Saturday, 30 June 2007

BHLB relics (1)

I was clearing my store room and came across these three bags from my old Ban Hin Lee Bank days. I had long forgotten all about them, can't even remember when they were made, so it was a pleasant discovery.

Friday, 29 June 2007

World heritage

A week ago, we were very hopeful that Penang could finally be listed as a world heritage site by Unesco's World Heritage Committee meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Unfortunately, this is not to be. Penang has failed yet again to be accorded this status.

Today, the World Heritage Committee announced the 22 sites approved by them and Penang is not in the list. Africa has four sites included, Europe and North America has eight sites combined, Latin America and the Arab Region have one site each while Asia and Pacific Region has eight sites.

Of these eight sites, the Sydney Opera House (Australia), the Kaiping Diaolou and Villages (China) and the Red Fort Complex (India) were listed as cultural properties; the Gobustan Rock Art (Azerbaijan), the Parthian Fortresses of Nisa (Turkmenistan) and the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine (Japan) were deemed as cultural landscapes; while the South China Karst (China) and the Jeju Volcanic Islands and Lava Tubes (Republic of Korea) were inscribed as natural properties.

What a disappointment for Penang! The World Heritage Committee had actually come here in April to look at the place. Apparently, the committee members had gone away unconvinced. More has to be done.

Tattered flags

We are about two months away from celebrating the 50th anniversary of the country. Let's not shame ourselves by displaying such flags.

The photograph on the left was taken in Serdang, Kedah while the one on the right was snapped in Bukit Mertajam, Penang. Disgraceful, right?

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Ceramic stylus

I still haven't found a photo of my old, old Garrard auto-changer on the Internet but instead, I found this!

It's a snapshot of the ceramic stylus that was used on my old Garrard tone-arm. This photo is about twice or thrice it's actual size, so you can image how small and delicate it was.

I remember the difficulty I had with fixing the stylus. It was like having a tooth extracted. I'd lift up the tonearm head as high as it could go, move the old stylus to a vertical position - by this time, my own mouth would be wide open - and then gently ease it out of the spring-like lock mechanism in the head. Then, I'd do the reverse to fit in the new stylus carefully. Beads of sweat by now.

The test of whether the whole operation was done correctly was to flip the stylus from its 33/45 rpm position to the 78 rpm position. It should flip smoothly but firmly from one side of the head to the other, otherwise you'd have to do it again.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Body mass index

Sigh...I've just been told that I'm fat. Not by my family or my friends or my enemies or my doctor but by all things, the Department of Statistics Malaysia!

I was looking through their website when I chanced upon this link called Body Mass Index. Curiosity got the better of me. I went to the page and dutifully filled in my weight and height, and then clicked on Calculate. I shouldn't have.

Ouch! It told me, rather undiplomatically: "You are fat."

Do I look fat? A bit over-weight perhaps, but fat? I still have my stamina and can climb the BM Hill faster than my wife. And she goes for regular aerobics exercise! And I can climb the hill at a consistent pace without stopping. Okay, okay...maybe once or twice to catch my breath and allow my wife to catch up with me, but I still make it to the top of the hill. It's more than what I can say about other people my age.

I think the department's BMI calculation is slightly out of whack. I really do.

TM scam, part 3

Azila of Telekom Malaysia called me at 5.30pm yesterday. Yes, there really is a RM68 (not RM60) plan from TM under its Let's Talk package. The call I received last Tuesday was no hoax, not a scam, but a legitimate call from one of TM's staff. Unfortunately, this staff was caught by surprise when I wanted her to speak in English. Azila apologised to me for the abrupt cut in the conversation.

She then explained all about this package to me and how it could benefit me since my monthly telephone bill was higher than RM68.

BUT...I asked her, seeing that many of my calls are made to mobile lines, are you sure that I will not exceed the 30-minute free air-time to mobile lines?

