Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shameful Confession?

Homosexuality is a very difficult topic and has been the subject of many discussions and debates in many blogs that I have visited. I find it interesting that homosexuality is a sin in religions. I'm not very well-versed on the reasons for it being a sin, although I have heard plenty from the people who claimed that they've studied the holy books.

For example, one of the reasons given to me was that if homosexuality is condoned by God, then the human race will gradually become extinct because reproduction can't happen. However, I haven't myself study those holy books to verify the truth of the matter. At any rate, I think that was a lousy reason because although I don't have the statistics, I'm absolutely convinced that the vast majority of the human race are heterosexual. We have plenty of opportunities for reproduction there.

I'm a non-believer of religions, but even if I were a believer, I doubt that I can accept that homosexuality is a sin, regardless of what's contained in the holy books. For I'm convinced that in most of the cases, homosexuality is not something that anyone can control—it is something one is born with.

If God is truly loving and forgiving, I think He would not punish any of us for something which we are born with, and beyond our control. I'm not playing God here; and I can accept that I may be wrong. If, for example, I were born a retard or mentally-challenged, is it then my fault if I can't understand religions? The answer, I was given to understand, is no, it's not my fault. And I would be excused!

However, homosexuality is a bit different from a retarded person. The mind is sane and in all other aspects, the person is normal. The only problem is that he or she is attracted to the same sex as opposed to the opposite sex.

It has been argued that homosexuality is not something that is beyond control, unlike someone who's insane. One can refrain from having sex with anyone of the same gender. A lesbian, for example, can still have intercourse with a man and produce offspring. I suppose there is some truth in that, but the heart is empty. The heart of a homosexual person can only love a person of the same gender.

It is very easy for the vast majority of the human race to look at the minority homosexual people and say that they are sinful for being homosexuals. They would say that the gays should control their tendencies; that they are in fact not qualified to experience love. And even if they did fall in love, they should not act on it!

That is why when a young Malay, Muslim man made a daring confession that he is gay, the comment from the Mufti of Perak was:

"Since he acknowledged himself to be a Muslim and a Malay, he should not have made such a confession... In truth, he has derided his own dignity and Islam in general." [The Star]

I think it is easy to say that it's all in the mind; that gays should resist their feelings! But it is easy to say if one is not oneself experiencing it. Maybe if the Mufti himself were gay, he would have a different opinion about being gay, I don't know. For only then will he be in the position to know what exactly is going on in the mind and heart of a homosexual.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Frozen World

It's probably psychological, but have you ever found yourself in one of those situations when you're rushing for something important, and it seemed like the whole world was conspiring to slow you down? Everything around you seemed to have frozen! The bumper-to-bumper traffic jam which took a million years to move an inch; and when you arrived at the many traffic lights, all of them were red? And then when you have somehow escaped from the traffic jams, everyone around you seemed like they're absolutely determined to drive as slow as possible?

Well, today I experienced one of those moments. And it was quite a challenge!

And of course as Murphy's Law would have it, of all the time in the world, that was the one time when I was running low on diesel. So off I went to the nearest fuel station, only to find an exceptionally long queue. I waited patiently and saw all my hair gradually turning white in the mirror. Finally, it was my turn!

It was a self-service station, so I had to frantically wave from the pump to the attendant at the cash register who was busy playing with her cellphone to start my pump flowing.

After I was done filling up diesel into my tank, I walked over to the cashier to pay. I asked for a receipt, and she began the Herculean task of writing out one. I stood there watching her in action.

This was the receipt:

It was perhaps a mere few seconds' affair, but, y'know, when you're rushing, it felt like she took an eternity to sign the damn receipt. Amazing the amount of strokes in some people's signatures. I'm thinking if they're not careful, they can make me lose my head—I may just end up killing somebody because of seeing those kind of signatures!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Recently, I bought a neat Sony walkman—the Zappin NWZ-W252. The above is how it would appear when attached to the USB stand. But when in operation, only that green portion (mine is black) will be attached to the ears. There are no wires hanging around, so I kinda like it.

I tried my walkman a couple of times, and ended up running with it during the recent Penang Bridge International Marathon. I was worried that I would be struck by lightning on the bridge during the thunder storm, but luckily that did not happen. And yes, it is also water resistant.

Dr Peter saw the walkman on my ears during the race, fascinated. After the race, he bought one too, saying that he wanted to "reward himself for his efforts", referring to his success in beating me! He chose a white-coloured walkman.

Today I went running again at the Likas jogging track. It was already quite dark when I arrived at the track. Dr Peter was also there. So I ran together with him. Both of us had our walkmans on. But because of habit, we were still talking to each other as we were running.

I wonder what did the rest of the runners think about these two old men shouting to each other about the Hong Kong Marathon.

By the way, I clocked my fastest 10-lap (approximately 10km) workout today, finishing in 52:35. I'm thinking if I tried hard enough, I might be able to achieve even better times. But for now I'm very happy to reach this new frontier.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blind to Details

Some people are not born with the natural tendency to be meticulous in whatever they do. Essentially, they are blind to details. I have a number of those creatures in my office. Occasionally, when I find spelling or grammatical errors in a draft report, I would challenge some of them to spot those errors. And I am often amused to see how they would labour through the few paragraphs in a single page for hours and hours. Yet after spending perhaps half a day on that single page, they will not find the forsaken error!

Whenever there is a need to write typo-free reports—and I am obsessed with typo-free reports—these are the people I can't depend on. Not in a million years! They are blind as a bat. It doesn't matter if they have done the same thing over and over again for decades. They will never learn; they are simply hopeless! And so don't expect them to know what's the difference between ADVICE and ADVISE; PRINCIPAL and PRINCIPLE; YOUR and YOU'RE.

Last Friday, the sports club threw a farewell party for Ibrahim Ujar, a valuer in our company who decided to move back to West Malaysia, since his wife who's working for the government has been transferred to one of the states there. It was a simple tea party with some egg tarts and soft drinks and a farewell cake.

Some of those fellows decided to write a fancy message on the cake. And this was the result:

Challenge yourself to this simple proof-reading task. Can you spot anything wrong in those few words on the cake? Mistake can still happen even though we're only dealing with 4 (FOUR) freaking words!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Speech At A Funeral

Some time ago, I attended the funeral of a friend's mother who died of old age. If I'm not much mistaken she was way past 80 years old when she died.

I felt a little awkward to find myself in a church after many years since the last time I set foot in one. It was a Catholic church, and I noted that things have not changed much since all those years ago. The singing and occasional standing up and sitting down again. Then the sermon from the priest.

And then came the part when my friend took the mike to deliver a speech about his dead mother. I think it was the only part of the service that I actually paid much attention to. And I must say that it was a wonderful speech, worthy of an expert orator. He started with her childhood and upbringing in the village; how she met and then married her husband. The happy and full life she had had; her richness in love from all her children and grandchildren. Truly, it was a touching speech—I did not even realise the minutes that passed.

When the speech was over, we moved into a queue, leading up to the coffin where we could all get a glimpse of the dead woman to pay our last respect. As we left the coffin, we passed a line where all her children and grandchildren were standing—some of them fighting to hold back tears—and gave them words of encouragement and condolences.

