Sunday, January 31, 2010

Broadband Connectivity

About a year ago, I was walking around Wisma Merdeka during lunch break when I was attracted by the WIMAX Redtone promotion at the ground floor atrium space. People could try out the connection speed themselves on a laptop provided by the promoters. On one of those laptops, there was an online movie showing. I thought it was pretty impressive.

I had an account with Streamyx for over 2 years by then. But streamyx is slower than WIMAX. Perhaps it's because too many people are logged on all the time, thus causing congestion. As the result, it's not always possible to watch online movies or video clips such as youtube. It would lag so badly that it can be so frustrating. In fact, this recently Streamyx has been sending out their own promotion to ask us customers to "upgrade" for a faster speed for a small increase in the monthly charges. So as you can imagine, there is a bit of slowing down on the speed. I suspect that they're trying to give a good reason for us to "upgrade", you see.

Anyway, coming back to the WIMAX thing, I was seriously thinking of dumping Streamyx because of the above reason. But in the end I decided not to, because I thought it's just a matter of time before WIMAX too would become congested. Furthermore, WIMAX is charging substantially more than Streamyx. I decided to wait till later to see what's the feedback from those who subscribe to WIMAX.

At around the same time, Mia bought a new laptop so that she could bring her work home. The old laptop her company gave her was really old. But since she's bringing her work home, she needed internet connection. Actually, we could share the existing Streamyx that I have via a router. That would probably cost us a small amount on some hardware, but at no extra cost to the internet provider.

But little did I know when I came home one day, there was this ugly rounded thing beside Mia's laptop—apparently a receiver for her new WIMAX account. She had subscribed to WIMAX without even asking me first. So now we each have our own service provider, she with her WIMAX, and I with my Streamyx.

During the first few weeks of her WIMAX connection, it performed wonderfully. But after while, it, too, became subject to occasional no service problems. That is not a surprise to me, because to be quite honest, I had expected it. She had contemplated dumping WIMAX and then sign up with Streamyx. But I told her that both services are basically the same in terms of performances. Besides, I think there's a kind of condition the she's supposed to maintain her account for at least 2 years. Or is it longer?

As it turned out, the connectivity and speed aren't really the main problem after all. Each month Mia would receive at least 10 calls from the Redtone folks in KL, asking her to pay her bills. Mia would tell them that she had made payment to their KK branch. And for some strange reason, these people have no communication whatsoever between their KK and KL offices. They have no record whatsoever who has made payment and who hasn't. So they have to keep calling their customers all the time to keep track on billings.

It has now come to the point of annoyance. Mia is making sure that she's paying her bills on time each month. Yet they're calling up all the time and implying that services will be terminated if no payment is made. As I said, they have no idea who has paid. So now Mia has decided to wait for them to cut off the line and then she's won't do anything about it. She will simply give her business to Streamyx.

But I gave Mia an even better idea. If indeed she's discontinuing with WIMAX, I will get a router so that we can just share the existing account I have with Streamyx.

Those of you who're entertaining the idea of subscribing WIMAX Redtone, I'd suggest that you think again. They will be chasing for payments all the time even if you've been making payments promptly each month.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Price Controls

The prices of many goods and services in Malaysia which fall within the category of "necessities" are controlled by the government. In some cases, the government controls the prices via subsidies. For example, if the true market price of an item is RM10, the government may subsidize say RM5, so that the consumers will only have to pay RM5. Alternatively, the government can also control prices via statutes, i.e. by imposing ceiling prices for goods and services.

It was reported in The Star that the Health Ministry will review private hospitals' charges for room, equipment and medicine, which many have said are excessive. I have every reason to support this government effort because sooner or later I will become old and sick, and will inevitably require medical help whether I like it or not. But actually I don't really agree that the government should intervene in this case.

Of course medicare is a necessity—everyone falls sick every now and then. But I'm more inclined to support price control on necessities in cases where the consumers have no choice. But in the case of hospitals, we do have government hospitals in Malaysia. Sick people can go there to seek medical help. There is no necessity for them to go to the private hospitals. There is no necessity, therefore, to pay for the expensive medical bills of the private hospitals.

