I’m back — for the Nth time

19 September 2014

Hello all,

Things are going well, perhaps too well, on my side, that blogging on this site had to be relegated to the bottom of my priority stack.

Thanks to encouragements from my wife, and various other people, who wish for me to write again — here I am.

I will try to make regular updates from now on (I know, this is a repeating theme in the last few updates), hopefully this time for real. But let me qualify at the outset: regular means whatever frequency that my schedule permits.


Some news since the last update:

1. The IMO team did very well in IMO 2014 that took place last July at Cape Town, S. Africa.

Here is Malaysia at IMO 2014: http://imo-official.org/team_r.aspx?code=MAS&year=2014

Congrats to Justin & Anzo for a well-deserved Gold Medal after 4 tries at the IMO. You guys can retire with your head high. To Yi Kye, well done; 2 medals in 2 tries. To Zi Song, great job being one of the youngest medallists in IMO history. To Shazryl & Kin Aun, worthy performance to round up a very successful year for Malaysia in the International Olympiads. Many thanks to Pusat PERMATApintar Negara (esp. Prof. Noriah and Dr. Sakinah), PERSAMA (Prof. Arsmah & gang), KPM (Pn. Zalina & gang), ExxonMobil (Pn. Ida & gang) and other well-wishers for your relentless support. To my deputy Iqbal, couldn’t ask for a better sidekick.

We rank 23rd in the world (out of 100+ countries) based on total scores. Based on medal tally, the way countries are ranked at the Olympic Games, we rank 12th.

Lots of coverage in the news this year.

The Star:








The Heat did a profile on the medallists:

photo 1

photo 2

(thanks to Mr Yeoh who kept up with all the media coverage)

Congrats to the winners for the other Olympiads as well — Chemistry, Physics and Informatics. You make the country proud.

2. The Kangaroo Math Competition 2014 has closed its curtain successfully with 5 award ceremonies around the country. Thanks in particular to our friends in Borneo for making our first ceremony in Kuching a success. The only backlog is sending out the medals for those absent from the ceremony — this we will complete next week, Insha Allah.

Looking forward to the KMC 2015!

Registration will be open November 2014.

Sincere thanks to the whole KMC team for your awesome commitment and cheery attitude. Working with you guys is like, in the words of Warren Buffett, skipping to work every day.

3. We are also launching a new contest on informatics (a.k.a computer science) called Beaver Informatics Competition. Get to know the Beaver here: beaver.my

Thanks Sher Minn for designing the page, and also helping with setting up the contest, to be held next year. Co-director Khairul (a.k.a. Bird) is instrumental in getting things done on the technical side. Thanks.

4. Hari Raya went well. First time berHari Raya with a wife, what a pleasant feeling. As you get older, Raya gets more and more meaningful and becomes less and less about the tradition, although I hope the Raya tradition (the Malay one, that is) remains in our culture for a long long time. I just love being with family and extended family and neighbors and chatting and feasting with them.

Asking forgiveness from each other keeps society sane.

5. I went to Lithuania and South Africa, adding two more to the list of countries I’ve been to. Too bad, the list (currently at 70+) will likely not grow much in the future since I have developed a fear of flying. I am trying to avoid international travel as much as possible. Even traveling to and from Borneo is kind of a drag — I experienced a brickbat type of turbulence during a recent Kuching-KL flight, and almost peed in my pants. The only flights I can tolerate are short-haul Firefly flights between Subang and Kota Baru, Penang, Kuala Terengganu and JB. Even then, I’d rather not fly to the East Coast during monsoon season, I would rather take the bus. I am a pussy, I know.

The MHs in the news are not helping.


That is all for now. Many things are going on, but I will keep those for another day and another entry.

In the meantime, a short notice:

Aidan Group is organizing our annual Open House luncheon tomorrow (Saturday, 20 September) from 1 to 5pm. Venue: Aidan office at 100-1 Jalan 2/23A, off Jalan Genting Klang, Setapak. Look for the black Aidan signboard. We are near Petronas and Shell on Jalan Genting Klang.

Everyone is invited! Kambing golek ada.

I am still here

22 May 2014


I am still here. If you need to contact me, just email.

American Psycho: best film scene and best novel scene

23 February 2014

American Psycho is a novel satirizing rich, shallow, Wall Street yuppies, who like to dabble in meaningless status symbols and compete with each other in acquiring luxury bullshit. One of them, Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale in the film version) is secretly a serial killer, who goes on to crack skulls whenever he got one-upped by his vapid colleagues.

This is my favorite scene from the film:

(n.b. Bateman went on to kill a homeless guy after he “lost” the business card contest.)

