Sunday, October 31, 2010

Orienteering - Birthday

This is a report on the orienteering that I attended on my birthday.  First of all, I knew it'd fall on my birthday but knowing how I celebrated all my previous birthdays, I'd like to do something different.  Not much different though except I was away on my birthday.  I liked it despite the displeasure shown by wife!
We left in two cars from the office on Friday afternoon at around 2.30pm.  The road was clear but it rained after we exited PLUS highway.  There was a stretch along the Simpang Pulai - Cameron Highlands road where it was very foggy especially after rain.  It's no difference this time around and I really had to be careful.  I was telling my colleagues wherever possible I'd speed as I'd need to slow down most of the time to tail other cars!

We met our colleagues from the other car around 8.00pm at Brinchang's pasar malam. I and several others decided to go vege for our dinner.  Therefore the dinner was fried kimcan (day lily's buds), grilled corn, steamed sweet potatoes, sweet potato balls and not to forget strawberry ice cream for RM1, the best we ever tasted for that price!  We cut short the shopping at the pasar malam as it started to pour again.

We reached the apartment an hour later.  Thank you to another colleague for arranging the accommodation as it's a lot safer, comfortable and not to forget it's affordable too (nak sembahyang pun senang!).  For six of us, we had to fork out for RM25 only for.  After short pleasantries and teasing other colleagues, I retired at around 11.30pm after popping in n pills for my fever.  I woke up 2 hours later when my HP rang.  I didn't pick it up but I found out the next morning it was John who called and asked us to be at Parit Falls at 7am the next morning. 

We were ready by 6am and with a lot of grumbles we left for Parit Falls nearby at around 7am.  Much to our displeasure, John wasn't there and we were told that it'd only start at 9am.  Since most of us didn't have breakfast, we left for Tanah Rata for breakfast.  We had roti canai and nasi lemak there.  When we came back at around 8.30am, no participants had arrived, except us.  And we really had to wait for another 1.5 hours for the event to start.  People who were punctual like us were punished and had to wait a long time as the organiser delayed the event to 10am!

Yup, the pic above was me pointing to the date, 30 October, 2010.  It's my birthday that day!

We were in the second group that was flagged off at 10.25am.  Right from the beginning, we didn't plan to win.  I personally decided to participate as I wanted to learn to read compass and of course to support the activities of our friend, John.  However, we did plan to enjoy the trip regardless!
In the end I didn't use the new compass as the direction in the map was already sufficient, starting from the gate of Parit Fall campsite.  The other participants were really for it and dashed off immediately after the flag off including our younger male colleagues.  We had to keep up with them and finally we decided not to tail them.  We decided to venture out on our own and stopped over at strawberry farm operated by a Malay entrepreneur. We tasted their strawberry jam, fresh strawberry coated with chocolate fondue and more strawberry ice cream! 

It didn't stop there.  We went to their vegetable plantation and asked the helper to pluck fresh cabbage, English gourd, buah cinta and lettuce! I will never miss buying buah cinta (don't know the English name, is it tomarello?) and this time around I got it for free.  I plucked it myself!  I believe it's from brinjal family as the tree has some similarities!  We reached back the starting point at 12noon, one hour earlier!  We didn't wait for the lunch and left 2 hours later to the fruit and vege market!  More shopping to do!

On the way to the market, we stopped at the roadside to eat Cameron's durian.  Five us had two durians, it wasn't really a great taste.  Since it's off season, therefore it's quite expensive as well.   And we noticed that the durian was cold, as though it was refrigerated.  Welcome to Cameron Highlands! A place of temperate weather in the tropic!
As planned we had fun, having free & easy activities, much different from the usual weekend hiking trips.  I was tired yet satisfied when I reached home later!

Next activity is jungle trekking at Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve in Puchong.  I can't wait for this as i haven't been there for almost a year! 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Orienteering - Not Well

1.  I have been sick since last Sunday, having fever and bad sore throat.  Went to see doctor and got MC on Monday.  However, I didn't recover on the next day, instead of getting another MC I told my boss I'd take EL.  That's me, I was recovering and I prefer not to see doctor just for MC. 

2. And on Wednesday (yesterday), I thought I was okay and went to the office as usual.  And I went to the gym too as it's my routine to go there every Mon, Wed and Fri.  Everything went well until I took shower after the work-out. By the way, it's my first shower since the day I got sick!

3.  Half hour after the shower, I developed temperature again and suddenly my sore throat got worse.  To make the throat condition worse, I had to conduct the first part of induction program for the office.  From there, it was sliding down. 

