Sunday, 25 February 2007

Bob Dylan

My wife says he is monotonous and boring. I say no, you've got to listen carefully to what he sings. She says that she does not understand him...

Sigh. In our years of marriage, this is one of those rare occasions when we cannot see eye-to-eye.

We were disagreeing about, in my opinion, one of the greatest singer-songwriter artistes of the 20th century: Robert Zimmerman. Or, to use his more popularly known moniker, Bob Dylan.

Ever since I heard his songs in the late 1960s, I had been drawn, first to his tunes and then to his lyrics. And I've never grown tired of listening to him since. Or to interpretations of his songs.

Actually, there's nothing much more I can say about Bob Dylan that has not already been said about him. Except, perhaps one thing .... how I wish I can listen to his radio programmes over the American satellite station XM Radio. He's been running the Bob Dylan Time Theme Radio Hour for almost a year now, and my friends in the States and now England who say they can hear this programme are praising it for Dylan's wide musical knowledge. He doesn't sing on these weekly programmes but he picks choices of songs that fit into the theme of the week.

Anyway, here's a quick snapshot of his vinyl records and CDs in my small collection, including interpretations by the Byrds, the Hollies, the Band and many others.

Saturday, 24 February 2007


It's said that cricket is one of the easy games to explain to the layman. I dug up this zany explanation a long time ago, possibly in the 1970s. However, its origin is lost in the mists of time but I do remember posting this to a newsgroup some time in the late 1990s. Could be, it was in celebration of the Cricket World Cup 1996 in India or the Cricket World Cup 1999 in England. I really can't tell but here it is again:

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out. When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay all out the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been given out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Balancing act

Move over, Ronaldinho! Step aside, Cristiano!

If you cannot do what this chap is doing, it's time to practise more on your football skill. Or maybe, you'd want to hang up your football shoes. He's from China, by the way, and he makes balancing the ball looks so simple!

P.S. It's a real basketball and it's spinning!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

CNY adventure

Don't you believe everything you read in the newspapers! Don't you believe it when the newspapaers tell you that Kuala Lumpur is a deserted town during Chinese New Year.

Why? Because I've seen for myself how KL is like during this festival period. You see, for a change, I decided to take my family down to Kuala Lumpur for Chinese New Year. First time I'm doing this.

Okay, first things first: we drove down to KL on the first day of CNY. The drive was a breeze. We were moving against the traffic flow and many people were still on the road, leaving KL for their hometowns.

Entering KL itself was also easy. Right until we reached Jalan Tun Perak. The whole place was a sea of people. Not locals but the foreign workers...Bangladeshis, Vietnamese, Nepalese, etc. Don't know where they were heading to but they caused a damn nuisance on the road. Blocked the traffic on this road and outside Puduraya.

But we reached our hotel eventually. The Royale Bintang Hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang. My children weren't very impressed with the hotel's exterior but they loved the rooms. Big and spacious enough for them.

Day One. After checking in, we went to see my dear old aunt. My mum's elder sister. Very frail-looking and every one of her 72 years showed. I think she was more anxious than us to see one another. When we hadn't arrived by 6.30pm, she was on the verge of pestering her daughter to call us to see what time we would arrive. Hugs all around when we arrived.

Oh yes, the reason we were late was because I made a detour to Section 14 in Petaling Jaya to visit my ex-colleague, See Ming, and her husband, Sim. He has a h-u-g-e extended family. Everyone seemed to be visiting his dad during this period. Too bad I missed meeting him during my short visit. He was sleeping.

Here's another reason why I say KL is not exactly a dead town during CNY. Is this picture of Jalan Bukit Bintang at night a sign of a dead town? Not by any chance. Bintang Walk was full of people - tourists mainly - and shops were open.

Day Two. No more relatives or friends to visit. Not that I do not have any more but (1) they were either too busy or away or (2) I forgot to bring their contact numbers! Woe is me; how can I ever do that??

