30 December 2007

2007: The Year That Was

Today marks the final day of 2007.

I started the year by getting a gym membership which many doubted my ability to stick to. Glad to say I managed to stick to it even until today, although not as frequent as I initially thought. I still go 2-3 times a week nonetheless and I enjoy each session thoroughly.

I have gained the 5kgs I first set out after. More than that, I've actually gained a total of 7kgs. I've also grown my waist size from 23 inches to a healthy 30. I fit most of my clothes much better now and have even outgrown some. For a change, some of the clothes I receive as gifts don't fit because they're too small instead. Quite refreshing for someone who always received comments like "Did you lose weight again?!"

I've finally moved on with my career, now in something totally new - nutrition and weight management. Strange that an accounting and finance graduate with a couple of years in the plastics industry would do something like this because as you can see, there's a great deal of "relevance".

Along the way, where I least expected to find love, I did. Close to 9 months later, we've learnt so much about each other and grown not only as a couple, but as individuals too.

I have also completed my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification with SY & Pei Yin, our new dive buddy.

I stood at the peak of Mount Kinabalu and caught the sunrise. A formidable challenge, but conquered nonetheless.

I also welcome a new member into my family - Sophie, a 5 year old cross labrador. We took her in just 2 days ago but she's settling in fine and is a wonderful addition to our household.

Those are the highlights of the year. Next up, my goals and targets for 2008. I can't wait I simply can't wait!

26 December 2007

Seasons Greetings

Wow, an entire month went by without a single post. I'm ashamed. I'm sorry.

Anyway, let's not ruin the Christmas cheer. I want to wish everyone who's still coming back to BeingMervs a joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

It was a quiet Christmas celebration at this year's Christmas gathering. Smaller crowd but same old familiar faces, with a couple of new acquaintances. An evening of Taboo, PS2, Mahjong, Twister, Boggle and Win-Lose-Or-Draw kept us busy right till the wee hours of the morning, and even up till sunrise for some of us.

The abundance of liquor went almost untouched but when you've been up for the last 24 hours, behaviour is no different than when you've had one glass too many. Have you ever been exhausted to the point of behaving deliriously and the simplest things would make you laugh uncontrolably? Well, that was how I welcomed Christmas this year.

I wonder how I'll be welcoming the New Year... hmm...

Stay tuned for a recap of 2007!

27 November 2007

Update

Sincerest apologies for being tardy with the updates. This whole own-business thingy really keeps the unemployed busy. You know the saying - "You can't get fired, but you can go broke" and I seriously do not want to go broke.

Life after employment got a lot more complicated. But what I realize is that it has also become a lot more fulfilling. I guess that's why humans just love making life complicated. Hahaha!

I recently attended the Herbalife SEA Supervisor Academy 2007, a congregation of 3500 of Herbalife's top distributors from India, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and of course Malaysia. It was right here in our very own backyard, Putrajaya, so I did what it took to get myself qualified, with a little encouragement and a lot of assistance from my team of course.

The experience was worth the sacrifice. And I also realize that all my sacrifices in Herbalife thus far have been worthwhile. So it's safe to assume that all future sacrifices for this business I call my own should be worthwhile too.

If only I could lend you my eyes, to allow you to see what I have had such great fortune to see.

If you're looking to make some part time income helping people lose weight through good nutrition, feel free to email me at mervyn@earnmyworth.com. The money is good, but what's even better is the satisfaction of helping someone change their life for the better. Cheers to that!

12 November 2007

My Ecstacy

We all have a couple of things that give us absolute pleasure. Apart from the usual orgasm which I'm sure crossed the minds of many of you, I'm referring to having a moment of pure joy of a different kind.

What do you look forward to? What gets your adrenalin pumping? What gets you high?

For me, it comes as a part of my passion for diving. On any dive trip, I always look forward to the very first dive, the very first breath of air from the tank which fills my lungs as my head drops below the surface of the water, off to another adventure. It is in that moment that my entire body relaxes, and all the worries from my reality fade to nothingness. It's that first breath of air underwater which truly marks the start of my vacation. It gives me a renewed sense of freedom to be me. It brings me 'home'.

This one moment is unique for me on every dive trip, and I do not feel it again on any of the other subsequent dives on that trip. But after a long dose of reality, when I finally find the opportunity to go on another dive trip, that first breath underwater is my ecstacy.

I miss my ecstacy.

31 October 2007

Satomi's Visit

Today marks the last day of little miss Satomi's 5 day visit to KL.

A bit about this hot young lady from Japan. She's fair, 5'6" tall, slim, in her mid twenties, and flies with JAL as a stewardess. Her last visit to Malaysia was 5 years ago with the Lions Youth Exchange Programme and she had the fortune of being hosted by Jo. After some months of persuading, Jo finally convinced Satomi to visit KL once again.

She arrived around 6pm last Friday and this is roughly what kept us all busy the past couple of days.

Friday - Pickup at KLIA at 6.00pm. Dinner with Jo's family and then to SY's place for finger food, drinks, and a bit of mahjong
Saturday - Lunch at Ikea. Shopping at The Curve's weekend Bazaar. Seafood for dinner at PJ Seafood Restaurant near Tropicana. KaiTzer's Halloween party in USJ14.

Sunday - LoShiFun for Lunch at Mama's Kitchen in Taman Tun. 1957 Hati Malaya at GSC 1 Utama. Taichow at Mei Yen Restaurant in Paramount Garden. KTZ SS2 for her favourite Mango Loh.

Monday - Bella Italia SS2 for lunch. Batu Caves after the afternoon rain. Left her with some other friends who took her for dinner at Kim Gary's in Sunway. Met up again at SkyBar at Traders Hotel KL.

Tueday - DimSum treat at Loong Seng SS2, compliments of Chee How. KLCC to get tickets for the Petronas Twin Towers Sky Bridge. Visit to Herbalife KL Headquarters (we still have to work). Back to KLCC for the Sky Bridge tour. Met Jessie at Pavillion who took Satomi to StarHill for dinner and then to the Loft at Asian Heritage Row for drinks till late.

Wednesday - Brunch at Carcosa Sri Negara. Spa at Curve. Dinner at Jo's place. Back to KLIA for 11.05pm flight.

That pretty much sums up her happening vacation. Sure hope she enjoyed herself.

The reason for this post is that it has been such a busy weekend that I can barely remember the events and order in which they took place. It would be nice to have a little journal to keep record so we know where not to take her on her next visit, hopefully next April when she joins us for diving.

24 October 2007

Making A Difference

"...i also want to thank my very good friend Mervyn Tan Gooi Hup, my confidante and newly appointed life coach of mine, who has inspired me to reach beyond my means, and myself, to transcend beyond what i was seemingly capable of, to truly come to know the power from within me. see, he somehow got me moving from where i was, the place i was in, to come out of my self induced disadvantaged disposition at this point in time. i can tell him anything, and he has anwers for me, godly don't you think? but of course he aint one though, even if seemingly. he miraculously got me to get out of my own prison, and to be a better version of myself, nonetheless, the tagline Fitness First has gone for. i haven't stopped since. i'm moving and moving."

When someone says something like that, I can't help but feel a great sense of purpose in life. At least my presence is affecting some people in a positive way. That's nice to know.

"Life coach"?!?!

20 October 2007

Tag, I'm What?

Hey ho... another one of those bugs going around again. I just got tagged by UnkaLeong, again!

4 Jobs I have had in my life :-
Data Entry Clerk
Administrative Clerk - Human Resources
Operations Assistant - Plastic Resins
Personal Weight Management Coach

4 Places I have lived:-
PJ SS2/41
PJ SS2/28
PJ Sec19/4
PJ SS2/54

4 Countries I have been to on vacation:-
Singapore
Thailand
Indonesia
Australia

4 of my Favourite Foods:-
Char Koay Teow
Cendol
Bakuteh
KFC

4 Places I would rather be right now:-
Underwater
On my bike
On the beach
Out closing a sale

4 Friends I’m going to tag:-
Joanne
MichQ
Daniel
Ivan

16 October 2007

Triathlon

In the recent review of Q3 here, I felt that somehow I don't have very much to look forward to in the coming months and that I'll need to dream up a few more.

I've come up with something which will take a lot more than a quarter of a year to accomplish, but I'll have to start somewhere. Why not here and now?!

Triathlon - a combination of three athletic sports - swimming, cycling & running. Although I am able to swim, cycle and run, so far I can't do any of them long distance, let alone consecutively. But I trust that with some training I should be able to complete the course and become the first triathlete in my family.

There are many variations of triathlons with their differences being in the distances. I'm aiming to complete the Olympic-distance triathlon with a race distance of 1.5km swimming followed by 40km of cycling and completed with a 10km run. That's a great deal of distance to cover but I'm sure I'll succeed with the right guidance.

There's also the "sprint" version of the triathlon which is basically the same as the Olympic-distance triathlon divided by half. 750m swimming, 20km cycling and a 5km run. At the moment, I'm probably able to complete all the different segments individually, but not consecutively. I'll probably use the sprint-distances for training.

I hope to complete my first Olympic-distance triathlon before I hit 30. Lots of time! Know anyone who's willing to coach an untrained person for free?