"Well," she said, "if you exceed the 30 minutes, you'll be charged 30 sen to 013/019 numbers and 35 sen to 012/016 numbers." And this will be on a per-minute basis.

Wait a minute, I said, how much are we being charged now if we don't subscribe to this package? Depends but it's 10 sen at the cheapest, she replied.

Thanks but no thanks, I told her. I don't want to subscribe to a package where in the end, I will be paying more than what I'm paying now. I'm not ready.

It's okay, she cooed. When you are ready, you can visit us at any TM Point outlet or give her a call on her number.... (Wow, I have her number with me, wor.... Anybody wants, can ask ME!)


But this doesn't answer all my questions satisfactorily. When TM employs staff and put them in the hot seat to face consumers, either to sell their services or attend to customer enquiries, aren't they trained properly beforehand? Isn't there a minimum requirement that they must be able to converse in English? And what about consumers who prefer to speak in Mandarin? answer.

And a new point. If TM is trying to sell their new services, shouldn't they do some homework first and tell their customer that YES, you will benefit by signing up? Here is a comparison based on your last three months' bills. Blah, blah, blah. Then I'd be impressed. Don't, lah, wait for me to do my own homework. I won't.

I can still be angry with TM but I'm not. I choose not to be angry. In fact, I'm glad that the whole episode has cleared up and I haven't actually been scammed.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Penang Bridge marathon 2007

My 16-year-old son came home at noon today with this medal and certificate to show for this morning's Penang Bridge half-marathon run. Gee...he's achieving things I never got to do in my youth!

Things purple

I must admit that Purple gets me rather worked up. I don't get emotional but I get worked up.

I can tolerate Donny Osmond when he told the world he was wearing purple socks. He did it with such panache that you know that you could not take him seriously. He's pretty much down-to-earth.

But I can't tolerate Prince when he sang about his Purple Rain or his other zillion and one songs. I've never been a fan or his. I find him rather ridiculous and very pretentious. Silly guy, preening here and there.

I guess my aversion to things purple have now spread to, of all things, purple buildings. About three or four years ago, I was already commenting to my friends about this house along busy MacAlister Road that's painted in hues of purple. It was very striking but a talking point.

Then, later, Northam Tower at the junction of Pangkor Road and Northam Road was completed. Lo! A Purple building! Certainly another talking point for people. I hope it will be the last of the purple buildings in the city. My system sure can't take another one!

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Kenny Sia's 15 minutes of fame with me

Wow, gosh, wahlau-eh! You wouldn't have guessed who bumped into me today!

I was at the Gurney Plaza in Penang to take a brief look into a gathering of Penang bloggers at the foodloft restaurant. This get-together, organised by Nuffnang, was a good idea to let the bloggers here meet, eat and get to know one another better.

Me? Though you'd know that I blog here and here, I don't consider myself as a typical Penang blogger. Almost all of them at foodloft would have to call me Uncle and you know what that means. If you are unsure, click here.

So, I was there simply to meet the Nuffnang people and ask them more about what they actually do and what they can do for me. I was just about to leave when Mr Malaysian Blogger himself walked into the restaurant!

Yes, that's him, all right! Kenny Sia of and that's me. SS Quah of ... well, I'm the reason you're reading this! He had hardly stepped into the restaurant and here he was, already posing for his first photo shoot. Bummer! I should have charged him RM100 for the opportunity. :-)

I was wondering why he was suddenly feeling homesick for Penang food when suddenly, the mist lifted! Oh yes, the Penang marathon. I had half forgotten that this chap has a life's ambition to run the Penang marathon which includes a complimentary return trip across the Penang Bridge. Lucky...he didn't have to pay RM5.60 from his Touch'N'Go card (or RM7 if you prefer cash) like the rest of us.

Good luck, Kenny, with all the goodness of Penang food in you, I hope you really burn, baby, burn all those calories away! Glad to have met you, mate!

