Saturday, May 29, 2010

Culture of Subsidies

Malaysians have long been accustomed to the culture of subsidies. Many goods, especially those categorized as "essential goods" are priced at lower-then-actual-market-rates simply because of government's price intervention. For example, the price of petrol in Malaysia is among the cheapest in the region, even when compared to other developing nations.

The Malaysian government subsidizes the cost by absorbing a portion of what would have been the actual market price of those goods in the hope of lessening the burden of poor households. The policy is costing the government billions of Ringgit each year.

However, in recent times the government is apparently trying to gradually end the culture of subsidies in Malaysia. I think it's possible that the idea came quite accidentally. During the height of the escalating petroleum prices, the government had no choice but to adjust the fuel prices in Malaysia. It used to subsidize heavily on petrol. By a mere adjustment of 20 sen to 30 sen, the government was able to save billions of Ringgit! Nevertheless, as the prices of petroleum continued to escalate, the government had since increased fuel prices quite substantially.

It's possible that after the experience with the fuel price increase, the government realised that they could actually save so much more if it could somehow withdraw the subsidies for all the other "essential goods" too.

But to do so immediately would have been politically fatal. Malaysians are so used to the culture of subsidies, it would be very difficult to change that mindset. Therefore, if the government wanted to withdraw any subsidy at all, it must have a very good reason for it!

Although Malaysians have long been consuming a high amount of sugar, the government was only recently taking steps to address the problem. Accordingly, the price of sugar has been adjusted by 20 sen, reportedly in the hope that Malaysians will now consume a bit lesser sugar in their diets. Apart from saving billions of Ringgit from the withdrawals of subsidies, the government can also reduce rampant smuggling of these "cheap" goods to neighbouring countries. I have not seen any drastic drop in sugar consumption in the population, but maybe I have not seen enough.

And then now a bolder plan has been formulated in the overall Ringgit-saving drive by setting a time frame of 5 years to remove the subsidies. I would expect that the many great thinkers in the government are hard at work to think of very good excuses for the removal of subsidies.

Personally, I am OK with the withdrawal of subsidies for the so-called "essential goods", except that I wonder if the government has conducted any study to determine whether a typical household income can afford the higher prices. And if they are plans to raise the incomes of the average Malaysian household, would it be sufficient to balance the increase in prices of goods. Those of us who're earning reasonably well wouldn't be substantially affected by the price adjustments, but when a household is earning barely enough, price increases can be devastating.

Apart from withdrawal of subsidies, the government is going a step further. I can't help but notice that the government is also trying to find ways to tax the people as much as possible to earn extra revenues. And so, for example, on the excuse of regulating credit cards in Malaysia, there is now a RM50 levy for each card. That alone is a lot of revenue for the government.

More recently, the government is also planning to increase the levy for foreign labour. Yet more earnings for the gevernment. Apparently, this was to discourage hiring of foreign labour; so that employers would tap into the local resources first. I think that is a good idea, except that not very many of our local people are keen to work as housemaids or at the construction sites for the kind of salaries we're paying the foreigners. If employers have to increase the salaries of their workers, then they will inevitably have to pass on the additional cost to the consumers.

Anyway, I can imagine the hundreds of billions of Ringgit the government will be able to save and/or earn from the withdrawal of subsidies and imposing levies. I am curious to know what the government intends to do with all those extra cash, because that's a hell lot of money we're talking about.

It is quite possible that more schools and universities, hospitals and roads will be constructed; poverty eradication programmes will be formulated to educate the hardcore poor; some other developments to create jobs for Malaysians etc. Yes, those are things we all look forward to.

However, a likelier scenario is that we will be building a couple more tallest buildings in the world; send several more tourists into space at RM100M per pax; enter into bridge-construction contracts, only to cancel the plan later, thus incurring a RM100M compensation for the other party; and a whole bunch of mind-boggling wastage and mismanagement you can possibly think of!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Since several people have said that I am an old-fashioned guy, I guess there is nothing much I can say to defend myself—there must be some truth in it!

I don't expect all the tennis players to wear only white outfits. That would probably be boring and such a nightmare for the fashion designers of all those sports brands like Nike and Adidas.

When people are very rich and famous, they are almost expected to be eccentric, weird, in whatever they do, say, wear...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tiger Business

I read with interest the letter from Caroline Vimla published in the Star Online entitled "Saddened by a series of 'not so good news' about Tigers".

I'm sure there are many animal lovers out there who're concerned not only about how some species are pushed to the brink of extinction; but also about how some of them are treated by humans. And of course they are quick to give their opinions on these matters too. I'm sure there are valid points in their arguments. However, sometimes I just wish that they would support their arguments with at least a bit of evidence.

"Then, a tiger was brutally slain by some orang asli in Bukit Tapah Forest Reserve in Sungkai, Perak."

Although I myself have not done any research on it, I suspect that the orang asli have occupied the land for many generations. It is unfortunately that people have grown in population and require increasingly more living space. Sooner or later, they will one way or another, encroach into the habitat of the animals. Occasionally, there will be clashes between men and animals. People will kill animals; and animals will also kill people. But how do we tell these orang asli, dying in the jaws of the tigers, that they are doing a good job in saving the tigers from extinction? If we have to make a choice, would we rather save the man or the tiger?

"It is evident from the video that the tiger is sedated and not “very tame and comfortable around humans” as claimed."

Unfortunately, the above comment is rested solely on assumption! I really don't know what Caroline Vimla does for a living. I suppose it is possible that she is an expert in wild animals. But I wonder if she is really qualified to determine for cetain that an animal is sedated by merely watching via a video recording. She confidently said that "It is evident from the video that the tiger is sedated...", and dismissed the claim that the tigers are "very tame and comfortable around humans."

"What is the point of increasing or doubling the number of Malayan Tigers when we can't even take care of the existing ones?"

As the human population grow, cities and towns will also grow for housing and other developments. Sooner or later we will have no choice but to invade into the animals' territories. When there is a clash between the two, humans will prevail. The sooner these people accept it, the better. In a few generations from now, perhaps the only place we can see some of these animals is in the zoo, unless if we simply let them all die in the jungle.

So keep these wild animals in cages. Feed them well and groom them everyday. Except that who's gonna pay for the upkeep? Caroline Vimla? So charging entry fees to the zoo, or some sort of charges for taking photographs etc for the sake of protecting the animals seems inevitable. Maybe Caroline Vimla should be thankful that there are still some people who're really doing something to actually save these animals.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Animal Cruelty

An interesting conversation I had with someone a while ago.

At first we were talking about going fishing. But later on the conversation expanded to the topic of hunting and the killing of animals in general. The human race is bestowed with brains capable of planning ahead and solving complex problems. We can invent and we have visions. We can make weapons to defend ourselves from fierce animals. In fact, with the help of those weapons we've invented, we can hunt and indeed kill animals much stronger and faster than us.

