Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Turkeys, as we all know, are experiencing a lot of stress at this time of the year. They probably haven't had a good night sleep over the last couple of weeks. If only animals could plan ahead, they would have gone on a strict diet since at least 6 weeks ago. But alas, if animals could plan, this world would be a very different place. Heck, it seems to me that many humans have no clue whatsoever about the concept of planning for the future anyway!

I was at a shopping mall around noon today for a last minute bold adventure to buy presents for Mia and JJ, and I had quite a revelation. Over the past few months, too many people have been complaining that prices of goods are escalating fairly quickly. Each day, one can see many, many people grumbling, typically through facebook, about the present government. If there is anything in the least that is bad, it must be because of the present government. Even if it rains heavily and some places become flooded, that too must have been because of the government!

The people are suffering the high cost of living; they are barely making ends meet. And soon, GST will come into force. Which means even more expenditure. Banks are tightening up, and it will be harder to borrow money. Hard times are coming.

But today at the mall I can testify that there was no sign of poverty and suffering. Everybody seemed to have plenty of money to spend! Major shopping centres are offering huge discounts for the festive season. By the way, "huge discounts" actually means prices of goods have come down from "exorbitant" to "expensive". Surely you did not expect it to reach the "cheap" level, did you? When the price of an ordinary office shirt is over RM100 after a 50% discount, you know that things are not looking very bright for the near future.

So here we are, at the final week of 2014. It's amazing how fast all those months have zoomed past, and we are once again all excited to cross over to a new year. I bet many of you have come up with the New Year's Resolutions; others might be in the midst of composing one right now. Well, I don't have any new year's resolutions—if I want to get something done, I just embark on it and try to get it over with as soon as possible. There is really no need to wait till a new year for things to happen. After all, in the vast majority of cases, resolutions such as "wanting to lose 20lbs"; or wanting to "exercise 4 days a week"; or "wanting to quit smoking", to name a few, are just for the first few weeks of the year. I shall not have any of those!

Anyway, to my loyal readers, let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. As I said earlier, things are not looking very good for 2015, but please don't get all stressed out like the turkeys. What's life without challenges, right?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Prostitution of Running Medals

I have conquered a number of marathons and ultra marathons; as well as other endurance races such as duathlons and triathlons, up to the Ironman distance. But I have not attempted the Climbathon. Many people have found that a little strange, since the Climbathon is a famous annual event in Sabah. The simple reason is that I have no doubt that I can also conquer the Climbathon, but I'd rather do it later, perhaps when I'm no longer able to do very long races. For now, I would focus on conquering other races within the region.

I'm not in a hurry to attempt the Climbathon, because almost anybody can get the finisher medal, as long as he crosses the finish line. The event is organised in such a way that, although there is a cut off time, one can get the finisher medal even if the time taken is beyond the cut off time. One of these days, when I'm old and weak to run fast enough to meet the cut off time, I can always do the Climbathon and still end up with the finisher medal. That kind of medal is perhaps nice to have in my collection, but not of much value to me. It's just a piece of souvenir for keepsake. The Climbathon, when and if I were to do it, will NOT likely be a race for me. As I said, I'm not in a hurry to attempt the Climbathon.

Some other races also adopt the same policy, i.e. finisher medals are awarded even if the athletes completed the race beyond the cut off times. One example is our very own Borneo International Marathon (BIM). Medals will be given out even if the finisher takes a few hours beyond the cut off time. 

I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, because after all, a finish is a finish. There is nothing on the medal that actually specifies that the runner had finished within the cut off time. I do participate in the BIM, because on the one hand, I'd like to support the event; and on the other hand, I would probably be running my LSD anyway on a weekend along the same route, although admittedly I don't run 42km every weekend.

However, I find it interesting that in the case of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS), the full marathon (42.2km) finisher medals were awarded even though the organiser was fully aware that the runners did not finish that distance. Far from finishing 42.2km, they ran just 25km and was awarded the 42.2km finisher medals and finisher T-shirts. Here is the organiser's announcement on the issue. I'm  not sure if this was because the organiser was trying to be popular among the slower runners, so that in the coming years they could attract an even bigger crowd. 

I see this as the prostitution of the marathon medals—if these medals were meant to be that cheap, then the event should be promoted as such. Don't bother to have rules and regulations, because obviously those mean nothing. I have said that fairness is a two-way street—while the organiser is trying to be popular among the slower runners, it should not downgrade the value of the marathon medal to that of a mediocre souvenir. 

A race is a race, and this one has given a lot of time to finish the race too. If one is unable to finish the race within that generous amount of time, then maybe that means he or she should train a little harder—and longer—for the 42.2km. It's  not like there are no shorter categories in the event. We admire and applaud them for trying, but I'm afraid 25km is still 25km; it is not 42km.

If the organiser feels compelled to please the slower runners, then it should prepare a good amount of 25km medals. It can then award those to the runners who just finished that distance. Be fair to those who did finish the 42.2km. They trained and raced hard to run that distance, only to see others running 25km getting the same recognition as them. Where is justice?

I have joined the SCMS twice before and found it too crowded. Because there are other choices for marathon races in the region, I haven't been back to the SCMS for some years now. This latest episode is one more reason for me not to go back for the event.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

UPSR—The First Hurdle

Elsewhere in this blog, I've posted a number of articles about the Malaysian education system. It's been about 37 years ago since the time when I sat for my Primary 6 national exams. I have long forgotten what it was like in my day. I was for the most part a lazy kid who hardly ever did my homeworks; and I was famous for being the black sheep of the class. I have no idea how I passed my exams, but somehow I just did.

Almost 4 decades later, there have been several changes in the system, and I have lost track of what the exams are all about. These days the Primary 6 exams is known as the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR). This morning, JJ went to her school to collect her results for the UPSR, and those of you who're not keen to read all the way to the end of this post, let me just tell you that, contrary to popular prediction, JJ did not get straight "A"s. 

But I'm sure many of you can guess that I'm not in the least worried or disappointed about it! If JJ can pass her exams with decent results and progress to the next level, I'm OK with that; and if she can achieve anything better, well then that's a bonus! I've seen that in many, many cases, paper qualifications don't really mean much in the job market. Out there in the real world, one needs a different kind of survival skill to do well, and no amount of paper qualifications can help. I just need the paper qualifications to help JJ to open doors; and once she steps through those doors, all those paper qualifications mean very little!

But this post is not really about JJ and the UPSR; rather it's about Mia. You see, Mia has been somewhat obsessed with JJ's performance in her studies since the first day she set foot in school. If JJ did badly in a school test, Mia would suffer the torment akin to a bullet wound. Seeing Mia has in fact been my frequent source of entertainment. If only the school would allow Mia to sit beside JJ during the exams, I'm sure Mia would be there! But alas, our education system hasn't reached that level of ridiculousness yet.

Over the last few days leading up to the UPSR results, Mia tried so very hard to act cool. But oh how she failed miserably! After over 20 years of marriage, I can read her like reading the dictionary, although admittedly I still can't fully understand the thought process sometimes. Then again, women are not meant to be understood, if you know what I mean.

Unfortunately, today Mia had an urgent legal matter she had to deal with at the office, and there was absolutely no way she could escape. She was therefore unable to go personally with JJ to her school to collect the UPSR results. So she sent her sister to do it for her instead. Only god knows how Mia was able to focus on her work in the office while all the time dealing with the suspense of wanting to know JJ's results. I caught myself smiling to myself just thinking of what Mia must be going through. I felt like calling my sister-in-law to tell her to take her time, please.

Nevertheless, like all fun stuff, the suspense had to end—Jackie duly brought JJ to her school. To be honest, I don't quite understand the present format of the UPSR. All I know is that everybody is obsessed with counting how many "A"s the students can get. I'm a little confused with the number of subjects and which are the ones that really matter. 

Well, as I said earlier, JJ did not achieve straight "A"s for her UPSR; she scored a "C" for "BAHASA CINA - PEMAHAMAN", and a "B" for "BAHASA CINA - PENULISAN"; and "A" each for all the other subjects. Oh yes, there is also something under the heading of "PENTAKSIRAN KERJA AMALI" for which JJ scored a "1". I have no clue what that "1" is all about. Although not a straight "A"s, I want to say that I'm a happy daddy anyway. All I want from JJ is for her to try her best.

