Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eye-Q Hunt 2008—Container Within Container

A couple of years ago, I watched the movie, The Village, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. I did not really like it. In fact, to a certain extent, I thought it was a silly movie; so unreal! It was about a group of people who were confined to a small village, and locked out from the rest of the world.

Q20) The Village that keeps One who is locked in without a key.

Yet another example of the "cruel" CoC making fun of us hunters (smile). Note the "The Village" and the word "One", which all begin with capital letters. Is there any significance in those capital letters?

Well, as in the case of the previous post where Jay used a capital "L" in the word "Labour", the capital letters in the above clue had no significance whatsoever. It's just his way to lead the hunters off the correct path. This clue, as are all of his clues, involves several levels of cryptic complications.

First, it is double container puzzle; and although everything is thrown into a single sentence, actually, there are two puzzles here. I am not ashamed to admit that I was totally defeated by this clue. I think this kind of clue would be suitable for a virtual hunt where one is able to spend weeks to mull over the puzzle(s) in the comforts of his home, as opposed to hunting on foot under the hot sun and under time pressure. Anyway, coming back to the puzzles, this sentence could be separated into 2 components:

The Village that keeps...; and

One who is locked in without a key.

In order to solve the question, the solver must first decide how to deal with the second sub-sentence above. It is quite clear that this puzzle involves a container operation because of the container indicator, "locked in". Of the words "One" and "who", which should contain which? Looking at the flow of the sentence, perhaps it is more promising to guess that the "One" should be containing the "who". If that is indeed the intention of the CoC, then we have 2 possible configurations:


In this case, the solver has to guess between the two possible outcomes above.

After making up his mind on which one to choose, then the solver will have to deal with the deletion indicator, "without". It means that the solver has to delete something from the resulting word of the containter operation. But before the deletion process, he must first figure out what is a "key"? In this case, the CoC intended that the "key" is a musical key, "E" (or did he say it was the type-writer's key?)

So now, we are getting the "feel" of the question. We have guessed the word OWHONE (after discarding ONWHOE, which's the other possible configuration of the container operation). Then we take away the "E" on account of the deletion operation, and end up with OWHON.

OK, fine. Now we are ready to proceed on to the next phase of the clue, i.e.

The Village that keeps...

It means that "The Village" shall contain the OWHON because of the container indicator, "keeps".

BUT! before that we must first translate "The Village" into Malay. We therefore arrive at the word "Kampung" (the Malay word for Village). Finally, before we contain the OWHON, we must abbreviate that word "kampung" to become "KG".

So now, we have come to the final homestretch. The KG contains the OWHON to arrive at the required answer: KOW HONG.

On paper, by averaging out the allocated time per question, I believe the solver has approximately 9 minutes to solve this clue. That 9-minute duration includes travelling to the sector, cracking the clue, and spotting the answer on the signboard.

Oh how I was humbled by Jay in his Eye-Q Hunt! In spite of his very, very punishing questions, I must say that I have high respect for Jay. Of the hunts that I have joined so far, I find that Jay's questions have been the most accurate on technical and grammatical grounds. He is a very meticulous CoC. He painstakingly put a lot of efforts to prepare an outstanding answer presentation—even to the extent of meddling with a picture of a sexy woman in a tight mini skirt to illustrate his point! Jay, you've got it, man!

Eye-Q Hunt 2008—Reserved For The CoC

Whenever I set a treasure hunt, I have the habit of gauging the strength of the hunters in the field. I would make a rough estimate of the ability of the best team. Then, by adopting the attitude of the matador, I would set my questions in such a way that that best team would very nearly—but not quite—get the full score. I will try my best to bring them very, very close to the perfect score, but not quite giving them the satisfaction of actually achieving it. The reason I would do this is because I am convinced that it would make that team "want more" of my hunts! And so, each time after my hunt, I would hear something like "So, when's the next hunt?" or "Oh we were soooo close, next time we will get perfect score!" There will be one or two questions which one might term as "reserved for the CoC only", and not likely to be solved by even the best team in the field!

Having said that, however, my questions are still governed by my sense of fairness. Whatever I do, and however I twist, my questions must be solvable! I shall not ask for the specific name of a plant which originated from the Amazon, which went extinct about 130 million years ago. No—I will see to it that I give a fair chance to the hunters to solve my questions!

Q22) Spoilt British currency notes that Labour pockets?

An example of a question which was reserved for the CoC only in the Eye-Q Hunt 2008. To be quite honest, I don't know if any team solved this question; and even if some did, I am not very sure that they did so because of the correct explanation as intended by the CoC.

So how and where should we start? Well, that word "spoilt" is very likely an anagram indicator. What else? It seems that "British currency notes" must be referring to the "pounds sterling" (note that it's in plural form). "Labour" is spelt with a capital "L", hence suggesting a proper noun. Perhaps it is referring to the Labour Party? "pockets" may suggest some sort of pocketing money (by Labour) in the literal sense; but also possibly a container indicator in the cryptic sense. In all probability, I think it is quite safe to assume that the "pocket" is a container indicator.

It seems that this whole puzzle revolves around that "British currency notes" somehow. So it makes sense to investigate the possible words connected with the British currency. Can it be anything else? Perhaps the Euro? Shillings? Pence/Penny? Quid?

Sorry to disappoint you, folks, I'm afraid it's none of those. The intention of the CoC is much deeper than that.

The "British currency" refers to that pound sterling symbol shown at the top of this post. Do you know the origin of that symbol? Well, apparently the original pound sign came with 2 cross-bars, then later more commonly with a single cross-bar. This symbol was derived from the blackletter "L", from the abbreviation LSDlibrae, solidi, denarii—used for the pounds, shillings and pence of the original duodecimal currency system.

Very good! We progress! Now we know that "British currency" refers to LSD. But what about "notes"? Well, in this particular case, "notes" refers to musical notes. Which ones? Well, make a wild guess.

Anyway, the intended answer comprises 2 words—almost microscopic in size—found on the label of a bottled product; and that product itself is found within a picture on a signboard. The required answer: TEELSEED OIL.

Notice that with the words TEELSEED OIL are the letters LSD (British currency) + EEEE (musical notes) which have been rearranged within the word TOIL (Labour).

Burn the entire volume of the encyclopaedia. Then mix the ashes with plain warm water. Drink the whole mixture and then you'd probably have a shot at solving this question. May I repeat with pride, I did not faint during this hunt!

Eye-Q Hunt 2008—Tongue-Twister

There are many dimensions to treasure hunt questions; whether they're absolutely cryptic in nature; whether they're about general knowledge etc. Some questions are very long and may even consist of several sentences. Others are very short and may even be single-worded clues.

The trouble with a very short clue is that a lot of the time, the solver will find insufficient hints which are required to arrive at the answer. But on the other hand, that short clue, while containing insufficient hints, also contains insufficient restrictive parameters. Essentially, what it means is that the solver will only need to come up with a logical explanation to his answer to be valid, and it will be difficult for the CoC to reject that answer!

Consider this double jeopardy clue from a past hunt:

Q) Jails.

A) NewsNow.

An awesome illustration of an imaginative and creative setter. The word "New" is an anagram indicator. Then "sNow" is "salji" in Malay. That "salji" is rearranged to become "Jails". Therefore, the answer fits the clue.

BUT! had there been a signboard bearing the word "OWNS" within that sector, is there anything in the question which will disqualify that board as a valid answer too? That word "OWNS" is a more direct anagram of "SNOW", and should reasonably qualify as the answer too. I would challenge any CoC who would reject "OWNS".

Now check out this interesting clue from the Eye-Q Hunt 2008:

Q18) Half tongue.

A strange-looking clue which is likely to trouble many hunters. There is hardly any restrictive conditions for the answer. The hunters are therefore free to interpret however they like, provided that they do it within the general cryptic "rules".

According to the CoC, the correct answer: AKADEMI BAHASA JEPUN. He explained it like this:

Half = Demi

tongue = language (or bahasa, in Malay)


"Half tongue" = "Aka (also known as) Demi (half) Bahasa (language) + Jepun"

But alas, my team did not get this complicated solution. I saw this signboard, but was unable to put two and two together. In fact, Vincent did point out that "tongue" may be referring to a "language". But even with that reminder, we were unable to connect the rest.

