Tuesday, April 30, 2013

KK City Tourism Hunt 2013—A Blast From The Past

I've been known to employ the element of psychology when setting hunt questions, and it has even become something of my trademark, so to speak. I admire CoCs who are able to also set questions to include psychological elements. In the KK City Tourism Hunt last Sunday, we saw a brave attempt by the CoC to do just that!

The question was for the walk hunt sector in the basement of the Suria Mall. It wasn't a "bolded" question, and one would expect it to be a touch and go sort of riddle, especially for the regular teams. The first time I read the question, however, I noticed that dreadful "?" at the end of the sentence. The "?" usually implies some sort of indirect meaning; perhaps in a punny way, in cryptic clues. For example "Sideway pedestrian?" may refer to the crab, because the creature walks sideway. A strong hunter I spoke to after the hunt said the "?" is a "sound's like indicator". I'm not sure where he got that information!

But anyway, where should we start? Well, the most logical approach is to start searching for all the big cats, such as tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, lions on any signboard simply because they are the big cats. Of course we may also need to keep our eyes open for the Malay synonyms of those too such as harimau or singa. And then hopefully we can then try to figure out how to connect the "berkembang".

The search didn't take very long; 2 signs practically leapt to the eyes. One was with a PUMA SOCIAL on it, together with a PUMA.COM underneath. Another sign was CAT EXPLORER. I liked PUMA a lot, but I wasn't really happy with both SOCIAL and COM. For a while we deliberated if there is anyway we could force-fit by equating SOCIAL to BERKEMBANG. We also considered the suitability of CAT EXPLORER. I thought the CAT could fit, but where does "besar" come in? My teammate suggested that maybe "besar" in this case means "huruf besar"? Hmmm.... looking very weak to me. Besides, I still did not find it very convincing to connect EXPLORER to BERKEMBANG.

But actually, all those were just the red herrings, i.e. decoys for the intended answer: TIGER ORCHID.

Truth be told, there is really nothing very completed in the solution. TIGER is of course a big cat; and the ORCHID, which is a flower, indirectly answers "berkembang". But I was amused by the location of this answer. It is found on the huge building column right in front of the main entrance of the basement floor! Who in the world would ever thought of looking there? I think it's a brilliant idea; I love it so much that I would have been proud to set this question myself!

The only thing I would not do, however, is to include the letter "H" in "KUCHING". That H absolutely destroys what would have otherwise been a masterpiece in my opinion; something so simple and straightforward, yet so many failed to find the answer! The presence of that H in that word has resulted in the TIGER ORCHID no longer a fitting answer, simply because since about half a century ago, KUCHING no longer means CAT! The correct spelling for the Malay word for CAT is KUCING (without the H). Let us now discuss about this issue for a bit.

Imagine for a moment that I want to say AYAM and I intend to mean CHICKEN. But a typo occurred somehow, and it became BAYAM instead; that is to say, I had unintentionally added a B to the word. Can I then insist that the hunter should still read my mind and know that I had intended CHICKEN anyway, and not SPINACH (bayam, the vegetable)? What do you think?

My view is that when there is a typo and the resulting word has a different meaning because of that typo, then that new meaning should prevail, unless of course if the CoC can intervene in time to make the correction. Perhaps the hunters can be a little forgiving if the additional letter does not result in a word with a different meaning(s). Then in such a case, maybe some people would argue that it is obvious that there's been a typo. But I still don't like it!

But what's the case with KUCHING? Because of that H in the word, it becomes a wrongly-spelt word for CAT. So that renders all the cats out of the equation! Do we then take it for granted that it's a typo? Or what if that H is there intentionally? The CoC was there watching the hunters in action. Yet he said nothing about the clue. So my belief was that that H must be there deliberately.

Quite honestly, I did not see all this for a while, until Claire remarked innocently that there's that H in KUCHING. And it suddenly came to me like lightning. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I missed that little detail before that! 

You see, KUCHING, when spelt like that has only one other meaning—it is the name of a city in Sarawak. It is in fact the capital city of Sarawak. So now I began to see the whole clue from a different angle.


Now when KUCHING takes the "CITY" meaning like it should in this case, then we are looking for a BIG CITY (Kuching besar), and one that is EXPANDING (berkembang).

