Friday, February 27, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise

When I was still school, I had always wanted to become a civil engineer some day. That was a very long time ago, and I can't remember now why I wanted so much to be a civil engineer. Unfortunately, my A-Level results were not very impressive. I only managed credits for all my science subjects. I had hoped to do well in maths, but it was not meant to be. I did very well in my applied maths, but immediately after the exams, I was horrified to realise that I made a blunder in a calculus question. And true enough, when the results came out, I only managed a B for maths.

Armed with my average results, I applied to pursue civil engineering in numerous local and foreign universities. I was happy that most of them accepted my applications, but I had no financial means to further my studies. So I applied for scholarships from Yayasan Sabah, our State Government as well as other big companies such as Shell. All of them came back with negative replies. I was just one of those many, many applicants in Malaysia who were unfortunately enough to have Chinese surnames, you see. In order to qualify for scholarships in Malaysia, a non-bumi must not only get average results; he must get excellent results.

So while I was thinking of what to do next, I decided to teach maths in a private college on a temporary basis. Well, "temporary" turned out to be 3-and-a-half years in the end. I tried to apply for a scholarship during those years, but always received the same replies.

During the first year teaching in the college, I was filled with excitement. It was a lot of fun imparting knowledge to the students. And I was especially pleased when some of them did very well in the exams. But after a while I realised that I had more or less come to a standstill in my life. And then I also found that there wasn't much motivation to remain in the teaching line. When the students did badly, it's always because the teacher was not good enough. But when they did well, it's because they were hardworking and nothing much to do with the teacher's input.

I therefore decided to call it a day with the teaching career and ventured out to Brunei on something totally new. And the rest is history...

There isn't a lot of pleasant things I can remember about my teaching life. But just a few days ago, a stranger greeted me in the street. He bowed his head a little and, with a big smile, addressed me as Mr Koh. I was taken aback because I hadn't the slightest clue who he was. I've got this weakness in remembering faces, you see. Then he introduced himself as my former student, and I pretended to say something like: "Oh! yes, I remember you now!", when actually I still can't remember at all up to now.

But it's such a pleasant surprise that some people still remember me as their teacher after over 20 years.

If I Were A Politician...

The first thing I would do each day is to think of new ways to make more money for myself. It won’t be because I’m so hard-up for money. No—it’s just for the thrill of making more money by screwing the rakyat in whatever ways I can. But in order to achieve this objective, I need to be one of those people sitting in the higher office in the ruling government—those who can play God for the fate of the over 20 million people in this nation.

But these days, it’s kinda hard to find one’s way to the top of the ruling government. If I’m unlucky to find myself in the opposition camp, I may have to work very hard to induce a number of people from the other side to cross over so that we can have the required number to form the government. Hell—I may even have to seduce them with promises of important posts in the government. Otherwise, why would they want to cross over; to serve the rakyat? Oh! Please!

At the same time, I will also promise the rakyat with all sorts of good things—such as reduction of fuel prices and toll fees, no corruption etc. And of course not to forget that I will go to all ends to find anything bad about the ruling government to bring to the rakyat’s attention.

On the other hand, if I am in the ruling government, and seeing that the opposition is gaining support from the rakyat, I would do anything I can to defend my position. Maybe I will even use nude pictures of sleeping Assemblywomen to my advantage. And maybe I will be willing to accept members from the opposition camp who’re allegedly corrupt people. I will do anything to get the numbers in order to form a new government.

And what about the country’s welfare? What about the economic situation? What about the rakyat’s suffering?

Well, what about them? Why should I care? Oh! For God's sake, those have never been my main goals as a politician anyway.

Power and money—those are the primary goals! And along the way, if I can gain fame as well, then that would be ideal.

Yes, if I were a politician, that’s what I would do. I will use my power to improve my wealth. And if there's anything left, I'll let some of my own people make a bit of money too. I'm sure the country is just fine on auto pilot. And if it's not, why surely somebody else should worry about it.

If only…

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tofu vs Cucumber

Well, I'm so glad that I'm still far from the depressing level of the tofu. Otherwise, I suppose I won't be happy or have a positive outlook on my relationship with my wife.

But on the other hand, neither am I anywhere comparable to the level of the cucumber. Just imagine, folks—freakin' cucumber! That's like you can beat up a dog with it and kill that dog in the process! I'll be damned!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Handicap Treasure Hunters

Having just gone through the KK City Tourism Treasure Hunt 2009 last Sunday, I will be flying over to KL this weekend to participate in the Hunters Challenge (01 March 2009). It’s the debut outing of Hunters “R” Us (HRU)—as a team—as a CoC for an open hunt.

When the Hunters Challenge was first publicized some weeks ago, I must say that I was not in favour of joining it for several reasons. Firstly, I somehow had—and I still have—the impression that there will be many unfair tricks in the questions. I have seen some of the clues produced by some members of HRU, notably in the online challenges in their blog. They had an interesting inclination to introduce new twists into their questions, but in my opinion, a number of those “new tricks” were not very fair to the solvers. I myself am a tricky little devil when it comes to tricks; and I frequently find it very hard to suppress my inclinations to introduce new twists into hunt questions too. However, whenever I set hunt questions, I always ask myself if I have provided for sufficient opportunities for the hunters to solve them—whether they’re humanly solvable. That said, I guess I’m not the best person to judge the fairness of my own questions, as I might be blind or bias when it comes to my own questions.

Secondly, the Hunters Challenge is a joint-effort of 4 great minds in the sports. I somehow have the impression that they will be all out to outdo each other by creating something outrageously impossible. On the other hand, it is also possible that they will be able to check each other’s products to ensure that they’re sound. So in that case the hunters may find quality questions in the Hunters Challenge. I personally think this latter scenario will be the likelier one, and I am therefore keen to try them out.

Thirdly, the Hunters Challenge clashes with a new-found passion of mine. The KK City Run 2009 will be held on the same day. I ran the KK City Run for the first time last year, and was planning to improve on my time this year. So I was seriously thinking of foregoing the Hunters Challenge. But I opted for the Hunters Challenge in the end because it’s the first time it’s being organised. If for any reason it’s not successful this time, it might not be organised again next year. I suppose I’ll always have more KK City Runs in the future.

