Saturday, December 31, 2011

Prevention, Cure & Damage Control

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. He happens to be a regular reader of this blog for a while now. We discussed at length about one of my recent articles, Aliens & Predators. In particular, he drew my attention to one of the paragraphs:

"If it's indeed true that citizenship had been given to foreigners by illegal means, it is somewhat too late now to remedy the situation. Imagine, for example, someone who did not deserve to be a Malaysian, but was able to buy the documents 10-20 years ago. When his children were born, they would have automatically become Malaysians. What are we gonna do now? Even if we could trace back to the root of those documents, how are we supposed to undo the mistake? Are we going to send off the children to the lands of their parents' which they've never known of?"

He said, "If you're truly convinced that it's too late now to remedy the situation; that we can't undo the mistake; what, then, is the use of finding out the truth?"

I looked at him sympathetically, and began my lecture style. I didn't mean to act as if I knew the answers to everything out there, but this kind of question simply drives me up the wall.

There is a popular saying—prevention is better than cure. It means, of course, that if one can help it, it is better to prevent a problem from arising, rather than trying to solve that problem later after it has arisen. This is especially true in the medical field because some "problems", i.e. diseases, have no known cure up to now. So the process of trying to find a cure may be much, much tougher—and costlier—than preventing that problem in the first place.

Having said that, however, just because there is no cure to the problem, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't investigate the nature of the problem anyway. The very least we can do is to apply damage control. The idea is to, first and foremost, understand the problem, and then hopefully come up with a strategy to prevent the problem from progressing further; as well as preventing it from happening again in the future.

Even if we can't do much to undo the mistake, we should at least investigate how undeserving people got to become Malaysian citizens. If indeed some people were abusing their powers, then perhaps preventive policies could be formulated to prevent the same thing from happening again in the future. It is imperative that we arrest the trend now, because it's doubtful that Sabah will be able to cope with another 300% growth in its population within the next 30 years. We really need to do something about that alarming figure; and we have to do it soon!

Start Running—Now!

My short article on running in the New Sabah Times today; mainly for those who run only during the first two weeks of the year. Hopefully, they will be inspired to pick up the running routine; and more importantly, support the Borneo International Marathon 2012.


MOST people would say that, of the many things they would like to have in life, health is almost always among the top in their list. Yet the strange reality is that very few of them would actually spend the time and effort to maintain or improve their health.

A common phenomenon seen at the parks during the first two weeks of the year is that there is bound to be an abnormally huge crowd of runners. Many of them make up of people in new running gears. But they would disappear after a few weeks, only to be seen again at the beginning of the following year.

Too many people have tried and failed over the years, and the cycle is bound to repeat again and again in the coming years. As we are starting a new year once again, perhaps this is a good time to take stock of what went wrong, and hopefully this time we can make a difference.

Most people hardly ever run in their entire life. So running even a few kilometers would seem like an impossible task. But nothing can be further from the truth. With proper planning and strategy, almost everyone can quite easily and quickly get into the running routine. The trick lies in the gradual increase of the workload. Many people would fail simply because they do not allow for the body to adapt to the stress, thus resulting in over-training and injuries. They would then conclude that they are not meant to be runners.

The human body has an amazing ability to adapt to physical stress. However, there is always a limit. The strategy is to subject the body to manageable levels of stress; and then gradually increase the workload. What this means in the case of running is to start with (depending on fitness and stamina) briskwalk; or alternate between briskwalk and running, perhaps for a duration of 10 to 15 minutes, three times a week. Gradually increase the duration of the workout, and if possible the pace, over the following week. It is quite normal to experience a bit of sore legs during the first few visits to the track. Keep repeating the cycle, increasing the distance and/or pace, week after week. The only exception is to reduce the distance slightly on every third week (this is commonly known as the “step back”) to allow the body a bit of leeway while preparing itself for the next push. After several weeks, it will be relatively easier to complete 5km at a decent pace.

It makes very little sense to run way too much for one’s ability, and then suffer injuries and therefore out of action for the rest of the week. Remember that working very hard just one day in a week will hardly get you anywhere. It is much better to spread the workout to, say, three or four times a week at manageable levels.

It may be hard to believe, but once the first hurdle of getting oneself into the running routine has been conquered, running becomes much more pleasant and enjoyable. In fact, it can even become addictive!

The Borneo International Marathon (BIM) flags off on the 6th of May 2012. That is over four months from now. As the curtains come down on 2011, why not set a new year's resolution to pick up the running habit? In fact, why not run the 10km, half marathon (21.1km) or even the full marathon (42.2km)?

