Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ushering In The Year Of The Horse

Well, folks, this is it—today is the Chinese New Year eve. Some of you who're celebrating the occasion will be having a special family dinner gathering this evening. I'll be attending such a gathering at my dad's in Penampang. And then perhaps after 3000 to 4000 calories' worth of all the unhealthy food that you can think of, we would as always adjourn to the mahjong table, and that would last for at least 6 hours, if not more.

I dread the thought of mahjong against dad, my sister Audrey, and my uncle Tony, not because I'm afraid that I'd lose money. In fact, I enjoy mahjong a lot. But I know that I will have to endure continuous inhalation of cigarette smoke, which is why I've been shying away from mahjong this lately. The three of them are living chimneys, and no amount of warnings about lung cancer can make them kick the habit. We are all born with weaknesses, and smoking is just one of theirs.

I consider myself lucky because I don't have to travel a long way to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family members. Most of us are just several minutes away from each other and that makes things much more convenient on occasions such as this. 

Those of you who're driving long distance to visit your loved ones, please drive carefully, especially when I'm running on the road! Enjoy the holidays and come back rejuvenated in the year of the horse. On behalf of my family, may I take this opportunity to wish you all Gong Xi Fa Cai and all the best in the coming year!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Rock Climbers

Those who read my blog are made of people having wide-ranging interests, including athletes, treasure hunters, or just people stopping by for a regular dose of my dry sense of humour. The title of this particular post may give the wrong impression of a sports-related matter; so let me just say that it is not! Instead, it has something to do with politics—and I don't even know very much about the subject! If you think that it's not worthwhile to waste your time reading the opinion of someone not well-versed in the subject, may I suggest that you stop reading here, since hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is becoming rampant these days.

So OK, it seems that you still want to continue reading, huh? Fine.

Well, I'm not an expert in rock climbing; in fact, I've never even tried it. But of course I've seen others doing it, and I'm always amazed at how good some of them are at it. If I had to do it, I think I can probably survive up to about 10m high on a relatively easy wall. Beyond that height, I'd most probably faint because of the fear of height.

When you come to think of it, it's fantastic the way an expert rock climber would be able to find a grip on an apparently smooth surface. He would somehow find something to hang on to, even if he has to climb in a zig-zag manner, with the sole aim of going higher and higher until he reaches to top. It is a skillful maneuver, but a single mistake can send him falling all the way to the ground with dire consequences. It's no laughing matter!

I see some politicians very much like the rock climber mentioned above; except that they're not necessarily experts at it. In Sabah, we have Datuk Yong Teck Lee and Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan. In the West, we have Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. These people yearn so much to get to the top of the wall, and they struggle to find those little nooks and corners and jutting portions on the wall, however small and ridiculous they are, in their hope to get to pull themselves up to the top somehow. Unlike the actual rock climber in the preceding paragraph, I frequently find myself fairly amused when seeing these politicians in their endeavours. It is almost comical to me! They have been trying, and failing many times in the process; and who knows, maybe one of these days, a couple of them will succeed to get to the top. I will be among the first ones to congratulate them, even if I'd still be laughing then.

When I set my mind to achieve something, it is very rare that anything at all can stop me. Either I achieve it sooner or later, or I just die trying. It can become an obsession and not everybody can understand such an attitude.

That is why in a strange way, although I'm amused by these politicians and their antics, in the end I have to admit that I admire them anyway.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wintry Malaysia?

We have had some unusually low temperatures over the last couple of days in Malaysia as reported here. But the so-called "low temperatures" refers to the low twenty-something degrees Centigrade; and in some places it went as low as the teens. This is, however, by no means anywhere near the kind of temperatures for the formation of ice outdoors. But I find it interesting that the phenomenon did not stop the excitement of some Malaysians looking forward to a wintry Malaysia.

Closer home, it's been reported in the local papers that ice has been found on the summit of Mount Kinabalu. That did not surprise me, but then it was also mentioned that it was snowing at Panar Laban. The latter was news to me. If the Chairman of Sabah Parks, Tengku Datuk Dr Zinal Adlin, insists that he has seen "a lot of pictures of thick snow" photographed on the summit, I'm willing to let it go at that, but not amounting to believing in his testimony. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see these pictures that he speaks of.

A friend of mine, about 8 years old, said she wanted to shop for winter clothings—presumably in anticipation of an impending winter in Malaysia soon—and I suggested to her to try the children's section at Metrojaya, Suria Shopping Mall in KK. Just that they may not have the XS, or even XXS size that would fit her.

Even my office boy who obviously had too much free time, had embarked on learning to build a snowman using an apple and a Mandarin orange for his project. And I have to admit that he has a natural talent at it!

Of course one can also see a lot of excitement via facebook, and in due course there will be many people sharing wide-ranging articles related to a wintry Malaysia. Suddenly everybody is a weather expert, even if those articles have no scientific basis whatsoever. Yet, it's amazing that some people have faith in these articles, so you can imagine that science is not everybody's strong subject! Check out an article written by this genius; it's a good source of entertainment.

