Thursday, July 29, 2010

1Malaysia Hunt—The Psychic Hunter

As far as treasure hunt is concerned, I prefer to be the hunter rather than be the Clerk-of-Course (CoC). But sometimes, I'm obliged to put on the CoC's cap, since we don't have very many people who consider themselves qualified to be one in KK.

Whenever I take up the role of the CoC, I try as much as I can to produce something which is entertaining. If possible, I want people to remember me for some of my outstanding Qs or tricks. There will be the tendency to throw in a couple of very tough Qs to prevent the hunters from getting the full score, though some of them will get very close to it! But side by side with that sadistic inclination to prevent full score, I am also guided by the principle of fairplay. No matter how tough I want to make my questions, I always make it a point to make them solvable. I know some of our local hunters may disagree with me, but you must trust me on this—my Qs are solvable!

Some other CoCs may also try to prevent teams from getting the full score. But sometimes they do it in a shameful way. They come up with Qs which are not solvable by us mortals. Such was the case in the recent 1Malaysia Hunt—in particular, a treasure clue which was merely there to safeguard the CoC's pride of beating all the hunters.

A Chinese uncle whose name comes to mind,
When One Malaysia initially goes back you will find,
Has mail in a different way for the right flavour,
Bring in this favourite since 1945 and I'll reward your endeavour.

The kind of treasure clue which is very easy to explain, but for one very important condition—the hunter must already know the answer beforehand. Otherwise there is almost no way to solve this clue!

If the hunter has all the time in the world to focus on only this one treasure clue for the entire 5.5 hours hunting time (plus 30 minutes penalty time), maybe—just maybe—he could use that entire time to search every single inch of the supermarket for the item on trial and error in the hope of making a lucky strike somehow.

There is nothing in the clue to help narrow down the search on the type of item to find. There is nothing there, for example, that tells us we are looking for, say, a can of drink; or a bottle of cooking mixture; or a packet of fabric item; or some sort of biscuits and other tidbits; or something wet etc—zilch! It means that we are forced to leave no stone unturned, one at a time, to see which item can fit the clue—cryptically.

Of course it is entirely possible that we can stumble upon the required item on the first trial-and-error attempt. For example, when we walk into the huge supermarket, we go straight to the canned drinks section, pick up a can from the many available choices and flavours, and then find that whatever is printed on that can fits the clue perfectly. Yes, that would be very nice.

Nevertheless, it is also possible that we may spend many hours checking all the items in the supermarket one by one, and yet will not find the required item because it just so happen that that supermarket had run out of stock of that forsaken item! That's life, I guess. So spending the entire 5.5 hours may end up with nothing at all!

A foolproof method, however, is if the participant is a psychic hunter. If he is one, then he would be able to read the CoC's mind and he would therefore know that he's required to look for a kind of tidbits contained in a yellow plastic pack with the brandname MO, and has the Halia Manis flavour; and it's a favourite item since 1945 too. Then every single clue can be explained very, very easily.

But only if he is a psychic hunter...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1Malaysia Hunt—Constructive Taglines

A common theme of hunt Qs which is no longer popular these days is that of spotting taglines on signboards. They emerge from time to time, but when they do, there will be very few of them.

Ordinarily, tagline Qs are very simple and straightforward. Let me give an example. Suppose there is a signboard containing the words "Air Asia" on it. And below those words is the tagline "Now everyone can fly". Now imagine that the CoC decides to set a question, of which he intends the "Air Asia" to be the required answer. How does he set the Q?

Q) Now everyone can fly.

As you can see, there is nothing in the clue that tells the hunter it is a tagline. It is all up to the hunter to reach the hunt sector and put two and two together. But when he finally realises that the Q is a tagline, how does he answer it? Well, he should simply write down what that tagline is referring to; in this case, it is referring to "Air Asia". So writing down "Air Asia" is quite good enough as the answer. There is no need to write down the entire tagline "Now everyone can fly", because that tagline is supposed to be the question, not the answer—hunters are supposed to write down the answer, not the question!

In the 1Malaysia Hunt, the CoC decided to throw in a "tagline" Q. But he did it differently from the normal way. Instead of quoting the tagline in verbatim as seen on the board, he put it like this:

Q29) Their tagline should be a constructive theme for us to emulate.

As I said, tagline Qs are not generally meant to be tough to answer. But in this case, it can become a bit complicated. Within that sector, there was a signboard containing "4Life", which is the business name, and then followed by the tagline "Together Building People".

Once again, we come to the same question—how should we write the answer?

Before we debate on how we should write the answer, we should first determine what the answer is.

Many of the hunters I have spoken to about this Q opined that the clue is asking for the name of the business, i.e. the "owner" of the tagline. In fact, similar as in the case of "Air Asia" above. I think that was the result of mechanical thinking. The mind has a sub-conscious tendency to follow the norm. So because it is the norm that a "tagline" Q requires the name of the business, the mind automatically assumes that that is always the case.

But what we have here is not the usual tagline Q. It is no more and no less a standard cryptic-style Q. For the benefit of the new hunters, the common format of a cryptic clue is like this:


Sometimes, it is also possible that the "definition" part of the clue is at the end of the sentence. The idea is that the "cryptic wordplay" part of the clue is supposed to produce the meaning of the "definition" part, and vice versa.

For example,

Being overweight, some of these bounce back (5)

In the above clue, "Being overweight" is the definition part of the clue; and "some of these bounce back" is the cryptic wordplay part. The word "some" is a hidden word indicator. It tells the solver that some of the letters found in "these bounce" will make the answer. Then the last word, "back", tells the solver to reverse those letters. And so, we will get obese, which agrees with "Being overweight".

Looking back at Q29, we are now able to see clearer based on the cryptic format:

[Their tagline] + [should be a constructive theme for us to emulate]

"Their tagline" is the definition part of the clue; and "should be a constructive theme for us to emulate" is the riddle part. From that riddle part, we need to find something that agrees with "Their tagline".

You will quickly notice that whether it's "His tagline" or "Her tagline" or "Their tagline", the thing we are looking for is the "tagline". Therefore the tagline is the answer we are looking for! It means that one way or another, the tagline must be written in the answer box.

But if there are many taglines found within that sector, which one should we pick? Well, from the "riddle" part of the clue, there is a mention of "constructive" (building) and "us", meaning people together. And so, we zoom in to "Together Building People", because those 3 words make a tagline; and a tagline is what's required.