09 October 2007

Riding Two Wheels

There's been a lot of hype about getting a mountain bike and going off-trail with UnkaLeong & Soon Yean, since even before UnkaLeong returned from his 3-year stint in Bangkok. Upon his return, we went browsing for bikes because neither of us were equiped. SY was the first to put down a deposit for his bike, to be collected sometime mid October. After extensive due diligence, UnkaLeong too found a bike he so liked.

As for me, part of the past month has been spent bouncing around from website to website and shop to shop in search of a mountain bike to call my own. I've sealed the deal yesterday in a place far far away from home - Bukit Rimau.

In the course of deciding on which to buy, I have learnt many things about choosing the right mountain bike, from UnkaLeong & some of the sales assistants at the numerous shops.

For starters, choose a frame that suits your riding. Riding style will determine which type of frame to get - full suspension or hardtail. I've never riden a full suspension bike before so I figured it'll be easier, and a whole lot cheaper, to go with the hardtail.

Then you'll have to decide on the frame size. The taller you are, the bigger the frame, although I'm not sure why. There must be some physics to the whole thing which is beyond me.

I also learnt about groupsets. The brakes, the gears, the accessories, and a bunch of other stuff. Some people recommend going all out and getting something hi-end right from the get go because you really save a lot in the long run. Whereas there are others who believe that you should start with the basics and slowly take the time to figure out what you need and upgrade from there on out.

After a bit of deliberation with myself, I concluded that I shall start basic and work my way up as I go along... for 2 reasons:
1. I want to be able to feel the relative difference between the lo-end and the hi-end. If I start off with a 10k bike, I will never appreciate what I have.
2. I just started my own business so income right now is relatively unstable. Better to hold back on the spending for the time being.

So, based on that, I decided that I should spend a little bit more to get a nice strong frame, and the rest can slowly be upgraded as I go along. Long story short, this is roughly what I brought home with me in the trunk of my car.

DiamondBack Topanga Comp XC with a nice chilli red skin.
Zoom 550 suspension fork
Shimano Deore LX (dual control levers, front & rear derailleurs)
TekTro front & rear disc brakes
Truvativ Isoflow 3-speed crank
9-speed cassette
Kenda Koyote 26" wheels
All the above cost me RM1,500
I am no expert, but here's my take on it. The frame is really light, but it looks strong enough and I don't do crazy shit like doing a 3ft drop anyway. The bike is pretty heavy for a small chap such as myself, I suspect due to the front fork. I'll look into having it changed later.

As for the Deore LX derailleurs, 3X9 should equal 27 speeds in total. But I find that I really only get 25 due to the width of the 9-speed cassette. At the two ends of the spectrum, the chain starts scraping away at the front derailleur and the ride becomes less smooth so I avoid it entirely. Maybe there are some adjustments I can make if ever there's anyone willing to share their knowledge with me.

Also, the dual control lever for the front crank is awkwardly positioned. Dual control levers are heck nifty devices, but I can't seem to comfortably engage the front derailleur into hi with the flick of my fingers. I have to literally nudge the damn thing into gear otherwise the chain just kicks back into medium.

Well that's about all the complaints I got. I do enjoy the overall ride of the bike and I love every minute on the bike, even the uphill climb at Bukit Kiara which I failed to complete. Hey, the problem is not the bike, it's my legs!

Oh yea, just for the record, I also got a bunch of accessories together with my bike for about RM300 extra - Raleigh helmet, Raleigh handpump & a spare tube (I have had a bad experience with a puncture before), bar-ends, Topeak Comp130 cycling computer, CatEye rear light, Azonic bike gloves. They threw in a bottle cage & bottle for free.

Since getting the bike, I've done about 40km. Sore legs and a sore butt, but I'm all smiles.

08 October 2007

Lose Weight Today

Early this year, while on a mission to gain a substantial amount of weight just so that the people around me would stop saying "Mervyn, did you lose weight again?", I got more than I bargained for. I started learning about nutrition and how many of today's leading causes of deaths are due to poor nutrition.

I also found out that much of Malaysia's population's health problems can also be attributed to being overweight, a side effect of poor nutrition. In case you didn't know, obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, migraines and many more.

And the simplest of cures for obesity - better nutrition, a lot of water, and a healthier lifestyle. I learnt so much in the recent months that I've decided to start helping people improve their health through some great nutrition products and simple coaching.

My girlfriend has since lost 4kgs and she's complaining about having to buy new clothes because she lost 4 inches round her waist.

Another friend of mine lost 7kgs without even doing any exercise. He's had a huge boost in energy and has also had to go shopping for new trousers.

As for myself, well, I've gained 7kgs since my last medical checkup where the doctor was really concerned about how thin my waistline was. I now fit my clothes better and no one complains about how thin I look anymore.

If you're overweight, underweight, or have some other health problems related to poor nutrition, allow me to help you. Just send me an email at mervyn@earnmyworth.com and let me show you a simple, healthy way to improve your condition.

There's also a business opportunity if you're in need of some extra ca$h- Earn Your Worth

03 October 2007

2007: Review of Q3

I didn't even realize the 3rd Quarter of 2007 is up, until I finally had the chance to sit down and browse through blogs and notice people mention it. Oh well, it's that time of the year again - reviews!

Since July, I've turned 25. My gal and my bestest buddies threw me a great surprise with the rest of the fellas waiting at a nearby chill-out joint. That was the first time I've ever had a surprise birthday do. Means a great deal!

I've conquered Mt Kinabalu. The whole sense of achievement came with a bit of delay. And although right after returning from the mountain we agreed that we'd never do it again, I'm starting to reconsider. It was a lot of effort, but effort does pay off - life lesson learnt.Adeline, Ivan, Joanne and I threw mom and dad a really nice anniversary dinner at a mighty fine restaurant with all the relatives present. It cost us a bomb because the bill was only split two ways - my damage was equivalent to an entire month's salary. But it was truly worth it to see mom & dad smiling the whole evening.

Jo & I baked a cake for Rob's 30th and the cake fetched lots of compliments. That reminds me, I still have a lot of unused ingredients. I should get back to baking before they expire.
I have since moved on with my career. Well actually, it's a complete change in careers. I used to play a bit of a customer service role. Now customer service, coaching, training and learning are all a huge part of what I do. So exciting!

In moving on, I've spent a bit of dad's money in setting up a small home office for myself. That, coupled with the brand-spanking-new awesome-looking extra large 19" Samsung LCD monitor I received as my farewell gift from my colleagues, it is a true joy sitting at home working my business online. Thanks guys!
Regretfully, I was unable to participate in Dragonet's Project Aware due to the changing of careers. But I'm sure the sacrifices I make today will pay off tomorrow and I'm indeed looking forward to it.

As you can see from my previous post, I ended the quarter with a great start to my new career. Had I not canceled the dive trip, I would have missed that opportunity. "Everything happens for a reason" has never been more true for me.

Well that's the recap. Here's what I'm looking forward to in the coming and final quarter of 2007...
- getting my mountain bike and go riding with UnkaLeong & SY. (Others welcome, please leave comment)
- Helping 10-20 people lose weight and get healthier through education and a change in habits.
- Put more effort into achieving my 6-pack since I really slacked in the last 90 days.

Gee, recently I've been preaching to my friends about the importance of setting up things to look forward to, I forgot about my own. Three items in 3 months? That just doesn't cut it. I'm going to do more dreaming and will come back and update again.

29 September 2007

Kickstart

My new career as a Herbalife Independent Distributor is kicking off very well. It has been 4 days since I've gone full time, and in that period I have spoken to a good number of people with regards to the products as well as the business opportunity.

Yesterday while at the office with some of the amazing people I work with, I learn to make calls to people who have surfed our website and left a note indicating that they're interested in the business opportunity. One call I made to a bubbly young Malay lady was as bad as it could get, simply because the conversation started off with her asking me if I spoke Malay and I gullibly said yes.

It's not that I don't speak Malay, but the thing is that I'm very much more used to speaking about our business in English, no doubt. Translating the content into Malay off-hand made me very nervous and I kept fumbling with my words. My task was to make some light conversation and give some brief business facts to find out if she's serious. If she was serious, I was to invite her to meet me and then I'll give her a broader view of what we do to see if she would like to get started with Herbalife.

As I said, no one could have fumbled that introduction worse than me. At the end of the conversation, she asked me how come I kept stuttering. I froze as I thought my shortcoming had been put on the table to be criticised. I simply admitted to the fact that my Malay isn't as good as it should be, and politely apologised. This sweet young thing laughed it off and told me, in Malay of course - "don't worry la, just talk as though we're friends, can right?!"

What a great attitude! Just the type of person I'm seeking to work with in Herbalife. As Bjorn so wisely once put it - "Sometimes you just can't give the wrong presentation to the right person. And you also can't give the right presentation to the wrong person."

She's the right person alright! Today she showed up early at our predetermined appointment with her husband, a nice chap who speaks fluent English with a hint of Malay accent. I could tell he was quite business-minded as well, but this business opportunity was more for her to occupy herself while he works on his own stint as a government contractor.

And so we went on with what I thought would only be a 30 minute discussion, but it dragged on to close to 3 hours even though the husband was already late for another appointment. The couple was just so excited about what Bjorn and I were sharing with them that they had so many questions and they were so eager to throw possibilities onto the table for discussion.