Anyway, spent the whole of the daylight hours at 1-Utama. But of course, I had my misadventure. I intended to take the Damansara way to the shopping complex but somehow, after Jalan Semantan, I accidentally turned into the Kerinchi Link which took me to the Federal Highway. So it was a long detour through old PJ before I arrived at 1-Utama.

Day Three. This was the day we went home. But first, a stop at Ikea. This time, I was determined to find the right route. Finally, we left KL at about 4.30pm. On the way back to Penang, the opposite site of the expressway was jam-packed with vehicles. People were returning back to KL from Penang, Ipoh and elsewhere in droves. I wouldn't be surprised if a four-hour journey took eight hours to complete.

My drive home was rather uneventful except for one incident at 6.10pm. I was about to overtake a tour bus (AFQ 5898). But I suppose the bus driver must have dozed off at the wheel. The bus started cutting into my lane in front of me. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to brake and gave the blardy driver a long toot. He swerved back into his lane. Later, when I managed to overtake him, he gave me an apologetic wave with his hand.

The rest of the journey was uneventful but after Taiping, traffic was building up along the stretch to Penang. I suppose many people were also returning to Penang after the holidays. Chinese New Year. A period of mass migration in this country.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Reunion dinner

Keong Hee Huat Chye! That's Gong Xi Fa Cai in the Hokkien dialect for you.

My family's just finished our reunion dinner at home and it was a sumptious steamboat. It was one of the tastiest I've ever had and the secret's in the soup. But don't ask me what went into the pot because my wife and my aunt aren't saying!

Anyway, even my children - and sometimes, they are the fiercest critics - loved the steamboat dinner.

And there are some photographs to show you how we did justice to the meal.

First.... the "before" picture:

Next...the "after" picture:

And lastly...yuks! The bones that my children left behind:


It's Chinese New Year eve once again and a time to indulge in food, food and more food during the Family Reunion dinner.

Some people say it's a once-in-a-year occasion to let go of all inhibitions and eat whatever you want to eat but I say: do keep an eye open for all the rich food that's going down your gullet.

Especially seafood. One word is the bane of seafood and that is C-H-O-L-E-S-T-E-R-O-L.

Yes, you got it right ... cholesterol.

I just happened onto this website which listed the cholesterol level in seafood. I think it's wise to share and share this information around...

Friday, 16 February 2007


Have you seen this dress before? No? How can....

Then look closely. A small-bit actress in the country north of ours wore it about six days ago to an awards function...and she has been hardly out of the news there since then.

Everyone who saw her or her picture in the national dailies had something to say about her dress...and they were not complimentary. In fact, they were almost unanimously outraged by it. Sniff. It's not something that she or her countrywomen should be wearing.

So she was forced to do community service by her university (she's still studying, apparently) and make a public apology.

Seriously, folks, is this dress really offensive? Maybe the show of her hip to midriff to cleavage was rather unintentional. Perhaps the tailor ran out of cloth as she tried to wrap it around her body. Cut the cloth too close. And had to resort to using pieces of string to tie the loose ends together. Who knows? I'd give her the benefit of the doubt.

Thursday, 15 February 2007


I knew it had to happen one day but I never realised that I would be caught unprepared when it finally happened. Have I really crossed that threshhold?

What happened, you may ask?

I wouldn't mind it if my son's or my daughter's friends come up to me and call me "uncle, uncle". I'll expect it of them. But there I was, going to the restaurant with my wife for dinner and the waiter quietly said to me: "Uncle, let me show you to your seats."

Perhaps, I've got to start acting my age now....

Sunday, 11 February 2007


It's not often that I can enjoy the luxury of sleeping in late at home - maybe only once or twice a year - so it was a pleasant change from the routine this morning when I was able to stay in my bed until 8.30am just listening to the quietness of the morning with the birds chirping away and the occasional dog barking in the distance. Complete quiet, because I didn't have to wake up early to take my son to school or go to work or the market. Such bliss...

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Food, Penang hawker food

Many, many years ago - I believe it was in 1996 or 1997 - I had a webpage on Penang food. It was hosted on the old Malaysia Online portal, long before the domain name was sold off. When they sold off the domain name, I lost my webpage and I never got round to reproducing it anywhere else.

