Friday, July 29, 2011

Work, Love & Sacrifice

Over the years I have had several Indonesian maids working for me in my home. I think there was once a spell of about 9 months that we survived without a maid. It's possible to cope if it's absolutely necessary, though it would be very, very stressful because both Mia and I have fulltime jobs. When we are not working, I spend a lot of time on sports, e.g. running, cycling and swimming. Mia is into running too, but she's also very much into guiding Jamie in her studies.

Anyway, as I was saying, we have had several maids. Generally speaking, if I had it my way, I would like my maid to work for at least 3 years, assuming of course that there is no problem like stealing habit etc. But unfortunately the reality is that they very rarely can last that long. I see these people for the most part trapped in their way of life. I don't quite know how to explain it, really, but there is this kind of mentality that makes their destiny sealed forever. It's almost like when you see one of them, you see all of them already! I know it sounds almost cruel to generalise people like that, but I don't mean it that way, honest! I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I'm bound to come across, say, one in a hundred of them who are very good in what they do. Just that I haven't been lucky enough to find one—so far. I have had a bit of experience, for example, with anger management. I've had some compulsive lairs and plain lazy bums. Not to mention those who apparently ate more than they worked.

That's why when a new maid arrived at our doorstep in February this year, I knew that she probably won't last very long too. However, y'know, when you don't have many choices, you simply accept something and then hope for the best to happen. Even if they are 99% the people I have dealt with in the past, there is always that 1%, you see.

I need not go into the details of her daily routine. Of course there will be the laundry to deal with; the cooking and washing; and generally keeping the house tidy. She had her 2-hour beauty sleep every afternoon without fail, of course; plus every weekend off day. Needless to say, there were several occasions when she failed to return from her weekend rest days. I threatened to cut her salary when she failed to return to work, but never actually did it. Not that the threat had any impact on her anyway—she was still unable to return home occasionally. I always paid her salary on time each month.

I'm not very fussy as an employer, and I'm not in the habit of looking over her shoulders all the time to check what she's doing; I'm not sure if I have had even 10 sentences on average exchanged between us per day.

There was no restriction on what she could eat or drink in my house. I have heard of some people who would restrict food consumption; and they would even beat their maids. It never failed to amaze me that there are such employers around, but, y'know, it takes all sorts to make the world!

Anyway, she ate whatever we ate. She enjoyed watching TV; and she spent on average about an hour chatting on the phone every morning at about 10am-11am. I've never bothered to find out who's that guy she's been talking to. I only got the hear his voice for a little while when I was on leave one day and the call came in. As my phone bills would show, she would also call that friend on a daily basis. I don't know what was the important discussion all about, but it is amazing how some people can talk for hours per session, really!

She wasn't the only one with the weakness on the phone. I suppose love is like that, you just can never run out of things to say to each other. In fact, I guess even if you talked about a load of rubbish, it is still OK, as long as you can hear the voice of that loved one.

It was around noon last Monday when I received a text message from her. She said that her sister-in-law had passed away in her village in Indonesia. So she had no choice but to make arrangements to try to go back to her village to attend the funeral. The news caught me unprepared. I had asked my previous maids before about the amount of time for them to travel back to their village from KK. Basically, it would take a day to travel from KK to Tawau. From Tawau, they would have to catch a ferry to Nunukan. In Nunukan, depending on availability of seats, they would have to catch another ferry to travel further south. All in all, if there is no delay, the journey would take about a week. But when they arrive in Indonesia, they would have to travel even further inland, sometimes by bus, sometimes by other means of transport. And that can take a few more days.

As you can probably guess, I must seriously doubt that she would be able to make it for the funeral. But it didn't really matter. For one thing, it's none of my business whether or not she's able to make it in time for the funeral. For another thing, of course the whole death thing was just a bunch of craps.

I arrived home at around 6pm that evening, immediately sat down at the dining table and told her that I'm cancelling her workpass. A few hours earlier I contacted the agent who helped to get the paperwork done. Then I paid her salary. She had by then packed her belongings in a tiny bag. I thanked her for her services and wished her all the best, and then she was off, and that's the last I saw of her.

That night I was thinking what did I do wrong. Have I raised my voice or have I offended her in some way without realising it. Or perhaps my wife scolded her? I could think of no such incidence. But then again, maybe I just did not realise it. I'm after all just human and not immune from making mistakes?

