Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Milestone

What would you do if some students find it difficult to cope with the learning of math and science in English?

What would you do if some students are unable to compete against their peers?

What would you do if too few students can pass university exams?

Those are important questions the leaders of this country have to deal with quite frequently. The solutions are quite straightforward. For the first question, the answer is to change the medium of instruction to Malay. As for the second and third questions, those are straightforward too—simply bring down the grading system so that more students can pass the exams.

I don't know what is it like in the government offices, but I know a bit about the situation in many private companies, especially the big ones—there are quite often too many bosses but very few leaders. Many of those who occupy the important positions are there either because of the number of years they've been working in that company, or because they're very good in being yes-men, or because of their racial background and who they're related to.

A very common scene in a big private company is that when something goes right, everybody would be fighting to claim credit for it; but when something goes wrong, everybody starts pointing fingers at each other. That is survival in the corporate world, I guess.

Now I happen to know that some women are very, very clever and creative. In fact, I dare say they are brilliant. But I say some—not many. For those few who are really good in their jobs, it makes a lot of sense to let them hold important positions; in fact decision-making positions. If they're really good in what they do, even better than men, I see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to make use of their knowledge and skills. After all, that can only be good for the company.

But what if they can't perform as good as the men? What is the logical thing to do? Well, I don't know about other companies, but I would choose those who I think can perform the best for the company. If it happens that women can perform the best, then of course they will get the job. If not, then I'm afraid the men will get it. This is purely looking at things from the company's point of view—it has nothing to do with the genders, really. If only 5% or 10% of the women in the company can outperform the men, then those 5% and 10% shall get the job(s), and the rest shall go to the men, and vice versa.

That's why I think the recent announcement by the government of the policy to get women to hold 30% of decision-making posts in the private sector is an ill-perceived idea. I know that announcement had probably a lot to do with the impending general elections in Malaysia. So I can understand the need to lure the women voters. But still, I say it's an ill-perceived idea!

There is just no free ride in business. You either perform to get the job; or if you can't perform, then you won't get the job. Otherwise, we're gonna have too many excess baggage which becomes a burden; people who become liabilities rather than assets to the company.

If I were the policy-maker in the government, I wouldn't formulate a "30% women in decision-making posts". Instead, I would put more emphasis on the survival of the fittest. Which means if 90% of the women can outperform the men, then they should rightfully occupy the important positions. But if the opposite is the case, then 90% of the important positions should be occupied by the men.

I think the kind of "milestone" that Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil is so proud of is nothing to shout about, really. The idea is always to work hard to achieve the 30% if it means that much to you; not have that 30% thrown onto your lap because of some sort of ill-perceived policy by a government bent on winning the general elections.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Standard Chartered KL International Marathon 2011

After foregoing the KL Marathon a few times, I finally did it yesterday morning (26 June). But instead of running the 42km, I only ran the half marathon, i.e. 21km. Weeks before the race, I was a bit worried about the slopes. And the elevation chart found in the official website did not help at all—it appeared like there was a killer uphill slope at about 2/3 of the route. And I haven't been any good at slopes.

Going into this race, my previous best time for the half marathon was 1:58:22 in the Bareno Run, set in March this year. However, after the Bareno Run, I was given to understand that the distance was a bit short, perhaps by a few hundred metres! The Bareno was a tough hilly race; so I had a feeling that if the full distance of 21.1km was run, I might have taken around 2hrs or even slightly over.

My target in the KL Marathon was to improve slightly by at least a minute. A few weeks leading to the race, I've been working on my speed during midweek training, so I was quite confident of achieving my target, while at the same time a bit worried about the slopes.

But in the end, the thing that was to prevent me from achieving my target was the overwhelming crowd at the flag off. Although the race venue was just about 5 minutes from the Frenz Hotel, I found myself way at the back of the crowd at the starting line. I only crossed the starting line about 2 minutes after the start horn.

The first 3km of the race was quite frustrating for me as I had to run so slow—almost painfully so! It was so hard to break my way through the crowd. Over the several weeks of training, I've built up my pace to about 5mins:15secs per km average. I had planned to run the first km at 5mins:30secs before cruising into the 5mins:15secs pace. But instead I started at around 6mins:30secs for a good 3km. Upon reaching the highway, I was finally able to break free and surge ahead. But it was so hard to regain back lost time.

I had also come up with the strategy of consuming packs 2 energy gels (I usually consume only 1 pack for a half marathon) in anticipation of the slopes. I took the first pack at about Km8, which was about 46 minutes into the race; and the second pack at Km17.5, just shortly after a long but gradual ascent.