Recently, I received news from mom in Vancouver. She said the doctors found a cyst in one of her ovaries, and they wanted to perform a surgery to remove that ovary. But actually, later I found out from my half-sister that, far from a cyst in her ovary, she had a tumour in her uterus. The doctors decided to remove the entire uterus and both ovaries. What seemed like a minor thing at first turned out to be something quite major. The doctors were unsure if the tumour was cancerous, but they put it as a 50-50 chance of cancer. Things were quickly looking grim. And I began making preparations to fly to Vancouver if things turned for the worst.

And then I thought of the worst-case scenario. I'm a realistic person, and prepared for the worst. After all, we will all become old one day, and the time will come for all of us to die. If it has to happen now, I will be sad, of course. I think 67 is still too young to die, and if I had it my way, I would love to see her celebrating at least her 75th birthday.

Then my mind began to wonder, and I experienced a bit of fear of her death. It will be a bit complicated to get all of my siblings over to Vancouver for the funeral. And the speech—yes, the speech! As the eldest son, I would want to be the one giving the speech. And I know I will have quite a bit of good things to say about mom.

And then my mind wondered a little further. Dad hasn't been well this lately too. He has survived 2 heart attacks, of which he had a quadruple bypass for the second one. Today he is still smoking like a chimney and does not control his diet. His blood sugar is constantly above the healthy level; his eyesight is worsening and his legs are frequently swollen. He's a diabetic, you see.

I wondered what it would be like at his funeral when the time comes? I suppose there will still be that speech-giving part, of which I will be the one to deliver. Suddenly, I was horrified when I realised that I don't have anything good to say about the man! He is the most selfish man I have ever known. Maybe it's best that Audrey handles the speech thing, 'cause I'm sure she's better in cooking up lies for the sake of a good funeral speech.

In the mean time, I have received news of a successful surgery from Vancouver. But the storm is not over yet. The doctors are sending the tumour to the cancer lab for further tests. Results should be out in about a week from now. Preliminary observation suggests that it might not be cancer after all. But if it is, then chemo will have to follow soon. So we are keeping our fingers crossed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Busy-body World Policeman

It's quite amusing when you come to think of it, but a fair number of people just can't stand some developed countries like the United Kingdom and the United States of America. A good example is our very own former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad. Try and visit his blog and then search for any of his many posts about the USA. See if you can find any one of them in which he has something nice to say about the country and its leaders. Chances are, your search will be in vain. But try to search anyway. Who knows, by a stroke of miracle, you might just find one!

Actually, many other people are unhappy with the USA. The country is often perceived as a busy-body who appoints itself to be the world policeman. All too often, it minds other people's business, especially those countries where it has either direct or indirect interests—whether politically or financially.

The American Government has been known for its involvement in disputes in the middle eastern countries. In some cases, its involvement is military in nature; in others it initiates economic sanctions against a country etc. When it perceives a particular country may become a dangerous military force, it may try to convince its allies to set up economic sanctions; or even launch a preemptive attack on that country. Indeed, the American Government is the best example of the world policeman!

The thing about people in general is that when you admire someone so much, whatever that someone does is perfect in your eyes—even if it's not! When that someone wears an ugly dress, you will somehow think it's a beautiful dress; that ugly sunglasses so cool. Even when Britney Spears sings through her nose, her voice may sound so good to your ears.

However, the opposite is also true—when you hate someone's guts so much, whatever that someone does must be no good—even if in reality it is good!

Therefore, the next time the USA sees trouble brewing in the yonder, it should just leave them alone. For if it tries to be a busy-body, people will be quick to criticise it! It is much better to mind its own business. Maybe even let the trouble go out of control, thus causing the loss of many lives.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Penang Bridge International Marathon 2010

The Penang Bridge International Marathon, which was held on 21 November 2010, is the toughest marathon I've ever joined so far. But I suspect there must be many other tougher marathons in the region. After all, this was only my fourth marathon.

In my excitement, I wore non-matching shoes for the trip, and I only realised it when I was already in the cab on my way to the airport. It became something quite fashionable, and I provided a bit of entertainment for the rest of the runners in my group from KK.

Most of us got to know each other through the adiNation runs on many Sunday mornings, and therefore were more accustomed to seeing each other in running outfits. So it was not surprising that when we met the other runners at the airport, Mia's first sentence was "Hmmm... somehow they look different when not in running outfits." And soon that particular line became the most popular sentence for the day. Almost everyone who turned up at the airport said it almost in verbatim. We had a pleasant fellowship at the departure hall.

It was well past 8pm by the time we checked in to our rooms at Eastin Hotel, which was just about 5-minutes walk to the start line of the race. Mia and I decided to go and collect our race packs before going for a late dinner. After dinner, we went back to the hotel, unpacked, had a shower, and then went to bed at around 11pm. But soon after that, it rained heavily, which was a bad sign for us marathoners.

The next day we spent most of our time hanging around Queens Bay Mall. I wasn't into the window shopping thing—never have—so apart from filling up my stomach, I spent most of that Saturday in the hotel room. Since the race would start at 2am the next morning, we went to bed at 6pm (yes, paranoia is a terrible thing), but were not destined to get any sleep at all that night. After tossing around in bed for several hours, we were finally up at around 11pm. We dressed up and then waited till about 1:30am before meeting the rest in our group at the lobby on the ground floor.

Dr Peter, the "Tormentor" arrived with his family the night before when we were already in bed. Although he, too, did not get much sleep, he was all smiles and ready for the race.

We walked to the start line and waited for a while before the arrival of the Chief Minister. Soon after his arrival, we were flagged off. I saw some familiar faces in the crowd. I tried to stay close to Dr Peter, who was in turn running with the 4-hour pacers. I must say it was quite a comfortable pace at first. But by the 9.5km point, just as we were approaching the mighty bridge, I was already feeling a bit of tiredness creeping in. It was quite obvious that there was no way I could have maintain that pace throughout the 42km. As we climbed the initial slope of the bridge, I decided to reduce my pace for fear of overusing my energy too quickly.

The climb to the middle of the bridge was quite pleasant, but by then I have already lost sight of Dr Peter. Immediately after that it was a gradual down-going stretch, and I was able to increase my pace. It was still some kilometres to the end of the bridge, but when we reached it, the turn was a series of going downhill, making a big underpass loop before climbing up again for the return leg. And then just a few minutes after that was a signboard showing 23.7km, which was obviously wrong. From a past experience I had in this event, I knew that a lot of things could go wrong. I ignored that sign and continued running

And then the thing I dreaded most happened. I felt cramps developing in both thighs, and I began to wonder what more could go wrong for this race. Not long after that, we reached the turning point for the half marathoners, and then suddenly I had people all over the place. I felt like there was a big conspiracy to prevent me from running my pace. Everybody seemed so determined to block my path.

As I was grumbling to myself, I was suddenly distracted by the drops of water from the sky. It began to drizzle, which was fine with me. But then the drizzle quickly developed into a full fledged rain; and then became a torrential rain with winds blowing from the front. Needless to say, I ended up dragging what seemed like buckets of water on my feet, but actually it's just my size-10 shoes fully filled up with rain water.

My cramps developed further as I approached the middle of the bridge, and it soon became clear to me that I would not finish the race. I tried compensating my thighs by giving more work to my calves, those too developed cramps very quickly. At the middle of the bridge I finally slowed down to a walk and entertained the idea of throwing in the towel, thus making this the first ever marathon that I would not complete. Ambulances were passing by with sirens on, and it made me wonder if some other people have fainted.

