Thursday, December 27, 2018

Competition

Whenever I'm in the mood to lecture some of the young folks, I've always told them the story of competing in a foot race against other people. Immediately after the start gun, everybody starts running, and as the race progresses, you realise that your rivals are gradually leaving you farther and farther behind. What would you do? 

There are three possible reactions. The first is the simplest, i.e. just give up and stop running immediately. The only possible outcome of this choice is a certain defeat, period. The second choice is to just run at the same speed till the end. If the rivals are also maintaining their respective speeds, chances are they will continue increasing their lead over you until they cross the finish line. The third option is to try to run faster, somehow, in the hope that you can catch up with the competition, and who knows, maybe even overtake them. It's the hardest choice to make because it usually involves a lot of efforts. But even if in the end you can't win the race, maybe you won't be the last to cross the finish line. There is a chance that you might be able to overtake at least some of the runners.

And that is essentially what happens in life. All of us are actually in a race against each other on a daily basis, and in most cases, whether or not one can finish in pole position will depend on which of those three choices above that one opts for. We see the same thing in school, in the job market; in practically everything we do.

However, there is actually another possible choice to make, and that is to try to beat up the opponents' legs so that when their legs are injured, they won't be able to run so fast. It will then be easier to beat them in the race! It's not what one might call an honorable way of winning. But some people are not honorable anyway. If they can win, it doesn't really matter to them how they achieve it; winning is winning to them.

Therefore if a coconut farmer discovers that his customers are no longer buying from him—that they are buying from other people instead at a cheaper price—the immediate reaction is not to find ways to increase production efficiency to compete at the new prices; rather, find ways how to stop the competition from competing by urging the government to "look into the matter and put a halt to imported coconuts to safeguard the local coconut industry."

Winning a race against injured or crippled opponents, or winning a business venture due to monopoly power served by the government on a silver platter, is not really winning. This sort of success is only a success for as long as the protection is there. It's almost like buying a lottery ticket knowing the winning numbers before they are revealed.

If you want real victory, then fight a real fight. Real victory is much sweeter and satisfying.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Soap Opera

This will be one of my shortest posts in this blog, just to share on the quality of politicians that we have in Sabah, their values and life principles, and who-knows-what they are really fighting for.


02 December 2018 [The Star]:

"Sabah Umno is still very much intact and united"...

"Our social and community services, as well as activities are being carried out as usual in many divisions in Sabah"

—Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, amid a local media report that the party leaders and members were going to dump the party.


And then less than a fortnight later...


13 December 2018 [The Star]:

"We are leaving Umno with a heavy heart but a clear conscience. We believe that breaking free of past political baggage is the correct decision to allow for political renewal and betterment of Sabah"

—Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, in justifying why he and friends are abandoning ship.



Friday, December 7, 2018

The Handouts Culture

My sister was once married to a man of Pakistani-Bajau descendants. He wasn't a very bright chap—he spent several months taking driving lessons until the tutor gave up on him. Apparently, the task of having to focus on the steering wheel while his feet had to deal with the 3 pedals on the floor, as well as the shifting of the gear with his other hand, was too overwhelming to him. I suppose it was just a hopeless case of multi-tasking.

My ex-brother-in-law came from a very poor family and used to live in the then Sembulan Water Village—the area has since been reclaimed and redeveloped with modern buildings. He is a devout Muslim, and as a teenager I looked up to him. He attempted the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exams five times before finally passing it. Talk about determination! Such a hard-working man, and he was the role model to his younger siblings. He was, and still is, an extraordinary man, and I see him as a rare species of the Bumiputeras.

As is the case with most Bumiputera families, he had many siblings, and almost all of them were living under the same roof. Unfortunately, most of his siblings did not have the same mindset as him. They dropped out of school at an early age, and then got into trouble with the law. Some of them were jobless most of the time and spent their days hanging around doing nothing, just waiting to be fed. It didn't really matter that my brother-in-law was earning a decent income, because in his family there were more parasites than hosts. The net result is that the parasites would always overwhelm the hosts. The productive members of the family would always be broke, no matter how much they're earning.

Such is the "handouts culture" in his family—the non-productive members would expect to be fed by the productive members. In fact, it's almost like a birth right to them that other people should be feeding them forever. It's quite sad, if not mind-boggling, to see the life of my brother-in-law.

But what's happening in his family is actually a reflection of Malaysians in general. A sizeable number of Malaysians expect handouts too. They expect the government to give subsidies for a whole range of goods including food items, fuel, education and medicare. They applied for, and then secured education loans to pursue tertiary education. But when the time came to pay the loans, they demanded that those loans be cancelled for nothing. And even if they're willing to pay the loans, they'd expect some discounts from the original amount; and for the monthly installments to be as little as possible. Never mind who's going to pay for all these eventually; that's none of their concern. All they know is that they get either FREE or SUBSIDIZED goods and services, because they see these as an automatic right as Malaysian citizens.

I had one of those little conversations with my daughter recently. I told her that when she's already an adult it's entirely up to her to spend on the things she likes. But please make sure that she can afford those things, whatever they are. Mom and dad won't be around forever, so don't make it a habit to expect handouts from us. We will try our best to give her proper education. But beyond that, she's practically on her own. Please, for heaven's sake, don't be one of those people out there, perpetually demanding FREE or SUBSIDIZED goodies from the government. If the government is giving, then accept it with gratitude. If not, then earn the money on her own. And if she's still unable to earn well after putting in the efforts, then don't grumble. Keep trying. That's life. Get over it.


Friday, November 30, 2018

The Necessity of Child Marriage

My late father, the Playboy, married my mom at the age of 19. If I'm not mistaken, mom was 17 at the time. Six children later, "home" was a lot like a war zone on a daily basis. And then 12 years later, they were officially divorced.

I have seen way too many divorce cases in my day, even from among my family members, and I have come to a stage where I'm seeing the phenomenon as some sort of a disease. I've noticed that marriage between adults are not immune from the risk of divorce. People change over the years; people make mistakes in their decisions; sometimes the best solution is to get out of the rotten deal and start over again while there is still youth. However, some people will never learn in life; they make mistakes, and then they keep repeating those mistakes over and over again.

If even adults can make mistakes in choosing their life partners, imagine what's the odds of children making the correct choices? There's a lot more to learn in life than just the reproductive system before deciding on a life partner. In my mind—although I don't have any statistics to confirm it—the failure rate for child marriages should logically be higher than that of adults, simply because it's hard for me to believe that children can make better choices and decisions than adults. That's why I'm against the notion of child marriage. 

I read with interest the Kelantan government's stand on the issue of child marriage—that underage marriage is a necessity as there were social ills. Using marriage to circumvent children from indulging in "social ills" is something like sweeping the rubbish under the rug. It's not really a solution; it's just a temporary measure, but would most probably lead to an even bigger problem later. It is the kind of "solution" of people who are in the state of denial. What happens when these poor souls find out that they made a big mistake and end up with a divorce?

My daughter is just 16 years old now, and I'm praying really hard that she's not indulging in the so-called "social ill" activities. But if she did, marrying her off will be my last choice to make, because I know that there is an over-90% chance that that marriage will fail anyway. I'm not discounting the possibility of her making a big blunder as a teenager; but I won't allow her to make an even bigger blunder by getting married in the hope of escaping from that first blunder. Deal with the mistake by solving it; not by making an even bigger mistake to cover up that first mistake.


Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Lust To Punish; The Reluctance To Forgive

This lately I'm seeing a fair number of posts on facebook about Edi Rejang, the man who's become famous because of the "Beer Incidence". I'm seeing all the good people just itching to punish Edi because he's a racist, and they are tired of his bullshit.

Edi has since admitted his mistake and apologized to the female beer promoter in the hypermarket. However, the story did not end there. The criticisms against him had intensified. What's more, he has been fired from his job. Way too many people are of the opinion that he deserved the punishment; he had it coming. There is no place in Malaysia for a racist like Edi.

Now this may come as a big surprise to some of you, but actually we have many, many people in Malaysia who're racist. They come from all walks of life including highly educated people, even political leaders. Yes, you better believe it! But not all of them have received the same punishment as Edi.

