Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Evolution

There was a game I used to play with some friends when I was still a teenager. We’d all sit in a big circle. Then one of us would start a single line message by whispering into the ear of his neighbour. He could only say it once. His neighbour would then pass on the message to his neighbour, again only once. And the process continued up to the last person in that circle. It’s interesting to note that the person at the end of the line almost always would come up with something different from the original message.

People have the habit to change, whether intentionally or not, what they read or hear. After passing through several in-between messengers, one is apt to find that the original message has gone through a kind of “evolution” in which the final message may be substantially different from its original version.

A couple of days ago, I found an interesting article entitled “Human Evolution: Are Humans Still Evolving?” The article was mainly about a study of the evolution process in modern-day women, of which the findings, inter alia, could be summarized as follows:

“If these trends were to continue with no cultural changes in the town for the next 10 generations, by 2409 the average Framingham woman would be 2 cm (0.8 in) shorter, 1 kg (2.2 lb.) heavier, have a healthier heart, have her first child five months earlier and enter menopause 10 months later than a woman today, the study found.”

This story was quickly picked up by another internet source, The Daily Chili. But the title of the article has been changed to “Shorter, chubbier and having sex earlier.” This article also quoted the same study. As you can see, there’s a slight inaccuracy in this second article; it’s found in the title itself, i.e. “having sex earlier”.

One can quickly see that “having her first child five months earlier” does not necessarily mean “having sex earlier”. We all know that a woman may be sexually active but not having children until many years later. The same headline also appeared in The Star Online which is linked to the article to The Daily Chili.

So as you can see, even after passing through only a few parties, we can already see the “evolution” in the original facts of the study conducted by Yale University into something different.

I bet that if a few more people have a hand in reporting the findings of the same study, women will eventually be predicted to have the temperament of some scary monsters. But of course such prediction may not be totally wrong, as it’s already evident in some women even now.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Deprived Achievement

The Borneo International Marathon (BIM) was first organised in October last year. Before that we did not have any marathon in Sabah for a good 20 years. It was a very brave and admirable effort by the organiser to undertake such a big event.

Before the BIM, I've been running quite frequently for some years, but only for short distances of between 3km to 5km. Back then if anyone had suggested that I could run the 42km, I would've told him that he's mad. I ran my very first half marathon (21km) in BIM 2008, and discovered that it wasn't such an impossible feat after all. With a bit of discipline and proper training, anyone can do it.

Some of my friends have also been supporting the BIM 2008 and 2009. We are not elite athletes—we're merely ordinary people who took up the challenge to prove to ourselves that we could do it too. When compared to the elite runners, our results are laughable, really. But we're proud of our achievements. No doubt that they're a far cry from the world records, but because of the time and efforts we've invested in these events, those pitiful results mean quite a lot to us.

Apart from personal satisfaction, we've also earned the bragging rights to our friends who've yet to run the marathons. We don't have our running certificates on us all the time, but we can still guide our friends to the official website of the Borneo International Marathon where one is able to find the results.

Immediately upon crossing the finish line on 11 October 2009, I looked at my stopwatch and saw a time of 04:40:20. When some of my friends asked me what's my time, I told them quite honestly that I ran a 4:40. I asked Dr Liaw how was his run, and he said he did a 4:26. But when the results were printed out at the stadium, I noticed that my time was shown as 4:42 instead. And Dr Liaw's result was 4:29. It's quite embarrassing, for it gave the impression that we haven't really been honest about our achievements.

However, later on, when the final results were published in the BIM website, I was pleasantly surprised to see my time recorded as 04:40:19. Dr Liaw Yun Haw's time is given as 04:26;57. That sort of redeemed our pride a bit.

However a friend of mine, Claire Andrew, who's been participating in my KK Challenge treasure hunt series, wasn't so lucky. She joined the half marathon in the BIM 2008 and clocked 03:08:37. She has since run the half marathon in KL this year and improved on her time.

She attempted the BIM again on 11 October 2009, and was very happy to finish in 02:50, which is an improvement of almost 20 minutes of the BIM 2008. But that happiness was short-lived, for her time was officially recorded as 03:15:38, i.e. almost half an hour more than her actual achievement. Imagine her disappointment!


That's Claire (the taller girl) running towards the finish line beside her friend, Alice Mathew. Although the photo is a bit blur, the bib numbers are clear enough; and one can easily match them with those in the official results.


And this is Claire and Alice again crossing the finish line together. But the trouble is that Alice's official time is 02:49:48, whereas Claire's time is almost half an hour more than that.

Claire then wrote an email to Tanya, the coordinator of BIM 2009 who promised that she'd look into the matter. After a few days' silence, Claire wrote to Tanya again. 3 emails later, and about 10 days after the event, and a week after the results were published, Tanya finally replied and acknowledged that there's been a mistake—that someone else probably ran with Claire's timing chip! One has to wonder how such a thing could happen, but I guess we can all accept that there's bound to be some glitches here and there in such a big event.

So now that Tanya has acknowledged the mistake, she's prepared to print the same time as that of Alice's on Claire's certificate. But nothing is done to the official results in the organiser's website.

As I said, we're not elite marathoners and our results are laughable at best when compared to the world records. But please don't deny us these pathetic achievements which we're so proud of, and have worked so hard to accomplish. People like Tanya may not understand how much those wrong results, which the whole world can see, can affect some of us who crave for just a little bit of recognition.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mock Exams

JJ had her mock exams last week. And this week she's having her final exams. He mommy has been busy, studying very hard for these exams. Yes, no mistake there, Mia herself had to study together with JJ, taking leave from work, trying to figure out the cryptic Chinese characters and all those. I had the opportunity to learn too, though admitedly not at seriously as Mia. I want to share a bit with my readers about what young kids are going through these days in the education system.

First up, of course Mia was overly excited because JJ got only 70% for her maths. I mean, JJ is only in primary 1 for goodness' sake—anything below 80% is a cause for concern! But of course upon further checking, my JJ actually got 88%. Her teacher made a mistake when tallying the final result somehow. Tells a lot about the teacher.

But what I really wanna share here is about her Bahasa Malaysia papers. Although it's only the mock exams, we'd like JJ to be serious in her work. Of all the questions, one caught my attention:

Lee, cikgu suruh _______ susun meja.

A. kamu

B. kita

C. mereka

And the kids had to choose which of the 3 options is the correct one for the blank.

Perhaps I should come up with something like the above for one of my treasure hunt questions, and I bet the hunters would all faint to choose the correct answer.

The next day, I conducted a little experiment in my office. I actually went around the office and asked some of my staff how they'd answer this question. Of those who participated in my experiment, 7 chose A, 3 chose B, and 2 chose C. Which one would you choose? Bear in mind that based on the number of questions for this paper, the kids probably had no more than a minute to decide their answer for this question.

