Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I don't believe in religions; so I'm immune from all those so-called teachings from the holy books. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is what I would describe as a "very strong believer". She goes to St Simon Church every Sunday without fail. Some years ago, she tried to convince me to be a practising Roman Catholic, i.e. to go to church every Sunday. But of course she has long since given up hope on me. I'm just beyond help, you see.

Mia is what I would describe as the fence-sitter. Apparently, she does believe a bit in the Catholic God. But she doesn't really believe all those chantings—I think it's what they call "speaking in tongue", or something like that—when the church goers are "touched" by the Holy Spirit. I must remember to ask her if she believed that Mary was a virgin when she had Jesus.

I thought there couldn't be any harm to "give" my JJ a religion. So I sort of played along with the baptism thing when she was about 6 months old. We were kinda late, since I was given to understand that usually the baptism ritual is carried out within the first month or two of the baby's delivery. Anyway, Mia, JJ and my mother-in-law go to church every Sunday together. I decided to opt out since donkey years ago, I think by now I must have tonnes of "unwashed" sins!

I was talking to Mia about the Holy Bible just a couple of days ago. I said contrary to what most christians say, I see the Bible as an imperfect document. In fact, most, if not all, of the holy books are imperfect as far as I am concerned. Jesus, for some strange reasons, enjoyed speaking in parables. I fail to see why couldn't he had simply spoken in a plain ordinary language—y'know, like being normal?

The Bible contains mostly things which are ambigious and subject to many numerous different interpretations. And because of the many possible interpretations, I think we can no longer be sure of what's the original intention of the authors. For example, I don't really know what to make of the story about Noah and the Ark. Is that to be taken literally? Or is that some kind of symbolic story which is supposed to have a deeper meaning to it? When we read about how Jesus fed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and fish, and still had 12 baskets of left-over after that, was that supposed to have been taken literally?

There are so many possible interpretations of the Bible, and it is no surprise that so many people have come up with their own "churches". They each have their own interpretations—they're slightly different here and there.

So although still using the same Bible, they start to convince some people to join their "churches". Usually, the congregations would start in the housing estates with small prayer groups. They would then rent the upper floors of shophouses. At the same time, they collect monetary contributions from their members, as much as 10% of the incomes—evidently something called tidings, which I was told is provided for in the Bible. Before long, they will actually buy a premises. Then buy a land, and eventually build their own churches. In KK alone, we have so many churches around; some still occupying the upper floors of shophouses, and some already rich enough to have their own churches as in the real "church" building constructed on their own lands.

The beauty of it all is that they are very good in recruiting new members—people who're willing to sacrifice everything for the leader. I always find myself amazed anew each time I see people actually believe in these new churches. I'm having trouble believing in my own Roman Catholic church, let alone these other churches.

That's why I could only shake my head when a man who's been dead for 13 months was not buried; rather was kept in his coffin and placed in the living room of a rented house here in Penampang. Each day his believers held prayer sessions throughout those 13 months while waiting for his resurrection. But of course he has remained dead up to now. And it was probably a blessing in disguise that the police finally forced themselves into the house to stop all the nonsense. [The Star]

BUT! Keeping an open mind, even if he had resurrected from his death, I think he would've died again very quickly the second time due to suffocation. He must have forgotten to instruct his followers not to bundle him up in blankets and plastic wrappers. How was he supposed to breathe that way? Some people are just so bad in planning!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fatal Jealousy, Recognition & Grooming Business

Haven't been in the mood to blog this lately—been working on my KK Challenge 5 and marathon training. But just wanna post a bit on some current issues.

Fatal Jealousy

First up—practically in our own backyard here in KK—is the murder and suicide of a couple which reportedly started from jealousy. Yeah right, some strange people have a very strange way to solve their problems, you see—If I can't have this woman, then no one shall have her! What can I say, not all of us are very clever people. I hope the fellow was satisfied with himself when he died. At least someone is happy?

Anyway, this article in The Star is too brief. Actually, in our local papers here in KK, there's a bit more information. Apparently the murdered woman lodged 3 police reports (one as recent as just a few days ago) against her boyfriend. But I suppose the police was too busy investigating other police reports. If she could escape from her boyfriend for, say, a few years, then maybe the police might have had the opportunity to finally investigate her case. In Malaysia, people enjoy lodging police reports, even to preempt possible actions. And of course one can't expect the police to investigate all these reports. We have to wait for our turns, you know. So I'd reckon that reports lodged by politicians would be investigated first, if at all. If the police is able to clear all of those, then they will deal with the reports lodged by the rich and famous next. And if those could be gotten out of the way, then maybe there is a remote chance that the police will look into the reports lodged by us lay people.


