23 December 2008

Birthday Roundup


I did not get as many presents this year compared to 2007, but it was certainly more memorable. A quick roundup:

Last Thursday I celebrated my birthday with other December-born colleagues at El Mondo Italian restaurant, Krystal Point. A noisy affair, but the service was slow and food was very average. Well, at least I got a free scoop of ice-cream from the restaurant, so thanks!

The next day (Friday) we had our annual office Xmas gift exchange. I received two plush pillows featuring Ratatouille on the cover. They're now in my back seat!

That very same evening I received a pleasant surprise from my Cardio Fit members after class. They 'secretly' planned a cake and mini celebration and it was mighty fun! Though only about 20 people turned up, it was really touching. Equally touching is the generous ang pow they threw in. How did they know I prefer cash over some awkward gift I'll never use?

Last Saturday I had a set lunch with Dad at Bistro Hardwicke. Food quality and taste is great, and the cozy atmosphere is suitable for couples and parties. But the uncomfortable silences and forced conversation kinda dulled the experience... Not to mention having to teach BodyJam after that made it a very difficult class to finish. I also received a red packet from Dad in lieu of a real present. I let him off easy because he's paying for a Thailand trip we're taking in January!

On Sunday night I had dinner with a few close friends at TGIF. For the fourth time in a few days, I had rich cakes for dessert! But that was easily offset by the interesting way the wait staff at TGIF conduct birthdays. I had to sing a song, give a speech, and endure weird stares... all while standing on a chair! Totally fun and cheeky! (However, the uniqueness of the TGIF treatment was nullified when I heard them doing the exact same thing at two other tables.)

Ironically, I hadn't planned any celebrations on my actual birthday. But that night as I was grocery shopping (what an apt thing to do on birthdays!) I got a call from Pauline. She was planning a birthday bash for YP, another gym member. I was surprised when I found out that YP shares my birthday! And not only YP, but Rachel, another Jam instructor. In my 23 years of existence this is the first time I personally know other people who was born on 22nd December.

So I revealed that it was my birthday too, and she asked me out to Coffee Bean for a drink. I went over and was joined by Chris (the male) and Chris (the female). Chris (the female) took plenty of pictures and we had a hilarious chat about -censored- (what happens in Coffee Bean stays in Coffee Bean). We stayed till about 11.45pm even though the next day was a working day! So it was totally memorable :)

(I will upload photos once I get them from Chris, the female)

And then today after lunch I got another slice of cheesecake (I'm assuming Lemon Cheesecake, coz I haven't tasted it) from the colleague who sits next to me. She has started her leave today, so I was even more surprised to see a gift from her. Thanks HY!

Later tonight I'll be having dinner with Mum, so I expect another present. Who knows what other surprises await me? It's never too late to repack a useless gift and send it my way k? *hint* *hint*

15 December 2008

squish squish

My lovely new Nike Zoom Kobenhavens.... have started going squish squish! And it was only the second time I was wearing them! This is unacceptable!! It's now confined to the right shoe's forefoot area, but if it spreads I will try to get a replacement.

From online readings it seems that this stems from bad manufacturing:
"I used to work at Nike, and now know too much about shoes... the squishy or 'farty' sound is because some of the glue in the layers of the sole has 'failed'. This usually happens when the sole is punctured and water gets in, or can just happen when the shoe got a crappy glue job at the factory. This also happens in air-sole shoes if you puncture the bag. Most companies will replace the shoes, though you may need to send back to the manufacturer; sometimes the store you bought the shoes from will consider this kind of frivolous, and not want to hassle with the return."

My previous Nike Air Edge L7 didn't get squishy till many months of abuse, so that was understandable. But squishy after 2 times of average use? Nuh-uh.

10 December 2008

'Tis the Season of Giving

... to myself, especially.


Saw this at Royal Sporting House and immediately felt my heartstrings being tugged. I've been looking for a pair of nice, versatile dancing shoes for a long time and I finally found it! Some of the guys like Nike Air Force 1 for BodyJam, but I've never had much love for their garish designs and bulky construction. I've had to make do with cross-trainers that work well for dance and cardio but look like sports shoes. Finally, something that looks good enough to strut onto the dancefloor!

Name: Nike Zoom Kobenhaven
Price: RM299
Where: Royal Sporting House outlets (I couldn't find them in Nike, Why Pay More? and Studio R boutiques)

P.S. I forgot to post it up last time, but I also bought a new cross-trainer barely 5 months ago. I got Nike Reax Train II for a discounted RM170. It's great but isn't the most stylish shoe in its class, hence rationalizing my new shoe.

P.P.S. You might be wondering if I'm a zombie slave to Nike, so let me tell you - YES! They are the only ones with enough sense to bring in cross training and dance shoes for men. Believe me, I've searched high and low in Adidas, New Balance, Fila, Reebok, and Mizuno shops, both in Penang and KL for cross-training shoes that have proper pivot points. Zilch. Nada. What choice do I have?

P.P.P.S. If you look at the bottom of the shoe, you'll see a silhouette of someone doing a side kick. So it could have been designed for martial arts or BodyCombat too.

02 December 2008

Tropicana Twister Orange

Don't bother with it.

If you brush past any mass media in Malaysia recently, you would have seen the umpteen ads aggressively pushing Tropicana Twister Orange fruit drink. They proudly compare their "100% juice" to competitors "30% juice + who knows what else?". So today I bought a small bottle to try after lunch and it was sooooo disappointing.

The ingredients list: Water, sugar, orange pulp, orange juice concentrate, citric acid, sodium citrate, xanthan gum, flavour, arabic gum, potassium sorbate, ascorbic acid, vitamin e, cornstarch, vitamin a & beta carotene, permitted food conditioner, flavouring, and preservative.

Mmmm.... "who knows what else" indeed!
The fact that they had to add synthetic vitamins just shows how nutrient deficient the orange juice concentrate has become! You can see how misleading their TV ad is. You should keep an eye out for their press advertisements too.

The gold standard, for me, was that roadside cart in Bangkok oh-so-many years ago. This elderly aunty was selling these unmarked 500ml bottles of orange juice for about 50 baht. Quite expensive going by roadside prices, but it was truly fresh, pure juice. I became a convert to 100% undiluted fruit juices then, and Tropicana Twister isn't one of them.

01 December 2008

You Might Wanna Skip This One

If you can't see what it is, click to zoom in.
Rats are certainly a problem in our office! We're partly to blame - eating our teatime cookies and leaving crumbles all over the floor. But I've seen them make a meal out of cables and mouse wheels too!

25 November 2008

A Brief Story

More than 3 years ago, I posted on how I've (mostly) found salvation in wearing boxers instead of briefs. Well, I thought I'd revisit that position in this post.

As it turned out, I changed back to briefs more than a year ago. I really enjoyed the freedom of boxers, but ever since I joined the gym I had no choice but to drift back to briefs because I can't afford to be dangling the fruits so freely while doing BodyJam, BodyStep, etc. I would be genuinely interested to know if anyone actually does group exercise while wearing boxers.

One way I compromised for wearing tight briefs is to skip the underwear at night. All this while I always wore my boxers or brief to sleep, but I found new freedom in going commando. Anyway, it's just me on my bed. Not like I'll accidentally poke anyone in my slumber.

17 November 2008

I Feel Vindicated

"Expecting people not to hurt you because you are a good person is like expecting a lion not to kill you just because you are a vegetarian…"

07 November 2008

We Can Always Dream

After Barack Obama's historic appointment to the Oval Office, our dear Prime Minister Badawi said that "It is possible for anyone from a minority group to be a nation’s leader, even in Malaysia".

I only have 2 questions: What has he been smoking, and where can I get some?

Has the PM not heard of the case involving the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS)? In a nation where a non-Bumiputra cannot even lead a large state corporation without certain quarters getting heart palpitations, who's kidding who when the PM said that a non-Bumi will be allowed to lead the entire country?

The United States of America took over 200 years to reach this stage. Maybe we should wait for year 2258 and try again.