The conversation I had with my friend revolved around animal cruelty. What exactly is "animal cruelty"? It is interesting that different people have different perceptions on animal cruelty.

My view is that if, for example, I have a pet dog, and I deprive it of food until it dies, that is animal cruelty. But catching fish for self consumption is not cruelty. I'm killing the animal not for the sake of killing alone—I'm killing for the sake of eating that animal. Humans have been doing that for ages.

But my friend has a deeper consideration. He agrees that animals found in higher levels in the food chain will kill and eat those below them. And he can accept that humans, too, hunt and kill other animals for consumption.

However, hunting for sport is a different thing—while he can accept that humans eat fish, he's against the idea of us having fun while catching and killing the fish! He sees that as an act of cruelty, even if the angler eats the fish eventually. I sort of brushed off his arguments, but now that I'm thinking about it again, perhaps there is something in his opinion after all.

I don't think this is gonna stop me from going fishing, but what do you think, do you see fishing and enjoying the thrill of catching and eventually killing it (and then eating the fish) as an act of animal cruelty?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Men-Women Equality

An issue which has been visited and revisited countless of times in the past. It has come to a stage where one can be ridiculed for the mere suggestion against WOMEN=MEN. But today, I will be brave—I'm putting my head on the chopping board—I'm saying it here now, that women does not "equal" men!

I'm OK with equal rights for women in terms of access to education, voting rights for elections to choose the governments etc, even to become leaders of nations. But in the job markets, women generally do not measure up to men—far from it.

Women demand to be treated equally as their male counterparts at the workplace. They want, if possible, to hold high positions (even higher than their male counterparts in some cases), earn equally high salaries etc as the men. Gender discrimination is in fact illegal in some countries!

The popular argument for equality is that if women can perform the same quality of work, at the same level of productivity, and bring in the same kind of revenues and hence profits etc for the company, why shouldn't they deserve the same rewards and benefits?

Generally speaking, women take more sick leave than men. Maybe that's because they are the weaker sex, I don't know. In many cases they are also restricted in what they can do. They are not so flexible in, say, going outstation for work. Some jobs may also require field inspections, which not all women can do for safety reasons.

A chance conversation with a friend about the current proposal to extend the (paid) maternity leave for women up to 90 days. As far as I know, this was only for the government sector, not the private sector. But apparently there are plans to influence the private companies to adopt the same benefits for their women employees. We all know that it is usually more expensive to hire temporary replacement staff while the permanent staff is on a long maternity leave.

I have been asked the question several times in the past, and my answer has always been the same. It is not really about gender discrimination, which I myself am against. It's about equality! Yes, equality! Since women demand for equality, that's exactly what they get!

At the end of the day, it boils down to productivity. If a woman and a man both have the same qualification and same experience for the job, the woman usually earns slightly lesser because she is apt to take more sick leave, has the added benefits of 90 days (paid) maternity leave, likelier to have terrible mood swings which would have an impact on her colleagues etc. It is in that sense that the woman is less productive for the company when compared to the man. Gender aside, companies are established to make profits. If a company can make RM1,000 profit per RM100 cost of a male employee, why would it spend RM150 for a female employee to make the same profit? Does that not amount to inequality?

And let me say it here—if it turns out that the man (as opposed to the woman) is the one who takes a (paid) leave for a period of 3 months for whatever reason, I would see to it that he earns lesser than the woman! That is the true meaning of equality.

Having said all those, however, I must admit that some women can perform very well in their jobs. In fact so well to the extent that even after allowing for the (possible) sick leave and maternity leave etc, they are still worth more than the men who hardly go on leave! In other words, these women are still more productive, having taken all the factors into account, and thus deserve higher salaries and positions than their male counterparts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fighting Addiction

Somewhere in this blog I have written that power is very addictive—once acquired, it will be very difficult to surrender it. And what's even more fantastic is that the person having the power does not usually realise that he is addicted to it!

Samy boy has been saying—I don't know how many times; I have lost count—that he would soon step down to make way for the next generation of leaders to lead the party. But I think it is quite obvious to most people that he didn't really mean what he said. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder why even bother to announce it; it's not like he's gonna keep his promise anyway!

And so, I couldn't help but smile when I read his latest announcement that he's gonna vacate his post next year, "eight or nine months before his current term expires." Is this guy for real? He's quite a funny man. And it's not only because everyone is wondering if his hair is real.

Although I have not personally conducted interviews with all the party members, I'm inclined to believe this guy when he said that "party delegates, members and the Indian community had grown weary of Samy Vellu's promises to step down over time."

But then again, that is the political culture in Malaysia, you see. Political parties make it something of an implied rule, and in some cases an outright rule, that the top posts are not to be challenged. It means that once a politician becomes the party president, he is likely to remain the president for a long, long time to come. Therefore, if it happens that the person holding the top post failed to conquer his addiction, there is no doubt whatsoever that he will fossilise in that seat. But alas, the last time I checked there is still no effective treatment for power addiction.

UPDATE (22 MAY 2010):

Of course we Malaysians must have seen it coming, but for the benefits of those non-Malaysians, this is the result of the fellow who called for Samy's immediate resignation. It is quite normal in Malaysian politics that whenever anyone would challenge the top guy, he is apt to be banished into the wilderness.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Healing Hands

Almost 3 months ago, I posted an article about a suicide attempt near my office. That post had a happy ending in that the man did not die. A visitor to this blog, Sarah, commented that she was "glad it didn't have a gruesome ending...". I replied by asking, "When someone is bent on taking his own life, can we really stop him from doing so?"

Well, the poor chap was reportedly sent to the mental hospital but was eventually discharged after a couple of weeks. Not long after that, he was found dead at home. He finally achieved what he set out to do by hanging himself.

But I don't want to dwell on his story—I'm done living through that afternoon. At least one person had told me that she was hopelessly unable to control herself from laughing so hard until she had tears in her eyes when reading my article. I admit that I wrote the article in an amusing way, but I didn't expect that some people found it that funny!

What I really want to say here now is that during the drama, when several hands stuck out of the window to grab the man, it was later revealed that a pair of hands were actually those of a driver who worked in a nearby building. He had no business to be there for the rescue, but he was there anyway, trying to help. There was a short mention of him in the papers the next day.

But one has to wonder what would have happened if they had failed to save the man that day. I suspect it would have been possible that the busy body might have been blamed even. He's not trained for rescue work, yet he tried to be smart! Fortunately, however, the man was saved, and the good samaritan received a pat on his back.

A couple of days ago, I was running together with Dr Peter in Likas Park, and we got to talk about professional responsibility. He told me that the standard of care expected of doctors is very high. That is of course not surprising considering that they're dealing with human lives. A careless mistake can result in the loss of life.

After I reached home that evening, I started thinking about life being a doctor. It is difficult for me to imagine, of course, but I was trying to picture myself seeing a dying man in the street—how would I react?