The majority chose A because they took "kamu" to mean "you". And "you" here can be both "you" as in Lee alone, as well as "you" as in Lee together with some other people with him then. So when translated into English, we can get something like this:

Lee, teacher has instructed you to arrange the tables.

In this case, the person who's speaking to Lee is not involved in the arrangement of the tables. He's merely conveying the message from the teacher to Lee. I think it is a possible scenario. I can't see anything wrong with this choice.

Those who chose B explained that "kita" is a better choice because it means "us", i.e. both Lee and the person who's speaking to him. When translated into English, we can get something like this:

Lee, teacher has instructed us to arrange the tables.

In this second scenario, the person speaking to Lee is telling Lee that both of them have been instructed by the teacher to arrange the tables. Again, I can see nothing wrong with the answer.

Those who chose C thought that this is also a good choice. The person speaking to Lee is merely telling Lee that "they", meaning those other people, but not Lee and the person who's speaking to him, have been instructed to arrange the tables. The sentence, in English, would then be like this:

Lee, teacher has instructed them to arrange the tables.

The person who's speaking to Lee is merely reporting about the teacher's instruction to those other people. Which again makes sense too. But of course one of my staff, Jeffrey, had a slightly different explanation—he said he preferred this third choice because he did not want to get involved in arranging the tables. Jeffrey was trying too hard to be a smart Alec, you see.

So as you can see, after spending far beyond the allocated time for this question, we're quite unsure which is the correct answer. I wonder if the teacher got a bit mixed up between "mock exams" and "mocking the kids". I'm planning to find out from the teacher, and I don't mind to debate with her too. And who knows, if she can come up with an airtight explanation, then I can use the trick in my future treasure hunt clues.


Monday, October 19, 2009

KK Challenge 5—Initially Reversed

New hunters frequently get the wrong idea that the CoC is obligated to cover every single detail of the kinds of trick he's going to include in his questions during the hunt briefing. But the truth is that the CoC is only obligated to explain the basic themes. Hunters will quite often find something never seen before whether from previous hunts or during the hunt briefing. A good hunting team is one that should be able to handle practically everything that's thrown its way, provided of course the clue is based on basic cryptic principles.

Q32) Di tengah kawasan untuk lembu.

I did not actually show any examples involving this particular type of indicator during the briefing, but the hunters were familiar with the initial/ending indicators. That knowledge should have been enough to handle this question. Sometimes hunters should apply a bit of common sense—they can't expect to be spoon-fed from A to Z. Since they are familiar with tricks involving first letters and last letters of given words, they should also be able to guess the significance of "Di tengah" in the above clue, even if the CoC did not actually show this trick during the hunt briefing. A number of the regular teams did not solve this question, which is a bit surprising. But I couldn't help but smile to myself when some of the new hunters solved it instead!


A similar situation arose in the Bundusan/Beverly sector:

Q24) Enquire when they are initially reversed.

More than half of the 14 teams hunting in the KK Challenge 5 were "regular" teams. Yet out of those regular teams, only Main Tembak was able to solve this clue, thus confirming yet again their position as the best team in KK. Curiously, the rest failed to see through the trick. However, I was again tickled when a new team which barely passed this hunt was able to solve this clue. And judging from the many signboards within this sector, and also the location of the intended answer, my guess is that they actually solved the question and not merely a fluke shot.


Though not very common, sometimes hunters will find that between the English and Malay versions of the business name, only one of them is the correct one. In this particular example, only the English version can answer the question perfectly. The Malay version doesn't work at all.

Hunters shouldn't complain that they have never seen such a style before. They're all equipped with the same basic cryptic knowledge, and it is up to them to use that knowledge to solve the riddle somehow. They can't expect to be spoon-fed all the way.

I want to congratulate Team Eighty4, a very new team, which solved this question. It shows that with proper analysis, this question is solvable. Now, the team members of Eighty4, tell me it wasn't just a fluke shot! (smile)


Sunday, October 18, 2009

KK Challenge 5—Delivery Day

There was once when I hunted in Michael Pang's hunt quite a while ago, and there was a cryptic question containing the words "delivery day" in it. If I'm not mistaken, I was hunting together with my friends, Johan Salul and Dr Ben Lau. Both of them are ranked as masters in the Time Out Solutions' Hall of Fame.

In the cryptic sense, "delivery day" is an indirect reference to May 1, because that date is Labour Day. It is acceptable that prior to delivery, the expectant mother will go into labour first. I can still remember that we solved Mike's question.

Yesterday, in my KK Challenge 5, I had the opportunity to borrow Mike's idea, but with a bit of modification:

Q23) Its beginning is delivery day?

A23) May Unisex Beauty Saloon

The clue is a little bit more complicated than Mike's version, but not impossibly so. I think anyone with some cryptic knowledge would have had a good shot at the correct answer. But our cryptic clueing standard here in KK is not comparable to that in the west. And when I set this question, I knew that it would be very tough for the local hunters. And true enough, this question was not solved in the end.

I had expected at least Team Main Tembak to be successful with this riddle. But perhaps by the time they arrived at this sector, they were already under time pressure, having invested a lot of time on some earlier questions. Although they were just about the halfway point of the hunt (23 out of 40 questions), they were already taking steps to regain some lost time. Consequently, they ended up choosing a signboard containing IDD. According to Alvin, a team member of Main Tembak, IDD fits. But during the hunt, he said he was not fully convinced that this was the intended answer. He said it's just not my style!

While marking the answer sheets, I paused for a short moment to consider the acceptability of IDD. I debated this answer with myself and then decided to reject it in the end. However, I noticed that a few other teams have also given IDD as the answer for this question.

After the hunt, I had a brief discussion with Alvin who insisted that IDD could also fit. Then later on, we continued our discussion over exchanges of emails. I think the points raised by both parties are interesting and warrant a space in this blog for the benefit of the other hunters.

Alvin's approach is based on the basic cryptic clueing theme, i.e. using "beginning", a word found in the clue, as the initial indicator. When viewed this way, "beginning is delivery day" can mean to take the first letters of the words adjacent to the indicator. In this case, the first letters of "is delivery day." One can see that when dealt this way, we can derive IDD.

While marking the answers, I saw this line of thought too. But I still rejected IDD because of the word "Its" in the clue. "It" refers to the intended answer which is found on the signboard. In the present case, notice that there is no apostrophe between "t" and "s". There is a difference in meanings between "Its" (without apostrophe) and "It's" (with apostrophe).

"Its" means "belonging to It". For example, "Its tail" means the tail of "It".