Friday, 22 June 2007

TM scam, part 2

Remember my post on the telephone call that I received from a lady who represented herself as promoting a product from Telekom Malaysia? Read it here.

Remember too that I had given a feedback to TM by email? Well, took someone at TM's Contact Centre THREE DAYS to respond and even then, all that they have to say is this:
"... Your complaint has been escalated to the respective department for further action and we will feed you back in a soonest time."
Really? I thought my questions were simple enough and rather direct for the Contact Centre staff to handle. I don't see any need for the highers-up to reply. So it must be serious enough, right? Looks like I'll have to wait a few more days. What can I do but to wait???

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Poor Pluto, again

This is Mathias Pedersen. He's Danish, still in high school and only 17-years-old. But he's one heck of a graphic designer. He already has five years of experience in 3D and 2D design work, all during his spare hours. Of late, he has been dabbling in amateur film-making as well.

It's amazing what he has achieved. Just last month, he created a 3D work depicting the eight planets excluding Pluto from their group of planets. Poor Pluto, that's what Mathias called his work. How appropriate this image has become in the wake of the further humiliation suffered by Pluto just last week.

If you are looking for a high resolution version of this graphic, it can be downloaded from Mathias' homepage. You may want to look through his entire portfolio too, while you are there.

The real facts about health and fitness

I received this wonderful piece through email by I'm sure it has been going round and around the world countless times and appeared on countless websites and blogs. This can only be the latest. But before you read it, let me add my own Q&A first. Question: Is salt good for your health? Answer: Not unless you take it a pinch at a time. Okay. Now read on and enjoy ... HEALTH & FITNESS: THE REAL FACTS

Q: I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a MIXED GRILL can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one , etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise programme?
A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!! ... Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A : Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO. Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.

And remember: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO, What a Ride"

Penang - view

I was on one of the top floors of that purple building at the junction of Pangkor Road and Northam Road recently. I don't know why people want to paint their buildings purple in the first place. It's an absurd colour.

Now, this building is the one with that nice little bungalow next to it. The bungalow is Hardwicke House and it is actually part of the whole commercial block. In my opinion, the bungalow is rather out of place amidst all the high-rise buildings around it but the developers had not knocked it down when they built this towering block because they "wanted to conserve it as a Penang heritage building". Maybe there's more to it than this reason I've been hearing, but I don't know.

Anyway, I was up on the 13th floor to snap some of the most impressive photos looking towards the Kelawei Road direction. I had not realised until recently that the rows of apartments and commercial buildings had made the area so built up and it actually looked very impressive! Like a garden city! Here's what I mean:

Boot Camp dumped

Just a short note to say that I've finally dumped Boot Camp in favour of Parallels. This is for real and the long haul forward. So, no more rebooting of my MacBook to go from Tiger to WinXP and vice-versa. This feature really convinced me to switch over.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Dumpling festival

About 2300 years ago in China, Qu Yuan was a poet during the period of the Warring States. He was a court favourite until he was replaced and banished from the state by a rival through court intrigues. Filled with grief, he wanted to commit suicide in the river. He met a fisherman who asked him why, to which he replied: "The whole country is corrupt, except me. The people are inebriated, except me. I cannot accept it so it's better this way."

"But in that case, wouldn't it be better for you to move with the trend and rise in power?" the fisherman then asked.

Qu replied: "I prefer a death of honour and be interred in the bellies of the fishes in this river." Then, he clasped a huge stone with both hands, jumped into the river and drowned.

The fisherman and his friends rowed out in their long boats to save him but in vain. The fishermen would beat on their drums to chase the river dragons away from the poet. Later, the ritual began of throwing rice into the river to save the poet's spirit. It was believed that the fishes would eat the rice instead of his flesh.

This is how the legend of the Dragon Boat Race and the Dumpling Festival started. It's a festival celebrated by Chinese on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month which is today. The symbol is the triangularly-shaped Chang or dumpling, made from glutinous rice.

