Monday, June 30, 2008

KK Challenge 4—Assault & Battery

At about 7:10 am on a Saturday morning, a little over 2 months ago, I and three of the team members of Hunters "R" Us arrived at the start station of the Hospis Hunt 2008. It was a mass flag-off, so the questions were distributed to all teams several minutes before the flag-off. We took advantage of that few minutes to work on the treasure questions. I was somehow separated from my team members for a few minutes. While I stood there, I managed to solve 2 of the treasures. Then suddenly Margaret was beside me, saying that she too had solved 2 of the treasures. We also had very good idea what the remaining 2 treasures were, but we needed to confirm certain points of the clues.

One of the treasure questions which we practically solved on the spot was like this:

This item could be an unlawful application of force,
And is commonly associated with what sounds like a salt.
The one we require has two distinctions for size,
And in particular, the first lady is all prepared.
Two new ones in an unopened pack would be really nice.

The first line refers to the word BATTERY. The second line refers to the word ASSAULT (sounds line A SALT). The third line refers to the AA size. The fourth line refers to EVEREADY, which is the brandname of the item. The final line refers to the two-pack size. And so everything falls perfectly into place. The treasure is solved.

But there and then, I became very excited. I saw something in the clue—a crazy idea. It was quite a challenge for me to contain my excitement, but the rest in my team did not detect my excitement. The reason I was excited was because I saw an interesting possibility for a trick. It is also a unique opportunity to carry out a little experiment I had always wanted to do. But alas, it was also too far-fetched to actually find the right occasion to execute my plan.

Then came the news about the postponement of the Sutera Harbour-Angkatan Hebat Treasure Hunt. And hard upon that I received a special request from some friends to organise a hunt. The team members of Hunters "R" Us were coming to KK anyway, and they wanted to join my hunt too. And then an outrageous plan came to my mind. The opportunity to execute my trick was too good to be missed. Not only was I able to try out my trick on the average hunters, but also the master hunters! I therefore began to embark on my psychological trap...

First, I must create a decoy. I did this by conjuring up a seemingly scary Treasure 1 and 2. I put special emphasis on these two treasures. Upon flag off, I can imagine all eyes were focused on T1 and T2. It turned out that those treasures were kid's play. It must have been a relief to many of the hunters when they passed the hurdles of T1 and T2.

Then came Treasure 3:

This item can mean an unlawful attack upon someone,
It is commonly associated with what sounds like a salt,
One hundred is another way to describe its size,
Be sure that the first woman is all prepared,
It comes from a pack containing two,
Submit it in its pacakaging, I ask for no more, no less.

Obviously not a creative and poetic clue. The sentences don't even rhyme with each other. But I had to keep it as close as possible to the Hospis' clue—with minor alterations, of course. However, I had to make a significant difference in the clue also. Otherwise, my friends from the west would smell something fishy. I provided for this in the size, i.e. instead of AA, I am now asking for size C. If the clue is exactly identical with the Hospis' clue, they will look harder for the difference (s), and that might destroy my plan.

Imagine solving the "dreaded" T1 and T2 like a walk in the park, and then coming to a clue like the above. Would that result in some sort of relief? Would that make the hunters relax for a bit? I thought there is a good chance that that would happen...

And so, as I had expected, a few teams including my west Malaysian friends, fell right into my trap...


The item is the same; and the brand is also the same. The size is different, but still easy to find in any supermarket. Yet something which is so obviously correct turned out to be wrong!

Having analysed a fair number of hunt questions by CoCs in the west, I have noticed a peculiar tendency. Except for some CoCs, the rest are mostly either ignorant of the significance of grammar; or they can't be bothered about grammar at all. And because of that, most of the hunters are also not trained to be prudent in the grammatical sense. Some people were also mocking me for my obsession in grammatical accuracy when I discussed hunt questions in this blog. Since most hunters don't care about grammar, I decided to take advantage of it...

If only they had paid closer attention to every sentence of the clue, they would have realised that I'm referring to a single battery. In the 5th line, I said "It comes from a pack containing two," but that doesn't mean I am asking for two batteries. In the last sentence, I said "Submit it in its packaging, I ask for no more, no less." That word "it" in this last sentence must be referring to the single battery, and not the packaging.


Treasures are to be submitted intact, unless otherwise instructed. What I am getting at is, since I want only ONE battery, I am indirectly instructing the hunters to break the seal and remove one of the batteries!

Like I said, hunters are not used to grammatical tricks in treasure hunts, and I did not think for a moment that any of them would solve this treasure. However, because I know that Margaret is a very, very careful hunter, I had to make sure that their team won't see through this trick. That's why I had to create the decoy with T1 and T2. I consider it my masterpiece because it is so solvable and yet so "impossible" to solve.

I am sure many of you out there are saying to yourselves: "Oh this is a very easy clue; I would surely be able to solve it if I were there!"

See, I told you my clues are not very complicated? I'm sure you'd agree, right?

KK Challenge 4—A Rare Dimension

I read about the open category winners of the SunHun 2007 in Michael Pang's blog. Within a duration of about 1 year, that winning team had accummulated 40 hunts under their belts. Here in KK, we have 1 hunt a year, which is the KK City Tourism Hunt (every year in February). Sometimes, if we are lucky, we get 2 hunts a year. We rarely ever get anywhere close to 5 hunts a year. It means that if I continue hunting in KK—and KK alone—I might be able to accummulate that 40 hunts over the next 20 years or so.

