Monday, June 28, 2010

Taking Health For Granted

I have always been active in sports since I was young. For some years I was very active in badminton, which I played at least 3 times a week. But during my early thirties, I fell down and injured my knee. After trying several times to make a comeback, I eventually gave up on the game.

I then moved on the swimming. And for some years I swam at least 3 times a week at an average of 10km weekly. I alternated that with weight training, and in fact gained quite a bit of muscles. When I relocated back to KK, I decided to try a bit of jogging. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my knee could handle up to an average of 5km per session. So I continued running regularly for some years.

Although I've been active since I was young, I've never really excelled in any one sport. I played games etc for the sake of fitness, but I did not have it in me to actually win competitions.

Then around mid-year 2008, someone told me about the Borneo International Marathon which was organised for the first time that year in over 20 years. At first I thought I would try the 10km race. But a friend, Teo, said that event was "sissy", and convinced me to try the half marathon instead. Back then 21km seemed like an impossible distance to me. So I decided to go for a full medical check up just to make sure that my body's really up to it.

One Saturday I spent a few hours to check my lipid profile, blood pressure, sugar level, the so-called stress test on the treadmill etc. Cost me quite a bit. But the good thing was that I was given a clean bill of health.

The funny thing was that when I told my friends that I had gone for a full medical check, some of them laughed at me, saying that I wasted my money; that I was obviously fit for the half marathon.

It is strange that most people have the tendency to take their health for granted. Some illnesses are not apparent from just seeing one's lifestyle. People may appear healthy when there's actually some terminal disease developing in their bodies.

When I ran the Penang Bridge International Marathon in November 2008, a young man who dashed out at the sound of the horn fainted a few kilometres later on the bridge. By the time I reached the poor lad, there were many people trying to revived him. And then later on, I heard the ambulance's siren. I think he survived the ordeal.

In the KL International Marathon last year, a young chap, I believe in his 20s died several hours after his race. And yesterday, also in the KL International Marathon, another 25-year old man died while attempting the 10km race. It is ironic that the recorded deaths are those of young people.

It's strange that organisers of marathons almost always remind the participants to ensure that they're up for the challenge. Yet very, very few of them actually go all the way to check with the doctors. What's more, most people have not trained sufficiently by the time they arrive at the start line. Like I said, most people believe that they are healthy and fit enough for the challenge. They always tell themselves that if they feel too exhausted, then they will simply stop or walk the rest of the distance, if they can still do that. Except that in some cases by the time they stop running, the hearts have reached the point where they're shutting down. And it would take a lot of effort to revive them, especially if medical help is too far away and too slow in coming.

Not Bijak

JJ arrived home from school recently with a new pair of school shoes. Each student is entitled to a pair of shoes every year. I think it comes from some sort of donation programme; or perhaps someone or some organisation must have sponsored these shoes on an annual basis. So JJ had a pair from last year too.

I'm not very familiar with the brandname—Bijak. For the benefit of those of you who don't understand Malay, "bijak" means wise, smart or clever. I think this donation programme is a good idea. I'm sure some of these poor kids will find an extra pair of shoes very useful. I appreciate that the school is not showing any favouritism amongst the kids. Absolutely everyone gets a pair, rich and poor.

But I would appreciate it even more if my JJ can actually fit into those shoes. The school does not bother about the size—the teachers are only concerned with distributing the shoes. Whether those shoes fit or not, that is none of their business. I can't see anything bijak in that at all.

So now JJ has a choice to keep these shoes in the box for probably 5 years or so before she can fit into them. That is of course assuming that the cockroaches won't get to them first. Either that or perhaps I will donate them to an orphanage one of these weekends.

Somebody should really consider changing the brandname from Bijak to, say, Skxawng.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recommendation For Eric

Normal human sperm cells as seen through a microscope, enlarged by a few million times. Notice the huge heads and long tails. The latter are used for swimming through a thick viscous medium all the way to the egg. The journey has been likened to swimming across the Pacific Ocean in a thick sugary water!

And these are my own perception of how Eric's sperm cells look like. I have not been able to get a sample of the real thing though—not that I'm really keen to get it.

Eric, my friend, if you are reading this, let me remind you that you are over 30 years of age. Go find a girlfriend or a wife. You desperately need to get laid soon, man!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Fantastic Idea

The Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin made a stunning announcement recently—he said the PMR and UPSR exams may be abolished. His reasons inter alia include concerns that teachers and parents are pressured to want students to achieve excellent results. He said "the main objectives of education is for children to gain knowledge in a holistic manner—where creativity, innovation and interaction thrive."