While I was away in Kuala Lumpur during lastweekend, my wife had been busily preparing this delicacy with my mother-in-law in Simpang Ampat. It takes a deft hand and lots of practice to wrap the Chang properly or else it'll be out-of-shape.

Traditionally, the filling they use for their Chang would be a mixture of grounded peanuts and seasoned meat. Since last year, they have added the more popular Bak Chang to their repertoire. This type of Chang is heavier to the stomach as the filling will contain a piece of belly pork, Chinese chestnuts, mushrooms and salted duck's egg-yolk.

A long time ago, my grandmother used to specialise in her Lye Chang made solely from glutinous rice that had been soaked in lye water.

When prepared, the whole Chang will take on a golden sheen. The measure of a master Chang maker and wrapper will be in the colour of the Chang, its softness and of course, its size because the smaller the Chang can be, the more exquisite it will look. Today, my family buys the Lye variety from friends who still make them. This type of Chang is rather bland on its own and normally, it'll be consumed by dipping it into a special mixture of Malacca sugar and coconut milk.

Tune Hotel - first impressions

I've just had my very first exposure to Tune Hotel.

You know, the Tune Hotel in Kuala Lumpur that belongs to Tony Fernandez and friends, and which promises guests a "no-frills" experience. Having taken the concept of "no-frills" flying with Air Asia, welcome now to "no-frills" hospitality!

Unfortunately, I went to KL without a camera so I cannot share my experience visually with you but here is a photo of the hotel's exterior, taken from their website. By the way, it's located at the junction of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Sultan Ismail. That's the hotel's official address in the picture.

When I was surfing through their website before making my on-line booking for a room, I thought, hey, I don't need no telephone, television, radio, safe, mini-bar, tea or coffee making facilities in the room. I'm only going to stay in the room for nine hours. Heck, I don't even need air-conditioning the whole night through. So, a five-hour air-conditioning package will be enough for me. So be it.

I've no qualms with all that. In fact, my expectancy was set. For RM50, if I can get a good quality mattress with clean sheets to sleep on with air-conditioning on from midnight until 5am and a ceiling fan to circulate the air for the rest of my nine-hour stay, I was satisfied.

You know what? If you thought the First World Hotel at Genting Highlands was quaint, be prepared for an even more quaint experience at Tune Hotel.

First of all, their website only shows you a virtual tour of a double-occupancy room. It doesn't even give you a snapshot of about their single-occupancy rooms so you'll have to bear with me while I go into a verbal descriptive mode.

The room is quaint, all right! Bare, dark cement floor to conceal any dirt and there was dust at the foot of the bed. But what really caught my breath when I entered the room was its size. It was long and narrow. I didn't have a measuring tape but I know my footsteps are 10 inches from heel to tip of my longest toe. Convenient, eh? So the room turned out to be 19.5 long and its width 6.7 feet. The bed was placed across the width of the room and the distance from the foot of the bed to the wall was a breath-taking eight inches! Wow, to get to the window (width: 24 inches), you have several options: (a) sit on the bed and move your legs from the left side of the bed to the right side; (b) roll across the bed; (c) jump across the bed; (d) walk on top of the bed (and risk getting guillotined by the ceiling fan); or (e) carefully walk in that narrow space between the bed's foot and the wall (that's how I discovered the dirt and dust on the floor - probably not been cleaned since the first house guest in this room).

At least, the bathroom was of decent size, measuring about 9.5 feet by three feet. The bath area came with a power shower and hot water, so not bad. But the doors closed badly and water seeped from the bath enclosure to the bigger bathroom area and from there, the hotel room floor itself. No towel or soap provided, no glass or cup even but there were generous rolls of toilet paper. Ha ha!! No wardrobe but you can hang your clothes on the wall hooks. No tables to put your stuff but there's a ledge directly above the bed. You'll have to put your luggage bag on the floor.

Oh yes, next time you are there, be prepared to see advertisements in your room. There are three wall panels and advertisers only need to slip their advertisement material there.