So that’s settled then—come this Sunday, I will be there at the start station of the Hunters Challenge!

Notwithstanding the above, however, someone sought my opinion on the handicap system being introduced in the Hunters Challenge, i.e. the amount of time allocated to the hunters. HRU has come up with their own list of hunting greats. They’re separating the hunters based on those who’ve won selected hunts which they considered aptly categorized as the grandslams. The rest are put into the open category. The grandslammers are allocated 4.5 hours, and non-grandslammers 5.5 hours. Which means a handicap of 60 minutes in favour of the non-grandslammers.

People who know me well, will know that I am against handicaps in any form. My principle for success in any competition—and in life in general—is to fight against the best to be the best. If we’re required to run the marathon with only one leg, then let’s all run with one leg and see who will reach the finish line first.

Now a popular argument by the new hunters is that if they had to fight against the so-called master hunters without any handicaps, they have no chance to win. In my opinion, this argument can’t hold water, as we have more than enough evidence to support the fact that many new teams have been able to beat the masters without any handicaps whatsoever. They may not win on their first outing. No—perhaps they will take several outings to overwhelm the masters. It is difficult but not impossible.

So my vote is against the time handicap; or any kind of handicap at all. If I have to fight against the grandmasters with equal time allocation, then I guess that’s what I will do. In all likelihood I will lose. I will probably fall flat on my face, but I will get up again and fight another day. Either that or I will meekly throw in the towel, but I will never plead for handicaps—never!

I am not yet a grandslammer, and I don’t think I will be one for a very long time. I am well aware that I am not as good as those grandmasters, but I despise the fact that I’m given handicaps as if I am perceived to be a likely loser even before the flag-off. Give me equal treatment; 4.5 hours or 5.5 hours, I don’t care. Everyone gets the same thing, and when and if I eventually win the hunt, then I can proudly claim that I did it without any handicap!


The other side of the story...

I wish to emphasise that the above is my personal opinion. And I accept that it may not be a popular view, especially among the non-granslammers. The CoC sets the rules and we play the game within the boundaries of those rules. That has always been how things are. Not that the grandslammers will get into time trouble, I'm sure. Handicap or no handicap, I will be there and looking forward to ride against the grandmasters.

I wish to mention here—I hope VK won't mind this—that one of their aims is to get ZERO KUTUK from me on their questions (smile). So as far as the quality of the questions is concerned, I'm sure that it's gonna be your money's worth!

To the new teams, may I suggest that you don't miss the opportunity to join this hunt— you won't get many of this kind of hunts.

To the grandslammers, I am confident that you will all be there to prove, as usual, that handicaps will not affect you people anyway. But we will make you run for your money though (smile).

N.B. This is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of my team mates for this hunt.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

KK City Tourism Treasure Hunt 2009

Results (Max score: 140 pts):

1. Chai Koh Khai, Margaret Sha, Chong Voon Kiat, Claire Chin (136)
2. Cornelius Koh, Euphemia Thien, Dennis Koh, Edward Baki (126)
3. Onalia Kong, Allister Kong, Victoria Kong, Benjamin Liew (124)
4. Shirley Lim, Dr Liaw Yun Haw, Mary Lokupi, Ellen Yee (122)
5. Masri Khan, Ag Ahmad, Ag Sarpuddin, Zuriah Hanafiah (122)
6. Johan Salul, Dr Ben Lau, Sallehuddin Yusof, Kheirul Nazib (122)
7. Suzanne Majani, Jessie Ligayus, Adoree Malingang, Anna Yong (121)
8. Benedict Bisoni, Mark Martin, Morris Bisoni (121)
9. Bernard Liew, Alvin Wong, Christine Netto, Audrey Chin (118)
10. Donald Stephens, Nabil Hyder, Laura Lidi Basinau, Benidect Basinau (116)

Oh what a hunt! Today was very exhausting, confusing and also physically demanding too. Tasks, challenges and lots of walk-hunts and running too. And yes, as for my team, we failed to find a treasure which was solved within the first few minutes after the flag-off. Quite a bit to report.

Sabahan hunters were again unable to prevent our RM5,000.00 from drifting away to the West. Hunters "R" Us, an elite team from KL won again this year (having won it 2 years ago). One of their team members fell ill recently, and since he's still recovering, they had to take onboard a last-minute replacement. That replacement's virtually the best hunter in Malaysia so far, Claire Chin. Although she had only been hunting about 2 - 3 years, she's won quite a number of hunts in KL. She is most certainly a hunter to be reckoned with (Hint: TOS, you know what to do with your Masters List).

As mentioned, our local hunters had to witness the top prize leaving our shores yet again. We tried so hard but to no avail. In spite of doing well in the challenges—a rarity in itself as far as my team is concerned—our time keeper made a terrible blunder of missing the time window for a task. It was merely to get a stamp from Terminal 2, KKIA. On top of that, as I said, we failed to find a treasure which was easily solved. What should have been a grand RM5,000.00 winning purse for my team, Megapawns, ended up with a second place of RM3,000 instead. Still, it's our best achievement so far. We started the hunt hoping to get within the top 10 winners, so we're not complaining. However, knowing that we could've won this hunt but for stupid mistakes is very painful!

This year my team made a very important adjustment. I've arranged for Edward to take the wheels and put Dennis in the back seat together with me as a passenger. It proved to be a winning formula. Mia retained her position as the front seat passenger. Apart from being the driver, Edward was assigned the role of the time keeper. On the whole, I thought he did a good job, except for a careless mistake of missing the time window for the tasks in Leg 1.

As usual, 50% of the total score (140 points) came from the numerous challenges and tasks; and the remaining 50% came from the questions and treasures. However, it was to be found later that the CoC fell short of one hunt question, resulting in the majority score leaning towards the challenges and tasks.