In a few years' time, we may end up having no exams at all, because we want creativity, innovation and interaction. I'm not sure where the Minister got the idea that exams can't deliver all those. And I suppose the next step is to distribute university degrees for free without having to sit for exams too. That way all Malaysians can be university graduates!

The typical mentality of sweeping the problem under the carpet. Far from abolishing national exams, the educators should seriously consider overhauling the whole system to include something more than just producing recording instruments. What we have right now is a system that emphasises on memory capability. Kids are taught to remember without thinking. They reproduce what they are taught in school, and that's practically all they can do. This is speaking from the general point of view, of course.

Some people are aware of what's happening in the Malaysian education system. Our kids are desperately lacking in training their minds to think. Research and analysis had been carried out by clever people. Yet no one is brave enough to make any changes to the system. I suspect if changes were made, many, many children would fail miserably. And no one would want to be answerable to the minister. So the best way is to abolish the exams all together. Brilliant!

The funny thing is that even some of the kids themselves are aware of the weakness of the present system. Check out the following article:

Teenager J.W. Lee from Wesley Methodist School, Kuala Lumpur, said when he did his PMR last year, the examination was nothing more than regurgitation of memorised facts.

“Students need much more. Teach us problem-solving skills instead,” said the 16-year-old Fourth Former who scored 7As.

College student Benny Tham, 18, however said both the public examinations needed to be maintained as they set an across-the-board standard to evaluate the capability of students.

I would like to share a true story with you all. A young valuation graduate I know is pursuing her professional qualification. She is quite OK in her job. Her routine includes valuing numerous types of residential, commercial and industrial properties. She appears to know her valuation principles quite well. I fancy that the Education Minister would give her thumbs up.

Yet when she attended the professional interview, one of the 3 interviewers asked her how would she value a telecommunication satellite. And she was lost for words. She knew hardly anything about satellites. And she did not learn about valuing satellites when she was at the university. So there was nothing from her memory to offer those interviewers. Needless to say, she did not pass the interview. She grumbled that "the interviewers were asking silly questions." She will have to make another attempt at a later date. Maybe she will be asked how to value something else which she has never heard of. It will be a struggle, but that's how things are in Malaysia.

When it comes to the practical world, even the most brilliant students in school are not guaranteed to excel. For the most part, critical thinking and common sense have been left out of their education.

But instead of bringing these important elements into the exams, the Education Minister has the brilliant idea of doing without those exams all together! God help us all.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Who's The Boss

I have posted my opinions and comments in this blog on several occasions against the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohd. However, although I have commented against him, in my opinion he was, and still is, the best Prime Minister Malaysia has ever had. Throughout the over 20 years he was in office, he achieved quite a lot for Malaysia. There were wastage, of course. After all, nobody's perfect. But on the whole I can honestly say that he did well in his job.

However, the one thing I can't accept about Tun Dr Mahathir, is that he's a racist. From the time when he was still the Prime Minister, he has been harping about Melayu, Melayu, Melayu. He is bent on emphasizing the need for the Malays to be the bosses in Malaysia. In his most recent post in his blog, he has again raised the issue about Malays losing control of Malaysia.

Malaysia is a multi-racial country, but the Malays have always been the bosses. In fact, I think over the years, they're becoming increasingly so. All the top government posts are now held by the Malays and other Bumiputras. And other important organisations such as Bank Negara, University bigshots, the police, and other government-owned companies, all these are headed by the Malays. The Malays are really the bosses in Malaysia, I don't think anyone can dispute that.

Yet 5 decades after our Independence, Tun Dr M is still harping about wanting the Malays to be the bosses. After more than 50 years, he is still talking about Malays and Chinese and Indians etc. Why can't he see us all as Malaysians?

Instead of emphasizing on the race, maybe Tun should focus more on searching for some sort of formula for the Malays to be independent in the true sense of the word. The government has been spoon-feeding them for far too long. And in the end, only a small number of them actually became rich—super rich—while the rest remained not so rich. There really is not much point to be the bosses if they are poorer than their subjects.

I'm sure the Malays would love to be the bosses as well as being rich at the same time; who wouldn't? But after being the bosses for over 50 years, they are still generally unhappy. If I were them, I wouldn't be overly obsessed to be the boss; rather, I'd prefer to be richer and can live comfortably. But what do I know?

So I'm inviting comments from my Malay readers, if you are given a choice between the two, which one would you prefer, being the boss or having the richness?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Those Days... These Days...

