Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Malaysia's Uncelebrated Rally 'Champion'

Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya. This name may not ring a bell among Malaysian motorsports' fans as Karamjit Singh's would. Muhammad Rafiq's foray into the world of rallying went almost unnoticed by most local motorsports fans, and this might be due to the fact that he is being eclipsed by his more illustrious compatriot Karamjit.

Muhammad Rafiq is quite new to the sport and in his own words "a new hand at rallying with only four years of experience." Driving for the MRU Motorsports team in a Subaru Impreza WRX, he did reasonably well for a "new hand", beating even his more experienced compatriot, Karamjit.

In the recently concluded Malaysian Rally Championship (MRC) held in Johor Baru, he finished a credible 4th in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) category behind more established drivers in Katsu Taguchi of Japan, India's Gaurav Gill and Indonesian Rifat Sungkar.

In the Asia Cup held simultaneously, again Rafiq showed his capability by finishing 3rd behind Gaurav and Rifat, thus overshadowing his compatriot and local favourite Karamjit.

So to all Malaysian motorsports fans in general and rally fans in particular, remember this name:

He has arrived, and hopefully have the mettle to take over as Malaysia's rally king, long synonymous with Karamjit.

Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya celebrating on the podium with co-driver Sean Gregory. - Pic by APRC.TV

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Do You Know Your Blue Flags From Your Red Flags?

No, I'm not talking about the red, white, yellow and blue that is our nation’s pride, I'm talking about the flag that says, “You! Get in the pits, you’re disqualified!”

Chequered Flag

Yellow flags, blue flags, black flags, black flags with orange circles in them, what do they all mean? Well they aren't national flags for sure, but what do they stand for if not for the pride of Mozambique or Liechtenstein?

Depending on their colour, flags in Formula One world can mean a lot of things. Race marshals armed with an array of these colourful flags stand alongside Formula One circuits all around the world wave different kinds of flags in order to signal any given driver, or the lot of them at once, of many things like penalties, hazards on track and what not.

So if you've been wondering just what these flags mean, I've listed them all here for your understanding. Enjoy!

Yellow Flag

Yellow flag

The most common flag waved about in Formula One, a single yellow flag waved by the race marshal instructs the driver to take caution as there is debris from a crash ahead. Drivers must slow their cars down at sections where the yellows are being waved and overtaking is strictly prohibited, unless of course the driver ahead is retiring out of the race.

A double yellow flag waved by the same race marshal warns drivers of great danger ahead. Once again, overtaking is not allowed unless it is completely unavoidable. A safety car is usually deployed at this time.

Green Flag


Green flags waved usually follow a yellow flagged area, because green flags indicate that the track is clear of any previous dangers and drivers may resume at racing speeds and overtake as they wish.

If and when a race director allows, green flags may also be waved during parade laps after a race. Green flags are also used to signal the beginning of sessions such as free practice or qualifying. However, race starts deploy an electric lighting system to signal the start of the race.

Red Flag


Red flags simply signal the suspension of a race, practice or qualifying session. If and when the Race Director sees fit, race marshals will wave red flags all around the circuit signaling for drivers to suspend all actions.

Drivers in the pits may not leave the pits and drivers on the track may not return to the pits. Drivers on the circuit must proceed with caution to the designated red flag line and stop their vehicles. If however the safety car is deployed in this time, drivers on track may follow the safety car back into the pits.

Sessions may be resumed or abandoned as the race director deems fit from this moment on. Under red flag instances, any driver who breaks the rules will have a drive-through penalty imposed upon them.

Blue Flag


Get out of the way! You're holding up traffic! If you find yourself being shown the blue flag mid race, well that just means that you're at the back of the field, the top runners are trying to get past you and that you should be letting them through. If you've ignored three of these flags, you can expect to be subjected to a penalty, which may vary from a drive through penalty, or a 10 second stop-go.

Blue flags are also used in practice session and qualifying sessions to instruct slow moving drivers to move off the racing line and let cars at racing speeds go by.