The next day, I started making phone calls. And then finally I found the actual reason why she quit. Never mind how I found out, I just did. Now I invite my readers to guess what's the reason of the resignation. Some of those people I have already spoken to about this—you know who you are—are disqualified automatically. Let's hear it from the rest of my readers.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jungle Trekking

Last April, some of my friends completed over 60km's worth of ultra trail race in Tambunan over a 2-day event. For a while before that I was contemplating joining that race, but eventually decided against it, because it was just too close to the Borneo International Marathon, of which I was to run a 42km race.

Then recently I found out that there will be another Sabah Adventure Challenge (SAC) in November this year. There will be 3 categories—100km (to be completed within a total of 36 hours, including sleep, meals and toilet breaks), 50km (24 hours) and 25km (14 hours). The organiser named the event Ultra Trail Marathon: The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT).

I don't know why I did it, really, but after thinking for a week or two, I finally signed up for the 100km event. Mia signed up for the same event too. In hindsight, perhaps it would have made more sense to try the 60km ultra in Tambunan first before attempting TMBT. After all, I've never done anything like this before!

Soon after the registration for TMBT, it began to dawn on me that trail running is almost nothing at all like the several 42km marathons that I've completed. Participants will be running through the Crocker Range, through jungles and thick undergrowth; possibly wade through streams and rivers. And of course my biggest phobia of all—leeches (why did God create such a creature anyway?) and the many, many hills and mountain ranges throughout.

Doctors Helen and Liaw were there in Tambunan in April. So a bunch of us decided to ask them to organise a training programme for us newbies. Helen was kind enough to draw up a schedule over several weekends up to November, the first of which was this morning starting from Kibambangan in Penampang.

As usually is the case, many people said that they would come along, but eventually only 6 of us arrived at the Penampang public library, the meeting point for the trip—Tan Yoke Lee, Jonas, Jack and Judy, Helen and I. We then drove to Kibambangan which was about 9km away. As we were about to start, Liaw arrived in his truck. He was supposed to be in a plane heading for Indonesia, but somehow decided to join us instead.

We started by crossing the river on a hanging bridge, and then immediately after that was a steep climb up to seemingly nowhere into the jungle. And immediately it was obvious that it's gonna be a very punishing morning. We spent perhaps 15 mins or so before reaching the top of that first ascent. And although that was already harsh enough for my thighs, according to Liaw, that was just the warm up. In my mind, I was like, "That ridiculous climb was just a warm-freaking-up?"

Jonas and Liaw then left us behind and started running into the jungle upfront like wild gazelles. The rest of us remained with Helen. It wasn't really trail running; more like a brisk walk, but it felt every bit like the later stages of running marathons anyway.

After what seemed like eternity—although actually it was merely a few minutes later—we came to a clearing, and we were pleasantly surprised to arrive at a dirt road. I was quite happy to be out of the jungle where it was very hard to walk through uneven surfaces with so many tree roots and undergrowth. But my happiness was short-lived as the searing morning sun made me wish to be back into the shades again.

We walked on that road for perhaps half an hour or so before coming to a small hut which I thought had no reason for its existence. There, Liaw and Jonas greeted us with wide smiles. Liaw said that they had been there for 20 minutes, waiting for us, and I suddenly felt my heart fell to my stomach!

By then I was fully soaked in my sweat. The heat and humidity were just terrible. I was still trying to catch my breath and enjoying the view when Helen suddenly announced that we would shortly proceed uphill into the thicker jungle ahead for about an hour before turning back. The mere thought of more hills to come made my knees grow weak, but the pride in me fought on! She told Liaw and Jonas to go ahead as far as they could, and to turn back after an hour. We would also take the same route, but of course slower than those two animals. We would all come back together when we meet them on their way back.

As we walked into the jungle, we got to a path of perhaps a few hundred metres long with very thick undergrowth. And I was thinking of scorpions, insects and even snakes that might be lurking on the ground. In fact, we did see a lonely scorpion earlier.

