Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Penang's pride: the Teluk Bahang forest park

I wrote last Saturday about the quiet and greenery of a little stream that flowed in Teluk Bahang and Jeffrey made an apt comment that he too would like to be there if the water was clearer.

Actually, I had refrained purposely from saying anything about the pollution at the Teluk Bahang forest park to see if anyone would notice it. Unfortunately, only Jeffrey did. Unfortunately, none of my colleagues who were there for a team-building programme noticed it. Or if they did, they didn't say anything at all.

BUT HEY....IT'S ABOUT YOUR ENVIRONMENT TOO!! Don't clam up when you see the environment destroyed by the irresponsible visitors to the forest park.

Take this sign. It's located about 50 metres from the entrance to the park. You cannot miss it unless you are blind.

I don't know whether it's sending the right signals to the visitors or not. Is it an invitation to the people to throw rubbish or is it an acknowledgement that only dumb and stupid people visit this place and they can throw rubbish all around them?

As I walked further along the park trail, I came across this small patch behind a hut that has become the dumping ground for rubbish. I only have one conclusion: the people responsible for looking after this park are not doing a proper job. By not clearing up the rubbish, they are actually encouraging more people to dirty the place!

It gets worse as you walk further along. This time, the rubbish was out in the open. Discarded plastic bags and styrofoam plates, which are not bio-degradable. I think these two final pictures are enough. I don't have to tell you more about the soiled diapers beside the stream. How irresponsible can people be??

Monday, 29 October 2007

My latest orchid blooms

I haven't been blogging about my orchids lately, so here are some photos of my latest blooms. I'm also including a picture of a specie of the nepenthes plant. Mean-looking pitchers at the end of the leaves. The tendrils look positively menacing!

This is one of my favourite plants. Everytime it blooms, I never fail to admire the colour. Moreover, its fragrance fills the whole porch. Unfortunately, this picture doesn't do justice to the flowers' actual colours.

Actually, this rochussenii flower is small - one of about 20 or 30 that grew from a single spike. By itself, it doesn't look impressive but when the whole bunch of them blooms together, it's rather impressive.

I bought this orchid plant recently after falling in love with its unusual bloom. It looks like only a single bloom but there are seven flowers here. Unfortunately, they are not robust and don't last long.

Finally, this is the nepenthes plant that I mentioned. A real aggro plant, judging by the four-inch cups. I hope mosquitoes find their way into them.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

I'm drunk, so are you

Boy ... has it been a busy day for me. And I've just come back from a boring wedding dinner - you know, the type where the courses are mass produced and the restaurant will serve to you cold because the bride and the groom will traditionally turn up late because some guests will still try to come later than the wedded couple who in turn try to make their entrance after the late guests finally show up - all flushed with brandy and then attempting to catch up with my Internet reading and surfing, as well as writing this blog entry.

If you can read this far AND understand it, I know you are not drunk. If you cannot understand it, then you know that I am drunk. So which is which??

Anyway, my daily routine is to visit The Star Online, NST Online, Sun2Surf and Bernama to see their take on the News Of The Day, whatever it may be. Nothing extraordinary happened today but I was taken aback with this comical story that appeared in NST Online. It's not meant to be comical but if I say it is comical and you think it is not, why, perhaps that small glass of concentrated brandy must've made me so.

Still understand what I'm saying? Yes? No? Good!

Anyway again, this caught my eye. An all important interview with the pompous one who now spouts pearls of wisdom. But I'm not laughing. I cannot laugh in my inebriated state. I may be drunk but I'm still sober enough not to laugh when laughter is not needed.

Anyway again again, the pompous clown gave an exclusive interview to someone in th New Straits Times. It is so funny that I found it equally tragic that he can scrape the bottom of all barrels to come up with his nonsense. I'll be producing the interview below and I hope after reading this tragicomic piece, you can say it must be vintage Nazri.

The video clip, the walk, the panel
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, who is the de-facto law minister, talks to ANIZA DAMIS about the controversial video clip, the judiciary, the Bar Council and bloggers

Q: Is there a crisis in the judiciary? Why is there a perception of there being one?
A: There isn’t a crisis. It’s a false allegation. The perception has been created by some people. When I go back to my constituency, nobody talks about it. When people do not go to the courts to settle their disputes, that’s when there’s a crisis. But I don’t see that. The few people who are unhappy, make a lot of noise. It is reported, people read, and think there is a crisis. Crisis means it involves the whole country but nobody talks about it. I even asked my fellow members of parliament (MP) but nobody talks about it. So, what crisis are we talking about? The crisis is in the minds of those who created it.

Q: Some 1,000-2,000 lawyers were involved in the Bar Council walk. Are you saying that that many lawyers have been misled?
A: Only 1,000 went to the ground. There are 13,000 registered members of the Bar.

Q: You don’t think 1,000 is enough?
A: 1,000 of 13,000 — is that a majority? What’s the big deal? In a democracy, the minority cannot control the majority. The minority does not speak for the majority.

Q: Aren’t the views of the minority also important?
A: But (they are) not (the) majority. If there are any decisions to be made, it has got to be the majority.

Q: So, if you wanted to be convinced (that there is a crisis), you would need 7,000 lawyers to walk?
A: Even then, it’s still not important to us, because the lawyers are not the only people who use the courts. The ordinary people use the court in their disputes. It must be a majority of the population who feel that there is a crisis. Otherwise, there is nothing.

Q: Do you really want that many people marching in the streets?
A: No. You don’t have to have millions of people marching in the streets. Let the people decide, whether there is a crisis or not, through the legal means of sharing your dissent or anger — through the ballot box. Then you can say, “Let’s have elections once every three years then.” We have to work within the system that we have.

Q: So, what you are suggesting is, if people are unhappy with the judiciary, they should vote BN out?
A: Ya.

Q: But what if people want a BN government, but they also want you to ensure a clean judiciary?
A: So then go talk to the judges — why talk to us? I’m the Executive. How can they ask me to sack the chief justice (CJ)?