17 October 2008

Infinite Loop


Just trying to find a lame reason to link to my new favourite "cute animal pictures" site: I Can Has Cheezburger? I know I'm so wayyy behind the curve, but hopefully I'll be able to use it to increase my blog's humour meter (currently at 0.0003 nano humourites). See? Even creating a fake measurement unit for humourness didn't elicit laughter from you. I KNOW.
Anyway, everytime I complain about the lack of food choices, I'll just have to look at the picture above. The End.


Random update: Started BodyJam clearance at Fitness First. Step by step...
Unrelated: Feeling down? Sad? Rejected by loved ones? Then you gotta freaking see this. And check out the slideshow too.

01 October 2008

Searching for Peace

In my ongoing pursuit of happiness and tranquility of mind, I must keep reminding myself to experience life as it happens, and not force my way through it.

You may have stumbled upon this short story being heavily circulated online. But if not, enjoy it!

The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget
by Kent Nerburn

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss. What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry. Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, and made me laugh and weep.

But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night. I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partyers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.

Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

“It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers”.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

-- Copied from Zen Moments

30 September 2008

Searching for Peace

In my ongoing pursuit of happiness and tranquility of mind, I must keep reminding myself of the unpredictability of life:
  1. Do not be happy for good news as it may still turn sour
  2. Do not be sad for bad news as it may turn out to be a good one

I know all this from my Buddhist studies years ago!! Why have I not been practicing them anymore??

Guess I'll start by reducing the number of excited punctuations I use.

-----

I quote this ancient Chinese fable story: A Loss May Turn Out to Be a Gain

Long ago, near the frontier lived an old man. One day he found his horse missing. It was said that the horse was seen running outside the border of the country. The neighbors came to comfort him for the unfortunate loss. But the old man was unexpectedly calm and said, "It doesn't matter; it may not be a bad event, on the contrary, I think it can be a good one."

One night the old man heard some noise of horses and got up to see. To his surprise, he saw another beautiful horse as well as his own. It was clear that his horse had brought a companion home. Hearing the news, the neighbors all came to say congratulation on his good luck. At the greetings, however, the old man was very calm and thoughtful. He added, "It is true that I got a new horse for nothing, but it is hard to say whether it is good or bad. It may be an unlucky thing."

What he said was testified right. The son of the old man was very fond of the horse brought home, and one day, when he was riding the horse, he fell down from the horseback and terribly hurt in his left leg. Since then he was never able to walk freely. "Nothing serious," the old man said, "perhaps it is going to be good."

A year later, many of the youth there were recruited to fight in a
war and most of them died. The son of the old man was absolved from the obligation for his disability, so he escaped death. The old story tells us that good and bad, disaster and happiness can be converting objects to each other sometimes.

----

Unrelated note to Malaysian Les Mills instructors who might drop in: The upcoming Q4 2008 Quarterlies will be on 5th and 6th December! See you there!

29 September 2008

Searching for Peace

In my ongoing pursuit of happiness and tranquility of mind, I must keep reminding myself of the two types of criticism:
  1. Criticize to put someone down
  2. Criticize to make someone better

I must learn to accept the second one, and not speak the first one (out loud).

17 September 2008

Lust

*slurp*


So I finally got the charcoal iPod Nano yesterday. When it was first announced I was interested in the Product (RED) version but they don't have it here in Malaysia so I went for the next best thing. I'm actually quite disappointed that the other colours looked really bad. It was all so delicious in the poster but the actual device colours looked either dull or Ah Beng-ish.

Anyway... it only took me an hour to fill up my 8 gigs of space. Should I have gone for the 16gb version?

I would say a minor downside is the slightly curved screen. Screen protectors will never be able to stick properly on it! Ever! Luckily it's made of glass so it won't scratch easily *crosses fingers*

12 September 2008

BodyJam 46 Review

Here's a teasing, non-spoiler review of BodyJam 46 for all you junkies out there waiting for your gym's launch.

First of all, check out the new release posters! The guy in the BodyJam poster is none other than Arnold Warren, my Jam trainer. Undoubtedly I couldn't recognize him very much because of the severe Photoshop-ing that picture went through but yes, it's him.

When I first listened to the warmup music without seeing the choreography, I was a little discouraged. It was such a mellow sound to start a Jam class with! It did not have the instant kick like New Day from 44 or Boogie 2Nite from 42. But all is forgiven when I saw the masterclass video. The armline is super simple but looks really cool and fits the music very well. Again, I'm amazed by Gandalf's musicality in choreographing Jam tracks.

The isolations track fares much better with the fun and simple chorus combo. It is not as hard hitting as the music would suggest but the combo is interesting.

The Latin track is ok-lahhh. I'm not gushing over it yet. It feels like a mutant child of 41's La Bomba. Except much faster and with less hip wiggling! When the thing goes into double-time, new people will find themselves stomping all over the place and not really feeling the Latin furore as what Gandalf promised. Could be better...

The Tribal Explosion block is great! I like the fusion of different music and experimental moves that are a little contemporary-like. The key is to let the beat help you, and to stop thinking about technique and just melt into some of the moves. Great musicality movements here too!

Recovery follows that and just like Latin, it's not really impressing me. If you don't know how to snap your fingers, this release will teach you as there's schnapping in almost every track including a tonne of them in this recovery! The Elvis twist is inspired, the rest not so. Maybe it has something to do with all those urban hip hop tracks. I can't figure out what he's singing/rapping, so I can't really feel the theme of the music. And you know-lah, most hip-hop/rap has the same aggressive beat behind them.

The final Big Phat Aussie House block is my favourite. I'm a sucker for arm lines and there's plenty in this block to keep me happy. The first 8 counts are the hardest but once you get past that just groove into the house music and release your inhibitions! Don't even get me started on the last track - I feel like flying everytime she says "I need a miracle"! Oh, don't we all?

The groove down is rock inspired and you get to be a rockstar for a few minutes. I appreciate a different feel every now and then and this is definitely something different, though I find the music so-so.

I would say it's a solid release, but pales to 45 by just a little bit. I'm saying this even though I've done 45 so many times until it has the faint sour smell of stale garbage. The highlights for me is the Tribal Explosion and Aussie House block, which is already 70% of the release, so I would say a good job to the LM team!

So that's BodyJam 46, where everybody can get their kicks! Launching soon at a Les Mills-licensed facility!

Praise is Not Cash

Well, yesterday came and passed. With no promotion in sight. I did, however, get praised by my boss. Praise won't pay bills, but it did lift my mood.

The major change you see is of course, a new template! The sexygeek thing was becoming pretty hilarious for the wrong reasons, so I shifted to something a little more serious. Not to mention some promises were not kept. But bygones are bygones, eh?

10 September 2008

Delicious


The only questions is: which colour? The Product (RED) version is eye-catching and helps a good cause, but the charcoal is sleek and orange is all the rage on the web. The blue and green ain't bad either.

Go read one of the many reviews and hands-on now. It was worth waiting!!

09 September 2008

I Desperately Need Good News

I'm lost in a haze of disappointment and sheer -_-"ness. Seems my car problems are more serious than predicted, and worse, the mechanic cannot give a deadline on how fast it can get fixed. That means more days of telecommuting with Dad, a prospect that gets me down. Not only the fact that I have no freedom to go anywhere, but my office is really out of his way (15km, to be exact). And I really hate to impose my needs on other people. I'm selfless that way.

So I'm hoping 9/11 will be a good day for me. It may be a day of mourning for those affected by the 2001 terrorist attacks, but this Thursday also marks my 2nd anniversary at this company. I can't believe I've been working for two years already! Anyway, my manager made an appointment for a one-to-one meeting on Thursday, and I'm expecting good things.

I don't think it was a coincidence to schedule the quarterly review on my working anniversary, so I'm hoping it is.... a promotion! A couple of my colleagues recently got a small step up the career ladder after working here for two years so I think it's my turn. I'm not really a power chaser aiming to conquer that proverbial ladder, but promotions are usually accompanied by a significant pay rise, and I'll certainly need a pay hike to cover my car repair bills!

Conversely, I'd be severely disappointed if I didn't get that promotion. I know I shouldn't set myself up for possible disappointment but I deserve some good news in this mound of manure that I find myself wallowing in.

