Monday, March 28, 2011

JJ Loves Books

Elsewhere in this blog, I've mentioned that I'm not particularly concerned about wanting my JJ to be the best student in her school; not even in her class. I'm not saying that I won't be pleased—of course I would! Being the top student in school does not guarantee success in life. I will admit, however, that it does help to open more doors.

In Malaysia, Chinese kids have to do much more than just doing well in school to be successful in life. The doors I speak of don't open so easily for the non-bumiputeras. So we usually have to construct our own doors. As long as JJ tries her best in her studies, I can accept whatever's the outcome. After all, we are not all geniuses. So I will try my best to construct the doors for my JJ.

Mia is perhaps—how shall I say this—obsessed with JJ's performance in school. Each time there's an exam coming up, Mia would go to the extent of taking leave from work for a few days to revise together with JJ. In fact, I dare say if it's allowed by the school, Mia would be sitting in the class together with JJ during the exam too!

As you can probably guess, I have never been very much involved in JJ's school affairs. Mia does almost everything as far as that is concerned. That has been the case since JJ started going to school a couple of years ago. Each time after JJ's exams, Mia would be eagerly waiting for the results. And whenever JJ got a poor result, Mia would suffer something akin to a bullet wound!

It is quite normal that the schools these days would require the parents or guardians to come personally to collect the report cards. Supposedly, the teachers would then have the opportunity to discuss strengths and weaknesses, and possible means of improving the kids.

In the past, Mia would be among the first few parents getting in line at the school to collect JJ's report card. But last Saturday, she had to work and was therefore unable to make the window of between 7:30am and 10:00am at the school. So in the end daddy had to appear as the replacement together with JJ.

I had been having late nights throughout the week, so I woke up at almost 8:00am that morning. And by the time JJ was ready, it was fast approaching 8:30am. We then drove out to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. There, I decided to update Mia on the progress that morning. As expected, Mia was surprised that we weren't already at the school queuing up for the report card.

It was a little past 9:00am by the time I reached JJ's school. JJ led me up the stairs to her classroom where her teacher was busy discussing with a couple who came to collect their kid's report card. There were also a few other couples waiting for their turns. We got into the queue, and I suddenly had memories of my schooling days—the time when the most important things in life were memorising the periodic tables; and things like F = ma.

Anyway, while we were waiting for our turn, JJ started to discuss with daddy. She said mom made a promise to her. I said is that so? Dad's not aware of this promise, but I guess JJ's gonna tell dad anyway, right?

Well, what's the promise all about then? According to JJ, mom said if JJ can achieve top 5 in class, mom would buy her a computer! Maybe it was just my imagination, but I fancy that my ears were beginning to blow steam. This kind of promises, if ever they materialise in the end, would be where I come in for my part. Of course I'm not in the business of printing money; and I most certainly don't have so much cash to throw away like playing Monopoly.

I turned to JJ and quite calmly asked her why on earth would she need a computer for? And I almost fainted when she said so that she can have her own Facebook. Facebook? The kid is not even 9 years old yet, and she's talking about Face-freakin'-book!

Unfortunately, JJ did keep her end of the bargain. So now mommy—or rather, daddy—is stuck with having to keep our end of the bargain. Well, OK, I guess I can invest in a desktop for JJ, but she must be out of her mind if she thinks I'm gonna allow the Facebook nonsense!

Friday, March 18, 2011

JJ Playing Doctor

The Borneo International Marathon will be on the 1st of May, which is just a few weeks from now. For those running the full course, i.e. 42km race, it is becoming increasingly important not to miss training for the remaining weeks leading up to the event. It may be OK to miss a run or two during the weekdays, but not the long run over the weekends. However, I try my best to keep to the 3 weekday runs and 1 long weekend runs as much as I can.

Unfortunately, this lately the weather hasn't been very conducive for marathon training—it's always raining in the evenings. So one would need to have a Plan B for the training. In my case, if it's raining heavily, I would force myself to the gym and do my 10km runs on the treadmill. But if it's just a light drizzle, I would still go to the track to run. I prefer the track because running on the treadmill is just too boring.