Some parts of the route merged with that of the full marathon. But beyond the 3km point, the run was mainly smooth going. This race was a major breakthrough for me as I ran throughout the race without walking except for the very short stops at several drink stations. However, as I was approaching the 19km point, it became clear to me that my hope of achieving a personal best (PB) wasn't gonna happen.

As I turned the long stretch of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, we suddenly merged with the 10km and full marathon runners; and it suddenly became very critical to sneak through the crowd for the final dash to the finish line. By then I was no longer paying much attention to my stopwatch, but I'm convinced that I was doing a 5-minute km. Passing Sogo, then Frenz Hotel, and making a slight turn, I could see the finish line ahead at Padang Merdeka. Although it was an impressive sprint, I saw a 1:58 plus on my stopwatch when I crossed the finish line. I was hoping to at least achieve a 1:57 plus, but it was not meant to be. Then I had hoped perhaps to still achieve a PB by only a few seconds, but that too seemed too far-fetched.

A classic case of so-far-and-so-close. Crestfallen, I proceeded to collect my finisher medal. And emerging on the other side, I saw Jonas who had finished his half marathon almost 20 minutes earlier than I did. Ivy was also there, and was kind enough to take this shot (thanks Ivy).

I waited a good 20 minutes or so before my brother, Harry, finished his half marathon, followed by Mia about 15 minutes later than him. It was a fine morning; it wasn't hot during the race, although it was still humid as usual. We were on our way back to the hotel when I bumped into my friend, CP Tan, who took this photo of the three of us (thanks CP).

The whole day, today, I've been trying to check the official results from the organiser's website, but it was jammed up so bad it's hardly possible to even get to the main page. But shortly ago, I finally managed to access the website and happy to find that I've achieved a PB after all, although by a mere 5 seconds over the Bareno's!

Official Results:

Cornelius Koh: 1 hour 58 mins 17 secs (PB)

Euphemia Thien: 2 hours 35 mins 11 secs

Harry Koh: 2 hours 19 mins 26 secs (PB)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Standard Chartered KL International Marathon—Final Countdown

Well, this is it, tomorrow will be the Standard Chartered KL International Marathon starting and finishing at Padang Merdeka. However, because of a bit of lingering injury on my left foot, I'm only running the half marathon (21km). Actually, I did not plan to do the KL Marathon this year to allow my foot to heal. But then I realised that a fair number of my friends are running. So in the end I decided to compromise by running the half marathon.

My best official time for a half marathon so far is a little over 1:58 in the Bareno Run in March. So tomorrow I'm trying to achieve a 1:57 for a personal best (PB). Since it's just a half marathon, I'm running in my adizero Boston, thus risking aggravating my foot injury.

Well, butterflies in the stomach; thinking of all the things that can go wrong. More report after the race tomorrow. Keeping my fingers crossed...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wake-up Call

I knew that the late Andrew Voon had many, many friends. Yet I was fairly surprised to see the size of the crowd at his funeral this morning at the All Saints Cathedral, Karamunsing. A fair number of his friends were from faraway places; they came all the way to pay their last respect to this great man.

It's been ages ago since the last time I set foot in a Catholic church, let alone an Anglican church. But the ambience of a church—the huge cross on the altar, the sound of the organ, the rows upon rows of pews—they are generally all the same. I also noticed some modern improvements in terms of air-conditioning and projectors used to project biblical verses or prayers on the wall.

Teo, Jack and Diong amongst others helped to push the casket through the aisle leading to the altar. Jeffrey, Andrew's only son, read a passage from the Bible, followed by the delivery of the eulogy by Andrew's sister. I thought that was well-organised—until the time when the minister started his sermon. After reading a few verses from the Bible, he noted that Andrew died so suddenly and then wondered what would he have said if he could speak.

Addressing the audience, he asked, "What if the dead could speak; what would he say?"

And while everyone in the audience was still recovering from the suddenness of his question, the minister answered himself impressively.

"If Andrew could speak now," he said, "there would be 3 things he would say..."

And then he went on to speculate how Andrew would tell his friends and loved ones about looking after their health; but ultimately to believe in God and Jesus so that their souls would "live forever".

I kinda stirred a bit in my seat when the minister started talking about soul. After all, I don't believe in any religion. Then I thought of Andrew and what I know about his character. Although I'm also speculating, I did not agree with the minister at all.

As a matter of fact, I, too, was thinking about the suddenness of Andrew's death. All of us have the tendency to take things for granted. We may forget or neglect certain things in life until it's too late.

Then it occurred to me that although I couldn't remember the exact day, it must have been almost 3 weeks ago since the last time I reminded Mia that I love her. Andrew's death, though a big blow to all of us, is a wake-up call to me. Sometimes we tend to lose track of time and then forget to say or do the important things in life.

