Tuesday, February 17, 2004

A Non-Writer's Journey - Beginings

Among one of the things that I told myself that I would try to do and finish within this year is another screenplay. It has been close to 2 years since I completed my first one and I felt that it was about time that I tried to get another one out. The blog entries that I have been putting out for these past few months have partly been for the purpose of keeping me in practice with writing and an exercise in creative expression. Part entertainment, part therapeutic and part confessional, these blogs have helped me keep the creative juices flowing and help me organize some ideas in my head.

I have had people who asked me where I learned to write the way I do. It bears repeating that I am not a writer by trade. I have never trained in the art of being a writer other that the basics that one would get from high school and college. I don’t aspire to be a writer for I don’t think that I have the aptitude for it much less the skill to write anything remarkable. What I write usually comes from gut instinct on how the story flows from one point to another rather than the strict conventions of structure. I humbly believe that in its simplest essence, my writing comes from the need for me to tell the stories that I have in my head. These half formed stories and images sometimes seemed to shout out demanding to be heard and that is when I am driven to write them down. I have several notebooks filled with story ideas in varying degrees of completeness and details. Some were no more than bullet points while there are others that came close to complete screenplay treatments. I can never tell when or how these ideas come to me. For all I know I might have been a storyteller in a past life or they are just ramblings from a demented mind. Regardless of their origins, I continue to feel passionate and driven by them.

The story for the screenplay that I’m planning to write this year has been knocking around in my heard for a few years now. It has gone through several incarnations in my notebook over that time and I finally feel that it is now in the flow that I feel confident enough to try to attempt to expand into a full screenplay. Being more of a visual person, the first step that I would have to do for this type of undertaking is to break the story down into scenes to see how many scenes I needed to have to tell the story. One tip that I learnt from the experience of writing my first screenplay was that the best way for me to do this is to get all these screen descriptions written out on medium sized Post-it notes and post them on large piece of cardboard or even to the world. This creative device allows me to visually see the progression of the story as well as allowed me to keep the bigger story firmly in view when I need to rearrange scenes. I guess that one can call it a version of the storyboard but made up of textual descriptions on post-it notes instead of pictures. It is also nice to be able to check scenes off from the board after completing them and have a visual representation of the progress of the piece.

It is only once I get this step squared away that I really dive into the writing experience.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Post Scripts from The Edge (of Sanity)

Brain. Freeze. Can’t. Think. Writer’s. Block. Must. Stop. Speaking. Like. Captain. Kirk.

PS: Got my DVD copy of Star Trek V: Undiscovered Country today and thus completing my classic ST feature film collection. Hopefully they would re-release the ST: TNG feature films in this collector’s item edition someday.

PPS: They are going to start showing “The O.C.” on Ch8 beginning this coming Saturday at 10:45pm. I am so looking forward to seeing this show after reading so much about it on TWOP. The main male leads are simply delish eye candy and the HoYaY level on this series is in the category of 1st season Smallville and 2nd season Angel. I am definitely counting the days before this series comes on air.

PPPS: Amazon.com has put up the “Popular: Season One” DVD set on pre-order status and I, of course, have put in my order. This series only ran for 2 seasons in the States which was a shame because it was really funny and had a lot of potential. I found out about the show when the showed both seasons on TV2 awhile back. The show was funny, campy, had a lot of style and of course nice male eye-candy.

PPPPS: The holiest of holy grails in DVD is finally coming as they are finally going to release the 1st Star Wars trilogy in a 4 DVD boxed set later this year. The news is that they would put the 1997 special release edition instead of the original theatrical version which is fine by me but has been criticized by some of the purist. Regardless of the controversy, I’m just happy that it is coming on DVD.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Oh Pacey, you idiot!

S finally called me to tell me that he would be coming to my house this weekend. He most probably wants to check out the new home entertainment system I bought. I would most probably be spending a lot of time in front of it since I finally got my copy of “Dawson’s Creek: Complete Season 2” yesterday. It would be fun revisiting the whole Capeside crew again as well as getting a fix for my Josh Jackson addiction. BTW ... Season 2 was when they introduced Jack who later in the same season came out of the closet. The character would continue for many seasons of the series but the rumor was the actor who was playing Jack was really upset that he had to play a gay character. He may not like it in the beginning but we get to watch him grow into and became more comfortable with the character over the years.

It took me a while to figure out why they choose “Superstitions” for the theme for this week’s Friday Five. I kept on wondering about it until I happened to glance at the calendar on my desk in the office and realized what date it was. Very sneaky of them.

1. Are you superstitious?
I guess that you can say that I am a bit superstitious about some stuff. The way I see it some of the more popular superstitions do actually have some grounding in real life if you look at them closely. Some of the more famous examples of this are the superstition about walking under the ladder or the one about breaking a mirror. Both could be seen as a warning to avoid unnecessary accidents. Of course there are other superstitions that are really out there and are hard to understand how they come to be. Of course living in Asia just adds on several layers of fun superstitions to the mix. The main point of it all is that, while it is good and well that we have all these superstitions, we should not let them rule/control how we operate in our daily lives.

2. What extremes have you heard of someone going to in the name of superstition?
I personally know someone who bought a house and renovated it at 10 times the cost of the house he purchased all because the feng-shui of the house was all wrong. He basically tore the whole house down and built it up with the goal of maximizing the feng-shui results. Every piece of brink, furniture, paint color, tree and even the fish in the house had to be approved by a feng-shui master before he allowed it into the house plan. I asked him why he even bought the house in the first place if he had to tear in down and spend the obscene amount of money he did and he told me that it was because the location the house was located was good for feng-shui. For something that was designed to attract wealth, the house really put a dent in his pocket that I have to wonder if it is really worth the time.

3. Believer or not, what's your favorite superstition?
My favorite superstition is a local Malaysian superstition that if you hear or smell anything strange in the dead of the night, especially at Thursday nights, you should never comment on them lest something supernatural/undead followed you home because you called to them by your comment. This used to scare the crap out of me as a kid especially when I started sleeping on my own bed alone. I still believe in this superstition till today and would never make a comment about anything out of place at nights if I don’t have to. I mean ... why tempt fate?

4. Do you believe in luck? If yes, do you have a lucky number/article of clothing/ritual?
I absolutely believe in luck and lucky items. Some days it seems that I need to get all the luck tokens cashed in to just get through it. My lucky number is 7, my lucky color is navy blue and I have a piece of petrified wood set in a ring of gold and bronze alloy that my late grandmother gave me which I consider to be my lucky charm that I wear always.

5. Do you believe in astrology? Why or why not?
I do sometimes read those astrology predictions and some have uncanny parallels to what was happening in my real life that it is hard not to think that there is something more to it. I would say that I don’t discount them out of the gate but I would never let it rule my daily life.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Explorace 01-04, Airdate: 11 Feb 2004

Previously on Explorace, team Ayaz and Ahsan (Team DoubleA) competed against the team of Choon Heng and Phillip (Team Uncle) in last week’s race that started at the grounds surrounding Sultan Ibrahim Building, Johor Bahru. Route 1 took half of the two teams clue hunting at several houses of worship near and around Harmony Street while the other half of the team had to cycle across town to the Hutan Bandar Recreational Park to solve their task of finding the scientific name for a particular orchid plant for Route 2. At the end of their task, Route 1 competitors ended up at a Sikh temple where they were served a very difficult breakfast to finish before proceeding to the next task. To get the golden key, Route 1 team had to travel to Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort to participate in an obstacle course before diving into the cold waters of the waterfall to find it. Route 2 team had to travel to Pekan Nenas Pineapple Research Center and perform the easier task of harvesting 20 pineapples to get their gold boxes. Both teams were directed to their rendezvous point at Senai TC Arapaima and Tropical Fish Sdn. Bhd. Mini Zoo where there race really got exciting. After completing a task that involved gulping raw ostrich eggs among other things, both teams were directed to make their assigned VW Bug road-worthy before racing to the finish line at Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru. Team DoubleA crossed the finish line first but not before barreling their car into the other cars that were parked at the finish line. For a time, their win was still up in the air as they were previously warned that they could be disqualified from the race for their reckless driving. In the end the race marshals, in a controversial move, decided to declare Team DoubleA as the winners of this leg of the race and move forward to the second round on the condition that they had to pay for all damages that they caused.

Race 4 of Explorace Round 1 this week started at the grounds in front of the historic site of the Portuguese fort of A’Famosa in Bandar Melaka, Malacca. As it was with previous races, the two teams that were competing this week were the team of Yoges and Simon against the team of Shaiful and Keat. They showed some of the pre race chatter between the two teams this week which was a bit odd as I don’t recall they did at previous races. The pre race conversations focused more on how they were friends even if they had to compete against each other in the race which I thought was refreshing considering we only saw pre race trash talking between the contestants in previous installments at this point. There was also a notable absence of a local official to flag the racers off this time so Daphne had to start the race herself. I noticed that Yoges seemed to flinch visibly when Daphne started the race with the air horn which caused me to wonder if he was a bit nervous at the start of the race and was taken by surprise with the loud horn or if it was Daphne who blew the horn too close to Yoges’s ears.

In a refreshing change this week because the first clues did not involve visiting a place of worship for once, Route 1 contestants of Simon and Shaiful were directed to take a trishaw ride to the bus station and take a bus to get to Bukit Serindit where their first trivial question waited for them at a local terompah (wooden foot clogs) factory. From the very beginning both contestants decided that to think of a strategy of trying to get a lead over the other this early in the race was pointless and that it would be to both their advantage to cooperate to figure out how to get to their first clue. I have to say the decision of not working on a strategy to screw the other contestant over was quite noble of them but in the end didn’t really make for an exciting race. Both contestants arrived at the bus stop at 7:45 and found the correct bus to take to get to their next destination.