We've been craving for recognition in the global sense. We sent people to Mount Everest; to South Pole. Someone sailed around the world and then bestowed with Datukship. A teenage girl tried to swim across the English Channel, but unfortunately failed in her attempt. Otherwise she, too, would carry the title of Datuk by now. In fact, we are a nation which is fast becoming obsessed with all these recognitions. But perhaps we're getting a bit carried away this lately. Someone started to claim the recognition for certain delicacies, and then the next thing you know, everyone is claiming this food and that food as their recipes.

And so, now Malacca is claiming the Hainanese chicken rice as originating from its famous 17th Jonker Street. I'm just waiting for someone from Tuaran to claim the recognition for Tuaran Mein. Who knows, maybe Tuaran Mein can find its way into the Malaysia Book of Records. But of course that is assuming our Chief Minister, Datuk Musa Aman, can allow the use of the word Tuaran for such purpose.

Grooming Business

Finally, I hate to keep coming back to this same issue—it is getting boring; hell, it's beginning to be disgusting, but there you have it, Samy is still grooming his successor to lead the MIC. I think his chosen one is just about ready for the huge responsibility now. I say "just about ready", but not quite yet! Don't hold your breath, it may take a bit of time before it really happens.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Countdown to Borneo International Marathon 2009

Well, I finally conquered 35km last Sunday for the very first time in my life! And it wasn't a pleasant experience, I tell you! Somehow, in spite of all the mileage I've logged over the last 4 months didn't seem to help at all—the 35km was still a torture anyway. I had to fight the temptation to give up long before the end of the run, and obviously that's a bad sign.

Towards the end, my legs had more or less reached their limits; I was basically dragging myself just to finish the distance. Of course, right now I haven't the slightest idea how I'm going to conquer the remaining 7km during the actual event, because when the legs are no longer cooperating, every single step requires a Herculean strength to make.

Thankfully, however, that's the last long run above 30km before the event. This Sunday, I'll do a milder 20km and then another 13km next Sunday. The weekly runs will also be reducing substantially as I taper for the event. When I ran the 9km this evening, my legs were still tired from last Sunday's long run. Hopefully, by the time I arrive at the starting line of the marathon, I would have built up on my energy reserve and that can help push my legs for those final 7km. In any case, I know I'm gonna suffer on that day.

Incidentally, last night I surfed the official website for the Singapore International Marathon which will be held on 6 December. I have signed up for the full course in that event too. I was checking out some of the info in that website when I stumbled upon that part about the finisher T-shirt for the full marathon. Suddenly, it occured to me to find out if we're gonna have a finisher T-shirt for our Borneo International Marathon too. Well, today when I called up the organiser, I was informed that there won't be any T-shirt. Sigh.

So a little over 2 weeks to go, and although I'm unsure if I could finish the remaining 7km, I'd still want to set a target. Originally, I was kinda thinking of 5 hours. But now that I have done the 35km at 3:51:53, I'm hoping to finish the 42km in 4:30 - 4:45, and it would be even better if I can push it closer to the 4:30 mark (smile). Keeping my fingers crossed...

Living In A Hotel

I was about 22 years old when I moved out from my parents’ home to share a rented house with my sister, Bridget. I was earning miserably little then—I was teaching full time with a take home pay of slightly over RM500 each month. That was a decent income back then, but certainly not good enough for a “comfortable” lifestyle. So to supplement my full time job, I also gave tuitions in the evenings for a few hundred bucks more. Yet at the end of the day, I was hardly able to save any money.

I suppose if I had continued living together with my parents, I could’ve save a bit of money, but having a place of my own meant a lot more than saving a few Ringgit. Of course it wasn’t really “a place of my own”, since I was still sharing with Bridget. But it felt different from living under the same roof with my parents somehow.

Later on I moved to Brunei and worked there for a good 13 years before deciding to relocate back to KK again. During those few months of maneuvering my way back to KK, Mia was already expecting. I spent a bit of money to renovate a room in my parents’ home. That was where we had intended to stay “for the time being” until we find ourselves a permanent home. At first the “for the time being” meant 2 to 3 years, but it turned out that as soon as I was back to KK, we quickly bought a house and moved out just before JJ was born. I’m so not into living in my parents’ home, if you know what I mean. I don’t know if it’s me, but I don’t believe women can actually live together harmoniously under the same roof for a long time. Well, OK, I’ll admit that some of them—very few of them—can, but most of them can’t!