I bumped into an ex-classmate recently. It must have been more than 30 years ago since I last saw him. Being the forgetful person that I am, it's quite surprising that I could still remember him even though it's been over 150lbs ago since we were both in primary school. I don't know how he grew to be so fat, considering that he used to be a frail skinny boy before.

We decided to have a drink at a nearby kopi tiam where we ended up reminiscing about the good old days. Back then the kids spent their time so differently from how the modern-day kids are spending their time today. We played football in the muddy field during the rainy seasons; we played rubber seeds and marbles. There were so many outdoor activities we indulged in. I can still remember those days when I used to go fishing in a nearby swamp with my brother, Dennis, and my cousin, Andrew. Plenty of karok and sepat. Dennis had a flair with the bamboo rod, and he used to boast his ability with the fly-fishing thing. Well except for that time when his hook caught Andrew's upper lip. Understandably, Andrew did not find that very amusing. I can't remember how that freak accident happened. I must ask Dennis one of these days.

We went to school with only 50 sen each day for pocket money. And somehow it was possible to save enough to catch a movie every now and then at the Lido cinema.

These days, the kids are no longer into fishing. No, they have a complete collection of cartoon series on DVDs. When they are bored with those, they have the TV games on the Playstation. At the restaurants, while waiting for the food to be served, kids are seen playing with portable game consoles, I believe the PS4 they're called.

JJ's classmate, Cloey, has a cellphone since she was in primary one. She was already sending text messages to my JJ via Mia's phone since that young. JJ's peers are learning to play the piano and violin.

Amazing how much things have changed within just one generation. And I somehow feel that things are changing even faster these days. It makes me wonder what kids will be like in the next generation. Maybe by then things like fishing at the lake can only be learned from books and computers; playing in the rain while riding the buffalo in the paddy fields can only happen in their dreams.

Things were so different in those good old days. That talk with my old friend brought back some memories. How old I suddenly felt that day at the kopi tiam. Oh the good old days...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beautiful Women

It was a couple of months ago when I was having lunch with a client at Little Italy near my office. There was a group of women seated at the table next to ours. I did not quite notice them at first. But then I suddenly realised that there were several cameramen actively taking pictures of those women. There was also someone apparently interviewing some of those women.

I then studied them for a bit. And the first thing I noticed was of course the heavy makeups on their faces; the clothes they wore—the kinds which are usually only seen on mannequins in the boutiques; and all those artificial behaviours, if you know what I mean.

Little did I know that I had a close encounter with the women from the "Search For A Supermodel" that day. It wasn't until I saw some of those pictures in the papers the next morning when I realised how models looked like in the real world.

It is strange, but if you asked any of those women how they maintain their figure, 10 to 1 will tell you that they hardly ever go on diet. They will say that they eat anything they like. It gives you the impression that they are born with the perfect figure, if there is such a thing as a "perfect figure"; that they are blessed with that figure perpetually. But truth be told, most, if not all of them, are extremely careful of what they eat, and they are perpetually counting calories. They end up becoming those slender-looking creatures with very, very flat chests which people describe as "sexy". And I bet if you asked them about boyfriends, they will almost automatically tell you that they don't have any! However, I did not see sexy women that day at Little Italy—merely skinny women, but what do I know! Somehow they looked good for the sole purpose of window dressing, y'know, to be displayed in a shop window?

I will admit that I am not a big fan of beauty contests. So I never really paid very much attention to the many beauty contests we've had in Sabah. But this lately, I think we're really overdoing this beauty contest thing. Within this year alone, I think we've had the Search of Supermodel (and Man Hunk—yuck!). We've had, I think, the Miss Tourism thing not too long ago. We had the Miss Sabah (for the Miss Malaysia). And of course we recently had the Unduk Ngadau—you know, those women with huge hair during the Keamatan Festival? And currently we're having the so-called Miss Earth Pageant.

I'm sure we have many beautiful women in Sabah, but what I myself saw that day at Little Italy weren't really beautiful women—or at least not beautiful to me. Could it be that we have been having too many beauty contests this lately to the extent that all of the really beautiful ones are no longer eligible to join?

We haven't even reached midyear yet and we have had so many beauty contests. Perhaps we should go easy on organising beauty contests, because after a while these mannequin-looking creatures all look the same! When all the truly beautiful ones are no longer eligible to compete, we are left with the not-so-beautiful ones (I'm trying to be kind here for not using a more suitable adjective). And then what could potentially happen is that we will have a beauty queen who hardly deserves to be described as "beautiful"—not even close! I'm just saying.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Elusive Record

Over 2 months ago I posted an article entitled Hunting for a Record. In it I raised the scenario of my daughter wanting to perform a tightrope act across tall buildings for the sake of setting a record. I expressed my opinion that I would not allow my daughter to do it because of the risks involved.