I must say that I still don't like the challenges/games. However, they're not as stupid as in previous years. In the past we have had the likes of coconut bowling and posing for photo session, of which points were awarded based on "creativity". The weightage of this so-called "creativity" was a whopping 30 points against the route questions of 3 points each!

Games have always been a nightmare to my team. We've never been any good at them. But this year, we made history by achieving full score for all the four challenges. Challenge 1 was held at Taman Awam in Likas beach. 3 persons from each team had to work together to transfer water from one bottle to another. On one side was a bottle containing 600ml water; on the other side an empty bottle of about 500ml. The water from the 600ml bottle was poured into the hands which were formed into something of a bowl. That's then brought to the other side where another person waited with the empty bottle. The water's then poured into that empty bottle. Points were awarded based on the amount of water transferred to the empty bottle at the end of 90 seconds.

Challenge 2 was mainly a multiple-choice question type. It was held in KDCA along Jalan Penampang. Teams were given a piece of paper with pictures of kampong houses in it. Below those pictures were numerous names, 5 of which matched 5 of those houses in the pictures above. Some of those pictures where red herrings and meant to confuse the hunters. Teams then had to walk around the compound where the actual houses were built (for display) and match them to those in the pictures. The only twist was that each team was given no more than 10 minutes to complete the task. Although it may sound easy, in reality it wasn't that easy after all. My team completed the task within the allocated 10 minutes, but many strong teams fell victims to the confusions. What's amazing was the fact that once teams missed the 10-minute limit—even by one second—the penalty would be half of whatever points they earned from the task. So 10 points can become 5 points because of one miserable second! I'm OK with whatever rules the organizer deemed fit. In fact, if they wanted it to be some kind of sudden-death challenge, it's totally up to them. But to do so, they must allocate a digital timer to be fair; and not subject teams to a queue when they come back to submit their respective answers. Remember, every single second counted!

Challenge 3 was the point where I almost gave up. We reached the adidas outlet in 1Borneo. We were given 5 multiple-choice questions relating to the products found in the shop. The first two were that of running shoes; the third of another kind of shoes; fourth and fifth were of women's wear and apparels. But you should have seen the number of hunters in the shop and the commotion that ensued. With precious time ticking away, it was total havoc! And this was where luck was on our side. It happened that I'm fairly familiar with adidas shoes. Some of my loyal readers would know that I bought adidas shoes for the marathons I've joined. So upon reading the clues, I immediately narrowed down my scope of search to the adizero on the top shelf. I bought 2 pairs of the adizeros just a few months ago. One down, 4 to go. I remembered while I was selecting to buy the adizeros, I was also considering the Supernova, though I only bought the former in the end. But when I read something about "explosion" in the clue, I immediate focused my attention to the Supernova. Two down, 3 to go. By then Mia had found the answers for the fourth and fifth questions. Then Edward arrived and was able to answer the third question. Again perfect score for this challenge.

While Mia and I were busy on Challenge 3, Dennis and Edward were dealing with Challenge 4. We were running short on time, and we had no choice but to split our team to tackle these 2 challenges. It turned out that the other Challenge was about identifying specific names of festivals in Sabah. Participants had to find these names from a long list, all within 90 seconds, something which I thought was quite ridiculous. But again luck was on our side—my brother, Dennis, was a tour guide some years ago, and he's quite well-versed with the festivals in Sabah. So we were again able to get the full score for this challenge.

As for the questions, I found they're set quite easy this year. During the hunt, I had the impression that we were already out of contention when I realised that we dropped the stamp at the airport, because I thought the other teams would quite easily answer most, if not all, of the questions. And then as if that's not bad enough, we failed to find the forsaken 105g Lexus crackers despite stopping by so many shops and supermarkets to look for it.

For a brief moment, I went through a bout of self-pity like a sore loser—I raised my voice and started blaming Edward, our official time keeper for missing the time window for the airport stamp. Y'know, sometimes that can happen no matter how many times you remind yourselves not to do so during a hunt. But the good thing was that I was able to quickly realise that I was killing the fun part of the outing and was making things even worse. I was therefore able to come back to my usual calm attitude and focused on the remaining parts of the hunt.

By the time we reached the finish control, I was fairly convinced that we were already out of contention for the prizes. But I was determined not to be a jerk, and remained true to my role as the team leader. This was a team effort and I had to support the entire team. Then when the winner for the 20th position was announced, we realised that we were within the top 20 teams after all. What a relief. And then soon after that, more surprises when we realised that we were within the top 15. The excitement mounting... Then top 10... then when the 5th-position winner was announced, we began to get worried again. Suddenly we started to doubt our own calculations. Could it be that we calculated wrong somehow? Surely it's impossible that we could be a podium finisher; not with such a mediocre performance? When we were finally announced as the runners-up, we were ecstatic.

A hard day working from the wee hours of the morning, running through the city on foot (because of the traffic jams) to collect stamps from numerous stations; more runnings at the Petagas memorial and the zoo; hunting in the rain on foot at 1Borneo... the anxiety and stress of time management; mental torture of cracking clues and observation skills tested to the extreme...I think you can understand why the recognition as the runners-up and RM3,000 prize money were so sweet.

We were, however, unable to beat Hunters "R" Us. But who knows, maybe another day, another hunt... bring it on!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Absolutely Normal?

Someone asked me if it's normal to sleep with glasses on. I haven't seen any of the pictures of the now very famous Elizabeth Wong. But apparently she was sleeping with her glasses on. Well, is that normal? Quite frankly, it's hard to answer that question. It takes all sorts to make the world. Some people behave extraordinarily—they try very hard to be different from other people.

From my own experience, in the case of Kota Kinabalu, the St Franciscan girls generally try very hard to be different in whatever they do. They would cut their hair short on one side and long on the other side; or they would cut a huge hole in the earlobes. I don't know if that's supposed to be some sort of fashion statement.

