Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Floods, floods and more floods

The bad weather since yesterday is probably due to the effects of tropical storm Mekkhala which has made landfall in Vietnam. Sometimes, we tend to forget that storms far off in the South China Sea or the Bay Of Bengal can affect us here too. Now that Mekkhala has weakened, I would expect the rain here to taper off some.

After a brief respite from the rain early evening yesterday, it started pouring again at about 10pm and it continued through until about 2pm today. As usual, floods were reported the usual oarts of Penang but no rumblings from the folks in Tanjung Bungah yet. Maybe they are spared this time. But landslips have been reported at the Jalan Tun Sardon linking Paya Terubong to Balik Pulau. Maybe I'll make a short trip to the BM Hill tomorrow morning to see whether there's damage there.

I left home a little earlier than usual this morning, expecting a traffic snarl at the approach to the Penang Bridge, but surprisingly it was smooth all the way to the office.

Panoramic view from the Hotel Equatorial. It was impossible to see the Penang Bridge. Click on the photo to see the full size.

Above and below: stretch of road along Yeap Chor Ee Road, just outside the Sek Men Bukit Jambul. The road was impassable to traffic in the morning

Why is there a fuel shortage??

It is really puzzling to see fuel pumps running dry here in Malaysia.

All this could have been anticipated better. The balik kampung exodus is not a one-off affair. It happens several times every year. So why did the pumps run dry?

Kulim Club

I saw this old, faded picture on the wall somewhere in Bukit Mertajam. I'm not going to say where I saw it because I don't want to give away its location, but the photograph was taken at the Kulim Club which was celebrating its 80th anniversary in 1992. The one impression that struck me was that Royalty (the Sultan and the late Sultanah of Kedah) were sitting so far apart. Why? Was it part of protocol that they had to? Anyway, the gap in the middle of the sofa made the photo look imbalanced.

The Straits Echo postbag (1)

This is the first of several letters that appeared in The Straits Echo in the months following the formation of the Penang Chess Association. I'm not going to deny that the QSS in this letter was me but the fact was that the letters illustrated the growing interest of the chess-playing public in the affairs of the Association and we voiced our concerns regarding the direction of chess in the schools in those days.

POSTBAG, 15 March 1972
SIR - It is most disheartening to note that the constitution of the Penang Chess Association has not made any provisions for the inclusion of student representation on its Management Committee, despite repeated clamours from student quarters pertaining to this issue.

It is an undisputed fact that the calls for the formation of this association came mainly from the students, and the Honorary Secretary, Incik Ghulam Sarwar, himself in his address at the inaugural meeting of the Penang Chess Association admitted this.

In accordance with Article IV, Clause (b) of the constitution, "associate, junior and institutional members shall have all the privileges of ordinary membership except the right to vote at General Meetings or elections of the Association or to hold office in the Management Committee of the Association."

This clause denIes all junior members (most of whom are students) voting rights, and also the rights to stand for election. Does this imply that the students (particularly those in their late teens) are not mature or responsible enough to vote or hold any post?

As a large percentage of the Association's membership will comprise students, it is not only unjustified but also most undemocratic to deprive these students of these rights. This prejudicial attitude and lack of foresight on the part of the Management Committee should be terminated in the interests of the Association.

Now since that the Penang Chess Association has been formally recognised as an independent body, it should cease to remain under the "wings" of the Penang Library and must sever all ties whatsoever with the said Library.

Though credit must be given to the Penang Library for initiating this Association, under no circumstances should the precedence be set to co-opt librarians from the Library into the Association's Management Committee. All chess literature bought with the Association's funds should be catalogued under the Association's library instead of the Penang Library.

With regard to the simultaneous display by the Malaysian Chess Champion, Mr Choo Min Wang, it should be brought to the attention of the public that it was the Penang Free School Chess Club, and not the Penang Library which took the initiative to invite Mr Choo to give a pubic demonstration. It was only through mutual agreement that a compromise was reached for the display to take place at tbe Penang Library instead of the Penang Free School.

