Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When Someone Dies

When someone dies, everyone around the deceased will come out with their own version of eulogies. Friends speak of how fantastic the person had been, acquaintances would say "how I wish I have known her better when she was alive." On the other hand, if anyone dares to insult the deceased, that person would be lambasted upon as a mean, worthless dick.

I can't help but to wonder: How much better the world would be if such a moral perspective and such camaraderie spirit apply on people who are alive. In any case, dead people can't be hurt anymore; but the living can be hurt.

Not saying that it's right to insult the deceased though.


So I Visited Alvin the Other Day

Undilah Alvin
Undilah Alvin
Pretending to be artsy.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't Jail Doctors!

dontjaildoctorsYou are a legitimate doctor. You are nice to your patients and charge them minimal fees for the treatment. You have eight kids to feed. You are financially down and out. You are one of the GPs having hard time to make ends meet, despite the popular misconception that "all doctors are rich and glamorous".

In an occasion you decided to sell off your clinic, and hence you did not register the clinic under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998. You broke the law. You got caught, and you were sentenced to a 120,000-ringgit fine. You can't pay for that heft sum, so you were sentenced to a three-month prison sentence.

A doctor: At 2 pm today,I was at Kajang Prison to visit an old comrade in arms, Dr.Basmullah Yusuf who has been sentenced to 3 months prison for unable to pay the RM120,000 fine imposed onto him for failing to register his clinic under the new Private Health Act.Dr.Basmullah is a caring dr who charges minimum fees for his services especially when serving his poor pts.With the paltry fees that he gets and having to fend 8 children of his own the good man now has to pay a hefty price.Words cannot describe my feelings when I saw him dressed in his prison clothes trying to put on a brave front for the sake of his tearful wife and children.A good kind hearted dr is now being treated like a common criminal.After seeing the case first hand and on the advice of a lawyer in order to get him out he has to pay the absurd fine and appeal later.
Why the lack of negotiation? Why the heavy-handed action on a technical fault, when the doctor is a legitimate doctor who provides grass-roots medical care without pursuing monetary rewards?

He should tell MOH that he was the doctor who appeared to run the clinic, yet it was not him, but looked liked him.

Read more:
The 1st clinic doctor convicted under the PHFSA
The 1st clinic doctor convicted under the PHFSA (II)
Don't Jail Doctors Blog Campaign


An Untimely Demise (2)

From this blog post:

...the top deck was swaying left and right as the driver was going really fast. Some passengers at the bottom deck saw the driver smsing a lot and driving really fast in the heavy rain. After awhile the passengers felt something amiss and saw the bus driver STAND UP suddenly(while the bus was moving!) and split seconds later, the passengers screamed really loudly and the bus spun three times, hit the divider and careened to the opposite highway where an oncoming MPV crashed into the back of the bus. Nian Ning and Mohd Zailani were sitting at the back row.
Please post this on your blog now to help:

Chung Lern and Nian Ning’s families would like all families and friends of the victims, dead or alive, in the Slim River Bus Crash to come forward and join them in taking action against the bus company. Stand up to seek justice for these three innocent individuals, who were all so young and full of life.

If you have a blog, please call out to ANYONE who knows someone who survived or did not survive the crash to come forward to join the Lee family.

Make a huge difference, make a huge fuss.

For now, you may contact Lee Chung Lern at chunglern [at] gmail.com or preferably on his handphone at 012-6670368.


An Untimely Demise

She's very much like you and I. She was young, intelligent, all-rounded and vibrant. She was a ReCom member. She was doing first year medicine in University of New South Wales under JPA. She wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon.

She wrote a blog. She loved cooking and photography. She was anticipating to see her boyfriend in KL on the fateful bus.

I may not know her, but I feel for the loss. I am sure you do too. My condolences to the family and friends of Nian Ning, the 21-year-old girl who had her dream curtailed in an untimely demise. Let us mourn for the loss of this girl, and make sure that such a tragedy never happens again. Let's make the Ministry of Transport curb the increasing number of bus accidents. Some accidents are never meant to happen in the first place.

