Visit our FB: Aidan Group of Companies

18 January 2015

This FB page showcases the lighter side of Aidan: social events, makan-makan and sports day.

If you want to apply for a job at Aidan, write to us at

We are hiring this year!


In a related note, our condolences to the family of Allahyarham Tan Sri Ani Arope, who passed away last December. He was the first Chairman and (later) Senior Advisor to Aidan Group. When Alif, Iznan, Akmal, Bird & I first started Aidan as berhingus boys, Allahyarham was among the first to help us, root for us, fund us and encouraged us, to build our business. His wise words helped us to overcome many difficulties. Despite his prominence in the corporate world, he did not look down on us young kids who just started in business, as he saw the potential in us. Without him, Aidan will not be what it is today.

His contribution to the country, whether in the public or the corporate sector, was IMMENSE. If you are not familiar with his contributions, I suggest you read up on the many obituaries written of him. He was indeed a Towering Malaysian. May his Soul be Rested in Peace. Al-Fatihah.


RIP Alexander Grothendieck (d. 2014)

12 January 2015

I just learned that Alexander Grothendieck died in November last year.

Who is Alexander Grothendieck? He was perhaps the finest mathematician of the 20th century, whose work in algebraic geometry have given birth to one of the most illuminating, productive and ambitious mathematical developments in the 20th century.

He was a colorful character who led an eventful life. His father perished in Auschwitz. He taught a prestigious mathematical seminar at IHES Paris. He was involved in radical leftist activism, which made him a pariah in Parisian academe. He gave math lectures and preached pacifism in the jungles of Vietnam during the war while Americans bombs were exploding all around him. He won the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics. He decided later in his life to give up mathematics totally. Finally, in 1990, he gave up on society in general, and left behind everything he had, to live alone in the Pyrenees.

After that, his reputation took a romantic turn: popular accounts talk of a genius mind, disillusioned with worldly honors and insincere colleagues, who sought enlightenment in solitary life. He wrote screeds against what he viewed as a reactionary society, and became somewhat of a mythical figure of the French Left (Fortunately he didn’t become like the other brilliant mathematician, who stopped doing mathematics and went to live alone in ramshackle cabin in the Montana woods).

During his self-imposed exile, Grothendieck would write letters to his former departmental colleagues, to ask them to destroy anything he had ever written, whether published or not. We are lucky that they collectively decided to ignore his request, lest we would be deprived of some of the most sublime mathematical ideas ever concocted by our species.

Now that Grothendieck had passed away, mathematicians the world over are working on a mammoth task: translating the whole Grothendieck oeuvre into the major languages, so that his mathematical ideas and programs can be disseminated outside the French-speaking world. Not that these are easy to read; it is estimated that the number of people who understand his whole work is no more than ten, that including his most brilliant and most devoted proteges, like Rene Deligne.

I’m happy to see that Grothendieck is not totally forgotten, although response to his death in the English speaking media was a bit muted. I can imagine science editors the world over asking “Alexander who?”. His obituaries appeared in some major English newspapers like The New York Times, The Independent, and The Telegraph (no BBC?). There is no such problem in France. In a country that places mathematics as a source of historical pride, Grothendieck is considered a national hero. Now if only we can locate his autobiography that is rumored to exist somewhere…


He is the bald one


The best write-up on the life and work of Grothendieck that I can find online is by Pierre Cartier: .

Quote from The New York Times obituary:

He avoided clever tricks that proved the theorem but did not develop insight. He likened his approach to softening a walnut in water so that, as he wrote, it can be peeled open “like a perfectly ripened avocado.”

“If there is one thing in mathematics that fascinates me more than anything else (and doubtless always has), it is neither ‘number’ nor ‘size,’ but always form,” he wrote in a long memoir in the 1980s, “Reapings and Sowings.” “And among the thousand-and-one faces whereby form chooses to reveal itself to us, the one that fascinates me more than any other and continues to fascinate me, is the structure hidden in mathematical things.”

Softening walnut in water: a brilliant heuristic. RIP, AG.

The important things in life

10 January 2015

A wise person once told me that as you get older, more and more things become unimportant.

A teenager would get worked up over the teeniest minutiae: size of pimples, level of popularity in class, which t-shirt to wear with which jeans, which team will win the football game tonight, and so on. Things that amount to nothing on the very next day.

In your 20s, you start to think of the “important” matters, i.e., impressing members of the opposite sex, getting a college degree, landing a job. Then comes the 30s, which means kids, a house and a stable income. Once you have a child of your own, all things pale in comparison (A friend told me this; I wouldn’t know since I have no kid of my own yet. He also told me that when he was holding his newborn son for the first time, he thought about the follies of youth and laughed. Especially at the part where he’d move mountains and part oceans to impress girls, so that he could land one of them into a marriage, resulting in, among others, the baby he is holding in his arm.)