This letter bears no accusation at any particular person, and it is my hope that due consideration will be given to the student population In the future.


The storm cometh

I was a little awed yesterday morning when I saw the sky. Practically driving into the storm. The rainy spell has started again and of course, it coincides with the start of the nine-day Nine Emperor Gods festival.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Carnarvon Lane, Penang

Would you believe that my paternal grandparents used to rent a room in one of these dilapidated houses in Carnarvon Lane during the late 1960's? The main bedroom on the upper floor would be partitioned into two halves and they stayed in one of them. When it rained, the whole road would be flooded. Those were really difficult times for them. The houses were really dark and lit with incandescent light bulbs as fluorescent tubes were luxury items in those days.

Waning moon

I took this photo before I stepped into my car on my way to work last Friday.

(Minolta Konica Dimage Z5, aperture 3.2, speed 0.5 seconds, zoom equivalent = 420 mm, cropped and cleaned using Picasa)

BM Hill soil erosion update

Looks bad, very bad...

From bad: big crack appears in the soil (11 Sep 2008)

To worse: crack widens considerably with loss of earth (27 Sep 2008)

What's the worst case going to be?

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Gurney Drive, Penang. A dream destroyed

As a small boy, it was always a treat when my parents brought me to Gurney Drive. Fine sandy beach of about 30 metres deep from the shoreline, pine trees lining the road, picnic areas in the shade beneath the trees, clear horizon that allowed you to gaze at the nearby Pearl Hill and Kedah Peak in the far distance, clear powerful waves, building sand castles, picking sea shells, digging for clams....

All these activities remain as memories. Today's youth probably will not know what I'm talking about. Fine sandy beach? I was at Gurney Drive about a week ago for a function and being early, I took a walk towards the roundabout end of the road. These are the only two remnants of the place's once renowned sandy beach.

What about the rest of the way? Yes, mud flaps at low tide. Wet, smelly, dirty and full of rubbish - non-biodegradable plastics and wrappers, by the way - thrown by who else but irresponsible people!

Apart from the mud flaps where at low tide you'll see mudskippers by the hundreds crawling around and scavenging birds looking for easy prey (a new tourist attraction, perhaps?), here's what you will see:

Yes, rocks. The once pristine beach has been dumped with rocks in an effort to hold back the erosion. What a ghastly site. Fine sandy beach? Building sand castles? Picking sea shells. Digging for clams? Gone, all gone, since the mid-1980's. Now, only memories remain. Sad, isn't it?

Want to read more of my other Gurney Drive blog entries? Just search for them in the BlogBar Search Box at the top of the page.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

China's walk-in-space (2)

This is no fake. At 5.40pm this afternoon, Zhai Zhigang became the first Asian to walk in space.

(Technically, Sunita Pandya Williams doesn't count. Although her father is an ethnic Indian, she was born in the United States. Sunita first spacewalked from the International Space Station in Jan 2007. The Indians proclaimed her as one of their own, but that's quite natural. Nationalistic pride.)

As the army colonel floated out of the Shenzhou-7 space craft, he turned and waved to a television camera broadcasting the event live on Chinese national television.

"I am here greeting the Chinese people and the people of the whole world," Zhai said, waving a Chinese flag in his right hand.

Phishing scam

It's really true that there's a sucker born every minute. Here's a guy, already 30 years old, a manager some more, falling for a cheap phishing trick. I've no pity for him. If you visit any bank website, you'll clearly see warnings telling you not to click on any link in emails that are purportedly sent by banks. Phishing is just a way that scammers use to get you to give them your Login ID and password. My simple advise if you receive such emails: IGNORE the message. DELETE the email.

“The email looked genuine," he wailed. "I was told to change my bank account password for safety reasons and to avoid being cheated by cyber frauds. I did not suspect anything amiss until I received an SMS from my bank to tell me that RM4,935 had been withdrawn."