But beyond that lies a deeper riddle. Should we, or shouldn't we, include the name of the business in the answer? If the clue had begun with "This tagline...", then I think the name of the business is not even important in this case. It is merely required as a "supporting evidence" that the hunter had actually spotted the required tagline. So in such a case, "Together Building People @ 4Life" is the way to go.

But what we have in Q29 is different—it begins with "Their tagline..."—so we ask ourselves why—"Their"? Could it be that the CoC had wanted the name of the business too as a significant part of the answer, and not merely as a "supporting evidence"?

This was the position I arrived at during the hunt. But I quickly decided that the CoC wanted the business name to be a significant part of the answer too. So, to be on the safer side, I instructed Vivian to write "4Life, Together Building People". These are 2 separate entities, of course, but I thought both are required as the answer for Q29.

I think it's also possible to write the answer as "Together Building People @ 4Life" anyway, in which case the fact that the tagline is found on the 4Life signboard might be interpreted as "belonging to 4Life". Just that I thought this approach may be a bit risky. In hindsight, I'm convinced that the CoC would have accepted both versions anyway!

So you see, such a simple Q can become quite complicated. The thought process can be quite daunting. But let me just say that if all these small effort can eventually translate into RM2,000, then it is well worth it!

1Malaysia Hunt—Depths of a Flower

In Malaysia, treasure hunt Qs are generally cryptic in nature. It follows, therefore, that those who are good in doing the cryptic crosswords may have an edge against those who don't. People who have a bit of experience in cryptic clues may be well-versed with some basic tricks and can easily and quickly spot cryptic indicators.

An interesting bolded Q in Lintas Plaza which, I think, would not have been a bolded Q had this been a hunt in the Klang Valley.

Q14) Product from the depths of a flower? What and where?

Although all in the car knew the literal meaning of a "flower", e.g. the tulip or rose, I knew that in this particular case, the CoC had intended the cryptic meaning, i.e. flow-er, something that flows. In the cryptic clueing world, a "flower" usually refers to a river. I immediately alerted my team members to keep an eye open for a river—any river within the sector.

The other reasons why I was convinced that this was more of a cryptic riddle was because of that question mark (?) after the word "flower"—it usually is a signal of some sort of wordplay leading to an indirect meaning(s). Finally, since this was a bolded Q, I thought it would not have been elegant if the CoC had only expected it to be read in the literal way.

The intended answer, which we found, was located right at the end of the sector. In fact, it was Vivian who saw it. It was quite visible on a bright day like last Sunday, and therefore not so much of an eye-testing task. But one would need to know that he is looking for a river to start with.

There, on a signboard with a huge "Organic Baby" on it, were some brandnames of several products; one of which was "UNDER THE NILE". Immediately below that brandname, there was a "Egyptian Organic Cotton". I immediately made up my mind that that must be the intended answer.

We just copied what we saw on the board and then went back to the car to continue with the hunt. But later, we had a bit of discussion about this clue. Vivian raised an interesting question. She was asking me how should we write the answer. Now, I know this may seem like a stupid question, but let me say here that I appreciate Vivian for raising these questions, because they are not stupid at all! In fact, they are significant!

You will notice that the Q asks for a "Product" which comes "from the depths of a flower". Leaving aside the "What and where?" portion of the Q for the moment, we must first understand the meaning of "Product". For if we don't know what "Product" is referring to, we shall not be able to answer "What and where?"

Now you will appreciate that it is not as simple as it seems at first glance. One possible interpretation—in this case, the CoC's intended interpretation—is to take "Product" to mean the "result" of a process, e.g. the product of "2 x 2" is "4". Looking at the the riddle from this point of view, we're actually looking for something found on the signboard which is the result of substituting the words in the clue. And here, the required "Product" is therefore "UNDER THE NILE", which loosely corresponds to "DEPTHS OF A FLOWER".

But there is another way of interpreting the meaning of "Product". And that is by treating that word in its literal sense, i.e. what product comes from that brandname "UNDER THE NILE"? If—I say, IF, you note—this is how we should treat "Product", then the answer we are looking for is "Egyptian Organic Cotton", because that is the product from that brandname as stated on the board.

So now we are faced with the dilemma of how to write the answer for this Q. The CoC's interpretation could be either of the above, and it is not so easy to guess, you see.

One possible way is just to write "UNDER THE NILE @ Organic Baby", thus answering the What (UNDER THE NILE) and where (Organic Baby).

Another possible way is to write "Egyptian Organic Cotton @ Organic Baby" based on the second interpretation above.

There is yet a third possibility—an approach which I adopted—we wrote the answer as "UNDER THE NILE; Egyptian Organic Cotton @ Organic Baby", thus covering both the above interpretations, and then kept our fingers crossed. It turned out that the CoC accepted this approach! So all very nice and elegant in the cryptic sense.

However, that is not the end of the story. Within that same sector, there is a signboard where the word "HONEY" could be found. The question is whether that can qualify as the answer too? For example, HONEY @ Syarikat ABC. If that can be accepted, it would mean that the entire Q is seen in the literal sense, i.e. the mere question of asking the solver what product comes from inside (the depths) of the flower. Looking from this angle, it seems at least a strong possibility to me. But if I had seen both those choices that day, which one would I have chosen? I think I would still have chosen our answer above anyway, because it is more elegant!

Having said that, however, I am reminded by what Master Hunter Renroc said to me once. He said hunters are supposed to find answers that fit the clues; they need not necessarily be elegant! If they fit, they fit! I think that is such a profound opinion which is not to be gainsaid.

But what does the CoC have to say about HONEY? He did not accept HONEY because according to him HONEY is not a product from the depths of a flower. What is found in "the depths of a flower" is the nectar. The nectar is collected by the bees which is then turned into honey in the bee hives.

That sounds like a logical explanation. But I must beg to differ! When talking about paper produced by Sabah Forest Industry (SFI), don't we always say "paper, the product from the acacia trees"? And don't we always say, furniture as products from the rubber trees? So to me, HONEY is a product from the "depths of a flower", even though it is not directly from it!

1Malaysia Hunt—Is It Them?

When setting hunt Qs, I usually spend a major portion of my time to carefully choose the words I use. This has a lot to do with the grammatical requirements, of course, but also in terms of ensuring that the intended solutions are sound.

Q17) A fun card game needs them to build our party sponsor.

Not a very tough Q, in my opinion, especially since the intended answer is a huge signboard which is easily visible from a distance. The solution, according to the CoC, is like this:

A fun card game = UNO

our party sponsor = UMNO

So actually, the Q is asking, "What is needed by the UNO (fun card game) to make UMNO? The answer, "M", leaps to the eye almost immediately, because that is the only letter which is missing from UNO.