Q: You’re the de-facto Law Minister. And they are not asking for a sacking — they are asking for a more transparent appointment system.
A: We’re talking about the independence of the judiciary. I don’t speak for the judges. You want to clean up the judiciary, go and speak to the judge. Then, once the judges decide, we will accommodate the procedures. Lawyers can criticise the judges or judiciary if they want to. But if I, as an MP, criticise, then I am interfering. So, the best thing the lawyers can do is speak to the judges — tell them how important it is to clean up the judiciary. I’m sure the judges are also concerned about their image. And if they so decide, and say, “Look, it is time that we change", then we will accommodate them — amend the Constitution, or whatever. It has to come through the judiciary — not from me. When they (the lawyers) went to the prime minister they are asking him to interfere. Tak boleh (Cannot). Twenty years ago, they were very angry with us. The prime minister used the procedure to sack the CJ. Now you are asking us to use the procedure to do the same thing? Why is it that 20 years ago we cannot do that, but now we can? Is this at the whims and fancy of the Bar Council members? I feel their problem is with the individual; not with the system. There is a Malay saying: Marah nyamuk jangan bakar kelambu. You are upset with one individual, you want to throw away the entire system. Later, if you have another system, and you don’t get along with the CJ, do you want to change the system again?

Q: But if we had a transparent system, perhaps all judicial appointees would be acceptable to the people.
A: But if you have a royal commission for the appointment and promotion of judges, you might not agree with the decision, too, because members of the royal commission are also human beings. Tell me, who appoints the commission? The system is the same. The appointment of the commission will be made by the king, on the advice of the prime minister. The commission would be there, but the Bar Council will not be happy, and then you’ll have another system (change).

Q: Can the commission be appointedd by consensus or stakeholders?
A: Why stakeholders? Stakeholders are people too. Do you want to have an election? You know what will happen — people will campaign to become members of the commission and then they’ll be compromised, because they want to be chosen by the people. And then the judges will have to kow tim (settle) with them again — it’s the same thing. Are we to change just because 1,000 lawyers are unhappy? The Constitution must be amended by two-thirds of MPs; and the two-thirds represent the majority of the people. If we MPs are not convinced, how can we amend the Constitution? We can’t listen to the views of just 1,000 lawyers. Since when was the view of 1,000 lawyers more important than that of the 11 million who voted for us? Lawyers are not the only stakeholders. It is also the people in the streets — they are the ones who go to court.

Q: You have said the government was happy with the current system of appointments. Why?
A: We found that the system works for us. We inherited this system (from the British), and for 50 years it has served us well. Something which has not brought us any problem, why should we change? If we need to change this system, we would need a clear indication from the judiciary. Even then, before you change you have to go and see the Malay rulers. Out of courtesy, you have to tell them. Any slight change, we have to see the Malay rulers first. Once they agree, then you’ve got to get the agreement of the judges also, because this involves them. am only interested in no interference by the Executive. When I became minister in charge of the judiciary, I wanted to make sure that what happened 20 years ago should not happen now. So, please do not ask us to interfere with the judiciary. The prime minister is a good man, he respects that, so he doesn’t interfere. That’s why you can see judges now making decisions which may sometimes be negative towards the government. That’s okay. They are free to make their decisions without interference. The same goes for how judges should be appointed. But if the call for change comes from the judges, it’s okay.

Q: Is the tenure of the chief justice going to be extended?
A: I don’t know. I don’t know anything.

Q: The video-clip issue will not yet be settled at the time of his retirement (scheduled for Thursday). Don’t you think that it’s rather unfortunate for him to retire before this matter is settled?
A: I don’t know whether it’s fortunate or unfortunate. That is the prerogative of the prime minister.

Q: Has the prime minister indicated anything to you?
A: No. As I said, I don’t interfere. I only do things which the prime minister asks me to do. I never ask about things that I am not supposed to be making decisions or that I am not supposed to know.

Q: If you just take into account what is printed in the media and what comes out in the blogs, it would appear that there is a crisis in the judiciary.
A: To me, if there were no newspapers, if there were no blogs, then it’s just mere chit-chat in the coffeeshop. That’s all.

Q: Coffeeshop chit-chat is not important?
No. The people are important. This is a government elected by the people, for the people. So, people means the majority. If we didn’t have blogs, if we didn’t have newspapers, who in this world would know about it? But because of technological developments, you are able to chit-chat (about it). It’s just chit-chat.

Q: But the fear that is felt is genuine.
A: So what do you want me to do? Ban all these bloggers? Shut down all the newspapers? I don’t think so. We must live with the fact that this is now a modern world. Technology has enabled us to get to know each other so news gets moved faster.

Q: So, you don’t think it’s important to try to address the worries of these people?
A: No. It’s not important. Why do you put so much importance on bloggers? You know what rubbish has been written in the blogs?

Q: Do you read blogs?
A: I don’t. I don’t waste my time. The few pieces that people print for me are just rubbish. I’d rather spend my time to do things that are constructive; that go down directly to the people who are really in need of the help of the government. Our bloggers are really not up to standard. When they put up something, it’s not something that they want to discuss in a very intellectual way. It’s more because of their anger - the language they use. Why should I read all this rubbish? When the standard of our bloggers is upgraded, then probably I will look at what is written. But anyway, they are a minority. My concern is for the majority.

Q: Indians in Malaysia are a minority. Does that mean that they don’t count?
A: No, not in that minority sense. I am talking about bloggers. When you talk about minority in the sense of perkauman, they are very important, because they are our rakyat, a rakyat that needs to be helped.Bloggers don’t need to be helped. They are merely throwing rubbish into the blog. I have no concern for and care about bloggers. The problems of Indians as a minority is different from the problems of the bloggers. You must appreciate that. I don’t care about the bloggers, but I do care about the minority Indians. In my constituency, I take care of them. You can go to my constituency and see what I have done for the Indian minority. I was the one to open the training in Mara for the Indian youths. These are my concerns.

