Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chili's vs Seoul Garden

I have nothing against Chili's itself. The food is great. They are able to carry over their excellent presentation of food (particularly their steak) from US to Penang. And, the service is great, of course with the exception that I'm gonna elaborate here.

The gang here (especially A) were appalled at the poor service provided by their manager-on-duty on Sunday, April 27, 2008, around noon. We understood that Chili's has this "no seating of incomplete party" policy, which is fair enough for peak hours, where the seats are almost fully occupied. It is not fair to other customers if those who came early reserved seats for their friends who would be hours late.

Anyway, the problem here was, at noon, the seats were empty and unoccupied. Almost 70% of them were free. So, there were 4 of us, and we were still waiting for the other 5 friends who were merely 15 minutes late. What the manager offered us was a square table for 4 at that moment. And when A asked the manager (I don't care what his name was) how about the other 5, whether we can have 9-pax table arranged first, he threw at us the known policy to shunt our request. C'mon. Does it sound like a policy of the dead? He is the manager, and he can easily bypass the policy, given the time where there is NO customers.

Now the interesting part. I was actually thinking: why not we took a 4-seater table, and when the rest came, just join 2 more 4-seater tables, so that 9 of us could eventualy be seated at the elongated table. The manager said that, we could take a table for 4. When the other 5 arrived, they will be at the awaiting list until there are empty seats. We were like "what the..." A screamed, "ISN'T THAT OBVIOUS (that there are many empty seats)?"

And interestingly, A never had such service, even when he requested the same during peak hours (7pm onwards). Putting aside "customer is always right" thingy, by knocking some sense into that manager's brain, he should know that the policy is actually flexible. Well, we just met another piece of log who would not even move even when it was kicked. At least now we know who's the most incompetitive, inconsiderate, moronic Chili's manager out there...

A has a point. He asked us how we felt. I really felt belittled. At one point of time during the argument above, I purposely said aloud, "Since this is so difficult for them, why not we go somewhere else?"

So, eventually we headed to Seoul Garden a floor down. We really had a hearty lunch - a buffet-style steamboat. [ I was a bit like ugh, another round of buffet. Click here to know why. ] We got to know a new friend. Rather, a new girlfriend (to B). We were like crazy in refilling our stock with raw marinated chicken and beef, and we were grilling it like nobody's business. We even experimented with grilling with onions, mushroom, spring onions, capsicums, and topped with SG's special sauce. Not exactly experimenting, as we had done that before. B did his banana sweet sauce again, and grilled his thick-banana-sauced beef bulgogi a.k.a. the BBB (B's Banana Beef). Tasted a bit strange, but I like food adventure - anyway, I do like banana, and I love beef.

In the end, we had too much uncooked leftover. We gotta get rid of them lest we would be charged RM5 for every 100gm of food wasted. So, B went and placed the uncooked material back to the buffet counter. Eventually, what's left is leftover cooked food that the waiter just ignored, and in minutes, our table was cleared. So, when A teased at us, particularly B (for he's known as food bin - you know what I mean lah - cannot finish food? Throw to B!), where the food has gone... That moment I felt as if God was asking Adam and Eve about the eating of the forbidden fruit, forwe got this response from B and his GF:

Anyway, we had a fun and hearty lunchtime. I think I will never go to Chili's for lunch.

Income Tax e-Filing

Just finished my obligation as a Malaysian citizen, which is to file my income tax. And, this is my first time doing something online for the government. It was so simple - a few clicks and keying in of numbers, and it posed less hassle than doing it manual. Now I felt as if a burden was lifted.

I realized that, after working of 7 years, I was now having a situation that I could not simply ignore any opportunities for tax deduction. Just for instance, I put in a conservative figure for my Medical Insurance deduction, and I left my deduction for Books and Magazines blank. After deducting my contribution to Periodic Tax Deduction (PCB), I still need to pay a large amount. However, after updating the above two items with the correct number, the amount that I still need to pay dropped tremendously!

I don't have to worry about my income tax payable next year - I am looking forward to my additional deduction from my purchase of my laptop. :-)

Two K-Sessions In 4 Days

Last Thursday, I went with my church friends for K-Fever session in RedBox Gurney. Yeah, K-Fever, the 6pm-10pm buffet karaoke. We were served by this gal named Tracy I think (according to D, she was D schoolmate). She assigned us to a 5-10 pax karaoke room (Room 13 - No, to me, 13 is NOT an unlucky number, and the room was NOT spooky at all!).

At first, the teens were a bit shy in picking songs. I was a bit pai-seh to go frenzy that time - no one's picking song how to go frenzy? :-P So, everytime we finished one song, we were either busy eating or picking another song to sing.

A came in at 8:30pm, and after that the picked song list begin to fill up. At any point of time thereafter, there were in average 10-15 songs in the list. So, we went a bit crazy, and minding not the screaming, yelling, and scratchy voices, we sang our lungs out! We ended at 1am!! Gosh, it was Friday then, and we gotta work!! Except A!! [Why? Click here.]

On Sunday (4 days later), again I went to RedBox Karaoke with my colleagues. Guess what? K-Fever (buffet karaoke) again. Tracy again! Room 13 AGAIN!!! Hahaha! What a coincidence - erm, I don't think so la. Tracy's probably on 6pm shift. And, for some reason Tracy always gave customers Room 13.

This time, we waited for no one, and went crazy straightaway. At any given point of time, the list was almost full (3 pages of songs in the list)! We're so crazy that most of us were dead tired after the yelling and screaming. And guess what, we ended at 1am again!