In the end, they walked away still very much excited after he purchased some products to try on himself; and she walked off happily as a newly signed up Herbalife Distributor in Mervyn's team.

As for me, meeting this delightful couple has really given me a boost in confidence that this new found career is definitely what I want to be doing.

Cheers to that, and hooray for them! My mission now is see her succeed alongside Joanne & I in this wonderful business we call Herbalife.

26 September 2007

Farewell

And so it ends... my career in the plastics trading industry has been put to rest. Yesterday, 25th of September 2007 was my last day at the office. It was a busy day indeed.

I spent quite a bit of time clearing out my desk and drawers. Some of the things of which had been collecting since I first joined in April 2005. As with all my other clean-ups, I just threw everything which had no immediate value. Straight forward enough. LOL!

My manager Desmond packed nasi lemak for all of us, while I supplied the chendol from the not-too-far bicycle stall in Taman Tun. There was also KFC served a bit later because there wasn't enough nasi lemak to go around.


Shortly after lunch, I was pleasantly surprised with my farewell present - a brand new Swatch watch. Looks pretty neat. Casual. I like it.


Almost immediately after they handed me the watch in a Swatch plastic bag, my colleague Iriese says there's more, but I have to go to the other end of the office to collect it myself. First thing which crossed my mind - "takkan give me bicycle?" because I've recently been joking so much with them about having to cycle instead of driving around, to save on spending of course.


This is what I found in a Carrefour plastic bag hiding in the corner. OMFG! They bought me a 19" Samsung SyncMaster LCD monitor. My face totally lit up with joy and I was all smiles for the rest of the day.

So out with the old...

...in with the new!
It's so f*cking cool man! (Please excuse the language.)

I'm so completely enjoying the extra space it's giving me. And I completely love the extra viewable area. Upgrading from a 17" to a 19" monitor is close to heavenly. And have you ever heard people brag about the colour and contrast and resolution on Samsung monitors? IT'S ALL THAT AND MORE!!!!



The one thing I like most about this LCD is the aesthetics. Totally sexy, and fits right in with the rest of my setup.


Oh, and if you noticed the webcam sitting on top of the monitor, I bought that 2 weeks ago - Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000. It set my dad back RM280. Yea, he's paying for it whether he likes it or not because he and mom are getting so much pleasure from being able to make video calls with Ivan in Bristol.


Life is good. Hahaha!


Okay back to the topic. So I'm done with the last career, time to start my new one. I've already got my website set up - you can check it out here. I'm looking to grow my business, of course, so feel free to forward it along to anyone you know who might be interested in making a change in their lives, or people looking for an extra RM1,000-RM2,000 income per month just part-time.

20 September 2007

Mount Kinabalu

Because Soon Yean finally published a post on our Mount Kinabalu trip and Robert linked him, I decided that I wanted to be better. I’m going to do both, publish a post AND link to Soon Yean’s post! Call it kiasu-ism at its best, or worst. *Bwuek*

I must start off by apologizing for taking THIS long to update. Lack of motivation – it’s everyone’s fault except my own.

Anyway, as some of you know, plans for our Mount Kinabalu expedition were underway as early as January this year. If you’re planning such a trip for yourself too, we strongly recommend confirming your travel dates early. I understand from Robert (who made most of the arrangements – thanks buddy!), you can’t climb Mt Kinabalu if you don’t have your accommodation arrangements at Laban Rata confirmed before hand. And of course there’s no Genting Highlands Resorts up there so the rooms are snapped up pretty quickly. You can make your bookings as far as 6 months in advance, and I recommend you do so. More info available here.

Moving along…

Nearing the actual dates, we tried to get our act together by getting in shape. Actually it was just 2 or 3 miserable attempts at Bukit Gasing and Bukit Kiara. Now that I’ve been to the top of Mount Kinabalu and back, my advice to anyone else is forget the bukit-bukit (hills) you find in your area. If you’re serious about getting your body (read legs) ready for the climb, walk stairs! I shit you not. Build up your leg muscles by climbing or descending staircases EVERYDAY! Much of the hike up to Laban Rata is stair-like.

Also, if you’re thinking of packing light, that’s a great idea. But just in case you have extras to carry, like your girlfriend’s backpack when she gets tired, I also recommend you work on your back. Try doing the staircase exercise with a 5 to 10 kilo backpack. If you attempt my suggested exercise and fail (your leg/back muscles give way) do one of the following two:
a) train more
b) cancel your trip

This was our travel itinerary, which you can follow or maybe even enhance to suit your interests. The actual hike up and down the mountain will take a full 2 days and 1 night. We added an extra two nights just so that we wouldn’t have to rush – total 4 days 3 nights in Kinabalu.

Day 1 - fly into Kota Kinabalu. They have a small cozy international airport there so it’s possible to fly in from other countries, although I don’t know the routes. Of course we flew in from KL.

From there, you’ll need to find your way to Kinabalu park. There are a number of ways to do this, i.e. bus, taxi, on foot (highly not recommended). Or you can do what we did – rent a car. A 1,500cc Proton Wira cost us RM90/day, petrol not included). We were a group of 4 so it was ideal. Having a rental allowed us the flexibility to stop by in KK town (10mins from airport) to get Robert, have a meal and do some last minute shopping for essentials.

We didn’t spend too much time in KK before continuing our journey to Kinabalu Park. The journey is very much like driving from KL to Genting Highlands… nothing much spectacular. It got very misty at one part of our journey that we could barely see a few meters in front of the car. Soon Yean did quite well with Grace as his navigator. We stopped along the way to stretch our legs and buy bananas at the roadside stalls.

Trivia – bananas, chocolates and nuts are great sources of energy. I recommend Snickers® - high in both chocolate and nuts. If they ever come up with a banana+nut-filled version of Snickers®… hmmm….

It wasn’t much later when we found ourselves at the Kinabalu Park headquarters. This is where some of the numerous Kinabalu Park lodges are located. People generally check-in for a night before starting their Summit trail hike at Timpohon gate early the next morning. However, our group’s plan was to hike Mesilau trail. Mesilau trail is a longer, more scenic route. After about 6.5km it joins up with Summit trail’s 4.5km mark (approximate) near the Layang-layang rest hut. Mesilau Trail steps are smaller than the huge ones at the early stages of Summit Trail, so it’s somewhat easier to climb at the expense of distance and time.

Soon after we reached Mesilau Nature Resort and checking in, we were sitting down for a nice dinner at the restaurant. To be honest, I was not expecting very much. Pricing in their menu is like much of the mountain, a bit steep. It’s on par with any esteemed cafĂ© in town. They also have the ambience and setting to go with it so I was not disappointed. The real surprise was that the food was actually really good. The four of us went back to our rooms with happy tummies. Kudos to the chef and staff!

We took the shared hostel known as Bishop’s Head Hostel. There are a number of rooms there with each room housing 3 double-decker beds – so it sleeps six people. We had it to ourselves as there weren’t many travelers climbing from Mesilau on the weekday. Temperature at this altitude is already at the lower end of 20’s, and higher end of 10’s at night. I would have liked to oversleep the next morning but the excitement of the climb didn’t permit it.

We packed a set lunch each from the restaurant, which included tuna or egg sandwich, bananas, chicken wing, a hard-boiled egg and a bottle of mineral water. We had some of the sandwiches for breakfast.

Unsure of how our bodies would be affected by the climb and the altitude, we decided to head out early – 8am. We were the first group to leave on the trail. I truly truly truly hated being in the front because there were lots and lots of transparent spider webs hanging across the trail and I kept walking my face into them. After that experience, I am strongly against being the first to walk the trail in the morning.

We went a slow but steady pace and it took 9 hours for us to get from Mesilau Nature Resort to Laban Rata, arriving shortly past 5pm. Some of the things I noticed, worth mentioning, you should look out for…
- Kipuyut bridge which hangs over a beautiful stream with a spectacular waterfall to one side and the rest of the steady stream to the other.
- Watch as the scene of the forest around you transforms from something so normal, so familiar, into something right out of a Harry Potter movie, with low trees and thick fogs.
- Look through the gaps between the trees when you hit the top of hill ranges. Don’t miss the picturesque view of the valleys and low lands below. Where the weather is good, you may even see as far as the South China Sea in the distant horizon.
- Observe the detail of Summit Trail… I strongly suspect that much of it is actually a waterfall which has had its water diverted off the route so that we can safely traverse it.
- The view from above the clouds is heaven-like, and blinding at the same time.
- It was rainy pretty much the entire time so the wilderness was quiet. But rain or shine, the squirrels and rats which camp at each of rest huts are adorable. You’ll just fall right in love with them and start giving them food you brought for yourself. Heck, you might even snatch food from your friends to feed the animals. And notice how they get bigger/fatter the higher up you climb.

At Laban Rata, the mess hall is full of life with many a climber sitting around with a hot drink or warm food, sharing stories of their climb to this point and their expectations of the next stage. This is where you’ll find expensive yet lousy food, but still appreciate it. This is also where I bought my very own pair of Kampung Adidas as my pair of RockPort hiking shoes gave way to the abuse on the way up. RM14 for 2 pieces of rubber and a pair of black shoelaces. Best money I’ve ever spent… serious!