I happen to know that some of my nephews and nieces, like many people out there, are quite gullible kids too, and since they're frequent readers of this blog, please allow uncle Kong to advise you all that the North and South poles are not likely to shift positions by 2015. You just have to trust uncle Kong on this, kids.

Anyway, yesterday (Saturday) was my cycling day and I was hoping that I could ride at least 100km. So I was looking forward to a cold day of perhaps 25 degrees C; a bit too much to hope for in KK during the day, but at least I'm not asking for wintry cold. Unfortunately, I had to cut short my workout when the temperature soared to over 30 degrees C. It was still 30 degrees at 5pm in the evening. So much for winter in Malaysia.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Donation For School Building Fund

Shortly after JJ's school reopens every year, parents would receive a red envelop each. In it is a greeting to wish the family a Happy New Year. And together with the greeting card is a donation form. These are all in Chinese characters except for the words "LEMBAGA PENGURUS SEKOLAH SJK (C) ST. JAMES" at the top of the document. It is basically a donation drive to raise money for the construction of a new classroom block as well as the refurbishment of the canteen building. It is not known when exactly the construction would commence, but presumably as soon as there is sufficient funds. Of course this may mean several years down the road.

Unfortunately, I can't read Chinese. I'm not very good in Mandarin, although I can speak the local dialect, Hakka. To save myself from embarrassment, I sometimes say that I only know a few Chinese characters when asked. But actually, I only know how to write one, two and three in Chinese. That is why Mia would usually be the one who'd handle JJ's school matters, including donations. She's not exactly an expert in Mandarin, but at least she's slightly better than me.

The donation form was a simple document. There's a short paragraph containing information, seeking to justify the donation drive by giving short explanation for the purpose of the fund. That more or less occupied about half of the A4 size paper. The bottom half of the document was where several blanks were found. These were where I was supposed to fill up my full name, my signature, the amount donated, the cheque number (if any), the pupil's name as well as his or her class.

However, Mia was away for a few days to Hong Kong for an ultra trail marathon recently, so I had to be the one to handle the donation thing this time. There was of course no specific amount mentioned, and parents could donate whatever amount they could afford. I decided to donate RM300. It's not a big donation, but I thought it's still big enough to be a little risky for JJ to handle it in cash. Since there's a blank to fill in the cheque number, I thought it's best that I make the donation by cheque. Although there's no mention of which party the cheque should be made payable to, it seemed only logical to just address it to those words found at the top of the document. So I wrote out the cheque to "LEMBAGA PENGURUS SEKOLAH SJK (C) ST. JAMES".

This evening, JJ brought the cheque home from school, informing me that the name of the payee was wrong. Instead of paying to Lembaga Pengurus, the payee should have been "ST. JAMES PRIMARY SCHOOL BUILDING FUND". Bear in mind that nowhere on the donation form could such a name be found. JJ's teacher sent his apology through JJ, saying that they did not expect that parents would donate with cheques. A strange explanation, considering that there was a blank space on the donation form for filling up the cheque number. This is the place where my kid is acquiring valuable knowledge to compete in the job market in the future.

Beating The System

I’ve never really been a big fan of cycling, and although I’m into cycling these days, I’m still pretty much ignorant of the happenings in the cycling world. I don’t know who’s who; or who won what in the latest elite races. Whenever my friends whom are more experienced in cycling start to talk about technical cycling matters, I would shy away to the corner of the chatroom and just play the role of an observer. Perhaps every now and then, I’d throw in a question or two. 

For the most part, I keep things very simple about cycling—I pedal with my legs, and the wheels turn, and the bike moves forward. If it’s too stressful on my legs, I’d shift the gears to make it a little easier, and vice versa. 

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I did not know much about the man named Lance Armstrong, except that he’s the fellow who won the Tour de France many times before. But I read a bit more about the man after it was proven (and he confessed) that he had cheated in his races, and then stripped off his titles. I shall not delve into the controversy of the cheating itself, but I want to say that I’m truly impressed with his brilliance, or those working together with him, in beating the system! With my limited knowledge in the sport, it seemed to me that it was extremely difficult to cheat in the race, since the organizer conducted regular tests for banned substances throughout the many stages of the event. He was able to beat the system not just once, but many times. Furthermore, I’m also in awe of the simplicity of how it’s done! It all boils down to the simple trick of carrying out blood transfusions throughout the race. The simplicity of the trick is just too fantastic, even though I don’t condone cheating in sports!

But anyway, there is a psychological significance in this. Maybe I'm not speaking about the majority of people, but I suspect that there's still a huge number of people who derive some sort of strange pleasure and thrill either when they're able to beat the system, or when they see others able to pull it off!