I suppose this blog is as good a place as anywhere else for me to attempt to reproduce my take on the best of Penang food. But of course, much of the information will require an update because even food stalls come and go. So, here it is ... my collection of the best Penang food. Call it the SS Quah Penang Food Award, if you like.

A quick intro to anyone who is not yet into Penang food: Penang is a paradise for food lovers who come from all over Malaysia, Singapore and overseas. The first thing that people do when they cross the border by land, sea or air, even before they check into a hotel, is to ask: "Penang food, where, ah?"

Ais Kacang. Not many stalls can beat the one at the new New World Park Hawker Centre. It comes with the usual sweet red kidney beans (large ones!!), attap nuts and sweet corn, all covered with shaved ice and laced with rose syrup, brown sugar syrup and sweetened condensed milk. For a bit more indulgence, ask for ice cream and sliced fruits like bananas and papayas. The Ais Kacang stalls in Lorong Selamat also serve irresistible versions.

Apong. Originally cooked by Indians in small claypots over charcoal, most apong stalls use small metal woks over gas fires nowadays. To meet, it's not so interesting anymore and the taste is somewhat different. But it's still possible to find apong, the old fashioned way at the coffee shop at the Burmah Road/Moulmein Road junction (same coffee shop selling the Hokkien Mee described below). Available in the mornings until about 9am, after that, habis!

Bak Moy. It's more than moy (or broth) that the hawkers sell. Normally, I'd go for the mee suah. But no matter whether its moy or mee suah, the stall at Jalan Kampung Malabar, off Penang Road is my absolute favourite. It's worth waiting 30 or 40 minutes just to enjoy a bowl. 

Banana Leaf Rice. This is of ethnic South Indian origin and comes served on a banana leaf with a standard serving of two or three types of vegetable dishes and papadom. You can usually choose between fish, chicken and mutton as a main dish or if you prefer, go vegetarian all the way! One of the oldest banana leaf rice restaurants is the Shusi Restaurant in Penang Street. It's been my choice for traditional Banana Leaf Rice for the last 20 years. Nearby is the Sri Ananda Bahwan Restaurant and the food's cooked by real Indian nationals. So, it is about the closest you'll get to authentic Indian food cooked by authentic Indians. But my vote still goes to Shusi Restaurant. Btw, it's undergoing renovation and should reopen by Chinese New Year.

Char Koay Kak. For one of the best plates of this dish, you must go to MacAlister Lane. You can't miss this stall. You'll see it immediately on the left side of the road as you turn into it (it's a one-way street). For an alternative, you should try the stall at the junction of Burmah Road / Tavoy Road. In the mornings, the stall at the SuperTanker food court in Taman Lip Sin.

Char Koay Teow. Too close to call but my vote goes to the stall outside the coffee shop at the MacAlister Road/New Lane junction or the one at Lorong Selamat. Big delicious prawns but beware of the pieces of fried lard that's mixed into the fried koay teow. They're cruchy and gives a distinct taste to the food but it's too oily for people watching their cholesterol. I've also rediscovered one of my favourite Char Koay Teow seller who has relocated to a coffee shop at the China Street / Penang Street junction. BTW, give the Two Sisters stall in MacAlister Road a real miss. Serious! It's an over-hyped stall and they can even cheat you over an egg. Just watch them fry three plates together and use only two eggs. Huh!

Chendol, a dessert to cool down your hot days, made with green pandan-flavoured noodles and large, red kidney beans in coconut milk, brown sugar and shaved ice. There's a very famous stalls along Keng Kwee Street, a side road off busy Penang Road. There's another not-so-famous one opposite it. If you want better service, try the less famous one. The quality is absolutely the same, so I dunno why people keep going to the other side of the road!

Chicken Rice. This seller used to have a stall in a small coffee shop at kampung Malabar but has now gone Big Time with his own shop in Cintra Street. A very popular place and I do not see any reason to disagree with its popularity. Friends from KL used to come by just to taste a bowl of the rice first, before diving into the chicken.