Here is the story in today's The Star:

PKR. Outrageous. Irresponsible.

I was skimming through the newspapers when I came across this statement. It's an outrageous statement and reflects very badly on the person making it. What does this joker mean when he says that "what is important is we did not ask for the women. He supplied them to us. If people donate, don't you want to accept it?"

Excuse me, how do you equate the flesh trade with donation? Do you know what is right and what is wrong? Have you no morals at all? So proud about it? Unrepentant? Is sex your only priority in life? Or does reason fly out of the window when you are confronted with women and sex? It's a warped mind that can come up with such an outrageous reason. It's a damned gross irresponsible statement and I'll be very scared to have people like you in government!

What, lah!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Flying low-cost between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore

Received an email from AirAsia this morning. They are promoting their flights to Singapore. At first, I thought: what's that? Six flights daily between KL and Singapore? Is it for the Hari Raya period? Since when could AirAsia suddenly increase their frequency from the present two?

Then it hit me when I read the email more closely. It wasn't for the Hari Raya. AirAsia's promotion was for flights between 1 Dec 2008 and 31 Jul 2009. The operative date is "1 Dec 2008". That's the date when the closely guarded KL-Singapore sector becomes totally liberalised. That's the date when the low-cost carriers can join in the competition and increase their flights between the two cities.

It's not only AirAsia that will benefit from this liberalisation. Singapore's Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia will also be benefiting. The route will no longer be a duopoly enjoyed by Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines. This liberalisation is also supposed to benefit customers who used to pay around RM1,000 for round-trip tickets on this route. Prices are expected to drop to about RM300 to RM400. That's a hefty reduction, reminiscent of fares charged by both MAS and SIA a very long time ago.

From December, AirAsia will have six daily flights between the two cities. I hear that Tiger Airways will be increasing their frequency to five maximum, while Jetstar Asia will probably increase to two or three flights daily too but they haven't announce anything yet. Nevertheless, brace ourselves for competition. The air is going to get more crowded soon.

Now, my wish is simple: I'd like to have the low-cost carriers introduce low-cost flights between Penang and Singapore too.

Anwar Ibrahim on Justin.tv

I've just got wind that Anwar Ibrahim is having a press conference in Hongkong Kuala Lumpur right now ("right now" being 12.20pm so if you read this later, the press conference may well be over) and it can be viewed on justin.tv

But nuts! I've been caught unprepared. My computer doesn't have speakers. So much for listening in to the press conference. You can guess how much fun I'm having in watching him opening and closing his mouth.

However, I'm impressed that the live feed is smooth and very clear although occasionally, there is buffering.

New queen

Ha ha .... I've just discovered that my article on Alexandra Kosteniuk in today's The Star is their most read story this morning. I don't know how much longer it will stay there before it's knocked off the perch but you can read it here. Later, you should be able to catch it in my other It's All In The Planning blog too. (Note: I caught a small typo error in The Star which made a sentence incomprehensible but I have corrected it on my blog.)

Anyway, I found that the editors had chosen to amend one paragraph and remove another from my original article. I had half-expected it and I wouldn't blame them. Perhaps the removed paragraph was considered too racy for a family newspaper enjoyed by the young to the old. Mustn't suggest any wayward thoughts to the young and impressionable minds. Tut tut. That's very bad of me.

But if you are curious about what I had submitted to them earlier, it's this:
No, Kosteniuk is the representative, the flag-bearer of a new breed of women chess players who know how to balance their grey brain cells with the most modern of women’s fashion. She’s àla mode, chic, posh, smart, stylish, swanky, all the rage. She makes women’s chess fashionable!

It’s a fashion statement when she pushes her pawn to e4. It’s also a fashion statement whenever she decides to fianchetto her bishop. And above all, she looks stunning in almost every outfit she wears.
UPDATE: At 2.30pm today, I noticed that The Star has changed the title of my story to "New chess queen". I suppose someone must have noticed the abnormally high number of visits to this story. Anyway, it's still listed there at the top of the Most Viewed list. Woo hoo...!!