(On the bright side, I read through this post and find that I write more poetic stuff when I'm brooding)

07 September 2008

Option B

Tow truck. *grumble*

The Great Penang Flood

Instead of any Great Merdeka Sale, we're celebrating a damn big island-wide flood instead:



This is the scene that would welcome me if I stepped out of the house now - almost 2 feet of brown, murky water floating with wooden debris. How do I know? Coz I waded through 2 feet or brown, murky water while returning home. But that's not the best part! The real kick in the balls is that my car died 500 meters away!

I'm surprisingly upbeat about this, I know. But we always see pictures of poor people's car half-submerged in floods and we go, "Ouch!" Now I know how that feels. Yes, it sucked but the adrenaline rush kinda toned down the suckiness factor.

To the car's credit, Dad and I both think it cut itself off before permanent damage was done. We didn't suspect it would be so deep in that area where we passed (a shortcut we usually took) but we just kept going down and down until a big red STOP appeared on the information panel and the car rolled into a frightening halt in the middle of the lonely road.

Dad didn't dare restart the car and we sat for a minute processing the situation. I was very clear on what we had to do - we had to push the car to higher ground and hope for the best.

I rolled up my jeans (it got wet anyway) and stepped out onto the brown, murky water I'd get so accustomed to. The water didn't get into the exhaust, so there must be a sensor in the engine to cut the vital parts off. From there, we pushed the car about 50 meters (it was a long 50 meters, trust me). Talk about a late night workout!

We put the car under a lone street lamp, locked the car, and walked home in the rain. Now all we can do is hope that the car killed the engine, and not the water. Tomorrow morning we will go check on the car again and hope for the best. There are only 2 ways this could go - we drive it home or we call a tow truck. Hmmm....

05 September 2008

Appreciated

[Warning: This post is a brag-fest]

I've been teaching my free Thursday class (Cardio Fit) for a year now and last night, for the first time, they gave me a thank you gift!! They came up after class and presented me with a bag of goodies, to my amazement.
I teach that class for free as a "community service" of sorts, so I do not expect anything except gratitude in return. I was especially thankful that they thought I was worth giving an expensive gift for. I hope, in a small way, that I've created Fitness Magic for them (told you today was a brag-fest).

Anyway, I opened up my gifts as soon as I reached home. The pictures say all:










They were thoughtful enough to leave the Nike tag on so that I could exchange it if I didn't like it. Well, personally I find the design a little odd but I never reject people's thoughtfulness so I'll stick with the design. But it's a Large so I'll still need to get it exchanged with a Medium (or a Small, depending).

All in all, last night turned my mood around! I am still sombre about my BodyJam efforts at the gym, but that's for another post.

26 August 2008

Blurry Discontentment

Hmm, what's with the abstract post titles nowadays? I don't know either.

Today is the decisive by-election in Permatang Pauh, featuring Anwar Ibrahim on one side and two insignificant shrimps on the other. ISA-detainee-turned-Chief-Minister Lim Guan Eng declared today a state holiday so that eligible Permatang Pauh voters could turn out in full force.

Unfortunately, I still have to work because as an MNC our public holidays are pre-allocated. So I was expecting a clear traffic day when "surprise! surprise!" there's a jam on the coastal highway leading to Penang Bridge.

I was really pissed off, but at the same time I still felt unbelievably sleepy. It really killed my mood for the day as I slowly inched along. I was expecting a multi-car pile up. Or maybe some fiery explosion ala Hollywood. Anything to make up for the fact that the jam is worse than normal days.

It was a police road block.

A frakking police road block, probably to prevent opposition supporters from going over to Permatang Pauh. I would say that's the most probable explanation because they just waved us pass without looking at our road tax sticker or faces. Likewise, they didn't stop any motorcyclists like they are so apt to. And I didn't spot any multi-car pile up that needed diverting.

So this is their strategy. Offend people by their insensitivity if they haven't done enough PR damage already. All in the name of national security.

25 August 2008

Graceful Failure

Remember my class at Priority Fitness?

It's been cancelled.

Well, one must learn to deal with setbacks in life and I'm not really that disappointed. Attendance was really inconsistent, since Sundays at 10.30am is a quiet time there. So quiet, I only had one member attending yesterday! I was expecting a grand send off for my last class but only one lady came. And she was 15 minutes late too! Imagine going on a date and wondering if the other party is ever turning up. That's how I felt as I walked around the empty studio.

But that actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I ended my last class by twisting my ankle and falling.

It was near the final track where we were just moving side to side and somehow I rolled my left leg outwards, lost balance, and landed on my butt. I was a little shocked and laughing at my own silliness, so I rested on the floor awhile.

In a true spirit of professionalism though, I continued instructing while I sat. I demonstrated as much as I could with my upper body while the poor member tried to figure out the legs. And for the final track and cool down, I stood back up and continued teaching. The twist wasn't that bad but I still couldn't do any turns or jumps. But I completed the class nonetheless.

So that's how I will always remember my class at Priority Fitness.

What's next? I'll appreciate getting my Sunday mornings back, and I also need to spend some personal time working on my BodyJam instructing. Apparently, I'm not wowing the neutral members enough. Gotta show 'em I own the stage.

(Side note: The actual reason for my class cancellation is that many members have been requesting for Belly Dance classes on Sundays.)

20 August 2008

They're People Too, People!

I've read, and I'm sure you have too, about Indonesian maids who do things behind their employer's back. Things ranging from the minor, like falling in love with fellow Indonesian men and having clandestine meetings (shaggings?), to major things, like poisoning food and stealing money. The question is no longer, "Do we need a Nanny Cam?" but "Where should we place the three Nanny Cams?"

NEWSFLASH people: They are humans too.

Let's see how your mental health holds up if you are shipped to a foreign country and asked to work in isolation, doing the same menial housework every day. If your employers work on weekdays, you're left to your own devices 5 days a week. What are you going to do after sweeping the floor and wiping the window grilles (probably done by 11am)? Clean the TV cabinet for the 50th time?

Humans crave connections.
Humans need love.
Humans are social creatures.
Humans have a hierarchy of needs.
Maids are humans.

Do the math! You can't keep maids in isolation and expect her to do the same thing everyday, and not make her go mad. Spying on them with a Nanny Cam as if they were naughty pets further erodes their sense of humanity. Even prisoners sent to isolated confinement are not spied on.

If I was the maid, I won't be surprised if I go a little cuckoo or venture out to have some afternoon delights with the local construction men.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

14 August 2008

07 August 2008

Team Teaching

Lots of funky things happening lately! I finally joined the stage for BodyJam 45 launch at my gym on Tuesday. Don't ask me why the powers-that-be in my gym only launched the latest releases this week instead of 1.5 months ago. Rumours include DVDs that never arrived in the mail.

Anyway, the launch went pretty well despite some hiccups and messed up armlines. My height (6 feet) became a disability as I had not much room to manouver with three other instructors on stage!

I shot videos of us on the stage, so I'll post them here once they're properly edited and YouTubed. For now, here's us after the class:

From left: Ravishing Rachel, Crazy Chris, Zany Zemien, and Pretty Pauline

More important news is that I'll start team teaching with Chris beginning this Saturday! This is a big first step, as it gives me visibility to members. The challenge now is to impress them enough that they'll praise me in front of the club manager.

Anyone willing to take a bribe? :P

23 July 2008

Marriage

My ex-coursemate Edy is getting married next Saturday. I'll be going down to Seremban for his majlis bersanding.

I'm still amused/shocked/happy. Edy was, arguably, the playboy of the groupies. Not to say he fooled around with many girls at once but he definitely could if he wanted. And he's the first to get married!

Hmm... Congratulations Edy! A historic moment indeed!

21 July 2008

Adjusting Expectations

So I finally started my Cardio Fit class at Priority Fitness yesterday. I didn't know how the crowd would be like, so I put in mostly cardio tracks. If only I read their time table properly, I would have known I was replacing a Freestyle Dance class!

The long and short of it was, I started with 8 people, ended with 5. The cardio was out of their expectations. They kept requesting to do some dancey stuff but I already burned the tracklist into a CDRW and didn't prepare backup songs (note to self!).