And then the baby becomes a small kid, and then other babies arrive in succession, and before long you have to send the oldest one to school. You scrap all your “ambitions”, “passions”, and “desires”. You start to live vicariously through your children. In other words, reality sets in. You sacrifice your dreams, so that the kids can achieve theirs. You throw out your old guitar, discarding along with it the one-time dream you’ve had of forming a rock band with your former college mates (all of whom, by the way, are now overweight and balancing babies on their arthritic knees). Then comes deteriorating health: decreasing stamina, the occasional joint pains, and blood pressure numbers that would worry your doctor slightly. Nothing really bad, just enough to remind you that the train of Life had left the Youth station.

This is half-time. But hey, you’re in your prime: you are not struggling to make a living anymore, you are secure in your job as a middle-manager at some department at some company, along with the perks and disposable incomes that come with it. Life is good. And your kids. The kids! All grown up, fine men and women, arms akimbo, full of life, ready to conquer the world like the cocky world-changers they are meant to be (exactly like you were 20 years ago). But first, their dream weddings, which you have to pay for (that is the “dream” part, for the children that is).

Before long, come the grandkids, and then retirement. Finally you are free from worldly responsibilities. No more meetings to chair, no more bullshit paperwork to prepare, no more bosses to answer to, no more sales target to achieve, no more subordinates to lead and groom and inspire with your leadership. Your fiefdom is now severely curtailed. Now you’re the king of just your household. Welcome to retirement age!

Retirement involves the painful realization that nobody at the fish market gives a hoot that you were a bigshot. To other people, all retirees are alike. Your motor skills and cognitive skills are in decline. Doing things that you take for granted your whole life is now a chore. The joint pains are getting worse, you have to squint to read the newspaper, and you get extremely happy if the result of your medical checkup is “ok-lah, not terrible”.

Now, very few things matter anymore. It makes no difference whatsoever where you went to school, where you worked at, which bigshots you know, which positions you held, how much you made, or how much property you own. The only concern you have is for your immediate family (who, by the way, will do fine even when you are gone). And then the kids move further and further away, taking the grandkids with them: a son gets a job overseas, a daughter gets posted at a small town hundred of kilometers away. They have lives of their own.

At this point, even fewer things are really important. Nothing makes you happier than having your children come to visit. You try to take up an “old people” hobby like tai-chi or gardening, but your heart is really not into it. None of your friends from your bigshot days come to visit. You read the newspaper, and watch the TV, but you cannot connect with the dem young ones what with their funny music, funny fashion and funny way of speaking. You cling hopelessly to the remnants of your youth by watching old films and listening to old music. Reading doesn’t interest you anymore; you lost the intellectual spark years ago. You reminisce about the “good old days” even more.

Now it’s autumn. The leaves are falling. Your beloved spouse, the one you pledge to spend your life with, is also deteriorating, physically and mentally. It is a morbid race, of who will reach the finish line first, but instead of a medal, you get dirt. You make just enough friends and make good with just enough neighbors that you will not die alone. All the money in the world, all the prestige you accumulated in your storied career, all the honors and acknowledgments, all that amount to nothing. You just want to pass your final days in peace, with God and with the God’s green earth. And to have your loving family around you, as you move on. That’s the only thing that matters now.


Well, sorry for the long read but the point is: Very few things really matter in the big picture. Stop sweating over the unimportant stuff.



1. Wealth

2. Power

3. Status in society

Good to have, but not that important in the big picture:

1. Money (above what is necessary)

2. Education (above what is necessary)

3. Job (above what is necessary)


1. Family & friends

2. Health

3. Being a good person


19 October 2014

I will be in Boston from 7 to 12 November.

Boston is the only city that I have lived in for an extended period of time, other than KL. Even though I hated the Boston weather, I still feel a close kinship with the city. Boston is a city of great politicians: when I was a student there in the early noughts, the Senators were Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, the Governor was Mitt Romney, and the mayor of Boston was (the lesser-known but no less great) Thomas Menino.

Boston is well-known for its great universities, foremost of which are MIT and the other university upriver which name I have forgotten, and also Boston University, Boston College (a different school), Brandeis, Tufts and Northeastern. The renowned Berklee College of Music is also in Boston. When I was there, the Malaysian saxophonist Jari (Ja’afar Abdul Rahman Idris) attended Berklee for his advanced music degree.