So now that JJ has passed her first hurdle, she progresses to Form 1 in Lok Yuk next year. The plan is to drop Chinese so that she has a bit more time for the other subjects, and perhaps start to indulge in some sports. Still a long way to go and many hurdles ahead—Mia still has many, many years of sleepless nights to come, worrying about JJ's school exams. I guess some things will never change...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Harmful Curiosity

There was once a man in Miri, Sarawak, whose curiosity got the better of him—he wondered if it was possible to fit his wedding ring onto his penis. Where and how he got the idea to do that, only God knows; and why the penis of all the organs in the body? It’s mind-boggling when you think of it even though that news article must have been over 20 years ago. Sometimes, you just can never forget the things that are outrageously stupid, if you know what I mean. 

Well, what d’you know, he was able to slip the ring onto his penis somehow. I must admit that that was quite a major achievement in itself. I can only think of 2 obvious possibilities; it’s either because he had an extremely thin penis or because it was an unusually huge wedding ring. But still, why the penis, for crying out loud? 

Anyway, the tip of his penis immediately swelled up, thus making it impossible to retrieve the ring. Soon after that, the pain was becoming unbearable. He was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, the ring cut and his penis was saved from permanent damage; and his story made the headlines in the Borneo Bulletin for all the wrong reasons. 

Such is the story of human nature—they often fall victims to curiosity, and the lust of wanting to know if something is possible, which in turn frequently ends up with disastrous outcome. 

I read with interest the recent discovery of the preserved body of a 40,000-year-old woolly mammoth from Siberia, and the ambitious plan of cloning it. The thing is, I have faith in human abilities. I’m convinced that it’s just a matter of time; sooner or later, we would be able to bring back the woolly mammoth from extinction. After all, we have successfully cloned living animals. It seems not too far-fetched that we’re gonna be able to do the same for dead animals too. Granted, it may not happen during my lifetime, but I’m sure it will happen eventually. 

But why bring back the mammoth from extinction? Are we bringing it back just because we can, or has it got other benefits for the human race? I mean benefits other than having something unique and exotic in our zoos? 

Because of its size, I can imagine that the mammoth must have been one of the dominant species that roamed the earth eons ago. It may have been driven to extinction due to over-hunting by humans; or perhaps because of the change in the world climate. Whatever it was that caused its extinction, I think the mammoth has had its time in this world. If our scientists are so obsessed with wanting to clone animals, then maybe it’s much better to start cloning recently extinct species; or even species that are currently at the brink of extinction. We have plenty of those, especially when considering how quickly we’re destroying the jungles wherein these animals are living. 

Like I said, I’m sure we have the brains and means to clone the woolly mammoth sooner or later, but let’s not do it just because we can; or because we’re curious to learn more about the animal. Maybe it’s not meant to be; we’re trying to be too smart for our own good. Let’s just let it go; let’s put to good use the lesson that we’ve learnt from the man in Miri.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Challenge of the Shoe Seller

A shoe seller bought shoes from his supplier at a cost of RM21 per pair. He then put a price tag on them at RM29 per pair, intending to make a profit of RM8 per pair (ignoring other costs). A customer walked into his shop and bought a pair, and paid him with a RM50 note. However, the shoe seller had no small change. He therefore instructed his employee to go to the neighbouring shop to break the RM50 note. After breaking the RM50 into smaller notes, he wrapped up the pair of shoes and included the change of RM21 to his customer.

A few hours later, the neighbouring shop keeper came to inform the shoe seller that the RM50 note he exchanged earlier was actually fake money. In the end, the shoe seller had to pay RM50 back to his neighbour. Obviously, instead of making a profit from the transaction, the shoe seller actually suffered a loss. But how much did he lose?

Such was the question raised by my running buddy, Dr Peter Ong, during one of our long runs over a weekend sometime ago. We talk a great deal when we run together. Or rather, I talk a great deal, while he listens. The question isn't an impossibly tough one, but it provokes the mind to think. Now I have always said that these days our education system no longer teaches our children to think; it teaches the kids how to score straight "A"s, of course, but that doesn't really require them to think.

This morning, I chaired another one of our Monday meetings at the office. I was sharing my view that an approximate two thirds of the students in our universities are female and if it's not already the case right now, I'm expecting that similar proportions between the two genders can be seen in the job market too. 

However—and this is the point I'm trying to make—in the end, the top positions will almost always be dominated by men. I'm fully aware, of course, that the world has seen a number of female leaders such as Margeret Thatcher and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the likes. But when seen as a whole, the top positions are overwhelmingly male. Why is that so?

Women are extremely good when deliberating detailed matters, especially from the theoretical point of view. They are sharp and meticulous and willing to swim in the abstract, turning every single issue down to the micro and atomic levels. Their solutions are very often impeccable and deserve an "A" for the university exams. However, these solutions are not always practical, and may not always reflect what's going on around us. Many ordinary problems in this world require simple solutions derived from common sense approach; not complicated mind boggling calculations based on bombastic formulas. It is in that sense that, in my opinion, men can quite naturally outdo women. This is speaking from general observation of course.

I meant to prove my point in the meeting this morning, and I threw out the above question to the audience. They ranged from high school to university education. There were 5 males and 6 females in the audience; so it was about balance. I told them to write down their answers on a piece of paper, and then those were to be submitted to me. I had expected that not all of them would be able to find the answer (maths is almost everybody's weakness), but I reckoned that the guys would certainly do better than the gals.

Well, what d'you know, all of them failed to get the answer—even after several tries! Not only have I failed to prove my point through this little experiment, but I have also discovered that none of my staff had what it takes to be in the shoe business!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Visit To A Bicycle Shop For A Spare Tube

I was out cycling with Mia last Saturday morning for an intended 70km ride. It was a hot and dry morning; and I was already sweating profusely as early as 20 minutes into the ride even though we started at about 6:15am. Thankfully, however, we weren't cycling very fast, so it was quite a pleasant ride. 

Unfortunately, shortly before reaching the halfway point, I had a puncture in my rear wheel. I changed the tube and used up the CO2 that I had with me to inflate the tyre. Having no more CO2 and spare tube, I decided not to proceed any further beyond that point, because I wasn't sure if Mia had brought along the hand pump with her. Accordingly, I crossed to the other side of the road and waited for Mia on her return leg. A few minutes later, Mia came along, and then we rode together all the way back.

I've been busy on Monday and Tuesday. Today, I finally had the opportunity to make a visit to the bicycle shop in Kampung Air. I had intended to buy a spare tube which costs about RM12 retail price, but because I'm a regular customer, I usually get it at RM10 each. I reckoned that there's no harm to buy more, so in the end I decided to buy 3 tubes. While I was at it, I might as well buy 3 canisters of CO2 too lah.

Then I received a text message from Mia. She said she wanted 2 pairs of white arm sleeves so that she can use alternately with the only one pair that she's been using all this while. Since she's also going to attempt the Putrajaya Half Ironman next year, she's expecting more regular rides in the coming months, you see. So OK, 2 pairs of arm sleeves.

Then, as if struck by an after thought, she said might as well buy a pair of calves sleeves too lah. She's vulnerable to getting cramps in her calves, you see, so maybe the calves sleeves can help to solve the problem.

And oh!...the floor pump that we have is just not very good for women. Mia is just about 55kg-56kg, and she'd need a Herculean push on the handle whenever she needs to pump her tyres. Usually, I would be the one who'd pump her tyres for her. But she'd like to pump her own tyres too, so it would be good to buy a better pump! I checked out the numerous choices of floor pumps at the bike shop and then found one that's a bit more expensive, but softer. Perhaps it's good enough for Mia; so I bought that pump too.

The original plan was to go to the bicycle shop to buy a spare tube at a cost of RM10 a piece. About 15 minutes later I walked out of the shop with a bunch of bike stuff, and a receipt showing the figure RM498, net of "discounts".

When the price of fuel in Malaysia was raised by 20 sen per litre a few weeks ago, too many people have sarcastically said that they will sell their cars soon, and then buy bicycles so that they could save money that way. I was like, "Yeah right!...If you think riding a bicycle is a cheaper means of transport, think again, folks!"

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Conspiracy Theory

A little over a week ago, my uncle (mom’s younger brother) passed away at the age of 69 after a few months’ battle with an unknown disease in Brunei. I don’t have all the details of his illness, but I was given to understand that it was most probably cancer.

