Friday, January 30, 2009

Online Treasure Hunt—Crystal Yacht Challenge

Just when we are about to cool down after the recent HRU Challenge #2, there is another online hunt coming up very soon!

Still fresh from the oven, this afternoon I received the news from none other than Master Jayaram Menon on the Crystal Yacht Challenge set to start on 10 February 2009. Everyone can join the hunt for free, but they must first register as a participant. Attractive prizes for the winners, and lucky draws available for those scoring not less than 50%; all up for grabs without participants leaving their doorsteps!

For registration and more information, check it out here. Let's all rush to register!


Note: This is NOT a spoiler to the latest Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans.

In 2003, when the first sequel of the Underworld movie was released, I thought I'd have a change of taste. Vampires and warewolves are a bunch of craps, but perhaps there're some special effects worth watching. Well, indeed the movie had lots of special effects in it.

The story of that first Underworld movie basically revolved around some sort of war between vampires and warewolves. But at the end of it, I found myself somewhat lost. I didn't quite get the full picture, if you know what I mean. So many questions remained unanswered in my mind. I couldn't really decide who're the bad guys and who're the good guys. Lots and lots of killings, and yet the ending was left hanging.

After watching that movie, I thought the story teller left plenty unexplained. In particular, there was a cloud of mystery on how or why did the two clans clashed in the first place. And so, I was not surprised when its sequel, Underworld: Evolution, came onto the scene in 2006. Because of my curiosity, I went for this second movie too in the hope to get some answers still hanging in my mind from the first movie. Instead, by the end of that second movie, although I became more familiar with the main characters of the story, I also found myself having even more questions to ask. There was still nothing much on where and how it all started. Lots of killings still, and impressive special effects, but if you are like me, you'd insist to know where it all began.

Therefore, I was pleased to know last December, that another sequel of the Underworld would be released this month. Over the Chinese New Year holidays, I went to watch Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. I am happy to report that instead of a sequel, it's a prequel. The story goes back to the beginning, even before the original Underworld story—how it all started; how and why the vampires and warewolves have been fighting all these while. Most of my questions have been answered—I can now appreciate some finer points of the story. Last night I watched the original Underworld again, and this time I was able to enjoy it even more. And it's not only because of that hottie, Kate Beckinsale! I can now decide which side I'd choose as the good guys.

Those of you who've watched Underworld and Underworld: Evolution, I'd recommend that you watch the Rise of the Lycans too. You'll be happy to know that a lot of your questions would be answered; or least your perceived explanations would be confirmed. The only questions remaining in my mind are very petty; y'know, things like how Beckinsale gets into that tight catsuit—whether she needs to take a deep breath in order to pull up the zippers—that kind of stuff.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Golden Ox

And so, this is it—the so-called year of the golden ox. Quite frankly, I don't have any extraordinary expectation from the golden ox. In fact, I did not even know about the "golden" part of it until my sister Bridget mentioned it last Sunday.

We had our customary new year eve dinner as usual. Audrey came all the way from Lahad Datu. Dinner was simple—Bridget brought along about 2kg of shrimps, and Grace cooked the rest, i.e. steamed chicken, mixed vegetables, fried fish and chicken-mushroom soup. As usual we haven't had pork for new year eve dinners—since Audrey, Bridget and Dennis have all embraced Islam since so many years ago.

This year mom decided not to visit. She was here about two years ago. Her next visit will probably be during the next Chinese New Year. Which is probably a blessing in disguise. So this year we are able to enjoy a peaceful Chinese New Year. Mom has an amazing gift in stirring up things between us siblings, you see. Each time she visits us she just can't resist trying to dictate how we live our lives; she wants to be the one to organise everything for us. And almost without fail she'd make us siblings end up quarreling with each other. It's a very rare and special gift, I tell you!

We started our mahjong sessions from Friday night. I won a miserable RM12 that night, only to be beaten up real bad over the next couple of nights. The golden ox isn't very kind to me so far. After 4 days of mahjong, I am down by about RM300.

Of course my stepmother—I address her as Auntie Mary—did not dare to take up my challenge. I challenged her to bet on Dennis' shirt for the Chinese New Year dinner. You see, I can read my brother Dennis like a dictionary. Many years ago he went to a fortune teller who told him that his lucky colour was red. So each time if he intends to play mahjong, he would surely put on a red shirt. And true enough, he arrived in a red shirt that night. But of course at the end of the mahjong session, he lost over RM30.

Although people have been talking about the golden ox, actually I feel it's kinda quiet this year. At the turn of midnight, there was that crazy fire crackers and fire works all over for some minutes. Just imagine how much money the police are making from all those fire crackers!

Oh! by the way, to my loyal readers from faraway lands, fire crackers are illegal in Malaysia; they've been outlawed since many years ago. But of course you can find plenty of supplies during festive seasons.