It requires twenty years for a man to rise from the vegetable state in which he is within his mother's womb, and from the pure animal state which is the lot of his early childhood, to the state when the maturity of reason begins to appear. It has required thirty centuries to learn a little about his structure. It would need eternity to learn something about his soul. It takes an instant to kill him. [Voltaire]
Image Source: Nian Ning's blog


I Love the Weather

Eric will protest vehemently what I am going to say: I am in love with the weather in Malaysia.

For the same 32 degree Celsius, the Sun above Malaysia somehow showers a different kind of warmth compared to the sun on the Australian sky. In Australia the radiation literally pierces your skin (partly contributing to the high skin cancer incidence there), but in Malaysia the Sun is more comfortable despite the same temperature. I haven't even compared it with the 41-degree days where it feels like a stove when the sun has set.

I am starting to understand why people come to Malaysia for the beach.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Alma Mater

I went back to Keat Hwa yesterday.

The path from the trunk road to the classrooms is now fully sheltered.

Right next to the path is a housing area under construction. What an eyesore.

The congestion that used to plague the school is now alleviated by improving the traffic flow. Cars are not allowed in the school compound now, instead, they have to drop off and pick up outside the main gate. On the left of this pic is that same path in the first picture, at the far end is the famous arch of Keat Hwa. By the way when I took this pic a guard came to me asking me whether I am a photographer from newspaper. Hah, my school, forever afraid of negative publicity.

There is now a roundabout. To make room for the roads, St. John garden had to be demolished.

To curb the flood problem that has deteriorated over the years (no thanks to the new housing area abutting on the school), what used to be the Interact garden is now excavated and turned into a giant pond to serve as the "SMART Tunnel" of Keat Hwa. The rain water is supposed to accumulate in the pond and the water is then pumped out.

Jasmine: The pond is named 大禹塘 (Da Yu Pond), after 大禹 who were famous for solving the flooding problem in the ancient Chinese history.

Another new (?) feature is the "reinforced" parking lot for the VIP of the school. :D

Among the people I met was Jasmine who was working on her last day as a temporary teacher. I also met many beloved teachers, and had some interesting small chats with them. When I asked them "How are you?", the most common response I got was, "十年如一日" (Things are the same year after year) Indeed. The same thing applies to their replies too. :D

The battery ran out just when I was about to take more pictures. But I felt contented with my little visit, and I will certainly go back again when there's a chance.

By the way you can read more about Keat Hwa's recent drastic change in one of Tian Poh's blog posts.


[frank2c] WTF Anwar

You have ruined your integrity, your party's validity and even the whole opposition camp's impression in the eyes of the public.
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

6000km on Tiger Airways

When the Airbus A320-200 took off from the tarmac of Melbourne International Airport, I didn't have too high an expectation of my 6000km journey on a low cost carrier. After all, I paid only 70% of what I usually pay for a return ticket. The flight was only meant to bring me home, so comfort was never the top agenda.

As the Chinese saying goes, a thousand-mile journey begins with the first step (千里之行,始于足下). True to the words - my first journey was to walk some two hundred metres on the tarmac and climb a flight of stairs to get in the plane. When I finally got in the plane, the seat didn't provide much comfort. It was narrow and I could barely straighten my leg. Also not helping was the air-conditioning vent which could only produce some feeble wind, and it's not even cold.

After some routine aircraft safety announcement (which I listened to more attentively than usual), the airplane finally taxied to the runway and with a pause, started to accelerate along the straight path. Despite not being a religious person, I started wishing for my safety. I have an incurable phobia of flying, among many other things. As the plane's nose tilted skywards, my worst fear came true. The plane started to vibrate vigorously for a few seconds. It's the same vibration you get when you used the wrong gear for your car. I thought the plane was going to break apart. Luckily the vibration faded and the plane continued to gain altitude uneventfully.