I think long before becoming a doctor, I would have made up my mind that I wanted to help sick people. There has to be a passion to save lives. In many cases, doctors end up becoming rich people too, but I'm inclined to think that rich or poor, the priority is always about saving lives; that the money comes as a side-effect of being a doctor. Therefore, if I were a doctor, upon seeing a dying man in the street, my first reaction should reasonably be to act within the best of my knowledge and ability to save his life. As to whether that man can afford my fees or not, that is a secondary matter.

Nevertheless, in reality I have the feeling that most, but hopefully not all, doctors these days would refrain from doing all that they can to save the life of the dying man. And we ask ourselves, why? Are they not trained to save lives? Are they not morally and ethically obliged to save lives?

We have come a very long way from the original spirit of those people bestowed with the gift of the healing hands. It is unfortunate that the law had also come a very long way to the extent that doctors who obey their inclinations to save lives may end up getting into big trouble if things go wrong—they may get sued and found liable for huge compensations. And the effect does not end there too. Their reputation may be damaged beyond remedy, and it is possible that that can be the end of their career too!

Therefore, I think when a doctor sees a seemingly hopeless case of which success is very remote, he would rather refrain from trying to help. Instead, it's a safer bet to just direct the patient to other doctors who're willing to try their luck! And then those other doctors would also push the patient to yet other doctors.

I think that's why several clinics turned this baby away. That's the reality in the real world, but some people may not understand it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dubious Bravery

A couple of years ago, a 14-year-old schoolboy was murdered in broad daylight near the central market in KK. According to eyewitnesses, two men had approached the boy and demanded him to surrender his money and threatened him with a knife. The boy had only RM1 on him at the time, but he decided not to give in to the robbers. He was a very brave boy, you see, so the robbers stabbed him to death. So much for the bravery!

When you come to think of it, it's hard to rationalise the value of defending against the loss of a meager RM1 at the risk of losing the life of a 14-year-old boy. Losing one's life for the sake of RM1 hardly seems like a very clever thing to do.

But imagine if the boy was somehow able to fight off both the robbers, knife and all, and eventually get to put them behind bars. That would be great, wouldn't it?

This boy defended against the loss of his motorcycle against an armed robber by successfully evading a gunshot, and lived to tell the tale. The robber, probably having a bad day, missed a close-range target and ended up getting caught. The kind of story which can put a smile on one's face.

But actually, that still doesn't change the fact that it was stupid to go against a firearm for the sake of a motorcycle! The motorcycle means hardly anything if the boy had died from the incident. I'm not impressed with the boy in the least.

Many years ago, I learned the Malay arts of self-defence, silat. I became quite good in it until one day when I accidentally injured a fellow student during a practice session. I was so afraid, I thought he was gonna die. Luckily it was just a case of a fractured rib. But after that I quit silat for good.

I can still remember when the master asked us the question one day: What would we do when confronted by several armed people? I forgot how the rest answered that question, but when it was my turn, I said I would flee as quickly as I can! My answer was accorded with a roar of laughter from the other students, especially since I was considered one of the good ones in silat amongst my peers and was supposed to have been a model of bravery! Yet they were all silenced by the master when he said that's the best thing to do in such circumstances!

Bravery is a good thing, and perhaps in many cases it can save lives. However, bravery can cause unnecessary loss of life too! When instilling courage in young people, we need to also develop a bit of common sense in them about safety. There is really not much point to be so brave if one ends up dead because of it!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Divine Angler

I was in the shower when JJ arrived home last night with her mommy. Usually, the first thing she would do upon her arrival at home would be to switch on one of the tons of cartoon movies she has in her collection. It's either Winnie The Pooh or the Barbie series, but this very night JJ was in the mood to give daddy a lecture!

Between her school hours, compulsory afternoon naps, tuition classes, homework, and cartoon movies, JJ hasn't very much more time left to have lengthy discussions with daddy. The last time JJ gave daddy a lecture was a few years ago, so I really did not see it coming this time, especially since I was still in the shower!

"Dad," she said from outside the bathroom door, "why don't you go to church?"

I said, "Church? Did you just say church, Jay? Where did that come from? Can this wait for a minute—there's shampoo in dad's eyes right now, and I can't hear you all too well with this water running, Jay."

But the lecture was obviously a very urgent matter, and could not be delayed even for a minute.

"Y'know, dad," JJ continued, totally ignoring dad's request for a minute's wait, "if only you had been going to church, you would've caught more fish at sea!"

"Oh is that so, Jay?" I replied, "And how would going to church help in catching more fish?"

"Well, dad, God will tell you where to throw your fishing net, and then you can catch plenty of fish!"

"Wow! Really, Jay? I didn't know that! Fine, the next time I go fishing, I will ask God where to throw my net, OK?"

"OK, dad, I think you will catch lots of fish on your next trip!"

Later on, I asked Mia discreetly what that was all about. God goes fishing too? Mia explained that JJ picked that up from church, and then directed me to John:21.1-21.11.

After this, Jesus appeared once more to his disciples at Lake Tiberias. This is how it happened. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael (the one from Cana in Galilee), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples of Jesus were all together. 3 Simon Peter said to the others, "I am going fishing."

"We will come with you," they told him. So they went out in a boat, but all that night they did not catch a thing. 4 As the sun was rising, Jesus stood at the water's edge, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then he asked them, "Young men, haven't you caught anything?"

"Not a thing," they answered.

6 He said to them, "Throw your net out on the right side of the boat, and you will catch some." So they threw the net out and could not pull it back in, because they had caught so many fish.

7 The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Peter heard that it was the Lord, he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken his clothes off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples came to shore in the boat, pulling the net full of fish. They were not very far from land, about a hundred yards away. 9 When they stepped ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there with fish on it and some bread. 10 Then Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."

11 Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net ashore full of big fish, a hundred and fifty-three in all; even though there were so many, still the net did not tear.

So the next time I go fishing at sea again, I shall try to secure a seat on the right side of the boat. Who knows I can catch a hundred and fifty-three fish there. But I hope there won't be a naked man standing on the surface of the water, instructing me what to do. I think I would faint or even get a heart attack. I think JJ is gonna be disappointed when I tell her that God did not show up at sea when dad's fishing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sadistic Instinct

Most of us are born with an in-built sadistic instinct—we derive some kind of weird pleasure by causing or seeing other people suffer. It's not necessarily sexual in nature though; I'm talking about any kind of suffering, even the mental kind. The only question is to what extent we can control such inclination.

In the movies, when the bad guy, having caught the hero, and having his gun ready to fire, would not pull the trigger immediately. No—he would talk for a bit first. He would probably even explain why he has done so and so. Perhaps even throw in those sickening laughs too. To kill off the hero immediately without all the fun of seeing him suffer first would be dull, you know. It's just like when the cat catches a mouse; it would play with it first. It would savour its prey for a bit before finally eating it!