Whenever we see someone doing something bad, there is the tendency to punish; and the strange thing is that sometimes it seems like no amount of punishment will satisfy us. No amount of admitting to his mistake; no amount of apologies from him will be acceptable. All we want is to strike back really hard, because the wrongdoer needs to be taught a good lesson, you see.

I suspect that many of those who're punishing Edi are convinced that they have never made any mistake in life. But I hate to break it to them—none of us are immune from making mistakes. Sooner or later, we will make at least some mistakes, and those mistakes will one way or another, hurt other people, perhaps even our loved ones.

The err is human, the forgive is divine

The thing is that when we take on the role of the punisher, we try very hard to impose the worst kind of punishment that we can think of; and there is that peculiar reluctance to forgive.

Truth be told, because all of us are liable to make mistakes sometimes, all of us deserve a second chance. If we deserve any punishment, let it be quick, and then get over with it. Forgive and forget. I have always said that it takes a great courage to admit one's mistakes and apologize for them. But it takes an even greater courage to forgive others. How about we try to be brave, and forgive him for his mistake. After all, he has been punished; I think he gets the idea.

I know that many people are unwilling to forgive. They do not realize that one of these days, their turn will come to make mistakes, and they will be the ones seeking forgiveness from others.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Ironman Malaysia 2018 (IMMY)

One fine day, a little over half a year ago my friend, Pamela Fletcher, invited me for a yam-cha session. She arrived fully equipped with a notebook and a laptop like a journalist. Gave me quite a surprise, she did. She was seeking my advice on racing the Ironman in Langkawi, and I spent a good hour or so sharing with her what I knew about the Ironman. The truth is that I'm not an expert; but if you are just an average person with a full-time job, attempting your first Ironman race, it's not such a bad idea to seek advice from a person like me.

The advice that I can offer will most probably suit people like Pam, because I myself am not a professional triathlete—I have a full-time job and constantly struggle to juggle between work commitments, family and social life and my training programme. Way too often professional coaches come up with the kind of training programmes that are just impossible to adhere to for ordinary folks like us. But I have always been a firm believer of the fact that any average person can finish an Ironman race within the cutoff time of 17 hours. The two main ingredients are 1) time and discipline to carry out the training; and 2) mental strength on the race day.

I've known Pam for many years now, and I must admit that I had my doubts of her making the cut for the Ironman. I had no doubt of her mental strength, of course, but I wasn't sure about her discipline when it comes to the training. I somehow had the impression that she's perpetually full of interruptions when it comes to her training, but I guess that's all she could do.

We arrived at the start line of the Ironman Malaysia race in Langkawi, i.e. the swim of 3.8km comprising 2 loops of triangular-shaped course. I met Pam shortly before the flag off. Mia was also racing, although she was only racing the half distance, 70.3. I've never been a very good swimmer, and I took about 1:35 minutes to finish the swim. But about 500m before the finish, there was a storm, and the sea became very rough, and it was much more of a struggle to reach the shore.

Another friend, Marzuki Nasir, was racing his first Ironman, and before the race, every now and then he'd ask me about this and that. He trained very hard for the race, losing perhaps over 10kg within 4 months. He improved his swim substantially. But of course, as in the case of most triathletes, there is always insufficient run training, I don't know why.

Marzuki was asking me about Transition 1 (after the swim), and I told him that it's just a huge enclosed tent where the whole crowd would be. Yes, some people would change into fresh dry clothes after the swim, and there is no privacy; they will just strip off everything in full view of everybody else. I told Marzuki not to look, of course, because otherwise he would lose his appetite for weeks after that.

As I was putting on my shoes, Quentin was there shouting something about me not telling the truth. But it was a noisy crowd, and I didn't bother to find out what he was saying. I calmly put on a cycling jersey and ran out to my bike. There, my heart sank as I saw most of the bikes were already gone, thus indicating that I had a lot of catching up to do.

Shortly after I left T1, I arrived at the hilly Datai section of the bike course. It was still raining cats and dogs. I remained true to my game plan, which was to pedal uphill slowly. Just about halfway up the first hill, I saw Anslem coming down from the opposite direction. I'd estimate he was probably about half an hour ahead of me by then.

Later that morning, the rain stopped and then the sun came back with a vengeance—it was scorching hot until I could feel the heat biting into my skin. After a long sector of mainly flat and mildly undulating roads, I finally arrived at the 3 hills. From the foot of that hill, I saw the procession of cyclists pushing their bikes uphill. I merely shifted to my lightest gear, and took my time pedalling up the slope. Then there was another hill, and another. As I was just reaching the top of the third hill, I saw Samantha Lee pushing her bike. Just a quick "Hi" and then I was enjoying the downhill portion. But then we had to repeat the entire loop to make the 180km.

As I progressed further and further into the bike leg, I felt increasingly tired. But I had expected that anyway. You see, before this race, I did the 70.3 Bintan; and then Ironman Taiwan. These were tough races to me, and they're just weeks apart. I felt like I had insufficient time to recover. Accordingly, I felt my bike getting heavier and heavier all the time. But actually, little did I know, I was losing air pressure in my front tyre. I didn't realise that there was a very tiny puncture.

At Transition 2, as I was changing my shoes, Quentin was there again. I had the shrewd suspicion that his main reason for joining the race was just to stalk me, not to finish the race; I should hire some thugs to beat him up one of these days! He was shouting from across the changing tent, "Why so slow?". I was waiting for him mah!

It was still very hot when I embarked on the 42.2km run. It wasn't really a run; more like a very slow jog. At roughly 6km into my run, I saw Anslem coming from the opposite direction. At that point, he was perhaps about an hour ahead of me. Since the beginning of the race, I haven't seen Marzuki and the rest of my Sabahan friends. But later I saw Bonaventure. He was at that point fast catching up with Anslem.

As I was approaching the turning point at Cenang, I finally saw Marzuki coming from the other direction. But it took me perhaps another half an hour before I finally overtook him along the road leading back to the MIEC. My legs felt very heavy, and I was getting very exhausted. Somewhere along that stretch of road, I saw Pam running, evidently she has survived the bike leg of the race!

Before long, it was already nightfall, and on the second visit to Cenang, I finally caught up with Anslem. He was already walking then, and I slowed down to a walk too. We walked together for some distance, and he suggested that we should just keep walking for the rest of the distance. But doing some rough calculations in the head, I was horrified by the thought that we would have to walk for 2.5 hours to reach the finish line. Accordingly I resumed my slow jog again. Counting in my head, 1-2-3-4-5....I kept going up to 500, before I rewarded myself with a walking rest of 60-70 steps. Then I repeated the whole cycle again and again.

The last few kilometres of the race was the most punishing. I felt like there was nothing left in my legs. By then even a slow jog of a mere 50m needed a Herculean effort. I began to wonder if I would even reach the finish line.

Ordinarily, I would run the last homestretch to the finish line. But on this occasion, I was just too exhausted, I could hardly walk, let alone run the final few metres. I merely walked unsteadily; I looked down to the ground and had to struggle to stay on my feet.

It was the ugliest finish of all my Ironman races, but my main priority then was just to cross the forsaken finish line. In the end I did it in 14:47. After receiving my finisher medal and towel, I sat on a plastic chair to catch my breath. And oh boy, I felt like I was having a heart attack—my heart rate was over the roof, and my legs felt like jelly. It was just pathetic, I tell you!

After a long time, Anslem arrived at the finish line with his brother Victor. It was then that I found out from Anslem that Quentin had abandoned the race after the bike leg. I must admit that the thought of quitting did cross my mind too, because of the extreme exhaustion. Marzuki did it in 15:10, a very respectable time for a first timer, especially in a course like Langkawi. I was overwhelmed by exhaustion that I didn't have the appetite to eat. After a long rest, I had some soup and an icepop. Then I collected my street bag and finisher T-shirt. 10 minutes later, I reached the hotel room.