I used to know a guy who had a peculiar habit. Whenever we were having a yam cha in the Indian restaurant, he would secretly pierce some toothpicks into the cakes served on the table. Some restaurants do that—they'd serve cakes on the tables. If you eat any of them, then you pay according to the amount consumed. If not, then the cakes are left there for other patrons. It made me feel very uncomfortable whenever he's around me. I can't imagine what would have happened when other restaurant patrons wanted to eat those cakes. He had the thrill sticking toothpicks into those cakes, and got away with it. Some people derive lots of fun when they're able to do something evil, you see. Freakin' sick!

And of all the things to collect, why would anyone collect nude pictures of herself anyway? That's just asking for trouble. But of course some people enjoy living dangerously... the thrill, y'know.

So coming back to the original question: Is it normal to sleep with glasses on?

I can only answer based on my own experience and from my point of view. I think it's not normal at all. But I once fell asleep while I was reading something because I was too tired. And I did not realise that I dozed off with my glasses still on. So I'd say it's perfectly possible that some people might fall asleep while reading something, and therefore not realising that they still have their glasses on, though I doubt very much that I'd do any reading in the nude! But again, people, y'know!

Very, very abnormal... and "abnormal" is not the abbreviation for "absolutely normal"!

Monday, February 16, 2009


Last Saturday evening, I was just about to finish my claypot chicken rice in City Mall when the fire alarm suddenly went off. The food court in City Mall is located on the second floor. There weren't many people there—I can only assume that many of them must have gone to some posh restaurants since it was Valentine's Day.

Anyway, in spite of the fire alarm, the people in that food court were surprisingly calm. All of us started walking towards the escalators. There was no panic whatsoever—no pushing, no shouting—all very calm. But once we reached the ground floor of the building, people were beginning to bottle-neck towards the main entrance. The escalators leading to the basement car park were sealed off. The security guards actually stood there and were adamant not to allow people from going down to the basement.

I was a little worried as my car was parked in the basement. Apparently the generator set on the basement level caught fire, thus causing thick smoke. I thought it wasn't anything serious, but I suppose the building management wasn't taking any chances.

The funny thing was that many people were trying to find ways to get down to the basement anyway to save their vehicles. The guards who blocked the escalators explained that they had strict instruction not to allow anyone pass through.

Then I saw an old couple trying to argue with the guards, saying that their car's in the basement. During the commotion, the guard mentioned something like they should give priority to their lives rather than their car. But the wife was not convinced. She wanted to save her car one way or another. And then suddenly she remembered that they'd left their shopping bags at the counter before entering Giant Supermarket. So she dragged her husband towards that counter. The husband refused, since they should be leaving the building rather than going back inside. It was quite an amusing scene, really.

Anyway, some of us—including me—sneaked in to the basement through the side staircase near the main entrance. In the confusion, no one guarded that particular access somehow. When I got to the basement, I was surprised to find that many other people were already there trying to escape with their cars. And so everyone got into a traffic jam.

And the beauty of it all was that these people actually drove up the ramps, and upon reaching the main entrance of the building, stopped to pick up passengers one by one and loading their groceries, hence causing further delays. Bear in mind that all this was in spite of the fire alarm.

In the end, I took 15 minutes to finally reach the main road. If there was an explosion or the fire had spread, many, many people would have died that night. As I was driving away from the building, I could still see many people lingering around the building—and therefore contributing to the traffic jam—just to see what would happen next.

It is strange that many people get their priorities all wrong during emergencies. They will try to save their belongings somehow even if they might lose their lives in the process.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fear vs Respect

I was the Manager of our Brunei Branch office for some years. I started from the bottom and worked my way up to the top. But after a while, Mia and I became homesick. We decided to come back to KK and start all over again. It was a very difficult decision to make. I was not a qualified valuer when I was transferred back to KK, and I had to go through the Test of Professional Competence (TPC) again.

Throughout that 2 years after I came back to KK, I was basically a nobody. I was in my late thirties, but I mingled freely among the young executives in the office. Then one day, while I was having a yam cha with my superior, she privately advised me not to get too close to those young staff. The reason, according to her, was because eventually they might not respect me and it will be very diffficult later on for me to control them.

But that's not my nature. I make friends with everyone in the office. I joke around with everyone—even the clerks and typists, office boy, handyman and the tea lady. And I still do so up to now. For I don't believe that being friends with them can jeopardize their respect for me.

I don't want them to be afraid of me. If they don't feel like bowing down to me or greet me good morning and good afternoon, then they don't have to. As long as they do their job well, I am satisfied. There is no need for them to kiss the ground I walk on.

Some people have the tendency to forget where they come from when they have found their way to the top. They refrain from being seen mingling with the lower-ranking employees. They are convinced that that will harm their image. And sometimes they give instructions to their subordinates without thinking—they forget that these are also people they're dealing with.

There's this boss of a big construction firm I know of. He gave instruction to his subordinate to bring a potential purchaser to view a condominium unit on the 10th floor. The project is about 80% completed and the lifts have not yet been installed. So she had to walk that 10 floors to that unit.

Now it is true that she's working in the sales department and showing the units to potential purchasers is one of her many responsibilities. So one might argue that she shouldn't complain. But she's 8 months pregnant, for God's sake! Did you really think that your subordinates will respect you for showing your authority like that? Think again, asshole!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Persoalan Kerja—Balik Ke Sekolah

Selama ini saya menganggap diri saya serba boleh dalam penguasaan Bahasa Malaysia. Dari segi penulisan and pertuturan memang tiada masalah langsung. Malah kadang-kadang ada kawan-kawan Melayu yang meminta pendapat saya tentang Bahasa Malaysia, samada dari segi nahu mahupun ejaan dan sebagainya.

