Saturday, 31 January 2009

Of good weather, suffering and happiness

I picked up this little book from the Triple Wisdom Temple in Pangkor Road during the Chinese New Year holidays. It's a short collection of the teachings by Ajahn Chah (1918-1992) who was a Thai forest monk and meditation master. Ajahn Chah founded the Wat Nong Pah Pong monastery which today has branches in several parts of the world. Anyway, what I want to say is that I am intrigued with this short passage in the book:
In truth, happiness is suffering in disguise but in such a subtle form that you don't see it. If you cling to happiness, it's the same as clinging to suffering, but you don't realise it. When you hold onto happiness, it's impossible to throw away the inherent suffering. They're inseparable like that. Thus the Buddha taught us to know suffering and see it as the inherent harm in happiness, to see them as equal. So be careful! When happiness arises, don't be overjoyed and don't get carried away. When suffering comes, don't despair, don't lose yourself in it. See that they have the same equal value.
So according to Ajahn Chah's explanation, happiness is just a different form of suffering, no more and no less, and they are inseparable.

Which reminds me. I've also read in a motivational book years ago - I can't remember the title but obviously, the writer must have been a follower of Buddhism at heart - that in a similar vein, rain shouldn't be looked at as bad weather. There is only good weather, and the rain is just a different form of good weather. If we can accept that, then there is no problem.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Loop fascination

I was pottering around my pots of plants today and I noticed this rather curious loop in one of my nepenthes plants. Fascinating, eh?

More Chinese New Year goodies

My role in the cake baking process is to hold the camera. I must say that I had a pretty good job because the cake turned out delicious!

Eggs, carrots and butter ... some of the ingredients that went into the cake.

I always say that the crack on a cake's surface reminds me of the Grand Canyon

And finally, a carrot cake is not a carrot cake without a THICK layer of cheese on it. The thicker, the better.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009


Since he arrived on loan from US club LA Galaxy, AC Milan have not lost a game. In fact, Goldenballs is so looked on as the Italian team's lucky talisman that they are urging him to remain in Italy.

According to The Sun, Italy is a superstitious country. People touch things for luck and the players are doing the same with David Beckam's bottom. He is seen as lucky.

Goldenballs has evolved into Goldenbuns :-)

Ronaldo runs amok

I was taken aback this morning when I logged into the Guardian website to be greeted with news that Ronaldo had run amok. Had he done something terribly wrong to warrant such a headline on the website? No, he had only scored two of five goals in Manchester United's demolition of West Bromwich Albion. But for a moment, I thought he had lost his marbles.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Solar eclipse over Indonesia

At about 5pm yesterday, the skies around Bukit Mertajam went dim. Not as dim as total darkness, but dim enough to pass off as a normal 7pm dusk. Reason was, there was a partial solar eclipse. Unfortunately, the eclipse was not noticed from my home because of the cloud cover. So we missed watching the eclipse on the first day of Chinese New Year. Does it mean that we have missed out on ill-luck for the rest of the year? Superstitous people would tell you to remain indoors during eclipses because eclipses foretell danger (and if you let the sky fall on your head, you will have years of bad luck) but I tell you, it's only a natural phenomenon. Nothing more than that. Anyway, I found some interesting photos on yesterday's eclipse:

Partial solar eclipse as seen from Manila

People in certain parts of Indonesia could enjoy the full annular solar eclipse.

Interesting days ahead

Who is right and who is wrong?

According to Malaysiakini...

Chinese new year orchids

Some of my orchids that are blooming during this Chinese New Year:

A Brandenburg morning

Ahh...what bliss to wake up on a Chinese New Year morning with the sound of the Brandenburg Concertos coming alive from the speakers. Yes, Johann Sebastian Bach certainly knew a thing or two about music. He rocked big time during the Age of Baroque and he continues to rock in this modern age.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Festive mood

Since I'm still in a festive mood, I might as well share some very recent photos here:

Our reunion steamboat dinner on Sunday night

Fireworks going off at midnight to mark the start of the Chinese New Year

And of course, who can miss out on these?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Keong Hee Huat Chye

Yes, a happy new year. May the new Year Of The Ox bring personal happiness, wealth continuity, satisfaction, stability, safety, security, trust-worthiness, good neighbourliness, inner peace, physical health, understanding and emotional well-being to everyone, regardless of race, creed, standing or religion. We shall certainly need them in great abundance as we meet the challenges in 2009.

