Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blessing In Disguise

It must have been around this time last year when I decided to run the half marathon for the very first time in my life in the Borneo International Marathon in October 2008. Before that I have been running regularly for a while, but mainly for distances ranging between 3km to 5km only for the purpose of keeping myself fit. I don't think I have ever covered anything beyond 10km before that. I thought it would be a good challenge. And so the next few months saw me training hard to build up my stamina and the 21km distance.

Although it was an exhausting run, I survived that 21km in the end within a time of 2hrs 4 minutes, and I was very happy to earn my first running medal. But the thing about running medals is that they can become addictive. So shortly after that I flew to KL to participate in the Mizuno Wave run which was only for a distance of 10km. Several weeks later, I went all the way up north to run the 25km at the Penang Bridge International Marathon in November. And finally in the first week of December, I ran in the Standard Chartered Singapore International Marathon where I did another half marathon. I thought the Singapore Marathon was very well organised although there were 50,000 runners from all over the world.

However, perhaps I overdid the running and I ended up injuring my right ankle. At the turn of the year, I found myself experiencing that lingering pain in my ankle, and I decided to take a break from serious running. I still continued doing short distances though. During the first quarter of this year, I was mainly nursing my ankle, and had to miss several running events in the west.

Some time in March, the Borneo International Marathon 2 (BIM2) was already open for registration, and I was among the first few people who signed up. This time I'm trying for the full marathon, i.e. 42.2 km, whereas Mia will be running the half marathon, having ran the 10km last year. But although I signed up in March, I did not seriously embark on the training until late April.

During all these recovery from injury and preparing for the BIM2, I was aware of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon which was scheduled for the last weekend of June. I was seriously contemplating joining that event—at least the half marathon—since I've experienced the well-organised Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon last December. But upon further consideration, I didn't think it's a good idea after all for fear that I might injure my ankle again.

While I was gradually building up my distance during my runs at the Likas jogging track, I frequently bumped into some friends who were training for the Standard Chartered KL Marathon, and I was green with envy! By early June, I was beginning to regret for not signing up for the KL Marathon because by then I felt that my ankle had fully recovered from the injury.

Last weekend it was finally the day for the Standard Chartered KL Marathon. I kept in touch with some of my fellow Sabahans who joined the event; all the time regretting that I did not join it. But on the other hand, perhaps it's not meant to be, for I came down with a very bad flu. I think I would have struggled to run in that condition.

Then the news came that the event was very poorly organised in spite of the name "Standard Chartered" attached to it. Apparently there were not enough signs and some runners went off the route. They even had a bit of a mix up with the winners. But perhaps the most surprising thing was that they ran out of drinking water towards the last few kilometres of the run—a very dangerous stage when the body is vulnerable to dehydration and fatigue. I was told that there were also nasty slopes within the last 10 km of the full marathon route. My friend, Kevin, who has been training very hard for this event, completed his full marathon within 4hrs 15 minutes—a very admirable achievement to a slow runner like me. In the BIM2 this October, I'd be happy if I can complete it in 5 hours.

Maybe it's a blessing in disguise that I did not join this marathon. I can imagine the torture running with a bad flu and insufficient drinking water. I might have fainted and become famous for all the wrong reasons.

Jazz Festival 2009—Pictures

I was looking forward to the Jazz Festival 2009 which was held a little over a week ago at the Sutera Marina Club. Unfortunately, Murphy's Law wouldn't allow it—I came down with a bad flu. I didn't think it was amusing to be present among all the people; I'd probably scare them all away. But—no, it's not the A(H1N1), thank goodness!

Just this late morning, I was finally able to copy the pictures from Rtn Tan Yew Lim, and I'm publishing them here. Of course I've resized them all, so I'm afraid they're not so good for printing into hard copies. Because I wasn't there in person to witness the event, I'm afraid there will be very little I can comment (which is not like me!).

And of course I wouldn't do justice if I do not include the photos of my hard-working fellow Rotarians who made this event possible.

And what's a Jazz Festival without some beers, right?

Not forgetting some shots of the audience having a good time.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chicken & Egg—Analysis

About a week ago, I posted an article entitled "Chicken & Egg", an experiment I conducted in the hope of demonstrating how differently men and women think. I posted a question and then invited my readers to submit the answers together with the explanations for their choices.

To be quite honest, I don't even know if it has ever been scientifically proven which came into existence first—chicken or egg. I was asked this question as a kid, and I have come across the same question—though numerous different versions of it—many, many times throughout my life. There are many, many arguments to support both these choices, but I haven't found any scientific authority that would settle the issue conclusively.

The way I see it, logically speaking, chicken came into existence before the egg. Maybe, from a single-cell organism, evolution took place over millions of years before that same organism grew wings, legs, feathers etc. Further evolution developed the ability to lay eggs to allow reproduction that way. This is of course just my wild guess, but I can't offer any evidence whatsoever.

Anyway, the question is so famous and it is strange that people would immediately look at any variation of the question as asking for the same thing. Well, my variation of the question is asking for a different thing!

My question once again:

Which one comes first, CHICKEN or EGG?

Before answering this question, I'd like to say that, generally, Malaysians are not sensitive to the grammatical aspect of the English language. I remember during the first hunt that I set, I came up with a treasure riddle relating to the pisang emas. Somewhere within the clue I asked specifically for just ONE pisang emas. Yet most of the teams, including the strong ones, brought in a bunch of bananas each! After allowing for a few hunts, I again came up with another riddle, this time asking specifically for ONE battery in the clue. Yet everyone brought in TWO batteries.

I was chatting with VK Chong, a strong master hunter during the recent Kiwanis Hunt to Johor. He said that the hunters can learn very fast; once they're tricked by a particular trick, they probably won't be tricked again the next time round. Perhaps he is right, but I'm not fully convinced. And to prove my point, I came up with this particular question here.

I did not ask which one came into existence first. Rather, I'm asking which one comes first. I reckoned that most Malaysians, even the master hunters, wouldn't see any difference in those few words. If they did, then they would have realised that I was merely asking them which one comes (present tense) first in this sentence?

Therefore, in the question:

Which one comes first, CHICKEN or EGG?

... it is the CHICKEN that comes first.

Now let us have a look at the submissions from my readers. As usual, let's check out the answers from the girls first:

"Chicken, because chicken lay[s] eggs."

A very simple approach where she obviously did not see that I was referring to the choices according to the order of appearance in the sentence.

"Should be chicken... otherwise where did eggs come from? Other animals can change to chickens and then can lay eggs. But how can animals change to eggs?"

I think instead of the word "change", "evolve" is preferable. But she has a good point! But on the other hand, if that's her argument, then I wonder if it's possible at all that other organisms evolved into eggs, and then those eggs hatched into chickens? Hmmm... it seems quite far fetched.

"my answer is EGG, because chicken must come from egg. if not dont tell me chicken just come from sky mei?"