Namun begitu, sejak saya meninggalkan bangku sekolah lebih 20 tahun yang lalu, Bahasa kebangsaan kita telah mengalami perubahan sedikit demi sedikit, dan kini nampaknya ianya sudah menjadi semakin sofistikated. Di antara perkembangan yang saya lihat termasuk dari segi peminjaman perkataan yang diubahsuai dari perkataan Bahasa Inggeris. Generasi masakini seakan-akan lebih suka menggunakan perkataan Bahasa Inggeris yang telah "diMelayukan". Misalnya penggunaan perkataan "pendebatan" (debate) dan bukan "perbahasan"; "adaptasi" dan bukan "penyesuaian"; "lipstik" dan bukan "gincu", dan sebagainya. Mungkin ramai yang menganggap penggunaan perkataan yang dipinjam dari Bahasa Inggeris itu menggambarkan suatu sophistication atau kecanggihan. Kalaupun tidak, sekurang-kurangnya Bahasa kebangsaan nampaknya sudah melalui proses pemodenan. Samada itu adalah sesuatu yang patut dibanggakan adalah persoalan lain.

Apa yang pasti, akibat daripada penerapan perkataan-perkataan Inggeris kedalam Bahasa Malaysia, ianya umpama menganak-tirikan Bahasa kebangsaan kita. Akhir-akhir ini, saya tidak lagi berani mengatakan yang saya ni arif dalam Bahasa Malaysia.

Malam semalam, ketika anak saya membuat kerja rumah, saya dapati di antara perkataan-perkataan Melayu yang disalin dari papanhitam di sekolah ialah "BEKERJA". Selepas menyiapkan kerja rumah, isteri saya mula memberi anak saya latihan ejaan. Apabila disuruh mengeja perkataan "BEKERJA", anak saya menulis "BERKERJA". Setelah beberapa kali diberitahu akan kesilapannya, anak saya tetap juga menulis "BERKERJA".

Soalnya sekarang, mana yang betul, BEKERJA atau BERKERJA?

Bagi mereka yang arif dalam Bahasa Malaysia, pastinya biasa dengan penggunaan imbuhan "BER". Lazimnya imbuhan "BER" mendahului kata perbuatan; misalnya, berjalan, berteriak, bercakap, bersalam dan sebagainya. Maka KERJA juga sepatutnya didahului dengan imbuhan "BER", yakni BERKERJA.

Tetapi sebaliknya BEKERJA (tanpa "r" sebelum "K") lebih tepat. Oleh kerana dalam sukukata pertama perkataan KERJA mengandungi "er", make huruf "r" dari "BER" digugurkan. Ini boleh dianggap sebagai satu pengecualian dari penggunaan biasa imbuhan "BER". Pengguguran "r" juga dilakukan apabila kata perbuatan bermula dengan huruf "r". Maka "BEREHAT" dan bukan "BERREHAT"; "BEREBUT" dan bukan "BERREBUT" dan sebagainya.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bull Hunt 2009—Of Bowls & Cabinets

I've mentioned that whenever I set treasure hunt questions, I'd try to keep them short and precise. The words found in my questions are there for special purposes. Firstly, they are to give instructions, cryptically, to the solvers what to do with the letters or others words found in the sentences in order to derive the answers. Secondly, those same words are also used to deceive the solvers somehow. I hardly ever include words which are specifically for the purpose of deceiving the solvers only, but have no role in deriving the answers. They are of course exceptions to this general guide of mine.

Q12) This is not a financial institution but margin trading is available here.


GARMIN is the result of the rearrangement of the letters found in MARGIN by means of the anagram indicator, TRADING. In other words, it is possible to find the answer by just "Margin trading is available here". However, in this particular case, I concur with the CoC—that there is an important purpose for "This is not a financial institution" because it blocks the possible literal meaning of the question, i.e. perhaps some solvers might give some banks found within that sector as the answers. Therefore, "This is not a financial institution" are necessary words in the question.

Q8) This Kepala Batas Member of Parliament may be sitting in the cabinet but isn't aligned to any political party.


A 19-word clue—unusually long for a treasure hunt question, unless of course if you are Mr Baskaran. According to the CoC, the solution is like this:

KEPALA = Initial indicator;




Therefore, B + OWL = BOWL

However, there might have been a sign with, say, Pak Lah or AAB or Prime Minister etc within that sector. Therefore, he included "isn't aligned to any political party" in the clue. That would automatically exclude all the answers in the form of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and its possible synonyms, because of course the man is indeed aligned to a political party.

But the CoC also included "may be sitting in the cabinet". And immediately we ask ourselves why? This is an extract of how the CoC justifies himself in an email to me this afternoon (I'm posting it here with his permission):

"...the "may be sitting in the cabinet" was meant to mislead one to thinking of a cabinet member and/or tighten the fact that some bowls may sit in a kitchen cabinet."

I can accept the fact that these few words might have misled some people about cabinet in the political sense, although I doubt it very much. At least not with the kind of people hunting that day.

But as far as to "tighten the fact that some bowls may sit in a kitchen cabinet", I must beg to differ. "May be sitting in the cabinet" has no role to play in deriving the answer; those words are included solely for the purpose of deceiving the hunters. And I don't believe that they can help to "tighten" the answer as well. "May be" means maybe yes, or maybe not. Besides, there must be many other items that can be found in a kitchen cabinet anyway. I'd like to mention here that I don't keep my bowls (and certainly not my balls) in my kitchen cabinet—I keep them in an air-tight plastic container because I have a phobia with crawling insects going all over them!

The inclusion of "may be sitting in the cabinet" does not make the intended solution any less accurate; just that it's not something that I'd do in my own questions. It is an interesting way to cloud the minds of the solvers by throwing in lines upon lines of grandfather stories until a point where merely reading the entire sentence is a marathon in itself. I know of a Mr Baskaran who has a knack of doing such things, except that he does it to the extreme!

Q11) Vehicle journeys back not in kilometres but in miles.



JOURNEYS BACK = reversal indicator

Therefore, we get RAC (reverse of CAR)


And then there is no purpose for "not in kilometres" except to try to confuse the solvers. Of course it doesn't result in the answer being any less accurate. In fact, if he likes, the CoC can include "not in metres, and neither in feet nor yard too" in the question. And that still won't affect the accuracy of the intended solution.

