Monday, 31 August 2009

Good to be back

Despite having a nice chess holiday break at the CitiTel MidValley Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, there's nothing to beat being back home in Penang and boy, it's really good to be back home among familiar surroundings. I've got loads of photographs to transfer from the camera to the desktop but I'm not too confident about their quality because all of them were taken in rather low light conditions. The lighting in the hotel's ballroom was way too dim for my liking and I had to hand-hold the camera at speeds as low as one-third of a second. So, I suspect that most of the photos will turn out blurry.

I was very happy to have spent two days of quality time with my daughter too. She came down from Petaling Jaya to the hotel on Saturday and I took the time off to wander with her here and there. And of course, the meals we took together. I enjoyed myself and I hope she enjoyed herself too. I can't wait for the next time to see her again.

Of course, met with a whole gang of chess friends from far and near, to name but only a few of them that I can remember off-hand here: Hamid, Gregory, Ibrahim, Tse Pin, Andrew, Soon Keong, Wahid, Bernard, Najib, Jimmy Liew, Mok, Chern Ee, Subramaniam, Chin Seng, Yee Weng, Nicholas, Marcus, Tick Hong, Beng Keong, Christi, Min Wang, Giam, Khairunisa, Hairulov, Fadli, Larry, Eric, Tze Han, Jimmy Ng, John Wong .... and of course, not forgetting Dato Tan. His looming figure continues to cast a huge shadow over the whole of the Malaysia Chess Festival.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Hash runs at BM Hill

Just some of the paper trails left behind by hares on the track up the Bukit Mertajam hill in Ceruk To'kun. I've been collecting all the different designs. Luckily, they are all biodegradable or otherwise, there'd be a whole lot of rubbish on the hill. These runs are organised by enthusiasts from as far as Butterworth, Kulim, Lunas and Baling.

A small step for (a) man

Anniversaries seem to be taking up some of my time lately, what with the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and the 50th anniversary of the Time Out album. Here's another one and I know that I am 40 days late in writing something about it. Had meant to do it earlier BUT was distracted by other things. Anyway, here is my take on the 40th anniversary commemoration of the Apollo 11 moonlanding. I never got to see it happen live. If I remember correctly, I had to buy a cinema ticket to see a documentary on this historic event. Well, the Moon Goddess and the Rabbit-On-The-Moon never seemed the same again after Armstrong and Aldrin kicked dust on the moon way back on 20 July 1969.

And here is a picture of Edwin Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong with United States president Obama who praised the trio for their "heroism, calm under pressure" and "grace." Possibly, this could be the last time we'll ever see the three of them together again.

"I think that all of us recall the moment in which mankind finally was untethered from this planet and was able to explore the stars, when one of our own step on the moon and leave that imprint that is there to this day," the president said. "As a boy living in Hawaii, I would perch on my grandfather's shoulders and watch the space capsules land in the Pacific Ocean. We'd go out and pretend like they could see us as we were waving at folks coming home," he said. "They inspired an entire generation of scientists and engineers."

Finally, this was the publicity shot from 1969. People never knew whether they could make it back home to earth alive. According to Collins, he considered their chances at 50-50 only. So it was a great risk they took and they came away as heroes, perhaps the greatest heroes in the history of civilisation.

And where was I when all this happened? In school, of course! Listening to the historic moon walk live over the public address system during Physics class.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Pteropus vampyrus, Malaysian flying fox, koay chee bah

When I was a young kid, my father would occasionally bring back a great big dead animal that looked like a fox with wings. The koay chee bah, he would tell me and it came from some friends who had returned from a hunting trip in the jungle. Then my mother would go to work at it to rip the skin off the animal, clean it of the entrails and plonk it into a pot to be double boiled with some herbs until the soup turned dark. Supposedly a very nourishing soup for the body, according to her.

Well, the koay chee bah or the Malaysian Flying Fox is reportedly tottering on the endangered list. This is an excerpt from a report from the BBC online.

Scientists are urging the government of Malaysia to ban the hunting of the world's largest fruit bat.

Researchers say the large flying fox will be wiped out on the Malaysian peninsula if the current unsustainable level of hunting continues.

Writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology they say around 22,000 of the animals are legally hunted each year and more killed illegally.

They say the species could be extinct there by as early as 2015.

Lead author, Dr Jonathan Epstein of Wildlife Trust, told BBC News: "They eat fruit and nectar and in doing so they drop seeds around and pollinate trees. So they are critical to the propagation of rainforest plants."

The most optimistic estimates put the population of flying foxes in peninsular Malaysia at 500,000.

The animals are hunted for food, medicine and sport. Shooting takes place at dusk as the bats set out to forage overnight.

The researchers say their population models suggest that if current hunting rates continue it will take between six and 81 years for the species to be hunted to extinction.

Flying foxes, or Pteropus vampyrus, are protected in neighbouring Thailand but hunting is allowed in Malaysia and parts of Indonesia.

Wedding dinner date during Hungry Ghost month

One of my relatives came around to my house recently to deliver an invitation card to their son's wedding. We are happy for you and we'll be there at the tea ceremony and wedding dinner, we told them.

"Eh, by the way, when is it?" I asked. Custom dictated that it would be too impolite of us to rip open the invitation card on the spot to look at the details. So we asked.

"Ninth of September," they replied. "Ninth of September?" I asked, just to make sure that I'd heard correctly. "Yes, ninth of September," they echoed.