Obviously a one-sided reasoning. A weak argument. If you can ask that kind of question, my friend, then don't tell me the egg can fall from the sky?

I don't know the above women. I just know that at least one of them is a Sabahan reader. I suspect the other two are Malaysians too, but I don't know which part(s) of Malaysia.

"Thinking as a woman, I'd say the egg came first: the chicken evolved gradually over time with each new version hatching from an egg laid by a predecessor of the chicken until eventually a chicken was hatched. Thinking as a man, I'd have to say the chicken came first because you wrote "Chicken & Egg" and it came first there! Hee! hee! hee!

So, if I have to make a choice between the two, I'll go with the first."

Too bad she still chose the egg in the end. I happen to know this woman—I mean know her as in knowing from the cyber world. I first met her in the online suduko combat. She's been a sparring partner for a while now. A sharp woman and this lately, she's been able to beat me in sudoku every now and then too! I must cut out the chatting the next time we fight! Anyway, perhaps she's a bit different from the other women because she's a Canadian who's been residing in the UK for some years now. So maybe a person whose first language is English is better able to see the grammatical significance in the question.

And now let's see what the men had to say. Unfortunately, I don't know any of them personally. But I have a feeling they're all Sabahans. I only recieved three submissions from the guys.

"No way to know for sure unless i hv time machine to the beginning of time. ha ha ha. but you din say which 1 came into this world 1st... you only ask which 1 comes 1st. so if like that, i can say the chicken first, because chicken comes 1st in sentence lo!"

Not in the best of English, and probably this fellow has suffered the tragedy of the effects of too many text messages over the cellphone; hence the several abbreviations. But otherwise, the simple and practical approach which is characteristic of a man.

"My answer is CHICKEN because in the question, the word CHICKEN comes first."

Exactly my point! A short and precise answer.

"Definitely chicken.

Just like a baby and a mother. How can a baby survive on its own. So god surely would have created the chicken first. Then the chicken can take care of the egg and the baby chicken."

The trigger-happy fellow who attempted to post his answer into this blog in spite of having been instructed not to do so! But some people are like that—they merely glance at things and will miss the details of what they're reading. And maybe that is also the reason why he arrived at his answer—a romantic approach of mother and baby chickens. However, there are many animals which do not take care of their eggs and young ones. They merely lay the eggs and abandon them immediately after. The survival of the young ones will then depend mostly on luck!

Well, folks, again not a sizeable sample to arrive at a conclusive deduction. But I'm sure you'd agree that it is obvious that men and women think differently. Unfortunately, the education system does not favour the men's way of thinking!

Thank you to those who participated in this experiment. This is just for the fun of it. Please don't lose sleep over this experiment.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Safety Nets

I have always found trapeze acts in the circus very intriguing. Those people are hanging upside-down on a swing; and the others do acrobatic stunts in mid-air before grabbing on to the other guy. But all of these acts that I've seen before had safety nets at the bottom as a precaution, just in case someone makes a mistake and falls down to the ground.

Some of us are naturally gifted when it comes to safety nets. My brother, Dennis, for example, is one such person. Whenever he is up to a challenge—any challenge at all—whether it's a physical or mental challenge, he would always prepare "safety nets" at the bottom, so that if he fails in the challenge, he won't fall flat to the ground!

Dennis happens to be in my treasure hunting team. He takes turns with Edward as the driver of the team. When we first started out as a team, I used to be the driver. But that proved to be quite a waste, because I'm just not good enough to drive and solve clues at the same time. Both Dennis and Edward are not very well-versed in cryptic clueing in spite of the many training hunts I've given them. Later on, I assigned Dennis as the diver and we improved a little. But since the last 2 hunts, I've made further changes and made Edward the permanent driver of the team. So far, it's been a winning formula. As you can see, it takes a bit of time to make all these small adjustments to the team for its optimum performance.

I don't know if it's because Dennis is conscious of my high expectation of him, but each time before we start out on a hunt, he would almost automatically say something like, "Last night I didn't have enough sleep," or "I'm not feeling too good this morning—I think I'm coming up with a fever," or "My stomach isn't feeling well; I must have eaten something bad last night." These are his "safety nets", so that if he can't perform well for the hunt, it must be because of lack of sleep, or the fever, or the stomach upset.

Maybe Dennis is an exceptional case, but actually all of us have our own safety nets. The only question is how frequently would we do it, and to what extent?

I want to share about my failed attempt at installing my own safety net for the Borneo International Marathon 2 in October this year. A couple of months ago, I signed up for the full course, i.e. 42.2 km. Last year, I did the half marathon (21.2 km) in this event. I survived the distance, though I failed to make it in under 2 hours—I did it in about 2hrs 4 minutes. Since I'm doing the 42.2 km this year, I have to train much harder than last year. This will be the very first time I'm doing this distance. I've been gradually building up on my distance, but although I've managed to avoid injury so far, I'm beginning to find the training very, very demanding. I have increased my runs to 4 times a week, i.e. 3 short runs during the weekdays, and 1 long run on Sunday mornings. Of the 3 short runs, I usually do it on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. But I find that the short runs of 10km, 13km and 10km respectively are very punishing; and I'm not sure how much longer I can keep it up.

Mia and I were at the dinner table a couple of days ago, when we started talking about our respective training programmes. She's training for her half marathon this year you see. And then we started building up our respective "safety nets". This excuse and that excuse—it's kinda funny when I think back about it now. I can't remember all the excuses I offered to her, but I think I said something about age catching up; lack of sleep; weight problem; the need for vitamin supplements; lack of time for the training etc.

But Mia cut me short by saying, "Yeah right, but you don't have to worry about having period every month!"

And that absolutely shut me up. There's just no way I can outdo that kind of safety net. Oh! I'm so glad that I am a man! Har har har!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

Perhaps by now there must be thousands and thousands of people posting kind words in their blogs for the "King of Pop", Michael Jackson who died yesterday (June 25).

Actually, I made up my mind not to blog about this fellow because I thought what more could I possibly say which others haven't? Besides, I can imagine that most people would only have good things to say for someone who's recently died. It's not considered "polite" or "kind" to say anything bad about the recently-deceased, especially when he's someone as famous as Michael Jackson.

However, I was just having a casual conversation with a friend this afternoon about Michael Jackson, and he thought that I should write about him in my blog. He said it would be something "different" from what could be found in other blogs.

And so, here I am, putting my fingers to the keyboard and letting my thoughts flow.

Now, perhaps it will come as a surprise to my readers, that I was once a big fan of Michael Jackson. Honest, no kidding! That's a very long time ago, when he was still sane and normal.

When he was a very young boy, I didn't think that he had anything special in his voice. He could sing—yes—but I was more amazed by his ability to dance. As a young man, he developed his dancing skill even further. Hence I really enjoyed the "Thriller" years and that famous "moon walk" of his.