If one follows the above running strategy, there is absolutely no reason why he is unable to complete at least the 10km race. After all, the time limit for the 10km race in the BIM is a generous 2 hours. So put on your running shoes and start running now! Remember to start at manageable levels and then build up the distance and pace gradually.

The organiser of the Borneo International Marathon 2012 looks forward to seeing you at the starting line on the 6th of May 2012!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Party 2011

A few weeks ago I ran the Macau Marathon. On the same day, Mia ran the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore. She brought JJ along. But because JJ would have been alone in the hotel room while Mia run her race, we decided to invite my sister, Bridget, to come along for a short holiday. After the Macau Marathon, I flew to Singapore to join them, and then together we made a visit to the Universal Studios the next day.

It was during that Singapore trip that Mia and Bridget started talking about celebrating Christmas this year at my place. I didn't think of that idea very seriously though. But shortly after coming home, the Christmas party idea began to gain traction. Very soon Bridget, Mia and Audrey put things in motion. They also brought Evelyn into the picture. We would invite family members; and everyone was encouraged to bring presents along. Mia and JJ set up the Christmas tree; and in the weeks ahead gradually bought presents.

The party was on Christmas day itself; and by then there were plenty of presents under the Christmas tree. I have to admit that even I did not expect to see so many presents!

Shortly before we started the party, however, my niece, Elysha, gave a short welcoming speech and Christmas greetings to the audience. But when she took the mike, she froze for a bit; JJ came to the rescue. Thus encouraged, she proceeded to finish her speech.

We were all kinda hungry by then, but of course the children were more excited about the presents under the Christmas tree. So Audrey decided to give away the kids' presents first. JJ, I think, had two bags full of presents. But next year, I'm determined to find ways how to detach her doll, Lulu, from her for good.

After that, we invited everyone for dinner. And everyone went round the dining table, taking food. However, some of the invited guests had not arrived. We went ahead with dinner anyway.

Mia ordered 2 huge turkeys for the party. Quite honestly, I'm not such a big fan of turkey. In fact, I prefer chicken. Besides, turkey is much more expensive than chicken as discussed here.

People were coming back to the table for second and even third servings, of course, and that continued on and on for a while. I think the amount of food we had that night was just ridiculous, but that's mainly because of Mia's paranoid fear of running out of food. So she played safe by preparing more. Except that in this case, she made sure that we had much more!

When everyone was more or less settled down after dinner, Audrey was back to the Christmas tree again. The first recipient was my stepmother, Mary, who seemed somewhat surprised that she had a present too. Either that, or perhaps it was the way how she had to figure out that the present was meant for her. She was happy all the same as can be seen in this photo below.

And this is the close-up shot of her present. I'm sure you'd understand why she was unsure—at first—if the present was really for her. Oh! by the way, the present was from my sister, Bridget.

My stepmother frequently refers to Bridget as simply Badut for many years now. And although it's not really relevant to this post, I feel a little compelled to explain how that name came about. Well, we have a curious kind of disease in my family, where we would refer to people indirectly by using the names of well-known people or movie characters. For example, "The Friday 13th fellow" means Jason. It's some kind of a riddle way of naming people, you see. Badut, by the way, originated from Brigitte Bardot, but I'm not quite sure how that Bardot could evolve into Badut somehow. I guess it might have been a case of overdoing it with the pronunciation; or was it because of the natural pronunciation by a Kadazan tongue?

Well, anyway, we continued with the presents one by one until everyone had his and her presents. And then the dreadful karaoke session began. We started off with JJ and Sha-sha singing some Christmas songs.

Some time during all this, I suddenly realised that Dennis' sons, Aqil and Arif, were also there. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but you'd understand my grave concern that Arif, the younger of the two siblings, is a big fan of Justin Bieber. I mean, I consider it a terrible tragedy that young girls would actually become big fans of the Bieber boy, but how young boys can be his fans too is a big mystery to me! Maybe if you'd just see his hairstyle, you'd understand my concern.

Aqil, on the other hand, as far as I know, is not a fan of Bieber, which is a small relief. I'm not sure why, or how, his hairstyle came about. My best guess is that he had just emerged from a washing machine somehow, but of course I may be wrong. This photo is not doing justice to his hairstyle, of course. To give you some idea, perhaps you'd imagine a dense undergrowth at the floor of a jungle where insects could get trapped forever.

As I said, the amount of food was ridiculous, really. We had rice, noodles, fried chicken wings, vegetables with black mushrooms, sliced fish, two 7kg roasted turkeys, beef stew, and mushroom soup. And if that's not enough, we had Christmas cakes, plus an assortment of puddings. We haven't even had the opportunity to touch the watermelon, papaya and bananas in the kitchen.