Q: What did you mean when you said that, by walking, the lawyers were behaving like the opposition?
A: Lawyers have got stature in the eyes of the public. And they are apolitical. Also, I have told them that we will work together; never again should the confrontation of 20 years ago be repeated. It doesn’t look good when the government is at odds with either the judiciary or the Bar Council. So, I opened up the doors, I’ve helped them in many ways, to hasten the Legal Profession Act (Amendment) for instance. I did not close my door to them. So, I was surprised when they suddenly decided to walk and demonstrate. I feel sad, because these are lawyers — my profession also — and I would rather see them being accorded the respect that should be given to them. If the memorandum is from the Bar Council, they would have been given an appointment to see the PM. I would have preferred that the memorandum was brought to the PM’s office. They would sit down with the PM, discuss for one or two hours, and then hand the memorandum over. But by walking, it is like you are already partisan, you have already made up your mind to oppose the government; that you cannot work with the government, that’s bad.

Q: Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan said the reason they walked was that they felt all their appeals were falling on deaf ears.
A: It will fall on deafer ears, I can tell you.

Q: But why would you want to cover your ears?
A: They should know — they are lawyers. Their profession is adversarial. When they go in to court, there are two sides — the defendant and the plaintiff. Even the two counsel cannot agree on how the law should be interpreted. So, you need the judge. So, they fight. But at the end of the day, they respect the decision made by the judge. They go out, shake hands, that’s it. In giving their views on the judiciary, they must understand that there are two sides to the argument. And theirs may not be the right one. So they must accept the decision. As lawyers, they should. They cannot expect that whatever memorandum they give to us, we must agree. Why couldn’t they have called to make an appointment? I’m sure the PM would have met them.

Q: Maybe walking just says that they are partisan towards justice?
A: I wasn’t complaining about their memorandum. It was the way they did it — demonstrating on the street. The opposition was there. When you go on the street, how are you going to stop the opposition from coming in? In a meeting with the PM, those who are the opposition — who are not genuine lawyers — cannot go in. You should be apolitical. You are an NGO, you are not an opposition party. You have stature, you’ve got a position in public, people look at you with respect. But the moment you take to the street, who is going to respect you? They’ll laugh at you. There are people who are laughing at you — but they don’t write in the papers Bodoh punya kerja! (fool’s errand).

Q: Is there anything wrong in walking for your beliefs?
A: No. But that is the way of the opposition. If you are a political party, we can understand. But if you are a respectable society, that’s not an honourable way to do it — not when the government accords you respect. How can you bring yourself so low? The moment you do that, we don’t respect you. If I say to you, “M****r*****r you!", can you say, “Eh, let us sit down, we’ll talk about it.” No! You are lawyers, man! People respect you. So, do it in an honourable way. When the president of the Bar Council wants an appointment with the PM, she or he gets it. That’s how it is. That’s what I wanted, and I would have accommodated that. But they didn’t contact me. I was waiting. Ambiga knows my doors are open.

Q: If, for instance, the Bar Council wants to take that avenue now, can they still take it?
A: They can. I have already told them, go and engage with the judges. But if they ask me to do what they want me to do towards the judiciary, I won’t do it because I am the Executive.

Q: The Bar Council claims that they have never been able to get an appointment with the CJ.
A: He’s retiring anyway. I told them, “Fairuz is also a human being. Kalau you criticise, criticise, criticise dia — dia mana mau layan you.” (If you keep criticising him, he won’t entertain you). I can get a lot of things out of you if I talk to you nicely, but if I start shouting at you, do you think you will accommodate me? No way!

Q: But you are more than an ordinary person. You are also the de facto law minister.
A: But you cannot divorce me from the fact that I am also a human being.

Q: That’s very irresponsible.
A: Human beings, there are ways, how you do it. You want something, you talk. You don’t shout, and then expect to get something, no way.

Q: Why didn’t the government empower the panel to compel witnesses?
A: Because we have to first determine the authenticity of the video clip, to make it into a formal and genuine complaint.

Q: What if the video clip is genuine, but the person doesn’t want to come forward?
A: That’s not our problem. We have already set up the panel, it’s for them. As I’ve said, if I was the one who made the complaint, I would be very happy, I’d come (forward) and co-operate. There’s nothing to fear. (Opposition MP Lim) Kit Siang said to me this morning (Wednesday) the problem is not that they are afraid of the public taking action against them; but they are afraid of the government. I think that’s no excuse.

Q: Why can’t you set up something that can compel a person to come forward?
A: Then you are forcing people. We want it to be voluntary. When you make a complaint to the police, are you being forced to make the complaint, or do you genuinely want to complain? You see, that is the problem (with the current situation). You have to come to us. Even if you don’t trust us with the tape, then we can always tell that fellow to come, show the tape, then we see, and you can take back the tape. But even then they don’t want to come forward. And their reason is that they are scared of the government. That’s not a reason.

Shadow play

I think it's all balderdash the debate about providing witness protection to the person who had recorded the video of Lingamgate.

On the one hand, we have the Anti-Corruption agency insisting that the book will be thrown at Anwar Ibrahim and his two Parti Keadilan underlings for not willing or able to name the person who took the recording.

On the other hand, we have Anwar and company insisting that they cannot disclose the recorder's identity because of his personal safety, and they will only do so before a royal Commission of Inquiry.

It's all a shadow play from both sides.

Firstly, why is the ACA so insistent on going after the whistle-blower when the real culprits have been fingered in the recording, especially the main actor himself? I would have thought that his star performance was incriminating enough.

Secondly, why hasn't anybody said anything about Keadilan's position? Doesn't anybody realise that even without the political party confirming the recorder's identity, it will somewhat still come out in the end?

Wouldn't the main actor himself suspect who that recorder was? After all, it was in his house. Surely, he would know who were there on that night. Even if it was a group of people, he's not so stupid not to have narrowed down his suspicions and identified a few fellows.