Instead, we eventually abandoned this AKADEMI BAHASA JEPUN signboard because Margaret found a much more direct solution in TAN ENTERPRISE. I saw no fault in her solution and was quick to give my vote for it!

Half of the word "tongue" may be "ton" or "gue". But "gue" meant nothing to us. We were therefore forced to take "ton". "ton" is a unit of weight. There is nothing in the clue that restricts the translation from English to Malay. We therefore translated "ton" into Malay, i.e. the word "tan". Hence, the solution, TAN ENTERPRISE.

Unfortunately, perhaps our solution was too simple and straightforward, and it did not accord well with the complicated style of the CoC. We were therefore denied our 4 points for this question.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Eye-Q Hunt 2008—Overview

Jayaram Menon, The Clerk-of-Course

It was 5:30am when the alarm on my handphone went off. I struggled out of bed. Vincent had just finished freshening up. "Just nice," he said, referring to the timing. I rarely wake up at such ungodly hours in the morning, but we had a big mission—it's the Eye-Q Hunt 2008.

A few minutes later, we were already having breakfast (we made a special arrangement for the early breakfast with the hotel staff the night before). After breakfast, we set out to the flag-off station. But on the way there, we made a wrong turn and had to double back. When we arrived at the flag-off point, Jay, the CoC was already there. Sadly, the response for the hunt was very poor; which was quite a shame, because it's this kind of hunts that's ideal for learning. Just for the record, I did not faint during the hunt!

Immediately after we were flagged off, we parked our car nearby to put our heads together to solve the treasures first. We ended up spending exactly 1 hour trying frantically to solve the treasures without much success. But we had to start working on the route questions.

There were 30 route questions and 5 treasures to solve within 5.5 hours. Of the 30 route questions, at least 27 were the so-called "bolded questions". Not a very tough hunt if one was like Neo of The Matrix who's downloaded the entire volume of the Encyclopaedia into his brain. Of course if you are not Neo, then this hunt is the mother of all hunts!

I have a shrewd suspicion that Jay had the sadistic mind to teach us all a good lesson. And indeed we had a good lesson!

It's amusing to note that the tulip comprised only a single page from start to finish. There was hardly any "recovery period" between those questions. And bear in mind that all of the questions were tough. No—they were almost impossibly tough!

We struggled with practically each and every question from start to finish. And because of the small lanes in the questions sectors, we had to hunt on foot in many of those sectors. Let me tell you that the burning hot sun was not amusing at all.

Generally, I found the hunt, apart from being tough because of the many levels of cryptic complications, was more of a test of specific and rare knowledge, as opposed to the general knowledge. It's the kind of questions that I would not set in a motorised hunt.

My idea of good hunt questions are those which require general knowledge—I mean general enough for the majority to know. Nothing is more satisfying to me as a CoC if I can conjure up questions where the "raw materials" required to arrive at the answers are basic and simple. I liken it to the thrill of being a matador—I will invite the bull to charge, and when it does, I will let it come very, very close to my body, but not quite touching me! When I reveal the answers to my questions, I want my audience to be in awe because of realising how close they were to the answers—that they were achievable. I want them to say to themselves, "Oh if I had only remembered that so and so, I'd have solved it!" I would be sad if they ended up in awe because they had no idea what's a mobius; or that "a sex appeal" refers to "it"; or "very little" means "no".

I suppose it boils down to the respective "styles" of the many CoCs. It was a good learning experience all the same, and if I can make it, I will certainly come back to redeem my badly injured pride (smile). We ended up in fourth position, but I will try to improve on it if I can have the opportunity to do the Eye-Q again in the future. Bring it on!

But my readers will not forgive me if I refrained from commenting and analysing the questions of this hunt. So I am left with no choice but to please my fans. I must say that it is not very easy to find any holes in Jay's questions—they're of very high quality, and some were very cleverly set too.

I am so tired and am struggling to keep my eyes open right now. I will close this here, and will continue with my comments on the questions tomorrow.

Hospis Hunt 2008—What And Where?

A common feature in treasure hunt questions is "What and where?" But for some strange reasons, I hardly ever use that feature in my hunt questions. It's not only because I don't see the need to use it, but also because I'm convinced that most people will have a tough time answering the question.

For some time now, I've realised the strange tendency of people, in general, not to give a direct answer when required to do so. They almost automatically give indirect answers. Many fresh university graduates have that tendency; and most women are like that too.

Here are some of the examples:

Q) Have you ironed my clothes?
A) The iron is still hot.

Q) How far is Likas from KK?
A) It takes 10 minutes to reach Likas from KK.

Q) Have you had dinner?
A) I'm still full.

It is almost a curse that many, many people don't really know how to give direct answers. Just tell me if you have ironed my clothes—yes or no. I didn't ask if the iron's still hot. Just tell me how far is it—5km, for example. I didn't ask how long would it take to reach Likas. Just tell me if you have eaten or not—a simple yes or no would do just fine. I didn't ask if you're full or not.

When and if I ever use that "what and where?" feature in my hunt questions, I am fairly certain that many of the teams would fail to answer correctly.

Y S Khong loves to use the "what and where?" in his hunt questions. Maybe it's just his style. But I think sometimes he uses it quite unnecessarily. 9 out of 30 of his hunt questions last Saturday had a "what and where?" in them.

What and where?

A quick googling will reveal that this picture is of Isis, a goddess in Ancient Egyptian mythology. Of course this picture was nowhere to be found within the question sector. However, there was a Butik Isis there. Now the question is how should we answer the question? Believe it or not, this became quite a big thing in the car during the hunt.

Margaret was of the opinion that the answer should be written like this:

Isis @ Butik Isis

Chai thought that wasn't a very good idea; he preferred it like this:

Butik Isis

Vincent thought it didn't really matter; he felt both are equally acceptable.

Then Margaret turned to me and asked for my opinion. I didn't think very long. In my opinion, the correct way to answer the question was Isis @ Butik Isis, thus agreeing with Margaret.

But first let's listen to Chai's justification for his preferred version of the answer. He said the word "Isis" did not appear on its own, such as in an isolated logo on the signboard. Therefore, he felt that to write "Isis" on its own would amount to making up your own signboard, or something to that effect. After all, most CoCs, during the briefing, would warn the hunters "to write the answers exactly as you see them on the board—including spelling errors, if any". Therefore, Chai suggested that the answer should be written as what's seen on the signboard, i.e. Butik Isis. Upon further reflection, he suggested that we might underline the word "Isis".

Margaret wasn't satisfied, and when she asked for my opinion, my verdict was Isis @ Butik Isis. I think Butik Isis on its own does not answer the question perfectly. It answers only the "where?", but not the "what?" portion. The picture is that of the goddess Isis. Therefore to answer the "what?", in my opinion, we must answer specifically—Isis to be exact. That picture has nothing to do with "Butik", and I think it's wrong to include the word "Butik" to answer "what?".

But "where" is that word "Isis" found? It is found at Butik Isis. That's why I think the answer should be Isis @ Butik Isis, because only then will it answer both "what?" and "where?" perfectly. Chai wasn't really happy with that, but perhaps because of the power of majority vote, I noticed that Margaret wrote the answer as Isis @ Butik Isis in the end.

That night, when the CoC revealed the answer, it was given as Isis @ Butik Isis. And I must admit that it was a big relief for me, as I can't imagine what would have happened to me if our answer was rejected.

Having said that, however, I suspect that the CoC would have accepted Butik Isis anyway, thus ignoring the purpose of the "what and where?"; in which case I'd raise the question, why bother with the "what?" in the first place? If he would have accepted Butik Isis, he could have just asked "Where?", and that would've been enough for the answer Butik Isis!

Hospis Hunt 2008—A Broken Cot

Those of us who've had some hunting experience would be able to spot anagram indicators in hunt clues when we see them. However, some of us might still have some problems on how to use that knowledge to solve those clues.

Q11) You can smoke it with a broken cot.

