Monthly Archives: September 2008

Test Results

I have been watching my diet for more than two weeks now since I have made up my mind to have a healthy body. This comes about when I met with one new friend who has just done an operation due to cardiac arrest (heart attack) and I heard from him first hand the horror that he has to go through. Besides wanting to stay healthy, I am also planning to increase my insurance coverage. Sounds really kiasu huh, but I think this is really necessary.

So I have been drinking vegetable juice (tomato, carrot and celery) everyday. These three vegetables I often don’t like to eat but surprisingly, after blending them together, they didn’t taste bad at all. In fact, I quite like the taste and there starts our weekly shopping at Jusco for these three vegetables. Also, I have made a dramatic change to my breakfast. I am now eating Quaker oats with low fat milk for breakfast everyday.

The results of this is good so far. My blood pressure has dropped by more than 10 points and brought me back at a double digit level (diastolic).

Back to Go, after the last time I took Alexander’s strength where I scored around 1dan, I have tried that test again and the results is as follows:

“Thank you! Your score is 162 from 200.
You are about European 4-dan (you can convert this grade to other ranking-systems by using this table )

Please don’t be disappointed if this mark is lower than your real grade.
We were mainly trying to test your understanding of the game.

Your actual rank depends on your reading skill, your ability to make decisions under time pressure, your state of health and many other factors.”

Maybe it is luck since it is a multiple choice question but compared to the last time I took the test, I seem to have more clarity this time and consciously know that the answers I chose the last time I took the test is decidedly inferior in some questions. Maybe there is hope for improvement afterall.

If you would like to take the test, follow this link: http://play.baduk.org/go-test/start.php?

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Rengo and Lessons

Last night’s lesson with Alexander is quite fun, depending on how you look a it. We started with a Rengo game (pair Go game) where Alexander and myself is one pair while two 6 dans formed the other pair. Rengo is a lot of fun to play although I seldom play it. The way it works is each player in the pair will take turn to move on the board but they cannot talk to each other. So the partners will have to understand why the other partner plays the move and try to synchronize the strategy.

By using Rengo to teach me, Alexander forced me to think like how he thinks. When he makes a move, I will have to anticipate the follow up moves. A lot of pressure on me but I find this way of learning refreshing. I had a bad game from the beginning because of two joseki that I was unfamiliar with and thus let our opponent got a big lead in the beginning, despite Alexander’s efforts to salvage the situation and I almost always destroys what he tries to do ;-) Towards the mid game, we launched a fight and according to Alexander, the game became close again but then I lost on time. Just not enough time to think. So the game ended. So many people came to watch our game and the remarks they made is really not very nice. But anyways, it is a good way to learn.

After that, we reviewed the game in private since it is a private lesson. I learned one new joseki and its variations and one joseki trick that our opponent used on me and I answered wrongly, and thus lost a whole corner. Both joseki revolves around the Hoshi point. It is amazing the number of variations that the Hoshi points has. I have never really appreciated Hoshi josekis and put a lot of time and effort concentrating on Komoku josekis only but last night was a real eye opener.

One of my big problem is when the opponent plays a move that I am not familiar with, I don’t seem to have the ability to know how to play so as to not to fall into a disadvantage. I think I simply cannot visualise the end result and cannot compare the individual end results and assess the result, whether it is good for me or not. Normally, how I should think is this: if I play a certain move, I have to anticipate the end results, and then I play another variation and anticipate its end results, and then decide which one is better. But this is easier said than done. First of all, my reading skills sucks, so the “variation” that I think is a variation becomes really bad because I will miss some of the tactical sequences. Secondly, I don’t seem to be able to hold the end result image in my mind and thus unable to compare. Even if I can, it takes an enormous amount of time for me to do that and my opponent begins to yawn. Thirdly, it seems that I really do not have the ability to judge what is good and what is bad, and therefore, after the analysis in my mind, I thought that the end result is good for me and thus I play accordingly but it turned out that the end result is really bad.

So, there goes my second lesson. Next week Friday, another one.

