Saturday, 28 February 2009

Tattered flag, tattered country

In slightly more than a week's time, it will be one year since the last General Election. It was an election of great significance to Malaysia because for the first time, the opposition Pakatan Rakyat was successful in capturing five states and denying the Barisan Nasional a two-thirds control of Parliament.

But what has happened in the one year since the election? The worsening global economy shows no sign of improvement and yet, the Barisan Nasional-led federal government is in great delay over its effect on the country. A wise university professor once said that delay was the deadiliest form of denial. So it is. In this case, the Barisan Nasional politicians, hell bent on regaining control of the states they have lost, are simply not paying enough attention to the crisis. On the hand, the Pakatan Rakyat politicians are equally pre-occupied on taking control at the federal level. This leaves the ordinary folks as the victims of their politicking: ordinary folks who are caught in between the devil and the deep blue see, and finding it difficult to make an honest living as jobs are affected by the economic downturn.

There are only three words that I can think of to describe the outcome of the politics in this land: Malaysia In Tatters. This phrase came to mind yesterday evening as I was returning from my regular hike up the Bukit Mertajam hill. As I was waiting to cross the busy road, my eyes strayed to this flagpole and the flag that was fluttering. Yes, the flag was torn and tattered. And my country too is torn and tattered. Such a poignant reflection of Malaysian politics. Here's another useful phrase for you: Bugger The Politicians!

At the same time, I just want to mention that it takes a brave and exasperated man to articulate the desperation of the people to the public. On Thursday, businessman Anas Zubedy took out a full page advertisement in The Star to swipe at the two warring sides and asking them to put aside their differences and work towards pulling the country out of the economic mess.

“Someone has to give in. Take the nation to heart. That's why you are in politics in the first place. Focus on the people. Focus on the economy,” he appealed to them.

“Whether Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat leads is meaningless if Malaysians have no job to go to, no money to pay rent and no means to put food on the table. Pakatan Rakyat, please stop your attempts to take over the federal government and just let go. The nation can wait until the next general election if they want change. Barisan Nasional, please stop any attempts to take over PR states and win over PR lawmakers. You have proved your point with Perak. The nation can wait for the next general election if they want your party.”

Anas Zubedy, I truly respect you for your action and effort. While I can only hope that the politicians will take heed of your plea, do you really think that they will? A vicous streak of head strong stubbornness runs through our political system. When do you think they'll even stop to listen to themselves, must less us, much less you, much less I?

Friday, 27 February 2009

Hot java

Will you join me today for a delicious cup of hot thick local coffee?

McNair Street

McNair Street ... a stone's throw from the old historical market - now foreceably abandoned - in Prangin Road (or Sia Boey, as the Penang Hokkiens would call the place). This road has seen better days. The rows of pre-war houses here are in a bad shape. However, this little altar outside one of the decrepit houses suggests that people are still staying in it.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Going mad

Whose fault is it that they cannot face up to reality? Is it the teacher's fault? Or was it the federal government's fault in the first place? Yes, by all means, please promote the national language but at the same time too, we cannot avoid that the world is getting smaller and everyone needs a common language to converse whether in the fields of business, academia or whatever.

In my opinion, the teachers were the victims of past governments bent on nationalistic ideals but see where those ideals have led to: a half-past six grasp of the English language, the lingua franca of the world. I know it's a struggle for teachers such as these but looking at the bigger picture, don't let small difficulties stop our children from seeking their rightful places in this world. It's their future at stake now. If we reverse the decision to teach science and mathematics in English, I fear we'll just be doing a greater injustice to the country than before.

Road toll rates increasing on Sunday

It is so ironic that a day after the DAP had proposed a way for the Federal Government to turn the North-South Expressway toll-free by 2016, the Works Ministry announces that the toll rates for travelling on this very expressway will be going up on 1 Mar 2009. That's just three days away!

I am so bloody disappointed that the government is allowing this to happen. Of course, they have their excuses. It smacks of poor governance by the people in power and it suggests greediness by highway concessionaires who wants to continue squeezing people during the economic downturn.

It's not only the North-South Expressway that we'll see a toll rate increase. The others will be the New Klang Valley Expressway, Federal Highway Route 2, New Pantai Expressway, Sungai Besi Highway and the Damansara and Kerinchi links of the Sprint highway.

And who are these concessionaires? PLUS Expressways Bhd, IJM Corp Bhd and Lingkaran Trans Kota Holdings Bhd (Litrak). Blood suckers!