Mia had hours ago finished her race, and actually achieved a huge PB. She would usually struggle to beat the cutoff time of 8:30, and she's had several DNFs too. Even if she did beat the cutoff, it would be just by a matter of less than 5 minutes. But today she finished in 7:50, an improvement of more than half an hour!

I had a shower and got ready for bed. It was way past midnight, and I was dead tired. And then it suddenly occurred to me, what has happened to Pam? Accordingly I grabbed my cellphone and launched the tracking app. Pam was still racing out there and she had a few kilometres left to run in the dying minutes of the race. As the minutes ticked away, my sleepiness disappeared, and my heart rate began to shoot through the roof again. Come on Pam, you can do it!

The tracking app kept loading new estimated finishing times for Pam. At first, the estimated finish was a DNF (did not finish). God dammit, run faster lah Pam! Then the estimate changed to just barely making the cutoff. Then it changed back again to DNF. And again to making the cutoff. Oh for heaven's sake, don't do this to me, Pam! At long last, the official result was that Pam did it within the 17 hours cutoff with a little shy of 4 minutes to spare. For the second time that night, I almost died of a heart attack; all my finger nails were gone by then. I had the right mind to run to the finish line to strangle Pam to death, maybe at least break her leg or bite her nose, but unfortunately I was just too exhausted to do all those.

 Speaking of the devil...

In the end, all Sabahan participants in both the full and half distances finished within their respective cutoff times. Congratulations y'all, especially to the first-timers. It was in that sense a victorious day for Sabahans, and I bet this will spur on many other Ironman wannabes to attempt the Langkawi race next year.

After all the months of training and race day excitement, it all boiled down to this medal.

I have done 3 Langkawi Ironman races, and I shall keep the option open for next year. It's been such an exhausting year from me. Time to take a 2-week break before resuming training for my next race.



Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Wrong Reason

A friend told me the story of her friend, a mother of 3 in her late thirties. I don't intend to dwell on the full detail of her life story, not that I know very much of it anyway. But in a nutshell, what I know is that her husband divorced her for a younger and sexier woman after about 10 years of marriage. Apparently, she started gaining weight after having her first child, and the pounds kept adding up over the years.

After the divorce, however, she was determined to teach her ex-husband a good lesson. She started exercising regularly and watched her diet, and over a period of almost 2 years, lost all the weight she'd gained to become a slender woman once again. I neither know her nor have met her in person. According to my friend, when the ex-husband saw her recently, he seemed to have regretted divorcing her. I wonder if his second wife has also gained too much weight by now? I don't know the truth of this story, but I can't help thinking that it sounds a lot like something that has been extracted from a book.

Anyway, I suspect that this is the kind of story that many, many women would love to hear; there is that sense of triumphant ending for the woman. But while I'm happy that she now has a healthy, lean body once again, I'm rather sad that she's having that healthy body for the wrong reason. I mean, it's obviously the right reason for her; but not to me.

The story reflects what's going on in the heads of many women. I said "many", not "all". I just feel that the reason for wanting a lean body should be, first and foremost, for the health benefits, i.e. with the hope of keeping diseases at bay for as long as possible. All too often women go through a lot of pain and sacrifice by dieting and exercising mainly because they want to look pretty and sexy. But once they are married and the "hunting season" is off, they no longer take care of themselves. There is no control on food intake, and there is very little time spared for exercise, if any. The most common excuse is that they don't have the time to exercise, and they always eat more because they need the extra energy, especially if they have children. So it is inevitable that they would gain weight sooner or later.

Yet, in the case of my friend's story above, she was able to take steps to reduce weight, thus indicating that if she had really wanted to maintain a healthy body weight, she could, but chose not to. Why only take the trouble to lose weight to teach the ex-husband a lesson? Why not do it for herself? For if one keeps a healthy body weight for oneself, one is likely be able to keep off the pounds for good. But if one is only doing it for others, sooner or later the dam will burst, and it will be downhill thereafter—the weight will just keep adding up.

Being fat or obese is usually the starting point of many health complications including diabetes and heart diseases. But that is usually not the main focus when women keep themselves slim, although of course to some people, the reason is not as important as the result.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Ironman Taiwan 2018

After a few months of roller-coaster training, my friend, John Kok, and I finally arrived at the start line of Ironman Taiwan in the island of Penghu last Sunday (7th October). Looking back now, I can't remember how I ended up registering for both Ironman Taiwan, as well as Ironman Malaysia this year.

John and I didn't train together prior to Ironman Taiwan, until just a few weeks before the race; and even then our joint training sessions were mainly during the long weekend bike rides. He spent quite a lot of time working on his swim, and as in the case for most people, he trained the least for his run. I'm not sure why, but most people just don't like running as much as cycling.

I'm not forgetting to mention here that we had a few days of insane carbo-loading sessions before the race. We had had beef noodles, beef rice, beef burgers, and more meals containing beef. The Taiwanese just love their beef, you see. Prices of food in Taiwan are perhaps at least 50% more than in Malaysia; and in some cases about double. However, each meal is generally big enough to make you feel like you're three months pregnant.

So anyway, let me get back to the race. Now, where was I? Ah yes, the start line of the race. Fate would have it that at about half an hour before the flag off, it was announced that the swim distance had been shortened to a mere 400m. Just in case you're wondering why that strange distance, let me quickly explain that the swim course was originally made of a start from within the lagoon and all the way out to the open sea. But because the wind condition was quite severe that day, the sea was deemed to be unsafe, and the organiser wasn't taking chances, thus opting for the safety of the participants. The swim was confined to within the lagoon only. Hence the 400m.

The Swim

As soon as I heard the announcement of the shortened swim distance to 400m (it was supposed to have been 3.8km, by the way), I decided to take off my wetsuit. For the few days that I spent in Penghu before that, I haven't even tried swimming in the sea, and I was therefore unaware what was the water temperature like. But I have had several swimming sessions in our Likas Sports Complex here in KK, and the water there is ridiculously cold; it can cause a heart attack for the faint-hearted. Looking at the water from afar, I reckoned that it'd probably take me 15 minutes to complete the 400m. Since I'm a lousy swimmer, I was among the last few participants to enter the water. Although the swim was in the lagoon, it was still very rough; the current was also very strong. Once I was in the water, I sprang into action; the usual kicking and elbowing, and I was surprised to emerge on the other end in just about 10 minutes. In Malay, we have a short expression to sum up the 400m swim of this race—alang-alang!

Transition 1 (T1)

And then the amusing run to T1, which was longer than the swim distance! I took my time, passing through the shower and I stopped a few seconds longer to pee while I rinsed off the salt water. Then, at T1, I took my time putting on a cycling jersey, applied sunblock lotion, drank a can of Red Bull. By the time I took my bike off the rack, I have spent about 10 minutes in T1.

Although John and I started the race at about the same time, I wasn't really paying attention on his whereabouts once we were flagged off. But I did catch a glimpse of him when I emerged from the swim, as it's easy to spot him in his pink trisuit. I'm thinking maybe one of these days I'd be brave enough to wear a pink trisuit too?

Bike Leg

For a few months before we even set foot in Penghu, we spent a lot of time discussing about the wind condition in Penghu through our Whatsapp chat group. You see, Penghu has the reputation of strong winds all year round. Any cyclist will tell you that winds are the biggest enemy. The wind speed for this particular day was about 35kph-40kph; and they came from all directions. Those who're not so good in bike handling may find it extremely hard to ride in such a condition.

The 180km bike leg was essentially made of 2 loops that saw participants crossing bridges that linked a few islands together. The course was mainly undulating in nature, and at the back of my mind, if it were not for the wind, this would have been a fast course.

I saw John twice during the bike leg; in fact, I shouted out to him from across the road. On both occasions, I thought John looked very steady, and he did not seem to be overly tired. But of course 180km is a long distance, and one way or another, at the end of that ride, one is bound to be tired.

I noticed quite a fair number of participants drafting despite having been informed that this was a non-drafting event at the briefing the day before. I also saw several bike accidents along the way; and sounds of ambulance sirens along the way, transporting injured participants.