A friend who was in another similarly quaint single-occupancy room on the fourth floor complained that the Mat Rempits were making too much noise in the dead of the night. As for me, I was too tired in my second-floor room to hear them.

Checking in was easy. I gave the sweet young lady at the front desk my identity card, she checked against the on-line booking list and issued me with a room key card after collecting a RM5 deposit from me. Checking out was equally easy. I returned the card to the front desk and the deposit was returned to me. Security was acceptable; the staff generally friendly and can be talkative. However, no parking space is provided if you drive. But people generally use the monorail or LRT service to move around.

TM scam?

I received a very mysterious telephone call on my fixed landline this morning. A Malay woman wanted to speak to me. As usual, the Malays will mispronounce my name as Sooooon instead of Sun, but that is another matter.

She claimed to be from TM (Telekom Malaysia) and she had a telephony package to offer me. She claimed that TM was offering me a RM60 package and wanted to know how much was my monthly telephone bill.

So, I casually asked her to speak to me in English. Shouldn't be difficult for anyone trained in tele-sales, right?

Wrong! She panicked, said simply: "Ahh...." and without any more words - much less an apology - put down the phone.

Issay, issay, issay ... is this a telephone scam on fixed landlines or what? I've just shot off an email to TM to make some enquiries:

1. Is there really a RM60 package from TM?
2. Is TM really carrying out a telephony promotion?
3. If so, does TM have staff trained in speaking in English?
4. Regardless of the language, are TM's staff properly trained to be polite?
5. Is this a scam that I should be aware of?

I'll be eagerly awaiting a reply from TM but in the meantime, I think I'll give their customer care a telephone call too. Don't really have much confidence about TM's ability to reply to people's emails.

UPDATE 1: Seems that I shouldn't be so confident about speaking to TM's customer service staff either. I dialled 100 and after selecting all those voice menus to speak to one of their staff, all I got repeatedly was a voice message telling me: "All our customer service staff are busy. Please hold..." or words to that effect.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Poor, poor Pluto

Remember 2003 UB313?

Ah, I won't blame you if you don't. 2003 UB313 was the little icy rock in space that was discovered in 2003 and which was instrumental to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to rule three years later that Pluto did not merit its historical status as a planet in our Solar System.

Instead, the IAU created a new sub-category called Dwarf Planets of which Pluto became its defacto leader. 2003 UB313, initially given the name Xena but later officially designated Eris, was also placed into this category along with countless thousands (maybe more) of other discovered and yet-to-be-discovered little rocks in our spatial neighbourhood.

The Dwarf Planets do not necessarily reside in the region of space beyond Neptune, known as the Kuiper Belt. Closer to our Earth, Ceres in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is also a member of the Dwarf Planets.

But coming back to our story, it seems that Pluto has now suffered more indignity. The latest official measurements have uncovered that Eris is, in fact, about 27 per cent larger than Pluto.

Eris is presently some 14.5 billion km from Earth. It has a highly elongated orbit around the Sun that lasts 560 years. It also has a moon, which is called Dysnomia, and scientists used this satellite, along with the Keck Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope to come to this conclusion about its mass.

So let's hail Eris as the largest of the Dwarf Planets, but spare a little thought too for poor Pluto which seems to be at the receiving end of one indignity after another.

Parallels on MacBook

I've been using Boot Camp on my MacBook ever since I bought it last December to use those programs that run exclusively on Windows XP - programs like my Sony SonicStage and my Willfame.

Since last Wednesday, I've been playing around with Parallels which when installed on the MacBook, allows you to create a virtual machine that lets you instal Windows XP, Windows Vista and even Linux.

Parallels is so convenient that anyone using this program will eventually want to stop using Boot Camp. I know I will. My version of Parallels is only for trial use so it is quite inevitable that I've got to get myself an activation key before the end of the month.