However, in spite of the more expensive bills, people in general prefer to go to the private hospitals, even if they can barely afford it. What is it about the private hospitals—in spite of the "excessive medical bills"—that would lure the sick people, rich and poor, to go there and not the government hospitals?

Firstly, I think it has a lot to do with psychology. People in general have the impression that the doctors and supporting staff in private hospitals provide better services to their patients, because otherwise there is no repeat business from those sick people. From my own experience, I have to say that there is some truth in this.

Secondly, I see private hospitals as a kind of luxury. The rooms may be more comfortable, lobbies larger and common areas more pleasing to the eye. But of course one may argue that when one is sick, the main focus is to stay alive and not so much about seeing something pleasant!

Thirdly, I can say that generally the government hospitals are almost always over-crowded. When one goes to the out-patient section of the government hospitals in the morning to get a number to see the doctor, he can expect to wait several hours, if not the whole day. Perhaps the scenario is different for emergency cases.

Finally, there is the general impression that government hospitals are training grounds for new doctors. This I don't believe to be true. It is true that many new doctors who took up the profession via government scholarship are obligated to work in government hospitals for some years before they can (and usually do) work in private hospitals, or set up their own clinics. But I know of some experienced doctors in government hospitals too.

But the bottom line is still that private hospitals should be allowed to charge based on market rate. I think if there is profit in it, that can be attractive for other private hospitals to be set up. And more people can benefit. Besides, when there are more private hospitals around, then competition will come into play. Yes, sick people will need medical help one way or another. But if there are many private hospitals, they have choices, and the competition will control the prices somehow. I don't think it is fair to compare a bed & breakfast with a budget hotel or with a 5 star hotel. Obviously the 5 star hotel should be allowed to charge higher for their rooms and services. If the public has a negative impression of the government hospitals, then perhaps it's time that the government do something about it.

The only exception, I think, is when we're dealing with specialist areas of the medical field where choices are limited. For example, when talking about heart surgeries. I know in KK, until recently, heart patients had to be flown to west Malaysia for surgeries. So in that case, I would agree to government intervention on pricing for the interest of the public.

When and if I fall sick, I think I would much prefer to be in a comfortable air-conditioned room, if possible all to myself, with TV and perhaps a nurse on standby round the clock. But I think I can expect to pay heftily for such services too. That's why I'm paying good money to the insurers to prepare for this possibility. And if I can't afford such luxury, then I guess I will have to settle with whatever I can get at the government hospitals. Maybe the environment there won't be as pleasant, but I'm sure that the doctors there are also capable people. If they're not, my insurers will have something to worry about.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Observing a Bank Teller at Work

How much is 6 pieces of RM100 notes?

Quick! answer that question without using a calculator!

That's easy, right? OK, let's try another one:

How much is 12 pieces of RM50 notes?

Again, try to resist the temptation to reach out for that forsaken calculator. I know most of you would automatically grab the calculator, almost sub-consciously. It is strange, but most people are becoming increasingly lazy to use their brains. Who needs brains; all you need are batteries?

Today I made a trip to the bank to pay up my insurance premiums. Well, actually I was paying for Mia's and mine. Last night, Mia left the 12 pieces of RM50 notes on my desk together with the premium due reminders for both our insurance policies. She had to pay RM576.30, whereas I had to pay RM590.70.

This afternoon I went to the bank which is located on the ground floor of the building wherein my office is located. After waiting for a while before my number was called, I walked up to the teller and gave the premium-due reminders. I told her that I'd like to pay for those. Automatically, she reached for the calculator to key in the amounts, and then announced to me the total amount due. I gave her 6 pieces of RM100 notes from my wallet, plus the 12 pieces of RM50 notes which Mia gave to me last night.

I watched the teller at work, which was quite amusing at first, but eventually becoming quite annoying.

She counted the RM100 notes first. I saw her lips counted, and heard whispering sounds of the numbers—one, two, three... six. Then she counted again the second time, just to make sure that there were indeed 6 pieces of RM100 notes. And then she counted again a third time before finally convincing herself that there were 6 pieces of RM100 notes. After she's absolutely sure that she had 6 pieces of RM100 notes in her hands, she wrote it down on a piece of paper, i.e. RM100 x 6. And then she proceeded to key in the figures into her calculator—the kind which would print out the figures on the tiny paper so that she could cross-check later. I thought it would never come, but at last she was able to really be sure that she received RM600 worth of RM100 notes from me!