White Flag


A white flag simply warns drivers that there is a slow car on track ahead. Possibly a retiring car, an ambulance, or a tow truck trying to carry away a stalled car on the grid, drivers are instructed to slow down massively at this point to avoid a collision.

Black Flag


The waving of a black flag is usually to instruct a specific driver to return to the pits immediately and report to the Clerk of the Course, usually because they've been disqualified from the race. The black flag is accompanied by a board with the car number of the driver that is being called in.

Chequered Flag


Possibly the most well known flag and the most welcomed flag by drivers, the black and white chequered flag signals the end of the race, practice session, or qualifying session. The winner of the race is always the first to see the flag, followed by everyone else that follows behind him or her.

Half Black shirt

Half Black

Unsporting behavior is usually the reason for race marshals to wave this flag. If a driver's driving is deemed dangerous by the race directors, he or she will be instructed to either cool it down on the circuit. If however they continue in the same manner without regard for safety, they'll be immediately disqualified.

Black with orange circle

Black with orange circle

Possibly the oddest flag of the bunch, a black flag with an orange circle is waved to inform drivers that their car has a mechanical problem with the potential to harm themselves or other drivers on the circuit. The driver on the receiving end of this flag must return to the pit and have the problem sorted out before returning to action again.

Yellow with red stripes flag

Yellow with red stripes

The next most oddest flag of the bunch is a yellow on with red stripes that run down the middle. This warns drivers of a danger up ahead such as a slippery surface or debris, possibly left behind by a car leaking oil on the track's surface, or that there is rain starting to fall on the track. Drivers must reduce their speed and be wary of a slippery or dangerous surface ahead.

Source: MSN Sport

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Muay Thai's 8 Points Of Contact

If one were to capture the strikes in slow-motion, it is easy to see why Muay Thai or Thai kick boxing has the reputation of being one of the deadliest and most feared martial arts in the world.

With an arsenal of eight weapons to choose from, seasoned Muay Thai fighters swear by their fists, elbows, knees and feet to execute moves that are possibly more lethal than strikes coming from a baton or nunchucks.


While other martial arts use two points of contact (e.g fists in Western boxing) and four points (e.g hands and feet in sport-oriented martial arts), Muay Thai has eight points.

A well-trained fighter utilizes punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes that can make a deadly impact.

The roots of Muay Thai, which means ‘the art of eight limbs’ can be traced back to the battlefields of 15th century Thailand. The warrior’s eight points of contact substituted swords and sticks during weaponless combat.


It has since become the country’s national sport and bears similarities to Indochinese styles of kickboxing such as Tomoi in Malaysia, Muay Lao in Laos and Cambodia’s Pradal serey.

Today, the bone shattering techniques of this martial art is being used all over the world from the Thai military to the CIA and has inspired movies and legions of enthusiasts including in Malaysia.

Conditioned to Last

"1-2-3. Uppercut-block-kick", Mohd Aly Yakin instructs his students. The 32 year-old Muay Thai instructor moves swiftly around the training studio. He is of medium-built with an anatomy of solid muscles that even an accomplished athlete would envy. With seven years of teaching experience, Singaporean-born Aly was trained in Muay Thai two years ago in Chiang Mai, Thailand and is also trainer at a local fitness centre. Previously, he practised Taekwondo for 19 years which he started at the age of nine.

"Martial arts like Taekwondo employ 80 percent legs and 20 percent hands. But in Muay Thai it’s 50/50. Plus Muay Thai is easy to learn, there’s no uniform and it’s suitable for all ages."

He added that unlike other martial arts, Muay Thai students do not earn belts for their skills and progression. Instead, their skills will be tested in the ring where the championship belts are vied by top fighters.


Aly explained that the training and conditioning regimes for fighters were also very challenging. "In Thailand a typical training session would be punching and kicking on bamboo sticks and coconut trees. It’s grueling and painful. As a result, your shins, legs and elbows will be strong. But we train differently at my classes, of course."

Maybe Aly noticed the writer’s worried expression, busy scanning the studio for the aforementioned bamboo stick. None in sight, fortunately.

Geared for Eight Limbs

With shins conditioned to be used just like a club, the effective use of both elbows and knees are also emphasized.