If I had hunted a year ago, I might have had some problems with the above clue. But I have since analysed enough hunt clues to know that many CoCs and hunters in West Malaysia have come to accept this kind of clue.

There are basically 2 issues I'd like to discuss about this clue. Firstly, on the flow of the sentence; and secondly, on the accuracy of the puzzle.

To the inexperience hunter, when he reads the clue, the steps which he will see in his mind is that he's looking for something which "he can smoke" first; and then that is added with "a broken cot". Say for example, the answer might be: Cigar + Oct = Cigaroct.

It is slightly different had the clue been constructed like this:

Q) You can smoke it IF with a broken cot.

That "IF" is a conditional word. In this revised version of the clue, you can only smoke it "IF" it is with "a broken cot". The hunter in this case shall be searching for a word which must be added with "a broken cot" first, before he can make something which "he can smoke".

Another possible reconstruction of the same clue is like this:

Q) With a broken cot, you can smoke it.

In this second reconstruction, we have not introduced any new words into the sentence. We have merely rearranged the order of the action or process. Based on the flow of the sentence in this second reconstruction, there's no need for the word "IF" before the word "with". The flow of the sentence is clear enough that on the condition of "with a broken cot" first, then "you can smoke it".

Now let us go back to the clue as given during the hunt:

Q11) You can smoke it with a broken cot.

In this particular case, having understood the norm in hunt clues, I could see what was the intention of the CoC. He meant to find something on the signboard; then to be combined with the letters found in "cot"; and finally anagram those letters on account of the anagram indicator, broken, to form another word which can somehow agree with "You can smoke it"—a procedure which is not so accurate as explained above, but readily acceptable on the grounds of the norm in hunt clues.

The procedure is quite simple, really. Looking at the letters found in "cot", one can quickly think of the word "tobacco". Then working our way backwards, we take away the letters "t", "o" and "c" to end up with the word "baco". BACO is a brandname of a car battery which my team quickly spotted within the sector.

BUT! strictly speaking, there's a flaw in the question. If we're to read the clue again, even if we can accept that we're supposed to find BACO first, the clue only allows the anagramming of "oct", but not BACO.

The clue says, "...with a broken cot.", meaning the anagram indicator is only meant for "cot", not for BACO. To illustrate this point, we can show the steps like this:

BACO with (broken cot)

BACO + oct = BACOoct

But not toBACcO.

In other words, it is wrong to throw in BACO and "cot" into a single pot and then rearranged into "toBACcO".

Again, if we can all accept the flow of the sentence as given during the hunt, we should at least accurately instruct the hunters to anagram BACO and "cot" together to form "tobacco". A possible improvement might be like this:

Q) You can smoke it with a cot perhaps.

In the above clue, that BACO goes with the "cot" first, and then together they are anagrammed into "tobacco" by means of the anagram indicator perhaps, which comes after the word "cot".

Hospis Hunt 2008—The Blind Hunter

Yet another question which caused something of a stir in the car that day. The debate on this clue wasn't as prolonged as that of the "infertile doctor", but it's equally mind-boggling. The clue was like this:

One who is blind might be able to tell you what is this article found in this menu here.

It was obvious that the mention of a blind person suggest something to do with the Braille character. With the modern technology of internet connectivity, it was just a matter of seconds for anyone to research by googling the above diagram up. So let me save you all the trouble and reveal that that diagram is the letter "A" in Braille.

OK, fine. So now that we have determined the "A", we're done with the "One who is blind" portion of the clue. Now from this point, how should we proceed to arrive at the answer? What's the thought process?

Firstly, there is a mention of a menu. That should be able to narrow things down a bit. We can start scanning all the signboards which are connected—one way or another—to a menu. Therefore, we are looking for, perhaps, restaurants, foodstalls and the likes where menus are likely to be found. However, we must also keep an open mind on other signboards, especially if all the restaurant signboards do not fit.

For that particular sector, there're several restaurants. But as far as the signboards are concerned, only one stands out and merits serious consideration. That signboard contains several food items, including Nasi Lemak, Prawan Mee, and some other noodles etc. Most of the items found on that menu have some "A"s in them. Now how does one connect to the clue?

Also found within that sector is another appealing signboard: LOGA. If we were to take away the "A", we are left with LOG. That sounds promising too. But the question we must ask ourselves is whether we can accept LOG to be equated to a menu. I doubt it. I know that a "log" is a record of an event or something in that nature, but a "menu" is more to a list where we have options to choose from.

Therefore, we are drawn to the menu found on the restaurant's signboard mentioned above. But somehow, the answer does not connect to the clue, even after reading the clue several times!

This was what happened during the hunt:

Margaret eventually settled with "Prawan Mee", and she seemed quite satisfied with that answer. But it was my turn to become "paranoid". That answer was not entirely satisfactorily to me. Yes, I was aware of the wrong spelling in "Prawan", but in what way is that wrongly-spelt word a correct fit to the clue?

Let's investigate the clue once again. That mention of "this article"; what article might that be? Could it be referring to the specific food which is found on the menu? If that is the explanation, perhaps a more suitable word is "item" instead of "article". The other possible meaning for "article" is referring to the letter "A" in "Prawan". But why "Prawan"? Why not the "A" in "Nasi Lemak", for example?

In the end, the concensus was on "Prawan" mee, but the decision was arrived at based on different justifications. Apparently Margaret thought that that answer must be it, but could not fully explain why "Prawan" specifically. I agreed to the "Prawan" because I thought psychologically it is the most likely answer. From the very little that I know about the CoC, I felt that I could almost guess the answer not on the strength of the clue, but rather from reading the character of the CoC!

I had the opportunity to observe the CoC. He's very chatty. And from what I have gathered, he has an inclination to make fun or be sarcastic on mistakes found on signboards, and thus quick to take advantage on them for his hunt questions. Check out his sense of humour in this clue:

Q25) Something smells in the AA?

A25) ashita

Anyway, we settled on the "Prawan Mee". Later on, we came back to the debate again, and Margaret suddenly asked me, "You are not very sure about Prawan, are you?" I said I wasn't convinced that's the answer, because it didn't seem to fit the clue. Somehow I felt there was something missing. But for the lack of a superior alternative, I had no choice but to accept it as the "best" answer within that sector. Vincent agreed with me too. We would have been much happier had the word "extra" been present in the clue, i.e. "what is this extra article found in..." If there's that "extra" in the clue, then it would make more sense, because we would then be able to account for the Braille "A" and connect that "A" with the extra "A" in the Prawan.

So that was that. It was one of the clues which we dwelled on until the answer presentation that night.

Then came the presentation by the CoC. And that word "extra" appeared almost magically in his version of the clue for the presentation. And everything fell into place! A seemingly useless mental torture, huh?

Hospis Hunt 2008—Debating Over The Infertile Doctor

During the earlier leg of the hunt, it seemed that we were doomed for another time mismanagement situation. We spent quite a long time on this clue:

Q5) It appears he is unable to procreate. What and where?

A seemingly straightforward clue; and it was a relatively short sector too. Before reaching the sector, we scanned through the clues to prepare ourselves. When we came to the above clue, we were already thinking about words like "stelilized" and its Malay counterpart, "mandul". Of course other words like "infertile" came to mind too. Yet, when we arrived at the sector, and after combing practically every inch of the signboards there, we could only narrow down to a small signboard on the wall of a clinic. On that signboard, amongst others, were the words "infertility management". Other possible—but less promising—choices were "menopause" or even "sakit puan". But they were not very satisfactory because of the word "he" in the clue. The name of the clinic was Ganesan Medical Centre, but that is found on the main signboard, i.e. separated from the one with "infertility management".

Of course it is possible that a man might be infertile, but how does one connect that "infertility management" to the doctor? Would it be satisfactory to link those words with the name of the doctor who's a man? GM Margaret wasn't very happy with that; and so was I. It is more reasonable to construe those boards as the male doctor who manages the infertile women, but there is nothing to suggest that that male doctor himself was infertile. To accept the "infertility management" as the answer would be too simplistic in my opinion. I agreed with Margaret that it's a very unsatisfactory answer.