Next, she continued to deal with the RM50 notes. She counted with her hands, and again I could hear the whispering sounds—one, two, three... twelve. And of course the second and third counts respectively. Yes, 12 pieces of RM50, they're all there. So again she wrote it down, i.e. RM50 x 12, before proceeding to key in the figures into the calculator.

Finally, she's able to arrive at the grand total: RM1,200, voila! And then, once again reaching out for the calculator to do a bit of calculation, she was able to determine how much change to give back to me.

Talk about paranoia!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Heart Rate Monitor

Since running the New Balance Pacesetters 30KM last Sunday, I've done 3 short runs this week. I did a 6km recovery run on Tuesday, a 10km speed-training run on Wednesday, and a 7km run yesterday.

For the first time in my life, I made these runs with the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM). Quite an experience running with the HRM. Actually, I don't fancy the idea of running with all these accessories, but well, in the name of pursuing a personal record (PR), I reckoned that I should at least give it a few months' try.

From my experience running at the park, I think I can safely say that only a very small percentage of the runners have HRM. That is quite logical because most runners at the park are not really running to achieve PR. They're doing it for a bit of exercise. Of course some boys and girls are also using the park as an excuse to meet and flirt with each other—we all know those creatures, don't we?

Anyway, while I was running, I met a doctor friend who said she did not know what the HRM is for. Her face seemed to say "HRM is a bunch of craps!", especially since the device cost quite a fortune! So I reckon it might be a good idea to share here my experience with the HRM so far.

The first thing that came to my mind when I arrived at the park to run on Tuesday was that I now know what women must be going through, having have to put on bras like 80% of the time. I felt a bit funny with something strapped on my chest. At first, I thought it's gonna be very uncomfortable when I run. But on the contrary, I got used to it quite quickly. Of course the kind of "strap" I have on is not for the purpose of "load-bearing" as the bras, so I suppose one may argue that the two are not exactly the same.

Attached to that chest strap is a small device known as the transmitter. This battery-powered device sends signals to the computer-wrist watch which in turn analyses those signals and then displays the heart rates. Before the run, the user sets the prescribed training parameters, such as ranges of heart rates, pace, distance etc.

During the run, if one runs faster than the upper limit of the range, the watch would beep. Likewise, if one runs slower than the lower limit of the range, the watch will also beep. So the runner is "forced" to maintain a certain pace throughout the run.

According to the manufacturer of the HRM, it has carried out long term research on what could be expected from training at the numerous heart rate zones. Hence the tagline "Listen to your heart." So that's exactly what I'm trying to do. And so far, I must say that the HRM seems to work well on me in that I can take better control of my pace now. But obviously it's still too early to tell if I can really improve on my time in the long run with the HRM. I hope it can help me, otherwise I'm really gonna kick myself in the butt for spending almost RM1,000 for the HRM! In fact, earlier I even entertained the idea of buying one that cost RM1,500!

Oh! and those of you who may have the same wavelength as mine—yes, the watch does tell the time too. In fact, it does most of the other functions of the ordinary digital watches, e.g. date, alarm clock etc.

Apart from monitoring the heart rate, there is an additional device known as the footpod, which is a small item meant to be attached to the shoelace. It is also battery-powered and sends signals to the watch. With it, the runner will be able to see the distances covered, and hence the pace of the run. And no, while I was running, I hardly noticed the footpod on my shoe, and I did not feel its weight.

Well, this better be good. Now it's just a matter of time to the Borneo International Marathon on 02 May. I would really like to dip below 04:30 for the full marathon (42.2km). But before that, it's time to find out if I can dip below 02:00 for the half marathon by now. In the previous 2 half marathons that I joined, I was only able to achieve 02:04 and then 02:03 after training so hard. I will have another chance to find out if I can do any better in the coming Energizer Night Marathon on 27 March. Keeping my fingers crossed...

