Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong and his friend

A friend of mine sent me an email this afternoon. It is a news clip titled: Genting founder dies. And so, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong (林梧桐) is now dead. He passed away this morning at Subang Jaya Medical Center.

It is not easy to build a business like Genting, because you need a lot of hard work and a lot of luck.

There is no doubt that Lim fulfilled the first criterion. To understand how dedicated Lim was, you can read his autobiography "My Story - Lim Goh Tong" or you can visit the history section of Genting website.

The second criterion, the luck element, is rarely mentioned. And it is my intention to highlight a little bit in this article.

At the time when Lim was 32, he was introduced to a Muarian named Mohammad Noah Omar (1898 - 1991). And the friendship and business partnership between Lim and Noah turned out to be very fruitful and beneficial to both parties.

In 1948, the youngest daughter of Noah, Suhaila, was married to Hussein Onn. Four years later, Suhaila's sister, Rahah, was married to Abdul Razak. So, Lim is indeed extremely fortunate to have a good friend who is also the father-in-law of the second and third prime minister of Malaysia.

In 27 April 1965, Lim and Noah established a company, in which Lim was the managing director while Noah was the chairman. Together, they managed to persuade the government to let them construct a resort on a hill top bordering Selangor and Pahang.

Four year later, Lim and Noah submitted their application to operate a casino in the hotel they were building. Tunku brought their case to the cabinet meeting for discussion on 28 April 1969. That afternoon, the approval letter for the first and only casino operation in Malaysia was signed.

Amazingly, it took only six hours to approve the casino license of Lim and Noah after they submitted their application to Tunku. And to explain this, we can either say that the government must be very efficient back in 1969, or there were some guanxi factors involved. I choose to believe the latter.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Angkasawan of Malaysia: Part II

In 2003, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov came to Malaysia to do promotion on his fighter jets. Ivanov is a very good business man because he knew his customer very well. And in May 19, 2003, Najib Razak announced that we have agreed to purchase 18 Indian-made Sukhoi-30MKM fighter jets from Russia.

Later, it was announced that the price of the 18 jets is $900 millions and there is also an offset agreement in which Russia will offer Malaysia one seat in the Russian spacecraft.

Did Ivanov and Najib discussed in detail about the offset agreement in 2003? We are not very sure. But I guess Ivanov must have hinted Najib on the possibility of realizing Malaysian dreams of creating his own Angkasawan, free of charge.

Initially, we were told by the Russians that our boy will be trained in Star City, Moscow in 2004 and be sent to space by 2005. But the American businessman, Gregory Hammond Olsen paid $20 millions and he got the place in the Soyuz TMA-7 mission, launched in October 1, 2005.

Later, American-Iranian businesswoman, Anousheh Ansari (انوشه انصاری) paid $20 millions and she got the space ticket in the Soyuz TMA-9 expedition, lauched in September 18, 2006. Then another famous American businessman named Charles Simonyi cut the queue again, when he was launched to space by the Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft in April 7, 2007.

We cannot complain much about all this queue-cutting stuffs because our space ticket is free-of-charge.

Fortunately, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Mustapha Shukor, our first Angkasawan, finally had his seat confirmed and he is scheduled to be launched to space in October 10, 2007, together with other two crew members in the Soyuz TMA-11 expedition.

Unexpectedly, all these delays are good for Malaysia because we can, like TBS Japan, use this opportunity to do self-promotion (for Visit Malaysia 2007) and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Merdeka.

Dreams are possible, if and only if you have money.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

The Log-Antilog Procedure: Part I

When I was in my upper secondary some 12 years ago, calculators were forbidden in modern mathematics examination. Nevertheless, I bought my first scientific calculator, a Casio FX570, at that time because I fancied the buttons with many strange symbols on them.

One of the topics in modern mathematics was to perform numerical computations using the four-figure tables. I remember vividly that in the classroom, I watched bemusedly, as my teacher demonstrated to us, the lengthy and laborious procedure for obtaining product like 10.8 x 87.85.

The procedure involved reading the logarithms for the two numbers from the logarithm table, add them up, and reading the table again for the antilogarithm of the addend.

At the end of the class, I approached my teacher and asked him why we should learn such an unproductive technique when we can directly generate the result with just a few key strokes on a cheap calculator. My teacher’s tone was authoritarian: “because this is the syllabus outlined by the school and you have to follow”.

Then, I showed him my new scientific calculator and asked him whether or not I can officially use it to obtain logarithms and antilogarithms of numbers. My teacher said, “No, you cannot. You have to learn to use the log table”.

For the sake of classroom tests and school examinations, I reluctantly learned and mastered the log-antilog procedure.

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