I've been analysing some hunt questions by numerous CoCs from the west and found a variety of styles; and to varying degrees of difficulties too. I can imagine the master hunters in KL must have seen all sorts of styles and tricks. To come up with something new for them would be extremely difficult. If I were to clerk a hunt in KL, I think those masters will find my questions somewhat outdated.

Having said that, however, I feel that there are some ideas which have been under-exploited. I decided to try out a rare dimension during the KK Challenge 4.

Q37) It piles up when the cats go down below.

A modest attempt to explore the vertical dimension. Treasure hunters are well-versed with the horizontal signboards, but it's easy to forget that there are also vertical signboards. And it is possible to take advantage of this rare possibility.

The basic part of the question lies in the first 3 words, i.e. "It piles up". The word "It" is akin to the definition of the cryptic clue. Then "piles up" is something that gives the meaning of that definition. However, there is a condition which must be satisfied first—that "It piles up" when the (letters) C,A,T,S are arranged in a downward direction (go down) below that signboard. To illustrate the configuration:


?

C

A

T

S



So now it is a little easier to see. We just need to figure out what that question mark should be in order to give the meaning of PILES (when reading up). You will see that the question mark should be SK arranged like this:



S

K

C

A

T

S



because only then you can get STACKS (which means PILES) when read upwards.



The required answer for Q37:

S
K

TRADING CO.

KK Challenge 4—Hybrid

I was told that in the old days, treasure hunt questions were very different from what we have today. There were mostly observation in nature. Hunters were asked to count the number of trees or lamp posts etc. Clues were mostly straightforward with hardly any sophistication.

Throughout several decades, hunt questions have undergone major tranformation; and in my opinion it is still happening today. The level of sophistication had also come a long way. Cryptic clueing has become the order of the day. At first only some basic ideas of the cryptic crosswords, e.g. anagrams or reversals etc were adopted into hunt questions. But today almost all these themes have found their way into hunt questions.

Notwitstanding the above, however, it is sometimes difficult to set treasure hunt clues strictly based on pure cryptic principles. Sometimes, the CoC still needs to find ways to merge the observation questions with the cryptic style. The result is what one might term as a hybrid between the two.

Q34) Go to the capital of England to combine the engine.

If I had a choice, I would have preferred to use the word "assemble" instead of "combine". It creates a better storyline and more meaningful surface reading. But I decided against it because after I did a bit of checking, I found that the meaning of the word "combine" might be slightly different from "assemble".

As I said, the question is a kind of hybrid, i.e. it resulted from the merger of two main portions because the intended answer consisted of two words. But I joined the two portions into a single sentence, thus creating a little bit of deception to the solver.

The first thing to realise is that "the engine" covers the second word in the intended answer. It means that we are looking for a signboard containing the word "motor". That should help the hunters narrow down the search substantially.

The next step is to treat the cryptic portion of the question, viz:

Go to the capital of England to combine.

In the above sentence, the words "the engine" are no longer there. We have taken care of that part of the question, i.e. MOTOR. Now the cryptic crosswords expert can see that the word "combine" is the definition for the clue. It means that we have to solve the rest of the words in that sentence, and whatever we come up with must agree with "combine".

Now "capital" is the initial indicator. Therefore:

capital of England = E

We need to find something found on the signboard to go to the E (capital of England), and that should give us "combine". The equation is like this:

[?]+E = COMBINE

So now we just need to figure out what that question mark (?) is. By thinking along this line, the solver, scanning the sector, will find the word UNIT, because UNIT + E = UNITE, which can agree with COMBINE.

A34) UNIT MOTOR

I am happy to note that a few teams found this answer. If indeed they solved the clue, instead of merely a blind guess, I consider it a fine achievement. It shows that our local hunters have improved.

Coming back to the word "assemble", I wasn't very sure if it's a good idea to equate UNITE to ASSEMBLE. Checking through my Thesaurus, I found UNITE = COMBINE, but not UNITE = ASSEMBLE. When I think deeply about it, UNITE might possibly be equal to ASSEMBLE too. But in the end I decided to play safe and settled with COMBINE.

KK Challenge 4—"X-Ray" Revisited

I discussed about a question from the recent Kiwanis Hunt in this blog. It had something to do with the interpretation of "striking catch"; and how I attempted to offer "X-Ray" as the answer. Unfortunately, my X-Ray was rejected.

A few weeks ago, when I was going around to look for possible answers for KK Challenge 4. I thought it would be interesting to give my own version of the X-Ray. If anything, perhaps I can treat it as a revenge; to make up for my failure during the Kiwanis.

Q25) "X-Ray" adopted for a business name?

Within that short sector, there was a Permai Polyclinics. Amongst the kinds of services they provide in that clinic was X-Ray. But since it's not adopted as a business name, I did not accept that as the answer.

My solution was to translate the "X-Ray" into Malay, i.e. "Sinar X". Then expand the idea to convert the X into 10. Most regular hunters are familiar with the practice to treat the digit "0" (zero) as the "same" with the letter "O"; and the digit 1 (one) as the "same" with the letter "i". The required answer:

A25) Sinario Cafe 2 & Catering

Several teams got this intended answer; and I wasn't surprised, because I didn't think that it's a particularly tough question. But what surprised me was the fact that both the top teams gave me Eclipse Bar & Cafe.

Not that it would make any difference to the positions of the teams, whether I accept this answer or not. Both teams can throw away 5 route questions and still win comfortably. No—they were safe as far as their positions were concerned, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss their answer anyway.