I'm taking the trouble to explain all this because I have a feeling that whoever it was who marked Team Megapawns' answer for this question, he or she might have thought it was a random guess. But METRO is a common abbreviation for METROPOLITAN, a big city, and JAYA may in a way agree with and expanding city on account of that "?" at the end of the sentence. That's how I arrived at METROJAYA.

I was quite happy with my answer having failed to find anything better, until the time when the CoC revealed his solution. It was a case of a cat blasted from the past before 1972.

Monday, April 29, 2013

KK City Tourism Hunt 2013—One-Track Thought Process

I have mentioned in the previous post that the treasure clues for the KK City Tourism Hunt 2013 were fairly easy and fast to solve. I'd like to discuss the above clue which I still maintain is an easy clue to solve, not because I'm such a brilliant cryptic solver; rather, because it's basically a Googling exercise! I'm sure that many hunters would agree with me that such questions are no longer tough to solve because these days almost everyone in the street is carrying a phone with internet access! 

Some of you may want to give the clue a shot anyway; in which case, I'd suggest that you stop reading here. Otherwise, let me continue. But rather than giving you the answer one by one, I will simply reveal only the first letters of the respective answers to each of the clues from (a) to (f). Those letters should then be used to form the name of the item which is to be submitted as Treasure 5 (T5). So here goes:

a) E
b) M
c) T
d) S
e) ?
f) N

Notice that I'm giving a "?" for (e). This is because for this particular clue, we spent a moment to decide the available options. There are in fact several types of leaves from palm trees which were once popularly used to wrap food, but knowing that we would need the first letter of that word to combine with the rest of the letters, I told my team members that we're looking for a vowel. The reason is quite simple; we already had 4 consonants and only 1 vowel. So it's very likely that we would need another vowel to form a word.

Well, by Googling up from the net we soon found OPEH which is betel leaf. In fact, OPEH is known to have been used to wrap food in the good old days. The first letter of OPEH is of course O, and it is a vowel; just perfect for our present purpose. 

So now, we have: E-M-T-S-O-N. 

All that remains to be done is to jumble up those letters to form the name of an item. Just get a pack—any pack—of that item and that qualifies as T5. With a bit of practice in anagram, it doesn't take very long to find the word MENTOS, which is a common item in the market. As a Treasure Hunt jargon, we say that is a "perfect fit".

Now to digress from this topic for a bit, there was once when I was playing chess competitively many years ago. I was up against a strong opponent and it turned out that the game, which practically everyone thought was gonna be a stroll in the park for my opponent, became a long-drawn struggle. Most of the other players had already finished and people crowded around to see us play. In the crowd was a strong teenaged chess prodigy watching intently as I pondered my next move. I must have taken perhaps almost 15 minutes for that single move, but I finally found a forced mate in 5. It was quite an achievement for me against such a strong opponent, especially since I had only a little less than 3 minutes left on my clock, whereas he had more than half an hour! But then later on that chess prodigy came up to me, saying that I could have mated my opponent one move faster. He showed me the combination; it involved a dramatic queen sacrifice. He said it would have been a more elegant finish!

You may wonder what has this got anything to do with T5? Well, I find it interesting that people like to see action, something dramatic and all happening in a blaze of excitement. In fact, it would have been prettier to see a fantastic queen sacrifice followed by a checkmate. But having found a forced mate in 5, although not as "elegant" as the one in lesser moves and involving a queen sacrifice, there is to me no necessity to invest in further efforts to find a prettier finish. The object of the game is to mate the opponent. Once a means to achieve that is found, that's where it ends for me. I would not waste my time to try to find a prettier finish!

In arriving at the solution for T5, I would work meticulously step by step to tie all lose ends. But once I find all the jigsaw pieces and fit them into their respective places perfectly, that's where I would stop. There is really no meaning to explore further once the solution in hand fits perfectly as in this case.

Little did I know, when the CoC conjured up this question, he saw the puzzle from a different angle. And the tragedy was that far from keeping an open mind, he approached that puzzle rigidly on a one-track thought process, thus resulting in total ignorance of an alternative but perfectly fitting solution!