The reason I'm relating all these is because 9 Sep 2009 lies smack within the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar which starts on Thursday. That's the month of the hungry ghosts, the month when the gates of hell are thrown open to let the ghosts roam the earth.

Under normal circumstances, the Chinese do not wish to hold any celebration during this month. In particular, they'll avoid marriages and all services related to the tying of the knot. It's a case of "just in case". Just in case, that is, their luck is no good and they are affected by the bad vibes.

"Aiyah," my relative said, "I leave it to those young people, lah. They plan everything without letting us know. We can only go along with them. They were registered two years ago on 7 July 2007 and now they want their dinner on 9 Sep 2009. It's up to them...."

Friday, 28 August 2009

Malaysia's newest chess international master

I congratulate Mok Tze Meng, Malaysia's latest chess player to achieve the International Master title. He got his third norm from the IGB Arthur Tan Malaysia open chess tournament which ends today at the CitiTel MidValley Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. He was beyond words, preferring to shake my hands and grinning from ear-to-ear.

He got his first international master norm at the Penang masters tournament in 2000 and his second norm at the Manila SEA Games in 2005. Now, all that is required of him is to raise his Fide rating to above 2400 points and the title should be his.

I was talking to Dato Tan Chin Nam earlier and he mentioned that Mok will get his RM5,000 reward for his title achievement. He had been promising this reward to Malaysians who could achieve the international master title since 1974 and he said that he would still give it to the next three Malaysians. And after that, the reward will end. In the meantime, the reward of RM30,000 for a local grandmaster is still up for grabs.

UPDATES later....

Anyone with info on Filipino organist Amormio Cillan Jr?

In the early 1970s, one of the most popular entertainers in South-East Asia was the Filipino organist, Amormio Cillan Jr. He came out with several albums in which he played the Yamaha E3 organ, reputedly the latest and most expensive at that time. I've been searching the Internet for more information on Cillan's background but nothing concrete turned up except for lists of his old records and people still selling them. Maybe one day, some Filipino will write a tribute to him. He's really that good on the organ!

Side 1: Vaya Con Dios, Besame Mucho, Solamente Una Vez (You Belong To My Heart), Historia De Un Amor, Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White, Maria Elena
Side 2: Quizas Quizas Quizas, El Mar El Cielo Y Tu, Amor Amor Amor, Anniversary Song, South Of The Border, Adios

Side 1: Little Brown Gal, My Little Grass Shack, Moonlight Bay, Hawaiian War Chant, Blue Hawaii, Sweet Leilani
Side 2: Hawaiian Wedding Song, Pearly Shells, Beyond The Reef, Lovely Hula Hands, The Moon Of Manakoora, To You Sweetheart

Side 1: Proud Mary, My Life Is A Lonely One, La Paloma, Que Sera Sera, Yummy Yummy Yummy/Mony Mony, Hernando's Hideaway
Side 2: Help Yourself, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Roman Guitar, Mrs Robinson, Ting-A-Ling, Cuando Caliente El Sol

Giraffe gaffe

Uhh....I couldn't believe my eyes when I read this report in The Malaysian Insider last Tuesday. The story was about this Lego model of a giraffe which stands in front of the Legoland Discovery Centre on Potsdamer Platz, Berlin.

Repeatedly, it seems, people have been taking off with its, er, 30cm-long Lego penis. According to a spokesperson for the centre, the appendage is a popular souvenir. “It’s been stolen four times now," she admitted.

The report ended by saying that "the penis is made out of 15,000 Lego bricks. It takes model workers about one week to restore the long-necked animal’s manhood at a cost of €3,000 (about RM15,000)." The centre is now erecting a metal construction to protect the giraffe’s genitalia.

Initially, I thought that this story was already be good for a laugh but then I came across an update to this story. Reuters had misinterpreted or mistranslated their story from the original German version. Apparently, this giraffe does not have a giraffehood worth stealing. What people were removing was its 30cm-long tail.

The corrected news story from Reuters:
09:23 25Aug09 RTRS-CORRECTED-German Lego giraffe tail repeatedly stolen
(Correcting to ‘tail’ from ‘penis’)

BERLIN, Aug 25 (Reuters) – Visitors to a tourist attraction in Berlin have been making off with an unusual memento — the 30 cm long tail of a Lego giraffe.

The Lego tail belongs to a six metre tall model that has stood outside the entrance to the Legoland Discovery Centre on Potsdamer Platz since 2007.

"It’s a popular souvenir," a spokeswoman for the centre said on Tuesday. "It’s been stolen four times now …"

The tail is made out of 15,000 Lego bricks. It takes model workers about one week to restore it at a cost of 3,000 euros ($4,300), the spokeswoman said.
Despite the correction, The Malaysian Insider has not updated its story. Never mind, this online newspaper is in good company. Other online resources have also not pulled out its original story on the giraffe's penis.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Permatang Pasir Phantom Police Phestival

There's always the Hungry Ghost festival that some of us Chinese get immersed into every year. Not me nor anyone in my immediate family. We don't go out to pray to the God of Hades who orders the Gates of Hell thrown open every seventh month of the Chinese calendar. But to be on the safe side - there's never a better time for us to be careful - we don't go around and do reckless things after dark. After all, we don't want to bump into unknown things in the dark. No, no....better be safe than sorry.