Well, if there is anything special about the golden ox, I fail to see it up to now. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed. As the economy is slowing down, we are all hoping for something good from the golden ox. However, I have a feeling it's likelier that we have to work extra hard like the ox just for survival. This is gonna be a tough year, golden ox or not...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

HRU Challenge #2—Capital Revisited

The HRU Challenge #2 has just ended a few days ago; and as I begin commenting on the questions and answers, Marsha is yet to publish the remaining few answers (and explanations). I must admit that I did horribly in this hunt, thus proving once again that setting questions is not quite the same as solving them! My admiration to the geniuses from up north, Chian Min and Jayaram Menon, and my very good friends Teck Koon and Claire whom I had no doubt would do well, long before the end of this hunt.

When I comment on hunt questions and answers, I usually proceed directly for the "kill". Having commented on so many questions by numerous CoCs, I have been the subject of criticism myself. Some people actually gave me interesting nicknames; some actually making fun of my obsession in grammatical accuracy; some questioning my authority in criticising questions by the masters and grandmasters. Well, I am a nobody! I readily admit that I am new to this sport. And more importantly I also admit that I am vulnerable to make the same mistakes too! I just hope that I won't commit too many of them.

Before I go into the analysis of some of the questions in HRU Challenge #2, I must declare that I admire Marsha's hunting skill—she is most certainly one of the best in the business. Perhaps if I continue hunting, I might be able to reach her level of expertise in 10 years' time, if not more. She is without doubt a figure to be reckoned with in the sport treasure hunt.

Now it is human nature to take the side of the champion instead of a nobody, so I can expect many of you would disagree with my analysis. And perhaps because of that, I should refrain from commenting. But that would be somewhat inconsistent with what I have been doing since I started commenting in the Riddle Raiders Blog. There have been occasions when I felt some of you did not want me to comment, but on the other hand I have been receiving special requests for me to comment, even for hunts which I did not join.

I'd like to reiterate that whenever I comment, it's not meant to be personal. I happen to know some of these CoCs personally; in fact, I consider them good friends. My comments are not meant to be criticisms; rather they're discussions in the hope that we can all come up with a certain level of consistency and accuracy in hunt questions and solutions.

So here goes nothing...

First, I need to repeat a bit of what I have written in a past post. It was in one of Mike's hunts—the Be An Angel Beautiful Gate Hunt—that I came across an interesting question:

Q) Painkillers have strength

A) Numbers

The intended answer was one of those small words on a main sign which my team failed to spot. Instead we gave "CM Power". During the answer presentation, Mike announced that he accepted "CM Power" too. Later, when I was blogging about this question, I attempted to garner support for "CM Power" against "Numbers".

Mike's explanation was that "Numbers" are things that numb (the nerves), hence "Painkillers". And you know the phrase—you have strength in numbers. But because we were unable to spot "Numbers" during the hunt, we chose "CM Power" instead, because:



NUMBERS = C & M (Roman numerals)



Unfotunately, Master Teck Koon pointed out the flaws in my argument (yes, I make mistakes too!). He agreed that PAINKILLERS = NUMBERS; and NUMBERS = CM. But PAINKILLERS are not CM. He went on the give another example—that TULIP = FLOWER; and FLOWER = RIVER (cryptically). But TULIP is not RIVER! I had to reluctantly admit my mistake and conceded defeat. Sometimes one has to be brave to admit his mistakes.

Perhaps because of "common practice" in the hunting fraternity, the above problem has the tendency to crop up again and again occasionally. One such example was in the first online challenge in A Hunter's Tale. Check out this question:

Q) Ibu negara yang sah

A) Viki Lim

IBU NEGARA = LIMA (Capital City of Peru)


LIMA = V (Roman numeral)

SAH is the reversed of HAS, and HAS = MILIKI

So V + IKILIM (MILIKI reversed) = VIKI LIM

Adopting the same argument, we can agree that IBU NEGARA = LIMA; and LIMA = V. But IBU NEGARA is not V.

And now we come to Q13 of the HRU Challenge #2:

Q13) Expedition to discover oil is of primary importance here.


The solution, according to Marsha, lies mainly in word substitutions. First, one has to substitute "expedition" to "trip". Then on account of "discover" as the anagram indicator, to convert "oil" to "oli". Then convert "of primary importance" to "capital" (and this was the word I failed to find). After that, to rephrase (simplify) the clue like this:

Q13) TRIP to OLI is CAPITAL here.

Further simplification will yield: TRIPOLI is CAPITAL here. And so the the answer is LIBYA. But by now I think many of you can guess my objection.

The original meaning is:


The derived meaning is:

(2) TRIPOLI is CAPITAL here.

In (1) above, we are looking for a place where TRIPOLI is of primary importance, i.e. fundamental, profound, significant etc.

In (2) above, we are looking for a place where TRIPOLI is the capital (city), i.e. the meaning has changed substantially because of the word substitution.

Not my style when setting hunt questions, and perhaps that's also an indication that I still have plenty to learn in this sport! So now you can understand why I admire and respect those who solved this question.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Beauty And The Bees

Each time Mia has to write down her full name, she'd take a little longer than me. My full name is just Cornelius Koh and that's it—I don't have any other Chinese name apart from my surname. But Mia has a Chinese name, so she has to write Euphemia Thien Tshung Tsui.