A17) Club M Pub & Lounge

At this juncture, I'd like to mention that there are two other possible signboards which may fit. Firstly, a signboard across the road in Lintas Plaza with "M-Plan" on it. Secondly, another signboard in the same row as the Club M, with something which appeared very much like the McDonald's golden arch, M on it.

I ruled out M-Plan on the spot, because if that were the intended answer, then I would object because the word PLAN therein becomes redundant.

But now a trickier situation arises when choosing between the "golden arch" (which was clearly intended to be an M) or Club M Pub & Lounge. Which one would fit better?

Well, I would say that the M of the "golden arch" is a better fit, simply because we're looking for the single letter, M, to fit into the UNO to make UMNO. It follows, then, that since the M of the "golden arch" stands on its own, it fits perfectly. Yet after a brief moment considering the matter, I chose the Club M Pub & Lounge, which, in my opinion, is an inferior choice!

Let us now analyse my decision on these possible choices.

The amusing thing about this Q is that the CoC used the word "them" in it. And immediately I asked my myself, "Why—THEM?", when it was obvious that we're looking for a single letter. "THEM" would fail on grammatical grounds. And of course in this case, the solution is wrong, because no matter how the CoC had wanted to twist the riddle, he couldn't run away from the fact that we still need the single letter M for the solution!

I think the CoC used "THEM" because of the word "CLUB" in his intended solution. It is of course acceptable that a club usually consists of a group of people, hence "THEM" is justified. But my argument is that CLUB shouldn't be a part of the required answer, because all that is needed to make UMNO is that single letter M, not CLUB. In other words, if the CoC had wanted that CLUB to be an integral part of the answer, then UNO + CLUB + M does not only give UMNO.

A possible defense, however, by the CoC is to argue that the word "PARTY" in the Q can be equated to "CLUB". I thought this is rather weak, but upon looking at the entire clue as a whole, and considering from all angles, I suppose I could live with Club M Pub & Lounge. So I chose this answer and eventually earned the 3 points for it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

1Malaysia Hunt—Elegantly Inaccurate

The inclusion of the so-called "bolded" questions (Qs) in treasure hunts in Sabah is not very common. I have tried this formula before in a couple of my own hunts, but found that it's not very appealing to the local hunters. The main objection, I think, for our local hunters is that they're against the idea of having to work much harder (and possibly much longer) to find the answers for which the allocated points are much lesser than those of the regular route Qs. Consequently, a fair number of my well-crafted Qs went to total waste!

There is a significant psychological element in play here. Teams may decide to ignore the bolded Qs all together and focus their energy fully on the regular Qs. That can spare them the time and mental exhaustion which they would waste on trying to solve the bolded Qs. Besides, they reckon that even if they're able to find the answers, the rewards are just not worth it! But the opposite side of the argument is that if one is able to solve the bolded Qs without investing too much time on them, then that surely can be an advantage!

I decided to invest in a bit of time on the bolded Qs, while paying very close attention on time management. Let me just say here that one can become very easily carried away on trying too hard to solve these Qs, especially if you are a stubborn chap like me! In yesterday's hunt, however, my strategy worked well. I was somehow able to control my appetite for the bolded Qs.

Here is one which I thought wasn't very tough—and wondered why it was bolded!

Q9) They hold and are held by cheering Africans.

A9) Gafri Pot @ The Stone Shop

In my opinion, this was quite an elegant clue in which the CoC did well in the wordplay. As a cryptic clue, of course the intention of the setter is not that of the literal meaning. I think I can safely say that most people would have thought of the word VUVUZELAS upon reading this clue.

Notice the verb "hold" in the clue. It is used twice, in different tenses. But the elegance lies in the fact that the first "hold" is intended to take the literal meaning; whereas the "held" is intended to take the lateral (cryptic) meaning.

The first "hold" takes the meaning of the ability of containing something—literally, such as a pot that can contain something. But when "hold" is used for the second time in the clue as "held", it takes the lateral meaning as a container indicator, that is to say it is meant to be a signal to the solver that we're talking about what is contained within the neighbouring words.

Therefore, the first "hold" refers to the POT. The "held" refers to GAFRI, i.e. the letters found contained within "CHEERING AFRICANS".

So if one were to simplify the clue, one is able to get POT and GAFRI, in which case, I can accept the other configuration of the words, i.e. GAFRI POT.

Because, if we want to say A and B, it is not wrong to say it as B and A.

But although the clue is elegant in that sense, it fails in the grammatical sense. And as most of you know, I am just hopelessly obsessed with grammatical accuracy in hunt clues.

"THEY HOLD" suggests that we are talking about a plural noun. Had the answer on the board been POTS, I would have been satisfied. But here, the words on the board was GAFRI POT, a singular noun.

And because this Q was supposed to be a "bolded" one, but yet it's not very tough to solve, it made the prudent hunter wonder if there is another harder-to-see signboard within the sector with a GAFRI POTS on it. This is especially so because the CoC has the reputation of throwing in the so-called "red herring" Qs in some of his hunts.

I would also like to mention here that the CoC made a specific emphasis on the "red herring" during the hunt briefing the day before the hunt, and actually gave an example of how it could happen!

Because of that miserable "S", or rather because of its non-existence on the board, we had to drive all the way back from Donggongon to check again to ensure that we did not make a mistake on the spelling of the answer! And having done that, we had to reluctantly accept an answer which we knew to be inaccurate! It was the hardest thing for a person like me to do!

1Malaysia Treasure Hunt

Yesterday morning, 31 teams hunted in the 1Malaysia Treasure Hunt. The hunt started from the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Kota Kinabalu. The format of the hunt was like this:

30 Regular Route Qs (x 3pts) + 5 Bolded Route Qs (x 1pt)= 35Qs (95 pts)

4 Treasures x 5 pts = 20 pts

3 Challenges x 10 pts = 30 pts

Maximum Score = 145 pts

The Clerk-of-Course = Timeout Solutions

The final hunt briefing was at around 7:15am. But immediately after the briefing, we were treated to the theme song of 1Malaysia. Little did we know that that was Challenge 1 of the hunt! After the song had finished, each team was given a piece of paper containing the lyrics of the song we just heard, the paragraphs of which were in the wrong order. All we had to do was to rearrange those paragraphs in the correct order for the 10 points. I was still in shock when the CoC started the countdown of the 90 seconds allocated time for the task. Needless to say that I did not expect to score very well in Challenge 1, but I was hoping that the other teams were also not doing all too well in the challenge.