Flying on a low-cost airway is a bare-bone transportation mode. All you have is a seat that allows an inclination of half an inch, and nothing else. There's no free meal, no free water, no warm towel, no blanket, no pillow, no movies, no games and no radio. Oh actually I did get something free for the journey - two over-enthusiastic persons who chit-chatted from the take-off till the landing - with a volume fighting to outdo the jet engine noise. Needless to say, they won. There were also four free air hostess on board, and they looked rather funny. They were clad in jeans and a plain yellow T-shirt the sort you usually see in Pasar Malam, bearing the feline logo of Tiger Airways. They also had this stylish "belt" which was actually a tiger-striped cloth tied around the waist. Their casual look was amusing.

After a struggle with the megaphoney talk, dry eyes and mouth due to lack of water (yes yours truly is a cheapskate who would not buy drinks on a low-cost airplane when his own ran out) and the lack of entertainment, the plane finally began a slow descent as it approached Darwin (a city in North Australia). The elapsed four hours seemed like an eternity, and by then my body started to protest against the ordeal I put it through. While the scarce streetlight of Darwin came into view, the A320 glided into the runway gracefully. I was pleasantly surprised when the landing gear touched the ground - it's the smoothest landing I had ever had, compared to even the larger 747s. The braking was perfect, and I could feel the plane slow down safely on the runway within seconds. It's very unlike most of the landings I had where the plane felt like an out-of-control dogsled where the driver struggles to hold the dogs back. Instead, the plane's braking was like a sports car with a set of spanking new brakes. Impressive stuff.

I went down to the airport, and to my dissatisfaction, I had to go through the baggage retrieval and check-in process. It's ridiculously cumbersome, compared to most transit flights which would usually arrange an automatic transfer of baggages to the onward flight. Feel free to add in the fact that it's 1 am Melbourne time when I lined up for the check-in counter. After the whole shebang, I finally got to the departure gate where I got some replenishment. I could only buy a couple pack of chips from the vending machine to cater to my grumbling stomach. Okay it's not really their fault, but the only cafe there was selling sandwiches for six dollar each, and I am not really into sandwich.

When it was time, I boarded another Airbus A320-200. This time the plane smelt like an old carpet, the seats looked like it hadn't been refurbished for five years, and no personal drinks were allowed on board (due to the new flight regulations). Off I went for another four-hour flight to Singapore, with an ETA of 3.40am local time. I started feeling sleepy, if that was any consolation.

p/s: To be fair, it's true that "you get what you paid for". It's only that comfort wise, it fell short of my already low expectation. I would recommend anyone to take low-cost airways for their travel on the merit of its price alone, but if you are not too good at, among other things, tolerating sub-optimal condition for more than four hours on a narrow seat, I urge you to think twice.

p/p/s: I forgot to mention that the same vibration during take-off and the smooth landing happened for the second leg of the flight too. I guess it might be something about the A320.

Image Credit: Airbus.com


Monday, January 21, 2008


A year has gone by
While another sojourn ends
I'm back in heaven


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Going Home

After 343 days in Melbourne, I am leaving for home tomorrow and will spend 27 days there. I am not going to write a reflection about the last year, at this moment I am just thinking of... how I should carry the cherries and mangoes.

Bye 41-degree Melbourne and hi 33-degree Malaysia! :)


The Best Place to Exchange Currency

200452489-001I was trying to get get some Singapore Dollars in the city. Currently, 1 Australian Dollar (AUD) can buy 1.27 Singapore Dollar (SGD) according to Google. So in the ideal world, I can get SGD 100 with AUD 78.75.

First I went to this money changer selling SGD at AUD 1.2112. As the exchange shop was about to close, I promptly proceeded to buy SGD 100 with AUD 86.55, inclusive of an AUD 4 commission.

Then I walked past another money changer with an advertised rate of AUD 1.23. But when I asked at the counter, I was told that in total it would cost me AUD 92. Apparently they charge quite a bit of commission. I was amused when the cashier tried to encourage me to buy it after quoting the price.