I then went on to discuss the subject matter of the post, i.e. that of Abby Sunderland, the 16-year old girl who was in the process of trying to set a record as the youngest person ever to sail around the word solo. Having once cheated death at the open sea, there is always that fear of the sea in me. I can still remember the 10-foot wave that eventually caused a fractured rib; and the excrutiating pain I had to endure for several hours in a race against time to reach land.

After I posted "Hunting for a Record", I had some interesting debates with some friends via emails. Some of my readers agreed with me, while others were in favour of pursuing one's dreams in spite of the risks involved!

Well, I am a very adventurous person too, and I'd like to try out new adventures and challenges. But I am always careful not to get too carried away with the idea to the extent of ignoring the risks involved. I am fully aware that there are risks in practically everything we do, but what's the odds of things going wrong in the open sea?

I have been at sea before, so I can relate a bit of my experience. The thing about the open sea is that if there is an emergency where there is a race against time, the odds would probably be against you, because it would usually take a very long time for help to arrive. If for example someone suffers a heart attack at sea, he would probably die long before getting back to land.

In my case, where I suffered a fractured rib, I was later told by a doctor that I could've died out there. Had the rib been broken and the sharp edge punctured my lung, I could've drown in my own body fluid. So it's no laughing matter! When it happened to me, the waves were just about 10 feet tall.

Yesterday, Abby Sunderland sent out distress signal from the Indian Ocean, reportedly in a storm of 50ft to 60ft seas and winds up to 60knots. The nearest vessel was about 400 miles away and would not be able to reach her until almost 2 days. Because of that kind of sea condition, it's quite possible that Abby might be injured. She may still survive the ordeal, of course. But then again, she may not.

Abby is living her dream in the Indian Ocean, and if she is still alive, I wonder what is going through her mind right now. If she is dead, I really hope it was worth it. But her family would certainly get their few days' worth of fame anyway...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Thief & The Bloody Fool

This thing about being a slave to one's addiction is quite interesting. Many of us are sane people with numerous weaknesses. Some people are addicted to drugs—they are aware that drugs can harm their health, yet they can't control themselves. No matter what they do, in the end they won't be able to resist the temptation of drugs.

Others are slaves to other kinds of addictions. Anwar Ibrahim, for example, is unable to resist beautiful young men like Saiful, though this is just my own deduction which I admit may be totally wrong. And so when the lad dangled the carrot—or maybe something other than carrots—there was nothing much that Anwar could do but fall right into the trap. That's what slavery to one's addiction is all about. Saiful was of course no fool—I think from the very beginning, he put his ass on the line for the sole purpose of cashing in on this man's weakness. Hence, for two days after the joker fell into the trap, Saiful did not have any bowel movement, he did not have a bath, all for the sake of "preserving evidence". In the mean time, of course he scouted around for the best bidder for the prized "evidence".

Some people who are also slaves to their addictions may escape detection for a long time, sometimes for many years. This world is made of people of different sizes, colours and conducts. And some of them have a fetish for stealing used panties and bras. I don't know whether "used" in this case is "used" as in "not new", or "used" as in "worn and unwashed". If it means "not new" (but washed), then I don't quite understand the significance of the sniffing of those panties. So I am forced to the assumption of "used" here means "unwashed" panties. But it makes me wonder what those smell like. Not that I'm seriously keen to find out, of course! And then I suppose after 2 days, the smell on those panties must have lost its potency. And of course not to waste the items, the thief would actually wear them!

Our pool of nutcases in Malaysia is quite unique; some of them are also very creative! It can really push one's imagination to the extreme in an effort to understand these people! And some of these "bloody fools" are not only bloody fools in the slang way, but in the literal way too! Really scary!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Keeping A Promise

I spent a good 13 years of my younger days working in Brunei. However, in the end Mia and I decided to move back to our hometown, KK. It was quite a brave move because it meant starting practically all over again from the bottom.

Upon my return to KK in late 2002, I bought a 3-bedroom single storey terraced house. Although I was already a Chartered Valuation Surveyor then, my qualification was not recognised in Malaysia and I had to go through the Malaysian qualifying board, a process that took me over 2 years to complete. I remember I made a promise to Mia that I will try to buy another house within 5 years' time. It happened that in July that same year, my daughter, JJ was born.