Every now and then, there’s bound to be an exciting announcement from researchers and pharmaceutical companies of a major breakthrough and discovery of a promising cure for cancer. This can be in the form of a new drug (or a cocktail of drugs), or a specific approach to the treatment, or both. In fact, I’ve been hearing these announcements since ages ago. Yet the ultimate cure for cancer remains elusive up to now.

I’m a firm believer that it’s just a matter of time before we find the cure for cancer; just that I’m not sure if it will happen during my lifetime. I’m confident that there’s someone out there somewhere who’s clever enough to find the answer. However, I find it interesting that each time an announcement of a promising drug or cure for cancer surfaces on the net, there will be bound to be people expressing their doubts. I can understand their doubts if it’s a matter of having little or no confidence in the human minds to figure out the mystery of cancer. As far as that is concerned, I suppose it’s anybody’s guess—who know’s, maybe none of us are clever enough to ever figure it out! 

But no, their doubts are of a very different nature—these people are convinced that doctors, researchers and pharmaceutical companies have in fact found the cure for cancer long ago; but they’re keeping their discovery a secret; that they would prevent the human race from having that cure, so that they can all profit by selling them drugs for treatment, of which the drugs won’t actually cure, but instead merely prolong the lives of cancer patients. That way, they can make more money from the patients! 

Such an accusation against doctors, researchers and pharmaceutical companies is quite amazing, when you come to think of it—it hinges on the notion that all these great minds are conspiring with each other on a grand scale in denying the human race the cure for a terminal disease, all for the sake of money.

I had a niece who died of cancer at the age of 21 a few years ago. It was a heart-breaking experience seeing how the disease, within a duration of about a year, gradually transformed her from a beautiful young woman into a hopeless bedridden patient, before finally robbing her of her life. During the final few months of her life, she endured several surgeries, chemo and at the end of it all, still lost the battle.

I know humans are sometimes greedy and selfish creatures, but I just don’t believe that so many learned people would conspire in such a way to prevent anybody from having a life-saving cure if they had it in their possession. Furthermore, I also happen to know that many of the doctors and scientists accused of withholding the cure have loved ones and close friends who’re suffering from, and dying of cancer. I’m thinking, even if they’re willing to see strangers die of the disease, they would at least save their loved ones. Heck! in fact doctors and researchers themselves are not immune from cancer. Even if they are willing to see their loved ones die of the disease, surely they would want to cure themselves?

Sometimes, people have the tendency to assume the worst in other people. Well, I can't speak for every single doctor and researcher out there. But I still have faith in them; I shall give them the benefit of the doubt—I'm convinced that if they have the cure for cancer (or any disease for that matter) they will put it to good use to save lives. They can still make a lot of money by doing that.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

An Artist From A Past Era

Many people know me because of marathons, duathlons and triathlons. Others know me because of treasure hunts. Others still know me as a professional property valuer. But very few people, safe for very close friends and family members, know me as an artist

You see, I'm one of those people born with a creative mind and very steady hands; and I used to combine those two gifts to produce paintings. That was like a hundred years ago in a different era. I have produced quite a number of paintings in my day, but they were mostly given away to my friends. Many have since been lost, because although I consider my work as "masterpieces" based on my own standard, they were not generally regarded as of much value. However, some have survived all those years.

Below is one of my works that has survived over 20 years (click on photo for clearer view). 

I painted it in 1991, and gave it as a present to my then girlfriend, Euphemia. It was a hasty job, but it's one of the very few ones that ended up getting framed, and now it sits on a display cabinet in my living room.

A few years after I married Mia, I painted The Last Supper, framed it up, and then gave it to her mom as a Christmas present. Knowing that she's a very religious woman, I knew that she'd love it, which of course she did. That painting has since remained on one of the walls in her home.

A friend of mine showed me a picture of a painting he took during his holidays about 15 years ago, and I was mesmerized by the photo that I decided to reproduce it. It took me almost 4 months to finish and now the painting occupies a wall in my bedroom (click on photo for clearer view).

Unfortunately, I no longer indulge in paintings these days; I have gone on to find new hobbies. But I sometimes find myself attracted to articles about arts in general. Sometimes a hobby never really die, if you know what I mean.

But times have changed. This artist from the past era is sometimes puzzled—perhaps even shocked in a weird way—how much the meaning of art had changed now. This morning, I found this article about a further twist in what is deemed as art these days. 

I was, like, "Wow!...for crying out loud, just Wow!"

Friday, October 24, 2014

No Pain, No Gain

Way too many great athletes have used the famous expression “no pain, no gain”; and way too many great-athlete-wannabes are expressing that same line practically on a daily basis. However, based on the numerous conversations I’ve had with a fair number of sports folks, it seems like they don’t necessarily see those words to mean the same thing. I had another one of those conversations with a friend just a few days ago, and it suddenly occurred to me that the subject deserved an entry in this blog. 

Broadly speaking, it is possible to separate these people into two main groups. The first group—I suspect the vast majority of the sports folks fall within this group—understands “no pain, no gain” to mean the necessity of some sort of physical pain;during the sport activity in order to produce gains in terms of improved performance. In other words, they see “no pain, no gain” in the literal sense. They deem it absolutely necessary to train in such a way that when they had finished the workout, they’d experience some sort of muscular pains, some of which would take several days or even weeks to recover. They are convinced that without suffering such physical pains, they are bound to see no gains in their performance. They therefore go all out in each workout—they tend to run at their top speed; swim intervals perpetually; cycle at top speed; lift as heavy as their muscles can carry. And then, and only then, will they be satisfied with the workout. They shall not be happy if they are still not out of breath or feeling at least a bit of physical pain at the end of the workout! 

The second group—I’m one of those within this group—sees it slightly differently. They do agree with “no pain, no gain”, but that word “pain” doesn’t necessarily mean physical pain. “Pain” is not taken in the literal sense; rather, it has a subtle meaning. The “pain” in this case is the sacrifice that one makes in foregoing the movies or attending dinner parties and drinking sessions for the sake of working out; the discipline of dragging oneself out of bed in the wee hours of a public holiday or Sunday morning to go running or cycling; the torture of surviving the boredom of running for hours and hours, especially when running alone. Basically, the “pain” of going through a routine of physical activities, but these are not necessarily physically painful. 

Although I’m within the second group above, that is not to say that I only train within my comfort zones all the time. Of course there will be times in the training programme when I have to run, swim and cycle fast; in fact fast enough to the extent of raising my heart rate over the roof. Thankfully, however, I don’t do that all the time like so many people out there. 

No pain, no gain! 

There is a lot of truth in that expression, because the whole idea of training is to attempt to condition the body to perform a little faster and stronger the next time it does the same physical task. Training hard is a good idea indeed; in fact so good that it works most of the time. As I've said earlier, most people fall within the first group above, and I wouldn't dare to suggest that there is anything wrong with such an approach, for fear that all the big guns out there would be targeted on me! All I can say is don’t forget to train smart too, because you’d be surprised that training smart may sometimes produce a bigger gain than training hard!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Art Of Giving And Taking

Imagine if everybody in the world is exactly like you—they think like you; they behave like you; and they agree with all your opinions about everything. Words like "disagreement", "dispute" and "quarrel" can't be found in the dictionary. There is never any conflict of any kind; there is perpetual peace. Imagine...

Unfortunately the world is not like that at all. We are made up of so many people from different backgrounds and ideologies. By a random toss of the stone, we are bound to hit someone we detest—because that someone wears a disgusting dress made of meat; because that someone is well over 80 years old, but has a wife young enough to be his granddaughter; and yes, because that someone has a weird fetish to display to the whole world his sexual adventures through his blog.

I'm not sure if it has anything to do with "trying too hard to be different". Or maybe the uncontrollable craving for attention. Certainly it has something to do with defective grey cells. But for the most part, we try to tolerate with all these antics.

Nevertheless, there is only so much we can tolerate. And unfortunately, there is the forsaken laws of the land. I really don't know what Alvin Tan a.k.a The Sex Blogger is trying to achieve. So far, he has successfully made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but apparently he's not done yet. He thinks he's achieving greatness, and it seems like he has quite a fair number of supporters too.

So he doesn't like a whole lot of things about Malaysia. He escapes to a foreign land, but he refuses to go quietly. He has a score to settle, you see. If I were the government of that foreign land, I would kick his butt out of the country in a heartbeat. If this sick pervert can cause havoc in Malaysia, it's just a matter of time before he causes havoc in that foreign land too. This boy desperately needs help from a shrink, there is no question about that.