Last week, there was a massive earthquake in Japan which triggered a horrible tsunami; and hard upon that, the nation is now struggling to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. A nuclear power plant's cooling system had been crippled in the earthquake, thus resulting in overheating. Leakages had been reported, and spikes in radioactive levels were detected in the atmosphere. Conflicting reports suggest that the radioactive levels may or may not be dangerous to humans. But to be safe, residents from the surrounding areas have been evacuated by the hundreds of thousands.

Thousands of miles away in the "Land Below The Wind", a number of idiots decided to compose a hoax via text messages for the fun of it. I haven't seen the message myself, but a fair number of my friends have received it. I was told that we are to stay indoors, especially when it's raining, because the raindrops from the sky can capture the radioactive particles in the atmosphere, thus bringing them down to the ground.

Well, yesterday evening, although it was cloudy, it was not raining. So after two days running on a treadmill, I was very happy to run on the track again. Little did I know that I would get a lecture from JJ when I arrived home after the run.

"Dad, did you run in the rain?", she asked me impatiently.

"Well, it wasn't raining this evening, Jay, perhaps just a few drops from the light drizzle," I replied, adding, "but that's hardly anything. I was all wet from my sweat rather than the raindrops."

"But, dad, you're not supposed to run in the rain!", suddenly she became excited. "The rain is poisonous and will make all your hair drop off your head, and won't grow back for a very, very long time to come!"

"Oh is that so, Jay?", I said. I knew there was a special reason why those girls were overdoing it when they did their stretching—I thought they raised their arms a tad too high, thus exposing their armpits to the sky.

I turned to JJ and asked, "Well, how did you know all this, Jay?"

She explained that Aunty Jackie told mommy about the poisonous rain based on the text message which was forwarded from Uncle Charles. And Uncle Charles in turn received that forwarded text message from another friend.

It reminded me of the time when, many years ago, Mia, upon the recommendation from a doctor, took the birth control pills, and her mom tried very hard to play doctor by saying that those pills were poisonous and would "spoil her body" somehow. She went on to recommend the "withdrawal method" of birth control. But no, thankfully, she did not demonstrate the method to us. I would probably have lost my appetite for weeks if she did.

Anyway, I asked JJ the same question I told Mia to ask her mom. I said, "Is Aunty Jackie a doctor?"

She frown and said, "Well, no, she's not. But she received that SMS from Uncle Charles."

I said, "OK, is Uncle Charles a doctor?"

"Ummm, no, he's not... but..."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Grace Period

I am not so well-versed on the issue of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), apparently something that is used in the making of some infant milk bottles. I was told that these milk bottles have been in the market for ages now, and I think it's pretty safe to assume that most people—including those who call the shots in the Health authorities in Malaysia—who've been using them all this while were not even aware of the potential health risks arising from the presence of BPA. Either that or there were insufficient evidence to support claims or suspicions of the danger of BPA to humans.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that several countries have long banned the use of BPA in milk bottles. Therefore, one is inevitably drawn to the conclusion that there must have been good reasons, albeit not amounting to concrete evidence, to at least give rise to the potential harmful effects of BPA on humans, especially young children.

As we all know, when it comes to potential danger to humans, there is just no room for mistakes. If we even so much as suspect a possible negative effect on humans, such product should immediately be withdrawn from the market, until such time when there is conclusive evidence to show otherwise. This is because it is quite often that some chemicals may have long term negative effects on the human body which are irreversible. You know what they say, better be safe than sorry.

Therefore, I welcome the recent announcement by the Health Minister, outlawing the BPA milk bottles. But what I fail to understand is the extremely long grace period of a year until March 2012 for the ban to be enforced. I can't imagine how many children in Malaysia will be exposed to the health risks—however small and remote;whatever they are—within that one year period. If the Health Minister finds sufficient grounds to ban the product, then ban it now, not a year later. Otherwise there is no meaning to make the announcement now; he could have made the announcement in March next year and enforce it there and then.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Freedom To Learn

I read with interest how the French censorship authority blocked the importation of Qurans into the country. It was unclear which part(s) of the contents of the holy book deemed offensive, but subsequent to public outcry against the censorship authority, it was later revealed that those impounded Qurans were only temporarily withheld for the purpose of stamping the words "For Muslims Only" on each of them.