Temperature at this altitude was about 9 degrees Celsius and once again the view was astounding. Our beds were waiting for us at Gunting Lagadan hut, another 10 minutes hike away. The gate to the next and infinitely more perilous stage of the climb is also here. The rooms had double-decker beds as well, sleeping 4 in each room, perfect for our group.

We sat around for a bit complaining about the sore backs and feet and then got to preparations for the next stage. I believe it was barely 8pm when we put out the lights. Early indeed, but if the next phase was to begin at 2.30am, 8pm wasn’t early enough.

I don’t know why we did it, but we really didn’t have to… set our alarms that is. At 2am the noise from climbers getting ready in the hallways is loud enough to wake the dead (given that we slept like the dead). We left most of the non-essentials there in our room and climbed the rest of the way with just warm clothes on our back, a raincoat, camera, torchlight, water, and some light snacks. All that fits into a nice fat hip pouch. The huge backpack you hiked up with can be left in the room because the biggest item in there (read your warm clothing) is already on your back.

At 2.30am, it was still dark and stormy and our guide didn’t care much for letting us out there so soon. 15 minutes later we were off. I was a bit concerned about reaching the peak on time. Sunrise was scheduled at 6.05am and no amount of complaining in the world could ever postpone that event. As you can imagine, the scenery up there – pitch black. Apart from the light coming from our foreheads pointed at the ground 3 feet in front of us, we couldn’t see anything else. It was just step after step after step after step.

The winds got stronger as we passed well above the trees and there was nothing left to shield us from the burning cold winds except our clothes. My advice: wear 2 layers of climate control material beneath your hooded jacket and use weather proof gloves and shoes. Turning around and looking into the distant, I noticed it was a cloudless dark sky. We could see the lights from the small towns below and even that which was shining all the way from Kota Kinabalu. Breathtaking view!

I like our guide Morris even though I don’t know how to spell his name. He was very encouraging all the way through. He kept our pace and made sure we reached the peak on time.

5.50am, our destination finally reached us – Low’s Peak, 4,092 meters above sea level, the highest peak on the mountain . It was still pitch black except for the lights coming from the torches of the other climbers. We all took turns gathering around the peak for photos. That was the most horrible photo experience I’ve ever had. It was just too cold to smile. When I tried holding the camera, the thick, wet gardening gloves I wore made it impossible for me to press the buttons on the camera. And when I removed the gloves, my fingers were too stiff and shaky to operate the camera properly. Dumbfounding!

I truly regret reaching the peak so early. A 15 minute wait for the sunrise at that altitude, in that weather, is like an eternity in hell (if hell were to freeze over). It wasn’t long before Low’s Peak got too crowded and so we moved downwards to put some of the rocks between us and the wind. That helped little, but it was still appreciated.

As the sun came up the veil of shadow was lifted from the lands below, revealing the most magnificent sights I have ever laid eyes on. The closest thing to it I’ve ever seen before was only on TV, and it was still nowhere near the real thing. The view was… it was… I give up… it just cannot be defined with my limited vocabulary. Just get up there yourself and you will see what I mean.

No time to reflect on our achievements. I was too eager to get back down to warmer temperature. At that time, even 10 degrees Celsius seemed warm to me. That’s colder than any office air-conditioning system would give you. But I would still have preferred it to the near freezing temperatures at the summit.

As we slowly made our way back down the summit, we could finally breathe in the enormity of the mountain. With light, the dark and beastly mountain had transformed into a vast and beautiful rocky landscape. The trickling water from early showers made each and every rock glisten with shimmery light.

To the end of the highest rock plateau in Malaysia, we could now see how treacherous our climb up was. Had we noticed it any earlier, we would probably had taken even more care when coming up. Some might have even given up before making that climb had it been visible. But now that we were up there, the only way to go was down.

And so we took it a foot at a time, with one hand on the rope, and another hand on the rock for balance, and a third invisible hand hanging on to friends for support… knowing that someone will be quick enough to reach us before we fall if we slipped. I strongly believe that that is the bond the four of us built on this trip to conquer Mount Kinabalu. To know that if any of us trips, there will be others quick to catch us before we hit the ground. I now have more trust in them than ever before.

It took as long to get back to the Gunting Lagadan hut as it did to get from there to the summit. We made it back there just before 9.30am and collapsed in bed. Checkout was to be at 11am so that gave us close to an hour’s rest. Our final stage – descending. The weather was still wet with light showers here and there. We were so fed up with having to keep putting on and taking off our ponchos that we just left it on till the last bit.

The first part of the descent was quick and fluent. But I didn’t realize how quick my legs would yield to the constant downhill pace. Barely halfway through, our entire group was down to a slow and steady pace once again. As we went below the clouds, the familiar forest we saw just the day before reappeared once again. With each step, the trees grew taller and taller. Making our way down, the stair-like trail was becoming a nightmare for our legs and minds. At each corner we turn, we would be greeted by more stairs.

4.5 hours later, we made it to Timpohon gate, the start/end of Summit Trail. I was so relieved that it was finally over. A 10 minute van-ride away was once again Kinabalu Park Headquarters where we picked up our certificates and our car. I volunteered to drive the journey back to Kota Kinabalu since the others seemed to be no better off than I.

We had pre-booked a hotel in town for that evening. As we got back into town we began to speculate about the hotel and its layout – “I sure hope the hotel has a lift because I don’t think I can climb anymore stairs”! Hilarious bunch we are. Due to budget constraints, all 4 of us shared the 2 single beds in the small room. We were out cold by 9.30pm.

The next day was a relaxing one at the nearby mall – CenterPoint for a massage (canceled because it was too expensive), and also the Filipino market to pick up some souvenirs. Our flight back to KL was delayed slightly and when we got back to Soon Yean’s apartment, we found Grace’s car battery dead. But that’s another story altogether.

For those of you who are looking to try Mt Kinabalu, the following sites have helped me gather invaluable information.
http://www.mount-kinabalu-borneo.com/
http://www.angelfire.com/wi3/huaying1/sabah.html

Also, consider making a stop at the nearby Poring Hotsprings after your climb, before returning to town.

And please take good care on such a trip. Any attempt to climb Mount Kinabalu or any other mountain of this caliber is no laughing matter. Lives have been lost (even on Mt Kinabalu) on the account of recklessness and poor planning so please prepare yourselves well, both physically and psychologically.

Trivia: The fastest anyone has made it from Timpohon to Summit and back to Timpohon - below 3hrs - mad people!

If you’ve read all the way up to this point, I take my hat off to you. Please leave a message. Thank you!

18 September 2007

My Personality - ENTP

I just took a personality test at MyPersonality.Info

ENTP, as described by PersonalityPage...

As an ENTP, your primary mode of living is focused externally, where you take things in primarily via your intuition. Your secondary mode is internal, where you deal with things rationally and logically.

With Extraverted Intuition dominating their personality, the ENTP's primary interest in life is understanding the world that they live in. They are constantly absorbing ideas and images about the situations they are presented in their lives. Using their intuition to process this information, they are usually extremely quick and accurate in their ability to size up a situation. With the exception of their ENFP cousin, the ENTP has a deeper understanding of their environment than any of the other types.

This ability to intuitively understand people and situations puts the ENTP at a distinct advantage in their lives. They generally understand things quickly and with great depth. Accordingly, they are quite flexible and adapt well to a wide range of tasks. They are good at most anything that interests them. As they grow and further develop their intuitive abilities and insights, they become very aware of possibilities, and this makes them quite resourceful when solving problems.

ENTPs are idea people. Their perceptive abilities cause them to see possibilities everywhere. They get excited and enthusiastic about their ideas, and are able to spread their enthusiasm to others. In this way, they get the support that they need to fulfill their visions.

ENTPs are less interested in developing plans of actions or making decisions than they are in generating possibilities and ideas. Following through on the implementation of an idea is usually a chore to the ENTP. For some ENTPs, this results in the habit of never finishing what they start. The ENTP who has not developed their Thinking process will have problems with jumping enthusiastically from idea to idea, without following through on their plans. The ENTP needs to take care to think through their ideas fully in order to take advantage of them.

The ENTP's auxiliary process of Introverted Thinking drives their decision making process. Although the ENTP is more interested in absorbing information than in making decisions, they are quite rational and logical in reaching conclusions. When they apply Thinking to their Intuitive perceptions, the outcome can be very powerful indeed. A well-developed ENTP is extremely visionary, inventive, and enterprising.

ENTPs are fluent conversationalists, mentally quick, and enjoy verbal sparring with others. They love to debate issues, and may even switch sides sometimes just for the love of the debate. When they express their underlying principles, however, they may feel awkward and speak abruptly and intensely.

The ENTP personality type is sometimes referred to the "Lawyer" type. The ENTP "lawyer" quickly and accurately understands a situation, and objectively and logically acts upon the situation. Their Thinking side makes their actions and decisions based on an objective list of rules or laws. If the ENTP was defending someone who had actually committed a crime, they are likely to take advantage of quirks in the law that will get their client off the hook. If they were to actually win the case, they would see their actions as completely fair and proper to the situation, because their actions were lawful. The guilt or innocence of their client would not be as relevant. If this type of reasoning goes uncompletely unchecked by the ENTP, it could result in a character that is perceived by others as unethical or even dishonest. The ENTP, who does not naturally consider the more personal or human element in decision making, should take care to notice the subjective, personal side of situations. This is a potential problem are for ENTPs. Although their logical abilities lend strength and purpose to the ENTP, they may also isolate them from their feelings and from other people.