More unending hills ahead. I thought Tan Yoke Lee was doing great, although I was wondering how she managed to climb those hills without any muscles in her body? (Tan, I think if you gained 20lbs, no one would realise the difference) We went further and further into the jungle. Helen brought us into a wrong path and we had to turn back, but actually we eventually ended up in the same path again. We soon became used to Helen's favourite tagline, i.e. "This is all a part of the training."

About an hour later, Helen turned to us and said—as if talking to herself, almost—"Shall we just stop here and wait for Liaw and Jonas on their way back?".

I could see a sigh of relief on Jack's face. In fact, I thought I saw a smile. But then before any of us could answer that sentence, which sounded so much like a question, Helen answered herself impressively, "I think we should just continue for a few more minutes lah..."

And Jack, who's been mostly quiet throughout, suddenly went "Continue ah?"

Well, we continued further up that ridiculous hill. But after a few minutes Jack decided to stop. The rest of us braved on. We finally met Liaw and Jonas, and all of us made our way back together. But after a short while, those two were nowhere to be seen again.

The return leg was also exhausting. Even downhill going was tough on the knees and quads. We made several short stops in between. Jack achieved the record of falling down 10 times. It was quite a relief when we finally reached our cars after about 4.5 hours.

Later on, Helen looked at her GPS and told us that we covered about 14km today. Hmmm... so 14km in 4.5 hours, huh? These days, I can run 14km at the park in under 90 mins fairly easily. Doesn't seem to me like the 100km in November through the jungles and hills will be a piece of cake, that's for sure. In fact, I'm not even sure that it will be "the most beautiful thing". But I will take the organiser's words for it. I'm beginning to think this whole thing is a very big mistake now. But let's see what happens as we progress further in our training programme.

We changed into our clean clothing. But I realised that I had forgotten to bring a clean underwear. It was kinda weird putting on my shorts without underwear. The thing dangling freely and all, if you know what I mean?

We then found our way to a vegetarian restaurant where I spent most of the time eating crossed legged. Let me tell you that it's not such a good idea for men to wear shorts without underwear!

Jonas is now all excited to go back to Kibambangan again, and eagerly wanting to try to go further into the jungle. The rest of us mortals will have to recover from sore legs first. My right knee is also acting up now. So we'll see what happens next Sunday. One thing is for sure—there is just no way we can complete the 100km in 36 hours with our pace today. Come November, I have the feeling that many people will regret that they signed up for the 100km race!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Paranoid Labelling

Some people have a curious obsession of wanting to label everything in sight. If there is a single item lying around the house without a label on it, it would be a torment to them.

Such is the paranoid obsession of JJ's grandpa. He has been a retired civil servant for some years now. I have a shrewd suspicion that he starts his days scanning around the house in search of what items still unlabelled. And of course it would be very difficult to find one, because he has been keeping himself occupied by labelling household items on a daily basis for years now. But if he sees an unlabelled item at all, I suspect that would make his day—at least he has a project for the day!

Whenever I buy anything at all for JJ, I'm always prepared for at least a bit of disappointment, because I know it's just a matter of time before grandpa would vandalise it. Take this beautiful bag, for example, which I bought for JJ. Don't you agree that it's a nice bag?

Well, as expected, in no time, grandpa vandalised it with these words on the top portion of the bag so that the whole world can see who it belongs to.

Of course JJ's clear folder needs to be labelled too. Who knows if someone else may mistakenly take it for his or her own.

Pencil and crayon cases will also need to be labelled. How else would everyone else know who it belongs to?

But just in case they missed that label on the cover of the case, then they are bound to see another label on the inside of it. Brilliant, isn't it?

And don't forget, even pens and pencils should be labelled too!

Just in case you're wondering—no, I don't have high blood pressure. All the running, cycling and swimming have helped to bring down my blood pressure to 110/80. I'm not sure how long that will last though.

Stress Test, Wedding & Offertory

A few years ago, I decided to start the routine of doing a stress test on an annual basis. Most people would not even think of doing the stress test until after the age of 50. In fact some people would not do it at all until the doctor tells them to.

From a young age, I have always been active in sports. If it's just a matter of jogging 2km to 3km, 3 times a week, maybe I would not bother with the stress test. But since I'm running several marathons in a year, I reckoned that it's a good idea to ensure that my heart is up to the workload. At the very least, I thought I would have the peace of mind. Doing the stress test is no guarantee, of course, since I might still have some sort of heart problems which the machine can't detect. But at least I've done my part.