Shortly after the shocking—and demoralising—Challenge 1, teams were duly flagged off for the hunt proper. That first leg brought us to the Api-Api Centre where we had to tackle the first 5 questions. Perhaps it was because of the improper warming-up; or because we were still recovering from the shock of Challenge 1, our brains decided to shut down. We failed to answer the first 2 questions, and had to leave the sector to the following one, containing 3 questions. Immediately after we entered the next sector, we quite easily found the answers for Q3 and Q4, but was soon stuck on Q5. I think we spent a good 20 minutes or so on Q5 until we suddenly remembered that we haven't even dealt with Q1 and Q2!

It was then that we decided to abandon our search for Q5, and make a second attempt on Q1 and Q2. And then somehow, it was like all the rust suddenly melted away from our brains. Within a few minutes, we found the answers. But we were still unhappy for failing on Q5. On our second approach through the following sector, however, we spotted the answer to Q5! It is amazing, really, how things can suddenly gain so much momentum like that! But what a torturous start to the hunt. To begin with a lousy feeling on Challenge 1, and then followed by a beating on the first 5 Qs. It was truly nerve-wrecking, I tell you! And the fact that so many of our local hunters had marked my team as one of the top contenders for this hunt was not so pleasant at all. We were put under so much unnecessary pressure!

We were somewhat disappointed that we spent about an hour just to deal with 5 relatively easy Qs, but we kept our nerves steady. No shouting, no arguments in the car. We then found ourselves in the Park near Luyang Perdana for Challenge 2. I thought that was a bit easier—it was merely a task of identifying the photos of 10 famous Sabahans. I thought it was just a stroll in the park, but of course I realised that there's not much reason to celebrate, because I was fairly certain that other teams also found the challenge easy.

Well, we continued on with the hunt, mainly breezing through the sectors and gaining back on lost time, until we arrived at Q8 and Q9, which were both the so-called "bolded" questions. Those of you who're unfamiliar with the Hunt jargon, "bolded" questions are those which are deemed to be much tougher than the regular Qs, yet allocated much lesser points when answered correctly!

I have introduced the bolded Qs in some of my past hunts too, and I noticed a peculiar attitude in the local hunters. They had the tendency to simply ignore the bolded Qs! So I knew that if I could solve some of them in this hunt, I could get an advantage over many other teams! However, I soon found myself stuck on the following Q:

Q8) You can have a read, for a cold blooded one instead.

I did not spend very long on this Q, as we were still a little deficit on time as the result of the ordeal in the first 5 Qs. We then decided to abandon the search. However, we managed to solve the next question, which was also a bolded Q. It was an inaccurate solution, of course, but it is not uncommon that many CoCs are not grammatically accurate anyway. We then proceeded all the way to Donggongon where my team suffered some sort of blindspot phenomenon, thus taking like a million years to find some very straight-forward answers.

For a while before that, however, we have been working hard to crack the treasure clues. And it soon dawned upon us that we're gonna have big problems with the treasures. Of all the clues, we were only able to solve T2 confidently. T1 was not meant to be solved anyway. T3 was debatable, and T4 was solvable, but not meant to be easily found.

In the mean time, there's still Challenge 3, which was merely to take a photo to reflect, creatively, the theme of 1Malaysia. Teams had to actually process the photo and paste it on the paper provided upon flag off, and then write a short caption. It was around the Donggongon T-junction when we saw a huge signboard showing the leaders and some group of people in the background, with the word "BERSATU". It didn't look very appealing, but I thought it's a good idea to just snap a picture there as a backup plan—just in case we ran into time trouble later.

We left Donggongon and headed for Lintas Plaza where we solved another bolded Q, and the other route Qs. We spent a bit of time in the Damai Ph 4 sector, and then soon found ourselves heading north towards Inanam. On the way there, we had a bit of recovery time to reassess our current time management situation. We found that we did not do very well in gaining back on lost time, but at least we were also not behind. At the Kolombong traffic lights, we turned into Giant Supermarket where we spent 30 minutes to search for the treasures and print the photo. We made full use of that backup photo after all!

Unfortunately, although we found T2, we failed to find T4. But at least we have managed to put Challenge 3 out of the way. I thought the final few Qs were quite mild, except for the final bolded Q along the Sulaman Highway:

Q28) Beri ijazah kepadanya dan dapat lari atasnya.

A28) Kedai Runcit 8

In retrospect, I don't think it's a very difficult Q, but perhaps because of the mental exhaustion by then, as well as the psychological effect of seeing a bolded Q, the solution did not present itself to me somehow. On the long journey back to the finish station, I let Vivian work on the caption for Challenge 3, while my mind kept working on the above Q28. And then suddenly it came to me! The third of the 5 bolded Qs solved!

After submitting our answers and treasures, we started to mingle around with the other teams. And of course it was time for the usual denial phase of the hunt. Each team would say they did badly against other teams. I was hoping to win the top 3 positions, but it soon became clear from talking to the other teams, that we fell short by a few points. I was fairly certain we got 33 of the route Qs right (2 bolded Qs wrong), but from my conversation with Team De StoneS, they got all the 30 regular Qs right too (they did not even bother to attempt the bolded Qs, just as I had expected). If everything had remained equal, that would mean we had a 3-point advantage against De StoneS. However, I was devastated to know that they found 2 treasures and my team only found 1! It meant that they have beaten us by 2 points! I could hope for a better score in our challenges, of course, but we are not known to perform well in our games.

So in the end, I found myself struggling and hoping for a 3rd place finish. It was possible, of course that we might have ended up worse than 3rd and ended up with a hamper, but no cash prize.

Just imagine my surprise that as the winners were announced one by one, De StoneS were announced at 4th place! I was shocked. What happened? Then the 3rd place winner was announced. We looked at each other and wondered if we have been disqualified somehow. Then finally our team was announced as the 2nd place winner. Still in shock, we went up to the stage for the RM2,000 prize. Team Main Tembak, as expected won the glory of the day, winning the hunt with a convincing margin!

Later on, we started to investigate what had happened to De StoneS. Apparently, they found the answer for a Q which they solved (not just tembak!). But the hunter who wrote the answer tried to be too clever for his own good! He wrote the answer in caps, but decided to re-write it in the lower-case, as seen on the board. Only trouble was that after cancelling the original answer, he re-wrote the new answer outside the allocated answer box, resulting in it getting rejected by the CoC! In another Q, apparently he wrote the correct answer, but it was incomplete, i.e. leaving out the "tagline" which the CoC considered integral to the clue. And so, in the end, De StoneS fell to 4th! Amazing luck for my team, really, because if not for the mistakes, De StoneS would have won the RM2,000 instead, and we would have ended up in 3rd with RM1,000!

