Thanks for All the Fish!

20 months ago, something important happened. I was kidnapped and transported to the UK, and forced to walk to school every day, at nearly just-above-zero temperatures. Somehow I was expected to survive with just a bank account, 40kg of meticulously packed luggage and a warm room located 10 minutes from school.

On my first day of forced imprisonment, I found out I had bigger problems. I had to walk for minutes between classes. Classrooms were not made of gold-plated steel or ivory. We were expected to study. The school did not provide chefs from Italy. The school did not provide food at all. There were no massage sessions. The indoor swimming pool was non-existant.

I was appalled.

But something miraculous happened.

I enjoyed myself while I was there.

And 18 months after I began, I managed to survive! In fact, I thrived in the UK. To me, those months in Cambridge doing A-Levels were exhilaratingly fun and interesting. So I’d like to say my thanks to some people:

To the teachers of Abbey College, you are the greatest set of teachers I have ever had the pleasure of sitting down and learning from. Whereas when some teachers teach the information goes straight from the board to the notebook without ever passing through either brain*, when you guys teach I always understand and memorise things until the day before the exam. To Helen, Tanya, Chris, Darren, Heather, Stuart, Ross, Boz, Richard and Sue in particular, thank you for bearing with me for the many hours I was in your class, making sure I don’t fall asleep in class (well, usually), teaching beyond the syllabus, marking tons of exam papers and for being caring, concerned teachers. I couldn’t have done it without you. :)

To Andrew, thanks for introducing me to Doctor Who. And board games. Oh, and making sure I was never able to ever think I was good at maths.

To Julian, thank you for… um… doing whatever it is you do. And board games also, I guess.

To my brother, thank you for doing the laundry sometimes.

To my sister, thanks…?

Penultimately but not least, to all my friends, thank you very, very much. There’s so many of you and I don’t want to single anyone out (and if I listed all of you I’d definitely miss one out), so to all my friends I am grateful for the stupid things we did together; the homework and notes we suffered through; the silly nights spent together; the odd conversations held at staircases; the times we ran to classes; the many, many “Good luck”s exchanged; the cooking nights at Jiann Lee’s my house; the milkshakes; the informal LAN’s; the let’s-chat-while-unlocking-our-bicycle-and-standing-awkwardly-in-the-cold chats; the May Ball; the charity event; the long walks; the short walks; the food shopping trips; Nando’s; NANDO’s; the terrible games of pool; playing Shadow Hunters, Settler’s of Catan, and the many other board games; that night when you pumped me full of alcohol; for letting me sleep on your couch and leech your internet; and for being generally the best friends one could ask for.

Last but still not least, to my parents, thank you for caring! You’re always there (even if you’re not wanted :p) to make sure I’m doing well. Thank you for working hard to make sure I have the best in education and life, and for making sure I grew up to be a responsible, smart, excellent, hardworking, humble, caring, interesting, handsome, amazi- (ok I’ll stop now) young man. You’re the best parents a boy could ever ask for. I love you two! :D **

 

Those were 18 months not easily forgotten.

 

* Ok, I stole this from the Cambridge Study Guide.

** You’re welcome.

The Results Are In…

A-Level January 2011 Exam Results

Subject UMS Grade
Mechanics 3 95/100 A
Statistics 1 100/100 A
Statistics 2 100/100 A
Decision Mathematics 1 100/100 A
Economics 3 78/80 A
Physics 4 120/120 A

I’m happy with my results :)

By the way, if you’re interesting in the grade boundaries, look here. And if you want to know the difference between raw marks and UMS, read this.

Personal Statement

Dear Admission officer,

I AM THE MOST FANTASTIC PERSON YOU HAVE EVER MET/WILL EVER MEET. SOON YOU WILL CALL ME INTO AN INTERVIEW ROOM AND YOU WILL BE MARVELLED AT THE AMAZING SPECIMEN OF THE HUMAN SPECIES SITTING IN FRONT OF YOU. BUT LET’S NOT SPOIL THAT SURPRISE AND INSTEAD, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY PAST (FOR YOU WILL NOT WANT TO ASK ME ABOUT SUCH TRIVIAL THINGS WHEN YOU MEET IN IN REAL LIFE).

FIRSTLY I WAS BORN WITH A DISABILITY. MY LIFE HAS BEEN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT AS I INHERITED THE CAPS LOCK DISEASE FROM MY MOTHER. PASSED DOWN FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION, THIS LEFT ME UNABLE TO TALK/WRITE/TYPE WITHOUT SHOUTING. ALTHOUGH MOST PEOPLE FOUND IT ANNOYING, I HAVE ACTUALLY BENEFITED FROM THIS AS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT THE VALUE OF PERSEVERANCE. FURTHERMORE PEOPLE ARE UNABLE TO IGNORE ME.

ALSO SINCE THE AGE OF 5 I HAVE BEEN WEAK TO ANOTHER DIESASE, THE uncapitalisation disease which randomly makes me unable to type any sort of capital letters. i believe the most difficult TIMES OF MY life was when BOTH DISEASES affect me at the SAME TIME.

I APPLY TO YOUR UNIVERSITY TO BE THE DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS. OF COURSE IT WOULD BE SILLY OF ME TO APPLY OR SOMETHING AS TRIVIAL AS AN EDUCATIONAL DEGREE WHEN I HAVE ALREADY LEARNT EVERYTHING YOUR INSTITUTION HAS TO OFFER BEFORE I TURNED 3. AS SUCH, I DO HOPE YOU SEE THE OPPORTUNITY IN HIRING SUCH A WONDROUS FELLOW AS ME TO REVITALISE AND IMPROVE YOUR ESTABLISHMENT. I CAN TAKE [insert your university here] TO GREATER HEIGHTS THAN IT HAS EVER REACHED, AND WILL NEVER BE REACHED AGAIN AFTER I PASS AWAY.