This year, the Hungry Ghost festival runs for 30 days from 20 Aug until 18 Sep. I do note that Bukit Mertajam people can be very religious and superstitious, and the 24-foot effigy of the God of Hades at the Tua Pek Kong temple in the middle of the old town is among the biggest, most hideous and most ferocious in the country. As usual, the bigger the better, the more hideous the better and the more ferocious the better for all believers and worshippers. That's Malaysiana for us.

Talking about the Hungry Ghost festival, a mysterious festival passed us by here in Penang almost unnoticed: the Permatang Pasir Phantom Police Phestival. Yes, this mini-festival was celebrated for only nine days from 17 Aug until 25 Aug exclusively by the people of Permatang Pasir and was joined in by their relatives, friends and curious visitors. But it was enough.

It was as if another type of gate had opened up. No, not the Gates of Hell. Yes, the floodgate of Permatang Pasir. Suddenly, there was this great, big deluge of men in white uniforms raining down on us. Even on the sidelines of Permatang Pasir we were greatly affected and inconvenienced. On the radio, the Weather Girls' song, It's Raining (Police)Men was blaring at us unceasingly. Couldn't turn down the volume or even change stations. Every time I had to drive through Bukit Mertajam, there'd be them standing bored at road junctions, looking silly in their face masks.

Then suddenly, as if the gates had closed, they disappeared! Gone like the wind, gone like the phantom voters that never were here. Whoosh! Gone! When I drove to work yesterday, not one white-clothed policeman was in sight anywhere between the Bukit Mertajam traffic police station and the Bukit Tengah roundabout. I was disappointed. Even my regular traffic policeman who would be stationed at the roundabout to direct traffic during the morning peak hours was gone.

I guess that's why I have to call this festival the Permatang Pasir Phantom Police Phestival. It's mysterious, all right....

Arithmetic 101

It's time for a short lesson in arithmetic. Nothing sophisticated. A simple eight-digit electronic calculator with the basic functions will be good enough. Quick: what is 11004 divided by 16803, and what is 9618 divided by 14832? It looks to me that our top politicians in Putrajaya had flunked badly in their arithmetic while in school, going by the way they interpreted the results of the Permatang Pasir by-elections. Let me elaborate.

During the General Elections in 2008, the key voting details for the Permatang Pasir state constituency in Penang were:
PAS candidate: 11,004 votes (65.5 percent)
UMNO candidate: 5,571 votes (33.2 percent)
Majority: 5,433 votes
Total turnout: 16803 voters
Total registered voters: 20,350
Percentage voted: 82.6 percent
In the recent Permatang Pasir by-election, the equivalent key voting details were:
PAS candidate: 9,618 votes (64.8 percent)
UMNO candidate: 5,067 votes (34.2 percent)
Majority: 4,551 votes
Total turnout: 14,832 voters
Total registered voters: 20,350
Percentage voted: 72.9 percent
In 2008, PAS routed UMNO by 65.5 percent with a turnout of 16,803 voters. One year later in 2009, PAS still routed UMNO by 64.8 percent with a reduced voter turnout of 14,832, most probably because some outstation voters could not return to cast their votes. However, any competent school child would be able to make the above calculations too. In my opinion, there was little change in the voting pattern. PAS still retained a huge advantage over UMNO. A wide chasm, in fact. The difference, percentage-wise, was very small and may be considered as statistically insignificant.

So what was Najib Abdul Razak trying to prove when he said that "in terms of majority votes, we have reduced it"? I felt so incredulous when I read it. More likely, he has nothing else to say because I want to know whether he actually believed when he said. Was his arithmetic really that bad? If it was, then he has no business to continue heading the country's Finance Ministry.

How could Najib say that his party had effectively reduced the majority margin? It's incomprehensible. Of course, the absolute number (the majority margin) would go down because there were less voters this time. It works both ways. If there had been more voters in the by-election, the majority margin would have increased correspondingly. It's only logical but then, I've already accepted that UMNO's mind is illogical. Is this the moral victory that they were eyeing and now crowing? Only an uneducated simpleton would believe him. Stupid fella.

No wonder that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had so derisively dismissed this flawed thinking at a press conference yesterday. Here's the excerpt from The Star:

... Lim refuted claims by certain Umno leaders that the majority of votes had been reduced by 900 votes. He said Mohd Salleh still managed to obtain 65% of votes, a similar percentage obtained by the late Datuk Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman in the 2008 general election based on voters’ turnout.

“The voters’ turnout this time was only 73.1%, which was lower than the 82.57% last year. But still, Mohd Salleh managed to receive 65% of the votes or 9,618 based on the voters’ turnout. To say that the majority was reduced was actually an act of deceiving oneself or the Barisan people were still living in a state of denial and refused to accept the defeat in a graceful manner. Even year six students can do the calculation,” he said.

Excuse me ....

...while I take a break.

Today's the day that I leave for Kuala Lumpur to visit the Malaysia Chess Festival. Every year, I have a long-standing invitation to the Malaysia Chess Festival but I pay for it through my chess articles in the lovely tournament booklet. And this year, it'll include some of my photos of the Dato Arthur Tan Chess Centre at the Wilayah Complex.

Anyway, the Malaysia Chess Festival started last Saturday with the sixth IGB Arthur Tan Malaysia open chess tournament and the AmBank chess challenge, and will continue with the ASTRO Merdeka rapid chess open tournament. In KL, I'll be watching the tail-end of the Malaysia open and the start of the Merdeka rapid chess, plus accepting some invitations for makan-makan from friends and old colleagues.