"It's", on the other hand, means "It is", which has been simplified and widely used in informal writing.

In other words, if the intended answer had been IDD, then the clue would have been simplified from:

Its beginning is delivery day?

to

Beginning of IDD is delivery day?

But we can quickly see that the beginning of IDD is just the letter "I". And "I" does not equal to "delivery day."

If, however, the question had started with "It's", then we would have had a different scenario:

It's beginning is delivery day?

meaning

It is beginning is delivery day?

And if the intended answer is IDD, would lead to:

IDD is beginning is delivery day?

that is to say,

IDD = beginning IS DELIVERY DAY

But since there's no apostrophe in the clue, then IDD can't fit, because for the simple reason the meaning of the clue is completely different. However, Alvin is of the opinion that the apostrophe doesn't really matter—he said sometimes they're there, sometimes they're not there in cryptic clues. But I must beg to differ!

So let us now discuss a bit about punctuations in cryptic clues.

We're frequently told to ignore punctuations in cryptic clues, because most of the time they're there for the sole purpose of deception! Consider this clue from one of my past KK Challenge hunts:

Q) I would shortly go behind to be hard.

A) SOL Department Store

Notice that "I would", when written "shortly" is "I'D". There's that apostrophe between those 2 letters. Yet when we utilise that ID to derive the answer, we would omit the apostrophe:

SOL + ID = SOLID => HARD

Another example:

Q) When Fred's in trouble, he'd look for them.

A) FRIENDS

On account of the anagram indicator, trouble, the letters in FRED'S IN are rearranged to become FRIENDS. And again we have omitted the apostrophe from the final solution.

So it seems quite common—and widely acceptable—to ignore punctuations in cryptic clues when arriving at the solutions.

But the question we must ask ourselves here is whether we can import punctuations into cryptic clues on our whim and fancy, so much so that we change the meanings of the original intentions of the setter? If we are allowed to do this, then we can simply insert the apostrophe into Q23 of KK Challenge 5, so that we can then "force" the setter to accept IDD.

My view is that the setting of the clues should be left in the hands of the setter. The solver's role is only to solve, not to modify (the meanings of) those clues with punctuations. If the solver is allowed to change the meanings of the clues, we are bound to have endless disputes after every hunt!


KK Challenge 5—Able To Erase

Most of those who've been hunting in my KK Challenge series would know that I will always bring the teams to Lintas Square, an estate which is ideal for treasure hunting because of its quietness during the public holidays. Hunters will have plenty of room to park their cars, and hardly any noise from passing traffics.

However, it is also known that because of such favourable hunting conditions, I'm bound to conjure up some tough questions within this sector. Usually, there will be at least one very tough question. And KK Challenge 5 is no exception.

Q35) Let E follow to be able to erase.

(I'm using some colours for instructional purposes. Obviously, no colours were used in the actual clue on the day of the hunt).

A typical style which I have come to describe as the jigsaw puzzle format. One part of the riddle requires a certain operation comprising adding or deleting some letters to or from a given word to form another word(s); and that resulting word(s) shall then equate to the given definition in the remaining part of the clue.

First, the hunter has to understand the "instruction" of the jigsaw puzzle. In this particular case, the hunter is required to find the answer which is found on a signboard. Then the letters LETE are to follow that answer, i.e. to come after that answer, and then when taken together as a whole, should equate to ABLE TO ERASE. This can be shown in a simplified clue as follows:

[The required answer] + LETE = ABLE TO ERASE

At this point, perhaps the average hunter will be able to see that the required letters to be placed in front of LETE should be DE, so that when taken together, we can get DELETE, which means ERASE.

However, the master hunter will know that in this case DE fails for two reasons. Firstly, there's no signboard containing DE within that sector. Secondly, even if there's a DE in that sector, that still won't answer the question perfectly, because, strictly speaking, the word DELETE does not account for the word ABLE in the clue. In order to account for ABLE, we need the word CAN together with DE on the signboard, so that we will eventually get CAN DELETE, i.e. ABLE TO ERASE.

Well, unfortunately the hunter will not find CAN DE on any of the signboards within that sector. But there is a signboard bearing C & E ENTERPRISE, which fits the requirement since "&" is "AND". Hence C & E = CANDE.


Although the solution may appear very complicated, I'm convinced that it's within the capability of those strong hunters in the KK Challenge 5 to solve it. Unfortunately, most of them wasted too much time during the earlier part of the hunt and therefore did not have sufficient time to properly deal with this question. Consequently, no one solved this question in the end. Oh! what a waste!


KK Challenge 5—Putting On To Jump

It has come to a stage where some regular teams challenge themselves to try to solve the so-called "reserved for the CoC" questions in my KK Challenge hunts. In a way, these questions are very much like the "bolded" questions in other hunts. In a typical KK Challenge hunt, there will be only a few of such questions.

Although I have termed them as "reserved for the CoC" questions, I always see to it that I allow for sufficient opportunities for the hunters to solve them. Typically, however, hunters require more time and mental stamina to solve these questions, but if successful, the achievement can be very satisfying even though they carry no extra points when compared to the other questions!

Q8) These are meant for putting on to jump.

I think the hunters could sense that this was intended to be a "reserved for the CoC" question even before reaching the sector, because it was a very short sector and comparatively fewer signboards when compared to the other sectors.

Only Team Main Tembak solved this question in the end, but not before investing a lot of time and mental efforts in figuring out the clue. I think it was a bold move on their part considering that it was still quite early in the hunt. Spending too much time on a single question is not always a good idea, as that strategy can backfire in the later stages of the game. So I consider this move by Main Tembak as very risky—and a risk not really worth taking too! But, y'know, some of us are willing to go against the best strategy for the satisfaction of the challenge!

When seeing the clue from the literal sense, one is apt to think of, say, the word PARACHUTES. But of course I scanned that sector and found no PARACHUTES there. The solution lies in the cryptic sense involving wordplay and a few other tricks, including "space deception" between words.

The word THESE tells the solver that he's dealing with something in the plural sense. So he should probably shortlist his candidates to those with the letter "S" in them. But of course this is not foolproof, since some plural English words have no "S" in the end.

The word JUMP at the end of the clue tells the solver very little, but he should at least flip through the Thesaurus to look for its synonyms.

The trickiest part of the clue is "meant for putting on", especially if read as a whole in the context of the entire clue. It gives the solver the impression that he's looking for some sort of outfit to put on to his body, such as a dress or cap or pants etc. But the beauty of the English language is that sometimes a single word may have many different meanings. It takes a hard-working solver to find the correct one.

PUT: verb - to move something into a particular place or position.