The third shop that I went to sells SGD at AUD 1.225, but they don't charge any commission, so I could actually get SGD 100 with AUD 81.65.

Poof. My five dollars vanished into the thin air. :(

Image credit: homesgofast.com


Monday, January 14, 2008

The Power of Ads

I am quite sure many people have watched this:

Honda Civic's Advertisement 2006 - "This is what a Honda Feels Like"

But I am not too sure about these:
A parody by a phone company 118118.

"This is what my car feels like"

I am quite sure many have seen this awesome ad too:
Cog, one of the most famous Honda Ads of all time.

But I am not too sure about this:
BBC Football's spoof.
Isn't it nice, when jokes just... work? :D


The Other Side Revealed!

Two years ago, I wrote this post on the joyous day of my homecoming. Not many people realised what it meant.

The answer is: they are the antipodes of my travel origin and destination.

In other words, if I digg a hole straight down from Melbourne and go through the whole Earth's interior, I will come out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. If If I digg a hole from Malaysia, it will come out some where in Ecuador, South America!

Try to find out where your favourite location's antipode is: Link. If you stay in US, don't bother: you are going to drink salt water in Indian Ocean. The next time your kid ask you "what's at the other end of the Earth", don't tell them it's China.

Note: This is part of my effort to clear up my "unfinished posts".


1 to 100


Friday, January 11, 2008

Island State

Read this conversation some where:

A: There is no island state in US.
B: Hawaii?
A: I mean the mainland.


[frank2c] The Bigger Picture

As we grow up, we gradually relinquish some of our nearsighted lenses, and learn to view the bigger picture in our lives. However, when it comes to socio-political decisions, lamentably some people continue to see the world through their small, aberrant lenses.
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

When A Geek Learns English

When I think about it, it's funny how I usually learn English words the wrong way. Usually people learn the most common meaning of a word first, and then discover the alternative meanings later on. However, having started using computer before I even knew the meaning of "attend", there are many words where I learnt the secondary meaning before its primary meaning.

  • Menu: The bar on top of each program.
  • Surf: To go online and browse web sites.
  • Explorer: Something you use to view your computer's files or the Internet.
  • Desktop: The starting screen of the computer.
  • Folder: A hierarchy of the computer file system where you can use to categorize and organize files.
  • Outlook: Something you use to send or receive email.
  • Macro: A script that could be run with a document or spreadsheet and was a common way of spreading virus.
  • Virtual: Online.
  • Extension: The part of filename after the dot (.exe, .doc etc)
  • Setup: A program used to install software.
By the way, I had no idea setup is actually set-up until I was something like 15 years old. In fact, up till that point, I had always pronounced it as "sir-tube". Oh well.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Maths - Not Always About Thousands of Formulae (3)

Note: Continued from an earlier post.

We decided that five was a pretty good starting number, and then we were starting to consider our opponent's best move.

1. What happens when you [the opponent] choose 1, 3, 7 or 9? Are they good / strong moves? Can I force a win after you chose one of those numbers?

Let me list all the 15-triplets again for reference in this post:

  • 1,5,9
  • 1,6,8
  • 2,4,9
  • 2,5,8
  • 2,6,7
  • 3,4,8
  • 3,5,7
  • 4,5,6
If you choose 1, 3, 7 or 9, you only have 2 "good" triplets. For example, if you choose 1, your best triplets would be 1,5,9 and 1,6,8. However, 1,5,9 is no longer possible since I took 5 earlier. As for 1,6,8, I could very easily sabotage you by choosing either 6 or 8 in my next move.

However, if I choose 6 or 8, in your next move you can also sabotage me easily by choosing 4 or 2.

All this get very confusing, and we have yet to find any clear winning strategy here. Everything is in a mess, and inevitably we start falling back to our "maths is convoluted" assumption again.