So, my take is that Keadilan is wrong to adopt their present stance. Whether they disclose the recorder's identity of not, that fellow's identity may already be compromised. If Keadilan is so keen to protect the whistle-blower, it should cooperate with the ACA to name the fellow and show the full-length unedited recording as soon as possible. Quit stalling.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

I could have stayed here all day

Yes, wouldn't you want to stay here all day too, amidst all the quiet and greenery?

Polarising filter

The problem with buying a Minolta Konica camera in the past is that the company has stopped producing cameras as a line of their business. Minolta sold out a few years ago and left their consumers high and dry. Their camera business is supposed to supported by Sony now but I see little evidence of this in Malaysia.

Another problem with Minolta leaving this camera industry is that it has become very difficult to search for their accessories. I say difficult but not impossible because if you really want to, you can search for the third-party accessories through ebay. But there are hassles of buying through ebay too, the major problem beig that you will have to trust the seller to fulfil his side of the bargain. I'm not very comfortable with this if I cannot see the product or feel it in my hands.

Luckily, I was able to buy a second-hand, almost unused Minolta flashgun from a colleague's friend who has now switched to using a DSLR camera. I'm still searching for someone who can sell me a second-hand adapter for my old camera filters.

Two days ago, I managed to borrow this chap's adapter and this morning, I fished out my old circular polarising filter. It could've been at least four or five years since I last used it. Still looked okay but I had to clean the dirt that can accumulated on the filter. The thread's just the correct size after I fitted the adapter onto my camera. True, the adapter stuck out from my camera like a sore thumb but it perfectly covered my lens barrel totally.

Anyway, with the polarising filter in place, I stepped out of the house to take some test shots with and without the filter. A polarising filter works best with blue skies and water reflections. Here are the test shots of the blue sky:

Both photographs are untouched. They appeared like the above straight out of my camera. You can see the vast difference that the polarising filter, used to the maximum effect, had made to the scene. Wonderful deep blue sky that accentuates the clouds on the right. Of course, the filter had also cut down the amount of light entering the camera so I guess if you are using it on a bright sunny day, you can afford to open up your camera's aperture by one stop. I didn't. Also, I think the filter will be less than useful if it's a gloomy day with no blue sky.

And below are my test photographs with reflection in the water. In the top photo which was taken at the Teluk Bahang arboretum, you can see that the reflection and glare had been mostly eliminated and you can see clearly the bottom of the pool, unlike in the bottom photo.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Broken but beautiful

Sea shells need not be whole to be admired. Even broken ones can be appreciated. Here is one that I saw today on the secluded beach behind the Copthorne Hotel in Tanjung Bungah, Penang.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Gunung Jerai (Kedah Peak)

I made a day trip up Kedah Peak on Sunday. The locals call it Gunung Jerai. It's the highest point in Kedah and sea-farers still use it as a navigational landmark when they go out to sea.

Actually, I hadn't planned to be there at all. My original plan was to visit someone in Gurun to take a look at his orchids and to learn from him. I had heard that his collection was impressive but when I went there, there weren't many that were flowering. But yes, it was still an impressive and varied collection.

For example, don't you think these three varieties of Oncidiums look interesting? Certainly, they are far, far more exciting than the staid, yellow version in my house.

And maybe, you'd marvel at this peculiar orchid whose flower smells positively like chocolate. It's only a small plant and the flower is tinier than a five sen coin.

Anyway, at the spur of the moment, my friends asked me to follow them to the Sungai Teroi forest reserve. I agreed but I didn't bargain to drive up Kedah Peak. This forest reserve is about 1,200 metres above sea level and on a clear day, you should be able to see the coastline and Alor Star. When you take a look at this panaromic view, you will understand why Kedah is known as the rice bowl of Malaysia. As far as the eyes can see, it's one flatland green with cultivated padi.

How best should I describe Kedah Peak vis-a-vis other hill resorts? Genting Highlands is of course the most developed (btw, its founder Lim Goh Tong died this morning, 90 years old), Cameron Highlands is totally commercialised, Fraser's Hill is rural with an English charm, Penang Hill is touristy amidst nature and Maxwell Hill is isolated and bare.

Kedah Peak is certainly no Genting Highlands, Cameron Highlands, Fraser's Hill or Penang Hill. I would place it a notch above Maxwell Hill because though it is just as isolated, Kedah Peak is not bare and it is readily accessible by car from Gurun. The only concern I have is that the access road can be very narrow at various places with 10 to 12 sharp hairpin bends. Navigation up the hill can be challenging at some of the narrow stretches especially if you meet a lorry going down or coming up.

Kedah Peak is well known for this orange-coloured tree, the pokok kelat gelam (Eugenia cerina). What's unique about this tree is its dry, paper-like bark. When peeled, it comes off easily. If you ask me, it's not unlike peeling the skin off someone that's suffering from psoriasis except that the scales are silvery and the bark here is orangey.

There's a stream running right through the forest reserve and there's a well containing the clearest natural spring water that I've ever drank.

The Kedah government is trying to promote Kedah Peak as a tourist spot but it is a pity that the efforts put into this place are so amateurish. Can you imagine that a swimming pool was built right here at the forest reserve yet it is bone dry? Perhaps it held water in the past but it is empty now. It has been empty for years. I would suspect that the government expected visitors to use the facility but in this type of climate where the day-time temperature can dip to 20 degrees Celsius at times (remember, this forest reserve is 1,200 metres above sea level so it is very much cooler than the lowlands), how many locals would have wanted to brave the temperature and swim there? There are picturesque bridges across the Sungai Teroi at this place but one was in pretty bad shape. There doesn't look like any attempt to repair it.

The whole place looks rather abandoned but there are the occasional visitors. A few metres above the forest reserve, some construction work is in progress. I hear the main guest house is being refurbished. It remains to be seen how much effort the state government will put into publicising it next year or will it eventually end up as the private playground of the Menteri Besar and his underlings?
If you are lucky, you may bump into the caretaker of this place. He may be kind enough to unlock the nursery and allow you to peek at the plants there.