When Jamie was born, Mia and I decided to do without a Chinese name for her. Instead, we gave her a middle name, Jasmine. So when she grows up, she'd have to write Jamie Jasmine Koh.

I don't quite understand the policy of her schoool, St James. According to her teacher, all Chinese kids must have Chinese names. We told her that our JJ hasn't any, but she kept insisting. So to make her happy, Mia told her to just write something that sounds like Jamie in Chinese. This instruction was given over the phone. Both Mia and I did not go to Chinese school when we were young, so we don't know much about Chinese characters, let alone the specific meanings etc. I dare say I know a bit more than Mia—at least I know "dong" (east), "nan" (south), "xi" (west) , "bei" (north) and "zhong" (middle), because I see those characters all the time when I play mahjong.

So anyway, when JJ came home from her first day at school, we were intrigued to find that the teacher had written her Chinese name on her book, but without her surname. Apparently her teacher did not know the correct character for my "Koh". Later on, I added the "Koh" to Jamie's given name.

For two weeks plus now, JJ has been practising writing her Chinese name almost daily; until it suddenly occured to me to ask some of my Chinese staff if they knew what's the meaning of those Chinese characters. Well, according the them, those characters read: Xu Jia Mi. The "Xu" is my surname in Chinese (as in Xuduo de Xu). Then "Jia" means "good; fine; beautiful". But "Mi" means bee (as in Mifeng de Mi). According to my staff, it's not quite appropriate to use the "Mi" of the bee for people because in the character itself there is a "worm" at the bottom.

Oh for heaven's sake!; a name is a name—if it sounds like Jamie, does it really matter how it's written? I didn't think it should matter. But when I told Mia about it, she became quite upset. She's all stressed up about the "worm" thing. She went on and on about that worm this evening—thank goodness she's gone to bed now. But knowing her, I know she'll be harping on that forsaken worm in the days to come.

So I've come up with Plan B—I'll be asking my staff to teach me how to write "Mei" (as in Meili de Mei), meaning beautiful. I told Mia about this Plan B just before she went to bed. She seemed quite pleased with it. Women!

Two weeks in primary one so far; only about 6 years to go before I relocate her to an English medium school. I am confident that JJ will survive that 6 years, but I'm not so sure that Mia and I will. But at least JJ will have a beautiful name.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Growing Slimmer

Since a few weeks ago all eyes have been on Kuala Terengganu. Indeed the by-election had attracted the attention of all Malaysians. In the weeks leading up to the polling day, all the big guns in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) rained onto Kuala Terengganu, including the top 2 fellows. All sorts of inducements were offered to the people of Kuala Terengganu, most probably from the taxpayers money, yet in the end PAS won the seat. They did not win marginally—they won with a majority of 2,631 votes. So the new MP for Kuala Terengganu is Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut.

Despite going all out to capture the seat, BN ends up with yet another failure. They are much stronger financially; they also control a substantial portion of the mass media encompassing the major newspapers, TV and radio stations. Yet the Kuala Terengganu folks chose the opposition candidate. To me that speaks volume!

"Barisan Nasional’s loss in the by-election is only a setback and has no impact on the national political landscape...

The Barisan number two said the coalition would not be disheartened and would embark immediately on measures to win back the confidence of the people."

He's got to be kidding me! No impact? I'm sure he himself can't believe what he's saying. The second line above is fast becoming a standard comment since the political tsunami in March last year. Whatever "immediate measures" taken by the BN since March last year, they did not seem to be working to "win back the confidence of the people", and their controlling stake in the Dewan Rakyat is gradually growing slimmer by each by-election. If the opposition can repeat the feat another 30 times, BN will become the opposition party. It is not impossible, but I think not probable. However, at the rate we're going right now, it does seem like the BN will not survive the next General Election.

I read with interest about the "RAHMAN" prophecy a while ago. It's been suggested that the names of the Malaysian Prime Ministers shall start with those letters found in RAHMAN, and in that order. Thus Najib is predicted to become the next Prime Minister, i.e. the "N" in RAHMAN. If indeed that is true, then all those people in RAHMAN are from the ruling BN. And then one wonders who comes next. Could it be that since the "N" is the last letter in RAHMAN, it is also the last Prime Minister from BN? Some people might already be grumbling right now—they might be frustrated that the name of the first Prime Minister only had RAHMAN in it. If they could only turn back the clock to the time when RAHMAN was born, perhaps they would lengthen the name RAHMAN with the letters "H" and "K". Then they won't have to worry about the slimmer majority in Dewan Rakyat.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Noah's Ark

I visited a fellow blogger's site recently and found an interesting post which touched on God. I couldn't refrain from posting a comment there.

Then I thought of an article I wrote some years ago—I wrote it to a religious friend in the hope that he'd be able to shed some light on the issues raised. At the same time, I also posted that article in a blog somewhere, although I can't remember where exactly. As I said, I wrote the article some years ago.