So last Saturday it was time again for another stress test at Dr Raj's clinic. But first thing Saturday morning, I went cycling with some friends. So by the time that I reached the clinic, my heart rate was abnormally high at 75-80. My normal resting pulse these days is around 50. There was a long queue at the clinic, so much so that by the time I was done with the test, I had missed my swimming lesson. The test itself wasn't very long—I spent only about 15 minutes on the treadmill, and completed level 5 of the test. Dr Raj gave me a clean bill of health.

At the office this afternoon, Harry made a shocking request. He said during his wedding next month, would Mia and I do the honour of doing the offertory. Although I did not check my pulse then, it must have been in the high 90s upon hearing that word "offertory" alone. I was, like, "Offer—what?"

Of course it is no secret that I'm not a practising Catholic. It's been so long ago since the last time I went to church to pray. I can still remember confessing to the priest how I threw away that awful pancake grandma made for me on my way to school. And I just refused to believe that all I had to do was to go back to my seat and say 30 Hail Marys, and God would forgive me.

Although I attended a funeral in an Anglican church recently, I am for the most part, quite lost when it comes to church matters. That is also why that word offertory is a foreign-sounding word to me.

Now I'm sure you've experienced the time when you found yourselves in a seminar, and the speaker was saying something which sounded profound which was, unfortunately, completely incomprehensible. Yet you did not raise any question, because all the rest in the audience appeared to know perfectly well what he's talking about? So you struggle in your misery to pretend that you understood too!

I dread the thought of doing the offertory thing—whatever that is—and then the priest would open his arms, raising them to the heavens, and then say something like, "Let us pray..."

No amount of stress test at Dr Raj can help, and I can see myself collapsing there and then because of a heart attack. I have long forgotten my Hail Mary and Our Father in Heaven, you see. I suppose I can mumble something like what Mr Bean did in church, but I can't count on the priest not paying full attention on me!

No—I think I will pass on the offertory ritual. But I'm so happy that Harry and Buddy will be married very soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

ISM Hunt 2011

The ISM Hunt 2011 was organised last Sunday, 10th July, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of The Institution of Surveyors Malaysia. The Clerk-of-Course (CoC) was Kena Tembak aka Main Tembak.

The format of the hunt was like this:

45 route questions (2 points each) separated into 2 legs of 25 questions and 20 questions respectively. Challenges comprising trivia questions (10 points) and finding one's way to the Old Post Office Building (5 points) to collect the questions and tulips for Leg 1 (Part A). Time control was 6 hours plus 30 minutes penalty time (2 points deducted per 5 minutes' block). 4 treasure questions (5 points each).

Compared to the questions set in the Palliative Care Association Treasure Hunt 2009, Team Kena Tembak did extremely well in this hunt. I think they have come a long way in balancing the varying difficulty levels in the questions for this hunt. And the tougher ones were also well spread. I would prefer at least one of the four treasures to be cryptic. But we were unlucky anyway because even though we stopped by several places, we failed to find the required items, thus losing 10 points just like that! I have had a long history of losing points for solved treasures, I don't know why!

Perhaps a bit of complaint in the tulips which I thought was somewhat confusing, although once you get the hang of it, it should be smooth-going. My brother, Dennis, took the role of driver and navigator, and he went the wrong way a few times, thus losing some precious minutes.

A few weeks before this hunt, I was at risk of not joining it since my team members were unable to hunt. Edward had something on that day, so he opted out. He has been the driver for a while now. He doesn't really contribute much as far as solving clues. Dennis is also very weak in cryptic clueing, and he doesn't seem to have much more scope of improving. Vivian decided to join her colleagues in her original team. So for a while I was contemplating not joining, until I found out that Claire and Christy could come onboard. We rarely have hunts here in KK, so if I can join, I would certainly do so, even if I don't have my own team! I renamed my team Megapawns Reboot.

I don't have much to comment on the questions—I think I can safely say that about half of them were very straightforward ones, with almost no cryptic element in them. For example, a picture of Michelle Obama led to the answer: First Lady (Men's) Hairdressing Centre; "LEMBU-LEMBU SIBUK DI SINI" required "Cow Cow Busy" as the answer.