It is possible that some of the Christians in France might be curious people, falling victims to their natural instinct of wanting to learn more about something they don't know much about. And of course it is entirely possible that upon reading the holy Quran, they may immediately fall in love with Islam. I can only make a wild guess that the French government, and the Christian folks in particular were worried that they may lose some of their followers; thus by stamping "For Muslims Only" on the Qurans, they had hoped that that would prevent the Christians from obeying their natural instinct to learn [more about Islam].

I see such maneuver as a very subtle means by the authority of denying the freedom of the Christians from learning more about Islam, some of whom might decide favourably for the religion.

But even with the "For Muslims Only", I wonder what actions could the authority take when a Christian decides to ignore those words, and then read the contents of the Quran anyway? I can only imagine that it is practically impossible to keep an eye on every single Christian in the country to ensure that they obey the "For Muslims Only" stamp. After all there is supposed to be no compulsion in religion. So one has to wonder why bother with the stamp at all? In fact, such an act may even reflect negatively on the country trying too hard to control the freedom of its people to learn.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


"Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight"

That is a sound advice by Edano, but I hope that part about making the homes airtight was just a figure of speech. For I see very little point in escaping the exposure to the nuclear radiation, but die of suffocation instead.

Almost a year ago, I posted an article about Malaysia's big ambition in building its first nuclear power plant by 2021. In it, I expressed my doubts on such ambition, and suggested alternative means of overcoming the future power needs of the nation. Admittedly, however, it's easier said than done!

Malaysia is well known for its lust for recognition in the global sense. It manufactured motor vehicles, built very long bridges across the sea, built very tall buildings. Hell, we even sent a model into space. In pursuing some of these ambitious plans, resources are often wasted. When the second bridge project to Singapore was aborted, the government had to pay millions upon millions in compensation. We are good with that sort of thing.

But a proposed nuclear power plant is different. It's not merely the prospect of wasting money. There is also that prospect of losing many, many lives if things were to go wrong.

A friend, remembering that earlier post in this blog on Malaysia's ambitious plan of a nuclear power plant, asked me an interesting question recently.

She said, "Would the Malaysian government have a second thought of building a nuclear power plant in light of what's going on in Japan now?"

I did not take very long to reply, "Of course not! This is Malaysia we're talking about!"

I may be wrong, but no, I don't think Malaysia's ambition is shaken in the least by what's going on in Japan.

I've heard someone said something like, "The best way to learn is by making mistakes." I don't know who was the first person who came up with that ridiculous sentence. Yet in a way, maybe there is some truth in it. So I guess Malaysia, as a nation, is adopting this approach in its development programmes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bareno Run 2011

This year I'm planning to run at least 3 full marathons, and several half marathons. Coming out of the festive season, we had a successful trip to Hong Kong in February for the Standard Chartered Hong Kong International Marathon.

After the Hong Kong Marathon, I had originally planned to focus fully on the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) which is on 01 May. Then my friend, Teo, the freak triathlon wannabe, with his amazing credit-cards-promoter skills somehow talked me into signing up for the Bareno Run, a 21km race at Stadium Bukit Jalil.

When I made up my mind to run the Bareno, I had intended it to be just another one of my Sunday long run workouts. After all, I'm running that distance on Sundays whether I'm racing or not. So no pressure on seeking a personal best (PB). These days, even running at a very leisurely pace, I could finish within 2:10. And the time limit for 21km races is usually not less than 2:30. In fact likely to be between 3:00 and 3:30.

That's what I thought then. I did not even bother to read the information in the official website until much later. And I was somewhat surprised to know that only the top 300 finishers in my category would get medals. So obviously I couldn't run too slow. Otherwise, I would come home without a medal. Another thing I found out about the race was that the terrain was gonna be quite hilly. So when I arrived at the starting line yesterday morning at Stadium Bukit Jalil, I wasn't feeling confident at all.

At the sound of the horn, I started out very slowly, perhaps at a pace of 6 mins to 7 mins per km. And of course as usual there were people who mistakenly thought they're running a sprint event. I built up my speed gradually, finally settling at a cruising pace of about 5.5 mins per km by the third km, but all the time conscious of the undulating terrains in front of me. I was, however, pleasantly surprised that though undulating, the ascents and descents were quite gradual.

Having seen an elevation chart from a blog prior to the race, I was expecting a very steep and long climb around the 9th km. So I downed a power gel at more or less the 8th km, a strategy I had hoped could provide at least a small boost up the hills. In hindsight, however, I think that was a bit too late. Perhaps it would have been better if I had taken the power gel even earlier at, say km 6.