It suddenly occured to me that since I now have my own blog, I might as well post the article here for your reading pleasure. It took me a while to trace back where I saved this article—in the end I found it in one of my 3 pendrives. Perhaps some of you might even be able to provide me with a viable explanation?


According to the Bible, all but a few of the living things in the world were once killed by the great flood. Those very few who survived were Noah and his immediate family members, along with male and female pairs of all the animals in the world. This is the story of Noah and the Ark. This imaginative story is very interesting, but I’d like to hear opinions on some of the finer aspects of it.

The Ark

(i) Size & Design

The Bible is very specific about this particular piece of information. The Ark was built like this: 450ft long; 75ft wide; 45ft high. It is to accommodate 3 floors, i.e. lower, middle and upper decks (Genesis 6.15). I would imagine that a few thousand years ago, it would have been quite a major construction project! Nothing was actually mentioned on the navigational equipment, so it is possible to argue that for the sake of saving space on board, the absence of a bridge where Noah was able to carry out navigational tasks. It is hard to imagine how a 450-footer could have accommodated all the animals in pairs, not forgetting numerous species and sub-species, even after allowing for the 3 floors on board. Of course a pair of elephants, for example, would have occupied so much space. And there are other huge animals too. Furthermore, some animals are accustomed to certain ranges of temperatures for survival—some require cold environment, while others require warm climate etc.

Can anyone with ship-building expertise shed some light on the above scenario?

(ii) Food & Water Storage

Nothing was mentioned on clean water and food storage capacity, bearing in mind that the Ark was to be floating for almost a year. I’m not forgetting that some animals—for example, bears—might have hibernated during the flood, and hence required little food. However, the vast majority of the animals are not hibernating animals. They needed daily ration of food and water. My best guess is that the water and food required for so many animals and some humans for all those months would have been quite a lot, so storage/ration of water and food would have been a tricky problem.

Taking the population of the Ark into account, I’d say at least several tons of food would have been required on a daily basis. But I must admit that I haven’t gone into detailed analysis and calculations on the actual amount of food/water required. I wonder if it is possible to determine the amount. Anyway, logically speaking, quite a large space would have been required for storage purposes.

And then even if the storage situation could be solved somehow, one wonders on the preservation of these foods. Of course fruits and vegetables have very short shelf lives in the supermarkets in spite of modern technologies like refrigerators etc. I suppose it is safe to rule out canned food at that time. So it would be interesting to know how these foods were preserved for an entire year in the Ark.

(iii) Construction Materials & Duration

Now assuming that Noah had the expertise on such an undertaking, I wonder the duration for the completion of the project. I suppose his family members must have helped him, but it was still a huge undertaking. In my opinion, it might have taken several years, if not several decades to complete. This should not be a big mystery, since apparently people lived to be several hundred years old those good old days. So several decades wouldn’t have been an issue. Then there was the question of building materials, the most significant must have been the supply of ‘good’ wood (Genesis 6.14). Considering the size of the Ark, it must have required a lot of wood.

Just to expand a little bit on the construction material, namely wood, it is interesting to know just how long it would take an average person to chop down a tree and then saw the log to turn it into sawn timber. Of course there was no motorized round saw at the time, so all the cutting and sawing would have had to be done manually. Therefore, it would have taken quite a long time just to get all the sawn timber ready, let alone to actually getting down to building the ship.

If indeed it took decades to complete the project, I wonder how long a sawn cypress wood could last. One can’t help wondering if the wood would rot long before the Ark was completed.

(iv) Congestion

Working out the space of 450ft x 75ft x 3 floors, gives an approximate 101,250 sq. ft floor space (ignoring the thickness of the walls/partitions). That is equivalent of about 2.3 acres, give and take. And that is assuming the Ark was just a square box. Obviously if it wasn’t a ‘box’ then the space on board would have been even lesser; maybe substantially lesser. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, space would have been very, very limited on board. Congestion problems must have prevailed throughout all those months during the flood. I asked a friend who worked in a zoo for some years, if it’s possible for all the pairs of animals in the world to fit into an area of 2.3 acres, bearing in mind that a substantial portion of that space was for the storage of food and water. After considering for a short moment, he gave the expected answer—NO.

How was the ventilation problem solved? Since we are talking about living animals, all would require air to breathe. Nothing in the Bible indicates any ventilation system, although there was a mention of a space of 18 inches between the roof and the sides of the boat (Genesis 6.16). Maybe that was where fresh air got into the Ark. But those of you who are familiar with building construction would know that for such a large floor space, it is necessary to have some sort of ventilation system, eg. using fans to facilitate the flow of air. Moreover it is also unclear where those animals on the lower decks got their air for breathing. Perhaps what’s even more mind-boggling was that apparently all the windows were closed during the flood (although this was not specifically mentioned). Only after months floating in the flood did Noah open a window he had made in the Ark (Genesis 8.6).

After the Flood

The water kept going down, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains appeared (Genesis 8.5).