Anyway, I’m bringing all this up because I happen to know some people, in fact people closely-related to me, who’re way past 40 years old and still living together with their parents. Although they have what they call “work”, they never contribute anything for the household expenses—they don’t pay any rent, not a sen for food, electricity or water bills; and they don’t even wash their own laundries. They are easily annoyed when mommy takes a bit longer to prepare dinner. They are truly the best examples of good-for-nothing children. It makes one wonder what will happen to these creatures when mom and dad are no longer around one of these days.

Looking out a little bit further, we can still find quite a number of similar households in Sabah. A small house with, say, 3 bedrooms, and each bedroom occupied by a family of husband and wife and children.

I think when my JJ is all grown up, it will be very difficult for me to let her live on her own. But if she wished to find her own place, I will try to suppress my fatherly instinct and let her be independent. I just hope that once she’s out of my house, she won’t keep moving in and out again, with everything paid for, and treat my house like a hotel!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Short Visit To Sandakan

It must have been almost 20 years ago since the last time I visited Sandakan. Two years ago, when I drove to Lahad Datu, I think we did pass Sandakan. But that's not really counted as a visit—merely passing.

Well, yesterday I had to make a business visit to Sandakan. I took the first MAS flight, i.e. Fokker 50. It was ages ago when I was in a Fokker, but I can't remember it as such a claustrophobic plane. If I'm not mistaken, years ago it used to be a free-seating arrangement. Yesterday, however, passengers were given fixed seats. I did not bother to choose my seat, since I reckoned what difference would it make for a 50-minute flight anyway? Well, I was given Seat 14F. When I got onto the plane, I found that Seat 14F was right at the back of the plane, of which the back rest was fixed since there was a wall behind it. During the flight, I went to the toilet, and it's extremely small, there's hardly any space to move in it!

Sandakan airport is such a quiet airport. I don't know if it's just a coincidence, but I'm not sure if they have even 10 flights coming in and out in a day! There is now a new highway from the airport leading to the town centre. The cab driver spoke Cantonese with me at first. And I had to apologise; that I can't do Cantonese. Sandakan is mainly Cantonese, you see. But then luckily the cabbie also knew Hakka, so that was a relief. Along the way there were plenty of slump houses on stilts on both sides of the highway. The only other place I remember seeing so many such houses was across the river in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

Our office in Sandakan is located on the 6th floor of Wisma Khoo Siak Chew. When I reached the office, there were already many cases waiting for me. Since I had already fixed my flight back to KK in the evening, I had to finish the job somehow. So it was quite a busy day.

During lunch break, I went across the road to a restaurant known as Nan Cun for the supposedly famous chicken rice. But to be quite honest, I found nothing special in the chicken rice. I thought it's just the same as those found in many shops in KK. However, while I was making my order, I saw the neighbouring table had steamed fish. Not very big, perhaps about 300g-400g. I thought that looked good, so I ordered that too. On top of that, I also ordered some sort of herbal soup which was black in colour and some chicken feet in it. So I had a plate of chicken rice, the steamed fish, the herbal soup, and a glass of plain cold water, all for RM10. Perhaps in KK a similar meal would cost at least RM15.

I spent the entire afternoon catching up with work in the office and was barely able to clear the desk at 5pm. I was not in the mood for sight-seeing, so shortly after I left the office, I decided I might as well go straight to the airport. I got into a cab and we started off for the airport. The cabbie was quick to share with me about his job. By then I have the impression that the cabbies in Sandakan enjoy talking to their passengers.

Life as a cabbie in Sandakan, according to him, is very, very tough. Apart from competing with many cabs and mini buses, they also have to compete with teksi sapu. He said teksi sapu are all over the town. Teksi sapu don't need to pay for the licences, so they can charge lesser. But then again, I don't think I will support those teksi sapu even if they're cheaper.

Recently there's been talks that the cab rates will be raised. Yet there hasn't been a clear-cut formula on how they're gonna control teksi sapu in Sandakan. Meanwhile, in anticipation of the revised rates, all the metres will have to be changed to a new one which will cost RM1,400 each. I bet only one appointed company can supply and install those metres.

I arrived at the airport at about a quarter to six; plenty of time before my flight which was at 7:30pm. So I had dinner at the restaurant on the upper floor. I really don't know how the business can survive with such a small crowd.

There was a short customary delay, but we eventually started out from Sandakan at about 7:45pm, this time in the ATR 72-500 (I hope I remember this correctly), which was similar to the Fokker, only more modern looking.

What an exhausting day. But I must make it a point to really visit Sandakan again one of these days; perhaps visit one of the islands, provided of course, if someone can assure me that I won't end up in the Southern Phillipines and get my head chopped off.