Man... Monday blues... YESSS, all of us were working on that Monday... Sleep-deprived, we were walking around like zombie... zombie... zombie... eh... eh... eh... oh... oh... (ok ok ok, enough of singings...)

P.S. For both sessions, we were required to take 3 bowls of titbits and one packet of crackers, at RM8++ per item! They are really too much... Who ever wants titbits that could do only harm to our voices while singing?? Well, what to do? RedBox what. Almost monopolizing Penang KTV market already - no competition - even Star KTV could not compete with them.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Send The Fire

Yesterday we had a great worship session in Shalom Working Youth Fellowship meeting. Usually, we started off with Praise and Worship, and then followed by sharing. Because of God's (manifested) presence was so strong during the meeting, the PAW was extended, hence the sharing had to be postponed.

At first, we had our normal PAW session. And during the worship, we could see that people were felling (oops... I mean resting in the spirit). What appears to be a turning point is when God called the congregation for repentence and renunciation of sins. And surely, we accepted the call by just standing right there and let the Lord minister to us.

Worship becomes more intense when the shekina was identified in various spots in the room, especially at the place where the psalmistry team was at. So, all SWYF core team members, ex-core team members, and second-liners were called to be ministered there. God's (manifested) presence was so strong that many of them, while resting in the spirit, was anointed with God's flowing water that is the Holy Spirit. I was one of the catchers, and I could feel it around the place I was standing. It was awesome!

Next came the holy laughter. One of the anointed ministerers just touched me and a few of us, and we fell into laughter. Indeed God is good, and He has intended to quench our thirsty souls that night. And, although I was dead tired, I felt like being strengthened again from my fatigue, and hence wanting to worship Him more and more. God is good!

Looking forward with the Spirit-filled and fiery Pentecost in 2 weeks' time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Oh! Pontoon!! - II

[Read Part 1 first before you continue]

Another round of teambuilding for the 2nd batch of Astro BOE team. I expected less fun this time, because many of them are from management level. The outcome was not that bad though. Two of the three teams I facilitated were very interesting. I ended up giving the same points as the teams I facilitated last week. The third one… sigh… read below. I failed them. LOL!

Teams in action

The first team was great. I can see that one of them is a manager, because he was instructing the team what to do from beginning to the end. And the action was considerably fast. One thing I liked them - they listened to the customer (me lar…). I told them the logic of having the strings bound tightly, and explained to them the physics of it, and they accepted it. Possibly because they knew I facilitated last week, so they might have assumed that I knew exactly how it works. Well, honestly, I dunno how it really works, but at least I was able to recognize flaws. Anyway, the raft was great. Though it could not fit 6 people, they ended having one person less. Also, since they ‘sucked’ in rowing the raft (we kept turning round and round till I felt dizzy), I helped them row the raft. Nevertheless, due to their determination, I’m glad to award them points close to ‘distinction’. Hahaha…

The first team that I facilitated - great team they were

The second team was equally good. Same also, one manager instructing the rest - he did participate in building the raft though. One shocking fact was, the whole team did NOT know how to swim! Hmm… a bit of complication here, but I was sure with the life jackets things would be easy, as long as they were not hydrophobic. Indeed they weren’t! Great. Everything went so well that we did not even notice SOS from our buoy attendant. The poor guy stayed in the middle of the sea, attacked by jellyfish, and we did not even notice it - we thought he was having fun lying on the water. So, we gracefully rowed our raft towards him, only to find him struggling and blowing the whistle. Quickly, I called for SOS, and the other facilitators who were still by the shore swam towards him and pulled him out of the sea. Anyway, we’re half way there, and I called for the pull of the safety line to get us back to shore. What an experience.

For the third round, the rule had to be changed so that the teams need not row out to the jellyfish-infested sea. Instead, the team had to get the raft to a spot just deep enough to be tested with 5 team members standing, to show that the raft was able to stay afloat for 10 seconds.

The third team arrived, and, gosh, they appeared to be a NATO (No-Action-Talk-Only) team! They spent too much time discussing how the design should be, and there was only one person tying the foundation with one string! Wallau! I reminded them of the time limit, and the response, "Don't worry, we have enough time". Right!! What a team with such ‘great’ teamwork spirit. While all other teams were ready to test their raft, they were still stuck with the foundation! And, as they began to tie the second strings, I could see that they could leverage the time by tying the third string (actually they should have done it earlier). Alas, they just stood there watching. At that time I really really beh tahan - I gave a harsh hint to them, as if I kicked a log to get it moved by an inch. Eventually, I failed them by offering them close-to-minimal points for 3 out of 4 categories. The 4th category - well - they were going to fail, so no point cracking my head to figure out what grading suited them best. Summary for this team: too many NATO cooks stall the broth!

Also, this was the only team that complained about how long the string was. Tell you what, given them shorter strings, they would still complain - too short it would be. C’mon, you are given same material as other teams, how could it be that they had to request something special compared to the other 35 teams? Were they really that uncompetitive?

Was I burnt again? Well, I was not that dumb to allow the sun hit me directly for 7 hours again. I was constantly putting on sun-block, once every hour, to prevent the burn. And, true enough, my face never hurt anymore, though there were still some scaling and peeling off of my skin. And thank God, it showered for a while, so the weather was not that stifling hot.

I also got myself a bottle of Aloe Vera gel (as aloe-vera as possible) to cool down my skin apart from healing it. :-)

As I was driving away from Tropical Spice Garden, I saw this doggie. So cute!!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Triad English

This is very funny. Must read it in Cantonese.

Triad English
黑社會 '英文'

I know your mouse

You call me how to come out and walk in future?

I give you some colour to see

If you have enough ginger, put your horse to me.