However, Chai had a different opinion. He was convinced that "infertility management" was the intended answer. I think he agreed with our objections, but he pinned it down to the style of the CoC. I said if the "infertility management" was indeed the intended answer, then I wouldn't be very happy, and would like to listen to the CoC's explanation. On the whole, I didn't think an explanation seeking to link the "infertility management" to the male doctor could hold water—at least not in this particular case.

BUT! as we were debating about who's fertile and who's not, time was ticking away. It would have been interesting to know if there was any of the hunters who actually went to the trouble of going into the clinic to ask Dr Ganesan himself if he was indeed infertile, but none of my team members did. Anyway, as I was saying, precious time was ticking away. At this juncture, I think Chai played a very important role in dragging the team to make a move. It's important to know when to move on. For what's the point of losing too much time on a single question if the time thus lost might help to secure the answers for onther questions at a later stage of the hunt?

Anyway, Margaret kept the option open until very much later in the course of the hunt. During the long breaks between the sectors on the highway, we debated on the above questions again and again. But we always came to the same conclusion, i.e. very unsatisfactory. However, because we failed to find anything better, we were forced to submit that forsaken "infertility management" anyway.

That night the CoC revealed the answer—it was the word "sterilized" which was found on another signboard within that sector. But the whole trouble was that that board had been removed by the time the hunt was held. So every team was given the points for the question anyway. As far as I am concerned, it was a valuable lesson anyway, because had we spent more time within that sector, we might have affected the other parts of the hunt due to insufficient time.

Since the 3rd team lost 4 points due to time penalty, and ultimately lost to the 2nd team on a tie-breaker, I wonder if it had something to do with this particular question. Perhaps GM Chian Min would like to comment further on this? If indeed time was unnecessarily wasted on this question, I can imagine the frustration!

Hospis Hunt 2008—Overview

From left: Mr Mok (Council Member of Hospis Malaysia), Margaret Sha, KK Chai, Vincent Woo, Cornelius Koh

I was lucky enough to secure a ride with some master hunters, known as Hunters "R" Us, over the weekend. Such a long journey from KK to KL to Penang; a very rewarding, albeit exhausting, experience. On Saturday, we hunted from KL towards the north and we ended up in Holiday Inn, Penang. And then the next day, we did the Eye-Q Mensa Hunt in Penang.

I've just arrived home from the airport shortly ago, and I am so excited to tell about those hunts. But I'll write on them separately including, of course, my analysis and comments on some of the questions. By the way, it was the first time that I hunted in a Y S Khong's hunt; as well as Jay Menon's hunt.

I arrived in LCCT-KL on Friday afternoon; took the bus to KL Sentral, and then another ride on the monorail to reach Berjaya Times Square for a rendezvous with my friend, KK Chai. We went straight for the hunt briefing where we bumped into some familiar faces. But I was surprised to note that many master hunters have opted out of the Hospis this year. Later, we were told that there're eight hunts over the weekends!

During the briefing, we were given the hunt statistics, i.e. number of questions and scores etc. Thankfully, this time there were no silly games. Instead, we're given 2 so-called "Bonus Puzzles". After the briefing, I said to Chai that it's probably Sudoku or wordsearch.

Well, after that we went for Bah Kut Teh and then to Chai's home where I met Margaret. We chit-chatted for a bit before I had a quick shower, and then got into bed. But alas, because of the excitement, I didn't get a very good sleep that night.

The next morning, we picked Vincent up from his house and went to the starting point in Bukit Jalil. It was a mass flag-off. Questions were distributed to all teams about half an hour before flag-off, and all teams were free to look at those questions. So there was no need to sneak into the toilets to have a peak at the questions.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the puzzles was indeed a sudoku. It was a hard one, but because we had hours to solve it, it was more of an inconvenience rather than a challenge, especially since I've been spending a lot of time playing sudoku online (Linda, if you're reading this, I'm glad to say that all those time spent online wasn't a waste after all!).

In my opinion, the Hospis 2008 was a very leisurely hunt, with plenty of time in between sectors. But it was not without some interesting episodes of heated debates in the car due to some interesting clues which I shall discuss in detail later. I felt comfortable enough around those masters and was therefore able to join in those debates too! I found it amusing that GM Margaret, perhaps due to her unending pursuance of precision, was somewhat "paranoid". She seemed worried over even the smallest and seemingly irrelevant things. But don't get me wrong, I don't mean it in a negative way; I am like that too! Whenever I hunt with my own team, I am the "paranoid" one!

We managed to end the hunt a good 20 minutes before the allocated time. The finish station for the hunt was somewhere near Tambun. When we arrived there, we were happy to find that no other regular teams have arrived. After the submission, we drove on to a little seafood restaurant and had lunch around 3pm.

After lunch, we proceeded on to Penang. That night, we had a buffet dinner at a makeshift tent by the seaside where our charitable hunt went one step further by feeding the mosquitoes there. I was seated next to Master Teck Koon who turned out to be one of the most pessimistic masters there that night. He kept telling me that they didn't do too well—that they dropped this question and that question; this wrong and that wrong. Finally, when it came to the prize presentation, 15 teams were eligible for prizes. As we got closer to the top prizes, Master Teck Koon kept saying that they're up next. Then we got to 5th position, and he was so sure that they're up. Yet it was another team. Then when it was 3rd position, he even stood up to get ready to go up to the stage. Yet, it wasn't his team. Well, in the end, Teck Koon and his team got second! Master Teck Koon, have faith in yourself!

A pleasant surprise for my debut hunt in the Hospis; we won the hunt with a perfect score of 100 points. But the scoreline doesn't give a true picture of the struggle—it required the combination of skill, luck and an efficient time management. As I said, we had some heated debates in the car. All in all, a very rewarding experience. I hope to be able to do another Hospis in the future.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Effect Of Increasing Steel Prices

A client of mine—a property developer—dropped in this morning for a business visit. We went on to talk about the general economy of Malaysia, and Sabah in particular. This topic, that topic, and then we talked about the increasing prices of steel in the construction industry. He said within months the price of steel had almost doubled. Maybe he was exaggerating a bit, but there is a lot of truth in what he said too.

Our client was obviously concerned with the price hike as it could effect the profitability of his development projects. But for the rest of us Sabahans, the effect of the price hike was beyond the prices of houses and shops.

The price of scrap metal is so attractive that some idiots actually went to the extent of cutting some of the metals at the foot of an electrical tower in Inanam. During a heavy downpour yesterday evening, that electrical tower collapsed and caused a power trip at the Sepangar power plant. The net result was that most of the major towns throughout Sabah were affected by the power outage. Remedial works were carried out throughout the night and power was restored in stages. I was still tossing around miserably in bed after midnight when finally the electricity supply was restored to my home.

Imagine those people in the interior areas who've been living without electricity for generations up to now. We went through several hours without power and it was like hell! We're not used to the cold water for our showers; no fans or air-conditioners for our comfortable slumbers; no computers to make entries into our blogs (smile); and we grumble for missing the interesting interview with Tun Dr M on the telly last night. Amazing how we take electricity supply for granted, huh?


Update: More in The Star.

For the sake of RM40 in the worth of scrap metal, some idiots would ignore the inconvenience and millions of Ringgit in losses to other people throughout Sabah. I really hate myself for wishing the tower to collapse on those idiots while they're cutting the metal struts.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Multiple Functions

I would like to discuss about yet another interesting treasure hunt topic. Before I go into a lengthy discussion, I'll publish this Q&A from a past hunt which took place ages ago.

A CAVEAT—the friend who sent me this Q&A said he recalled it entirely from his memory, and so he couldn't be sure that he had quoted it correctly or completely. This Q&A might seem familiar to some of you "old-timer" hunters.

At first, my friend sent it to me without any explanation, and I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I was stumped. Then later on, my friend gave me the explanation, and as a result of that explanation, I am bringing it up for discussion here in this blog. Well, here is the Q&A, see what you make of it.