Transition 2 (T2)

After pedaling for about 6 hours 49 minutes, I finally arrived safely at T2. Although I was very careful to control my exertion levels during the entire bike leg, I was still quite tired when I eventually finished the bike leg. T2 was in a different location from T1. After racking up my bike, I grabbed my T2 bag and ran to the changing tent. There, I sat down on a plastic stool. The first thing I did was to down another can of Red Bull which I've left in my T2 bag earlier. Then I took off my cycling jersey, thus leaving just my sleeveless trisuit. Bike shoes off; running shoes on; and I spent a bit of time applying sunblock lotion. In the end I spent a total of about 11 minutes at T2.

And then, to my surprise, I saw my friend, Quentin a few feet away. He shouted out to me, asking me what was I still doing there at T2. Both of us visited the toilet and eventually started the run leg together.

Run Leg

The run leg of the Ironman has always been a big mystery to me. Although I can ordinarily run a 4-hour marathon, when I run the 42km in the Ironman, the best that I've achieved in my 5 previous Ironman races so far was about 5 hours 40 minutes. For the life of me, I just did not know where I went wrong. I was determined to at least run a sub-5hrs30mins for IM Taiwan.

Then a few months ago, I started working on my running efficiency. It's quite an irony that although I've been running long distance for over 10 years now, there's still something that I could learn to improve on my running efficiency. It's like learning how to run all over again!

The 42km run for this race was made up of 4 loops around the harbour area, and running the first loop was a bit confusing. It was still quite hot in the mid afternoon when I started my run, but it's nowhere near the kind of heat that we have back home in KK.

Although Quentin and I started the run together, he was lagging behind, and the distance between us began to grow almost immediately. Later, I saw John coming from the other direction when I was about 7km into my run, and he was perhaps about 3km into his run at that point. I called out to him, but he couldn't hear me.

Aid stations were located at regular intervals, so much so that I merely passed some of them without stopping. But in the later stages of the run leg, I found myself stopping at every station to fuel up. As a matter a fact, perhaps it's not really a matter of fueling up. Rather, it's a good excuse to rest my legs! There were an assortment of fuel choices, but I helped myself mainly on the chocolates and cola. I crossed paths with Quentin and John again a couple of times; and I saw Yee Tee and Felix Tan too.

By the time I had finished the third loop of the run, it was obvious to me that I'd be able to run a sub-5hrs30mins marathon. The only question was by what margin? It was also about sunset then and I was beginning to have a bit of trouble seeing beyond 30m-40m, as I don't have my powered glasses when I race.

My legs were becoming heavier with every step, and I began counting my steps some time around mid 30km of the run. It's just a little trick of  mine whenever I run long distance—I just close my mind from my surroundings and just start to count "1, 2, 3....", and reward myself with 50 steps of walking rest after every 500 steps of running. Step by step, in the end I was approaching the finish line, and the excitement grew. Suddenly I could run sub-6min/km again!

After what seemed like an eternity of torture, I finally crossed the finish line in a total time of 12 hours 37 minutes and 41 seconds. Regretfully, however, there is no personal best for this race, as the swim was shortened to 400m. But I'm thrilled that I ran the 42km in about 5 hours 16 minutes, which was a huge improvement from all my previous Ironman marathons.

Well, the few months of training and the long day of torture in the Ironman Taiwan, eventually culminated to this medal which goes into the cabinet of hundreds of medals at home.

Who knows, one of these days, I might have a chance to tell my grandchildren how silly their granddad had been, spending months and months training hard, and paid hard-earned money for the expenses, and finally suffered for the whole day, just so that he can get a piece of medal, and the title: Ironman!


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Free Pass

My wife was studying for a law degree over 20 years ago, and I can still remember the daunting task of memorizing tons of sections and sub-sections of numerous statutes. She was dealing with a chapter on criminal law one day when the subject of "temporary insanity" came up as a possible defense. 

I was fascinated by the idea of how an accused person can escape punishment on account of a "mental blackout" temporarily; meaning that he was not acting with intent. Now I'm sure there is a better way to express it—in a lawyerly way, if you like—and of course I'd imagine that there are several very strict requirements to be satisfied first before one can rely on the defense of "temporary insanity".

There are of course many other circumstances when one is not in full control of his acts, such as when one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol; or when one has some sort of mental issues; or conditions such as autism. 

In the case of autism, however, it's not really a matter of not having control of one's acts; rather, the behavior or mental capacity is that of a mentally-underdeveloped person. Such is the case of Ahmad Ziqri Morshidi, an autistic man who was arrested for allegedly molesting a woman. According to the article, Persatuan Child Sabah has launched a petition, calling for "Ahmad Ziqri to be treated fairly", and that it has received over 17,000 signatures.

I can readily accept that an autistic person should be treated like an autistic person, but it shouldn't just end there; I'm afraid it's not that simple. If he is liable to act in a way that can cause harm or disrupt the enjoyment of freedom to others around him, then preventive measures should be put in place to minimize the possibility of that from happening. If he needs to be put under counseling, or even strict supervision when he is in public, then I suppose that's what needs to be done.

I honestly sympathize with Ahmad Ziqri, it's not his choice to be born with autism. But the reality is that there is no such thing as a "free pass" on account of mental or medical disorder, because fairness is a two-way street—while we want fairness for Ahmad Ziqri, we should also not forget that we must be fair to all those people around him too. It is entirely possible that one of these days, Ahmad Ziqri may end up molesting one of those people who've signed the petition, or their loved ones. It is very easy to sign petitions when we don't know the victim, but I suspect maybe we might think differently if we ourselves are the victims.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ironman 70.3 Bintan 2018

I can't remember how I got to know about the Ironman 70.3 Bintan race. Perhaps some of my Whatsapp friends mentioned it, and I ended up visiting the organiser's website. It must have been about half a year ago when I decided to register for the race. Mia decided to join too, but of course because of habit, she almost never do things early. No, she would wait till the very last minute to register, and even that was because I was nagging and reminding her to do it on a daily basis.

As soon as she registered, I embarked on making all the arrangements, i.e. flights, hotel reservation, ferry tickets etc. I had to be the one to make all those arrangements, because if I leave it to Mia, she won't do it till the day before we fly, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, it was then that I found out that practically everything about Bintan is expensive—astronomically expensive. There were some other friends from KK who've registered for the race, i.e. Ahmad Syuaib a.k.a. Peechee, John Kok, Anslem and Amy. Some west Malaysian friends were also going, i.e. Quentin and Felix.

In the months prior to Bintan, I bought a new trisuit, i.e. a single piece which I wore without any underwear (please remain calm, ladies). I also shed about 2kg as I heard that the bike course elevation was 700m. I used to believe that losing weight is very easy, but actually it's extremely tough if you eat like me; and have an obsession for ais kacang.

The journey to Bintan was quite something, to put it mildly; from KK, we took an approximate 2-hour flight to Singapore last Thursday. It was an afternoon flight, and it was about 6pm when we emerged from the arrival hall of Terminal 4 of Changi Airport. We then took a taxivan to the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. After checking in our bike boxes and luggage, we had dinner at the terminal while we waited for the departure. The ferry ride was just about an hour, but although I thought the ride was very smooth, Mia was at the verge of getting sea sickness when we disembarked on the other side.

The next morning we headed down to breakfast at about 7am; and oh boy, we ate like there's no tomorrow! It's so easy to get carried away with the concept of carboloading. The athlete check in wasn't till Saturday though. Having set up our bikes, we took the shuttle bus to the race venue. We checked in and got our ID tag. We spent perhaps 5 minutes to ride our bikes to make sure that all's in order.

The race day was on Sunday. We took the 4:45am bus from the Bintan Lagoon Hotel and arrived at the Lagoi Plaza at about 5am. Then we went into the transition area to set up our stuff at the bikes. Soon, it was the flag off for the pros—first the males, and then followed by the females. After that, the so-called age groupers were flagged off in waves, and I was among the last to be flagged off.