The least developed area for the ENTP is the Sensing-Feeling arena. If the Sensing areas are neglected, the ENTP may tend to not take care of details in their life. If the Feeling part of themself is neglected, the ENTP may not value other people's input enough, or may become overly harsh and aggressive.

Under stress, the ENTP may lose their ability to generate possibilities, and become obsessed with minor details. These details may seem to be extremely important to the ENTP, but in reality are usually not important to the big picture.

In general, ENTPs are upbeat visionaries. They highly value knowledge, and spend much of their lives seeking a higher understanding. They live in the world of possibilities, and become excited about concepts, challenges and difficulties. When presented with a problem, they're good at improvising and quickly come up with a creative solution. Creative, clever, curious, and theoretical, ENTPs have a broad range of possibilities in their lives.

14 September 2007

Wake Me Up When It's Over

I just took a glance at my organizer. Bloody hell… I’m all booked out for the next 5 days.

Friday 6pm – Meet Jo & Jess down in KL for Haagen-Dazs.
Friday 8pm – Herbalife training @ KL
Friday 10pm – Clubbing @ Poppy
Saturday 10am – Grocery shopping for KLU barbecue
Saturday 2.30pm – Shake party @ Menara MPL
Saturday 4.30pm – Gym
Saturday 6pm – KLU barbecue
Saturday 10.30pm – Zetuan’s B’day barbecue (or what’s left of it)
Sunday 9am – wash 3 cars (maybe 4) and other housekeeping
Sunday 11am – Shopping for a webcam and suit
Sunday 7pm – KG’s wedding reception @ Equatorial
Monday 8.30am – nothing @ office
Monday 5.30pm – Meet Lynn and/or Gym
Monday 8pm – TangLung party @ Kelana
Tuesday 8.30am – nothing @ office
Tuesday 2pm – Chairman’s Club Tour @ Shangri-La
Tuesday 9pm – Nutrition Club proposal presentation @ D’sara Perdana

If I turn down any invitations for Wednesday, please be understanding. Show some compassion. Thank you!

12 September 2007

EyeMaze

I came across a pretty neat site with simple games, about a year back. Very simple Flash games, but entertaining nonetheless. I’ve always been a sucker for puzzle games.

Recently I came back to this site and found a whole lot more games in their list. I’ve been spending a bit of time working out the solutions to the puzzle games.

For those of you who’ve given up, here’s the walkthrough for some of the games I’ve completed, just to help you along. Skip the rest of this post if you want to try it out first.

I will add walkthroughs to the others as I complete them.

Grow Ver.1
Drop each item over the “Grow” word in this order:
1. House
2. Tree
3. Castle
4. Water
5. Tower
6. Rock
7. Treasure Chest
8. Stairs
Watch the story unfold.

Grow Ver.2
It goes in accordingly…
1. Cone
2. Cube
3. Paper
4. Cylinder
5. Hole
6. Ball
The ending is pretty damn cool!

Chronon Ver.0
Basically you have to free the yellow guy who's trapped in the cage in the middle of the house before the master comes back at 19.00. The concept of this game is to move things around the house at different times of the day. Not the most simple of games because you can actually move back and forth between times to change different objects, which will then lead to different outcomes.

For me the toughest part to figure out was the clock. It’s one of the most important items in the game. The clock only ticks when it’s hanging on the wall. And because it’s a cuckoo clock, certain things will pop up when the clock shows a certain time of day.
12 o’clock – key to unlock chest
1 o’clock – egg
7 o’clock – lit candle

Here’s my walkthrough to get you to 100/100.

To unlock the chest…
Timeline: 12.25
Put the wreath in the fireplace.
Hang the clock on the wall (it shows 9.30).
Timeline: 14.55
The clock has been ticking for 2.5hrs, therefore now it shows 1 o’clock. The key appears.
Click on the key to unlock the chest. 9.45 will now appear in your timeline at the top.

To get the egg…
Timeline: 6.15
Hang the clock on the wall (it shows 9.30).
Timeline: 9.45
The clock strikes 1 and the egg appears on top of the clock, like the key. Click on the egg to move it to the fireplace with all the other cake ingredients.

To hatch the monster egg…
Timeline: 6.15
Move the wreath to the table
Move the monster egg onto the wreath
Open the curtains
Timeline: 9.05
The monster egg hatches

To send the winged monster up the chimney to fetch milk…
Timeline: 9.05
Move the shelf from the fireplace to the wall
Tie the rope to the winged monster
Give the empty bottle (left side) to the monster.
Timeline: 9.45
Monster has collected milk in bottle and fruit in tail. Click on the rope at the fireplace to reel him back in before the rain comes.

To get the firewood under the cage…
Timeline: 6.15
The clock is on the wall showing 9.30
Timeline: 9.05
The clock is on the wall showing 12.20
Click on the clock’s tail to make it straight
Timeline: 9.45
The clock strikes 1, and the cage is raised.
Move the wood off the floor to the shelf above the window.

Like it or not, it rains and the open chimney causes a flood. To dry the floor…
Timeline: 12.25
Take the fruit from the winged monster and put it under the table.
Tie the rope to the fruit.
Timeline: 14.55
The brown monster dug a hole through the floor to get the fruit. The water drains out.
The cage collapses under the weight of the growing winged monster, and the bars open up for the yellow guy to get out.
The rope is in place for the yellow guy to escape from the house.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve met the mission of the game – to help the yellow guy escape. Go to timeline 19.00 and see how it turns out. However, you will not get 100/100 score. Read on if you want to continue… I’m going to teach you to bake a cake.

To start the fire…
Timeline: 12.25
Move the round bottle (filled with water) from the stand on the right to the stand on the left.
Put the bottle of milk in the stand on the right.
Give the mirror to the winged monster – it’s quite vain.
Make sure the hatch above is open.
Timeline: 14.55
The sun comes out and the light is directed through the roof, via the mirror, to the wreath and it catches fire.
Move the burning wreath to the fire place.
Put the fire wood on top of the burning wreath.
Replace the shelf in the fireplace.

To prepare the cake for baking…
Timeline: 14.55
Put the baking tray onto the table
Add the necessary ingredients. Different ingredients bring different endings.
Here’s a list of ingredients available: butter, sugar, egg, flour, poison, water, milk. (I recommend you try different recipes to see the different outcomes. It’s quite interesting.)
Timeline: 18.10
Move the baking pan to the fireplace. The fireplace should be nice and hot by now.
Timeline: 19.00
The cake is baked. The master is back.

Still haven’t gotten the desired outcome?
Try only these ingredients for the cake – butter, sugar, egg, flour and milk.
Timeline: 19.00
A delicious cake is served. All the characters are in the house sharing the cake.

Still didn’t get 100/100?
The room is too dark.

To get the candle out of the clock, you have to get the clock to strike 7 when timeline is 19.00...
Timeline: 14.55
The clock hanging on the wall should show 6.10.
Stop it from ticking by taking it off the wall and putting it on the shelf.
Timeline: 18.10
Put the clock back onto the wall to get it ticking as normal.
Timeline: 19.00
Perfect scene, perfect score!

***if you added poison to the recipe to bake, yellow guy will be on the roof, winged monster will be kicked out, master will turn to stone, and the brown monster will still be biting on the rope.

09 September 2007

Cake Pics

Ask and you shall receive. This post is in response to Nigel's request related to one of my previous posts - "My Cake Experience"


Test cake: Didn't complete the decorating because it was really late.

Choc chip cake stuffed with marshmellow & chocolate buttercream filling

Final product: Simple and from the heart

Sorry I don't have more pictures worthy of posting. I was so caught up with the cake that I didn't have time to document the process.

06 September 2007

Random Thought: Life is Fantastic!

While playing confidant to an old flame, I made an interesting realization about life. Some of you may know this already, but I know that there are still many who don’t.

Direction and purpose… both in life are very important. To have something to work towards or look forward to, that is really vital to stay psychologically healthy, to be happy.

What drives you? Think about it! Do you have a 10-year plan? A 5-year plan? A 1-year plan? And just as important as having goals, I find that we also need to have things to look forward to. That overdue vacation with a loved one or dear friend; a special occasion or event; buying something that excites you; an anticipated exciting change in life, it all counts!

The above is what makes the difference between saying “life sucks” or “life is just ok” and being able to say “life is fantastic”. Are you truly enjoying your time here? Or are you just living it a day at a time. That choice is in your hands and really, you can choose to do something about it!

In unrelated news: Funny thing happened today. Our President is down from Japan having a meeting with all the managers. Rumor has it we’re involved in a buy-over. And we’re not the buyers. If this rumor is true, a serious change in things around here can be expected. I wonder how that would affect me if I stayed on. Would I have adjusted well to the change of bosses and maybe even working culture? Or maybe they’d retrench me and pay me off. That would have been nice. Alas, my departure from this company is already confirmed and I guess I’ll never know. Still, I have no regrets and am eager to move on to greener pastures.