According to their analysis, the "X" in "X-Ray" can be interpreted as "no" or "without" or "cancelling out". So in an abstract way, "X-Ray", to them, can mean "no ray". So they considered the "eclipse" as blocking the ray (from the sun). When the ray is blocked, then there is no ray. I spent a few moments to consider this idea before rejecting it.

Maybe the treasure hunt God was smiling upon me yesterday, because as I said no matter what decision I made, it did not affect the result of the hunt. My thinking is that it is true that an eclipse does block the ray from the sun, but not necessarily in all cases. An eclipse can be a total or partial eclipse. In the case of a total eclipse, then the ray is indeed blocked. But in the case of a partial eclipse, we still have ray—only a portion of it has been blocked.

I know this sounds like a mediocre attempt to save my own neck. And to be quite honest, I didn't even realise this possibility when I set the question. But if this is a defense at all, then I will say that although the eclipse can mean blocked ray, it does not always mean so.

I can still remember a time when I set a question involving the ACE as the KING beater. The ACE is commonly referred to in many crossword puzzles as "the king beater". But a team member of Hunters "R" Us did not like that solution, because there are other card games in which other cards have the highest value. Although the ACE beats the KING in many card games, it does not always beat the KING. So perhaps I can also use the same defence here? (smile).

At any rate, apart from applying my authority as the CoC (smile), I feel strongly that my "Sinario" is a better fit than "Eclipse" anyway.

So, OK, all the big guns can start firing at me now!... HAHAHA!

KK Challenge 4—The Prince of Tides

Many of the strong hunters are blessed with the ability to analyse hunt questions to arrive at the answers without the need to be in the question sectors. Then when they do finally reached the sectors, all they need to do is to spot the signboards to confirm their answers. Having had the opportunities to ride along with Hunters "R" Us, I knew for a fact that they most definitely have such an ability. So I thought perhaps I should give them something different in my KK Challenge 4.

Q19) Nolte, the star of The Prince of Tides, fell inside?

Another question which was "reserved for the CoC". A quick googling via all those expensive cellphones, or by those "extra hunters" waiting by the internet-connected desktops at home, will reveal that we're looking for NICK (Nolte). I made the search even easier by giving the title of the movie.

Then the words "fell inside" should also be quite easy to figure out—the solver is supposed to take only the letters found inside the word "fell", i.e. EL.

And so the great hunt analyst will be pleased to derive NICK + EL = NICKEL, long before he arrives at the question sector. Because I have given the title of the movie, there is not even the possibility of another person with the same surname, Nolte.

But just imagine his reaction when he finds no NICKEL within that sector, even after combing each and every singboard there. So he is forced to think out of the box—perhaps look for NI, which is the chemical symbol for NICKEL. Perhaps he tries many other possibilities too, but still nothing. Now what?

When I arrived at the question sector, I saw 2 members of Hunters "R" Us on foot. The sun was scorching hot. One of them asked me: "Is this one of the reserved for the CoC?" I laughed out loud and replied in the affirmative.

NICKEL, apart from the mineral, is also a specific name given to a monetery value for a coin in the USA, i.e. 5¢. When we say, "the candy costs a Nickel", it means that the candy costs 5¢. The required answer:

A19) 5¢ (photocopy services) @ Global Enterprise

I am sure that many teams must have been searching high and low for NICKEL within that sector. But maybe they all forgot to check the dictionary to find other possible meanings for that word. And so, in the end this question was unsolved.

However, I'd like to point out that Hunters "R" Us did offer another answer—which I did not accept—worth mentioning here:

A19) Klinik Cawangan Penampang @ HF Kumpulan Perubatan Elektronik

After the hunt, I had a short discussion with the team members of Hunters "R" Us; and they gave me the explanation for their answer. According to them, the word "fell" can qualify as an anagram indicator; the "inside" is a container indicator. So they have interpreted my clue as seeking for the word NICK. Then anagram that word before inserting the resulting word into the answer. In such a way, they considered the answer "KliNIK Cawangan Penampang @ Kumpulan..." as correct too, because the jumbled-up NICK is found between "Klinik" and "Cawangan". They said this has been adopted in hunt questions in the west.

I must say that I'm a bit surprised. I think if indeed that is true, then we haven't been consistent in our approach. To borrow Michael Pang's expression, I would say the above solution, if not illegal, is at least not elegant.

When I first started to set hunt questions, I used to have the habit to choose one or two words from multiple-worded signboards too. But now, after going through many lengthy hunt discussions, I tend to agree to the view that we should account for all the words, except for Sdn Bhd, Enterprise and the likes. Therefore, I don't think it is elegant to ignore the remaining word, PENAMPANG in the intended answer.

It is different if we have something like this:

Q) Door opener found within
A) STICK NO BILL

Because all the 3 words in the answer play their respective roles to cover the word KNOB. But can we still accept that answer if the question is, say:

Q) Confused Nick in here

Meaning we're ignoring the remaining word, BILL. If it is true that it is an accepted practice in the west, then I must say that instead of Nick gettintg confused, I am the one getting confused now!

Any suggestions? Let's hear it from the masters and grandmasters.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

KK Challenge 4—The Coins

I have said before, that whenever I set treasure hunt questions, I'd like to allow a fair chance for the hunters to solve them. In the recent Kiwanis Hunt that I joined, I stumbled upon some interesting questions which I found unfair—or at least "unfair" based on my principle. I am not saying that it's impossible to solve them, but merely unfair in the sense that it's just too remote to arrive at the answer.