PUTT: verb - (in golf) to hit the ball gently when it is on the grass near the hole, so that it rolls across the ground a short distance into or towards the hole.

But in the participle form, both the above verbs are spelt the same way, i.e. PUTTING.

In the game of golf, those small patches of carpet-like areas which are "meant for putting (of the golf balls) on" are known as the GREENS. And once the solver can think of this possibility, he can quickly see the synonym of JUMP in this case, which is the word HOP. By joining both these words together, and in conjunction with the available board within the sector, the answer is GREEN SHOP.


There is of course a gap between the words GREEN and SHOP, but "space deception" is commonly used and acceptable in cryptic clues and treasure hunts.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

KK Challenge 5

We had quite a hunt today, even though the weather wasn't really on our side. It was drizzling during the first hour or so after the flag off, but thankfully the weather improved during the second half of the hunt. On the whole though, it was a pleasant day since the hunters did not have to walk in the hot and humid condition.

The KK Challenge 5 attracted 14 teams. Because of the timing of the hunt, several regular teams were unable to participate. But on the other hand, I'm happy that we've attracted some new teams to participate in the KK Challenge series for the very first time today. And we had quite some surprises too!

As usual, I designed this hunt to allow the top team to achieve very near to the full score while at the same time not to fail the weaker teams too badly. I'm glad to report that I have more or less achieved my plan—out of the 14 teams, only 2 teams failed the hunt.

I am pleasantly surprised that 2 relatively new teams created history when they beat a number of regular teams by breaking into the top 5 positions. In this sense, I'm happy to note that we've attracted new breed of treasure hunters who've improved in such a short time. The only question remains now is whether they will have the consistency to keep repeating the feat.

In terms of standard, I have not introduced anything new in this hunt. I have basically maintained my style of extensive wordplay, and as in my previous hunts, the local hunters have always been weak when dealing wordplays because they simply don't have the habit of looking up for words in the dictionaries. This is one aspect of treasure hunting which I think is not going to improve very soon in our local scene. Consider this question which most teams had to waste so much time on:

Q6) He left a jar here.

A6) The Leaf

A "jar" is of course a noun. But in this particular clue, I meant it as a verb, meaning to shake, jerk or vibrate etc. It's in this verb sense that "jar" is an anagram indicator. But when I set this question, I knew that most of the hunters will struggle with this question because they simply don't have the habit to check other possible meanings of the word "jar". And if I were to set a similar clue in my future hunts, they will still not check the dictionary! Some people will never learn, I guess.

There were also plain word-substitution questions such as:

Q2) Complete motivation.

A2) SHEER INSPIRATION

and

Q40) Simple fashion.

A40) Easy Way

However, it would have been uncharacteristic of my hunt if it's without the so-called "reserved for the CoC" questions. I did throw in a couple of them, but I'm glad to say that at least one was successfully solved. I shall discuss these interesting questions in separate posts later.

Other assortment of questions based on other themes such as observation/spotting skills, basic initial, reversal, containers etc were also given generously in this hunt. On the whole, I think it was quite an even spread of questions to cover most of the major cryptic themes.

The team, Cili Padi, of which my brother, Harry, was a member caused something of a stir when they sneaked in to the thrid place and ended up with the bronze medals. But although they have only hunted for the second time in an open hunt (they hunted together in the Novice Hunt 1), they have actually been training "secretly" by using the questions from my KK Challenge series 1 to 3 recently.

Another team which made heads turn was No Plastic Bags. Hunting for only the third time, and second time with the current members, they managed to find their way to fourth position. I must congratulate them for doing such a great job! However, I thought they could've done even better if not for some unforgiveable mistakes! So this is a good warning to the regular teams—that there are emerging strong teams out there!

De StoneS confirmed that their recent win in the Novice Hunt 1 was not a fluke when they finished with an impressive 79 points. They must have worked really hard on their treasures this time (which, I think, saved their day) and solved 3 out of 4 of the treasure clues.

But in the end, it was an anti-climax. As expected, team Main Tembak won decisively with 94 points. It's a bit sad to note that most of the regular hunters started the hunt this morning fighting only for the silver medals, saying that the gold medals have been taken even before the flag off!

The top 7 teams for the KK Challenge 5 are like this (maximum score—100 points):

1) Bernard Liew, Alvin Wong, Christine Netto, Audrey Chin—94pts
2) Frederick Samson, Tan Cher Kian, Teo Chen Lung, Leslie Yew—79 pts
3) Harry Koh, Buddy Jiliun, Sophia Lai—73pts
4) Julia Chan, Mior Azman Musa, Jaco Swanepoel, Paul Callaghan—72pts
5) Johan Amilin, Siti Nur Liyana, Siti Nur Hanaa, Johari Jan—68pts
6) Ellen Yee, Shirley Lim, Mary Lokupi, Felix Joikon—67pts
7) Christie Kong, Claire Andrew, Grace J Chin, Saidah Mohd Sahid—65pts


The Winning team, Main Tembak beside me, from left, Bernard Liew, Christine Netto, Alvin Wong and Audrey Chin.


Second place winners, Tan Cher Kian, Teo Chen Lung, Leslie Yew and Frederick Samson.


Third place winners, Harry Koh, Buddy Jiliun and Sophia Lai.


I just want to show the kind of fun some of you have missed. This was taken during the presentation after the hunt. Looking at this mother and daughter of the Jolly Roger team, it keeps me smiling all day long.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Borneo International Marathon 2009—Celebration

Dr Helen Lasimbang organised a post-marathon celebration dinner yesterday evening at The 4 Seasons in Damai. It was attended by those familiar faces from the jogging track, including Dr Liaw, Dr Peter, Dr Joseph and his wife, Jenny, Andrew Voon and his family, Teo Chen Lung, Dr Felice Huang, and others. Mia decided not to join us, as she did not wish to rush after the sunset mass at St Simon. Judy Liew was held up by some of her visiting relatives and arrived late, in fact after dinner was over.


I was lucky to sit between two ladies, Dr Felice and Judy. It was an enjoyable evening. We exchanged our experiences about the marathon. Then Teo (in striped shirt) reminded me of this Saturday's treasure hunt.

We were also talking about toilet breaks during the marathon. Many men simply relieved themselves at the roadsides in some bushes. But women were a bit more complicated and needed proper toilets.

Dr Helen was telling us about the many tattoos on her back; that she organises annual tattoo parties. Before this, I've never known that there's such a thing as tattoo parties.

Dinner was quite nice, though not exactly my kind of food. We had plenty of wine too. We were really a noisy crowd—a lot of yelling in between conversations and sudden bursts of laughter. Everyone was talking at the same time!