Well, JJ is now fast approaching 8 years old, and we're still living in the same single storey house. To be honest, I have been hunting for a house for quite a while now, but we found no suitable ones. I've missed my target by almost 3 years now.

Then about a month ago, someone instructed us to value his house. He intended to sell it. It's a semi-detached house located in Taman Sinar Bukit, which is about 5 minutes' drive from my father-in-law's house in Dah Yeh Villa. The property satisfies almost all of our requirements, i.e. a double-storey house with 4-bedrooms; near to the hospital, schools, the city centre and the Likas Sports Complex. But it is an old house, probably about 30 years old. However, it has been well preserved, and the owner had carried out renovations over the years.

It costs quite a fortune because of all those positive features above, but these days it's no longer possible to find a vacant residential lot within this location, so it's quite normal for people to buy old houses and then refurbish them.

I brought Mia to see the house one afternoon and she immediately fell in love with it! That night she was already planning what to do with the house, the kind of furniture, a huge flat screen TV (I don't know why, because we hardly watch TV anyway), this and that. So about a week later, I wrote a cheque, i.e. the down payment to the estate agent to close the deal. Then I scouted around for a bank loan, and I was pleasantly surprised that quite a number of banks were fighting for my business! I don't know if it had anything to do with my handsome face (smile).

I reckon I would probably require something like RM100,000 to RM150,000 on top of the purchase price just to refurbish the house, so there's still plenty to do! While inspecting the house, I noticed a small device which appeared like a calculator on the wall in the master bedroom. It was evidently some kind of security alarm system. I don't know if it's still working.

Our present house has no alarm system, but perhaps it's a good idea to install one in the "new" house. For a brief moment, I entertained the idea of a CCTV too, but then I remembered that CCTV is quite useless. About 3 years ago a CCTV in a shop caught a man on video. That man rode a motorbike, and he left a huge bag at the shop. Turned out that that bag contained the dead body of a little girl. Although caught on camera, it could not help in identifying the face of that man; not even the registration number of his motorbike. The story of Nurin Jazlin became quite a famous case because the video was sent all the way to the USA to seek help from the mighty FBI for video enhancement! Quite fantastic, really, because after the FBI had a hand at it, we got some important information from the tapes! Check it out here. But anyway, I think I will do without the CCTV for the moment.

It's quite a densely populated neighbourhood, and I wonder what kind of neighbours we're gonna have. Relationship with neighbours can be quite a tricky matter, and I'm sure some of you can still remember about my present neighbour?

Still a while more for us to sort out the documentations. Then at least a bit of refurbishment work first. Then the scary thought of having to move house! I hope to get it all over with before the end of the year! It's been a long-delayed plan, but I'm glad that I'm finally able to keep my promise to Mia. I just hate moving house so much, I hope this will be the last time I'm doing this!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Engagement: Harry & Buddy

Yesterday I attended the engagement party for Harry and Buddy (Yes, that's her real name). Our families are not in the habit of visiting each other, so we did not know where's Buddy's house. We had to assemble at Bandar Penampang Baru and started from the at around 10:45am, making a convoy of several cars to Kampung Nambazan.

Although Buddy's house was quite a distance from the main road, it was easy to find it because there's only one road passing the village. The compound was quite large and most of the cars could fit there.

Shortly after our arrival, there was a slow procession up the stairs to the upper floor where the engagement would take place.

There was quite a sizeable crowd, but we could all just fit nicely into the living and dining area. My step mother's brothers and sister were there. It must have been years ago since the last time I met some of them.

And there, on the small table at the living room, was the berian from Harry to Buddy. I'm afraid I had no idea whatsoever what's the contents of these, but I have a feeling that my step mother can remember 'em all by heart! And no, that small yellow box of chrysanthemum tea is not a part of the berian.

While waiting for the ceremony to start, the playboy spent a short moment to read through the engagement documents. Yes, folks, according to the Kadazan custom, both parties are required to sign something akin to a contract, outlining the details of the engagement including the cost of the berian, "belanja dapur", "cincin pertunangan", "karabau 'idup satu ikur" etc.

The ceremony started with the village head introducing some members of Buddy's family.

And then a representative from our side also took the opportunity to introduce our side. But what really got to me was that even at this ceremony there was a mention of "1Malaysia"! Amazing the influence of Najib

After the short introductions, another representative from Buddy's side spent some minutes struggling to read the contents of the engagement documents. Poor fellow, I think they should've provided him with a magnifying glass.