It was around then that the insanity began. He changed his hairstyle and I thought he was quite a handsome young man with that new look. But he was not satisfied; he had to do something dramatic to his appearance.

He just wouldn't leave his nose alone and after a while, I was sad to see what he had done to his handsome face. I have a feeling that many of his fans felt the same way too.

The madness continued long before his transformation into Diana Ross. Over the years, he gradually transformed into a woman in appearance. But the madness did not end there. He constantly found his way into the pages of newspapers the world over. He brought his boys out in Spiderman suits "because he wanted them to have a normal life"; he dangled his baby from a balcony of a hotel; he went shopping in women's clothings. Apart from that, there were the sexual allegations against him. Not that a $5 million settlement can't solve, of course.

But in spite of the madness, the awe-inspiring insanity, many, many people still loved him. He has truly achieved a lot in the short 50 years of his life. For that, I must salute him.

The world grieves for you; rest in peace, dude. The madness has come to an end, but your memories will continue to have an impact on us (traumatic ones for me, naturally) for many years to come.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blocked Account

This morning, I received an interesting email entitled "Unblock your Account". Supposedly, it was sent by MyBank2U Important Notice (notice-important@security.my). The above is the content of the said email (click on the picture for a better view) which I have captured from my computer monitor. There's nothing else apart from the above—not even a "Dear Sir" or "Mr Koh". Apparently, my account at Maybank has been blocked and this email is supposed to guide me how to unblock my account. To do so, I will have to log in to my online account; meaning that I'll have to key in my username and password into the relevant blanks in the links provided by the email. I clicked on those links and was duly brought to other pages which looked very much like the genuine Maybank sites.

Of course this is clearly a bunch a craps. But I thought it's a beautiful trick anyway. Imagine the trouble these idiots had to go through to do all this. I must say that it looks very, very convincing, except for the spelling of the word "because" which is wrongly spelt here as "becouse". Other than that, the whole setup is impeccable.

Unfortunately, this kind of tricks very rarely can work on people like me. Firstly, I'm quick to notice wrong spellings in formal documents. And whenever I see spelling errors, I would immediately raise questions.

Secondly, I don't do online banking because I never did go through the trouble of learning how to do it. So even if I had fallen for this trick, I would have had to go to the bank to ask someone there how to do online banking first; and only then would I have the required username and password to give away to these idiots.

Thirdly, because of the nature of my business, I know quite a fair number of bankers, and I can very easily call one of them to ask why my account has been blocked. Furthermore, there is a Maybank branch along Jalan Pantai, which is just about 2 minutes away from my office. So I simply walked over and was promptly informed by the clerk that my account is in good order.

If I were to behave like a typical Malaysian, I would have already lodged a police report by now. Lodging police reports is a favourite national pastime in Malaysia, you see. Even the woman who instructed her husband to do the cucumber and brinjal thing on her lodged a police report too, only to have the tables turned on her in the end. But I decided to be "un-Malaysian" in this case—the police would be happy to know that they have one less report to bury in their filing cabinets; they're probably fast running out of space to store all the reports which they're gonna sit on for a very long time to come.

So anyway, although I'm not lodging any police report, I thought the least I could do is to publish this ingenious means of getting your banking information here in this blog. I know it seems unbelievable that anyone would fall for this kind of cheap trick, but last year alone, Malaysians have been tricked to the tune of over RM20 million via similar ways. So by sharing this here, if I can save even one of you out there, I would consider that I have achieved a great deal.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Training Course

Most of us who live in the cities require the service of a maid, especially when both husbands and wives are working. I have an Indonesian maid to help with the house chores. Mia and I go off to work first thing in the mornings and come home in the evenings. JJ goes to school in the mornings and then spends her afternoons at her grandparents. She comes home with us in the evenings.

I have never really fixed the duties for my maid. I merely told her to take care of the house the way she would take care of her own house. Sometimes, I'd tell her to do something specific like to wash the windows. Once we leave the house in the mornings, she has the whole house to herself for the whole day. I do not restrict what she eats—in fact she is free to eat the same food that we eat. I was given to understand that not all employers adopt this policy. During lunch, she has the freedom to cook whatever's in the fridge. Whenever we're running low on food, she'd give me a call, and I'd do the grocery shopping before coming home from the office. In the afternoons, she gets her afternoon naps which usually last for about an hour.

Every fortnight she gets her offday. I have offered to let her go each weekend, but she said she prefers to stay in. She said she tends to spend more if she leaves the house. Besides, she prefers the conforts of my home. During the Chinese New Year Celebration, I'd give a bit of Ang-Pow; and each time she completes a year's cycle, I'd give her a small bonus just to show her my appreciation for her loyalty.

According to the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa) president Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan, about 7,000 households in Malaysia are depending on the service of Indonesian maids. [The Star] I think the actual figure is much larger than that as there must be many, many Indonesian maids who have not been legally employed, hence they do not appear in the official records.

Many other countries in this region are also employing maids from Indonesia, and they have been reported cases of abuses in all these countries—including Malaysia. I'm not aware of the exact number of abuse cases in Malaysia. Evidently, we have had some very high profile cases where maids have been subjected to hot irons on the skin, beaten, deprived of food etc. I can only make a wild guess that we probably have very small number—in terms of percentage—of such very serious abuses. Maybe several more milder kinds of abuses; but still when taken as a whole, perhaps still a matter of below 3%. I stand corrected on this estimate, of course.

Yet, now it has been proposed that the over 97% (assuming that this is indeed the correct figure) should attend a training course to qualify to be employers. [The Star]

It is strange how the authority always comes up with new ideas on how to make us spend more money before we become eligible to employ maids. Most of us do not have the time to handle the numerous procedures in applying for the work permits etc. So we usually have to use the service of the employment agents for a fee. The maids are made to undergo a prescribed medical examination, again for a fee. If they are found to be fit for work, we are then required to pay a levy before the work permits could be processed. And now, by this latest proposal, we're supposed to go for a training course, for a "minimal fee". And beyond that, I'm sure they will think of something else for us to pay.

I am not in favour of the proposed training course. Maybe it is designed to make some people rich at the expense of the 7,000 employers, although admittedly, I may be wrong. Just because there are some people—in fact, relatively few of us, who mistreated our maids, the vast majority has to pay the price. But never mind if it's effective. Did the authority really believe that a day's training course can solve the problem of abuse? These are people who're not quite right up there, and no amount of one-day training course can help.

If the proposal for a training course becomes a reality, I suppose I will have no choice but to oblige. I doubt that I will employ local Sabahans as they are known to approve their own leave. I doubt that I will employ Thai women because of the language problem. I doubt that I will ever employ a Filipina because my own experience tells me that they're the most "creative" people—lots of ideas in their heads. So by hook or by crook, my choices are restricted to the Indonesians.