So I'll be off-line for a few days with no Internet access at the CitiTel MidValley....not because there's no access there but because I'm not going to lug along my Apple MacBook. Nevertheless, I shall be leaving my readers with a few pre-blogged posts to fill in my absence. I hope nobody will be the wiser for it.....(but fat chance, indeed).

Oh yes, a most appropriate four-line verse taken from the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, Persian poet and philisopher, that best describes my activities in the next few days:

'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
-- Stanza XLIX, Rubaiyat, Omar Khaiyyam --
(Edward Fitzgerald translation)

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Edward Kennedy

Veteran US Senator Edward Kennedy, the brother of ex-President John F Kennedy, has died after battling a brain tumour. He became a member of the Senate in 1962 to replace his brother when he resigned to become president, and was re-elected seven times.

Edward Kennedy, 77, was the only one of four brothers to die a natural death. His eldest brother Joseph was killed in an air crash in World War II, and both President John F Kennedy and presidential hopeful Robert F Kennedy were assassinated.

He was widely expected to be the next Kennedy in the White House but he was never able to fully overcome the scandal in 1969 when he drove a car off a bridge at Chappaquiddick near his home, killing his female passenger. The incident derailed his only presidential bid, more than a decade later.

BIG question over RON 95 on old Proton cars

Seems that many petrol stations are now selling the RON 95 petrol ahead of the 1 Sep 2009 deadline. I know that my Avanza can run on this petrol because I've even run around Penang on RON 92 in the past. But my Proton Iswara? There are tens of thousands of old carburetor-fitted Proton cars on the roads but I don't see the manufacturer reassuring Proton car owners on their ability to use this fuel.

Tail between their legs

These quotes are taken from The Malaysian Insider:
“I am saddened by the fact that the Chinese community here have failed to fulfill their vows of support. They have failed to understand the concept of development that BN is trying to bring to the people of Permatang Pasir,” said Rohaizat.
I am saddened by the fact that Rohaizat was blind to his reputation having been shot to pieces and people just couldn't believe in Penang's Opposition any more. Concept of development? He meant UMNO style, of course!
BN deputy chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yasin also thought that, in terms of Malay support, their voting pattern remained the same but claimed the ruling coalition had made slight gains.
Made slight gains? There, what did I tell you? Not in exactly the same words but I'd like to interpret this as Muhyiddin claiming a moral victory whereas his party had actually lost at the ballot box. Geez, they don't learn well!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

PAS' Permatang Pasir

Listen, people, I can now almost hear the UMNO gang claiming a moral victory in this Permatang Pasir by-election because they managed to reduce the margin of the PAS majority by more than one vote! Duh...!

This, below, is from Twitter:

Permatang Pasir puzzle

As we wait eagerly for the results of the Permatang Pasir by-election to come in tonight, it strikes me that a by-election gives us the best chance to understand the local geography and the delineation of the political constituency.

For instance, if not for Permatang Pasir, I would not have understood that for a short distance, Jalan Muthu Palaniappan in Bukit Mertajam is actually the southern boundary of this state constituency. I've been travelling along this main road almost daily for more than four years and did not realise it until I saw the flags, banners and buntings of the political parties strewn across the road. So here I was, skirting the edge of Permatang Pasir.

No wonder that there is such a heavy police presence here during the past week. Burly policemen and scrawny policemen on their big motorcycles or standing at road junctions and trying not to look silly with their face masks. I'm sure they are bored most of the time, standing around and doing nothing. There were also some who thought that they could do something useful by directing traffic. Stupid fellas....methinks they actually contributed more to traffic congestion than helping out.

No wonder too that this state constituency had a considerable non-Malay population. Originally, I had believed that Permatang Pasir was almost a rural area but now, seeing how the constituency physically cuts into urbanised Bukit Mertajam, I can understand why the demographic make-up of this place is 72 percent Malays, 25.7 percent Chinese, 1.2 percent Indians and 0.2 percent Others.

How will the results turn out tonight? Personally, I think PAS will still win this constituency but with a smaller majority. In 2004, the Chinese looked like they voted for BN but in 2008, they chose PAS. I think in this by-election, the majority of the Chinese will still side with PAS. So the real big fight will still be between PAS and UMNO to win the Malay votes. However, seeing how UMNO had wounded itself with its choice of tainted candidate, I cannot see PAS losing unless the voters had been lured by UMNO's promises of development in their little kawasans. But then, this is all my silly prediction as I really do not know the political temperature on the ground.

On Sunday, I took a short trip into the Chinese area of Permatang Pasir. Kampung Paya, I think this place is called. Or it could be Tanah Liat. Anyway, I took this short cut from Jalan Muthu Palaniappan to Berapit, by-passing the traffic in Bukit Mertajam town, and the road took me across some vegetable smallholdings and one or two sawmills. The place is incongruously more rural compared to the bustle from Bukit Mertajam, which was a stone's throw away.

One clear sign was the amount of money poured into the political campaign. The UMNO money machine was very well greased: big banners, buntings and billboards. I couldn't miss the message: "see how rich we are and how rich you can be if you vote Barisan."

By comparison, the PAS campaign looked modest with their unity theme, and their banners were much simpler, sincere and less sophisticated.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Mosquitoes alert!

This is the size of mosquitoes nowadays. I'm surprised. It was one of the biggest that I've seen around here. Luckily, I got to the bugger before it got to me!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

We will make love

Don't be misled by the title of this post. It's nothing obscene. It's just the title of a very innocent song that was very popular way back in the late 1950s.