The Champions, Team Main Tembak (Alvin Wong receiving the mock cheque, wife, Audrey, Christine).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

God & I

Time and again, people I have spoken to about religious matters find my ideas a bit weird. While I do not believe in any religion, I do believe in the existence of God. However, let me hasten to say that I have no material proof of God's existence. It is just a hypothesis at best.

I can believe that some atoms, when combined with each other, can become molecules. And molecules when subjected to specific pressure and temperature etc, may become amino acids. Amino acids can become chains of polypeptides. And polypeptides can become proteins etc. These chains of reactions may happen randomly over a long period—perhaps even millions or billions of years. But I can't believe that life happened randomly by accident. I find it a bit hard to believe that an explosion in a printing factory can result in all the letters falling into their respective places perfectly to become a dictionary. I think it is easier for me to believe that we happened by design. Something must have created us and everything around us. That something might have been aliens from foreign worlds, but that something, to me, is God.

Religions, on the other hand, are human inventions. Although religions in general teach us to be good, I can't help but notice that religions almost always are the reasons for many of the problems of the human race. People go to war, for example, and kill each other because of religions.

I have long ago made up my mind to have an exclusive relationship with God—free from the influences of religions. I try my best to be kind to others. I do not claim to be perfect, mind! In fact, I readily admit that I have many, many weaknesses. During the darkest hours of my life, I do plead for God's help. But as I said, I can't prove His existence, so there is every chance that I'm pleading to nothingness!

I see God differently from all the religions. Religions impose upon us the necessity of "joining the club" in order to earn the eligibility to enter heaven in the afterlife. And then of course each religion claims that it is the only way to God. Rules upon rules to be obeyed; procedures to be followed. Prayers are done in a specific way; clothes to be worn in a specific way. And the list continues.

I'd like to think that what matters to God is what's in my heart. If I loved and respected God, it doesn't really matter how I pray to him; it doesn't really matter what clothes I have on my body. To Him, we are all naked. If in my heart I were a Christian, wearing the Burqa, for example, does not automatically make me a Muslim. If God is truly almighty and knowing, He can see through all those charades right into my heart!

Likewise, if I were a Muslim, just because I put on a football jersey, that does not automatically make me a Christian. And I also don't believe that it is a kind of defamation of the religion. But that is only my own opinion, and I can accept that many people may disagree with me. As I said, I am not perfect and therefore not immune from mistakes. Please forgive me if I am wrong.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Laughing Stocks

There was once many years ago when my uncle told me an interesting story about the time when he was interviewing a man in his mid-forties for a job as a security guard at my uncle's organisation. For those of you who're unfamiliar with the situation in Sabah, security guards are earning very little here. Those who work as security guards have no more than 10 years of formal education. In fact, many of them only have primary school education.

Towards the end of the interview, when my uncle asked the man if he had anything he'd like to raise, the man gave an interesting response. He asked my uncle what's his chances of becoming one of the Head of Departments; and how long would it take for him to be promoted from being a security guard to a Head of Department. Some people have no sense of proportion; they have no sense of reality. And they quite often end up becoming laughing stocks!

But sometimes, the lowly-educated people are not the only ones who're laughing stocks—even the very highly-educated and great leaders are laughing stocks too!

Last week, notebooks were given free to some eligible people in Kudat under the first phase involving 500 units (including 100 units in Pulau Banggi). But it's not just any kind of notebooks. No—it's the 1Malaysia notebooks! The photo above is just one of the many lucky recipients. [The Daily Express]

According to the Information, Communication and Culture Minister, Datuk Seri Rais Yatim, it was part of the government allocation to provide one million computers nationwide. And Sabah will be getting 10,000 units of those. It is a part of the Federal Government's initiative to achieve a nationwide 50 percent internet penetration target by the end of this year.

"Looking at this situation and through the Government initiatives, I am sure the people would have better level of IT literacy and can be competitive and at par with other developed countries," Rais said.

Oh for crying out loud, "at par with other developed countries"? If these people can improve their economic situation so that they can live in houses made of at least wooden walls and metal roofs, and perhaps piped water and electricity supplies, then maybe—just maybe—I can begin to convince myself that they are "at par" with other developed countries.

I don't know about these rural folks, but if it were me, I'd be happier if the Government could help to improve my living condition first. Save the computers for later, when I can afford to put 3 square meals on my table.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Post Marathon Dinner at Andrew's

Recently, Andrew Voon and some of my runner friends went to Australia for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. On the whole, it was a fruitful trip for them, with a couple of personal bests achieved. Unfortunately, Dr Peter and I were unable to make it for this race.

Last night, Andrew and Carol organised a post-marathon get-together dinner at his lovely home, and both Dr Peter and I were invited to join although we were not there in Gold Coast. It was originally meant to be a simple potluck dinner, but it eventually turned out to be a lavish and glorious dinner! We had inter alia plenty of satay, crabs (in two types of recipes), and I brought some sweet-and-sour prawns. I seized the opportunity to impose upon Dr Peter the long-delayed lobster he owed me from the Borneo International Marathon in May.

Unfortunately, Dr Helen was unable to make it; as were Teo, Dr Liaw and Kevin. Dr Felice was also at risk of not having been able to make it since she fell ill that afternoon with suspected food poisoning. But she recovered in good time for the dinner, tagging along her two kids. Jack and Judy were the first of the guests to arrive.

Dr Peter was the last to arrive, having lost his way to Radiant Court. He called me up to ask for direction, and I had quite a hard time guiding him to the Condo wherein Andrew lives. I think someone in the authority should consider kicking Dr Peter out of Sabah, because he appeared not to know very much about Kota Kinabalu City. He did not even know where the Bird Sanctuary in Likas is. But in the end Dr Peter made a grand entrance with a loaf of glorious home-made bread in one hand, and the lobster in the other hand.

A close-up shot of the long-awaited lobster:

Before dinner started, we had the proper ritual of the loser delivering the lobster to the winner—and it was done with so much drama!

And if that's not dramatic enough, the loser even went on to actually feed the first piece of the lobster to the winner! It wasn't very easy to prepare for that historical pose, you know!

The dinner was quite timely, as Dr Peter and I had planned to run a half marathon training the following morning, i.e. this morning. So all those excess calories could come in useful. But it wasn't exactly my idea of carbo-loading, because, truth be told, we had very little carbohydrates from all those dishes. Instead, we had plenty of cholesterol-filled food and fats, fats, and more fats!