In the meantime, Route 2 contestants of Yoges and Keat were also directed to go on a trishaw ride to the taxi stand where they were to take a taxi to Bukit Katil where they had to find the Soon Hee Honey Bee Farm. Both teams were exceptionally friendly and chatty with the trishaw rider which further solidify my assumption that both teams were taking things easy for this part of the race. They were not too consumed by the race like the other racers that we saw before and I actually found this to be a bit refreshing for a change. After the short trishaw ride, both contestants arrived at the taxi stand at 7:55 and each got a taxi easily enough to get to the next destination. Yoges, who seemed to be savvy and familiar enough with the other more famous racing reality show, immediately asked the taxi driver if he knew where exactly was the place that he had to go to. After receiving a non-committal answer, he offered to use his mobile to find out but it was declined. Once the journey started it was clear to both contestants that the taxi driver could get them to Bukit Katil but was not familiar with the area enough to find the exact destination. Keat had to stop and ask the direction from a local shop while Yoges used his mobile to call the operator to get the number for the shop so he could call them to ask for directions. This turned out to be the better strategy as he was able to get the correct directions quickly and reach the bee farm first at 8:28.

While the contestants in Route 1 were waiting for their bus, they were told that their teammates in Route 2 failed to pay for their trishaw ride and now they had to pay for them. I’m sure that it was an honest mistake on their part but this incident made me wonder if the race officials didn’t have any sort of pre race briefing for the contestants to tell them that they were responsible for all the expenses incurred during the race. Simon called Yoges, who was on his way to the bee farm at this point to confirm about the non-payment and reminded him that he should ask the driver next time if he was suppose to pay for the trip. I would think that this is a good strategy because the last thing you want to happen to you in a race of this nature is to build up bad karma from not paying the person who was giving you the ride so that you can win the prize money. Just before getting on the bus, Simon went around to ask what a “terompah” was which I found to be quite funny as I would think that most Malaysians would be familiar with what it was. From what I could tell, Simon was genuinely in the dark about what it was and had to take a few minutes before figuring what it was after having it described to him by a local. This unintentional humorous moment was only the first of many for this hilarious installment of Explorace.

After getting off at Bukit Serindit at 8:25am, Route 1 contestants were told that they had to wait outside the terompah factory for at least 5 minutes as the factory’s operating hours only started at 8:30am. I found this to be a bit funny as this reminded me of the ‘bunching’ that always happens to the contestants in the ‘Amazing Race’ just when they were trying hard to keep their lead. It was also hilarious to see how everyone was just standing around waiting for 8:30 to come around. While waiting, the two contestants were trying to guess what they had to do there if they fail to answer their trivial question. I would have imagined that it would be clear to anyone seeing this that they would be making terompah if they fail their trivia test but it seemed that this option never crossed their minds when they were trying to guess what they might have to do. After guessing badly about what they might have to do, the contestants were given their trivial question which they both fail to answer correctly. At this point, I was wondering how the race marshals would decide who gets to answer the question first if both contestants reached the checkpoint at the same time. Regardless how they chose who goes first to answer the question, both contestants had to complete the penalty challenge which involves them making 10 pairs of terompah from scratch.

While his partner was trying his hand at terompah making, Yoges had to search for the next clue envelope in a marked honey bee hive as the penalty challenge for failing to answer his trivial question in the allotted time. We did not see the briefing given by the beekeeper on how to handle bees but I would guess that the briefing was either too short or Yoges forgotten most of the briefing in his hurry to get to the clue envelope from the way he kept getting stung. It took him at least 3 false starts before being able to carefully remove the hive frames from the box in order for him to get to the green clue envelope which he finally did at 8:37. While this was going on, Keat was looking for the honey bee farm at the wrong place. In fact, the show editors even put a really hilarious caption that said ‘8:29 Keat – Lost in Bukit Katil’ to tell us that he was still unable to reach the next checkpoint. It took him an additional 5 minutes before he found the correct honey bee farm and began his penalty task just as Yoges finished his. The clue that was hidden in the bee hive told them to go to the Melaka Raya Bridge using the marked bicycle assigned to them and get the next challenge envelope there. Keat seemed to take longer than Yoges to complete the bee challenge as he spent nearly 20 minutes at the bee farm compared to Yoges’s 9 minutes. When Keat finally began his cycle to the next checkpoint, Yoges was already in the lead by 20 minutes.

When we returned to Route 1 contestants, we see the still deep in their terompah making. We saw them painting the terompah base with the traditional red color as well as cutting up what I assume was the inner tube of an old bicycle tires into smaller pieces. I have to be honest that I still can’t figure out where the small pieces of tire go on a terompah. I don’t think that they go on the top part of the terompah as they usually use plastic for that part at least on the terompah that I’ve seen before. (Anyone who can enlighten me on where those tire pieces go on the terompah is welcomed to leave a friendly comment at the end of this transcript). In a later confession, Simon complained that making the terompah was not as easy as he thought as he had larger fingers that he kept accidentally hitting with the hammer. We also saw that both contestants got helpful pointers from the factory workers on how to make the terompah although I have to say that Simon really got the short end of the deal in this case. I’m not trying to be mean but I have to say that I laughed out loud when I first heard the old man who was teaching Simon how to make the terompah speak. This old man was mumbling the instructions like a person who had lost all his teeth and had a swollen tongue. I could not understand a word he said and I wondered how Simon could make heads or tails of the instructions. Simon was still making his 10 pair of terompah when Shaiful finished his at 9:30 and was given the clue to the next check point. The clue instructed them to use another set of marked bicycles to cycle to the Crocodile Farm at Ayer Keroh.
Somewhere between the honey bee farm and Melaka Raya Bridge, Yoges must have took a wrong turn or something as Keat was able to catch up with him even when Yoges started this leg with a 20 minute lead. Both Route 2 contestants arrived at the Melaka Raya Bridge at the same time at 9:25am. When they arrived at the bridge, they were directed to don the provided wet suit and abseiling down the bridge to the base where they had to find their golden box hidden somewhere among the craggy rocks at the bottom of the bridge. It took both of them nearly 20 minutes before they reach the bottom of the bridge and began their search for the golden box among the rocks. It was Keat who found his first at 9:47 and he was the first one to go off by jet ski to Pulau Besar where he will rendezvous with his teammate before beginning the team challenge. Yoges found his golden box three minutes after Keat and quickly jumped on the jet ski to try to catch up with Keat who was currently leading. In a confessional, Yoges related how he was told by the jet ski instructor to take the jet ski out to deeper waters as it was easier for the jet ski to pickup speed on deep waters compared to shallow waters near the shore. By following this tip, Yoges managed to close the gap and arrive at Pulau Besar at exactly the same time as Keat did at 10:30. For most of their time in Route 2, both contestants were racing neck to neck with neither holding the edge over the other. They now had to wait for their partners from Route 1 to arrive before then can begin the next leg of the race.

For most of the bicycle race to the Ayer Keroh Crocodile Farm, Shaiful was able to maintain a respectable 17 minutes lead in front of Simon. He arrived at the Crocodile Farm at 10:10 which meant that he had to cycle for almost 40 minutes. In a confessional, Shaiful remarked that he had not cycled that long before and it was lucky for him that they were provided with police escorts who help stop traffic for him as he raced to Ayer Keroh. The next challenge that the contestant had to do here was to get the clue envelope for the next destination. The problem was the clue was tied to the tail of a crocodile and that the contestants had to walk up to the crocodile to get it. Since Shaiful arrived first, he was in the crocodile enclosure first to get his clue. The contestants were briefed about how to approach these crocodiles safely and I’m sure that medical personnel were on hand nearby but I couldn’t help thinking that this was really risky. In his first attempt, Shaiful managed to bring the crocodile up to shore but it snapped to when Shaiful tried to reach for the clue envelope. It was only after the second attempt when Shaiful manage to get the clue envelope off the tail of the crocodile and was directed to find the golden key in the nearby ‘haunted house’ fun house. After a short search in a surprisingly bright ‘haunted house’, Shaiful found his golden key and was on his way to the Anjung Batu Jetty for a ferry trip to Pulau Besar. Simon was trailing by 25 minutes at this point and had the same reservations after seeing what he had to do for the next clue envelope but he was able to complete the given task just in time to catch the same bus as Shaiful who unfortunately lost the lead that he had built up to that point due to bus schedules. Both contestants reached town on the same bus at 11:25 and got on separate taxis to get to the Anjung Batu Jetty to catch the 12:00 ferry to Pulau Besar.

Once Route 1 contestants arrived at Pulau Besar at 12:15 and once they were reunited with their teammate, they were tasked to find 4 Explorace tags on the island which would be exchanged with 4 items that would be part of the next challenge. Both teams start off this tag hunt at 12:20 by trying to find the water tank where one of the tags was located. Both teams were given a map of the area but I assume that the actual locations of the tags were not marked on the map since the contestants still had to ask from directions from the locals to locate these tags. For most of the time, it seemed that Shaiful was luckier in finding the tags as he was able to find 3 of the 4 tags single handedly thanks to the help of the locals. It was actually funny to see how the locals reacted to the contestants’ request for directions. The most memorable reaction I remembered from the episode was when Shaiful asked for the directions to the wishing well from a local who asked him if he actually believed the stuff about the wishing well. It doesn’t sound that funny when you read about it but trust me that it was really hilarious on screen. Both teams managed to find the 4 tags at about the same time and exchange them for a water tank, rubber hose, wet suit and compass. They were taken to their next check point on what has to be the worst looking van still moving in the country. It was really hilarious to see this wreck of a van with absolutely no windows at all tooling on the road to the next check point. This van scene came so far off center that it just underscored how wacky the race was this week.