But it goes beyond movies; it happens in reality too. My uncle Tony is a little over 60 years old, and I can see very clearly such in-built sadistic instinct in him too. Uncle Tony has been playing the Chinese chess for many years, and he is damn good in the game! When in due course I got to play a few games with him, he would very quickly win a couple of my pieces. And from then on it's a matter of a few more moves before he would checkmate my king. But no, that would be just too dull; no fun in it at all. He would move his pieces one by one, gradually surrounding and bearing down on my king. He would ensure that my pieces would fall slowly one at a time until my king is completely naked! And then—and only then—would he make the grand entrance for the kill. Except that quite a few times, I found a loophole and checkmated his king when he least expected it!

In fact the sadistic instinct is a weakness in many people. Whenever I play chess or any games, I would try to finish off my opponent as efficiently as I can, that is to say, as quickly or in as few moves as I can. I'm not too overly concerned with those fancy little combination of sacrificing my queen, both the rooks and then mate with a mere pawn! The best policy in a competitive game is "no mercy for the opponent!"

Many of us, when obviously having the advantage over the opponent, can't resist the temptation of wanting to torture the losing opponent. We still want to win, of course, but we want to win in a dramatic and fancy way. We may even want to humiliate the opponent, thus satisfying our sadistic instinct. And then if we can pull it off in the end, it makes for something to be remembered—perhaps something to tell our grandchildren some day. We consider the fancy victory as a "sweeter" victory.

However, it is too easy to forget that even when one has an advantage over one's opponent, no matter how big that advantage is, that is still not a victory. The fight is not over until it is over! Some of us learn this the hard and embarrassing way.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Summer Camps

My daughter, Jamie Jasmine (JJ) will be eight years old on this coming July 13th. In about 9 years from now she will be 17. And 9 years won't be a very long time. No—these days time flies. When that time comes, I can see myself biting my finger nails on a daily basis; I would be praying really hard for the computers to miss her name for the Malaysian Summer Camps, otherwise officially known as the Malaysian National Service Training Programme.

Quite frankly, I think the idea of the National Service Training is a very good one. These kids get to spend about three months mingling with each other and get to learn a thing or two about being away from the comforts of their homes. Within that three months, they get to learn a bit about hand combats, flying fox, kayaking, camping etc.; they get to learn something about nation and character buildings; and they also get to do a bit of community services, perhaps to instill the sense of serving the society.

However, since the summer camps were started at the end of 2003, we have had too many fatalities. We have had cases of drowning; apparently healthy-looking kids suddenly falling ill and die; accidents etc. They have also been reported fightings. Numerous cases of food poisoning and illnesses including outbreak of unknown fever. Not to mention female trainees getting raped.

JJ is my only child, and as much as I like the idea of the summer camps, it is very difficult for me to put my only child into a programme with so many bad things just waiting to happen. For if indeed she ends up dead or injured while she's in the camp, I doubt that I could ever forgive myself. I'm not being paranoid—these bad things have actually happened before, and knowing very well the way we do things in this country, I'm sure it will continue to happen.

But the thing about this kind of summer camps is that parents are not even given a choice. Once the children's names are selected—randomly—by the computers, they must attend the training, failing which they will be liable to a jail term. That's why I can imagine myself praying really hard for my JJ to escape detection by the computers.

Nevertheless, prayers are not always answered. Sometimes, no matter how hard one prays, one still won't get what one wants. So I guess I will just have to be prepared for the worst! If JJ's name appears in the list of selected trainees, there is still one last hope, though I doubt that it will be of much help for my JJ. She will be screened for other possible grounds for exemption, such as if she has a contagious disease or undergoing drug rehabilitation etc.

And just a couple of days ago, a not-so-smart police officer has suggested that female trainees should also undergo pregnancy tests. Just the mere possibility of that becoming a reality, however remotely so, is enough me make me lose sleep...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Perfect Imperfections

Have you ever wondered what would happen if someone invented a time-travel machine which can bring us back to the past, or to the future?

On the one hand, we can travel into our past and correct every single mistake we have ever made—answer all those exam questions and achieve perfect scores; make the perfect investment decisions and make the best possible profits in any ventures; win every single football bet. In fact, there will be no possibility of making a mistake, ever. Well, OK, maybe our state Government don't really need a time-travel machine—it is aready travelling into the past right now by establishing a coal power plant in the east coast. But seriously, wouldn't it be nice to travel back to correct all our mistakes? We can go back over and over again to try out several things until we get the kind of outcomes we want.

Now on the other hand, it would also be very tempting to know what's the outcome of something if we could travel into the future. Experiments to find new cures for cancer, for example, need not wait for several decades or even centuries to actually happen. We can simply travel to the year 2500 and bring back the cure to the present time.

With the help of a time-travel machine, so many problems could be solved because when we do anything wrong, we can always do it again and again until we get it right.

Unfortunately, I foresee a major proportion of the human race would be miserable. As ridiculous as it may sound, many of us see the perfect scenario above as imperfect! We want the thrill and suspense of ignorance. When we read an interesting story book, very few of us would actually go directly to the last chapter to see the conclusion. We want to see how the story unfold; we want to follow the tide, the ups and downs in a natural flow.

Life means very little if we knew the answer to every single thing; every single problem. That will absolutely take the fun out of living. There is no more challenge in anything at all. Even if it may appear like we can live a perfect life knowing everything there is to know, the truth is that we're more alive when living a life of many little imperfections. In fact, it's those little imperfections that make life perfect!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mockery Of Exams Is Absolutely Normal

Many of my regular readers know that apart from my obsession in accuracy when setting treasure hunt questions, I also try my best to be artistic. Except for some of you who were my ex-classmates, not many would know that I'm also good in arts—I mean drawings and paintings. In fact, if I'm not mistaken that was the only subject for which I scored an A1 in the SRP exams years ago. Like I said, I wasn't really a bright student when I was in school; I didn't do too well in the other subjects. After that, I went into the science stream and never took a higher level exams in arts. However, I used to spend some time painting over the years until about 10 years ago. Some of my works are still hanging on the walls of my living room up to now. So I know a bit about arts.

The thing about black-and-white drawings is that when there is lack of "shadings" in them, the diagrams will become 2 dimensional. It means that one can't really judge the depth of the drawn items, especially if those items are all black in colour!

About 2 weeks ago, JJ had her mock exams, of which Mia worked very hard to prepare her. A week's worth of nightly revisions. But she did not expect the kind of questions that would be raised in the exams.

Consider the following diagram:

Three black items with that thing which appears like the letter "X" on the bottom right. What do you make of this diagram? Could it be rats' or house lizards' droppings? Would you say that it's round or flat; or both? Could it be, say, papaya seeds? To me, maybe!

Well, JJ thought it looked like papaya seeds. They're black, which fits the "papaya seeds" criteria. But unfortunately, papaya seeds are not supposed to be elongated.