North Malaysia Internet User Group

Over lunch yesterday, I was talking with a colleague about the good old Internet days, long before TMNet came into the picture. Before TMNet, there was JARING, and while JARING still exists today, their services are now totally overshadowed by TMNet's Streamyx. But way back in the mid-1990s, JARING was the main window to cyberspace. At that time, the use of cyberspace was mainly confined to emails, mailing lists, newsgroups, file transfer protocol, gopher and telnet. Surfing the world wide web came later.

I cannot recall when exactly I had my JARING account. It could have been in 1992 or 1993. In those days, it was so difficult to even sign up to JARING. In the application form, I had to give reasons why I needed an account and I had to ask my senior manager at Ban Hin Lee Bank to confirm that I was a staff there. You can imagine the questions I was asked when an inquisitive and suspicious manager wanted to know what JARING was and why I needed it. Today, as long as you can afford to pay, you don't need to ask anyone's approval to get an Internet connection.

The cyberspace community in those days was very small and closely knitted. Almost everyone in the community in Penang knew one another. Somehow, when a new JARING member came on board, we would know. In 1994, we decided to have a first face-to-face meeting at the YMCA. We called ourselves members of the North Malaysia Internet User Group although I can't understand why we adopted the acronym NOMIS instead of NOMIG.

Anyway, it made no difference to the people in the user group. We agreed to hold regular meetings to exchange ideas and more often than not, we used the facilities at the Universiti Sains Malaysia to get connected to their "always on" 64kbps line and surf. In those days, a 64kbps line was a Big Thing for us dial-up users to get excited about.

I'm writing this because my colleague and I were wondering where all the NOMIS people have gone. Through time, the NOMIS group dispersed once the Internet became more popular, commercialised and accessible. But in my office today, I can still count on Mark Chang, Ted Targosz and Teoh Eng Soon in my NOMIS fellowship ring.

The ones that I still keep in touch with are Jeffrey Chew, Palaniappan, Andy Yeoh, Eddy Lim and Nanis. Once in a long while, I still bump into NK Lim, Hans Choong and two of my old pals, Lim Kean Chuan and Tan Wooi Tong. But as for people like Gerald Tan, Goh Swee Hem and a host of many others, I wonder where they are now.

[UPDATE: Ted suggested that NOMIS could mean the North Malaysia Internet Society. That may be correct but I would still dispute the use of the word "society" as it implies a properly constituted and registered body which we were not.]

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

TMNet's Internet service sucks big

As far as I'm concerned, TMNet users are getting a very raw deal. Doesn't matter whether it's their "broadband" or dial-up service, it's lousy. For about a week already, I've been experiencing bad connections to some websites. Especially, getting through to my emails on Yahoo! was terrible. Even my wife complains about the (lack of) speed of the connection. Although she's not even a regular surfer, she notices the drag.

And then yesterday, after days of complete silence, TMNet finally issues a statement saying there has been a disruption to their Internet services since 18 Feb due to "circuit faults on the Asia Pacific Cable Network 2 (APCN2) between Malaysia and the United States." Why can't they announce it faster? That's very efficient of TMNet, isn't it?

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Bicycle repairs

I have two old bicycles at home. For years, they've been lying around the porch gathering dust and rust because my son and daughter didn't want to use them any more. And in recent weeks I had been toying with rehabilitating them so that my wife and I can ride around the neighbourhood. So I had given them a thorough wash about a week ago and yesterday, went to the local hardware shop to buy a can of WD40. My friend Eric swears by this stuff. He claims it can clean and lubricate just about anything in the world.

So I gave the can of WD40 a try. On my son's bicycle, it went onto the front brake calipers to loosen the grit. In this picture, you can see the before and the after effects of using the lubricant on the lop-sided calipers. World of a difference. The moving parts no longer stick and the brake pads no longer brush permanently against the wheel's rim. The lubricant also went onto the other moving parts, especially the chain and the gear sets.

Finally, I tried to raise the bicycle's seat. I felt it was too low for me. When I was riding a bicycle to school a very long time ago, I liked my seat to be raised up high. So I tried to do the same with this one. However, it was a challenge because no matter how hard I tried to loosen the nut and bolt which held the seat in place, it just couldn't be removed. Yes, the bolt turned perfectly well but it just couldn't move forward or backwards. I used spanners, pliers, screw-drivers but nothing worked. I got so fed up that I gave the end of the bolt a hefty whack with the hammer and then....I felt the nut engaged on the thread. Seizing the moment, I quickly re-applied the spanners and gently turned it and voila! The nut came off.