Once they reached the checkpoint they were allowed to open the golden box which contained the next clue that told them to use the items that they got from exchanging their tags to prepare a jet ski for a quick trip back to the Anjung Batu Jetty before catching a bus at 16:15 to go to the final race destination at the A’Famosa Waterpark and Resort near Alor Gajah. After the buildup about finding the 4 items in the previous task, it was disappointing for me that we did not get to see how the contestants used the items to prepare their jet skis. At least we were told that at the end of the jet ski trip, Shaiful somehow lost his glasses which would really be a major hurdle to overcome coming this late in the competition. For the first time in the competition, all four contestants were on the same bus going to their final race destination which was the A’Famosa Waterpark and Resort which they arrived at 17:20. At 17:35 the two teams began the race to complete their final task which involved solving several clues given to them by using the compass that they got in Pulau Besar. Team Yoges and Simon ran into a slight disagreement with each other when they ran into problems trying to figure out how to work the compass but they managed to solve all the clues at 17:50 which sent them to the nearby small stream where they had to build a raft from the bamboo and tire tubes provided to them there. Team Shaiful and Keat was still trying to complete their clues when Team Yoges and Simon completed their raft and was already in the water by the time the other team arrived to build their raft. After the short raft trip, Team Yoges and Simon reached the other end of stream and were escorted to the finish line at the Resort’s Cowboy Town where they were greeted by Daphne with a somewhat out of place sounding “Howdy Boys!” greeting. I have to say that I always thought that the A’Famosa Waterpark and Resort Cowboy Town was tacky and seeing how they decided to end this week’s race did not change my impression of the place. They had a bunch of people who dressed up as American Indians dancing around the wining team who were presented with something that I guess was suppose to be a medicine staff accompanied with a blast of confetti as they are declared the winners for this race by finishing ahead of Team Shaiful and Keat by a measure of 10 minutes.

The way the race ended this week, while I thought was unnecessarily tacky; further underscore my assertion that this must be the wackiest race we have seen so far. Not only was it the wackiest race but with the race clocking in at close to 11 hours it has to be the record setter for the longest race ever on this season. I would doubt that we would see the rest of the races running this long. While I must say that the race was a bit drawn out due to the distances that the contestants had to travel, the funny moments, both intentional and unintentional; really made this episode memorable for me. Both teams who were in this week’s race was surprisingly refreshing in their good guy approach to racing but in the end only one good guy team can win the race. This time around, that distinction fell on the team of Yoges and Simon whom I will fondly remember after this race as Team Chatty. They will follow in the steps of the previous three teams into the second round where more challenges will await them.

Next week, Explorace moves on to Georgetown, Penang where two more teams will compete against each other to secure their place in the second round.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

These tired old bones

I’m too knackered tonight to finish the latest Explorace write up tonight but rest assured that I would post it up on this site as soon as possible so please continue to watch out for this space. I’m actually considering posting these weekly Explorace transcripts on Thursday after the race beginning this week instead of my current practice of trying to get them in before I go to sleep on Wednesday nights. Hopefully I would be able to write a better recap after getting a good night’s sleep instead of after staying up for a few hours like I did for the past few races. I also hope that the notes that I scribble down during the show would be clear and detailed enough for me to write the recap the following day because I could no longer to write the transcripts while the show was still fresh in my mind. I believe the wonderful contributors at TWOP actually recap the tapes of their shows instead of the shows directly like I do. I guess that if I wanted to be serious about it I could get myself a VCR and tape the show so I can recap them from the tapes but at the moment I don’t really see the need to do so. The Explorace transcripts that I offer here are more for entertainment purposes instead of an actual archive of events and I don’t really make any money off writing them.

Initial thoughts about the race tonight? Definitely not as exciting or suspenseful as the race last week but it was not without its redeeming qualities that set it apart from the other races.

PS: E finally SMSed me today to apologize for forgetting my birthday (again) this year. I was too excited to hear from him again to be angry with him about it.

I'm such a pathetic sap.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Explorace 01-03, Airdate: 04 Feb 2004

Previously on Explorace, team Hana and Syari faced off against the team of Ayu and Zoro in race that started at the grounds surrounding Kuantan Mosque, Pahang. Route 1 took half of the two teams hunting for the green clue envelope in a dark, wet and slippery cave of the Sleeping Buddha Cave Temple at Gua Charas while the other half of the team had to complete a 10 km canoe race to Tasik Chini Resort in Route 2. The next clue brought Route 1 team to Club Med, Cherating where they had to snorkel in murky waters to locate the golden key while Route 2 team had to drive a trishaw to a batik factory where they tried their hand at batik painting. As the team of Hana and Syari thundered ahead of the competition, team Ayu and Zoro faced the physical challenges with some difficulties which cause them to lose valuable time. By the time that the teammates reunited for the team task that the salted fish processing factory, team Hana and Syari had a considerable lead over the other team and managed to keep that 40 minutes lead to the final task which involved them digging up jigsaw puzzle pieces buried in the beach and completing a puzzle. In the end, team Hana and Syari complete their race first and qualify to be in the second round of competition with grace and good humor which earned them the nickname of “Team Spunky”.

Before starting this week’s episode transcript, I have to put down my two cents worth about the show’s opening theme song. I’ve listened to it for the past 3 episodes and really tried to find some rhyme or reason for this ghastly show signature tune. I have to say that I think that the jangling electronica bleating of a song that they use in the beginning of each Explorace episode has to be the worst show credits theme that TV3 has ever produced in its history. It seriously sounds like a bunch of monkeys sat down in front of a keyboard and pounded out this monstrosity that not even a tone deaf person could love. I sincerely hope that the marketing folks TV3 would change the theme song for future seasons as clearly the current one they have for this show does not help in terms of establishing a favorable impression of the show. They really need a theme song that people can instantly associate with Explorace when they hear it as part of the branding strategy for the series and not something that the audience would instinctually try to tune out like the one they have now. I just had to put this down and get it off my chest before moving on to the race action this week.

For the 3rd episode, Explorace pits the bothers team of Ahsan and Ayas against the uncle and nephew team of Choon Heng and Phillip in a race that started out at the Sultan Ibrahim Building grounds at Johor Bahru, Johor. The race destination on Explorace this week is a personal favorite of mine because my family is originally from the area and I personally know some of the places that they have to go to for their clues. As usual for this race the teams were split up into two teams pursuing different routes in their race to get to the finishing line first. In Route 1, CH and Ahsan had to look for an imam of the Masjid India at Harmony Street in Johor Bahru for their trivia question while in Route 2, Ayas and Phillip had to cycle to a recreational park in the city of Johor Bahru called Hutan Bandar and find a local there who would have the envelope with their questions. Both teams were flagged off at 7:20 from the starting point to race to their first checkpoint.

Ahsan was the first person to reach the location of the imam of Masjid India at Harmony Street for his trivia question which he had to answer within 30 seconds. As with other contestant on previous episodes, the trivia question proved too obscure for him and he had to complete the penalty task for failing to answer the question. The penalty task for Route 1 this week involves the contestants going on a clue envelope hunt from one place of worship to another on Harmony Street where several places of worship for all the major religions in Malaysia are built almost a stone throws away from each other. I am not sure if this is intentional but in all three episodes of the show, the first task of the race involved a place of worship in it somewhere which is a bit unimaginative of the producers of the show considering places like Johor Bahru have much more to offer. Regardless, the clue that Ahsan was given at the mosque directed him to find his yellow clue envelope at the Johor Ancient Chinese Temple at Jalan Trus. He was closely followed by CH 3 minutes later at 7:33am who failed to answer his trivia question as well and had to look for his red clue envelope at the same destination.

While the temple hunt was going on, Route 2 participants were cycling across town to the Hutan Bandar Recreational Park to find the person who would give them their trivial questions. For most of the race, Phillip seems to be right behind Ayas and they even managed to share a friendly moment together while cycling to their first checkpoint. It was Ayas however who arrived first at 7:43 and found the person who would give him his trivia question. After failing to answer his question, Ayas had to complete his penalty task which involved looking for the next clue in a tower at the nearby Orchid Garden. He went to the first tower that he could see and immediately wasted some of the lead that he had looking for the clue at the wrong place. I would think that him having to jump over the locked gate of the tower he first went to would have tipped him that he was at the wrong place. Phillip also seemed to have done the same thing when he had to complete his penalty task after arriving at 7:54. With the help of some kind park visitors, the two contestants learnt of the other tower near the Orchid Gardens where they were suppose to go to. The clue that they found there directed them to search the Orchid Gardens for the scientific name for the orchid plant specified in their clue.

When we return to Route 1 participants, we found that Ahsan was again the first person to reach the Chinese temple and got his yellow clue envelope which directed him to go to the Raja Mariamanan Indian Temple for the next clue envelope. He was closely followed by CH who arrived three minutes later at 7:37 who was directed for his next clue envelope at the same location. The two arrived that the Indian Temple three minutes apart and got instructions to proceed to the Sikh temple at Jalan Trus for their final clue envelope. Ahsan was still leading when he arrived at the Sikh temple for the final clue which tells the contestants to board a bus from the Johor Bahru Post Office Bus Station to the Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort after they finish a breakfast provided to them. CH arrived a few minutes later and had to complete the same meal before being allowed to proceed to the next destination. I didn’t exactly catch what was served to them but I did recognize a serving of chapatti on their plates so I will assume that they were served typical Sikh dishes. I’m not sure if they tried to rush through the meal or something but we found out that both contestants ran into trouble finishing their breakfast. CH must have tried to eat too fast that he seemed like he was choking at one point and had to throw up what he had already eaten into a nearby dustbin. Later we would learn in a confession that Ahsan ran into the same problem and also threw up what he ate. I would be surprised if this didn’t offend anyone at the Sikh temple and that the shows producers had to do something to apologize to the temple caretakers for this unfortunate incident.

After finding the scientific name for their designated orchid plant and returning to the park staff who had the clue to their next stop, the two contestant in Route 2 were directed to go to the Johor Bahru Post Office Bus Station to board a local bus to Pekan Nenas, Pontian and find the Mardi Pineapple Research Center to complete the next task. Ayas was briefly reunited with his teammate who also had to get on a local bus to go to Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort at the same bus station after the synchronized puking incident. Team Ahsan and Ayas arrived first at the bus station and left for their respective destinations ahead of CH who was still trying to finish his meal and Phillip who was trailing not too far from Ayas. Up to this point, the race was still close with both teams separated from each other by a matter of a few minutes.

