Month: May 2012

Fatally Fit?

In the never ending quest for ego massaging and self glorification, a lot of sports people have gone from the normal “I want to be able to run a 10K” to running ultramarathons that can stretch to 200, 500 or even 1,000 miles over several days. Setting a record gives a sense of accomplishment, at least until the next person breaks the record. It’s a never ending race to be the fastest, strongest or most enduring.

In bicycle racing, there is Race Across America which normally takes approximately 9 days of almost sleepless bike riding from the West Coast to the East Coast. Contenders ride through fatigue, hallucinations and physical exertions. Does anyone even care about their accomplishments? Maybe a very small group of ten thousand. Is it worth it? Is it necessary? What does it accomplish for the rest of world?

I am sure you’ve heard of teenagers or young men in their 20’s falling dead while playing high school or college basketball without previous warning of any heart issues. Same with football. The other day on a doctor visit, my doctor told me that high school football players drive their blood pressure to 300/140 when they bench press 300 lbs. or more. He said that if done over an “extended period”, it could be fatal. Extended periods equate to a few more minutes of exertion.

There had been several instances of people of all ages dying right in a marathon, or right after a marathon. Most people look fit and no symptoms at all of any disorders. What is going on?

In professional bicycle racing in Europe, it has been widely known that almost every racer takes performance enhancing drugs (PED) just to be competitive. They need that extra boost in performance to “keep their jobs”. A few died while racing or died young after racing.

Does fitness equals health? No. Not when taken to extremes. Do some research – start with Dr. Mercola. Good health is 80% proper nutrition and 20% proper training.  Overdoing training is counterproductive to health, overall well being and even fitness itself. Age also plays a factor – the older you are – the less extreme your work outs ought to be.

It is OK of course to have a certain kind of fitness. You only need to be fit enough for survival. Everything else is unnecessary. If your body looked good because you are fit, then that’s added bonus. You don’t need to be able to run a 24 hour run across Death Valley just to survive. No one will chase you that far and if they have a motorized vehicle, you won’t be able to outrun them anyway. You should be able to outrun bad people if necessary so you probably need to be able to sprint for 400 meters (approximately) and be able to run at a steady pace for 3 miles in a hilly terrain.  You should be strong enough to haul bags of  groceries or some light furnitures.

Of course, if your occupation requires a certain level of fitness, then by all means go for it, but ensure you are under the supervision of an objective medical doctor. That goes for the average person also that wants to be fit and healthy at the same time. You have to monitor your body regularly to ensure that it is functioning properly to give you a robust, fit and contented life.




How to be an Excellent Student

This will be the first in a Series of articles on “How to be an Excellent xxxxxx”. Since James (the reason why this blog was built) is still in grade school, I have to adjust the topics to somewhere closer to his age. Hence, the start of this series is about being an excellent student. 

There’s probably hundreds of tips on how to become an excellent student. Why excellent? Because 80% of students can easily be “good” or “average” student.  It’s always best to aim for the highest possible goal – so even if the goal is not reached – it is still possible to reach a level above what other people has reached. It’s not for personal pride – or even for the family’s pride – but rather to be a model for other students, and to be a positive contributor not only to to other students but for the teachers too.

* Time management – Budget your time for different activities. Time for homework, projects, play, reading, etc.  Learn how to prioritize what you need to do first as there are so many things to do at the same time. Spend your time on one project at a time so you can devote your full effort on it.

* Rest – Rest is probably the most underrated factor in any endeavor. Rest makes a person recover from intense or extended efforts. We are only alloted a certain physical capacity to be able to work on anything. With rest, our body is able to recover and physical capacity is kept at its optimum level.

* Proper nutrition – garbage in, garbage out. What we eat defines how our body and brain will respond to stresses of daily life. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables gives a student enough antioxidants to maintain a strong immune system. Contrary to popular beliefs, Fats (mostly monounsaturated) are necessary for proper brain function. Protein is necessary to repair or build tissues, organs, muscles, hair, nails, etc. in the body and to so it should be part of the diet. Carbohydrates are necessary but overconsumption of carbohydrates is the cause of unwanted weight gain and even obesity.

* Exercise – when you are younger, you can basically do most of the exercises without worrying about overtraining. There is a limit of course. Extreme workouts can be counterproductive (there will be a separate post about this).

* Studying – sometimes when you read an article or a book while doing research, it looks like it is so hard to comprehend. Take a break from it first. Find a quiet spot and think about nothing for a few minutes. Then read it again. Nothing yet? Read it again. There is no substitute for spending the time to learn something new. You can do a short cut by getting a tutor.