We also had a chance to show off our hard-earned medals. Teo was especially proud of his medal, and he brought along his huge expensive camera for the occasion. Dr Peter, the general surgeon (seated), was also very happy, not only because he did not bleed both his nipples this year, but mainly because he's able to complete the full marathon again for the second time.

Dr Joseph, the gynaecologist (extreme left), must be the happiest person in our small group since he was the fastest among us. He finished his 42k in 04:25:23. But he said he's not gonna do the full marathon again. We're all hoping that's just the side effect of wine.

Dr Liaw, the paedritrician (in white shirt), was also very happy because he won a bet against Dr Helen (gynaecologist) for finishing in 04:29:07. I think he won a special lobster dinner.

But all of them couldn't beat Teo's pride in his achievement. He attributed his success to the many, many packets of power gels and bananas he consumed during his run. Well, maybe he has a longer digestive system since he's much taller than the rest of us.

It was a lot of fun. We must do this again after the Singapore Marathon in December.


Borneo International Marathon 2009—Photos

Here are some photos of the Borneo International Marathon 2009 as seen from the cameras of Harry and his girlfriend, Buddy.


Yours truly, but running solo most of the time. Maybe it would have been slightly different had there been more people around me all the time so that I could pace my run.


I wasn't as strong by the time I emerged from Sutera Harbour. I was basically focusing on the ground in front of me. I don't know about other people, but all those talks about "focusing the pain away" don't really work on me. It's just a matter of how much more pain one can endure.


And this is Master Hunter, Alvin Wong, running his first half marathon in KK. He ran the Penang Bridge Marathon ages ago, and only seriously started training less than 2 months ago for this event!


Alice Mathew, running with a beautiful smile, minding her own business running to the tune of her favourite music. At this stage, she has about 8km to go to the finish line. This was her second half marathon, having joined the same event last year.


Mia, approaching the Sutera Harbour intersection (KM9 of the half marathon route). Still looking strong.


And of course not everyone was overly concerned with time. Vivian and her friend were all out to have an enjoyable half marathon.


As you can see, a few kilometres later, emerging from the Sutera Harbour, they're still very cheerful as ever! Vivian is even showing thumbs up here! Way to go, Viv! I want to see you do that for the full marathon! Let's have a date in the Borneo International Marathon in April next year!


I have no idea who this fellow is. Apparently, he's an advocate of running barefooted, and I'm not too sure what's the regulation on running without a shirt on. Perhaps some of the women should run in bikinis. I'm sure that would be something which we can all talk about for years to come! Anyway, I overtook this guy at around KM30 within the Sutera Harbour area.

Update (6:34pm, 12 October): I have since been directed to the blog of the above barefooted runner named Jason Ong.


Dr Joseph running strong with about 8km to the finish line. A strong young man. But last night he mentioned that this would be the first and last full marathon for him. We're gonna try to make him change his mind!


Alvin, coming into the stadium, about 200 metres to the finish line, clearly exhausted, but must be relieved to know that the torture will be over within the next few seconds. He finished within an impressive 02:30:09. But he will feel very much more at home on this coming Saturday in my KK Challenge 5!


Mia entered the stadium still feeling quite strong. In the Singapore Marathon in December last year, she felt like fainting and had to walk for quite some distance within the last several kilometres. Not this time round—she finished within 02:35:28.


Alice, too, was happy for another successful half marathon. Her time: 02:49:48.


And this is me as I was approaching the stadium (Nicholas Teo in the foreground). I'd say it's about 400 metres to the finish line. Notice that I was still focusing on the ground immediately in front of me. My legs were just about to stop, but I somehow kept them moving anyway.


The final 200 metres to the finish line. I have no idea how I got this far, but well, in my pathetic condition I did finally find my way back to the stadium and indeed to the finish line!


Such a big relief that it's finally all over. Four months of training; all those sacrifices of waking up in the wee hours of Sunday mornings; the pains of suffering blisters upon blisters during the many long runs; running into the nights after office hours. And in the end, it all boils down to this...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Borneo International Marathon 2009—My First 42K

Yesterday, I ran the 42K in the Borneo International Marathon 2009. I'm sad to say that it's a bit of a disappointment for me. But I'm ahead of myself here. A good story has to start from a proper beginning...

Mia and I went to Pizza Hut in Damai for an early dinner at 6pm on Saturday. We decided to opt out of the pasta dinner sponsored by the Tourism Board at the Likas Sports Complex. The perfect plan to go to bed by 8pm was just wishful thinking. By the time we finished preparing our stuff, it was fast approaching 9pm. And then it's not so easy to fall asleep that early too. So I tossed around in bed for a good 2 hours thinking about all the things that could go wrong in the marathon.

But finally I was able to fall asleep way past 11pm. It was a very light sleep, and one which was haunted by dreams of everything that could go wrong, e.g. waking up late and arriving late at the starting line, running in a wrong direction, cramps. I even saw myself running in a pajama!

At 2am, the alarm went off. I was brushing my teeth when the second alarm clock went off at 2:05am. And the thrid alarm clock went of at 2:10am while I was shaving. Paranoia is such a terrible thing, you know.

Mia ate some bread, but I decided to have only a banana and plain water. My stomach can never agree with most food before my long runs during training, and I reckoned I didn't want to experiment with something new this morning. Then we changed into our running gears, and soon it was already time to leave for the Likas Sports Stadium.

We arrived at the stadium at about 3:30am, and there were already so many people there. But not many were participating in the full marathon. If I'm not wrong slightly less than 300 in all the categories. Most of the 1,400 participants were in the 21k and 10k categories. I met some friends, i.e. the doctors from SMC and others who've been training regularly at the Likas jogging track. And soon, it was already time for the flag off.

All the while before the marathon, I've been having doubts of actually conquering the 42km. This would be the very first time running that distance. The longest distance I've covered during training was only about 35km. I set a modest target of 4:30 to 4:45, and I came up with a well thought-out running plan. I reckoned that if I could average out 6.5 minutes per kilometre, I should be able to achieve my target, having allowed for some stops for water or even toilet breaks if necessary.

Immediately after the sound of the horn, I started my stop watch and began the long journey heading for Jalan Sulaman in the north. From the beginning, the Kenyans showed that they're here for the top 3 spots. They practically surged ahead and left all of us mortals behind. Then there was the steady group of chasing pack, probably running at a pace of 5—5.5 mins per kilometre. I was somewhere in the last group, sticking to my plan, running perhaps at 6.5 mins per kilometre.