FINAL UPDATE - 27 Oct 2008: Had a good night's sleep and awoke about a half hour ago. Curious. Had The Star Online refreshed their site with today's news and stories yet? Apparently, not yet, because even at 7.30am, this is what I saw.

So because of a freak technicality, a mere story on chess - about the new women's world chess champion - ended up as the most viewed item in Malaysia's top English language newspaper. In my opinion, there are two reasons why this happened. One, a wrong choice of the initial headline by the editors. "New queen" gave no inkling at all on the story's content. And if you look at the print edition of the newspaper, in the Star Two section, that's exactly what was used. Two, people were curious enough. Could there have been a suggestive, sexual undertone in the title? Maybe. And later, changing the online title to "New chess queen" no longer helped anything at all because people were already wondering why the story was at the top of the most viewed list. It could've helped more people to click on it anyway, just to find out why.

I think this will be a one-off occurrence which I'll not see it again. But it was a quite enjoyable moment. Imagine. Certainly made my day!

Nine emperor gods

Every year whenever I see such flags being flown, I know that it's time for the Nine Emperor Gods festival.

This year, the nine-day festival starts from Monday (29 Sep 2008) and will go on until 7 Oct 2008. There are two Nine Emperor Gods temples near my residence and they are barely 500 metres apart. It may be even worse in George Town. I believe some of the temples there are on adjacent streets. That's even closer!

By the way, I don't celebrate this festival but I do enjoy the imaginative vegetarian fare that'll be on sale.

DAP service centre in Kampung Baru, BM

I want to congratulate my Member of Parliament, Chong Eng, and my State Assemblywoman, Ong Kok Fooi, for setting up a new service centre along Jalan Kampung Baru, a stone's throw from the Kampung Baru wet market.

I hope with this new service centre, my MP and my SA can look into the problems of the community and also address the social ills that are so prevalent in today's society.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

China's walk-in-space

Against the triumph of the Olympic Games and an emerging clouded scandal of milk products tainted with melamine, China's third manned space mission blasted off this evening from a remote desert site on a trip that's expected to include the country's first space walk.

The Shenzhou VII shot up into an inky black sky at the Jiuquan launch centre in the northwestern province of Gansu at exactly 9:10 pm.

It is China's third manned space venture since October 2003, when it joined Russia and the United States as the only countries to have sent astronauts into space. The space walk is expected Saturday.

WiMAX@Penang previewed and ready to roll

Well, good news! The whole of Penang will be WiMAXed soon enough. I've just heard that an agreement was signed today with Packet One (P1) for the latter to deliver WiMAX services in the state.

But don't hold your breath that it'll be available in your neighbourhood tomorrow. According to the time line, the first phase of WiMAX@Penang is scheduled to begin from October and the whole project may only be completed within 18 to 24 months. However, there is always the hope that it can complete sooner.

The first phase will deploy base stations to cover areas around George Town, Penang island and parts of Province Wellesley ... areas with a total consumer base of about 702,000 people. The second phase will cover Bukit Tengah, Kepala Batas, Nibong Tebal and Juru, with a catchment of 139,000 people, by the end of 2009.

It's claimed that the cutting-edge wireless WiMAX service will make Penang among the first cities in the world to experience broadband on the move. WiMAX, in case you are as blur as me, is a telecommunications technology aimed at providing wireless data over long distances in a variety of ways and from point-to-point to full mobile access.

Speaking at the WiMAX@Penang preview, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said P1, a subsidiary of Green Packet Bhd and one of the first WiMAX telcos in the world, is one of the state government’s partner in the Wireless@PENANG project which was unveiled last week.

As part of the project, Penang Free WiFi was launched last week to make available free wireless broadband service to the general public, including the lesser served areas and communities around popular eateries, in campuses and lower income housing estates.