Monsters of blowing water

Blow chicken

I blow chicken to beat your group of guys

Face green green

You see road carefully

Are you road?

You count how old?

What water are you?

You big me?

Zebra chops people

Do the world

Big tea rice

What ghost you talking?

Cut my head and let you sit as a chair

I give you hair

You think me not arrive?

Wear grass

I am wearing grass

I scared you got teeth

You don't have enough class to talk maths with me

What the spring do you do?

Measure / pound water

A dragon service

Three Kingdoms: A Review

I’m a thoroughbred Chinese who is not well-versed in Chinese (hence dubbed as banana* by many), yet I always love to know more about China, her history and her literature. I am also amazed at how wise and clever ancient Chinese are, especially those who lived in the era of Three Kingdoms (三国时代). That is why I love reading Romance of The Three Kingdoms (三国演义). I think I still have the English Translated Comic version of the ever famous Chinese literature (in 10 volumes).

The story, or rather, the history of the Three Kingdoms was set in between 220AD and 280AD, where the Han Dynasty (汉朝) was fallen and broken into many small kingdoms. Eventually, three great superpowers, namely Wei (魏), Shu (蜀), and Wu (吴), respectively led by three great conquerors Cao Cao (曹操), Liu Bei (刘备), and Sun Quan (孙权), maintained. The literature outlines how these there superpowers came into power, how the leaders were led by their super-wise advisors, how the kingdoms were locked in a stalemate position, and how they were eventually fell into the Kingdom of Jin (晋). It is one of China's Dark Ages, between Han and Jin Dynasties.

The movie Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (三国之见龙卸甲) revolved around a warrior named Zhao Zilong / Zhao Yun (赵子龙 / 赵云) (played by Andy Lau), who boldly served with his loyalty to his Shu Kingdom, with the hope of re-uniting China and eventually returning to his hometown of Chang Shan. He befriended a senior warrior Luo Ping'an (罗平安) (played by Sammo Hung), with whom they were sworn as brothers. In a very short time, Zilong rose to be a prominent warrior, and because of his bravery, Liu Bei (played by dunno-who :-P) named him one of the five great warriors of Shu Kingdom. However, after decades of fighting, the seemingly neverending war had persisted even after a new Shu King (son of Liu Bei) was enthroned. In his final battle, he has to face the ruthless Cao Ying (曹营) (played by Maggie Q), granddaughter of the Wei Tyrant Cao Cao (played by Damian Lau). As smart and bold as he was, he had yet to face the most unexpected, that placed him on a thin line of victory and defeat. Would he be able to fulfill his destiny? What would he eventually earn in all his battles?

My part of the review. Being so much detached from the story, I forgot that Zilong came from the Kingdom of Shu, so I thought the story was deviated from the history. Later did I recall that Zilong is always known as that young warrior of Shu Kingdom, bold and vigilant, who won every battle he led. The marvelous thing was, Andy Lau in his mid-40’s was cast as Zilong (he was supposed to very young, in his 20’s when he began his expedition). At the end of the story, Zilong was in his 60's, played by the mid-40's Andy Lau too. *Shrugs* Well, if Andy could play the boy who grew tremendously fast in Wait Till You're Older (童梦奇缘), he could play Zilong with no problem.

Anyway, the story was so much revolved in Zilong that many main characters were played down. That included the loyalist Guan Yu / Guan Yunchang (关羽 / 关云长), the wise strategist Zhuge Liang / Kong Ming (诸葛亮 / 孔明), the next-to-clever advisor to Wu kingdom Zhou Yu (周瑜), the tyrannic maniac Cao Cao, and many others. Also, many interesting plots, like Burning of Ships, Arrow Capturing in the Mist, and Empty City Ruse were not included. Also, it portrayed Zilong as if he was invincible when he was young - he defied the entire army of Cao when he went out to save the son of his master Liu Bei. Wallau! Amazzzzzing!!!

A new character (never in history nor literature) was introduced, and that's none other than Ping'an. Well, he's seemingly not important in the story, but in the movie, he was given an important role to portray. And tell you what, I felt that Sammo Hung was deprived of action (martial arts action that is) in this movie. How sad...

Next, I must admit that I am sick of Maggie Q acting as villain again. Other than Mission: Impossible III, I couldn't think of any movie that she played as a good person. No, I don't think her portrayal as a seducer in the Hong Kong production Magic Kitchen (魔幻厨房) is considered good.

Anyway, being a fan of Romance, I like the war action scenes and plots. It is acceptable that this movie only lasts for 1:42 since it is a story of one man, though I would expect them to make another parallel story, maybe then evolving other interesting characters, like those I mentioned above. ** I would grade the movie 6.5 out of 10.

While searching for suitable cliparts for Romance, I happen to bump into this version of Chinese Chess. So hilarious!!! Hahahahahaha!!! But wait, why are there two flags on each side? Additional chess pieces?? Hahahahahahahah!!!


* Banana is a nickname for any Chinese who is not well-versed in the mainstream Chinese language (Mandarin), but educated and hence substantially fluent in English. The nickname is given because a banana has yellow skin (Chinese is yellow-skinned), but white inside (with a mind and character saturated by Western/Caucasian culture).

** I actually forgot that there is another movie under production. It's none other than John Woo's Red Cliff (赤壁)! Starring Takeshi Kaneshiro as Zhuge Liang and Tony Leung as Zhou Yu, I guess this movie would depict a more complete account in Romance. Looking forward to watching it in cinema!!!