For their next task, Route 1 contestants were required to get a marked taxi at the Kota Tinggi Bus Station to drive them to the Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort where they were suppose to find a local staff there who would have their next clue. Ahsan maintained his lead to arrive at the resort at 10:25 before CH arrived ten minutes later. We see the same problem that the contestants faced in the 1st episode with the vague clues provided when the two contestants had to work hard to find the correct person who had their clue. Ahsan wasted much of his lead when CH found the correct person first to get the clue that directed them to complete an obstacle course and climb up to a waterfall known as Air Terjun Dua to find their golden key in a pool of cold water at the bottom of the waterfall. We did not get to see the full obstacle course race but they were points during the race that seemed to suggest that CH was leading but it looked like Ahsan was the first to finish the course and begin the trek up to the waterfall. Both contestants seemed exhausted after the obstacle race as both could be seen walking up the steps to the waterfall slowly. After a short search for their next clue and the golden key with rescue personnel standing closely by in case they accidentally run into any problems in the water, both contestants were directed to proceed to the TC Arapaima and Tropical Fish Sdn. Bhd. Mini Zoo at Senai and wait for their partner before beginning their next team task.

In the meantime, Ayas arrived at the Pekan Nenas Mardi Research Center at 10:20 closely followed by Phillip five minutes later. They both had to find a particular person who was waiting for them in the middle of a pineapple orchard for their next task. After an infuriating search for the correct person, Ayas arrived at the second checkpoint and was directed to don protective gear for the next challenge which involved picking 20 pineapples from the orchard. Phillip was still walking trying to find the correction but when he found out that the other contestant had already passed by to the correct location he broken into a run. In the first example of the use of reality show editing conventions we’ve seen on Explorace, credit must be given to the editors who edited this sequence as they abruptly switched the soundtrack that was playing up to that point to something more urgent to accompany the scene with Phillip running to the next checkpoint. At the next challenge checkpoint, Phillip was able to take a very slight lead over Ayas by finishing his harvest of 20 pineapples first and was directed to search for the biggest pineapple for their next clue and golden box. Phillip correctly deduced from the clue that the biggest pineapple referred to the huge pineapple replica that was located at the research center entrance while Ayas was still looking for it in the pineapple orchard. As Phillip tried in vain to keep the slight lead that he had by getting a ride to the entrance, it was Ayas who arrived first after getting a ride on a motorcycle and found the next clue that instructed them to meet their teammate at TC Arapaima and Tropical Fish Sdn. Bhd. Mini Zoo at Senai. After a short search for the concealed panel on the pineapple replica, Phillip was also on his way there with clue and golden box safely in hand.

Both teams were in a taxi race now to reach Senai to begin the next stage of the race. In his taxi, CH was reminded that the speed limit that the taxis were allowed to drive at was 60 km/hr and that the driver could only drive up to that speed. This particular segment will have more importance later in the episode. In another taxi, Ayas called his brother to ask if “Uncle” was behind him. I found this to be a bit hilarious as this was the first time that we find out that the contestants were referring to CH as Uncle and this gives me the license to call Team CH and Phillip as Team Uncle from this point onwards. Team Uncle managed to snatch the lead from Team Ahsan and Ayas when they arrived first at the TC Arapaima and Tropical Fish mini zoo at 12:03 where they had to find 4 Explorace tags from 4 animal enclosures. The first was in the Arapaima, a really huge fish, pond, the second was in the possession of Bobo the Sun Bear and the third was in the middle of the crocodile enclosure. Both teams were neck to neck when they came to the fourth and final tag where they both had to finish a raw ostrich egg before being allowed to open the golden box with their golden key to get the clue for the next stage. I was astounded by the actual amount of egg that the contestant had to go through as it seemed that an ostrich egg could nearly fill up a normal-sized water jug. I have to say that the final sequence of that task was a bit disgusting as they sloppily gulped down the raw ostrich eggs which they promptly got most of it on themselves.

At this point of the race, Ahsan ran off from the checkpoint thinking that the finish line was close by and that the race had finished. In the meantime, Team Uncle managed to open the golden box to get their clue which instructed them to proceed to the X-tra Hyper Market to a local Volkswagen enthusiast fair aptly called BugFest for their final challenge. After realizing his mistake thanks to Ayas’s loud shouting, Ahsan rushed back to his brother and it was at this point that the infamous nose dive that they have been using on the promos for the show took place. It was a really bad spill that could have been easily avoided if Ahsan heeded better judgment against running over park benches in his hurry to get to his brother. It was a good thing that the medical personnel was on hand to treat the resulting nose bleed but by this point I found the brother’s recklessness a bit disturbing and knew that something would go wrong soon for them. Once the brothers collected their wits and figured out how to get into the car that they were provided with, they were also on their way to the BugFest where their team task was to wash their assigned Volkswagen Beetle car, reinflate its tires and drive it to the finishing line at Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru.

Team Uncle arrived first at the BugFest at 13:04 followed closely by Team Ahsan and Ayas two minutes later. When they arrived, Team Ahsan and Ayas received a reprimand from the race marshals for reckless driving as they made their way to the BugFest. They were clearly warned that reckless driving was valid grounds for them to be disqualified from the race if they did it again. After the sound warning, they proceeded to their final task of making their assigned antique Volkswagen Beetle roadworthy to the satisfaction of the race marshal before being allowed to drive to the finish line. Just before they left for the final race, we saw the race official briefing the contestants on how to properly handle a Volkswagen on the road and further reminded them to drive safely. In a very close race, both teams enlisted the help of locals to get to the Dataran Bandaraya Johor Bahru first. However it was team Ahsan and Ayas who reach the finish line first at 14:20 but not before them barreling nose first into the other antique Volkswagen cars parked at the finish line.

They replayed the scene again in slow motion as the audience now got to see how it happened and the stunned reaction of the people around. Even Daphne Iking, the host for Explorace, seemed stunned by the incident which quickly prompted the race marshals to confer as to how this would impact the team’s standing in the race. We were not really shown the extant of the damage but it was clear that people were angry that their priced antiques got damaged through reckless driving. Team Ahsan and Ayas were reminded again that they were warned before that they would be disqualified for reckless driving and endangerment if they did it again and not their fate was in the hands of the presiding race marshals not that they had this accident. In a riveting sequence, audiences were show the gravity of the incident but it was quickly turned into a farce when the race marshals decided to award the win to Team Ahsan and Ayas on the condition that they pay for the damages that they have caused to the car owners. This turnabout on the part of the race marshals ruined the race ending for me considering the buildup that the show editors had put in leading to this incident. It would be a happier and more satisfying twist at the end if Team Uncle had won this race because the other team was disqualified for dangerous driving.

In a closely contested and sometimes fairly riveting race this week, we have the exciting action marred by the debatable finish. Teams that purposely endangered themselves and the production crew traveling with them should clearly be reprimanded if not outright disqualified from the race. I would think that TV3 could ill afford to have an accident on their hands thanks to bad judgment on part of the future contestants. I seriously believe that the decision of not disqualifying Team DoubleA (Ahsan and Ayas) for reckless endangerment sends out the wrong message especially when we want to see fewer road accidents and safer roads in Malaysia. Although the editing markedly improved for this episode and the tasks fairly interesting, the ending of the race this week left a bad taste in my mouth. I sincerely believed that Team Uncle was more deserving to move on to the next round instead of Team DoubleA who the show producers declared as the winner even after they clearly violated race regulations.

Next week Explorace goes to the historic city of Malacca with 2 more teams competing to get through to the next round.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

A break from holidays

I’ve got another work day tomorrow before I go away from the office again on account of the Thaipusam public holiday on Thursday. I should have taken the whole week off but I decided against it since I have to be around the office while my boss is away on his vacation. I did however request for this coming Friday off so I would have 2 days plus the weekend to celebrate my upcoming 31st birthday on 7th February. I don’t have anything planned yet but I do have to go to a family dinner for my father’s birthday which falls 2 days after mine. I also have a younger sister who shares the same birth date with me so you can imagine that February has always been quite a busy month for us. Coincidently, all three of us also share the same Chinese astrological sign, the Ox, as I was born 24 years after my father and my sister was born exactly 12 years after me.

I didn’t get to do much during the Aidil Adha holidays this past weekend. My dad was still working in Tioman Island so he couldn’t be with us for the holidays. Not that it was not uncommon for him to be absent during the holidays but I would thought that this would change once he retired. Anyway, my mum decided to finally rewire the old house which is about time considering that we have been having some brown outs every time someone plugs in something new. She got some extra money from her new contract and used that to do up the house and build up her garden. The minor renovations were still ongoing when I came back so we had to bear with a bit of dust on Aidil Adha morning. It could have been worse since we didn’t get the power back on until the previous afternoon. We did have to get new light fixtures as well as some of the ones that we had were really old and in need of repair.

Aidil Adha for us would usually be a minor affair with most of use would gather together for a special brunch that my mum would whip up for us. Most of the time the meal would consist of ketupat nasi, rendang daging, sayur goreng and what ever else that we got from the neighbors when we exchange our dishes with them. This year both of our neighbors were in town so we actually had quite a spread of different dishes to tuck into at brunch. After brunch, we would usually just sit down in front of the TV or entertain any guest who might come. We usually don’t expect to receive any guest during Aidil Adha compared to Aidil Fitri but sometimes our friends do drop by and they are always welcomed to do so. Of course my aunt and my cousins who live close by would always come to our place, on any holidays actually, to have tea with us.

I didn’t get a lot of time to fiddle around with the new TV and home theater system that I just bought before going back to my parents’ house. Partly because the new TV was so big and heavy that it could easily break my current TV bench which I didn’t remember to take into account when I bought the TV. The solution to my problem was of course to go out shopping for furniture which I was a bit hesitant as I wasn’t keen to get anything new until I move into my new apartment but considering I couldn’t actually just leave the TV in the box, I finally gave into the temptation. The obvious place to get a nice TV bench was of course IKEA I was trying to avoid because of the prices. I spent 2 days with my mum during the holidays trying to find a serviceable alternative but all choices seemed to lead me back to IKEA.