So, yes, I will attend that forsaken one-day training course. And then when that is found to be not so effective against abuse cases, I'm sure the authority will extend it to, say, one week training course so that they can charge a little bit more "minimal fee".

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chicken & Egg

"We are not gender-biased but there is no way the ministry can stabilise university intake involving genders as admission is strictly based on meritocracy"

—Higher Education director-general Datuk Dr Radin Umar [NST]

Some of the new readers of this blog are not aware that I was once a teacher for about 3.5 years many years ago. During those few years mingling with school kids, I was able to learn a bit about boys and girls—of how their brains work; of how they see and figure out things. But later on, I realised that what I found out was also more or less true for adult males and females in general.

In an education system in Malaysia where school results are heavily weighted on theory rather than practical, I am not surprised that the girls will always outdo the boys. I have conducted a couple of experiments in this blog before to make my point, and although admittedly the size of participants by those who were sporting enough to join in the "study" was too small to qualify for any conclusive deduction, it nevertheless gave us all a glimpse of a pattern in the thought process between boys and girls. This is of course talking from the general point of view. I have no doubt that some girls are very clever people—I mean truly clever, not only on paper.

When presented with a problem, women would generally approach that problem from a much more complicated angle. If possible at all, they'd go into very detailed calculations, even using computer softwares to arrive at the answer; whereas men can arrive at the same answer much faster and accurately with hardly any complicated calculations whatsoever.

Consider this question which I've posted elsewhere in the past:

There is a kind of leaf which grows on the surface of water in a pond. It grows at the rate of doubling up every day (24 hours). So 1 becoming 2 after a day; becoming 4 the following day; becoming 8 the next day, and so on and so forth. Now, starting from ONE leaf, we are told that it takes 40 days for that ONE leaf to multiply to cover the entire surface of the pond.

Now we remove all those leaves from the pond and start again. Only this time we start with TWO leaves. How many days would it take for those TWO leaves to multiply to cover the entire surface of pond?

OK, first let's do the sifting process. I would say roughly about half of the population, of which perhaps comprising more or less equal percentage of men and women, would not have the mind to solve this kind of problem. They merely glance through the question and then sit back and wait for some other people to solve it for them. These are the lazy people who are not destined to be the problem-solvers of this world. In school they only read what's required to complete their assignments; they only study what they need to pass their exams. Nothing more. We shall not dwell on this group of people for our present discussion.

Of the remaining population, we have the more hard-working men and women who'd try to find the solution to the question. And I'm happy to say that from the many times that I have posed this question before, I'd say more or less equal number of men and women were able to find the solution. But I was more interested to know the thought-process in arriving at the solution.

A brilliant woman mathematician from a University here in Sabah solved the above question flawlessly. But I was somewhat amused by her approach. She sent me a 2-A4 size workings, including some complicated spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel) calculations which I did not bother to investigate, accompanied by some assumptions, and finally arrived at the required answer—39 days.

On the other hand, on another occasion, a male friend of mine who's probably left school a hundred years ago (maths was not his major) gave me his accurate answer in only a few sentences based on simple logic. He said that since we start the second experiment with TWO leaves, that is like starting the first experiment (the one which we started with only ONE leaf) from the second day (because ONE becomes TWO after 24 hours). The rest of the process would continue the same way between both those experiments. Therefore, the only difference is that one day at the beginning of those experiments. Hence the answer for the second experiment is 39 days. Very simple, logical and much faster way of arriving at the solution!

To be quite honest, when I asked the question, I wasn't really interested to know the answer, because I was fairly certain that it would be solved in the end. Instead, I was more interested in the thought-process in arriving at the answer. However, although I don't consider the above question as very difficult, some of you may still find it too complicated. So let's conduct another experiment now with something even more straight-forward and simpler, without mathematical complications, and hopefully we can get a bigger participation this time round.


Which one comes first, CHICKEN or EGG?

As usual, send your answer (only ONE answer please) to:


Real names are not required (though preferable), but it is necessary to specify your gender. I will not publish the names of participants, but I may share their explanations, anonymously. If no gender is specified, then I shall reluctantly exclude the submission from the "study". Give me your answer with a short explanation. This is necessary to investigate the thought-process. Refrain from discussing the question with anyone, especially the opposite gender. Employees (and ex-employees, especially the one working in Wisma Merdeka) of my company are automatically disqualified from participating.

p/s: I'm moderating all comments while this "study" is in progress.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nujum Pak Belalang

When I arrived at the office this morning, there was a commotion near the tea room. I went over to investigate what's going on. I found Rudy, our office boy, seated at his desk and engaged in an animated conversation while some of the clerks gathered around him to listen. On his desk was a photocopy of a portion of today's papers—the page showing the results of yesterday's draws for 4-digit lottery numbers. Of the numbers found on that page, I noticed two of them were highlighted with the yellow marker—6120 (first prize) and 6012 (consolation prize). Also found on his desk were 2 tickets bearing 2 different 4-digit numbers. And of course those numbers on the tickets did not match any of those in the results.

Well, there is no harm for a little bit of entertainment first thing in the morning. It's good to start off the day mingling around with my staff, and I always find that I can learn a lot about people in general—and Rudy is no exception.

And so, although Rudy had probably repeated his story several times to his colleagues by the time I asked him the question, he gladly obliged to start over again. In fact, I could see that the poor fellow worked himself up quite a bit by then.

A couple of nights ago, apparently Rudy had a dream (I'm laughing out loud again right now as I'm typing this; Oh! I hate myself for this!). In his dream he saw the tyres of his car (yes, he has a Kelisa now) were torn up into pieces. Not punctured! He said "koyak", meaning torn up. Don't ask me how, because I was too busy laughing and forgot to ask him how it happened. Although the tyres were damaged, the car itself was still intact.

He woke up and remembered his dream; and reckoned that there must be a significance to that dream. He then consulted a friend who tried to play the role of Nujum Pak Belalang to figure out the dream. According to the Tok Nujum, Rudy should buy 4-digit lotteries based on the numbers found on the tyres of his car. Now, to be quite honest, I didn't even know that there are 4-digit numbers on tyres, but well, evidently Rudy found those numbers and duly bought 2 tickets. He then waited eagerly for the results.

This morning when he checked the papers, he found that the numbers he bought were not even close! Instead, he said if he had only jumbled up his car registration numbers, he would have won the first prize and consolation prize. I told Rudy that that might be true, but how would he be able to jumble up the 4 digits of his car registration numbers when he could only afford to buy 2 tickets? For the benefit of those who're not mathematically inclined, in order to buy all the possible combinations of 4 (different) digits, one would have to buy 24 tickets (combinations)!

So if one can draw a conclusion from Rudy's dream, then the bet is in the opposite direction. If the tyres are damaged, then buy the car numbers; and if the car is damaged, then buy the numbers on the tyres.

