Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Cats Strike Again

Almost 4 years ago, I posted an article, The Tiger Next Door. You see, I used to live in a corner unit terraced house with a huge compound in Taman Iramanis. I must say that it was quite a good neighbourhood and fairly centrally-located. I had quite an interesting experience with my neighbour in Iramanis, and at times, it was quite a challenge of patience and tolerance for the sake of living in harmony with strange people.

However, that house was never intended to be our permanent home. I had planned from the very beginning that I'd sooner or later move to another house when I could afford it. Initially, I thought I would be able to buy another house after five years staying in Iramanis. But it did not happen. I started looking for a house, I think, after 6 or 7 years, but I wasn't really seriously keen to move in a hurry.

Then one fine day my estate agent came to me with a listing. An old double storey semi-detached house in Taman Sinar Bukit. It immediately caught my attention. Taman Sinar Bukit is just about 3 minutes' drive from my father-in-law's house; and about 5 minutes' drive to the Likas Sports Complex. It's also about 20 minutes' drive to my office. The Likas jogging track, of course, has been my training ground. It was an opportunity not to be missed!

Well, to make the long story short, we soon closed the deal. But unfortunately we had to carry out quite major renovation to refurbish the house. It is after all a 30-year old house, you see. In the end, it was well over half a year by the time we moved in to Taman Sinar Bukit from the date we bought the house up to the completion of the renovation.

Mia is very happy with the extra space in the house; and JJ has her own room now—and it's a mighty huge room too! We have 4 bedrooms, living and dining area, kitchen and a tiny store room. We concreted the rear compound, and we also have a small outbuilding which is actually a self-contained unit which might come in useful someday if ever we are rich enough to hire a gardener or a driver!

There is hardly any reason not to like my "new" house, except for the frequent visits by my neighbour's cats. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before—I think I did—but I've never liked cats in my entire life! Apart from making a hell lot of annoying noises when they mate (why on earth can't they keep it down?), it is a fact that cats are extremely dirty animals. Dogs are much better, really! If you put a dog in a cage, and it is time for it to pooh, it will try very hard to hold. It will bark continuously to be released so that it can do its business outside. It will not dirty its own "house" until it becomes absolutely necessary to do so. But a cat will readily pooh in its cage.

I'm really sick to come home from work everyday, to find cats' pooh on my compound, and I don't have to tell you about the smell too! It's been going on for far too long now—in fact since the day I moved in—so today I finally decided that perhaps I'd just walk over to my neighbour's house to have a little chat with him about his pests.

I've never really noticed it, but I was very surprised to see the whole house crawling with cats! In his living room alone, there must have been at least 20 of those forsaken creatures. I kept it short—I merely introduced myself as his neighbour, pointing to my house, and then suggested that he should make a cat litter in his own compound so that his cats could go there to do their business, thus sparing my compound in the process. He said he would do it soon, but looking at his expression, I somehow don't have much faith that he would actually do it. But we will see what happens in a couple of days' time.

In the mean time, I will just have to endure a few more days until he can sort things out a little. I'm thinking of what other steps I could take to solve this problem, but I hope it won't get to that.

By the way, did I say that I've never liked cats in my entire life? Oh! I did, didn't I? OK, so long as that's clear enough for everyone to know...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Two Receipts vs Blank Receipt

"Malaysia is on the right track in terms of fighting corruption, malpractices and abuse of power following various initiatives undertaken by the government"

I was about 18 years old when I was driving my step-mother's car one night, many years ago. My sister, Bridget, and her then husband, Amran, were in the car with me. We were chatting happily when suddenly one of the headlights went dead. And of course as Murphy's Law would have it, minutes later, as we were approaching the Sembulan roundabout, there was a traffic policeman, waving his hands, instructing me to stop the car.

He approached my window and told me that my headlight was out, and I replied in the affirmative, trying to explain that it happened just moments ago, and there was nothing I could do at that hour. I looked at him pleadingly, hoping that he'd have some pity on this schoolboy driver. He flipped out his book and was about to write me a ticket when he suddenly stopped and looked at me.

"I'm sorry," he said in Malay, "but I'm afraid I'll have to write you a ticket", adding that it was a serious offence.

We were silent, and he appeared to resume the task of writing out the ticket, when he stopped again.

"Unless if you want, we can help each other?" he said with a smile.

I did not have any money on me then. But even if I did, I doubt that I would attempt to bribe the policeman to escape the fine. He explained that it would be very troublesome to deal with the fine, as I would be required to appear in court.

I turned to Amran and saw the expression on his face. It was one of shock and disgust—it reminded me of the expression on my cousin-sister's face when she saw the amount of hair in my late grandma's armpits—but that's a different story.

"Carry out your duty!" Amran said to the policeman. I was quite surprised by Amran's reaction. I could see that the policeman was surprised too. I fancy that he must have taken for granted that we would attempt to bribe him with a little cash, but we didn't!