Soon, we were already approaching the roundabout at Wisma Perindustrian and immediately after that, we turned right towards Yayasan Sabah. Already, I could see many runners far ahead. I was a bit worried because I began to feel a bit of tiredness after only 5km into the run. Then we started the gradual climb onto the bridge over the Likas river. At the roundbout immediately after the bridge, we turned north towards 1Borneo. I didn't really know the exact route for this full marathon. But according to the description in the BIM official website, we're supposed to make a loop somewhere at 1Borneo.

Not many road markers on the northern route, so it was difficult to estimate the distance, but I reckoned by about 8km or so, my legs were already into their cruising pace, and I actually felt quite comfortable. The morning air, though not cold, was pleasant. The northern route towards 1Borneo was a bit undulating, but quite gentle and hardly affected the runners. Soon, I was already running in front of 1Borneo. But I still couldn't see the U-turn ahead. I kept running beyond 1Borneo and then I saw the Kenyans, already on their return leg on the other side of the road. That was a bad sign, because I was certain that the Kenyans were very far ahead by then. So obviously the U-turn couldn't be anywhere close from my position then. So I ran and ran, and still no U-turn ahead. Before long, I was already approaching 1Sulaman. Then I saw Judy, Ester and Dr Liaw on their return leg. Then I finally reached the forsaken U-turn. 1Borneo my foot!... the U-turn must be a few kilometres further beyond 1Borneo!

Seeing Judy, Ester and Dr Liaw a few kilometres ahead of me was quite something. Dr Liaw is of course a stronger runner than I am. I was tempted to increase my pace, since I was feeling quite good—I was still feeling strong. But I suppressed that temptation and remained true to my plan.

I was on my return leg from the U-turn when I saw Dr Peter coming from the other side. The thing about this particular run was the loneliness running alone in the dark. I was just too slow for the faster group; and was a bit too fast for the slower group. Running solo was quite a challenge. Because of the small number of participants in this event, we were more or less spread too thin.

Then I came to the first road marker with a 15km on it. I looked at my stopwatch and to my horror, saw the 1:29 on it. It meant that I was running too fast. I had to slow down to preserve energy for the second half of the run. Seeing a water station ahead, I gulped down a power gel, and chased it down with 2 cups of water. I thought I had reduced my pace, but when I reached the 21km marker, my stopwatch showed 2:05—still far too fast for my strategy.

A short while later, I arrived at the roundabout near Yayasan Sabah again. And that climb onto the bridge was the first time I felt the exhaustion of the run. Thankfully, however, it wasn't a very long climb. The other side was a gentle downgoing slope. I took advantage of it.

Approximately half an hour later, I was back to the roundabout at Wisma Perindustrian again, this time heading south towards KK City. By then I was already feeling the tiredness in both legs, but still bearable. I'd say I was probably doing a little over 6 minutes per kilometre by then. The crowd was quite huge, because the full marathoners were crossing paths with the 21k and 10k participants. Still maintaining my pace, running through KK City, passing Wawasan roundabout, leading to the coastal highway.

And then as I was just turning into the coastal highway, I was surprised to see Judy walking ahead of me. She said she had cramps in her legs. She tried to run together with me, but gave up soon after. Approaching the Sutera Harbour traffic lights, I gulped down my last power gel and followed that with 2 cups of water. My brother, Harry, was there to take my photos. I have lost faith on Suchen, the official photographer of this event, and had arranged for Harry to take my photos instead.

Then I turned into Sutera, and then I saw Ester walking. I overtook her and ran that 2 km or so to the U-turn. In the mean time, I noticed the 30km marker and looked at my stopwatch. It showed 3:08. And then I suddenly realised that I might even be able to finish the race in under 4:30! I started to increase my pace, but it was not meant to be. For very soon after that, I felt the cramps developing in both of my legs. I had to slow down again. Luckily, the pain subsided. And again, I tried to increase my pace, but again the pain came back. So in the end I decided to abandon the 4:30 target and focus on my original plan of 4:30-4:45.

By the time I emerged from the Sutera Harbour development, the cramps were getting quite serious. I turned towards Tg Aru and then shortly after I saw Dr Joseph on his return leg. He shouted out to me, "It's time for pain!"

A little further down the road, the Power Bar folks were giving out free power gels to the full marathoners just as the organiser had promised. I took one, but decided to save it until later. Beyond that point, every single step was a torture; I was fighting the temptation to quit. I dare say the actual challenge started only after KM30.

Soon it was already the U-turn for the final loop and for the final return leg to the Sports Stadium. But it's still a good 10km to go, and it became clear that I wouldn't be able to endure the cramps in my legs for that distance. I made that loop and started counting in my mind every step I made, now probably running at a miserable pace of 7 minute per kilometre. Then from a distance, I saw the water station at the 8Km-to-go marker. I tore open the power gel and chased it down with water at the water station. And then I started walking for a bit.

Having cramps in both legs with 8km to go was just too much to handle. The mental strength required to keep pushing the legs to move was not to be underestimated. I had to resign to the fact that I would fail in this event. But after walking for about 50 metres or so, I suddenly remembered that I had plenty of time left. The organiser had allocated 7 hours time limit for this event. There's no reason to just throw it all away; as long as I could still move my legs, I could just walk the remaining distance to the finish line. So I kept walking until I felt a bit better again. Then I started running—still excruciatingly painful.

I walked and ran alternately until I reached in front of the central market in KK. There were so many people looking. And then I saw the 5km-to-go marker. Now I know that 5km sounds like nothing to most people, but when the quadriceps and calves in both legs are close to the point of shutting down, even 5km can feel like 50km!

Those last 5km were a nightmare. I continued running and walking alternately throughout the Tg Lipat stretch leading to Wisma Perindustrian. When I reached the roundabout, I was at the point of giving up. I was so close to the finish line, yet so far. I kept going though, passing the Trade Centre, then the traffic lights and finally the last roundabout.

I was still walking after the roundabout when someone yelled from the pavement to say, "Only 800 metres to go!" And then I started running again—if you could call that pace "running". And then when I approach the arch leading into the stadium, I saw my brother, Harry, taking a few shots of me. I ran into the stadium, and then suddenly I gave it all of what's left in my legs. I dashed around the track to the finish line. Meanwhile, Harry also ran across the field to the finish line to be in position to take a picture of me there. As I said, I didn't trust the official photographer.

But the marathon god would not give me the pleasure of capturing that very important moment—the moment at the finishing line in my very first full marathon. Approximately 1,400 participants in this event from all categories; of all those people running, it just had to be exactly when it was my turn to cross the finish line, when it was blocked by a group of people in wheelchairs across the entire arch. You see, the organiser arranged for some people from the Palliative Care Association to push the terminally ill people across the finish line, which is admirable of them. But it just had to happen at the very same time I wanted to cross the finish line too!

