Monday, May 27, 2013

The Survival Instinct

Many years ago, as a teenager, during a long school holiday, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in the interior, mingling with the Muruts. Among the many things that I can still remember about those good old days was how a porcupine had bitten off its own leg to free itself from a trap set by the Muruts. It made me think that the survival instinct is quite an amazing thing. In fact, not too long ago, I posted something about survival instinct in this blog here.

More recently, I read with interest the story of how a man named Aron Ralston had amputated his own right arm to free himself from a dislodged boulder. How far would one go for the sake of survival? I think there is no question that I would readily lose an arm or leg for the sake of survival, but I'm not sure if I have the guts to actually amputate my own arm and leg—I'd probably faint halfway doing it! It's not something that I'd be happy to do though; it has to be absolutely the very last option available to me.

A couple of weeks ago, Angelina Jolie made headlines when she revealed that she had had preventive double mastectomy as reported here. Jolie's case is somewhat different from that of Ralston's because in the latter case, without cutting off his arm, death was almost certain to follow very quickly. Whereas in Jolie's case, her breasts were healthy and no cancer had been diagnosed when she decided for the procedure. I think it is safe to assume that most—if not all—women would readily have a double mastectomy too if they're diagnosed with breast cancer; but I'm not sure about healthy breasts. 

It begs the inevitable question: Why remove a pair of healthy breasts?

Apparently, statistics suggest that Jolie had an 87% risk of getting cancer because of a defective gene, BRCA1 in her body. Did Jolie overreact? What do you think?

An email, forwarded by an acquaintance, reached my inbox a couple of days ago. In it, the author condemned Jolie for self mutilation; that she had been duped by doctors who were all out to make money from performing surgeries on her! He saw no sense in cutting off healthy breasts because according to him, there are many other alternative measures available to prevent breast cancer from ever developing. Amongst others, he suggested a change in lifestyle, including her diet. He claimed that some foods are good to fight cancer.

Incidentally, I know of a fair number of people who are involved in direct-selling, e,g. Amway, Cosway, Elken etc. I suspect they, too, may claim that their food supplements are good in the prevention of many, many illnesses and diseases. And perhaps they, too, would see Jolie as overreacting.

I'm not convinced that food supplements or change in diet can guarantee the prevention of cancer. I just don't believe it's that simple.

But here's the thing about cancer—once diagnosed, it is an extremely difficult disease to beat. The very mutilation that one tries so hard to prevent would become almost a certainty anyway; and even then the end result is not always favourable.

My niece was 21 years old when she was diagnosed with cancer. She was a seemingly healthy young woman with such a promising future. No history of major health problems. Yet despite several surgeries which literally amounted to the mutilation of her body, chemotherapy and months of suffering, she lost the battle less than a year later. But of course they are few who may survive cancer; the keyword here is "few".

I guess it's a close call, but if I were told that I have an 87% risk of getting cancer, I would do exactly what Jolie did. I mean, if I'm willing to lose a perfectly functioning arm or leg to save my life, then what's there to stop me from giving up my breasts, right? Beauty or pride means nothing if I'm dead!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Brands Immunity—Aerowheels Review

I was reliably informed by a lady friend of mine that:

"Everything is made in China, except babies...
Babies are made in Va-China"

For the treasure hunter readers of this blog, let me hasten to say that there is supposed to be a "sounds like indicator" somewhere in the second line.

Earlier this year, I bought a tri-bike with the intention of joining more triathlon events within the region. But I've been occupied with the Vibram HK 100km ultra trail race, followed by the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. It wasn't until a few months after I bought the bike that I finally took it out for a spin. However, the bike did not come with the aerowheels. So I spent a bit of time searching online as well as asking friends about aerowheels. I was fairly surprised that aerowheels can be quite expensive, and I wasn't  even sure what exactly can they do for me. 

Now some of my close friends are aware that I'm absolutely immune from brandnames whenever I buy stuff. There are many famous brands for aero wheelsets out there at astronomical prices. It's not really a matter of affordability, because quite honestly, I can afford to buy the expensive ones too. But I'm just not convinced that they are any different from the cheaper "brand-less" types.

Then one fine day, I found aero wheelsets made in China. I mentioned it briefly to my friend, Teo, who quickly brushed them off as "unreliable". In fact, I suppose to him, anything made in China is unreliable. Whenever he buys stuff, he will see to it that he buys among the top of the range as far as brands are concerned. He was so sure that the China-made wheels are not good that he told me not to come crying to him when and if I eventually lost to another friend in a future race. But I said I'll try not to.

Well, I soon made the order and the wheels duly arrived here in KK. I chose the clincher type. After fixing the tyres etc, I brought it out for a spin about 2 weeks ago. And this morning, I tested them again.