Here is how my MacBook looks like with Parallels. The Paint program and ZoneAlarm are both running on Windows XP Home while the flash video clip is running on SWF on Mac OS X (Tiger). If you look closely, the video clip is showing the two richest guys on the planet, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

One nice feature about Parallels is the Coherence mode which makes the virtual machine practically invisible on the MacBook. Here, you see both Windows' Internet Explorer (displaying my other blog, It's All In The Planning, at and Mac's Finder side-by-side. The only visible trace of Windows XP running is the taskbar above the Mac's Dock, but I can even auto-hide it. Neat, eh?

Thursday, 14 June 2007


Just a little humour to fill up the day. Ah Beng was asked to write a short story using the numbers one to 10 in ascending order and then in descending order. He came up with this gem:

1 day I go 2 climb up a 3 outside a house to peep. But the couple saw me, so I panic and 4 down. The man rush out and wanted to 5 with me. I run so fast until I fall 6 and throw up. So I go into 7 eleven and grab some 8 to throw at him. Then I took a 9 and try to stab him. 10 God he run away. So, I put the 9 back and pay for the 8 and left 7 eleven. Next day, I call my boss and say I am 6. He said 5, tomorrow also no need to come back 4 work. He also asks me to climb a 3 and jump down. I don't understand, I so nice 2 him but I don't know what he 1.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Ban Hin Lee Bank RC reunion

I've been waiting patiently for the past one month or so, and the long wait has been well worth it! At long last, I have the photos taken of the Ban Hin Lee Bank Recreation Club reunion dinner at the Tanjung Country Club, Penang on 28 Apr 2007.

Remember this item that I had posted at the beginning of May?

Meeting my old ex-colleagues was already a treat in itself but reliving the nostalgia of the Good Old Days was really something else. But you know what? At the end of the day, when everything's been said and done and everyone goes back to where their homes are, nothing has really changed.

In the words of Paul Simon, when both he and Art Garfunkel sang a new verse in The Boxer before a half-million capacity crowd in New York's Central Park in 1981:

And the years are rollin’ by me.
They are rockin’ evenly.

I am older than I once was, and younger than I’ll be.
That’s not unusual.
It isn’t strange,
After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.
After changes, we are more or less the same.

But I do not want to detract myself and you from the happy occasion, that fleetingly short, happy, three-hour occasion where once again, I felt like a thirtysomething enjoying the camaderie of the good old Ban Hin Lee Bank Recreation Club days. Here are some photos from the reunion, courtesy of the recreation club and of course, the photographer, Kevin Khaw.

Firstly, the sight of the stage when we walked into the Tanjung Country Club. (The name of the club is a misnomer. It's not a "Country Club"; it's beside the blardy sea. I don't know why it's not called the Tanjung Seaside Club but I leave it to the club's management to sort this out with its members and visitors. It's not my beef.)

If one doesn't know it, one would have thought that the Ban Hin Lee Bank was still in existence. It's not. It was swallowed up by Southern Bank way back in 2000. But the Recreation Club remained. It just stopped functioning, that all. No way was the recreation club going to accept the invading hordes from Southern Bank and allow them to use OUR funds, OUR money which was collected monthly from us in the, yes, Good Old Days!

But inevitably, it was time for the club to fold up. And what better way than to hold a reunion dinner. It was through word-of-mouth that I got to hear of this. It was a pity that we did not have more of our old ex-colleagues at the function. Perhaps they didn't know of the reunion or some didn't care.

That's me beside Nazri Musir. He's certainly more prosperous-looking than me. We've known one another since the 1980s when I went to Prai Branch for training and he was the Second Officer there. Like me, he's no longer with Ban Hin Lee Bank .. or Southern Bank ... or CIMB Bank.

That's Mazlan by my side and seated is Wan Zailan, two of my trusty officers when I was in charge of the bank's ATM Centre. And that's Zailan's husband, Abdul Wahab. Oh, we had great fun running the ATM Centre. We became "experts" at looking at the ATM codes and trying to decipher the message length of the ATM transactions backwards and forwards to resolve customer issues.