My favorite scene from the novel (which I read as a college freshman) is the one where they discuss about, of all things, water:

Later, the next night in fact, three of us, Craig McDermott, Courtney and myself, are in a cab heading toward Nell’s and talking about Evian water. Courtney, in an Armani mink, has just admitted, giggling, that she uses Evian for ice cubes, which sparks a conversation about the differences in bottled water, and at Courtney’s request we each try to list as many brands as we can.

Courtney starts, counting each name off on one of her fingers. “Well, there’s Sparcal, Perrier, San Pellegrino, Poland Spring, Calistoga…” She stops, stuck, and looks over at McDermott for help.

He sighs, then lists, “Canadian Spring, Canadian Calm, Montclair, which is also from Canada, Vittel from France, Crodo, which is Italian…” He stops and rubs his chin thoughtfully, thinking of one more, then announces it as if surprised. “Elan.” And though it seems he’s on the verge of naming another one, Craig lapses into an unilluminating silence.

“Elan?” Courtney asks.

“It’s from Switzerland,” he says.

“Oh,” she says, then turns to me. “It’s your turn, Patrick.”

Staring out the window of the cab, lost in thought, the silence I’m causing filling me with a nameless dread, numbly, by rote, I list the following. “You forgot Alpenwasser, Down Under, Schat, which is from Lebanon, Qubol and Cold Springs—”

“I said that one already,” Courtney cuts in, accusingly.

“No,” I say. “You said Poland Spring.”

“Is that right?” Courtney murmurs, then tugging at McDermott’s overcoat, “Is he right, Craig?”

“Probably.” McDermott shrugs. “I guess.”

“You must also remember that one should always buy mineral water in glass bottles. You shouldn’t buy it in plastic ones,” I say ominously, then wait for one of them to ask me why.

“Why?” Courtney’s voice is tinged with actual interest.

“Because it oxidizes,” I explain. “You want it to be crisp, with no aftertaste..”

After a long, confused, Courtney-like pause, McDermott admits, staring out the window, “He’s right.”

“I really don’t understand the differences in water,” Courtney murmurs. She’s sitting between McDermott and myself in the back of the cab and under the mink has on a wool twill suit by Givenchy, tights by Calvin Klein and shoes by Warren Susan Allen Edmonds. Earlier, in this same cab, when I touched the mink suggestively, with no intent other than to check its quality and she could sense this, Courtney quietly asked me if I had a breath mint. I said nothing.

“What do you mean?” McDermott inquires solemnly:

“Well,” she says, “I mean what’s really the difference between something like spring water and natural water, for instance, or, I mean, is there one?”

Courtney. Natural water is any water from an underground source,” Craig sighs, still staring out the window. “Mineral content hasn’t been changed, although the water may have been disinfected or filtered.” McDermott is wearing a wool tuxedo with notched lapels by Cianni Versace, and he reeks of Xeryus.

I momentarily break out of my conscious inertia to explain further: “And in spring water, minerals may have been added or removed and it’s usually filtered, not processed.” I pause. “Seventy-five percent of all bottled water in America is actually spring water.” I pause again, then ask the cab, “Did anyone know that?”

“With distilled or purified water,” McDermott is saying, “most of the minerals have been removed. The water has been boiled and the steam condensed into purified water.”

“Wheras distilled water has a flat taste and it’s usually not for drinking.” I find myself yawning.

“And mineral water?” Courtney asks.

“It’s not defined by the—” McDermott and I start simultaneously.

“Go ahead,” I say, yawning again, causing Courtney to yawn also.

“No, you go ahead,” he says apathetically.

“It’s not defined by the FDA,” I tell her. “It has no chemicals or salts or sugars or caffeine.”

“And sparkling water gets its fizz from carbon dioxide, right?” she asks.

“Yes.” Both McDermott and I nod, staring straight ahead.

“I knew that,” she says hesitantly, and by the tone of her voice I can sense, without looking over, that she probably smiles when she says this.

“But only buy naturally sparkling water,” I caution. “Because that means the carbon dioxide content is in the water at its source.”

“Club soda and seltzer, for example, are artificially carbonated,” McDermott explains.

“White Rock seltzer is an exception,” I mention, nonplussed by McDermott’s ridiculous, incessant one-upmanship. “Raml”osa sparkling mineral water is also very good.”

The cab is about to turn onto Fourteenth street, but maybe four or five limousines are trying to make the same right so we miss the light. I curse the driver but an old Motown song from the sixties, maybe it’s the Supremes, plays muted, up front, the sound blocked by the fiberglass partition. I try to open it but it’s locked and won’t slide across. Courtney asks, “What kind should you drink after exercising?”

“Well,” I sigh. “Whatever it is, it should be really cold.”

“Because?” she asks.

“Because it’s absorbed faster than if it was at room temperature.” Absently I check my Rolex. “It should probably be water. Evian. But not in plastic.”