Being ignored can be dangerous

There you go ... another "hint" that there may soon be more political upheavals in the country and this time, coming from Penang. About a fortnight ago, I wrote about this particular Barisan Nasional state assemblyman seen in the company of his Pakatan Rakyat colleagues. It wasn't the first time, mind you.

Later, it was reported in the papers that he was being offered a position in the Penang government’s Freedom of Information Committee. Of course, he had to decline the offer after referring it to his party bosses but I think it was more of a public show than anything else. Today, he's again in the public eye complaining that he was being ignored.

Will he? Won't he? Will he? Won't he? Blow hot, blow cold. Tweedle dee, tweedle dum...

Last-minute pre-Chinese New Year marketing

Today's the eve of Chinese New Year. Went to the Kampong Baru market in Bukit Mertajam this morning at 6.30am. more parking space around the market, so had to park by the roadside. But this is a relief, because it made driving back a breeze instead of having to endure the vehicular jam around the market's main building.

At 6.30am, the place was already bustling with activity. People making last-minute shopping, snatching up whatever foodstuff on display. Don't ever think of buying prawns. At RM80 per kilogramme, it's like eating cholesterol-laden gold. Luckily my family's not into prawns at Chinese New Year.

Anyway, here are some random snapshots of the market this morning:

Customers patiently waiting for their turns at the chicken stall

Roast pork or roast poultry, anyone?

Grabbing at veggies

Useless Penang Bridge cameras

What's the use of installing so many cameras at the Penang Bridge when they are of no use to people who want to check the traffic condition there? More pertinently, do the people in charge of the cameras aware that none of the cameras are working?

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Penang Bridge third lane may be partially opened

Since the beginning of this week, I've been noticing that the Butterworth end of the Penang Bridge expansion project was undergoing some significant changes: a short stretch of the road was being tarred.

And when I was whizzing home yesterday, I saw that motorists were already being allowed to drive on the third lane during the final half kilometre or so of the bridge. That's good news.

I'm only hoping that by tomorrow, the Penang Bridge authorities will do more by opening the third lane after the toll plaza. If they can allow motorists to drive on part of the third lane, it will definitely improve on the traffic flow at the bottleneck and give users a very welcomed Chinese New Year present!

UPDATE: Well, driving over the Penang Bridge this Friday morning at 6.30am, I see that there is potential for the stretch between the toll plaza and the 1.0KM mark to be opened. Only question is, when?? Anyway, the bridge authorities had reduced some long stretches of the bridge, particularly from the 5.0KM mark to the 7.2KM mark, from double lanes to a single lane this morning. Unless they remove the barriers soon, it'll be anyone's guess how much this will inconvenience motorists and contribute to this morning's jam.

A lesson from Barack Hussein Obama

When Barack Hussein Obama won the Democratic Party elections, I went: "All right"; when Obama won the United States presidential elections, I said to myself: "Okay". All a matter-of-fact acceptance that there would be a new guy in the White House.

But it was only after I watched the Obama oath-taking on 20 Jan 2009 that the significance finally struck me. it wasn't only Barack Obama standing on the podium taking the oath to be the most powerful man in the world.

It was more than that.

It showed the world that the United States could open up by electing a non-white American as its top executive. It showed the world that in the United States, their people could rise above race to choose the most capable man as its top executive. It showed the world that in the United States, it is possible that bigotry can fail. It showed the world that in the United States, supremacy of one race over another is a myth.

Now, if only this can also be recognised in other parts of the world with sizeable minority populations. Like here.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Harry Belafonte's Carnegie Hall vinyl records

Way back in December - I think it was around 20 Dec 2008 or so - I took part in a contest on the NYLVI website. It was a very simple contest. All I had to do was to place the NYLVI logo on my blog, link it to their website and then inform them. The prize? Five lucky winners would get a vinyl record of their choice.