In the end all I can say is that the solutions are accurate, but it's just not my style, that is all. I will try to deceive the solvers of course, but I will do so only by using the words required to derive the answer(s).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bull Hunt 2009—Unusual Place

Many of my readers would know that I am very particular about grammatical accuracy in my hunt questions. In my opinion, a good setter should not only come up with an air-tight solution, but must also construct a sentence which is grammatically correct.

Consider this question which was set by a good friend from the Time Out Solutions about 2 years ago:

Q) Came and get entangled here.


I am sure most of you can explain the answer quite easily. ENTANGLED is the anagram indicator; and the words CAME and GET are the fodders. When the letters found the CAME and GET are rearranged, we can derive MEGATEC. The solution fits perfectly. However, when one takes a closer look at the clue, he will notice that the CAME is in past tense, whereas the GET is in present tense. It is not quite right from the grammatical point of view, you see. If one were to check the many cryptic crossowords out there, he will find that the clues are set to be perfect in the solutions, and also in the grammatical sense.

Now check out this question by Marsha in the recent HRU Challenge #2:

Q) The Spirit come to rest in the evenings.


I had a brief discussion with Marsha through exchange of emails on the above question. I took a while to solve this question because at first I looked at it from a wrong angle. I saw the grammatical mistake from the very first time I read the clue. Since THE SPIRIT is singular, the word COME must be with "S" to be grammatically correct. It might have been possible to drop the "S", of course, but in that case it had to be in past tense, i.e. CAME.

Having analysed many hunt questions in the past, I notice that many CoCs out there are not very accurate in their grammar. Either that or they don't really care about grammar. Furthermore, I suspect that many of the hunters can't tell the difference anyway. But when I came to a dead end in the above question, I suddenly asked myself if it's realistic to put Marsha in the same group of "CoCs who don't know grammar". And the answer came to me like lightning! I happen to know Marsha quite well—at least good enough to realise that it's close to impossible that she'd make such a grammatical mistake. Therefore, logically speaking, the clue was grammatically wrong because it had to be wrong in order to be accurate in the explanation of the answer. After I realised this intentional mistake, I quickly solved the clue. If the word COMES had been used in the clue, that would have resulted in an extra "S" in the answer. Although the explanation fits perfectly, I don't like the clue due to the grammatical inaccuracy. And according to Marsha, she did not really like this clue too because of the same reason.

And now we come to Alex's clue in the Bull Hunt 2009:

Q6) Song with an unusual place by a leading Disney character.


In the above clue, those words PLACE BY can mean "to connect" Something to Something else. In this case, UNUSUAL is an anagram indicator, and SONG WITH AN the fodder. We rearrange the letters in the fodder to derive WASHINGTON.

LEADING is the initial indicator; meaning to take only the first letters in DISNEY CHARACTER, i.e. DC.

WASHINGTON is then arranged near to (place by) DC to arrive at the answer: WASHINGTON DC.

However, to be grammatically correct, we should say PLACED BY as in POSITIONED BY or LOCATED BY if we want to adopt the verb meaning of PLACE. For this reason, I was not impressed with this question during the hunt. We still found WASHINGTON DC, of course, but as a matter of grammatical accuracy, I wasn't happy.

That was my position throughout the evening until I got back to my hotel room. Then while I was in the shower, I saw the clue from a different angle. Alex had meant that PLACE as a noun and not a verb. The clue was constructed to account for the 2 portions of the intended answer separately like this:



The (A) part comprises "unusual" (anagram indicator), SONG WITH AN (fodder), and PLACE which is the definition. After all, WASHINGTON is the name of a PLACE.

Then the (B) part is DC as explained above.

In other words, the clue can be simplified to become:

WASHINGTON by (not place by) DC.

So after the long story, in the end I have come to like this clue after all! What a waste of time for all the analysis!

Bull Hunt 2009

The Champions of Bull Hunt 2009. From left, Kok Seng (organiser), VK Chong, Razif, Alex (CoC), Teoh, Mawar. That guy (in red) yang beria-ia handling the winners' hamper is Sharin. I honestly don't know what he's doing in this picture!

From left: Goh Teck Koon, Venka, Jayaram and Alex.

Dinner shortly before the answer & prize presentation.

Fellowship while waiting for the answer & prize presentation.

Commotion during the pairing of teams.


Holy cow! What a hunt!

The Bull Hunt 2009 must be the toughest motorised hunt I’ve ever joined so far. A tradition established by those freak hunters in conjunction with the Chinese New Year celebration. The CoC for this year, Alex Hoh, was in the mood to punish us all with his questions—he threw in all sorts of interesting dishes including salads, multiple semicolons, the Kepala Batas MP, and most of us became blind because we had to deal with masturbation too!

Immediately after the answer presentation, the organizer, Kok Seng, turned to me to ask if the questions were OK. With everyone staring at me, I had no choice but to give my approval. But of course I would really disappoint all my fans if I did not comment at least on some of the interesting questions.

I found Alex’s style somewhat different from the other grandmasters in that although he’s without doubt a celebrated cryptic ace, he threw in plenty of extra words which had nothing to do with the intended answers—they were included in the questions for the sole purpose of confusing the solvers. In some cases, those words had something to do with the storyline of the questions, but did not really add any value in assisting the solvers to arrive at the answers.

Alex also had an interesting tendency to repeat a particular format in his questions. Several of them boiled down to:

It’s not X but Y;


It may be X but Y is…

These are some of the questions:

Q11) Vehicle journeys back not in kilometres but in miles.

Q12) This is not a financial institution but margin trading is available here.

Q15) No red card but only a caution when it comes to a broken shin.

Consider the following question which also adopted the above style:

Q8) This Kepala Batas Member of Parliament may be sitting in the cabinet but isn’t aligned to any political party.

Of which at least 30% to 40% of the words in it were not necessary. But I will come to the specific discussions in separate threads later.

When compared to Jayaram’s and Margaret’s questions, I prefer theirs. They are more true to the cryptic rules in their questions. They hardly ever include words which do not assist in arriving at the intended answers.