I have to admit that I haven't read even a single one of his complaints about Malaysia and its leaders. I'm not planning to waste my time reading that sort of stuff. Apparently, he has offended some of our leaders; and the police are now hot on his heels.

See, the trouble with people like Alvin is that they expect people to understand them, to tolerate their weird behavior, even if they inherently offend some people or break the law in the process. Yet on the other hand, they are unwilling to understand others, to tolerate the opposing views, especially those that are offensive to them. 

I don't expect everybody to agree with all of my views because there is just no such thing in this world. It is just impossible for me to please everybody. I try to be mindful with what I say or do, but I realise that some people will still find it unpleasant or offensive anyway. All I hope to achieve is for people to tolerate me as much as I try to tolerate them in return.

If Alvin thinks he is safe and apt to have a better life in a foreign country, I think he's up for a big surprise. For it's just a matter of time before somebody else there will find him to be a pain in the neck; and he, too, will find that there are other people or things there that are disagreeable to him. The only way is for him to change his mindset. He must learn to give and take; not just take all the way. Who knows, maybe this boy will grow up one of these days and start behaving like an adult. Of course it doesn't seem like it's gonna happen anytime soon, but for his sake, I hope it will.

Monday, September 29, 2014


In the past few months, friends and business acquaintances have asked me quite regularly regarding the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which will be implemented beginning from 01 April 2015. Their questions revolve around the [possible] negative impact on the property market. Apparently, there are concerns of escalating property prices resulting from developers passing on the burden of the GST to the consumers.

I have glanced through some articles on the GST, and what I've discovered was that it's a confusing subject. I read some parts a few times and still found them not so easy to understand. I'm not sure if that's because I'm not an accountant. I've therefore decided to attend a one-day seminar next month in my attempt to get a better idea about how this GST thing works. Surely the subject can't possibly be more difficult than Level 677 of Candy Crush Saga? I mean, I've been stuck at that forsaken level for about 2 weeks now!

Notwithstanding the above, however, I find it interesting how people react to the impending 6% tax. The question is that even if indeed developers pass on the 6% tax to the consumers, would the resulting rise in property prices cause hardship to the latter? In order to answer this question, we will need to look back at past trends in the property market. There lies the answer to the question. And here, I would limit the scope of my observation to the property market in Sabah, although I suspect the same is also true for the rest of Malaysia.

In the past 5 to 10 years, the banking industry in Malaysia had been very competitive. During this period, the market saw the gradual fall of interest rates. And even if base lending rates (BLR) have been fairly stable, banks were adopting the concept of "BLR minus" for loan applications. What happened was that hardly any bank actually adopted the actual BLR. Instead, what they did was to minus some percentages from the BLR. In the end, the actual lending rates were kept low. The banks also came up with other strategies to make the loans more affordable, such as extending the loan repayment period so that the monthly installment would be kept low.

In most cases, housing is a necessity, not a luxury, and the vast majority of people would rather buy their own house instead of renting forever. What I've noticed was that price wasn't really an issue in the end. For as long as the intended buyer could get a loan from the bank, he is likely to commit to buy his dream house. After all, if he did not buy, he would have to pay rent anyway. And if he did not buy soon, the price will go up even higher in the future! Hence it's almost silly not to buy! As a result, the last few years saw prices soaring like never before. The appreciation in prices was mostly a double-digit percentage growth; and at any rate substantially higher than the 6% that consumers are suddenly so worried about.

My view is that a bigger factor that can affect the property market is the banking policy in Malaysia. Since the banks have become stricter in giving out loans about a year ago, there was an obvious drop in the volume of transactions in the property market, though there is yet no clear evidence of declining property prices. You see, when banks become stricter in lending, lesser people would be able to afford the ever-increasing property prices; and lesser people would speculate on property market. This will in turn result in a chain reaction—sales will become slower; developers may delay launching new projects etc. 

Effective demand, which is heavily dependent on banking policy, is a bigger factor in setting the trend of property prices. The effect of the 6% arising from GST, though may cause a shift in the equilibrium, is not a significant factor; at least not as significant as that of the banking policy. If the banks suddenly become lenient again, and people can easily qualify for loans as before, a much higher rise than 6% in property prices wouldn't stop people from buying. At least that's what could be observed from past trends.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Winning A Lottery

My friends, Hana Harun and Felice Huang, ran the Toyko Marathon earlier this year. They both achieved their respective PBs, and they came home with a lot of good things to say about the event. Apparently, it's a well sought-after race, and because of its popularity, it's not easy to enter. Unlike many other marathons in the region, the organiser of the Tokyo Marathon had introduced a lottery system where interested runners were required to submit their names, and then chosen randomly at a later date. There were a few others within our circle of friends who had submitted their names, but only Hana and Felice were successful.

I was told that a limit of about 30,000 runners had been set for this year, but the organiser announced recently that more than 300,000 people have submitted their names to run the race. The race had in fact been oversubscribed by more than 10 times!

A couple of months ago, when the Tokyo Marathon opened for registration, a few of us from KK decided to try our luck. I've never been to Japan, and I reckoned that if I could get a slot in the Tokyo Marathon, it would be a good opportunity to spend a few days to tour the city. 

Those of you who've been following this blog would know that I'm not a very lucky chap when it comes to this sort of things. I've attended many, many events where lucky draws were on offer, and as far as I can remember, I only won once in a dinner party—I believe it was a fancy digital camera. But as fate would have it, I had already left the party when my name was called, and that camera was eventually given to someone else! So I guess I did not really win that lucky draw after all!

Now what's the odds of getting my name picked for the Tokyo Marathon? And beyond that, what's the odds of my friends' names getting picked too? Bear in mind that there's a less than 10% chance of it happening. Although I jokingly said to my friends that I was confident to be picked, the truth was that it seemed like a hopeless case!

That's why I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from the organiser 2 days ago, informing me that I'm in. I thought that was quite amazing. But little did I know that there were several more surprises in store. One by one, my friends received emails from the organiser too, informing them that their applications to enter the race have also been successful! So now I guess it's time to start looking into flight options as well as booking hotels etc.

This would also mean that I will be spending my Chinese New Year holidays next year in Japan. I was told that hotels cost a bomb in Tokyo, so perhaps I should start saving from now. But the most dreadful thing is that I'll have to go back to serious training again soon. The thought of running and running and more running; the waking up in the wee hours of the morning over the weekends—Oh! I shudder just thinking of all those! This will be another PB-hunting mission!

The hole that's gonna appear in my pocket; the torture of the training; the wee-hour sleep that I'll have to sacrifice. Yeah, sure, my name has been picked. But how come I don't feel like I've won?

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Different Era

The recent case of an 8-year old boy that did not do his homework as reported here. His teacher tried to punish him by pulling his ears, but he tried to escape. Unfortunately, he lost his balance and fell down, knocking his head on the edge of a table, thus causing injuries that required several stitches.

The story quickly spread through facebook and Whatsapp, and of course as usually is the case, some sick people began twisting the facts, for the sake of, well, twisting the facts. Maybe they get their kicks by causing an uproar, and then watch in amusement how people would over-react because of them! 

And then in no time at all, the photos of the kid went viral and everybody, though not knowing the truth of the matter, became excited for all the wrong reasons! Police reports were lodged; inquiries commenced by several parties; heck, even a Yang Berhormat weighed in with his valuable opinions. Thankfully, however, the case has been resolved quickly.

Such is the nature of schooling life in this modern age. Except in some very isolated cases, kids are immune from punishments for their wrong-doings. It's because of the fear of abuse of our kids that there's that tendency to over-react. Teachers will have to be very, very careful with how to punish naughty or lazy students but remain free from serious repercussions from parents and the authorities.

I come from a different era, and it's interesting how much things have changed from all those years ago when I was still an 8-year old kid in school. Unfortunately, I wasn't an exceptional student then—in fact, I was a lazy bum and hardly ever did my homework. I was therefore one of those kids frequently subject to punishments from my teachers. They ranged from caning to something mild like standing throughout the whole 40 minutes of the class. But some of the teachers were quite creative; I was made to stand on one foot the whole 40 minutes. I sometimes smile to myself when remembering my typical school days when I was young.

However, things were different back then. Instead of reporting those punishments to my grandparents (I was living with my grandparents at the time), I was careful enough not to tell them. Otherwise, I would get even more beatings from my grandparents! I would gladly let it rest, live another day of being a naughty kid in school, and perhaps get more punishments while at it!