4.  I was just chatting with John and told him this kind of fever is not easy to go away. And I got it every now and then, it'd last for a week or two.  I'd still go to work but I'd feel uncomfortable as I got mild fever, sore throat and headache.  Years ago, I'd always remember to pop in vitamin C so as not to have fever towards end of the year!  It had been super peak at the office, with so many renewal slides to do, renewal meetings to attend, negotiation and requote on renewals, never ending servicing issues and not to forget collection!  But now, I am in Human Capital Division and there are no more peaks and super peaks when it comes to work.  So, what's wrong with me? 

5.  I guess the vitamin C helps a lot regardless whether I want to be in good health to prepare for the year end rush or just to stay healthy!  So, from now onwards, Small Hiker will make it a point to take his daily dosage of vitamin C.  The question is how much to take?  I used to take 2000mg daily and for a few years.  Perhaps, I don't need that much and perhaps not daily?

6. Anyway, regardless of my condition, I'd still go for orienteering program that's been scheduled this week.  I'll be driving there with two passengers in my car. I may not be actively participating but I will surely have fun and enjoy it!

Monday, October 25, 2010


1.  This week, I am going for orienteering in Cameron Highlands.  I look forward to this activity as it's my first time doing orienteering and I haven't been to Cameron Highlands for a long time! Orienteering is a sport activity that requires the use of map and compass to navigate from point to point, usually in a forest area.  We will be given a map with locations to go and the points depend on the distance of the locations! 

2.  There will be 6 of us from the company and we'll be leaving for Cameron on Friday afternoon.  We have applied for either half day or full day leave.  We'll leave KL around 2.30pm and hope to reach Brinchang 3 hours later.  It was raining heavily the last time I drove to Cameron and I really had to be careful as the road was foggy and the view infront was for about 20 meters or so.    

3.  But before that, I must buy the compass as it's not provided for.  The organiser, John advised us to buy Suunto brand!  I hope to buy it before Friday or on Friday itself as I'll be on leave for the whole day. Where to buy?  I saw compasses at Jusco Mid Valley at one time and perhaps I'll just go there.  And perhaps, I'll just make do with whatever brand that they have!

4.  The trip is worth the money as it costs us RM40 only for food and tent accommodation.  We don't need to bring our own tent.  However, I may bring one, just in case.   Last but not least, I hope we will enjoy the activity! Otherwise, shopping awaits the next day! 

Sunday, October 17, 2010


These days, I do my hiking activities once every fortnight. The other week, I'd normally go for swimming to strengthen my back. I believe my back injury is not fully recovered yet as proven by my experience in Gunung Datuk.

If I go on hiking, I will go on day trip instead. It's been like that anyway. I am not ready for big project as yet. I still have Korbu in mind. That'll have to wait until after June 2011.

So this week, I went to Angsi with another 4 partners in crime. They were the usual suspects -the two Taburians, a friend and a female colleague. For our colleague, it's her first time and she enjoyed it. And congratulations to her on her first conquer!

Angsi via Bukit Putus is very relaxing and not challenging at all. There is no rush to reach the peak as we have ample time and we can also spend longer time at the peak too. We started at around 7.50am and by 9.35am, we were already at the peak and by 11.40am we reached back the starting point!

In the car, I nearly made my passengers puke from listening to my theme song of the month, it's on repeat track mode almost the entire journey. The funny thing was, after lunch, one of them started humming the song even though the song was not played at the time. The power of music and repetition! It's the first song in small hiker's current hits!

A must pose for Taburians! This time around, 3 of us in one pic!

On the way back, we savoured satay for lunch. It's Satay Yus and I agreed with the statement of my brother-in-law, it tastes better than Samuri! Unfortunately, the others didn't eat much, a pathetic 5 sticks each only!

As a summary, Gunung Angsi via Bukit Putus is good for first time hikers and those who think they are not so fit!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Star Online: Cholesterol - Friend or Foe?

Despite the hype about cholesterol levels, 50% of heart attacks have normal readings prior to the catastrophic event.

CHOLESTEROL has such notoriety that whenever someone has a heart attack, it is always the first suspect. My friends come in all shapes and sizes, but two buddies come to mind.

The first is quite well endowed in the middle, eats what he sees, finds it hard to spare time for exercises, but is comforted by normal cholesterol levels. The other is mean and lean without an extra ounce of fat, watches his diet, runs marathons “part time”, and yet “suffers” from high cholesterol.

If I had to trade places, the choice would be the latter. Despite the hype about cholesterol levels, 50% of heart attacks have normal readings prior to the catastrophic event.
Progressive damage: Atherosclerosis is unavoidable but it is alarming when it happens prematurely as this accelerates the risk of dying unexpectedly and prematurely.

