Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 - The year in perspective...

A year of drastic changes...


I have to say that 2015 was a year full of ups and downs.
It opened with my last gig organizing my former section's teambuilding event. With all the budget cuts, it nearly didn't happen. But we pulled through.
By the third-quarter of the year, my career as a print editor also ended. I made an unceremonious exit and never regretted my move to the multimedia unit that I am presently attached to.
In short, change was inevitable.
The days of being complacent with print is over.
Speaking of adventures, Michelle and I fared pretty okay. We did one tour ride on the East Coast of the Peninsula and bikepacking trip to Cambodia.
My only official overseas trip was a training stint in Bangkok, Thailand. I am very grateful to my company for the gig.
Perhaps the most drastic change in my life was shedding nearly 19kg.
My doctor said if I chose to live a sedentary lifestyle and continue to eat beyond my means, it would end up with a multiple bypass surgery on my heart.
In May, 2015, my blood-sugar levels were off the roof.
I realised that the only way to fight diabetes, is to undergo a drastic change in lifestyle.
I began to walk everyday. From 2km, it went up to 5km and eventually 10km a day.
In three months, I reduced my weight from 101kg to 90kg.
The first 40 days were the hardest. I ate clean, exercised and slept well.
After six months, I weighed-in at 82.3kg. There's at least 6.5kg to go and I plant to carry on next year till I achieve my ideal weight.
I look forward to 2016 with a few adventures in mind. I will also continue with my archery and hope to bag some hogs on my hunts.
To cap it up, 2015 had its uncertainties, but I pulled through.

Taiping - revisited...

Back on the saddle...

Port Weld's famous charcoal kiln
It's been months since I rode my bike and a trip to Taiping became the perfect opportunity to link up with old friends and new ones.
I kept my word with Johnny Ng, a close friend on getting the trip organized. The plan was to leave Kuala Lumpur via the KTMB's ETS service and get off in Taiping, Perak.
But there was a snag. Tickets were sold out. 
So, the next plan of action was to get off in Ipoh and find our way there.

At the KL Sentral Station prior to departure
I bought my own return tickets and met Johnny and a few other cyclists in Kepong Sentral station. 
We began our journey to Ipoh and had some time to catch up for some conversation.
Besides Johnny, five other people came along this trip. They were invited by him as we had to keep the numbers low and manageable.

Loading up on the ETS coach
A must-capture photo session in Ipoh

In Simpang, some 7km to go before Port Weld
At the first railway station in Malaysia

Lunch at Tepi Sungai restaurant, Port Weld

Deep-fried baby crabs

The fishing village in Port Weld
When we got off the ETS in Ipoh, it was a mad rush to the Medan Kidd bus station. There, we managed to secure our passage to Taiping.
It took more than an hour for the bus to arrive at Simpang where we got off and continued our ride towards Port Weld.
After traveling for seven kilometres, we arrived at one fo the oldest known towns in the country and had our lunch there.
Later in the day, we rode back to Taiping and checked-in at a motel where we spent the night.
The rest of the group had decided to head down to Ipoh for a ride while I made the call to head straight back to KL due to work commitment.
I've been to Taiping a couple of times and it was a real memorable trip as we approached the last month of the year.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Endomondo's Earn Your Armour 4 Malaysia challenge

Basically, I am a slob...

The only time I have ever competed with other people was in secondary school.
I was in the athletics team and was never considered as a front-runner.
On the field, I sat mostly on the bench.
That said, I never took things seriously.
My achievement as a teenager was holding the 4x400 meters relay record for the under-13 category.
As the third-runner, I ran like a hell out of bat and passed the baton to Lazak Othman, the anchor runner who took us into the book of history. That was my claim to fame.
Most of my adult life, I was on the sideline, letting people pass so that they could win.

Me, on the far left, in my late teens
I don't see the need to compete because I was never driven by ego or the urge to succeed.
So, to sum it up, I led a sedentary lifestyle for more than 30 years.

In comes the challenge....