You see, parents of those good old days had a lot of faith in the educators. Whenever their kids received punishments from their teachers—and some of those punishments were quite severe—the parents had full trust in the teachers, and that those punishments were absolutely necessary! That's why it's a bad idea to report any punishments to the parents, because the parents would usually support the teachers instead of their kids.

It's amazing that kids these days are practically immune from punishments, because over-reacting parents can cause hell for their teachers. A different era, a different approach, but basically the same old naughty students.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

UPSR—A Different Kind of Test

The case of the leaked exam question papers of the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR), of which my daughter is one of the 470,000 victims. I must admit that I’m a little pissed off, as are many other parents, based on this article in The Star.

I find the suggestion by one of the affected parents, Saiful Bahri Ab Rashid, very interesting; he said the Education Ministry must investigate where the leaks occurred and only pupils from affected schools should have to resit the papers. Looking at the matter as a daddy, it’s very tempting to agree with Saiful Bahri.

I’ve been through a similar situation some years ago when I moved back to my hometown, Kota Kinabalu. You see, I spent 13 years of my working life in Brunei. I qualified as a Chartered Valuation Surveyor while I was in Brunei, and when I relocated back to Sabah, the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents, Malaysia insisted that I should go through the Test of Professional Competency again. So for the second time in my life, I went through the same test—in the Malaysian context. It was a painful process that took up over 2 years of my life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I did try, however, request to be interviewed without going through the process of recording the practical experience (again), but the Board would not hear of it! Anyway, I went through the test and eventually became a Registered Valuer. I wanted to be able to stand in a crowd of professional valuers in Malaysia, and proudly claim that I’ve been through the same qualifying standard that they did.

My view is that the UPSR exam is not worth very much these days—certainly it is worth hardly anything in the job market. In fact, even the SPM cert is not worth much in the job market. But we are talking about integrity here. There will always be a stigma that my daughter might have had the benefits of leaked papers in her UPSR. Whether or not she did enjoy such benefits is not so important; the fact that the papers leaked may come back to bite her many years from now. It’s frustrating, annoying, and downright a waste of time, but it is absolutely necessary for everyone to resit the leaked papers, period.

This is not the first time we've had leakages in exam papers in our national education scene. All the other major national exams, including the SPM and STPM have suffered similar fate in the past. And this reminds me of the time when Mia sat for her CLP many years ago, passed it, and then had a major blow when it was announced that the exams had to be cancelled because someone tampered with the results.

One has to wonder how leakages are still happening up to now, and my view is that this, one way or another, is a reflection of the competency of the people in the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate. But an even more disturbing fact is that the leaks are now happening in the UPSR exams, thus indicating the Malaysian obsession in producing straight-"A"s students. It is almost like if a child gets anything less than straight-"A"s, there is something seriously wrong with him.

Well, I'm an exception from the norm—as usual—I'm not obsessed with straight-"A"s. In fact I'm immune from it! I've seen way too many of these so-called exceptional students arriving at our doorstep, and not measuring up to what's indicated in their exams transcripts. Don't get me wrong though, I'd be happy if my daughter can achieve straight-"A"s. But I'd be much happier if those "A"s are true reflections of her abilities.

So anyway, I suppose my daughter will just have to resit for her Science papers on the 30th September. Whatever will be, will be. If she gets an A, I'd be thrilled; if not, it's OK. All I want from her is for her to try her best. I'm not asking for anything more.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Job Interview

A few days ago, it was announced that English will be made a compulsory-pass subject in Malaysian universities. Up to now I'm still not sure how to react to that news. It's not that I have totally lost hope in the Malaysian education system, but my guess is that that announcement probably means that we're gonna see a further decline in the standard of English in Malaysia. I come to that conclusion because I just can't believe that they would actually fail students because of the English language. So what do you think they would do in order to ensure that these students pass anyway?

I have of course raised the issue of poor English command in the younger Malaysian population in several articles in this blog, and this is gonna be another one of those. But before that, let me talk a bit about our national language first.

You see, I am one of those lucky Chinese citizens able to handle the Malay language—I can speak and write the language exceptionally well. If by any chance I wake up tomorrow and am compelled to do my job entirely in Malay, I would have no problem to cope. In fact, I dare say that I can do the job as good as the next Malay chap, if not better! That's how confident I am as far as the Malay language is concerned.

But the reality is that English is still overwhelmingly the most popular language in the private sector. Many, many documents and ordinary business conversations are still in English. There is no doubt whatsoever that good English command is an asset in the job market, but especially so in a professional firm.

We are currently recruiting, and have begun to conduct interviews for short-listed job applicants. Let me tell you that interviews are no longer a dreadful thing for the interviewees only; these days they are a dreadful thing for the interviewers too. We have so many people in the job market having what appear to be impeccable paper qualifications, but so very few of them are actually qualified in the real sense! All too often they are crippled by the lack of English ability. Don't get me wrong though; I'm not expecting these people to be a walking English grammar book or the Oxford Dictionary. I'm just talking about a decent English command. In that sense, I feel that our universities have failed to produce what they're supposed to for the job market in Malaysia. And quite frankly, I don't foresee this trend would change anytime soon.

There are tons of articles out there written by so-called "interview gurus" on how to ace job interviews. Those are good too, but only if these people have the means to pass the English-language hurdle first. For no amount of knowledge and skills will be of much use if the candidates can't translate those into something productive to earn revenues. 

Speaking of handling interviews, those of you seeking to secure a job interview anytime soon, please, for heaven's sake, at least make an effort to find out what the company is all about. I can understand that sometimes when one is desperate to find a job, he is willing to take any job and worry about doing the job later. But take it from me—not knowing anything about the job you're applying for is not going to impress the interviewer. And you know what's gonna happen when the interviewer is unimpressed, right?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Racing Strategy

I have experienced The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT), a 100km ultra trail marathon, twice before. I joined the first one, which was also my very first ultra trail of that distance, in 2011 as reported in two parts, i.e. Part 1 and Part 2; and the second time in 2012 as reported here. I have since gone on to do the Vibram Hong Kong 100km ultra trail twice, and the Sundown Road Ultra 100km last year.

Of all the ultra races that I've joined so far, I would say I enjoyed the first TMBT the most, not only because I was racing together with Mia, but also because I knew practically nothing about ultra trail then—the thrill of discovery was both exciting and a little scary. But because failure is not an option to me when I do this sort of thing, I had to come up with a proper game plan with whatever little knowledge I had about ultra trail running. I had to provide for everything and both Mia and I ended up with the heaviest backpack each, much to the other participants’ amusement. It was like we were going camping for a few weeks!

The latest TMBT had just finished a few days ago, and while the majority of the reviews from participants have been positive and encouraging, I'm sad to note that a fair number of my runner friends failed to finish the race. These are those who had to drop out of the race at numerous stages. There were many reasons, but the most popular being unable to meet the cut off times at water stations or checkpoints. Of course there were also cases of fatigue and illness etc.

Those who joined the TMBT, although some of them were first-timers for 100km, are not exactly new to long-distance running or endurance sports in general. I suspect most, if not all, of them would have conquered several road marathons. But here's the thing about road marathons in general—they basically boil down to 2 main things: 1) Endurance/fitness, and 2) Cut off time. The other factors such as course terrains, weather conditions etc are also important, of course, as those can slow down the runners a bit. But they are rarely significant enough to result in failures. In the event of minor injuries such as cramps or blisters etc, medics are just minutes away.

In an ultra trail marathon, however, terrains, weather conditions and injuries (minor or otherwise) can very easily mean the end of the race for the participants. Those who don't take into account these factors when formulating a racing strategy may well find themselves in trouble on the race course up there in the mountain. In the event of injuries and illnesses or whatever other emergencies, it may take significantly longer time for help to arrive. All these may potentially mean life and death. An adventure which is intended to be a fun outing can quickly turn into a tragedy.

Therefore, the kind of preparation (both physical and mental) and training for an ultra trail marathon is much more complicated and demanding than the ordinary road marathon. But I suspect not very many people actually realise this. Or if they did, they did not seriously take these factors into account.

Unfortunately, I am neither a fast nor strong ultra trail runner. I'm horribly weak and slow when climbing hills. But long before the event, I would make sure that I train to improve on my weaknesses. I would go over my game plan over and over again. When the race day arrives, if I think I can't meet the minimum time requirement, I'd rather opt out. There is bound to be another race, another day. It is just not my style to beg the marshals at the checkpoints to bend the rules and let me continue with the race when I have clearly failed to meet cut off. Call it pride or ego if you like; it's just not me.