There have been cases of people whom are not exactly poor, but in the habit of stealing things from the shelves in the stores just for the thrill of being able to pull it off without getting caught. I'm also aware of people meddling with the electricity meters so that they can either escape paying for electricity consumption or pay substantially lesser than the actual cost. The same is true for water consumptions. And there are many other examples where people beat the system all the time. Those who don't have the guts to do it themselves, secretly cheer for those who can devise the plan to beat the system.

I read with interest about how a man got free meals for almost a year by beating the system as reported here. But the part that attracted my attention the most is the last paragraph of the article which indicates that there are many people who are cheering for this fellow instead of condemning him. They may enjoy seeing how these big companies got outsmarted. 

However, these people have forgotten that when the electricity and water suppliers; and airlines companies and the likes suffer the loss of revenues because of these brilliant folks, they will one way or another pass on the cost to the rest of the consumers; and who do you think will pay for it in the end?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Mystery of Love

I had a couple of friends who were still single when approaching their mid-thirties, and there were concerns, both by themselves, as well as their family members, if they're ever gonna be married. If it's a girl, it would also be a kind of race against time, since we all know that the fertility rate drops fairly quickly beyond mid-thirties. So there is that tendency to try to be proactive in finding love. I know at least one friend who pushed it a bit too aggressively, and did find a spouse, but the marriage only lasted a few years.

Love is a strange thing—if it happens, it just happens without the real need to make it happen. That may sound confusing to some of you younger folks. But my advice is not to force it; if it's not meant to be, it's not going to last. There is little point to be in a relationship that is not meant to be.

When I was in my teens, it was beyond my imagination that any girl would be in the least interested in me. You see, I had long accepted that I'm not a handsome fellow—I just don't have the looks, I get it! I had no "style"; I don't smoke and don't drink alcohol, not even beer. I don't believe in religions. In fact, I was the perfect nerd in class. But I'm not the kind of nerd who scores straight As. For from it, I was a lazy bum and always got into trouble for not completing my homeworks in time. So, it seemed like I would need nothing short of a miracle to find that dumb woman to fall for me.

Throughout school, I did experience several occasions of secretly admiring some cute girls, but knowing that I'm that nerd as described above, I did not even dare to try my luck. Why bother if you had zero chance of success, if you know what I mean. In fact, I seemed destined to be all on my own till I die! But that didn't bother me at all, because from a young age, I've decided that if I'm never gonna be married, I could accept that.

It wasn't till some years later, while on a trip to climb Mount Kinabalu, that I quite unexpectedly found the woman for me. The rest they say is history.

But I sometimes wonder how easily some men or women find a partner. Is there really a special formula or trick to it? It's mind-boggling to me especially if the person has seemingly nothing that could be in the least attractive in him!

I know someone in the family who's got such magical charm. No—I mean someone other than the Playboy. I wouldn't say that he's much better looking than me, if at all. He's a divorcee and in his late forties. Although he's working, he's always struggling to make ends meet; and occasionally he's got to borrow to pay his bills. He's an overweight creature and not in the best of health; he's a diabetic and has issues with his cholesterol levels. The way I see it, he's a time bomb just waiting to explode. I reckon that if he falls ill, his whole body can just start failing one organ at a time. And because he has no insurance and no savings, things can very quickly become very bleak.

That is why I was fairly surprised to have been told recently that he's planning to marry again. Although he's past mid-forties, the woman who's gonna marry him is just 27 years old; meaning an almost 20 years age gap. I was like, "Just who is this woman? What's the weather like on her planet? Is she nuts?"

And then my sister offered a bombastic answer, "It's because of love," she said, and then added impressively, "Who knows, maybe this woman can change him for the better!". 

Yeah right, like hell she will!

Well, let me be honest here, the truth is that it's really none of my business. That's his life and he can marry a woman young enough to be his daughter for all I care. By all means, if it's truly a case of love, then what the heck, go for it!

But history has shown me that time and again when things go wrong, and people such as these get into trouble, they are bound to send out SOS, and sooner or later their problems will become my problems too. In other words, it's just a matter of time before it becomes my business too! Then what? Do I say, "Go to hell, it's none of my business!"?

Well, you know what? I'm going to try exactly that! I guess I'm never gonna understand this mystery of love thing, but when the time comes—and I know it will come somehow—I'm gonna tell them to go to hell! Sometimes, love hurts; and it takes a lot of sacrifice and pain to keep it. It's time that some people learn that as a fact of life.

A Message From Yoda

Not so long ago in 2008, and not so far away in the galaxy, in the Land Below the Wind, The Borneo International Marathon was born. It has since grown bigger and bigger each year, and now it is back again with the promise of the same fun-filled event as its predecessors. It will be on 04 May 2014. 