After 30 days, the results of the Under Armour Challenge was announced...
I used the Endomondo sports tracking app on my Xiaomi Mi4i smartphone to track my walks.
On the average, I walk about 10km a day.
To motivate myself, I participate in walking challenges. And at the end of 30 days, I managed to earn a decent ranking. 
Endomondo also notifies it's users on challenges with prizes and the fourth installment of the "Earn Your Armour" challenge has some really cool prizes. Under Armour vouchers, a goodie bag and a Jabra Sports Coach wireless headset was the ultimate prize.

Clocking-in the workout 
The person with the longest time in their daily workout wins.
All you need to do is to turn on the Endomondo app, track your workout and time.
I walked at least two hours a day and when I accepted the challenge, I was right on top of the list.
Initially, there were less than 300 people taking part. Nearly two-thirds were dormant participants.
My closest competitor was a 56-year-old dude by the name of Mr Yean.
The guy walks about 10km a day and when the competition entered it's 15th day, another guy overtook him.

Desperate people...

In the sporting world, people cheat.
They claim the prize and bask in the glory while the cheating lasts and live to regret it someday.
I find it funny that some meathead who came out of nowhere had overtaken the middle-aged dude and some guy with a funny Japanese name to chalk up the rank. 
He came in at number 2.
In my case, I walked regardless of the haze. For 29 days, I stayed on top. 

The last day

Mr meathead was determined to clinch the Jabra headset and Under Armour vouchers.
That didn't matter to me.
What's important was I didn't cheat. I clocked-in an honest day's work.
The rules clearly state that only GPS-tracked workouts are accepted.
The meathead entered "pilates", "yoga", "weight training" in his workouts to chalk in the extra hours.
I walked my last 5km to finish the challenge on the last day. In the last 30 days, I had fun and who would have thought a slob could beat 604 other people by merely walking?
When the results were out, I came in second. I lost to the "better" man by 20-minutes.

And finally, the truth prevails...

I accepted the results and concede to defeat.
For 30 days, I worked out and lost even more weight.
Then, an email arrived, and on the message, I was announced as the winner of the "Earn Your Armour 4" challenge.
I wasn't surprised at all. 
Mr meathead was forfeited for logging in fake workouts.
A couple of weeks later, I claimed my prize and shared it with my wife.

Hanging out at the Under Armour boutique in Mid Valley Megamall

The UA vouchers

With my loot
The challenge experience was very interesting.
Some people did the right thing by being honest.
The cheats, well, they will try again by any other means.
I was told by an Under Armour representative that most of the past winners were cyclists.
"You are the only person who clocked in so many hours just by walking," she said.
I guess she was also pretty surprised to see an average guy winning the challenge instead of the usual hulking meathead...

Friday, October 23, 2015

A clean bill of health...

The moment of truth...

Three months has passed since I embarked on a fitness program.
My aim was weight loss and getting lean. 
I walked 10km a day, sometimes clocking up to 20km to burn calories.
My daily calorie burn is roughly about 930 calories.
To get into shape, I split my workouts into two sets. One in the morning and the other late in the evening or at night.
Despite the shitty weather, I pushed on. There's no stopping.
So, having given my blood sample before heading off to Bangkok for my multimedia workshop, my chances to get off medication was good.
I have restricted my diet to greens and lean meat. Rice is only for lunch in a manageable portion.
At night, I eat light.

My hbA1c test - non-diabetic
 So, with all that done, my body began to heal. 
No more junk food, carbonated drinks. I had beers occasionally, but that was it.
I met Dr. Selva, the man who diagnosed me. 
He showed my test results and revealed to me on what to expect.
"Good. I have never seen a patient so determined. 
"You had one something right. 
"Now, I am taking you off your medication and will decrease the dosage for your hypertension meds. Keep it up, what you are doing..."
Hearing that was like striking a lottery.
I am cleared of diabetes and high cholesterol.
But I am not out of the woods as yet. There's much to do.

Too extreme?