Friday, January 22, 2010

International Medical Corps—Help Haiti

If you are keen to donate to the Haitians in the aftermath of the recent earthquake, but have not done so (or would like to give more), you can donate through the International Medical Corps. I have put up the widget on my sidebar.

If you would like to know more about the International Medical Corps (IMC), please click here. And this is where you can find out a bit more about IMC.

If you have further questions, you can also write to Ellie Brown:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scary Effect Of Old Age

"If they can make Avatar, they can make anything"

Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, in explaining why he believes that 9/11 was staged [The Star].

The scary thing is that when Tun was still the Prime Minister of Malaysia some years ago, many, many people listened—and believed—everything he said.

And the even scarier thing is that there are still many, many people listening—and believing—everything he's saying now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


So I was chatting with a friend about the current banking industry recently. We got to talk about a type of account where a mortgage account is linked to a current account. In a way, it is something like a combined account. In fact, it's a very flexible system known as a "Save Link" account I have in Alliance Bank.

I was saying that if, for example, I have an existing loan of say RM100,000, and a monthly installment of say RM1,000, a portion of that monthly installment is meant for paying the interest element of the loan; and the remaining portion is meant for paying the amount owed. However, if I have in excess of RM100,000 in my current account, i.e. more than the amount owed to the bank, then the entire monthly installment will be utilised to pay for the loan, and nothing for the interest element. In such a way, the loan can be settled in a shorter period. I said I liked such an account because if I have excess money, I can simply park it in my current account and leave it there until I actually need to spend it. But for as long as my money is there, it can offset the interest element for the amount owed to the bank.

However, my friend was saying that that is not such a good idea. According to him, the Inland Revenue can trace all accounts in the banks, and it can then find that although I have a loan from the bank, I'm not paying any interest; meaning that I'm not actually owing the bank anything, i.e. I have excess cash! Because of that, the Inland Revenue can pursue the matter; it can dig deeper to investigate into my earning capacity and will soon be able to find the incomes which I did not declare! It can then tax me some more!

I have been in the property profession for a good 20 years now. Throughout those years, I have come across so many people in the property market—from the fixed-income house buyers to the big time developers. I can safely say that most of them, in one way or another, would try to escape from paying tax. Whether it's income-tax, or property gains tax, you name it, if they can, they don't want to pay a single sen of tax!

Because most people are like that, it is presumed that all people are like that. But I resent the fact that I am presumed to under-declare my incomes. Yes, I will try to pay as little income-tax as I can by claiming whatever reliefs allowable legally, but I shall not under-declare my incomes for the sake of escaping from paying income-taxes! I am not afraid that my bank accounts will show that I am not paying interests to the bank. IF I have excess cash at all, it is net of tax, and I can spend it as I like. There is no need for me to be scared of the Inland Revenue's investigators. So I say again, the "Save Link" account is good for me.

Many people don't really understand about income-tax. I've met people who I knew could afford to buy their new cars on cash terms. Yet they took up loans to pay for them. When I asked them why, they said so that the Inland Revenue will not come chasing them for taxes. Then I asked them if they had evaded taxes. And they said they had declared their incomes truthfully and paid all their taxes. If they had declared their incomes truthfully and paid the relevant taxes, then what's left is theirs; they can spend the money as they like. There is absolutely no reason to feed the finance companies.

So there you go, some of us duly pay our income-taxes in full. Of course if we can find legal loopholes to pay lesser taxes—although sadly there are not many—then, yes, we will want to take advantage of those. I supposed you could say that we are fools, especially since the Government is not exactly very prudent in spending our money. On the contrary, quite frequently there is a lot of wastage—by the millions; by the billions. But well, that's a different story, I guess.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Announcement: Borneo International Marathon 2010

I was doing a 6km recovery run at the sport complex this evening when I bumped into Kevin Yuen, a fellow marathoner. He told me that he received an email from the organizer of the Borneo International Marathon (BIM), informing runners that the event for this year has been set for 2 May.

When I arrived home after the run, I rushed to my pc to check my email-box, and true enough, I, too, had an email from the organiser. So far, I have participated in 2 full marathons and several other shorter races, but I still would like to focus on achieving my personal best in the BIM. Last October, I managed a 04:40, so now I'm hoping to improve by at least 10 minutes to 04:30.