Arriving at a drink station, amongst the water in plastic bottles and cups—this must be the one race in the whole of Malaysia which only provides 95% water, and perhaps 5% isotonic drinks—I saw some curious round items which appeared a little like buns which hardly anyone would dare to touch.

I fought my cramps and decided to continue for another 1km. And then another, and another. By the time I reached the end of the bridge in Penang, blisters were already developing in both feet. But strangely, apart from a bit of biting pain, my mind was still mainly occupied by the cramps in my legs.

Proceeding a little further, I came to the turning point of the half marathoners, where I think some volunteers from the St John's Ambulance were stationed for window dressing purposes. These were stations meant for self-service only.

And then I surprised myself be deciding to continue with the race. As I was limping along that road, I saw Kevin running from the other direction on his return leg. A few minutes later, I saw Dr Joseph. And yet a few minutes later, I saw Dr Liaw.

Then came the first dreadful flyover. But actually, it wasn't as bad as I had expected. However, when one is suffering cramps and exhaustion, even a slight climb can be very punishing. As I was climbing the third flyover, I finally saw Dr Peter coming from the opposite direction. I called out to him; I said, "Hey, doc, just to check, did we bet on a baby lobster?" He responded with a broad smile but said nothing.

Soon after that third flyover, runners finally arrived at the turning point marked at 33km. There was a water station and some unripe bananas arranged nicely on a table.

Although I was still suffering pains in my legs, I was no longer limping at that point. I continued with a very slow pace, slowing down to a walk every now and then. On that return leg, I saw some of my friends from KK approaching the turning point. Andrew, Dr Helen and her brother. Then I saw Pamela in white outfit. And I saw Claire still going strong.

Approaching the 35km point, I knew that I would finish the race after all. And that was quite a relief. It would have been a shame if I couldn't finish this race, after all the trouble of getting here!

Maybe I was inspired by the pleasant thought of finishing the race; maybe it was the exhaustion; maybe it was because of the darkness; maybe it was the wanting so much to end the torture, but I was so glad to come to this signboard (although it was still dark when I saw it during the race):

It meant only another 2.2km to the finish line. With renewed determination, I increased my pace. I would at least run the last 2km like the Kenyans! I was determined to finish strong! I ran and ran and after 12 minutes, did not see the finish line. I was at the verge of fainting of exhaustion when I came to another signboard showing 39.4km! You should have seen me then—I honestly felt like wanting to cry! Only much later did I realise that the signboard I saw earlier was a speed limit sign, god dammit! That forsaken board almost cost me my life!

With the little energy left in me, I continued running. That last 3km was truly an amazing test of endurance and mental strength, especially after spending all my remaining energy in Kenyan fashion.

But that was still not the last. As I approached the last 2km towards the finish line, there was the entire herd of the 10km runners coming from the opposite direction. And these kids knew nothing about running ethics. They were all over the place. Some were talking on cellphones. The full marathoners were left with hardly any space to squeeze through. In the condition of enduring cramps and exhaustion in the legs, we had to make sudden stops and changes of direction to avoid the oncoming young runners who were mostly blind and couldn't see the runners from the opposite direction. It's either the organiser was stupid or the kids were stupid, but the net result was that the full marathoners had to pay the price.

You can imagine my elation when I approached the final roundabout leading to the Queens Bay Mall. And right at the turn, I ran into a jay walker who was happily crossing the road with his golf umbrella. No one seemed to know anything about crowd management, you see. That was the last straw that broke the camel's back. I shouted "Aiyah!" so loud that I must have attracted the attention of everyone within 1km radius! Then I ran the final 500m or so to the finish line, crossing it in 4:46.

As I crossed the finished line, I was greeted by Dr Peter with a broad smile. He had finished the race 8 mins ahead of me. A truly worthy opponent who trained so hard for this event, and who deserved every second of his victory. I shook his hand, and there and then, in front of thousands of people, bent my knees and bowed down to him, accepting my defeat! I would have gone all the way down on my knees, except that I wouldn't have been able to get up again in that condition!

I knew that Penang would be a tough route, but I didn't expect it to be this tough. Only Mia improved by about half an hour to 5:52; an admirable achievement. The rest in my group all failed to improve on our times.

Special congratulations to Claire Andrew for completing her first full marathon, having been through so much trouble to get herself to the starting line; and to Pamela Fletcher who also completed her first full marathon, except that she kinda overdid it by biting her medal for a photo pose, only to chip off a bit of the gold-coloured coating!

Without any doubt, a nightmare race for me. But I'm so glad to have participated in this race because of the friendship and fun I had with my Sabahan comrades. If I must, I would do it all over again!

Was I happy with the organiser? Not at all. I think they have a lot of room for improvement. Would I come again? I think I surely would. I would like to come again to conquer this race—not so much of winning it; rather to run an enjoyable race. That would be something to look forward to.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Obesity in Malaysia

I have long been aware of the increasing number of people who are overweight in Malaysia. Just by observing ordinary people in the streets, one is able to tell quite easily. However, I was a bit surprised to read that about 30 per cent of Malaysians are overweight, and 30 per cent obese. [Bernama]

I did not realise that the situation is that bad in Malaysia. Some years ago, I had the opportunity to visit my mom in Vancouver, Canada. Back then, I had the impression that Canada must have been the fattest country in the world. If one were to throw a stone randomly, he is bound to hit an obese person. Then recently, when I was watching The Biggest Loser, it was said that the fattest country in the world is the USA!

I think it's quite obvious that the obesity problem has a lot to do with the richness of the country. I don't think Malaysia is "rich", but 60 per cent of its people is at least overweight. Imagine that—60 per cent!

Almost all of my siblings are fat—even obese. And of course when one is fat, it's just a matter of time before some of the common illnesses would develop. In my family, for example, my dad, my step mother, my sister Bridget, and my brother, Dennis have type two diabetes. My sister Grace is, I think, about 5'3", but she's over 100kg. So I think it's just a matter of time before she, too, becomes a diabetic. Dad has been relying on the insulin tablets for some years, but recently even those couldn't help him. He now requires daily jabs.

I don't know if obesity has very much to do with the so-called fat genes. For sometimes I feel I could gain weight by just looking at food. It takes a lot of discipline to balance a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle, e.g. regular exercises. But discipline is a very tricky word—one that most of my family members have no clue as to its meaning. And as we all know, the vast majority of the human race almost always try to do something only when it's already too late—way too late.

My brother, Dennis, has 2 sons, Mohd Aqil and Mohd Arif. The latter, who's the younger one of the two, is fat, and I foresee would soon be qualified to fall into the category of obese. If I'm not mistaken, he's about 9 years old now, but his shirts are the size of teenagers'. If my grandmother is still alive today, she would be very happy to see this kid eat. And he can really eat—he can eat so much, and so fast, that he could be a good specimen for anyone wanting to learn more about the theory of the black hole. Well, it's not exactly the same thing, of course, but the similarity is there, if you know what I mean.

The good news is that recently the kid actually realised the downside of being fat. So he decided to control his food intake for a bit. I didn't think he had it in him to control his appetite, but the mere fact that he's trying to is already good news, you see. After all, his father, Dennis, has been trying to lose weight for something like 10 to 15 years, at least, and was never successful until he became a diabetic about 2 years ago.