More than two decades ago, we classified risks of heart attack into major and minor. The three accepted major risk factors were, and still are, hypertension, high cholesterol, and smoking. Heart disease was the number one killer then. Today, medicine is making amazing advances with new drugs, diagnostic tools, and therapeutic techniques that have made old timers like myself obsolete. Yet, heart disease is still the chart topper in current-day mortality statistics.

At the risk of ruffling some feathers, diagnosis and treatment is like treating a sick tree with noxious chemical sprays on the leaves. Perhaps it may make good sense to nurture the roots before the tree becomes sick.

Quoting an article titled Are You Courting A Heart Attack by yours truly (Sunday Star, July 21, 1991), it was stated that “Death due to heart attacks will continue to rise for at least another decade before we can see the results of health education efforts. Awareness towards the importance of preventive health is rather limited, even among the ‘well-educated’ segment of our population. The prevailing attitude of ‘I don’t feel it, I don’t care’ should be discarded because, by the time you feel it, it will be too late.”

Twenty years later, the incidence of heart disease has in fact escalated and here we are still barking up the same tree, but missing the forest. However, the song that I am going to sing today bears the same title as the one 20 years ago, but the lyrics have certainly been rewritten. There is much better understanding of the genesis of heart disease today. Cholesterol is only one of the characters in this intricate play.

The origin of the story begins with the architect’s design of the human body. In the blueprints are the designated role of cholesterol. In an ideal state of harmonious equilibrium, cholesterol is not the bad guy it is portrayed to be. It is meant to carry out various crucial functions.

The membrane of every living cell in any tissue and organ is composed of cholesterol as its building block. There would be no sex and reproduction without cholesterol as both male and female hormones are dependent on its constant supply to keep the juices flowing.

Fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K have cholesterol incorporated within. Bile salts are made up of cholesterol and aids in the digestion of fat itself. Cholesterol also has a good heart in the opposing sense that it tries to heal heart disease but itself becomes embroiled in a bitter battle and gets in the cross-fire. Like the unfortunate scapegoat, it is ostracised as the scoundrel of heart disease.

On the average, the adult human body has in its reserve 35g of cholesterol. Dietary intake hovers around 200mg per day. The bulk of cholesterol is manufactured by our liver, estimated to be around 1g daily. We are therefore “absorbers” and “producers”. Here is some bad news. When cholesterol intake is reduced, the internal production steps up a notch as compensation.

It makes more sense to tackle the production rather than the absorption from food, since 80% of cholesterol is generated within. However, in individuals with exceptionally high cholesterol levels, it makes good sense to target reduction of both absorption and production.

Saturated and trans fats are transformed into cholesterol primarily in the liver by a series of enzymatic reactions. The saga begins once cholesterol leaves its factory. This waxy stuff does not enter the blood stream and floats freely to its customers. It engages a transport system, in the form of biological molecules consisting of fat and protein, collectively called lipoproteins.

The vehicle that carries cholesterol from the liver to various tissues is called the LDL-cholesterol, generally labelled as “bad cholesterol”. Unused and excess are redistributed from the tissues back to the liver by another vehicle called the HDL-cholesterol, or “good cholesterol”.
In reality, there is nothing bad or good about the passengers (cholesterol) or vehicle (the carrier, lipoprotein). The trouble starts as the level of LDL-cholesterol builds up, just like a convoy of heavy vehicles causing traffic congestion. It’s worse if the LDL-cholesterol becomes oxidised by a group of unstable oxygen molecules known as “free radicals”.

This sets off a cascade of reactions leading to the cholesterol being deposited in the artery walls supplying the heart. In this case, size does matter, as the larger LDL-cholesterol is just roaming around, but once it becomes oxidised, it shrinks in size and becomes “sticky”.

There are two issues to address here. A high level of LDL-cholesterol is certainly linked to heart disease and the oxidised state of the LDL-cholesterol is the final straw. Firstly, the reduction of the LDL-cholesterol can be achieved by slowing the liver’s rate of production, which is incidentally influenced by genetic programming.

Since we cannot change our parents no matter how hard we may try, we can alter our consumption of bad fats to good fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated essential fatty acids rather than saturated animal and trans fats). Secondly, if we were made of metal within, we would definitely rust. The reason why the LDL-cholesterol undergoes excessive oxidation is essentially because modern lifestyles induce a high “free radical” burden.

The first symptom of heart disease may be the last. There are often no warning symptoms, hence it is bestowed the infamous nickname “The silent killer”. A heart attack or “myocardial infarction” is a sudden event, but the process of the disease begins as early as childhood, with or without raised cholesterol levels.

Prior to the tragic episode, conventional investigations may fail to reveal underlying heart disease. Blood tests, resting ECG (electrocardiogram) and stress test are unable to detect early narrowing of the arteries.