Now here's the question as it appeared in the exams sheet:

Apart from the wrong grammar—there is supposed to be the letter "s" at the end of the word "seed"—I find this question quite challenging for a primary 2 kid. I don't know how many of her classmates have actually seen a real sunflower before. But at least my JJ did not opt for banana. Otherwise I would've gone bananas!

I suspect because our politicians can't seem to make up their minds about the best medium of instruction in our schools, our teachers are getting confused. "Mock exams" is not an abbreviation for "mockery of exams", as much as "abnormal" is not an abbreviation for "absolutely normal". I think somebody should do something to ensure that our teachers should know at least a bit more about grammar to start with before they try to teach our kids in English.

I must be getting a bit too old for the modern education system. I was just chatting with a friend recently about our national language, Bahasa Malaysia. I consider myself lucky because I've been keeping up with the so-called "progress" and, if you like, "development", in the language by reading Malay articles. Otherwise, I would find many foreign-looking words which were not in the books when I was still in school. Bahasa Malaysia used to look very much like Bahasa Melayu many years ago. These days, Bahasa Malaysia looks more like, well, Bahasa Malaysia, and not so much like Bahasa Melayu as I know it. Now we have implikasi, reformasi and koc. Bahasa Malaysia is more sophisticated these days, you see—agaknya bahasa yang lebih canggih.

Well, for three days beginning from today, JJ is having her exams—this time, hopefully there won't be any room for mockery. This may be surprising to some of you, but Mia actually took yesterday and today off from work to focus fully on doing revisions with my JJ. I don't know why Mia is going through so much pain for this, but I guess I shouldn't be complaining. After all, if my JJ can score well in her exams, I would be a proud dad! But I'm keeping my fingers crossed—hopefully I won't go bananas when I see her results.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Powerful Ambition

From my earliest youth, I have always hated going to the dentist. As a boy, I can still remember myself in the dentist's chair, looking up into that bright light above. I see it all in my mind right now—the ugly-looking belt running round and round on the pulleys while the dentist is using the drill; the sound of it is enough to make me faint!

Years later, as an adult, when I visited a dentist in Brunei, things were a bit different. There was no scary belt running on pulleys, making loud noises. But I was still scared, I don't know why.

The dentist had to take an x-ray of my teeth. He put something into my mouth and then aligned the machine close to my face. He then said, "OK, hold it, don't move," while slowly walking away towards the door. "Hold it, please!", he reminded me from the doorway. "Yes, that's it... good." From the other side of the closed door, I heard something clicked, and a moment later the dentist came back into the room and said, "very good!" I remember thinking to myself, "Wow! am I gonna die because of the exposure to the radiation?" It hardly seemed worth doing the x-ray thing on my teeth!

Actually, practically everything in the world is bombarded by radiation all the time. It is difficult to know for sure what level of exposure can be considered "safe". And as we all know, medical science is in many ways forever changing. One day, someone will tell us that so-and-so is good for one's health; another day, someone else will tell us that it's dangerous for one's health. New studies are conducted all the time and many things which are told to be good may eventually become not so good, and vice versa.

A specific level of exposure to radiation which was once considered "safe" may no longer be "safe" today. And tomorrow, perhaps an even lower level may be set as the standard for "safety".

In its ambition for clean energy, Malaysia is dreaming of its first nuclear power plant by 2021. People like me who know very little about nuclear power plants are worried about this ambition. If indeed Malaysia has the people who can manage a nuclear power plant, I suppose that is very good. But after such a long time producing our beloved Proton cars, I have to say that I seriously doubt it. I occasionally drive my wife's Proton Waja, and I hate it when I keep forgetting that I'm not supposed to wind down the windows because they simply can't be automatically wound up back to their original positions.

Nuclear power appears to be the best answer to our energy needs—it does not pump carbon dioxide into the air and thus wouldn't add to the problem of global warming. That is the main reason why many Sabahans are against the coal power plant proposed by the state government. The coal power plant is of course detrimental to the people in terms of their health well-being, even though it may be good to solve the energy needs and keep some people's pockets very healthy. But that's the problem when decisions are made by politicians who only hear what they want to hear from the so-called scientists who are all out to please them. A leap into the past, that's what it is about the proposed coal power plant.

But unfortunately, I am also not so comfortable with the nuclear power plant. A small mistake can lead to an accident which can cause harm to many, many people for years to come! The remedial costs may far exceed the kind of savings that the nation is trying to achieve. Lives may be lost, and prolonged medication on those who survived (but not very much so.)

If it's a matter of the coal power plant, maybe it's not so bad because it's gonna be constructed on the east coast of Sabah. So I guess I can say I'm far away from its negative effects. Of the people of Sandakan, Tawau and Lahad Datu, well, God bless you all! Who knows, maybe those people would make themselves heard in the next general election.

As for the nuclear power plant, it doesn't really matter where exactly it is constructed. If there is an accident, probably this whole region will be in big trouble for a long time to come.

But if there is no accident? Well, I would imagine that there is still the problem of waste disposal. Do we just bury the by-products? Or do we just dump them into the sea? How effective is the waste management?

Maybe the Malaysian government shouldn't be too ambitious at the moment. Perhaps it's better if they could complete and fully utilise the Bakun Hydroelectric project first, and see how things go from there. Solar and hydro may not be the cheapest sources of power, but I suspect much safer than the coal and nuclear power plants.

Unfortunately, I am not very knowledgeable in all these very complicated sciences. I would be pleased if any of my readers who know more about them, would be kind enough to enlighten me?

A Trip To Sajali

Last Monday, I received a call from my brother, Dennis. He asked me if I'd like to go for a fishing trip over the weekend. It's been a while since the last time I went fishing. I've just done my third full marathon, and I thought what better way to celebrate?

I spent that evening ransacking my fishing stuff—the 3 fishing rods, 3 fishing reels and a whole bunch of nonsense in my tackle box. Of the 3 reels, I decided to change the thread on my Shimano. I also bought some more fish hooks, leader lines and pliers.

On Saturday morning, we arrived at the KK wet market at 7am where the KK Law 2 was already all set to go. We brought our stuff onboard and went for a quick breakfast. Then we went to the wet market to buy some baits, i.e. some ikan basung, rumahans and sotongs. We were the last to get back to the boat. At about 8am, we started our journey to the fishing ground locally known as Sajali.

Because of rampant fish-bombing and uncontrolled trawler boats, sports anglers like us are finding it increasingly harder to get a good catch these days. In order to hope for something decent we need to go all the way to places like Sajali. A single trip from KK to Sajali takes between 5.5 hours to 6 hours. Sitting in the boat for that long can be quite a challenge. We can sleep for a bit; or we can keep ourselves busy like tying some fish hooks etc. But how much can one sleep that early in the morning?

Not a very spacious cabin, but this is where we sleep. And if you become seasick, don't expect any sympathy from the other anglers—they won't even consider to go home. You just go and lie down for a bit and hope that you can get better.