Fried Oysters. My favourite is the stall outside the Seng Thor coffee shop at the Carnarvon Street / Kimberley Street junction. Its reputation goes back decades as the business was handed down from father to son.

Hokkien Mee. I don't know why Pulau Tikus seems to be the best place for a bowl of Hokkien Mee - noodles served with eggs, small prawns, meat slices, bean sprouts and kangkong in a spicy prawn stock - but if you are around this area, do try the stall at the coffee shop at the Burmah Road/Moulmein Road junction. There are two coffee shops, so make sure you go to the right one. It's the one on the right and it is usually sold out by 8.30am. You may also want to try the stall at the Burmah Road/Bangkok Lane junction.

Koay Teow Th'ng. One of the best I've taken is at the Chai Leng Park market. It's served with slices of pig entrails, meat balls and minced meat. At night, I've been frequenting a stall along Kimberley Street quite often. Location is that short stretch of road between the Kimberley Street/Rope Walk and Kimberley Street/Cintra Street junctions. You can order pig intestines and chicken feet as side dishes.

Mee Goreng and Mee Rebus. The stall at the coffee shop at the Burmah Road / Bangkok Lane junction serves good Indian mee goreng and mee rebus. There's also one at the Mamak food court at Gurney Drive, claimed to be from Edgecumbe Road originally. For the more adventurous, try the Mee Kuah Ketam along the Kulim Road on the mainland. It's just before the junction to the Bukit Mertajam Country Club. This place is packed in the afternoons, except Fridays when it's closed!

Nasi Kandar. Unfortunately, nasi kandar is too commercialised today and many of the old-style Indian Muslim sellers are no longer around in the land of its origin. Nevertheless, among the most well-known is a place called Line Clear, off Penang Road. One of the quaintest characters there is their boss (I think) who will speak to you in Hokkien or Cantonese, depending on your inclination.

Penang Laksa. People say the stalls in Ayer Itam or Balik Pulau are the best, but I swear by the stall along Lorong Selamat. It's generously garnished and the Lemak variety is the best I've ever tasted.

Po Piah. The best on the island so far is at the Padang Brown food centre. If you are on the mainland, do go the stall that's inside the one-storey coffee shop at the junction of Jalan Bunga Raya and Jalan Pasar in Bukit Mertajam. It's only available from 3pm until everything runs out! Others? I'm not very impressed but these two stalls makes me go crazy thinking about the po piah!

Rojak. Never had a strong liking for rojak but I'm quite partial towards this stall in Bukit Mertajam that's curiously called Rojak Orang Hitam Putih. Don't know why it's called that way, but the stall's located within the same coffee shop where you can find the Po Piah that I've described above. P.S. While you are there waiting for the food, order the local coffee. Now, that's my type of coffee: thick and delicious and guaranteed to keep you abuzz better than any expresso!

Wantan Mee, or Tok Tok Mee from the sound of sellers knocking bamboo sticks together to draw attention to their ware. My favourite stall on the island is located at the first coffee shop you see on the right-hand side as you turn into China Street from Jalan Kapitan Kling mosque. It's available from 7am daily, except Sundays. On the mainland, one of the stalls at the Seberang Jaya food centre beside the Seberang Jaya wet market is worth a try.

Yong Tau Foo. The only authentic Penang yong tau foo stall is located at the Padang Brown at the Anson Road / Perak junction. Others are poor imitations and there's really no competition for this stall. Try it for a memorable lunch or tea.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Hello, apple!

Peer closely at the picture and tell me what you see.

An apple, right? A simple, white (greyish, if you like) apple. But it's not a real apple. It's not even an ordinary apple. It's an irresistable, extraordinary apple. In fact, it's a MacBook Apple!

Marvel at my new toy, folks! It's MY MacBook, running on Intel's 2.00GHz Core 2 Duo processor. I'm no good at giving you the lowdown specs on this machine but I absolutely love the glossy display. There's no issue with reflection. Besides, it makes my screen look so much brighter.