Well, anyway, I thought it was quite amazing that Mohd Arif was able to control himself by refraining from eating his favourite noodles for a good 12 hours or so. And about 7 to 8 of those hours were spent sleeping at night. Still, 12 hours without food is a big deal for this boy. If only you've seen him eat, you would know what I mean.

I did, on several occasions, jokingly tell the boy to try harder to cut down on his food and do more exercises, perhaps play more games. But I try not to overdo it, because Dennis is not one who would readily welcome advice from people with good intentions for his sons. That is quite natural—we all tend to think that we know what's best for our kids. And perhaps I am also guilty of this same tendency!

Thankfully, they don't eat pork, I suppose a blessing being Muslims. After all, pork can kill you—especially dangerous for stupid people. [The Malay Mail] However, pork or no pork, Dennis is still not immune from the problem of high cholesterol and triglycerides. I just hope Dennis realises soon enough that Mohd Arif is not "cute" being fat. It's too late for him to do anything about being a diabetic—there is no cure for it—but he could do a lot to prevent his son from getting it too.

But then again, to solve this problem, discipline is required. How many people actually have it?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Penang Bridge International Marathon—The Countdown

Well, this is it, the last week leading to the Penang Bridge International Marathon. It's the final countdown before that gruesome 42.2km torture in Penang!

Over the last few months, quite a number of my runner friends in KK have been training for this event. During the weekdays, we've been running according to our own respective schedules, but over the weekends, we've been running many long runs together as a group under the adiNation Group of Runners' banner. Yesterday was the last of such runs, of which most of us did a mild 12km.

Nevertheless, Dr Peter stands out as the most-trained runner from KK. He's been building up his mileage with hardly any stepbacks over the last few months. Within this final month prior to the Penang Marathon, he's been doing 35km long run every Sunday without fail. The rest of us could only watch in horror as Dr Peter was making history.

Dr Peter and I have a bet for the Penang Marathon. Whoever loses will have to buy a lobster meal. To be quite honest, I'm not really a very big fan of lobsters, but since we've started betting on lobsters before this, we're continuing the same format for Penang.

Although Dr Peter and I are serious about the bet, that is not really the main reason why he's been training the way he did. Actually, he's experimenting a new way of training for the marathon. According to him, he's been following the conventional approach, which was to increase mileage for 2 weeks and then step back on every third week, up to the peak long run three weeks before the event. Yet, during the last event, he suffered cramps in his legs beyond the 30km point. He reckoned that if he did more 30km runs, his legs would adapt to that distance. A very interesting idea and seems very logical.

I prefer to adopt the conventional approach, but I must admit that Dr Peter's approach makes sense. Except that I don't have it in me to train to that extent! I shudder at the thought of running over 30kms for a few weeks, although I've read that elite marathon runners actually do something similar like that. So it will be interesting to see how far can Dr Peter improve.

I regularly run with Dr Peter at the Likas track. And I always find that I'm having a hard time keeping up with him. I think he's doing me good, because by trying to keep up with him, I force myself to improve also. But I can't help feeling that I'm tormented each time I run with him. In Penang, we have made some jerseys, and on Dr Peter's will be the word "TORMENTOR", whereas on mine will be "TORMENTED".

I had a bit of a scare last week. I was down with a terrible flu, cough and fever. But I kept running anyway, although I reduced the distance a bit. By today, the flu and fever are gone, but I still have a bit of cough. So I'm confident that I will fully recover for this Sunday.

There will be a big contingent from KK this time. At a rough count, I know at least 15 runners, most of whom will be running the full marathon. Mia will also be attempting her second full marathon, having had a horrible experience in the Borneo International Marathon 3 in May this year.

Well, just a few more short runs over the next few days and then we'll be in Penang by Friday evening. I know I'm gonna suffer on the slopes, I just hope that I won't get the cramps in my legs again. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Doctors vs Businessmen

From a recent conversation I had with mom over the phone, the doctors found a cyst in one of her ovaries. Unfortunately, mom is not born with a keen sense for details, so there's not much use to try to find out more information from her about her condition. To her, the doctors found something there, and it needs to come out—plain and simple. She probably thinks that she'd be given something so that she'd fall asleep for a few hours while the doctors cut the thing off. And then she'll be up and running again the next day, perhaps in good time for her favourite bingo games on Monday and Thursday.

Later on, I obtained a bit more info from my half sister who told me that both her ovaries and her entire uterus will have to go. So I suppose the doctors are not taking any chances. Apparently, the cyst in her ovary is not cancerous, but after all, I suppose a woman in her mid-sixties would no longer need her uterus and ovaries.

As a matter of habit, I have since done a bit of reading about ovarian cancer and related topics. I don't claim to know a lot—certainly I have only fathomed perhaps 5% of the subject. One of the related topics I found interesting is the CA-125, which is commonly referred to as the tumour marker.

The Sports & Recreational Club of our company conducts an annual comprehensive blood test for all the staff at a "discounted rate" by one of those labs in KK. I think it's a good annual project of our sports club. I remember that amongst the available tests in the blood screening package, was the test to detect elevated levels of CA-125 for the ladies. But that was an optional add-on test which cost a bit more for the ladies. The CA-125 test was promoted as a screening test for early detection of mainly ovarian cancer, although not limited to that type of cancer.

However, I have since read up a bit on the topic, and then had the opportunity to verify some points of the CA-125 test with my friend, Dr Peter, during one of our recent long runs.

It may be surprising to some of you, but the CA-125 test offered by the labs is not even suitable to be used as a screening test for ovarian cancer, especially for pre-menopausal women, simply because there are just too many other factors that can cause an elevated level of CA-125 in the body. But what's worse is that there are cases where ovarian cancer is present, yet the test of CA-125 may be negative, thus resulting in a false security! This may lead to delayed treatment, and we all know that when it comes to cancer, precious time lost usually means death!

The recommended use of the CA-125 test is as a follow up of treatment of ovarian cancer to monitor progress, not so much for detection of the disease.

Yet the labs have been promoting the CA-125 test as a screening test. What's even more disturbing is that even some of the specialist medical centres are offering such tests. I think only doctors should be authorised to order such tests as the CA-125.

The only trouble is that when doctors wear the physician's cap as well as the businessman's cap, ethics may become a secondary consideration in the equation.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hong Kong—Initial Review

I'm down with a terrible flu and cough and a slight fever. Feeling awful the whole day today at the office. Hopefully, will recover in a couple of days. Need to continue with my running, as the Penang Marathon is next Sunday, no time to lose on training!

Just fetched Mia and JJ from the airport. The moment she got into the car, the first thing she told me about her Hong Kong experience was that Hong Kong people are very rude. Although I've never been to Hong Kong in my entire life, this was not news to me. I've heard so many people saying the same thing to me before. But I will have the opportunity to confirm it when I visit Hong Kong in February next year for the Hong Kong Marathon.

In the mean time, folks, if you plan to visit Hong Kong anytime soon, and plan to save on hotel, try to avoid Oriental Pearl Budget Hotel, Nathan Road, Chungking Mansions, Tsim Sha Tsui Area, Kowloon. You are really gonna regret it!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Novice Hunt 2—The Hilly City

About a year ago, when I was setting a hunt in KK, it suddenly occurred to me to choose a signboard which I would use again and again for the next 3 of my hunts. It's an interesting psychological experiment.