05 September 2007

Counting Down

As the days run by and I get just that much closer to my last day of service here at NMM, the boredom grows exponentially. Although I clock in at 8.30 sharp and clock out 5.00pm on the dot daily, I still feel more mentally exhausted than when I used to O.T. till late night. It’s the lack of interesting activity I tell you.

I am actually doing what I can to delay the numerous tasks of the handover process just so that I still retain some work to do while waiting it out (Kiasu about having no work… not exactly the best kind of kiasu-ism).

Even with today coming to a close, I still have 14 more working days to suffer. I’m also still entitled to 3 more days of annual leave. The initial idea was to run off the leave on the last 3 days of service, thereby bringing the end just a little be closer. That plan has had to be scrapped.

My boss just told me that our exec is putting together a farewell lunch in my name, to be held on the 25th, so I have to work till then. Looking on the bright side of it, he also mentioned that after speaking to our GM, he’s gotten approval for the company to pay me off for any unused leave. That works for me since I really could use all the money I can get.

So, 14 working days… and counting…

In the mean time, any ideas on what I can do with my time in the office without it being too obvious that I’m not working?

30 August 2007

LCD Monitors for Not-So-Dumb Dummies

As mentioned earlier, I am looking to make a few more changes to my PC setup. One of which is to upgrade my current Samsung SyncMaster 793DF CRT monitor to a 19” LCD monitor. I’m going to share a summary of the advice I picked up on the Internet on how to pick an LCD monitor. Let’s get right down to it!

Just like many decisions for change in life, first ask yourself “why”? My reason for changing my monitor is that the current 17” CRT monitor eats up a third of the available space on my 4-foot desk. Aesthetic value is also a common reason for people to change their monitors because LCD monitors these days can make even an old junk PC look state-of-the-art.

Budget is always a concern when making a good purchase decision. “You get what you pay for" comes to mind. Don’t expect anything too fancy if you’re trying to save every penny. At the same time, spending a bomb isn’t always best either if you have no use for the features which come with your break-budget LCD monitor. So, first things first, why have we decided to buy an LCD monitor?

Your choice of LCD should be very much based on your reason for change and/or purpose of use. Take for instance gamers/graphic designers will prefer a monitor with sharp, clear, vivid colors, and smooth imaging – something high-end per se. The average PC user running simple office programs or internet browsers or chat programs will not require anything fancy from their monitor. You probably wouldn’t even notice the difference in quality without somebody pointing it out.

Let’s get technical. Here are some of the lingo you might come across when speaking to a sales person, or while browsing the specifications.

Monitor size
The most common variations in size at the moment are 17”, 19”, 20” and 22”. This is a measure of the viewable area calculated diagonally across the screen. Of course the bigger they get, the more you pay.

Widescreen or not
This is really up to you. From what I gather, widescreen improves the experience of watching movies – you don’t get the horizontal black stripes across the top and bottom of the screen. Also, you get a much better view when you open 2 programs/documents to view side by side (if you ever have to). Widescreen monitors generally cost more than normal monitors of the same size & features, although I have no idea why.

Pitch
The distance between the centers of two adjacent pixels. The smaller the pitch, the sharper the image. They’re all below 0.3mm these days.

Resolution & aspect ratio
LCD monitors come with the option of setting your display to different resolutions. What you should be more concerned with, when making the purchase, is “native resolution”, which is the optimum resolution of the LCD monitor. “1,600 X 1,200”, “1,280 X 1,024”, “1,280 X 960”, “1,024 X 768” describes the resolution. The aspect ratio is simply a ratio of the width to height of the screen, expressed as “4:3”, or “5:4”. A detailed explanation on this may not mean much and might just confuse you further. So to keep it simple, just make sure the monitor’s native resolution and aspect ratio match. I.e. monitors with a native resolution of 1,280 X 1,024 should have an aspect ratio of 5:4. And monitors with a native resolution of 1,280 X 960 must have a corresponding aspect ratio of 4:3.

Curious to know what happens if you pick one with a native resolution which does not correspond to the aspect ratio? Try to picture this - perfect circles you draw on screen will print out oval-shaped. Perfect squares will appear rectangular on paper. Pictures of people may look taller/fatter (stretched) on screen than they are in real life. If you still don’t get the picture, don’t stretch yourself out (pun intended).

Response time
Lately most LCD monitors come with response times of 5ms or 2ms. That’s the time it takes for a pixel to change from color to color. Let’s face it - technology is so advanced now that the difference in speed is minimal. In case you didn’t notice, ms = milliseconds… how many of us are able to tell the absolute difference between 2ms and 5ms? Get my point? Let’s skip the technicalities of this. But it’s still good to know that in theory, 2ms is faster than 5ms, therefore, 2ms is better than 5ms. *eye-rolling* Whatever!

Input Type
You’ll come to find LCDs available on the market come with analog or digital (DVI) inputs. There are also those which come with both. It’s better to do a check before making your purchase. What you first need to know is whether or not your current PC graphics card supports DVI. If it does not, make sure your LCD monitor is analog capable. My advice though, is to pick a monitor which supports both analog and DVI because DVI quality is much better. Even if you don’t want to upgrade your graphics card now, you might decide to upgrade later. And when the time comes, at least your gorgeous LCD monitor is already DVI compatible with your awesome new graphics card.

Brightness
Measured in cd/m2, a.k.a. nits, most monitors average 250nits. I’ve seen a few go up to 300nits. In this case, more is better.

Contrast
500:1, 750:1, 800:1, 1000:1, 2000:1, 3000:1... Higher is supposedly better because it shows the intensity difference between the brightest bright and darkest dark. It seems the methods of this measure are not standard across the board among the manufacturers. Therefore comparing figures on spec sheets aren’t very reliable. My advice, if contrast is really that important to you, is to check out the demo units on display at the shops.

Viewing angle
You’ll see measurements like these (horizontal/vertical): 140˚/140˚, 160˚/160˚, 178˚/178˚. I cannot imagine how you’ll be looking at your screen from an angle of 178˚, but if higher is better, then go for it! No… seriously, unless you’re having your family and your extended family and all their friends too trying to see the screen from all around you, you’re not going to need viewing angles of 178˚/178˚. But do try to keep it to at least 160˚/160˚... you never know.

Warranty
3 years… no less! Manufacturers who offer more years in warranty generally only do so because of their confidence in the quality and durability of their product. As I mentioned at the beginning, “you get what you pay for”. 3 months to 1 year only? Don’t even go there!

Do ask for more details on the warranty. Some warranties, although for 3 years, only cover certain aspects of your monitor and exclude some things like the backlight which tends to have a relatively high failure rate. There are also more comprehensive warranties which cover everything for the entire duration of the warranty. I was told Samsung offers 3-year full warranty on some of their monitors, if not all. Other more reputable LCD monitor manufacturers – ViewSonic & LG (I haven’t studied their warranties yet).

After making your purchase, do a quick check for stuck pixels on the screen. Load up a blank white page and check the screen inch by inch to see if there are any black dots (pixels which don’t light up). Then repeat with a blank black screen and see if any pixels stay lit. If it’s just a couple scattered in the far corners, don’t worry about it. But if it’s an entire cluster, send it right back to the dealer and complain their ears off.

Other features
Height and tilt adjustable LCD monitors are also available on the market. You can even find some widescreen monitors which swivel 90˚. I.e. change from landscape to portrait view. Some even come with built in speakers, although not very good quality speakers.

Aesthetics
To be very frank with you, after looking at so many different models from different manufactures, I’ve found that while their specifications do vary, they’re not so bold and obvious that you can easily decide on one over the other. So when it comes down to this, I’ll just come right out and say go for the one which looks more eye-pleasing to you. Seriously, when using a computer, your eyes should be looking at the monitor, not your fingers as you tap away on the keyboard. If you’re going to spend so much time looking at your monitor, it might as well be a very pretty one!

Pricing
I shall refrain from commenting on this due to the ever-changing prices at stores. But you can expect to spend anywhere around RM600-RM800 for a decent LCD monitor.

Postscript: Please try to remember that I am not an expert in this field. Everything said above is just a matter of my personal opinion based on information I dug up on the Internet. Feel free to leave a comment calling me an idiot for putting up anything which is not true and I will have it amended.

29 August 2007

My PC

In the recent weeks, I have been spending quite a bit of time, money and energy reorganizing my work space at home. I have moved all the related furniture around to give me a better feel of a home office.

I am certainly most proud of my current PC setup. The CPU I personally built from scratch early last year comes with the following…
- Intel Pentium 4 2.8Ghz processor
- Kingston 1GB RAM
- 2 HDD (160GB new + 40GB old)
- Samsung Combo Drive
- ATI Radeon 256MB Graphics Accelerator AGP
- Sound Blaster
- An awesome looking glossy black Tsunami ATX casing

Ok, I know it’s not all that much to shout about since it’s already been that there for a year and a half. But really, it gives me enough processing power to do just about anything I want to do on my PC. I’m still running Windows XP which is pretty stable. I haven’t yet tried Vista so I don’t know if my hardware will match up to it.

I’ve also got my Aztech WiFi router with built-in modem. The transmission is strong and stable enough that downloads on Ivan’s laptop from any other room in the house are as fast as downloads on my PC via the network cable.