Meanwhile, Noah sent out a dove to see if the water had gone down, but since the water still covered all the land, the dove did not find a place to light. It flew back to the boat, and Noah reached out and took it in (Genesis 8.8-9).

He (Noah) waited another seven days and sent out the dove again. It returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. So Noah knew that the water had gone down (Genesis 8.10-11).

Let’s consider the flow of the story for a bit. The Bible says that the first dove couldn’t find a place to land. Then seven days later, again the dove was sent off. And that evening it brought back a freshly plucked olive leaf. We are now able to deduce that the water must have subsided further during that 7-day window. OK, fine, we progress.

But now a fresh dilemma arises. Are we to assume that the olive tree survived almost a year underwater? Can anyone with specific knowledge on olive trees comment on this? The other possible explanation is that the olive trees did not survive the flood; but was somehow able to quickly regenerate to the extent of growing fresh leaves within that 7-day window—a weak explanation, in my opinion.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Core Fitness

I ran the half marathon (21km) in the Borneo International Marathon in October last year. And I have since ran the Penang Bridge International Marathon (25km) as well as the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (21km). I plan to run my very first full marathon (42km) in October this year, with perhaps a couple more half marathons before October. Therefore I really need to maintain a consistent training schedule almost throughout the entire year.

The last couple of weeks haven’t been very kind to me. It’s been raining almost daily, and I haven’t been able to do my runs. I know this sounds very much like a typical excuse for laziness, but I really want to run, honest!

I was therefore pleasantly surprised this morning when I received a call from the lady at Core Fitness to inform me of their soft opening. The outlet is actually the former YFitness in City Mall, of which I was also a member. I paid for a 2-year membership, but saw my membership fee gone down the drain when YFitness went bust a few months ago.

It is a good thing that a prominent local businessman decided to buy over what’s left of YFitness and transformed it into Core Fitness. But prominent businessman or not, I have my doubts. You know the saying—once bitten, twice shy!

Don’t get me wrong though, I welcome the reopening of the fitness centre. In fact, I readily admit that Mia and I desperately need a fitness centre close to our house in Taman Iramanis. But we are not sure if we would pay on annual or monthly bases. Either way, I think it is almost certain that we will join.

Anyway, information gathered from Core Fitness on the available schemes are like this:

1) Monthly Payments

RM180.00 net per month, subject to initial single payment of RM90 for processing fee; start anytime and stop anytime.

2) Monthly Payments (12 months commitment)

RM130.00 net per month. Initial payment of RM390.00, i.e. for 3 months and subject to initial single payment of RM90 for processing fee (non-refundable)

3) Annual Payments

Lumpsum of RM1,200.00 for the first 100 members (promotion); RM1,650.00 for the rest (towels provided).

** Towels (Optional)

Members paying on monthly basis may opt for towels to be provided by Core Fitness (optional) at a cost of RM30 per month. But towels are not for bringing home! (Smile)

Core Fitness had a soft opening yesterday; the official opening is scheduled to be on 8 February 2009. It is still undergoing final stages of renovation at the moment but members of the public may come in to try out the equipment free of charge until the official opening.

So come on, y’all, get off your butts and start getting fit again! See you at Core Fitness!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


One of my nieces, Ramona Jane—she's Bridget's daughter—secretly gave me the nickname Piranha. I did not know that until very recently. All these while she's been addressing me as Uncle Kong (My family members address me as King Kong since I was a small boy, but that's a different story), but behind me, it's Piranha.

I am known amongst my nephews and nieces as the strict uncle. They're very well-versed with my lectures on discipline. I must have been advising them too many times on hardwork and determination. But on the other hand, whenever they do good in school, I am the only one who'd reward them handsomely.

Well, Mona got 8As in her form 3 exams last year. But somehow I have totally forgotten to ask her for her results. So last week, Bridget called me up and told me that Mona has been wondering how come Piranha never asked for her results. I'm very pleased whenever I see any of my nephews or nieces achieve good grades in school. But that 8As means I will have to allocate RM400 for Mona.

I am often disappointed in the younger generation. They generally lack the drive to achieve big things. They pass the exams and that's it. But underneath the very fierce and strict surface, I have a soft spot for children. They are generally so vulnerable. A friend of mine noticed that about me and recently while we were having a yam cha, he asked me why.

And so this gives me another excuse to tell another one of my grandfather stories. I don't normally enjoy telling stories about my childhood days. They are generally lousy stories—the kind which I prefer to erase from my memory. But sometimes they can be a useful source for bedtime stories...

Dad, the playboy, was hardly around when I was a boy. I think I must have been about 6 years old when my parents divorced. Mom went back to Brunei and dad remarried and I hardly ever met him. Bridget and I were parked at our grandmother's house and were treated like slaves. One of these days, I will elaborate on the slavery part of the story. Audrey and Dennis went with my mom. Evelyn was with a grand uncle.