Well, I'd say that the party was a success, with Mary's present stealing the show. But I had to go to bed a little early and let Mia take the sole role as the host for the rest of the night, as I had a 21km run first thing the next morning. It wasn't until the next morning while I was running when I suddenly realised that I have forgotten to apply for a special police permit for the Christmas party. I hope we've escaped detectation. Keeping my fingers crossed...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aliens & Predators

Sabah deserves a place in Malaysia's Book of Records because of a recent great discovery. We have proven that a human being is able to talk through his anus. It is a special talent—that! Check it out here.

In recent months, there have been calls by several parties in Sabah for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate allegations of aliens getting identification documents through dubious means. It has been reported that Sabah's population had increased from a mere 648,000 in 1970 to 2.6 million in 2000. That works out to be about 300% increase—a figure which is about threefold that of Sarawak's within the same period.

Sabah and Sarawak are the eastern states of Malaysia, and had in the past been considered as lagging in development when compared to the other states in the west. In some ways, I think we are still lagging, although we've been closing the gap over the years.

I don't know if it had anything to do with the time taken to improve electricity supply throughout the state. Or the frequent power cuts which is still prevalent even up to now. Maybe that had resulted in the population having nothing exciting to do to amuse themselves in the evenings, so much so that they ended up amusing themselves in the bedroom? I'm guessing maybe that's the explanation our leaders are trying to shove down our throats. But even if that were indeed true, 300% is still a mind-boggling figure to be reckoned with.

One would have good grounds to wonder what exactly caused the population boom. As a matter of common sense and logic, it's only natural to suspect the possibility of influx of foreigners into Sabah throughout the years—perhaps some through legal means, and some through illegal means. Either way, we Sabahans would like to know.

However, this is not a new issue in Sabah. Each time the general elections are approaching, this particular issue would be raised again somehow. We have had several people occupying the Chief Minister's seat in Sabah, but none of them was successful in getting the Federal Government to set up the RCI to investigate the abnormally rapid population growth.

The general presumption—though admittedly, it may be unfounded—is that some predators were fast to capitalise on the desperation of the aliens by issuing identification documents not according to proper procedures, thus making fast bucks. These unscrupulous predators can get into trouble if the RCI proposal goes through.

If it's indeed true that citizenship had been given to foreigners by illegal means, it is somewhat too late now to remedy the situation. Imagine, for example, someone who did not deserve to be a Malaysian, but was able to buy the documents 10-20 years ago. When his children were born, they would have automatically become Malaysians. What are we gonna do now? Even if we could trace back to the root of those documents, how are we supposed to undo the mistake? Are we going to send off the children to the lands of their parents' which they've never known of?

As I said, these are merely the general presumption of the ordinary Sabahans in the street. But then that's the main reason why we are asking for a grand scale investigation to get at the truth of the matter once and for all. If we're wrong in our presumption, then so be it!

Nevertheless, I don't believe it's gonna happen anytime soon, because I have a feeling that the powers that be can already guess what's the outcome of the investigation will be; and they can think of no possible remedy for the complications that can arise. So the simplest solution to the problem, in true Malaysian style, is to sweep the matter under the carpet.

In the mean time, as in the movie, aliens and predators are both gonna continue to haunt us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Approaching The Last Corner & Looking Ahead

It's hard to believe that we're approaching the end of 2011. What a year this has been—I've run 3 full marathons and several half marathons, a 100km cycling challenge, a sprint triathlon, and a 100km ultra trail marathon. But apart from finishing all those races, I was also able to achieve personal best times in the full marathon and half marathon. A truly exhausting, but fulfilling year!

While I'm reducing the intensity of my workouts during this festive season, I'm excited to look forward to another fruitful year beginning with a 100km ultra trail marathon in February in Hong Kong.

However, what I'd really like to do next year is to focus on the sport of triathlon. The sprint event that I did in Miri at the end of October was just to get a feel of doing 3 disciplines in a single race, but next year sooner or later, I will want to do the Olympic Distance (OD) triathlon. The OD comprises a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run.

The way I see it, running the marathon is a more challenging sport. An average athlete can quite easily complete the OD triathlon within 3 hours, whereas it would take almost an elite marathoner to complete a full marathon within the same time. That's as far as endurance goes. Nevertheless, the triathlon is a much more technical sport when compared to running.

Most people are not very good swimmers; and strangely enough, most people are not willing to spend the time and effort to improve their swimming technique. Regular readers of this blog would know that I'm not very good in swimming—at least not as far as the freestyle goes—as reported here. But next year, since I'm trying to do well in the OD triathlon, I will have to work on my swimming technique somehow. For the moment, I can't even begin to imagine swimming 1.5km in the open water with the freestyle, but I'm convinced that if I tried hard enough, it is doable.