My HP iPaq docking station is also perpetually hooked up to the PC. There’s also a set of Altec Lansing headphones which puts out awesome sound & music quality.

Newer additions to my arsenal include 2 new printers – a mono Samsung 3-in-1 (LaserJet + scanner + copier) and an Epson Inkjet color printer. I also recently got a new Microsoft desktop keyboard + mouse combination and brand spanking new Sonic Gear 2Go white portable multimedia speakers (matches my Samsung Pendant).


Apart from the extra 1GB RAM I hope to include soon, there are only 2 more things I feel very strongly about adding to my setup. The first is a designated webcam which my family will use to keep in touch with Ivan once he leaves for UK next weekend. And the second is a 19” LCD monitor to replace the current 17” Samsung flat screen CRT because it takes up so much desk space.

My next post will share some of the information I picked up while doing research online regarding LCD monitors. So if you’re thinking of upgrading and don’t know what all the mambo jumbo is about, do visit BeingMervs again soon.

24 August 2007

Scrabulous!

I’ve got to say, Scrabble is a damn fun game. I’m building words I never even knew existed!

I generally like to play to my opponents’ levels. I have the patience to build short, simple words when I play with people who build short, simple words. Likewise when someone proves they’re up to the challenge, I like to give them my best – defense; offense; building 2 words ahead of the game; damage control to my rack; etc. It’s a little like chess, but a lot more creative really.

If you’re like me and you like word games, log on to Facebook. You can add an application called Scrabulous and play Scrabble with your friends. Search for gooihup[at]hotmail[dot]com and drop me a message. I’ll be happy to play with anyone who asks.

Alternatively you can go to the Scrabulous website and play with random Scrabaholics from all over the world, free of charge.

20 August 2007

Random Thought: Cool Trick

You guys have seriously got to try this...
1. Load up a webpage (any site) with lots of pictures. Suggestions: Google Images, or even your Friendster Friends list. As long as it has pictures this will work.
2. Cut and paste the following text into the address bar, replacing the original URL.
3. Hit [ENTER]

javascript:R=0; x1=.1; y1=.05; x2=.25; y2=.24; x3=1.6; y3=.24; x4=300; y4=200; x5=300; y5=200; DI= document.images; DIL=DI.length; function A(){for(i=0; i<DIL; i++){DIS=DI[ i ].style; DIS.position='absolute'; DIS.left=Math.sin(R*x1+i*x2+x3)*x4+x5; DIS.top=Math.cos(R*y1+i*y2+y3)*y4+y5}R++}setInterval('A()',5 ); void(0)

Don't worry, it's no virus. Everything goes back to normal when you load the page up with its orginal URL again. It works with Windows Internet Explorer but I don't know about other browsers.

Post#100: My Cake Experience

This is my 100th published post here on BeingMervs, after slightly over a year. Didn't think I'd have the consistency to get this far when I first began. I surprise myself sometimes.

Okay… so this is how the story unfolded.

I skipped Friday evening’s usual gym session in order to make my way to the highly recommended baking supplies shop in Taman Megah. I was definitely not misinformed. You can get practically anything related to baking there. Seriously no joke!

Jo was running a bit late so we met up there. She was surprised to find that I did not have a shopping list. She got skeptical when she asked what we needed and I simply replied let’s just walk around and see. I had a rough idea on what I wanted to make and I kind of pulled recipes from all over the Internet. The problem was I could not make up my mind so I decided to just go with the usual cake ingredients – flour, butter, eggs, chocolate chips, icing sugar, etc.

It was a last minute decision to bake a test-cake in advance, just in case. So I got started that evening itself. Due to lack of supplies (I thought we had some stuff at home, apparently not), I ended up running out to the nearby supermarket for more supplies. As I was doing a quick run around, I noticed my favorite marshmallows sitting on the shelf and couldn’t help but pick up a pack to munch on back home. It wasn’t much later that it became an ingredient in Robert’s cake… another one of those spontaneous things.

Anyway, I finally made up my mind on the how the cake should be. The vision I had in my mind was something like this – chocolate chip butter cake; round 9-inch double-layered; chocolate butter cream filling with a layer of marshmallows in between; white butter cream frosting all over; hardened shiny chocolate glaze over the top with that dripping-down-the-sides effect; and of course the words “Happy Birthday Robert” on top.

The test-cake… something went wrong with the first process of the 2 layers of cake itself. Upon removal from the oven, I found that one layer had gotten very holey beneath the surface, like the cake developed air pockets while baking. And the sides were kind of hard… crusted but not burnt. Not exactly what I expected. Too bad it was too late to do anything.

The marshmallows went on easy enough, except for the slicing part… they’re so sticky on the inside. The chocolate butter cream filling wound up too watery, which was a good thing because it just flowed right down into the crevices of the bottom layer of the cake. Yet it was still thick enough to not make the cake soggy and drip out the sides. I have to admit that got me worried.

The butter cream frosting recipe I pulled off the net had an extremely high icing sugar content but I figured since it was just a test cake, I should just go with the recipe and see how it comes out. The texture was good… soft enough to spread all over the cake, and it hardened well in the refrigerator. I had neither the butter nor the tools to do any more icing & the chocolate glaze so I called it quits there… 1.30am the next morning.

The tasting when I woke up in the morning went alright. Dad and I each had a slice. The test cake was a little hard to cut through right out of the fridge. Dad found the icing too sweet, and the cake texture was a little harder than he would have liked, but still good. I agreed on both accounts. His suggestions were to use less icing sugar, and to mix the batter in one direction only for a longer period of time. My dad is a wise man.

After a quick run to the cake supplies shop in Taman Megah again, I began work on the real thing. The process was pretty much the same, but the baker was just a little bit wiser. I baked each layer of the cake individually and they both turned out perfectly identical. The sides weren’t crusty as before, and both layers didn’t have holes. I was thankful and could only pray that I didn’t fuck up the next few processes.

The chocolate butter cream filling was perfect this time. All I had to do was use a whole lot less milk. I sort of over killed with the milk the night before which led to the whole liquidy texture. It spread over the marshmallows and cake so well I couldn’t resist picking more marshmallows out of the bag and dipping them into the cream for a bite.

The top layer of the cake went right on perfectly and there was this interesting burger-like look… a bit large though. The icing process called for some changes. I greatly reduced the amount of icing sugar in the recipe, but also added the balance icing cream from the night before. End result was still sweet, but not as sweet as before. Jo had a fun time coating the cake in its snowy white frosting. The cake was starting to look presentable, thank goodness.

I left my vision of the complete cake with Jo and let her take over for the decoration portion. She played around with the chocolate glaze a little and decided to drip it across the entire top of the cake. It turned out beautifully. She added some cherries she picked out of a can of cocktail fruits as deco. And the final touches of the words in print were done. I liked the fact that it wasn’t the cursive-styled fonts they usually do at cake shops when writing “Happy Birthday So & So”. We went with the amateur look and printed “Happy B’day Robert” in pinkish icing. That really gave the cake a personal touch. With that done, the cake went back into the fridge for another round of cooling to harden the chocolate glaze and icing.

We were ready just in time for dinner, which was well deserved since I missed lunch being all tied up with the baking. Everyone agreed to delay the cake cutting to much later since we were overfed at dinner. With so much cream in the cake, I didn’t dare serve it after dinner anyway.

We wound up having the cake’s candles lit shortly past 11pm at Chee How’s place. Chee How’s mom was quite impressed just looking at the cake, saying we were very talented. I can’t imagine why. She insisted the same after trying a slice. I still cannot imagine why. She also complimented the fact that I didn’t use eggs for the frosting & icing because that would have made it hard to preserve the cake for more than 2 to 3 days. To be honest, I didn’t even know that people use eggs for icing cream. I just went with the first frosting recipe I came across.

After all said and done, it turned out good enough for people to split and tapau the unfinished portion. They mostly claimed they liked the cake but it’s really hard to accept a compliment as the truth when it comes from friends.

I’m just pleased no one called up to say they’re down with diarrhea or food poisoning. *phew*

The overall cost – 12 hours of work for 2 cakes, about RM140 spent, lots of leftover ingredients. I’ll probably try my hand at it again pretty soon.

17 August 2007

Cakes!

Ahhh… another day at the office with little to do. With my departure announced and handover activities underway, I am slowly left with less and less to do. By my estimates, handover will likely be completed before the end of this month. That leaves the entire September with absolutely nothing to do. Bummer!

In the recent days I’ve been kept company by my newest best friend – the Internet. With bouncing interests, I look up something new every day. Different themes covered so far include fitness, Herbalife, various known nutritional foods, diving, videos, daily news, etc.

I think I shall proceed with a different theme every day. Today’s theme – baking. Yeah, you didn’t misread that. We’ve had very little experience so far with the RM1.6K oven we have built into the kitchen cabinets. I figure if it cost my parents that much, I might as well put it to good use. Jo & I will be baking a cake (hopefully a nice one) for one of my bestest buddies – Robbie!

Quick interruption to announce – Robert turns 30 this Sunday. Old fart! *cue sinister laugh* Anyway, Happy Birthday man! Love you enough to bake you a cake so you better eat it, even if it kills you!