I asked Dr. Selva if my program was too drastic.
He said I was "in-between"
"There are three types of weight loss.
"First, the extreme. You lose 10kg a week. That is not good.
"Next, there's the drastic weight loss, you lose weight rapidly, but in a month or so.
"Lastly, gradual weight loss. Noticeable in three months.
"What you are experiencing, is right in the middle of it."
My goal is to reach 78kg. That is my ideal weight and the Body Mass Index indicates that such is "ideal".

Walking outdoors despite the haze...
My current weight

The distance I've logged on walking

Getting lean...

Every day I workout at the office gym.
There's no excuse and I can't be lazy. I plan this during lunch time and spend an average of one hour doing body weight exercise and lifting weights.
I started with a warm-up session on the bike, clocking in 15-minutes in two sets.
From there, it's the body weight workout.

  • Leg lifts - 10 reps 1 set x 2
  • Stomach crunch - 10 reps 1 set x 2
  • Push-ups - 10 reps 1 set x 2
After the body weight exercise, it's time to curl the dumbbells. 
I do two sets with 30 minutes switching from cardio to weight training.
The results are slowly showing. I am not aiming to be a meat head, but rather lean and fit.
Now that I am progressively stronger, I need to add more resistance and maintain my daily routine both walking and at the gym.
Hopefully, in the next 90 days, I will be able to shed half the weight and progress to achieve my goals by the second quarter of next year. 

Bangkok - Part 4

And finally, some field work...

At the hotel lobby waiting for my ride

En route to the MSE Thai cooking school in Sukhumvit
As usual, I got up from sleep and headed straight for my walk at the Banjasiri park across the road from the hotel.
Had a hearty breakfast and strolled across the street where the trainer and some of the students were already waiting.
While nearly 80% of the people who attended this workshop are using only their smartphones to complete the job, I came prepared.
I was upbeat and looked forward to the chance to apply my videography skills at a Thai cooking school.
We have been briefed about the assignment and here are the requirements:

  1. Do a script to capture the story.
  2. Interview the key subject at the location.
  3. Capture establishing shots.
  4. Record B-rolls.
  5. Edit the video.
  6. Do a voice-over.
  7. Do a "piece to camera".
  8. Present the completed assignment with all the criterias given.
At 09:00 sharp, we rolled out towards mid-town. 
The destination was a cooking school at the Thong Lor district. Our van driver got lost and retraced his way to the actual address where the school was located.
My perception was an old wooden home teaching traditional Thai cooking. Just like the ones in Cambodia.
But this one caught me by surprise. It was a modern set-up with a real professional touch.
They have chef's equipment displayed at the main lobby of the school.
We were given a welcome drink and a briefing before the head of the school Chef Chumpol Jangprai gave a cooking demonstration. That was one of the main tasks and with my minimalist rig, I went to work on capturing my "B" roll before zeroing on the main event.

My video rig at work
Most of the guys have large tripods to stabilize their video capture. I only had a table top rig which proved to be very useful.
But I had to get very close to make the most out of my Canon EF-M 11-22mm lens and the EF-M 55-200mm zoom lens.
Both lenses worked wonders as I utilized them to capture the required footages for my assignment.

Experience counts...

We had very limited time to complete the field work.
To me, the highlight of the day was rigging up Chef Chumpol for an interview. I chose a good spot and worked on rigging him up with a lavalier microphone to pick up a decent audio for the required soundbites.
By lunch time, it was all over.
We went back to the hotel and worked on the final edit.
I had my Microsoft Surface 2 tablet and tried to edit the video. But to now avail.
And my years of experience in the field kicked-in. Frustrated but not given up at all, I went to the hotel's business centre and tried my luck with their computer.
By the time I got to a proper one, it was late in the afternoon.
Fortunately, there as an i-mac desktop on their business centre and I went to work right away editing the video.
I managed to trim everything in and submitted my first-cut.
The trainer rejected it and told me there was no voice-over. I had to redo the clip and was given a lavalier microphone and taught on how it's done on the Apple i-movie software.
So, I went back to re-work the video and at last, I got it right...