Life was very miserable back then. There were many occasions when I felt like committing suicide. Each night when I went to sleep, I wished that I would not wake up in the morning to face another nightmare. It wasn't amusing wetting my pillow with tears.

One day Bridget couldn't take it any more. She ran away from home to a friend's house. I think she was about 12 years old then. My grandmother and grandfather went searching for her in the middle of the night. They found her and dragged her by her hair all the way home. I watched in horror, and I can still see it all in my mind right now.

I hated my parents; I hated my grandparents; I hated life. There was just no hope; I was doomed for misery.

In school I was never happy. I dreaded the thought that when school's over I had to go home to hell again. And it would be many more hours before I got to be in school again, away from all the ugliness.

Then one day the councelling teacher brought me to her office. Apparently she's been watching my behavior for some time. She installed me into a seat and tried to make me talk about my problems. But I kept quiet; there was just no reason to talk. Nothing could change.

Over the next couple of weeks, she kept summoning me to her office and kept trying to make me talk. Finally I started talking—and once I started talking, I just went on and on. I poured everything out—about missing my parents; my cruel grandparents and aunties; the slavery I had to endure. She remained silent and let me talk. Her face did not betray any emotion; she merely nodded and smiled kindly every now and then. And as I continued talking, I began to become increasingly emotional. I began to cry, but I did not stop talking. She kept listening attentively.

Then I said, "Oh! I regret to have been born into this world; I wish I could just die right now!". And then suddenly she could hold it no more. She burst out crying too. And so, the two of us cried together for a long time after that.

Thinking back of that day, it's kinda funny, really—the two of us crying like fools, as if that could help with my situation.

Many years have since elapsed and I have managed to escape from the hell hole somehow.

I think if you knew what I went through during my childhood days, then you will understand why I have a soft spot for children.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Let Nature Take Its Course?

It is quite unfortunate that I took a long time to get myself prepared for parenthood. When I was younger, I spent some years building up my career—I had to work days and study nights. That went on for some years. Mia went through the same thing too.

By the time we were done with the university degrees, we were already in our thirties. Finally we decided it's time to have kids. Little did we know that it's extremely difficult to conceive after mid-thirties. Thankfully, however, after several visits to the specialist, and having been put to a number of embarrassing tests, we were finally blessed with a child.

In the course of the 9 months while we were waiting for the arrival of Jamie Jasmine, I went through quite a bit of scary moments, thinking of the worst that could happen. This problem and that problem; whether I'm gonna be good enough to be a daddy; would I become sick of all the cryings and tantrums, the doctor visits etc. But when JJ was born, parenthood was so natural—I enjoyed every moment of it. We took turns to bathe JJ in that tiny plastic tub of hers. Waking up in the wee hours of the morning for the milk. It wasn't a nightmare after all. Before long, we were already hoping to have another child. But it was not meant to be...

We're both fast approaching our mid forties now; JJ will be 7 years old this July. Yet there is no sign of another child. I suppose JJ is the only precious one in our lives. I love to see her grow; how happy I'd become whenever she learns something new.

And then recently an interesting topic came up during one of our casual conversations. What if Mia can conceive again, but we are able to detect a child with down syndrome? I am aware that many couples would abort; but some wouldn't take that step no matter what.

I am not a religious person. Whatever I do, I always look at the practical side of things. If I have to abort a child, then that is exactly what I will do. But it is the hardest kind of thing to do no matter what.

No—Mia is not pregnant. And as the days pass, the possibility of that happening becomes increasingly remote. But it is still a possibility and if she becomes pregnant with a healthy child, I would gladly let nature take its course. If, however, we are able to know early that the child has something like down syndrome, I might seriously consider abortion. It is such an ugly word and very few people would dare to admit it. But as I said earlier, I am a practical person!

I know both Mia and I will love our child the same way whether or not he or she has down syndrome. I know we will protect him or her—perhaps even more. I know we are willing to sacrifice for the well-being of the child—there is just absolutely no question about all those!

But I also know that we can't live forever. No matter how diligently we take care of our health, one of these days, we will surely die—everyone will! When we are no longer around, who is going to love our child? Who is going to protect him? Who is willing to sacrifice for him? I can't bear the thought that he will become a burden to others...

Chances are, he won't be able to learn things the same way as others; no matter what it will never be the same. In whatever he wants to do, he will start way behind when compared to other kids. When other healthy boys are changing girlfriends like changing shirts, he will be extremely lucky if he can get just one girl. And of course I am not even talking about a spouse. I can't bear the thought of bringing a child into this cruel world for him to suffer from day one of his life. I would rather not let it happen!

When I die and get a severe punishment on judgement day, I just hope it will be quick. I am prepared to face the music. Otherwise my soul will suffer and won't rest in peace anyway, knowing that my child is going through his life miserably every single day until he dies.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Burden Of Education

All the schools reopened on Monday this week. JJ was excited to go to her new school—St. James. She immediately found a new friend named Cloey. It so happened that Cloey spoke good English too; so they spent too much time talking—until the teacher decided to separate these two chatterboxes! So now JJ sits with a boy.