Well, there isn't much more to report. The elusive 4:30 remains a dream—I finally finished in the official time of 4:42:29. Time to go back to the drawing board to find out what's wrong with my so-called running strategy. There must be something wrong, and I will find it! In about 7 weeks from now, I'll have another shot at the 4:30 target, but I'll be happy if I can improve on that 4:42:29 to start with.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Day In Court

In the course of my career as a property valuer, I have been called as an expert witness to appear in court several times. But before this I have only appeared in Brunei courts (I practised in Brunei for a good 13 years before relocating back to KK in 2002), until last Monday when I appeared in the High Court here in KK.

I think it is quite safe to assume that most of my readers hardly ever set foot in any of the courts in Malaysia, let alone being there to actually witness a trial in progress. So perhaps some of you would like to have a rough idea what it is like. But since this case is still not concluded yet, I shall carefully refrain from discussing the details of the dispute.

First of all, let me hasten to tell you that it is nothing like what you see in The Practice or Matlock. There is no excitement of litigators walking up to the witnesses with all those actions or body language nonsense. They don't bring monkeys to the courts too. But of course sometimes, albeit very rarely, they do bring mattresses as evidence.

What I experienced in Brunei was slightly different from what I went through last Monday. In Brunei, the judge himself had to write down, literally with a pen and paper, what transpired in court. And occasionally, the litigators and witnesses had to repeat what they said, because the judge was not fast enough to write what was said the first time.

Well, it's been some years since I last appeared in court. So I was sort of a bit rusty when I appeared on Monday.

In KK, the judge does not write nor type himself. The setting is slightly different here. There is a typist who does all the typing. I say typist, not a stenographer. Her computer is linked to 3 monitors—one for the judge, and two others for each of the opposing litigators. So as she's typing, the judge and litigators can read from the monitors. Thankfully, this particular trial was conducted in English. But if it was conducted in Malay, I think I could've handled it too. The only possible problem is, maybe, some technical words in Malay which I'm not very familiar with.

As I said, I was a bit rusty, so the first few minutes, I spoke at my natural pace, and I had to be stopped several times because the typist couldn't keep up with my pace. And yes, I had to repeat what I said. Occasionally, the judge had to spell the words out for the typist. But before very long, I was able to adjust myself so that I ended up speaking like giving a dictation test to a student. Even the litigators had to do the same thing. What could've been a mere 15 minutes appearance would take at least double that duration because of the recording process.

I don't know about other people, but for me, I kinda have to struggle to contain my thought process if I had to speak only a few words at any one time. That can sort of interrupt my ideas, whatever they are. I had to compose and re-compose my thoughts and it was quite a challenge and mentally exhausting too.

Contrary to what one might think, I wasn't nervous because of the questions that was asked; rather, the nervousness was more because of having to remember what I said the first time. Whenever I was asked to repeat what I said, I found myself having to think back, "Now what did I say just now? What were the exact words I used? How did I use them?". It's quite annoying, that!

After my turn, I lingered on to watch the next witness in action. I noticed that he went through the same thing too—occasionally having to repeat what he said. It will probably take a very long time, if ever, for our court system to improve in terms of speed. Maybe the only solution is to have more courthouses and even more judges to hear cases. Perhaps that should solve the problem of backlogs.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

BIM 2009—The Final Countdown

Well, it's been about 4 months since I started training to attempt the 42.2km in the Borneo International Marathon 2009 which will be on this Sunday. Although I've been training religiously according to the textbook schedule, I have never actually conquered 42.2km up to now. So I don't really know what to expect on Sunday. What I've been through, however, is running up to about 35km, and I must say that it was a struggle to complete even that distance.

Over the last couple of days, I've been talking to people who've done the full marathon before, and I received quite a lot of tips. But obviously it still boils down to mental strength one way or another. It's strange that although this will be my first time, many people have asked me if I set a target. Well, yes, I do have a target.

Completing The Distance:

Naturally, whatever happens, I'm determined to complete the marathon for as long as I can still move my legs. The BIM, just the second time being organised, has a generous 7-hour time limit for the full course. Right now, no matter how badly I run on Sunday, I am confident that I can finish the race much sooner than 7 hours. But perhaps there is a slight psychological advantage to know that I have such a big time cushion, just in case things don't really work out the way I have planned.

5 Hours & Below:

I set this target as the timeframe that I should be able to finish the race. I still respect the distance, and I'm not being over confident here. All I'm saying is that based on the training that I've gone through over the last 4 months, I see no reason why I should not achieve this target. If I can achieve this target, I would be happy.

4:30 - 4:45:

This is what I would describe as the more challenging target, but I think if I run intelligently, it's not exactly beyond reach at my current physical condition. This target is therefore my primary focus this Sunday.

Under 4:30:

A number of my friends have suggested that I can achieve this. I don't know how they arrived at this opinion, but somehow I can't see myself crossing the finish line in under 4:30. I feel this way because of what I went through when I ran the 35km. I remember when I finished last of the 35km, I was thinking to myself that even if I could continue, I would have been running at a much slower pace. This Sunday, I won't be all out to achieve this target. Instead, I will focus on the 4:30 - 4:45 target. Nevertheless, if at the 30km point I see there is hope to achieve 4:30, then I might want to go for it. If I tried to focus on achieving 4:30 from the beginning, I might jeopardise even the 4:30 - 4:45 target.

What Can Go Wrong:

From the comforts of my home, the above looks very nice. But actually so many things can go wrong.

Firstly, of course the dreadful cramps in the legs. My friend, Teo, suffered this last year beginning from KM 25. He endured the pain up to KM35 before finally giving up. He ended up in an ambulance and did not arrive at the finish line at all. With 4 months of training under my belt, I would really be disappointed if it happens to me too.

Secondly, it started raining last night, and this morning we had quite a storm. In fact, it rained practically the whole day today with only very short breaks in between. It's not a good sign. I've contacted some friends about the rain, and apparently they will all still run in the rain. So I guess I will run in the rain too if it comes to that on Sunday. It won't be amusing though—I can see myself dragging my blistering feet in my soaking wet shoes. It will surely affect my target.

Finally, this flu is still disturbing my plan. But I'm confident I will be well again by Sunday. Then again, flu or no flu, the show must go on!

Preparation Up To The Marathon:

There is nothing much more to report about my preparation. I ran the 13km last Sunday, and I felt very tired. I wasn't very happy with my run, but I hope that's because of my flu. Yesterday evening, I ran a mild 5km. Another slow 3.5km first thing tomorrow morning, and one final 3.5km on Friday morning. That's all the running I'll be doing before the marathon.