Boston has great sports teams, home to New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox (and also to Boston Celtics, which have seen better days). The Patriots and the Sox won the NFL and MLB championships in 2004. The Sox’s victory was particularly sweet because (1) the Sox last won the World Series in 1918, and (2) they defeated the hated rival NY Yankees in the semifinals. Bostonians were partying like crazy the night the Sox defeated the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series finals. But I remember a greater celebration after the semifinal win against the Yankees. Even the normally dorky environment at MIT turned jubilant that night, with people putting aside their problem sets (temporarily) and going out on the streets to rejoice. An Emerson student unfortunately got shot and killed by Boston police during the celebration:

Boston has a special place in US history — Paul Revere did his famed midnight ride in Boston, and the earliest battles in the US Revolutionary War took place in Lexington and Concord, just outside Boston city limits. Many of the founding fathers of the United States, such as Sam Adams, John Adams and Thomas Paine, were native Bostonians.

All that aside, what I really like about Boston is that the population are really chill and tolerant. There are places in Boston you’d like to avoid after dark, but most areas are safe. I shed a tear when the Boston Marathon bombing happened last year — it was like the city losing its innocence. People couldn’t imagine something like that happening in Boston, let alone at MIT. During the pursuit after the bombing, the bomber ran to MIT, and then killed an MIT campus police. I was hooked on the Boston police blotter feed and CNN throughout the ordeal.

Bal 019k

That was me in 2005, just before graduation. It was early summer, I was hanging out in Boston Common with my pal Irsal Mashhor (apa khabar bro? How’s NYC?).

Looking forward to the trip!

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:

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:

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.

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.


Sweeping cobwebs (Updates)

10 February 2014

*sweep* *sweep*

Hello everyone,

You might be sick of me saying the same thing once again, but SORRY for not updating regularly, YES there are many things going on in my life and YES I plan to write more regularly from now on 🙂

As for now, some updates:

1. Kangaroo Math Competition 2014 registration is open — go to for more details. Registration ends on 24 February so register NOW!

2. The Bengkel IMO ke-3 (BIMO 3) details have been updated, at the IMO 2014 link above. Right now we have 24 very bright kids vying for the coveted spot on the Malaysian IMO 2014 team.

3. The Malaysian Computing Olympiad (MCO) 2014 will take place on 19-20 April 2014. More details will be announced on the IOIMalaysia website in due time. In particular, we will roll out the testing environment for MCO in early March, so qualified participants can test the system before the contest. To learn about how to qualify, go to

4. I hope it is not too late to wish my friends and readers happy Chinese New Year. I took a vacation during the CNY holidays with my wife — as usual, my routine during vacation is to have lots of sleep and to work(!).

5. Had a great time in Penang last weekend for a teachers workshop. Thanks to everyone who participated.

6. For young academics in math or computer science, you might be interested to apply to participate in one of the most prestigious fora, specifically for young researchers in the field:

Quote from an email I received from the organizer:

Dear young mathematics talents,
I would like to inform you today about a “once in a lifetime” opportunity that could be highly relevant, especially at this particular time: the “Heidelberg Laureate Forum” that will take place next september and which is a meeting place between young scientists like yourself with some of the world’s leading mathematicians and computer scientists: these are the awardees of the (non-existing) “Nobel prizes” in mathematics and computer science, that is Fields medalists, Abel laureates, and Turing awardees (very much in the spirit of the classical “Nobel laureate meeting”). All of those who could participate at the first event of its kind, last september, were quite excited about the excellent presentations, as well as the opportunity to meet leading scientists personally and informally. Application deadline is end of February.
With best wishes from Germany,
Dierk Schleicher

7. Prof. Schleicher (the guy who wrote the above email) also runs a very successful summer camp program for high-schoolers and early undergraduates. The summer school is held alternately between Lyon, France and Bremen, Germany. Some Malaysian students have participated in previous years; some of them even received generous scholarship to cover airfare and registration fees. Quote from Prof. Schleicher’s email:

May I also use this opportunity to inform the younger ones among yourselves about a different event that is no less exciting and that will take place this coming August for the fourth time now: the “Modern Mathematics” International Summer School for Students: it will take place 23-30 August in Lyon (after two successful events, 2011 and 2013, at Jacobs University Bremen, and in 2012 also in Lyon). This event is open for young talents in their last two years of high school and the first two years of university. The application website is not quite finished yet; you’ll find a link at

8. The Euromath 2014 (European Student Conference in Mathematics) is also upcoming. For those interested to take part, details at

9. Registration for the Olimpiad Matematik Kebangsaan 2014 is now open. Go to for the Surat Hebahan OMK 2014. We hope to get more than 12k participants this year.

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