A much respected and senior doctor once had a clean bill of health proclaimed after extensive tests, including a treadmill ECG. On a clear sunny day after, he was struck by a lightning heart attack on a tennis court. Why do we hear and read so often that someone of seemingly “good health” expires so suddenly at the prime of life?

My contractor friend once saved me from embarrassment when my sewage system became blocked and overflowed. He demonstrated that the problem was due to narrowing of the outlet as layer upon layer of oil from kitchen waste built up over the years to form an occluding crust.

Curiously, this is happening in our blood vessels. When we arrive in this challenging world, the arteries, just like new pipes, are patent and the insides smooth. As time moves on, the inner lining of the arteries undergo minute changes akin to the pipe building rust.

Cholesterol moves along, like passengers in a vehicle, in and out of the arteries. However, when LDL-cholesterol becomes oxidised, it adheres to these rough patches in an attempt to seal the damaged zones, but in the clumsy effort, actually sets off a series of events causing the arteries to harden, developing into a state known as atherosclerosis.

When the oxidised cholesterol deposits within the artery walls, it gets gobbled up by specialised white blood cells called macrophages. The latter becomes distended with bubbles of fat to aptly earn the label “foam cells”, giving rise to the formation of fatty streaks.These cells become so fat-laden that they literally burst at the seams, splattering fat and cholesterol within the wall of the artery. Now the battle really heats up, with the recruitment and incitement of other white blood cells, setting up an inflammatory response.

The mesh of fatty and cellular debris now form “plaques”, whose consistency is like toothpaste. At this stage, there is no discernable narrowing. In fact, as the plaque increases in size, the artery wall compensates by expansion around the plaque, eluding medical scrutiny. As the plaque builds up, it can rupture.

Two things can cause a heart attack. Firstly, a plaque fragment can dislodge and gets stuck in one of the smaller arteries, resulting in a sudden heart attack or stroke. Secondly, as blood flows across an abnormal surface, much like a river flowing over boulders, there is turbulence, resulting in a blood clot formation over the ruptured plaque, precipitating a massive pain in the chest. If one is lucky enough to escape sudden heart attack in middle age, the plaque deposition goes on insidiously over time, with fibrotic hardening (fibrous plaque) and progressive narrowing of the arteries, culminating in atherosclerosis.

History reminds us of the Korean war in the 1950s. What is not written in the battle annals are autopsy studies on the casualties of war. About 77% of the young soldiers who died in the line of duty were found to have evidence of atherosclerosis, and 40% had occlusive plaques. That was more than half a century ago, and it is not hard to fathom that the incidence of atherosclerosis is worse today.

Ageing is an inevitable process, and in a similar vein, our blood vessels definitely harden with time. Dying of a heart attack at age 95 deserves a standing ovation for a well run marathon and having lived life to the fullest. Atherosclerosis is unavoidable but it is alarming when it happens prematurely as this accelerates the risk of dying unexpectantly and prematurely.

Is cholesterol the sole culprit of heart disease it is often portrayed to be? If this was an espionage movie, cholesterol would actually fit the role of a double agent. A patriot at heart but coerced by treacherous conspiracy to take the fall as the traitor.

On this stage there are other players yet unmasked, one of them being homocysteine, a.k.a. the initiator of heart disease, to be discussed in the future.

Dr C.S. Foo is a medical practitioner.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


At the last minute, I decided to go to Gunung Datuk on Saturday instead of Sunday as planned. At the last minute notice, I managed to get my fellow Taburians to join me, even though they have already got other plans for the weekend. Thank you very much for joining me.
We started hiking at 7.50am passing through all the too familiar areas like the above small dam!

As usual about 40 minutes later we reached the first check point. This time around, I must say that I struggled a lot to complete the climbing. I realised that my back injury hasn't recovered as yet. The heavy back pack (not so heavy lah, around 7 kilos I think!) had slowed me a lot. I felt the pain on my back and it ran through my hip and my calves!

Nevertheless, I reached the peak 1 hour 5o minutes later. At the peak, we had a pleasant surprise, our 'chipsmore' friend, John was already there. He camped there the night before with some friends to trace the trails of the Yam Tuan! We had a good time catching up at the peak of gunung Datuk!

It was planned for, we wanted to have fun by putting on our baju Raya and have some Raya cookies, as though we were visiting friend's open house! We really had fun. We put on our baju Raya, much to the amusement of another hiker who nodded in agreement and quickly we started snapping pictures. The weather was good, not windy and not hot. Since it's still early, the peak was ours to enjoy!

On the way back, I had to ask for help from my fellow Taburain to carry my backpack. it's too much for me. Thank you Azinda! And I had no problem at all descending from the peak and we reached back the starting base at around noon!

I really had fun and I don't mind coming back here again next Raya!