* Listen – Always focus on the teacher. Oftentimes, when the teacher is explaining a subject matter – everything seems so clear. Before an exam, you may need less time to study because you paid attention to the teacher. Avoid disrupting the class with unnecessary comments, jokes, etc.  It annoys the teacher, and disrupts everyone else’s learning cycle.

There is quite a few more tips and we invite the readers to come up with their own. The above is what we have for now to make things simpler. Have fun at school – strive for excellence!!!







Siren song of spending

In Greek mythology, there are very attractive creatures called Sirens who lured sailors to shipwreck in rocky coasts. They used enchanting voices and songs to create an irresistible desire to follow them as they lead the sailors to destruction.

Today, that siren was replaced by TV – mostly. However, billboards, high gloss magazines, radio shows, internet pop ups, etc. are the part of the Siren gaggle. Enchanting voices (surround sound) and High Definition (HD) screen makes you crave that hamburger in that ad, only to find out once you go to the burger place that it doesn’t look like the TV ad at all. The perceived tastiness is also not as good as it was shown on an HD screen.

But what does TV have to do with shipwreck? Financial bankruptcy is the modern equivalent of an ancient shipwreck. You lose a lot of things including your house, cars, dignity, friends, etc. You start from scratch starting with a negative net worth (your liabilities far exceeds your assets).  Your credit score goes down which make you unable to apply for any low interest loans. You may have problems getting a job because of a low credit score, further compounding the issue.

So how do you prevent yourself from being a victim of the modern day Siren? (Most bankruptcies are caused by spending too much and not saving for emergencies). You should recognize the following phrases used by Sales people (and advertising) to entice you to spend:

* This is the last one on the warehouse. By next week, we will get a new shipment and it will cost higher.

* You need to make a decision today so you don’t miss the 10% discount.

* If you get this now, you will have something to show people what you worked for. You will impress people  (really? for every Porsche, there’s a Bugatti Veyron; for every 3 bedroom house, there are McMansions)

* You’ll be the first one in the block to own this model. (You’ll also have the highest debt in your neighborhood).

*Don’t waste your money on paying rent. (Interest payments, property taxes and homeowners association fees are bigger wastes which doesn’t benefit you at all. With rent, you get a roof over your head).

*If you drive this type of car, people will know that you have “arrived”. (most rich people don’t drive expensive flashy cars according to the book “The Millionaire Next Door”).

*Ladies (or Men) will be attracted if they see you driving this model. (they forget to mention that it will be the wrong type of crowd).

* If you buy three, we’ll give you a 25% discount. (You are spending more actually if you buy three instead of one)

*50% OFF TODAY only! (100% savings if you don’t pay anything TODAY! repeat for 365 days and that’s a lot of savings)

*You will save on taxes if you buy this. (But you are still spending your money – you’re just giving it to the Seller instead of the tax man).

*Buy this for your wife’s (or children’s) safety. (People buy 6,000 pound SUV vehicles to protect a 30 pound child. They don’t consider that the those vehicles have higher rollover crashes than a subcompact car, making it less safe).

If you are in the process of buying an item, and they happen to offer a discount – that’s great! If you happen to be in the market to buy an item, do a little research to see how you can buy it at a lower price. Shop around or wait for the next sale. Buy an item only because you need it, not because the advertising told you that you need it. You don’t actually need much, you are just constantly barraged by enticing flashy presentations. Do not allow them to deceive you.

Avoid a financial shipwreck in your life. Turn off your TV











Major ways to save money

Money makes the world go round, someone said. Did you ever consider the fact that money is actually time? Everytime you have to work, you spend time in exchange for money. Every time you buy something, you are exchanging your money for goods. Now you need to work more to replenish what you just spent. It’s a never ending vicious circle.  That’s why it’s also called the rat race.

Below I present to you, some “major ways” to save money. In future posts, I will do a few more tips, but the ones below are the biggest areas in which you can save a lot. By saving, you will have better control of your funds, and better control of your time.

So here we go:

1. Never buy a house near or at the peak of the market. You know it’s nearing the peak when people are on a buying frenzy. The years 2004 thru 2007 are the best examples of it. By the way, houses are still overpriced even if they went down 20% to 50% in some areas.

2. Most people cannot afford a luxury car. Get one only if you can afford it. By “afford”, I mean you have the cash or more than enough savings to pay for it, including it’s maintenance and insurance. This is your second major purchase after a house. If you can’t afford it and you get sick or lose your job, the bank will just take it back.