One example of the Kiwanis Hunt question which I've discussed in this blog was like this:

Q) A business where terrifying beings are found with heartless spirits getting disturbed with the answer?

The main reason I view the above question as unfair is because we have too many variables. In mathematical sense, we need to have a specific value in order to solve an equation. Let me illustrate my point; consider this equation:

x + y = z

It is impossible to solve the above equation, because we don't know the value of any of the variables, x, y and z. It would have been different if the equation is like this:

x + 5 = 8

In this second equation, it is possible to find x, because we have a known value on the other side of the equation.

The "equation" that we can construct from the Kiwanis question above is something like this:

[Answer] + [heartless spirits] = [Terrifying beings]

We are essentially looking for the answer (which we don't know for the moment), which is to be combined with heartless spirits (which is also something we don't know); and the combination of those two is supposed to give us terrifying beings (which is again something that we don't know). Therefore, in order to solve the question, one would have to guess what's heartless spirits and terrifying beings.

In the just-concluded KK Challenge 4, I gave this question:

Q8) He's not required here to produce the coins.

The solver has several possible avenues he can try. One is to attempt to be "complicated". He starts thinking who "he" might be? Is that referring to a proper noun? And then he starts to guess what "the coins" might be referring to; could it be, say dimes? That would lead the solution into the direction of the "heartless spirit" above. In such a case, we don't know "he", which is not required "here" (also something we don't know), in order to produce "the coins" (also something we don't know).

Yes, that is possible, but I don't consider that a very fair question. I'd like my questions to be simpler, although not necessarily easy to solve!

The first possibility is to treat the words "not required" as a deletion indicator. It means that we need to remove the letters H,E,S from the signboard (the answer), and then that can produce THE COINS. The equation is like this:

[?] - [H,E,S] = THE COINS

Unfortunately, within that sector, there is no signboard which can yield THE COINS after the removal of H,E,S.

Instead, I want the letters: H, E, S, N, O, T to be combined (required) here, meaning on the signboard, to produce THE COINS. The equation would therefore become like this:

[H,E,S,N,O,T] + [?] = THECOINS

Now by cancelling out the corresponding letters on the left side of the equation against their respective twins on the other side of the equation, we are left with:

[?] = CI

In other words, we are supposed to look for a signboard containing CI. And here I've added an additional twist. Both the letters C and I are roman numerals for 100 and 1 respectively. The combination of both these numbers will give 101. The answer I am looking for is:

A8) 101 SUPERSTORE

Little did I know, actually on the opposite side of this signboard there're several signboards in the parking lots with C1 on them. This was pointed out by the team members of Hunters "R" Us after the hunt. They saw this possibility, but chose 101 SUPERSTORE in the end. Hence they were the only team which solved this question.

I think I was just lucky that no teams actually offered the C1 answer. I don't know if any of them actually worked their way to CI, but failed to spot the C1. I don't know how I could have been so careless. Like I said before, I readily admit that I am not perfect. All I can do is to try my best to be as accurate as possible.

KK Challenge 4

video

Well folks, finally the KK Challenge 4 is over. We had some surprises, but not at the top of the table. This is the result of the hunt (Maximum score is 100 pts):

1) KK Chai, Margaret Sha, VK Chong, Vincent Woo — 91 pts

2) Bernard Liew, Alvin Wong, Christine Netto, Audrey Chin — 85 pts

3) Mary Lokupi, Shirley Lim, Ellen Yee, Dr Liaw — 69 pts

4) Harry Koh, Grace Chong, Chan M H, Vivian Cham — 63 pts

5) CK Tan, C L Teo, Leslie Yew, Frederick — 62 pts

As you can see the top 2 teams are within a class of their own. They are followed by the "chasing pack", all of whom scored in the 60s.

When I set this hunt, I have designed the "achievable score" of 95 pts (so the champions scored almost "perfect"). The remaining 5 pts-question was "reserved for CoC". I suppose there were also other tough questions which could be categorised as "reserved for the CoC", but given the 6 hours hunting time, there was a good opportunity for the teams to solve them. But I will get to them later.

There were 40 route questions for this hunt and 4 treasures, all to be solved within 6 hours, plus 30 minutes penalty time. In spite of the 6 hours, most of the teams got into time trouble. Most of them did not, however, get the time penalty. They opted instead to abandon some tail-end questions in order to arrive at the finish station within the 6 hours. I can only conclude that time management is still one of the most difficult aspect of treasure hunts—especially for pure hunts like this.

As always, I shall discuss some of the interesting questions and their respective analysis. I will do that in separate threads. However, apart from analysing, I also want to reveal my thought process while conjuring up those questions. I'm sure it will be interesting for the hunters to experience hunt questions from the CoC's point of view.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Panic


Queue at the Esso Station, Jalan Pantai, Kota Kinabalu at 4:00 pm.

Yesterday, we had some clients from West Malaysia. They wanted to have a guided tour to see some housing estates and other developments in KK. I wasn't free, but I allowed Ben to show them around in my Ninja. They spent almost the entire morning touring the city and its outskirts.

When I was driving home, I noticed that my fuel was running low. But I forgot to top it up. Later on, I did not have peace of mind thinking about my empty tank. I must top up my tank somehow; otherwise I wouldn't have been able to sleep at night! So I drove out to the station closeby and pumped RM184 worth of diesel into my tank.