Today, I received my prize through the post. All the way from the United States. I have to thank NYLVI for the prize. Greatly appreciated. All the weeks of waiting anxiously for the parcel to arrive because I would be going on leave soon. I went out for lunch and when I returned, my heart skipped a beat. A parcel was on my table and inside it, the Belafonte At Carnegie Hall double album.

As I write this entry, I'm listening to the album and I'm enjoying it immensely. It's a wonderful album which must be listened and appreciated. And although I've also a copy of Belafonte's performance on compact disc, there's nothing like listening to the richness of the sound on vinyl. Somehow, in spite of all the faint background pops and crackles, I felt the atmosphere was better, a warmer performance sonically, clearer even. There were differences between the album and compact disc. Additional tracks - Take My Mother Home, Man Piaba, All My Trials, Merci Bon Dieu - which were not available on the compact disc.

Getting my hands on this double album also means that I now own both of Belafonte's performances at that famed venue: At Carnegie Hall and Returns To Carnegie Hall. The latter was bought by my father. I'm only following his footsteps to appreciate one of the world's great folk singers.

NYLVI is a marketplace for buying and selling vinyl records, structured to reflect the world's major music scenes. NYLVI makes it possible for people to discover local music on vinyl in order to support local independent artists, labels and record stores. NYLVI is a service operated by FAV Labs, a Norwegian company co-founded by Henning Kjølgård, Ivar Lien, Thomas Stenumgård and George Graham on 1 Feb 2008.

Penang's Free WiFi launched

Sometimes, I think there are too many people in Penang who are bonkers. They see threats in everything. Like, for example, they see health threats from the Free WiFi service that has been launched in Penang despite there being no conclusive proof of dangers from such electro-magnetic waves. These are the people who should not own television sets, these are people who should demand that satellites be removed from the skies, these are the people who should not own microwave ovens, these are the people who should not own mobile telephone units, these are the people who should ship out and stay on a desert island.

Ha ha .... of course, I'm being a little irrelevant here. But seriously, I'm all for the Free WiFi service that the Penang government has been pushing through. And I hope to be at the Bukit Jambul Complex tomorrow to sign up for it. Free Wifi may not be available in Bukit Mertajam yet but I want to show the world - or at least, the bonkered ones in Penang - that I'm prepared for it and I'm embracing it wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The future's in the past

All I can say about this photo is that Israel has sown the seeds for the future.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Flying Penang to Macau

Not more than five minutes ago, I noticed on the AirAsia website that the low-cost airline has announced direct flights between Penang and Macau. Looks like there'll be three or four weekly flights between the two cities. Quick, visit AirAsia now to place your booking on the inaugural flight on 1 Mar 2009.

Li Chun, 2009

I'm no fengshui student, let alone an amateur fengshui practitioner, but when my aunt suddenly asked me last night about the coming Li Chun in 2009, I had to whip out my copy of Joey Yap's book, The Ten Thousand Year Calendar.

Li Chun is the time of the year when we Chinese observe the coming of Spring. It's a throwback to our ancestral practices in China. Like most overseas Chinese, we still observe the traditional Chinese customs, especially those that are still considered practical enough to practise. At Li Chun, my aunt would want to glue red paper with auspicious Chinese characters on the family rice bucket to signify abundance and luck for the coming Year Of The Ox.

Interestingly, Li Chun is one of three Chinese customs I know that falls on more or less the same dates every year. The other two are, of course, Cheng Beng and Tung Chek. There is a general misconception that the Chinese follow the lunar calendar. However, it's not true. Actually, we follow the solar calendar and Li Chun marks not only the beginning of Spring but is also considered as the official start of the New Year. That's why Li Chun always falls on the same date, the fourth of February.

commentThe first is, of course, the Winter Solstice or Tung Chek, which is celebrated with the glutinous rice balls in a light sugar syrup. Tung Chek is normally on 22 Dec every year unless it is a leap year when the observance is pushed to 21 Dec, like in 2008.

Similarly, Li Chun falls on a fixed date in the solar calendar. You just need to count 44 or 45 days from the Winter Solstice and there you have it, Li Chun. It marks the Coming Of Spring. This year, Li Chun will fall on 4 Feb 2009.