“Penang Free WiFi will cover the whole state including Seberang Perai by September 2010, if not earlier and the wireless broadband service, which leverages P1’s WiMAX signals that extend about 30 km from each site, will support a higher level of mobility as users will no longer be tied to fixed hotspots. They will be free to move around and be connected simultaneously," the CM said.

But although WiMAX@Penang will also be rolled out without incurring any capital investment and operating expenditure on the state government, the service is not expected to be free and will be offered only through subscription.

What's next? Insulting an egg??

This story in sun2surf, the online version of theSun newspaper, really takes the cake. Some people are really so imaginative that their thinking defies logic.

In case you are wondering what's happening, it's all about a bunch of jokers who made a police report yesterday claiming that Sassy MP Teresa Kok had insulted Humpty Dumpty (a.k.a. the Humble Egg) during her period under ISA arrest.

First, we had people making statutory declarations with wild abandon, now we have people making police reports with the same gleeful abandon.

What, lah!

BM Hill's NATO: no action, talk only

About a month ago, I had an exchange of SMS with someone in the state government. He knew that I have long been unhappy with the physical conditions at the Bukit Mertajam forest park so at the first opportunity he had, he texted me saying that he happened to be with the Head of Penang's state forestry department. Was there any message that he could convey on my behalf?

You bet I did! I couldn't imagine letting this chance pass by. I texted him to tell this chap to check on his field staff. Do they know what needs repairs in the forest parks? At BM hill, for example, facilities are falling apart and the ranger there doesn't even know. Or even if he knows, he's not doing anything. Have the broken concrete pathways, soil erosion, broken bridges been reported or escalated?

I even forwarded him these two photos that were in my mobile photo. I urged him to show them to this fella. I even urged him to come with this fella to the forest park and have a first-hand look at the dilapidated condition.

I don't know whether or not the pictures were shown to the forestry guy. But I do know that until today, the bridge is still in deep disrepair and the broken concrete pathway remains, well, a broken concrete pathway.

What, lah!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

So what?

So what if the price of petrol and diesel goes down by 10 sen tomorrow? Does the federal government really think that this price decrease will really benefit us? Does the federal government really think that we, the common folks, will get to enjoy the benefits of this price decrease? Will the prices of goods and services come down tomorrow too, now that the price of petrol and diesel is coming down? Really, it was a hugely callous act to increase the pump prices so drastically in the first place. Totally irresponsible, totally unwarranted. No matter how much the federal government decreases the price of petrol now, it will no longer make any difference. The damage has already been done.

Sex, obsession, greed and murder

Nothing new about sex. Nothing new about obsession, greed and murder either. but when you combine all four elements together, you get a tale that's as fascinating as it is gruesome.

Want to read about sex, obsession, greed and murder all rolled into one? It's a true story with New York as the setting, some 150 years ago.

Here, I've reposted the story in my other blog, It's All In The Planning! Go on, go read it.

More BM Hill tidak apathy

I've always been concerned about the soil erosion at the Bukit Mertajam hill and I've highlighted the condition at this part of the forest park many times already. You can't miss it if you use the track that runs beside the stream that flows through the park.

The Penang state forestry department is just not doing their work. Nobody at the department seems to give two hoots about the environment or its conservation. Irresponsible, that's what the people in the department and their workers are.

Last Friday as I went on my weekly hill track, I noticed that a part of the embankment was almost close to collapse (below). The soil had already given way and it would be a matter of time that we'll lose the earth and the tree. Tell me, are we going to lose the whole hill and have it washed to the sea? I know that I'm being overly dramatic but how many more times do I have to write about the inaction before action is taken?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Penang Chess Association: first annual general meeting in 1972

I feel rather proud that the Penang Chess Association is the oldest state chess body in Malaysia. It's founding pre-dated that of the Malaysian Chess Federation itself. While digging through my old papers years ago, I uncovered the minutes of the PCA's first AGM, prepared by Ghulam Sawar who was then attached to the Universiti Sains Malaysia. He was made a Datuk during the Penang Governor's official birthday ceremony in June this year. Here are the Minutes of the AGM:

held at 10.00 a.m. on Sunday 12th. March 1972 at the Penang Library.
Present: 42 adults and 9 juniors (below the age of 18) signed the attendance register (Ref. Appendix A attached).