As I had suspected earlier, part of the bolt's thread had been sheared off. It was so smooth that it wasn't any wonder that the nut could turn effortlessly around the bolt without tightening or coming off. I inserted a new bolt and nut, readjusted the seat's height, tightened the nut and okay, it's time to give this bicycle a spin around the neighbourhood.

I haven't finished with this bicycle yet. I've to find a way to eliminate the squeals totally when I apply the brakes hard. It's already an improvement that the squeals are so much softer but there must be a way to remove them. Also, I must search for a better seat or at least find some cushion or padding. My crouch hurts. Ouch!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Stretching the imagination

I was just passing by the television set when I stopped to watch a particular segment of Gourmet Hunt on the Asian food video bible. Sorry, I mean the Asian Food Channel. But it's true ... the Asian Food Channel is fast becoming the Asian food video bible. Or maybe it already is. And as usual on this channel, there are lots of programmes on food in Singapore. I've got nothing against the Singaporeans but anyone naive enough would think that Singapore is the food capital of Asia after watching the food propaganda on this channel. How far, far from it. Okay, I know that Singapore has some fantastic local eateries if you know where to look for them or have friends and relatives who can take you there. But by and large, capital of the Universe? Ha ha ha....please stop tickling me!

So back to this show on the Asian Food Channel. This segment was going on and on about steamboat dinners in Singapore and in particular, this restaurant serving steamboat the traditional way. With burning charcoal in the centre of the steamboat pot instead of the more convenient gas-fired one.

I got one impression after following the show for five minutes: it doesn't take much to excite the average Singaporean's taste buds. I don't know how long ago this segment was filmed but I don't seem to be find anything enthusiastic about this Hainan Kitchen when I googled it. Anyway, the proprietor of this joint was saying that his clients love the traditional charcoal pot because it excited them to see the sparks and the flames. Wow....sparks and flames from steamboat pots are excitement to the Singaporeans. Then, he went on to say that many of his clients prefer to dine in the open field instead of indoors because it gives them a sense of adventure. Yes, indeed...eating in fields is adventurous to the Singaporeans. Unfortunately, I couldn't stomach more revelations from this man and I walked away from my living room.

By the way, there are restaurants in Penang which still serve charcoal-fired steamboat dinners. They are likely to put the Singaporean stuff to shame.

And while I'm still on the topic of food and the Asian Food Channel, I'm wondering why our tourism people in Penang cannot work more with the Asian Food Channel to promote Penang hawker fare? Unlike Singapore, we don't have to turn to our little nooks and cranies on the island or mainland to find delicious hawker food. If Singapore with its so-so food fare can promote themselves, why can't Penang be promoted as the last word in local hawker fare? After all, even The New York Times seems to agree that we are!

Friday, 20 February 2009

A life too brief

Exactly three weeks ago, my wife received a telephone call to inform us that a close family friend - a young married lady, only 31 years old - had passed away in a motor accident in Johor. Both she and her husband were driving from Nilai to Johor Bahru near the 173.9km stretch of the North-South Expressway when the car slammed into the metal divider. The force of the impact caused one end of the divider to swing out and impale the back row of the car. Although the metal divider missed them and the air-bags were inflated, the lady suffered major internal injuries. She never regained consciousness and passed away a few hours later.

Needlessly to say, we were very shocked to hear the news. My wife had known this young lady ever since she was just six months old. When we were all still staying in Seberang Jaya, this lady's parents used to send her and her younger brother to my in-laws' house for day-care. To my in-laws, the young girl and boy were treated like their own children. And consequently, their parents became very close to my in-laws. The family moved to the island maybe about 15 years ago but every Chinese New Year, the now grown-up girl and boy still called on my in-laws, travelling all the way to Simpang Ampat.

Audrey Lim Suyin married about two years ago. Of course, we were at her marriage. I could see that she was happiest to see my in-laws and the feeling was mutual. My mother-in-law was so proud to see her married off. Then, of course, this tragedy had to happen. Last Sunday, we visited her parents and brother at their house in Tanjung Tokong. Though they were still numbed with grief, they had already accepted that their daughter had left them forever. My in-laws had to accept that too, that one of two persons outside our immediate family that they really cared about was gone forever.