In the end, I decided to take up the role of Nujum Pak Belalang myself! I told Rudy the next time he dreams of his car again, he should damage his car so that the numbers on his tyres will emerge in the lottery results. I just hope that Rudy won't get mixed up between his dreams and reality; and I hope he realises that I was only joking.

Anyway, have you noticed that, generally speaking, the vast majority of those who buy lottery tickets are those from the lower income population? I'm not saying that those who earn higher incomes don't buy lotteries. They do, and probably more in terms of Ringgit and Sen. But if someone would actually conduct a survey, I'm sure he'd find that in terms of people, more of the lower income group buy lottery tickets.

According to a psychologist friend of mine, these people are buying "hope". They know it's a very long shot, yet they will still try their luck. For there are not many other avenues for them to try their luck such as venturing into businesses and investing in the stock market etc.

However, I sometimes have weird dreams too. And so far based on past records, I have always gained from buying lottery tickets. It might not happen immediately though; sometimes I had to buy for several weeks or even months! But in the end, I would always gain something.

Last week, I had one of those dreams, and so I have been buying some tickets myself! Let's see how long I can keep it up this time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Fruit To Die For

Durian—The King of Fruits

Since I was a small boy, I have always loved durians. Unfortunately, I was told that it's not a very healthy fruit. People say that too much durians can result in increased level of cholesterol in the bloodstream, eventually leading to heart complications. I haven't really researched the truth of that claim, but since so many people have told me the same thing, I suppose there must be some truth in it.

In spite of the so-called health risk, I still eat a lot of durians whenever I have the chance. In KK durians are very expensive. A decent one usually cost at least RM10 per kg, but the price can easily reach double of that. Quite honestly, I don't really know very much about the numerous grades of durians—I just love the fruit in the general way. As long as it's durian, I'd usually love it!

Whenever I go to KL, for example, I'd usually try to make it a point to stay in YMCA in Brickfields. Apart from being conveniently near to the KL Sentral Station, there is always a durian seller at the roadside. But he only starts his business late at night, maybe around 10pm. And you can always see me eating durians squatting by the roadside beside the truck.

Recently, when I was in Johor after the Kiwanis Hunt, I happened to go downtown to kill some time. While we were looking for a cab back to the hotel, we stumbled upon a durian stall at the roadside. And again I took the opportunity to have some. Unfortunately, I was still too full from the ice kacang I had earlier. Otherwise I would have eaten even more durians that day.

Many years ago, when I was schooling in Sultan Abdul Samad, PJ, I followed my classmate back to his hometown in Batu Gajah during one of the school holidays. For three days I ate nothing but durians from his dusun durian. Too bad it was such a short visit—I could have survived solely on durians for weeks if I had to.

I will never get tired of durians. Yet I doubt that I would go as far as dying for it. [NST]

7 Wonders Of Nature

To vote or not to vote, that is the question.

Over the last couple of months, I've lost count of how many forwarded emails and text messages I've received from friends and people I don't even know, appealing me to vote for Sipadan, an island located off the east coast of Sabah, for the title of one of 7 New Wonders of Nature. I haven't voted—not even once—up to now.

It's been widely publicised in the local papers as well as blogs and numerous websites; and not to forget the many, many banners such as the one in the picture above, encouraging Sabahans to vote for Sipadan.

I was talking to a friend recently and was told that he has voted several times in favour of Sipadan. I have the impression that there must be other Sabahans who've voted many times too. But although I would be proud if Sipadan does get the title of Wonder of Nature in the end, I'm not sure if I can accept the way it gets that title.

Is this really the right way to decide if a landmark is really a "Wonder of Nature"? I'm not even aware of the other sites which have been nominated for the title. I remember how disappointed I was when the second Malaysian Idol was announced, because he obviously did not deserve to win. Yet he won because of the voting system.

Well, I shall not vote for Sipadan just because it is located in Sabah. So I must ask all my friends who have been tirelessly forwarding me reminders upon reminders to vote for Sipadan, to please don't waste your efforts. For no amount of reminders will make me vote. If Sipadan does get the title in the end, I shall be happy. But if it doesn't, I won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Good Leadership

I must say that I am not a big fan of Anwar Ibrahim. I'm sure the fellow has got brains, but I somehow have the impression that he is not a trustworthy person. If ever he becomes the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I can't imagine how he'd run the country. But since his younger days he has the habit of playing with the sentiments of the people. To achieve his goals, he'd organise demonstrations. But people being what they are, even "peaceful" demonstrations can turn ugly. It takes only one idiot to lose control and all hell breaks lose.

And now we see Datuk Nizar playing the same game [The Star]. I'm sure he has a perfect explanation why he had to deliberately act against the "dress code" in Parliament—an act which I'm sure he knew very well would get him kicked out of the session. I seriously doubt that he could have achieved his goal of dissolving the Perak State Assembly via such a comedy in Parliament, and perhaps it's not too hard to believe that Datuk Nizar knew that too. Yet he went ahead with the dress code violation anyway, perhaps to strengthen the support of his supporters.

Earlier, in Perak, he and some of his friends did the hunger strike stunt. That, too, was a dubious means of achieving his goal. The media, of course, is the biggest beneficiary of all this nonsense, but one has to wonder if the former Mentri Besar should instead get down to work and hopefully help to improve the lives of his supporters. He can't achieve very much, other than constantly being in the media, if he continues organising hunger strike and getting thrown out of Parliament.

The trouble about all this comical behaviour is that the good Datuk has quite a huge number of diehard supporters. And if he, as the Captain, navigates the ship into the wrong direction, he may well find himself shipwrecked and all his crews will have to pay for his mistake. Yes, the people are behind him, but he should navigate through his mind, not his heart. I have written before that the decision of the leader can and will have a great impact on the livelihood of his people.

Maybe Nizar should stop trying too hard to win back control of Perak. I think it is more beneficial for him to try his best to help the people who voted for him instead. Fight another day—during the next general election. If he is meant to become the Mentri Besar once again, it will happen somehow. Stop using the people; stop trying to gain their sympathy; and stop trying to instill hatred against the present government. Enough is enough. He should make the best of whatever he has right now and build on that. If he continues with all these mediocre comedy shows, he might even lose some of his existing supporters!

Have We Forgotten?

At 12:30pm sharp, the girls filed into the lift lobby and queued up for the lift. When the lift did arrive on our floor, its doors opened, only to reveal that it's already full to its capacity. Another lift came and went, full with people going out for lunch. The girls waited patiently. Such was the scene at my office shortly ago. It's amazing how these women would rather wait for the lift instead of walking down the staircase for only 2 floors. Elsewhere, I have seen people actually waiting patiently for the lift to travel just one floor. Staircases are fast becoming obsolete—they are only used during emergencies.