Then it was time for Harry to sign the documents (3 copies).

Followed by Buddy.

Not to forget the witnesses...

from both families.

And then an invited clergyman said some prayers for the ceremony. But somewhere between the prayers, he broke off to give some advice to Harry and Buddy about the kind of nightmare they're getting into.

Amongst others, he said something like:

"... this is just an engagement, not a wedding! (hopefully Harry and Buddy knew that already before the clergyman told them); it's time for you two to get to know each other well before the marriage. But don't go beyond what's permitted!"

For a brief moment, I had a crazy impulse to break in with:

"Yeah right, even if they did go beyond, who's gonna know? For all you know, they have long ago gone 'beyond'!"

But thankfully, I managed to control myself.

After the clergyman was done with his prayers, it was time to exchange the rings. I thought I saw Harry's hands shake a bit, but maybe that was just my imagination.

Buddy was steadier with the ring, of course.

So after the ceremony, both Harry and Buddy proudly showed off their engagement documents. (Oh boy, you people don't know what you've gotten yourselves into!)

Shortly later, we all made our way back to the ground floor where the food had been prepared. And of course the family pet dog was there to guard the food. Or perhaps it was hoping to get something too, I don't know.

More prayers from the clergyman to bless the food and thank the Lord before we finally embarked on lunch.

Well, there will still be some more months before the wedding (I don't even know when will it be). I hope the clergyman won't be overly stressed out worrying everyday of these two lovebirds going beyond what's permitted of them.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Few Good Employees

What would happen if foot soldiers refuse to obey orders from their Commanding Officer during a combat situation on grounds that they have better ideas on how to overcome the problem at hand? What would happen if each of the foot soldiers had different solutions to solve the problem? What would happen if because they disobeyed the Commanding Officer's orders, they ended up losing the battle, thus causing loss of men; who should be responsible?

We frequently observe how the chain of command is an integral element of the military. The Commanding Officer can order a private to drop down and do 50 push-ups just like that, and there is nothing the private can do but obey. Cut the grass with a nail-clipper, or polish the Officer's boots with toothbrushes etc. No matter how ridiculous the orders are, the private must obey! The kind of attitude that is imperative in the event of war. The military can't afford the risk of everybody calling his own shots on how things are to be handled. The chain of command must never be broken; otherwise all hell will break loose!

I suppose it can be assumed that the Commanding Officer, perhaps because of his longer combat experience, can make better decisions or strategies on how to deal with combat situations. However, I suspect that that is not always the case! Who knows, sometimes even the lowly foot soldier can come up with a better plan! Therefore, there are pros and cons to the situation, but generally speaking, I think it is still a safer bet to let the Commanding Officer plan the attack or defense; and restrict the foot soldiers to the actual fighting because that's what they are trained for. It is possible that the decisions of the Commanding Officer may appear strange, yet he probably has valid reasons for those decisions.

In the movie A Few Good Men, 2 soldiers were accused of the murder of a fellow soldier. As the story progressed, it was found that they merely obeyed the order from their Commanding Officer, which unfortunately resulted in the death of a soldier. Under normal circumstances, if they did not obey the order from the Commanding Officer, they could get into big time trouble. But here, although they were found not guilty of murder, they were eventually dishonourably discharged. That meant the end of their career in the military! The Commanding Officer was arrested.

In the movie Crimson Tide, we had a slightly different situation. Here there was a conflict of opinions between 2 high-ranking officers in a nuclear submarine. They received an order to launch a missile; but that order was followed by a second order. However, the second order was interrupted while in transmission. That second communication could have been a confirmation of the first order; or it could have been an order to retract the first order. The Commanding Officer was for the launch; whereas the Executive Officer was against the launch. Clash of the 2 characters ensued onboard the submarine, until it was later found that the Executive Officer's decision was the correct one, thus saving unnecessary loss of lives. This was a good example of a good ending to a case of going against the chain of command. Had that Executive Officer been wrong, however, he would have been in big trouble for going against the order of the Commanding Officer! And that mistake would have probably caused major loss of lives too!

Sometimes, life is like that, there are very good reasons why there is such a thing as a chain of command. In any establishment, different people have different responsibilities, i.e. some manage the business; some fight to get the clients; some actually do the jobs for the clients; some collect and chase for payments; some handle the accounts, and so on and so forth.