What he did was to decide on the item first, which was NESTUM. So he started looking for all those words of which the acronyms would give those letters found in NESTUM. When he came to that letter U, he decided to use the word UPIH which is also an accepted spelling of OPEH. So we come to the same item, but with different (accepted) spellings. I'm not sure if he knew of the alternative OPEH; or even if he did, he probably did not expect that that could then give rise to MENTOS. Such is the danger of one-track thought process when conjuring up these kind of riddles.

But MENTOS, as I have said, fits the clue perfectly. There is absolutely nothing in the clue that would exclude the possibility of MENTOS. You will therefore not be surprised that many teams, including strong master hunter teams, submitted this correct item, but rejected by the CoC. 

It is a good reminder to me why I'm sometimes tired of analysing hunt questions. They keep repeating themselves over and over again.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

KK City Tourism Treasure Hunt 2013

It's been a while since I last hunted in a treasure hunt, but today Vivian Cham, Claire Andrew, Chirsty Kong and I, hunted as Team Megapawns in the KK City Tourism Treasure Hunt. Many of the readers of this blog are aware that I no longer spend a lot of time hunting these days as much as I run marathons and ultra marathons. Nevertheless, the love of the game is still very much alive.

For the benefits of the new visitors to this blog, let me say that I have been spending a lot of time on treasure hunting in the past. I even went to the extent of flying to KL to join hunts over the weekends. I would then report in this blog and then analyse hunt questions. I was known to be "passionate" in the way I discuss and dissect hunt questions, and my criticisms have for the most part been brutal to say the least! This, however, did not accord well with some of my fellow Clerks-of-Coure (CoCs) from the West, and I had a shrewd suspicion that some of them even hated my guts for it!

I am basically trying to shy away from treasure hunting, but I sometimes find it hard to resist analysing hunt questions. I have been trying to access the Treasure Hunt Society's site to have a peak at their questions so that I could "secretly" analyse them for my personal enrichment, but I have not quite figured out how to do it! I'm not sure if there is something to do with keying in passwords etc, but maybe it's a blessing in disguise because I know I'm bound to find many, many mistakes by the CoCs!

This year, as in previous years, there were some very strong Master Hunter teams from West Malaysia coming to our shores, and I'm convinced that the CoC designed his questions taking into account of their presence. I believe this has resulted in an extremely tough hunt for the local hunters. But then again, the way I see it, it doesn't really matter if it's a tough or easy hunt, as long as it's a level playing field.

The hunt this year started and ended in Sutera Harbour. The hunt was supposed to cover a distance of approximately 80km according to the CoC, but of course the actual hunt distance of 160km is probably closer to the mark. Time control was 6 hours 30 mins, which I think is not enough, considering the amount of chores, challenges/games, as well as the hunt distance including the traffic jams in the City on a Sunday. Not to mention some so-called "bolded" questions which were not actually intended to be solved. But I will touch a bit on some questions later.

The first thing I did upon flag off was to quickly get my team organised in terms of delegation of duties. Claire and Christy were to handle the games and challenges, as I have learned from past KK City Tourism Hunts that those were mainly dependent on luck, and not so much on skill—meaning to say I did not think that I could do any better than Claire and Christy if I were to handle the games instead. My time would be better utilised to tackle some of the route questions. We had to split the duties because it was obvious to me from the beginning that time would be our biggest enemy! It was unfortunate that the format of the hunt was such that I had to split the teams a few times, but it was totally necessary; the mission was to try to win. After all that is the true meaning of teamwork—you try to give a job to each member in something that he or she is good at. But actually, it would be good if they too can handle more route questions as they need to train themselves in that area too. But that option was not available in this hunt.

I was happy to find that the treasure questions were quite easy  and fast to solve this year. We merely took a few minutes to solve all of them. But one of them was rejected in the end, as we lacked the skill of mind-reading. Of course our solution was a perfect fit for the clue, and it was a bad call for the CoC to reject our submission. I will discuss this interesting clue later in a separate post.

I'm glad that we were able to solve some of the bolded questions, but some were never intended to be solved anyway. We spent the amount of time that these bolded questions deserved, of course, but very soon I saw them for what they're worth; they're there in the question sheets to make the numbers, and I decided to abandon them after randomly choosing signboards to fill in the blanks.