Self-Deception Part 2 - Losers

Looking through the news reported in MalaysiaKini, I am kinda getting worried at the situation of some leaders in the country. Well, from my experience in chess gameplays, I learnt the following:

- Know the strength and weakness of my opponents
- Admit mistakes and learn from a lost game
- Learn and improve from a won game
- Read books on chess (self improvement)
- Discuss strategies and tactics on other people's games

(Read Part 1)

It seems like certain leaders do not learn of the above!!

The 12th General Election was over. The ruling coalition, National Front, had its worst performance of capturing only 63% of Parliament seats, and lost five northern states to the opposition party, People's Coalition. There are multiple reasons leading to the heavy loss of National Front. Well, National Front was not lost, as it could still form the Federal Government - they only failed to capture two third majority seat, but their supreme leader said so on the night of GE12.

"We've lost, we've lost."
- Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, 9 Mar 2008, 4:12am [here]

The head of the coalition had done a 'study', and said that one of the reason of their loss was their ignorance of the power of Internet; should they be aware of it and used the Internet earlier for their campaign, they would not have lost. My foot! Let me repeat. MY FOOT!! They did not even mention of the actual root cause!! Or, they were still blinded to the root cause. They had totally missed the point. In fact, they tried to deceive themselves, eluding their sight from the voice of the rakyat.

The amazing thing was, they never considered that they had actually disappointed the rakyat so much that the rakyat lost their confidence on them. In Youtube, I heard enough of "you tak suka, you keluar Malaysia" [here], "we are allowing protests... police compromise... police don't fire anybody" while the video showed water-gun launch by the police against demonstrators [here], and some more. We were also suffering from commodity price increase by the authority despite rakyat's objections. They were just too arrogant. They had forgotten that they were who they were because of the votes of the rakyat, our votes that were.

The fact is, Internet has been made free and open-source, so much so that people can tap into almost free information to look at our own country's situation in a outsider's point of view. Of course, while the mainstream media was giving a biased set of information, people would detect its authenticity simply by taking an alternate route of information from internationally recognized sources such as CNN, al-Jazeera, etc. Media is supposed to be neutral, and in Hong Kong, they are named as the Type-3 Courthouse. What does that mean? It means media should be a place where truth and justice are reported in a neutral manner. Our mainstream media has far deviated from this! [here]

Human is created in a way that there is always a conscience, or rather, a hunger to know the truth. And, what if someone deprive them from the truth? They will retaliate and fight for the truth! And, thanks to the democratic nature of our beloved country, we retaliate democratically - by using our voices in the form of our ballot papers. Which is nothing against the universal definition of democracy.

The irony is, we are only allowed to do so during GE campaigns and on GE day itself. We are not allowed to speak publicly for people's rights at any times outside the GE period. Else, we will be detained without trial. What a violation of human rights.

Another ironic point is, the authority tried to threaten the bloggers against the latter's aggression in their weblog posts against them. That was before GE12. After GE12, and after their 'post mortem', they came out saying they will drop the charges against bloggers, and initiated to have a peace dialogue with bloggers. Some of them even became bloggers themselves. What's the point? What's the point of threatening, when you know that the very people you are threatening are the ones giving you the high position in the government - the rakyat? Don't they know that they should fear the people, and not the people fear them? Don't they, at an old ripe age, know that they are elected to serve the people and not to be served? Don't they understand democracy??

At the time of typing, there are people whose rights are directly violated. Untrialed detainee is being deprived of medical needs. Truth-speaking media are being forced to discontinue publication. What the world are they thinking or doing??

The other reason that they mentioned was - they were competing on "not a level playing field" [here], that's why they lost. C'mon, what kind of comment was that? Mainstream daily media had 60% coverage on themselves and 5% on opposition [here], and many rakyats did not have Internet access - they only accessed to news via mainstream media. So, what the heck were they talking about? Are we really that stupid that we deserve such an illogical statement from them?

Self-deception. These guys never played chess. Or rather, these guys are more like being in their fantasyland than in reality. Maybe for them, Bolehland is a fantasyland.

As the Chinese saying goes, never deceive oneself nor deceive others (毋自欺欺人).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Self-Deception Part 1 - Chess

I picked up my interest in International Chess when I was in Form 4. When I was a senior prefect, I get to know 2 junior prefects, 2 years younger than me (I call them LTH and CKW here - they might be reading this... hahaha). They introduced me to the Chess Club that they were joining at that time. And, being enthusiastic, I learnt professional chess gameplay, which led me to learn how to think ahead of things that would happen - in immediate terms, in chess gameplays. In two months, I improved tremendously. I debuted my participation in public tournamemt by being a representative for my school (SMJPP at that time) in Chess in the Perak Schools Sports Council, district level. Although I did not bag anything home, it did lay a foundation in my upcoming chess tournaments.

I remembered clearly that, apart from my skills in chess gameplay, I also learnt:
- To know the strength and weakness of my opponents
- To admit mistakes and learn from a lost game
- To learn and improve from a won game
- To read books on chess
- To discuss strategies and tactics on other people's games (from this, I learnt chess notations, so if you ask me what it means by 1. f3? e5 2. g4?? Qh4#, of course I know)

Fool's Mate
[ 1. f3? e5 2. g4?? Qh4# 0-1 ]

Knowing my opponents

This was not only emphasized in chess games, but also an important rule in the ancient Chinese Art of War. How could you win a war if you have no idea how strong your opponent is? Never take your army as a kamikaze war objects, else you will lose all that you have.

I remembered three particular games that I played that led to a draw in two games and a win in the third. One was my game with a kid 7 years younger than me (I was 17 and he was 10). I knew that this chap was exceptionally talented, and in order to save my face of being inferior to a kid, I tried to force a draw, with a silent intention to look for his blunder. Eventually, what's left on the chess board were my King, my only pawn, and his King. I managed to balance out the game, with a pawn surplus. Based on the position, the odd was simple - a draw.