3. Shop only if you need something. Do not shop during holiday sales. Tell yourself that you are saving 100% by not spending your hard earned money on a 50% off Sale. That will save you hundreds per month and thousands to tens of thousands per year. Most of the time, the quality of items in sales are a lot worse than if you buy it during non-sale days. You get what you pay for.

4. Do not go to a very expensive university or school if you cannot afford it. If you are doing it just so you can be just like your friends, then you are on the losing end already. If you have full time scholarship (academic or sports), then that means you can afford it.

5.  Have only the minimum number of cars in your household. You don’t need one for every member unless that household member owns that car free and clear (no loan balance).

6. Jewelries are way overrated. It’s probably the worst thing to buy.  With few exceptions, it doesn’t increase in value that much. And if you have to sell it in an emergency, they’ll buy it at maybe 20% of actual cost. Diamonds are not rare. Diamond dealers make it “rare” by controlling supplies so it will maintain its price.

7. Minimize the number of TVs in your household. The more TV you have, the more you will be exposed to advertising, which will further lead you to more spending.

8. Buy the best of what you can afford when it comes to smaller items such as clothes, appliances and tools. By getting the best, you spend less money in the long run.  If you decide to sell them, you will get a better price too. The better things in life does not lose its value that much.

9. Entertaining yourself can be very expensive. Avoid spending too much money on entertainment. A 72 inch TV is too much, a high end sound system does not really sound much different than a mid-priced stereo system.

10. Sports can take a lot of your savings away. Golf is probably the worst offender. You have to pay $500 just to have a “well balanced” putter. I bet you Tiger Woods on a $50 putter will beat you 9 times out of 10 People forget that it’s the practice, not the expensive latest equipment that makes you a better player.

These are – based on research on numerous books and blogs – some of the biggest way to slice off a big chunk from your hard earned income. Remember, you are constantly bombarded by media to lust after something new. When you fall for it, you slowly (almost imperceptibly) lose control of your finances, creating more stress in your already stressful existence.

Avoid stress. Live a more balanced life.







Thank you all!

Do you wonder sometimes why you are not as rich (or better looking, or smarter or more blessed) than other people? Is life not really fair for almost everyone except a chosen few?

These questions often bring a gamut of emotions which leads to more negative thinking: how can they afford that big house? why does she have more friends than me? why can other people afford that expensive luxury car? Why does she look so young? If only I am as smart as they are.

May I offer one fact that may be ignored in the overall analysis of your current situation? What you have now is just perfect for your life. You have so many blessings that, when compared to say, 80% of the rest of the world, you are in a great situation. You are smarter in some areas (reading, physical fitness, most sports, math, piano, history, and a hundred other things that I can’t think of right now).  You eat wholesome and tasty food that are considered luxury in other countries. Your wardrobe is full of trendy and nice fitting clothes. You live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood and your relatives that you visit live in nice areas also.  Your cup is running over with blessings. Your health is great (never mind the occasional sickness) and your relationships are great.

For that you should be thankful to God first for giving you all these things. Thankful to parents, relatives (especially the grandparents :)) friends, teachers and everyone else that enhanced the quality to your existence.

Being thankful and feeling a genuine sense of gratitude erases negative thoughts of:  envy, discontent, insecurity, depression and anxiety.  Being thankful everyday gives us a feeling of contentment. It enables us to face everyday challenges knowing that we have been given the resources to be able to solve our problems. Being appreciative of what we have makes us kinder and more considerate to other people. It makes us more sympathetic to others, which makes other people’s lives richer too.

I can go on and on about gratitude, but I’ll make it short because I am just recovering from a week long illness which was harder than most I have experienced. I gave thanks to God because it enabled me to be closer to Him, knowing that my life is entirely dependent on Him.

And as for you, my dear readers, I am thankful that you spend your precious time reading this and sharing your thoughts. Thank you all!


Bicycling is the best

Greetings! before you throw that old rusting bicycle at me for stating that phrase in the title, let me try to justify what I mean:

For exercise – outdoor bicycling can give you aerobic training without the jarring shock that running or even jogging gives you. Walking is good too but with cycling you can cover 3 times more distance – very satisfying especially if the scenery is great and a cool breeze hits you gently.  Do you want it hard (anaerobic)? Go ride in the mountains or rolling hills. Do you want it exciting? Have someone drive you up the mountain and ride down. Do you want to enjoy the scenery? ride at 50% of your normal speed. Do you want social interaction? (other than Facebook ), ride with your friends.  Sunshine (while you are riding outdoors) also makes your body produce vitamin D and melatonin. Vitamin D is essential to your body functions: promotes bone strength, thyroid health and organ maintenance (just to name a few). Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep, provides antioxidant which makes you younger longer and enhances the immune system.  Melatonin is also used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). You don’t want to be SAD?, go out and ride in the sunshine for 20 minutes or more.