It brings back real sentimentality. I'm thinking back to the days of my father when he first bought records to play on our radiogram. The radiogram was the rage in those days...the late 1950s to the early 1960s...and they would comprise a radio plus a turntable. Ours was a cubical sort of radiogram and the top opened up to unveil a Garrard turntable capable of playing various speeds of records, i.e. 16rpm, 22rpm, 45rpm and 78rpm.

I was going through the collection of seven-inch 45rpm records he left behind. Of course, they are now mingled with my own collection, but his collection really represented the music of his time, simple music and simple tunes and singers singing songs of love. I pulled out three of these seven-inch records. They were by Russ Hamilton, a Liverpudlian singer-songwriter who, for a brief moment in time, had big hits on both sides of the Atlantic. Those were the pre-Beatles days.

I don't mind saying that I did enjoy Russ Hamilton's songs too. I still do and that was the reason why unhesitatingly, I had bought a rare compact disc of Hamilton's songs in Singapore many, many years ago. I've also a copy of his songs on a very rare 12-inch record. Actually, this was a recent acquisition. Cost me only RM18 and yes, it contained most of Hamilton's hit songs.

Hamilton (his real name was Ronald Hulme) died in October last year, almost unnoticed by his fans and the music industry save for two obituaries that appeared in the Liverpool Daily Post and The Independent newspapers. Ironically, despite having a Top 10 record in Britain and America he made very little money. He offered young musicians this advice: "Never give anyone your power of attorney."

I saw this mentioned in someone's MySpace: "Being young & naive to a career & how it is handled, Russ became another victim of "bad" management & greedy song publishers due to the fact that he could write his own songs. Like many of his contemporaries back then, Russ' career generated millions of dollars but saw little of it & then was cast to the side to be forgotten."

Side 1: Rainbows, I Don't Know Why I Just Do, My Mother's Eyes, I Still Belong To You, Am I Wasting My Time, Drifting And Dreaming
Side 2: We Will Make Love, Little One, I Had A Dream, I'm In Love With Two Sweethearts, Wedding Ring, Till We Meet Again

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Does Obama play chess?

This painting which depicts an upside down American President Barack Obama with a chess board is on display this week at the India Art Summit in New Delhi, India. The summit consists of 54 top galleries from around the world.

Daylight robbery

One of my friends in the blogging community wrote indignantly a few days ago that shopping malls in the Klang Valley that allow Touch 'n' Go cards to be used for parking payment are collecting an additional 10 percent on top of the parking fees. I don't know whether this is also applicable in Penang or elsewhere, but I feel that the principle is wrong.

On one hand, we are all moving more into the paperless society and all governments are encouraging this, but on the other hand, there are sectors of society who see an opportunity -- an excuse -- to raise their charges. It's all wrong and consumers must resist this blatant attempt at daylight robbery.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Chess patriarch speaks out

My exclusive interview with Dato' Tan Chin Nam has appeared in the Lifestyle pages of StarTwo today, coinciding with the start of the sixth IGB Arthur Tan memorial Malaysia open chess championship at the CitiTel MidValley ballroom in Kuala Lumpur. Here is the story as it appeared online. I had recommended "Chess patriarch speaks out" as the title but the newspaper had other ideas. Also, the use of Datuk instead of Dato' is a house rule adopted by them:

IT’S been nine months since I last met Datuk Tan Chin Nam in Penang. That Sunday in November, he was still basking in the glory of winning the 2008 Melbourne Cup in Australia. It was an unprecedented and historical win for him: the only horse owner ever to win that coveted cup four times.

Prior to the Malaysia Chess Festival starting tomorrow, I sat down with him again and this time, it was at his office at Menara Tan&Tan in Kuala Lumpur. This time, instead of horses, he turned his attention to the other interest in his life, which is chess.

This game of kings has taken up much of his free time, effort, and money since 1974. In that year, he was elected president of the Malaysian Chess Federation. But despite stepping down in 1986, he could never get chess out of his life. He remains the main engine behind chess in this country. It is estimated that in the past 35 years, he has poured at least RM10mil into the game.

“People remarked that I am stupid to put so much of my money into chess when I cannot see the return from there,” he remarked. “They say that if I had invested this sum and the time I’ve spent on chess into my business, I would have earned back my capital many times over. Am I stupid? Of course, I’m stupid!”

Then, as he leaned forward as if to confide in me, Tan boomed: “But you know what? It’s not all about money. I did it because of personal joy. I enjoy chess just like I enjoy horse racing. But I’ve already achieved the peak in horses.

Grand plans: ‘I am embarking on the Malaysia chess project to take the Malaysian chess culture to a higher plane,’ says Datuk Tan Chin Nam.

“In chess, there’s still much to do and I like to see other people enjoy the game and succeed in the game. There’s the joy of watching a young child of seven or eight beaming when he succeeds. I think that chess is valuable to the community as an intellectual sport endeavour. It’s incomparable.”

Want to read the rest of the interview? Click here which will take you to my other blog, It's All In The Planning!

(UPDATE) Mmm...that's fast. It's only 10.45am here in Malaysia and halfway across the globe, I see Susan Polgar had already picked up the story for her widely-read blog.

Who's Susan Polgar, you may ask? Here's the entry on her in the Wikipedia:
Susan Polgar (born April 19, 1969, as Polgár Zsuzsanna and often known as Zsuzsa Polgár) is a Hungarian-born American chess player. She is also a chess writer and promoter and the head of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech University. She was stripped of her membership in the United States Chess Federation on August 7, 2009, and thereby lost her seat on its Executive Board.