A bit of defects in grammar, but no major impact on the solution:



I suppose I can live with the missing "TO" after the word "REFERRED", but I'd like to do things exactly right if I can help it.

In terms of style, I'm OK with the clues, but I prefer the surface reading to be slightly more elegant in that the storyline should be meaningful or even amusing.



It's hard to imagine what's the "story" behind the clue, but I guess it fits the answer very well. However, I'm glad to note that almost all of the questions were sound. The only one question that I feel worth discussing:



Elsewhere I have commented against the violation of basic cryptic clueing rules. For the benefit of the new hunters, there are two basic rules in cryptic clueing:

1) The setter may not mean what he says;

2) But he must say what he means

The first rule is quite straightforward—it means exactly that. He fashions out the clue in such a way so that the surface reading appears to mean something other than his true intention. By means of wordplay he tries to deceive the solver by bringing him as far away as possible from the scent of the solution!

The second rule is a bit more complicated. No matter how the setter twists the sentences, he must say what he means. There are exceptions, of course, such as "built-in" indicators. For example "EARTHQUAKE" may yield HEART, because that word "QUAKE" is an anagram indicator, thus resulting in the rearrangement of the letters in EARTH to form HEART. If the setter says "LIGHT" in his clue, he may mean it as a noun (something produced by an electric bulb); or he may mean it as an adjective (not heavy). Or perhaps some other synonyms. But he is bound by what he says!

When the setter says THERAPIST, he cannot then claim that he means that as two separate words, i.e. THE and RAPIST. To do so will violate the second rule above!

However, I must hasten to say that in KL apparently it has become fashionable for CoCs to use words which they don't mean such as in this example. So I guess it is all a matter of taste and style, but not adhering to cryptic clueing rule.

In one of my own hunts, I set the following question:

Q1) This business runs a partial translation?


Notice that I used the word "RUNS" in the question, but I meant it as two separate elements, i.e. "RUN" and "S". Only the "RUN" portion is required to be translated into Malay, whereas the "S" remains undisturbed. Have I violated my own policy? My defence is that I did say what I meant, because I supported the "RUNS" by saying the clue involved a "partial translation" only.

My contention is that if the setter says the answer is UNIT, then he is bound by that word and its synonyms, and only within those parameters. I disagree that he is then allowed to claim that he meant UNIT as two separate elements, i.e. "U" and "NIT", so that the "NIT" can be equated to "TICK" to derive the answer. At the very least, my view is that the setter should have included a "?" at the end of the clue to signal some sort of indirect use of the word UNIT.

I think Claire and Christy have the capacity to go a long way in treasure hunting, and if opportunity arises again in the future, I would not hesitate to welcome them back into my team.

When we failed to find 2 treasures, I knew that we were in big trouble. Many of the weaker teams found at least 3 treasures. So even before the results were announced, I told my team mates that we would be out of the top 5! And true enough, we ended up 7th! It was a good hunt nonetheless, and I would congratulate the CoC for a job well done!

Results of the hunt (full score 125):