</!--->So why did I still have to whip out the Joey Yap book if Li Chun will be on 4 Feb 2009? It's because I needed to know the exact time when Li Chun starts: 00:51am, says the book. So I suppose my aunt will only be gumming the Chinese auspicious characters on our rice bucket at about 1am in the morning of 4 Feb. Here's what I wrote about Li Chun one year ago.

(Perhaps I should also add that Cheng Beng falls 60 days after Li Chun. It's either on 4 Apr or 5 Apr, depending on whether or not there is a leap day (29 Feb) in the Gregorian calendar. Similarly, count 321 days after Li Chun and it will be Tung Chek. Again, depending on the extra leap day in the Gregorian calendar, it's either on 21 Dec or 22 Dec.)

Ajahn Brahm's two bad bricks

Ajahn Brahmavamso's story of Two Bad Bricks from his book Who Ordered This Truckload Of Dung? is the inspirational story that human relationship should be built on. If you haven't read this book, the least you can do will be to read the story here.

"After we purchased the land for our monastery in 1983 we were broke. We were in debt. There were no buildings on the land, not even a shed. Those first few weeks we slept not on beds but on old doors we had bought cheaply from the salvage yard; we raised them on bricks at each corner to lift them off the ground. (There were no mattresses, of course — we were forest monks.)

"The abbot had the best door, the flat one. My door was ribbed with a sizeable hole in the center where the doorknob would have been. I joked that now I wouldn't need to get out of bed to go to the toilet! The cold truth was, however, that the wind would come up through that hole. I didn't sleep much those nights.

"We were poor monks who needed buildings. We couldn't afford to employ a builder — the materials were expensive enough. So I had to learn how to build: how to prepare the foundations, lay concrete and bricks, erect the roof, put in the plumbing — the whole lot. I had been a theoretical physicist and high-school teacher in lay life, not used to working with my hands. After a few years, I became quite skilled at building, even calling my crew the BBC ("Buddhist Building Company"). But when I started it was very difficult.

"It may look easy to lay a brick: a dollop of mortar underneath, a little tap here, a little tap there. But when I began laying bricks, I'd tap one corner down to make it level and another corner would go up. So I'd tap that corner down then the brick would move out of line. After I'd nudged it back into line, the first corner would be too high again. Hey, you try it!

"Being a monk, I had patience and as much time as I needed. I made sure every single brick was perfect, no matter how long it took. Eventually, I completed my first brick wall and stood back to admire it. It was only then that I noticed— oh no! — I'd missed two bricks. All the other bricks were nicely in line, but these two were inclined at an angle. They looked terrible. They spoiled the whole wall. They ruined it.

"By then, the cement mortar was too hard for the bricks to be taken out, so I asked the abbot if I could knock the wall down and start over again — or, even better, perhaps blow it up. I'd made a mess of it and I was very embarrassed. The abbot said no, the wall had to stay.

"When I showed our first visitors around our fledgling monastery, I always tried to avoid taking them past my brick wall. I hated anyone seeing it. Then one day, some three or four months after I finished it, I was walking with a visitor and he saw the wall.

" 'That's a nice wall,' he casually remarked.

" 'Sir,' I replied in surprise, 'have you left your glasses in your car? Are you visually impaired? Can't you see those two bad bricks which spoil the whole wall?'

"What he said next changed my whole view of that wall, of myself, and of many other aspects of life. He said, "Yes. I can see those two bad bricks. But I can see the 998 good bricks as well.'

"I was stunned. For the first time in over three months, I could see other bricks in that wall apart from the two mistakes. Above, below, to the left and to the right of the bad bricks were good bricks, perfect bricks. Moreover, the perfect bricks were many, many more than the two bad bricks. Before, my eyes would focus exclusively on my two mistakes; I was blind to everything else. That was why I couldn't bear looking at that wall, or having others see it. That was why I wanted to destroy it. Now that I could see the good bricks, the wall didn't look so bad after all. It was, as the visitor had said, 'a nice brick wall.' It's still there now, twenty years later, but I've forgotten exactly where those bad bricks are. I literally cannot see those mistakes any more.