It was a bit surreal for me to go to IKEA with my mum. It’s the same for me when I go shopping for anything with her. We both share the same passion for shopping which infuriates my dad when he has to tag along with the two of us. Since he was not around this time, we left for IKEA and arrived just after opening time which meant that we almost had the whole place to ourselves. We went to one display after the other and spent nearly 4 hours there before leaving with our purchase. She wanted to look at some several solutions for the gust room at home and found a few that she liked but couldn’t buy them then because the car wouldn’t be able to take them with my new TV bench. Yes... I did buy my first IKEA furniture and although I still think that it was overpriced, I have to say that I’m happy with the purchase. My new Oppli TV bench, now loaded up with my home entertainment system, stands out in my living room in a good way since it is now the centerpiece that anchors the room.

I have both my new TV and HT system all set up for this upcoming holiday weekend for me to go through at my own leisure. I’m looking forward for my father’s dinner as well as possibly getting a call from E and S for my birthday. I keep on expecting them to call me but sometimes they don’t which really bums me out. Of all the people who would wish me a happy birthday, E & S are the ones that I really look forward to even after all these years. When they do remember my birthday and call, it just lights up my day and I’m sure that I would have a good year ahead. Of course if they forgot, which happens more times that I would care to admit, there is a part of me that would feel as if there is a gaping hole in my chest that is threatening to swallow me whole.

To think of this is really depressing.

Friday, January 30, 2004

New toy for the weekend

I just got a call from the Courts Mammoth folks and was told that the new TV and home entertainment system that I ordered earlier this month will be delivered to my house tonight at 10pm. I am so excited about it that I just can't stop grinning ear to ear because I have been looking forward for this for a long time. I would also be able to make arrangements to move my old system to my parents’ house when I go back to their house this weekend. I’m just tingling with anticipation.

I’m going to go home now and wait for the delivery guys to come but before that these are the answers to this week’s Friday Five:

You have just won one million dollars:

1. Who do you call first?
Somehow this is really a tough one to answer. For one, I want to surprise the people that I would tell about it once I do get the money but I guess I wouldn’t have the will power to really wait that long. If I would pick the first person that I would call if I won a million dollars, I would have to say that it would be my parents and I would tell them that they needed worry about paying their mortgage ever again.

2. What is the first thing you buy for yourself?
The first thing that I would buy for myself would be something obscenely flashy because I feel that I need to ease myself into the idea of having that much money. I would have to say that the first thing that I would buy is a holiday trip overseas for a few weeks while the excitement at home about it dies down a bit.

3. What is the first thing you buy for someone else?
It would be really much of a buy but if I won that much money I would first make sure that all my parents’ mortgage and any debts for us children are paid off in full so they can enjoy their retirement in peace.

4. Do you give any away? If yes, to whom?
I’ve always told myself that I would do this if I had a lot of money. My 2 favorite charities that would get some of this hypothetical money would be the local cancer fund (MAKNA) and the halfway house for abandoned children and old folks at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital.

5. Do you invest any? If so, how?
What ever is left after all this, I would probably invest in the property market either by buying a piece of land or house. I still feel that they are the safest investment around and property seldom ever depreciate with age. I always wanted to have a piece of land to call my own.

BTW ... we would be having our Eid Ul-Adha this coming Sunday so we would have a day off this coming Monday. For those celebrating the Eid, I would like to wish a 'Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha' and to the rest (if you're in Malaysia) to have a nice break from work. Spend it with the family.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Have you hugged your IT support person today?

I have been working hard for the past 2 days to contain the recent outbreak of the new MyDoom worm virus at my customer’s office. We were lucky this time since the first outbreak of the virus happened during US work hours which meant that my US counterparts had to deal with it first. Of course that didn’t stop them from calling me at 3 in the morning to inform me of the virus threat and to put me on standby should they need to get something done for Asia. Anyway... by the time I got into the office, the worst has passed for us as our anti-virus vendor had already provided us with the latest definition file that would fix this virus. The only thing that I had to do by then was to make sure that my automated virus definition update process was running and that all the computers at my customer’s site got the updated file. We still have blocks up on our email servers to scan all incoming and outgoing email attachments which does slow down our email distribution system a bit but it is well worth it considering we are consider liable if our systems start distributing viruses.

MyDoom worm doesn’t seem to cause much damage to the machine it infects per se but it does use the resources of the machine to launch a denial of service attack to several website this coming February month. While the user can still potentially use the computer, these zombified machines may run slower than normal as it continues to bombard the intended target when the viral payload is triggered. Our team here is working hard to put controls in place that will block the package, if there are any left in our network, from going out and jamming the intended target. We have the means to do this but I doubt that every one would be able to do the same especially those home users.

This latest virus and most of its ilk could have been easily avoided if people simply exercise a measure of common sense when operating their computer and/or email account. I think that we have seen so many similar attacks reported in the media that almost every one who owns a computer should know by now to be wary of unsolicited attachment files coming from unsubstantiated email addresses. I could rant on and on (I already did this in a previous entry) about opening unverified attachments but I guess that it all boils down to the individual. As long as they see the computer just as a black box and have no basic or the even the desire to learn about the basics of how their computer works, they would never be able to learn this lesson until they themselves get hit by a virus and have to lose their data.

Of course by then, it would be too late and more often than not they come crying to IT support people like us to pull a miracle and salvage their years of work. Sometimes, if they are lucky and we like them enough, this can be done. Of course if they come to us all hysterical and blaming us for everything short of the end of the world because they made the stupid mistake of opening something that they should have not opened in the beginning, we might not be as friendly or helpful. It pays to be kind to your suffering IT guy. Most of us are power hungry geeks who would never pass up the opportunity to act out our fantasy of becoming the all mighty Wizard of Oz. You may be a director in some company to others but to us you are only another insignificant blip on our network.

Maybe this is just me enjoying my little ego trip a little too much today?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Explorace 01-02, Airdate: 28 Jan 2004

Previously on Explorace, team Sanjeev and Ravin faced of against team Kumar and Toh in race that started at the Ipoh Railway Station, Perak. The race split the teams up with one half looking for the clue envelope in a cave temple and the other went on a quest to find the perfect coffee beans in Ipoh market. From clues that they obtain at their respective checkpoints, one team had to become a stable boy at a horse farm for an hour in their quest to find their golden box while the other team had to find their golden key a the maze-like jumble of corridors and stairs at a disused tin-mining dredging complex. With both gold box and key in had, the teams were then directed to complete their next task of tapping 10 rubber trees before being directed to their last destination at Kellie’s Castle where team Sanjeev and Ravin crossed the finish line first with a commanding lead and became the first team to qualify into the next round of competition.

Explorace moves to Kuantan, Pahang this week for the race between team Hana and Syari against team Ayu and Zoro which began at the Kuantan Mosque grounds. Both teams were equally excited and eager to begin the race which first will split the team into two routes. Route 1 pitted equally energetic contestants, Hana and Ayu, against each other in a race to find a Buddhist monk at Gua Charas for their next destination clue that they will get if they answer a travel trivia question correctly. In the second cave temple hunt in back to back episodes, the two contestants were directed to find the bus that would take them to the bus stop near the cave temple where they would find the bicycle that they will use to cycle the rest of the way.

Both Hana and Ayu seemed to reach the bus station at almost the same time thanks to the directions of the helpful locals. I do believe that they got a much easier time getting directions compared to the teams from last week as they were very calm and polite about it instead of being hyper-competitive all the time. Hana was also told which bus to take to the cave temple when she called Syari to tell her partner where she had to go to. This led me to believe that either Syari was herself from the area or that she has really done her homework well in terms of getting to know the lay of the land. Hana was able to board the bus first and tried to keep out of sight to try to jump ahead of her competition by not tipping her off of which bus to board which would have worked for her if there were more buses at the bus station. Ayu was able to find the correct bus with time to spare and the two competitors were off to their next destination.

In Route 2, Syari and Zoro were directed to take a taxi to Kuala Sg Chini to find a local caretaker for their quiz questions. If they fail to answer their question, they have to complete their penalty task which for this week requires them to canoe from Kuala Sg Chini jetty for the distance of 10 km to the Chini Lake Resort where they would get their envelope containing the clue for their next destination. Both arrived at almost the same time after a short taxi race that saw both contestants racing neck to neck for most of the time. I’m not sure if it was the editing or if they made some changes after the first race but it seemed that finding the person who had their destination clue was much easier this week compared to the 1st episode. After failing to answer their trivia question, they moved to their respective canoes to begin their 10 km paddle to their next destination at the Chini Lake Resort.

In a post race confession, Zoro admitted that she had a lot of problems with the canoeing section of the race as she had not prepared for it. She found it difficult for her to control the canoe which caused her to frequently his the river bank during her 10 km paddle which left her exhausted when she finally reached the Chini Lake Resort. Syari, on the other hand, seemed to be comfortable with the physical task and held a commanding lead of nearly 30 minutes ahead of Zoro. After reaching the resort, both contestants were directed to go to the Tokoh Museum to meet up with a designated local who be the passenger that they have to take to RM Batik shop on a trishaw. After completing the first clue, Syari was leading Zoro by about half an hour.

Hana and Ayu didn’t run into any problems finding their assigned bicycles that they have to use to get to the cave temple to complete Route 1. While Ayu sped off easily on quest to find the monk, Hana ran into some problems trying to balance on the bicycle. In a confession in the taxi on her way to the Museum, Syari confided that Hana was in for a tough time with the bicycle as she knew that Hana would have a problem with balancing on it. In what I think is a first on this series; Hana had to be bleeped out when she fell off the bicycle at one point of the journey. Fortunately for her, she was not hurt and seemed to take her accident in stride.