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Being Kind

As planned, I had a Go lesson with Alexander yesterday night. We started with a game review, a game that I have played and lost, and then he will go over the game with me, pointing out the errors in the way I think about the game, showing me some joseki, often non-standard joseki or trick plays and teach me how to read ahead in fighting. After that, I play a handicapped teaching game with him and he will use the game to teach me some new ideas and more. It is actually a very good way for me to learn because the teaching is tailored to me, not some standard lessons where everyone else can learn. If I need that, I will just go to Guo Juan’s One Euro Audio Go Lessons to watch some lectures, which are actually marvelous for just One Euro!

One comment that always come up during our game review, be it yesterday or last week was spoken by Alexander in our game review yesterday. He said it to purposely drill it into me:

“THANK YOU FOR BEING SO KIND TO MY GROUP”

Oh my goodness, I am doing it again. Why can’t I play tougher Go? Why is my Go so soft?

Actually, real life do mirror Go in this aspect. In our owrk, we cannot afford to be soft. I don’t mean that one has to be a B**** or an A**h*** but by being soft, it actually impedes performance. One has to be kind, that is for sure, but that does not mean one has to be soft and slack. Being kind is not synonymous with being soft and slack. One can be kind yet firm and push for the best performance. Very often, in my work, I have to be firm and make many hard decisions but I have learnt over many years of working experience, I have to do the inevitable. By being “kind” I hurt the company, myself and also the person that I am supposed to be “kind” to. By being firm, frank and candid, I find that it is the best way forward for everyone. But first, you need to get out of the thought of “needing to be liked” and “fearing a response”. Trust me, if you can’t get out of this mind set, you won’t go very far.

So, this is the same as in Go. By being “kind”, I am not being fair to myself and more importantly, I am not being fair to my opponent because I am denying him/her of a good game. The trouble with me is I don’t really know when I am being “kind”, when I am playing actively, and when I am over-playing! Without the ability to recognize the situation that called for more active play and yet not over-playing and being over-aggressive, I won’t know when to be hard. Sometimes, I do have a feeling that I need to punish an opponent’s overplay but I do not have the tactical skill to really punish the opponent. Plus my reading skills really sucked.

The other big problem with me is my endgame (yose). I can easily lose 20-30 points to my opponent in the endgame play alone. I think I can improve on this by being more vigilant and study endgame more. Alexander recommended the Ogawa and Davies book which I do have and hold in very high regards. He recommended that I go over the book again and again. Again and again?? I can’t even get through the book even once through. It is a tough book and ironically, the book is part of the “Elementary Go Series”! This book is a gem, together with another book in the series, “Attack and Defense”. I recommend this Elementary Go Series to all Go players.

So, lots more to learn but I truly enjoy the experience. Luckily I have Go. I love Go. More lessons next week Friday with Alexander.

P/S: The lessons are not cheap and sometimes I wonder if I should really go ahead with the lessons. How much can it really help me? I really don’t know how much but I think there is some effect. Anyways, I will complete the 5 lessons course and see how it goes after that. It is really not cheap at all….

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More Than A Month Now

A blink of an eye and more than a month has passed since I joined this new company. So far so good, although the challenge is really huge but touch wood, things have been progressing quite well. Frantic recruitment is still happening and we are still so short handed. Processes and procedures are being put in place, people are talking to each other more, difficult problems concerning especially our huge subsidiary in India is now being solved (for those who has worked in India, you will appreciate how hard it is to work with the law and taxes, let alone deal with the very smart Indians), the Vietnam project will kick start by end of this month and the Thai project is getting firmed up. Other work is progressing and they seem to be moving along the right direction. I hope things will get better and better.

My Go is still not very good, and my lessons shall be on every Friday starting next Friday, hopefully, after my sensei is back from his tournament this week. I have been doing a lot of studies myself, especially so replaying professional games and solving problems. But still I don’t feel very confident with my Go.