I've just found the above picture from among my computer files. That's Suyin with her husband, Sim, and her brother, Kuong Lim, together with my in-laws.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Mobile Internet

This is literally taking the concept of mobile Internet one step further. The next time you are in a RapidPenang bus that's whizzing through the state, you may be able to whip out your mobile device to surf the Internet or check on your emails.

I just saw a news item in theSun yesterday that said that all the RapidPenang buses will be decked with free WiFi facility by June this year.

How they will do it, well, I shall leave the technical details to them. The devil's in the details. All I can say is, congratulations to the people running RapidPenang. If they can pull it off - without another chorus of protests from well-meaning but self-deceived activists and concerned citizens, of course - it will be another step forward towards making Penang a totally wirelessly wired state.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Power of the mind

The power of the mind surprises me. I had never thought that I could experience it but I did. What happened was that for the second time in a month, after having had a random, fleeting thought about someone whom I'd not met in a long while, I would soon meet him shortly afterwards.

Before the Chinese New Year holidays, the name of an old chess friend that I had not met for about 10 years came to my mind. He's still with Singapore Airline but he was back for the holidays. I bumped into him at the Kuan Yin temple in Pitt Street.

And today at tiffin, I met an ex-colleague from my Ban Hin Lee Bank days at a coffee shop in Bukit Jambul. He's still in the Information Technology line but I haven't seen him for about four years. His name had suddenly crossed my mind about a week ago.

Strange that I could meet them under such extraordinary circumstances. More than a coincidence?

Marking their territories

I was at the food court in Bayan Baru this morning. It's so interesting to see that humans can be such territorial animals. There seems to be invisible lines drawn all over the floor of the food court, ones that cannot be seen by us mere mortals who go there to eat but clearly visible to the owners of the drinks stalls and their staff who prey on the customers.

If you sit at certain tables, then only certain people who own that little invisibly-marked territory will come to ask you what you want. Others wouldn't be able to cross the dividing line. But would you, as a customer, know? Of course, not!

An extreme case: I saw a big group of people joining up three tables so that they could be seated together. Unfortunately these three tables crossed into two territories. They had to order their drinks separately from two stalls.....

Actually, this is not an uncommon phenomenon. As long as there are several similar stalls selling the same stuff within close proximity, there's bound to be such territorial claims. I've seen ugly scenes erupt at the Kampung Baru market in Bukit Mertajam too. Rival stall owners at odds with each other, not afraid to argue or quarrel over intrusions into rival territories. All for a cup of kopi-oh.

I really wonder how they marked their territories. Do they do like the dogs do, in the dead of night??

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Fergie talking five?

Two months ago after Manchester United had won the Club World Cup, I had already been thinking that this is the opportunity to think about achieving the unique quintuple.

A few days ago, news writers in the UK started warming to the same idea too, like this story in the Manchester Evening News.

But before the idea gets out of hand - especially with Alex Ferguson himself - I hope the team will take things one step at a time. It's still a long time to go until May and there's no need to set lofty targets, just in case Murphy's Law suddenly comes into play....

Friday, 13 February 2009

Mold on my gold

That's how some of my old vinyl records looked like after years in the store room: mold and dirt on the surface. Condition looks bad but luckily, they can be rescued with a spot of wet cleaning. Dry cleaning doesn't work so don't be fooled by websites that promote dry cleaners like carbon fibre bristle brushes. At best, they are good enough only to loosen the grit from the bottom of the grooves. You need to remove the grit and grime, not drive them deeper into the grooves and for this, only wet cleaning is possible.

I don't use any of these expensive modern record-cleaning contraptions to clean my soiled records. They are supposed to work very well in removing the dirt as well as the pops and crackles on the record. But they are darn expensive. I would suppose a unit like this will easily set me back by at least RM2,000. And all I'll get is a motorised turntable, an applicator for the wash solution and a vacuum arm to suck up all the grimy dirt. That's all it's meant to do.

Since I don't have a need for one of these VPI, Nitty Gritty or AcousTech machines, what can I do to clean my records as an alternative? I make my own from stuff that you can find from any hardware store, supermarket and some pharmacies. The revolving base for my record is just a circular cut-out piece of car rubber mat resting on a round wooden chopping board and a lazy susan. You know the lazy susan? Restaurants employ it a lot to revolve the dishes in the centre of the dining table. Very useful. Anyway, this is how my revolving base looks like. The rubber mat grips the record perfectly.