Due to her troubles on the bicycle, Ayu was able to surge ahead and find the monk who had their trivia question first which she also failed to answer. The penalty task that they had to complete for this section was to climb up to the main cave where the Sleeping Buddha statue was and search for the envelope containing their next destination in a dark, wet and slippery cave. Hana seemed to be able to close the gap after also failing to answer her travel trivia question as both contestants seem to be racing neck to neck again by the time they completed the climb up to the Sleeping Buddha. In a refreshing twist, the envelope that they have to find was hidden in the cave along with several decoy envelopes that had them running all over the cave to find the correct one. After several tries, Ayu managed to find the correct envelope first and was quickly on her way to Club Med, Cherating which was to be their next destination. On the way out, we get to see Hana trip and fall down again which she recovered gracefully although I can only imagine her embarrassment having fallen twice on national TV. I also think that she had her bicycle helmet on backwards when she cycled back to the main road to get a taxi to Cherating. At least I think it was backwards since it looked funny to me.

When we returned to Route 2, we find Syari arriving first at the Tokoh Museum and finding the correct passenger that she was suppose to bring to the RM Batik shop which was a local place where visitors could draw and paint their own batik piece which was the task that they have to complete for this round. Since they were not given a map, Syari had to ask around for directions from the locals and fortunately for her the shop seemed to be a well known place because she kept asking directions for “RK Batik” instead of RM Batik which was the correct destination as was stated in the clue. Once she reached her destination, she was given a piece of piece of cloth and batik design to copy from and color to the satisfaction of the shop worker before being allowed to search for the gold box that contained their final destination.

While Syari was getting into the batik making process, Zoro arrived at the museum and located her passenger. Unlike her competitor, Zoro ran into problems with her trishaw right from the beginning. Unused to the uneven weight distribution of driving the trishaw, Zoro had a difficult time steering the trishaw straight. She was unable to compensate for the extra weight which caused her trishaw to apparently hit a parked car which unfortunately for her caused some damage to the wheel of the trishaw. She had to get down and look for help to try to fix the now bent wheel. The wheel problem was further aggravated when she hit a road divider later which forced her to push the trishaw part of the way and caused her to lose even more time in the race. By the time Zoro reached the batik shop, Syari was almost finishing her batik piece and was soon later on her way to find the golden box that was hidden somewhere in the shop. After what I would think was a frustrating search for her, Syari managed to locate the box and was on her way to the team task destination located at a fishing village at Kampung Beserah.

In another taxi race to their destination, Hana managed to get the faster taxi this time and arrived ahead of Ayu at Club Med, Cherating. Once there she was directed to take the assigned shuttle to the nearby beach where she had to take a boat to Pulau Ular where the golden key that she had to search for was anchored on the sea bed along with several decoy boxes. She called in to check her partner’s progress and shared her excitement about being in Club Med. Syari also told to read the clue carefully so she didn’t miss anything which was a definite sign for me that Syari was wise in the ways of reality race shows. As luck would have it, Hana run into problems again getting the correct box that held the golden key that she was supposed to find. In a confession, she told us that she mush have opened 7 or 8 boxes before finding the correct on which cause her to loose the slim lead that she have over Ayu. After finding the golden key, both contestants had to drive to a salted fish processing factory and wait for their respective partners before beginning the team task.

While Hana and Ayu were heading for the salted fish factory, Syari was having a frustrating time finding the correct bus to get to Kampung Beserah for the final team task. She called Hana on the phone and vented her frustration and fear of losing her huge lead over the other team just because the bus was hard to get. To her credit, Hana kept her head and managed calmed down an agitated Syari. I have to say that I initially thought that Hana was the excitable one of the group but in a pleasant twist she turned out to be the more level headed of the two. Syari finally got a bus that would take her to meet up with her partner just as Zoro finished her batik piece and started searching for the team’s gold box. I have to say that the show producers really hid it well as I would never think to search for the box in the clothes rack. Zoro promptly faced the same problem Syari had with the bus as well as the problem of finding small change for the bus fare. She had to beg for bus fare from a kind stranger as she was not sure that they bus would have change for the RM 50 that she was given for the race.

Keeping the huge lead all the way to Kampung Beserah, Syari was lucky enough to find a young man who was willing to drive her all the way to the salted fish processing factory where Hana was waiting for her. Since it was not specified in the clue how she was supposed to get there, I think this was a valid and smart move on her part as this choice would cut out the time that she would have needed to find the correct location. Her arrival must have caused Ayu to think that there was similar transport arranged for Zoro when she arrives at Kampung Beserah which she called Zoro and informed her to expect. Unfortunately for the viewers, we don’t get to see if Zoro actually waited for a car to take her to meet up with Ayu since it was not included by the editor.

The team task that they had to complete at the salted fish processing factory involved getting a wheelbarrow full of fish from the beach and cart it over to the processing plant where they had to clean the fish before being put out to dry. We get to see Hana almost falling down again for the third time which really tempted me to give her a nickname for future reference but I decided against it as I didn’t want to be cruel. In fact I have to admit that I am as klutzy as her that kind of endears this team to me. Despite the close calls, the two manage to laugh it off and work together to clean the fish that they were given and later laid the processed fish cuts out to dry in the sun. After completing this task, they were allowed to open the gold box with they gold key that they had to reveal the last destination that they had to go to.

To reach their final destination, the teams were directed to follow a marked path on the nearby beach to reach the Teluk Chempedak Beach were their final task awaited. The final task which should be familiar to Survivor viewers involved digging up jigsaw pieces that have been buried under marked mounds to complete their puzzle. Team Hana and Syari was well into this task when team Ayu and Zoro started their salted fish processing challenge. By the time team Ayu and Zoro completed their job; team Hana and Syari had already finished their puzzle and walked up to the finish line with a commanding lead of 40 minutes. Team Ayu and Zoro decided to walk to the final puzzle beach instead of trying to get to it faster in hopes to conserve their strength for the final challenge but I think that this was a wrong strategy to take especially when you are quite a ways behind. I guess that somewhere during their walk they must have realized this mistake and have accepted that they would not be able to beat team Hana and Syari. Despite the knowledge that they were not going to win this race they were still able to keep their spirits up and even break into a song on their way to finishing the race. Once they completed their puzzle, they were congratulated for finishing but were informed that they have been eliminated from the race.

All in all, tonight’s episode was better that last week and we also get to see some of the strategy used by the contestants. The editing was a bit more exciting this time around as it was tighter and more in line like a reality show although I have to say that towards the end it got a bit loose again. I’m not sure if all the episodes are already edited but it would be interesting if they were able to improve the editing in proceeding episodes as the season progressed. At least this time around the viewers are spared the annoying person search to get the clue envelope that plagued the last episode. The refreshing twist of putting in decoys in what they had to find also help level the playing ground a bit and made the game less like one that the contestant need only blindly get to a place to meet a man who will give them something. As for the contestants this week, I believe that they were equally balanced but good strategy and luck helped team Hana and Syari, which I think I will give the nickname Team Spunky for their good humor and personality, to surge ahead and qualify for the next round.

Next week Explorace goes to Johor Bahru, Johor with 2 more teams and we also get to see the episode with the bloody nose (lip?) shot that they have been using on the promos.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Shopping for discounts

I have been buying most of my DVDs from Amazon.com since I first got my DVD player back in 1999. I have no complaints about their service to date and they still have the best shipping rates to Malaysia for DVDs that I’ve seen on the Net. Their 30% discount for pre-release orders are really hard to pass by and on top of that they also have an additional discount if you get your friends and family to purchase the same DVDs that you purchased online.

If you are already ordering your DVDs online and would like to get additional discounts to any of the titles that I’m ordering below, drop me a line and I’ll be glad to include your email in my discount circle. I think the discount is 10% on top of the already discounted price but it is first come first serve only. In the future, I will post any new orders that I make on this site so anyone interested on getting the discount can send me an email.

Delivery estimate: Apr 26, 2004 - May 5, 2004
1 of The Matrix Revolutions (Widescreen Edition)

Delivery estimate: May 4, 2004 - May 13, 2004
1 of Babylon 5: Complete Fifth Season

Delivery estimate: Apr 20, 2004 - Apr 29, 2004
1 of Ripley's Game

Delivery estimate: Apr 13, 2004 - Apr 22, 2004
1 of Will & Grace: Season Two

Delivery estimate: Mar 24, 2004 - Apr 1, 2004
1 of Schindler's List (Widescreen Edition)

Delivery estimate: Mar 24, 2004 - Apr 1, 2004
1 of Dilbert - The Complete Series

Delivery estimate: Mar 24, 2004 - Apr 1, 2004
1 of Futurama, Vol. 3

Delivery estimate: Mar 24, 2004 - Apr 1, 2004
1 of Maurice

Delivery estimate: Mar 18, 2004 - Mar 26, 2004
1 of Star Trek Voyager - The Complete First Season

Delivery estimate: Mar 18, 2004 - Mar 26, 2004
1 of Queer as Folk - The Complete Third Season (Showtime)

Delivery estimate: Feb 19, 2004 - Feb 27, 2004
1 of Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country (Special Edition)

Delivery estimate: Feb 19, 2004 - Feb 27, 2004
1 of The Critic - The Entire Series

Delivery estimate: Mar 5, 2004 - Mar 15, 2004
1 of Camp

Delivery estimate: Mar 5, 2004 - Mar 15, 2004
1 of Roswell: Season 1

Delivery estimate: Mar 1, 2004 - Mar 10, 2004
1 of Angel - Season 3

Monday, January 26, 2004

CD Review: "Go Your Own Way" by Gareth Gates

After the hugely successful debut CD, “What My Heart Wants To Say”, Gareth Gates returns with another crowd pleaser in his follow-up effort entitled “Go Your Own Way”. I saw this CD in the music store during the Chinese New Year holidays while looking for the new Josh Groban CD and immediately decided to buy it as well considering how much I enjoyed his previous work. The 14 track CD comes with a slip that you can send in to get your free VCD bonus disk with 4 of Gate’s music video although you can get the bonus disk pre packaged with the CD outside of Malaysia. This CD version is also different from the 2-disk version that they released in the UK and most of Europe. Several of the songs on the original UK release that were critically panned by the critics there were absent from the Asian market version which leads me to believe that the CD was repackaged after its initial release at the end of 2003. I would be interested in getting my hands on the original UK release to find out why those missing songs were so hated by his fans there.