The speed, precision and power of Muay Thai techniques are well-known among martial arts exponents, and fighters can often take down an opponent with just one shot. Broken bones are common in the ring, but numerous fighters have also died from a lethal kick or elbow.


Another distinctive element of Muay Thai is the rotation of the hips to deliver powerful punches and kicks. Aly demonstrated the movement with a kick on the punching bag and the sound of the impact alone sent chills down the writer’s back.

"Learning defensive and offensive techniques are a must because this is 100 percent physical contact", Aly stated.

"Fighters can target at almost any part of the body and only the head cannot be used to strike an opponent."

He explains that he currently has 600 students enrolled in the beginner’s, intermediate and advanced classes and that fighter-training classes are being carried out this year for a competition to be held in June.

More than Just About Fighting

But competing is not necessarily on everyone’s wish list when learning Muay Thai. Popularized by movies like ‘Ong Bak’ and martial art contender events, people from all walks of life have turned to Muay Thai as a means of physical exercise and self-defense.

"My students are mostly females in their 20’s, The youngest student I have is 12 years old, and the oldest is aged 63. It builds stamina, gets you in excellent shape and builds up your confidence."


Meanwhile, 61 year-old Lee Yoon Kong could not agree more. He has taken up Muay Thai for almost a year and has felt its benefits directly. "The main reason I learn Muay Thai is for me to keep fit cause if one is always sick one would be a social burden! I am now free of medication which I had to take to control my high cholesterol. I feel healthier now unlike when I was not attending this class."

Yoon Kong added that it is also an effective self-defense and combat sports offering the best in boxing punches and martial arts kicks.

"Muay Thai uses every part of the body as a weapon. Moreover, it has no ‘katas’ to learn. To be able to punch and kick the correct way certainly cuts short the time to maim your assailant in a self-defence situation."

For 28-year old Darshini, the rigorous drills have helped her get in shape.

"What I like most about the classes is that you really sweat it out compared with other workout like yoga. You definitely learn to toughen up too. Since I joined three months ago I noticed that I’ve shed a few kilos."

Muay Thai Breeds Aggression?

Raw, bloody and lethal, it is hard not to associate contact sports like Muay Thai to violence.

A misconception, Aly stressed that is quite common. "Muay Thai teaches an individual to be disciplined, humble and in control of his or her actions and feelings.

"At the same time, instructors must understand what the students want. They can't just simply teach. They must make the effort to know the background and character of their students. In Thailand, there have been cases where youngsters have run ins with the law as they join gangs or fight in the streets after learning Muay Thai. Instructors have to be professional to avoid students from abusing their skills."

De Facto Martial Art of Choice

Incorporated into different styles of competitive fighting, Muay Thai has garnered a worldwide recognition for its success with mixed martial arts. In Malaysia, Aly said that Muay Thai enthusiasts hope to have an official association by this October.

"Presently Muay Thai is not formally recognized in the country. There are Tomoi associations established by the people of Kelantan but none for Muay Thai yet. We hope through this association we can advance like any other sport or martial arts in the country."


(Pix from K-1)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Prosperous Malaysians

Malaysia has the most billionaires in South East Asia

A Malaysian newspaper, The Star, reported that Malaysia has the most number of billionaires in South East Asia.

Malaysia has the most numbers of billionaires in South East Asia(AP Photo)

Malaysian tycoon, Tan Sri Robert Kuok named the 33rd richest man in the world with a net worth of US$14.5bil (RM48.1bil).

The former Sugar King, was among nine Malaysians who made it into the 2010 Forbes List of the World's Billionaires which listed a total of 1, 011 billionaires.

Kuok shared the spot with Microsoft's Steven Ballmer.

The Kuok Group patriarch moved up from the 62nd spot last year was also named the seventh richest man in Asia.

According to the The Star, Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan was listed as the 89th richest man in the world and the 14th richest man in Asia with a net worth of US$7.6bil (RM25.2bil).

Three other Malaysians made it into the top 300 list of billionaires with IOI Corp Bhd's Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng ranked 189th with US$4.4bil (RM14.6bil).