The most important factor is of course timeHow much of it is available from flag off to the finish line? That is a fixed figure, and whatever game plan one has in mind, it must fit within that timeframe. It can be less, but not more. After allowing for a buffer of say 2 hours (for 100km), there is an even shorter time available for the race. Then the allocation for each section between checkpoints; as well as how much stop time at checkpoints, perhaps to top up water bottles. Allocations must also be made for nutrition stops. Step by step. Be honest about your strength and endurance, and don't try to plan for a speed that is obviously beyond your ability! You will only burn out too soon and then have to throw in the towel long before reaching the finish line.

I do realise that some people have no intention to win. They just want to finish the race for the sake of the experience and adventure. That is fine; there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But still, this is a race, and there are strict cut off times between sections and overall from start to finish. So even if there is no intention to win, the participant must train to at least be able to meet the cut off times. 

So, yes, by all means, take as many selfies as you like, savour the beauty of the countryside, but at the end of it all, don't forget that it is a race, and time is the biggest enemy! A seemingly brief stop to replenish the water bottles at the checkpoint can easily consume up to 15 minutes, if not more. If one is not a fast trekker or trail runner, then train to be a little faster; not to win, but at least to make the cut offs. The rules are there to be adhered to. The rest of the participants who made it to the finish line were also subject to the same rules. In that sense, it is truly a level playing field.

Racing strategy, a step-by-step game plan from start to finish, is imperative for a long race such as the 100km ultra trail. An apparently weak person can conquer the distance with a sound game plan; whereas a strong athlete can crumble long before even reaching the halfway point because he thinks he can run the trail like running in a straight line on a flat surface.

So the next time you attempt anything akin to TMBT 100km, come up with a proper racing strategy, and make sure you stick to it all the way to the end. Nobody says it's gonna be a stroll in the park, but it is doable. You just have to trust me on this.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kuching Marathon 2014

I arrived in Kuching during the mid-morning last Saturday to run the inaugural Kuching Marathon yesterday (Sunday) morning. I went together with my niece, Ramona, but she ran the half marathon. After checking in to the Harbour View Hotel, we spent about 10 minutes to walk to Plaza Merdeka for brunch at the food court, and then proceeded to collect our race packs. 

 If there’s anything about the Kuching Marathon that stood out from the rest of the marathons that I’ve joined so far, it must be the unusually long time spent at the race pack collection—1 hour 16 minutes, easily a new record for race pack collection. I dare say it would be extremely difficult for other marathons in this region to beat that record too, if ever! 

Although I kept an open mind about the event, I have to admit that I didn’t find the long wait for my race pack very amusing. Obviously, there is room for improvement here. It quickly gave me a negative impression on the event. I’d like to believe that I am a reasonable participant, and I don’t expect every single thing to be perfect. Something is bound to go wrong at the very last minute due to unforeseen circumstances, and it is just impossible to anticipate everything that could go wrong. But still, 1 hour 16 minutes is just ridiculous; it seemed like an eternity as far as race pack collection is concerned. 

I spent the afternoon watching a bit of tv and had about an hour’s nap. I’ve been lacking of sleep the whole week, so that nap was such a relief for me. Then I went back to Plaza Merdeka again in the evening for a lousy fish and chips dinner. The race was to start at 3am the next day, and I had intended to be in bed by 10pm, but I knew that my body clock would not cooperate. I finally fell asleep at about 11pm. I woke up again at about 1:30am. A strong cup of coffee, and then I changed into my running gear. Then the slow walk to the race venue, reaching there at about 2:30am. 

I had expected a chaotic situation during the race, but I was pleasantly surprised that everything went smoothly. The flag off was on time, and the water stations along the way were appropriately set at regular intervals. They also distributed energy gels at 2 water stations. But I only took one, as I had my own supply of gels. I took the one just as a spare. 

The weather was fine, and at numerous points during the race, there were very slight drizzles. But it was a humid morning which made running a little uncomfortable. As for the terrain, it wasn’t exactly flat. There were a good dose of gentle ups and downs and a couple of short sharp climbs, but it is not what one might describe as a “hilly” course. I fancy that the scenery would have been great if the race had started a little later in the day. But starting the race at 3am had resulted in at least 70% of the race run in the dark. 

I ran a steady 5:35min/km pace, thinking that that should be slow enough to sustain. But I somehow felt tired beyond the halfway point. Accordingly, my pace eventually dropped, and the last few kilometers became quite a challenge after all. Running marathons “for the fun of it” isn’t very stressful to me these days, but racing marathons is a different story. I’ve been racing a number of events this year, and somehow I’m feeling tired and desperately in need of a break. In the end, I finished the 42km in about 4:09, which is a decent time, but not a spectacular performance. This is my last race for 2014; I’m taking a long break from races and will be focusing more on my swim and perhaps work on my cycling too. Oh! I’m so tired! 

In the end, my verdict is that the Kuching Marathon was a well-organised event, especially for an event organized for the first time, and I must congratulate the organizer for a job well-done. I would certainly recommend this event to my runner friends. But it would be even better if they could do something about handling the race pack collection. 

I hope to be able to come back again for another shot at running a faster marathon in Kuching. Hope to see an even bigger group from KK!

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Someone who had too much time, went through the trouble to conduct a research on which big companies are related to, or contributing to Israel's economy whether directly or indirectly; and of the many companies in the list, McDonald's caught the attention of many Malaysians.

Although not knowing what's really going on, too many people are eager to get involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict in whatever way they can, but the reality is that not very many of them would actually risk their lives by going to the war zone to participate in person. Instead, they choose to become heroes from the comforts of their homes by going through facebook, chain mails and emails, whatsapp messages, tweeter, and many other digital mediums to spread their support either for Israel or Palestine. Some of them have a curious obsession about it—they don't stop there—not only are they not so discreet about their opinions, they also try very hard to influence others to agree with them. And when others do not agree with them, they have the tendency to become violent, and act in such a way to force others to agree with them somehow!

Such is the case with the boycott of McDonald's in Malaysia. To be quite honest, I'm not even a big fan of McDonald's. Yes, I sometimes indulge in a Big Mac or two; perhaps some fries and chocolate milkshake too. But because I'm a little worried about all the calories, I tend to limit my visits to McDonald's. Incidentally, I happen to know that some of my "health-conscious" friends are also adopting the same policy. On the other hand, I also know of some people who're regular visitors to McDonald's. 

I'd like to think that I'm living in a country where I am free to eat what I like, and when I like to, as long as I can afford it with my hard-earned money, and that my indulgence in the food does not harm other Malaysians around me. I can understand that some people abstain from eating certain food, or certain types of food for numerous reasons, may it be religious or health reasons, and I shall not make it my business to control what others eat or do not eat. It is after all entirely their right to choose. But in return, I would also expect the freedom to have my choice, that is to say that I am free to eat in a fastfood outlet when and if that naughty cravings come every now and then, without that unfriendly stares from those around me.

I shall not attempt to debate on the merits of why some people are boycotting a particular fastfood outlet. We can all argue till the cow comes home, and we still won't come to any satisfactory conclusion anyway. In Malay, there is a saying: Rambut sama hitam, hati lain-lain.

I have issues, however, with people whom, having decided to boycott, try to impose their will upon others by force. I think something is seriously wrong with our society when innocent people trying to earn a decent living in a fastfood outlet are being harassed by others who're unhappy about an armed conflict in a faraway land. I'm guessing that these people who're working at McDonald's would gladly stay at home if those who're harassing them would pay their salaries. But we know that won't happen, don't we?

By all means, boycott McDonald's outlets if you felt justified, I'm not going to argue about your choice. I just hope that when the time comes, once in a blue moon, when and if I have the cravings for a McChicken Burger and the likes, I won't be harassed by people whom are trying to impose their will upon me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Strength In Unity

About three years ago, I watched the movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes on a Sunday afternoon. Of course the movie was famous because of its special effects, which were mainly achieved with the help of modern movie-making technology—mostly computer and all those digital stuff. I mentioned briefly about the awesome special effects in a post here. But even without the special effects, it was still a good story in itself. In all the excitement, there was actually a very powerful message for the audience. 