Come to think of it, it's quite amazing that over the last 20 years, I've been to the States, Canada, Korea, England and Paris etc; yet I haven't even been to Sandakan again! I must try to coinvince Mia to overcome her phobia of Sandakan town. That should be a good project for 2010!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Godsend Richness

An email from my spam box:

RE-TRANSFER OF ($10.500.000.00 USD)

Dear ,

As-Salaam Alaikum

Transfer to overseas ($ 10.500.000.00 USD) Ten million Five hundred thousand United States Dollars) from the Bank of Africa, I want to ask you to quietly look for a reliable and honest person who will be capable and fit to provide either an existing bank account or to set up a new Bank a/c immediately to receive this money, even an empty a/c can serve to receive this funds quietly.

I am MR MADAWI ATASSI, the accountant personal confidant to Dr. Ravindra F. Shah who died together with his wife Dr.Mrs. Manjula Parikh-Shah in a plane crash on the 1st Oct. 2003 on their way to attend wedding in Boston.

Mr. Rainer F. Shah, is an American, a physician and industrialist, he died without having any beneficiary to his assets including his account here in Burkina Faso which he opened in a Bank of Africa in the year 2000 as his personal savings for the purpose of expansion and development of his company before his untimely death in 2003.

The amount involved is (USD 10.500,000.00)Ten Million Five Hundred Thousand USD, no other person knows about this account, I am contacting you for us to transfer this funds to your account as the beneficiary, I want tofirsttransfer$1,500.000.00( One million five hundred thousand USD) from this money into a safeaccountabroad, after which we will transfer the remaining (9M) but I don't know any foreigner, I am only contacting you as a foreigner because this money can not be approved to a local person here, without valid international foreign passport, but can only be approved to any foreigner with valid international passport or drivers license and foreign a/c because the money is in US Dollars and the former owner of the a/c Mr.Ravindra F. Shah is a foreigner too, and as such the money can only be approved into a foreign a/c.However, I am revealing this to you with believe in ALLAH that you will never let me down in this business, you are the first and the only per son that I am contacting for this business, so please reply urgently so that I will inform you the next step to take urgently.

Send also your private telephone and fax number including the full details of the account to be used for the deposit. I need your full co-operation to make this work fine. because the management is ready to approve this payment to any foreigner who has correct information of this account, which I will give to you,upou your positive response and once I am convinced that you are capable and will meet up with instruction of a key bank official who is deeply involved with me in this business.

At the conclusion of this business, you will be given 40% of the total amount, 50% will be for me, while 10% will be for expenses both parties might have incurred during the process of transferring. I look forward to your earliest reply . madawi_atassi@voila.fr


On average, I receive at least 2 such emails per day. Of course there are also other junkmails promoting all sorts of things, including free pornographic website passes, cheap Viagra pills from online pharmacies, medications and natural food supplements (with money-back guarantee) to enlarge the size of my manhood, lottery winnings to the tune of millions etc.

But the above email is still the evergreen. At a rough count from the many, many similar emails I've been receiving over the years, there must be thousands and thousands of dormant accounts in the Bank of Africa. And all those dormant accounts are worth millions!

I can only guess that it's still worthwhile for these people to continue this kind of modus operandi to con people. I guess greed is a common human weakness. Out of the billions of people in the world, even if 0.00001% fell for this scam, that is good enough.

This particular email is more unique than the rest in that the author is attempting to rely on religious approach on me (a very, very wrong thing to do!). I am the last person in the world who'd be affected by what appears like religious people.

I enjoy this line:

"However, I am revealing this to you with believe in ALLAH that you will never let me down in this business..."

And I like the closing too:


I wonder how does Mr Atassi's god feel about him stealing money owned by somebody else... HAHAHA!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Job Creation

Will be leaving for the office shortly. So I'm afraid for once I'm not gonna live up to my reputation of writing a long boring post this morning. But have you noticed that these days in Malaysia we're spending a lot of the tax payers' resources on the formation of investigators upon investigators to investigate the same things?

First we form A, which is supposed to investigate on issue X. Then when the people operating that A start playing god, they themselves become the subject of a new investigation when the government forms B. After a while those people in B, too, start doing hanky-panky stuff, and the government then forms C to investigate how they conduct their business. And I think it is reasonable to assume that the trend will continue.

I suppose when looking on the bright side, at least in the economic sense, we can say that we're good in creating job opportunities.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Magical Charm

“Whoever takes or entices away any woman who is and whom he knows, or has reason to believe, to be the wife of any other man, from that man , or from any person having the care of her on behalf of that man , with intent that she may have illicit intercourse with any person, or conceals, or detains with that intent any such woman.”