For commuting – if you live less than 5 miles (8 kilometers for my Australian readers ), you’ll probably arrive almost the same time as when you drive a car to work.  If there’s heavy traffic, you can even beat a Bentley as long as James Bond is not driving it. The place where I’ve seen this work well is in the  city of Cairns, Australia. The weather is nice (like so So. Cal.) and many people are actually using their bicycles more than their cars to work. It was pure bicycle commuting nirvana.  The bikes were made of steel, with faded paint, with a milk crate or wooden box attached to the front or back to carry bags, supplies and extra clothing.

For personal records – do you want to ride from Canada to South America? it’s been done.  Across the mainland U.S.A? a few thousand people have done it. Across Australia? also done.  Across xxxxxx (insert your country’s name here) Done also! There is even a guy from Arizona currently riding around the world for 10 years now.  He started riding with his wife, the the wife suddenly left a few years later, and now he’s riding with a new female friend.

There are still a lot of unexplored areas or places where you can establish your own records – but make sure you are up to the challenge and your equipment is durable.  Maybe ride around the lower parts of Mt. Everest? Around the crater of any non explosive volcano?  Antarctica?

For racing – this is a good thing to pursue if you are still relatively young as it’s easier physically.  For older people, you can still do the same thing (given a good amount of practice, proper nutrition, lots of rest and relatively good health), but your recovery will take longer.  May I very strongly suggest that you don’t take performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) if you do this, because it takes a toll on your body.  Whatever glory you attained will be always remembered with a stain in your reputation. You can ride individually in cycling or as part of a team. Other sports offer only one or the other.

Bike Equipment Tip:

If you have an old rusty bicycle, clean it up and if you can’t fix it yourself, bring to a local bike shop. You don’t need the most expensive or top of the line bicycle frame or components/parts to enjoy riding. If you plan to make this a lifetime hobby, buy the best (doesn’t mean the most expensive) you can afford. It will pay for itself in the long run and you will enjoy cycling much more. However, do a lot of research, ask bike shop workers and other cyclists before you buy one. 

HAPPY CYCLING to my fellow riders!





Is May 1st bad?

Yesterday was my worst May 1st ever. Google May 1 and you’ll find out that it is one of the satanic holidays. James suffered from coughing and fever for about two days yesterday, and with his parents away (one working and one on business travel) we volunteered to take care of him.

Early in the evening, his condition kept getting worse so we called the Nurse Hotline of Kaiser Hospital. After a long hold, they asked a lot of questions and then said to take him to the Emergency Room.

Health LESSON #1 INFECTIONS (Viral or Bacterial) can suddenly get worse even if the child is feeling OK all day with no fever. A close watch is needed to insure that it doesn’t get worse. Any slight changes in his face (turning blue or gray) or body can mean something needs to be fixed immediately.


There were quite a few people in the ER, and after a long wait, we got attended to by a nurse and a Physician’s Assistant. He requested an X-Ray, which was done expeditiously. We found out that it was Pneumonia, more serious than we thought. My dad died from Pneumonia so to me it was serious. I asked the Nurse what causes it.  She said that for kids it could be a lot of factors but for “older people” it can be caused by….

Health LESSON #2 RARE PNEUMONIA Cause – taking pills or tablets are sometimes taken by tilting your head up, dumping the pills in your mouth and swallowing it in with water. That is a big WRONG-O! Water sometimes gets into your windpipe and into your lungs, which can cause Pneumonia. She said the proper way is to tilt your head slightly downward while taking the pills/gels/tablets and then swallowing them with water. The downward tilt of the head causes the esophagus to open up correctly.


Health LESSON #3 HOT & COLD – this is from the Nurse again. When someone has a fever, it is best not to bundle the child in sweater or blankets. Their pores has to breathe. Of course, when outside, he must be covered from the cold, but while inside the house it is best to have a light t-shirt. To keep fever down, put ice on plastic bags  (wrapped in cloth) and put on top of head and inside the armpits.

Hope you enjoyed this Lesson. Please feel free to comment or suggest on any respiratory illness fixes. Thank you!