The Swim

It was low tide that morning, and we probably had to wade in the water for about 70 metres or so before we started to swim. And the swim was as always very chaotic despite the calm water. The kicks and elbows are something that I can never get used to, and for the life of me, I can't quite understand why some people would grab my feet from behind; I had the right mind to just give him a good kick. But I remained calm. It must have been about halfway through the swim when Quentin came from behind, and we swam abreast for a couple of minutes before I lost sight of him. I was tempted to swim faster, but I'm not a fast swimmer, and I knew that trying to swim faster would mean a higher energy cost for me. Accordingly, I decided to just swim my own pace. The tail end of the swim was again an approximate 70 metre's worth of wading, and I was pleased to see that I did the swim in about 45 minutes. I took my time to make my way to the transition, stopping by at the shower for a moment to rinse my body.

The Bike

What can I say, the bike leg was akin to a nightmare to me—hills, hills and more hills; and then winds, winds and more winds. Some portions of the bikes course were also quite technical as we had to make sharp turns and make our way into some villages where young kids would rush out to the road to ask for sports bottles from the cyclists.

I had recently bought the Garmin Forerunner 935 which is equipped with a heart rate sensor. I tried to keep my heart rate within 140 bpm, but I went beyond that whenever I was climbing hills. The head winds were something to be reckoned with. The rest after each climb was hardly any rest, because just a few seconds later, it's another climb! I caught up with Quentin again about halfway through the bike course, and swiftly overtook him. I caught up with Mia too, as she was flagged off about 20 minutes before me.


As I was climbing a big hill just a few kilometres before the end of the bike course, I caught up with Amy. She was also struggling up the hill. So far there was no sign of Anslem, John and Peechee. But I wasn't even expecting to be able to catch up with them, as they are strong cyclists.

The Run

When I arrived at the transition for the second time, I felt like my quads were just at the verge of seizing up. I briskwalked for a good 50m to test my legs, and after a while I started jogging. Soon enough, I arrived at the aid station where I grabbed iced sponges to cool myself down. As I had expected, it was an extremely hot day, and there was no shade at all.

And then to my surprise, about 3km into the run, I caught up with Anslem. In my mind, he must be running his second loop. But making some calculation in my head, if it was his second loop, then that would mean he's extremely fast! Shortly later, I saw Felix coming from the other direction. Felix is perhaps about 2 years younger than me, but his body is as strong as a teenager. I'm not sure if he's got the genes of either Edward Cullen or Jacob Black of the Twilight Saga.

A little further down the road, just shortly after the turning point, I overtook John who was obviously melting in the hot sun. But little did I know, Amy had caught up with me by then. From that point onwards, Amy and I took turns taking the lead, but my main focus was on keeping it steady till the end of the race. Sadly, by the second loop, I started to run less and walk more! If only my legs could speak, I can imagine what they'd say to me! The sun was brutal, but thankfully there were aid stations approximately 1.5km apart.

Just as I was approaching the finish line, I saw Mia running very slowly, and she hadn't even finished her first loop. I can never get used to seeing my wife suffer. Just a brief advice to say "take it easy" as I was overtaking her, but I knew it won't be easy in that ridiculous heat.

Soon, I was already running the homestretch on the red carpet towards the finish line.

And I finished the torture in about 6.5 hours. It was a big relief...

After I had crossed the finish line, I went to the tent for participants. There I sat down on a plastic chair. Oh it was such a joy giving the rest that my legs deserved. After about 10 minutes, I collected my street bag, the finisher T-shirt. I had coconut water. I had Indomie and some chicken. I had some ice cream too. I walked around a bit. I sat down. I walked around some more...

A little over 2 hours later, Mia arrived at the finish line, and I became a little emotional seeing her making the finish line but beyond the cut off time. She did get the finisher T-shirt though. Well, she has a few more months till November before attempting to conquer the same distance again in Langkawi; whereas I only have approximately 5 weeks' worth of training before I attempt the full Ironman distance in Penghu, Taiwan, in October.

In the end Peechee finished a few minutes faster than I did. Amy finished in about 6:49. Anslem, due to lack of training suffered cramps during the bike leg and eventually finished in about 7.5 hours. John did a 7:18. Decidedly, it was a tough, tough course.

So the diet continues for me. Have to maintain an optimal weight for racing in Taiwan, which I heard is a tough race. Bring it on!


Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Measure of Success

I recently made a comment on a facebook post, and I used the word "success" in it. Without touching on the rest of my comment—which is characteristically long-winded—I concluded my comment like this:

"Just remember that if you want success, not just in this profession, then you must make an effort to achieve it. Don't just complain all the time, because you just have to trust me—complaining very rarely can guarantee success!"

However, the trouble with that word "success" is that it is a relative term. Success to one person may not be success to another. Someone from a very humble beginning, say from having nothing to his name and living life with very little luxury such as having to travel by the public bus, going to school with no pocket money, frequently having to skip a meal or two because he can't afford it; when he ends up having his own house, his own Kancil to drive around, and enough means to support a family of his own, he might consider himself as having achieved success.

But on the other hand, for someone born into a rich family, having the above may not fall within the definition of "success" at all. I dare say perhaps to him that is not even an average achievement in life. He may even become disappointed if he can't achieve more than that.

A lady friend has been under medication for a long time for depression. I once had the opportunity to have a long conversation with her. Basically, I was curious to know what was it that she's so depressed about to the extent of needing medication. There were many, many reasons which to me were petty, but to her they were obviously major issues in her life. She was depressed about her job, because she felt like she's trapped in her job; she felt like it was a struggle to get out of bed each day to go to work. She was depressed that at her age (about 40 then) she hadn't a house of her own; she hadn't a lot of savings in the bank. She was also depressed that she was still single at her age. She was depressed that she's been driving the same car since 10 years ago. 

The funny thing was that I was then in my twenties, and I practically had nothing to my name too. No house, no car. I had a motorbike, but even that was stolen in the end. I had a lot of disappointments in my life, but I wasn't depressed; certainly no need for medications to treat depression. The one thing that I was determined to do was to find ways to improve my life and be proactive about it. I knew even then that complaining and grumbling about my situation would do very little to help me achieve anything better. Today I'm not anything like Bill Gates or Michael Jordan—far from it. I'm not a multi-millionaire, unless of course if you're calculating based on the Philippines Peso, or the Indonesian Ruppiah. I just have enough with not much more to spare. But that, to me, is at least a partial success.

I've noticed that too many of the young people these days are spending too much time complaining and grumbling about their lives, but the irony is that they're unwilling to put in the efforts and sacrifice to improve their lives. They spend their days blaming their luck; blaming the many obstacles that they're facing; blaming the competitiveness of the job market. The list goes on and on. They forget that they have the power to make a difference; yet they're not using that power!


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Child Marriage

It's a strange reality that most people have some sort of "standard" which they'd perceive as ideal when it comes to life partners. Of course these standards may differ substantially between people. For example, when I was a boy, I thought that the husband should be taller than the wife; he should also be at least slightly older than her. I'm not sure why I had that standard, but I have since changed my mind by now.

An auntie explained to me that the first time you meet a girl, you get to know her character first. Her general behavior; perspective about life and the world. Perhaps her hobbies etc. If she's the right one for you, does it really matter if you find out later that she is a year or two older than you? I had to reluctantly say no; if she is the one, then I suppose a year or two older doesn't really matter. I'm not sure if she is a few inches taller than I am though. But I have known a fair number of couples of which the wives are taller than the husbands.

Whatever it is, I'm convinced that everybody has a "standard" for compatibility between spouses. Just that some people are unwilling to admit it. I have come to a stage in my life where I can accept almost everything, including if the wife is 10 or even 20 years older than the husband.

Having said that, however, I'm having trouble accepting the idea of a man in his forties marrying an 11-year-old girl as reported here, even if the girl's parents have consented to the marriage. I mean, I have a 16-year-old daughter, and she's still just a child as far as I'm concerned.

A few questions came to my mind when I read the news. What does the man see in the 11-year-old girl that qualifies her as a suitable wife material? Was he inspired by Michael Douglas? What exactly are his expectations in a wife? Whatever those expectations are, apparently they were not met in full by the earlier 2 wives.