—Section 498 of the Penal Code

Of which the offender could be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or fined or both.

This long-lost, practically forgotten Section, has suddenly become very famous because of a glamorous TV celebrity, Daphne Iking.

I'd like to comment about Section 498 in general; and then I will proceed to share my views about some beautiful and famous women.

Before that, I'd like to share a friend's short comment in an email sent to me this afternoon. His comment was in response to another comment by one of my readers in my previous post:

"having sex with married women is not illegal but enticing her away from her husband is"

My friend's comment was very short. He said:

"What is wrong with this? One you are merely using, the other you are stealing. Using is not a crime, stealing is."

An interesting opinion, and an amusing one too. Actually, strictly speaking, if you are using others' property without permission, that can amount to a crime too. But anyway, there are a few issues here which deserve some discussions.

Firstly, if this Section is strange at all, it is not the first time that this has happened in our legal system. We have many, many more Acts which have gone very, very far from their original intentions. The famous Internal Security Act is just one of them.

Secondly, in my opinion, many more cases are actually about women seducing married men to leave their wives. And I think it makes more sense to provide for legal remedies for the victimized wives. If the law makers think that men who seduce married women to leave their husbands should be punished with imprisonment, then they should also provide for such punishment when it's the women who seduce married men to leave their wives. This is because in our society, there are still many women who're totally dependent on their husbands. They are apt to lose substantially when their husbands are stolen away from them.

But the point that I really want to make is how do we define "entices" in Section 498? How should we determine whether it's entirely because of the man's enticement that caused the woman to leave her husband? Maybe it's a bit of the man's enticement, plus the woman's "willingness to be enticed"? And it is also possible that it's the woman who's all out to search for a man who's willing to "entice" her—that she's merely looking for a scapegoat? It is this third scenario I'd like to explore a bit further.

I'm not a trained psychologist; but I observe people in general. I try to learn how their minds work. Beautiful and famous women are quite often bestowed with some sort of magical charm—which is probably why they're famous in the first place. These creatures frequently worship themselves. They yearn to be the centre of attention—everyone around them must acknowledge their sway!

These women may or may not find a spouse in the end. But the ruling passion is still to captivate everyone around them—men and women. Even if they are married, they still belong to themselves. Perhaps a good example is Elizabeth Taylor. That inclination to captivate others will prevail. They must dominate!

Nevertheless, there will come a time when some people are not so easily captivated by their charm. Some men have that magical charm too. And sometimes in their over-eagerness to captivate these men, those women may well fall prey to their own game too! And that magical charm that has always been an asset may end up becoming a liability too!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Playing Safe

In this part of the world, people talk loudly in the coffee shops. And sometimes, one can't help from listening to the conversation at the next table. That was what happened in a coffee shop one weekend—the guys at the next table were telling a joke about Filipinos. And that's not the first time I heard that joke too.

The joke was something like this:

When you see one Filipino is a boat, you are seeing a fisherman. But when you see ten of them in a boat, you're seeing a bunch of pirates.

The kind of joke which is very mean. It is unfair to label all of the Filipinos as bad people. In any race, there will be good and bad people. It is sad that the good Filipinos are perceived as bad people because of the acts of some of them.

The Filipinos in Sabah are mostly from the Southern Philippines. They're generally known to us Sabahans as the Suluks. But if you bumped into any of them in the street and asked them what's their race, ten to one they will say that they're Bajaus. The reason is simple—the Suluks are known to be criminals. Not all of them, of course, but many of them are.

A couple of years ago, a young teenage schoolboy was stabbed to death near the central wet market by two of them. Reportedly, they demanded RM1 from the boy, but the boy refused. So they stabbed him. All this happened in broad daylight in front of so many people. And the disturbing thing is that no one was brave enough to help the poor kid.

In another incident, a woman was also stabbed to death in a parking lot in SEDCO area because the Filipino guy wanted her purse. Her young teenage daughter who was together with her in the car, tried to block the attack, but got her finger cut off instead. The daughter went through a long surgery to reattach her finger and she survived the ordeal.

When I was a small boy, I went to an amusement centre together with my brother, Dennis, one day. A bunch of Suluks crowded around him and pulled his gold chain which my mom was silly enough to let him put on that day. I shouted for help but the Suluk slapped me real hard on my left cheek. The security guard on duty that day did not dare to move a muscle. He merely watched from a distance.

