the curious obsession of wanting so much to be the Chief Minister.

Less than 24 hours later, however, some of the elected representatives from Barisan Nasional decided to switch to Pakatan, thus resulting in the new government losing its simple majority. Well, to make the long story short, Musa refused to resign as Chief Minister. But Shafie Apdal, representing the Pakatan, went on to be sworn in as the Chief Minister anyway. So Sabah now has two Chief Ministers.

Browsing through the comments on facebook, I can see that many Sabahans are comparing the present situation in Sabah with that of Perak in West Malaysia in 2008. Some are also comparing with a similar situation in Sabah in 1994 when Pairin Kitingan resigned as the Chief Minister of Sabah when his Parti Bersatu Sabah lost the support of the majority of elected representatives.

However, as you can probably see, what we have right now between Musa and Shafie is not the same as that in 1994. Far from resigning his post as the Chief Minister, Musa Aman is fighting on. Actually, this thing about having two Chief Ministers has happened before in Sabah. But I suspect many of those on facebook were either too young to remember, or have not even been born yet when it happened.

Over three decades ago, in 1985, Tun Mustapha, through the coalition of USNO and Berjaya, obtained 22 of the 48 seats contested. Clearly having the minority, but he sneaked in to the Istana in the wee hours of the morning to be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Sabah. This was later challenged by Pairin Kitingan because his Parti Bersatu Sabah won 26 seats, which was then the majority. What ensued was a long legal battle and chaos, culminating to bombings in the cities of Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau by the losing party (yes, we have bad losers in Sabah) and demonstrations in 1986, eventually leading to the declaration of curfews. 

Amazing how ugly it can get when people are obsessed with power and money. Pairin eventually won and went on to become the Chief Minister of Sabah. If any of you are interested to read more about the legal aspect of this, click here. It is a very long article, but it's good for the young Sabahans to know the history of Sabah!

Truly, history has a strange habit of repeating itself. For the second time, we now have two Chief Ministers in Sabah again. I'm confident, however, that we are more civilized today, and won't end up with chaos and unrest like what we had in 1985-1986.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Wise Old Man

A few years ago, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pleaded to the members of Barisan Nasional to oust its President, Najib Razak as the Prime Minister of Malaysia. According to Tun, Najib was a liability to the party; that retaining him as its leader would eventually result in the downfall of the party as the ruling government of Malaysia.

Looking at how things were in Malaysia, I must say that I agreed with Tun. But I also knew that it's just wishful thinking. It is not in the tradition of Barisan Nasional; or rather, not of its members, to oust its leaders. The very few that did try to speak up against the leaders of Barisan Nasional would very swiftly be reprimanded and quite often banished from the party. 

The tradition of the party was such that it is very, very rare that anybody would challenge the top positions. Such tradition may be a good thing; and it can also be a bad thing. In the hands of a truly capable and honest leader, it's helpful to have the unconditional support of its members. But in the hands of an incapable leader, the party would gradually lose its popularity, and there's nothing that its members could do about it.

That was basically why the rakyat had no choice but to vote against Barisan Nasional. Truth be told, I'm not a very big fan of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He was—and still is—without any doubt a very capable man. But I am a realistic person, and although I'm sure that Tun is as sharp as ever at 93, I would have much preferred a younger person to fill in the shoes of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. I suspect Tun feels the same too, but he had no choice. The fact that we were left with no choice but to vote for a 93-year-old man, who had 15 years ago gone into retirement, back into office, speaks volume about the political situation in Malaysia.

Then the designated person in line after Tun Dr Mahathir is Anwar Ibrahim. Many of my loyal readers since years ago would know that I'm not a big fan of his too. I am one of those people who are convinced that he is guilty of the crime that he was accused of. Furthermore, I also see some—but not very many—politicians in Barisan Nasional as capable people and truly deserved to be given the jobs that they were doing. At the same time, I also have many friends whom were directly or indirectly linked to the Barisan Nasional. These are good people—very capable people.

Yet despite all those, we were left with no choice but to opt for the opposition, simply because that was the only way to oust the incapable leaders of Barisan Nasional. There was just no hope for the members of the party to do it themselves; we, the rakyat, had to do it for them. So it was essentially a case of "all or nothing". The rakyat eventually chose to vote all out of office.

Truly amazing that Tun Dr Mahathir foresaw all this years ago. I had expected that Tun would easily win in Langkawi, of course. But to cause the entire Barisan Nasional to fall? It had seemed like there was just no way that Barisan Nasional would ever fall. Well, at least it's beyond my wildest dreams that I'd live to see it actually happening. 

So now we embark on a new chapter for Malaysia. I'm hoping that Tun can do his magic to make Malaysia great once again. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Second Chance

I don't believe that anybody could see the future, not even the best fortune tellers in the world. In some special cases, it is possible to guess fairly accurately what's going to happen in the future, but it's still a guess, not a certainty.

We are bound to come to many road junctions in life, and on many occasions we are bound to choose the wrong ones to take. But then in most cases, we can find our way back to the starting point so that we can then choose the other option(s) and end up with a better result. These are the kind of choices and decisions that we make on a daily basis, and we are constantly making wrong choices, but having practically limitless opportunities to correct those mistakes. In the process, we hope to learn something from the experience, and who knows, maybe we can avoid making those same mistakes again in the future.

That is well and fine, but apart from road junctions in life, there will be times when we would come to dilapidated bridges, of which they will collapse immediately after we have crossed, and there is no option to go back. If crossing that bridge was a wrong move, then there is no hope to correct that mistake! 

Things like taking a train, and then losing one's life when the train is derailed; taking a flight, and then the plane crashes, killing everybody onboard; or being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and then there's a suicidal maniac out on a killing spree with his machine gun. Y'know, things that are beyond our control, and there is little that we can do about the end result? Now imagine what would it be like if despite the "collapsed bridges", you are somehow transported back to your starting point before crossing that bridge, so that you have the chance to make a different choice? Not just another chance, but truly a precious second chance?

Well, my second chance came about 15 years ago. I was inspecting a timber concession area very deep in the jungle, and I was driving a twin-cabin pickup truck. My brother, Harry, was with me in the car. As you probably know, logging roads are not like the urban asphalt roads at all. These are mainly dirt roads, very narrow, hilly and winding. When it's raining, these roads would become muddy and slippery.

Fate would have it that just as I was coming down a steep hill, the brakes failed, and the vehicle started building up speed down that winding road. It felt a lot like riding a roller coaster, and very soon, as I was negotiating the twists and turns, I could feel the rear tyres of the vehicle skidding off the road. From the corner of my eye, I could see the deep ravine down below—a very long way down. I thought that was the end for me. Yet during that split second, I suddenly thought of my wife and daughter—the latter was just a few months old then.

I made the quick decision to steer the vehicle into a huge boulder, and the impact caused the vehicle to come to a complete stop. I survived the ordeal to live another day. We were rescued by the other vehicles in the convoy, made our way back to Keningau, and then later from Keningau back to KK that night.

By the time I reached home, it was around midnight. I tip-toed into the bedroom and saw my wife fast asleep. Then I saw my baby girl in her crib. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by emotions—I started crying like a baby. Not wanting to wake them up, I rushed into the bathroom and spent ages under the shower crying and crying. It was an eye-opening experience.

Because we are so used to getting so many opportunities to remedy our mistakes in life, there is the tendency to take those opportunities for granted. But second chances—I mean really "second chances"—are not always readily available. Yet they can very easily be mistaken with just any other opportunities, and therefore, there is a tendency to take second chances for granted too. You really have to experience that second chance to be able to really appreciate its true worth...