Hong Leong Group's Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan and Public Bank's Tan Sri The Hong Piow shared the 277th spot with their worth of US$3.4bil (RM11.3bil) each.

Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, YTL Group chairman and family came in 421st with their US$2.3bil (RM7.6bil) family fortunes while Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary of the Bukhary Foundation was ranked 655th for his US$1.5bil (RM4.98bil).

Berjaya Group's Tan Sri Vincent Tan made it back to the list and was ranked 828th with US$1.2bil (RM3.98bil) while Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King of Rimbunan Hijau Group was ranked 937th with his US$1bil (RM3.3bil).

According to The Star, both Malaysia and Philippiness had the highest number of billionaires in the South East Asian region.

China (including Hong Kong) had the most number of billionaires outside the US with 89. However, India still had the most numbers of billionaires within Asia, taking 10 of the 25 spots for Asia's richest.

When Sex Kills

When sex is bad for you

When lovemaking becomes a potential health hazard. Yes, let's not get too excited, please.


We look at some of the potential health dangers that are involved during sex.

The 7 hazardous side-effects of the horizontal tango.


1) Heart attack

The notion that sex can actually bring about a heart attack has actually be around for some time and it has been found that the average 50 year old male who is a non smoker doubles the odds of a heart attack when they have sex.

However, if you have had a stroke or heart trouble, the chance of sex causing a heart attack is about two in a million which is double the risk for healthy people in the hours after sexual intercourse.

Although heart attacks during sex are rare, no one wants to be among the unlucky few who die while getting lucky. So if you have cardiovascular disease (CVD), or even if it runs in your family, it's important to ask your doctor what type of sexual activity is safe.


2) Carpal tunnel syndrome

According to research published in Medical Hypotheses journal, the extra weight put on your wrists during sexual intercourse is probably a major contributing factor to carpal tunnel syndrome. And the data that helps prove this shows an increase in carpal tunnel syndrome with the introduction of medications like Viagra and the ever-worsening obesity epidemic.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this syndrome before, it is the irritation of the median nerve which causes tingling and numbness of the thumb, index, and the middle fingers.

The wrist is surrounded by a band of tough tissue that normally functions as a support for the joint. The tight space between this fibrous band and the wrist bone is called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel to receive sensations from the thumb, index, and middle fingers of the hand. Any condition that causes swelling or a change in position of the tissue within the carpal tunnel can squeeze and irritate the median nerve.

The fact that sex is the most widely practiced activity that uses both hands at the same time only strengthens the hypothesis. However, the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome drops off later in life coinciding with a decrease in sexual activity.

And you thought your carpal tunnel syndrome was from typing on the computer!


3) Pregnancy problems

We all know that potentially one outcome of having sex can lead to pregnancy and while this isn’t a health hazard and having sex while pregnant doesn’t cause miscarriage, premature labour or any other complication; if you have a low lying placenta having sex may be a risk.

This exception should be especially adhered to if this has caused bleeding during pregnancy. Other times that when sex should be avoided when you are pregnant is if you’re leaking amniotic fluid, you have placenta previa or you are at risk from preterm labour.

Many couples worry that sex during pregnancy will cause a miscarriage, especially in the first trimester. But sex isn't a concern. Early miscarriages are usually related to chromosomal abnormalities or other problems in the developing baby, not to anything you do or don't do.


4) Male injuries

A common battle scar for men from their bedroom activities can be a rip in the skin connecting the foreskin and the penis and this is known as a torn frenulum. It heals but with a scar, which is likely to tear again so it is best to avoid sex for a couple of days. It’s a relatively common problem and once it has totally healed both men and women can reduce their risk of genital cuts and tears from sex using a condom or extra lubrication to cut your chances of further trouble.

However, it is not only men who suffer from small tears as this is also common for women. Many have had the experience of noticing slight bleeding from vaginal sex as a result of getting tiny cuts or tears in their vagina or vulva as a result of intense friction from sex.


5) ‘Fractures’

You may think this is one of those crazy sex myths, but penis fractures can happen and a guy can actually fracture their penis during sex which is a crack caused by the rigid tissue snapping during gymnastic sex. Most reported cases happen when the woman is on top of the man or when the man gets slightly carried away and thrusts deeply into their partner with a great deal of vigor and hitting hard against the pubic bone.