This afternoon, I received a text message from a friend, saying that there's panic buying at all the petrol stations throughout the city. I rushed out, and true enough, there were traffic jams all over. I don't really know what's going on up to now. But people are jamming up the entire road system around KK City.

I have received several versions of what's going on, but I don't know which is the correct one. One version was that the price of petrol will be raised to RM4:00 per litre beginning tomorrow. I find that hard to believe. Another version is that all the petrol stations will be going on strike for at least 3 days beginning tomorrow, unless the price of petrol is raised to RM4:00 per litre.

I walked from my office to the Jalan Pantai Esso Station (see picture) and actually asked one of those pump attendants there what's going on. Is there any truth in any of the text messages? According to the attendant, he's not aware of any price hike; and he's also unaware of any plans to close the station for the next 3 days, although I have a shrewd suspicion that he'd welcome that.

Anyway, I have also received the following text message from Maxis:

"Officials from Shell Malaysia and Sabah Petroleum Dealers Assoc stressed that there is no truth to the rumours of petrol kiosks closing for 3 days"

This evening, I took one-and-a-half hours to reach home from the office. I normally take about 15 to 20 minutes, so you can imagine the crazy traffic situation out there now. Mia is still in the office. She normally arrives home at around 6:30pm to 7:00pm. But she'll probably take much longer to arrive home today.

Shortly ago, I received a text message from one of the treasure hunters. He said I might have to postpone my hunt because the hunters won't have fuel for the hunt. I don't know about postponing at this stage. But if indeed all the petrol stations are going on strike over the next 3 days, it seems that I will have no choice but to postpone the KK Challenge 4. And I am sure quite a number of people will be really disappointed if that happens! Let's keep our fingers crossed that it won't get to that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Avalanche

I would be lying if I said I'm surprised by the announcement. After all, the SAPP (or rather those people in SAPP) had abandoned ship before when PBS was in power. Of course an avalanche will soon follow. Don't bet on the other BN component parties standing up together to fight on—or you will lose big time. That would be uncharacteristic of Sabahan politicians—well, at least based on historical trends, they won't. Of course I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

According to Pak Lah, Yong Teck Lee's latest action was as a result of the former's failure to satisfy the latter's personal greed. [Bernama] Why am I not surprised? Isn't that a natural instinct of all politicians? When you are thrown into a corrupt system, even a squeaky-clean fellow will be converted, sooner or later. It's just a matter of time, you see.

If you are onboard a sinking ship, what would your first reaction be? I think it is almost an automatic reaction to abandon ship, unless of course if you have made up your mind to die together with that ship.

So was it personal greed? Of course it was, don't be ridiculous! What else could it be? Care for the people? Bah!

But let me tell you what's likely gonna happen. Firstly, there will be an avalanche as I've mentioned above. If that is not enough to result in a power shift, then we will come to a short period of stale-mate situation. But I'd predict the weight will eventually shift to the other side.

Secondly, we will see the same cycle happening all over again. If indeed we will witness the formation of a new government in Sabah, don't expect that that new government will solve the problems with the illegal immigrants. No, that is not going to happen; if anything, it will probably get even worse. Again this is all based on historical trends. After all, we have been going in circles about illegal immigrants since decades ago. I just can't see why it should be any different now.

Thirdly—and this is important—those who abandon ship first will get to occupy higher positions in the new government. We all know the saying: early birds get the worms. So be prepared for some entertainments. Let's hear the excuses (for abandoning ship) coming one by one.

Bad Call

Some people have problems falling asleep at night. Sometimes I have that problem too. What I'd do is to get hold of a technical book, something complicated and which I have no interest in. That will normally make me feel sleepy fast enough.

Sometimes JJ has difficulties falling asleep at night too. So we've come up with a routine of telling her bedtime stories. Mia, being the more imaginative one between the two of us, is the official story teller. After lights-off, Mia would tell the story in the dark. After a few minutes, JJ would be sleepy enough for slumberland.

Mia's stories would normally take a long, long time to finish—something like watching soap operas on the telly. They come in many, many episodes and never seem to end. So JJ would get an episode per night.

This week the official story teller is away to KL. So daddy takes over the role of the story teller. Now daddy is not as imiganative as mommy, so he had to think of alternative sources for bedtime stories. Well, still wanting to adopt the long, long stories, daddy browsed the net and was happy to find Harry Potter! Yeah, that would be a long-enough story; and it's suitable for kids too! It can also last long enough to stretch throughout the entire week before the official story teller comes home. Brilliant idea, huh?

Bad call!

The story, which was supposed to cause sleepiness, was actually a big-time exciting adventure which JJ's imagination was fast to feed on! And instead of becoming sleepy, she became wide awake and wanted to know what's coming next. The story which was intended to last the entire week is coming to its conclusion tonight!

I hate myself for failing to anticipate something like this. I am usually a smarter person than this—I swear!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My First Notebook


For years people have been trying very hard to convince me to buy a laptop or a notebook. But I have been stubborn; I preferred the old-fashioned way of working on my desktop instead. Think about it; what would I need a laptop or notebook for? I have a desktop at home, and I have another in the office. And the distance between my home to the office is only about 15 minutes away. What's the odds of me working on a laptop between those two points?

Besides the hussle of packing and tagging along my laptop, it's also a known fact that for the same price I can get double the speed on my desktop when compared to the laptop. I was also a bit concerned that it's much harder to type on the laptop, because I had the impression that the keys were smaller and closer to each other.

