Friday, October 31, 2014

The Conspiracy Theory

A little over a week ago, my uncle (mom’s younger brother) passed away at the age of 69 after a few months’ battle with an unknown disease in Brunei. I don’t have all the details of his illness, but I was given to understand that it was most probably cancer.

Every now and then, there’s bound to be an exciting announcement from researchers and pharmaceutical companies of a major breakthrough and discovery of a promising cure for cancer. This can be in the form of a new drug (or a cocktail of drugs), or a specific approach to the treatment, or both. In fact, I’ve been hearing these announcements since ages ago. Yet the ultimate cure for cancer remains elusive up to now.

I’m a firm believer that it’s just a matter of time before we find the cure for cancer; just that I’m not sure if it will happen during my lifetime. I’m confident that there’s someone out there somewhere who’s clever enough to find the answer. However, I find it interesting that each time an announcement of a promising drug or cure for cancer surfaces on the net, there will be bound to be people expressing their doubts. I can understand their doubts if it’s a matter of having little or no confidence in the human minds to figure out the mystery of cancer. As far as that is concerned, I suppose it’s anybody’s guess—who know’s, maybe none of us are clever enough to ever figure it out! 

But no, their doubts are of a very different nature—these people are convinced that doctors, researchers and pharmaceutical companies have in fact found the cure for cancer long ago; but they’re keeping their discovery a secret; that they would prevent the human race from having that cure, so that they can all profit by selling them drugs for treatment, of which the drugs won’t actually cure, but instead merely prolong the lives of cancer patients. That way, they can make more money from the patients! 

Such an accusation against doctors, researchers and pharmaceutical companies is quite amazing, when you come to think of it—it hinges on the notion that all these great minds are conspiring with each other on a grand scale in denying the human race the cure for a terminal disease, all for the sake of money.

I had a niece who died of cancer at the age of 21 a few years ago. It was a heart-breaking experience seeing how the disease, within a duration of about a year, gradually transformed her from a beautiful young woman into a hopeless bedridden patient, before finally robbing her of her life. During the final few months of her life, she endured several surgeries, chemo and at the end of it all, still lost the battle.

I know humans are sometimes greedy and selfish creatures, but I just don’t believe that so many learned people would conspire in such a way to prevent anybody from having a life-saving cure if they had it in their possession. Furthermore, I also happen to know that many of the doctors and scientists accused of withholding the cure have loved ones and close friends who’re suffering from, and dying of cancer. I’m thinking, even if they’re willing to see strangers die of the disease, they would at least save their loved ones. Heck! in fact doctors and researchers themselves are not immune from cancer. Even if they are willing to see their loved ones die of the disease, surely they would want to cure themselves?

Sometimes, people have the tendency to assume the worst in other people. Well, I can't speak for every single doctor and researcher out there. But I still have faith in them; I shall give them the benefit of the doubt—I'm convinced that if they have the cure for cancer (or any disease for that matter) they will put it to good use to save lives. They can still make a lot of money by doing that.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

An Artist From A Past Era

Many people know me because of marathons, duathlons and triathlons. Others know me because of treasure hunts. Others still know me as a professional property valuer. But very few people, safe for very close friends and family members, know me as an artist

You see, I'm one of those people born with a creative mind and very steady hands; and I used to combine those two gifts to produce paintings. That was like a hundred years ago in a different era. I have produced quite a number of paintings in my day, but they were mostly given away to my friends. Many have since been lost, because although I consider my work as "masterpieces" based on my own standard, they were not generally regarded as of much value. However, some have survived all those years.

Below is one of my works that has survived over 20 years (click on photo for clearer view). 

I painted it in 1991, and gave it as a present to my then girlfriend, Euphemia. It was a hasty job, but it's one of the very few ones that ended up getting framed, and now it sits on a display cabinet in my living room.

A few years after I married Mia, I painted The Last Supper, framed it up, and then gave it to her mom as a Christmas present. Knowing that she's a very religious woman, I knew that she'd love it, which of course she did. That painting has since remained on one of the walls in her home.

A friend of mine showed me a picture of a painting he took during his holidays about 15 years ago, and I was mesmerized by the photo that I decided to reproduce it. It took me almost 4 months to finish and now the painting occupies a wall in my bedroom (click on photo for clearer view).

Unfortunately, I no longer indulge in paintings these days; I have gone on to find new hobbies. But I sometimes find myself attracted to articles about arts in general. Sometimes a hobby never really die, if you know what I mean.