The movie tells the story of Caesar, a male chimpanzee born with a high IQ, which eventually united a bunch of unruly apes from the confines of a primate shelter, from a zoo, and from a lab, for the sake of seeking freedom. 

There was a scene when Caesar was in the primate shelter, sitting on a rocky ledge with his orangutan friend. Caesar was sad looking at some apes fighting with each other down below. He wanted the apes to unite, and the orangutan asked him why. Here is a video clip from youtube; you can see for yourself how Caesar explains himself.

As I was walking out of the cinema that day, I knew that there would be a sequel to the movie. After all, most successful movies these days would almost automatically have sequels. True enough, its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, arrived at the cinemas about 2 weeks ago. I took the earliest opportunity to watch it; and again I was happy with what I saw. 

Of course Dawn is the continuation of Rise, and the story has developed up to 10 years apart. But again there is that same message to the audience—this time uttered by an ape named Koba. A short sentence consisting of just 2 powerful words: Together Strong!

It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps it would be beneficial if all Malaysians could be convinced—even forced—to watch Rise (and Dawn) of the Planet of the Apes. I think it's gonna be worth the few hours watching apes, and hopefully at the end of it, learn something about Strength In Unity.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cycling With Mia & Pam

A few months ago, Mia and her friend, Pamela, registered for a half Ironman distance triathlon race to be held in Desaru around mid-August. For those of you who're not familiar with the sport, a "half Ironman distance triathlon" means an open-water swim of about 1.9km, followed by 90km bike, and then finally a 21km (half marathon) run. I was given to understand that the cut off time for the Desaru event is 8:30.

I think an average person who can swim, bike and run, and has been regularly active in sports for at least half a year, would find the half Ironman distance quite doable within the 8 hours 30 minutes, provided that he invests a bit of time training for the event. "Doable" here means able to finish within the cut off time—not "doable" as in to win the race. There is actually no need to be a fast swimmer, nor a fast cyclist, nor a fast runner—just average (or even slightly below average) speed in all those sports would do just fine.

But the trouble with Mia is that although she can swim and run, she's not a very good cyclist. She bought a road bike a little over a year ago; and then recently she surprised me when she bought a tribike too. That's when she told me that she's gonna attempt the half Ironman distance in August. If it were any other cyclist, I wouldn't have been surprised in the least. In fact, it is almost expected that after riding a road bike for a while, it's just a matter of time before one upgrades to a tribike. However, Mia has never really figured out her road bike yet up to now. Yes, she did finish an Olympic Distance triathlon, but she still can't ride steadily up to now.

To give you a better idea of Mia as a cyclist, she can pedal of course, but she's not very good in balancing on her bike. She must have both her hands on the handlebar at all times, except for the fraction of a second when she needs to shift her gear, or try to reach for her water bottle. Whenever she wants to drink or consume food (such as energy gels) she has to stop her bike. Otherwise she risks losing her balance. It's even more challenging for her to get into the so-called aero-position, that is to say to rest her elbows on the handlebar while gripping the aerobars. She also bought a pair of cycling shoes—the type that can be engaged to matching pedals on the bike. I told her that she's not ready for cycling shoes, but, y'know, she's an ex-St. Franciscan girl, so of course she went ahead with the shoes anyway. But after several falls, resulting in nasty bruises that took several weeks to disappear, scratches on her new bike, as well as damaging her shifters, she eventually abandoned the cycling shoes for now. But only for now, mind you!

Things were not looking well for Desaru, and she's fast running out of time to deal with the bike leg of the race. She went for short rides with her friend, Pam, on several occasions, but as you probably already know, riding 30km to 40km isn't really good enough in anticipation of a 90km ride in the race. So 2 weeks ago, I decided that I should accompany her for a longer ride with the view of addressing some of the issues about her cycling skills. I told her that she didn't really need to ride 70km, and she probably couldn't ride that far anyway. So I got the desired response—she said she wanted to go for that 70km ride because she needed the training. Sometimes, you need to know how to deal with ex-St. Franciscans, you see.

So off we went for that 70km ride. Soon, it was obvious that she wasn't comfortable on her bike. She had it set up at the shop where she bought it from, but it's only when one rides beyond 40km-50km before one is able to know if the setup is really good. We exchanged bikes. Once she got on my bike, she could immediately feel the difference; the setup was almost perfect, except that the seat was a little too high for her. It was then that she decided she'd use my bike for Desaru. I spent no less than an hour repeating myself like a million times before she got so sick of my instructions; in the end, she realised that I wouldn't stop unless she force herself to try the aero position. At first she did it for a few seconds, and I expressed a soothing "Goooood!". Eventually, she spent longer and longer in the aero position, and each time she was rewarded with "Goooood!" from me.

So both the coach and the ex-St. Franciscan were very pleased at the end of that workout, but I felt like the latter walked around with her eyes on her forehead that day. I seized the opportunity to set another bike workout, this time much closer to the 90km distance of the race. Well, that workout happened this morning, and her friend, Pam came along too.

About 20 minutes into the ride, however, I had a puncture. I suspect it must have been God's idea to include that as a learning process for the ladies. Changing the tube isn't very difficult once you get the hang of it, but it can be quite tricky if you haven't tried it on your own. It reminded me of the time when I first started cycling some years ago, and I was trying so damn hard to impress a young woman with impossibly sexy legs who went cycling with me. It was an epic failure of course, as reported here, but I swear I've learned quite a lot about bikes since then. 

Now, at this juncture, I just wanna share a strange mystery about many women—but I'd rather not mention names here, or I may end up getting shot!—they would spend time and efforts to train for cycling. Perhaps spend a big chunk of their savings to buy a dream bike; apart from spending a bit on air travels and hotel expenses when joining races out of town. But the one thing that they simply refuse to do is to learn how to fix a puncture. They'd rather DNF upon getting a puncture! Makes no sense to me, but then again women are not meant to be understood!

Anyway, Mia and Pam had a so-called intensive tube-change clinic at the roadside this morning, although Pam had apparently decided to be one of those girls within the same category as those in the preceding paragraph above, at least for the Desaru mission. Who knows, with any luck, she may decide to want to learn how to change a tube in the future.

Well, Pam went on to finish (albeit barely) 82km; and Mia and I did about 88km today. Mia spent a good deal of the workout in aero position; and she also made the breakthrough of drinking and eating energy gels without stopping her bike. Now I'd be much happier if she would only ride in a straight line, as opposed to a zig-zag fashion, while she's drinking or eating, but I guess I should be happy with whatever improvement she's making on each ride.

Well, in 3 weeks from now, I'm going to Kuching to run a marathon, while Mia and Pam will be heading to Desaru for the half Ironman distance race. Before this I was excited for the Kuching marathon, but over the last few weeks, I'm becoming increasingly excited for Mia and Pam too. It does seem like an uphill task for both of them, but after all you never know if you're able to do it until you try it!

I shall be keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sense of Proportion

I learned a painful lesson in the recent Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014—despite months of careful planning and hard training for a modest goal of achieving a PB in the race, I threw the game plan out of the window barely 10km into the 42km race because of greed. I allowed myself to indulge in the romantic idea of not only beating 3:52 for a PB, but also achieving 3:45. In the heat of the moment, and the blazing excitement of the race, I crumbled and abandoned my own game plan. 

To be honest, I was confident that I could beat the 3:52 PB based on my training; I felt it’s almost an assured conclusion. That’s why the disappointment factor was extra large for this race. From about 30km of the race to the finish line, I hated myself, because it was at that stage when both my quads suddenly seized up, I knew that I’ve done myself in. I crossed the finish line in a decent 3:56:51, and a few years ago, I would have been thrilled with that result. But not in this race.

Then a strange thing happened to me. After receiving my finisher T-shirt and medal, I waited for my friend, Lim Young Peing, at the finish arch. One by one the runners crossed the finish line; and just within a window of about an hour, my disappointment in myself subsided and then turned into quite the opposite. 

It’s amazing what one can see and learn at the finish line of a marathon race; it can be something of an eye opener. People from all walks of life, in many sizes and colours, challenging themselves to conquer the distance of 42km. Standing there at the finish line, I saw people becoming very emotional—crying as they cross the finish line, into the waiting arms of their loved ones, time regardless. 

Suddenly, I felt like a total idiot! I have forgotten my own principles in life; and sometimes I need to be reminded too. We all have the tendency to forget to count our blessings; we lose the sense of proportion. We become greedy; and then end up miserable.