Here is a rare plant, the Rothschild orchid which is native to Sabah. The buds on this specimen were still closed when I visited. Perhaps in one or two weeks' time, it will bloom in its splendour but I don't know whether I'll be visiting Sungai Teroi again to see it.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Rubber stamp

What are rubber stamps? I did a Google search for "rubber stamp definition" and came up with some results:

The American Heritage Dictionary said: A person or body that gives perfunctory approval or endorsement of a policy without assessing its merit. A perfunctory approval or endorsement.

BARRON'S Marketing Dictionary said: Term used to refer to individuals who, with little thought, approve everything that crosses their desks (e.g., rubber-stamp executives or politicians).

The Houghton Mifflin Company said: A person or organization that automatically approves or endorses a policy without assessing its merit; also, such an approval or endorsement. For example, The nominating committee is merely a rubber stamp; they approve anyone the chairman names, or The dean gave his rubber stamp to the recommendations of the tenure committee. This metaphoric term alludes to the rubber printing device used to imprint the same words over and over. [Early 1900s]

Lexicus said: Routine authorization of an action without questions.

YourDictionary.com said: a person, bureau, legislature, etc. that approves or endorses something in a routine manner, without thought

Merriam-Webster said: to approve, endorse, or dispose of as a matter of routine or at the command of another

Saturday, 20 October 2007

I just don't understand

I was at the Sony outlet at Gurney Plaza this morning. I wandered to their mobile phone counter and was minding my own business when one of their sales staff came up to me.

"Is there anything I can help you with," the chap gushed. So I asked him, how much is the Sony Ericsson K550i? Around RM900 was the answer.

I was surprised. "RM900? But I know it is selling for only RM740." I was even more surprised by his confident answer. "Yes, that must be the original handset."

Gosh, if RM740 is the price quoted on the mobile88.com site for the original Sony Ericsson K550i handset, what is it that the Sony outlet is selling for RM900? Does it come with the memory card, I ventured further. No, he answered.

Boy, what's happening?? I just don't understand the logic.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Priceless Giggs


"I am delighted to have signed for a further season. I am enjoying football more than ever and I hope to carry on playing football for Manchester United for as long as I can. I would like to thank Sir Alex, the fans and everyone at the Club for the great support I have received over the years.

"We said a couple of years ago when I signed the last contract that we'd look at it year by year which is what we've done. I’m obviously delighted to get it sorted out. I can just concentrate on the football now. I had just under a year to go and now I've signed a year's extension. Hopefully there will be a couple more.

"I think a lot’s changed in 16 years but I’m enjoying football more than ever. The nearer you get to the end, you try and enjoy it as much as you can. At 18 or 19, you think it’s going to go on forever and obviously it doesn’t. I’m enjoying it, we’ve got a great team at the moment. Obviously winning the Premier League last year was a great buzz for everyone and hopefully we can do it again. I feel as fit as ever and I’m enjoying it as much as ever. Hopefully I can go on a bit longer."

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The green hill that I'd not known previously

The environment is important to me, especially the greenery around us. In my opinion, there is nothing more therapeutic than to be surrounded by nature. Take a short refreshing hike or walk and take in the sights and sounds of nature, and you'll understand what I mean.

In honour of Blog Action Day last Monday (15 Oct 2007), here are three photographs taken of my nature walk around the forestry park at the Bukit Mertajam Hill on the same day.

No, I did not choose to take the well-beaten tar road that most exercisers would take for their morning or afternoon walks.

No, this time I chose the lesser trod hill trek that took me through wondrous greenery, past delightful waterfalls (albeit small ones) and beside water trippling and dancing its way down little streamlets.

So here are just three of the images I captured with my Dimage Z5 digital camera. There are more but do enjoy these first.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Awfully good advice!

Brenda Starr, 17 Oct 2007

Light on my feet, bounce in my walk

Sigh ... I've reached that stage in life where (almost) everything hurts. Lately, I'm finding that I can no longer stand or even walk barefooted for long. My heels would start aching badly and it's not a sensation that goes off immediately when I take the pressure off my heels.

Last weekend, I did the unthinkable. I bought a pair of pseudo-Crocs slippers from a department store here. I wanted to buy a pair for my aunt but I ended up buying one for myself instead.

I say pseudo-Crocs because they are not the original Crocs pair of slippers. But you can hardly tell. Sure, there are subtle differences but I can't tell them apart. However, I do know that when I put them on and I stand up, my feet feel comfortable. No pain in my heels. Moreover, the slippers now gives me a slight bounce in my walk.

Don't you think my feet look rather dandy in this pair of slippers? Nice pair of ankles to show off too. Unfortunately, my son feels otherwise. Dad, he told me, you'd better not walk outside the house in them. You look ridiculous. I did a jig in front of him in my pseudo-Crocs slippers. Dad, he winced now, don't do that. It's painful to watch you.

Sigh (again) ... what am I supposed to do now with this pair of RM13.90 slippers? Accede to my son's suggestion or continue wearing them? I think I'll continue wearing them. At this stage in my life, practicality supersedes vanity. My feet are more important if they are to continue supporting me for the rest of my life. I'm sure inwardly, he agrees with me.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007


These are the eneloop NiMh rechargeable batteries (manufactured by Sanyo) that I've just purchased from someone through eBay Malaysia. I had been interested in these batteries for quite a while because it was claimed to be much superior than the normal rechargeables that you would normally find in the department stores or photography shops.

eneloop is touted as the battery for the 21st Century but how superior is eneloop? Consider these two reasons:
  • Normal rechargeable batteries lose the stored energy rather fast. Not eneloop. It is claimed that charged eneloop batteries are still at a 86% capacity even if you do not use them for a year.
  • Normal rechargeable batteries have to be charged after purchase before they can be used. Not eneloop. You can use them straight out of their blister packs.
So these are my eight batteries. Four of them are already in my digital camera and I'm pleasantly surprised that they have still allowed me to continue shooting after two days of consistent use. My normal rechargeable batteries would have indicated the low battery warning signal by now.