But times have changed. This artist from the past era is sometimes puzzled—perhaps even shocked in a weird way—how much the meaning of art had changed now. This morning, I found this article about a further twist in what is deemed as art these days. 

I was, like, "Wow!...for crying out loud, just Wow!"

Friday, October 24, 2014

No Pain, No Gain

Way too many great athletes have used the famous expression “no pain, no gain”; and way too many great-athlete-wannabes are expressing that same line practically on a daily basis. However, based on the numerous conversations I’ve had with a fair number of sports folks, it seems like they don’t necessarily see those words to mean the same thing. I had another one of those conversations with a friend just a few days ago, and it suddenly occurred to me that the subject deserved an entry in this blog. 

Broadly speaking, it is possible to separate these people into two main groups. The first group—I suspect the vast majority of the sports folks fall within this group—understands “no pain, no gain” to mean the necessity of some sort of physical pain;during the sport activity in order to produce gains in terms of improved performance. In other words, they see “no pain, no gain” in the literal sense. They deem it absolutely necessary to train in such a way that when they had finished the workout, they’d experience some sort of muscular pains, some of which would take several days or even weeks to recover. They are convinced that without suffering such physical pains, they are bound to see no gains in their performance. They therefore go all out in each workout—they tend to run at their top speed; swim intervals perpetually; cycle at top speed; lift as heavy as their muscles can carry. And then, and only then, will they be satisfied with the workout. They shall not be happy if they are still not out of breath or feeling at least a bit of physical pain at the end of the workout! 

The second group—I’m one of those within this group—sees it slightly differently. They do agree with “no pain, no gain”, but that word “pain” doesn’t necessarily mean physical pain. “Pain” is not taken in the literal sense; rather, it has a subtle meaning. The “pain” in this case is the sacrifice that one makes in foregoing the movies or attending dinner parties and drinking sessions for the sake of working out; the discipline of dragging oneself out of bed in the wee hours of a public holiday or Sunday morning to go running or cycling; the torture of surviving the boredom of running for hours and hours, especially when running alone. Basically, the “pain” of going through a routine of physical activities, but these are not necessarily physically painful. 

Although I’m within the second group above, that is not to say that I only train within my comfort zones all the time. Of course there will be times in the training programme when I have to run, swim and cycle fast; in fact fast enough to the extent of raising my heart rate over the roof. Thankfully, however, I don’t do that all the time like so many people out there. 

No pain, no gain! 

There is a lot of truth in that expression, because the whole idea of training is to attempt to condition the body to perform a little faster and stronger the next time it does the same physical task. Training hard is a good idea indeed; in fact so good that it works most of the time. As I've said earlier, most people fall within the first group above, and I wouldn't dare to suggest that there is anything wrong with such an approach, for fear that all the big guns out there would be targeted on me! All I can say is don’t forget to train smart too, because you’d be surprised that training smart may sometimes produce a bigger gain than training hard!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Art Of Giving And Taking

Imagine if everybody in the world is exactly like you—they think like you; they behave like you; and they agree with all your opinions about everything. Words like "disagreement", "dispute" and "quarrel" can't be found in the dictionary. There is never any conflict of any kind; there is perpetual peace. Imagine...

Unfortunately the world is not like that at all. We are made up of so many people from different backgrounds and ideologies. By a random toss of the stone, we are bound to hit someone we detest—because that someone wears a disgusting dress made of meat; because that someone is well over 80 years old, but has a wife young enough to be his granddaughter; and yes, because that someone has a weird fetish to display to the whole world his sexual adventures through his blog.

I'm not sure if it has anything to do with "trying too hard to be different". Or maybe the uncontrollable craving for attention. Certainly it has something to do with defective grey cells. But for the most part, we try to tolerate with all these antics.

Nevertheless, there is only so much we can tolerate. And unfortunately, there is the forsaken laws of the land. I really don't know what Alvin Tan a.k.a The Sex Blogger is trying to achieve. So far, he has successfully made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but apparently he's not done yet. He thinks he's achieving greatness, and it seems like he has quite a fair number of supporters too.

So he doesn't like a whole lot of things about Malaysia. He escapes to a foreign land, but he refuses to go quietly. He has a score to settle, you see. If I were the government of that foreign land, I would kick his butt out of the country in a heartbeat. If this sick pervert can cause havoc in Malaysia, it's just a matter of time before he causes havoc in that foreign land too. This boy desperately needs help from a shrink, there is no question about that.