Okay, since the choice of 1, 3, 7 or 9 doesn't lead us anywhere, let's see what happens with 2, 3, 6 or 8.

2. What happens when you choose 2, 4, 6 or 8? Are they good / strong moves? Can I force a win after you chose one of those numbers?

If you choose any of these, you have three "good" triplets. For example, if you choose 2, your "good" triplets would be 2,4,9; 2,5,8 and 2,6,7. Again, 2,5,8 is no longer possible because I had taken 5. That leaves 2,4,9 and 2,6,7 as your "good" triplets.

With this, can I still force a win?

If I choose 1, you are forced to choose 9 in your next move (or else I will win). Then I am forced to choose 4. You have 3, 6, 7, 8 as your remaining "okay" moves. Then think of what will happen for each of these options.

I will spare you the details, but if you repeat the same analysis for all future steps (game-tree analysis), you would realize that all moves will end up with a draw, i. e. no one can get a 15-triplet.

3. In the end, can my initial choice of 5 force a win?

From our analysis, unfortunately, NO.

4. If the initial choice of 5 can't force a win, does that automatically mean that other initial choice can't force a win too?

All our analysis are based on the assumption that 5 is the best first number. However, we had no absolute proof that it MUST be the best first number. So with any other first numbers, it's still likely that some force-win strategies might be hidden in there somewhere.

But up to this stage, it's getting boring and repetitive. There must be some easier and better ways of solving this problem. But how lerr?

Will leave it for next time. If you are interested, please refer to Woon Pang's answer in my previous posts for ideas. :)


A Visit to Ikea

Don't wear a yellow shirt to Ikea if you don't want this to happen:

Excuse me, do you know where I can get this thing from?


Friday, January 04, 2008

Maths - Not Always About Thousands of Formulae (2)

In this series of maths posts, I try to explain maths in non-jargon and non-technical writing with my little experience in maths. In doing so, it's my fervent hope to debunk the "convoluted" and "only-genius-can-do" impressions about maths.

Most people hate textbooks and websites with tons of dry, confusing solutions. Often, all we see in there are solutions with copious hints of "see I am so smart", where they show off their come-out-of-no-where ingenious steps, and then make no explanations about how they got the ideas from. It's as if the ideas' origin are trade secrets among mathematicians. In addition to that, it doesn't help when they choose to present their answers in gibberish terms and symbols that are all Greek (pun intended) to us.

It is no surprise then that maths is often misconceived as a field of "formula manipulation". Such perception is wrong. In fact, maths is much more than, and much less than formula manipulation. So, with all knowledge I could muster from my little repertoire, I will present this point in this blog via a lighthearted, layman-friendly approach.

In a previous post, I posted this question as an example:

Alice and Bob alternately choose a number from among 1 to 9, with no replacement. The first to obtain any 3 numbers which sum to 15 wins. Does Alice (the first player) have a winning strategy?

[Provided by Chiun Lin in ReCom. Spoiler Warning: Solution in the original page]
A clarification here: The term "winning strategy" might have been confusing. The question should be better phrased as "Is there any way Alice could force a win?"

What does the question mean?

I guess the question itself is rather self-explanatory. Everyone knows what a sum is. No replacement means each number can only be used once. Speaking of "force a win", it should be familiar to anyone who has played 2-player strategy games like Chess. When it comes to the endgame, sometimes you can strategize such that your opponent will definitely lose regardless of the struggles he puts up. To win with such a strategy is considered to "force a win". If you have an excellent strategy but can't foresee the definite loss of your opponent, then it's not considered forcing a win.

Now that we sorted out the question's meaning, let's try to solve the problem. While approaching such questions, the most natural first step is doing some trials-and-errors. Let's just imagine that we are Alice.

How should we choose the first number?