What is to become of the human race? They are becoming lazier and lazier to use their strength. Maybe they'd like to stay in bed all the time if they can help it. In general, young women these days refrain from doing any kind of physical exercises. Believe you me, they'd rather go on hunger marathons to control their weights. They'd pay substantial amount of hard-earned money for weight-losing "treatments"—no injections, no hunger, no exercises etc. The only thing that's required is a fat bank account.

This is what I have seen of Malaysian women in general. Between the age of 20 to 25, when the metabolism rate is still high, they can enjoy practically any kind of food they like without getting fat. They don't normally have time for physical exercises because they're busy building up their careers, having just left school.

Between the age of 26 to 30, their metabolism rate will slow down a bit. They will find that they can gain a bit of weight if they're not careful with their food intake. That's a bit of a concern of course, but not something which a bit of crash diets and a few aerobics classes can't remedy.

Between the age of 31 to 35, the metabolism rate slows down ever further. At this stage most women will find that they can gain weight by merely looking at food. And this is probably the most critical time of their lives when they will spend a big chunk of their incomes for slimming programmes. And so the diets which usually mean cutting down food to a tiny portion of the usual size; trying to do brisk walking or jogging 500 metres in the park. Electrically-operated machines which can shake off all the excess fats from the body. All these are necessary if only for the time being, because after getting married, of course there is no longer any need to watch the figure, if you know what I mean.

Well, I took the staircase down from the second floor. Walking fairly slowly, I reached the ground floor at more or less the same time as the girls taking the lift.

I said to them, "Can you imagine those people who're born without legs? They'd probably say to themselves that if only they had legs, they'd walk, run, jump and scale the highest mountain. They'd not use the lift and escalators. If possible at all, they'd not ride in the car as well. If only they had functional legs..."

Maybe we have all forgotten that we're born with limbs meant for many purposes—walking is just one of them. Trust me, folks, you won't die from walking down the staircase for only 2 floors. Be thankful that you have legs to walk with. They are many, many people in wheelchairs who'd give a lot to have legs like yours which you're so reluctant to use!

Monday, June 15, 2009

International Understanding Bazaar 2009

The International Understanding Bazaar (IU Bazaar) is a pet project of The Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu under the New Generation portfolio. It is held annually and jointly ogranised with the 5 Interact Clubs, namely, SM All Saints, SM Lok Yuk, SM St Francis Convent, SM La Salle and Maktab Sabah.

In the months leading up to the event, the students worked very hard to research and learn about foreign cultures and customs, of which they would present performances according to those respective themes during the IU Bazaar. The ideas and creativities of these kids were simply amazing to say the least.

Apart from performing dances etc, the students also set up booths, again according to the respective themes, where they'd have games, merchandises and food and beverages on sale. Above is a tour by President Warrence Chan to the booth of St Francis Convent. They're supposed to portray "India" for this event, but I'm not sure if they actually sell blended fruit juices in the streets of India. Anyway, St Francis Convent won the Best Game & Food category.

Maktab Sabah presented the above which was supposed to portray Papua New Guinea. I've seen a bit of the people of Papua New Guinea on Discovery Channel before, but I don't remember seeing anything like the above. At any rate, they captured the hearts of the judges and won the Best Performance category.

I kinda like the colourful performance by SM Lok Yuk. I'm not too sure if this is really a reflection of Korea. I thought the choreography was wonderful. Unfortunately, halfway through the presentation, they mixed up the routine with the modern version of Korea, which I thought did not blend well these elegant costumes. Therefore, this performance failed to impress the judges.

SM La Salle chose to do Italy for this year's IU Bazaar. It was a commendable performance, but perhaps it would have been better if more of them could participate to put up a good show.

A creative and original performance by SM All Saints of the Ancient Egyptian. I'm sure there's a specific name for that creature with the animal head. Long before the results were known, I knew that this performance was promising for the Best Creativity & Originality category. And of course in the end, they did win this category.

In spite of all the colourful costumes during the event, I was particularly attracted to this one—the simple but original idea of a mummy. I thought they could have done better if only they had chosen someone taller to be the mummy though. When I took this picture, the poor kid was going through hell. I was told later that it's really hot to be bundled up in all those bandages.

KK High School gave a presentation based on Cuba and won the Best Costume category convincingly. I was wondering why they did not get someone play a Fidel Castro, since that would really have portrayed Cuba. After all, until very recently, Castro was Cuba.

In the end, SM All Saints was the Champion: Best Overall Award. I thought the judges made a good choice. Had I been a judge for this event, I would have decided in favour of SM All Saints too.

Well, this was the last project of the New Generation portfolio for this term. I'm so glad that my fellow Rotarians liked the show very much, and congratulated me and the schools for a very exciting show. Rotarian George Ngui will be next in line, and I am sure the kids are already looking forward to the next International Understanding Bazaar!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Exhausting Week

Oh what a week; and what a day today!

I've been busy throughout this week, preparing for the International Understanding Bazaar 2009, which was held at the Palm Square, Centre Point today. Actually, I had the Interactors from SM All Saints to help me organise the event. But I still had a lot to do anyway.

The students were all out to compete against each other—they were still practising up to almost midnight last night. In fact, they spent practically the entire day yesterday to set up their respective booths and running last minute errands. Elreena called me up to report that there was no PA system at the venue, and I had to quickly send out SOS to several people. I finally got hold of Randy Chong who found a place where we could rent the system.

Shortly later, Elreena called up again, saying that there were no chairs for the VIPs. As I was panicking, she called me back to say that they managed to find some chair from the store room after all.

This morning, I had intended to go for my long run. But since it's a 19km run, I had estimated at least 2.5 hours including driving to and from the sports complex. So I decided to do the run in the evening instead.

Upon reaching the Palm Square, I saw the VIP chairs all lined up nicely, but without cushions on them. As Murphy's Law would have it, the technician who's supposed to help out was not around. And of course we were also unable to contact his cellphone. In the end, we borrowed some wooden chairs from one of the shops.

The event went well, and there were many, many people who came to see. I took some photos, but I'll have to sort them out first before posting them here.

This evening, I finally arrived at the Likas jogging track to do those dreadful 19km. I started running at 6pm and finished at about 8pm.

I'm so dead tired now; I'm barely keeping my eyes open. So to the Interactors who're eagerly reading this blog now, I'm afraid the full story of the International Understanding Bazaar will just have to wait till tomorrow. Get some rest, y'all, school's reopening tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shocking Revelation?

Most of the rich and powerful people in this country usually send their children overseas for their education. If they opt to put their children in our local schools, then it would be in the best ones in the country. As a result, many of these rich and powerful people don't really know much about what's going on in a typical school in Malaysia.

Over 20 years ago, when I was still in school, we learned English as a single subject. It was what we called "communicative English". We were not taught grammar. If I'm not wrong, grammar was last taught a few years before my generation. I'm not sure if English was a compulsory subject back then, but at any rate, it was very easy to get a credit in the so-called "communicative English".