Penile fractures are usually accompanied by a popping sound and then an immediate loss of erection for the man followed, some hours later, by bruising and severe pain. A penis fracture requires urgent medical attention and a fracture can usually be diagnosed with a physical exam, and prompt surgical repair is typically recommended. Left untreated, a penis fracture may result in deformity of the penis or the inability to have or maintain an erection.

The penis is made of two sponge like bodies, which fill up with blood when you have an erection and that's what gives penises rigidity. When it's really over bent or when you apply too much pressure, the penis can break and what is breaking is the layer of fibre sheath.

Sex isn't the only way a man can break his penis as any time the penis is hit while erect, damage can occur. On the other hand If it's flaccid, you cannot have a penile fracture.


6) Girly pains

It is very common for women to experience pain during intercourse at some point during their lives. However, pain during intercourse can detract from an enjoyable experience which is not good, and it might also signal more serious problems. The discomfort which can be experienced during intercourse can be down to the ovaries being bumped during sex causing a pain deep inside. This is a common pain for women and can be alleviated by changing the depth and position of penetration. As soon as you feel the pain, it is important to stop and change positions. On the other hand it could be ovarian cysts.

Another possibility may be that it's your cervix that is hurting. Many women tend to have tender cervixes throughout different times in their cycles.

On the whole if the pain continues to occur, you should make an appointment with a health care provider for an evaluation.


7) Headache

Headaches are never fun, but they can be downright frustrating when they occur after sex. If you're unfortunate enough to experience this symptom, you're not alone. While having a headache is used by some women to turn down the advances of their partner and therefore is just seen as an excuse, a throbbing headache can actually be the result of sex which happens during or after the act itself.

This orgasm headache is a type of migraine called ‘benign coital headache’ which tends to happen before or at climax. Although benign coital or orgasmic headaches are very painful, and obviously limit sexual enjoyment, they present no other acute threat. They are thought to result from muscle contraction, and/or blood vessel dilation, in the head and neck during sex.

However, the other type of headache that can occur is the ‘new onset’ severe headache during sex. This is a first time headache, which is generally characterised as the worst headache of a personas life. This type of sex headache is a serious emergency until proven otherwise. Such a headache is often due to an acute brain haemorrhage or other serious condition. Fortunately, this type of first onset headache is fairly unusual, but when it does occur it can represent a life threatening emergency, which requires emergency evaluation and treatment.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Schumacher Puts His Legacy On The Line


All eyes will be on Schumacher. — Reuters pic

LONDON, March 5 — The return of Michael Schumacher, after three years away and at the age of 41, was always going to take top billing in a blockbuster of a Formula One season.

The big question, with the championship kicking off in Bahrain next week, is whether the German can roll back the years and deliver what is expected of him in a new era and against one of the most competitive fields in ages.

The box office needs the most successful driver of all time to be back with a bang, fighting wheel-to-wheel to increase his record tally of 91 race wins and challenging for an unprecedented eighth title.

Failure with his new Mercedes team could otherwise damage the glittering, and at times controversial, legacy that Schumacher had established over the 16 years before he retired from Ferrari in 2006.

“A lot of people will be interested to see how he copes,” reigning world champion Jenson Button told Reuters this week.

“It’s not just Michael at 41 that people are talking about, it’s Michael coming into a team that’s new to him,” added the Briton, whose place at the former Brawn team was taken by Schumacher after he decided to move to McLaren.

“He was with Ferrari for many years, where I’m sure he could pretty much have anything he wanted, whereas now Formula One is different.”

There will be many challenges ahead for ‘Schumi’, not least racing against three other world champions including one — McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton — who was not even in Formula One last time Schumacher was around.

The most fundamental task, however, will be making sure that he beats a young team mate who has yet to win a grand prix.

If he cannot assert himself over fellow German Nico Rosberg, then the script of returning hero will have to be rewritten at the very least.

