Category Archives: Events and Happenings

Sometimes it baffles

When I read the news of the Jakarta bombing, mixed feelings I have. First and foremost, I feel sorry for the innocent victims. Secondly I feel angry at that cowardly act of terrorism. And thirdly a mixed feeling of blessing because Marriott is the hotel that I stay in when I worked in Jakarta.

Should this happen a year ago, I will most probably be having breakfast at the time the bomb went off. On a count, I spend 30%-40% of my working time in Jakarta as I was also responsible for the movie channel there. That is really a high probability for me to be either dead or injured.

The act of terrorism is a disgusting and despicable act of the highest degree. I wonder what will it take to remove violence from the face of earth. Religion was once very promising in bringing peace to the world. But that is no longer correct. And no longer correct a long, long time ago. What then will bring us peace?

Perhaps the human race is doomed. We fight and kill each other. We plunder and destroy mother nature, which we shamefully call our home. But what other choices do we have? Do we really have a choice? Can mankind ever live peacefully? I mean mankind, not an isolated small community.(My answer is no. We can never really live peacefully for long without bloodshed. There is bound to be some idiots that will stir things up). Can mankind really sustain life without the irresponsible plundering of the earth resources? (My answer is yes. We can live peacefully with mother earth’s sustainable resources. We have a choice.)

From the Bhagavad-Gita.

“There Arjuna could see, within the midst of the armies of both parties, his fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, and also his father-in-law and well wishers.

When the son of Kunti, Arjuna, saw all these different grades of friends and relatives, he became overwhelmed with compassion and spoke thus:

Arjuna said: My dear Krsna, seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up.

… I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Krsna, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom, or happiness.”

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Japanese Modern Visual Culture – Daicon

Yesterday and today morning we were at the Multimedia University in Cyberjaya as part of the Malaysia Weiqi Association’s promotion of Go in the Daicon event. It was really nice, full of youth and vigor. It is undeniable that the Japanese have been very successful in exporting their culture, from karaoke to manga to anime to J-Pop etc.

It has always been a wonder to me to see people dressed just like the characters in the manga or anime. But it is such a great thing that they did, do what they like, live the moment. Daicon is a great celebration not only of Japanese visual art but also a celebration of the spirit of youth.

Here are some photos (courtesy of my wife of course):

Figurines:

Cosplay:

Malaysia Weiqi Association promotion gang:

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Indulgences and Some Pleasures

Weekends are usually very nice and I look forward to it very much. The first qualifying criteria to have a great and happy weekend is to have all the work in the office well taken care of the week before. If there are still work not taken care of, not necessarily finished because the larger part of my work involves some very long term timelines such as the Initial Public Offering (IPO) and the ISO14000 and Green Certification projects, then the weekend will not be that enjoyable as I will have a very bad nagging feeling inside me and I won’t feel at peace.

So yesterday was great. Not only we played Go and Shogi in the Japan club but also in the night, we played Risk. Alex, Philip, Zaid, Jacky & Chi Kuan came and with the new and improved Risk, we played until 3 something in the morning. There are many other ideas to improve the Risk some more and make it more enjoyable and to also increase its strategic and tactical gameplay but just the basic gameplay itself takes 3-4 hours to finish. It is still very enjoyable nonetheless, a good break from the “serious” strategic game that is Go.

I really appreciate these friends of mine. They are really great and interesting personalities.

Then today just right in the morning, I woke up quite early despite sleeping at almost 4am last night, I read some Isaac Babel. I managed to finally buy a copy of THE COMPLETE WORKS OF ISAAC BABEL and looked forward very much to read more of him. That is probably the reason for me waking up early. Babel is another great story writer and for me rank right up there with other Russian writers, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, all three whom I love, but loving Chekhov the most among the three and Dostoevsky second.

It is perhaps by pure coincidence or perhaps it is the work of my subconscious mind, I popped in Shostakovich’s 13th symphony into the CD player (Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Decca), one of the greatest symphonic works and can stand side by side with the greatest Mahlerian symphony (okay…. tsk tsk… Mahler is still the GREATEST!!). Babel is a victim of the dreaded Stalinist regime and Shostakovich’s work is also a criticism of the Stalinist regime. The combination of these two sent shivers down my spine and reminds me of how lucky I am to be born in this era in Malaysia.

The 13th symphony is actually a choral symphony, putting into music the goosebumps-inducing texts by the Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Some excerpts:

From Babi Yar that speaks about the Nazi massacre of over 100,000 civilians, mostly Jews but also consist of other races: “There is no Jewish blood in my blood, but I feel the loathsome hatred of all anti-Semites as though I were a Jew – and that is why I am a true Russian”. It is a call for all humanity to put an end to Racism. Racism has caused just too much blood to spill.

Also, here’s an excerpt from Fears: “They stealthily subdued people and branded their mark on everyone: when we should have kept silent they taught us to scream, and to keep silent when we should have screamed.”

These are just excerpts of the harrowing text. Now, imagine Shostakovich’s music accompanying these texts. (Then read about what happened to Isaac Babel)…

Maybe I should have Pelmeni and some Vodka for lunch afterwards…..