"How many people end a relationship or get divorced because all they can see in their partner are 'two bad bricks'? How many of us become depressed or even contemplate suicide, because all we can see in ourselves are 'two bad bricks.' In truth, there are many, many more good bricks, perfect bricks — above, below, to the left and to the right of the faults — but at times we just can't see them. Instead, every time we look our eyes focus exclusively on the mistakes. The mistakes are all we see, they're all we think are there and so we want to destroy them. And sometimes, sadly, we do destroy a 'very nice wall.'

"We've all got our two bad bricks, but the perfect bricks in each one of us are much, much more than the mistakes. Once we see this, things aren't so bad. Not only can we live at peace with ourselves, inclusive of our faults, but we can also enjoy living with a partner. This is bad news for divorce lawyers, but good news for you.

"I have told this anecdote many times. After one occasion, a builder came up to me and told me a professional secret. 'We builders always make mistakes,' he said, 'But we tell our clients that it is "an original feature" with no other house in the neighborhood 1ike it. And then we charge them a couple of thousand dollars extra!'

"So the 'unique features' in your house probably started out as mistakes. In the same way, what you might take to be mistakes in yourself, in your partner, or in general, can become 'unique features,' enriching your time here — once you stop focusing on them exclusively."

Ajahn Brahm has been a monk for more than 30 years. He is now a revered spiritual guide and abbot of one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in the southern hemisphere. On 29 Oct 2006, the Bangkok Post wrote this about him: "His clerical name is Phra Brahmavamso. His official Buddhist title in the Thai ecclesiastical hierarchy is Phra Visutisangvornthera. But the UK-born monk is known internationally as Ajahn Brahm. And he likes it that way - short and simple. He likes his teachings to be that way too. Ajahn Brahm's accessible and practical teachings, delivered with a humorous touch, have won him an international following. Ordained for 32 years and trained under the late meditation master and forest monk Ajahn Chah, he is now abbot of the Bodhinyana Monastery in Australia."

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Little wee-wee

This is too good a picture to ignore. It's not mine; it belongs to TZ, a fellow blogger who is deep into photography, health and exercising, food and certain kinds of music (e.g. the type played by the Duke choir). I'm sure he won't mind me borrowing the photograph as long as the whole world knows that it came from his blog, 5 Elements Of My Life. Hey, there are other fabulous animal photos in his blog too but unfortunately, none as provoking as this!

One of our politicians deep in thought at par-wee-ment house

As usual, when I have monkeys portrayed on my blog, I'd like to dedicate such photos to the monkeys and sexist clowns that continue to make Parliament such an exasperating piece of nonsense.

Top of the table

I think I shall savour Manchester United's Top-Of-The-Table position for a day or two....

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Closet supporters?

Tonight, I found myself seated across the table from a former Penang state assemblyman from the Malaysian Chinese Association. More significantly, I became a witness to a reaction when news of a Pakatan Rakyat victory in the Kuala Terengganu by-election seeped in.

Two weeks ago when I accepted a dinner invitation from a friend - he always invite me to his dinner and he has been doing it for the past 10 years and so - I had never expected to be sitting at the main table. I had always tried to avoid sitting at the main table because it's so stifling. Anyway, I couldn't avoid it this year and I found myself amidst some Dato's for company. I wouldn't want to mention who they were but believe me, it's pretty uncomfortable being seated with them.

Then around 9 o'clock or thereabouts, one of the dinner guests received a text message and everyone around the former state assemblyman started getting excited. For a few seconds, there was a big guffaw from the former politician and they started laughing. Laughing boisterously, mind you, not giggling. Just as sudden as it happened, the moment passed.

Apparently, they had just learnt that the Pakatan Rakyat had beaten the Barisan Nasional in the by-election. Well, one of them commented, it would have been unthinkable if the Pakatan Rakyat candidate had lost.

Well, how would you interpret this? I, for one, would like to think that even among the ex-politicians who had lost out in last year's general election, there are some who may be closet supporters of the Pakatan Rakyat. It's just a passing impression that I got from the dinner. I may be wrong....

Fergie: Man City not a threat

"The one thing about Manchester United is that it doesn't matter what happens, you will always face a challenge. It doesn't matter where it comes from, you have to accept it. And you have to accept it because that is part of managing Manchester United."