The second was a game with a greedy guy, capturing my valuable pieces happily, and eventually I had 5 pawns and a King. I looked at the pieces, did a simple calculation, and found a loophole - my King could not move, and it was my turn. I observed and knew that he's greedy. So, I gracefully moved my pawns into the sacrificial spots, and that silly chap captured my pawns one by one. Eventually - stalemate! Haha! From a losing game (0 pt) to a draw (0.5 pt). Silly greedy boy.

The third is much more challenging but crazy. In the beginning I blundered and eventually was demoralized so much that I had 4 chess pieces left against my opponent's 12 pieces. However, I knew she had two problems. She was greedy (same as the silly guy), and she forgot one of the most basic yet important rule - always keep your back rank on guard. She left her back rank (the row where the King is in the beginning of the game) unguarded, her 7th rank blocked the escape route for her King, and all other chess pieces of hers were 'somewhere else'. Immediately, I grasped the opportunity, and I pushed my rook to back rank of hers. Rh8+. Rxf8#. 1-0. Checkmate! A back rank mate! Bye bye bye, m'lady!!!

Back Rank Mate, an example. Result 1-0.

Learning from my past games

I always have my notebook ready in recording all my games. (Alas, I don't keep them anymore.) Whenever I played a casual game, I heard whispers of "yes" or shaking of heads - the rule is, not a bystander can give comments on any games. Well, it's a fair, one-mind-versus-one-mind game. So, after a game, those yes-whisperers and head-shakers will sit down together with me and my opponent to discuss the game, and how we could improve on the strategies and tactics of the ever evolving games. We even met every Sunday @ 2pm - 5pm, usually in a youth-oriented cafe in Ipoh called Xin Yi Dai, to practice and discuss games. There I met my mentor in chess, EY. A funny and talkative ex-Michaelian who helped me a lot in improving my skills, and I'm glad to know him.

Very importantly, when I lose, I would accept it and admit all the mistakes I made during the game. Many times I saw dissatisfaction and rage expressed towards the won opponent. Some even overturned the table. What a loser - turning the game into sour grapes - it showed practically no sportsmanship. Moreover, the fella will never learn from past mistakes.

Learn from others

Same as self improvement, I sometimes took a visit to chess tournaments on certain Sundays in Taman DR Seenivasagam. Main purpose - to fellowship with chess players, and to observe and learn their gameplay. It was interesting to get to know their passion in chess (which boosts mine as well) and their unique gameplay strategies and tactics. Sometimes, I adapted their sophisticated strategies in my own gameplay. The one that I remembered using is the eloquence of usage of double-knight tactic (it's amazing to discover how much damage a knight can cause, let alone two, and it's fun to put it into practice).


Gameplays among ourselves and great players in Ipoh was never sufficient to move on. We definitely needed more. Books on chess strategies, tactics and recorded gameplays of famous international players were required for our further improvement in skills. We always kept ourselves updated. Else, we would stop there, while others move ahead. Which was not good!!


If I were to fail to realize the above, I would never improve myself, even in life. And most importantly, if I refused advancement and yet thought I could play chess on my own, I would never get to anywhere. What happen was it could lead to refusal on what was actually happening around me. The fact is, the earth moves even if I refuse to move. Life goes on whether I like it or not. And, people improve even if I don't. Refusal to know these facts would lead to self-deception. And, my journey in the life of being an active chess player makes me less prone to self-deception. And the irony of the fact is, whether we like chess or not, life is indeed like a chess game. We need to move forward, position ourselves on strategic spots, learn from mistakes, rely on each other, always keep ourselves updated, and most importantly, discipline ourselves.

The game is at hand - win or lose, it is up to us how we train ourselves to play the game.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Face

Aftermath of Oh! Pontoon!!

Having new nicknames on top of what I’ve already had.
- Lobster Face
- Guan Yu / Guan Yun-chang (one of the major character in Three Kingdoms)
- Justice Pao
- Reptile Face (my skin is peeling off now)
- Charcoal Head

Same question that yield same answer, from different people at different times. I’m not saying that’s bad. I do appreciate the care they’ve shown. But, after answering the same question in the same way for, say, 15 times (20 times as of 4/17), I’ll get bored and lazy.

“Oei! What happen to your face la?”
“Sunburn lor… Last weekend I helped out my friend’s mom in a team-building she organized for the Astro people.”
“Where? Where?”
“The beach opposite Tropical Spice Garden… been under the sun for 7 hours straight, so mah like that lor…”

At times I just held my fists in ancient Chinese salute gesture, partly to hide my face and partly to avoid further conversation. Me bad huh!

My face hurt. Putting my Nivea for Men moisturizer does not help either. A suggested Aloe Vera gel - as aloe-vera as possible, he said. LOL!

My face really becomes reptile face. Dark-colored dead skins peeled off by itself - some I purposely scraped out. Now I got dark face with red patches, or rather, red face with dark patches. I even have a red nose - a result of over-peeling. Pinch my nose - it honks!!!

My face, neck, and arms are heavily tanned (or rather, burnt). My legs, from knee downward, are partially tanned. Not other parts of my body. I really feel weird.

Well, I can’t blame anybody. I brought myself my Coppertone SPF45, but when I reached there, I noticed that it leaked, and it was near empty. So, I managed to put a few drip on my arms, and that’s it. My face, maximum exposure!

I need to replenish my sun-block for this Saturday, or else, I may come in to office again next week and scare the heck out of all my colleagues.