I have to admit that I haven't read even a single one of his complaints about Malaysia and its leaders. I'm not planning to waste my time reading that sort of stuff. Apparently, he has offended some of our leaders; and the police are now hot on his heels.

See, the trouble with people like Alvin is that they expect people to understand them, to tolerate their weird behavior, even if they inherently offend some people or break the law in the process. Yet on the other hand, they are unwilling to understand others, to tolerate the opposing views, especially those that are offensive to them. 

I don't expect everybody to agree with all of my views because there is just no such thing in this world. It is just impossible for me to please everybody. I try to be mindful with what I say or do, but I realise that some people will still find it unpleasant or offensive anyway. All I hope to achieve is for people to tolerate me as much as I try to tolerate them in return.

If Alvin thinks he is safe and apt to have a better life in a foreign country, I think he's up for a big surprise. For it's just a matter of time before somebody else there will find him to be a pain in the neck; and he, too, will find that there are other people or things there that are disagreeable to him. The only way is for him to change his mindset. He must learn to give and take; not just take all the way. Who knows, maybe this boy will grow up one of these days and start behaving like an adult. Of course it doesn't seem like it's gonna happen anytime soon, but for his sake, I hope it will.

Monday, September 29, 2014


In the past few months, friends and business acquaintances have asked me quite regularly regarding the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which will be implemented beginning from 01 April 2015. Their questions revolve around the [possible] negative impact on the property market. Apparently, there are concerns of escalating property prices resulting from developers passing on the burden of the GST to the consumers.

I have glanced through some articles on the GST, and what I've discovered was that it's a confusing subject. I read some parts a few times and still found them not so easy to understand. I'm not sure if that's because I'm not an accountant. I've therefore decided to attend a one-day seminar next month in my attempt to get a better idea about how this GST thing works. Surely the subject can't possibly be more difficult than Level 677 of Candy Crush Saga? I mean, I've been stuck at that forsaken level for about 2 weeks now!

Notwithstanding the above, however, I find it interesting how people react to the impending 6% tax. The question is that even if indeed developers pass on the 6% tax to the consumers, would the resulting rise in property prices cause hardship to the latter? In order to answer this question, we will need to look back at past trends in the property market. There lies the answer to the question. And here, I would limit the scope of my observation to the property market in Sabah, although I suspect the same is also true for the rest of Malaysia.

In the past 5 to 10 years, the banking industry in Malaysia had been very competitive. During this period, the market saw the gradual fall of interest rates. And even if base lending rates (BLR) have been fairly stable, banks were adopting the concept of "BLR minus" for loan applications. What happened was that hardly any bank actually adopted the actual BLR. Instead, what they did was to minus some percentages from the BLR. In the end, the actual lending rates were kept low. The banks also came up with other strategies to make the loans more affordable, such as extending the loan repayment period so that the monthly installment would be kept low.

In most cases, housing is a necessity, not a luxury, and the vast majority of people would rather buy their own house instead of renting forever. What I've noticed was that price wasn't really an issue in the end. For as long as the intended buyer could get a loan from the bank, he is likely to commit to buy his dream house. After all, if he did not buy, he would have to pay rent anyway. And if he did not buy soon, the price will go up even higher in the future! Hence it's almost silly not to buy! As a result, the last few years saw prices soaring like never before. The appreciation in prices was mostly a double-digit percentage growth; and at any rate substantially higher than the 6% that consumers are suddenly so worried about.

My view is that a bigger factor that can affect the property market is the banking policy in Malaysia. Since the banks have become stricter in giving out loans about a year ago, there was an obvious drop in the volume of transactions in the property market, though there is yet no clear evidence of declining property prices. You see, when banks become stricter in lending, lesser people would be able to afford the ever-increasing property prices; and lesser people would speculate on property market. This will in turn result in a chain reaction—sales will become slower; developers may delay launching new projects etc. 

Effective demand, which is heavily dependent on banking policy, is a bigger factor in setting the trend of property prices. The effect of the 6% arising from GST, though may cause a shift in the equilibrium, is not a significant factor; at least not as significant as that of the banking policy. If the banks suddenly become lenient again, and people can easily qualify for loans as before, a much higher rise than 6% in property prices wouldn't stop people from buying. At least that's what could be observed from past trends.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Winning A Lottery

My friends, Hana Harun and Felice Huang, ran the Toyko Marathon earlier this year. They both achieved their respective PBs, and they came home with a lot of good things to say about the event. Apparently, it's a well sought-after race, and because of its popularity, it's not easy to enter. Unlike many other marathons in the region, the organiser of the Tokyo Marathon had introduced a lottery system where interested runners were required to submit their names, and then chosen randomly at a later date. There were a few others within our circle of friends who had submitted their names, but only Hana and Felice were successful.