It was a small group with plenty of food, but in the end I'd say we performed quite well. We finished almost all of the food on the table.

We covered quite a lot of topics at the table—from stem cell technology, people getting stuck while having intercourse (I didn't know that that can also happen to humans). By the way, Dr Felice announced her plan to specialise in the field of sex, with the intention of becoming a sex therapist one of these days. And coincidentally, this morning I read with interest this news article. So it seems that Felice's expertise has the potential of becoming very sought-after!

And of course we talked about the Gold Coast Marathon. These fellows are now entertaining the idea of doing Melbourne next year, I think some time in October. I will try to make it this time. And to make it even more interesting, I will also try to drag Dr Peter along. It won't be fun without him!

Oh! by the way, Dr Felice was the most-improved marathoner amongst our group in Gold Coast. She improved by almost an hour, finishing in a respectable 5:02, compared to about 5:53 in the Borneo International Marathon.

Well, I had to excuse myself a few minutes before 10pm, as I had to wake up at 4am this morning for the 21km. That, by the way, turned out to be a pleasant run, except that I had to run solo most of the time, as Dr Peter started about 20 minutes later than me.

I dread the thought of Penang, because knowing Dr Peter, he's gonna make sure he's gonna beat me this time! So in the mean time, between now and November, I am going to savour the glory of my BIM's victory. Come November, I have the feeling that I will be the one on my knees serving Dr Peter the lobster!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cheapskate Advertisers

The pathetic situation of cheapskate business people, trying desperately to save on advertising cost. And it's getting more rampant this lately in the housing estates. Perhaps someone should tell the Mayor to do something about it, huh?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Never Been Attempted

At the dinner table this evening, Mia announced that she won't be free over this weekend. She said her time will be fully occupied for the supervision of JJ's revision. Next week will be yet another mock exams. And then shortly after that will be the third term exams. So obviously there is no time to lose. Oh! did I announce that JJ dropped to 20th in her class during the 2nd term exams. You can understand why Mia is becoming even more paranoid this time round.

Last Sunday, Mia and I went for a movie, Predators, and she's feeling a bit guilty for that, because according to her, she would have been able to cover quite a lot with JJ within those 2 hours or so we spent at the cinema. Paranoia is a strange disease, you see.

Anyway, I thought of making another visit to the cinema this weekend for Eclipse. But Mia is adamant—she's gonna spend the entire Saturday and Sunday revising together with JJ. After all, she's not a very big fan of vampires and warewolves. She hasn't seen any of the Underworld movies, so you can understand why the Twilight Saga does not appeal to her.

I, on the other hand, am a curious animal; of course I don't believe in vampires and warewolves, but I have always been intrigued by the very idea of these creatures. Apart from the fact that the fangs of the vampires can become longer and shorter, there are quite a number of other elements of the vampires which none of the story-tellers have attempted to explain before.

There have been some variations in vampire stories over the years, but after a while, you realise that the story-tellers have come very close to running out of new ideas. It's always about these creatures feeding on human blood (in the Twilight Saga, apparently they feed on animal blood too), and then that can create even more of them that way.

Well, I'll be there at the cinema this weekend to see the latest installation of the Twilight Saga, Eclipse, but I doubt that there will be anything new in it apart from a girl begging her boyfriend to turn her into a vampire, a warewolf boy who will be shirtless most of the time to show off his meat, the vampire boyfriend who will be telling the warewolf boy to stay away from his girl etc. I suppose it will be good to kill the time.

If ever I become a story-teller about vampires, I will probably spend a lot of time to come up with something new—not the same old boring stuff. Perhaps someone should come up with something brilliant like a vampire feeding on discharged blood when a woman's having her period. I mean, why not—it's still blood, isn't it? Don't you think it's a total waste not to find some use for the blood? People will not see these blood-sucking creatures the same way again!

Yeah, that's what I would do. Hmmm... the exhaustion from all the running have a weird effect on my brain. Maybe there's a kind of hormone produced from the stress which in turn triggers brilliant ideas, I don't know.

It's time to go to sleep now. Who knows, with sufficient rest, I will wake up tomorrow morning with a clear mind to expand on this brilliant idea! G'night, folks!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Successful Politician

Many of my friends are well-versed with my peculiar habit when commenting on things. I’m always direct, occasionally brutal and insensitive. Unfortunately, sometimes the truth hurts and can be quite ugly. Most people choose to make only positive comments. When there are pleasant things to say about some people, they’re all so eager to shower compliments upon compliments. But when there are unpleasant things, they would not dare to comment. I think it has something to do with the policy of “courtesy to the persons concerned” or “playing safe.”

Recently, I initiated a forum amongst a group of friends via emails, and in it I raised an issue which I knew to be on everyone’s mind, but which was not raised, perhaps due to the policies mentioned in the preceding paragraph. It would not surprise some of you that that was not the first time I sent out such an email.

As I had expected, my email caused something of a stir. I guess I’m fast gaining the reputation as the trouble maker in our circle of friends. However, I’m glad to note that many of my friends discreetly congratulated me for raising the issue. Some eventually participated in the forum and suggested remedial steps for improvements; whereas the rest preferred to observe in silence from afar.

One friend responded and opined that I was not very diplomatic in my approach. He preferred that I discussed the matter in private. I suppose there are pros and cons to my approach, but as I said, I had a fair number of people who supported me discreetly.

Nevertheless, the friend who opposed my approach quoted what he said was a saying he liked:

If you can’t say something nice, say nothing!

I responded that that looks like an awful advice to me. I suspect it must have come about during Tun Dr Mahathir’s era. But as I said, sometimes the truth hurts and can be quite ugly. So if no one is willing to raise the matter, then let me be the scapegoat to say the unpleasant things!

On the other hand, another friend who participated in the forum supported me and said:

I wish you can stand for the coming general election. Sabah needs some straight talking politicians badly!

And naturally I responded in a truthful manner—I said in order to be a successful politician, one has to be a crook! I don’t think I can ever be a successful politician because I simply don’t have the necessary “skills” to be one! I don’t think I need to elaborate on this.

Then yesterday, I met one of those friends who did not participate in the forum, but eagerly observed the affair from afar. He came up to me to quote what I said about being a successful politician, even though the subject matter of the forum had nothing to do with politics.