At the first opportunity I had on Sunday morning, I reminded Mia that I love her still; and I'm so glad that she said "yes" to me 19 years ago.

If Andrew had only 3 things he could say, I'm sure one of them would be to tell his wife and children how much he loves them.

But I admit that I'm also speculating, just like the minister.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fashionable Sport

My daughter, JJ, will be 9 years old in a couple of weeks' time. At this stage, it's hard to tell if she will be active in sports when she grows up. If I had it my way, I'd love to see her to be good in some sports, even if she doesn't end up representing her school or country.

I'm probably being too ambitious here—and I seriously doubt that I can stop her if she chose to—but I will try my best to discourage her from playing tennis. No, really, I mean it; this is a matter of life and death. If ever she learns to play the game, there is that risk of her putting on what appears like pyjamas; and I would surely die of a heart attack seeing her in that outfit.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Four Marathons & A Funeral

It must have been around mid-2008 when I was lucky enough to have decided to register for the Borneo International Marathon (BIM), the first of such event to be organised in Sabah in over 20 years. That was also the first ever race I've joined.

I was unsure of my level of fitness, so I ran only the half marathon that year. That was a significant turning point in my life, not only because of the discovery of a new passion in running, but also because I found a new friend, Andrew Voon; he was the Race Director of the Borneo International Marathon.

Andrew had been running for a while prior to 2008. And because of his passion for running, he organised the BIM, against all odds, together with some of his running buddies. That the BIM is a success is a fact no one could deny as evidenced by the gradual increase in the size of participation as well as the size of funds raised for charity.

Well, it's been four marathons organised by Andrew, and I still can't imagine how he pulled them off, considering that he had to juggle between running his own business which required frequent overseas trips, and his passion in running, biking and fellowship with his friends. But like a magician, he conjured up tricks upon tricks to bring the success story of the BIM to new heights without fail.

Among our circle of friends, Andrew played the role of the organiser all too well. He'd be the one who'd organise gatherings. Pre-marathon dinner, post-marathon BBQ, post-training drinking sessions, Christmas Potluck party—you name it, he never ran out of ideas to keep us all on our toes!

It was in Hong Kong earlier this year, when we were there to run the Hong Kong Marathon, that I shared a room with him. We had lots of time to chit-chat, and I actually found myself thinking that I was so lucky to have found such a good friend in Andrew.

We're approaching the end of June, but Andrew had already lined up so many more events for the rest of this year. Apart from running the KL Marathon next Sunday, he had also registered for the Sydney Marathon in September. He's also planning to join the Mount Kinabalu Climbathon, the Miri Triathlon, the Sabah Adventure Challenge in November. He's just so full of life...

That's why I was shocked beyond words to have received the news of his passing this morning. He went to the Likas jogging track and was into the first few laps of the intended 18km run, when he suddenly collapsed onto the track and never regained consciousness again. He is survived by wife, Carol, and 4 kids.

The man who brought us all the Borneo International Marathon had enriched many lives with the passion of running, promoted Sabah as a marathon destination, while at the same time raised funds for charity. I was there at the funeral parlour this evening to pay my last respect to a great man, a dear friend; without any doubt a very big loss to the community.

Thank you, Andrew Voon; rest in peace my friend; your passion lives on in the rest of us. You will be missed.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Balls & Bicycles

First thing tomorrow morning, I'm going on an overnight deep sea fishing trip with my brothers, Dennis and Harry. We will only be back on Sunday evening. So I had no choice but to squeeze in my 16km run this morning instead of Sunday. However, I will have to give cycling and swimming a miss for this week.

According to Teo, they're going for a 40km time trial cycling tomorrow morning between the Sabah Trade Centre and Sepangar Navy Base and back; they're trying to achieve an average speed of 35km per hour. I think even if I could join them, I doubt that I can achieve a 35km per hour average. I'm just not up to that level yet. Maybe if I trained hard enough for a couple of months, I may have a shot at it.

A couple of weeks ago, Teo had planned to try his luck at the Kokol hills in Menggatal. It's been some years since the last time I went to Kokol. In fact, I didn't even know that the road is sealed now. According to Teo, he had been planning to do Kokol since January as a preparation for the PD Triathlon, but he said he had no balls to actually carry out his plan. But now that the PD Triathlon is near, he wanted to just go ahead with his plan.

It happened that Amelia and her husband were also keen to try out Kokol. I did not know what to expect, but decided that the worst that could happen was to surrender and turn back halfway up the hills.

Through a series of SMS exchanges with Dr Peter, I told him what Teo told me. I said I did not know much about Kokol, but I could only guess that Amelia's gonna suffer up there, since she for certain did not have balls? Dr Peter replied thoughtfully, asking me how could I be so sure that Amelia hadn't any balls and Teo had?