The majority of the songs on this CD were written and produced by the team that worked on his debut CD as well as for other acts like Westlife, Boyzone and Britney Spears. The continued collaboration between this team and Gareth Gates immediately brings forth comparisons between this CD and his debut album. I have to say that while some songs on this new album carried the same tonal signature of the first album, a sufficient number of these new songs have refreshingly branched out to new and interesting avenues that makes the album a decent evolution in his musical career for this 19 year old artist. Listener to this album not only get to hear a more matured and confident Gareth Gates but also get the opportunity to delve deeper into the person through the words that he penned himself for 3 of the songs on the album.

Like the first album, this CD opens with a heartfelt ballad entitled “Say It Isn’t So” which successfully showcases his wonderful soulful voice. As hook songs goes, this particularly heartbreaking slow tune fills the role of aural appetizer that begins the feast that follows more than adequately. With equal sense of longing and heartache, the beautiful vocals on this track lift this song and leave the listener wanting more which Gareth does not disappoints with the next song, “Skeletons”. In “Skeletons” the tempo is kicked up a notch with mesmerizing backbeats that is reminiscent of something that the Backstreet Boys would be equally comfortable in. I did feel that the intro to this song was a bit on the pedestrian side but it was quickly forgiven once the song starts to build to the catchy chorus that left me humming the song for quite a time.

The momentum of the CD would next be pulled back a bit with the next mid tempo song with the unfortunate title of “Listen To My Heart”. I say unfortunate because the title will always remind me of the Roxette song from my secondary school days. Regardless of the song title, the song is actually quite nice to listen to although the Westlife sound influence was quite evident in the song arrangement. In a refreshing departure from the previous songs, opening salvo of trumpets flare and flow into a hypnotic backbeat that signify the arrival of the next song, “Too Soon To Say Goodbye”. The cute and somewhat cheeky arrangement brought forth a playful mood for this light but enjoyable song.

“Lies” follows next with an intro riff that is fairly familiar to those who have listened to his first album. From the familiar strains of the same opening that “Anyone of Us (Stupid Mistake)” previously had, the song takes on a slightly different route when we reach the chorus. Although the chorus is quite enjoyable onto itself, the similarities to his previous mega hit are too glaring that you can’t help but prefer the previous song over the latter. The same problem also occurs in the song that follows, “Nothing’s Gonna to Stop Us Now”. The song arrangement and tonal signature is so similar to “Lies” that one cannot be faulted to think that they were the same song. I would think that I would be able to enjoy this song more if it came anywhere other than this close to “Lies” as it is actually a good song onto itself.

The next song sounds very much like what bands like “Steps” or “S Club 7” would do for one of their album. “It Happens Every Time” is quite the upbeat tune that should appeal to pre pubescent girls as well as older audience who never outgrew peppy pop songs. I’m feel a bit embarrassed to admit that the song is quite addictive listening and left me humming the tune after a few listens. “All Cried Out” that follows was written by Gareth Gates himself and have the distinction of causing me to pause and ponder the significance of them sampling the popular refrain from the old Human League song, “Human” into this song. Regardless of the strange choice, this song is quite enjoyable to listen to and should go well with his fans.

In “Sunshine”, Gareth ventures into uncharted territory for him by tackling an R&B influenced song. The radio friendly mid tempo song goes down fairly well although at times it seems that he was somehow channeling the voice of a younger George Michael into his performance. His smooth voice does lend itself beautifully to the tune that he does not need to imitate others to carry the song. The next song that follows is titled “Spirit in the Sky” which was recorded for the 2003 Comic Relief Charity event and featured the Kumars of the “The Kumars at No. 42” TV show. Part gospel and part comedic skit on top of the inclusion of sounds of the sitar and Indian style vocalization makes this song a bit weird to say the least. I guess that this is one of the “you need to be there to appreciate it” type of song which when taken out of the context it was performed in is not easy to understand.

In another song written by Gareth himself, “Groove With Me”, we find the invisible presence of George Michael very much present in this attempt to sex up the album. While the effort was somewhat commendable, I don’t think that Gareth has the years or the maturity to pull off this type of song and lyrics in a believable manner. For now, he does not have the right stuff and attitude to make this song work. I also found that the next song that followed, “Absolutely”, eerily reminded me of early Wham! songs to complete the George Michael imitation portion of this CD. Having 2 songs back to back that sounds so much alike was an unnecessary distraction from me enjoying the songs for their own merits.

The last song penned by the artist himself on this album was the head bopping piece titled “Club Hoppin’”. I have to say that the song opens with a somewhat boring intro riff but fortunately for us the excitement kicks up as we approach the chorus. Once into the groove, listeners will find themselves in an amusing and foot-tapping tune that would surely be coming to a dance floor near you in the near future. From the abrupt end of the head bopping song, the album closes with a mid tempo sensual song. The song “Soul Affection” is another attempt at R&B influenced melodies which I found to work better that the previous attempt in this same album. The song allows the listener to savor Gareth’s wonderful vocals one last time before winding down a satisfying finish.

For an album that boldly declares in the album title its intentions of moving away from the shadows of its successful predecessor, I have to say that there is still much work to be done here. The variety of song styles that exist in this album goes to show that Gareth is still looking for his niche to excel while not moving too far away from the style of his debut album that put him on the map in the first place. There were a few missed opportunities for development in this album considering the potential that Gareth shown in his debut CD. Although this follow up effort is an accomplished product onto itself, one could not help but feel that more could be done. Hopefully this potential gets more attention in his next outing.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Home alone.

The office was not as empty as I expected today as there are a few of my Chinese colleagues who were still working today. I guess that they would be on leave starting tomorrow when they start to make their way back to their hometowns for their reunion dinners. I wonder how many people will turn up to work tomorrow?

My mum has already made plans to take my younger siblings with her and meet up with my father who is currently in Tioman Island for work. If I did not have to be in KL on stand-by, I would surely join them as I have never been to Tioman myself. Maybe I could plan something with S next time. He did say that he wanted to learn how to scuba dive one day and that sounds interesting although I wonder if one is allowed to get a diving license if they don’t know how to swim?

Anyway... I recently bought a Sony Playstation 2, an early birthday present for myself, which should keep me occupied during the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays. I’ve stocked up with enough of my favorite CRPG games for the console that I think that I would wear out the controllers pretty soon. I’ve also have a bunch of new DVDs that I have not had the chance to go through which will keep me glued to the TV as well as “The Last Samurai” starting its run this week on the cinemas. All in all, there is a lot for me to look forward to this week.

Come to think of it, I don’t know what is sadder, me buying myself a PS2 for my 31st birthday or that I actually look forward to spend most of the time indoors in front of an idiot box alone.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Friday? Fabulous....

A bunch of my office staff will be taking their extended vacation for Chinese New Year beginning next Monday and it would be most likely that I would have the office all to myself next week. Despite the long holidays, I have pulled stand-by duty for the whole of next week to cover those who will be taking the week off. I guess that’s part of the job when you’re the minority in a mostly Chinese staffed office. The job still pays me a monthly paycheck so I can’t complain.

Weekend plans? Saturday is still up in the air. I may go a watch LOTR: ROTK again or maybe some other movie. I don’t think that the Last Samurai is playing locally yet. The other option is to go down to the Kinokuniya bookstore in KLCC to see if they got the latest Christopher Rice novel in stock yet. I got both of his earlier novels there which was surprising considering the subject matter. I wonder if they actually do have a gay fiction section that I don’t know about.

Sunday is already fixed. I’m going to go order my new TV and home theater system. I’m stocked about that which just goes to show how much of a gadget geek I am.

Friday Five is back. Listed below are my answers to this week’s quiz.

1. What does it say in the signature line of your emails?
Depending on which email you’re looking out. On my work email, the normal confidential clause comes preset on my signature line. On my personal mail, nothing. I don’t bother too much about the cutesy quotes after my customary “Cheers”.

2. Did you have a senior quote in your high school yearbook? What was it? If you haven't graduated yet, what would you like your quote to be?
In my high school yearbook, if one can call it a year book, my senior quote was “Veni, Vidi, Vici” which translates to “I came, I saw, I conquered”. I’ve actually forgotten why I choose that.

3. If you had vanity plates on your car, what would they read? If you already have them, what do they say?
I don’t think that we are allowed to have vanity plates in Malaysia. If they did allow it, I would probably choose my high school nickname.

4. Have you received any gifts with messages engraved upon them? What did the inscription say?
I got a shale paperweight as a birthday present from E once which had the inscription “Eternal. Forever. Together”. This was back when we were still an item. Sadly, I lost that paperweight when I was in Madison. Never really got over that lost.

5. What would you like your epitaph to be?
Although epitaphs on tombstones are not culturally common here, I guess I could go with “Not Alone Anymore”.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Hello neighbor ...

I have to attend a conference call tonight so I have to skip today's entry but I will leave you with a bit of news that a space geek like me find really exciting.

NASA's Rover Rolls Onto Mars Surface
By ANDREW BRIDGES, AP Science Writer

PASADENA, Calif. - The Spirit rover successfully rolled onto Mars early Thursday, placing its six wheels on solid martian ground for the first time since the robot bounced down on the Red Planet nearly two weeks ago.

Engineers and scientists at NASA (news - web sites)'s Jet Propulsion Laboratory cheered loudly after receiving confirmation at 5 a.m. EST that the maneuver was a success. "Mars now is our sandbox, and we are ready to play and learn," said JPL director Charles Elachi.

Black-and-white pictures beamed from Spirit showed its two rear wheels on the Martian soil, with its lander behind it. Two parallel tracks led away from the lander. "This is a big relief. We are on Mars. Spirit has landed," said Rob Manning, manager of the entry, descent and landing portion of the mission. "Our wheels are finally dirty."