Ciao! Intercessory meeting in 40 minutes’ time.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Oh! Pontoon!!

pontoon /pɒn'tu׃n/


Etymology 1
From Old French ponton, from Latin ponto (‘ferryboat’), from pons (‘bridge’).

pontoon (plural pontoons)
1. (military) A flat-bottomed boat used as a support for a temporary bridge.
2. A floating structure supporting a bridge or dock.
3. A box used to raise a sunken vessel.
4. A float of a seaplane.

Last Saturday I had a tiring but fun day. Went to help out the team-building for Astro BOE team, organized by D’s mom, at Tropical Spice Garden, Penang. There were three stations, namely Hash Hounds Jungle-Trekking, Tropical Spices Cookout, and Oh! Pontoon! Yeah... the post subject gave away the suspense - I was assigned to the third one.

What the heck was that? Basically it was a game, where the teams would compete with each other in building a raft, rowing it out into the sea for a distance, and the rowing it back to the shore. Sounds simple, but wait, let me give the ingredients. The only materials each team has were six 6' x 8'' x 1'' wooden planks, seven empty plastic barrels, five bundles of ropes (each about 50' long), 8 life jackets, and 10 pairs of gloves. The raft has to be made of the planks and barrels, tied by bundles of ropes. One bundle of rope, marked with a different color, had to be the lifeline, for safety pullback from the sea in case of emergency. Each team had to send 5 team members and the team facilitator (the customer) on the raft, and row to a spot where another facilitator is stationed in the sea (about 100' from the shore), and row back to the shore (with the raft still intact and afloat), and finally dismantle the material and place them back at their original location and arrangement.

Even as a facilitator, in the beginning, I thought it was easy, until I witnessed the first team I was facilitating did that. It capsized once, and we found that the barrels were not properly sealed, leading to water seeping into it, like razor-cold seawater seeped into the poor “unsinkable” Titanic. One of the team members sort of cast the blame on me... well, whatever. They forgot I was the one awarding all the points... hahaha. Anyway, most of them were having fun. They were at first very confident with their first design, but when it capsized, they dismantled everything to get the barrels emptied again, and rebuilt a smaller version. Only three people are able to fit on it – two small girls and I. We managed to row to the sea halfway before we were timed-out by our chief facilitator (who was D’s mom herself).

The team had a great fighting spirit and sportsmanship. Although they verbally said they didn’t care of the customer, it was fun watching them do things. And of course, I didn’t care about giving them points as well. Hahaha!!! Nah, I was not so bad. I gave points for their unfailing determination to get the raft working.

The second team was more enthusiastic. They designed it, and worked on it, found something wrong, and re-assembled it. The way they tied was, alas, rather loose. I shook my head a few times, and told them that it was kinda loose. They actually ignored me. Well, there goes the points, a penalty of not listening to customers. Eventually, at the last bit of tying where the building process is most crucial, I so beh tahan (at the fact that I have to sit on the loose raft) that I have to help the tie the raft. In my mind I thought: Yeah, you are right about tying X’s, but you are doing it the WRONG way!!! At last, the plank that I tied is the most secure.

Minutes later, I was on the raft, with a few other small-sized team members. One girl was so scared that she cried while sitting on the raft (on the center, actually, because of her fear). I, as the customer, need to assure her that nothing would have happen to her. Imagine this situation. Astro marketing people pledge to set up the transceiver station, send out decoders and satellite dishes package, and later panicked in front of media (mass amount of customers) saying that the whole system might not work. And then, everywhere from the country the people came out consoling the marketing people, assuring that what they’ve done can actually work. How ironic!!!

Well, of course I understand la... to a person who does not know how to swim, even with the life jacket on, the sea is like a monster. But at least trust that the team members will help each other. Anyway, we did struggle for balance. And as I proved myself correct, the barrels got loose, and the corner where I was sitting on collapsed. In seconds, another guy and I fell into the sea. As a customer, I was in the water, supporting the raft to the destination, and ensuring the safety of the poor girl. How IRONIC!!! :-P

We did manage the task, taking away the fact that we were in the water. I should have given another big zero if I were a fussy customer, but looking at their enthusiasm and the fact that the raft did stay afloat along the way, I awarded them some points.

The third and final round came. I opted as the facilitator handling the buoy, the destination where the raft has to reach on the sea. Bad choice. It was 2pm when I began to swim out to the sea. I was kicking against the current, and I was hit by waves artificially generated by passing-by boats, I was nauseating, and most importantly, I was under the hot tropical sun. I am now burnt, almost literally, on my face and arms.

Three teams made it, and three gave up after capsizing. I exchanged place with another facilitator before the 6th team gave up. And, as I was approaching the shore, my fore-muscle of my right thigh cramped. Took me 5 minutes sitting by the shore to have the cramp released, and mind you, I was still under the scorching sun!!!

It was indeed a tiring day. Being under the sun for 7 hours, I was completely wasted. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the whole session. The people I met was great. They were funny, talkative, playful, and easy to get along. And most importantly, it was a great experience facilitating in a team-building. I participated in team-buildings organized by my A company, but I am now able to look at the organizer’s point of view. I learnt and observed a lot as a by-stander and not as a participant. And it is funny to see how the participants behaved.

I attended Sunset Mass (half sleeping), and 4th LSS session that night. Another miracle, I was not that tired throughout the session!!!