To make things easier, let's just name "3 numbers with the sum of 15" as "15-triplet". There are many potential 15-triplets; namely 4,5,6; 3,4,8 etc. So, what is the first number we should choose to force a win? A commonsense approach would be to start with the number which appears in most 15-triplet combinations. To do that, we write down a full list of 15-triplets:
  • 1,5,9
  • 1,6,8
  • 2,4,9
  • 2,5,8
  • 2,6,7
  • 3,4,8
  • 3,5,7
  • 4,5,6
So there are eight of them. By some simple counting, you would notice that 5 appears most frequently here (4 times) while the other numbers only appear 3 or 2 times.

Intuitively, five should be the best choice for our first number.

What next?

After making our choice, let's consider what move our opponent would make. Remember, we are trying to force a win instead of just "maximising our chance of winning". So, we should always consider the best moves from our opponents and see if we could still win despite their best effort. This is the principle behind all types of "find the winning strategy" questions.

If you were the opponent, what would you choose?

Now that I have already chosen 5, my most potential winning triplet are 1,5,9; 2,5,8; 3,5,7; 4,5,6. If you want to reduce my list of triplet choices, you must be disappointed now - no matter which number you choose, only one of my triplets are crossed out. For example, if you choose 1, the first triplet will no longer be possible for me; but the rest are still available to me.

So, from the perspective of "reducing my triplet choices", there's no number that gives you an advantage. Any number that you choose would have the same effect, that is, to sabotage one of my potential triplets. There's not a single number with a higher "sabotage ability" than the other numbers.

However, let's consider another perspective. What about choosing a number which is less prone to subsequent sabotage from me? Now, remember that I said 5 appeared four times in the potential triplet list, some numbers (2, 4, 6, 8) appeared three times while the rest (1, 3, 7, 9) appeared two times?

It's starting to get convoluted, so I shall leave this post at this stage. As some sort of a cliffhanger, if you are free enough, let's just consider some factors:
  1. What happens when you choose 1, 3, 7 or 9? Are they good / strong moves? Can I force a win after you chose one of those numbers?
  2. Consider the same questions for 2, 4, 6 or 8.
  3. In the end, can my initial choice of 5 force a win?
  4. If the initial choice of 5 can't force a win, does that automatically mean that other initial choice can't force a win too?
  5. If the analysis gets too complicated by now, what should we do?
[To be continued...]
[6 Jan: Continued here]


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

[frank2c] A New Year Message

My year 2008 was heralded by a personal email from a bigwig. Words can't describe how proud I am!
If you are an invited reader, read it here.

If you have no idea what it is, read more about frank2c here.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! 2007 ended with the hottest day of the year (41 degree Celsius in Melbourne), while 2008 arrived with resplendent fireworks in Melbourne.

It's the first time I celebrate New Year's Day in overseas, so I joined the 350,000-strong crowd at the Yarra Riverside to watch the fireworks. Honestly it's not as nice as I expected, partly because we were standing right beneath the explosion. The couple in front of us who couldn't stop cumbu-cumbuing throughout the firework didn't help either. When people counted 10, 9, 8,... 3, 2, 1, they started kissing each other on the mouth. Haha.

The scorching heat also made me feel rather uncomfortable. At night, first we were having dinner in Brandon's house (whose cooking by the way was absolutely mouth-watering). We had already gone quite clammy inside his house. When we walked from Brandon's house all the way to the city, the temperature was still at the mid thirties even though it's 10.30 at night.

In the city, hundred thousands of people literally turned the whole Swanston Street into an open-air dancing floor. Whichever direction I laid my eyes on, there were people dancing, shaking and jumping and clogging the whole street. It's as though a party was going on except that there was no alcohol allowed. Interestingness aside, Melbourne's New Year Eve countdown is not the safest place you want to end up in. The crowd and the half-drunken people can make you feel rather insecure. Regardless, celebration in Melbourne is still much more civilised than Malaysia where people simply spray each other with ribbons and chemical snowflakes and pass it off as fun. It's annoyingly meaningless.

Let's hope that the year 2008 brings out all the best in everyone, and may we all live in bliss and content with good health! :)

Image Credit: The Age NYE Photo Gallery