My submission was finally accepted and shown to the rest of the class. You can click on the YouTube link above to view the final cut.

All in a day's work
Made the cut!

With a tight deadline, some of the students were not able to submit their work on time.
My goal was to keep it simple and follow all the rules. 
I did not divert from my plan of telling a simple story using all the techniques that were taught earlier.
Later that day, out hosts treated us to a dinner in downtown Sukhumvit. I had some beers with the rest of the guys and thanked them for being such sporting people.
The remaining days of the workshop had focused on other aspects of videography and networking among the Asian News Network members.
For me, the Bangkok experience taught me some useful skills such as getting good audio, sticking to the rules and deadline.
Most important of all, be confident in getting a good story.
If there are more opportunities as such, I would never hesitate to sign-up...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bangkok - Part 3

Getting ready for the big one...

It was day two at the workshop.
And as usual, I went on my walk before freshening-up for the morning session.
By noon, I was working on my interview capture and editing.
Still thinking that the lav mic is doing it's job, I went ahead getting footage for my assignment.
I was talking to a journalist from Vietnam and after we were done with the small talk, he suggested that I partner with him for the video interview.

I set my Xiaomi M4i on a special bracket and a tripod and got a few good clips based on some questions given for the assignment.
On the background, one dude from Bangladesh was doing his stuff. 
His voice was so loud, it reverberated across the ballroom area.
That was when I realized that the TRR mini jack did not work.
And rather than recording my voice over the video editing app on my smartphone, I chose to record it on a separate track and fit it as a music track over the footage. This one worked!

Anh, doing his thing at the interview session...
At this point, experience kicked-in and I applied everything I learned at the previous video workshop.
By late-noon, I handed up my project and waited for the videos to be shown and given comments by the trainer.

The video above, was my class project for the interview. This was the model for our field assignment on the third day of the workshop.
We were given tips on what to do and a set of simple instructions.


Knowing what to do and not panic by running around like a headless chicken, we did pretty okay.
Class was dismissed at 05:00pm and I headed back to the hotel to change.
My gig for the evening was to catch up with some of my Thai friends whom I haven't seen for seven years.
I made prior arrangements with my buddy Santi Senarat and Preeda Jamslipa to meet up around Sukhumvit Road.
The meeting was set at Terminal 21, a new shopping mall just one BTS station away from Soi 31.

With Preeda, my point man in Bangkok

My old buddies turned out in full force! What an honor!

The highly talented Khun Panja, a full-time engraver
Santi, whom I've known for many years

Khun Pichet and Moonless
I met Preeda at the BTS station and proceeded to have a beer with him.
Later, several guys turned up and among them, Khun Santi.
This is a man I respected for his knowledge and wisdom.
Later, I met Khun Theera, a very successful businessman who also hosted my previous visits to Bangkok.
After an absence of seven years, it was great to meet up with some familiar faces.
One of the most colourful characters was Khun Panja, an engraver.
He showed me samples of his work, which is amazing!
After spending time with the guys, it was time to head back to the hotel to catch some sleep before the big field assignment on the third day of the workshop...

Bangkok - Part 2

Starting the day with a walk...

The Banjasiri Park in Bangkok

My alarm went off at 05:00am. 
That was set to Malaysian time and of course, I an one hour ahead of time.
I got up, put on my walking gear and left the hotel. 
There's a park opposite Sukhumvit Soi 31. But it only opens at 05:00am. 
So, I walked up the road and went as far as three BTS Skytrain stations away and turned back.
By the time I got to the park, it was already opened. 
So, with an hour to burn before the cafe at the hotel opens for breakfast at 06:30, I walked the park.
I was surprised to see so many locals working out.

Almost done... 
After clocking-in about one hour on the pavement, it was time to head back to the hotel, load up on coffee and some breakfast.
When I was done, I got back to the room, my co-worker was still sleeping. 
Went to the shower, washed up the sweaty tee-shirt and cleaned up.
I was ready for the day ahead.