This announcement is still very fresh from the organiser; so much so that it has not even made the announcement in its own official website. However, I have checked with one of the Directors, Andrew Voon, and he confirmed the email shortly ago. Online registration will be opened beginning from 1 February!

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Balance Pacesetters 30K 2010

Crossing the finish line. What a relief!

From left: Chua, me and Tan

(Thanks to CP Tan for 2nd and 3rd photos above)

The New Balance Pacesetters 30K 2010 at Padang Merbok was everything I had expected it to be—a very punishing 30km of hilly course, unfriendly to the knees and ankles, and a whole new experience for runners like me. Before the New Balance Pacesetters 30K, I've never run the hills more than 10K (which I did in the Mizuno Wave 2008).

After my disappointing run in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon last December, I did not plan to run races for a while. But I started training again quite soon after that, running a couple of long runs of over 20km over the weekends. I have also done pace runs to work on my speed. But the one thing I did not do was hill training. That's because the New Balance Pacesetters 30K wasn't even in my plan a few weeks ago!

What I really wanted to do was to improve my time in the coming Borneo International Marathon 2010 in April. I'm fairly certain that I can improve my time based solely on consistent training, but I wanted to make sure. So I decided to invest in a Polar Heart Rate Monitor (HRM). Only trouble was that I had to fly to KL to buy it. And since April is not so far away, I really needed to buy the HRM as soon as I could. My next trip to KL would be in early March for Uncle Chong's Tiger Hunt, but that would be too close to April. So I decided that I really needed to go this month. But then, I thought I might as well make full use of this trip; I searched the net for any running event. And so I ended up asking my friend, KK Chai, to help me sign up for the New Balance Pacesetters 30K. Chai himself signed up for the 10K event, having recently done a half marathon in another event.

I was lucky to secure a ride to and from the venue with a friend, C P Tan, who's kind enough to go to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning. Tan is also into running and have been improving steadily. Within such a short period of slightly over a year, he has already conquered the full marathon in under 4 hours. And not surprisingly, he conquered the New Balance Pacesetters 30K in approximately 02:35, a time which I can only dream of ever achieving!

As I said, coming into the New Balance Pacesetters 30K, I had no hill training at all, and I was a bit worried about my knees and ankles. But the time limit for my category was 03:45. During the Borneo International Marathon 2 last October, I reached the 30km mark in about 03:08, so I thought 03:45 should be reasonably OK even if I had to struggle on the hills. But I was hoping to finish in 03:30. It's kinda too risky to run exactly 03:45.

Well, Tan arrived at the hotel around 4:30am and it took us only a few minutes to reach Padang Merbok. When we reached there, there were already so many people. Then we met Tan's friend, Chua, at the car park, and the three of us walked some distance to the starting line. It was a nice cold morning—one that's rightfully spent in a warm bed (smile).

The race started at 5:30am. Immediately after coming out of the start venue, we made our way up a slope, and I was reminded of the Mizuno Wave Run in 2008. Already I was feeling the adrenaline pumping. I felt strong then, but resisted the temptation to charge forward in the early stage.

About 3km into the run, I was still doing quite OK. The hills were punishing just as I had expected them to be, but so far I was coping well. I reached the first water station (about 5km) in about 27 minutes. Only plain water was available. I gulped down 2 cups and continued running. Immediately after that, we passed a very dark uphill path with lots of trees on both sides of the road. I could see quite clearly without my glasses, but still when it's that dark...

The water stations for the race were spaced about 5km apart. So I was very happy to arrive at a second water station about 13 minutes after the first one. But that happiness was short-lived because I was told that that water station was meant for the coming back route!

The actual second water station was a few more kilometres ahead, and by the time I reached it, my watch was showing 01:02. When running on a flat surface, I usually do a little under an hour for the first 10km, but considering the hilly course, I was quite pleased with the 01:02. So 20km more to go.