These batteries cost me RM120 - not cheap - but if they can be charged 1,000 times as claimed, I really think that it is money well worth spending because I use my camera a lot. Just consider ... if I were to charge a set of four batteries only once a week, 1,000 charges will last me 1,000 weeks or 19 years before I need to throw them away. I'd recommend them to you too.

Note: eneloop batteries are practically impossible to find in Penang. I went round to various shopping malls and some photography shops to enquire but all I got back were blank stares. But I know for sure that the Best Denki outlet at the Suria KLCC does sell eneloop as well as the Hybrio alternatives (manufacturer is Uniross). A normal NiMh charger is good enough but I've even seen a USB charger on sale there.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Private joke

Hey, Jeffrey ... I've some nice photos for you to enjoy. I hope you like them:

And here's a family group photo that I'm dedicating to all new parents, especially your good friend from the fourth floor:

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Wet wet wet

It's going to be a wet week here in Penang. As I make this entry, it's pouring cats and dogs outside and the thunder is rumbling on and on and on. I'm glad to be inside.

But I'll tell you what. This rainy spell is not unexpected. It's not unexpected at all because right now, we are in the midst of the Nine Emperor Gods celebration. Although this religious festivity is not unique to Penang, it seems to be celebrated on a somewhat grander scale here than anywhere else in Malaysia. It's not uncommon to come across small yellow temples around the island and the mainland. That's the colour of the Nine Emperor Gods. These Tow Boo Keong temples are the focal points of the nine days of the celebration - which, this year, began on 11 Oct 2007 - and devotees throng them.

The devotees are also on a strict vegetarian diet. Some will be on this diet for the final three days of the celebration but many will be vegetarians for the full nine days. You'll find makeshift stalls outside these temples selling vegetarian food either of vegetables or bean curd-based. It used to be a long time ago that vegetarian food was bland but not any more. The innovative Chinese have now dressed up the dishes imaginatively as chicken drumsticks, duck's meat, pig's entrails, goat's meat, et cetera. Innovative and imaginative, yes, but I wonder whether these Chinese devotees are just fooling themselves. If you want to go the whole way on a strict vegetarian diet, please do so with your heart set on it. Don't do it half-heartedly while thinking of the actual meaty stuff that you are going without for the nine days. For me, personally, I am not a Nine Emperor God devotee but I do enjoy the vegetarian dishes. So for me, it is not an issue to patronise these stalls and feast on the food. I already do that around the year anyway. There are lots of vegetarian restaurants in the state. But there is a word of caution. Vegetarian food, no matter how appealing it may look, can be very tasteless and the only way to make it appealing is to add salt, sugar and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Ajinomoto, to some of you. The problem with this is, of course, MSG is not good for your health if too much is taken in your food. Plus, too much of MSG will make you thirsty.

The Nine Emperor Gods celebration will end on Friday (19 Oct 2007). At the various Tow Boo Keong temples, the mediums are already getting into trances and performing awe-striking acts like walking on coals, playing with hot iron balls and having their cheeks pierced with six-foot rods. This Friday, the celebration culminates with processions through towns towards the sea where the Nine Emperor Gods will be given a grand send-off until next year.

And it always rains until the nine days are over, sometimes even longer. Anyway, this is the weather forecast for Penang for the whole of this week. Consistently wet.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Space tourist

Did you see how the average Malaysian Joe and Jane had gone ga-ga over our space tourist, whose trip was paid for with the taxes from our hard-earned money? Hero-worshipping has started. That's the talk in all the kampungs across the length and breadth of the country.

Of course, I don't deny him the idolation of the local Joes and Janes - he deserved it after winning this lottery - but I hope there will be a limit to how the people will react. For the next few years at least, our space tourist will be in the limelight.

His admirers will cling to every word he says and his body language will be closely scrutinised and interpreted. He won't ever be the same again. Every action of his will be emulated and people will forgive - or worse, copy - each and every indiscretion he will make.

Therein, I'm afraid, lies the danger. Fear, if I may call it. Because every man (and woman) who has ever gone into space has come back with a different perspective about life on earth. Many have gone into space and returned with a greater religious fervour.

If this fervour is not channelled correctly and our space tourist does not have his feet planted firmly on the ground after his return, I am afraid his thoughts and actions may have a profound effect on the general Malaysian population who try to use him as a role model.

I will dread if that were to happen because it will be very hard for any person or government to contain the resulting backlash. At this stage, I can only hope that I am terribly wrong....

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

We don't need another 'hero'

Okay ... we'll have a Malaysian going into space tonight. A first for the country. For crying out loud, how do you feel about it?

I may be prejudging the fellow but if all he's going to do is play lima buah to test the effects of the lack of gravity on stones or throw a party in space to celebrate the Raya, then he's just a passenger in space, a sheer waste of the Malaysian tax-payers' money. Fooey!

However, if he is to study the effects of microgravity and space radiation on cells and microbes, as well as conduct experiments with proteins for a potential HIV vaccine, then well and good. It may not be the latest in cutting edge research but I'll support the angkasawanaut in this endeavour.

But ultimately, I just feel that the whole episode is just a waste of time and public funds. An extravagance of the government. A sideshow to divert us from the realities of the socio-political problems on this earth.

We don't need a passenger in space when we can't keep our own two feet firmly on this ground anyway. Everywhere which way we turn, we hear of positive discriminations, corruption and inefficiencies within the various arms of government. Efforts should be directed at addressing these ills in government and the real-life problems in society, not divert our attention elsewhere.

I bet you, the population in this country will go ga-ga over this spaceman for the next 10 days. And when he returns - or maybe, even before he returns - I assure you, a Datukship will await him. What nonsense. Bah!

And he can't even be original, can he? Guess what he said? "It’s a small step for me, but a great leap for the Malaysian people." Haven't we heard something like that before in 1969?

And I'll tell you what can possibly happen next. He'll say how deeply affected he had been by this trip. He'll then say that he had become more religious and closer to God because he has been given the privilege to see the world in a different light, that God is great to have created a world called Earth, and that he was touched by God up there. Sigh .... it's all going to be so predictable.