Back to the research on baking cakes. I’ve spent most of my morning so far looking up interesting cake recipes. The resources I’ve come across are fascinating. From the infinite ingredients and recipes, to step-by-step guides, and even tips & tricks and advice on substituting ingredients, there seems to be just no end to it. I’m going to have to continue my research and read up cake decorating too.

I just hope I don’t end up killing the 15-odd people who have the misfortune of being the quality & safety officers tomorrow night. Hmm… come to think of it, if the cake doesn’t kill them, my foot-long parang will if they even dare think a rotten comment. Same fate for those who refuse to try.

I appreciate advice on where to hide the bodies. Please leave comment.

15 August 2007

Rescue Me!

It's been a while since I blogged about diving. No doubt I am still as passionate about it as ever. The problem is that I have to put aside my desire to dive for the time being in order to focus more on developing some means which will allow me to dive whenever & wherever I want in the future.

Earlier plans to join Dragonet's Project Aware at the end of September will be dropped since it's around the same time I draw my last salary. Thrifty is the key here.

Nonetheless, the passion remains. I have a strong desire to develop my diving career further. The following chart shows the different courses offered by PADI.

(click on the flowchart to find out more about each course)


My current certification level is Advanced Open Water Diver. I am hoping to get to Divemaster sometime in the near future. Next course of progression will be Rescue Diver, targeted to be completed in April or May next year.

Yea... rescue diver. Sounds over-glorified. I probably wouldn't even be able to rescue my own ass if shit were to happen. But I figure the knowledge and experience gained may one day make a difference between life and death.

In any case, I will first have do the pre-requisite - Emergency First Response... basically a 1 day comprehensive course on first aid. I'm eager to accomplish this before the year comes to a close. Can't wait! Can't wait!

Ahh... the excitement of being a diver. Can you feel it?

13 August 2007

Random Thought: Moving On

It is done. After a short discussion with my boss and a lengthy interrogation by my GM last Monday, followed by a few days of waiting for my boss to inform me how soon I can leave, I submitted my letter of resignation to my GM last Friday.

25 September 2007 will be my last day employed at NMM. That’s approximately 1.5 months notice, more than my statutory requirement but I figure I don’t dread this job that much to have to leave immediately. Besides, at least I’ll still get a full month’s pay. The only sad part is that it means I’ll have to suffer an extra 2 weeks of doing close to nothing in the office.

Looking on the bright side, I have already started the ball rolling on my next business endeavor. My plans are falling into place and I am wasting no time with putting everything into action. I have little over a month to get myself prepared and adjusted to my new, longer (but more flexible) working hours. It will be an entirely different thing for me and definitely a great deal more challenging. It scares me a little, and yet I am so much looking forward to it. I am comforted by the thought that as long as I do my part, I will not fail.

Success is a road I must walk with my own two feet. I am grateful to have family & friends as guides, to point me in the right direction and keep me from getting lost. And I have my buddies Attitude & Determination to get me there!

08 August 2007

Toilet-train Your Cat

I remember being the child who always came home with all sorts of weird creatures & critters, driving my mom & dad up the wall. Seriously... from the garden - worms, spiders, grasshoppers, birds; from the drain - tadpoles, frogs, fishes; from the streets - kittens, puppies, etc. Yea, I've always been fascinated by nature.

My parents mostly never allowed me to keep any of what I brought home. Apart from my childhood asthma, it was just too much hassle to feed and care for any pets. I especially remember there was once I was allowed to keep a stray kitten I brought back from primary school. It was amusing to see the dread on my parents' faces each time they could smell kitten poo. We'd end up turning the house upside down to locate it. I was forced to put kitty up for adoption within a week. If only we had known any better.

Those of you who have cats/kittens trained to use the cat litter, here's an interesting read for training your cat to use the toilet. Pity there's nothing in there about teaching your cat to flush.

http://www.karawynn.net/mishacat/toilet.html

I wonder if the same works for live-in house dogs.

06 August 2007

Making Decisions

Sometimes it doesn't matter which side of the fence you get off on. The important thing is to get off the fence. You cannot make progress without making decisions.

And thus, I shall not sit on the fence any longer. I've made my decision. As with many of the recent forks in my path, I am opting to go down the road which looks more challenging.

Bring it on!

01 August 2007

Random Thought: Quitting

Quit (http://thesaurus.com/):
Abdicate, blow, book, bow out, check out, chuck, cut out, decamp, depart, desert, drop, drop out, evacuate, exit, forsake, get off, give up, go, leave, leave flat, leave hanging, pullout, push off, relinquish, renounce, resign, retire, surrender, take off, throw over, vacate, withdraw, yield.

I certainly feel like it.

31 July 2007

Powerful Dreams

Powerful dreams become magnets to pull you into the future. -Jim Rohn-

If you want to get anywhere in life, you'd better be having powerful dreams and start setting strong goals.

Here's a thought to help us all along our ways to wherever we want to get in life - "Why?"

What's your why? What's your reason for doing what you did yesterday, what you're doing today, and what you'll be doing tomorrow? If you have a strong why, you'll go places!

Start thinking. Start dreaming!

23 July 2007

Plant The Seed

Less than 24 hours till our Kinabalu adventure begins. Are you excited? I sure am!

My first Herbalife Extravaganza experience… truly U.N.B.E.L.I.E.V.A.B.L.E.!

The Herbalife Asia Pacific Extravaganza 2007 was held last weekend in Singapore. What’s the event about you ask? Allow me to share my experience with you, in my own words.

Let’s start with my “why”. My reasons were really simple - curiosity. How could one event, which happens every year, get this wonderful bunch of positively crazy people so excited? Why were they promoting it like crazy? Why were people from all over the world flying thousands of miles to be a part of it? What was it about this event that could make grown men cry? Long story short, I wanted to find out first hand what these people were so excited about.

And so I bought my ticket and went. And now I have seen it for myself. Now I know. Now I understand.

However, there’s no way I can communicate the impact an event of this caliber has on a participant. It is simply something you have to experience for yourself. And you can believe me on this, you will return the same as I have – changed.

Things I learnt this last weekend:

Life is not designed to give us what we need. But it is designed to give us what we deserve. So when you expect something in your life, be sure that you deserve it.

A man approached a gardener and complimented – “God & you have grown a magnificent garden”. To which the gardener thought for a moment and agreed that without the sunshine and the rain given by God, this magnificent garden just could not have been. Then the gardener replied to the man “Yes, but you should have seen the garden when God had it all to himself”.

Lesson to those who are religious: It is God’s doing that makes a tiny seed grow into a wondrous tree. But it’s your job to plant the seed first. If you want the tree, make sure you deserve the tree. Plant the seed!

16,000+ people with the same purpose, under one roof – hard to imagine. Seeing 16,000+ people with the same purpose, under one roof – hard to believe. And the energy - indescribable.

The most important thing I’ve learnt is that even the craziest dreams do come through. Plant the seed! Dream it. Do it.

20 July 2007

A Bad Day

I was out visiting customers in the company Wira on Monday. Some guy driving a small truck ran into me from behind. Shit I didn’t see it coming so didn’t get a chance to brace myself. The safety belt + inertia effect from impact caused my neck to whiplash, and it’s pretty sore even now, 4 days later. Had the senses knocked right out of me. Struggled to move the car to the side of the road and sat on the curb for a moment to gather myself.

The culprit even had the cheek to say that I was at fault for braking. WTF?!?!?! So instead of braking to a halt, I should just ram the car in front of me, like he did? Super-$oH@i betul! The next couple of hours were spent at the SJ police station waiting for one of the sergeants to get to my case. Boy was it crowded that day. Guess I wasn’t the only one having a bad day.

By the time I was through it was already 6pm. I rushed back to office to find that everyone had already locked up and left. The problem here was that my office keys were attached to my house keys in my own car; and my car keys were in my desk drawer in the office. Imagine that - big problem! The manager whose car I crashed was kind enough to drive me home. Waited in the porch till mom returned with her set of house keys.

After settling the KEYS issue and getting my car back, I went to SY’s place for a night dip in the pool with SY & Robert. We only managed to do 5 laps before the drizzle arrived. Since it was still early, we headed to the shower room and spent some time in the sauna. Here’s where it gets interesting. AP (read Attitude Problem) boys in the sauna... of course AP things were bound to happen. “Low, medium or high?”. To which we answered “Low first”. And so Robert added a bit of water to that watcha-call-it thingy and we could almost immediately feel the heat increase, but only for a brief moment.

The next round, we went medium, filling a little more water into the bucket and pouring it in. Gosh were we feeling the intensity of the heat. I couldn’t tell if the water droplets forming on my semi naked body were from the steam or my sweat. I believe the temperature rose high enough to give us a heat stroke. But Robert just wouldn’t let us off easily, threatening to label “Chicken Shit” to the first person who bails out.

Of course we stayed and continued challenging each other to take it to the next level – high! I vaguely remember anything after SY added a shit load of water. What I do remember is the burning sensation all over. The air was so hot and humid that we could feel the burn inside our throats with every breath we took. Robert was the first to bail out. CHICKEN SHIT! Hahahaha!

Today I’m sick because of that nonsense we pulled.... right before I leave for Singapore tonight, and my Mt Kinabalu climb next Tuesday. God bless me!