By the time I reached the third water station, my legs were already beginning to feel the exhaustion, especially my calves. Since only plain water was available so far, I decided to take a power gel that I had brought along. I was sweating profusely, and I knew that I had to replenish my salt level. Otherwise, I would've suffered cramps in my legs. I was also a bit worried because I knew that the so-called "double hill" was coming up around KM18-KM20. And when I finally got to that famous hill, it was indeed a torture. Not only was it steep, but the distance of the climb was amazing. I was so tired, I had to walk 3 times on that slope alone.

Somewhere on that killer slope was another water station, and for the first time we had 100PLUS. But I took another power gel anyway and chased it down with the 100PLUS. By then my watch was showing 02:06. Approximately 10km to go.

Beyond the 20km point, it was mainly mental strength that moved my legs. But I knew that I would finish within the time limit. All I had to do was to maintain my pace and hopefully not develop cramps in my legs. After that it was kinda quite amusing—I sort of lost track of time and distance. After making a few more ups and downs beyond that water station, I could recognise the road that was leading up to Padang Merbok. And that long stretch was a gentle down-going slope too. So I increased my pace...

Fast approaching the junction to Padang Merbok, I could hear the loud music at the finish line. And there were so many runners from the 20km category. I was so happy that I was finishing my race. But that happiness was short-lived. Upon reaching the junction to Padang Merbok, the 30K runners were separated from the 20K runners. The former had to go straight beyond Padang Merbok; whereas the latter turned into that junction to go directly to the finish line.

So I ran beyond Padang Merbok, and at the end of that road made a turn to the left. Then some more hills and turns, all together a few more kilometres before approaching Padang Merbok from the other side. That was such a torture I thought the race would never end!

I finally reached the finish line in about 03:10 and Tan was already there with his camera. It was a relief; I was so happy for exceeding well over my target. Later on, I met KK Chai amongst the crowd and spent a few minutes chatting with him. I'm so glad that I decided to join this race. At least I've added another medal to my collection! Oh! a finisher T-shirt too! I didn't think that I could conquer this hilly course—at least not within 03:10.

What's next? Well, my focus on the Borneo International Marathon 2010 in April is still intact—I'm still hoping to break the 04:30 barrier, but even if I can't achieve that, at least improve on the 04:40 I did last October. In the mean time, I'm toying with the idea of running a 21km in the Energizer Night Marathon in Cyberjaya (March). That one had to be 21km because I don't want to spoil my chance for a PB in the full marathon in April.

Now I've bought the Polar HRM, and assuming that I can figure out how to deal with all those preliminary settings etc (smile), I should continue with my training soon. Now if only Andrew Voon would quickly make the official announcement for the Borneo International Marathon 2010.

Monday, January 11, 2010

JJ In Primary 2

This is the second week since JJ resumed school on the 4th. She is now in primary 2, and her classroom is located on the first floor, i.e. immediately above last year's classroom. Thankfully, mommy is the one who's been busy handling her registration, books and stationery, as well as her afternoon tuition sessions. Not to mention the many hours of helping JJ with her homework. And let me tell you that she has tonnes of homework! They absolutely consume her entire days and nights, and even weekends! The madness has begun!

So far JJ remains calm. In fact, I marvel at her calmness in spite of the daunting homework which is probably not meant to be completed anyway. But, you know, if there is a breaking point, I hope it won't come so soon. I'm just so glad that JJ is holding steady so far, and to be quite honest, I'm amazed at how mommy struggles with all those Chinese characters every day in her attempt to help JJ out with her homework. I really don't know how much longer mommy can help out, but I'm just so glad that I don't have to be the one to learn and then teach Mandarin to my kid!

As expected, JJ's schoolbag is bulkier and heavier this year. Maybe this weekend I should make it a point to go to her school to check out the structural stability of the buildings. I'm sure I'll be able to find cracks all over the floor because of all those weights from the schoolbags.

I'm happy to report that JJ wears a size 11 school shoes now. Which means my thought that she's not growing is wrong after all. So this is a good evidence that kids can still grow in spite of a diet rich in Kit Kats; and somewhat lacking of sleep due to too much Winnie The Pooh on the telly.