Last night, Grand Master of the Jedi Order, Yoda, sent me a brief message through the Force. And I am to convey the message to you all. Here is his message: 

Borneo International Marathon fans you are, I sense. Great news for you I bring—back again in May, it is. The beautiful run and exciting route, it is still. The sea, the city and the hills, you will see. Growing and improving each year, no doubt. 

The Force in you I sense; powerful you have become, my old Pawadans. But still a lot to run, you have! Join the beautiful run, you all must. See you at the starting line, I hope! 

May the fourth be with you! 

Jedi Grand Master Yoda 

So there you go, folks, register for the race as soon as possible. The Early Bird rate ends on 14 February, so there isn’t much more time to catch the slightly cheaper fee. 

I’d also like to add that it’s been observed that cheating cases in races have been quite rampant this lately, and apparently they included people from among the top performers in the sport too. Well, there isn’t much motivation to cheat in the Borneo International Marathon, as the organizer has deliberately kept the top prizes small, just a matter of recognition for the achievement, but not much money in it. So please don’t be seduced to the Dark Side; let’s all play a clean game and be proud of our achievements of conquering the challenge without cheating! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Looking At The Bright Side

Apart from posting my thoughts and opinions in this blog, I frequently visit other blogs too. You'd be surprised how much you can learn from reading the opinions of others. I think it is a good way to learn about people in general, but perhaps not so much for the purpose of improving on the English language, if you know what I mean!

Being a keen student of psychology, I also make it a point to quickly glance through posts on facebook walls, although I don't always comment on them. There will be plenty of what is known as "selfie" photos, since that seems to have become fashionable these days. Of course not forgetting photos of practically everything ranging from what people had for breakfast to dinner, the cloudy sky, even photos taken from the car during a traffic jam. There will be some strange-looking cryptic posts with the obvious intention to lure people to comment such as, "I wonder if I should...", or "Yay!...It's finally here!", or "Of course lah!", you know, the kind of post that's hanging? Then there will be posts by frequently depressed people, and these are the kind of posts that usually attract my attention.

You see, too many people have the tendency to be negative—they are sad or depressed because they are fast approaching mid-thirties and still single; perhaps they feel trapped in their careers with very limited scope for advancement; a boyfriend or spouse who had forgotten their birthday or wedding anniversary; work that never seems to end but such small salary which is hardly enough to buy the latest model of the iphone. The girlfriend is coming over tonight, and there's no more blue pills left in the cabinet. And the list goes on and on.

The strength and sense of empowerment from positive-thinking can be surprisingly beneficial in achieving happiness, and it's strange that not many people realise it. When one starts to compare oneself with those who have practically nothing in life, e.g. kids living in the streets begging from others on a daily basis for their survival, people born with no limbs or retarded, people who die of cancer before even seeing their fifth birthday—suddenly we realise that we are so blessed with whatever little that we have!

The state of my happiness is my own choice, really. I mean, I could have felt depressed when my mother-in-law, in attempting to play doctor, tried to lecture me on the subject of coitus interruptus. And when I thought she would demonstrate the method to me, I could have fainted! But I'm fast to brush aside all these little negative things, and try to look at the bright side by focusing on the positive things in my life.

So I'm calling out those of you on my facebook friends' list, whom are so frequently depressed, to try to look at the bright side for a change. Listen to this old man for a moment; you may just thank me one of these days. You have so much to be happy about in life, I promise. You just haven't realised it yet. The choice is really yours!

Big Picture & Small Picture

Most Malaysians must have felt the increase in prices of goods throughout the nation in recent times. They grumble and then blame the government for it. But the truth is that prices of goods can never remain stagnant forever. I hate to break it to you, folks, but inflation happens in all countries in the world; prices are bound to rise no matter how well a country is managed. The sooner we accept this as a fact of life, the better.

I think the problem with Malaysians as a whole is that for generations the government has been adopting the culture of subsidy in its governance. Most essential commodities were subsidized, and in fact, many are still subsidized up to now. The only question is by what margin(s). 

As I said, prices of goods have been rising steadily over the years, and I'm quite sure that most Malaysians are aware of that, even if they're unwilling to admit it! My grandfather is in his mid-nineties now. He used to work as a manual labourer at the train station in Beaufort for RM14 a month about 65 to 70 years ago. That was somehow enough to support his big family comprising school-going children. Today, RM14 is probably just about enough for a simple nasi campur lunch for a pax at the Suria Mall food court. Quite mind-boggling when you come to think of it.

However, it does seem like the magnitude of price increase in recent times was substantially more than the kind of increases in the past. Is that really the case? Well, I'm not sure how to answer that question, but in Kota Kinabalu, real property had appreciated rather substantially over the recent years. And then a whole range of goods have also seen substantial increases in prices. It does make one wonder how on earth would someone in the next generation afford to buy his own house.