Then there is the question of cycling. I've started cycling using a secondhand road bike since about half a year ago. I'm not a very regular cyclist though. At best, I'd cycle once a week on a Saturday, but even then I've missed several of those rides too to make way for my training for other events. So next year I will have a lot of work to do on my cycling too.

Most of my friends are using more sophisticated bikes, and much more expensive than mine. Teo, for example, is currently using a bike which has been upgraded to a worth of over RM20,000, i.e. about 5 times the worth of my humble bike. But even then he's not satisfied; he's planning to buy a triathlon bike very soon.

This past few months, I've been thinking more about my bike, and I'm now itching to buy a triathlon bike too! I can't see myself spending a fortune on a bicycle like Teo, but I might buy a slightly better one than my existing bike.

I was discussing with a female friend about bikes via exchanges of text messages recently (Yes, because of the availability of Whatsapp, people would actually conduct discussions via cellphones these days). I was explaining to her the difference between a road bike and a triathlon bike. Check out the photo of a triathlon bike below which I've downloaded randomly from the net:

As I was saying to my friend, the triathlon bike comes with the aero handlebar whereupon the cyclist can rest his elbows, thus supporting his upper body while the lower body does the work. The idea is that because the upper body is not very active, energy can be saved, and the cyclist can last longer that way.

Of course I had to interrupt myself to remind her that I was still talking about cycling, not about sex. I didn't think her mind would wander from bicycles to sex, but because of the description of the activity, you'd never know!

Well, anyway, I've been browsing the net, and to my horror, found so many available brands of triathlon bikes, and prices ranging from a modest RM8,000 to the astronomical RM20,000! I'm thinking perhaps the RM20,000 ones can move on its own for the entire 40km by a single push of the pedals? I asked Teo about this theory, and he confirmed that that is indeed the case. Only that later on, I found out that he was talking about motorbikes, not bicycles.

At any rate, I won't immediately rush into triathlon in 2012. First, I will be focusing on the 100km ultra trail marathon in Hong Kong; and then very likely the Sundown Ultra Marathon (100km) in Singapore in June. I'm gearing for the OD, hopefully in Port Dickson in July; and if I can do well, I might even consider attempting the half ironman in the later part of the year.

Other possible events in my 2012 sports calendar include the Powerman (cycling and running), and TMBT 2 in September. I'm hoping to run at least one full marathon, but I can't see when I can squeeze that in in 2012.

Oh! By the way, I've volunteered to help in organising the 5th edition of the Borneo International Marathon which is scheduled to flag off on the 6th of May next year. This morning was the official launching at the Likas Stadium. If you are a runner, please register soon here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Paralysed in Macau

Last week, I was in Macau to run the Macau Marathon. And after the race, the plan was that I'd catch a flight to Singapore to join Mia, JJ and my sister, Bridget, for a short holiday. Mia ran the Singapore Marathon on the same day I ran Macau.

I shared a room with my friend, Teo, in Macau. At a cost of about RM630 per night, it was an average hotel with the hardest mattresses I've ever encountered in my history of sleeping in hotels. The hotel did not have wi-fi, and although they had internet connectivity via a phone cable, I did not bring along my notebook.

Although I brought along my cellphone to Macau, I did not have the so-called roaming facility. So my phone was as good as dead in Macau. I was trying to inform Mia of my arrival in Singapore that evening, so although I was unable to use my phone, I decided that I could at least communicate via emails. I happened to know that Bridget's phone had roaming facility, so she could be contacted via her cellphone in Singapore. I didn't think she'd actually check her emails, but what I could do was to leave a message through my niece, Mona, via facebook. Yes, folks, it is much faster to contact teenagers via facebook when compared to emails. After all, I'm guessing Mona spends probably up to 23 hours a day on facebook, if you know what I mean. If there is a sudden outbreak of nuclear war, I'd reckon she would try to save her cellphone first before anything else, because of course she would die a natural death without her facebook, you see.

Anyway, Teo and I walked to the nearby shops looking for an internet cafe. We found none! It felt like eternity, but actually it was just a few days without internet connectivity. I felt paralysed and miserable in Macau.

Somehow I can't remember how we modern folks became so dependent on the internet. Just a generation ago, people worked in the office equipped with manual type-writers. They didn't even have desktop computers, let alone internet connectivity. They did not have air-conditioners; merely ceiling fans, and they relied heavily on paper weights to keep all their documents in place. Most of the cars they drove had no air-conditioners too. And of course they had no cellphones. Yet they survived their days, months and years.

Try preventing yourself from touching your cellphone for just 3 days if you can. I bet you'd feel paralysed and miserable too!