On the July 1984 FIDE Rating List, at age 15, she was the top-ranked woman player in the world. She was the first woman to earn the title of Grandmaster in regular competition. She was the Women's World Chess Champion from 1996 to 1999. In October 2005 Polgar had an Elo rating of 2577, making her the second-ranked woman in the world at the time, after her sister Judit Polgár. She has been inactive and has not played in official competition since 2004.

She was born and brought up in Budapest, Hungary, and now lives in Lubbock, Texas, having recently moved from Forest Hills, Queens in New York City, where she ran the Polgar Chess Center and the Susan Polgar Foundation, which gives chess training to children, especially girls.

What ulterior motive? It was only F.A.C.T.S.

I saw this item posted on the Bar Council website: a refutation of Muhyiddin Yassin's sly accusation two days ago that the Bar Council had an ulterior motive in issuing a statement on the status of the UMNO candidate in the Permatang Pasir by-election.
"The Bar Council is a statutory body established under the Legal Profession Act 1976 (LPA) “for the proper management of the affairs of the Malaysian Bar and for the proper performance of its functions”. It is responsible for all matters pertaining to the admission and regulation of advocates and solicitors in Peninsular Malaysia.

The Bar Council issued its press release entitled “Clarification regarding Rohaizat Othman” on 18 August 2009 in response to media inquiries on the matter. We regret the statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, implying that the Bar Council had an ulterior motive in raising this issue.

The decision to strike Rohaizat Othman off the Roll of Advocates and Solicitors was made by the Disciplinary Board, an independent body established under Section 93 of the LPA. Members of the Disciplinary Board, which is currently chaired by Tan Sri Khalid Ahmad bin Sulaiman, are appointed by the Chief Judge of Malaya after consultation with the Bar Council."
The original controversy here and then here.

By-election circus continues to entertain first reaction: yet another by-election in the works? This time, in Kedah?

What's happening is that Kedah state assembly Speaker Dr Abdul Isa Ismail wants a by-election for the Kota Siputeh state seat which he has deemed vacant because the incumbent assemblyman has contravened Article 51 of the Kedah state constitution.

This Article states that if any member of the State Legislative Assembly is absent from the assembly without leave of the Speaker for two consecutive meetings, his seat shall become vacant. The assemblyman, Abu Hassan Sarif, was absent from the assembly sitting twice in a row on April 9 and Aug 9.

However, Abu Hassan claimed that he was unwell and had been advised to rest for two days on Aug 9 and 10, and had the medical chit to prove it. Not quite, counter-claimed Abdul Isa. The medical chit was only faxed to him on Aug 12. "The state assembly sat on Aug 9. He could have contacted me or the state executive council's office but he only sent an SMS to the opposition leader."

So he wrote to the state Election Commission (EC) to inform that the seat was vacant. "I wrote to the Kedah EC to inform them about the matter which was then referred to the EC chairman in Putrajaya," Abdul Isa said.

Well, how do I think this issue will be played out? Will the EC declare the seat vacant? We've to remember that now, the omnipotent EC has a lot of discretion in deciding the matter. Just see what happened in Perak at the beginning of the year when the EC refused to recognise the need for by-elections. It plunged the state into a constitutional crisis that's yet to be resolved.

It can jolly well happen again in Kedah, especially if the EC takes the open hint from Muhyiddin Yassin who said on Wednesday, “I’m convinced that based on the facts presented by the assemblyman, he was absent not because he deliberately did not want to attend. So, if the EC can consider this fact, the seat need not be declared vacant.” Yes, that's the same guy that said there was no controversy over their choice of candidate for the Permatang Pasir by-election.

Aiyah....say what you like, lah.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Pissed and insulted?

Oh, no. Definitely not. It's not my station to "advise" the Bar Council on matters that involve them. But if I were in their shoes, I would feel pretty pissed and insulted over the whole issue.

It's not many occasions that someone can derisively dismiss a fine imposed by the Bar Council on one of their disbarred members as a "parking ticket". That's not giving proper recognition to a professional body that's representative of its own profession and imposing its own internal regulations to maintain its members' professionalism. If a High Court judge had also upheld the right of the Bar Council to impose this fine, who is Muhyiddin Yassin to say otherwise?

Of course, this is not to say that lawyers themselves are not above making other people feel small, stupid and insignificant. Nobody beats them at their own game. It's what they are trained to do, anyway. But geez....Muhyiddin himself may be a closet lawyer in his spare time that I don't know of, and his comment just lowered his own personal status to be at par with that blardy pompous lawyer who termed the Penang Chief Minister's representatives as "office boys" during the infamous Kampung Buah Pala incident. I know that had hurt, so I should think that the Bar Council should feel equally offended as well. Do I hear a riposte from them in the works?

Amazing, this product has no expiry date, no shelf life!

Thrilling news for the Indian community in Malaysia! This blardy fella says he wants to party on until 2015.

Isn't it exciting? We'll get to see more of his ridiculous head of hair. I do remember the time when he was thinning on the upstairs and then....he had a miraculous make-over that turned his scalp around. Late 1980s or early 1990s, I think it was. Pity that his old photos cannot be unearthed from any where.

Wait....while he's gunning for 2015, why not postpone it altogether and become president for life?? I'm sure the Indians here will love it! Way to go, dei, we're rooting for you to unite the Indians together again no matter how long it takes!