After spending about an hour trying to sleep, I decided to tie some fish hooks. But, y'know, 6 hours is still a horrifyingly long time when one is made to wait.

Thankfully, about 3 hours into the journey, KK Law, the boat owner who trawled a lure, caught a fish. It sort of caused a bit of excitement to break to monotone. From afar we could see the fish leap into the air in an awe-inspiring fashion. It was easy to spot since it's yellowish in colour—such a beautiful bugger!

It took a while to haul the full 400 metres or so, but eventually Law landed the fish and all of us crowded to see it. It's a fierce little fellow. We were mesmerized and accorded the fish the fascination akin to looking at a poisonous snake.

After that, we continued our journey. A little more sleep, and meddling with my tackle box, and moments of restlessness later, we finally arrived at Sajali a little after 2:30pm. The weather was fine and the sea was calm; such an ideal condition for fishing—except that the fishes were not biting! Except for some kurisi bali, titir, and some bright red-coloured fish, none of us actually had a decent catch.

Shortly after nightfall, when I least expected it, suddenly something tugged at my line. And my reel started to scream loudly. I grabbed my fishing rod and started working on my reel. It's not always that one can get a good catch these days. I started reeling the bugger in and every now and then it would pull away again. But eventually it became tired, and it became increasingly easier to haul it in. Upon reaching to side of the boat, I thought it had surrendered totally. I lifted my fishing rod, and then suddenly the fish made one last bold bid to pull away, thus breaking my fishing rod in the process!

And this is the fish which broke my fishing rod (took this photo when I arrived home.) I don't know the name of this fish, but the boatmen said it's "Kingfish". Not sure if that's the official name. Very naughty with that last attempt, but no escape from my Shimano reel and Daichi fish hook!

At night, when the fish were no longer biting, it is strange how quickly one can become sleepy. At home, we would have the TV, blogging and facebook-ing etc, but at sea—nothing!

After a while, I decided to go to sleep, perhaps at around 9pm. Dennis fought his sleepiness and waited for the fish to come. Well, it did not happen. I think it must have been around midnight when I was awaken. I went out to the deck and asked Dennis if there's a good reason for me to fish. But still no fish. So I went back to sleep.

I think Dennis must have also gone to sleep on the bed beside mine not long after I did. I was too tired and totally did not know what's happening around me. But by around 4am, perhaps my body had had enough sleep and became a bit more sensitive to its surrounding. I was awaken by Dennis' snoring. He was playing—I think—the tunes of either Beethoven or Amadeus, I'm not sure. I went out again to check on the other anglers. Many of them were already up and getting ready for the morning feeding time.

At around 6:30am as soon as the sun came up, the fish began to bite. One after another, we were all busy putting fish into our ice boxes. Well, actually not all of us. Dennis wasn't that lucky, don't know why. Maybe it had something to do with the music he's been playing the whole night.

Unfortunately, we had to pack up around 10am, at which time we had to start our return journey to KK. We took turns to bathe. Well, not really "bathe" bathe, if you know what I mean. But when your whole body smells of fish, whatever amount of fresh water you can get to wash off whatever you can, that's as good as a bath you can have at sea. The toilet, which wasn't very much of a toilet, had no door. But that's the beauty of being men, you know, there's nothing very interesting to look at! So a quick goosh-goosh over the head, a bathing soap from top to bottom, and some more goosh-goosh to wash off the soap, it's done!

Then we had lunch. Well, if you can really call it lunch. After lunch, we all went to sleep for a couple of hours. I woke up again at around 2:30pm shortly before passing Pulau Sapi. We arrived back on land at around 3:45pm.

Another shot of the Kingfish and the rest of my catch on my kitchen sink.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Extreme Punishment

The whole of last week, many people have been actively discussing about the so-called victim of a trigger-happy policeman. And the case is even more interesting because the victim was a 15 year old boy.

Of course the police have their version of the story. An apparently suspicious-looking characters in a car which sped off, resulting in a chase, thus running through several red lights. The culprit behind the wheels was a 15-year old boy, a fact which I think could not have been obvious to the policemen. The boy then allegedly tried to reverse into the policemen, and one of the latter opened fire and one shot hit the head of the boy.

However, a friend of the dead boy who survived the whole thing has a different version of the story. They were not really running away from the policemen. Well, at least not at first. Instead they were running away from some motorcyclists. Some parts of his story appear to be similar to those of the police, except for the one where his friend was trying to reverse into the policemen.

And of course the mother of the boy only wants justice for her dead son. Now that's a very big word. If there is still such a thing as justice in Malaysia, I'm not so sure it will be forthcoming any time soon. But I hope the poor mother will eventually get it anyway.

The whole episode does reveal an interesting thing about the Malaysian police—people don't generally have very high regard of them this lately. Contrary to what the IGP said, I don't think people are against the police safe-guarding our streets. In fact, I still believe most people would like to have more police personnel keeping the streets safe. I think people are getting a bit tired of some of the reported police (mis)conducts.

A woman was ordered to strip down and then squat up and down in the nude on the excuse of hopefully finding something that might emerged from one of the holes down there. And then someone conveniently recorded the whole thing with a phone video camera.

A young man arrested on grounds of suspected car theft ended up dead with serious bruises all over his body, and no one would admit any beatings on the poor chap.

Not to forget an unarmed woman who was shot in the head and then blown up into pieces in the jungle.

If the people's trust in the police had deteriorated in recent times, can the IGP really blame the people?

But I'd like to think that the police is still, on balance, the good people. I wonder what would have been the public's reaction had the dead person behind the wheels been, say, a hardcore criminal wanted for serial murder and rape? Maybe some of those who're criticizing the police now would commend them for a job well done instead?

"What has he done to be called a criminal?" asked the distraught mother.

Being a parent myself, I know a bit about parenthood. Obviously, we all want the very best for our children. In fact, I know that many of us are willing to make very big sacrifices for the sake of our children. The curious thing is that it is very, very easy to see something wrong in other people's children, but when it comes to our own children, we have the strange tendency to become blind!

And it doesn't stop there either. Even if someone else, on grounds of trying to help, tells us that our kids had been naughty because of so and so, we will try our best to find all sorts of excuses not to believe what we're told! It is called denial. We are convinced that we know absolutely everything there is to know about our children. The information from the outsider must be wrong—there must be a mistake somehow!

My brother Dennis makes a good example of this. He sees Audrey's son, Erwin a.k.a. Wiwin, as a problematic kid. Wiwin is about 19 years old and has been smoking for a while now, even though he is still not working yet. He doesn't smoke cheap cigarettes because, according to him, he's not used to them. He has a girlfriend who's several years older than he is. And Wiwin becomes a perfect target by Dennis when there is a need to use an example of a problematic kid.

Now, Dennis himself has two sons. The eldest one is Mohd Aqil who's 15 years old now. The boy behaves like an angel in front of Dennis. He scores well in his exams; he excels in sports and almost beat Uncle Cornelius in chess once! He has won several speech contests in school. He wants to be an Aerospace Engineer or at least a pilot when he grows up. Dennis proudly proclaims that his son is ahead of his classmates by about half a year.