By the way, talking about school shoes, JJ received 2 pairs of new shoes from her school at the end of the last term last year. Apparently those shoes were donated by someone or some non-governmental bodies, which is cool. But of course it would have been even cool-er had JJ been able to fit those shoes. Although I'm not an expert on school shoes, I'd say those shoes are at least several sizes larger than JJ's feet. So I'm confident that she'll be able to put them on in about 3 to 5 years' time. Those people who distributed those shoes to the kids last year could've at least tried to give something closer to their respective sizes. But no, of course that's just too much to expect of them. Maybe they're thinking that school shoes are worn "free size" like most youngsters' T-shirts these days.

Ah! Mia has just informed me that she's figured out another Chinese character just shortly ago! Good for her! It only took her about an hour to achieve that. Maybe tomorrow she can spend a few more hours learning how to make sentences with that character. It's about 9:40pm now, and both JJ and mommy are already in bed. They're waking up at 5am tomorrow morning to do some studying before going to school. Well, this will only continue for about 12 to 15 years for JJ. As for mommy, I'm having lots of fun watching how long she can last (smile); the last time she studied like this was when she was pursuing her law degree many years ago.

Oh! one more final thing! Dad-in-law just called to remind Mia to fetch JJ as soon as possible after school because "there are too many romours going around." I'm beginning to lose count on how many churches have been subjected to arson and vandalism attacks by now. By the last count, I think someone mentioned 8 churches so far. Looks like we have quite a number of people with brains the size of peanuts in Malaysia. I'm sure Allah is very pleased with them for what they're doing.

Way to go, 1Malaysia!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Preparing For New Balance 30K—Padang Merbok

It's been about a month since I ran the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. Immediately after that race, I was determined to take a long break from running as my knee was aching badly. However, my knee healed surprisingly fast and I have since started running again towards the end of December.

This year I plan to find ways to improve on my pace, and hopefully will eventually be able to improve on my personal best time in the full marathon. I've done a bit of research from several sources and decided to invest in a heart rate monitor (HRM) watch. Unfortunately, the one I'm interested in is not available here in KK. Considering that it's such an expensive device, I'd like to actually try it on my wrist before purchasing it. Which means I have to fly to KL to buy it!

Nevertheless, it seems like such a waste to make the trip to KL strictly to buy a watch! So I tried to find other things I could do while I'm in KL, apart from watching Avatar in 3D. In the end, I found the perfect solution. The New Balance 30K race, organised by Pacesetters, is scheduled for 17 January. Well, I'm not really confident of doing very well in this race, especially since there are plenty of slopes throughout the route—and I just hate slopes—but I figured if I could just finish within the time limit of 3:45, I'd get a finisher medal. So to make the long story short, my friend, KK Chai helped me to register for this event.

About 2 weeks ago, while I was running a 20km long run at the Likas track, I bumped into Dr Joseph. We ran together for a couple of laps. He was telling me about taking supplements, and then we got to talk about spirulina. According to him, taking spirulina has helped him. Incidentally, Mia, too, has been taking spirulina for a while now.

Over dinner that night, I sort of mentioned to Mia about my conversation with Dr Joseph. And then Mia said that she just bought a new bottle of spirulina from her colleague. In fact, she bought a "big" bottle containing 1200 spirulina tablets! She said we could share that bottle and if it works for me, then I can order one for myself. I exclaimed that 1200 is a hell lot of spirulina and would probably take ages to finish! Check out the bottle below.

And this is the enlarged view near the bottom of the bottle, i.e. showing the number of tablets.

Now I think most of you would already know that these products by direct-selling companies in Malaysia are always at least 30% more expensive—if not more—than those similar ones in the shops. But of course they are said to be more expensive because they are of higher quality. I have no idea of the truth of such claim.

But anyway, I thought since a doctor recommended spirulina to me, there's no harm to try it. I took the bottle and read the instructions at the back. It stated 5 to 10 tablets three times daily (before meals). Now assuming that I'm looking at the minimum side of that range, it's still a total of 15 tablets per day. And if looking at the higher end of that range, I would be taking up to 30 tablets per day—freakin' 30 tablets per day, can you believe that? It means that if I were to adopt the maximum dosage, I would be finishing the whole bottle in only 40 days!