Q) Broken barrel

A) Jalan Keriung

By the way, although I am well-versed in Malay, I don't know what is a "keriung". I know the word "keruing" as that referring to a tree. But I am giving the word here exactly as I have received it from my friend. Again, note the caveat above.

According to my friend, the explanation for the above answer was like this:

The word Broken plays a dual-function role of both an anagram indicator as well as the fodder. Some people would also use the term double duty as opposed to dual-function. Essentially, it means that Broken, as an anagram indicator, tells the solver that the letters found in a word(s) in the sentence must be rearranged in order to make another word(s). That word(s) that is/are to be rearranged is/are known as the fodder(s).

In an ordinary case, the word which is used as the anagram indicator can't be used for another duty within the same question. But in this question, while it is an anagram indicator, it also takes the role of the fodder too. And based on this idea, the word Broken is first equated to ruin. The letters in ruin are then combined together with keg which is derived from barrel. The ruin and keg are combined together and then the letters in them are rearranged by the anagram operation on account of Broken, to arrive at Keriung. To summarise, it's something like this:

Broken = anagram indicator;

Broken = Ruin

Barrel = Keg

Ruin + Keg => anagram operation => Keriung

I have 2 main objections to this solution. First, as always, on grammatical grounds; Broken is the past participle of the verb Break. It can also be an adjective in which the word is used to describe something, e.g. a broken glass. The word Ruin, on the other hand, is a verb. As a conversion of the Broken as a verb, it must also take the past participle form, i.e. Ruined to be grammatically perfect. Alternatively, if the Ruin is to take the adjective form, it is written as Ruinous.

Secondly, as a cryptic puzzle, "double duty" is not generally acceptable—at least with the very little that I know about cryptic clueing, I understand it's not acceptable.

Although the above style is not common in hunt questions, it emerges every now and then. Check out this clue from another past hunt:

Q) Anagram Chinese trip trio

A) Impiana Resort Cherating

Before I was introduced to the wonderful sport of treasure hunting a little over 2 years ago, I knew nothing about cryptic clueing. I have since taken up the hobby and learned a bit here and there, but by no means an expert in it. And this is where I would like to invite opinions from people who I know are experts in cryptic clueing, i.e. Alex Hoh, Lim Soo Khian, Margaret Sha, VK Chong, Nestor Fields or even that Scrabble master—my famous "sparring partner" in the RR Blog, pinky.

The question to the above cryptic experts is whether they would accept the so-called "double duty" for cryptic clues such as in the above examples in treasure hunt clues. I think there is a need to address this issue, because although there is presently no hard rules in the treasure hunting sport, perhaps it is good that we should initiate at least a general guide on what's acceptable and what's not.

My vote is that "double duty" situations shouldn't be acceptable, and I certainly wouldn't use that kind of "trick" in my hunt.

Now I am fully aware that there are many instances where treasure hunt questions are not rigidly true to the cryptic clueing rules. Examples include the double jeopardy (which I think is not used in the usual cryptic crosswords), and indirect anagrams (which might be used, but rarely in crosswords), to name a few.

I think in spite of what has been termed as the "styles" of the respective CoCs, we should come up with some uniformity in hunt questions. For example, I used to set questions where the intended answers were only one of the words in multiple-worded signboards. This was severely criticised in the RR Blog some time ago, notably by GM Vincent; and then later on I was again criticised by another strong hunter in Sabah. An example of such question is like this:

Q) To come back here would be a waste.

A) Rizab Juta Sdn Bhd

Notice that the intended answer for the question is the word Rizab. The word Juta has been ignored. Having considered the objections and criticisms from numerous parties, I have to reluctantly agree that it makes a whole lot of sense to cover the word Juta too in my question. As for the remaining "Sdn Bhd" or "Enterprise" etc, they have been accepted as words meant to confirm the answers. Thereafter, I have adjusted my "style" and allowed for "Juta" for my subsequent hunts.

During the recent TrialBlazers Hunt, I noticed that the above issue was again brought up in Mike's blog, where he cited an example—that for a brand name Pizza Hut, the "Hut" can't just be ignored by the CoC.

Anyway, coming back to the "double duty" situation, if we are to allow it in hunt questions, then I think it opens up possibilities in a whole new dimension. As I am writing this post, I am already thinking of so many crazy ideas. For if we can allow the "double duty" in this case, I can't see why we can't do the same for other kinds of "double duty". For the moment, I'd rather keep those naughty ideas of mine to myself.

Let's hear it from the hunting fraternity. What say you?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Treasure Hunters

Is treasure hunt a game or a sport?

An interesting question raised by GM Vincent Woo when I met him for the first time last year. He co-clerked an unofficial hunt together with GM VK Chong. We hunters had just clocked in at the finish station and were waiting for the results. He said the answer can be both, depending on the circumstances. In his opinion, when the hunt is for the purpose of "having fun" and not really for the winning (such as the hunt we had that day), then it is more of a game. When it's about winning—and ultimately the fight for the prizes—then it is more of a sport; or something to that effect (GM Vincent, if you are reading this, please correct me if I am wrong).

To a certain extent, I agree with GM Vincent. However, that suggestion raises 2 important questions. Firstly, how many people agree with his opinion?; and secondly, where do we draw the line between game and sport?

As far as I am concerned, whenever I hunt, regardless of whether it's official or unofficial, I will try my best to win that hunt—although perhaps I won't go as far as stripping down to my underwear like Dato' Ramesh. But on the other hand, I will also be all out to have fun. In fact, if I can help it, I will try to have equal amount of both! In such a case, am I playing a game, or a sport, or both?

I have spoken to a fair number of treasure hunters, both the regulars and newbies. And I am more interested in the answers given by the newbies or not-so-regular hunters. They almost all said that they're only hunting to have fun on a weekend. In fact, many of the regular hunters gave me that answer too. Yet, in spite of "having had a lot of fun" throughout the hunt—which the newbies readily admitted—they still complained that they're going home empty-handed. Therefore, although they refused to admit it, in fact they wanted very much to win too! That's why I don't really buy that famous line: "I am hunting just to have fun", because that is not exactly true. Winning still means a lot to all teams. And after a while, if they still can't achieve the podium finish, some of them will give up altogether. Then new teams will come onto the scene, and the whole cycle will repeat itself. This is of course speaking from the general point of view.

The regular hunters—I mean those really serious ones—are generally all out to win, although they're also having fun while pursuing the top prizes. Unfortunately, only some of them win frequently. They're the cream of the masters—the best of the best. The rest don't win hunts very frequently, yet they continue hunting for the challenge and for the fun of it. It is in this sense that I am more inclined to believe that they really mean it when they say they want to have fun. For if they're not having fun, I fail to see why they'd continue hunting.

So in my opinion, all teams want badly to win hunts, and all want to have fun too. I don't believe that only the stronger teams want to win—that they no longer have fun if they don't win anything in the end.

The not-so-serious hunters want so much to win, but they're not willing to work for it. They forget that those master hunters have put in years of hard work; experienced failures upon failures; disappointments upon disappointments; paid for hunts upon hunts and ended up with nothing to bring home; they persevered, they invested in huge collections of dictionaries, laptops and state-of-the-art gadgets for hunting. They don't win hunts by accidents; they win because they deserve it!

Yet the new hunters want the winnings too. And so in this beloved Boleh-Land of ours, hunt organisers throw in games; often ridiculous ones, and increasingly more of them too. Coconut bowling, paper aeroplanes, dart-throwing, guessing number of grapes—you name it—plenty of those. Standards are kept low; and even if tough questions are included, they're very few and carry much lesser points. All these for the sake of, hopefully, giving the new hunters some opportunities to measure up to the masters. Yet at the end of the day, the masters, the best of the best, still always prevail.

In almost everything else in this Boleh-Land, we see the same thing happening. When I was in upper secondary school, no calculators were allowed. These days all the kids have calculators—even in exams. Yes, I know we're trying to achieve the so-called "developed nation" status by 2020. I guess it would look good on paper if a big majority of our citizens have at least SPM qualification. But what is the value of those SPM certificates?