1) 110pt—Richard Tsen, Jeffrey Fong, Liaw Lam Thye, Florence Lajangang

2) 109pt—Teo Chen Lung, Leslie Yew, Tan Cher Kian, Frederick Samson

3) 109pt—Ernie Jason Ripin, Roland Ripin, Jude Ripin

4) 107pt—Insan Muslimin, Felix Joikon, Stella Moluntang, Daisy Mak

5) 104pt—Malcolm Abidin, Talissa Kiandee, Andrea Abidin, Callum Abidin

6) 104pt—Harry Koh, Buddy Jiliun, Sophia Lai, Raymond Woo

7) 98pt—Cornelius Koh, Dennis Koh, Claire Andrew, Christy Kong

8) 97pt—Ellen Yee, Mary Lokupi, Shirley Lim, Tsen Mei Fong

9) 92pt—Edwin Sabinus, Denny Lajitan, Mervyn Tham, Jeffrey Ismail

10) 90.5pt—Grace Chong, Vivian Cham, Joanna Stidi, Chan Mon Hueg

11) 90pt—Eileen Yeoh, Lee Tse Jim, Serene Liew, Moina Liew

12) 89pt—Gregory George, Dominic George, Clare Fabian, Dinah Mojiloh

13) 85.5pt—Ag Sarpudin, Zurinah, Jaffry, Agku Abd Rahim

14) 83pt—Victoria Jingulam, Irene Lee, Jennifer Julius

15) 80.5pt—Thomas Wong, Millie Teng, Terence Wong, Melvin Wong

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prevention vs Cure

Almost 4 years ago, in November 2007, I posted an article entitled "Animals in us", which attracted some comments from the readers of this blog. I expressed my disagreement with the so-called "peaceful" BERSIH demonstration. It takes just one idiot to make trouble, and then all hell breaks lose. I tried to justify my belief in that article, but it wasn't easy to convince frustrated or angry people.

Then about two weeks later there was another "peaceful" demonstration. And I wrote another article entitled "Animals unleashed". Yes, people are like that—they tend to copy each other, you see. Once a group of people starts the street demonstration, there will be bound to be some other groups which will follow suit with their own demonstrations; once a group of people starts burning churches, there will be bound to be others who will also do the same thing, even if they don't really know why, or perhaps they'd do it just for fun. Before long, these street demonstrations will very quickly become the norm.

Over the past few weeks, the media has been occupied by the BERSIH 2 issue. Apparently, these people are demanding transparency in the election process. The plan is to hold another "peaceful" demonstration in the hope that the Election Commissions would yield to their demands.

My view about these so-called "peaceful" demonstrations had not changed since my November 2007 article. It is very easy for people to decide with their hearts, but not with their minds. It is very easy to say we must sacrifice to achieve what we want. It is very easy to say that we're willing to face the music if the demonstration turned violent. But when indeed the demonstration turns violent, when properties are destroyed, when people are injured and lives are lost, I really hope that it's worth it. We always think that we can't make an omelette without breaking an egg, and of course that is quite true. But wait till you experience losing the lives of your loved ones through such street demonstrations, maybe you will have a different opinion. Is it really worth it?

I feel strongly against the planned demonstration even if I support their demands. So yes, they march through the streets and get to deliver the mighty memorandum to the King. Then what? What is the difference when compared to, say, collecting signatures and then only a few representatives deliver the memorandum to the King. Would that have been any different? To be honest, I don't think so—both approaches would end up with the document finding its way into a file and then buried somewhere in a fancy rosewood cabinet. But the demonstration approach has the risk of turning violent. As I said, it takes just one idiot, and the rest will follow.

It is also very easy to shift the blame to the authority—we are peaceful, but you provoke us to become violent people!

In the Malay language, there is an interesting saying: Kalau tiada angin, takkan pokok boleh bergoyang. It means that when there is no action, how can there be a reaction?

And this reminds me of the time when my brother, Dennis, just passed his driving test many years ago. He was driving a brandnew tour bus along the Tamparuli stretch of Jalan Tuaran when he saw from afar a huge truck emerging from a junction. It was clearly his right of way, so he did not even slow down. As fate would have it, the truck did not stop too. So Dennis came home that day grumbling about his bad luck. I'm not too sure how it was calculated, but he had his salary deducted every month for a good half a year to pay for the damages to the tour bus. He blamed the truck driver.

I told Dennis, there is no point to blame the truck driver. Sometimes life is like that, we have to anticipate what's coming; sometimes it's not really about who's right or wrong. For when the accident happens, both will get into trouble. In this case, he should count his blessings because he did not lose his life in the accident.

I'm sure the vast majority of these people wanting so much to do the BERSIH thing are peaceful folks. But I'm convinced that there are a couple of them who have bad intentions. At any rate, I see the demonstration something akin to a time bomb, and I'm sure even the organiser of BERSIH knows that too. I shall have no part of it.

Times have changed. We now have the powerful internet. People have used chain mails, blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc. I see those as more powerful than street demonstrations. Besides, I'm also having trouble believing that some of these people supposedly fighting for transparent elections are themselves transparent and fair in their own election process.

If it were me, we should try very, very hard to protect peace in this country.

Jangan turutkan hati, nanti mati!

Jangan turutkan rasa, nanti binasa!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Young Woman & Nipple Sizes

After a two-week break from cycling, I was back on the saddle again yesterday morning with the usual group. For the first time ever, I started out from my Sinar Bukit house (I moved from Iramanis 3 weeks ago). So yesterday was a kind of a new beginning. But then again, as a whole, I haven't had too much experience on my road bike. I haven't even been out 10 times yet, so there is obviously a lot more to learn still.