I find it annoying that these direct-selling companies are using this kind of cheap gimmicks in their products. When they sell, they always divide the price by the number of tablets in the bottle, so that the price per tablet appears to be low. But one would have to take so many tablets at any one time. If any of you readers are from amongst the decision makers in the direct-selling companies, please do something about it. If your products work for me, I don't mind paying for them. But please, I prefer to take only ONE tablet at a time, i.e. 3 tablets per day is not too bad, not the pathetic 30 tablets!

Oh by the way, Dr Peter went to Taiwan recently and bought some kind of turtle soup and ling-tze which are supposed to enhance his energy. I forgot to ask him whether he's referring to energy for running or for other domestic purposes in the bedroom. But that is not all; he also bought a new pair of Nike Lunarglide. Apparently, he tried running a 15km in them and he said he did it effortlessly! Damn! now that's cheating—I have to run, and all he has to do is glide?

This evening, when I arrived at the track for my pace run, Dr Peter was already done with his run. I saw the striking Lunarglide on his feet and thought I simply had to say something. So I told him that I'm flying to KL to buy the Polar HRM watch so that I can train to beat him, glide or no glide! Now perhaps I need to look for a hare soup to go with the Polar watch. You just watch out Dr Peter!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Staying Calm For Allah

Malaysia and its neighbours are quite well-known for disputes over claims and counter-claims of titles and belongings. We've been fighting for all sorts of things from title of food recipes, songs such as Rasa Sayang, traditional dances, even islands in our waters.

And so it shouldn't come as a surprise that we are now fighting for the right of using the word "Allah" for God between the Christians and the Muslims. Well, I am not a religious person, and have never really been a practising Roman Catholic. But for as long as I can remember since my school days about a hundred years ago, the Malay translation of the Catholic faith for God has always been "Allah". And of course that translation has never been challenged all these years. However, someone brought it up recently, and then suddenly the use of "Allah" to mean God in Christian publications became something that's "sensitive" to the Muslims in Malaysia.

The result is that we have had an interesting legal battle over the last several months to decide whether the Christians are allowed to use "Allah" to mean God in the Malay translations of their religious publications.

If anyone had asked me a few months ago to predict what the decision of the High Court would be about this matter, I would have told him confidently that the courts would certainly decide for the Christians for the use of "Allah" in their publications. I don't know what is so surprising about this decision which has since become such a big thing in Malaysia.

In the game of chess, we get to see more or less the same thing quite frequently. A player makes a move which seemingly puts his position in a disadvantage. Maybe he will even lose a major piece like his Queen or Rook. But at the end of the combination, there is that surprising entrance to mate the opponent's king. It makes the game so much more interesting to observe!

In Malaysia, we've seen such maneuvres in several recent major cases. We have seen, for example, how a BN's MP jumped to the Opposition camp, only to jump back to BN a few days later, tagging along several of the MPs from the Opposition camp. The result was devastating for the Opposition government in that State!

We have also seen how the courts have decided in favour of the Opposition's (former) Menteri Besar (MB) against the BN's MB, only to have such decision reversed later in a higher court, so that at the end of the day, the BN's MB was the winner.

There is a psychological significance to all this. In the case of the MP jumping from one camp to the other, it was necessary to show the people that the Opposition could accept an MP from the ruling government. So that the BN government should also be allowed to accept an MP from the Opposition side. In the case of the decision of the fight for the Perak MB, it was necessary to let the Opposition win in the lower court. Then after the Opposition had given all the praises to the Malaysian legal system, it would be very difficult to withdraw those praises when a higher court reverses that decision. And even if they did try to withdraw those praises, that will only make them look small.

Therefore, now that the high courts have decided in favour of the Christians to use "Allah" to mean God in their publications, I think the Muslims in Malaysia shouldn't be overly worried. My bet is that when the case goes to a higher court, which is now in progress, that decision will surely be reversed. And even if that decision is not reversed, it will continue to find its way to an even higher appeals authority to get it reversed. In the end it will be reversed somehow.

Of course I may be wrong in my analysis. After all, this is just my fancy idea, and obviously there is very little truth in it.

But yes, I would agree with the Prime Minister [The Star]—the people should stay calm about the recent high court decision. Don't worry, folks, that decision will not be for very long.