During the Rotarian District Assembly last week, we invited a Sabahan national swimmer, Alex Lim to share his experience. He's without doubt one of the best swimmers we've had in Malaysia. He said something which struck me as very significant. I just wished some of the new hunters were there to listen to what he had to say.

His daily routine includes training which starts at 5:00 am in the morning for 3 hours; then followed by another 3-hour session in the afternoon. He said when he swim against the other world class swimmers, his main target is to break his own frontier—that his main focus is to beat his own time. He said even if he loses a race, but if he breaks his best time, he's very happy. On the other hand, even if he wins gold but fails to improve on his time, he won't be very happy. And that, folks, was from an Olympic-bound swimmer. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifices to become a champion!

I am not a master hunter; and I am also relatively new to this game/sport (I have 11 hunts under my belt so far). Therefore I am not speaking to the new hunters in a capacity of a master talking down to the lowly-rated rivals; rather I am speaking to my peers. Let us all rise to the challenge and fight—I mean really fight without handicaps. I am sure the win—when we eventually achieve it—will be much sweeter if it's not because we were lucky to have guessed the correct number of grapes or the coconut somehow rolled in a straight line on our throw.

Monday, April 14, 2008

In The Name Of Arts

A friend, who's fully aware that I'm not a football fan, sent me a web-link in his email, entitled "football Mr Koh?". In that email, he asks, "not a football fan? could this change your mind?"

Well, the link had nothing to do with football—balls, maybe, but certainly not football. This article is about a famous photographer who intends to photograph 2008 people in the nude in a Vienna soccer stadium on May 11. It's to be done in the name of arts, I guess. And I bet there will be many people who'd be all out to be photographed in the nude like that!

I am a romantic and artistic person in many ways, but posing nude is one thing I will never bring myself to do. It is interesting to see the signs of changing times.

Several hundred years ago, the people from the Western World set sail and eventually landed in the the more primitive lands. They found "uncivilised" people with very little clothes on their bodies. Even the women were running around bare-breasted. The Westerners were disgusted.

A few hundred years later, the descendants of those so-called "uncivilised" people, upon visiting the Western World, find that those "civilised" people are going nude, taking photographs in a football field.

Now imagine this...

A guy went holidaying to Vienna. At a train station, he found a notice pasted on a noticeboard. Anyone who'd pose in the nude for a photograph together with 2007 other people could have a free ride. He's in the mood to do something crazy, so why not this? He got onto the train and soon found himself in the football stadium. To his amazement, there were many other people there—men and women—all in the nude. While the photographer was preparing his camera, our friend's eyes started to roam around. Then the inevitable happened; he became aroused! Well, the photography session was quick. Everyone started to break up. He asked someone in the crowd to take his solo picture in the nude with his polaroid camera.

That night, in his hotel room, he decided to write to his mother back home. He had no other photos with him, so he decided to cut the one taken in the nude into two, and sent off the upper portion.

A few days later, his mother sent him a message on his cellphone:

"John, glad 2 kno u r hav'g gud time. Ur grandma was here wen I rcvd ur leter. She's jelous, said she wants a pix too. Pls send her 1 too, OK?"

Well, John still had no other photo on him, and it happened that his camera ran out of films too. He thought grandma's eyes were terribly bad anyway, so he sent off the lower half of his nude photo.

Several weeks later, John arrived home and found a letter from grandma in the mailbox. He opened it up and read:

"Dear John,

Thank you so much for sending me a photo of yourself. I was with your mom when she received your letter the other day, and I was a bit jealous, you see.

You looked very handsome, John. But perhaps you need to do something about your hairstyle? It makes your nose appear so huge, doesn't it?

With love,


Friday, April 11, 2008

Locking The Unlockables

No—I don't think there is such a word; I just made it up because it sounds very much like a valid word: UNLOCKABLES.

The Chief of the Murut tribe in the deep jungle of Sabah had a beautiful wife. The Chief knew that some of his warriors were just waiting for him to go for his hunting trips before they'd "go in for the kill". Well, you know how it is with some men when it comes to women!

The Chief came up with a brilliant idea. He ordered his blacksmith to make a
chastity belt. Each time when he's going away for a few days, he'd instruct his wife to put the chastity belt on and then he'd lock it up.

And so the time came when he had to go for another one of his hunting trips. After his wife put on the chastity belt, he locked it up. Then he had another problem; who should keep the key? After thinking for a while, he decided to let his most-trusted adviser to keep the key while he's away. Absolutely no one else should get access to that key. The adviser pledged to guard the key at all cost.

Later, about an hour into his hunting trip with some of his men, the Chief was startled when he heard the voice of the adviser shouting from afar. He looked back and true enough, it was the adviser running towards his direction. The Chief was alarmed. Perhaps the tribe from a neighbouring village must have launched an attack?

The adviser came running up to the Chief. Still panting from the run, he said, "Chief, I'm afraid you've given me the wrong key to the chastity belt; it doesn't fit into the keyhole!"


Now this thing about the chastity belt, isn't it sad to think of what women are subjected to? I don't really know how it works, but apparently there are chastity belts for men too.

Some years ago, I read about the Chinese women in Indonesia who had the chastity belts to protect themselves from rapists during the riots. When I was in school, I heard of similar stories by a Malay lady teacher who said that during the May 13 incident half a century ago, many Chinese girls were also raped in West Malaysia. She said it happened in her village. Those were the idiots who took advantage of the situation, if you know what I mean.

But times have changed; the purpose of the chastity belts have also changed. And in this case, the purpose is very similar to the one of the Chief above. The local government in Indonesia's East Java province is locking masseuses up in chastity belts to prevent prostitution! What will they think of next!?

I think humans are very resourceful creatures; they have conquered new frontiers in almost every field imaginable. In this war between libidos against the chastity belts, I'd place my bets on libidos—I'm sure people will find a way around those forsaken chastity belts!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How Long Is Too Long?

I've gone outstation for a business trip and arrived home last night. And then today was a busy day at the office—there were many valuation reports to go through on my desk; an important meeting in the afternoon; and yet another meeting at 5:30pm for our Rotarian District Assembly over the coming weekends.

On my way home from the Rotarian meeting, I was thinking of what to write about in my blog this evening. I thought it would be good to post a discussion on the "Silverfish" question in the recent TrialBlazers Hunt. But when I arrived home, and checked my emailbox, I found a link from a friend which would also make an interesting post. And so here I am, writing about quickies instead!

It is amazing that there're just so many things to write about when it comes to sex. For this particular post, it is about the duration of an intercourse. Apparently a research had been conducted, and it was found that most people believe that 7 to 13 minutes is the "desirable" amount of time to have sex; 3 to 7 minutes is "adequate"; and 10 to 30 minutes is "too long".

In another study, women who were armed with stopwatches found that the median time for sexual intercourse was 7.3 minutes.

To me, there is not much value in the above studies. I'm fairly certain that most people who've had sexual experience are well aware about that 7.3 minutes. Those are studies which have found the average duration of an intercourse, but the way I see it, they have not investigated what would have been the duration preferred by the couples, if they had a choice.

I'm not convinced that most people actually believe 7 to 13 minutes is the "desirable" amount of time to have sex. If that were indeed the case, then drugs like the Viagra wouldn't have been a profit-making venture. I think it is likelier that most people—if they can help it—would like to have a longer session than the 7.3 minutes—much longer then that. The Viagra which is meant for men with "problems", is also widely used by people without any "problems" at all. I think someone mentioned to me before that Viagra is not an "entertainment" drug. But if it's not an "entertainment" drug, then what is it?

Maybe it's just me, but I find it very hard to believe that most people consider 10 to 30 minutes for sexual intercourse is "too long". I think a more accurate way to express it is like this:

10 to 30 minutes is not so easy to achieve, but not necessarily too long if achievable.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bakat Interact 2008

The Bakat Interact 2008 was held yesterday afternoon. Six schools, namely S. M. All Saints, St Francis Convent, Lok Yuk, KK Highschool, Maktab Sabah and Kian Kok participated. This was the first time I attended the Bakat Interact. It was not like anything I had expected.