I mustn't forget two of my trusted ATM clerks who were at the dinner too. I couldn't find a photo of Norliza, our SUKMA girl but here's Lee Soo Hock. He has one of the smoothest voices in the banking business but it wasn't to sweet-talk the damsels or charming old ladies. No indeed! This lad actually landed a singing contract and he's always a star singer at any dinner function. Just ask him to sing that evergreen song pang yao and I tell you, everyone melts. Of course, it had to be the finale of our reunion dinner.

And this is just a wee part of our Information Technology Division. Except for Gaik See in the foreground, everyone else in the photo was in the Systems and Quality Control Department. Guarding Gaik See are Kay Liang and Yuen Chee, while together with me at the back are Rosnita, Lai Sim and Kevin. This is the ONLY photo in the whole bunch of photographs that included his mug. Such is the life of a photographer...

Saturday, 9 June 2007

My old Garrard player

While I'm on the subject of old turntables, I've been scouring the Internet hoping to come across a photo of my old Garrard record player. No such luck, but this is as close to mine as I could possibly find.

The Garrard was housed in the top half of a sturdy squarish box with a lid. I believe this was called a radiogram because the bottom half of the box consisted of a Pye tube radio - covering medium-wave and short-wave, no long-wave on this radio while frequency modulation (FM) was still unheard of - which could get very hot and an array of seven or eight piano-like keys along the bottom row that enabled the user to switch the set on and off, select the wave band or the record player. There were two big main dials as well: the left dial was a basic volume control without treble or bass while the right dial was to tweedle a scanner needle to tune for a radio frequency within the wave bands. There was an inner dial which was used to fine-tune into a short-wavefrequency. The radiogram came complete with an eight-inch speaker and the sound was monaural.

The spindle in the centre was about five inches long and could hold maybe six or seven records at the top. They were held in place by the long, white bar. In the old days, records came in various sizes but notably the seven-inch 45rpms, the 10-inch 33rpms, the 10-inch 78rpms and the 12-inch 33rpms. You could stack them in the central spindle.

But how on earth could the record player detect the size of the records? That was where the unique L-shaped size-detector came in. When the record player was started, the first thing that happened was that this detector would move inwards and hit against the stack of records. The way it was pushed back when a record fell onto the turntable platten would signal the record's size to the tonearm and tell it where to settle onto the record.

At the end of the record, the tonearm would return automatically to its initial rest position and the size-detector would hit against the stack of records again. A record would fall and the tonearm would move in again. The process was repeated until the last record was played.

Of course, you could not mix records of different speeds together but usually I would play either my 45s or my 33s. The neat feature of the multi-stack record player was that in the case of double vinyl albums, I could stack the two records with Sides One and Two together and after which, I could reverse them and Sides Three and Four would already be stacked together. Cool.

My only regret was that the tonearm could not be calibrated properly so I could not even estimate how much was the pressure exerted by the stylus on the grooves. Many of my records were spoilt in the process and even today, when I play them on my Rega Planar 3, the crackles are too loud to ignore. Does anyone have a solution for me?

Rega Planar 3

This is my Rega Planar 3, purchased second-hand some eight or nine years ago from an audio shop at Island Plaza. Even though this is a used unit, it cost me about RM900 at that time. But it was in very good condition. The owners of the audio specialist shop said it would still give me years of enjoyment and how true it has been.

Incidentally, this is the third turntable in the family. When I was small, my father used to own a multi-changer Garrard turntable with an L-shaped Shure stylus which I abused to no end. Then, when I was wiser, we progressed to a Lenco L75. That was the time when big speaker boxes were the in-thing. What I liked about the Lenco was the ability to vary the turntable speed seamlessly through its range - I think it was from 16rpm to 78rpm - so I could distort the sound from my records. I never went as far as 78rpm, hitting the limit at 45rpm, just to be on the 'safe side'.