Where previously I used to run my records through the tap and cleaning them with a wet rag, I now use a home-made cleaning kit that consists of a bottle of wash solution, a broad brush with fine soft bristles, cotton swabs and a velvet drying cloth.

First, I make my own wash solution from a 1:3 mix of iso-propyl alcohol and distilled water to which I add several drops of dishwasher surfactant. Then, after spraying a thin layer of this solution on the surface of a record, I'd gently scrub the surface with the broad brush to loosen the dirt in the grooves. Next, using some non-woven cotton swabs, I would carefully clean the surface as I rotate the record manually on my revolving base. The dirt gets picked up and you can see the fine grime on the swab. Finally, I use a piece of velvet cloth to dry the record thoroughly. Repeat for the other side and ta-dah....I now get a perfectly cleaned record for my Rega Planar 3 turntable!

The cotton swab works like a charm and you'll be surprised how much dirt can be removed with it. Here's a picture from one of my attempts. Don't get me wrong...this IS the dirt on the cotton swab, not a used sanitary pad.

As a final word, I always transfer my cleaned records to a new plastic anti-static inner sleeve. It's always a good habit to do this. I wouldn't want to transfer the dirt, dust and spores from the old inner sleeve to the record again.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The lights of George Town, from Kek Lok Si

Just one more picture to share, taken from the Kek Lok Si carpark vantage point overlooking George Town. That tiny dot of light in the centre was from a short fireworks display. Meanwhile, the moon was already high in the sky about 40 minutes into the start of the lunar eclipse. The moon looked bright in the picture because this was a long timed exposure. In reality, it was starting to get just a little blurry as it moved into the earth's shadow.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Kek Lok Si on Chap Goh Meh

Okay, this is really about Chap Goh Meh, no two ways about it, but written two days late! Photos were taken at the Kek Lok Si temple at Ayer Itam on Monday evening. Nothing much to write about, except that crowd was thin and the Chinese New Year lights were beautiful.

Oh yes, seems that almost everything must pay nowadays: RM2 to park the car, RM2 per person to go to the pagoda, RM5 to ring a bell and RM4 per person to ride the short rail car up to the Kuan Yin statue (which we didn't do because we were late for some other function). Luckily, they didn't charge us to use the washroom!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Chinese new year: "Chap Sah Meh"

Chap Sah Meh. No such thing as Chap Sah Meh (13th night) like there's no Chap See Meh night; I'm only pulling your leg. My wife and I attended a little community function last night on Chap Sah Meh in celebration of Chinese New Year. Organised by the Rukun Tetangga, there were about 200 people - from the very young to the senior citizens. As you can see from these pictures, it was a real fun event that culminated in a short fireworks display.

You may need to click on the photo above to see a bigger version of what went on at the function. Of course, it wouldn't be complete without people singing on stage. I have to admit that these people have the guts to go display their talents up there. I wouldn't be able to do so.

I was aiming my mobile phone carelessly and caught this group of Malays at the Chinese New Year function. Dunno whether they enjoyed the atmosphere or not, but the food was a great hit with them. Anyway, a few of the more daring ones went on stage to sing as well! Maybe not the ladies, but the men.

Another panoramic shot captured with the in-built camera on my mobile phone. Quality is terrible but it was the best I could do with under the circumstances. Click on the photo and you'll see more detail.

Sorry again, ah, another poor shot with the mobile's camera. Nevertheless, this was the highlight of the evening.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Unity in Penang government

(Photograph taken on 6 Feb 2009)
Standing (left to right): Liew Chin Tong (Bukit Bendera), Jason Ong Khan Lee (Kebun Bunga), Lau Keng Ee (Pengkalan Kota), Michael Tan Cheong Heng (Padang Lalang), Koid Teng Guan (Sungai Pinang), Tan Hock Leong (Machang Bubuk), Tan Beng Huat (Jawi), Jagdeep Singh Deo (Datuk Kramat), Sanisvara Nethaji Rayer (Seri Delima), Jeff Ooi (Jelutong), Raveentharan (Batu Uban), Yeoh Soon Hin (Paya Terubong), Maktar (Sungai Bakap), Koay Teng Hai (Pulau Tikus), Ng Wei Aik (Komtar), Ong Chin Wen (Bukit Tengah), Teh Yee Cheu (Tanjung Bunga)