Susan Polgar's blog

I've just discovered that a number of my chess stories appear in Susan Polgar's blog. The latest was eight days ago when I was talking about a never-been-tried (at least, here in Malaysia) concept where cash prizes are paid to the winners in every stage of a knock-out chess tournament.

Actually, I'm very flattered. Susan Polgar was the women's world chess champion from 1996 to 1999. In 1991, she was also the first women to earn the Grandmaster title from regular competition play. So for her to pick up some of my stories means that I'm turning cartwheels.

You can read this particular article in Susan Polgar's blog or The Star Online or my other blog, It's All In The Planning!

Friday, 16 January 2009

The money's in the bag!

Can money buy happiness and success? The Arabs seem to think so. The Sun newspaper in the United Kingdom has revealed the extent of money that Manchester City are willing to dish out for a player like Kaka, without knowing yet where to place him in the team.

So much money to spend on a single player during this troubled times, that it's practically insane and obscene! extravagant Arab billionaire throwing this amount of money away:
  • £108 million for AC Milan.
  • £108million for Kaka's wages, including taxes. How does a £255,000-a-week take-home pay sound like?
  • £27m in commission to brokers, middle-men and signing-on fees.
The deal's almost done, according to The Sun. Hah! I sure hope this doesn't turn out to be a foolhardy exercise in corporate or football flops - certainly not for Kaka or AC Milan who must be laughing their ways to the bank - but for Manchester City and their Arabian owner. Credit crunch? Perish the thought.

Kuala Terengganu by-election: less than 24 hours to go

With only less than 24 hours to go before voting begins in the Kuala Terengganu by-election, my colleagues and I were in the kopi tiam exchanging opinions on the possible outcomes on Saturday night. We agreed that coverage of the campaigning in the mainstream press was very much to be desired. There doesn't seem to be any brim and fire, only a low-key, tepid reporting which favoured the ruling party whichever way we looked at it.

But I was giving my opinion that we should see a victory for the Pakatan Rakyat. If there is too little news - biased or unbiased - in the mainstream press, there is a lot of coverage in the alternative press like The Malaysian Insider. Certainly too, the politically-biased blogs have been very active in reporting from the ground and exposing the excesses of the politics there. For example, blogs like The People's Parliament and Shanghai Fish are having a field day. And who doesn't know that Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) has been spending days on the ground to help with the campaign?

Of course, the danger of reading and accepting these blogs is that it's possible their news are skewed too. But the views they give are seemingly closer to the people's sentiment in Kuala Terengganu. In any case, the absence of any real reporting in the mainstream media gives me no choice.

So like all other Malaysians with a passing interesting in the political developments in this country, I await the voters' decision on Saturday night.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Recession: A tale of three experts

On 14 Jan, The Malaysian Insider picked up a story from Singapore which quoted Citigroup saying that Malaysia may slip into a technical recession in the first quarter of 2009. Recent economic data, according to Citigroup, suggests that the prospects for growth are rapidly weakening and in fact, there is an off chance the country is already in a technical recession.

On the same day, The Malaysian Insider reported that the Rating Agency Malaysia (RAM), the country’s leading credit rating service, has joined Citigroup in predicting a technical recession for the country in the first and second quarters. RAM’s chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng said, however, that domestic demand could help offset the decrease in exports.

And then, one day later, The Malaysian Insider said that the government is sticking to its forecast of slight economic growth this year and disputes claims made by several analysts that the country is already in recession. "From the government’s standpoint, we are not in a technical recession. Our figures still showed growth. The government’s announcements are based on evidence. There are so many gurus and so many articles out there now. But the picture has to become very clear," says Muyhiddin Yassin, who is the minister of international trade and industry.

Oh yes, the picture has to become very clear. Unfortunately, the crystal balls are all fogged up right now. But we shall soon see who is right and who is wrong.

Short video on Penang

Have you seen this video? It's impressive. If you haven't seen it before, just click on it to play this 3:30-minute promotional video on Penang, the Pearl Of The Orient.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Red Devils in KL on 26 July 2009

Well, it has been announced. Manchester United fans in Malaysia will be in for a treat this July when the Red Devils come a-calling again. And this time, let there be no more hiccup! I'll be waiting for 26 July 2009 to come by.