This was my schedule for the day:

05:35 Alarm clock rang for the first time
05:55 Got up from my bed
06:40 Began my journey to Tropical Spice Garden (TSG)
07:15 Reached TSG
07:25 Breakfast
07:30 Setting up
08:15 First team (6 sub-groups) arrived at Oh! Pontoon!! station by the beach
11:00 Second team (another 6 sub-groups) arrived
13:00 Lunch
13:10 Third team (another 6) arrived
15:00 Jobs done (for the pontoon participants)
16:00 Finished packing up, then bathe
16:20 Leaving TSG for early “dinner”
16:55 Bon appetite
18:30 Sunset Mass in IC Church, rat island
20:00 LSS 4th session began
23:30 LSS 4th session finished
00:00 Reached home
00:30 Sleep

P.S. I woke up at 10:50 the next day, slept, and woke up at 13:00. If not because of my growling stomach, I might have skipped lunch and slept whole day.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Land of Milk and Honey Wannabe

My country, the land where my blood was spilt,
Her people live, united and progressive be,
Blessings of happiness, may God grant,
And in peace, enthroned may our King be.

Looking back five decades in the past,
Three families in unity joined their hands,
A resourceful frontier was claimed,
Independence was their song and stand.

As time flies, their hands miss-gripped,
Imbalance wreaked, the alliances gravely lied,
Mutual harmony the families had tried,
Alas the crown-bearing heads had it denied.

Rights of childrens gradually robbed,
Their families painfully sobbed,
The shepherds had themselves flourished,
From the children's hard-earned coins they snatched.

Richer the rich, poorer the poor,
What's gonna happen, no one was sure,
Yet there beamed a ray of hope,
Against the "comfort zone" did the children vote.

A new lead was called to action,
Yielded more than a revolution,
Five-fold hits aimed against status quo,
Marks the new era of northwest legion.

Whilst badly beaten the goliath be,
Blinded by the stones of vox populi,
A unbelievable path now the giant chose,
A rat-race of deafness did he walk and boast.

Showers of blames amongst the Philistines,
Appears like stones from west to east,
Fiery flames thrown off the predecessor,
Shielded foolishly by the helpless successor.

As the dwarfs watched the drama,
Boldness action they already began,
A barricade the trio formed,
At the gate of challenge the dwarfs stormed.

A great wrestle had begun,
To see who's better they had fought,
But never they should forget one fact,
That is to keep the children's needs intact.

Half a century the giant had wasted,
Another half the dwarfs hope to lead,
Harmony, justice, understanding and peace,
Are the only precious things the children seek.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Parable of Christ's Act of Salvation

It was the third LSS session yesterday, and the topic was Salvation. We know very well that Jesus died for every one of us. We know that, the faithful day two millennia ago, Jesus bore the unbearable pain, pouring out His precious blood to wash us clean, whiter than snow. But, what if we view it from the eyes of God the Father? And, why are we still unwilling to give up everything to follow God? Worse still, why are we still falling into sin?

The following story was part of the session presented by X Man. Some minor details may not be the same as I am dictating the passage based on the important points that I remember, and with additional dynamics to express how I felt when I heard the story.

There was an old man who lived peacefully in a countryside house. Day by day, there were birds that flocked around the old man's house. The old man, a man who loved nature, loved the birds and enjoyed the birds flapping and chirping around him. He would feed the birds in the mornings and evenings. He even built a wooden hut for the birds to build their nests just outside his house. And when he's free, he'd sit by the porch and listened to the birds singing, and on and off, he would pat the birds as they perched on his shoulders.

All went well, and day by day the life of the old man and the birds were just as normal. Then one day, a young man moved to a vacant house just next door to the old man. The young man seemed hostile, and he did not even talk or respond when the old man greeted him. Nevertheless, neither of them seem to bother each other much; the old man had his birds, the young man has his life to carry on.

Some days later, as the old man woke up in one morning, he heard loud clanking noise coming from next door. He peeped through the window, and found out that the young man was making himself a large and beautiful place that attractws the bird. It looked like a cage, but one thing was, the door was open wide. Within it was colorful ornament and decoration. The old man wondered what he's up to, but looking at the young man's effort of building the cage, he thought the latter could be a bird lover as well. So, he left the young man and his cage alone.

After the cage was built, the old man noticed that, there were less birds perching on the nest that he built - and less birds singing to him. He noticed that, instead of flying around his house, the birds now ventured into the new colorful cage that the young man built, and they enjoyed the new environment and the plentiful supply of food that the young chap laid for them. Day by day, the birds left the old man and stayed in the cage. Eventually, all the birds stopped going to the old man, except for one single bird - a beautiful bright yellow canary. The canary, despite losing its friends, kept on lingering around the old man, singing to him, pecking food from his hands, and perching on his shoulder. It was always there - it could somehow feel and know whether the old man was happy or sad, and it was always there to cheer him up. The old man, though sad because of the loss of his birds, was yet happy because of the yellow canary.

And, so, day by day, the old man could still hear the singing of the birds from afar, but he did notice one thing. The singing sound gradually gets lesser and lesser. And, until one day, there were no singing of birds at all, all he could hear was his yellow canary singing. Curiously, he peeped over to see what happened to the birds. To his dismay, he saw the young man with his hand grabbing one of the birds, and began mocking the bird, jeering, "stupid bird, silly bird", and occasionally slapping the bird and sqeezing the bird. The bird helplessly struggled to make itself free, but in vain. The young man was also holding a knife, and as the old man observed, the young man began cutting the bird's leg off! What a horrible scene!! The old man's heart ached. Then, as the old man looked around, he noticed that most of the birds were injured. Some had their wings cut off, some had their legs amputated, some had their feather plucked, et cetera. And the cage was locked at that time - the birds were trapped and could not escape.

The old man told himself, "The young man is too much!!! I cannot allow this to continue to happen on my beloved birds. I am going to negotiate with him to release the birds." And so, the old man walked over to the young man's house, and asked him to set the birds free.