Yesterday was also a special outing in that Claire—she had recently relocated back from Singapore to KK—was finally able to join us for the very first time, after several weeks of email exchanges on the subject. But because she had just arrived in KK about a week ago, I suppose she must have been busy running errands to get herself settled down. So she was not in time to buy her bike accessories for yesterday's outing. And because her bike has been idle for a good 6 months or so, both her tires were flat. So she had to come round to my Sinar Bukit house at around 5:30am yesterday morning to use my floor pump to inflate her tires. To those who're not familiar with road bikes, you might want to know that the pumps at the petrol stations are not good enough for road bikes. It's because you will need up to 110psi-120psi for the bikes, whereas for an average sedan car, you'd need something like 30psi only, give and take.

Well, both her tires were still OK and we successfully pumped them to the correct pressure. She then drove to the Sabah Trade Centre (STC) where she would park her car and then start from there. I on the other hand started from my home, but it was just a 5-minute ride to the STC.

Claire and I were the last in the group, and by the time we reached the Indah Permai traffic lights, the rest were nowhere to be seen. I was aware, however, that they're heading to the Mengkabong roundabout.

I was perhaps half a kilometre ahead of Claire, but when I was approaching KKIP, my phone rang. I was not in time to answer it, but shortly after that I received a text message. Checking out the calls, I realised that it was from Claire. She said that she had a puncture in her front wheel and told me to go ahead. I didn't think it's such a good idea to leave a young woman alone along that road, so I turned back to see what I could do.

I happened to have a spare tube and a hand pump with me. But actually, I've never ever changed a tube in my entire life before! I tried pumping the tire for a while, but it didn't take very long for us to realise that we had to change the tube. So there we were between Claire and I, we detached the front wheel and the blind started leading the blind.

First, I took out the existing tube, which was in itself quite a feat. Then I struggled for something like 15 minutes or so to try to insert my spare tube into the tire, but it just seemed impossible! I'm not sure how long I spent struggling with the wheel before it dawned on me that I needed to get half of the tire out of the rim in order to get the tube into it. Claire was mainly watching me in action, throwing in a bit of ideas every now and then.

Well, finally I was able to get the tube into the tire, after which I put the entire tire back onto the rim. But then that small protruding part which stuck out from inside the rim; y'know, that part where you attach to the pump, was too short. I wasn't sure what that thing was called, and for the life of me, I just couldn't find the correct term. I thought of "nozzle", but that word didn't seem right somehow. In the end, of all the words that came to me, I finally decided on the word "nipple".

OK, "nipple" it is then—fine, we progress!

Well, anyway, the nipple of the spare tube was comparatively shorter than the original one on Claire's wheel. Obviously, I bought a wrong type for my spare. So even if I could figure out how to change the tube, it was still the wrong type. Explaining to Claire the problem with the nipple, I tried to pull it through that tiny hole anyway until I realised that it got stuck. I then tried to dislodge it but failed. I think it was probably more than half an hour later when I finally gave up on the task.

Just as I was contemplating what else to do, I saw Teo, Amelia and Paul riding back from the other side of the road in true triathlete fashion. I took my bike and rush to the other side of the road, and then did the Lance Armstrong thing to catch up with them. Luckily there had to stop at the red light. We turned back together and found Robert and the rest helping Claire to fix her tube. It took them probably only 5 minutes to get it done!

Later that morning, Claire visited the bicycle shop to buy her bike accessories. And of course she bought a spare tube too. Then suddenly I thought it might be a good idea to remind her about the short and long nipples. So I texted her:

"... 4got 2 tel u dat my useless tube i bought fr spring. They sold me wrong type. Nipple too short! 4got 2 tel u 2 make sure nipple long like yours"

After sending the text message, I somehow read it once again and was horrified by what I said! So I sent Claire another text message:

"Hahaha! Salah bah! I meant nipple like d one in your back tire! Not on your chest! Hahaha! D ones on d chest better keep em short!"

Oh what an adventure. I learned so much in a single morning. And by the way, I have since searched the net and now know the nipple is actually simply known as the valve!