Straits Settlements

One of my early fascinations in life was with the heraldic coat of arms. I think it began in 1974 or 1975 when I had a small part - a very small part - to play in the design of the Chess Association of Selangor's logo. I remember being very impressed with the amount of detail and description put in by Prof Dr Lau Kam Seng of the Universiti Hospital (he was the CAS president at that time and soon afterwards, he migrated to Australia).

Later, I was to design the emblem for the Penang Chess Association. I even proposed a description for the emblem in the spirit of heraldry but a bright spark in the association objected and wanted a simpler description. Nevertheless, the badge is still being used today although in the 1990s, I introduced a minor change and the headgear of the central chess piece - the King in the game of chess - now sports a slightly different look.

Therefore, you can guess the extent of my excitement when I finally learnt of the original coat of arms of the City of George Town. Yesterday, I did a bit more search on the Internet and I found something else: the coat of arms of the Straits Settlements.

But you know what? I had always thought that the Straits Settlements comprised only Penang (the island and the mainland), Malacca and Singapore. So I was a bit surprised to learn that the Straits Settlements (1826 to 1946) also included, to a lesser extent, the Dindings region in Perak, the island of Labuan in British Borneo, and both the Cocos/Keeling Islands and Christmas Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

According to Wikipedia, the Dindings consisted of some islands near the mouth of the Perak River and a small piece of territory on the adjoining mainland. They were ceded by Perak to the British government under the Pangkor Treaty of 1874. Originally, it was hoped that the Dindings' excellent natural harbour would prove to be valuable but it never turned out that way. The Dindings proved to be a disappointment and its administration was returned to Perak. Today, the Dindings is the district of Manjung.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

I thank all my 30,000 visitors

Ahhh....I arrived home just in time to welcome the 30,000th visitor to my blog. Did it take almost a year to reach this personal landmark? Of course, it's just a drip of water in the whole blogosphere but I'm thankful that there are people who are interested enough to read the blog. I've to thank all the 30,000 nameless visitors.

BTW, the 30,000th visitor came in via my blog entry, A short story: A tailor and his needle, at 7.22pm.

The New York Times' top 44 places to go in 2009

Thanks to a friend's alert, I visited this online page of The New York Times and saw their recommendations for the top 44 places to go in 2009. I couldn't believe that listed somewhere amidst all the thumbnails was a picture of Penang.

Yes, Penang is recommended by The New York Times as one of the most compelling destinations. The NY Times also allows readers to cast their votes; so it may be worth your while to do your bit for Penang and see how the readers' recommendations turn out to be.

According to The New York Times, "Adventurous foodies are turning to Penang, the culinary capital of Malaysia, where they are eating their way through one of southeast Asia's liveliest street food scenes."

Don't wait .... just click here and go vote for Penang now!

Also from Frommers: "Penang is unique in Malaysia because, for all intents and purposes, Penang has it all. Tioman Island may have beaches and forests, but it has no shopping or historical sights to speak of. And although Malacca has historical sights and museums, it hasn't a grain of decent sand. Penang has all of it: fun beaches, beautiful resorts, rich history, diverse culture, and delicious food. If you only have a short time to visit Malaysia but want to take in as wide an experience as you can, Penang is a good choice."

Tongues a-wagging again?

Will this set off tongues wagging again? Will we see another round of speculation? Here's a photo of three politicians from both sides of the political divide at the official opening of the new slip road that connects the North-south Expressway to the Tesco Extra hypermarket in Seberang Jaya.

Left to right: State exco member Phee Boon Poh, Seberang Jaya state assemblyman Arif Shah Omar Shah, Province Wellesley Municipal Council president Farizan Darus, state JKR director Shahawai Awang, Chief minister Lim Guan Eng and Tesco Malaysia chief operating officer David Hobbs
BTW, the Tesco Extra hypermarket in Seberang Jaya is impressively large. It used to house the Makro Cash and Carry store but when Makro was taken over by Tesco, the old building was pulled down and a new one erected. It's by far the best of the Tesco hypermarkets I've seen in Penang. Worth a visit.