Seated (left to right): Danny Law Heng Kiang (Batu Lanchang), Lim Hock Seng (Bagan Jermal), Abdul Malik (Batu Maung), Mohammad Fairus (Penanti), Lim Guan Eng (Air Putih), Chow Kon Yeow (Padang Kota), Mohd Hamdan (Permatang Pasir), Law Choo Kiang (Bukit Tambun), Lydia Ong Kok Fooi (Berapit), Wong Hon Wai (Air Itam)
Not in picture: Ramasamy (Perai), Sim Tze Tzin (Pantai Jerejak), Phee Boon Poh (Sungai Puyu), Tanasekharan (Bagan Dalam)
Understood that Ramasamy and Sim were in Kuala Lumpur, Phee was overseas while Tanasekharan left before this photo was taken to attend another meeting

Perak: A right royal mess

Developments in the past few days have left me rather bewildered. What was going on in our southern neighbouring state? Tumultuous upheavals that were leaving the people in Perak angry like they've never been before. Accusations and counter-accusations flying all around. People claiming allegiance to new political masters without a care to responsibility or consequences. One intrigue after another that would have gained the respect of any producer from the Shaw Brothers movie studios in Hongkong decades ago.

Was I angry? Of course, I was angry. Why shouldn't I be angry when I see politicians and the common people occupying themselves with power play when they should be paying more attention to the sad economic state of the nation. For goodness sake, there are economic uncertainties and people are losing their jobs; yet here they are, the politicians plotting and counter-plotting on besting their political enemies. Sadly too, in the process, the people are drawn into the plots like moths to a flame.

Was I angry? Darn, yes I was. So darn far removed from the drama and yet, I was angry. Needless to say, some of my friends were angry too. But of course, our anger were all different. Although all were directed in the same direction, the reasons could never be the same.

But last night as I laid down in the darkness, I reflected on the whole mess. My thought processes are still jumbled up but the gist is here:

1. From the very beginning, politics is a very dirty game. Politics is a numbers game where control is vested in the hands of the majority. Therefore, when it comes to time for the elections, there is a scramble to find enough candidates to stand in the seats because winning a seat brings a political party closer to forming a majority. Never mind the quality, never mind the background, never mind their integrity, just find the candidates. On a large scale, politicians in the Barisan ruling parties jostled for power during the run-up to last year's General Elections. There were more than enough greedy candidates for the parties because being chosen would have meant half their political goals won, half their journey's reached towards their personal political agenda. On the opposition parties' side, jostling was on a much smaller scale because not being in power meant an uphill task with little financial resources and, also to a great extent, lack of willing or qualified candidates. I don't envy the opposition's leadership. They had so much stacked against them before the elections. Maybe after the elections too. The real jostling emerged later when the realisation came that, hey, my party has suddenly won and we have the political power to do something.

2. People were dissatisfied with the ruling parties in the run-up to the last general elections. Problems were ignored, not attempted to resolve. Covert threats were issued and wedges driven to divide people instead of bringing them together. No wonder the people were getting disheartened when they could see that the ruling parties were closing their eyes and ignoring the rising discontentment. No wonder that people started leaning towards electing an alternative government. During the campaign period in many parts of the country, the opposition parties could see that change could be a real possibility. People were talking of voting for the party instead of voting for the candidates. In such a situation, I think anyone could have represented the opposition and won. Heck, Mickey Mouse could have won the election if he were a Malaysian candidate! But after the elections, it was too late to select better candidates (because there were none). The opposition had to make do with who they have.

3. Many of the opposition candidates were obviously unqualified when they were selected by their parties. Oh yes, they knew how to make noise on the ground but that was all. They didn't have any real political experience of doing things. They were selected because they were visible and they were vocal. Besides, nobody else wanted to be case they had lost. But as I said, Mickey Mouse could have been picked and won a seat in Parliament or a State Assembly. Whose fault was it anyway? The candidate's fault? Or the party's fault? Or the electorate's fault?