I'm fairly amused that many people have the tendency to do their simple mathematics to arrive at their conclusion that business owners are raising prices without justifications. Say a 20 sen increase in the price of 1kg of sugar can eventually lead to a 20 sen increase in the price of a glass of coffee. We all know that 1kg of sugar is enough for many, many glasses of coffee. Or in a similar way, a 30 sen increase in the price of 1kg of flour can somehow lead to an increase of say 10 sen in the price of a roti canai, even though only very little flour is required for the making of a roti canai. So immediately we ask the question: How come oh?

That's the problem when one looks at the situation as an isolated case from a very narrow angle. People have the tendency to see the small picture, but the big picture is very different. The truth is that everybody tries to find ways to increase their incomes in the long run, and if that is not achievable, at least maintain the present level of incomes would be a minimum. The case of the coffeeshop owner or the mamak at the roti canai stall can't be considered in isolation, because it would lead to the wrong conclusion. The market must be seen in its entirety to be understood.

The point is that because of the rising prices of many goods in the market as a whole, one would find that if his income still remains the same, he will end up buying a smaller basket of goods than before. In other words, he is not even maintaining his present income level, because although in Ringgit and Sen, he's getting the same amount, but in real terms, he can no longer buy the same amount of goods. Therefore, he will try to increase his income to reach an amount so that he can at least buy the same amount of goods as before. But beyond that he would like to earn a little bit more so that he can now buy slightly more goods than before.

With this latter scenario, let us now return to the case of the coffeeshop owner or the mamak at the roti canai stall, this time looking at the big picture instead of the small picture. If he used to make a profit of say RM10,000 per month, it is no longer good enough for him to earn that much now, because he will end up buying lesser than before (whatever it is that he's been buying). Earning the same amount would actually mean that his income is reducing in real terms, not even maintaining! In his mind, he will try to adjust his prices so that he can earn a profit of say RM11,000 per month to satisfy the requirement of buying at least the same basket of goods as before with a little bit more to spare. And then everybody else will also try to do the same! That is why a small increase in the price of, say, sugar or flour can lead to a seemingly huge increase in the prices of a glass of coffee or roti canai.

I will leave it at that for you to ponder the merits of the argument. I will try to find the time to discuss about kangkung in a separate post later, when I have the time.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dreaming To Become An Ironman

Almost a year ago, shortly after the Kellogg's Nutri-Grain IRONMAN NEW ZEALAND opened for registration, I signed up for the race. If I can conquer the challenge, it would probably be my first and last Ironman race. It will be on 01 March.

Truth be told, just a few years ago, I did not even entertain the possibility of attempting the Ironman. You see, swimming is just not my thing—I can do the breaststroke, but somehow I struggle with the front crawl. Of course it is still possible to complete the Ironman with the breaststroke, but I'm not born a natural athlete, so I know that if I tire out my legs in the swim leg, I would struggle and probably fail in the bike and run legs of the race.

I have of course posted about my lousy front crawl here, so I shall refrain from repeating myself in this post. All I want to add is that I've since learnt a bit more about the front crawl, and I will try to find the time to share with my readers on how far I've progressed (which is unfortunately not very far!).

If it were up to me, however, I wouldn't have signed up for the Ironman; at least not so soon. The main reason why I did it was because my friend, Teo Chen Lung had registered for the New Zealand event. He tried so hard to convince all his friends to register too. You see, I've got a very strange relationship with Teo; one might describe as a love-hate relationship. Although he is a good 11 years younger and bigger built than me, he has a curious obsession of challenging me in sporting events. Over the years he's been gradually gaining on me, and although I realise that sooner or later my old body will fail to defend my pride, I'm secretly enjoying the challenge too! That's why I've decided to take up the challenge of the Ironman New Zealand, so that I can go head to head with Teo. If it's a matter of endurance, I'd be confident against Teo. But now I'm faced with the issue of skills. It's most definitely a bigger challenge, but I love it! Another friend, Paul Lee, is also racing with us.

While Teo has been diligently training very hard for the Ironman for almost a year now, Paul and I haven't been very disciplined. I started training quite seriously last November, but had to be interrupted during my long holidays to Canada. But I resumed training again as soon as I returned from my holidays. On paper, I'm facing an uphill task against Teo. But I love the challenge anyway!

Teo and I frequently take a jab at each other with our unique sense of humour. For example, because of my very stiff swimming style, he teased me with this photo.

Unfortunately, apart from swimming, I'm not very good in cycling too. For those of you who're not into cycling, let me tell you that these days there's a lot of sophistication in the sport of cycling. Too many researches have been done on improving performance. When I started cycling about 3 years ago, I was quite at a loss for cycling jargon such as "bike fit", "aerowheels", "aerobars", "TT bikes", "Roadie" etc.

One has to choose a specific size for best performance. Even the height of the seat can be a big factor too; otherwise you will lose comfort, and ultimately, perform poorly!

Heck! Sometimes, even the colour of the seat matters too!