I was told that a limit of about 30,000 runners had been set for this year, but the organiser announced recently that more than 300,000 people have submitted their names to run the race. The race had in fact been oversubscribed by more than 10 times!

A couple of months ago, when the Tokyo Marathon opened for registration, a few of us from KK decided to try our luck. I've never been to Japan, and I reckoned that if I could get a slot in the Tokyo Marathon, it would be a good opportunity to spend a few days to tour the city. 

Those of you who've been following this blog would know that I'm not a very lucky chap when it comes to this sort of things. I've attended many, many events where lucky draws were on offer, and as far as I can remember, I only won once in a dinner party—I believe it was a fancy digital camera. But as fate would have it, I had already left the party when my name was called, and that camera was eventually given to someone else! So I guess I did not really win that lucky draw after all!

Now what's the odds of getting my name picked for the Tokyo Marathon? And beyond that, what's the odds of my friends' names getting picked too? Bear in mind that there's a less than 10% chance of it happening. Although I jokingly said to my friends that I was confident to be picked, the truth was that it seemed like a hopeless case!

That's why I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from the organiser 2 days ago, informing me that I'm in. I thought that was quite amazing. But little did I know that there were several more surprises in store. One by one, my friends received emails from the organiser too, informing them that their applications to enter the race have also been successful! So now I guess it's time to start looking into flight options as well as booking hotels etc.

This would also mean that I will be spending my Chinese New Year holidays next year in Japan. I was told that hotels cost a bomb in Tokyo, so perhaps I should start saving from now. But the most dreadful thing is that I'll have to go back to serious training again soon. The thought of running and running and more running; the waking up in the wee hours of the morning over the weekends—Oh! I shudder just thinking of all those! This will be another PB-hunting mission!

The hole that's gonna appear in my pocket; the torture of the training; the wee-hour sleep that I'll have to sacrifice. Yeah, sure, my name has been picked. But how come I don't feel like I've won?

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Different Era

The recent case of an 8-year old boy that did not do his homework as reported here. His teacher tried to punish him by pulling his ears, but he tried to escape. Unfortunately, he lost his balance and fell down, knocking his head on the edge of a table, thus causing injuries that required several stitches.

The story quickly spread through facebook and Whatsapp, and of course as usually is the case, some sick people began twisting the facts, for the sake of, well, twisting the facts. Maybe they get their kicks by causing an uproar, and then watch in amusement how people would over-react because of them! 

And then in no time at all, the photos of the kid went viral and everybody, though not knowing the truth of the matter, became excited for all the wrong reasons! Police reports were lodged; inquiries commenced by several parties; heck, even a Yang Berhormat weighed in with his valuable opinions. Thankfully, however, the case has been resolved quickly.

Such is the nature of schooling life in this modern age. Except in some very isolated cases, kids are immune from punishments for their wrong-doings. It's because of the fear of abuse of our kids that there's that tendency to over-react. Teachers will have to be very, very careful with how to punish naughty or lazy students but remain free from serious repercussions from parents and the authorities.

I come from a different era, and it's interesting how much things have changed from all those years ago when I was still an 8-year old kid in school. Unfortunately, I wasn't an exceptional student then—in fact, I was a lazy bum and hardly ever did my homework. I was therefore one of those kids frequently subject to punishments from my teachers. They ranged from caning to something mild like standing throughout the whole 40 minutes of the class. But some of the teachers were quite creative; I was made to stand on one foot the whole 40 minutes. I sometimes smile to myself when remembering my typical school days when I was young.

However, things were different back then. Instead of reporting those punishments to my grandparents (I was living with my grandparents at the time), I was careful enough not to tell them. Otherwise, I would get even more beatings from my grandparents! I would gladly let it rest, live another day of being a naughty kid in school, and perhaps get more punishments while at it!

You see, parents of those good old days had a lot of faith in the educators. Whenever their kids received punishments from their teachers—and some of those punishments were quite severe—the parents had full trust in the teachers, and that those punishments were absolutely necessary! That's why it's a bad idea to report any punishments to the parents, because the parents would usually support the teachers instead of their kids.

It's amazing that kids these days are practically immune from punishments, because over-reacting parents can cause hell for their teachers. A different era, a different approach, but basically the same old naughty students.