Mia also had her own experience when she was in Sandakan for a few weeks some years ago. She was coming home from grocery shopping. It was about 6pm in the evening. Apparently, the Suluk had been eying her for several days. But because of his strange behaviour, Mia could sense that he had bad intention. So she started running, and the fellow chased after her. Along that housing estate road, Mia ran while shouting as loud as she could. Many people were watching from inside their respective houses, but none dared to come out to help. The man finally caught up with Mia, pushed her down to the ground, and then struggled with her. He tried to stab her with a pocket knife, and cut her earlobe in the process. But in the end, he managed to grab her necklace.

We have so many more such incidents here in Sabah. The Suluks are known to do those kind of stuff. And it happens quite frequently too.

As I said earlier, there are good Suluks too. In fact, I'm convinced that there're many of them. But how do we Sabahans tell the difference—which are the good ones and which are the bad ones? These are not just people who commit petty crimes like stealing money or simple con jobs—they kill too! I am—let me say it truthfully—scared of these people!

Over the years, many of them have managed to get Malaysian citizenship. How they got it, only God knows. Well, OK, maybe some of those folks in the Immigration office have a better idea, I don't know. But these people multiply much faster than the average Sabahans. I dread to imagine the Sabahan population of Suluk origin in a few decades from now.

I'm sure most Sabahans are convinced that there are many Suluks out there who're good decent people and trying very hard to earn a decent living. But we just can't tell them apart. If we are lucky and get to know them very well, then they can end up becoming our friends too. In fact I have many Suluk friends. But of those who we don't really know, the general attitude is always to stay away from them. We're not being racists—rather, we just can't take that kind of risk when it comes to our loved ones. In the end, playing safe is still the best policy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Strict Discipline

I have always been a strong advocate of discipline. And I am essentially a very strict person. Whenever I set my mind to do something, I very rarely won't achieve it. But of course I am also realistic when setting my target. I won't be silly to set, for example, a target of beating Usain Bolt in the 100-metre sprint.

When I was a young boy, I was a lazy bum. I hardly ever finished my homeworks from school; and I hardly ever studied for my exams. I think I only started getting serious with my life around mid-teens. I can't really remember what made me change, but somehow I did change my attitude. And then suddenly I found that with discipline, I could achieve so many things which I could only dream of in the past.

Not surprisingly, therefore, when I left school and took up a job as a teacher for maths and science, I was determined to instill discipline in my students. Now in most cases known to me, there's only good that can come from discipline. And I set out to be very, very strict in my approach. I quickly became an overzealous discipline monster. For a long time, my students, though hated this terrible teacher at first, improved significantly in their studies.

Those of you who knew me well would know that I have a flair in creating tricks. And I just come up with tricks upon tricks. When necessary, I come up with riddles. The poor students had to put up with my tricky nature. But I am convinced that in the end many of them gained a lot from my classes.

I remember a time when I set the questions for the maths exam. In those days, the questions were set as a multiple-choice format. If I'm not mistaken, 40 questions, and each was followed by 5 choices, options A to E. No one scored the full marks because all the answers were C. It's a strange psychological experiment that I conducted to satisfy my own curiosity. Never before in any exam have I seen all the answers were C. I wanted to test the kids—whether they trusted themselves with their knowledge. But they didn't. To them, it was impossible for all the answers to be C. Since it's a multiple-choice exam, they took it for granted that there must be a mixture of choices for the answers. But it turned out that all the 40 answers were C!

I have more or less forgotten my teaching days. Then a chance remark by "Peter" when he commented in my post below brought back some memories of my teaching days. Peter said:

"I still remember quite clearly during school days that if we provide an answer for +3 OR -3 to square root of 9, we get zero (0) point. Corny was lucky to get half the point from his teacher. Mathematically the answer is 'Plus and minus three'. Note that I wrote answer, and not answers."

I myself was a teacher, and a very strict one at that. But I think it was harsh not to give any marks at all for a partially-correct answer. And this gives me an excuse to tell another one of my grandfather stories!

Most of the time, strictness is good for the students; and I still believe that up to now. But sometimes it can be damaging, because unfortunately teachers are unable to know everything about the students beyond what they see on the surface.

It must have been in the year 1988 when a boy joined my class. I was given to understand that he has failed his form five exams 2 years before that. He then took a 2-year break from school. And then his parents persuaded him to try again. He was therefore older than his classmates. But although he was older, I treated all of them the same. Discipline is discipline; strictness is strictness. No one shall be immune from my approach!

Anyway, John (not his real name) was very weak in maths. And actually, many kids have problems in maths. Apparently, before joining my class, John has always failed his maths papers in school. It was just not his thing, if you know what I mean. But when he came to my class, his interest in maths was aroused. Suddenly he found learning maths was fun! It's no longer a subject to be scared of. He was therefore determined to pass his maths exam for the first time in a while. And I was equally determined to help him achieve his goal.