But unfortunately, Mohd Aqil is too clever—even cleverer than his blind father! He uses someone else's phone to chat with his girlfriend when his own cellphone is low on credit (yes, these days, apparently kids must have their own cellphones.) And when he is out with his own friends, he smokes like a chimney. He has been smoking since he's 13!

Therefore, of course Aminulrasyid is a good boy. If he did not die last week, of course he would be able to achieve straight As in his PMR exams later this year. And he would probably become another one of Malaysia's space tourist too when he grows up!

But how did he end up driving a car without a driver's licence at 2am in the morning? Did the mother know anything about that? Maybe she did not do her part to tell her son that that was illegal? And if the son did it secretly, what does that tell us about his character? It doesn't accord well with the description of a "good boy" to me.

If he did not illegally drive the car that night, then he wouldn't have accidentally scratched someone else's car. And there wouldn't have been people chasing after them to get even? And they wouldn't have then run through several red lights, thus attracting the trigger-happy policemen?

Dying because of driving a car without a driver's licence is an extreme punishment, but actually that's not really why he died. There are so many elements involved in the chain of sub-events that led to his death, although it's the bullet from the police that ultimately ended his life. If the boy did not drive the car that night, he would be alive and well today! The mother should reflect about that small detail that could've made all the difference! If you allowed your child to play with fire, then you should also be prepared for the possibility of him getting burnt in the process. Blaming the fire won't really help. But of course it makes sense to try to put out the fire, so that it won't burn other people...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Borneo International Marathon 3—Photos

So here are some of the photos I've managed to compile for this year's edition of the Borneo International Marathon.

Dr Joseph Lau, the gangster-looking gynaecologist running an awesome full marathon this year. He's passing the Harbour City in the background. Actually, the sun is already up at this time, but runners had a very brief moment of shade by the Harbour City shops.

My friend from west Malaysia, CP Tan, who found out the hard way about the kind of morning heat we have here in KK. At this point, runners are running facing away from the sun. But on the return leg along this same road, runners can't escape facing directly into the sun for at least a full hour!

Arriving at the Harbour City shade (about 29km) within a decent 2:54. At this juncture, I'm feeling a bit of exhaustion in my legs, but still holding a steady pace.

Teo, with his trademark kneestraps at the Harbour City/Sutera vicinity, looking very happy and going strong.

Now approaching the Tg Aru First Beach, and both legs suffering a bit of cramps. A long and painful pace in the direction of Tg Aru, but still facing away from the sun.

Teo, running through the arch into the stadium all smiles. The lucky devil only developed cramps in his legs within the last 3km of the 21km of his race.

And here is Teo again, crossing the finish line at his PB of 2:22 (he had targeted 2:25 prior to this race.)

My brother, Harry, running through the arch to the finish line to complete his first ever half marathon with a respectable 2:27.

Dr Joseph crossing the finish line at an admirable 3:49, beating his own time of 4:26 in BIM2 last October.

Kevin passing the arch, heading for the finish line, having been overtaken by Dr Joseph about 1.5km from the finish line. He finishes about 20-30 seconds behind Dr Joseph, but still achieves his sub-4-hrs target by about 10 minutes! His previous best for the full marathon was 4:10

Judy Liew finishes her full marathon with an impressive 4:13, and declared the runner-up. She walks away with a trophy and RM1,500 cash.

Vivian finishes her second half marathon a few minutes shy of last year's time of 2:49. This year she's 6 minutes adrift at 2:55.

Dr Helen, the self-proclaimed forever-fit marathon guru of SMC! Unlike in previous BIMs, she's just running a half marathon for BIM 2010, with a view of achieving something special in the Gold Coast Airport Marathon on 04 July!

CP Tan, running against the sun up to the end. An unpleasant experience for him I'm sure. But he improved on his PB by a minute to finish at 3:56 anyway! Good job, CP!

Dr Felice, shortly after crossing the finish line, obviously very happy that the torture is over within 5:55! She gave Andrew quite a bit of headache before this for her indecisiveness whether to run the full or half marathon. But she decided at the very last minute to run the full marathon anyway!

That's me finishing with energy from who knows where within 4:36 ahead of that tormentor!

And this is none other than that forsaken tormentor, living up to his name. I have a shrewd suspicion that he entered this race for the sole purpose of driving me up the wall! Well, he almost cost me my life within those last few kilometres because of exhaustion!

And a few seconds later, he crosses the finish line with so much pain in his legs, but still able to laugh for the comedy we both created over the last 5km or so.

A small group photo shortly after we finished. From left to right: Vivian, Dr Peter, myself and Harry.

With CP Tan at the finish line. He ended up with a detached toe-nail and had to go to the hospital to perform a small surgery to remove the nail.

Mia, just shortly after crossing the finish line. I don't know how she endured the hot sun, but she made it in 6:25! An amazing fighter, I'm very, very impressed!

And finally, of course not to forget the most important people, a big thank you to the "official photographers" of our small group of freak runners, Buddy and Sophia! By the way, very sorry for looking so damn messed up here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Borneo International Marathon 2010

This thing about successively failing to achieve my race targets is beginning to get to me. In fact, it's beginning to embarrass me! Andrew Voon has lost his magic touch to give us a cool weather today as he did in the last Borneo International Marathon (BIM) in October last year. But cool or hot weather, I did not have it in me to do what I set out to do today.

From the start horn, I thought I ran a smart race, holding an average 6-min kilometre, with a couple of minutes' to spare to achieve my target of 4:30. I carefully refrained from increasing my pace within the first 10km of the race. I felt strong and no exhaustion whatsoever during that first hour, and I thought it would have been possible to run a bit faster. But I remained true to my game plan. Despite that, I still hit the wall after the 30km point. And that absolutely spoiled my chances to achieve my target!

As expected, I managed to get about 3 hours' sleep last night—if you could really call that a "sleep" sleep. The mind was all too excited thinking about the race, and everything that could go wrong with it! I'm just a born worry-er, you see, there's just nothing much I can do about it!

We reached the stadium shortly before 3:30am and found a nice parking spot. Inside, there were already so many people there. I met CP Tan, who came all the way from KL for this race in the hope of improving on his 3:57 he achieved in Penang last year. I told him that the terrain in the BIM is perfect for setting a personal best (PB). But what he did not know was the kind of morning heat we have in KK!

Dr Peter Ong arrived shortly later and was all smiles. I don't know if it's me but this guy has a curious effect on me. He is obviously a faster and stronger runner than I, and I keep finding myself trying so damn hard to live up to his standard! And for this race, we had a meal of lobster on stake between the two of us.

The next couple of minutes, our friends arrived one by one—Dr Joseph, Kevin, and at the dying minutes, Judy and Dr Felice. The latter had to rush from her clinic where she had just performed a delivery on one of her patients.

