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1000 Times Intensity

It is time now to put away all other weiqi/go books and study this book and do all the questions in it with 1,000 times intensity. Hopefully at the end of this, I will understand this more and stop doing really silly mistakes for the rest of my games.

This is one of the best books that emerged from this series and when I first got this book in 2004, I really didn’t appreciate it. At that time, I was only a lowly Kyu player and a lot of what is in the book is beyond me at that time. Now, revisiting it, I found it to be such a huge treasure trove.

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Weiqi and Surfing

Back from a 5 day trip to Bali which was very enjoyable. It is such a culturally strong place and I thoroughly enjoyed myself basking in the sun surfing the waves and immersed in Balinese culture which is strongly influenced by Hindu culture.

At the same time I was in Bali, the 29th World Amateur Go Championship (WAGC) is being held in Japan and Zaid Zulklifi is representing Malaysia in this top Go event of the year. Last year Boon Ping went and achieved a very good result and Zaid looks like doing quite good after the first 3 rounds. He is ranked 5 dan and have been playing Go for only the past 5 years. As such his achievement is rather good after picking up the game while studying in London. Read his own account of how he started playing Go here: http://msiago.wordpress.com/

As for myself, I am now in the midst of preparing myself for the Beijing Go event this October and begin to start to study and play more seriously. Have been slacking for the past couple of years or so. Am now working on the Train Like A Pro series and replaying pro games, plus games on KGS (under a new name so no one will recognise me and interrupt my games and/or start to comment on my moves which most of the time I don’t think is valid comment and uncalled for). I hope to achieve 4dan with this new KGS account by this October.

On yet another note on Go, there is a couple of “tests” designed by a Alexander Dinerchtein, a Russian Pro with a ranking of 3danprofessional from Korea. One is a test on an estimate of your Go strength and the other is a test on your Go playing style.

I took the test and here are the results:

On Go Strength: http://play.baduk.org/

*****
Thank you! Your score is 148 from 200.
You are about European 1-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.

*****

Based on the rough estimate of Go strengths, European 1 dan is more or less equivalent to Japanese 4dan, American Go Association’s 3dan and KGS 2dan. This looks like about right but when we discuss on Go strength, it is always an estimate and like the disclaimer in the test above, it really depends on your reading skills and decision making under pressure.

On Go Playing Style: http://style.baduk.org/

*****

Your style is flexible

Your Go style is flexible: you can play for territory as well as for influence.
Usually you make such decisions according to the whole-board situation or the playing style of your opponent.

You may force him to choose the strategy he hates. For example, if he likes moyos, you can play for influence yourself, just for making him angry.

Your Go style is actually the best one.

You may improve your Go by studying different things, but I suggest paying attention on yose and positional judgment.

*****

Sounds like the test is quite accurate but that i probably because it says my style is actually the best one. But the truth is that the suggestion that I should pay more attention to yose (end game moves) hits right on the point. I have a huge problem wrapping up a won game.

Well, sounds like a lot more to do before hitting 4dan on KGS by this October (i.e. roughly equivalent to European 3dan, Japanese 5-6dan and American 5dan).

Like they said in the book Built To Last, we must aim for BHAG!!!

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Filed under Travel, Weiqi/Go/Baduk

Polish Films

Talking about Andrzej Wajda, it reminds me of an incident which is very funny and which I still remember to this day. In fact, this is one of the many, many incidences like this which truly brightens up my day. We have this so-called, often self-appointed and self-projected illusion, movie expert in the company and this person needs to be seen as knowing everything about movies, especially in front of the bosses. We were having dinner, with the boss of course, and a movie came up in the conversation when we were talking about movie censorship in Malaysia. The movie is PROMISED LAND and apparently it was banned in Malaysia. When the boss asks which movie is that, the person, who obviously doesn’t know about the movie, struggles and spoke some crap and I came in and ask if it is Andrzej Wajda’s THE PROMISED LAND. This person, in the trademark move, blinks the eyes continuously and said yes yes, it is Andrzej Wajda’s movie (pronouncing Wajda’s name exactly the same way I pronounced which amused me big time).