And so, in October 2009, I unleashed the first of 3 of my cryptic clues meant for the same answer in the KK Challenge 5. No team was able to answer that clue. So I was encouraged to continue with the second of my evil clues! It happened in the KK Challenge 6, where again nobody was able to solve the clue.

The third time I used that same signboard as the intended answer was more satisfying in that 4 teams were able to solve the clue. But I don't know if some of those successful teams chose the answer because there were able to catch on to my trend, or if they really did solve the clue!

Q33) They're seen only once in The Hilly City.

I suppose this means I need to look for other signboards to use for my answer in my future hunts. But it's been fun using this particular board.

Novice Hunt 2—Unimpressive Surface Reading

Most of the treasure hunters who frequented this blog in the past would know by now that I am an advocate of smooth surface reading in cryptic clues. And I still maintain that a cryptic clue is more elegant when the surface reading, i.e. the literal "storyline" of the sentence(s) is constructed with impeccable grammar and different from the true intention of the setter. The literal meaning of the surface reading is also useful to lead the solver as far away from the scent of the true intention of the clue.

Q18) Say you're sorry that face is its beginning.

In the Novice Hunt 2, I kept up my habit of carefully constructing smooth surface reading as much as I could. But the above question was the spoiler. In terms of surface reading, I dare say it is just awful! Apparently, there is no meaning to the "storyline". It's quite painful for me because I'm known to constantly criticize unimpressive surface reading in cryptic clues. Yet, in this particular case, I've constructed such a clue myself!

A strong treasure hunter who knew my objection to unimpressive surface reading was so affected that he sent me a text message during the hunt, saying, "Q18 no surface reading", and that absolutely put a smile on my face!

The obvious question: Why would someone like me construct such an awful cryptic clue?

And the common sense answer was, because I had no choice but to use those words in verbatim in exactly that order! Those words simply had to be exactly in that order because changing anything there would destroy the entire riddle and its solution!

Those words were taken from the lyrics of a very famous song by Taylor Swift, White Horse, from a very successful album entitled Fearless. And those few words are the beginning of that song.

It's been said that sometimes it pays to know the style of the Clerk-of-Course (CoC). According to the only team which solved this riddle, they were lost for a while. But then they suddenly remembered that the English and surface reading did not accord well with my style, and that made them think and investigate why. And because of that, they found the answer in the end.

Novice Hunt 2—Partial Translation

One of the questions in the 1Malaysia Hunt a few months ago was set for the Lintas Square sector—a sector which is sure to be included in all of my hunts. The question, set by the famous Time Out Solutions, was like this:

Q17) A fun card game needs them to build our party sponsor.

A17) Club M Pub & Lounge

I discussed the question (and answer) mainly on grammatical grounds, but recently an anonymous commenter made an interesting suggestion. You can refer to his suggestion in the comment portion of the post.

He asked, "Can we interpret "them" as The-"M",which would satisfy the single-letter requirement[?]"

A very good question, which I believe originated from the mind of a creative and strong treasure hunter. You can read my arguments against his idea (I'm using a masculine pronoun, although the commenter could have been a woman too), so I shall not repeat them here.

However, the point I'm trying to make here is that it may be possible to break up a single word into several words, each with meanings of its own, provided that the setter signals that possibility. Otherwise, I don't think it is fair to expect the solvers to read a single word with a meaning of its own as several words.

In the Novice Hunt 2, I applied a similar idea, involving a translation from English into Malay, but carefully informing the solvers my intention:

Q1) This business runs a partial translation?

"This business" is of course referring to the name of the business as seen on the signboard within the given sector.

"runs" is the fodder, i.e. the target word which is to be translated. But because of the word "partial" in the clue, the translation involves only the "run" portion with the remaining letter "s" unaffected. The intended solution after that "partial translation" is "LARIS", where "LARI" is the Malay word for "RUN".

This was the first question of the Novice Hunt 2. It wasn't meant to be a tough clue. This signboard was highly visible from the car, and it stood almost exclusively on its own. Yet some teams still failed to solve this clue. Could it have been a case of too slow to build up hunting momentum? Could it have been a case of blind spot?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Novice Hunt 2

The Novice Hunt 2, which came to an end this afternoon, saw some interesting surprises. Prior to the hunt, the hunters in 2 new teams, Timbak Bukan Sembarang Timbak (TBST) 1 and 2 had told me that they felt confident that they would secure a top-3 finish. Although I knew that they were quite good in the game, I thought it wasn’t so easy to achieve the top 3 positions because there were several other regular teams in the fray. But when the hunt ended, TBST 1 and 2 made good of their boasts.

I designed the Novice Hunt 2 as a pure hunt, comprising 40 route questions, and 4 treasure questions. From a scale of 1 to 5 difficulty levels, I’d reckon that this hunt was a level 3. In the end, the majority of the teams scored 70% and above. But although I gave a fair number of easy questions, I also threw in some very tricky ones—not tough, but tricky!

An example of a tricky question which was meant for a sector wherein 3 signboards, SAWIRA TEXTILES, SAWIRA TRADING and RESTORAN SAWIRA were found, was like this:

Q) Found in the middle of Sawira, they are the name of this eatery.

But in the end, the answer had nothing to do with Sawira at all. Instead, the required answer was: RESTORAN WANDI.

I also set another interesting question in Inanam:

Q) Dalam tingkap ini kelihatan nama untuk kedai makan.

KEDAI KOPI KAPIN (Dalam tingkap ini...) is very famous for their food catering business. Many people in KK would know this shop. I think what really happened in this hunt was that most of the teams actually solved the question long before arriving at the sector. And because they were so sure of their answer, when they finally did arrive at the sector, all they needed to do was to make sure that the board was still there, and then trying very hard not to stare at that board, breeze through quickly. Ordinarily, solving questions “ahead” is a very good policy. It is good to just pass the sector quickly, because that can probably prevent rival teams from “stealing” your answer.

I, of course, saw that coming, and so I set the trap with that in mind. I did not expect my trap to be very successful though, but I thought it would at least be a good lesson for the new teams. This was after all a “novice” hunt.

And true enough almost all the teams, including the top 3 winners, took KEDAI KOPI KAPIN as the answer for the clue! Only ONE team saw the significance of the words “kedai makan” in the clue. Underneath that huge board with KEDAI KOPI KAPIN on it, there’s another signboard bearing KEDAI MAKAN KAPIN!

One strange thing I noticed about this hunt was that many of the regular teams made uncharacteristic mistakes. I’m not sure what really happened to the teams. I did not think that I gave them too little hunting time. 5 hours for 40 route questions (at least half of which were easy ones) and 4 treasure questions over an approximate distance of 36km. There were some traffic jams in some sectors, but even after allowing for those, 5 hours did not seem to be too little. But somehow all the regular teams were not performing up to strength. I must make it a point to find out which specific factor during the hunt that caused the psychological distraction.

After the hunt, as usual everyone had a lot of fun, laughing out loud, during the answer presentation. I could tell that everyone had a good experience today. I hope we have infected the new teams with the addiction to treasure hunting!