FURTHERMORE, I WILL CUT COSTS BY FIRING EVERY TEACHER/LECTURER/INTERVIEWER AND ONLY RETAIN THE ADMISSIONS DEPARTMENT. PLUS THE WAGES WOULD BE TRANSFERRED TO THAT DEPARTMENT.
I HOPE YOU REALISE WHAT A GREAT OPPORTUNITY MY APPLICATION BEINGS TO YOUR LIFE. IF NOT, YOU STINK.

Sincerely yours,
JIANN MENG

Power Cycling

That day not too long ago I saw a guy riding a bicycle with no seat.

I had just left school on my bike, cycling merrily down the road. At the traffic light I stopped behind a guy riding a bicycle with no seat.

The guy was riding a bicycle with no seat.

He just stood with his legs on the ground and waited patiently for the light to turn green. Then as soon as it was green he started pedaling, without seating down. I stared, awestruck by the guy riding a bicycle with no seat.

I just followed behind him, watching his legs go round and round. He never sat, never looked tired, and accelerated faster than me. I had to cycle quickly to catch up, then he turned right. That was the last I saw the guy riding a bicycle with no seat.

As I rode home (on a bicycle with a seat), I contemplated the meaning of life. I pondered upon how insignificant our lives are, smaller than a speck of dust in the scale of the universe. I also thought that the guy riding a bicycle with no seat was awesome.

The True Story of How David Archuleta Came to Sri KDU

[subtitle: Confessions of a Hero/Villain]

-mid-2009 or so-

David Archuleta came to Sri KDU. THE David Archuleta (DA), the winner of American Idol (halfway round the world), came to a small (ok, maybe not so small) school in the middle of the country right above Singapore.

How did this happen? It’s a long story. But I can say, it was probably my fault.

First off, some organisers paid good money to Archuleta’s agents to come over to Malaysia. Then these organisers sold rights to many companies to give away exclusive tickets to people in exchange for promotions which bring in lots and lots and lots of money and publicity for the companies. Ka-ching, $_$ and all that. One of these companies was hitz.fm.

Hitz.fm had a great idea! Why not send DA to a school? Run a contest to see which school wins, and free publicity rolls in! Nice idea!

They made a webpage for it. The contest was quite simple:

  • Register for an account
  • Choose your school from a list
  • Answer 10 questions about DA correctly
  • Your school gets 1 entry!
  • Repeat for further success!

Mrs. Chan, our principal, was/is a devout fan of DA. She called up an assembly to tell every student in school to vote for DA to come to Sri KDU. To rephrase, our principal told every student to go online to win a contest so that a celebrity singer would come to our school. Somehow, she had also managed to print out about, say, 200-300 small slips of paper with all the answers to the 10 questions to help us students answer correctly.

I was quite bemused, but hey, it’s worth a shot to get a celebrity to come over right? Especially since I can now brag, forever, that David Archuleta came to my school. So I went online, registered an account and voted. Nothing special.

But what really caught my eye was that there was absolutely no protection from automated voting.

Chanced are, if you’ve been around the Internet long enough, you’ve seen one of those little images where there are letters which are bent strangely and distorted like mad. These are called CAPTCHAs. Basically they make sure you’re not a robot so that you don’t make 1000 accounts or do something 1000 times unless you’re actually doing it manually.

Without any Captchas, the voting is ridiculously easy to automate. Using iMacro, I set up a macro. A macro is a recording of actions, for example, this macro’s instructions was to:

  1. Go to the website.
  2. Choose the correct school from the list.
  3. Click on the 10 correct answers.
  4. Click vote.

All this is really, really easy. You just have to click record, do the actions manually yourself, then click stop.

Now, if you hit the play button, it goes through the list and votes. If you fill the “Repeat” box with a number, say, 100, then it repeats it 100 times.

I was triumphant when I voted 100 times in about 2 minutes.

And that was that. I could so easily destroy this contest. If I set the repeat to one million times, I could leave it overnight and pretty much ensure that Sri KDU wins. But my conscience tugged at me. How could I deprive the other schools of getting DA to their school? It’s not fair, right? Maybe some other true fans of DA were voting right now, every hour, slaving away to get a chance to meet DA?

Well screw them, why didn’t they think of this?

But there was another problem which prevented me from voting a million times. I was worried that if hitz.fm saw a million votes for Sri KDU they’d be so surprised that they would just disqualify KDU from the contest. That would suck, every DA fan in school would hate me, and Mrs. Chan would probably… well let’s not go into detail about that.

I finally decided not to bother voting. Instead I told a friend about this method, then I showed him the exact steps involved. There’s nothing worse that a secret unshared. (The friend was SY. I don’t know if I should involve his name or not, so let’s leave it at that for now.)

SY told CF about this, and together they made 20,000 votes. When they told me I was something like:

:O

o.O

Well, the day finally arrived. DA came to our school. The entire event should be summarised in another post, but here’s a quick reminder of the concert:

In total, there were 65,700 votes. From a school of about 1200 students, and that’s including primary and secondary. I heard that the method spread to a few other students and some people in the IT department as well. In any case, I read somewhere that there were about 100,000 votes total, which means that we voted almost twice as much as every other school combined. Haha.

Why post this almost half a year after he left Malaysia? I’m only posting this because of ego. It’s quite likely that my experimentation caused David Archuleta to come to my school. Wooo. That’s a story I can tell my grandchildren.

To Sri KDU-ens: Thank you, thank you. You’re welcome.

To hitz.fm: Please, perhaps you might want to look into some ways of stopping automated voting? Also, don’t you find that 65,000 votes just a little suspicious?

To other schools out there: Sore luck. Be smarter next time. :P