In the days prior to this race, Dr Peter and I had planned to run together. And then Judy said that she will run with us too, though I doubted it very much because she's not one who would run slow.

In spite of our plan, upon the sound of the start horn, Judy, as expected quickly disappeared into the darkness of the morning ahead of us; I was running a 6-minute kilometre; whereas Dr Peter decided to adopt the plan of running a 6:15-minute kilometre. So throughout the race, we never did run together! Mia, who's making her debut full marathon this year, adopted the plan of running a 7-minute kilometre. So I quickly lost sight of her.

Well-rested legs are quite hard to control somehow; there's that tendency to build up on speed subconsciously, and I had to keep checking my pace throughout that first hour or so. I arrived at the northern loop (12km) in about 1:10. Making my return leg to the south, I saw Dr Peter coming from the other direction, approaching the loop. I reckon that he was almost 1km behind me by then. But I knew being the strong and fast runner that he is, it was just a matter of time that he will turn the table on me. I think it was from that moment on that I constantly felt the presence of Dr Peter hot on my heels. And Judy? Well, she's hot for just being a young woman in tight running outfit! I managed to catch a glimpse of Mia in the dark on my way back from the northern loop. She appeared to be doing great.

Well, the run was surprisingly enjoyable up to the Wisma Perindustrian roundabout (22.5km). Beyond that point, however, heading south to KK City and Tg Aru, I began to feel a little bit of tiredness in my legs, but I was still able to hold my pace quite confortably. I looked back a couple of times, but I still failed to see Dr Peter anywhere in the crowd. I wondered when he was gonna make his move.

I think it must have been around the 27km point at the Wawasan roundabout when I started to feel the exhaustion in my legs. I carefully reduced my pace a bit, but still holding steady, especially after I had a banana at a water station. Just as I was approaching the Sutera traffic lights (29km), I saw Teo coming from the opposite direction on the return leg of his half marathon. By then the heat was already building up rather quickly, and it was obvious that I was gonna get caught in one of the most punishing of morning suns in KK! Looking at my watch, I was pleased to note 2:54, which meant that I've managed to maintain my 6-minute kilometre pace.

However, when I reached the 30km point, I felt a sudden change—my legs became so tired and I could feel cramps developing on both thighs. As I was passing the Tg Aru town, I saw Judy coming from the opposite direction. She was hot, but this time literally so. The sun was beating onto her face; I dreaded the thought of having to go through this route on my return leg. Well, I basically struggled all the way to reach the Tg Aru first beach. And right there at the loop, I was pleasantly surprised to see Shan who was volunteering at a water station. I think she said something like, "Hi Cornelius, you're looking fit!" And in my heart, I was like, "Yeah, well, looks can be deceiving!" I grabbed a drink, and then I saw the Sloan deep-heat cream. I've never used it before, but because I was already suffering cramps on both thighs and calves by then, I emptied the entire tube and rubbed the cream onto both legs. Then I started running again for the final 10km torture back to the stadium.

About 500 metres into my return leg to the stadium, I met Dr Peter approaching the loop. It meant that I was ahead by about 1km. I thought I saw a big smile on his face, and immediately I knew that it's just a matter of time that he would overtake me. In my condition, there was just no way I could hold on to that 1km lead. And from that point onwards, the whole marathon suddenly became a race of cat and mouse between Dr Peter and I.

Oh! that last 10km was so painful, I had to stop several times. And then as if that wasn't bad enough, the cream I applied onto my legs began to take effect, and it was so damn hot it felt like chilli, burning both my legs to the extent of great discomfort! Well, I ran and walked alternately until I reached a water station where I could find water sponges. I used a couple to cool down my face and neck which were already burning from the scorching sun; and then took some more sponges to wash off as much of the cream as possible. Then I continued running with sponges in both hands. Whenever I felt like the cramps were building up again, I would use the cold sponges to dab my legs.

While I was passing Sutera for the second time, I was already conscious of Dr Peter gaining on me. But because I did not have my glasses on, I couldn't tell for sure even though I kept looking back. By the time I reached in front of Standard Chartered Bank, Dr Peter emerged from the traffic lights of Wisma Merdeka. I tried my best to keep running, but by the time I passed the Wisma Perkasa roundabout, Dr Peter was already a meager 30 metres behind me. With my legs still in pain, and still about 4km to go to the finish line, it was obvious it's time to surrender. I looked back to Dr Peter, I waved a hand, shouting, "Doc, you go ahead, I'm done!" Then I stopped running and started walking.

A moment later, I looked back, and to my surprise, Dr Peter had also stopped and apparently massaging his legs! It was obvious that he, too, was suffering from severe cramps! I suddenly felt there's hope again. I don't know how, but I found myself running again. And Dr Peter kept trying to close the gap. Those last few kilometres, the two of us were very comical. Who would've thought that one can still laugh like that while in pain?

As we got closer and closer to the stadium, the struggle became more and more punishing. And Dr Peter, in spite of stopping several times, did not show any sign of giving up! I just kept running—and walking when I saw Dr Peter walked. Before I knew it, we were already fast approaching the stadium. As I was entering the stadium, I saw Dr Peter at some distance away. Looking at my watch, I realised I had failed to achieve my target of 4:30. Immediately after I passed the arch into the stadium, and seeing the finish line about 200 metres away, I slowed down to a walk. My legs were just like jelly. I had nothing left in them. I have missed my target, but at least I was ahead of Dr Peter. And then about 100 metres to the finish line, when I looked back, to my horror, I saw Dr Peter running into the stadium, obviously still not done tormenting me! I don't know where I got the energy, or how I could move my legs, but I started sprinting that last 100 metres to the finish line.

So in the end, I failed yet again to achieve my target. Now this is getting quite embarrassing, maybe I'm just not good enough for this sport. But at least the good news is that I've improved my PB from 4:40 to 4:36; and won a lobster from the forsaken tormentor!

After that, I had to wait for almost 2 hours before Mia's arrival within a time of 6:25 based on her watch. She, too, suffered cramps and had to walk for more than 8km from Tg Aru first beach up to Wisma Perindustrian roundabout before starting to run again for the finish. I remember feeling worried when Mia did not arrive after 5:45. And by 6:15, I was already thinking that she might be in an ambulance. Looking at the hot weather beyond 10am, I could just imagine how much she must be suffering out there. And then at almost 10:30am, Mia ran into the stadium through the arch. For a brief moment, my heart sank and I was overwhelmed by emotion. Amazing fighting spirit, but how my heart broke to see my wife suffer like that!

Well, there isn't much more to tell. I think Andrew and his team did a very good job this year, except of course he failed to hire a reliable bomoh to arrange for some clouds in the sky today. I'm impressed that unlike in previous BIMs, there were still drinks at the last few water stations this time round.

I will try to sort out the photos as soon as I can and post them in a separate post later. I will also post some of the results involving some of my friends.