When I finished form 6, I couldn't afford to pursue my studies. So I had to work for a few years to save up for the first year's fee of a distance-learning degree offered by a university in the United Kingdom. Three months into the course, I felt like giving up because I had to learn everything in English with the very little I knew of the language. Never mind about grammar—I could hardly construct a decent sentence without a spelling mistake in it. And so I had to start from the very beginning. I bought primary school books and learned grammar like a small kid. I spent many, many hours reading lots of books ranging from fictions to technical articles. It was quite a horrifying experience.

Throughout the years, the education system in Malaysia has been neglecting English, and we have now reached a point where even some official Government websites contain laughable English articles.

I have mentioned before that many of our local graduates who found their way to my office to look for jobs did not quite pass my requirements because of their weaknesses in the English language. Although Malay is the official language and widely used in the Government offices throughout the country, the private sector is still overwhelmingly English. And looking at how quickly the world is becoming borderless these days, it is likely that English will remain very important in time to come.

The sorry state of the level of English command among the younger generation is not something new. Yet our Deputy Prime Minister was shocked recently when he found out that grammar is no longer taught in school these days. [The Star]

Apparently it was quite a revelation to the minister. Perhaps someone should have at least mentioned it to him 20 years ago, although of course nothing could have been done about it anyway.

So now we are back to the beginning once again. The Education Ministry is contemplating making English a must-pass subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), i.e. form 5 exam. The plan is put forward to the public to seek feedback. I can only guess that when this whole "public consultation" thing is over, the majority will decide negatively. It is human nature to fear change—especially one that can hurt them.

Based on what I myself have been through, from the kind of English that we have in our schools, it would probably take at least 2 years to reach an acceptable standard of the language. To learn a new language as an adult is a very painful process, and many people will fail.

Sometimes, Governments make decisions not based on what's right and logical. Rather, decisions are made based on political reasons. Even correct decisions may have to be abandoned if the majority is against it, unless of course if the Government does not care about winning the next election.

I can understand that the good DPM is trying very hard to be seen as doing something profound in his new portfolio. And if he is serious about it, he has my vote to make English a must-pass subject in SPM. But even if that is going to happen, I don't think it's happening any time soon.

The hard truth is that Malaysia has neglected English for far too long; it can't suddenly correct the mistake overnight like switching on a computer. Very few of those in the current generation have the kind of English for the purpose of teaching the language to our children; what they have is just the so-called "communicative English". Certainly they can't teach grammar. Contrary to what these "people at the top" think, the current breed of teachers can't learn English through a month's "intensive course".

We just don't have enough people who can teach English at the moment. Therefore, the teachers must learn the language first. That will probably take at least 2 years, if not more. When we have enough people who can teach English, only then can we move to the next stage of actually making English a must-pass subject in school.

So whatever the motive is, the DPM should realise that it's not going to happen before the next general election. However, my personal view is that it will not happen at all. Too many people stand to lose. Either that, or we will see the "Malaysia Boleh" phenomenon—that suddenly many, many students will pass the English exams in school, but actually they know hardly anything about the language.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Running vs Watching

Yesterday morning I woke up at 5:15am for my "long run". Well, actually it wasn't very "long"—it's only 17km. I'm gradually building up my distance for the full course of the Borneo Marathon 2 in October. I think I'm not training hard enough—2 short runs during the weekdays, plus a long run during the weekends will help a little, but to be more effective, I need to run at least another short run on a weekday. This I will have to start doing very soon.

I completed the 17km in a modest 1hr 45 mins. The plan is to build up the distance to 36km 3 weeks before the day of the marathon. However, if I can help it, I'd like to complete the full 42km before the actual event. The worrying thing about all this is I felt very tired even to complete that 17km. I don't know if I'm ever gonna reach 30km, let alone 42km.

Today my legs are still sore from the 17km run. But by tomorrow I'll have run another 8km. I'm still accumulating only an average of about 40km per week up to now, although obviously I'll have to increase that gradually to 90km-100km per week, 3 weeks before the marathon. So there's a lot of work to do between now and October. I hope to remain healthy throughout the next few months so that there won't be any interruptions to my training programme.

Whenever I do my long runs, I'd have plenty of time to think—sometimes about work, sometimes about other things in general. I like to keep my mind occupied with other thoughts because I feel by doing that I can "trick" my body into forgetting about its exhaustion from the running. But alas, it doesn't really work.

Anyway, as I was fighting my exhaustion, I suddenly thought of an email I received from a friend a few days ago. He attached a scanned news article about men's health. After reading that article, I surfed the net to find out more; and I found exactly the same article here.

I'm not trained in the medical field, and I don't have any background in scientific researches. But I feel for a doctor to declare that "there is no question that gazing at breasts makes men healthier," based on a survey of only 200 men is somewhat too reckless. Ordinarily, in order to arrive at a viable conclusion, a much larger sample is required. 200 is just too small a sample size to represent the billions of male population in this world.

I'd like to think that I am a healthy normal man, and although I can still admire a sexy female body, I doubt that looking at women's breasts can make my "heart pump any faster" than it usually does and "improve my blood circulation". And surely looking at women's breasts for a period of 10 minutes can't have the same effect as running for 30 minutes? I wonder what Dr Karen Weatherby does whenever she goes to the gym; maybe she should try running for 30 minutes and see if she still feels the same way about comparing the 10-minute breast-watching with aerobics exercise.

Besides, for some men, maybe looking at women's breasts can even lead to frustration; and that frustration can lead to a higher blood pressure? Well, OK, unless if they can proceed beyond the "looking".

I think the truth about humans in general is that we are different from one another. Some men would become excited—maybe overly so—by just looking at women's breasts; some are hardly affected by it. And there is also the element of boredom. Even if a man can get excited looking at women's breasts, he'd probably grow tired of doing it 10 minutes everyday. Very soon, he'd not find it exciting at all.

To generalise that we men can extend our lives by 4 to 5 years is a bit too far fetched. There must be millions other factors which can affect the lifespan of an average man. If I can extend my life by 4 to 5 years, I'd like that very much. But I doubt that I'd ever try the breast-watching approach. I'll take my chances with running and other aerobics exercises.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Breakfast Onboard AirAsia Flight

A couple of months ago, I posted an article entitled: Letter To Tony. He is, by the way, the CEO of AirAsia. And according to news report, the poor fellow recently fainted due to overwork. Anyway, in that article, I wrote about how infrequently one is able to actually get hot meals onboard the AirAsia flights between KK and KL.

Last week, I took the first flight out from Senai back to KK after the Kiwanis Hunt. The flight was at 7:10am, and I had to wake up at 4:15am that morning. My team mates who were starting early to go back to KL left the hotel a little after 5:00am. Since the Senai Airport was along the way, they were kind enough to send me off.