Class begins...

Day one of the ANN Multimedia workshop was an intro-session. 

We got to meet Mr DJ Clark, the trainer and Claudia, who assisted him throughout.
A couple of examples were shown and later, we were told to capture a short video of ourselves and present it.
Prior to this, I had training from En Azam Zainal, the executive producer (training) for StarTV who taught me and some co-workers on how to capture with a smartphone, edit and present.
So, my co-worker and I were the only people with experience on the floor.
I took my Xiaomi M4i and went to work immediately.
We were given some lavalier microphones on loan. 
But for mobile phones, the mic jack was not compatible. 
For microphones, the 3.5mm mini jack uses a TRRS input. This is an additional band on the jack to enable sound recording.
The lavalier mics that were handed to us were the traditional TRS mini jacks, so, the phone was unable to capture sound, instead, the external microphone on my Xiaomi M4i did the work. Lesson learnt, the hard way!

Meng, my co-worker at the ANN Multimedia workshop
DJ Clark from the China Daily's Multimedia Unit

The session being taped by The Nation TV

The Youtube video above, was my simple intro. Everyone in the class had to participate in the project.

After lunch, we were given time to do our projects.
I went ahead to capture a footage with the M4i's front-facing camera.
Managed to wing it and went straight away to the editing part and handed over my assignment to the trainer.
We sat through a bunch of intros and later looked at more examples of the China Daily's work before we wrapped up for the day.

At Central World after making a drop

The Erawan shrine was bombed a week earlier 

Bangkok is slowly recovering from a terror attack...

Tops food mart

My dinner
As soon as the class ended, I went back to my room, changed into my walking gear and headed towards Central World.
There, I dropped of a set of souvenirs for a friend and went on to Mah Boon Krong complex. I checked out some video gear there and looked around.
After I had enough, I walked back towards the uptown area and had dinner at the Tops mart in Robinson's Department store.
My day ended early when I hit the sack at 10pm. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bangkok - Part 1

Some action! At last...

After getting benched for a few years, I finally get my training stint.
The person who ran my outfit has never given me any career development opportunities. 
Sad, but true.
So, in September, I scored a new gig.
I was seconded to the Content and Development department to set up the Asean unit.
One of the requirement was knowledge in video capture and editing.
And boy, was I in luck!
The first thing I did was to sign-up for an in-house training stint, which was denied by the section head in the old outfit.
My luck changed after reporting for the new unit. I was sent for more training. 
This gig is abroad and it was a five-day multimedia workshop organized by the China Daily and Asia News Network in Bangkok, Thailand.
I look forward to the prospect of learning something new.
That said, the last time I was in Bangkok was seven years ago.
For this trip, I packed light. 
I carry a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, my trusty EOS-M, EF-M 11-22mm wide-angle zoom lens and the proven EF-M 55-200 medium telephoto zoom.
The additional gear that I had lugged around for this multimedia workshop (centres around capturing video) was my Rode Videomic Go.

Getting a ride to KLIA 2
At the terminal
Arriving at Don Mueang international airport near Bangkok
Been too long...

I met my co-worker at the departure lounge in KLIA 2.
The place was really a circus with people everywhere. I heard horror stories about checking-in, so, decided that it was best to get there early and go through all the formalities.
Michelle and I had lunch at home before heading off to the airport. I pet the kids on their heads, said my good-byes.
To cut cost, we travel on a budget airline.
So, that said, there's no comfort and everything else is on my own expense.
I was traveling on a tight budget. 
On my wallet, there's about 3,500 baht for incidental expenses.
The currency fluctuation didn't help either. 100 baht is RM1.20, and the cost in Bangkok is higher than any other parts of Thailand.
I even had to share a room with my co-worker. So, having given it much thought, I'd roughed it out on the floor. 

Arriving in Bangkok

Taking an evening walk
 Blending in...