There was another question in the Suria Mall sector which raised my blood pressure a few notches, and it took me quite a while to figure it out. I had to run back from DBKK office to Suria Mall to find the answer which was later rejected for an inferior one by the CoC. Again, I will discuss this further in a separate post.

Well, in the end we were late for the final submission and incurred several points' penalty. Knowing that there're a fair number of strong teams in the fray, it all seemed gloomy for us to even break into the top 10 positions. When the winners were announced one by one, we were excited because we sort of had some idea what's our score. We reckoned that we should at least manage to sneak into the top 20 positions. But then as the prize giving progressed, we began to worry again. We got to the last 10 top winners and we were still not called. Then 9th, and 8th, and 7th and 6th! I was sweating bullets and I thought I was about to faint. There was a short pause before they continued announcing the winners. 5th... 4th... still nothing. We knew by then that we had counted our scores wrongly. It seemed clear that we did not even make the cut for the top 30 winners!

Then came the shock of the day—our team was announced as the winner of 3rd place. I had no idea how that happened, but I wasn't complaining!

I wish to congratulate my team members, Vivian Cham, Claire Andrew and Christy Kong for a job well done. I couldn't have done it without them; they have all contributed and went through all the pains and efforts to secure the 3rd place finish. 

Now how about we try to hunt for the 2nd place next year!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Standard Chartered Brunei Half Marathon 2013

When I registered for the Standard Chartered Brunei Half Marathon (SCBHM) a few months ago, I made up my mind to use the event as my long slow distance (LSD) run in the build up to the Borneo International Marathon (BIM) in May. I meant it to be a routine Sunday workout while collecting a finisher medal in the process; perhaps running at about 6min/km pace. But recently, it turned into a mission to pace my friend, Hana Harun, in an attempt to achieve her personal best (PB). She had a 2:10 finish under her belt, achieved at the same event about a year ago, but perhaps because of all the excitement following the recent Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon in February as reported here, she was hoping for a sub-2hours finish this year. 

Recovering from a severe knee injury after the Vibram HK 100 as reported here, Hana was out of action for some weeks, and by the time she resumed training for Brunei, there was somewhat too little time left for a major breakthrough. I gave her some tips on how to approach her training, but cautioned her not to expect too much. Unfortunately, I had no chance to see her run prior to Brunei, so I had no idea if my training tips were working well for her. Nonetheless, I suggested to her to revise her target to 2:05, and she readily agreed with me. 

A short discussion on the running configuration. Should Hana be running in front of me? I thought that’s an appealing idea, but that could potentially lead to two things: 1) My mind would be more focused on Hana’s rear instead of dictating the pace, or 2) Hana would be at risk of slowing down whenever she felt like it. It was also suggested that I should be running in front of Hana. But in that case, Hana might get distracted by my sexy bottom! So in the end, we agreed that we should run side by side. 

That, then, was the mission for SCBHM 2013. 

We found ourselves at the starting line just shortly before the flag off. Hana seemed all set for a good show. Although it was a small crowd when compared to other major races, it was still a little congested immediately after the start. We began at a pace of about 6min/km while waiting for the crowd to thin out a bit. I turned to Hana, saying that we'll take it easy for the moment, perhaps treat it like a warming up session, but we would have to pay back a little later. Hana had that grave expression on her face, but I pretended not to notice it. 

Shortly after hitting the highway, I gradually increased the pace. By about 3km into the race, I was happy to note an average pace of 5:48min/km on my Garmin. I said to Hana that we're doing great up to that point and on target for a 2:05 finish. In fact, we would have to maintain a 5:55min/km pace for a 2:05 finish, but I needed to allow a bit of time buffer for drink stops as well as the impending hills during the latter part of the race. 

Hana played the obedient runner all too well; she didn’t say much, but when she eventually broke her silence, she said her Garmin was showing a pace of 5:16min/km. It was in fact the Garmin that Darren had lent her for this race. But I dismissed it as inaccurate, as I was sure that we were running much slower than 5:16. 