Jennifer Trosper, mission manager for surface operations, opened a celebratory bottle of champagne at a news conference. "Now we are the mission that we all envisioned 3 1/2 years ago," she said. Elachi noted President Bush's call on Wednesday for moon missions and long-term robotic and human journeys to Mars.

"We at NASA, we move awfully fast," Elachi joked. "In less than 15 hours, we are doing our first step." Spirit was to have taken less than two minutes to travel the 10 feet from the unfolded petals of its lander onto Mars. Engineers said the move likely would be the riskiest of Spirit's entire three-month mission.

Engineers delayed the move for three days to give Spirit time to reposition itself atop its lander, where it had sat since arriving. Spirit had to turn in place 115 degrees to line up with one of the exit ramps that ring the lander.

Originally, Spirit was to roll straight off the lander on its ninth day on Mars. But the now-deflated air bags that cushioned the rover's Jan. 3 landing blocked that way, forcing Spirit to perform a slow pirouette, turning clockwise in three separate moves.

Mission plans called for Spirit to spend several days parked beside its lander after rolling off, giving it time to find its bearings and perform some preliminary analysis of the soil and rocks around it.

NASA then planned for Spirit to begin a meandering trip in the direction of an impact crater about 825 feet away. Spirit was designed to travel dozens of yards a day.
On its way, scientists said Spirit would prospect for geologic evidence that the now dry Red Planet was once wetter and hospitable to life. Spirit landed in the middle of Gusev Crater, a 95-mile-wide depression scientists believe contained a lake during the ancient past.

Even while parked, Spirit remained busy. It used its nine cameras to take at least 3,900 pictures of its surroundings. Mission scientists used those images, including sweeping panoramas, to chart the rover's planned movements.

The $820 million project also includes a second, identical rover named Opportunity. Spirit's twin should land on the opposite side of the Red Planet on Jan. 24.

Sojourner, the far smaller rover that NASA landed on Mars in 1997, spent a single day atop the Pathfinder lander before shoving off to roam its surroundings. It rolled about 300 feet and provided pictures and chemical analyses of Mars' surface before losing contact. Spirit is far more complex and took 12 days to unfold and ready itself.

A few hours before the rover's big move, Vice President Dick Cheney toured the Mars mission control center and praised the staff as "America's most dedicated and successful scientists and researchers."

His visit Wednesday coincided with President Bush's announcement in Washington of a renewed push for space research. Bush unveiled a plan to send astronauts back to the moon as early as 2015 and to land someone on Mars.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Explorace 01-01, Airdate: 14 Jan 2004

As 9:30pm rolled around tonight, I was parked comfortably in front of the TV eagerly anticipating the start of the latest local reality show, “Explorace”. With all the hype that the TV station was putting out for this series, I was actually looking forward to it and I know that a few other people, from my office at least, who were equally eager to see it tonight. I just know that we will be talking about it tomorrow during the breaks.

Anyway ... today’s episode started at the Ipoh Railway Station in Perak pitting two teams, Toh and Kumar versus Sanjeev & Ravin, against each other. The two teams were split up and were given their individual tasks to complete. In Route 1, Kumar and Sanjeev were directed to get on a bus to look for the Perak Tong Cave Temple and seek out the chief priest there for their clue. For most of the time, the two contestants were racing neck to neck. I was mildly surprised to learn that Kumar spoke Cantonese which gave him an edge over Sanjeev in getting directions to the bus station from the locals. Regardless of the advantage, it seemed that they both were evenly matched in that they took the same bus to go to the cave temple.

While Kumar and Sanjeev were completing their individual task, the remaining team members, Toh and Ravin, were directed to Route 2 which sends them out to locate a coffee shop in the provided address in Ipoh city and meet the shop owner to get their clue. Toh looked like he was leading most of the time and found the correct shop quite quickly than Ravin did. I guess that his ability to speak in 3 languages really helped in getting directions from the locals. At the shop, Toh was given a trivia question based on tourist attractions in Perak to answer which upon failing he had to complete a penalty task. The penalty task for Route 2 was for the contestant to find the Ipoh Market, look for a particular shop that sells coffee beans, buy RM 3 of the Ipoh white coffee beans and bring them back to the coffee shop. Ravin also failed to answer his question and had to complete the penalty task as well.

A little side bar about the questions that they asked in the clue destinations. I have to say that they were really hard unless you know a good travel guide book inside and out. I wouldn’t be able to answer the questions like how high a particular mountain was even if my life was depended on it. I guess in a way, the show producers really want to make sure that the contestants had to do the penalty task to make things more interesting. It would be interesting to see if any of the contestants would be able to ever give a correct answer in the weeks to come.

While the Route 2 contestants were searching for the white coffee beans, Route 1 contestants arrived at the Perak Tong Cave Temple and found the chief priest for their individual trivia question which they both failed to answer. Both of them had to complete the penalty task which involved climbing a long flight of stairs to the top of the cave temple and retrieve their clue envelope. Kumar looked like he had a slight lead over Sanjeev throughout the climb although there was some physical blocking on his part to ensure that he kept that lead. It looked like the climb was quite a ways and when they reached the top, their clues told them to go to National Stud Farm to complete a task that will give them their golden box.

When we return back to the Route 2 contestant, it was not surprising that Toh got to the Ipoh market and found the correct stall to purchase the coffee beans first. Being able to speak Cantonese really helped him to get directions from the local unlike Ravin who seemed lost most of the time. After giving the coffee beans to the coffee shop owner, Toh was instructed to sit and have a cup of coffee before being given the clue for the next destination which was a tin-mining dredger just outside of Ipoh where they were instructed to locate their golden key. Ravin turned up sometime later with his coffee beans and was asked to do the same thing. In his hyper coffee influenced confession, he complained that it was hard for him to get the correct directions.

On the trip to the next Route 1 destinations, it was clear that Kumar really had his game on to the extant of refusing to even talk to Sanjeev. While Sanjeev tried gamely to be friendly to Kumar, he was not getting anywhere with his attempt. Once they arrived at the National Stud Farm, a horse breading farm, they were directed to search out a person there who had the next task that they have to complete. It took them a while to find the correct person who directed them to clean up their assigned stables, groom their assigned horse, saddle it, bring the horses out for a bath and return them back to their stables. After watching the two of them complete the task in fast forward, it seems that Kumar still had the slight lead over Sanjeev. Once the horses were returned to their respective stables, the contestants were told to search for their gold box hidden somewhere in the stables. Kumar found his first and it directed them to drive themselves using the car provided to them outside the farm to a rubber plantation near Kellie’s Castle and wait for their partner before proceeding with the next task. Sanjeev ran into trouble again after retrieving his gold box when it took longer to find his assigned car.

The Route 2 contestants arrived at the tin-mining dredger at the same time on the same bus. It seems that Toh missed an earlier bus and effectively wasted the lead that he had over Ravin. They were both neck to neck in the race to find the golden key in a really big tin-mining dredger which looked disused. I didn’t think that their clues really helped them out in terms of telling them the location of the key so the two of them had to search for the key for quite some time. I think that Ravin managed to spot a flag or something from outside the dredger since he was able to find the stairs that lead to the top of the dredger where the keys and clue to the next destination were located. Once he has secured the key, the clue told the contestants to get back into town and seek out a particular shop where bicycles were waiting for them to use to get to the next destination. He was well into his way while Toh was still looking for his key. After finally figuring out the location of the key, he managed to get it and quickly rushed back into town to start on his bicycle journey.

For a while it looked like Kumar was leading in Route 1 but it seems that he went to the wrong rubber plantation as it took him a while to find the person he was suppose to get the next clue from. Sanjeev on the other hand arrived later at the correct location and seem to be able to find the correct person quite easily. His partner, Ravin arrived sometime later after a 3 km bicycle journey and both of them were directed to tap rubber from 10 assigned trees to the rubber tapper’s satisfaction before being allowed to open the golden box with their golden key to get the clue to their final destination. They managed to finish their task well before the other team who were still looking for the correct rubber plantation. Sanjeev and Ravin’s clue told them to go to the nearby Kellie’s Castle to complete their final task.

Toh and Kumar finally found the correct rubber plantation and were just finishing their 10 rubber trees when Sanjeev and Ravin arrived at Kellie’s Castle and began searching for the person who had their final clue. After another frustrating person search, they finally found the correct person who had their final clue which told them to climb to the top of the castle and zip down a flying-fox line to the opposite bank of the nearby river after which they had to wade/swim back to the castle, go to the other tower of the castle to abseiling down to reach the finish line. The remainders of the task were completed without much incident although I must point out the sign warning them about crocodiles in the river they were wading/swimming in. I’m sure that the editors on the “Amazing Race” would put in a shot of crocodiles somewhere here to heighten the drama but that was not picked on by this group of editors.

In a confession, Kumar acknowledged that the first team who started the final task first would be surely the winner of this week’s race and sure enough it is Team Sanjeev and Ravin who crossed the finish line ahead of Team Kumar and Toh. With this win, Team Sanjeev and Ravin advance to the next round where all 6 winning teams will compete against each other to select the best 3 teams who will go into the final round. Both teams agreed that the looking around for the correct person who had their clue was the hardest thing that they had to do in their race compared to the physical activities they had to go through.

Overall it was a good episode to start the series off with. There were moments when both teams were really close together but Team Kumar and Toh managed to waste their lead over the other team by virtue of their own mistakes. The editors of this episode also missed out on a big dramatic moment for the show tonight when they failed to show what happened when Toh missed his bus which basically turned the tables around for them. I also have to say that the clues given were very vague about the person the contestants were supposes to find for their clue. It would be better if the clues were more specific about the location where this person was so we would see the contestants spend less time searching for the guy and more time actually completing their tasks. I’m not sure if we will see the clues getting any better in future episodes but hopefully they will learn this lesson for the next season (if there will be a next season).

Next week, Explorace goes to Kuantan, Pahang.