And then what were the girl's parents thinking when they agreed to the marriage? I don't quite buy the excuse that the girl will only stay with the husband when she's 16. If that were the case, then marry her when she's 16, not when she's 11. And even at 16, that is way too young to marry a man 30 years older than her. The point is that from the age of 11 to 16, the girl has a lot more time to think and realise what she's getting herself into, and may well come to her senses about the whole thing long before she's 16.

Love is a strange thing, it can neither be explained nor scientifically analysed. But I refuse to believe that a girl of 11 is old enough to truly know the meaning of love. There is still a lot of growing up to do, physically as well as intellectually.

Incidentally, I was out on an evening run with my running buddy, Dr Peter recently, and the subject of my daughter came up. I said that I'm an open-minded person, and if it is destined that my daughter falls in love with a garbage collector or the likes, I will try very hard to talk her out of it. For I'm just being a parent, and it's natural for me to give the best to my daughter. But if my daughter is adamant in the end, then I will let her marry a man of her choice anyway. 

Whether or not I'm happy with her choice, that is not so important, because what really matters is her happiness, not mine. If she is happy, then I will be happy for her. Nevertheless, she will have to wait till she is an adult—not when she's still a teenager—before I let her have that right to decide. I consider allowing a child of 11 to make a reckless decision that would have life-long repercussions as irresponsible on the part of the parents. I hope that the Malaysian authority can somehow nullify the marriage, and save the girl from doing something that she'd regret for the rest of her life.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

History and its Tendency to Repeat Itself

A few days before the General Elections 14 (GE14) a friend asked me for my predictions on the outcomes of the elections. I said Pakatan Harapan looked very promising in West Malaysia, but in Sabah, it seemed like Barisan Nasional was still very strong. However, if the Pakatan can win in Sabah too, it had to be by a big majority. If it's a marginal win, then complications would entail.

Sabah has always been famous with its politicians that can switch parties in a heartbeat. If the results of the elections are very marginal, we are bound to see a lot of activities among the politicians—they will be very active, hopping from one party to another; or at the very least, switching alliance from one to another under the disguise of "Gabungan".

That was actually what happened in the recently-concluded GE14, of which Barisan Nasional secured 29 seats; Warisan and its alliance secured 29 seats; and STAR took the remaining 2 seats. Living up to his reputation, the leader of STAR wasted no time to join forces—he called it "Gabungan"—with Barisan Nasional to form the new state government. So Musa Aman was sworn in as the Chief Minister, and Jeffrey Kitingan (from STAR) of course became his deputy. To be honest, I'm surprised that Jeffrey did not demand to be the Chief Minister himself. Well, maybe he did, I don't know. After all, he has always had the curious obsession of wanting so much to be the Chief Minister.

Less than 24 hours later, however, some of the elected representatives from Barisan Nasional decided to switch to Pakatan, thus resulting in the new government losing its simple majority. Well, to make the long story short, Musa refused to resign as Chief Minister. But Shafie Apdal, representing the Pakatan, went on to be sworn in as the Chief Minister anyway. So Sabah now has two Chief Ministers.

Browsing through the comments on facebook, I can see that many Sabahans are comparing the present situation in Sabah with that of Perak in West Malaysia in 2008. Some are also comparing with a similar situation in Sabah in 1994 when Pairin Kitingan resigned as the Chief Minister of Sabah when his Parti Bersatu Sabah lost the support of the majority of elected representatives.

However, as you can probably see, what we have right now between Musa and Shafie is not the same as that in 1994. Far from resigning his post as the Chief Minister, Musa Aman is fighting on. Actually, this thing about having two Chief Ministers has happened before in Sabah. But I suspect many of those on facebook were either too young to remember, or have not even been born yet when it happened.

Over three decades ago, in 1985, Tun Mustapha, through the coalition of USNO and Berjaya, obtained 22 of the 48 seats contested. Clearly having the minority, but he sneaked in to the Istana in the wee hours of the morning to be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Sabah. This was later challenged by Pairin Kitingan because his Parti Bersatu Sabah won 26 seats, which was then the majority. What ensued was a long legal battle and chaos, culminating to bombings in the cities of Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau by the losing party (yes, we have bad losers in Sabah) and demonstrations in 1986, eventually leading to the declaration of curfews. 

Amazing how ugly it can get when people are obsessed with power and money. Pairin eventually won and went on to become the Chief Minister of Sabah. If any of you are interested to read more about the legal aspect of this, click here. It is a very long article, but it's good for the young Sabahans to know the history of Sabah!

Truly, history has a strange habit of repeating itself. For the second time, we now have two Chief Ministers in Sabah again. I'm confident, however, that we are more civilized today, and won't end up with chaos and unrest like what we had in 1985-1986.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Wise Old Man

A few years ago, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pleaded to the members of Barisan Nasional to oust its President, Najib Razak as the Prime Minister of Malaysia. According to Tun, Najib was a liability to the party; that retaining him as its leader would eventually result in the downfall of the party as the ruling government of Malaysia.

Looking at how things were in Malaysia, I must say that I agreed with Tun. But I also knew that it's just wishful thinking. It is not in the tradition of Barisan Nasional; or rather, not of its members, to oust its leaders. The very few that did try to speak up against the leaders of Barisan Nasional would very swiftly be reprimanded and quite often banished from the party. 

The tradition of the party was such that it is very, very rare that anybody would challenge the top positions. Such tradition may be a good thing; and it can also be a bad thing. In the hands of a truly capable and honest leader, it's helpful to have the unconditional support of its members. But in the hands of an incapable leader, the party would gradually lose its popularity, and there's nothing that its members could do about it.

That was basically why the rakyat had no choice but to vote against Barisan Nasional. Truth be told, I'm not a very big fan of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He was—and still is—without any doubt a very capable man. But I am a realistic person, and although I'm sure that Tun is as sharp as ever at 93, I would have much preferred a younger person to fill in the shoes of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. I suspect Tun feels the same too, but he had no choice. The fact that we were left with no choice but to vote for a 93-year-old man, who had 15 years ago gone into retirement, back into office, speaks volume about the political situation in Malaysia.

Then the designated person in line after Tun Dr Mahathir is Anwar Ibrahim. Many of my loyal readers since years ago would know that I'm not a big fan of his too. I am one of those people who are convinced that he is guilty of the crime that he was accused of. Furthermore, I also see some—but not very many—politicians in Barisan Nasional as capable people and truly deserved to be given the jobs that they were doing. At the same time, I also have many friends whom were directly or indirectly linked to the Barisan Nasional. These are good people—very capable people.

Yet despite all those, we were left with no choice but to opt for the opposition, simply because that was the only way to oust the incapable leaders of Barisan Nasional. There was just no hope for the members of the party to do it themselves; we, the rakyat, had to do it for them. So it was essentially a case of "all or nothing". The rakyat eventually chose to vote all out of office.

Truly amazing that Tun Dr Mahathir foresaw all this years ago. I had expected that Tun would easily win in Langkawi, of course. But to cause the entire Barisan Nasional to fall? It had seemed like there was just no way that Barisan Nasional would ever fall. Well, at least it's beyond my wildest dreams that I'd live to see it actually happening. 

So now we embark on a new chapter for Malaysia. I'm hoping that Tun can do his magic to make Malaysia great once again. Keeping my fingers crossed.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Second Chance

I don't believe that anybody could see the future, not even the best fortune tellers in the world. In some special cases, it is possible to guess fairly accurately what's going to happen in the future, but it's still a guess, not a certainty.

We are bound to come to many road junctions in life, and on many occasions we are bound to choose the wrong ones to take. But then in most cases, we can find our way back to the starting point so that we can then choose the other option(s) and end up with a better result. These are the kind of choices and decisions that we make on a daily basis, and we are constantly making wrong choices, but having practically limitless opportunities to correct those mistakes. In the process, we hope to learn something from the experience, and who knows, maybe we can avoid making those same mistakes again in the future.