Next week I'll have to adjust my class format and put in some dance tracks!

Another great challenge is that they are used to facing the mirror, so it's better for me to adjust my directions than to force mirror image on them!

The downside of all this is that I have no time to learn up BodyJam tracks...

16 July 2008

My New Puppies

Say hi to my new Hush Puppies:

Under normal circumstances, I'd be too cheapskate to buy Hushies, but they were half price (RM130), so how could I resist? They slip on comfortably, are lightweight, and has a nice minimalistic look!


The padding on my last pair of office shoes have worn out, making them a pain to wear. And the pair before that 'buka mulut' right in the office, embarassing me as I dragged my foot around. That's what I get for going with the original Buy And Throw Away brand...


Hopefully these puppies will play with me longer!

09 July 2008

Poorer, but Happier

Clinic consultation: RM40
Motorcycle repairs: RM312
Car repairs: ~RM500
Car insurance renewal: RM91
Car road tax renewal: ~RM400

Knowing Hana is OK and back to school: Priceless

08 July 2008

Time for New Shoes

Can't believe it's been 11 months since I got my first Nike shoe. But as with all good things, it must come to an end. I always thought the whole point of spending so much money on branded shoes was because they could last forever. Alas, my naïveté is now proven wrong everytime I do higher impact moves. The padding has started to wear out and I could feel that it's no longer like dancing on air.

I checked with my favourite instructor, and she said she changes shoes every 6 months or so. Understandable, because she teaches every day and some of them are prety hardcore stuff too. So it's now time for a new pair of shoes to take me through the next year.

I'm going through a financial desert right now, what with the repair bills, police fines, and car insurance renewals coming up this month. But it doesn't cost a cent to dream, so I've started debating with myself on which shoe to buy.

On one hand, I've been nothing but happy with my current shoes. It's a cross-trainer, meaning that it can handle BodyJam just as well as BodyAttack. But there's a stigma attached to spending RM200 just to get the same shoe, you know? After all, I have an opportunity to get a different look and style!

My alternative is the Nike Air Force One (AF1). It's a very popular shoe for hip hop dancing, and it looks the part too. The basic design is plain white but there are plenty of funky colours that will really blend well with a BodyJam class. They also cost around RM200, and I'm very tempted! But I can only use it for Jam because it is a very stiff shoe. I wouldn't be able to do lunges or other high impact stuff with AF1!

If I was a Rich Boy, there wouldn't even be a debate - I'd get both! But the harsh* reality is that I need an all-purpose shoe for my Cardio Fit classes, so it's probably back to my Nike Air Edge L7. If only other brands will bring in their cross-training shoes to Malaysia...

* Yes, I know it's not really a harsh reality if I can afford Nikes while there are malnourished African children.

07 July 2008

Restful

Dad accompanied me to the police station to make a report yesterday morning. After jotting down my written statement I was directed to the cramped office of a sergeant. Talking to me alone, he probed more information out of me regarding the event. It dragged on and on because he wrote all the details from the report again.

After that he asked a cameraman to photograph the damage done to my car door, and also the crime scene (we followed them). And that was it. I still have to submit several documentation before they decide on a punishment. A steep fine is the most probable outcome, but paying a fine is better than being summoned to court.

I feel much better now (thanks Jackson for your call!), almost to the point of normal. As usual I have some residue fear of driving but it's not as bad thanks to the supportive nature of Dad this time around. I have a stronger fear of my phone actually. Everytime it rings I get a jolt - is it someone I know or is it the girl's family?

I'm not sure how Hana, the girl, is doing. I haven't asked because I want her to feel better first before calling. Last thing I want is to get a disgruntled parent on the other line threathening to sue for causing injuries to their young daughter. But I am genuinely concerned for her well-being, so I will ask about her when I contact her brother later regarding the bike repairs.

At least, for now, I am restful.

06 July 2008

Sleepless

10.40pm.

I left the house and headed for the airport. Dad's flying back from his trip to Borobudor. After exiting the first junction I stayed right and prepared to make an illegal U-turn. It wasn't my first choice - the petrol station that I usually make my U-turns at have closed down a year ago. Anyway, I've done this turn many times and after I assessed the situation, I made the turn.

Then I heard a honk, a screech, and then a bang.

"Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit," I quickly braked and got out. I knew I was in big trouble this time. Dad always cautioned me: Car accidents are never a big deal, but when you hit a motorcycle you put human lives at stake. And as I pulled the young lady up I quickly surveyed for critical injuries. She was able to stand up but looked weak. I helped propped her bike up again, and by that time the vultures have swooped in.

The vultures, in this case, are the super-quick workshop representatives who seem ever ready to whisk your bike to their repair shop. I dreaded them because there are plenty of horror stories of them ripping people off. Right now that's one less thing I want to worry about.

I asked Hana, whose name I learnt soon, if she was OK. She nodded, but I knew I had to take her to the clinic. She locked her bike at the accident scene and I drove her to the nearest clinic. The doctor advised her to get an X-ray done at the General Hospital because she complained of chest pains.

During that time the vultures started working their 'magic' on me, giving me all sorts of bullshit like, "Her brother called me to come", "This will have to be reported to police". I saw through the intimidation but I was already feeling stressed and didn't need any more.

On the drive to the GH I talked her out of going with the vulture's plan. I wanted to settle the issue between us and avoid going through them. She seemed to agree, but they were still trailing my car all the way to the emergency entrance.

Earlier I had SMS-ed Dad about my worst transgression so far and he called back just as I was registering her to see the doctor. He was pissed off, as expected, but found out all the details over the phone. I tried speaking as little as possible, at least until he got here.

And so began the long wait for her turn. Her brother came and they both seemed nice people. There was no intimidation from her brother at all and I was surprised. So while she waited, her brother and I talked to the vultures. What it basically amounted to was blackmail. They agreed not to make a police report if I engaged their services. They promised me that repairs will not be any higher than RM300, less than the fine I would get for breaking traffic rules.

Did I have a choice? Hana's brother agreed to the repair being done by the vultures, and I will pay them. And just like that, the vultures flew off into the night searching for their next meal. This problem is over for now, unless the vultures turned around and charged me more than RM300.

But I could not worry about that yet. By that time Dad arrived and we talked to both of them before she went in for her check up. Dad was reassuringly calm, and he said we have no choice but to make a police report in case Hana's condition worsened.

After 10 minutes that stretched forever, Hana came out in a wheelchair. She was still waiting for her X-ray. Dad explained his reasons for having to make an official report, and we left the hospital. I still do not know what were the results of the X-ray. I can only hope nothing was fractured and no permanent damage was caused.

We got home, and I typed this. A lot of shit is gonna hit the fan, but one thing's for sure - I'll be having lots of sleepless nights.

23 June 2008

Cardio Fit Expansion

After passing my Les Mills BodyJam module I finally have a piece of paper to show to the world (no matter how small/inconsequential). So I decided it's time to take my home-growned Cardio Fit class to more places. And also get paid!

Happy to announce that Cardio Fit will now come to Priority Fitness, Sunway Tunas branch! Details:

[Correction]
Date: Every Sunday beginning 20 July 2008
Time: 10.30am - 11.30am
Venue: Priority Fitness, Sunway Tunas, Penang

I'm totally serious about building up a reputation (no matter how small/inconsequential). It will be a mixture class like before, but you won't see me doing any BodyJam tracks, for obvious reasons. My choreographing skillz are still far from l33t, but I'm getting better...

13 June 2008

BodyJam Training Journals: Day 3 and 4

(Part 4 of a 4 part series)

My phone alarm woke me up at 6am but I snoozed it for 10 more minutes before getting up. The girls were still in bed and I took this quiet time to shave, put on my hair products, and squeeze some ripe pimples. I ate the rest of the tuna mayonnaise I bought on Day 0 sans the bread (no more space in my bag), and some biscuits. I was too demoralized to do any protein shake so I just hung around for everyone else to get ready and we got going.

We stepped out into a rainy day and none of us had an umbrella so we had to get a bit soaked walking to the bus stop to take a taxi. The driver capitalized on the rainy day and the early hours by charging us RM10 to drive a 5 minute journey. I was in no mood to complain.