He tried to lecture me a bit about being a politician. I think he was trying to disagree with my view in a most diplomatic way, thus quoting some great people like Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. Not all of us are very realistic, you see. Some people have the incurably romantic idea which is totally out of this world.

Well, I don’t want to start a whole new debate with no possible end to it, but I’m not sure if the idea of spending half of my life behind bars appeals to me, even if I will eventually be remembered for my sacrifice. Besides, I seriously doubt that any of the politicians in Malaysia are prepared to go to that extent for the sake of the country and its people. If that is what it takes to be a successful politician, then I would rather not be one!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Stress Test

About 2 years ago, prior to running my first half marathon (21km) race in the Borneo International Marathon, I went for a full medical check-up. I went through a whole range of tests, including lipid profile, blood sugar level, prostate, liver and stress test. I decided for the comprehensive test because before that I had never covered anywhere close to the 21km distance. Well, I have since gone on to run a few more half marathons and 3 full marathons, not to mention numerous other shorter distances.

I'm feeling great at my age. I can't run like the professional Kenyan marathoners, of course, but I'm quite happy to know that I can run much faster and longer when compared to many, many other average men my age. However, I have a family history of heart disease and diabetes. My grandmother had diabetes, as is my dad. Then a few years ago, my sister Bridget, and my brother Dennis, also found that they had type 2 diabetes. Almost everyone in my family has high cholesterol level, including me. So I have been taking a cholesterol-lowering drug since some years ago. I tried to solve the problem by means of controlling my diet, but when one is genetically cursed, no amount of diet can help to lower the cholesterol level!

To prolong the onset of these diseases, I've somehow programmed myself into an active lifestyle. From a young age, I have always been active in sports. I've played badminton, swimming, weights, and now running.

Nevertheless, because I'm in the higher risk group, a doctor friend suggested that it's a good idea to go for a medical check on an annual basis—just to make sure. It is not exactly compulsory, but advisable.

So last Saturday afternoon, I went to Klinik Dr Raj in Heritage Plaza, Jalan Lintas for a stress test. It wasn't a very difficult test. First, I had several of those tiny wires attached to my body. Those were connected to a small box which was in turn connected to a machine with lots of numbers and graphs on the monitor. I was instructed to get onto a treadmill. When I was ready, the treadmill started to move. Initially, it was very slow—merely a walking pace. I could see my heart rate gradually increase on the monitor.

After a short while, the speed increased a bit and I had to walk a bit faster, but it was still very easy for me. That continued for up to almost 15 minutes. Each time the treadmill increased its speed, the gradient was also increased slightly. By the time I reached the maximum level—I think Dr Raj said it was stage 5—I had to run. And because of the angle, I felt like I was running uphill. It was quite some workout. I actually started sweating!

Soon, my heart rate reached 176 bpm, and Dr Raj stopped the machine. I got off the treadmill and a nurse helped me to detached all those wires. I then went to the washroom to wipe myself a bit.

A short while later, I was called to see Dr Raj in his consultation room again. On his desk, there was a long sheet of graph with some readings on it. That was eventually given to me for my own record, but I have no idea what all those figures mean! Together with that graph thing was a summary of the doctor's finding:

Exercise time - 14 minutes 32 seconds
Stage - 5
Workload: 17.1 METS
Maximum heart rate attained: 176 bpm (100% of max predicted of 176 bpm)
Reason for termination: Achieved target heart rate
Symptoms: Nil
ST segment change: Nil
Arrhythmias: Nil
Blood pressure response: Appropriate

Impression: Normal Stress Test

I don't know if it's for the sake of justifying the charges for the test, but I can't really understand all those readings on the chart anyway; and all those medical jargon like METS, ST segment, Arrhtytmias are no different from listening to Neytiri, the Pandorian in Avatar, speaks.

In the end, I'm glad to know that I have passed yet another stress test, although my wallet ended up a bit stressed up because of the charges. So I guess this means I'm good for the remaining 3 races I've signed up for this year. So Dr Peter, if you are reading this, bring it on!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Clueless Child & The Energetic Teacher

An 11-year-old girl’s stroll with her boyfriend at a jetty in Umbai ended with her being raped by a former boyfriend and his five friends on June 29, Sinar Harian reported. [The Star]

What does a freakin' 11-year-old girl know about having boyfriends? A girl that young has no business having such relationship. At that age, she has had several boyfriends—imagine that! She was reportedly raped by a former boyfriend. Former? And there's no mention of how many boyfriends she has had before this.

How a girl that young can be allowed to go for a stroll with a boyfriend beats me. Shouldn't she be spending time doing her homework or afternoon nap? Perhaps that is the result of modern parenthood—a kind of incurably romantic idea of giving the child unlimited freedom so that they become streetwise.

After all, Malaysians are very modern-thinking these days; we are increasingly open-minded. We are no longer shy to talk about private matters... gone are the days...

And so, we now know that in order to become healthy, wealthy and wise, one should have sex and read on a daily basis. [The Star]

However, I'm not sure if by "healthy" he meant only one part of his body is healthy, or did he mean the entire body? I'm curious, because he's only exercising mainly one part of his body everyday.

And by "wealthy", is that referring to the wealth of sperm cells? I think there is medical evidence that the production of sperm cells by the testicles can be increased by their regular disposal from the body. But please don't quote me on this, as I have not researched this particular information.

And by "wise", it makes me wonder if that means we can become wise of only one specific thing of a woman's body.

Hmm... He makes a point to have sex daily before retiring for the night. Lucky devil! But I'm dying of curiosity—what would happen when the wife is going through that time of the month. Maybe for a few days each month, the fellow will become lethargic, uninspired and unable to concentrate on his work. I'm just saying, y'know?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Practical Fashion

It's been raining some of the evenings of this week. And although I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, I was quick to use that as the excuse for not running after work. Actually, as a last resort, I can always go to the gym and run on the treadmill. But, y'know, laziness can be quite hard to conquer sometimes.

On my way home from the office on Thursday, the sky was again cloudy. It looked like it was going to rain again. But because I had only ran once for the week, I just had to force myself to the jogging track. Otherwise, I would fall below the 3-times-a-week running requirement.

When I arrived at the jogging track, I was pleasantly surprised to see Dr Peter there. So we ran together throughout the 8km workout. It's strange when you come to think of it, but when running with a friend, and chit-chatting like that, time seems to pass very quickly. And maybe it's me, but even the workout itself would feel not too exhausting.

We talked about many topics that evening. Or rather, I was mainly the one doing the talking, and Dr Peter would throw in short comments here and there. We talked about religions, about marathon training, about life philosophy etc. And then we finally got to talk about the poor chap who died in the recent KL Marathon.