Each day, Mia would send JJ off to school. She has to park her car at some distance away from the main gate of the school, and then walk through all the traffic jam. Many parents would bring their children up to the main gate, but Mia has to bring JJ all the way to her classroom.

Unlike in the kindergarten, JJ now has quite a lot of books. And it is strange that the school requires these kids to bring all their books everyday. I've read somewhere that an ant can carrry up to 6 times its body weight. So maybe the schools these days are trying to make ants out of our kids.

My JJ weighs about 16.5kg and her school bag weighs about 6.5kg. In terms of percentage, JJ is carrying about 40% of her body weight to school daily. Maybe 6.5kg doesn't sound like much, but JJ just couldn't carry her bag. So she had to drag it instead. That's why Mia had to carry her bag for her all the way to her classroom.

But what about after school? Both Mia and I are working, and we've made the arrangement for JJ's grandpa to fetch her from school. However, all the parents can only wait outside the front gate. JJ had to drag her bag from her classroom to that front gate.

On wednesday, I went to look for a new bag for JJ. I tried to cast my mind back to the good old days when I was still schooling. Somehow I don't remember having had to carry 40% of my body weight. Maybe the education system back then was much simpler.

Anyway, while I was searching for JJ's school bag, I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a number that had wheels on them. This problem with heavy school bags isn't something new, so much so that someone came up with the idea of making school bags with wheels.

To give you an idea of the size of school bags these days, check out the above picture. The one on the left is the usual bag I'd use whenever I travel outstation for a few days; the one on the right is JJ's new school bag with wheels. She's very happy that she needs not drag her bag from her classroom everyday; and she's even pulling her own bag from the car too.

This morning, her school held some sort of seminar for parents whose children are just starting primary one this year. Amongst others, someone raised the issue about the heavy school bags. But apparently it's not a new issue. There is just no way around it—the kids must bring all their books everyday. A teacher blamed the weight on the drinking water and sanwiches that the kids bring along it their school bags.

I usually can't tolerate this kind of nonsense, but as I've said before, I must be getting old and soft somehow. I dread the longs years ahead—too bad that JJ has to be a part of this education system.

New Recipe

Whenever I'm in KL, I'd usually put up at the YMCA because it's very near to the KL Sentral Station. I can take the taxi, the bus and the train from there. So it's very easy to move around.

The above foodstall is located just across the road from the YMCA. It starts its business hours from late afternoon. It's a very convenient stop for me; and I don't mind eating in the open air either.

I can't read those Chinese characters, but I've come to remember this stall as simply ABC. One can just choose from a variety of Chinese food. I've never been a very fussy person when it comes to food; so I've been coming back to this stall a few times.

Up to now I still can't figure out how to steam a soup. I can cook some dishes, of course, but I am far from a professional chef. I know about steamed chicken or fish, but not steamed soup. I tried asking the lady at the stall, but y'know, I can't speak Cantonese, and she couldn't speak Hakka. How does one steam a soup?

Monday, January 5, 2009

KK City Tourism Treasure Hunt 2009—Preliminary Information

I have been asked about the status of the KK City Tourism Treasure Hunt 2009 by some friends, especially those from West Malaysia. So this afternoon I decided to make a visit to my cousin-in-law's office in the Municipal Hall to get more information. She's Fauziahton Ag. Samad, the Co-ordinator of the hunt.

Well, the hunt is confirmed on Sunday, 22 February 2009. However, as of this afternoon, they have not decided on who's going to clerk the hunt. She said they have short-listed several West Malaysian Clerks-of-Course, but without revealing any names. However, apparently they still favour the Time Out Solutions (TOS), because "it is easier to runding the terms of engagement with them". I think many hunters favour TOS too.

Interestingly, there will invite some media celebrities—whatever that means—but if I understood correctly, the folks from the NST and Astro will send teams this time. A new sponsor—which I am not at the liberty to reveal at this time—has also more or less been confirmed, thus indicating richer prizes, although I have a feeling that most of them will be in terms of merchandise rather than cash. As usual, the number of teams will be limited to 120 only, and I am convinced that that figure is quite easily achieveable, considering how desperate we KK hunters are for treasure hunts! There will be only ONE category, i.e. open to all. I suppose that means those media folks will also hunt in the open category.

We also discussed briefly about the format of the hunt. I was trying to influence Fauziahton to at least reduce the games. In previous years, the KK City hunts have always been leaning towards the "Amazing Race" format where the score for the hunt questions and treasures did not even come up to 50% of the total score. However, Fauziahton said they're going to maintain such format because (i) to promote tourism; and (ii) to give a chance to the new hunters to beat the regular hunters. What can I say, this is after all the "Boleh Land". So what could potentially happen is that one will have to work extremely hard to solve 3 route questions, yet a single roll of the coconut can easily win in terms of score.