My first day in Bangkok was actually spent on catching up with what I have missed over the last seven years. 
After settling in at the hotel in Soi 31 along Sukhumvit Road, I took a walk to the uptown area.
Went as far as Rama Road and decided to turn back to the hotel. 
That's a decent 5.8km walk and good exercise. I don't plan to abandon my fitness regime even when I am away.
On the first night, one of the head-honcho of Nation TV hosted dinner at an italian restaurant. 
I also met the coordinator of the training programme Claudia, a Dutch national attached to the China Daily as a Multimedia Curator.
We also met some participants from Vietnam who came for dinner. 
The Nation guy was really generous and for the rest of the week, we had classes and another dinner reception in the middle of the week. 
At the same time, I was coordinating a meet-up with some of my old Thai friends. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The 10-km challenge..

There is no "secret", only hard work...

I was filling up my water bottle at the pantry in the office and a co-worker walked past.
She paused and said: "I noticed you have lost a lot of weight. What is your secret?"
I told her that it's pure exercise and eating right.
When I last weighed-in on June 16, I was at 101.0kgs.
I never enjoyed stepping on weighing scale. 
My regular physician had advised me to lose weight or risk having a bypass.
He also referred me to a local hospital to get a stress-test.

And so, the journey begins..

I started walking around my neighbourhood. 
On the average, a loop is roughly around 1.17km.
During the initial days, I took small loops. Nothing more than 2.5km. As I progressed to be much fitter, the routine was increased to 5km and eventually, 10km.
To optimize the simple program, I split the workouts into two sessions.
Early in the morning, I will do a 5km loop with my dogs and continue with another later at night.
I used my Xiaomi Mi Band to track my steps and the Endomondo Sports App for Android to record my progress.
Based on statistics, I walk about 120km in July and 308km in August. These are recorded distances based on GPS-tracking.
Apart from that, I also entered a walking challenge on Endomondo and was ranked 54th out of 3,400 people who took part.

My progress on Endomondo
The ranking from the walking challenge
After 40 days of walking on my 10km/day program, I gradually lost weight.
From 101kgs, I weighed in at 95kgs and started to go down to 90kgs.
I can wear my old shirts that were tight.
Even my pants became loose.
Eventually, I broke the sub-90 barrier by weighing-in at 89kgs. 
From "Obese", my Body Mass Index (BMI) rating went down to "overweight".


I have to energetic working dogs. They need exercise. Having been a slob for years, I hardly walk them. I felt I have robbed them of their basic needs and embarked on a walking program with them.
My dogs motivate me and at 10 and 9 years of age, they are very fit.
At the very least, my sugar-levels are stable. My goal is to be free of medication.
I am setting my target at 78kg to reach "normal" BMI status.

Eating right...

Since June, I have limited my intake of rice.
That was the first step.
I only eat a small portion of white rice during lunch. I skipped tea if it's possible. 
As for the beers, I don't drink in excess as I used to.
My body is healing from within and I also included vegetables in my food intake.
Now that I am on a lean diet, I hardly patronize stalls for hawker food.

A lean and filling dinner
Samo's eating plan...

Breakfast - sandwich & black coffee.

Lunch - 1/4 portion rice with vegetables, meat such as chicken is taken alternately.

Dinner - grilled lean pork or chicken breast or fish. Salads and sandwich on rotation.

Toning the body..

I had signed-up with the company's gym and at RM20 a month, it's a damn good deal. 
There are trainers there and I told the guy what I want to do.
The workouts are alternated between days.
I would go after lunch and do reps of cardio exercise on the stationary bicycle trainer. 
The coach taught me some bicep curling exercises with dumb bells. 
I started with lighter weights and more repetitions.
The trainer also showed me how to tone the leg muscles.
I hope to get my belly toned after trimming another 10kgs of fat.

Feeling good..

With the extra flabs burned from walking and a good eating habit, I felt very fresh in the morning and happy to continue with my routine. 
I hope to keep this up until my weight is manageable.