Many people were already inside rehearsing their performance. I took the chance to ask Fetty to evaluate my technique and she gave some great comment. Even if I mess up my coaching later, at the very least I need to get my technique right! At 8.30am, earphones came off and we assembled for our final briefing before presentations.

I thought we were done with the dance school on Day 1, but surprise, surprise! We had another hour of advanced drills where we went through all the moves again but this felt harder as the trainers were stricter on technique and we kept on doing the moves again and again and again. Furthermore we were trying to conserve energy for our final performance, but the fact that we had to show our full potential just started draining our energy away.

We then went through some simpler drills to help us create magic on the stage, and at around 11.30am, the time of reckoning came. Since I was presenting track 4, I only stayed for the warm up track to give moral support to Pauline. After that I quickly went down to the locker room to rehearse my song again and change into my presentation clothes. Days before I already decided what I wanted to wear for my final performance and I put it on now. When I went into the studio my heart was pounding, but my mind was ready.

I’ve been preparing for this for the past year. This is it!

I really gave it my all and I was surprised by how breathless I felt at the end of the 4 minutes. But I didn’t make any mistakes and gave all the cues I wanted to give, so I would say it’s a good job. Arnold who evaluated me this round agreed. He commended my preparation for the coaching, but asked me not to talk so much (always a problem with me) that I drown out the music. My armlines are still not strong enough to his liking but he was generally happy with my performance. I was SO relieved. I knew I would pass then.

After evaluating everyone we were given a longer lunch break this time. I took a look at my energy bars and thought, “Fark this”. I’ve been having protein shakes and Uncle Toby energy bars for the past two lunches, and I deserve something more resembling food after all the work I’ve done. We walked out to the nearby Burger King and got myself a Single Swiss Mushroom burger. I was heavily tempted by the Double, but I didn’t want to reverse my digestion process when dancing later. And it was the most delicious food I had since Wendy’s burger 2 days ago. The chunky mushrooms, creamy sauce, and tasty patty gave me such a warm feeling inside…. or maybe it’s just that I’ve been eating crap lately.

The second half of the day is the most fun we had for the training. One was of course the BodyJam challenge. If you don’t know what it is, don’t worry and just enjoy the activity. It doesn’t affect your results at all, and really ends the training on a HIGH. Then of course we got to cam-whore while waiting to be called up to get our results. I also went around and got everyone else’s contact information so we could keep in touch. Soon, my name is called to the judges’ corner.

Arnold made me promise to keep working on my technique and use more energy because I was tall and had longer limbs. So I had to stretch further, squat lower, and jump higher. I just kept nodding my head and agreeing, and then he put the Pass letter in my hand.

Mission Complete. J

Pauline got a Pass Withheld result, which was still very good. She had to work on her coaching skills first. We had a bittersweet goodbye and ended the training the traditional Les Mills way, with a BodyJam twist.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Pauline’s friend picked us up from the gym and drove us to her family’s house somewhere near Batu Caves. I slept on a sofa that was a little too soft for my aching lower back, but hey, it was way better than the floor! Monday was spent lazing around the house, watching the DVD again on our laptops, and taking afternoon naps. We were hoping to get on down to MidValley Megamall, but Pauline’s legs had weird bruises all over and he feet hurt while walking. Using the Osim iSqueeze massage machine did not help at all! Little wonder, ‘cause it was a pretty boring device.

We took the 5.45pm Transnasional bus back to Penang, and I reached home at 11pm feeling like I melting to the floor. Not to mention I had to work the very next day! But in my heart I enjoyed every moment of the training, and the quiet bus ride home gave me lots of time to reflect.

I’m thankful for all the support my friends and family gave me. In fact, my parents allowed me to skip giving them their monthly allowance in May as a form of support. There was also someone who put up with my stressed attitude for weeks before the training. Special thanks also to Chris for giving lots of useful advice and sacrificing his exam preparation time to help us. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it through!

Now, the hard work begins to convince gym managers I am worth giving a time slot to. This blog will definitely get interesting again as I infiltrate the ranks of a fitness centre.

Stay tuned ;)

12 June 2008

BodyJam Training Journals: Day 2

(Part 3 of a 4 part series)

The alarm rang and I dragged myself out of bed. Time was of the essence so I quickly prepared my protein + health drink mix and gobbled down a Delifrance pastry I bought the night before. There was no time for small talk as mp3 earphones found their way and we mentally rehearsed our tracks. We hopped on over to the gym by 7.30am and we started practicing in front of the mirror.

At around 9am the first round of presentation started. It was very cool seeing fellow trainees get on stage. Nearing my track I slowed down to catch my breath. I even went down to the toilet to clear my head beforehand. Then I went in and did my thing.

For our first presentation we didn’t have to coach anything, but pre-cues of the move names were encouraged. I stuck with that and I managed to nail the relaxed feel of the song 100%. This was pointed out by Fetty who evaluated me. She gave me more tips to improve my technique for the second round of presentations that afternoon. I was relieved that I didn’t mess up anything major, but I noted down her observations nonetheless.

We had a 40 minute lunch break and when we got back it was lecture time again. This time we delved into coaching structure and technique, and did many group discussions. Then, trying to incorporate what we just learned, we were given 15 minutes to rehearse our own tracks before presenting again, this time with some cueing.

I kinda messed up this round. I thought too much about what I had to say and as a result I moved about half-count quicker. I realized my mistake and corrected it, but that dampened my performance as I lost the relaxed feel of the track. Also, the technical corrections Fetty requested of me were not fully executed, so I was a bit disappointed with myself. It was important for me to show that I’m always progressive and not getting worse, so I knew I had to buck up for Day 3.

On the bright side, I was very happy with what I got for Day 3 presentations. It was the first track of the Contemporary Rock block. It’s a harder track to learn, but the angry aggressive feel of the song really suits my personality because I don’t do sexy as well as I do serious. Still, I knew I had to give it my all and avoid making any mistakes the next day. I only had 4 minutes to prove myself!

It was with this heavy (and exhausted) heart that I canceled my dinner appointment with Jackson. He was supposed to take us out for some famous claypot chicken rice but I barely have time to practice, much less eat. Pauline and I stayed back at the gym until 9pm before we went out to have dinner. All I wanted to do was go back to the motel and start preparations again, but little did we know our night was going to take a turn for the worse.

We got back and started unpacking our stuff. Then I heard a loud “Eeyer!” from Pauline and she was pointing to a pretty large cockroach on the floor. Luckily it wasn’t moving very quickly, and I disposed it off with a small, thick booklet. I wouldn’t have minded it so much if it was the first time, but I already killed another large cockroach the night before in the toilet and it was starting to get to me. I looked at Pauline, and I knew the words “Let’s move out,” was on the tip of her tongue. But she held it in anyway.

Then the lights went off.

Being a windowless room it became pitch dark. I quickly reached for my phone for some illumination and stepped out into the corridor. The entire lobby was enveloped in darkness, and only the beam of a lone torchlight and the streetlamps gave any indication of human activity. The staff flipped the circuit breaker back on, and the lights came on for a split second before the fuse tripped again. A few more tries and the light came back for a minute, before disappearing again.

I turned to Pauline and said, “Let’s move out”.

The next hour was pretty surreal, like we were in some twisted form of Amazing Race. I asked Pauline to inform Melisha we were coming over. And we began packing our luggage, which was a formidable task for me because I will only have space if I pack everything nicely. Also, you might realize how impossible it is to pack clothes in pitch darkness? So we alternated between sitting in the dark waiting for electricity, and frantically stuffing our clothes into our bags when the lights come on for a few seconds. We even managed to laugh at our ridiculous circumstance during one of our “sitting in the dark” periods.

Once our bags were ready I went out to wait for a taxi. It was already 10pm, and we were situated along a quieter section of Persiaran Kewajiban so I had nothing to do but wait and listen to my music. For 8 minutes or so (I lost count) I stood there in the quiet junction thinking mainly of two things: “I should be practicing my track now,” and “Will the group of loiterers nearby come and hassle me?” I couldn’t do anything for thought #1, but I had a Swiss Army knife in my pocket to deal with thought #2.