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What’s Happening

Well, almost two weeks have gone by. My grandfather passed away last Monday due to old age, a ripe 98 years old and I was back in my hometown for the funeral ceremony. We all wore red, as if it is like Chinese New Year because according to tradition, anyone who passed away at a ripe age of 100 shall be celebrated because they have lived a full and long life and passed away peacefully, with lots of children and grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Indeed, the place was packed with all my grandfather’s decendents.

Thinking back, if it was not for my grandfather who has had the courage and made the effort to come to Malaysia (or Malaya at that time) to work and find a new living and new hope, our generation will still be stuck somewhere in China and our generation may not have progressed very far. Anyways, for better or for worse, we are living well here, all thanks to my Grandfather’s courage and foresight.

Every once in a while, this kind of courage and foresight is important, especially so when you are trapped in a death-hole, i.e. no matter what you do, the situation does not and will not look that it can be bettered. In such instances, courage is necessary to take the leap of faith, to restart life in the hope of a better future, if not for oneself, for the next generation.

You just can’t keep repeating and doing the same thing but expect the same results. I always keep telling myself and whoever I thought needed to hear this. I think I have even blogged about this before. This is really important. There is virtually no way where you keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different things to happen.

Anyways, the World Amateur Go Championship (WAGC) is happening now in Japan and is one of the top event for amateur Go players. Malaysia is represented by the ever strong Boon Ping who registered himself only as a 4dan. Let’s hope that he can achieve good results and we will all be rooting for him.

Another player that I am interested in is China’s representative, Hu Yuqing with whom I have played with in a tournament in Bangkok and of course was completely trashed by him. He won the WAGC before with straight wins and this year, many people thinks that he will win again. In fact, he actually has pro strength as I witnessed in the Bangkok tournament as even 2dan professional players have difficulties when played against him. By the way, he was also the champion in the Bangkok tournament.

A lot of things in Go is happening now in Malaysia. We just had a selection tournament for a tournament in Korea this September and the winner was Zaid (as expected) with the first runner up being Philip and second runner up being Alex. I was appointed to be the team leader. I am really looking forward to a great experience of Korean Go.

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Where did all the money go?

I was feeling a bit feverish this morning, perhaps a result of the headache I got from the Go tournament last Saturday in the Japan Club where I had two wins and two losses. The normal thing to do is to just sleep tight for a day and rest before going to work again tomorrow.

But I couldn’t do that because I had three meetings lined up today. The first was with a boutique Corporate Finance adviser where they are advising on our coming corporate exercise, the second was with our company auditor and then in the afternoon, a meeting with our corporate banker to discuss some banking facilities and to restructure the exisiting facility. And then tomorrow morning, a meeting with a leading investment banker, again for the corporate exercise.

While doing this, of course, naturally the finance side of me will take over the movie and Go side of me. Recently I read a book entitled THE WORLD IS CURVED. Of course, most people have read or heard of the book THE WORLD IS FLAT by Thomas Friedman. Ironically, I read the book over a weekend in my condo in Hyderabad and reflecting on the book in Hyderabad, I felt that I was at the right place at that time. Anyways, back to THE WORLD IS CURVED, it basically says that while Thomas Friedman’s book brilliantly described the world of commerce in goods and services, the world of Finance is essentially curved in that you can’t really see what is around the corner.

Reflecting on that book, I was of course thinking of the current economic condition that the world is in. Of course, many people thought that the crisis stems from the Subprime housing mortgage crisis but actually, the root of the problem goes further than that, even further than what is accused of Alan Greenspan, i.e. creating a housing bubble by lowering interest rate for a prolonged period of time (by the way, Greenspan’s biography THE AGE OF TURBULENCE is also a very good read and I got a lot of inpiration from it while working in Jakarta).

The thing with modern finance is just the complexity of it and thus the frequent lack of transparency in the system. Financial derivatives and structured financing masks too much of the risks involved in such financial instruments and as such exposes the holder of such instruments to very high risks, risks that they often are not really aware of due to the lack of transparency. As such, banks are “suddenly” insolvent and the government has to pump national money to rescue these troubled financial institution whereas these money would have been better used to improve the country’s infrastruture and to enrich its citizens.

So, with the government pumping so much money, in the trillions in rescue packages, it is only logical to think that those trillions are no longer in the economic system. So where did all these money go? Needless to say, they went to a small group of extremely powerful people but who are these people?

The modern world of finance is such that those who knows how to play the system will make huge amounts of money while those honest, down to earth people, will work their buttocks off day in day out, doing productive work, but finding that the money that they have earned with their hardwork is slowly eroded by the financial system, if not wholly swallowed up by those who know how to play the system.

Imagine the common American, for example, who finds that the value of his home has gone down by half and he is no longer able to pay for his mortgage while the company that he is working for is retrenching while someone in Norway has bought a repackaged asset backed securities who finds that that asset is no longer backing up the finance sufficiently and has to lose money on that investment, those money that he has saved up so hard to invest for the future. There is no more future then, and they have to start all over again, toiling day in day out, to save money again.

While some fat cats are sitting somewhere in the world, laughing at these sad and honest people. The world of finance is not fair. The world of finance is curved.

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