We duly made our way into the Bandar Seri Begawan town centre, going around the Yayasan Building, and then passing through the Standard Chareted Bank along Jalan Sultan. After allowing for a couple of drink stops, my Garmin was still showing an average pace of 5:50min/km, but I knew that we would lose speed when we come to the hilly portions. As we were just about to exit the town centre, we caught up with Tan Yoke Lee, and eventually overtook her. And when we were approaching the drink station at Km8, we took an energy gel each in anticipation of the long climb after Km9. That climb wasn’t very steep, but it was almost a kilometre of hardwork. I was pleased, however, to see that Hana was able to keep going, although with a significant drop in her pace. It was quite a long downhill section on the other side. And just as we were climbing another hill, I was surprised to see Amy walking! But when we overtook her, she started running again. Shortly after that, John Chin came passing by, looking very relaxed and enjoying his run. 

The hills had quite an impact on many runners, and Hana was not immune from them. I noticed the gradual decline in her pace. On a few occasions I ran a little faster ahead in the hope that that might provoke her to follow suit, but when I turned back, she was lagging further behind. So I had to slow down again to wait for her. For a brief moment though, I thought perhaps a bit of spanking on her buttocks could jump-start her pace again. But I guess that was not a procedure to be recommended——for one thing, it may unintentionally turn into squeezing instead of spanking; and for another, Hana may deliberately slow down even more so that I’d continue spanking her! After all, women are not meant to be easily understood, if you know what I mean? 

And then suddenly Amy began running a little faster again, thus leaving us behind. I looked at my Garmin and noticed that we had declined to about 5:54min/km, barely enough to finish within the 2:05 target. I asked Hana if she could catch up with Amy, but looking at her face, I knew that that was out of the question. With a final short climb to the roundabout, I thought Hana was gonna sprint the whole way to the finish, but instead she was growing increasingly tired. We had by then declined further to about 6min/km average, thus indicating that we have gone beyond the 2:05 target. I said to Hana, we were now looking at a possible 2:06-2:07 finish, but if we slowed down further, we may even touch 2:08. She was in fact in danger of losing her PB even! 

As Hana was becoming increasingly slower during those last few kilometres, she was also making a lot of strange noises——a bit of “uhh” and “ooh” with increasing frequency; if I were not careful, I would be in danger of getting sexually aroused! We kept going like that for what must have seemed like eternity to Hana, until we arrived at the signboard pointing to the junction leading to the finish line. In between her grunts and moans, she said: “Is that it?”, meaning, “Is that the junction to the finish line?”, but it sounded more like “That run was too short!” I replied in the affirmative, and as we turned the corner, we could see the finish line! 

And then there was a sudden increase of those wicked and sexy, if painful, noises from Hana; and they were louder too! With all her might, face distorted into a painful grimace, she started running hard. And I started running hard too. I said, “Follow me, Hana!” and then went off in a sprint, thinking that this time I would provoke Hana for the homestretch dash. But she had very little left in the tank. Hence I slowed down again after a few metres as she was lagging behind, and we ran those last few metres and crossed the finish line together in a little over 2:08. A 2-minute improvement may not seem like a big thing to some people, but seeing how hard Hana had worked for that 2 minutes, I know that that was an extremely huge achievement for her. Shortly later, all the pain on her face melted away, and a huge smile emerged…laughter ensued… 

A friend took this photo of a very happy PB-achiever and her proud pacer. I’m sure with just one look at her big smile, you could tell that Hana was the happiest woman at the race venue that morning. 

There were many other familiar faces from KK too. These are just some of them. 

Some of you may know The Singapore Blade Runner (extreme right in yellow shirt) who was also there to grace the occasion by running the half marathon. Jai was also there and finished in an impressive 2:04. In fact he did so well that he became confused and entangled with his medal. But thankfully he finally figured out how to put the medal on. Audrey aka Odry (in blue running vest) finished in a decent 2:23 and was inclined to pose like a kaki pukul. Oh... what a happy moment for everybody.

Jiki also ran the half marathon that morning and I was given to understand that she finished in 1:57, which if I'm not mistaken, is her PB. That small little creature can run, I tell you. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of hers during the event, but I managed to get this photo of the Ratatouille in action during a recent race in KK.

This was the first time I've actually paced another runner in a race since I started running in 2008. I didn't realise that I could get so much satisfaction from seeing a fellow runner achieving her goal.Who knows, maybe next year Hana will eventually achieve her sub-2hours in Brunei!