That is well and fine, but apart from road junctions in life, there will be times when we would come to dilapidated bridges, of which they will collapse immediately after we have crossed, and there is no option to go back. If crossing that bridge was a wrong move, then there is no hope to correct that mistake! 

Things like taking a train, and then losing one's life when the train is derailed; taking a flight, and then the plane crashes, killing everybody onboard; or being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and then there's a suicidal maniac out on a killing spree with his machine gun. Y'know, things that are beyond our control, and there is little that we can do about the end result? Now imagine what would it be like if despite the "collapsed bridges", you are somehow transported back to your starting point before crossing that bridge, so that you have the chance to make a different choice? Not just another chance, but truly a precious second chance?

Well, my second chance came about 15 years ago. I was inspecting a timber concession area very deep in the jungle, and I was driving a twin-cabin pickup truck. My brother, Harry, was with me in the car. As you probably know, logging roads are not like the urban asphalt roads at all. These are mainly dirt roads, very narrow, hilly and winding. When it's raining, these roads would become muddy and slippery.

Fate would have it that just as I was coming down a steep hill, the brakes failed, and the vehicle started building up speed down that winding road. It felt a lot like riding a roller coaster, and very soon, as I was negotiating the twists and turns, I could feel the rear tyres of the vehicle skidding off the road. From the corner of my eye, I could see the deep ravine down below—a very long way down. I thought that was the end for me. Yet during that split second, I suddenly thought of my wife and daughter—the latter was just a few months old then.

I made the quick decision to steer the vehicle into a huge boulder, and the impact caused the vehicle to come to a complete stop. I survived the ordeal to live another day. We were rescued by the other vehicles in the convoy, made our way back to Keningau, and then later from Keningau back to KK that night.

By the time I reached home, it was around midnight. I tip-toed into the bedroom and saw my wife fast asleep. Then I saw my baby girl in her crib. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by emotions—I started crying like a baby. Not wanting to wake them up, I rushed into the bathroom and spent ages under the shower crying and crying. It was an eye-opening experience.

Because we are so used to getting so many opportunities to remedy our mistakes in life, there is the tendency to take those opportunities for granted. But second chances—I mean really "second chances"—are not always readily available. Yet they can very easily be mistaken with just any other opportunities, and therefore, there is a tendency to take second chances for granted too. You really have to experience that second chance to be able to really appreciate its true worth...


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Priorities

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter, JJ, in the car recently on our way home from her maths tuition. The conversations I have with JJ are different from the conversations that I used to have with my late father as a teenager. In those good old days, a conversation with my dad amounted to him telling me what's good and bad—according to his views of the world, and it's always a one-way-street. I had no choice but to accept his views. 

Therefore, for example, running as a routine, according to dad, is a stupid hobby. To him, fishing and playing with slingshots, and playing games with friends are more sensible hobbies. Singing in the choir and joining the Red Crescent are sissy and a total waste of time; joining the Boys Scouts is more suitable for a boy. Neither explanations nor justifications were given for his opinions; and my opinions didn't matter at all. Whatever he said was the gospel truth, as simple as that.

My conversations with JJ are a lot different in that I'm always keen to know her opinions. What are her explanations and justifications for her decisions. But of course in the end, I have the final say, though I try very, very hard to refrain from using that authority.

JJ is now in form four, and next year she will be sitting for the SPM exams. Right now she has no clue of what she wants to do when she grows up. She knows for certain that she doesn't want to be a lawyer or a doctor. She explained to me why, and I can accept her reasons. I'm not a parent who will force my child to take up a career that she's not interest in, just because I'm convinced that it's good for her. She said she feels like she can be good in handling animals; yet she doesn't see herself as a veterinarian. I'm not sure if she is influenced by the movie Jurassic Park, the sequel of which she's eagerly waiting for now.

I told JJ that I will try my best to support her in whatever way I can to achieve her dreams. But sometimes in life we must face reality. There will be times when doing the things we like doing would mean that we won't be able to bring 3 meals a day to the table. Therefore, sometimes we may have to do the things that we don't really like doing for the sake of survival. We have to set our priorities right, because one of these days she will have a family of her own, and children to feed. Worse, there will come the responsibility to give them proper education.

I cast my mind back to when I was a young man, when I was as poor as a church mouse. I was earning about RM500 a month as a maths teacher in one of the private colleges in KK, plus about RM200 from giving private tuition in the evenings. From that, I had to pay the rent for a miserably small house in a flood-prone neighbourhood which I was sharing with my sister; RM175 for my motorbike installment, several other expenses which I couldn't escape from, as well as a small fixed amount which I paid as "income tax" to my dad. As  you can probably imagine, there was hardly anything left after all those.

Those who know me well would know that I'm a person of many hobbies. If I could afford it, I would play, play and play all the time. But I had to set my priorities right. I had to work hard for a better future. My then girlfriend used to grumble a lot for not spending enough "quality time" with her because I had to work. She said I did not spare enough time for her; she was expecting me to take her to the movies more frequently, for example. 

My priority was to work, save money if I could, and then hopefully have enough savings to pay for further education. I had no idea what's gonna happen in the future, but I just had to try doing something. I must admit that back then, I seemed destined to be that hopeless "church mouse" for the rest of my life. That's why I can't blame my girlfriend for choosing greener pasture elsewhere for a brighter future. How the heck would I know that I would end up where I am today? I mean, if my daughter falls in love with a very poor man, I'd probably try my best to talk her out of it too, although of course it's her life, and she has the final decision.

I'm sometimes worried that JJ is having troubles setting her priorities right. She's a reasonably bright kid, but looking around me now, I dread the thought of her having to compete in such a competitive environment when she's an adult. Mom and dad won't be around forever to rescue her when she's in trouble. But at the end of it all, with a little bit of discipline and getting her priorities right, the end results are always positive.

I hope for her sake, she heeds her daddy's advice.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Narrow Angle

I texted my sister recently to ask her about one of her children. She replied by saying that she'd rather not comment about her children. Now there are many, many things about my sister that I just can't agree with, although I suspect that there are also many things about me that she doesn't agree with too. But I really admire her attitude when it comes to her children. 

I have seen way too many parents that can never let go when it comes to their children. They will try to get involved in their children's affairs; in fact, they will try to organise their children's lives until they die. I should know, because my own mother is like that.

You see, it is too easy to forget that children will grow up and will eventually have their own minds. For better or for worse, it's their lives. They have enough problems without their parents' intervention.

Well, I have a 16-year-old daughter, and although I'm trying my best to guide her; to instill in her what I deem to be good qualities to become, hopefully, a good person, I keep reminding myself that one of these days she will become an adult and have a mind of her own. I realise that there will be some opinions and decisions of hers that I can't agree with (not very many, I hope). But I will let her live her own life. It is her life, not mine. If ever she needs my advice, I shall be happy to help. If not, then it's OK, that's fine with me too. 

I've learned since a long time ago that many of the problems in the world today arose because too many people are unwilling to consider views from other angles; what they see are only from a very narrow angle—their own angle, and only that angle. All other views that do not concur with theirs must be wrong, and they are fast to criticize those opposing views; even judge the people having those views. There is no room for compromise; no willingness to allow others to have their own opinions.

Today I saw yet again the narrow angle that I speak of above when I accidentally stumbled upon a link named NTD Life through facebook. It was just a short video clip on dogs that were meant to be eaten, but were instead rescued. And of course many people were criticizing dog-eating folks as inhumane, evil and needing education. Many, many more comments condemning the practice of eating dogs.

But someone commented as follows:

"Folks have to eat. I count dogs and cats as part of my family. I am not so bigoted to think that all humans must share my view. Would I save a dog or cat to starve a child or family? No. Their culture is not mine. So I will not judge or hate about this thing."

She is unfortunately one of the very few having that opinion. Immediately, she's bombarded with so many negative responses; people who called her "sick" and "evil".

Well, I range myself on the side of the minority. I couldn't help from commenting:

"I've read your entire comment. No, I don't eat dog meat. Never have, never will. That's not  my culture. That's how I feel right now. But when and if I'm ever at the verge of dying because of starvation, and the only available food is dog meat, I may think differently, I don't know. Maybe by then my survival instinct will take over the driver's seat. So I won't judge you. I respect your view."