Then this lately, whenever I went outstation, I've been seeing people working on their laptops. And there were many instances where I've seen them connected to the internet too; for example at the airports. It struck me that I could at least update my blog while waiting for flights etc. Yeah... that would be good. In the end, I began to explore the possibility of buying my very first notebook.

I have said before, that I'm an idiot when it comes to computers. That hasn't changed very much up to now. When I made up my mind to invest in a notebook, I didn't quite know where to start. I went to Karamunsing Complex and there were tons of laptops and notebooks there. I grabbed several brochures and brought them back to the office. Going through the info in those brochures did little for me. I was just blind to all those computer terms.

After trying to investigate, and failed to get very far, I decided to seek help from my friend, Eric. Incidentally, Eric has been meaning to get a notebook himself too, but he said he's a bit pokai right now. Anyway, I told him what I need a notebook for, which was basically, well, basic stuff. He recommended something which I understood next to nothing. But I told him to make the order for me anyway. No need all those special high-tech stuffs—a plain simple one would do just fine!

And so Eric picked up the phone, made some calls and proceeded to make the order. Well, that was last Friday. I had no idea what's coming my way. This morning, my very first notebook arrived with a pricetag of RM2,500. Quite a decent-looking machine and in my opinion for the right price too. I paid up, and was given a receipt containing the following info:

ACER 2920-6A1G16Mi NOTEBOOK

- INTEL CORE 2 DUO PRECESSOR; 12.1" WXGA ACER CRYSTALBRITE;

2GB DDR 2 RAM; 160GB HDD; DVD-WUPER MULTI; 56K, BLUETOOTH;

10/100/1000 BASE T; 802.11B/G

I spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure out the above cryptic information, but all I got was a grim reminder of the Crack-A-Pot clue of the Kiwanis Treasure Hunt. I am still lost up to now.

I was talking over the phone with a friend and wanted to boast a bit about my new notebook. So I mentioned some of the above features, trying very hard to behave like I knew what I was talking about. But my friend told me that those are common features found on a basic laptop or notebook these days. He told me to make full use of my notebook while I still can, because it will soon become obsolete. I refuse to believe him; I am determined to use my notebook for at least 5 years!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Growing Up

This week Mia is away to KL again, so I am playing daddy and mommy. Whenever Mia's away, I will automatically switch into the extra-loving-daddy mode. But that is not very difficult for me to do because I truly love JJ immensely. Well, OK, actually I love her mommny immensely too.

JJ is fast approaching 6 years old. In fact she'll be celebrating her birthday on the 13th of July. How time flies—it's just like a year or two ago when she was just a little baby. And in a few months' time she'll be going to primary 1.

JJ still asks me to carry her a lot of the time. Many in my family tell me not to spoil her—that she's big enough to walk on her own. And of course they're absolutely correct. But I want to savour the moment with JJ. I know it is impossible to freeze time; but I wish I can at least slow it down so that I can prolong the moment with JJ as it is now...

Then recently I realised a change in JJ. It was one of those moments when I gave Mia a hug out of habit. JJ was there, and she was somewhat shy looking at us hugging each other like that. I found that a bit amusing. There was nothing to it, really; just a hug. Yet JJ started shaking her head, and went "tsk, tsk, tsk..."

And this morning I had another revelation. When I dropped her at the main entrance of her school, she tried to resist my kiss on her cheek when her teacher was watching. I had to appeal for the kiss before she eventually allowed me. Then when it was her turn to kiss my cheek, it was a super fast one.

And then off she went. We waved at each other; and I felt a lump in my throat. I watched her disappear at the corner of the doorway...

So quick is the process of growing up. I suppose before I know it, my JJ will grow up to be a teenager and then a woman. But she will always be my little girl—my darling JJ, the rascal.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

International Understanding Bazaar 2008

From left: Rtn Alvin Chong, Rtn Cornelius Koh, Rtn James Quek, IPP Hj Zainie Acusa, PE Warren Chan, President James Jupinon, Rtn Amrullah Kamal, Rtn Andrew Chong

The International Understanding Bazaar 2008 was held at the Palm Square, Centre Point, this morning. It was organized by the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu. Seven schools participated in the colourful display of numerous dances.

My regular readers would know by now that this is not exactly the kind of entertainment that I enjoy. But well, I suppose I can live with the loud noises for a couple of hours. Perhaps if I had an ear-plug on, it would've been perfect! I don't mind the colourful costumes though.


This was the stunning display by S.M. All Saints. They emerged the overall champions. They took home only RM300, but you should have seen the way they reacted when they were announced as the winners. The behaved as if they won a million dollars! I could actually feel their exhilaration.



S.M. St Francis Convent was the Runner-Up, but I prefer the above performance by S.M. La Salle. The colours and dance were more to my tastes, but of course not many people are like me!

Overall, it was a good show. It dreads me that it will be my turn to chair the organizing committee for next year. What do I know about these things!? Keeping my fingers crossed... God help us, please!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hard Times

I had a humble beginning. As a boy, I went through a hell lot of shit; my family was never rich in love. There was a time when life was so miserable that I even contemplated committing suicide. But well, you know, it's easier said than done. The survival instinct always prevail in the end.

I have long since closed that ugly chapter of my life. It is not something I can just forget though. All I can say is that I hope that my JJ won't have to go through what I went through.

In spite of my lousy childhood, I can say that I've been lucky. I am far from the richness of people like Bill Gates, but I have to admit that I am better off than many others around me. I am trying to imagine what would have happened if I were not so lucky; if I had to live my life being a robber instead.