Whenever I set hunt questions, I challenge myself to be economical on the words I use in the questions. Apart from connecting words for the purpose of satisfying grammatical requirements, e.g. the, is, are, a etc, most, if not all, of the words I use in my questions are there because they are necessary to be there. Those are the words I use to give instructions to the solvers on how to play with the letters to arrive at the answers; but also at the same time, I also use those very same words to deceive the solvers. I try my best not to include “useless” words which have nothing to contribute in arriving at the answers.

To be fair to Alex, however, it must be emphasised that the Chinese New Year hunts are designed as “no holds barred” outings, and the setter is expected to “hit bellow the belt” to a certain extent. Therefore it is possible that if Alex were to set an open hunt, he might not adopt a similar approach as that adopted in his Bull Hunt questions.

The team members were selected randomly by means of drawing cards, and I ended up with Sharin, Eng Siang and Rahmah. I was quite surprised that we quickly blended in well with each other. Exchange of ideas was also quite natural and free-flow. And there were plenty of occasions where we laughed out loud when someone came up with amusingly far-fetched ideas.

Sharin, who I’d consider the ad-hoc team leader for our team set a modest target of answering only 10 questions—a target which proved to be very realistic in the end. For the most part of the hunt, we struggled to achieve that goal. And by the time we passed the half-way point of the hunt, we were fairly alarmed that we might not even achieve that embarrassing target. Thankfully, however, we were able to come up with some brilliant analysis and barely conquered the 10 questions.

In the end, only 2 teams passed (more than 50% score) in the Bull Hunt. But the scores aside, I must say that we had lots of fun. I’m really glad that decided to join this hunt, and I am looking forward to the next one!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Perak PKR Checkmated?

"Just as Barisan Nasional had accepted the results of last year’s general election, Pakatan Rakyat must now accept a new government in Perak."

Except that the Barisan Nasional lost Perak through the election process, whereas Pakatan Rakyat lost it through the defections of allegedly corrupt politicians.

It is not, however, a surprising thing for us Sabahans—we've all experienced it a little over 10 years ago. And many of us, seeing the slim majority held by the Pakatan in Perak, knew that it was just a matter of time before Barisan, sooner or later, gets back into the driver's seat.

Money talks; bullshit walks.

But of course according to the Deputy Prime Minister, the defectors joined Barisan on their own accord—no inducements have been offered to them.

Inducements or not, it seems a bit cheap to seize control by means of defections, as opposed to the election process. And in order to be back in control, Barisan had no choice but to accept defectors who are still up for trial to defend themselves against corruption charges, the bribes of which were in the forms of sexual gifts. Now that these people are in the Barisan camp, it remains to be seen whether they will eventually see a day in court, let alone the prison.

Now this thing about defections of elected representatives is a big thing. Obviously, Barisan saw that coming. If they had a choice it would have been ideal to regain control of Perak without relying on the defectors. But it's been almost a year since the General Election of 2008. Trying to force a fresh election in Perak did not seem to be a promising strategy based on the results of several by-elections which have since taken place in other areas after the General Election.

Therefore, the only logical way to play the game was by means of defections. But first the preparation of an excuse—the setting up of the defection gambit. A scapegoat from Barisan shall first "defect" to the Pakatan. The Pakatan, in its excitement, fell for the trap. That's what can happen when one fails to think before he leaps. And then a few days after the scapegoat's dramatic announcement, he defected back to Barisan together with some others, thus tipping the scale in favour of the Barisan.

Barisan is now in a position to say that if Pakatan can accept defectors, so can Barisan; that it was Pakatan who started it.

And so, the Perak Pakatan is checkmated...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Different Animal

I have in the past expressed my disgust on men who rape very young girls; even babies. Speaking from a man's point of view, I can understand if a man finds a sexy woman wearing revealing clothes too inviting. It is debatable if it's because of such "provocation" that the man fails to control his natural instinct and acts like an animal.

But I can't understand the attraction in very young girls—they don't have the built, shape and looks. Yet every now and then we hear crazy news of very young girls getting raped. I can only guess that it must be a case of mental illness on the part of the rapists.

Never mind the child rapists; now we have granny rapists too. I'm trying to visualize raping a 62-year old woman. Now what is frickin' wrong with these people? Of all the targets, why the granny? A momentary pleasure—if it was pleasure at all—and now he's in court with a possible 20 years behind bars and liable to be caned under Section 376(1) of the Penal Code.

I really hope that it was worth it, sucker!


Imagine that you are a political party; and although you claim that you are a "multi-racial" party, you are also known to represent a specific race in Malaysia.

A festive celebration for that race is coming up soon; you plan to celebrate by throwing a party and inviting your supporters. However, because of the expected crowd, you need a sizeable venue to accommodate your guests. So you apply to the City Hall to use one of their halls for the event. The City Hall replies with an approval; you are happy and proceed with all the necessary chores—you print circulars and go down to the ground to meet the people and invite them personally; you make the announcements through the papers; you put up billboards by the roadsides too. Everything is going fine; people are anticipating the event.

Then imagine that at the eleventh hour the approval is cancelled by the City Hall. The billboards you put up, which are paid for, are also taken down. There is hardly any time to rearrange for an alternative venue for the celebration. All the invitations are out; announcements made. Your celebration party is screwed! Obviously, it doesn't look good on your reputation.

And what is the reason for the cancellation of the approval? Well, according to the Mayor, it's because of "unintentional but due to a technicality of the matter".

Now imagine that you are a component party of the ruling Barisan Nasional; and that you're hosting the celebration for Hari Raya. Just imagine what kind of trouble the City Hall folks would be in. Some people would probably shit in their pants.

But thankfully, you are just an insignificant DAP trying to celebrate the Chinese New Year with your supporters. So the City Hall folks need not lose sleep over the matter. We are after all just human, we unintentionally make mistakes on technical grounds.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Clear Conscience

"We urge all Muslims to renounce membership in the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. Otherwise they can consider themselves infidels."

—Atian Ali Mohammad Da'i

Many people don't know what is Rotary all about. Most of them have some vague idea of our charitible existence. They know us simply as fund raisers to help the needy—and that is all we do.