I suppose there are valid reasons why the boss at the BHP kiosk made it a policy that under no circumstances should the door at the station be opened beyond certain hours. Of course it was possible that the employees at the station could've disobeyed the boss anyway, opened the door despite the policy, getting robbed in the process, and eventually getting fired because they're just too dumb for being tricked by the criminal pretending to be in some sort of emergency. If the story had appeared in the papers like that, I'm sure that many of the readers would have been quick to say that these employees are stupid people—that they should've known better! Couldn't they have just obeyed the order? Why did they open the door beyond those hours? They deserved to be sacked, for crying out loud!

Unfortunately, it just so happened that this was a genuine emergency which the employees had no knowledge of. And because they were the good employees who obeyed the instructions, a woman was burnt to death! If only they had a crystal ball and could see into the future, then they would have opened that forsaken door!

And of course people with the benefit of hindsight are quick to express outrage over the incident. We all know that hindsight is twenty-twenty. They call for a boycott on BHP stations; they demand that BHP apologise to the victim's family; that BHP should compensate her family; that the licence of the station should be suspended etc.

When seeing an accomplished event, it is so easy to decide what to do; everything is plain and simple. The benefit of knowing what's at the end makes all the difference—it is possible that a few good employees can suddenly become the main targets and reasons for the death of someone they had no knowledge of.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

High Achievers Who Failed To Achieve

I have related the story during my school days when I tried to advise my younger brother, Dennis, to study hard to achieve good grades. But he was such a lazy bum. He barely managed to pass form 5 with a grade 3. He was then able to secure a place in form 6 in Maktab Sabah, but decided not to continue studying. Instead he went on to work, changing from one job to another for many years after that. I can still remember our little debate about the value of education. Our nation was in recession back then, and his excuse was that many university graduates were without jobs anyway. So why bother to get the degrees?

In another debate I had with my dad, the playboy, I was amused by his excuse in defending Dennis' decision to quit school. He said if Dennis was not very keen in studies, then he had a better chance in the job market. Because by the time his friends get to the job market years later, Dennis would have been there much longer. He would then have had enough experience to compete! Besides, dad reckoned if everybody did well in his studies, why then there will be no one who would become the office clerks, office boys and lorry drivers!

Needless to say, of course I disagreed with dad's opinion—not that I was in the habit of agreeing with him much anyway. But then again, think about it, what would happen if everyone did well in school; would there be anybody left to be the garbage collector and rubber tapper?

Well, we've had an indirect opportunity to see a similar situation—though admittedly not exactly the same—in treasure hunting. Some very serious people go through so much pain to learn the game well, and after a while they become very good at it. They keep winning hunts. And then the new hunters start to complain to the organisers that they have no chance to win anything when these strong hunters are around. So the organisers set the hunts in such a way where most of the questions are relatively easy.

The end result is that even if the strong teams still win the hunts, the new teams will achieve very nearly the same scores as those of the strong teams. The new teams get a kick and false impression that they're "just a little bit" below the standard of the strong teams. But nothing could be further from the truth!

And then amongst the stronger teams, if they don't all get the perfect score, they will be tied with just a point or two from the perfect score. The kind of hunts where a single silly mistake can cause a fall of several rungs in the leader board. And the kind of hunts where winning won't really prove very much in terms of hunting superiority.

Malaysia, in its attempt to produce a large number of high academic achievers, had done a very good job of gradually declining the standard of education in the nation mainly via the culture of memorization. In my schooling days, scoring say 8As in the form 5 exams was a very big thing and apt to earn a space in the front page of the major newspapers; the kind of achievement which would almost automatically earn a government scholarship. Very, very few would manage that kind of results. Those were the days when "high achievers" really meant high achievers.

These days, scoring 8As in form 5 (SPM) is nice, but nothing to shout about. Now we're talking about 15As, 18As, even 20As in the SPM, until recently when the government suddenly realised that getting 20As is quite ridiculous and quite meaningless except perhaps for a space in the Malaysia's Book of Records. So there is now some sort of limit on the number of subjects one can sit for in the SPM exams.

I don't believe the modern-day kids are more than twice smarter than those kids of my days, even if they can get more than double the number of As in their exams. Too many kids are high academic achievers, much the same case as in the "newbie-hunter-friendly" hunts. It's like playing poker when there are too many aces in a deck of cards. When everyone can easily draw many of those aces, the one having a hand of 4 aces shall not have the confidence of winning. For he would realise that his opponents are very likely to have the same number of aces too.

So when we have too many high achievers in our schools—though not necessarily any indication of brainy students, in spite of the straight As—who are really the clever ones? Who really deserve the recognition as the great minds? Who really deserve to get the scholarships?