As in the previous years, the hunt will start and end at the Nexus Karambunai Resort Hotel. Many people have asked if it's possible to choose another venue which is closer to the city centre. It is indeed strange that teams are flagged off so far out of the city, and then come all the way to the city, just to make all the way back to Nexus again. However, Fauziahton said that they found the Nexus is the best venue because (i) Nexus Karambunai is the official resort for this hunt; and (ii) they have enough space for the cars to line up; and (iii) their banquet hall is large enough to accommodate 500 people. So those of you who've been bugging me with this question, now you have your answer!

Incidentally, we also talked a bit about the Sutera Harbour-Angkatan Hebat Hunt which I clerked in 2007. That was a pure hunt where I did not include even a single game. According to Fauziahton, some of the regular hunters from the Municipal Hall joined that hunt too, and interestingly their comment was that that hunt sucked! I guess they didn't win anything (smile). I remember shortly after the Sutera, I received quite a fair bit of compliments from most of the regular hunters I knew; even from 2 KL teams which took the big risk to come all the way to KK to join this first-timer CoC's hunt. But I suppose I can't expect to please everyone.

I will make further announcement when I get more information. See you on 22 February 2009!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Armchair Hunt

This is just to inform my readers, particularly treasure hunters from Sabah, that there's now an ongoing "armchair hunt" in A Hunter's Tale. A very interesting online hunt which requires no involvement of tulips; and no need to spend on fuel too!

The questions are set by some of the best in this sport. So this is a good opportunity to hone your cryptic-solving skills. Eighteen questions will be given. We're only more or less halfway through and I'm already stuck!

I'm sure you'll have lots of fun with this one. Good luck!

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009 With A Big Bang

Contrary to the title of this post, I did not have the so-called big bang celebration to usher in the new year. No—I spent the new year eve having a claypot spicy chicken rice with Mia, JJ and my mother-in-law at the Grace Garden eatery.

We were home by around 10pm. Then I spent the rest of the evening stuck to my notebook; JJ was watching Wall-E for the 100th time; and Mia was working on some documantation for an upcoming project.

Elsewhere, people were partying up till very late night. I happen to know that the Tanjung Aru Beach would be congested as people would actually swim in the water when the clock struck 12 midnight. I don't know who started that tradition, but it has been going on year in year out for as long as I can remember. That is not so fantastic, really. When I visited my mom in Vancouver, they had the traditon of swimming in the sea on new year day in the icy cold water. Now that is madness!

But some people were inspired to celebrate the new year, literally, with a big bang like never before. Well, at least I'd like to assume that they never did it like that before. Twenty-six people in a hotel room—I wonder how all of them were able to fit into a single room. They must have been all over the place. But at 3:30am the banging hadn't started yet—it makes me wonder how some people take such a long time for foreplay. I guess it adds to the excitement. Too bad the police had to spoil the party amongst consenting adults, but then what can I say, this is Malaysia where such a party is illegal.

Yesterday afternoon I went for my usual short run at the Likas jogging track. I could immediately feel the new year atmosphere. There were at least 5 times the usual number of joggers there! Those of you who are active people would know that the vast majority of the human race will suddenly get inspired to start exercising at the beginning of every year. They will come in great numbers to overcrowd the jogging tracks all over the country. They will continue doing numerous forms of physical exercises—be it running, bicycling or just walking—for about 2 weeks at the beginning of every year. And that's about all the physical exercises that they will do for the entire year. The next time they do that again is at the start of the following year. It never failed to make me smile—some things will never change.

So here we are in 2009—eleven more years to reach 2020, the year when Malaysia is supposed to achieve the "developed nation" status. But to be quite honest, when talking about "developed nation", I don't really know what are the criteria for a country to qualify as one. Someone mentioned to me that one of the requirements is that at least 40% of the population is "sufficiently" educated. Well, judging from how hard some people are trying to lower the education standards in Malaysia these days, we should be able to achieve that 40% target sooner than 2020.

New year resolutions? Well, age must be catching up—somehow I no longer have a big drive as in the good old days. I might even say that I'm getting soft these days! If I can find good opportunities, I want to buy and move to a bigger house this year or next year at the latest. But that is if I can find a bank which would lend me the money for the purchase!

I foresee tough times ahead as far as business is concerned, but I suppose everyone will be going through the same ordeal. I read in the today's papers that an astrologer in India predicts more calm and prosperity this year. But those of you who know me well, especially if you've read one of my earlier posts, would know that I am not a believer of astrologers. A little over a year ago, a famous Malaysian astrologer gave a talk in a hotel in KK. After explaining his reasons, he predicted that Hillary Clinton would become the next American President. Who in his right mind would've predicted that Obama would win then?

I have also initiated some discussions with a friend to try to co-clerk a hunt in KL for the very first time this year; and with a view of making it an annual event too! I will try my best to suppress my inclination to introduce too many "new twists" in my clues, but I doubt that I will be very successful.

JJ will be entering primary 1 next Monday. She's all excited to go to school again. Plenty of new friends and plenty of new things to memorize. And I look forward to see her front tooth grow again.

Happy New Year to you all; and all the best from Mia, JJ and yours truly!