I looked into the far distance and saw the familiar bump on top of a taxi and waved my hand frantically, hoping he’ll notice that guy standing in a dark shade (the bright areas were occupied by loiterers). He did, and I directed him to wait while I go grab my bags and check out from the motel, which went from blah to blergh in 5 seconds.

By the time we reached Melisha’s room I was even more tired of lugging around my Herculean bags but I couldn’t afford to sleep. I haven’t completed my assignment for the night, which was to prepare my scripting sheet for the coaching part. I could choose not to do it, but I knew it was for my own good. I also had to take time to rearrange my luggage for a more efficient distribution, and by the time I felt ready for sleep, it was 1am.

Just one problem – there were only 2 single beds. Some hotels layer two beds on top of each other, but The Summit used some kind of el cheapo card board base. In short, this was how I ended up sleeping on the floor of a 3 star hotel. All I had was a spare pillow and a gaudy comforter which I used to wrap myself like a burrito. This helped to provide some padding for my back and keep me warm from the insanely cold air conditioning. I had lost the will to complain about my situation, and just drifted off into a restless sleep.

11 June 2008

BodyJam Training Journals: Day 1

(Part 2 of a 4 part series)

The night before, I bought a tin of Tuna Mayonnaise and Gardenia bread in the sad delusion that I would enjoy eating it without any butter or hot beverage. I didn’t. The girls had a better breakfast at the nearby 24 hour mamak stall.

The studio was still empty at 7.30am and we just sat around waiting for the others to come in. The other two Penangites were already there waiting, and soon other trainees came in. I was surprised at the number of guys taking the module. It’s no secret BodyJam classes are mostly attended by girls, so I was glad to know the boys actually outnumber the girls in this training.

Arnold Warren, our trainer all the way from Manila, started the show at 8.30am and got everyone together. He introduced his teaching partner, Fetty from Jakarta, and soon things were rolling! In the interest of those who haven’t attended any module trainings before, I’m keeping things general because I wouldn’t want to spoil the magic for you.

We had an ice-breaking session, BodyJam stylez, and by the time 23 of us introduced ourselves it was just nice for the Master Class. Meanwhile, in the background, Master Trainer Kylie Gates observed our trainers in action. Like she said earlier, Arnold and Fetty are probably as nervous as we were!

The Master Class was the first time I got to do the release in full. And even though I didn’t have prior experience doing release 45, I’m so glad I’m not training on 44, which was a boring release with only a few moves overall. Although people doing 45 for the first time might think it’s more of the same old house taps, the more you do it the more you’ll like it. There’s quite a layer of complexity in some of the moves and even now I still find new things to learn (and that’s saying a lot since I did the release about 6 times in 3 days). On the other hand, I already felt blah with 44 after two classes.

So here’s a review of BodyJam 45 for those who haven’t seen it yet. The warmup is hot, hot, hot! I was expecting more of a Bollywood feel in the isolations but it was still pretty uplifting. The Work warmup combo wasn’t as fun as, say, New Day from 44, but it serves as a preview to moves in upcoming tracks so I understood the reasoning.

The Roppongi Line Dance is absolute madness! It’s a simple and quick track, so make sure you get your moves and orientation down pat coz’ once you start going around 4 corners you won’t be stopping! First timers might also get a little confused because instructors will follow member’s direction sometimes. But as long as you always start from your right leg, you’ll feel as if you’re partying in a Japanese night club, 4am in the morning!

Feedback serves as a mini-recovery (trust me, take it). It’s cool, smooth, and groovy. Once you get the rhythm down pat just lose yourself to Janet J. Also, if you like to perform on the dance floor, start thinking of your own unique 4 count arm combo. You’ll get the chance to use it towards the end.

Contemporary Rock will completely blow your preconceptions about what can happen in BodyJam. If you thought the Contemporary Rock from release 42 was a bit simple and dull, prepared to be amazed! The moves fit with the music like a perfectly manicured hand to a silk glove. The butterfly turn is not as tricky as it looks and sounds, but the easy option is safer for most people. Before I went for training I was pretty nerve-wrecked at the idea of having to butterfly turn, but after trying it out myself, I found it quite simple! Just make sure you have enough space around you or you’ll probably kick someone in the ribs.

The recovery brings the temperature down a bit, and the moves are pretty groovy too. It’s quite easy to feel relaxed to the track but you gotta pay attention to what the instructor is saying. Many times you’ll find yourself doing the wrong thing because there are minor variations to the same move and you keep switching between them. You’ll go from a clap to a knee & clap to a knee only and back to no knee with a clap. Confused? So was I, so just pay attention to the instructor!

When I first read the sizzler and it said the second block was called Global Electro, I heaved a sigh of relief. We’ve been doing House for four releases now, and the Old Skool House in 44 was just so boring – a rehashing of old moves into a new routine. I was looking forward to a more dance-y feel in Global Electro, so imagine my shock and disappointment when we started doing House Taps again. Oh no, more single-single-doubles? Say it ain’t so!

By the end of the block though, I changed my mind. The music and moves are very good – way better than 44. And as I continued learning the release over the weekend it kept getting better! This is something I couldn’t say about the second half of 43 and 44. So give the House Taps a chance and you might find something more complex underneath the moves.

Finally we grooved down to a very funky Disco style track. There are many places for your inner diva to shine, so make sure you get your acting faces ready straight from the first move. This is probably the most complex groove down track ever. After all, how many groove down have had double turns? The quick leg switch in the stretch will also trip many people up. In fact, I’m still trying to get it! But overall, it’ll bring you to the end with a relaxed feel.

That was the end of the easy part though. After a quick break we got started on learning the 5 Key Elements. At 1pm, Arnold gave us a 30 minute lunch break and I quickly went to get my lunch. Lunch consisted of a protein mix combined with a health drink mix, an energy bar, and two biscuits. By the time I finished “lunch” (if you could call it that), it was almost time and I had to rush back up.

Imagine my surprise when Dance School started right at 1.30pm, barely any time for my lunch to digest! Thus began the most grueling part of the day – 4 hours of going through every single move of the new release. We would take some infinite amount of time to get the technique right, and lo and behold, we have to do the whole thing again with music. Rinse and repeat for all the tracks. We were totally exhausted by 5.30pm, and we haven’t had time to start drilling on our assigned tracks yet!

Earlier, I already saw my name written next to Livin’ a Lie, the recovery track. I was quite happy because recovery is quite possibly the easiest track of the whole release to teach (after Feedback). But then I got a bit worried when I found out it was assigned by Arnold himself. If it was random number picking, I could leave it to Lady Luck. But since it’s assigned by the trainer things could get difficult for me. Obviously in the interest of fairness if someone was doing a hard track today he or she would get an easier track the next day. And since the final evaluation that determines our outcome happened on the last day, it logically means that I’ll need to present a harder track! This impending sense of doom cast a dim cloud throughout the day. While I know I wouldn’t have trouble presenting the recovery track, I kept wondering what my second track would be. So that night I took a look at some of the harder tracks, as a mental preparation in case I was assigned any of them.

But first, let’s digress. As the first day ended, Melisha came up to me and said she wants to move out to The Summit Hotel. She’s not used to our blah room at all, preferring something more comfortable and clean. Unfortunately I already paid for our 3 nights stay so she offered to reimburse her share but I only accepted RM50 for the first night. She did ask us to join her but Summit Hotel is an overpriced taxi ride away so Pauline and I still stuck to our blah room.

For dinner Jackson picked us up and took us to Sunway Pyramid to have, arguably, the most delicious fast food burger – Wendy’s! This was the first branch to open in Malaysia and I totally enjoyed every bite of the two juicy, succulent, beef patties in the burger. At RM15 for the medium set meal, it was definitely cheaper than having a burger in Chili’s or TGIF. Definitely recommended, and recovered my strength for the night.

I had a nice time catching up with Jackson but soon it was time to go back to our blah room. I felt absolutely pooped but I stayed up long enough to go through my track and several others. Lights went off around midnight and we tried to get as much sleep as we could.