I'm speculating again and I hope that I'll be wrong. Who knows, he may even claim to had heard the call to prayers from outer space. He'll come back deeply changed. He'll then withdraw into his inner self, don a turban, grow a beard, wear green robes and start preaching to his fellow citizens. We don't need that but it's deeply possible that that can happen.

Rubik's cube, again

It was only about 20 days ago that I was writing about the Rubik's Cube. I'm sure you know what this toy is all about. It's a 3x3 cube that you twirl and whirl in your hands until you align all the colours correctly into their original positions - one colour on each face of the cube. It can be an exasperating game if you do not know where to start or end, but fanatics at it are known to solve the puzzle within 15 seconds of their lives without getting a medical affliction known as Rubik's Elbow - soreness in the joints affecting the elbows and wrists from playing too much with the cube..

Take, for example, Yu Nakajima of Japan. That's him, here on the right. Last Sunday, he won the Rubik's Cube World Championships in Budapest to honour the 25th anniversary of the first championship.

Nakajima averaged 12.46 seconds from five attempts, enough to win the first prize of 5,000 euros, but which was miles away from the world record of 9.86 seconds set in May this year by Frenchie Thibaut Jacquinot.

The event attracted nearly 300 participants from 33 countries who tried their hands and feet to solve the Cube. It seems that more than 300 million cubes have been sold worldwide to date with 12 million expected to be sold this year alone.

The Rubik's Cube is an invention of Hungarian architect Erno Rubik who turned up in Budapest to give away the prizes. It's been said that he has not been seen in public for 10 years.

Anyway, mathematicians have determined that the Rubik's Cube has 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different positions or permutations (read this as 43 quintillion). Are you impressed what a simple 3x3 cube can get you??

By the way, there is no such thing as Rubik's Elbow. It's just an imagination ... my mind working overtime.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Yut Kee kopitiam

I can count the number of times that I have been to the Yut Kee kopitiam (coffee shop) in Campbell Road (Jalan Dang Wangi) with the fingers on one hand. Yes, exactly four, no more and no less! Of course, it's because I'm staying in Penang and Yut Kee is in Kuala Lumpur.

But I can clearly remember the memorable food and ambience in this traditional coffee shop which has been in existence for almost 80 years now.

My most recent visit to this kopitiam was just last Friday when I was at the JobStreet office. Lunchtime beckoned and I went to Yut Kee with my colleague, Simon.

As usual, the place was jam packed with people. And there were even more people waiting patiently along the five-foot way. One of my friends, Eric Chong, had always been full of praises for this eatery. You must try the roti babi the next time you are there, he insisted. It's their signature dish. But actually, all their dishes are signature dishes. The chicken chop, the lamb chop, the toasted bread, the fried rice, the butter cake ... even the hot or cold cup of coffee. All are equally popular with their clients - mainly office workers from around the area or, like in the case of Eric, from quite a distance away.

Anyway, we had to be patient while waiting for some other people to vacate their seats. Yut Kee's clearing system is so very efficient that there is no way that you can have a whole table to yourself if there are less than five of you in a group. Last Friday, Simon and I had to share the table with three others.

And so far, I've tried the chicken chop, french toast, roti babi and their traditional coffee. You can be sure I'll be trying more stuff if I ever get the opportunity to be there again.

By good luck, I found myself sitting next to their antique radio on the window sill. I have been eyeing this radio from afar ever since I spotted it in a previous visit but it was only now that I managed to touch it. Wow, I've just made it sound like a BIG thing, to be able to touch this radio! But it's no big deal, really. The radio is just a decorative item in the shop now. It hasn't been working for decades.

Overhead, the ceiling fan worked busily to dissipate all the hot air from the customers. Yut Kee should have air-conditioned the place but I suppose it will make the kopitiam lose its atmosphere.

Here are some pictures taken of the interior, courtesy of both Eric and Simon:

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Cockroach sandwich

Here is one thing we can do without: a cockroach sandwich.

I can imagine what my grandmother would do if she had found a cockroach among the sliced bread. She would throw a fit. And then she'd throw up. And then we'd have to clean after her.

But that's what this couple - Mohd Rafi Mohd Kamal and his wife - found among their loaf of sliced bread A dead cockroach sandwiched inbetween the slices. How gross. How utterly unhygenic. And in typical fashion, the first response by the manufacturer was to try and brush off the complaint.

Rafi said that the company asked him to send the bread to them so they could conduct tests and investigate the matter. But he refused because he wanted the tests to be done by a neutral party. He submitted the bread to the Negri Sembilan health department for testing and then lodged a police report.

Now, which bread company could this be? According to the New Straits Times, the same company had its Nilai facility temporarily closed down last year because it was unhygienic. Let's not say anything much and wait for the authorities to identify the culprit!

Friday, 5 October 2007

Airport tales

What a tiring day this has been for me. I had to wake up at 4am to prepare myself by the 6.45am flight to Kuala Lumpur. And all for a meeting at the JobStreet office there. But I feel a lot has been achieved today and I'm kind of satisfied that at long last, there is a tangible direction that I can identify with.

However, what I'm writing about is not about my meeting in KL but rather, one or two of my experiences today. It is no comfort to know that they occurred at the Bayan Lepas international airport.

When I crossed the security check-point this morning, the officer manning the x-ray machine detected a small screw-driver in my backpack. I had forgotten all about the screw-driver. It was the type - about four inches long - that you would use to tighten the screws around your spectacles.

The security officer was prepared to let me through. His reason? It was only a small screw-driver and I was only flying to KL. I was surprised. Security is security. Okay, even if he was prepared to let me board the aeroplane, what guarantee would I have that I would not face a problem at the KL international airport on my return flight? Would the security officer there by equally amenable to let me through or would he confiscate my screw-driver? Uh-uh. I'd rather go back to my car and leave the screw-driver there. I wouldn't want any problem.

The second incident happened on the flight back to Penang tonight (MH1166). As the aeroplane landed, I could sense that the aircraft was possibly travelling too fast and the pilot was trying to slow down as it landed on the runway. I could feel the plane sway ever so slightly from side to side as the pilot put the brakes on. Not a pleasant feeling at all, I tell you.