Corruption is almost a way of life for us Malaysians. From politicians at the top to the ordinary people in the street, the general mentality is that you can always bribe others to get things done. In fact, it is almost expected that you must bribe others to get things done!

I was in KL yesterday morning with my colleague, Ben. We took a cab from Brickfields to Bangi to attend a seminar. When we reached our destination, I paid the cabbie and asked for a receipt.

"Oh! you're gonna claim from your company?, he asked.

I said yes. And then he asked me—almost automatically—if I'd like to have a blank receipt. I said that's not necessary; that he could write the actual amount on just one receipt.

Then he looked at us, and asked if we would like to have a receipt each. I suppose both Ben and I could then use our respective receipts to claim from the company. After all, it's entirely possible that Ben and I took different cabs that morning. I told the cabbie to write out a single receipt showing the actual amount of the cab fare; that's quite good enough. He gave me a strange look. Apart from the fact that it's kinda silly for me to cheat my own company for a miserable amount of money, I wouldn't do it even if it's not my own company.

Almost every day I see these creatures all around me. The corrupt mentality is so deeply instilled in the minds of our people. It's almost like those who're not corrupt would be treated as abnormal—even dumb!

I think the Deputy Prime Minister was very brave to make the above statement which I'm sure even he himself knew was idiotic.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Art of Proposals & The Dying Fire

It must have been a little over 19 years ago when I proposed to my then girlfriend, Euphemia. It was one of the most awkward moments in my life, really, as I was proposing over the phone from a different country. We've been going steady for about 3 years, but I had actually decided much earlier than that, that this was the woman for me.

It took me quite a while, however, to come up with the courage to propose, and when I finally did, I was at a loss on how to do it! It was of course a special occasion, and it seemed only natural to do it in a way that's nothing short of extraordinary. But for the life of me, in spite of my brilliant creative mind, I had to crack my head, and still ended up at a dead end! It was rather pathetic that all I could think of was to propose over the phone.

Looking back now, surely there were many, many choices? I mean I could've spent all my savings to hire a small plane to fly with a banner that says "WILL YOU MARRY ME, EUPHEMIA" over the Tg Aru Beach or something like that. Perhaps challenge her to a bungee jump, and just when about to jump, I could've popped the question there and then? Or maybe I could've tried something fancy like bringing her up to the Yayasan Sabah rooftop, get down on my knee and propose that way, just before the security guards arrive to chase us off the area? Hell, I can think of so many ways to do it now!

Instead, I did it over the phone! And just for a few seconds, my heart sank when Mia merely laughed and laughed at my proposal! I mean—was it really that funny? But thankfully in the end she said yes! So that's the sad story of how unsophisticated the way I proposed to my girlfriend all those years ago.

Over the years, people are becoming increasingly creative with the art of marriage proposals. It's no longer enough to utter those few simple words, "Will you marry me?". One has to do it more dramatically; in a special venue, and even to the extent of faking injury as in this story, extracted from our local papers during the recent Valentine's Day celebration (click on picture to get clearer view).

We have come a long way to master the art of marriage proposals. Whoever attempts to propose without extraordinary or theatrical approach would be at risk of accusations of being unromantic and unimaginative! Such is the extent of the mastery of marriage proposals.

Unfortunately, we have not mastered the art of keeping the fire going. Two days ago, after almost 18 years of marriage, my brother, Dennis, and his wife, Shidah, are now officially divorced. Last week, Typhoon Diana, the born life organiser, instructed me to make a last bold bid to stop the divorce by trying to talk to Shidah. I did nothing of the such, of course. For better or worse, I'm sure they have both considered their decision.

Apparently, Dennis said that both of them have changed. I was somewhat surprised that Dennis did not see it coming. Changes are almost inevitable in everybody; it's strange that he only realised that recently. After all, women are not usually easy to understand. You marry them and set up a nice little routine of kissing them every night at bedtime, for example, but sometime in their forties, they suddenly develop the habit of applying lotion, and their faces become off limits to kisses. The only way to deal with changes is to adapt. And adaptation is in itself a skill. But it's not something that everyone can learn.

No, it doesn't seem like we're gonna master the art of keeping the fire going anytime soon. If anything, it seems certain that the divorce rate will be increasing as reported here. If it were me, I'd rather we learn to master the art of keeping the fire going, and not so much the art of marriage proposals, but I guess that's just wishful thinking.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Novice Hunt 3

It seemed like it's been ages ago since I last clerked a treasure hunt, and I have almost forgotten how much fun it could be—until yesterday, when I clerked the Novice Hunt 3. When it was confirmed that the KK City Tourism Treasure Hunt was postponed to June, some friends requested me to organise a hunt as a replacement. Despite my initial reluctance, I eventually decided to do it anyway.