I said to Dr Peter that I had actually posted an article in this blog about how we tend to take our health for granted. As we were still talking and exchanging opinions on the topic, we have finished our workout. We were still talking about health in general as we were walking back to the car park.

And then I started telling Dr Peter that I actually had a full medical check prior to the first half marathon I joined in 2008. Just when we were approaching my car, I got to the point of telling Dr Peter about the test for prostate disorders. Bear in mind that it was already dark by then. I said before that I had no idea how they'd conduct the test. Of course I knew that the doctor would carry out some sort of scan of my testicles, but that was all that I knew.

At the lab, when it was time for the prostate test, I had to take off my pants and underwear. The doctor had a device which looked like an electric shaver. He applied a bit of gel on it, and put it onto my testicles. There was no pain whatsoever, except that it was funny that the penis was in the way! So the doctor instructed me to pull my penis away from the testicles. I was lying down when all of this was done.

I told Dr Peter that when I eventually realised how the prostate test was to be carried out, I was a bit worried, not so much of the pain. Because of course there was no pain at all. But I was thinking what would have happened if all the maneuvering of the penis would cause it to become erect? After all, it's a very sensitive organ, millions of nerves there—especially if it's a female doctor, you know! Luckily it was a male doctor who conducted the test that day, and my worries about the erection was unfounded. Phew!

Maybe the next time I go for another prostate test, I should consider putting on something like what's worn by these men below. I guess it's a kind of fashion for them, but it can be a very practical thing when going for the prostate test, in which case the penis won't get in the way! Brilliant, isn't it?

And by the way, girls, especially those of you who've not seen the real thing, let me hasten to tell you that it won't normally grow all the way up to the chest. I'm not sure why it had to be that long—perhaps it has an alternative use as the vuvuzela, I don't know.

Anyway, as I was telling Dr Peter about my experience above, there was a couple who were evidently coming back from the jogging track too. I did not realise that they were approaching the car next to where Dr Peter and I were standing. The guy looked at us and he had this weird smile on his face; whereas the woman did not even dare to look at us.

Now I know there is a very remote chance that that couple will get to read this post, but if you're reading this somehow, I want to say that it's not like what you think it is! Two men talking about testicles and erection at a parking lot at night may appear strange, but please know that we are not homos making our plans for the evening!

I remained in my car for quite a long time that evening laughing out loud until I had trouble breathing! That could have been the first case of death due to uncontrollable laughter!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bow Tie & Verbal Diarrhoea

Recently, I attended a formal dinner in a popular hotel in the City. Somehow, formal dinners such as this one is not my kind of thing. I come from a very humble beginning, and although I have gradually crept up the ladder in life, I still can't conquer the formal outfits which are compulsory for formal occasions.

I suppose I can now feel somewhat comfortable in a suit and tie, but so far I have not quite come to terms with the bow tie. Who invented the bow tie anyway? Don't you think it looks silly? I would usually be conscious of the bow tie on me for the first hour of the dinner. If I'm lucky, I might be able to forget all about the tie by the second hour, and hopefully begin to enjoy the party thereafter.

However, that is not the end of the torture. I attended this particular party alone. My wife, Mia, who's also not a big fan of formal functions such as this, had opted out in spite of my wanting her to share the torture with me. I thought perhaps I would feel a little better if my best friend (yes, she is my best friend) were there with me. But nothing would change her mind, you see.

The things she's not very eager to look forward to in a formal function, apart from the fancy dress and the practically-compulsory visit to the hair salon, are the inherent speeches that come along with the occasion. In fact, I dare say that she has a phobia of them! And I, too, am not very different as far as the speeches are concerned.

I told Mia that we had an almost fool-proof schedule for this particular function, of which specific amounts of time to the exact minute have been allocated for the welcoming speech, the roll call, the first few dishes of the night, the acoustic guitar entertainment, the presidential speech etc. I practically dared to guarantee that the time management aspect of the event would be perfect to the dot, because the emcee of the night is someone I knew to have some years of experience in this matter. He had the so-called toastmaster background. But no amount of guarantee could change Mia's mind. So in the end I grudgingly attended the event alone.

As fate would have it, an allocation of 40 minutes was provided for the main speech that night, with a buffer of an additional 5 minutes on top of that. Unless the speech is delivered by someone like Barack Obama, 40 minutes is like eternity to me. But the thing about teamwork is that sometimes we must be prepared to make a bit of sacrifice for the sake of the team. And I was therefore prepared to endure that 40 minutes.

Little did I know that the orator that night suffered some complication of verbal diarrhoea. And so engrossed was he in delivering his speech, that he totally lost track of time, to the extent that he not only used up the entire 40 minutes and the additional 5 minutes thereafter, but he eventually consumed over an hour on the stage! And to add to the suffering, the next person who delivered his speech also exceeded his allocated time by quite some margin. Had Mia been there that night, I think it would have taken her a long time to forgive me!

Later, I found out that the emcee was not to be blamed. He made up the schedule and reminded those delivering speeches that night several times, to stick to the allocated timeframe. Yet that did not help.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Although I have no background in toastmaster, let me say that when delivering speeches where specific amounts of time have been allocated, then time management is paramount! If necessary, rehearse those speeches at home; do what you must, but during the event, stick to the schedule, for goodness sake! For when the speeches become too long, the audience will stop listening and start to grumble. And that surely defeats the purpose of those speeches anyway?

Furthermore, there are repercussions in terms of encroaching into the valuable time of the audience. The mismanagement of time reflects badly not only on the person giving the speech, but also the organiser as a whole.

In retrospect, I'm so glad that Mia was adamant with her decision. I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself for putting her in that situation had she obliged my request for her to accompany me to the event.


Many of my close friends would know that I am a big fan of both Aliens and Predators. I have seen all the sequels of both these movies—several times.

In some of the sequels, these two alien species actually fought against each other. However, I did not like what's been done. I feel that it was a bad idea to mix them up into the same movie. I like it much better if humans are put up against either one of them, but not both.

In terms of physical abilities, both these creatures are way more superior than us humans. So I love to see how we can beat them somehow with our wits and courage! But whatever the movie makers do, they shouldn't mix them into the same movie.

And that's why I'm very happy to know that there is a third installment of Predators (note the plural noun) arriving at the cinemas soon. This movie will feature only Predators, and not those huge insect-like Aliens.

But of course it won't be the same without Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred the original Predator over 20 years ago.

Check out the trailer below for the movie Predators (make sure you turn up the volume):