10 June 2008

BodyJam Training Journals: Day 0

(Part 1 of a 4 part series)

The Plusliner bus pulled away from the bus terminal at 7.30am as promised, and I settled into my cramped seat next to Pauline. I'm not a big fan of express buses with 4 seats a row – they're just too cramped for long distance travel. Unfortunately, it was the best bus available as most Konsortium buses are still banned on the road, and I would prefer to arrive at my destination in one piece thank you.

The journey was uneventful and we arrived at the Old Railway Station before 1pm. We took the KTM train there to Subang Jaya station. We ventured into the nearby Carrefour looking for lunch but there was nothing appetizing, so we took a cab to our motel at USJ 9.

Cottage Inn is a motel converted from shop lots and besides offering rooms at a cheap rate, they also had "day rooms". I booked a Family Room, which was located on the ground floor next to the reception area so I wasn't bothered by any nocturnal activities throughout our stay. The room is pretty blah. Two queen sized beds, linoleum carpeting with some damp spots (probably due to a leak in the bathroom), and 14" TV (too short for me). No windows, with a strong hint of mildew in the air, but at least the air-con works. The toilet has a sad-looking shower head and we immediately decided to take our showers at the gym.

After a simple lunch at a nearby coffee shop we popped over to True Fitness Taipan for a tour. Weeks before I had already arranged with the Group X people there for a walk around. I wanted to know where everything was so I wouldn't be clueless when the course actually started tomorrow! Annie, the GXC of the gym kindly showed us around (thanks Annie!) and by the time she finished it was already late afternoon.

We went back to our blah room and prepared our bags for the next day. We just tried to mentally prepare ourselves for the module training while watching So You Think You Can Dance US auditions on my laptop (I had earlier loaded a couple of episodes in). I also turned on the blah TV and So You Think You Can Dance Malaysia was on, so we watched it as well. It was unfortunately, a sub-par edition to either the US or Australia incarnations.

Pauline kept voicing her nervousness and uncertainty in passing the module, and I kept reassuring her. She's a good dancer but she needs to get over her stage fright and learn coaching skills. And though I'm not as scared as her, I have my usual jitters before a big day.

We slept at almost midnight but I couldn't let myself drift off into la la land just yet because I needed to let Melisha in. Melisha is the third Penang trainee who will be sharing the motel room with us. She flew in by Air Asia's late flight, and it was almost 1am when she arrived. Groggily, we all went to bed until the alarm clock woke us up at 6.30am…

27 May 2008

Preparations for BodyJam Training, Pt. 2

Most of the instructors I asked have warned me that I'll be on my feet most of the time during training. A forum member asked me to expect "16 to 18 hours of dancing each day". I can't remember the last time I was physically active for such long periods, so as a simulation I went for a class marathon last Sunday:

10.00am: Stretching (I had lower back pain that day)
10.30am: Tai Chi (easy!)
11.30am: BodyStep (take easy options - less propulsion)
12.30pm: BodyPump (go easy on squats, skip lunges)
1.30pm: Half of BodyBalance (leave after hip openers)
2.10pm: Rest, and lunch (whey and 1 yogurt snack bar)
2.30pm: BodyAttack (easy options - less propulsion)
3.30pm: Hip Hop (easy!)

Although I did not go all out in the classes (my lower back would have given out halfway) I finished feeling I could go on for another 3 classes. I wasn't a big fan of snack bars before this, but I now appreciate the convenience and energy provided by those overpriced sugar and flour confections.

Next milestone: Continue limbering up my stiff back and tight hamstrings with daily stretches.

Countdown: 9 days....

23 May 2008

Reflections on Fitness Instructing

It's been slightly a year since I started teaching group fitness at my company's gym. I can say I've come a long way since those first few classes.

I used to copy more or less my entire class from Les Mills programs. And my cueing and execution was really weak. I still remember the first class after it was officially announced to the company - more than 30 people turned up and it was sooo packed. But I only saw less than 15 the following week! And it kept on decreasing after that.

I took that in stride and kept on evolving. Release #5 of my class was the first release that I completely stopped copying from Les Mills. The format and feel is the same, but I choreographed all the tracks myself. It is a great achievement because I consider choreography a step higher than instructing. As an analogy, there are many great piano players, but how many of them can write their own pieces?

Last month my company's new group fitness hall was opened and it can finally accommodate 30 - 50 participants (compared to 15 before renovations). I'm glad that it only opened recently - it gave me ample time to improve myself and be a better instructor.

Unfortunately, no matter how good one is, most employers look for that little piece of paper that states you're certified. And that's stopping me from teaching in the large gyms. Hopefully that will change once I get my BodyJam cert next month. It's time for another chapter in the interesting world of fitness instructing!

19 May 2008

Preparations for BodyJam Training

There is surprisingly a dearth of blogs on BodyJam training experiences! So I'm just jotting whatever I can to inform and guide future trainees.

I'll be trained on BodyJam 45, which is the coming release. I'm both happy and terrified. Happy because BJ 44 kinda sucked and was very low on innovation and the fun factor ("Stronger" kept dragging on and on...!). Terrified because I wouldn't have any chance to preview the moves since instructors only get their DVDs the weekend before my training. I consider myself a fast learner, but it's still kinda hard without having done the whole release before going for training.

And oh, there's that butterfly jump I'm deathly afraid of.



You can see a preview of the butterfly jump (or twist) around 1:02 in the video above. Looks really cool, but also hard to get it right. During the training we're supposed to present 2 tracks over the weekend. My greatest fear would be to present the tracks with the butterfly jump. Yes, there are options to take but I'm a perfectionist and I wanna be known as an instructor with good technical skills, so I'm gonna have to brush up on my jumping ability.

Furthermore, we'll get drilled on performing each move over and over and over again. I can imagine practicing this butterfly jump countless times. And it's not the safest move to execute in the first place. With my unflattering history of lower back pain and knee arthritis, I risk injuring myself if I land badly or I twist too hard. I can't afford to get injured when I have to look my best! This is also a fear that's stopping me from jumping too high.

This is the age of the Internet so it's YouTube to the rescue! Apparently the butterfly twist/jump is more common in kung fu and figure skating than it is in dancing. But the videos I found below provide some helpful advice.

First off, knowing the difference between a good and bad butterfly twist:


All in one tutorial:


Series of more in-depth tutorials:


















All the best... to me!

06 May 2008

It's Wow Wow Wow Wow!

Bouncing back from breast cancer, Kylie Minogue's "X" album proves you can experiment with different genres while keeping me happy. Alright, so most of her songs remain painfully cheesy regardless of genre but that seems to be her true genius.

I actually find 2 Hearts average, but many other songs on the album are great. I heartily recommend Stars, All I See, Cosmic, and White Diamond (slow version).

And did I mention I love her concert DVDs? The stage set up is so extravagant, along with the costume changes. Now that commands respect. X is a keeper!

This concludes my series of music reviews. I'm officially out of stuff to write.

05 May 2008

Formula for Success

Unlike Madonna's flailing (failing?) attempts at genre-busting music, Mariah Carey found her formula for success and stuck with it, creating a listenable album on E=MC2. I immensely enjoyed her last one The Emancipation of Mimi as it was really a comeback album. E=MC2 continues that honourable tradition and has a similar feel.

Unfortunately, having discovered Duffy recently I didn't devote much time to Mariah as it's so... formulaic. But overall a worthy illegal download.

I know I'm hard to please. I complained Madonna for veering from tradition, while I get bored with Mariah for staying the same. But I *can* be pleased - tomorrow's artist did just that.

04 May 2008

Her 4 Minutes is Up

Madonna is undoubtedly an industry heavyweight. She's hardworking and (sometimes) innovative/provocative. But I find it hard to connect to her newer albums. I enjoy her singles immensely, but the rest of the album always felt mediocre. This is true as far back as Ray of Light, on to her latest Hard Candy.

4 Minutes is such an enjoyable song even from the first listen, but I find it really hard to say the same thing about the entire album. I forced myself to listen to a few songs several times. While some of them slowly got better (Candy Shop), most of them didn't stick (like throwing oil onto a Teflon-coated wall).

When can we expect her to regain her former glory of Vogue, Take a Bow, Papa Don't Preach, and heck, even Holiday?