Torture seats

When my wife and I flew AirAsia X to the Gold Coast in not-so-sunny Queensland in Nov 2007, it was just four days after the innovative, low-budget, long haul airline had made its inaugural flight there. Then, the airline had no aircraft to call it own and had to lease a plane from a nameless, full service carrier from somewhere for their service.

I had recalled commenting to my wife that the seats were not bad: they were configured eight to a row (2-4-2 configuration), wide enough and had enough length (pitch) for us to stretch our legs comfortably during the eight-hour flights. But despite the TV console at the back of every seat, there weren't any entertainment. Luckily, I had my trusty minidisc player and a Sudoku book which was quickly filled up to kill the boredom of the journey.

By now, AirAsia X has already taken delivery of its own planes. They are flying everywhere -- Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth, Taipei, Hanzhou, Tianjin, London and now Abu Dhabi -- at a fraction of what normal, full service airlines charge. But AirAsia X's low prices come at a cost to the traveller. An uncomfortable cost. The airline has compromised the seat arrangements to squeeze the most mileage from the plane's real estate (it's now nine in a row, a 2-5-2 configuration). What this means, according to what I've been reading, is that a) the seats are now narrower, b) the seat pitch is now shorter and c) the seats cannot recline at all. In short, AirAsia X is attempting to pack as many passengers as possible into their planes and squeeze the most profit from people who are being packed like sardines. Some people uncomplimentarily call it "cattle" class. This can be a very rude surprise to unsuspecting travellers.

Of course, not having the chance to fly AirAsia X again means that I cannot verify their seats for myself. Not that I want to put myself under torture for the experience. However, a simple Google search can uncover many of the comments and complaints about the low-budget carrier's seats.

Fortunately, one of my old chess kaki's suddenly emerged to email me that he had returned recently from Taipei by AirAsia X. He was blogging about his experience and he wrote (with obvious tongue in cheek):
The Taipei International Airport is a marvelous place to be at even when having to wait a couple of hours to catch an flight back home to KL. For a mere USD 150 or return so I was flying AirAsia X on an ultra modern Airbus (as you can see below, plenty of leg room too).
Plenty of legroom, he said. I would have believed him if not for the photos that accompanied his post. Yes, he took a photo of his seat and from what I can see, it was really bad. I wonder how people can stand being cooped up in this seat for hours during long-haul flights. You cannot stretch your legs, you've got to sit upright, your knees almost touching the back of the seat in front of you and you can't even turn left or right. I told my wife that unless AirAsia X replaces their seats with better width and pitch, nobody's going to catch me flying with them in the foreseeable future. For a few hundred ringgits more, I will choose the more spacious and comfortable normal fare carriers!

To be fair, I should also add that all budget airlines generally fail to provide comfort to their passengers. I've heard that the seats on JetStar are equally bad. At least, the seats on AirAsia's regional flights can be reclined very slightly. Not much but still reclinable. Not so JetStar's. They are all upright. So don't think that low budget travel is a boon. Maybe it is so for those in their 20s or 30s. But once you pass that magical age of 50, you like some comfort to go wih your holidays. In my opinion, being herded like cattle is not a creature comfort. It's likely to do more harm to my health than the relaxation that holidays are supposed to give.

(Oh yes, I'm still travelling Air Asia on the short haul between Penang and the KLIA LCCT. For that one-hour flight, I can endure the slight seat reclination. Still bearable.)

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Devious and dubious

Now I know that the main job of politician-lawyers or lawyer-politicians is to make other people look stupid, simple or incompetent. Just follow the exchanges between Jagdeep Singh and RTM cameraman Adial Singh at the sedition trial of Karpal Singh on Tuesday, as reported by The Malaysian Insider:
During cross-examination, Jagdeep asked if the cameraman had any academic qualification.
Adial: SPM
Jagdeep: When was your camera, Panasonic 102B, bought?
Adial: Two years ago

The defence began grilling the cameraman and suggested that he did not have the professional qualification to certify whether the camera was functioning.
Adial: The camera is in good condition because there was no problem when I used it before and after the press conference.
Jagdeep: You agreed that you don’t have the professional qualification. You cannot say that the device is not working 100 per cent. Don’t you agree that you are not competent?
Adial: I can say yes because the camera has not given me problems until today.

The defence counsel asked the cameraman if he is able to repair the camera.
Adial: If there is a problem, the camera will give me a signal at the view finder.
But you do not have the professional qualification to ascertain whether or not the camera is in a proper working condition. Do you agree?
Adial: Yes
Jagdeep: So I suggest that you cannot be sure if the camera is in a proper functional state?
Adial: No, I don’t agree. I can say that my camera is in good condition.
I think it is all so absurd. It doesn't take a degree holder to handle a camera or know when it malfunctions. My wife can handle my camera and she's already happy enough if the picture turns out okay. I tell her to tweedle the buttons and she tweedles the buttons until the image on the small screen turns out right for her. It's not rocket science. Do you need to be a mechanic to be able to drive a car? Do you need to be a computer repairman to be able to use a laptop? In my opinion, it's all a rather devious line of questioning.

Very small milestone: my 50,000th visitor

I just noticed that this blog quietly zipped past its 50,000th visit this morning at about 5.34am. Someone logging in from St Louis, Missouri, was reading my piece on Rolf Harris. Sorry, no fanfare or celebration to share. It's just another day.....