The young man snobbishly said, "Old man, this is none of your business."

The old man replied, "But what you did is not right. You are hurting the innocent birds."

To this, the young man said, "Well, I did not force them in. They flew in by their own free will. And you are saying I am not right. What kind of logic is that, huh, old man??"

"Alright. Look, I can give you any price if you could allow the birds to be free."

"What? What do you think, I am a beggar? Look at this, do you think I have no money? I bought myself a beautiful house, and I made a cage for all these silly birds wo wants themselves to be imprisoned. Money, I have a lot."

"Young man, what do you want? Tell me, what do you want me to do in order for the birds to be free?"

"Okay, since you ask, let me tell you. I just want one thing from you. And if you agree, I will open the cage door. But let me tell you, after the deal is made, neither you nor I can interfere. The birds have to fly out on their own!"

"Tell me."

"I want your yellow canary. Tell you what, I really hate it. I can't believe it is so loyal to you, and would never come to my cage at all!"

"What?" The old man despaired. The yellow canary was his only precious belonging, and he loved it very dearly.

"Give the canary to me, or leave the rest alone - for me to 'play with'," the young man jeered.

Turning around sadly, he looked at his yellow canary. The canary, looking at his eyes, sort of knew something was wrong. It did not sing to him as before, but it flew over to his hand and perched on it, looking right through his sad and horrific eyes.

The old man said, "I am sorry, my love, but I have to do this. I hope you understand."

After saying that, he grabbed the canary on his hand gently. The canary tried to jerk away in the beginning, but eventually it obediently gave in. With a heavy heart, he handed his beloved canary over to the young man, who was thinking that this old man must be crazy. The birds are not going to leave this cage, the young man thought.

After getting hold of the poor canary, the young man began to tie its wings and legs right above the cage door. Then, silently, the young man opened the cage door - no sound was made - not even one bird except the canary was aware that the door was open.

Holding his knife, the young man mocked at the canary. "Silly bird, stupid bird... Hahahaha!!!!" Then, he began slashing at the canary's body. The once shining bright yellow canary was soon covered with fresh red blood, as it painfully bore the severe cuts. The blood eventually flowed down and formed a blood line across the top and down the side of the cage door. Looking at the suffering canary, the old man wept.

Soon after, the injured birds began to be distracted over the noise of the chirping pain and the laughter of the young man. They immediately saw that their beautiful friend was dying. And suddenly they were aware that the cage door was open wide. One by one, most of the birds flew, hopped, and limped across the open gateway to freedom. And, as they passed by the gateway, the blood from the dying canary dripped on them.

Few hours later, the cage was almost empty, leaving few birds that were either too wounded to take flight or too discouraged to escape. And eventually, due to loss of blood and deep cuts, the yellow canary died. The old man, sad and heartached, turned away. He knew that he lost his most beloved canary, but he was glad that his sacrificial act had saved many birds from suffering and certain death.

And so, the old man so loved the birds that he gave his beloved canary, so that the birds that believed in its sacrifice would not die in the cage but have eternal freedom. Err... sounds weird, huh? C'mon, get a grip!! Let me re-phrase the number of hope.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

The old man (God the Father) owned the birds (all of us), and built a house (Paradise) for them, and gave them food (Bread of Heaven/Tree of Life). However, the young man (the devil) came and tempted the birds into his cage (sin), locked it, tortured the birds (leading to death). The old man, wanting to save them, gave his beloved canary (God the Son), so that it died (on the Cross) to save the birds.

What happened to the few birds that refused to escape? Are we also like that, wounded by sin, but refused to accept the sacrifice of Jesus and be dead of sin and rise up in freedom? The door to Heaven was opened by the sacrifice of Jesus. He has stood up 2000 years ago, saying to each and every one of us: You are dirty. You cannot meet My Father. But let Me cleanse you with My Blood, so that you will be clean in front of my Father.

The door is open. What should we do?
Will we accept Jesus as our Savior?
Will we renounce our sinful life in the past, and live a new life worthy of God's sacrificial love?
Are we willing to renew our life in Christ?
How should we respond?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Philippians 4:13

God is great!

Last Wednesday, I had 3-hour sleep (3am to 6am). I could barely focus at work. Whole day feeling like want to sleep. At night, I attended the 1st session of SWYF LSS (erm... what's that? It's Life in the Spirit Seminar). I expected myself to be half alive during the LSS. But God was really good! The Bible promise jumped out alive in me. I was wide awake and full of strength worshipping Him!! I was not even having a moment when I listened to the talk! Having said that, I suffered a lot after the seminar had finished - I fell straight on my bed, dozed off after grunted over my neck pain.

Yesterday was the 2nd session of LSS. I was, as usual, feeling very tired at work. I even wanted to sleep as I was having dinner. I looked at the mattress and I wanted very badly to sleep for a while before going to church - I didn't do that because I have no time to do so. And guess what, God was great! I was very much alive and kicking throughout the whole LSS session yesterday! There was not even a weary moment during worship and talk! And God was so good that He ministered His Fatherly love to us!!

Indeed, St Paul said, "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." - Phil 4:13


I happen to bump into Corn's blog, and I was reminded of the worship song that leads me to deep worship - too deep that I could not even remembered what actually happened other than tears. It is All Creation Worships. After having been ministered of the Love of God the Father, I sat there, unable to express the awe of being in his presence. I guess my neck overpowered my physical and emotional strength. Nevertheless, as we sang the song after moments of silent adoration, buckets of tears flowed - not tears of sadness, but tears of happiness and reassurance that I am indeed loved by God. I was lifting up my hands unshamingly and praising Him.