Results (Maximum score: 100 points):

1) Bernard Liew, Alvin Wong, Christine Netto, Benjamin Liew (87pts)

2) Jude Ripin, Victoria Jingulam, Irene Lee, Norazimah (83pts)

3) Ernie J Ripin, Roland Ripin, Maxentius Donysius, Jennifer J Topin (78pts)

4) Masri Khan, Ag Sarpuddin Ag Kassim, Ag Ahmad Ag Samad, Zurinah Hanafiah (76pts)

5) Ellen Yee, Dr Liaw Yun Haw, Shirley Lim, Mary Lokupi (76pts)

6) Teo Chen Lung, Leslie Yew, Sam Lee (74pts)

7) Harry W Koh, Buddy Jiliun, Wendy Liew, Sophia Lai (72pts)

8) Francis Omamalin, Eileen Yeoh, Lee Tze Jim, Moina Liew (70pts)

9) Shirley Chai, Winnie Chee (70pts)

10) Richard Stidi, Joanna Stidi, Suzanne Stidi, Nicole Stidi

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Playing Doctor

This poor woman obviously needs help—desperately!

If I were a doctor, I would prescribe the maximum legal dose of Xanax (Alprazolam) for a week, with a possible further combination with other sedatives of similar strength if the symptoms still persist after that duration. Alprazolam is a tranquilizer used in the treatment of symptoms of anxiety or the treatment of anxiety disorders.

But of course I am not a doctor. I'm just saying, if I were a doctor, that's probably what I'd do to help this woman. But since I'm not a doctor, don't try this solution, ya hear?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

[Fictional] Election Pledge

"Thank you very much to you all for coming to this gathering today. My name is Ansari Abdullah, and I am representing Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in the coming by-election to be held next week.

I am sad to note that the BN Government had failed to deliver on their promises made to the people of Batu Sapi during the last general election. Hence, I stand before you here today to offer my services to you all; to bring developments into Batu Sapi, improve the economic situation for the local folks, more infrastructure, create job opportunities...

But above all of those, if I were voted into office, god dammit, the first thing on my agenda is to do my best to fight for allocations to refurbish all the jetties and wooden bridges in Batu Sapi..."

—MP wannabe: Ansari Abdullah

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Challenging Parking

Some people are not born to park cars. They may have been driving for years, but they'll never learn how to park their cars properly like the rest of the world. Upon arriving at the car park, they will search for the emptiest area. They will try their best to avoid a single empty spot because of course it's just impossible for them to maneuver their cars into that space—not in their wildest dream! How they got their driving licences has always been a big mystery.

Either that or they are colour-blind—they're unable to see those yellow lines, at least 4 to 5 inches wide, which clearly indicate where the vehicle should be parked. It's fine with me if it's very easy to find parking spaces in the city. But it absolutely drives me up the wall when I'm having trouble looking for an empty spot, and then see one car occupying 2 parking lots.

But this morning, I arrived a little early. So I was able to secure a nice spot where I was able to park my vehicle inside the yellow box, like how it's supposed to be done. I bet those who arrived a little later, and had no more space to park their cars, would have been frustrated to see such a waste caused by the idiot.

Mathematical Confusion

For some years after the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM), a long time ago, I was teaching maths and science in a private school. And apart from my day job, I also went from house to house in the evenings on my motorbike to give private tuition for the same subjects.

Those days, maths used to be a tough subject, and the majority of students had difficulties to conquer the subject. The lower levels of maths were still OK, but when it came to algebra and trigonometry, calculus etc, many students would be in trouble. So in a way, people like me used to be sought-after those good old days.

That was the situation over 20 years ago. I'm aware of the many changes in the Malaysian education system since my day in school—the subject had been taught in Malay, and then in English for some years, and then now coming back full circle to be taught in Malay again. But this should not be alarming; our politicians have it all covered.

In spite of those changes, one thing did not really change—some people are still awful in maths. And what's more, they are "high-ranking people" too! Check out the following video clip, which—just in case you're wondering—is not an extract of a comedy show. It is an actual, serious, event, mind you!

OK, now let's do a bit of elementary calculations (and try to refrain from reaching for that calculator).

Total number of voters = 49,750

Half of that amount = 24,875

Amount required to secure a simple majority in the election = 24,875 + 1 = 24,876

Number of Malay voters = 32,000

And 70% of that is (70/100) x 32,000 = 22,400

If 70% of the Malay voters vote for BN, and none of the Chinese and Indians vote for BN (since BN does not need the Chinese and Indian votes), BN would get 22,400 votes, assuming no spoilt votes. That is still 2,476 votes (24,876 - 22,400) short of a guaranteed majority.

It would be very interesting to know how would the speaker respond if the Chinese and Indians were to gang up against BN and field only one candidate to represent the Chinese and Indians. Perhaps then he would hope for 2,477 spoilt votes, and all of those are of the Chinese and Indian voters.

The moral of the story, folks, is that maths is important not only for the scientists and accountants. Even politicians also need to know at least a bit of high-school maths.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reaching for Greater Heights in Batu Sapi

Since the announcement of the respective candidates who're vying for the Batu Sapi seat a few days ago, our local papers have been reporting on the progress of the by-election on a daily basis. Naturally, those reports were complemented with photographs. And of course the majority of those photographs were those of Datin Linda Tsen Thau Lin, the grieving widow of the late Datuk Edmund Chong, the candidate from the ruling Government.

The government is of course pledging to the Sandakan folks to deliver even better governance and bringing Sandakan to greater heights—even much higher than all those raised hands in the photos.

I'm thinking—when the whole thing is over, heavens forbid, the ruling government will recapture the Batu Sapi seat, and the poor widow can take a few days' leave to rest her sore arms.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Politicians & Fishermen

Subsequent to the recent death of an MP from the ruling Government, Datuk Edmund Chong, the scene is now set for a by-election in Batu Sapi. All those who're vying for the seat, especially the respective supporters in Sandakan must be on their toes right now. And they will all be working very hard for the next 10 days or so.

In the mean time, in the front page of the The Borneo Post today, is the announcement of a whopping RM4.41 mln allocation meant for non-Muslim religious bodies and Chinese schools in Sandakan. I can just imagine that the Sandakan folks are eagerly waiting for whatever other similar announcements by the Government over the next few days. That is after all quite a normal trend whenever there is a looming election in Malaysia.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to spend some days on a fishing trawler, and I pride myself with the experience of living—at least for those few days—like a fisherman.

Come to think of it, politicians and fishermen are not very different from one another. The fishermen on the fishing trawler had this huge net which they trawl for hours at a time. And each time the net's raised, the catch could come up to tons.

I was intrigued watching the fishermen weaving gigantic nets from tiny shreds of fibres and strings. And after a few weeks all those strings and fibres almost magically transformed into huge nets weighing perhaps several tons each!

The politicians also weave nets. But they don't really use strings and fibres as their raw materials. No—they use other materials which are sweeter and much stronger motivations to lure their catch. And of course the party with more resources will have better chances to weave bigger and stronger nets. So he weaves a bit of this and that into a huge net, and hopes that the net is strong enough to hold the entire catch.

However, sometimes the fishing net might tear in spite of its strength, and some of the fishes might escape. Thankfully, that doesn't happen very frequently, especially if the net maker is an extremely good one. Besides, as strange as it may seem, the fish will never learn—they keep going into the net, generation after generation. History has a strange tendency of repeating itself. And the fishermen shall continue to earn their living.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Drugs Warning

I was going around to take some pictures of signboards meant for the treasure hunt next Friday, when I saw this interesting sign. It made me laugh in my car. If anyone had seen me then, maybe they'd think that there was laughing gas in the car.