I was quite surprised to note a turnout of about 1,000 students and teachers. I was told that this was the biggest turnout for the Bakat Interact so far. It's been years ago when I actually spent several hours watching live entertainments like that. I had a lot of fun, although I'm sure I could've had even more fun had I been able to understand what those kids were yelling about on stage.

In one performance, some boys played the electric guitars, and the loud noises—remotely far from what I'd call music—were unbearably punishing to my ears. And each time the boys made those jerky movements, the girls went wild. They shouted so loud, I felt like the whole ceiling was about to cave in. Now I know why I've turned down an offer from a close friend to watch Michael Jackson live some years ago.

There were some songs too—I mean if you can call them songs; and plenty of dances. And when I say dances, I don't mean the kind of dances from my era. No—these were neither the disco dancing nor the kind we see in Shall We Dance. These days, the word "dancing" refers to those terrifying acrobatic jerky movements and spinning on their heads.

A rotarian friend of mine, Geroge, who was also present during the show, said he could also spin like that. I can believe him, because I happen to know that he works out at the gym on a regular basis. But since I see no huge muscles on his hands and legs, I presume that he'd probably spin himself on some other organs. After all, I once read about a Shaolin monk who could lift 27 kg worth of bricks using his penis. Now why would a monk train his penis to that extent anyway? But that's a different story.

Anyway, the St Franciscan girls had their share of "dancing" too. And let me tell you that some of them had big chests—almost similar to Lara Croft! So you can imagine how the boys cheered when the girls started to shake their bodies. Fortunately, all the wardrobes were in tip-top condition—none of them malfunctioned throughout the entire show.

In the end, as expected, the St Franciscans emerged champions and went home with RM500 cash and a trophy. What an afternoon!

Now I know I'll have to start brain-washing my JJ throughout the next 10 years or so, so that she will not like the kind of "entertainment" I saw yesterday. But I foresee an uphill task ahead...

Going In For The Kill

The race is on!

It's funny when you come to think of it; politicians are sometimes very predictable creatures, aren't they?

In the aftermath of the recent general election, the old man in the hot seat has become the target of criticisms. And as the intensity of those criticisms increases, many of his yes-men are getting ambitious. At first, most of those yes-men adopted a wait-and-see attitude, but as the criticisms against the old man gained momentum, many of them have begun to make their moves to go in for the kill.

Perhaps Ku Li and M Junior were the first to have openly challenged the silence of the majority in calling for the old man to resign from his post. But seriously, did they really think that the old man would simply resign? Ku Li has made it clear that he intends to fight for the top post, so it should be interesting to see the fight this coming December. But, folks, Boxing Day (although not the kind of celebration as we know it) comes almost 2 weeks earlier this year; and perhaps all the rink-side tickets have been snapped up by PKR, PAS and DAP.

The Sabahan politicians—not acting in an unfamiliar fashion—were also among the first parties to explore the possibility of going up the ladder. They want more representations at the national level; they want more ministerial positions. Not that that's going to make much difference to the Sabahan people.

And now the keris-wielding Hussein Junior has declared that he's not going to defend his post as the Captain of Umno Youth. Apparently, some people are happy with the announcement, but I suspect there's more to it than that! I wonder what post will Junior be eyeing for this December.

In the meantime, new sensation boy, Khairy Jamaluddin, has also indicated his interest to go up the ladder. He is eyeing for the seat to be vacated by Hussein Junior, although it's not really him who want that seat—it all depends on what his grassroots supporters want. But let's not kid ourselves; of course his supporters would want him to contest, don't be ridiculous! However, it would be interesting to see how far he can go, now that daddy-in-law doesn't seem to be calling all the shots no more.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Clerk-of-Course

I have been commenting—and, yes, even criticising—a fair number of treasure hunt questions and formats of several hunts for a while now. This lately, I am beginning to feel that my comments and criticisms are not always welcomed.

On the other hand, I have received quite a number of emails and text messages—not to mention encouragements over the phone—for me to continue giving my comments. Apparently, some people are "hooked" on my comments and analysis, although I suspect some of them are not exactly newbies, seeking to learn new stuff. One such fan of mine, apparently still not done with the One Night Stand thread yet, wanted more, more, more (hunt analysis—not one night stand)!

Well, this thread is neither about criticising nor analysing hunt questions. It's just something that my good friend and mentor, 2 Romans & 1 Impostor (2R1I), said in the Bollywood thread about treasure hunters needing to adapt to the styles of the Clerks-of-Course (CoC)—and their inaccuracies—except for the one "from the North".

So perhaps it is time to discuss what do we hunters expect from CoCs in general? Obviously we do have our expectations, don't we? I find it interesting that 2R1I said that some CoCs "don't follow this best practice or can't be bothered".

Is that really so?

There are essentially three groups of CoCs. The first group comprises those who have full time jobs—they clerk hunts as a hobby, i.e. not exactly for the money, although the monetery rewards usually come as a consequence of their roles as the CoCs. They have the flexibility to clerk the hunts as and when they like to, and they are hardly ever at the mercy of their clients. These are the people who might end up clerking hunts for very little money or even for free.

The second group comprises those who clerk hunts to earn a living. The treasure hunting business is their bread and butter. They are usually those who are involved in the event-organizing business. Although some of their revenues are generated from non-hunt activities, they would normally try to keep their options open to do hunts as well. In other words, if they are no longer popular amongst the treasure hunters, it could hurt their pockets.

The third group comprises those who have full-time jobs, but a major portion of their incomes are generated through clerking hunts on a frequent basis. They normally do closed hunts, although they might also clerk open hunts occasionally.

It has been suggested to me that those from the first group above are the ones who don't really care about what the hunters think of their hunts. Then those from the third group are concerned with what the hunters think of their hunts—but not overly so, to the extent that they would concede to the hunters all the time. Finally, those from the second group are those who would be at the mercy of their clients and hunters alike. Well, I beg to differ.

I am one of those from within the first group of CoCs, and I am most certainly not at the mercy of my "clients"—I can turn down an offer (to clerk) anytime I want; and I can organize a hunt even for free. But I am very, very concerned with what the hunters think of my hunts. A couple of months ago, when I commented on the AMC Hunt in this blog, the CoC, Kok Seng responded in kind and actually apologized for a mistake in one of the questions. I happen to know that he's also not a full-time CoC, yet he did not give me the impression that he couldn't be bothered with what the hunters had to say.

More recently, during the KK City Hunt last February, I was able to lodge a complaint—in good spirit—to my friend, Lim Soo Khian of Time Out Solutions. The essense of my so-called complaint was that there were too many games in the KK City Hunt, and we hunters prefer more questions and lesser games. Soo Khian was kind enough to explain that actually the majority of the hunters preferred more games! And I had to reluctantly agree with him. After all, the KK City Hunt has grown in popularity from a meagre 67 teams in 2006, to 94 teams in 2007, to 120 teams in 2008. He said if he had it his way, he would rather do a pure hunt with no games at all. But alas, the KK City Hunt was geared for the preference of the majority.

Then last week, after the TrialBlazers Hunt, I noticed that the CoC, Captain Jack Swallow, was also going around to seek feedbacks from the hunters, with the aim of improving himself for future hunts. He also published a statement in Michael Pang's blog to apologize for some shortcomings during the hunts.

The conclusion that I can draw from the above is that most CoCs, if not all, are concerned with what the hunters think of their performance. I think the real question is whether they are able to do anything about it? I don't believe it's a case of "can't be bothered".

Where it's about services, e.g. arrangements of venue, food etc., I'm sure that it's a matter of time before the CoCs become experts. But when it comes to the hunt itself, i.e. the questions, tulips, powerpoint presentations etc., that is a different matter altogether. Ignoring the "external factors" for the moment, one needs to be imaginative and creative in setting treasure hunt questions.

To a certain extent, imagination and creativity can be learned, but some people are born with a natural talent—they are able to come up with out-of-this-world ideas in hunt questions. Then of course, come the so-called "external factors", i.e. the availability of sufficient time to set the questions, language proficiency, technical know-hows, the working attitude of the CoCs etc.