Until very recently, Teo has been training mainly on his own. He would go on a very long solo ride of way over 100km for months and months. But in recent weeks, I've started joining him on his Saturday rides. This morning we had another one of our rides. It was a scheduled 160km slow ride which we had expected to finish within 6hours. Actually, I don't mind riding solo, but I have the weakness of controlling my pace, and I have the tendency of riding too fast at the beginning and then struggle at the tail end of the workout. In fact, I had very similar problem when I first started running some years ago. 

But this morning, fate would have it that at approximately 70km into our ride, as I tried to avoid a pothole I ended up swerving into Teo's rear wheel, and both of us fell heavily onto the hard asphalt road. It happened so fast. Within seconds both of us were groaning on the ground. I struggled to detach my shoes from my pedals. The whole of the left side of my body went numb for a moment. I tore my shirt and I was bleeding on my knee and elbow, as well as bruises on my thigh, hip and chest. Thankfully, I had my helmet on—it cracked upon the impact of my head on the hard road. Always ride with your helmet, people!

Teo suffered severe pain on his left arm; he could hardly move it. He suspected that he must have dislocated or fractured his collar bone. The first thing I did was to call our friend, Douglas, to help. He came in a jiffy, but we still had to wait for a good 20 minutes before he arrived. In the mean time, I was rather annoyed that instead of worrying about his collar bone, Teo was more concerned about his RM400 2XU top. He tried to take it off before reaching the hospital because he said the doctors would cut it in order to perform the X-ray. He also started considering about his options in the Ironman. If his collar bone is broken, that will of course affect his swim and bike legs. Maybe it's still doable, but much slower. Things were indeed looking grim. I was overwhelmed with a strange sense of guilt even though this was an accident and there was nothing I could do about it.

Well, Doug eventually arrived at the scene, and took Teo to the hospital. I got onto my bike, sore legs, bleeding and all, making my way home which was quite many kilometres away. Then we waited anxiously for news about Teo. The suspense was unbearable. We kept asking each other if anyone had any news about Teo. In the end, Dr Liaw, who's also working in SMC sent us news in the form of the following photo:

Speaking of the devil! All the worries, and he was happily having a first class service, served lunch in bed and all! For a moment, I had the crazy idea to go over to break his other collar bone! Luckily he's doing fine. I'm beginning to suspect that he's doing it on purpose so that he could enjoy the pampering in SMC for a bit! We're all happy for Teo, and he's back in the game again!

Even she is happy for Teo too.

So now, we are still GO for the Ironman New Zealand. And here's Teo's version of what he perceives the 3 of us will look like when we return from New Zealand in March.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nightmare Of Going To School

Elsewhere in this blog, I have repeated several times that I’m rarely involved in JJ’s education matters. That is because I’m not infected with the typical Malaysian’s obsession with scoring straight A’s. At the risk of getting shot by all the big guns out there, I simply don’t believe the value of Grade A in our education system these days is anything like the value of Grade A of the good old days. But I readily admit that I may be wrong about this! 

Anyway, this post is not about comparing grades in school. As far as JJ is concerned, Mia has always been the one who’s obsessed with her performance. If JJ does badly in her exams, I reckon that Mia would probably suffer the agony of a bullet wound. She’s the one who sends JJ to school, and when in due course the teacher requests for a meeting to discuss something about JJ, Mia would be there to attend. I think I had only attended a meeting with JJ’s teacher once throughout the 5 years since Primary One. And I went to collect JJ’s report card once a couple of years ago. Occasionally, when Mia is too busy to fetch JJ from school, I would be the one to do it. It’s therefore fair to say that I have very minimal involvement in JJ’s education matters. 

But very early this morning Mia had to catch a flight to Hong Kong, and she will only be home very late on Monday evening. She’s making a second attempt at the Vibram HK 100, an ultra trail marathon for a distance of 100km over treacherous hill range. Last year she had to throw in the towel at CP7 due to severe fatigue. I tried to give her some tips on how to increase her chances to finish the race this year, but of course because I’m her husband, all my tips went to waste—she won’t have any of it! I mean, seriously now, how many women would listen to their husbands, right? 

So anyway, since Mia is away to torture herself in Hong Kong, I had to be the one handling JJ for the next few days starting from this morning. And oh boy, was I up for a big shock! The first thing I had to do this morning was to wake up an hour earlier. OK, never mind about that, that’s the easy part. Then down to the kitchen, boiled water and then prepared breakfast for the kid. Damn! When I was her age, I hand-washed my own laundry, and prepared my own meals too. 