03 May 2008

Duffy Ain't A Duck

If you find Norah Jones relaxing, Katie Melua enchanting, and Amy Winehouse interesting, you will absolutely fall in love love love with Duffy. Why are you still reading this? Go listen to her Rockferry album now!

My current favourite song is "I'm Scared", revealing the vulnerability one feels after losing a loved one. Her emotions in the song really pulled me in, making me feel I was in her position. Definitely a keeper.

Lyrics excerpt to "I'm Scared":

The blank pages of my diary,
That I haven't touched since you left me,
The closed blinds in my home
See no light of day.

Dust gathers on my stereo
Cos I can't bear to hear the radio
The piano sits in a shaded space
With a picture of your face.

I'm scared to face another day
Cos the fear in me just won't go away.
In an instant, you were gone and I'm scared.

02 May 2008

Eating My Words

OK.... I'll have to eat my words. Blend it, add some salt and oregano, and drink it all down. My previous post lambasted (hey! I used 'lambasted'!) Les Mills for apparently favouring Fitness First members.

Alright, so I was mistaken. Long story short I submitted my application and I got my confirmation letter yesterday. So yeah, I'll become a full fledged BodyJammer by 8th June if all goes well.

This is it! A milestone is finally in reach! The countdown begins! Dreams shall be fulfilled! (How many more cliched expressions can I conjure?)

18 April 2008

Bye Bye BodyJam?

Been so long since I updated about gym-related stuff. BodyJam training seems to be out of reach again. There's one scheduled in June, but according to my gym's Jam instructor (Chris) the training is completely dominated by KLites. No thanks to the instructors there who cleared too many members in their auditions. True enough, the training schedule lists the trainings but do not provide the reference number necessary for registration. Like it's for formality purposes only.

I'm not expecting NEP-like quotas or special protection, but we should be judged equally. I feel like it's a snub to all the great members here who can't go just because, like Malaysians at a buffet, KLites rushed to the front of the line and took the whole tray of oysters with them.

Rant aside, I hope Les Mills will consider having more trainings in Malaysia so we don't have to fight over such petty things. Except, it ISN'T petty to the people whose chances are denied.


Anyway, on to happier news!

I feel my choreographing skills are improving immensely. I'm better able to match music styles to the right moves. For example, I already have a wicked choreo to Shakira's Objection (Tango) with moves from Tango and Paso Doble wrapped in a delicious Line Dance format. The challenge now is to think about how to teach it ala BodyJam and modifying the music to suit my tastes.

Another great news is that renovations to my company's Sports Centre is complete. Say hi to my new home:



It is HUGE compared to the staircase closet I used last time (you can visualize how small it was from my older videos). It's totally as big as some gym's Group Exercise rooms (I'm looking at you, Fitness First Island Plaza).

The only downside is the lack of a wireless microphone system, but at least the sound system works well. I can't wait to teach next week!


I'll be in Singapore 19 to 21 April. Leaving tonight by coach. Just to check out the sights again, and catch up with old friends. Schedule is tight so I wouldn't be meet some of you there (you know who you are) Some other time maybe! :)

11 April 2008

Oooh what a Mistake!

Not sure if it's still there, but I took a screenshot for posterity:
If you don't see the big deal, look at the photo and then the caption. An omen, perhaps?

26 March 2008

Medicine Makes Me Hungry

Perhaps some of my medically-savvy readers can clue me in on this. Well, I believe at least some of them are doctors, doctors-to-be, or doctors-wannabe.

One of the unintended side-effects on putting me on NSAIDs and antibiotics is making me feel hungry easily. The effect is especially pronounced once the drugs kick in. I'm not sure if it's just the paracetamol, or it must be combined with an antibiotic. Either way, they make my stomach sing for an unhealthy snack.

And with me being sick for a few days already, that means a quickly-expanding wastline! I'm not kidding - I woke up this morning and found my tummy protruding in the wrong direction (abs totally not in sight). So I'm caught between resting at home or going to the gym tonight... Certainly a big dilemma for the modern man.

09 March 2008

The Govt Should be Afraid of Its People

I'm so glad that I got off my butt and registered as a voter, coz now I'll never forget my first election vote! I helped make a difference in Penang.
 
This really goes to show that people should not be afraid of the government - it's their choice, their representation.
 
Meanwhile, the propaganda yarn over at The Star is in full production. Check out this gem - which lamented that MIC leadership is in shambles due to Samy's loss, and therefore, Indians will have no voice in Parliament. Halfway through I had to check if it was an opinion piece. Surprisingly, it's considered news!
 
Check out the last paragraph:
Because of the defeat in some states, Indian representation is nil, making it a challenging task for the Barisan Nasional power-sharing formula to work. 
 
What power sharing? The reason they lost heavily this time is because they kept promising power-sharing but we only see the Umno puppet master pulling the strings.
 
Anyway, today's the dawn of a new era.

25 February 2008

I'm Underweight!

Wouldn't you know it, I'm in the underweight class!

My company is having a health week and there were several booths from direct selling companies (Pharmanex, HerbaLife, etc) peddling their wares. HerbaLife was offering a free body stat measurement so I went for it even though I knew it won't be accurate after lunch.

Well, accurate or not I'm grinning from ear to ear because according to the results I'm in the small frame class for my height. I really didn't know how the salesgirl was going to spin their products but apparently, HerbaLife protein mixes can help you lose weight, gain weight, improve complexion, and save the world. It was an enjoyable spiel but I kept a clear head. Perhaps if I was put in the overweight category I would have been more tempted to buy!

At any rate, here are my stats for my personal record and gloating:
Weight: 73.8kg
Body Fat: 15.7% (how come my home reader never goes below 19%?)
Body Water Range: 61.7% (Good)
Muscle Mass: 59kg (must... make... it... higher!)
Basal Metabolism Rate: 1792 (equiv. to an 18 year old!)
Bone Mass: 3.2kg (Good)
Visceral Fat: 6kg (Approaching danger zone - must monitor)

Seriously though, I do need to gain more muscle mass and definition. There's the love handles to worry about, but I think it's more important to build first, then lean down.

18 February 2008

A Little Break for My Knees

(This post is a little incoherent and severely unedited, sorry)

For 2 months, Dec & Jan, I actually taught another aerobics class in Greenlane. Jastin and I did the usual stuff from our Thursday class but participation didn't pick up and we decided to hang our boots (Nikes?). A major reason is that participants had to pay RM20/month and I guess that turned them off. So at one point I taught 3 classes a week and it was really hard to arrange tracks so I don't get bored. I really admire full time instructors who can teach the same playlist 5 times or more every week.

Anyways, I was down to 2 classes a week and this past week I took leave from my Friday class at the company gym. They're renovating the entire place and building a new multi-purpose exercise hall (finally!). That means when I come back after a 2 month hiatus I won't have to teach in that cramped space anymore.

So now I'm down to 1 class a week, and I'm trying to enjoy it while I can. My knees still feel a bit weak at times, but they rarely hurt. This will be a good time to catch up on choreographing my next musicals-themed release. Musicals, you ask?

I love musicals but I've never watched actual stage productions, just movie interpretations. My appreciation started with Moulin Rouge and continued most recently with Hairspray (what's there not to love?!?). I've yet to watch Sweeney Todd, but from what I've heard it's quite the dark masterpiece.

So I decided a few months back after watching Hairspray for the second time to do a musicals-themed release. It'll be a dance-based workout filled with songs from musicals, and it's turning out to be harder to choreograph than I thought! The very first issue is to actually select suitable tracks. Here are a few that I've chosen, but I'm expecting you to contribute a few suggestions of your own!
  • Overture/All That Jazz from Chicago (great warmup & isolations)
  • Hindi Sad Diamonds from Moulin Rouge (Bollywood, what else?)
  • Several songs from Hairspray (add-on block, ~20 mins!)
  • Something from "Phantom of Opera" for recovery or cooldown. Thinking of either "Music of the Night" or "Think of Me".
I might want to squeeze in something from Dreamgirls, but was hoping for something more Broadway-esque in my playlist. Anything to recommend? I haven't watched enough musicals to know any better.