On Friday, I'm starting to carbo-load. Some people have suggested starting on Thursday, but I've decided to really start on Friday. Well, perhaps a bit more potatoes on Thursday is good too. I should have my glycogen reserves fully loaded by Sunday morning.

I didn't bring any water or power gels on me for the 3 half marathons I've joined last year. But this year, too many people have advised me to bring at least power gels—just in case. So perhaps this is not the time to be stubborn. I will need to figure out the best way to bring 2 power gels on me. I don't have any pockets in my shorts.

Post Marathon:

This part is a bit amusing. Even before the marathon day, Dr Helen has embarked on planning for the post marathon celebration dinner! She proposed that a bunch of us marathoners treat ourselves to a glorious dinner at The Four Seasons in Damai on Sunday evening. We can share our experience before, during and after the run. I thought it would be fun, so I told her to count me in. But then I suddenly thought of the possibility of failure. What is there to celebrate if I failed to finish the race? (Smile)

Yesterday evening, I bumped into Andrew at the Likas track. And Dr Helen was there too. They're now talking about including wines too! And it seems that Andrew will be joining us! So now we have quite something to look forward to after the torture on Sunday. I hope they have enough space to store our crutches while we enjoy our dinner at The Four Seasons.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Suffering—An Answer

If there is a God, he must have been very angry with us in this region last week. He inflicted typhoons which led to major floods in the Phillipines; earthquakes in Indonesia which destructed buildings; and tsunami which resulted in gigantic waves which in turn devastated Samoa, thus killing many, many people in the process. Many more people are still unaccounted for up to now. By now so many people have written about the devastation and loss of lives in these countries.

And then, over the weekend, while I was on a blog-hopping spree, I stumbled upon a blog named Wrestling With Religion. In it, I found an interesting question in the post entitled: Suffering—A Question. Actually, I have been to that blog before, and I kinda like the blog owner's open-minded views on religions. I think she's able to overcome the pressure of the people around her who're trying to force religious ideas and principles upon her. She often raises interesting questions which might even be considered sinful to ask! Anyway, in this particular post, she raised the question about suffering, she wrote:

"Here’s a question for you all, since I don’t have time to think for myself at the moment (major work challenge going on)…

How do you understand suffering? Is the function of morality that it helps to avert harm and suffering, do you think? If that is the case, why did God put us in a world with natural disasters and other things that cause suffering? Why do we have to get ill and die?

Is suffering redemptive? Does it build character? Does it test us? If so, then why does morality seem to demand that we try to limit the suffering in the world? If not, then why did God put it into the world?

Would an ideal world be a world without suffering? Or not?

OK, that was more than one question."

After reading her post, I embarked on writing a long comment. But when I posted that comment, it did not appear in the comment section. I reckoned it's probably a moderated blog in the sense that all comments would require the approval of the blog owner. After a few days, my comment is still not there. So I might as well offer my answer here in my own blog. So here goes nothing!

I'm guessing that there is God. He probably created everything around us. I don't know where He came from. Maybe He came from another universe out there. Maybe He is just an alien whose origin is unknown. But somehow He had the ability to create all that we see around us. In that sense He is almighty.

But I don't believe in religions. So I am immune from the teachings found in all the holy books. The thing about all religions is that they all boil down to the worshiping of a conceited being whose main preoccupation is to yearn to be worshiped. And so, it doesn't really matter if you've been a good person throughout your life on earth. It doesn't really matter if you went out of your way to help others. At the end of the day, if you didn't accept and worship God, you shall not go to heaven.

Religious people put their faith in God the Almighty. Whenever they suffer for whatever reason, then it must be God who did it because he wanted to demonstrate his powers and love in the forms of help that comes in the aftermath of the suffering. In a way, it's some kind of reminder to behave ourselves—don't forget who's the boss.

God also inflicts suffering upon us because he wants us to learn to become a better person; to become a stronger person. Suffering builds morals and empathy for the plight of others. We can learn from the suffering. We can grow from the experience. And it can only be good for us.

If there is only good in this world, there is nothing for us to compare. But when we have experienced suffering, we will learn to appreciate the good things that God has given us.

And so the explanation continues...

However, sometimes we can't see any goodness that comes from the suffering. And furthermore, we often find ourselves lost for ideas to explain some tragedies which appear to have no meaning whatsoever.

When a teenage boy went all out to help his fellow humans, but eventually sacrificing his own life in the process, we are lost for words. What reward did God give him for his kindness? And here, the most popular romantic explanation is that God loves him so much, and took him into the Kingdom of Heaven much sooner than other people. Similarly, when a newborn baby is thrown down to its death from a high building, God must have loved that baby too, and decided to take it into heaven as quickly as possible.

Some people are born into poor families. They get no education, and hence no opportunity to escape from poverty. Throughout their lives, they suffer the punishment of manual labour to put 3 square meals on their tables. And of course some of them can't even get that many meals per day. From day one of their lives they suffer until the day they die. It makes one wonder why God put them through that kind of test. Why them? Why such severity of suffering?

BUT! the religious people have faith in God. Because He knows best. Because He can do no wrong. Because He has a perfect plan for everything. Somehow He has something good in store for these people who've suffered throughout their lives.

But I am blind. I can't see God in all this. Many, many sufferings in this world are just so purposeless. The African child who's born into poverty, inherited the HIV virus from his parents, suffered malnutrition and starvation, multiple illnesses and finally died before the age of 3. What good did the suffering bring to the child? Absolutely nothing.

If God was the one who punished a child like that, then I would rather not worship Him, much the same way I would not worship the Pharaoh. For these are beings who inflict harm onto others not because of any special reason; rather because they can.

Well, that's how I see suffering—that's my answer to the question. OK, that's an extremely long answer.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Size Matters—Depending On From Whose Point Of View

So OK, I'm done laughing out loud! Ummm... nah, I'm still laughing as I'm typing this! But I have to sleep a little early tonight, as I still have to make one more 13km run first thing tomorrow morning. So I'll try to keep this short (very uncharacteristic of me, I know).

I have never actually measured how long is my manhood, but I've never thought that I would become unhappy if it were smaller than the average size. However, I've been wondering where would I be if someone were to conduct a survey to determine what would the average size be—below average, average or large.

Anyway, a recent study reveals that 67.3% of men believed that they would be happier if they had a bigger penis! I've never really been exposing myself in the locker room, so I guess I wouldn't know how it feels to be able to show off a big penis—not that I'm saying I have one (smile).

However, having a big penis is not always a good thing, you know. One of these days, your wife may ask for a divorce, and of all the reasons, it's because your penis is just too damn big(long)! [The Star].

Oh! these people are killing me. I'm gonna finish my energy laughing like this! Goodnight, folks.