1. Encik Ghulam Sarwar, the Chairman of the Penang Library's Extension Activities Sub-Committee briefly outlined the steps that had led to the establishment of the Chess Group in the Library and the subsequent events that had resulted in the Inaugural Meeting of the proposed Penang Chess Association being called. He thanked the Penang Library Management Committee for the Library's assistance and for allowing chess enthusiasts to use the Library as their meeting place.

2. Encik Fang Ewe Churh, the Chairman of the Protem Committee informed members present that the Protem Committee, consisting of the following persons:

Encik Fang Ewe Churh (Chairman); Encik Ghulam Sarwar (Secretary),
Encik Sarjit Singh Pada, Encik A. Thomas Samy, Encik Tan Yam San,
Encik Hashim bin Nydin and Encik Tan Beng Theam

had met several times since its establishment on the 9th of January 1972 to look into details related to the establishing of the Penang Chess Association. He thanked Encik Ghulam Sarwar for having drawn up a draft constitution for the meeting to consider and indicated that various chess activities were in the offing for chess players in Penang. These would include the Malaysian Schools Sports Council's Malaysian Chess Ohampionships which would for the first time be organised in Penang. He expressed the hope that once registered the Penang Chess Association would play a leading part in promoting the game among junior as well as adult players in Penang.

3. Resolution: A resolution for the establishment of the Penang Chess Association, proposed by Encik Teoh Kim Leng, and seconded by Encik Mohammad bin Ismail was unanimously adopted. There was no objection.

4. Draft Constitution: Encik Ghulam Sarwar discussed the proposed Constitution clause by clause. The following amendments were included:

(a) Life Membership: Life Membership was provided for in Article III of the Draft Constitution. It was unanimously agreed that the Subscription for Life Membership should be $100.00

(b) The phrase 'in the name of the Association or on the premises of the Association' was added to Clause 3 of Article X after the words Trade Union Ordinance, 1959, .....'

Encik J.M. Doss proposed that the Constitution be adopted with these amendments. His proposal was seconded by Encik Trilok Singh. There were no objections and the Constitution was unanimously adopted.

5. Election of Office-Bearers and Committee for 1972/73.

The following were elected:

President: Encik Fang Ewe Churh
Vice-President: Encik Hashim bin Mydin
Hon. Secretary: Encik Ghulam Sarwar
Hon. Treasurer: Encik A. Thomas Samy
Committee: Encik Tan Beng Theam
Encik Tan Yam San
Encik Sarjit Singh Pada

Auditors: The following persons were appointed Hon. Auditors for the year 1972/73:

Encik Gong Wooi Mau
Encik Ooi Yeow Kim

6. Patrons: The Meeting agreed to invite Y.A. B. Dr. Lim Chong Eu, the Chief Minister, and Encik Lau Hooi Siah to serve as Patrons of the Association.

(Ghulam Sawar)
Hon. Secretary.


Adult Members (Present)

1. Sim Hock Kee
2. Lim Liang Hoe
3. Yeoh Hoe Chye
4. Teoh Kim Leng
5. Lee Meng Koon
6. Alison Wong
7. Lim Swee Hock
8. Cheah Sin Chong
9. P. Rajagopal
10. Tham Kah Woh
11. Muhammad bin Ismail
12. Chuah Tiang Beng
13. Wong Chin Kong
14. Gong Wooi Mau
15. Khoo Gim Teik
16. Ooi Seow Kim
1?. Zainal Abidin B.Samat
18. Lim Chaing Ghee
19. Ong Ewe Huat
20. Masseri Bin Awang
21. Kamarzaman Bin Talib
22. Ong Chin Wah
23. Khor Kheng Hoon
24. Kwok Chiew Kwong
25. Teoh Teong Hoe
26. Teh Bak ileong
27. J.M. Doss
28. Ooi Gim Eng
29. Woo Seng Seong
30. Angelleh d/o Arumugam
31. Cheah Khye Pheng
32. Khor Hoe Ee
33. Lee Yin Chow
34. Trilok Singh
35. Wong Chin Khew
36. Tausig Werner
37. Tan Beng Thean
38. Kong Boon Huat
39. A. Thomas Samy
40. Ghulam Sarwar
41. Tan Yam Sam
42. Fang Ewe Churh