Beating a team mate is always a driver’s best measure of how competitive he is and Schumacher has yet to come off second best against anyone set alongside him.

Rosberg, 24, is the first German to partner the former Ferrari ace and has shown he is no slouch in his four seasons with Williams. He has also been assured of equal treatment by Mercedes.

If he beats Schumacher, his stock will only rise. But it is a big if.

Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, Schumacher’s long-suffering team mate at Ferrari, grinned when asked after the first day of pre-season testing last month what advice he could give to Rosberg.

“Get out of there,” he joked. “Knowing what I know, and seeing how fast Michael went today, it is going to be a tough job.”

Schumacher has shown in testing that he still has the pace and fitness. Never one to espouse the line that the competing is as important as the winning, he is certainly not coming back just for fun.

“People, including me, are expecting big things from Michael and I think there is no reason why he shouldn’t win the championship if the car is good enough,” Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said recently.

If Mercedes can give him the tools then Schumacher may not have too many qualms about abandoning the quiet life at home in Switzerland with his wife and young children to rejoin the travelling circus.

Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn, a close ally from the days when the Briton was Ferrari technical director, certainly has no concerns about Schumacher’s mental or physical preparation.

“He’s got a tremendous work ethic and he wouldn’t do this unless he was convinced that he can do the job. And I’m convinced he can do the job,” he said back in January.

“There is nothing in a racing car that wears out parts of your body, it’s just down to your stamina and strength,” he added. “So I fully expect Michael to be able to cope with any demands we make of him.”

Schumacher feels he has nothing to prove about his age, although the battle between the “old man” and young warriors such as Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will be one of the storylines of the season.

Vettel, overall runner-up with Red Bull last year, made his debut only in 2007 when he acquired the nickname of “Baby Schumi”.

Schumacher, as excited as a novice when testing the car for the first time last month, can hardly wait for battle to commence.

“I just have to prove to myself that I am still able, but the main reason why I am doing this is because I feel again thrilled by it,” he said at a team presentation in January.

“I feel big excitement to just drive and compete at the highest level of motorsport.” — Reuters

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Genetically Altered Mosquitoes To Combat Dengue

WASHINGTON, Feb 24 – Dengue fever is among the world’s most pressing public health issues, and causes severe flulike symptoms. There are 50 million to 100 million cases per year, and nearly 40 per cent of the global population is at risk.

Recently, University California Irvine (UCI) researchers and colleagues from Oxitec Ltd and the University of Oxford created a new breed of flightless females are expected to die quickly in the wild, curtailing the number of mosquitoes and reducing – or even eliminating – dengue transmission.

Males of the strain can fly but do not bite or convey disease, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported citing the report.

Researcher Professor Anthony James of UCI said: “Current dengue control methods are not sufficiently effective, and new ones are urgently needed.”

“Controlling the mosquito that transmits this virus could significantly reduce human morbidity and mortality,” he said.

The dengue virus is spread by the bite of infected female mosquitoes and there is no vaccine or treatment.

He explained that when genetically altered male mosquitoes mate with wild females and pass on their genes, females of the next generation are unable to fly.

Scientists estimate that if released, the new breed could sustainably suppress the native mosquito population in six to nine months. The approach offers a safe, efficient alternative to harmful insecticides.

Study results appear in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of Feb 22.

The research is receiving funding support from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, which was launched to support breakthrough advances for health challenges in the developing world.

Using concepts developed by Oxitec’s Luke Alphey, the study’s senior author, researchers made a genetic alteration in the mosquitoes that disrupts wing muscle development in female offspring, rendering them incapable of flight. Males’ ability to fly is unaffected, and they show no ill effects from carrying the gene.

“The technology is completely species-specific, as the released males will mate only with females of the same species,” Alphey said. “It’s far more targeted and environmentally friendly than approaches dependent upon the use of chemical spray insecticides, which leave toxic residue.”

James and Alphey have pioneered the creation of genetically altered mosquitoes to limit transmission of vector-borne illnesses.

While their current work is focused on the dengue fever vector, they noted that this approach could be adapted to other mosquito species that spread such diseases as malaria and West Nile fever. – Bernama