“My trainer says Gatorade’s okay,” McDermott counters.

“But don’t you hunk water is the best fluid replacer since it enters the bloodstream faster than and other liquid?” I can’t help but add, “Buddy?”

I check my watch again. If I have one J&B on the rocks at Nell’s I can make it home in time to watch all of Bloodhungry by two. Again it’s silent in the cab, which moves steadily toward the crowd outside the club, the limousines dropping off passengers then moving on, each of us concentrating on that, and also on the sky above the city, which is heavy, looming with dark clouds. The limousines keep blaring their horns at each other, solving nothing. My throat, because of the coke I did with Gittes, feels parched and I swallow, trying to wet it. Posters for a sale at Crabtree & Evelyn line the boarded windows of abandoned tenement. buildings on the other side of this street. Spell “mogul,” Bateman. How do you spell mogul? M-o-g-u-l. Mo-gul. Mog-ul. Ice, ghosts, aliens—

“I don’t like Evian,” McDermott says somewhat sadly. “It’s too sweet.” He looks so miserable when he admits this that it moves me to agree.

Glancing over at him in the darkness of the cab, realizing he’s probably going to end up in bed with Courtney tonight, I feel an instantaneous moment of pity for him.

“Yes. McDermott,” I say slowly. “Evian is too sweet.”

Earlier, there was so much of Bethany’s blood pooled on the floor that I could make out my reflection in it while I reached for one of my cordless phones, and I watched myself make a haircut appointment at Gio’s. Courtney breaks my trance by admitting, “I was afraid to try Pellegrino for the first time.” She looks over at me nervously—expecting me to… what, agree?—then at McDermott, who offers her a wan, tight smile. “But once I did, it was… fine.”

“How courageous,” I murmur, yawning again, the cab inching its way toward Nell’s, then, raising my voice, “Listen, does anyone know of a device you can hook up to your phone to simulate that call-waiting sound?”

Back at my place I stand over Bethany’s body, sipping a drink contemplatively, studying its condition. Both eyelids are open halfway and her lower teeth look as if they’re jutting out since her lips have been torn—actually bitten—off. Earlier in the day I had sawed off her left arm, which is what finally killed her, and right now I pick it up, holding it by the bone that protrudes from where her hand used to be (I have no idea where it is now: the freezer? the closet?), clenching it in my fist like a pipe, flesh and muscle still clinging to it though a lot of it has been hacked or gnawed off, and I bring it down on her head. It takes very few blows, five or six at most, to smash her jaw open completely, and only two more for her face to cave in on itself.

from http://www.e-reading.co.uk/chapter.php/79864/31/Ellis_-_American_Psycho.html

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains

22 February 2014

Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains

The connection between mother and child is ever deeper than thought

Dec 4, 2012 |By Robert Martone


The link between a mother and child is profound, and new research suggests a physical connection even deeper than anyone thought. The profound psychological and physical bonds shared by the mother and her child begin during gestation when the mother is everything for the developing fetus, supplying warmth and sustenance, while her heartbeat provides a soothing constant rhythm.

The physical connection between mother and fetus is provided by the placenta, an organ, built of cells from both the mother and fetus, which serves as a conduit for the exchange of nutrients, gasses, and wastes. Cells may migrate through the placenta between the mother and the fetus, taking up residence in many organs of the body including the lung, thyroid muscle, liver, heart, kidney and skin. These may have a broad range of impacts, from tissue repair and cancer prevention to sparking immune disorders.

It is remarkable that it is so common for cells from one individual to integrate into the tissues of another distinct person. We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as singular autonomous individuals, and these foreign cells seem to belie that notion, and suggest that most people carry remnants of other individuals. As remarkable as this may be, stunning results from a new study show that cells from other individuals are also found in the brain. In this study, male cells were found in the brains of women and had been living there, in some cases, for several decades. What impact they may have had is now only a guess, but this study revealed that these cells were less common in the brains of women who had Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting they may be related to the health of the brain.

Read more at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-discover-childrens-cells-living-in-mothers-brain/


21 February 2014

on the street, I see some people still using the SUKOM plate for their cars.

SUKOM was 16 years ago.

A Poker Puzzle

20 February 2014

I receive this problem today, from Stan Wagon’s Problem of the Week. I slightly reword it:

You are playing stud poker (5 cards dealt, no exchanging of cards) with a few friends and a standard 52-card deck. It’s your lucky day and by some miracle you are guaranteed to end up with a full house, but only if you correctly choose the best full house. Which full house should you choose? (i.e., which full house has the highest probability of winning?)

I gave this problem some thought. It is not as easy as it looks. What is the answer?

The Hitchhiker Text Adventure Game

20 February 2014


Try to play this without Googling for walkthroughs.


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