Talking about Go, I get to know this new friend who actually is still a kid. But this kid is quite funny and asks questions like death, meaning of life, etc. Well, she has gotten into Go and is progressing well but she sort of reminds me a bit of myself when I was around her age. That’s how I started to want to read about philosophy and started to read Plato. In fact, when I found my first secure job at the audit firm, the first thing I bought, my first ever asset, is the set of Great Books of the Western World, a set of 60 books containing the wisdoms of the Western world. That book set cost me more than RM5,000 and I had to pay for it by installment. But what a joy!!

It is strange to many but thinking about death do preoccupy me a lot. As I have blogged about this before, I often imagine my own funeral and was surprised to find out that Gustav Mahler did the same. I wonder if this is normal. When I first read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, I swore at that time that it was the best book I have ever read and kept it by my bedside for many many months, re-reading paragraphs and passages over and over again.

Perhaps why I am so drawn to Mahler’s music is because it is filled with death, at least the few symphonies that touches me deeply. I have blogged about it here: https://fallingstones.wordpress.com/2008/07/13/symphonies-of-life-and-death/

Why did you live? Why did you suffer? Is life a joke? What is beyond death?

I have a pragmatic answer, I have a romantic answer and I have a transcendental answer.

Probably we can put it this way. We live in this world because we do not have a choice not to live. Since we do not have a choice not to live, we must live. Not just survive, but live. But life is full of suffering but why in the first place does suffering exist? As the Buddha has pointed out, which may be true and I believe it to be true, we suffer because of attachment to our “selfish desires”. But this suffering can be made to end. How? Perhaps by following the Eightfold Path.

We have to realise that life is not all bad and life is not all good. This is a fact. Find happiness in small things. Happiness do not have to come in a big way. I think I have blogged about my experience in India, how I saw the kids in the rain, playing with rain water, but still very happy while I am in a nice car being chauffeured and being posh, but am not happy. So what is happiness? Can happiness be really measured by how much money you have in the bank? But if you do not have money in the bank and owes loan sharks money, can you be happy? Then, how much do you need to have in the bank for you to be happy? Again, we come back to what the Buddha said, suffering exists because of our attachment to our own “selfish desires”. If we are non-attached, we can be happy.

By “selfish desires”. I don’t think the Buddha meant it to be a bad word. The source of the evil is ATTACHMENT to selfish desires. For example, to have money and live comfortably is not bad in itself but attachment to it is. By being attached, the person cannot live without money and always crave for the nice feeling of being able to live comfortably and demand a more and more comfortable living environment. But until when will he be satisfied? If he is forever attached to that desire, he will not be happy no matter how comfortable he is. So as the advertisement said, “What is your number?”

What is death and what is beyond death? I think death is the non-existence of the physical self but the energy and memory of that person will remain. His blood and DNA will remain if he has kids. If he is a great man, his thoughts and deeds and contribution to mankind will remain. But will his soul go to heaven or hell? First question to ask is, do people have souls? As the Buddha asked, if the person has a soul, where does the soul reside in the body? Reside in the heart? The brain? The spleen? The lungs?

Our human existence exists within the human experience but when all traces of human existence is gone because there are no more human experience, i.e. mankind has extinct, all memories will be erased. But will mankind as a whole be forever gone? Will planets light years away still be able to see our history? Will our remains, our bones and carbon still remain? I remember in science class, the teacher said that energy can niether be created nor destroyed. Based on this, I don’t believe that mankind as a whole can be completely wiped out of the history of this universe. But what about individual history? Maybe. I don’t know. But the right question, I believe, is this: Why does this matter? What is the big deal that we need to be remembered, we need to continue to exist, our soul needs to go to heaven, we need to be resurrected, etc? Why in the first place do we crave for this eternal life? Is this, again, attachment to selfish desires? If it is, then isn’t asking this question and demanding an answer is one of our source of suffering?

Hmmmmmm……..

I don’t know but I sure have written quite a bit. Maybe it is because lately I haven’t been writing much except policies, memos, and MOUs. Maybe it’s because it is late now and things start to flood in. Maybe it’s because of that kid. But I have always enjoyed thinking about these questions.

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