True enough, that climb after km9 was so punishing I thought I was gonna develop cramps in my quads. But thankfully I didn't. I ran up that hill slow and steady, which felt like it was never gonna end. As I reached the top of that hill, I smiled to myself triumphantly as I conquered the entire hill without stopping. Then turning a corner a few metres away, I realised that that was not the end of the climb. I was horrified to find yet another long climb. And it was about halfway up this second hill when my legs just couldn't endure the pain. I reduced my pace to a walk and heard my heart pounding in my ears, in spite of the loud music from my walkman.

As any runner would testify, it's not such a good idea to stop running for too long. Only a few seconds at most. Otherwise, the legs would become lazy, and the dreaded cramps would come soon after! So I started running again to the top of the hill. And when that's done with, I was relieved to find a more or less level ground on the other side. I gradually built up my pace to around 5.5 mins per km again.

Shortly later, I reached a long gradual descent of perhaps 2 km or so. I took full advantage of it, building up my pace to about 5 mins per km. At about km14, I saw a 01:22 on my stopwatch. I realised that I was within range for a PB. Although I did not set out to achieve a PB, I decided there and then to give it a shot anyway.

The rest of the route, though still undulating in nature, was fair in terms of more or less equal amounts of ups and downs. I wasn't really paying much attention to the road markers. But when I saw the banner showing 1km to the finish line, the time on my watch was 01:53:45. I increased my pace as much as I could, and upon crossing the finish line, saw a 01:58:40 on my stopwatch. That was a PB for me, as I haven't been able to achieve a sub-2hrs before this. But more importantly, I received a medal immediately after I crossed the finish line.

However, to be quite honest, with the hills throughout the route, I don't believe that I could do a sub-2 hrs. And true enough, from my conversations with some friends after the race, the distance was about 0.5km shy of 21km. Oh well, I guess I will try to run another 21km race some time this year to have another shot at getting a PB for the half marathon.

So now full focus on the Borneo International Marathon on 01 May!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tricks Of The Angler

It is quite normal to find more things in common than not within family members. Maybe that's because of growing up together within the same household; or something to do with the upbringing process. But my family is somewhat different. Most of my siblings grew up separately until when we were quite old. So it's very difficult to find anything in common between all of us.

Dad the playboy lives his life like there is no tomorrow. Whatever he can enjoy today, he will make sure he enjoys today. Worry about tomorrow when that time comes. Elsewhere in this blog, I've elaborated about dad quite comprehensively. I consider him a perfect definition of tragedy. I still refer to him as the playboy, although some of my siblings prefer Indianna Jones.

Dennis is the Mr Excuse of the family. Whenever he fails in anything—and he had had lots of those—he almost always has very good reasons for his failures. In fact, I think he is gifted as far as that is concerned.

Harry is my half brother who's not so easy to understand. I sponsored him for his degree in Estate Management. He's quite a bright chap, really, but sometimes I'm disappointed to see him wasting his abilities by letting time, and hence opportunities, slip away without doing anything. Although he's smart, I find it strange that he's always having a hard time trying to understand what Dennis is saying. Maybe it would help if Dennis doesn't speak too comically, I don't know.

I am the other weird one in the family. When I set my mind to achieve something, I'm willing to sacrifice to unimaginable extent to achieve it. Discipline is my god. And as you can probably guess, my siblings and their children would try their best to escape my lectures on the topic of discipline.

When looking at the men in my family, it will be very difficult to find anything in common among us. But there is actually one thing we have in common, and that is this—all of us enjoy fishing.

Well, last Sunday, Harry and Dennis went all the way to the Sepangar Bay to fish from the seaside. I didn't even know this until Harry told me about the trip on Monday. They reached the fishing spot as early as 8am and fished up till 4pm. With Harry having trouble understanding Dennis, only god knows how they communicated with each other throughout those long hours together. But they survived the day anyway.

Dennis, the born comedian of the family (without even trying to be one), had a flair with all the tricks as an angler. I have no idea where he learned all those tricks, but one can be mesmerized by just listening to or watching him demonstrating his skills.

And this reminds me of the time when we were still young; the time when we went fishing together with my cousin, Ah Boy. Dennis was trying to show off his skill in fly-fishing. Ah Boy was fairly impressed, up to the point when Dennis accidentally hooked his upper lip. So much for fly-fishing.