I have the attitude of doing things in a big way. If I do anything at all, I want to do it perfectly—or at least I try my best to. Otherwise, I'd rather not do it at all. So if I were a robber, I'll make sure that I rob the millions, not the measly thousands. That's why it intrigued me when I read about a bunch of robbers who went through all the trouble to break into a factory, kill a security guard (who's probably there for window-dressing only), hold up 26 people and in the end yielded only RM13,000 worth of cash and valuables. [The Star] It was not stated whether the robbers grabbed a bunch of condoms too. Otherwise I guess some people will have to do without condoms for a while because of the sudden shortage.

When robbers have to resort to raiding a condom factory, perhaps it shows how desperate things are in Malaysia. After all, not all of us are earning anywhere close to the entertainment allowances of the Prime Minister and all the other VIPs. And this is not even talking about the salaries; merely the entertainment allowances! I'm sure many of us would be very, very happy if we can earn half of those allowances.

Luckily, our VIPs care for us minions; when they decided to raise fuel prices by 40% to 60%, they also decided that it's only right for them to cut their own expenses by 10%. At least the VIPs are suffering together with the rakyat; they now have shorter vacations and to nearer destinations too! We are also thankful that there will be no more fuel price hike for the rest of this year. [The Star]

Monday, June 9, 2008

Value For Money Spent

It seems that the banking industry is getting very, very competitive these days. Most banks are shrinking the administrative staff since many of their functions and services have been computerised. Banking in cheques, account balance, payment of credit cards and other bills, and a host of other services can all be done through internet banking.

Nowadays many banks are increasing their sales personnel. Every so often the banks come up with "new products". From "flexible" home loans, to credit balance transfers (credit cards), to multi-million Ringgit transactions. Sales personnel are always on their toes trying to close more deals.

Over the last couple of months I've been receiving calls from several banks. I'm not sure how they got hold of my cellphone number, but it seems that they can get all of my personal details from some sort of centralised database for credit card holders. I've even received calls from some banks in KL. They all offered to give me a "clean loan" of between RM20,000 to RM30,000. When I said I didn't need the money, they suggested several possible uses. Amongst others, they suggested home renovations, a down payment for a new car, and even a long holiday abroad. All very tempting, except that in the end of course I would need to pay back the loan. I guess if I really had an important use for that kind of money, I would take advantage of those offers, because after all, they're attractive rates.

Then a friend sent me an interesting article he had found.

If I were a single woman who has had premarital sex, perhaps I could use a RM2,500 clean loan for the purpose of "restoring" my virginity! For that amount of money, I can opt for a 30-minute surgery to repair my hymen. Then after the surgery I should refrain from having sexual intercourse for the next 6 weeks, but hey, surely that is a small price to pay for the sake of misleading my future husband? I am sure my man will love and trust me more when he finds my hymen intact after the marriage.

Yeah, if I were a woman, I suppose that's what I would do; that would be value for money spent...

1Borneo Hypermall—Soft Opening

Yesterday (08 June 2008) was the soft opening of the 1Borneo Hypermall. It was opened by The Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Musa Aman. Also present were the Head of State, Tun Sakaran Dandai and the CEO of Ramajuta Group of Companies, Datuk Raymond Chan.

About a week or two ago I received an invitation to attend the above opening ceremony. Several other executives from my company were also invited. So yesterday, of all the days, I had to dress up for the occasion. However, when I arrived at the 1Borneo, there was a massive traffic jam there. In spite of its opening, the project is not really fully completed yet—hence soft opening.

A sea of cars were parked at the roadsides, but since I was driving Mia's car, I didn't think it was such a good idea to park there. Mia is one of those paranoid creatures when it comes to her car, you see. She is constantly worried that some maniac driver will somehow end up ramming into her car. And if there is a scratch on her car, I'm sure she'd suffer the pain of a bullet wound. Of course it would've been much easier had I driven my own Ninja there, but unfortunately, I let them use it for the "test-drive" of the KK Challenge 4.

So anyway, I decided to get stuck in the long queue into the 1Borneo parking bays. But on the way into the basement car park, I noticed a vacant parking bay on the northern wing of the huge complex. So I quickly made a sharp turn and managed to squeeze into that space before another car was able to take it. I was very pleased with myself until I saw a parking attendant came running in my direction. He said I had to pay RM5 for that space. I showed him my so-called "Corporate" invitation card, but that didn't help. RM5 per admission, invitation card or not. So in the end, I decided enough was enough; I left the parking space and went straight home. I reckoned since there were so many people there it's not like the developer will miss me anyway (smile).

Well, to be quite honest, I wasn't expecting a red-carpet welcome from the developer. But RM5 parking per entry must be one of—if not the most—expensive parking rate here in KK. I wonder if this was supposed to have been the result of the recent rise in fuel prices?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Amazing Race

Last night it took me about an hour to travel about 15 km, to and fro, to my father-in-law's house in Dah Yeh Villa to fetch JJ home. The distance would have been much shorter if I had taken the short cut through Jalan Fung Yi Ting. But that road was jammed up by cars queuing up at the petrol station nearby. It wouldn't have taken an hour to cover 15 km, but all the petrol stations along the way were also packed. Cars were queuing up up to a mile long.

That was the amazing race by motorists caused by the sudden hike in prices of fuel throughout the nation [The Star]. Price of petrol increased by 78 sen per litre; whereas diesel saw a hike of RM1.00 per litre.