And that's how my rather eventful day started and ended ... at the Bayan Lepas international airport.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Do you have that sinking feeling?

It's getting worse and worse.

Y'know, when the infamous Lingam video surfaced last month, there was such a high expectancy on the government to right whatever was wrong. A golden opportunity, so to speak, to emerge from the incident smelling like roses.

When the deputy prime minister announced the formation of a three-man panel of inquiry to look into the video, I thought - together with tens of thousands others - that, a-ha, finally we'll get to the bottom of this scandal-in-the-making.

But then, we were told later that this panel has no power. Someone suggested that what we needed was a Royal Commission and this was what the Bar Council wanted too. This was included in the memorandum that the Bar Council had presented to the government during their March For Justice.

So we were now told that this was a toothless panel and all that they could do was to verify the authenticity of the video. C'mon ... you mean the video still need to be authenticated or else it will go the way of the other infamous incident - the Vijandran tapes?? You mean, just by looking at the footage cannot convince the government that Lingam's face wasn't superimposed on the man in the video, meh? Wow!

And now today, I learnt that the toothless panel with no power has even finer terms of reference. During their investigation, the panelists can't even call up witnesses to give evidence. So what have they to refer to, if not people connected to the video? Sadly, just the reports that the Anti-Corruption Agency and the Attorney-General's Office will prepare. They'll have to base their decisions on whatever's written and recommended in these reports.

It's stupid. You might as well call the whole damn thing off. No need for this so-called three-man panel whose terms of reference is limited to making a decision on the authenticity of the video based on how extensive the ACA and the AG Office can investigate. Just let the Cabinet make the decision, lah, and spare us the show. What a farce it may turn out to be.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

So what else is new?

First, it was the Negara Ku. People say that the tune was copied wholesale from an old song called Terang Bulan which in turn was lifted from a lilting Hawaiian-styled song called Mamula Moon.

Now, the focus turns to the song Rasa Sayang which law-makers in Indonesia said was stolen from them. Heritage theft, they cried. But I think it's going to be just a tiny storm in a teacup.

Here is a rather lengthy excerpt from a Bernama report filed today at 3.16pm by Mohd Nasir Yusoff:
Indonesian Lawmaker Accuses Malaysia Of Heritage Theft

JAKARTA, Oct 2 (Bernama) -- An Indonesian lawmaker has called for an immediate response from the government to Malaysia's use of the traditional Indonesian song "Rasa Sayange" in its "Truly Asia" tourism campaign.

House of Representatives member Hakam Naja of the National Mandate Party said if the government could prove the song belonged to Indonesia, it should sue the Malaysian government.

"The government needs to check on its origin, whether it is from Indonesia or not," the deputy chairman of House Commission X overseeing education and tourism was quoted in a front-page report of the popular "Jakarta Post" daily, today.

Rasa Sayange is believed to have originated in Maluku where it has been sung for generations by people to express their love for the environment.

Hakam said Malaysia has in the past claimed ownership of traditional Indonesian handicrafts such as batik and wayang puppets.

"Such claims are made because of lack of action by the Indonesian government to copyright or patent the nation's heritage. In order to avoid one-sided claims, the government should patent the song immediately," he said.

He also called for an immediate inventory of the country's culture to help protect Indonesia's heritage through patents or copyrights.

"So if someone wants to use cultural elements of Indonesia, there should be compensation for the government, otherwise, other countries will keep trying to undermine us," he said.

Chairman of the Golkar Party faction at the House, Priyo Budi Santoso, as quoted in the report, said the government needed to determine whether Malaysia was using the song without Indonesia's permission.

"If they want to use Indonesia's traditional music, Malaysia should first ask for our permission because that's our country's heritage," he said.

Led Zeppelin reunion

I read recently that the surviving members of Led Zeppelin - Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones - will come together next month at the O2 arena in London for a tribute concert to remember Atlantic Records' founder, Ahmet Ertegun.

I read that this one-off reunion will be the group's first in 19 years and they will be joined by Jason Bonham, the son of John Bonham whose death in 1980 precipitated the disband of the group.

Good for Led Zeppelin.

Unfortunately, for their hordes of fans around the world, it will be a concert that we cannot attend. Already, it is said that an estimated 20 million people have registered for the tickets on the Led Zeppelin website and the tickets will be allocated by public ballot.

I have been a fan of Led Zep ever since I first heard Whole Lotta Love over the Radio RAAF Butterworth in 1970. I was stunned. It was the first time that I had heard such music - an abstract middle section and Plant's trademark howl. It was quite unlike anything I had heard before.

I became a fan long before most of my schoolmates had ever heard of Led Zeppelin or been exposed to blues-tinged hard rock and heavy metal. And to show you how mad I was about Led Zep, here is a picture of their vinyl records and CDs in my collection. Crazy, eh?

There's another CD which I have not included in the picture: Page and Plant's Walking Into Clarksdale. Without Jones and Bonham, it's just not the same...

Monday, 1 October 2007

Bee Loh Photo Supplies

Ever since i bought my first camera in the early 1980s - my Canon A1 - I have never gone to a camera shop other than Bee Loh Photo Supplies Enterprise (M) Sdn Bhd in Upper Penang Road, Penang.

The shop was a long-time account holder of the old Ban Hin Lee Bank and I got to know some of their staff well when I was working the counters in the bank. I bought my Nikon from them and I also purchased my present Dimage Z5 there.

Today, I telephoned the shop to make some enquiries about a flash unit for my camera but the shop's telephone number was no longer valid. Sensing that it couldn't be, I called one of my contacts on his mobile, only to learn that the shop had ceased operation some six months ago.

Okay, I knew as far back as two years ago that Bee Loh was facing many challenges. But I had thought that having been opened for some 50 years or more, it could have survived any economic downturn. Unfortunately, it was not to be. It has closed shop. Another establishment in Penang has disappeared.