So here I am to share my experience with the readers; well, at least whatever little that I've learned so far. I tried these wheels at varying speeds from as slow as a leisurely 20kph up to about 43kph on the highway which is mainly flat, although there were some undulating slopes too. 

The first thing that I realised about aerowheels is that there's hardly any difference when compared to ordinary wheels when riding at anything under 35kph. In fact, in some cases, eg when going up slopes, they can be a liability! But when riding over the speed of 35kph on flat surface, although it takes a little effort to get to that speed, it is slightly easier to maintain that speed. It feels as if one needs lesser work when compared to using the ordinary wheels. I'm not sure if this is still true for longer distances though, because I haven't gone very far yet. Maybe with tired legs even a little effort is a lot of effort to maintain the high speed!

Teo is also convinced that a brand-less China-made aerowheels are not reliable in terms of strength. He implies that it's worth to invest in the expensive branded ones because these brand-less China-made ones are liable to fail, structurally, while I'm riding fast, thus causing serious injuries. So far, these wheels are holding steady. But maybe that's because I haven't been spending a lot of time riding with them yet, I don't know.

The only small issue I have is that whenever I apply the brakes, especially the rear wheel, there is an awful loud sound produced by the brakepads. I'm not sure if this is because of the quality of the brakepads or anything to do with the wheel itself, but otherwise so far I'm quite happy with these wheels, even though the guys are enjoying themselves laughing at my brand-less China-made wheels! Well, you know what? I'm quite proud of my China-made wheels; and I love the plain black colour too!

Obviously two short rides of about 40km-50km can't qualify for a proper review of these wheels, but I'm planning to regularly use them over the next couple of months. If there is anything new that I can learn about them, good or bad, I will post another review again later.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Borneo International Marathon 2013—The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back

The Borneo International Marathon 2013 (BIM), which was originally set to flag off at 3am on 05 May, was expected to be its grandest and most successful installment in the annual series dating back from 2008. The organising team had worked very hard since almost a year ago to ensure its success. But a few weeks ago it was announced that polling for the 13th General Elections falls on the same day. That announcement was a big blow to the organiser, and a late night meeting was subsequently held to deliberate what to do next.

The next morning, another meeting was held with the Police and the KK City Hall to submit a new proposal in an attempt to salvage the race. After much deliberation, it was eventually decided that the race could proceed, but with the starting time adjusted to a good 5.5 hours earlier; in fact at 9:30pm on 04 May. The idea was that the race would end at around 4am on 05 May, so that runners would still have sufficient time to cast their votes for the elections.

The organiser is aware, of course, of the months and weeks of preparation that most runners must have committed to run the BIM. Not to mention that plane tickets have been purchased; hotel rooms paid for. The committee members have also put in many, many long hours into organising the event. It seemed such a waste if the race is cancelled or postponed, so it was understandable why the organiser had tried so hard to proceed with the show despite all the problems. 

In the days that followed, the running fraternity around the world was shocked and saddened by the news of the bombings at the Boston Marathon that claimed 3 lives including that of a child; and many others severely injured from the blasts.

Well, the BIM was to flag off this coming Saturday night at 9:30pm, but a last minute letter from the Police has urged the organiser to postpone the race. The organiser was devastated; in spite of all the hardwork to salvage the race, in the end a letter from the Police was the last straw that broke the camel's back.

As can be expected, many participants reacted angrily; they felt cheated and taken for a fool. Harsh comments all over facebook. They demanded for refunds of entry fees, even compensations for air passage and hotel rooms already paid for—the usual knee-jerk reactions. But very few of them tried to understand why the race simply had to be postponed

I was disappointed too, as I was looking forward to run the BIM again this year, since I was unable to run it last year. But I keep an open mind; whatever decision the organiser makes, I know that it was made in the best interest of the participants.

Just a few days ago, over 700 detonators and explosives suddenly went missing from a quarry in Menggatal as reported here. Nine people have been remanded to assist in the investigation, but so far the detonators and explosives have not been recovered. 

Now I'm not suggesting that this is gonna be another Boston, but we have had some rough rides in Sabah over the last couple of weeks. We have had the bloody episode of a mini war in Tanduo; we're gonna have the elections coming very soon, and some of you might still remember the history of bombings here in KK during one of our elections years ago. 

Be honest and ask yourselves from the bottom of your heart, if you were the Police and the organiser, knowing very well that those explosives are still out there somewhere, would you really take the risk and proceed with the race anyway?

My heart breaks to see all the harsh words thrown at the organiser. I'm truly thankful to have an organiser that cares for the runners. I hope I'm not alone...