Anyway, maybe the water condition wasn't right last Sunday. Or maybe the weather wasn't right. Or maybe it was the high tide; or low tide. I can't really think of too many excuses—Dennis can do much better than me as far as this is concerned. But the fishes at Sepangar Bay were on a public holiday that day. So Harry, being the younger sibling, had to watch Dennis, the supposedly more experienced angler, using all his tricks to the fullest. Thankfully, however, Dennis did not hook Harry's upper lip. Even comedians learn from past mistakes, you see.

Dennis tried several methods of tying the fish-hooks. He also tried different types of baits; including life ones. Not to mention casting his line to many different spots in the sea, near and far. Harry, I can just imagine, was amazed to learn so many possible tricks of the angler. The one thing that Dennis forgot, however, was to apply sunblock lotion on his sensitive face and arms. So if you knew the colour of prawns when subjected to heat, then you would know what Dennis looked like on Monday morning.

Anyway, the trip ended like this. Harry caught an ikan putih of perhaps half a kilo size—ikan sesat, he said. And Dennis caught nothing at all. The tricks of the angler don't always work, you see. But if I were there that day, I bet I would have had a very good laugh watching!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Window Dressing

"It took me some time because I did not want to convert simply for the sake of marriage alone."

Daphne Eleanor Iking, on embracing Islam on the same day she married businessman Azmi Abdul Rahman. [The Malay Mail]

I think Daphne is of politician material. When commenting about her recent conversion to Islam, she was careful to include that important word, "alone". The whole sentence is somewhat comical, to say the least. It begs the question: What, then, was the main reason for that conversion?

A number of my siblings have embraced Islam; and the main reason they did it was because they wanted to get married. They may not admit it, of course, but just like Iking, they converted just about the time when they were getting married to their respective Muslim spouses. Thankfully, however, none of my siblings were practising Catholics before they converted. And as far as I'm concerned, it made no significant difference whether they're Christians or Muslims.

Iking, however, is slightly different. I had visited her blog in the past, and I found it interesting that she used to have verses quoted from the Holy Bible. She also posted some articles in which she expressed her faith in God who would help her through her difficult times. I haven't been to her blog for a while now, so I don't know if there are changes there since her conversion to Islam.

Perhaps it is possible that Iking had no intention to lie to her fans. But because so many people are looking up to her as a role model, maybe she felt obliged not to disappoint them. After all, items put on display at the shops as window dressing are supposed to be beautiful and perfect—things that would seduce the shoppers to buy.

I'm convinced that that comment by Iking above was not just something that happened at the spur of the moment; it probably was a well-thought out comment which was not exactly a lie to her fans. I'm sure there were many other minor reasons why she converted.

The truth is that very, very few people would admit that they converted because they wanted to get married. Well, at least not openly. It takes a very brave person to be truthful in that sense.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

JJ's English Exam

JJ had just gone through her first term exams (primary 3). And over the last few days, she's been getting her results for the respective subjects one by one. Mia has been eagerly waiting for those results, and I can't say for sure whether JJ or mommy is more excited about them.

Well, today JJ got the result for her English paper. I'm afraid she didn't do too well—she got 90%. I'm not too overly concerned about JJ's results as much as Mia, but this evening, just out of curiosity, I actually took the trouble to glance through her English paper. A portion of the paper caught my attention; here's a snapshot of it:

These are Questions 11 to 13, and as you can see, the paper is of multiple choice format. Students were required to choose the "best sentence to fit the situation".

For Q11, the picture shows a boy standing at the fence and asking, "Is your brother at home?"

Q12 shows a boy saying to another boy, "I have five brothers." He's apparently responding to a question posed by the other boy.

Whereas Q13 shows a mother and daughter doing the dishes together in the kitchen; the mother saying, "Thank you for helping me."

In all cases, the students were supposed to choose the best responses from those available options. On the right side of each picture, you can see 4 possible answers each, and those circled ones are chosen by JJ.

Now let me give you an English test of my own. Of the three answers chosen by JJ, one is wrong. Which is it? I have a feeling that people from the science stream would generally give me a different answer from those from the arts stream. What say you? People whose children are from St James, Likas are disqualified from attempting for obvious reason.