Then I had my own Quaker oats. I woke JJ up at 6am. School starts at 7:20am, and it’s just a 10-minute drive to her school, so plenty of time; no problem. But amazingly, time seemed to pass super fast. Before I knew it, it was already 6:40am. I rushed upstairs to get dressed for work, and then to my horror, I had to iron my own shirt. After I broke the shirt-ironing record, I threw in JJ's school bags into the car, started the engine, and then left the house at around 7am. I suspect that everybody was conspiring to slow us down; the traffic jam was just mind-boggling! We moved inches at a time, but we finally reached the forsaken school in the nick of time. Then I helped carry JJ’s huge bag (what da hell do they have in their school bags, rocks?) up the 3 storey to her class. As soon as we reached her class, the bell rang. I was walking down the staircase when suddenly the Negara Ku started blaring from the loudspeakers, and the students started singing. I tried to avoid being noticed as I walked slowly to my car. 

Then I realized that in my rush, I had forgotten to bring along my cellphone. I’m not sure how I survived without my cellphone years ago, but I had to return home to get my phone. Leaving the engine running in the car port, I rushed into the house, then up the stairs into my bedroom; grabbed the phone and then to the car again in double quick time. I was out at the main road when I realized that I had my sandals on. So I had to turn back home again to get my shoes.

Surprisingly, I arrived at the office just before 8am. I bet the chaotic morning must have raised my blood pressure at least by 10%. So yes, I'm so happy to report that I've survived the first few hours of Mia's absence! I sure hope she has internet access in Hong Kong, so that she can text me this evening what I should do with JJ for tomorrow.

Keeping my fingers crossed...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Preparing For The Unexpected

As a small boy, I longed to spend time talking to the Playboy, but he was hardly ever around during my growing up years. He came visiting from who-knows-where perhaps once or twice in a year, and then he'd disappear again for months and months. It wasn't till I was in my teens when we finally lived together for the first time under the same roof. By then the Playboy was almost like a stranger to me. Beyond that point, I spent many years trying to get to know the man and figure out what's going on in his head. Alas, I failed to make much progress up to now.

There was a little conversation I had with him many years ago about life insurance. You see, the Playboy had never had a life insurance in his entire life. At one time, he was earning quite well, and he could have easily bought one, yet he chose not to. That is of course his choice, but I was rather puzzled by his reason for not having one—he said he did not like the prospect of his wife and children benefiting from his death! A very extraordinary notion that reflects his selfish nature. He is one of those creatures born into this world to live solely for himself; to live his dreams and his ventures; to reproduce and then does not spend a moment to ponder about his responsibilities for his offspring. What can I say, decidedly, he is a unique character!

Anyway, I had my life insured since I was in my twenties. And when I became a daddy almost 11 years ago, among the first few things I did was to buy a few more insurance policies as well as start an education fund for my daughter. 

It's strange that people always say that buying an insurance is meant to be as a "preparation for the unexpected", yet we all know that everyone of us will fall ill and die one of these days. The only unknown element is when? So actually, it's not really something "unexpected" that one is preparing for! 

Apart from death, I have myself insured for illnesses and cost of treatments. It scares me a great deal to think that my family members will have to suffer and sell everything they possess to pay for the cost of my treatment. That is why I made it a point to buy life and medical insurance as soon as I could.

Nevertheless, I suspect many people, though aware of the urgency of having life and medical insurance, do not act urgently to have one. Of course there will be other more urgent matters to spend the money on; insurance can always wait! And if you are like the Playboy, "buying insurance" is not even found in the "to-do" list at all!

A friend in his thirties, seemingly fit and very active in sports, became ill recently and hasn't regained consciousness since about a month ago when he suddenly collapsed during his training to prepare for an ultra trail marathon. A month ago, if anyone had told me that this friend could fall ill, I would probably have laughed out loud. But now, it breaks my heart to have been told that he is up for a long journey to recovery, if ever, and the issue of how to meet the cost of treatment and life support have now become critical. Friends and family members are putting their heads together to come up with something, but it won't be smooth sailing. At a time when everything seems to become more expensive, except for the price of kangkung, it will be very challenging for his family members!

I'm sharing this with my readers in the hope that you might shift "buying life and medical insurance" a little higher in your priority list because we can never tell what's gonna happen tomorrow or the day after.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Investment Analyst

There was once when my brother and his bumiputera wife (now ex-wife) contemplated taking up a loan package from a local bank to invest in the ASB. I'm afraid I'm not very well versed with the exact details of the transaction, but if I'm not mistaken it had something to do with borrowing some money from the bank which is then to be deposited into ASB. 

The returns from the investment in ASB is then utilised to pay the bank. The gains from the ASB investment is big enough to offset the interest charged by the bank so that the investor still ends up with a positive returns. However, it goes without saying that the gains would be smaller when compared to an investment where the investor uses his own money, since he will get to keep the entire gains from ASB without deductions to pay the bank.

The question that begs to be answered is whether this is a smart investment approach?

In the last couple of weeks, several people on my facebook friends' list have shared an interesting post about the above investment scheme. It is written in Malay, if you are keen to read more, check it out here. It's apparently an analysis by an investment analyst, although I have to admit that I haven't investigated the author's background. But even if he is not a qualified investment analyst—and I'm not saying that he isn't—the post does reflect someone with some knowledge in investment.