I guess he had a point there. I had to reluctantly admit that I could only deduce that Teo had grown a set of balls between January and now, but there was no way to be sure. It's unclear where's the connection between balls and bicycles, but I did say to Peter that ball bearings can reduce frictions?

Anyway, it just so happened that on the day we were supposed to go to Kokol, most of Teo's friends did not turn up at Sabah Trade Centre. So Teo decided at the last minute to ride all the way to Salut, passing the huge bridge and Rasa Ria Resort to that small roundabout near Tuaran; and then all the way back to Likas. That was a total of over 70km, so it was quite a good workout on a harvest festival holiday.

I found out recently that Kokol is a 16km uphill climb. I think Kokol can be a very challenging workout. I'd imagine even a 1km uphill ride would be very punishing for the thighs, so 16km uphill would be something to think twice about. No wonder Teo was talking about balls—although I still can't see the connection.

I think I will ride Sepangar at least a few more weeks before attempting Kokol. I have the feeling that Teo won't be able to make Kokol before PD Triathlon anyway. So that gives some of us new cyclists a bit of breathing space to train first.

But for now, let's see if I could come home with lots of fish on Sunday!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Obedient Wives

"A husband who was kept happy in the bedroom would have no reason to stray or seek out prostitutes or indulge in other social vices"

—Vice President of Obedient Wives Club, Dr Rohaya Mohamad [The Star]

That looks like a logical hypothesis by the good doctor. In a perfect world, I would even say that's a sound statement. But unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. I think Dr Rohaya is up for a big surprise.

Many years ago, I used to know a man, J, who was married with two kids. His wife and kids adored him very much. He wasn't a wealthy man—far from it—his wife had to work to help support the family. From what I could see on the surface, it was such a happy family.

However, I failed to understand why J would frequently cheat on his wife. He would go to the extent of having sex with a parking attendant at the back seat of his car. Being the curious creature that I was (I still am), I actually had a serious talk with J in a coffee shop one day. I was basically trying to understand why he was seeking sex outside; was he not happy with his wife?

He said he loved his wife still, and happy with their sex life. But—and this is the interesting part—there's a kind thrill in cheating on his wife and able to get away with it! He said sex, when forbidden, had some sort of magical excitement in it. It had nothing to do with whether he was happy with his sex life with his wife; nothing to do with his love for his wife!

Men seek sex outside of their bedrooms for numerous reasons which have nothing to do with whether or not they are "happy in the bedroom". The onus of a successful marriage lies not only on the wives, but equally on the husbands. And for as long as Dr Rohaya fails to account for that factor in her hypothesis, her formula for a "harmonious marriage" is bound to be in vain.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a married man myself, and I would be the last person to complain if my wife could serve me "better than a first-class prostitute", whatever that means. Maybe it's just my nature, but I'm not a believer of getting anything for free. If I want my wife to respect and obey me, then I must earn that respect and obedience. And it is there that the emphasis must be made, instead of trying to teach the wives to obey and serve their husbands as a duty; or as a condition to secure a place in heaven, the holy book regardless.

I'm convinced that if a husband is loyal to his wife and carries out his duties as the head of the family, his wife would willingly serve and obey him without even realising it! There is then no need to teach the wife to be an obedient servant to the husband.

But talk about creativity—Obedient Wives Club. Bah!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Puppy Love

I know this is not easy to believe, but I honestly don't spend like 23 hours a day on Facebook. Between work, running, cycling, swimming, blogging and reading, you can imagine how little time I have left for Facebooking. But sometimes, I allow myself a bit of time checking out what's happening on Facebook.

More than 25 years ago, I had a crush on a pretty girl—I don't know if that's what people would describe as "puppy love". I can still remember how I just wished that I had her as my girlfriend. But I had no guts to tell her how I felt. Maybe I was afraid that I'd be rejected; that would surely have been painful to accept!

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that most women would find me too boring—I have no style; I don't even smoke and drink; and I don't go to the disco where the sound is as loud as the engine room in a power plant.

Many years have since elapsed since the last time I saw her, and I have almost forgotten all about her. Then as fate would have it, while checking out the Facebook search engine, I stumbled upon the name which I haven't heard of or seen for such a long time. I clicked on the profile photo, and true enough, it was the same girl from over 25 years ago!

I was like, "Whoa! What the hell happened to that slender sexy body? Where did that extra 100 pounds of fats come from?"

But actually, I think it would have been different if I had been brave enough to approach her, and we became a couple all those years ago. Love is like that—if it works, you just fall increasingly deeper in love over the years to the extent that the physical changes would become almost unnoticeable!

But still, what the hell happened?...