But truth be told, we are much more than just charitible engines. To write a couple of hundred words in an attempt to describe our purpose will not do justice to Rotary. So I will just mention a few here in the hope that there is a better understanding of our organisation.

As a whole, we seek to make the world a better place by forstering friendship—the fellowship amongst members is a unique feature of the Rotary Clubs all over the world. People from numerous backgrounds work together for a better world. Rotarians go out of their ways to contribute their time and efforts. They do all those without monetary returns.

We raise funds and then help to build hostels for the children in the interiors. We brave floods to deliver food supplies to the kampong folks. We sponsor young students as Interactors and train them to be leaders and instill the spirit of wanting to help others. We carry out community services—gotong royong, tree-planting to rehabilitate the environment, and installing gravity-fed water to several villages, to name just a few.

Globally, we've done our part inter alia in polio eradication. We have contributed over US$600 million, leading to the inoculation of more than two billion of the world's children. Over the years, we have done so many good things for humanity.

It is therefore somewhat heart-breaking when some people hurl baseless accusations upon us—that we have a different agenda instead. I don't know how or why these people arrived at such a conclusion.

I can only speak for myself—and for other Rotarians, I'm sure—that I am proud to be a Rotarian. For whatever it's worth, I have a clear conscience, and I know that my fellow Rotarians and I will continue with our noble cause.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Credit Card—Late Payment Charge

Some time during the second half of 2005, a staff of AmBank came to our office to promote their credit cards. The cards were offered on the basis of "free for life" and with some kind of benefits under "RealRewards Programme". I had at that time several credit cards from other banks, but because I wanted to support a friend, I signed up for the AmBank Mastercard anyway. The selling points of "free for life" and "RealRewards" had no effect on me at all; and up to now, I still don't really know what's the "RealRewards" all about.

After I received my Ambank Mastercard, I've been using it quite regularly—again, for the sake of supporting a friend. I don't have an account with Ambank, but since they're located on the ground floor of the building wherein my office is located, there's never been a problem as far as payments of bills are concerned.

The other 2 credit cards I'm using actively are those of HSBC and Alliance Bank. But because I have existing accounts in those banks, I need not worry about payments of bills, as I've given written instructions to simply deduct the amounts due from my accounts. I have this phobia with late payments, no matter how small the outstanding amounts are. This is particularly so because I was told that all the banks are able to trace through a centralised computer system on any bad records by anyone throughout the nation. A black mark might lead to some difficulties when and if I ever apply for a loan from any other banks in the future.

Now as a habit, whenever I settle the AmBank Mastercard bills, I'd usually pay a little extra than what's due—I'm not bothered with the exact amount; I just pay a round figure. As long as it's a bit more, then I am safe.

Unfortunately, during the festive season in December, I totally forgot—for the first time, ever—to settle my AmBank Mastercard bill. I did not charge the card for that month, but there was the AirAsia insurance (RM24.00) which is automatically charged to the card on a monthly basis. As a result, there was a net charge of RM16.78.

A couple of days ago, I received the latest AmBank Mastercard bill and was surprised to find a RM10.00 late payment charge because of that outstanding RM16.78. How embarrassing! Over a period of a little over 3 years, I've only charged perhaps around RM40,000 to the card. I still have a big chunk of the so-called "RealRewards" points, which I never bothered to understand up to now. I can only guess that it's something which I can claim, perhaps for merchandise or services and other benefits.

Well, I don't really need the AmBank Mastercard anyway. So just shortly ago, I went downstairs to AmBank to settle the bill and cancel the card at the same time. I was given to understand that it would take about 3 working days for the cancellation process. I hope when and if I apply for a loan in the future, my application won't be rejected on the gounds of this miserable RM10 late payment charge.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fitting Into The Shoes Of Lara Croft

I used to be a big fan of the video game, Tomb Raider, featuring the role-playing character, Lara Croft. I sort of accidentally found the game when I bought the first Playstation console. The first version of the Tomb Raider series was very crude—the graphics were nowhere close to what they are today. But one was still able to make out the intention of Lara's creator—that Lara was to be a very sexy archeologist. Some years later, the graphics have improved substantially, and the above is an illustration of Lara Croft.

And this is another view of Lara in an acrobatic maneuver.

A few years after the launch of the Tomb Raider video game, it was adapted into a movie, and the role was acted by none other than the godsend Angelina Jolie. Before the Tomb Raider movie, I must admit that I didn't really know Angelina Jolie. I've read about her a couple of times, but I did not know what she looked like back then. When I saw the movie, I was very impressed with Jolie. In my opinion, she fitted into the shoes of Lara Croft the video game character perfectly. She's sexy—pretty, long legs and all that. That first Tomb Raider movie became a huge success, and soon after that another sequence followed, although apparently not as successful as the first one.

Those were the only two Tomb Raider movies up to now. Then last week there was a stir amongst the Tomb Raider fans when rumours had it that a new Tomb Raider movie is in the pipeline. However, Angelina Jolie will not be in it. Instead, the Lara Croft character will be acted by Megan Fox.

And again, I don't really know Megan Fox. Apparently she's been famous for a while now, but I only know her from the movie, Transformers. In that movie I saw her as a beautiful and sexy girl.

Being a die-hard Tomb Raider fan, I don't really favour Megan Fox as Lara Croft. I can't see her fitting into the shoes of Lara Croft. For one thing, I think she's too young for that character. But of course the story teller can easily make a movie of a young Lara Croft. The other reason I'm against Megan Fox is, although she's a very sexy woman, somehow I think her legs are just too short for the Lara Croft of the video game. Perhaps the many photographers are not doing justice to Megan Fox—maybe the angle of the shots had resulted in short-looking legs, I don't know.

Thankfully, however, subsequently to those wide-spread rumours, it's now been confirmed that Fox isn't involved in the up-coming Tomb Raider movie after all. Maybe it's still possible that Fox will be chosen in the end, but if it's not her, I wonder who's gonna be the next Lara Croft.