I'm known to be cryptic in my hunt clues, but for the Novice Hunt, I decided to be friendlier in my approach. I said friendlier—not necessarily easier! Of course there would be cryptic clues, but I made sure that there're many trivia type questions which required mainly googling exercise. That, hopefully, would give the new hunters fighting chances, though perhaps still not winning chances. The first thing I did was to come up with a plan on how best to set a hunt that's not impossibly tough for the new hunters, but at the same time not gonna be a stroll in the park for the regular teams. The answer came to me like lightning. The only way was to employ the power of psychology into the hunt.

The hunt should start with elementary hunt questions, i.e. those which the regular teams would most likely solve in a heartbeat. And when it's tougher, it shouldn't be very tough. Even in the Lintas Sq sector, I posed this question:

Q9) A 100, when done to a chair?

Which made some of the regular teams pause just for a while, but soon figured out the solution.

So most of the regular teams had a fairly pleasant ride during the earlier part of the hunt. But the dangerous thing about achieving a perfect score in the course of the hunt is that it will lead to greed. And greed is a terrible thing as we all know. I decided to throw in some tough questions in the Damai Ph 4 sector, which was about the midway point of the hunt. Many of the strong teams would want to try very hard to find the answers for the tough questions, even if at the cost of losing precious time. Having been able to score well up to that point had the effect on the stronger teams—they would want to keep the "clean" record going, and I thought they'd risk everything!

Of the 5 questions in Damai, I'd say 2 were tough; and 1 was tricky:

Q18) When I'm gone, Agent Harry remains.

Perhaps many of the teams spent a lot of time searching through the internet, trying to find out who Agent Harry might be, and then hope to solve the question from there.

Q20) Gotta make a move to its beginning.

And of course one of the tricky little questions which was somewhat mind-boggling until when suddenly some hunters saw the trick for what it's worth.

Q21) The main answer. What and where?

I'm not sure if it's because of lack of word power, or because of the fact that this answer was found in an unexpected location, though clearly visible from the car, but in the end, this turned out to be the question of the day!

As I said, I had deliberately set the trap, but I did not expect that it'd work to such an extent. I myself was there in Damai Ph 4, watching the hunters in action. And in the heat of the moment, driven by greed, pride, and perhaps stubbornness, most of them spent well over an hour for these 3 questions! The hunting strategy that defied logic and common sense! It was then that I knew they'd get into time trouble in the Donggongon sector, as I had set what I considered 1 more tough question there.

It is almost expected that after a succession of several tough questions, usually sooner or later, the easier ones would come. Immediately after the teams left Damai Ph4—and most of them still trying to recover from the unpleasant time-wasting experience—they moved to the nearby sector in Damai Ph1 where they had expected an easier question. And in fact, it was indeed an easy question:

Q23) Lancelot or Hang Tuah, for example, beats the king.

And the answer, or rather the decoy, was glaringly seen on a huge signboard.

Except that many of them failed to realise the significance of those words "beats the king", and therefore missed this intended answer, which was located almost next to the decoy!

The rest of the questions between Damai and Donggongon ranged from easy to average mind teasers and the strong teams covered the sectors fairly comfortably, with perhaps some stops here and there, but generally did quite well throughout.

But by the time they reached Donggongon, most of them were already in time trouble. Coupled with the fact that the Donggongon sector contained many, many signboards and the tricky nature of the questions, most of the teams crumbled like nobody's business:

Q31) Expelled from occupation, when done to EV.

It was also around then that I noticed teams were also rushing into the supermarket to secure their treasures. I was also there in the supermarket and was fairly amused to see many, many disappointed faces.

Beyond that Donggongon sector, most of the teams were not really hunting; they were merely passing through the remaining sectors, thus dropping most of the questions along the route—a sad but common outcome of an overzealous attitude of wanting too hard to find all the answers during the earlier part of the hunt, thus resulting in leaving no more time for the tail end of the hunt! It is quite funny that many of the questions dropped by the strong teams within the last few sectors were easy ones, which the new teams managed to solve!

As I had expected, some teams incurred the time penalty; one of them almost got disqualified. It's quite an instructive hunt to say the least, but I doubt that these teams will ever learn. I myself, when hunting, quite often still commit the crime of refusing to move on when the situation calls for it!

Some surprises of the day—Team Mung Cha Cha, which is almost always stuck at the fourth position, won the hunt convincingly, beating the favourite team, Cuba Tembak, with a 10-point margin. An even bigger surprise was that a new team, Winged Beaver, sneaked up the leader board to finish third, thus denying several regular teams which became victims of their dubious gameplan.

Champion of Novice Hunt 3: Team Mung Cha Cha

The top 5 teams of the day:

1) Ellen Yee, Shirley Lim, Mary Lokupi, Dr Liaw Yun Haw (84/100)
2) Alvin Wong, Audrey Chin, Susanna Sim, Julia Chan (74/100)
3) Gregory George, Dominic Lansing, Claire Fabian, Dinah Molijoh (73/100)
4) Jude R Ripin, Roland R Ripin, Maria D Micabalo, Loise A Prudente (66/100)
5) Johan Amilin, Siti Nurhanaa Abdullah, Johari Jan 65/100)