Typically Penang

It rained at dawn in Penang yesterday morning and it had stopped by the time I left the house to go to work. Nevertheless, the roads were wet and the proverbial queue at the Penang Bridge, right after the toll stations, were already building up. Oh well....

What I couldn't stand are sights like this: someone smoking in his car and then sticking his hand outside the window to flick away the ashes. True to form, the cigarette butt also went the way of the ashes...through the window.

On my way back yesterday, I saw that workers were still trying to dismantle the vertical beams from the mid-span towers of the Penang Bridge. They are certainly taking their own sweet time, either because they are trying to prolong their stay on the bridge or they take pleasure from causing pain to the bridge commuters.

And finally, my traffic woes did not stop when I reached Bayan Baru through the bumpy, haphazardly, patched up coastal road (I still wouldn't call it a "highway"). Just because of the spot of rain in the early morning, there were traffic jams all way. This, by the way, led to the roundabout.

Face masks: do you feel adequately protected?

These policemen who were stationed near the nomination centre of the Permatang Pasir by-elections seemed to be scared of an invisible foe, the influenza A(H1N1) virus. Hence, the face masks. In fact, they were all donning the face masks. Every policeman I came across on the mainland yesterday, while on my way to work, were all covered up.

At the nomination centre, both politicians and supporters alike were also sported with face masks, like these chaps who thought they were killing two birds with one stone. However, they don't realise that their face masks are doing more harm to their health than to protect them from the flu virus. My wife took just one look at this photo in The Star and she asked me immediately why these idiots were breathing in the toxins from the ink. Idiots, from an apolitical point of view. Score one point for female logic.

By the way, I was at a clinic yesterday and I saw a few chaps in the waiting room with masks over their faces. Me, I hadn't a mask. Every time I looked around the room, it made me feel more and more uncomfortable. I was feeling rather inadequately protected until it was my turn to see the doctor. To my surprise, he was unmasked. So I asked him: "Shouldn't you be wearing a mask?" "No," he replied, "there's no need to. The people who should be wearing masks are those who are sick." he correct or only half-correct? If masks are supposed to keep the flu virus in, can't they keep the virus out to?

Pathetic denial

Muhyiddin Yassin keeps denying that there is controversy over their choice of Rohaizat Othman as the UMNO candidate in the Permatang Pasir by-election. “There is no controversy. Only the Opposition (sic) wants to create the controversy. We have done our homework. We checked and as far as the law is concerned, he is clear."

Poor guy, he is clearly deluded. And still in deep denial. He still thinks that UMNO is the government in Penang. He needs to wake up. Muhyiddin, let's keep one thing very straight: YOU are the Opposition in Penang, not the Pakatan Rakyat state government!

At the same time, it's interesting to read the Bar Council's statement yesterday on the same matter. According to The Malaysian Insider:
The Bar Council has confirmed that Barisan Nasional’s (BN) candidate for the Permatang Pasir by-election, Rohaizat Othman, was found guilty of misconduct last year and struck off the rolls

In a statement today, Bar Council secretary George Varughese said the Advocates and Solicitors Displinary Board disbarred Rohaizat on March 7, 2008.

“The Disciplinary Board’s decision arose from an investigation into the complaint lodged against Rohaizat Othman by the purchaser of a piece of real property. According to the complaint, Rohaizat Othman failed to refund almost RM 161,000 to the complainant after the transaction was aborted,” said Varughese. He said Rohaizat had also appealed to the High Court against the decision of the disciplinary board. The appeal was dismissed by the High Court last Wednesday. Varughese added that the finding of misconduct was personal to Rohaizat as the disciplinary board would not hold a lawyer liable for the actions of his partners.
Now I'm wondering whether they were talking about the same law!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

By-election: here we go again

Yes, the silly season has started again and no, I'm not talking football. I'm referring to the by-election upon by-election that we are destined to have in Malaysia until the next General Election comes around in about three years' time. This is already the eighth one in the country.

This time, the by-election will be in Permatang Pasir, the Penang state constituency that lies smack within the Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency. So this is a PAS stronghold. It fell vacant when the incumbent, Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman, died on 31 July 2009. Permatang Pauh itself has already seen its by-election with Anwar Ibrahim winning big, Penanti had its by-election too with UMNO fighting shy of fielding a candidate and now, Permatang Pasir is having its claim to fame, all within the same parliamentary zone. People are already wickedly asking whether Seberang Jaya will be next.

Yesterday was nomination day. The roads were busy with cops, I think most of them are imported cops, although the numbers seen on the roads looked less than earlier by-elections here. You just can't avoid them. On my way to work, there were two standing at the Perda junction along Jalan Permatang Rawa. A policeman straddling his prized motorcycle rode by and stopped at the Bukit Tengah roundabout to join another of his colleague. But blardy shit....where was the usual one that would be controlling traffic here? Not around and so, the traffic slowed down and the queue stretched until the Petronas station. Stupid. Those two rascals could at least have helped out with the traffic flow since they were there.

I read that it would be a straight fight between PAS and UMNO. An independent came trundling along but he failed to submit his nomination papers on time. It would make no difference though. I'm certain that he would lose big even if he had successfully filed his nomination papers. I don't foresee PAS losing this seat. And interestingly enough, UMNO seemed to be already throwing in the towel. They claimed that it would be a moral victory even if they managed to reduce the PAS majority on 25 Aug. Personally, they can talk all they like. Who cares? A victory is a victory, whether by one vote or 5,433 votes, but I'd like to see PAS win by at least 5,434 votes.