The article goes on to analyse the investment scheme as outlined above, and then finds that in the end the bank makes more profits than the individual investor. 

He then poses the question: Siapa yang untung sebenarnya? (Actually, who gains?)

And then he answers himself impressively: Bank!

A paragraph later, he poses another question: Yang rugi [?] (The loser)

And again he answers himself: Anda sebenarnya!!! (Actually, you!!!)

Therefore, he concludes, it's better to invest with your own money; don't use borrowed money to invest.

Well, I'm not an investment analyst, but I know a little bit about mathematics. In fact, a zillion years ago, when I was in school, maths was my favourite subject. But for those who really know me well, they would also know that I'm a keen observer of psychology; about people in general. 

However, before I go into psychology, let me just say that I disagree with the author of the above post. The point is that a gain is a gain, and it is as simple as that! So let me give my answers to his questions based on the investment model in his article.

Question: Actually, who gains?

Answer: Both the bank as well as the investor because the latter still ends up with more (although the bank gains more)

Question: [Who} loses?

Answer: Neither, based on the model.

Now let me share my thoughts on the article as a whole. It bears no resemblance to reality! The truth is that the majority of people just don't have it in them to save up enough capital to the extent of enabling them to invest with their own money. Otherwise, there is no need for the government to establish the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) as a means of forced saving scheme. 

I said majority, not all. Of course some people are the weird ones—I have a friend whose father came from China before the formation of Malaysia. He started working as a labourer, saved some money, then started a small business. He maintained his lifestyle and saved every single sen he earned. When he died, he had several shops and a successful wholesale business. This is one very rare example. But for each such example, there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands more of those who couldn't do it the same way.

Most people just don't have the saving habit. An office clerk can suddenly buy a cellphone worth more than a month's salary. A fresh university graduate drives his own Kancil within the first month he gets a job. I think the Investment Analyst is just too naive in his analysis and totally disregards human nature. The reality is that most people will need to borrow money—and yes, incurring interests for the loan—to start a business, or any investment as a whole, to buy a house, to buy a car. Otherwise, they will never start a business or investment, never own a house, a car.

Borrowing from the banks is not necessarily a bad thing. You get the opportunity to open doors to realise your potential. Sure, you will have to pay interests for the loan (sorry, nothing is free), but while they make money, you too can make some money. Surely that's a whole lot better than you not making money at all?

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Danger of Procrastination

Everyone has the same amount of time per day, and we can't be everywhere or doing everything at the same time. We always find ourselves in situations where we need to deal with either urgent or important matters. Some matters may be urgent but not necessarily important, and vice versa; but some are both urgent as well as important to deal with.

A friend of mine was a very active sportsman and he had been running marathons, ultra marathons and other multiple endurance races. He had conquered several ultra trail marathons and seemed impossible to fall sick, especially since he's just in his thirties. I raced the Vibram HK 100 in Hong Kong together with him last year and he finished the 100km of gruesome hilly terrain about 2 hours before me.

But far from having a perfect body, actually he had serious hypertension (high blood pressure), and had been under strict medication. He registered for the Vibram HK 100 again this year, but he had been quite occupied with other recent races including the Penang Bridge International Marathon, and the Beaufort 60km - A Bridge Too Far. However, things weren't looking too well—he ran his worst time ever for the full marathon in Penang, as well as declined quite substantially in Beaufort when compared to the previous year. It was obvious that he needed to embark on an intensive training programme if he were to do well again in Hong Kong later this month. In fact, he needed to train urgently.

As part of his training programme, he decided to train at our famous Mount Kinabalu. That was of course a brilliant idea, since there will be many, many hills and stairs in the Vibram. Unfortunately, it so happened that a few days before he went for that mountain workout, he ran out of his hypertension medicines. 

Now some people are unaware of the severity of hypertension. Yes, the training was urgent, but the medication was important. And in this particular case, the medication was urgent too! The tragedy was that my friend procrastinated on getting his hypertension medicines for the sake of the mountain training. He had barely started his mountain climb about a week before Christmas when he suddenly collapsed to the ground. He was then rushed to the Ranau Hospital and then transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here in KK where doctors found a blood vessel in his brain had ruptured. Christmas day and New Year day had come and gone, and he had undergone 2 surgeries but hasn't regained consciousness up to now. Things are looking bleak, but friends and family members are praying for a miracle that he would recover somehow.

I'm sharing this with my readers because I know many of you are active in sports like my friend and I. The reality is that contrary to popular belief, even sportsmen are not immune from illnesses. In fact, we have to be extra careful with our bodies because of the amount of stress we subject them to on a regular basis. Whenever there is any hint of problem, seek medical help as soon as possible. Procrastination in this case is the biggest enemy, because it may mean a matter of life and death. If you really love sports so much, then take good care of your body—it's the only one you've got.