4. So what happened after they were elected? Being new to the game and faced with a situation never experienced before, the elected representatives looked at one another and tried their best to come up with their teams to head the state executive councils. Of course, the senior party leadership could claim the top spoils first followed by their second and third tier members. Those who could not become part of the Exco were, at least, still state assemblymen. It was a unique position for both the seasoned and overnight politicians. They never thought they could become part of the governing side. Where once they criticised the old ruling party, they are now the new ruling party. Instead of giving criticisms, they now have to take criticisms. A whole new ball game. Unfortunately too, we've all heard of that adage, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absulutely." Luckily, we are not at the second stage yet. Nevertheless, power does corrupt. And personal greed does come into the picture. A lot of personal greed. "What's in it for me?" seems to be the common thread connecting many of them. Now part of the governing side, the opportunities for corruption opened up like never before and yes, it was sooner rather than later that we heard that two of the new Pakatan Rakyat state assemblymen (state exco members, some more!) in Perak had been charged with corruption. I'm not saying that this wouldn't have happened to any Barisan state assemblyman; most probably if the opportunity presented itself, any of the assemblymen would have equally succumbed easily too.

5. But the fact remained that corruption always exist in any political structure. The only difference is whether you are smart enought to be found out or not. When you are dealing with likely opportunists, they can well turn out to be embarrassments. In the first place, they arose from scraping the bottom of the political barrel to select the best from among the worst to stand in an election where Mickey Mouse would have won because people voted for the party symbol instead of the candidate representing the symbol. And these two buggers, having been found out and charged with corruption where upon conviction they most probably have to surrender all their privileges and possibly be disqualified from their elected positions, they were most vulnerable to enticements from the other side. What did these scums hope for? That their charges would be dropped or no case could be made against them? Good luck to them and good riddance to bad rubbish. And good luck too to their new political masters for wanting them with open arms. Let's wait and see.

6. I'm not going to say much about the crossings over and the re-crossing over of the crossed over that led to the downfall of an elected government, but to echo calls that there should be a law to prevent this. This is not the first time that it has happened but it couldn't have happend at a worse time. We should be more engrossed with efforts to pull ourselves out from the economic downturn rather than have attention diverted to politics. It's how you want to use your time. But unfortunately, it's difficult to focus on the economy where we'll have to shed honest sweat for the money than focus on some political shenanigans where we simply have to feel outraged, stand in the hot sun or pouring rain and shout slogans.

7. People say the Perak Sultan was wrong in asking Pakatan Menteri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin to resign and asking Zambry Abdul Kadir to be the new Barisan Menteri Besar. People say that Azlan Shah was wrong in his numbers game, that the three crossed over frogs from the PKR and DAP had already resigned from their elected positions. But as I was quietly reflecting on this in the dark last night, I kept asking myself would Azlan Shah - possessor of one of the sharpest legal minds in the country - be wrong? As a former Lord President of this country, wouldn't he be aware of the laws of this country, of the past decisions in the courts? Maybe he still has a stack of law books and law material stuck up somewhere in his palace for reference. Maybe he knew that the three resignation letters signed by the three frogs wouldn't stand up in any court of law. I'm only guessing this much. Maybe knowing that the resignation letters would be deemed invalid anyway, he pre-empted the issue by concluding that the frogs were still sitting assemblypersons and yes, there's no hung State Assembly with any vacated seat and yes, the Barisan folks could now command a simple majority. However, I'd like you to read this very interesting opinion piece too. It's something about the Sultan disregarding the integrity of the frogs.

Yup, this is how I see it. Falling back on his legal knowledge, Azlan Shah has made a clinical decision like a Federal Court judge would have made his. Whether we like it or not. There's nothing more to be said or done about the decision. A coup d'etat fait accompli. We can't expect him to change his mind. No more avenues for appeal. One thing was certain, though. He misjudged the mood of the people of Perak. And the reactions of the past few days? I'm sure he has been surprised by those too....

Thursday, 5 February 2009

For want of a nail...

A Nursery Rhyme explaining consequences:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Brang? Brang? What's brang?

Many people will agree with me that Hot August Night is a mighty fine album. Neil Diamond performing live at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles way back in 1972. At first, I was hesitant to buy this album in the 1970s but after giving it a spin or two, was I glad that I did. The songs in this double album were among the best that you'd ever hear from him. They evoked a lot of memories and took me through a wide range of moods: from happiness to sadness. But at the end of the day, they gave me pure listening pleasure.