Then came the first term exams, and the teachers' room became off-limits area. Question papers all nicely prepared on the respective desks. Those were a few weeks' worth of work by the teachers. If any of the question papers leaked out, the teacher would have had to prepare a new set of question paper!

Anyway, it so happened that the maths exam for John's class was among the first few subjects that week. Immediately after the exams, John appeared pleased with himself. He kept bugging me how soon I could come up with the results. I told him to be patient—it would take me at least a week to mark all the papers and compile all the results. The next day, John kept bugging me. He was really excited to know how he did in his maths. I said quite truthfully that I haven't even looked at any of the answers yet.

Then that evening, I started marking all the papers. And then I understood John's excitement. For the first time in years, he passed his maths exams marginally. Now to most students, passing marginally is no big deal. But to John who's always been haunted by this forsaken subject, it's a huge achievement!

The following day in school, when I went back to the teachers' room, to my horror, I caught John just about done rummaging through the stuff on my desk. All the other question papers on my desk already seen by John while he was in search of his own maths result. I was totally devastated; I was mad! And of all the punishments I could think of then was to deduct 2 points from his maths paper. On hindsight, I think that was not a very smart way to punish him, but y'know, sometimes you can't make the best decision at the spur of the moment.

Unfortunately for John, the deduction of just 2 points made him fail his maths! He became upset. He pleaded with me to reverse my decision on the punishment. But I have made up my mind. This kid must learn! Then he started cursing me—calling me all sorts of names. I became even more upset; and he bacame upset too.

The next day, he did not come to school. Instead both his parents came to see me. Very decent people. They pleaded on his behalf. They said he was under a lot of pressure; that it's important for him to do well etc. I said everyone's under pressure. But anyway, to make the long story short, I did not give in. The punishment remained!

Well, John never did come to school again after that. It was not until months later when I heard from someone else that John had some sort of mental condition and had been in and out of the mental institution in Bukit Padang for a while. He suffered from serious depressions and had to be under perpetual medication. His parents did not reveal that information to the school because they wanted to protect their son. They did not want his classmates to treat him differently because of his condition.

And for a while, I was overwhelmed by guilt. It's one of those rare times in my life when being very strict has failed me. I never claimed myself to be perfect. I make mistakes all the time too—lots of them. Sometimes, I just wished that I could turn back the clock and decide differently in John's case. But obviously I can't do that. I just keep all these small events in my life and hopefully if ever I come to the same situation again, I will be able to approach the matter differently.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

KK Challenge 5—Delayed Announcement

I'm afraid this comes a bit late, but y'know, better late than never, right?

So anyway, I've finally set the date for my KK Challenge 5 on 17 October, which is a public holiday (Deepavali). In the late morning yesterday, I finally made it a point to send out emails, attaching the Entry Form, to hunters in KK. And at more or less the same time, I have also put up the announcement on my sidebar wherefrom hunters are able to download the Entry Form. I was surprised to note that within 2 hours of my email, I received 2 submissions!

And then as of 5pm today, I have 7 confirmed teams. Just before I left the office, I received text messages from hunters wanting to submit their entry forms, but I told them to do it tomorrow. I have a feeling that the first 15 slots will be quickly filled up before the end of next week.

To be quite honest, I haven't even made up my mind on the hunting route yet. But I guess I will embark on it this weekend. Anyway, I have at least confirmed the venue, which is Celyn Hotel, City Mall, of which I must thank Audrey for helping me negotiate a very good rate.

There will be no physical challenges for this hunt—it's gonna be purely route questions and treasure questions. And these are the brief details:

Date: 17 October 2009 (Saturday)

Start/End Venue: Celyn Hotel, City Mall

Time Control: 5 hours + 30 minutes penalty time

Questions: 40 Route Qs; 4 Treasure Qs

Hunt Briefing: To be held at 8:00 am on the day of the hunt before flag off

Refreshment: Will be provided at the end of hunt

Entry Fee: RM200/team for first 15 teams; RM230/team for the rest up to 20 teams

I will only be able to work on the hunt during the weekends. So I foresee my next few weekends occupied by the hunt! But because of many more weekends to the event, I should be able to wrap things up in good time.