At the age of 49, I should be happy with a sub-4 hour finish in a marathon; I’m healthy and can still indulge in the things I enjoy doing. I guess it would have been “perfect” had I been able to achieve a PB while enjoying the race too, but sometimes things don’t always pan out the way one would like them to. As I’ve always said, actually, all the little imperfections in life are the very things that make life perfect!

In the hotel room a few hours later, Lim reflected on his fortune of achieving his PB in Gold Coast—a 3-minute improvement from 4:50 to 4:47. He said it’s just a small improvement, but I hastened to assure him that it’s still a significant improvement anyway. He should be thrilled and excited all the same. After all, he has conquered a new frontier; and that is a major achievement

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


"This is because should a woman menteri besar suffer from 'uzur syarie' (period), there will be a number of obstacles for her to accompany the Sultan at several religious functions."

—Constitutional Expert, Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun, in explaining why Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail can't be the Selangor Menteri Besar. [Link]

I'm thinking that it must be extremely tough to earn a living in Malaysia as a clown. We have too many of them; in fact, we see them around on a daily basis, so much so that we become immune to them. We no longer find clowns very amusing; they are no longer entertaining.

By the way, those of you who don't already know it, Wan Azizah was born in December 1952. It means that she's now in her sixties. I'm no gynae, but y'know, I seriously doubt that she's still having periods, but I may be wrong.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014

I research and experiment extensively on running, and way too many people have approached me to seek the magical formula to improve their performance in running. In fact, I’m a mentor to many of these people; which is quite an irony, because I have no formal training as a coach, and neither am I a fast runner!

The one thing that puzzles me about most of them is that the vast majority have no clue whatsoever about racing strategy. In my opinion, many of them can do much better than their current PBs, but the main stumbling block that prevents them from achieving better results is that they almost always run way too fast at the beginning of their races. I’m seeing some of these people run race after race, repeating the same mistake, and they just don’t know what’s hitting them!

Armed with knowledge and a keen sense of racing strategy, one would expect me—of all the people in the world—not to fall for the same mistake, but that’s exactly what happened in the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. But it’s not the kind of mistake of not knowing the significance of racing strategy; rather, the mistake of putting at stake my chance of a PB for the sake of greed.

Earlier this year, I was training for the New Zealand Ironman, an ill-perceived move on my part. I had insufficient training, and then my friend who was supposed to race with me had a bike accident and had to withdraw. In the end I went alone, with whatever little training that I had, and had to struggle to finish the race in a miserable 15:32. One could almost say that it was a “successful failure”!

Anyway, because of the limited time I had during the Ironman training, my focus was mainly on endurance, and hardly on speed. After the Ironman in early March, I began to work on my speed around mid March, and I reckoned that I should have enough time to gradually build up speed to the Gold Coast Airport Marathon on the first Sunday of July. I was hopeful that I would achieve a PB in that race. As the weeks and months went by, I could feel my speed improving. I could run 10km-15km at 5:30min/km pace fairly comfortably. And by June, I could run 5:00-5:15 mins pace for 10km-15km comfortably. Things were looking very good indeed. I was very confident and I felt that I had a good shot at improving on the 3:52 I set in Hong Kong last year.

My friend, Lim Young Peing, went to Gold Coast with me, and he was also hoping to achieve a PB. We arrived on Friday morning, and then went to collect our race packs together. It was such a grand event, and so many people at the expo. We each received our bib and a goodie bag, but without any goodie in it!

I was walking around in the crowd after collecting my race pack, and then Karen Loh of the MWM’s fame greeted me. The truth is that I seriously doubt that she knew me, but was merely being friendly. I guess “Malaysian” was written too plainly all over my face, you see. I did not let it go to waste though—it’s not always that a pretty and sexy young woman would greet a nerd like me. I turned to Lim and told him that that was Karen, as if we’ve been buddies for a long time! I can’t remember if I had walked with my eyes on my forehead after that. I must ask Lim about that later.

I ran about 3km on Saturday morning and felt very good. I was ready for a great race. The next morning saw me at the start line of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. I found my place in section B meant for sub-4hour runners. Temperature then was about 10C, but it wasn’t as biting cold as I had initially thought. At the flag off, I started cautiously—I ran the first 5km at a very conservative average pace of 5:20min/km. In fact, it was so comfortable that I hardly broke a sweat. I was thinking that I would surely achieve my PB if I could maintain that pace; and it almost felt like it was too easy to maintain that pace too! I continued running more or less at that pace up to 10km, and I was still feeling very fresh.

Then the tragedy—the evil that has always been the culprit that had destroyed many strong men of this world—I was overwhelmed by greed . Seeing the red balloon depicting the 3:45 pacer coming back from the turning point, I began to wonder if instead of just beating the 3:52 PB, maybe I might even have a shot at 3:45? That would be a fantastic icing of the cake. After all, even before reaching Gold Coast, I've been contemplating that 3:45 all the while. Could it be possible? I was feeling fresh running the 5:20min pace for 10km; I had all my nutrition and hydration schedules executed according to plan. It was a flat course. The 3:45 finish seemed like something too sinful to miss at that stage!

And that was the turning point of the race for me; I fell victim to greed and began to chase after the forsaken red balloon. I maintained a pleasant 5:10min average pace up to 15km, 20km and even up to 25km, still feeling good. Was it something that I had eaten the day before? Did some magical bio-chemical reaction happen in my body? It just seemed too good to be true!

Well, you know what? It was indeed too good to be true! At about 28km into the race, I suddenly felt my left quads seizing up, followed just a few seconds later by the right quads. I knew then I was in big trouble. I was forced to slow down a bit. I arrived at the 30km point in about 2:38, but although that was a decent timing, I realized that the remaining journey to the finish line would be hell for me. The cramps in both quads were hell. Suddenly the race turned into a nightmare.

Well, what remained of the race was not a pleasant experience. I ran with plenty of walks in between. A lot of torture. It’s been such a long time since the last time I experienced such a torture during a marathon. It kinda reminded me of the first few marathons that I had run. In the end, not only did I fail in achieving 3:45, but not even the 3:52. Instead, I finished in 3:56:51. Although that is still a decent finish, I must admit that I’m disappointed. My disappointment is not really because of the failure of achieving a PB. I have long accepted that I can’t possibly achieve a PB in every race that I join. Rather, I’m disappointed because I allowed myself to become overwhelmed by greed. But then again, I’m walking away from the Gold Coast Airport Marathon with a lesson learned the hard way. I will be back again; and I will achieve my PB one way or another!

In all this, at least my friend Lim achieved his PB. He improved from 4:50 to 4:47. A small improvement, but still nothing short of spectacular all the same!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Long-Lost Friend

I was walking in Gaya Street a few weeks ago during my lunch break, heading to my usual stop, a shop famous for its hot buns. Now just so that we're very clear about this, when I say "hot buns", I mean it in a literal way—I'm talking about food, not "hot buns" in the slang way, referring to amazing buttocks in the likes of J Lo's. Oh you know what I mean!

Anyway, I bumped into an old friend, and he greeted me cheerfully. He said, "You're Cornelius, aren't you?"

I replied in the affirmative, and he exclaimed loudly, so much so that some people were looking at us. We shook hands, and he asked me what I've been up to all these years. I spent a few minutes to give a brief summary of my life history going back to some 25 to 30 years ago. I surprised myself, because I would usually have a bit of trouble summarizing my stories. But not on this occasion. He listened attentively. When I had finished, I thought it was my turn to ask him what he's been up to all these years. But unfortunately, he was running late for an appointment. After he walked away, I turned back to have one last look at him; and I caught him looking back at me too. We merely waved at each other from the opposite sides of the road, and that was that.

I proceeded to buy the hot buns—as in the food for my lunch—and then traced my way back to the office. As I was chewing the buns in the office, my eyes started wondering to the ceiling as I tried to access that part of my brain, but for the life of me, I just couldn't remember.

Who the hell was that guy? Where did I know him from?

I kept trying and trying, until in the end I gave up. I just couldn't remember who's that guy, even though his face looked somewhat familiar.

Well, it's been a few weeks since that dramatic scene we made in the  middle of Gaya Street, and I thought I could put that episode in the "Weird Encounter" folder in my brain. But today I saw him again from afar. He waved to me excitedly, and I waved back to him with a big smile; my curiosity rejuvenated.

The next time I see him again, I swear that I will ask him outright who the hell is he! Not know him is driving me crazy!