The only blemish was that as a songwriter, Diamond occasionally took liberties with the language. Nothing stood out more than in Play Me in which he wrote and sang:
Song she sang to me
Song she brang to me
Words that rang in me
Rhyme that sprang from me
Brang? What sort of a word is that? Okay, he was trying to find a word that rhymed with sang, rang and sprang, but ... brang? Brang, brang, brang, brang, brang? Now I know. If ever I'm stymied myself, I'll just use him as a role model and come out with my own words like...drang, mlang, qang, zang... I marvel at the possibilities. Thank you, Neil Diamond, for the inspiration.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Greeting girls

What does a Greeting Girl in Indonesia do? Greet people, of course! But what makes a Greeting Girl? Here, this is what I learnt from this vacancy advertisement. Anyone interested?

First, only women need apply. Sorry...only YOUNG women need apply (not more than 23 years old). Sorry again...only educated YOUNG women need apply. Sorry again again....only educated YOUNG women with good physical attributes need apply. Sorry one last time...only educated YOUNG women with good physical attributes and who can work until at least 2am need apply.

Now I know what stuff Greeting Girls in Indonesia are made of.

Ban Hin Lee Bank (BHLB) relics (2)

It's been quite a long while since I posted up something connected to Ban Hin Lee Bank, so here is a photo that's bound to bring back some memories...a collection of some old porcelain coinboxes. I loved them for their bright colours. The years have not faded them and they look just as fresh as before. These coinboxes were the successors of the older range of Chinese zodiac sign coinboxes which unfortunately, were too many to keep.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Penang's cultural and heritage celebration

This was the first time that I wandered into the Chinese New Year cultural and heritage celebration. This year's celebration was very meaningful as it would be the first such big-scale celebration after George Town had attained world heritage status last year.

So today, I had to park along Fish Lane, walk along Toh Aka Lane, take a shortcut through a backlane sandwiched between Carnarvon Lane and Acheen Street (it would have been almost 40 years since I walked in this backlane) before emerging from Lumut Lane into Acheen Street and thence into the Armenian Street sunshine. The whole place had an air of festivity and was abuzzed with people, both locals and the out-of-towners. Some, like me, were very simply attired while others were strikingly well-dressed.

Armenian Street. Quite a number of people were already there in the afternoon

Visited Dr Sun Yat Sen's southern headquarters for the 1911 Chinese Revolution at 120 Armenian Street

Popped next door into the original home of the Kwong Wah Yit Poh newspaper

Fearsome dragon's head

But playful lions

After that, walked to the Pitt Street junction and visited the Hock Teik Cheng Sin (Tua Pek Kong) temple

Not forgetting the Khoo Kongsi at Cannon Square before I headed home

Sun was too hot; perhaps if I had visited in the evening it would have been cooler. But then, I would guess there'd be more people too. And less opportunities to take good photographs.

Tourism Penang doing an awfully "good" job

I wanted to know more about the open houses around George Town this Chinese New Year and thought that Tourism Penang would be the proper place to find the information. After all, it's using a "dot gov dot my" domain name, so it must be one of the Penang government websites. Moreover, it's touted as the Official Tourism Website for Penang.

However, the website is a BIG JOKE. It's stuck in a time warp of its own creation. I couldn't believe my eyes when I landed on the main page. The Visit Malaysia 2007 logo was still displayed.

Totally incompetent if they had not bothered to update even their main page. It's not a good face they are giving Penang. If they cannot even update this landing page, they have no right to maintain this website or be its administrator!

But wait, there's more. When I went deeper into the website, I found only generalised information or out-of-date information. List of festivals? A visitor to the website wouldn't be able to find out the date of any festival. Calendar of events? Nothing listed whatsoever. Penang's heritage? Where on earth is the publicity about George Town being a UNESCO World Heritage Site? I'm actually wondering whether Tourism Penang is proud or ashamed about the status.

I wonder how many more countless people have searched for this website and visited it? I wonder how many people have been deceived by it? If this is the attitude of the people running Tourism Penang and the Tourism Penang website, they must either pull up their socks or pull down the website. Don't end up being a laughing stock. But more importantly, don't sabotage Penang with your incompetency or apathy.

Oh, by the way, here are the persons in charge of the Editorial Team, so if you have bouquets or brickbats for the Tourism Penang editorial team or website, you know who to contact:

Saturday jazz afternoon

I had my personal version of the Penang jazz festival yesterday in the comfort of my own home. Whipped out these four albums - George Benson's In Flight, George Duke's A Brazilian Love Affair, Grover Washington Jr's Winelight and Hubert Laws' Family - cleaned them properly and spun them on my Rega Planar 3. Wonderful music, just perfect for a warm Saturday afternoon....