There are many moments that happened in the course of my work here with this person and whenever I caught that person bullshitting (which is a lot of times and characterised by an incessant blinking of the eyes and/or looking at other people around the table for rescue, and then giggle then change topic) I find myself laughing loud inside and definitely made my day.

So with this, here’s some notes on Wajda’s MAN OF MARBLE, a very remarkable film.

Man of Marble, 1977

(Czlowiek z marmuru)

dir: Andrzej Wajda

Halfway into this movie, three things come to my mind. First is Citizen Kane. Second is Mao Tse-dong and third is Amir Muhammad. Of course many other things got my mind to work, and movies like this one is great because it sets my mind free. It let’s me ponder on history, philosophy, politics, economics, film techniques, aesthetics, all at once. And by this, I mean real history, real politics, not some imagined settings which are not only biased but totally wrong.

There are not many Polish directors that are well known. One can actually count them with one hand. Roman Polanski is Polish but I don’t consider his movies really Polish, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi. Anymore that one knows, one then can be considered a learned world movie buff (actually there are a couple more names that should be quite familiar to people who digs world movies). These bunch of directors made some really interesting and good movies, including Polanski. Here’s a sample:

Polanski: KNIFE IN THE WATER; THE PIANIST (non-Polish films: ROSEMARY’S BABY; CHINATOWN)

Kieslowski: THE DECALOGUE; Three Colours trilogy; NO END

Wajda: ASHES AND DIAMONDS; A GENERATION; LANDSCAPE AFTER BATTLE; MAN OF MARBLE

Holland: EUROPA, EUROPA; A WOMAN ALONE

Zanussi: YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN; CAMOUFLAGE; POSSESSION

In fact, Wajda’s new film, KATYN, actually made it to the nominee list in the recent Oscars, so one should be quite familiar with him (in fact, I was offered the acquisition of the rights to KATYN and THE DECALOGUE plus a few other Polish movies, so stay tuned to the channel).

MAN OF MARBLE is about a young lady, Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda), who is making her diploma film and picks a subject that interests her but the “authorities” would rather forget (reminds me of Amir Muhammad). Told in the CITIZEN KANE style, her subject is a person, Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), a bricklayer who has been identified by the authorities to be used as propaganda tool to show the people the power of the labourers and the potential growth and prosperity of the nation under Stalinist rule. However, Birkut soon fell into disfavour and is then conveniently forgotten. Agnieszka is interested to know what happened to Birkut and went all out to look for witnesses and the people involved to get a true picture of this once hero. As she went further into the investigation, the authorities put an end to her work and stopped her from using the camera and films. Once steely and determined, we finally see her breaking down in the presence of her father who encouraged her to go locate where Birkut is now. Encouraged, she found his son and got to know what happened to Birkut.

This film is a study on the Polish society under Stalinist rule and how they manipulate and create icons and idols to support their political agenda. We see the same thing happening in Communist China under Mao Tse-dong as well, where a particular common citizen is chosen to be the example to the whole country. Sometimes, whole towns are made model-towns for propaganda purposes. Propaganda songs are sung everywhere (one particular song actually mentioned Malaysia, I think it is talking about Chin Peng’s struggle in Malaya – that gives an idea on what era this film is set). At the end, Wadja showed us how he reconstructed a made icon and found a man whose only objective is to be honest and work for the welfare of the people but is a sad victim of political propaganda and agenda, and then had to live a broken life which he didn’t really recover from.

Wajda is widely acknowledged as to be the forerunner of a new generation of Polish filmmakers after the second world war and shortly after Stalin’s death, made his first movie A GENERATION. The movie is a marked move away from the propagandist films made before and Wajda continued to push the boundaries further and further with his next movies such ASHES AND DIAMONDS. Together with Zanussi, they sort of started a movement called “Cinema of Moral Concern” with the expressed objective of morally examining modern Polish history and and modern Polish life.

MAN OF MARBLE, one of the films from the “cinema of moral concern” movement, is a truly fascinating film. Watch it if you can and if you are interested in history, politics, movies, you will love this film.