UPDATE (5 June 2010):

Ah! When I posted the above 2 days ago, at the back of my mind I was thinking it would've been good if I could provide some statistics to give a bit of context to the situation we're facing right now. So I am pleased to find that the Deputy Education Minister had provided us with some figures. It sort of confirms my point above.

Singapore Bay Run

This year I'm planning to run 2 full marathons (42km). The first had been accomplished in the Borneo International Marathon just about a month ago. The second will be in the Penang Bridge International Marathon on 21 November 2010.

Apart from running the full marathons, however, I'm also plannning to fill in the gaps between them with shorter runs. I have therefore done the Pacesetters New Balance 30KM and the half marathon (21km) in the Energizer Night Race.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have missed the Sundown in Singapore and the Malakoff in Penang. So I'm fast running out of races between now and November. In my desperation to throw in a race into my running schedule, I have gone online to register for a half marathon in the Singapore Bay Run which will be on 12 September.

I did not really read all the information before signing up, but now I need to make all the other reservations, e.g. hotel room, air passage etc. So I went back to the official website, and only now I realise that there isn't much info on the race venue. Being a first timer for this race, I have no past experience to fall back on. It says in the website that the race venue is "Padang". I can only imagine there must be many Padangs in Singapore, but I need something more specific than just Padang, so that I might be able to book a room closeby. I need to do this fairly quickly as I now see that there were 70,000 people running last year; so hotels close to the venue will be very sought-after during the race. At this stage I'm not very concerned with the race route. Can anyone help me out with with this please?

After the Singapore Bay Run, I will be focusing on the Penang marathon where I will again be up against that forsaken Dr Peter who said he will be running together with me this time! I will need to do something almost magical to stay ahead because quite frankly I have been lucky over the last two races against him. The first marathon we ran against each other, I was a comfortable 5 minutes ahead of him. But a month ago, I beat him by only a few seconds! Chances are he will beat me in Penang, but I'm sure as hell gonna make it very hard for him to achieve it!

Beyond the Penang marathon, I'm entertaining the idea of running a half marathon in Cambodia in December. I was not too keen at first, until Teo said that he would come along if I'm really going, thus foregoing the Singapore Marathon this year. He said the thought of running a half marathon while avoiding land mines seems like a great idea! Yeah right! great idea until we come home without a leg or two! Teo is gifted with weird ideas, you see. If he's not careful, he will eventually achieve his goal of representing Malaysia in the sport of curling one of these days. I think he has the cutting for it—especially the sweeper!

Mia said that it's not necessary to take that kind of risk in Cambodia—neither of us had been to Cambodia before, so you must forgive us for imagining what Cambodia is like. I think it has a lot to do with the kind of Cambodia Sylvester Stallone had shown us, if you know what I mean. But right now, let's deal with the Singapore Bay Run first, hmmm?...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fishing at Takat 35

I just came home from a 2-night fishing trip to Takat 35, which is about 50 nautical miles northwest off KK. I'm so exhausted right now, but I just want to post these photos. I will also try to upload these same photos later in my facebook.

This is the KK Law 1, the boat which the seven of us anglers chartered for the trip. There were 10 of us including the skipper and crews. This boat is slightly larger than the KK Law 2 which we chartered to Sajali a couple of weeks ago.

The weather at sea was fine, except that I felt it was too calm. We were suffering the still air, practically no wind at all. Any angler will tell you that when the sea is calm like this, chances are you won't get a good catch! However, the sea condition can change, especially over a duration of 2 nights.

These are some of the interesting catch of my friends. That grouper (keratang) was found to be about 11 kg. Not a very impressive catch, of course, but still worthwhile to occupy a space here in this blog!

Although I'm quite OK with how to catch the fish, I am just so damn lousy with the species. I really don't know this particular one, but I think the boatmen said something that sounds like "Ap Coi". I suspect it comes from a Chinese word which I'm not familiar with!

This species I'm more familiar with, locally known as the sulit tanah. Very strong fighter and can really sap the energy of the angler, especially when fighting throughout the depth of 90 metres. I'm not too worried about the size though. I know my catch is not so impressive, but I prefer the ones which are just nice for cooking—not the giants which I won't know how to fit into my fridge at home!

Another decent one, weighing about 1kg, and just nice for a serving.

The overall catch, except that I've given quite a few away to my old folks. I'd say a good variety, and most of them the kinds I like to eat too. Amongst others, I have the grouper known as lai pan, small fish (yellow tail) known as the pisang-pisang, kim sen (kurisi bali) and also the cuphi (red fish on sulit tanah).