Below is a pic of the L75 (not mine, though). The speed could be changed by lifting and shifting a lever on the left side of the player while beneath the tonearm head is the on-off switch. Like the Rega above, there were all sorts of weights and counter-weights at the back of the tonearm to balance and counter-balance all the perceived tracking and anti-tracking forces, something which the Garrard lacked. I can't find a photo of the Garrard on the Internet so you'll have to imagine it when I say that the L-shaped flip-over stylus could be turned from one side to another side to accommodate playing 33/45rpm records and 78rpm records. It was practical but not sophisticated.

So this, the Rega Planar 3, is my third turntable. There are only two speeds available but it's mostly set at 33rpm. I hardly play my 45rpm records any more. Too much of a hassle to adjust the belt. The stylus I use is the Supex and I meticulously clean it of dust everytime I turn the Rega on. My records are washed with plain running water and a soft sponge but I also use an artist's hard-bristle brush to give my records a once-over before I play them.

Friday, 8 June 2007


Here's a treat. Jose Feliciano performing Malaguena in front of a live audience. Although this is not from his London Paladium show - it looked more from a TV footage - the performance shows Feliciano's virtuosity with his guitar.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

alive alive-o!

I've been listening a great deal to this album in the past few days. My copy is on vinyl but I hear that a double CD version - with extra tracks - was released in April 2007.

Jose Feliciano's Alive Alive-O is a fantastic album that captured his live performance at the London Paladium in Oct 1969. Eventually, it became his third gold-selling record.

The United Kingdom had very strict quarantine laws on bringing animals into the country and for a while, Feliciano was not allowed to bring his guide dog with him. But the authorities relented and this photo of the dog bowing with his master is a gem. BTW, there's this track called No Dogs Allowed which alludes to this incident.

In my opinion, Feliciano has a unique style that defies any categorisation. Maybe, the closest is Latin Jazz but when he plays Malaguena, it's more flamenco than jazz.

Anyway, I thrilled listening to live interpretations of his big hits like Light My Fire, California Dreamin', Rain, Hi-Heel Sneakers, Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying, Day Tripper and A Day In The Life. Incredibly, this is his one and only live album I know of that's available in the mainstream music market.

Now the question is this: should I buy the double-CD version just to hear the intro to the concert and his rendition of God Save The Queen??

Bocor lagi

I received this hilarious poem yesterday through email. All the leaks at the Court complex, Putrajaya and Parliament House are now old news but this poem puts everything in their propert context:

Bocor teruk kata Samy
Wiring lama kata Ramli
Bangunan tua kata Nazri
Najib said it's PWD

Semua ada alasan sendiri
But where you all spent the money?
RM90 juta untuk cantikkan lobby
So that it looks luxury

Nice decor and nice settee
But now you kena letak baldi
Bocor teruk when it rains heavily
MP yang busuk pun boleh mandi

The floor is wet and slippery
The luxury lobby now looks untidy
Inilah dia third class mentality
Luar cantik tapi dalam very shoddy

Structure work should get priority
And now whose responsibility
JKR or Parliament Committee
While you all gaduh sama sendiri

Rakyat want an answer immediately
Otherwise kita tak bagi you undi
Sebab you spent money unnecessarily
You know it is taxpayers' money
So please spend the money wisely.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Angkor Wat

Pictorial. Last set of photographs taken by my wife, this time at Angkor Wat.

Saturday, 2 June 2007


I hear that Roy Keane has made a shock £2 million bid for Paul Scholes.

Keano, who is now manager of the Black Cats, will be testing his former mentor's resolve to keep Scholes at Manchester United.

It seems that Keene may also make a move for United Old Boy Nicky Butt who is presently at Newcastle.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Angkor Thom

Pictorial. These photos were snapped by my wife at Angkor Thom. Nice, eh?