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Filed under Movies, Movies (Highly Recommended)

Here In My Home – Malaysian Artistes For Unity

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Wl3firJQk
This is a very good message and a very nice song. A Malaysia like this is likely to be a better Malaysia. Why isn't Yusoff Haslam here? That will be a breakthrough ;-)

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Channel Promotion

I have been avoiding to do this for a long time because in principle I do not like to mix my personal blog with work. But the setting up of the channel website is taking a lifetime for reasons I cannot understand, so maybe once in a while, I can blog about the channel’s programming highlights. There are over 100 movies played on the channel every month, of which about 20% of them are fresh titles and the balance 80% repeat titles. Out of this 20% fresh titles, there is about 4-8 titles every month that is the key highlight and these titles are further programmed in a way that will appeal to a large target market, from the aunties to the young, from urban to rural. So here it is:

A. For those who loves to watch locally made Malay movies:

1. HARU BIRU – a Que Haidar drama action. It didn’t make a lot of money in the box office but this movie deals with the social problems in Malaysia and the spoils of youth in contemporary Malay society. I will consider this a relatively high grade Malay movie compared to some other dumb but more successful movies in the box office.

Premieres 4th May. Repeats: 9, 13, 19, 25,31 May.

2. ZOMBI KAMPUNG PISANG – this is a wonderful movie from director Mamat Khalid. A comedy which is more of a social satire and B-grade movie spoofs, it is a very smart and well made movie with an ensemble cast headed by Awie, who, in my personal opinion, is a more talented comic actor (as seen in BAIK PUNYA CILOK) rather than a macho romantic as in SEMBILU.

Premieres 9pm 18 May. Repeats: 23, 27 May.

I will consider the above two movies the better made of the local Malay movie crop of craps.

B. For those who loves a more “niche” type of movies (which more me means more intellectually stimulating type):

1. SANCTUARY – a movie by Malaysian Ho Yuhang of which I have previously reviewed on my website. Go there to read more. Yuhang is one of the more talented local filmmakers. Although sometimes loud-mouthed, he is smart, intellectually disciplined and has some sense of humour that is lacking in many other filmmakers.

Premieres: 7th May. Repeats: 17, 20, 26 May.

2. HOLIDAY DREAMING – this movies hails from Taiwan, a land where the local film industry has been suffering for a long time from the onslaught of Hollywood movies but is recently seeing a revival.

Premiere: 31 May

C. For those who loves Bollywood movies:

1. GURU – This Mani Ratnam movie stars Aishwarya Rai and hubby and is a sure Bollywood entertainer.

Premiere: 2 May. Repeats: 7, 12, 21, 31 May.

2. ANTHONY KAUN HAI – translates as Who is Anthony, this movie by Sanjay Dutt (Sanju Baba) is an action comedy. Sanjay Dutt is quite a good actor and seeing him in LAGE RAHO MUNA BHAI is really fun, for example. We see his normal fun and charm in ANTHONY KAUN HAI as well.

D. For Hong Kong/Japanese/Korean movie lovers:

1. DOG BITE DOG – Edison Chen (heh heh!!) acting in this action thriller. Sam Lee is good in this movie. But beware, the intense action may upset your stomach.

Premiere: 16 May. Repeats: 21, 26 May.

2. 200 POUNDS BEAUTY – A very entertaining Korean Rom-com. Good movie to watch to unwind after a day of work.

Premiere: 10 May. Repeats: 13, 21, 29 May.

3. THE GREAT YOKAI WAR – by the ever great Takashi Miike, this action-fantasy is a welcome change from Miike’s who is more well known for his violent flicks (although this is not entirely true).

Premiere: 17 May. Repeats: 20, 28 May.

For more comprehensive synopsis, please Google them or search on IMDB.

The above movies will be my pick if you ask me for a handful of movies to look out for in the channel.

Coming up in June, it is also quite exciting. We have:

1. FLOWER IN THE POCKET
2. AFTER THIS OUR EXILE
3. PAN’S LABYRINTH
4. MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER 3
5. BAIK PUNYA CILOK

So look out for this. Am in the process of closing a bunch of very good movies, which I will announce when the deed is done! Very excited!