I have several staff in the office. They can't locate a spelling mistake in one of those words in a paragraph no matter how many times they read that paragraph. The mental attitude is just not tuned for that. They just don't have the patience to read word for word, and even if they did, they won't be able to spot the mistake anyway. I think some CoCs are like that too. It is not so much about not caring about the hunters, but I believe they themselves are blind to those minor things like a missing "s", or that "di pukul" should be joined whereas "dibawah" should be separated, or it should have been in past tense and not present tense etc. Things like that are not relevant to them!

That's why I think some CoCs can't "improve" beyond a certain level. And it is in such cases that I totally agree with 2R1I—that we hunters will simply have to adapt to those CoCs' "styles".

Having said that, however, I believe there will come a time when more CoCs will arrive at the hunting scene, and steep competition will follow. The "more accurate" CoCs will eventually prevail; and the "less accurate" CoCs will gradually phase out. That is just the hard reality in life, I guess.

So, for example, when there are many choices, hunters will probably choose to join the hunts where the answers are "tighter"; clear and easy-to-understand tulips as opposed to no tulips at all; comfortable venues for the presentations; decent meals after the hunt etc.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Dragon & I

No, folks, this has nothing to do with the creature with wings and breathes fire. This story is about the dragon fruit. According to this link, it is also known as pitaya. When I was a small boy, I had never heard of this fruit in Sabah; after all it did not originate from this part of the world.

Many years ago, while I was walking the Gaya Street on a Sunday morning, I was fascinated by the many dragon fruits which were on sale that day. It was something new to me. Apparently, there're several species of dragon fruits, but the most common one I've seen in KK is the pinkish-purplish species. Beside the stall, there was a small notice board with newspaper cuttings pasted on it; informing the passers-by about the fruit. I can still remember standing there reading intently for a while—the fruit had some sort of medicinal properties. The article claimed that the fruit contained numerous vitamins and other health benefits. But in the end, I didn't buy any that day.

Then about 4 years ago, during a lunch break one day, I was not feeling very hungry and decided to have something light. I went to a shop selling fruits near to my office. It happened that I was in the mood to be a bit adventurous that day. Amongst the many fruits in that shop were some dragon fruits. I saw one of the customers eating one, and it was quite messy. Then I saw some fruit yogurts in the fridge. There was one with the label "Dragon Fruit" on it. It looked appealing, and I thought, "Why not?"

So I bought a dragon fruit yogurt and brought it back to the office. But when I finally started to sip from that plastic cup, it was really awful. It was sour and tasted like vomit! I had expected the yogurt to taste a bit sour, but not to that extent! It was worse than any kind of medicine that I've tasted before. But then foods with medicinal properties do not normally taste good, if you know what I mean. I forced that whole cup into my stomach anyway. Then that evening, I started having a bit of stomach discomfort. By around midnight, I was already having diarrhoea. It was such a terrible experience.

That was the last time I had dragon fruits. Somehow, in spite of all those vitamins and medicinal properties, my stomach just wouldn't agree with the fruit. I guess I will just have to get my vitamins from other fruits.

After several more years had elapsed, it came a time when I was lucky enough to secure a ride with Hunters "R" Us in the MAH Treasure Hunt last year. My flight was delayed for several hours and I arrived late that night. I missed the hunt briefing which was held earlier that evening. The team members of Hunters "R" Us were very kind. We had a late dinner that night. Then they told gave me a brief account of what to expect during the hunt the next day. They said during the briefing it was mentioned that the hunters will be stopping in one place for a challenge. They said they are familiar with that particular stop—it was a dragon fruit farm. They therefore guessed that the challenge might have something to do with eating dragon fruits. I was fairly alarmed, but did not express my concern to my hosts.

Then my host suggested that we go round to buy some dragon fruits that night itself, just to give me a feel of the fruit. I was worried sick. It's not amusing to hunt all the way to Malacca while having diarrhoea. But I didn't resist the suggestion anyway.

And so we went to one of those fruit shops and bought a couple of dragon fruits. When we reached home, my host calmly cut up the dragon fruit and offered me some. The ugly experience I had 4 years ago came back to me...

I bit into the fruit... and God dammit, it tasted so good! It was sweet and if not for my full stomach after dinner, I would have had more that night. It took me that long; and it took the MAH Treasure Hunt to make me realise that 4 years prior to that I actually spent RM2.50 to buy a cup of dragon fruit yogurt that had gone bad. How the hell did I force myself to finish the whole cup anyway? I felt like a total idiot up to this day!

TrailBlazers Hunt—Rotating Treasure

Yesterday, before my friend sent me the complete Q&A of the TrialBlazers Hunt, he sent me a treasure clue without the solution. He asked for my opinion on what the treasure might be. Here is the clue:

... went up the hill to fetch a pail of water...

To tumble a rapid rotation of a top will give you the exact treasure.

In my opinion, the first line is a give-away clue. It refers to the brandname: Jack & Jill. It is especially obvious to me because I used a similar line in one of my treasure clues in the Sutera last year. The real challenge is the second line of the clue.

When I saw the above clue, the first thing that came across my mind was the Roller Coaster. I can't really remember what was it, but I knew that there was such a product, because as I said I've set a treasure question on the Jack & Jill before. Roller Coaster seemed to fit in a loose way. After all in a way it involves some sort of "tumble" and "rapid rotation". But I quickly dismissed that answer. I did not believe that the CoC would come up with something like that—not when there're so many masters in the field (I was thinking like that before I saw the question which asked for a place to queue up, answer of which was Perhentian Teksi).

Anyway, after I rejected Roller Coaster, I saw fairly quickly the first word "To" in that sentence; and then "a top". And almost immediately I saw POTATO in my mind. Again I knew that there's a POTATO for the Jack & Jill. But if that was the case, then I would require TWO anagram indicators to support the idea; I found them in the words "tumble" and "rotation". But I was not fully satisfied for reasons which I shall elaborate further shortly. All these lines of thoughts took place while I was working from the confines of my office. But of course there's a whole load of other products by Jack & Jill; so I was constantly reminding myself of other possibilities.

However, without being in the supermarket, it's difficult to guess. At any rate, perhaps it's reasonable to guess something to do with "rotation of a top", e.g. gasing, pusing, turn etc. Maybe the name of the product is a rearrangement of the letters found in any one of those words. But first let's investigate the suitability of the POTATO for a bit.

Unfortunately, if POTATO was the intended answer, I wouldn't have been satisfied. I think to combine the "To" at the beginning of the sentence together with the "a top" by an anagram operation is not only inaccurate, but in fact wrong! It would have been different had the question been constructed like this:

Tumble a top to result in the required treasure.

In such a case, the "tumble" is the anagram indicator; and the "a top to" can be rearranged to become POTATO.

But in our present case, the "To" is separated from the "a top" by several words. Therefore, one would need to treat these separated words as independent components within the same clue. To anagram separate components, one would require separate anagram indicators. We are able to do that here by adopting "tumble" for "To"; and "rotation" for "a top". BUT! they are still independent components, and we can't simply throw them into a single pot to blend into POTATO. At best, we might be able to join these separate components by means of the charade operation to arrive at, say, OT+OTPA; but certainly not POTATO. For this reason, in my opinion, POTATO loses by force. That's why I was not convinced with my own answer!

In the end, I was supplied with the intended answer, which was some sort of chocolates named NIPS. Now the whole thing becomes clear. The CoC had intended the "tumble" as an anagram indicator; and then to take "a rapid rotation of a top" to be equated to the word SPIN. When simplified, the sentence would become "Tumble SPIN... will give you the exact treasure." The letters found in SPIN, when rearranged, can result in NIPS. I can live with this solution, although I would prefer to do without the "To" at the beginning of the sentence. And I doubt that I would include the words "of a top" in that sentence, because I think they're not entirely necessary. In the end, perhaps the clue would become something like this:

Tumble a rapid rotation to give the exact treasure.

Having said that, however, I can accept the presence of those words in the clue on grounds of personal style and taste of the CoC.

The only other thing I would do differently is perhaps to give additional clue (s) so as to narrow down the scope of search a little bit. But that is up to the CoC. He might consider it absolutely fair on his part to do without that extra clue (s).