Anyway, I reached the airport at about 6:20am. After I checked in at the counter, I took the opportunity to sleep on a bench. I was so deprived of sleep those few days. But soon it was time to board the plane.

I had planned to sleep throughout the flight. But shortly after the takeoff, the crews were already busy selling hot meals. I didn't think that I'd have anything left for breakfast, but well, I asked anyway. To my surprise, I was just in time for one of the last 2 packs of nasi lemak. So I bought a packet of nasi lemak and a hot cup of coffee. This was the first time I've managed to taste the elusive nasi lemak on any AirAsia flight. I thought RM14 for the nasi lemak and hot coffee was reasonable.

I don't know if it's because I was already hungry then, but the nasi lemak was not bad at all. Apart from the rice which was cooked with coconut cream, there was chicken curry, anchovies, a slice of hard-boiled egg and fried ground nuts.

To the real nasi lemak lovers, the nasi lemak on AirAsia is "incomplete". A more "complete" nasi lemak would typically contain perhaps a combination of beef rendang and chicken and cucumbers. But at any rate, I'm not really used to very big meals for breakfast. I usually have my breakfast at home, which comprises either oat mixed with sweetened milk; or high-fibre cereal with recombined milk. Therefore, I'm OK if the nasi lemak does not come with eggs and cucumber. Besides, now that I know what some people do with cucumbers, every time someone serves me cucumbers, I can't help wondering where those cucumbers come from.

Well, it took me more than 10 times onboard the AirAsia flights, but I finally got to try their nasi lemak. Hopefully, AirAsia can keep it up, so that the next time I fly AirAsia again, who knows, I might get to try the other hot meals on their menu.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sex Toys & Razor Blades

About a week ago, I posted an article entitled: Emotional Violence. In it I touched about physical and emotional abuses, and the proposed law to protect women. I welcome such a law, but I'd like to see both genders benefitting from it. I also said that there is only meaning in that law if it's enforceable [on everyone].

I gave an example where an action is commenced against the Prime Minister of Malaysia—whether anyone would dare to do anything about it. That was of course just a hypothetical example, and it's impossible to answer the question.

Well, now we have an opportunity to find out. A 17-year old kid (yes, she's just a kid) married a prince of Kelantan about a year ago, and recently escaped while in Singapore. She has since been reunited with her mother in Indonesia. [New Straits Times]

Her allegations against her husband, the prince, caused quite a stir. According to her, she was sexually abused by her husband who treated her like a toy. Allegedly, she was also tranquillised several times when she protested against the way she was treated. So we are made to imagine the prince forcing himself on her. It's hard to believe a man doing that to his wife after only one year of marriage. I'm not dismissing her allegations, mind! What's even more fantastic is the claim that the prince used a razor to cut her chest—a razor! Why a razor? And why on the chest? I guess some people get their kicks from doing something outrageous.

But anyway, as I was saying, would anyone dare to investigate the truth of these allegations? There is no need to wait for the proposed amendments of the law. If these allegations are true, the prince can get into big trouble even with the existing law. But again, who dares to investigate?

Well, this was what the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin, had to say when asked to comment [The Star]:

"The Malaysian Government does not want to get involved in the case."

He added, "I think this is more of a personal matter. We should not be dragged into this situation so we want to just leave it as it is."

A perfect example of how things are in Malaysia. But I can't help wondering how the DPM would react if those allegations were made by his own daughter. I'm sure he would not get involved, as that's more of a personal matter between his daughter and her husband.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

26th Kiwanis Hunt—Crack-a-Pot 1

For many years now, the Kiwanis Hunt is unique for the kind of riddles known as the Crack-a-Pots. As far as I know, no other hunts in Malaysia offer the Crack-a-Pots. A typical Kiwanis Hunt has only 2 Crack-a-Pot questions. In previous years, these questions carried much lesser points when compared to the route and treasure questions. But this year, they carried the same score (3 points each) as the other questions, with a possible bonus of 1 point if both of them are solved.

A Crack-a-Pot is essentially a code-breaking exercise. The question usually consists of a clue to give a hint to the solver what the riddle is about; followed by a code which contains seemingly meaningless letters or numbers arranged in no particular order; and a "message" of which the deciphered code shall be used to derive the solution, which is usually a short phrase or tagline or theme. However, the setter has a reputation of deliberately replacing one of those letters in the intended solution so that the end result might seem like a misspelt word. For example, instead of KIWANIS, one might end up with SIWANIS.

The Crack-a-Pot questions have always been a feature of admiration among the hunters and they have always been one of the highlights of the Kiwanis Hunt. That is not surprising as the questions portray the beautifully-creative mind of the setter.

Regretfully, however, the Crack-a-Pots of the 26th Kiwanis Hunt were something of a disappointment. In spite of the time available to set the questions, the end results were flawed.

Crack-a-Pot 1:

Clue: Climate change linked to frogs & poms


5 = (15) = U = 258

86 = 30 = U = 303

And from the the above, the solver has to figure out what is the word (s) or phrase or tagline intended by the setter.

The idea of the riddle is beautiful. I say it's beautiful because it's simple and solvable by anybody. There is no requirement of long hunting experience to decipher it. In fact, I know for a fact that at least one relatively-new team solved it!

"Climate change" gives a hint to the solver that this has something to do with, well, climate change. In this case, it's about temperature change. When I realised this, I thought of the possible conversions between Fahrenheit-Celcius-Kelvin. I then asked my team mate to give me the conversion formulae. But unfortunately I uncharacteristically counted wrongly! I was therefore unable to establish the link. I don't know why I didn't try again, but anyway, the 2 lines of equations are simply conversions from Fahrenheit (F) to Celsius (C) to Kelvin (K). The only strange item in the equation is the letter U. What is that referring to?

Well, a rival team figured out the solution up to the F, C and K, but did not know what's the U all about. They then googled up and found that there is a French unit for temperature and it happened that the spelling starts with a U. So because the U in the clue is equated to the other numbers, they "solve" the value for U.

Actually, the setter had intended those Us simply as fillers. And this is where I think the otherwise beautiful question was flawed. The equal signs (=) before and after those Us suggest that the value of U is the same as its neighbours, but based on a different temperature unit. If the U is adopted only as a filler, then that letter does not equal to its neighbours. And if U does not equal to the value of its neighbours, why, then, it is wrong to put the equal signs there!

For this reason, I can understand why the rival team tried to "solve" the equation to find U.

Anyway, the setter, adopting the U only as a filler, had intended the solver to find:

FCUK (French Connection United Kingdom)

The "frogs and poms" refers to the French and British. A beautiful idea which is spoilt by the equal signs. Perhaps it is even better not to put the equal signs at all. Maybe if commas were used instead, that would have been better. In fact, if the setter had left just a gap between those figures (and Us), that would still have been better than the equal signs.