Junior Members (Present)

1. Chan Sek Kong
2. Ho King Hee
3. Shankaran M.
4. Toh Weng Tuck
5. Yong Boon Hun
6. Ooi Oon Tat
7. Lim Kean Huat
8. Khoo Oon Kheng
9. Quah Seng Sun

Body paint art

I just want to share this fascinating body paint art with you:

A lifetime of research: Ghulam Sarwar Yousof

In case you are curious, this man here is Prof Ghulam Sarwar Yousof. In June this year, he was honoured by the Penang Governor with the honorific title of Dato, in recognition to his services to Penang in the 1970s whilst still a member of the academia at the University of Penang (later renamed the University of Science Malaysia or Universiti Sains Malaysia). He was the man that set up Malaysia's first performing arts programme at the university in 1970.

Our paths crossed briefly maybe once or twice, and that would have been in 1972. I can't remember for sure and I doubt whether or not he would remember me at all. But yes, we did exchange some no holds barred public correspondences in The Straits Echo, Penang's premier local newspaper in those days. Such was the exuberant nature of teenaged youth that my friends and I wrote with a lot of abandon. Of course, he did return the compliment as good as he received. Suffice to say that we teenagers felt rather awed that a person of his stature would reply to us. It actually encouraged me to dabble more in writing when I grew older.

I'm blogging about him here because in the next few weeks, I'll be making public these three or four letters, some written by me and some written by my friends, as I reflect back on the founding of the Penang Chess Association. Very few people would know that Ghulam Sarwar was the first secretary of the Penang Chess Association. I wouldn't know how he got himself involved with chess but I would say that as the association's pro-tem secretary, he contributed a lot to its early years. He stepped down after a year or two, having decided to channel his energy elsewhere. But for those brief years, I have to thank you, Ghulam Sarwar, for your efforts.

Possibly, this excerpt from his website reveals something about him which we'll never get to know otherwise:
Referring to his lifetime involvement in theatre, Prof Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof claims, in all seriousness, that he has never really been interested in theatre, except perhaps as an occasional, casual, observer. It all happened by chance in 1970 when he was “persuaded” (more accurately coerced) on a “temporary” basis, to set up the Performing Arts programme at USM by its first Vice-Chancellor, the late Tan Sri Hamzah Sendut, who then further persuaded him to stay on in theatre. He thus became Malaysia’s first theatre scholar by chance rather than design, and has been trying all along to get out of it. Along the way he has been carried, as if by a relentless flood, into numerous territories, a few known, others utterly strange. He has often been asked what his “real” specialty is as an academician. He is unable to tell; he wished he knew. If there is one important discovery Prof Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof has made while dabbling in all these different disciplines, he says, it is that, essentially, knowledge cannot be separated into compartments. Wisdom is One.

7-inch, 45rpm records

I don't know when I'll be able to listen to any of these 45rpm records or all 192 of them. Actually, they aren't many. It's a very, very modest - small, even - collection but they represent the music of an era that we'll never get back. The pile of records in the background, on the right, were mine; the remaining belonged to my father. He bought them when I was very young. That explained a lot his taste in music and other recorded sound!