If my memory serves me right, my friend Eric Chong used to have an iguana as a pet. Perhaps I will check with him to make sure that I can still remember well. And while I'm at it, I might also tell him to get his brain checked for having an iguana as a pet? Then my friend, Jiki, had a pet chicken named Rio, but I think Rio escaped one day when there were plans for chicken curry? I have also known some people having pigs as pets. It takes all sorts to make the world. But people have been known to eat chickens and pigs. In fact, I was once in Cambodia, and I saw people there eating all sorts of animals including scorpions, worms, insects and spiders, to name just a few. Elsewhere, people eat live baby octopuses—these are cut into small pieces and eaten while they're still alive. I've also seen people swallow live baby rats. People eat many, many animals, so eating dog meat is not very surprising to me. 

I don't quite agree with many of them, but I don't condemn them, for the simple reason that I don't expect others to think and behave exactly the same way as I do. What is "sick" and "evil" to me may be just a normal daily routine for some people. I shall not impose my standard for others to adhere to. But I do not want to be forced to accept the standard set by others. I must beg for the freedom to agree to disagree.

I firmly believe that if we can all refrain from seeing the world from just a narrow angle, and willing to open our minds to see things from other angles too—although we may disagree with those other angles—this world will be very peaceful. It takes a brave person to accept that one's opinion may not be the perfect one; that there may be other equally good opinions out there, if not better. Let others have their opinions, and we can remain true to our own. There is no need to force others to agree with us.

But the sad truth about human nature is that most people only see things from very narrow angles; narrow and rigid...


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Prevention of Dreaded Diseases

I have long ago noticed a strange reality in people—most of them would say that health is among the highest priorities in their lists of the "Important Things In Life". Quite often health is way high in the list together with things like family, career, and money, to name a few. Yet you will find that these people spend very little time and efforts, if any at all, to maintain or improve their health. They would spend a lot of time and efforts on securing and building up their families; careers, and amass wealth, of course, but hardly ever on health, even though they insist that health is very important to them.

Like almost everything else in life, good health is not free; time and efforts will have to be invested to get it; and once it is obtained, more time and efforts will have to be invested to maintain it. It is an ongoing obligation which must be done, just like those required for the other important things in life. Most people know this for a fact, yet what usually happens is that most of them would neglect doing something for health until it's too late. It is so easy to take health for granted, you see.

Some people have tried to convince me to spend an astronomical amount of money for a water filtration system that produces alkaline water, which is supposed to be good for my health. The benefits of alkaline water, according to them, range from the prevention to curing many, many illnesses; some would even go as far as curing cancer. I have not bought the machine up to now, but that doesn't mean that health is not important to me. On the contrary, I try very hard to be healthy as much as I can. It's just that I'm adopting a different approach to be healthy.

I've known people who are very careful about their health. They watch what they eat and drink; some foods and drinks are treated like poisons, never to be consumed. They drink alkaline water—and only alkaline water, because they are convinced that the water has some sort of magical properties and can do wonders for their health. Yet they almost never spend even a few minutes a day to exercise, because according to them, they don't have the time to exercise.

I think there are a combination of many, many factors why one can fall sick, or why and how one can develop some diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or clogged arteries etc. I'm saying there is almost never going to be enough prevention measures that one can take to really prevent all these illnesses and diseases. So some people would adopt the "alkaline water" approach but totally zero exercise; I'd adopt the exercise approach, never mind the magical alkaline water. After all, there is no evidence that the alkaline water is more effective in preventing, say, heart disease, when compared to a minimum of 8 hours of exercise weekly.

Some people refrain from consuming sugar (or consuming very little of it). Others avoid fatty foods. But I indulge in simple sugar every now and then, and during my workouts in the form of energy gels, or sugary snacks and sports drinks. But I always try to balance up with burning whatever I'm consuming.

Generally speaking, I try to keep things in a balance; everything in moderation, because I can't see myself not consuming sugar for the rest of my life. Of course I can pretend that I have it in me to do it, like many of The Biggest Loser participants, but I know I will fail eventually, and I would regain whatever weight that I've lost. So I'd rather be honest with myself. I allow myself to indulge in some of these "unhealthy" food, and then try to payback by other means like doing exercise. I admit that I'm not perfect, but at least I'm honest to myself.

So yes, I consume ABC and fatty foods every now and then in moderation; I do have big high-caloric foods occasionally; and yes, I do drink Milo regularly even though some people say that Milo is an unhealthy drink. I just try my best to balance between how much I consume and how much I burn. So far, after many years of being a Milo drinker, I'm still alive and able to keep within a reasonable range of body weight for my height. Way too often people deprive themselves from enjoying the things that they like so much, until one day they just lose it all; they explode and everything goes downhill from there. By allowing myself a bit of leeway every now and then to enjoy some of these "unhealthy" food, I'm hoping that I'm preventing myself from becoming a time bomb which can explode any minute. Keeping my fingers crossed...



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Killer Instinct

I was watching a documentary, Nat Geo Wild recently, about cheetahs, and was intrigued by the fact that there's a stage in a cheetah's life when its mother would teach it how to hunt. The process includes capturing the prey, of course, but would eventually lead to the killing for food. It is in fact a survival skill.

Eons ago, I bet humans had to hunt and kill to survive too. It's an instinct that must be developed and honed in almost every single human. But times have changed; now not all of us humans actually know how to hunt, let alone kill when and if we've caught whatever it is that we hunt. Most of us would rely on others to do it for us, and we just deal with the dead animals. Or rather, parts of the animals.

A facebook friend shared her experience recently on how her mom bought her a whole chicken—a dead one, of course—and she seemed to have had quite an experience learning how to cut up the numerous body parts of the chicken. I found her post quite amusing, and in my mind, I was saying, "Wait till you have to slaughter a live chicken; now that'd be an experience!"

Cutting up a dead animal for cooking is nothing like killing a live one. And I had my fair share of the latter as early as when I was just 10 or 11 years old. I can still remember the first time I had to slaughter a duck. As a little boy, it was quite a traumatic experience, to say the least. Although it has been many, many years since I was 10 years old, I still know a bit about slaughtering chickens or ducks; and so here I am to share with my readers. 

You start by sharpening the knife. Then you proceed to pluck the feather around its neck to expose the skin. Between a chicken and a duck, let me tell you that the duck seems to have a thicker skin! I'm not sure if that's a fact, or if it's just my imagination because of my experience. You will have to hold the duck steady—for the inexperienced, it's a good idea to get someone to help out by grabbing the duck's feet and wings, so that you are free to deal specifically with its neck. However, if you are confident enough, you can also use your own feet by stepping onto the duck's feet and wings, so you can do it alone.

I said it was a traumatic experience for me, but it's not like what you might think. Frankly, I wasn't very scared to kill the duck. It seemed like a natural thing to do; and of course when you really think of it, it is a natural thing to do in the animal kingdom—just like the cheetahs killing other animals for food. But the thing that was traumatic to me was that although I cut the duck's throat, apparently I did not cut it deep enough. So you can imagine what happened next. When I released the duck, it ran off helter-skelter, blood oozing out of its throat and all, and I was frozen for a bit before I was able to shake myself out of the trance to chase after the duck! 

You just have to take it from me; it's not so easy for a fat 10-year-old boy to chase after a zombie duck, especially if that zombie is ridiculously fast like the type you see in The Maze Runner series or Train to Busan. Thankfully, the difference in my story is that I was the one chasing after the zombie, not the other way round. Although I can't remember now, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that I was smiling to myself in bed that night, thinking about how I was chasing the zombie duck. Anyway, like all other skills in life, once you can get through that first time, subsequent chicken or duck slaughtering sessions would be very easy. No more chasing after zombies, that's for sure. 

I know that many people are convinced they can never bring themselves to kill animals no matter what, but I'm quite sure that when it's a matter of life and death, they'd do it eventually for survival. There is always that killer instinct in us all that will be provoked to give itself reign to ensure that we'd continue living.