To be quite honest, I did not expect the announcement of the price hike so suddenly like that. I thought there would have been some sort of warning; say at least a few days before the hike. It's just a coincidence that I just topped up my fuel a day or two ago, so my tank was still quite full. However, even if I was down to a quarter tank, I doubt that I would've gone through that kind of fiesta at the petrol station.

Just shortly ago Mia was telling me about her colleague who queued up for petrol last night. It took her about two-and-a-half hours before it was finally her turn to fill up her tank. Apparently she was very pleased with herself for such a fine achievement. She pumped RM45 to top up her tank. But imagine, two-and-a-half hours!

So I decided to do a bit of calculation to demonstrate how much these people managed to save at the pump station. Now every litre of petrol pumped last night was a saving of 78 sen. So let's see how many litres did Mia's friend get. She pumped RM45, which meant she pumped RM45/RM1.92 = 23.44 litres of fuel into her tank. Bear in mind that for every litre, the saving was 78 sen. Therefore, last night she saved 23.44 x RM0.78 = RM18.28 at the pump station.

If I find RM18.28 lying around, I would take the trouble to pick it up. Even if I don't intend to keep it for myself (and I don't see why not) I would give it away for charity. But I don't think that I would waste two-and-a-half hours for the sake of RM18.28. And don't forget that queuing up for two-and-a-half hours also burns fuel. I see no reason why I should raise my blood pressure like that. But of course that's just me. Others don't think the same way as I do...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Marathon Sentences

Just a quick one to share with my readers about the writing habits of my staff.

I have never taken up any form of formal writing before. What I have today is based on what I've read from books and formal articles. There is this thing about writing formal pieces. In my opinion, it's always a good idea to keep the sentences short—ideally a good average of say 15 to 18 words per sentence. There are exceptions, of course. But when we write informally, then it's a different story. I try to refrain from throwing in too many valuation jargons.

This morning I am going through a draft written by one of my staff. She's been with us for about 8 years now. Check out this sentence:

"The Sutera Harbour Resort Development can be described as located in an exclusive location with magnificent setting and landscaped and a picturesque of the South China Sea and Tunku Abdul Rahman coral islands and the majestic Mount Kinabalu."

A sentence containing 38 words; it contains several proper nouns and no punctuation marks in between those words—awful! It is almost as awful as my wife's style! But of course those in the legal field are known to make sure that absolutely no one can understand their documents except fellow lawyers.

I have been trying very hard to tell my staff to be more realistic when they write, but I have not achieved much so far. I shall keep trying, although I don't have much hope for success...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Curing Type 2 Diabetes?

My late grandmother had Type 2 Diabetes. For years she was very careful with her sugar intake and had to watch her diet. However, she eventually died of liver cancer at the age of 65.

About 15 years ago dad found out that he had type 2 diabetes too. And then a few years later he sufferred a heart attack. He went through what's known as angio-plasty. However, about 10 years later he had another heart attack. This time he had to go through a quadruple bypass surgery.

Then 10 years ago, my sister, Bridget, developed the type 2 diabetes too. But so far she has not had a heart attack yet. More recently, my brother, Dennis, found out that he too joined the type 2 diabetic club in the family. And more recently still, earlier this year, my step-mother found out that she had type 2 diabetes when she suffered a stroke.

They all have one thing in common—they're all fat. No, they're obese! It saddens me that they don't have any discipline whatsoever when it comes to food. Eat, eat and eat; worry about the repercussions later, that's the attitude.

Unfortunately for me, diabetes is a hereditary disease. A doctor told me that it is almost certain that I will contract the disease sooner or later, depending on my lifestyle and what I do to slow down the process. But I am determined not to get it so soon. I try to keep my body weight in check; I try to make regular visits to the gym; and I try to control my food intake too. But I am after all just human. Sometimes I tend to relax a bit. So I will have to balance off here and there. For example if I eat more, I'll somehow balance that off with a bit more regular visits to the gym.

Apparently, about 150 million people in the world are suffering from disbetes—and about 90% of them are of type 2. That doesn't seem to be a big number against the current world population of 6.7 billion people. It is quite alarming to know that it is estimated that that number will double by 2025. As far as I am concerned, that is very, very soon. Hell, I might be a part of that statistic!

Therefore I am relieved to know that there is hope of a cure over the horizon. I hope such cure will be confirmed and then the procedure perfected during my lifetime. The gastric bypass surgery is not exactly a new procedure. It has been used for the treatement of obesity. But it seems that there is now overwhelming evidence to support its benefits in terms of being a cure for diabetic patients. If indeed there is any truth in this finding, perhaps many of my family members could use this kind of help.

Like I said, I hope this finding will be proven and then perfected during my lifetime, so that when and if I contracted the disease, then I know I have something to fall back to. But I hope I will never need it!

Monday, June 2, 2008

KK Jazz Festival


(Click on picture to see small prints)




The Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu is organising the Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival on 21 June 2008. It will be held at The Gourmet Lane, 1Borneo Hypermall (6:00pm - 11:30pm). Tickets are priced at RM50 and RM100 each. This is part of our club's fund-raising event to finance our many charity projects.

Not exactly the kind of entertainment I am crazy about, but if any of you (especially friends in KK) would like to buy tickets, please let me know soon. Apparently tickets are selling fast, but I really don't know what's the excitement all about.

A lady friend said that she's definitely going for this show because Aseana Percussion will be there. Again, that name doesn't ring a bell to me. But well, if it can sell tickets, then I will capitalise on that name so that I can psycho you young people to buy more tickets to listen to loud noises for a few hours.