Monday, 22 September 2008

More landslips at BM Hill

Well, do you remember this photo that I took earlier this month, don't you? It was snapped on 7 Sep 2008, the day after the skies opened above Penang and drenched the whole state. There was widespread flooding on the island and the mainland. I reported landslips on the tar road at BM Hill. The landslips were cleared on the next day because the road was the only access to the telecommunication towers at the hill-top.

Sunday midday, it rained again. Though it wasn't as strong or prolonged, I still had concern that it would affect the hill because damage had already been done to the weakened slopes.

True enough, my wife and I found that there was more earth that gave way at the same spot as the earlier landslip although thankfully, it was not as severe as before. Nevertheless, it remains a cause for concern.

On the way to the 2020 rest area, I counted at least six places where landslips had happened. It didn't matter whether they were minor or major; the fact that they happened meant that we have to start thinking more seriously about our environment. I wouldn't want our hills to be washed down to the sea.

Disco weekend

I know, I know .... my musical taste should be better than this but I couldn't help but succumb to a disco weekend. I was getting bored from the rain and I had a choice between whipping out my compact discs or go clean my vinyl records. I chose the latter, so I spent most of yesterday afternoon listening to these four albums. Ahh...for the good old days when life wasn't meant to be so complicated or tough....

Let It Go (Part One), That's the Way (I Like It), Get Down Tonight, Boogie Shoes, Ain't Nothin' Wrong, I'm So Crazy ('Bout You), What Makes You Happy, I Get Lifted, Let It Go (Part Two)

Flight '76, You've Got To Be Your Own Best Friend, California Strut, A Fifth Of Beethoven, Night Fall, Russian Dressing, Suite Love Symphony, Midnight Express, Get A Little Lovin', Just A Love Song
Disco Baby, Fire, The Hustle, Get Dancin', Doctor's Orders, Turn This Mother Out, Shakey Ground, Spanish Boogie, Pick Up The Pieces, Hey Girl Come And Get It

Will Penang's Free Wifi project work?

I've a friend who's quite knowledgeable about this sort of technological things and he expresses some doubts about the viability of this free WiFi project in Penang. This is what he wrote to me:
"Its more like providing free access in a few hot spots rather than state-wide WiMax. With the business model based on advertising on the home page of your first log in, I'm rather skeptical that they can generate enough revenue to make the project really take off. A vast number of municipal WiFi projects have failed around the world because there is no good business model for it.

"Malaysia will be particularly difficult because most of the good content is overseas and thus the "Free WiFi" ISP will either need to have its own overseas bandwidth or be at the mercy of Terrorkom to provide overseas bandwidth."
The next six to 12 months should be interesting to see whether my friend will be proven wrong. I can only hope that he is not right!

Something in the air

This is a song from my youth ... from my musical awakening. In 1969, I was so fascinated with Andrew "Thunderclap" Newman's Something In The Air, especially the thumping, honky-tonk piano.

The problem with Thunderclap Newman was that the group (or the person) was a one-hit wonder. The group (or the person) disappeared from my radar after this song although I heard that there was some minor success with one or two more tracks.

But listening to it again last night brought back some good memories of an era long gone.

Alexandra Kosteniuk

Meet the new women's world chess champion

More information about Alexandra Kosteniuk from Kosteniuk.com

UPDATE: And you can read my take on Kosteniuk in my weekly chess column here.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Finally, patience pays off with my orchids

I haven't been writing about my plants lately so it's the right time to say that I'm so happy with two of my orchid plants. This one below was bought at the Penang Flora Fest in May 2007. When I bought it, it had already flowered and when the flowers withered away, I cut off the spike. Since then, it had been a long wait for it to spike again: 16 months to be exact. The plant grew to be about twice its original height and it kept putting out root after root. Only recently did I notice this new spike. What a relief! Now to wait for the yellow flowers.

The wait for this one to flower is even longer. I had moved to Bukit Mertajam almost four years now and this plant had flowered only once. So it has been something like 40 months or so since the last occasion. Funny...I can't really remember how the flowers looked like so it is with a lot of curiosity and anticipation that I wait the new few weeks.