To some new hunters who've been eagerly asking me so many times by now, don't worry, guys, I will give plenty of basic "novice" questions. But then as usual, I will have some "artistic" ones too. We don't want the regular teams to get bored and fall asleep during the hunt now, do we?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Novice Hunt 1—Questions & Analysis

I thought the questions set for the Novice Hunt 1 were not very tough and did not deserve detailed analysis. But I have received some emails and text messages requesting me to analyse and discuss at least some of the questions, if only for the sake of the new hunters. I suppose there is no harm to share some of my thoughts on some of the interesting questions.

In the course of setting the questions for these hunt, I and Alvin had some interesting exchanges of opinions over a course of about 2 weeks. One question was intended for a signboard located in Inanam. Originally, Alvin set a simple cryptic clue which I thought was flawless in its solution. But at that stage, Alvin had just simply conjured up the clue at the spur of the moment, and he meant to polish it up a bit.

Although the clue was OK, I did not like the surface reading which I thought had meaningless "storyline". Alvin agreed with me and then I suggested that since this was meant to be a novice hunt, why not set a straightforward question—not even a clue—literally a straightforward general knowledge question! And so I set the question and sent it off the Alvin for further comments. He liked it and then amended it a bit to account for a second word which was found on the signboard. All this was before we actually went recce on one Saturday afternoon. When we finally did make our round, I saw the board for the first time, and I was satisfied that we have done a good job in setting an easy question:


Meant to be a "bonus" question, and I was convinced that most of the teams would immediately know the answer once they get to the sector. Certainly, I am not known to set such a long question, but y'know, I can adjust if the need arises. But I was wrong. All the teams got stuck with this question—most of them spent at least half an hour in this sector, I just couldn't believe it!

Thankfully, however, some of the regular teams finally figured out the answer after spending like eternity there. It must be some kind of blindspot. That's the trouble if one adopts only the cryptic approach—he is bound to miss the most natural and literal meaning of the question!

The PEMBEKAL is covered by the SUPPLIER on the signboard. I'm aware that there were a few signboards with SUPPLIER on them, but hunters should've immediately been able to narrow down their search to those few boards. If they had done that, then maybe they would have been able to see, much quicker, the "Lesen G" in LESENG.

The only unsolved question of the day was this:


I knew that this would be very tough for the hunters, but I thought some of them might be able to solve it. But on hindsight, perhaps it's just too far-fetched. They're few factors which were against the hunters. Firstly, there was a signboard with BABYLON there in the correct sequence. I chose the words in the clue because of BABYLON. And true enough many teams were easily drawn to that BABYLON board. Secondly, apart from the decoy, this clue is also tough for the local hunters because it's something "new" to them. I have of course explained thoroughly about first and last letters during the briefing, but perhaps it's just too much to expect the hunters to be able to think that far.

Cryptically, EDGE refers to either the first letter or the last letter of the fodder. In this case, the first or the last letter of DAMASCUS. Therefore, in this case the EDGE (referring to a single letter) must be D or S. And that's why the answer is DORS. But I think the final straw that broke the camel's back was that the sign was small, and it would have required an experience hunter to spot it! And so in the end, no one solved this question, and as a result, I lost a RM5 bet to Alvin!

Another question which I'm sure the regular hunters could tell of my trademark in it was like this:


The kind of question which I see as akin to a jigsaw puzzle, in that some syllables are put together to form a word which is defined by some words in the clue. We are looking for something found on the signboard which, when inserted into (WITHIN) the word HOUR, will give the meaning of PROTECT OR HIDE A FUGITIVE. I think it would have been helpful if one's vocabulary is sound, but perhaps if one were to flip through a dictionary, he is bound to find the word H...OUR or HO...UR or HOU...R which would connect to PROTECT OR HIDE A FUGITIVE. But in this case, it would obviously take much longer to arrive at the answer. But anyway, the thing I was looking for on the board was ARB, because when inserted into HOUR, can give HARBOUR. No complaint about small sign here.

In the course of setting the hunt, Alvin suggested that since most of the questions were "easy"—and in fact they were—we should allocate only 4 hours hunting time. But I convinced him to give at least 5 hours with 30 minutes penalty time. That should give them sufficient time to attempt some of these "artistic" questions of mine. And I am glad to say that some of them did solve them in the end, having spent very long time looking at the signboards. That said, however, as usual, time management is still a universal weakness among the local hunters. For about half of the 20 teams arrived at the finish station beyond the 5-hour hunting time and therefore incurred the time penalty.

In the end, I'm happy to note that we had a good passing rate, though not with flying colours. I am still baffled by the unusual mistakes committed by all the regular teams—answer which was solved did not make it to the answer script. Others even having been solved, were spelt wrongly. Others still were not written in full. Very, very strange mistakes coming from the regular hunters. Maybe it must be some sort of curse that day, I don't know!