Best of all, it's dual boot and I'm running both the Mac OS X and Windows XP Home operating systems. I wouldn't have bought this MacBook if not for this fact.

I was in the market for a laptop but was rather undecided on what to get. Then I saw the MacBook and my mind was made up pretty fast! I really needed the dual boot because in my line of work, I still need to run some proprietary programs in a WinXP environment. So, buying this apple does not mean a total "goodbye dos, goodbye windows" yet.

Meanwhile, getting used to the new Mac OS X was rather easy. Not very intuitive at first but you'll soon get used to it.

But even right now, there's still a lot to learn from this little beast. The adventure continues...

P.S. I also treat the MacBook like gold. If it's not used, it goes pop, into my new laptop backpack.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Li Chun, 2007

Today is Li Chun, a significant day in the Chinese almanac. Li Chun means the coming of Spring, the start of a brand new year, although Chinese New Year itself is not celebrated until 18 Feb 2007 with a brand new moon in the sky.

Of course, here in Malaysia, we can hardly tell whether it is spring, summer, autumn or winter. It's just rain or no rain and I think many parts of the country would have had enough of the water.

Anyway, Li Chun is always observed quietly in my family by sticking a new Hock character on the rice container. My aunt was asking me when exactly was Li Chun. She showed me one of those Chinese character calendars. There....I pointed out to her. Li Chun starts at 13.18pm on 4 Feb 2007 and you'd better not stick that character any earlier than that!

But there seems to be a bit of confusion. That Feng Shui guy, Joey Yap, has a book which mentioned Li Chun starting at 1.20pm while on a radio programme, the guest Feng Shui expert added to the confusion by saying Li Chun starts at 1.32pm. Which is correct?

I really don't know. But you know what? If you want to be on the safe side, just do what my aunt did. She only plastered the Hock character on the rice container at 1.40pm. Why the delay, I asked her? Well, she answered, I actually forgot exactly what time it was and by the time I remembered, it was already way past 1.32pm.

Oh well....

Friday, 2 February 2007


One of my office buddies, Ted, has a great sense of humour.

More than a year ago, I was showing off to him my then new minidisc walkman, the Sony MZ-NH700. I was telling him, wow, each minidisc I owned could be formatted to hold eight hours of music. And the sound quality was so much better than what mp3 players could produce.

He was not impressed. Drily, he said that there are 6.5 billion people in this world and he had to know someone who owned a minidisc walkman.

Ha ha ... that's Ted for you, with his sense of humour.

But seriously, I believe that no mp3 player can hold its own against a minidisc player. The sound quality is so much more superior, whether it is playback or recording. I can vouch for this. In 2005, I was attending a seminar in Kuala Lumpur with a friend. We were recording the with the minidisc recorder and he with an mp3 recorder. When we played back the recordings, my minidisc sound was so much clearer.

Another instance of the good sound quality. I have been using my minidisc recorder at concerts for playback at home through my hifi system system. Pristine sound.

So, whether you like it or not, I'm sticking with my trusty minidisc walkman.

In fact, this is already my third minidisc unit. My first was a Somy minidisc deck, the MDS-JE510. I thought it was rather sleek and a replacement for my old tape deck. It lasted a few years of hard use. Then it gave up the ghost for good.

I also owned a Sharp MD-MS721 but then one day, I accidentally left the batteries in the player. But the time I realised it, the batteries had leaked and spoilt it some.

Now, I treat this Sony MZ-MH700 like gold, even though it has been superceded by newer minidisc models. And my collection of music on minidisc? It already runs into hundreds of hours. Enough said!

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Anything goes

Psst! Hey, you....

Yes, I'm referring to you!

In case you are wondering why I'm starting another blog when I already have It's All In The Planning, it's because I need a less stuffy forum to say what I want to say about many things that are not related to careers, chess, estate planning, investments or mutual funds.

So this is it: My Alternative Blog where anything goes!