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Filed under Business, Movies

Price and Pricing

One of the most enjoyable aspect of my job is tweaking the scheduling strategy. The impact on the channel’s performance is direct and scheduling is more of a science backed by in-depth analysis of data. Eventually, a pattern will emerge and the gaps are as glaring as daylight. Another aspect of why this is so fascinating is because the scheduling landscape moves all the time because the competition is not dumb. They react accordingly, whether by accident or by design, and therefore it is necessary to be vigilant on the changing landscape and put in counter strategies. It is really like playing chess and when the numbers show positive results, it is very satisfying, just like winning a good game of weiqi.

As people who knows me knows, I am quite interested in economics and pricing does interest me too. In the course of my work, I have heard detailed analysis on pricing strategies employed, or should be employed and both of these arguments aims at the same aspect of our organisation.

One argument is such that when the ratings of a particular programme is consistently very high, one should raise the price of advertising slots to maximise advertising revenue. For timeslots or programmes that is not popular, the price should be reduced or bundled and sold as a package together with the high ratings programme. This, to many people, is actually common sense but common sense is actually a rare commodity. The real question here is this: what is the maximum price can one put in relation to the ratings numbers? Say, in the standard price list, a 30 seconds spot costs RM4,000 no matter where the spot is placed in the channel. Now, say the 7am slot has a low ratings number of X and the 9pm slot has a high ratings number of Y. Is it possible from here to construct a mathematical equation to shows the path to the optimum pricing for advertising for both these slots?

The other argument has to do with perception instead on real ratings numbers. Now, this is a lot more tricky but I can assure you that it is founded on precise mathematics as well. The key here is really competitive advantage. To what extent can a company differentiate its products based on its competitive advantages from what is available in the market will determine how much extra money they can charge. Differentiation has a lot to do with elasticity, the more differentiated, or perceived to be differentiated, the less elastic will be the price. As Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn said in their book “Competition Demystified”, there is really actually one aspect of Porter’s Five Forces that stands heads and shoulders above the other Forces and that is The Barriers To Entry.

Barriers to Entry, according to the authors, is really determined by three kinds of genuine competitive advantages. These are: Supply advantages, Demand advantages and Economies of Scale. As for my current company, although some people said that it is protected by the Government via licenses etc. looking at its history, it is exactly these three factors that see it win the competition. It has superior product supply – often exclusivity deals, a captive demand customer based on formed habits and stickinessof the programmes and the general economies of scale of its customer base and thus reducing its average cost per customer.

All the above needs further qualifications and needs to be guarded against. For example, in terms of supply, the exclusive content can easily be taken away by a player who has better connections with the supplier and/or and offer a significantly higher price. What is there to stop this from happening? In terms of demand, viewing habits can be changed via a superior product and marketing.

Ok, back to the question of pricing. If the company has differentiated its products effectively via the competitive advantages gained, the company should be able to charge a higher price compared to other players in the market. For example, say there is one channel that has its audience spend 40% of their TV viewing time on and the company decides to now start charging the customers after a period of free viewing. How much can it charge? There is a math in this and the correct number can be computed.

One fascinating way to compute the number is via equations using Game Theory. A simple example, here’s an abstract representation of Bargaining Problems:

[v1(z) + t] + [v2(z) – t] = v1(z) + v2(z),

where v1(z) is player 1’s benefit of z in monetary terms, t is the amount of money to be transfered between players 1 and 2.

The surplus in the bargain is represented by the following:

v1(z) + v2(z) – d1 – d2,

where d1 and d2 is the outcome for both players 1 and 2 if no agreement is made.

The above are the abstract and here is the standard bargaining solution. The standard bargaining solution is a mathematical representation of efficiency and proportional division (based on each player’s bargaining power). Each player is assumed to obtain his default payoff plus his share of the surplus. The mathematical equation is this:

d1 + n1(v* – d1 – d2) = v1(z*) + t,

where n1 is player 1’s relative barganing power, v* is the maximum joint value by determining the value z* that maximises v1(z)+ v2(z)

With the above equation, solve for t to find the optimum amount of money to transfer between the players.

Still with me? hmmmm…..I am not sure if I am still with myself. But if you put some effort and follow the equations carefully, it is really common sense.

Let’s try to put this into the pricing problems that we have and see if we can find the answer.

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Filed under Business, Economics, Game Theory