Not exactly in perfect English—perhaps there's still room to improve, grammatically—but I suppose we can more or less get the idea of the warning. A good example of the "Communicative English", i.e. if you can understand it, then the sign has served its purpose.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BM Quiz

If you think I sound like I would rather home-school JJ if I had a choice, that's because I would really do that if I had a choice. But unfortunately, both Mia and I are working full time. However, whenever it is exams time for JJ, Mia would actually take a few days off from work to supervise JJ's revisions. I don't think that's entirely necessary, but Mia would panic if JJ gets a red mark on her report card.

Tomorrow will be the Bahasa Malaysia (BM) papers, and so mom and JJ were doing final revisions. I would usually refrain from butting in; merely observe from a distance, and pretend to have no interest whatsoever in what's going on. But sometimes I just can't control myself—I swear to God I try my best, but I'm not successful all the time!

The BM questions these days are more "modern". They are not really about the language; not even about grammar (nahu). No—at times they're about some conceited people trying to force the kids to know about motor vehicles. Bear in mind that we're dealing with 8-year-olds here. And of course we're not talking about just any vehicles—it has to be our beloved Proton cars which are, when looking at the big picture, not really something we can be proud of. Even an MP from the government is not very impressed with the Proton cars [The Star].

Here's a sample question from JJ's book which caught my attention this evening. If you are viewing this in an average-size monitor, then that's about the right size of how it appears in the book. And yes, it is in black and white too. As you can see from the available choices, A to D, Mitsubishi Lancer is most certainly not the answer. I will leave it to you to pick the correct one. Good luck.

As for JJ, she has gone to bed. She's been revising the whole afternoon and this evening, with a one-hour break for her compulsory afternoon nap. I hope she has done enough for tomorrow. Perhaps the examiners will save the questions about, say, Malaysian Airlines System (MAS) and the likes for next time. Keeping my fingers crossed...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Home Security System

During yesterday's long run, Dr Peter and I had some interesting discussions about a variety of issues, ranging from professional negligence to kidnapping cases. And when we were passing the Kingfisher area, he suggested that I keep an eye open for naked bodies in one of the drains along the roadside. This was in connection with the recent gruesome murder of a local nurse, whose partially-nude body was found in a drain within the vicinity. This conversation with Dr Peter was during the earlier part of the run, before he left me behind about 23km into the 30km workout.

To detour from the main point of this post for a moment, a friend had commented that he hoped that the police would catch the murderer and bring him to justice. I replied that the truth of the matter is that there's no such thing as justice—even if the murderer is caught, someone has been robbed of her precious life and many more whom she could have saved as a nurse.

Anyway, Dr Peter and I arrived at the topic of home security system—specifically, alarm systems. Perhaps I should seriously consider installing some sort of alarm system at my home. I don't know why I haven't done that since years ago. It seems that everyone has been telling me to install it, but I've been putting it at the bottom of my "to-do" list.

To be quite honest, I did visit a so-called specialist dealing with home security systems a while back, and I was amazed by the wide variety of hi-tech equipment available in the market these days. Depending on the quality and functions etc, these equipment can easily burn holes in one's pocket. We're not only talking about plain alarms with potentially-annoying sounds in the middle of the night when the neighbour's cat tries to catch a mouse on the window ledge. The system also includes other accessories which can send signals to the home owner's cellphone when the house is broken into.

Apart from that, if the home owner has too much money, he can also install CCTV so that he'll be able to see the burglars in action while trying to break into his house. Whether or not he can do anything about those burglars is a different matter. And of course sometimes CCTVs are installed mainly for the fun of installing them—not so much for the purpose of hoping to be of any help when crimes are committed, as can be seen in this case. Think about it—the CCTV could be used to observe a crime being committed, but no recording of that crime is made. Not exactly a very clever thing to do. But then again even hotel owners, although rich people, are not necessarily very clever people, you know.

Frankly, it's not really a question of affordability, but I've been putting the home alarm systems thing on the back burner mainly because I'm not convinced that spending the money can really help to burglar-proof my home. And when it comes to the CCTV, even if there are proper recordings of crimes in action, that still can't help to nab the criminals. If you don't believe me, check out my past article here.

Having said that, however, in the end I have to concede to Dr Peter. When and if the alarm goes off, it's not really about us reacting to fight off the burglars. It's more about psychologically shocking and, hopefully, scaring them away. It is hoped that that can help us to buy a bit of time to call for assistance.

So I will make it a point to seriously look into installing security alarm in my home. What of CCTVs? Well, that will simply have to wait for the moment. There will be many more long Sunday morning runs with Dr Peter. Who knows, maybe he will be able to convince me to install those too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Learning a New Language

It is no secret that Malaysians in general are not so good in the English language. Most of them believe they are, but actually they're not. That's the result of several decades of teaching what's known as the "Communicative English" in our schools. In learning the "Communicative English", the emphasis is on whether others can understand what we're saying. Very little emphasis, if any, was given to grammar or spelling etc. I'm not very sure if there was any stress on the accuracy of communication.

I recently spoke to a University Graduate who's presently pursuing a Masters in a local University. I found out from her that it's basically the same story even for the Masters level, i.e. not so much emphasis on grammar.

Unfortunately, in the job market English is an asset. The medium of communication is still overwhelmingly English. A few years ago, the Malaysian government made English the medium of instruction for maths and science, but it soon became clear that some people could not cope with the language.

So what happens when it's difficult to learn an important language? Why, of course the simplest thing to do is to reverse the policy! So, not surprisingly, maths and science are now taught in Malay—again.

As one would expect, many parents are concerned that their children will find it very tough when they enter the job market in the future. There is no question that English is important, even if some people would not admit it.

And so, we can now see so many people offering English lessons. I don't know about the other parts of Malaysia, but in KK, one is able to see "English Tuition" advertisements on almost every lamp post in the city these days. Check out the photo below, which I took near my office in KK.

There are many, many other advertisements of numerous sizes and patterns of course. And some of them also include other information and perhaps justifications why English is important. Such is the case with the advertisement below.

I shall refrain from arguing the claim of "Good English Good Job", simply because that is the absolute truth, although, to repeat, some people would not admit it. Apart from becoming eyesores, I can live with these advertisements. I just wished that they—whoever these people are—would advertise properly, such as in the papers.

Admittedly, I myself am a product of the Malaysian education system, and it is unfortunate that I am still not so good in English. I've not contacted any of those people who offer to teach English, but I suspect they, too, are products of the great Malaysian education system. If my suspicion is correct, then there is every possibility that these people are not really qualified to teach the language! For the English that they know is the "Communicative English", which is, for the most part, plain rubbish!

In the above advertisement, below those words "Good English Good Job", there are dark-coloured ovals, each containing justifications for learning the language. The grammar is just awful to say the least. One of them says "Self-Confident". I don't have an English degree, but I like "Self-Confidence" much better. A tiny little difference which does not really matter for "Communicative English". In fact, I wonder if the teacher knows the different [difference] at all?

And finally, I can't resist, as always, to quote yet again one of JJ's school work. This one from her recent mock exams. Part F instructs: "Use all the words below to make one correct sentence." What do you make of it? Apparently, all of her sentences are wrong.

Check out, for example, Question 2. The words which are required to appear in the sentence are "sat" and "tree". And JJ, referring to the picture on the left, came up with:

They sat under a big tree.

Again, let me repeat that I don't have an English degree, but I can't see anything wrong with that sentence. Both the words "sat" and "tree" are there. Grammatically, it is also sound. But no, the teacher found the sentence wrong because of a missing "yesterday".

And therefore, JJ got Question 3 wrong too, because although she came up with "He walked near the waterfall," she failed to include something there to emphasize that the event occurred in the past. But emphasis or no emphasis, are those sentences wrong?

I think it is entirely possible that we will come up with a whole new language by the next generation, known as Manglish. And that will be our official version of the English language. The hell with what the rest of the world thinks of our English!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Newton 30km & 18km Challenge 10.10.10

What a race! It's been a few months since I ran the full marathon in the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) in May this year. Since then I have done a half marathon in the Singapore Bay Run about 4 weeks ago. And of course I have done several other half marathon distances during my training long runs. But running a race pace is quite different, at least to me.

It wasn't very long after the BIM in May when some of my runner friends decided to join the Penang Bridge International Marathon (PBIM) on 21 November. Although I've had a lousy experience running the Penang race, Judy and Teo gave mainly good reviews of the race when they joined it last year. So I ended up signing up for the full marathon in Penang.

However, because of the long months between the BIM and the PBIM, I was kinda worried that I would become lazy to keep up my training. So to force myself to maintain my workouts, I signed up for 2 other races in between, i.e. the Singapore Bay Run (21km) and the Newton 30Km Challenge.

When I signed up for those other races, I meant to use them only to motivate me to keep going, not so much to attempt to improve on my records. But unfortunately, I couldn't resist the temptation to try for a record anyway!

In the Singapore Bay Run in September, I barely managed to improve on my personal best (PB), but failed to achieve what I really wanted to do, i.e. to run a sub-2hrs half marathon. Incidentally, the Newton 30km was just 4 weeks after the half marathon. The Sunday immediately after the half marathon race, I ran a 27km long run to try out the compression tights I just bought. It felt great. Then with three weeks to go for the Newton 30km, I had planned to taper down with a scheduled 20km, 12km and then Newton 30km race.

Then the KK adiNation group scheduled a 30km long run on the Sunday when I was supposed to do a 20km taper run. For a while I couldn't decide if I wanted to join my friends in their long run, or just stick to my 20km plan. In the end, I decided to throw away the Newton 30km, and ran a 30km long run training 2 weeks before the race. I reckoned that I did not plan to break records for the in-between races anyway. So I ran that 30km long run, and finally, with one week left for the Newton 30km, I reduced my distance to 10km.

While I was recovering throughout that one week prior to the Newton 30km, however, I became greedy again. It seemed possible to steal a record for the 30km race after all. I felt good, and my legs seemed to be up for the task!

When I arrived in Singapore on Friday evening, I was still convinced that I could improve on my 3:10 which I achieved earlier this year. Then on Saturday morning, I went to the race venue and was pleasantly surprised to find a flat course. My confident rose another notch. I then raised the bar to a 3:05! It is funny what greed can do to people, you know!

Joining me for the race were my friends from KK, Khadeeja and Alvin. That morning, when we set out to the race venue, it was drizzling. I thought it was gonna be a nightmare of wet race. Well, we found ourselves at the race venue with about half an hour to spare.

Apparently, Alvin was somewhat intimidated by all those fashionable running outfits. So he went somewhere to the back to stretch a bit; except that he ended up in a koi pond, soaking both pair of shoes. But I will let Alvin report on that exciting experience.

Anyway, while Alvin was busy trying to dry his socks and shoes, and at the same time considering to pull out there and then, Khadeeja went off to deposit her bag. Soon it was already almost flag off time. The runners made a slow procession to the start line, and I was wondering what has happened to Alvin the whole time. Then the countdown and then the start horn.

I started out strong at a comfortable 5.5 mins per km. I felt good to break away from the crowd. But then after I reached about 5km, I realised that I needed to slow down. Otherwise I would burn out way too soon. Reducing my pace a bit, I ran a steady pace. I was quite happy to finish the first loop of 10km in 59 minutes. But the bad news was that I could already feel a bit of exhaustion building up that early. I knew there and then that I was in big trouble. I would expect to only start feeling tired after 15km-18km for a 30km race, so 10km was obviously too soon.

In between running the loops, I could seen Alvin and Khadeeja running from the opposite direction. I was still gaining on them, but I was also slowing down for a bit. When I completed the second loop in 2:03, I knew that it was difficult to improve on my 3:10.

And then the worst thing that could happen in a race happened at Km 25—I felt a sudden contraction in both thighs. I had no choice but to slow down to a walk. If I had continued running, I bet my legs would immediately refuse to move after that. That then was the story for the rest of the race—I merely walked and ran, and walked and ran to finish the third and final loop in 3:14.

Quite frankly, I can accept that I didn't have it in me to better my time. But I was rather disappointed that it had to happen that way. The cramps spoiled the race for me—it wasn't fun at all. I suppose it's bound to happen once in a while.

What of Khadeeja and Alvin? Well, Khadeeja completed her 30km in 4:25, whereas Alvin completed his in a surprising 3:51. With the little training (if you could call his few short runs "training") I would say he achieved quite a big thing!

So now, I have about 6 weeks to remedy whatever mistakes I've done for Penang. Not much time left. Another 3 weeks of serious training, and then taper for the race. For whatever it's worth, Penang is gonna be much more interesting; I'm running the full 42.2km against an opponent who is as kiasu—if not more kiasu—than me! Whoever wins, there is a lobster in Penang with its days numbered...

Friday, October 8, 2010

30Km Race in Singapore

Well, this is it, folks, this afternoon I'm flying off to Singapore for a 30km race—the Newton 30Km—on Sunday morning. This will be the second time I'm running a 30km race.

The last time I did a 30km race was at Padang Merbok earlier this year, of which I managed a finishing time of about 3:10. I thought that was a decent time, but nothing to shout about. A Singaporean friend of mine told me that the Newton 30km's route is generally flat, so I'm confident of improving on that 3:10. The question is improving by what margin? Well, initially I wanted to make this run a training long run, which means to run it slowly—at any rate, slower than my targeted marathon pace. But then again, you know, I doubt that I can resist the temptation to attempt for a personal best. So I might as well set my mind to try my best to improve by at least 5 minutes!

Although I have done a couple of full marathons and numerous other shorter races, this Sunday will be a historic run for me. For the first time ever, I'll be running in my compression tights! I have tried the tights during a recent 30km long run here in KK, and I felt good in them. I don't really believe that the tights can help in improving one's performance in a race, but maybe it can help to delay the onset of fatigue, I don't know. I'm thinking maybe the only way to find out is to run something longer than 30km, say 35km to really know. Perhaps that experiment running the 30km in KK is not really comparable to the Newton 30km as I did it at a training pace. I did that training run in 3:18, but actually I would have been happier if it was a little slower, say 3:30. I guess I did not have the patience to run slower, and that's something I must improve too. Let's see what happens when I run the marathon pace in Singapore.

Joining me on this run are Khadeeja Shariff and Alvin Wong. Khadeeja is using this race as one of her training long runs in her build up to the Singapore Marathon in December later this year. Whereas Alvin is trying the 30km to experiment whether he's up for a full marathon in the coming Borneo International Marathon 4, scheduled for 01 May 2011.

So it seems that the Newton 30km will be quite an important race for all 3 of us, albeit for different reasons. Wait till I come home on Sunday evening—let's see if I have any good news to report.