Saturday, 31 October 2009

Time for an interlude...

...but I'll still try to keep this blog updated with a few scheduled posts until I return. It's the least I can do...

Friday, 30 October 2009

Cable nightmare

The Mayang Mall in Bayan Baru is supposed to be a recognised state-of-the-art multi-media building. However, unseen and unknown to many people is the sad state of maintenance. More of a patch-up job, especially where telecommunication is concerned. For example, this is truly a technician's nightmare. It's a wonder that anyone can easily trace and resolve any fault in their telecommunication system.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Billions lost

Yes, billions may have been lost through inept and incompetent management by the Government but equally pertinent, where did the money go to? Who gained and who benefited?

It's inconceivable that the persons who authorised the purchases were so out of touch with the real world, that they had no idea of current market models or market prices. And now we have elected jokers in Parliament who suggest that the Federal Government should vet the Auditor-General's report before it is made public, in order to avoid future embarrassments. These are the same kind of ass-holes who bay at the moon. I wonder who elected them??

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I called it an experiment but my wife called it a skill for the future. I wonder what she meant.

Anyway, I've been meaning to make some garlic bread for quite some time but never seemed able to find the right type of bread until the weekend. So Sunday turned out to be the best opportunity for me with all the ingredients ready: eight cloves of garlic, about 100g of butter, a dash of Italian herbs, mozarella cheese and olive oil. Not forgetting a roll of baguette bread from the supermarket.

To be frank, this was precisely an experiment only. I wouldn't know whether it would turn out fine or not. The wife chopped up the garlic for me and I mixed it up with the butter and herbs until I got a gooey mess. The baguette was cut into two halves and then sliced up, making sure that I did not slice them through to the bottom.

Prying open the slices, I dripped olive oil onto the bread and then spread generous dollops of garlic butter between the slices. Finally, the cheese went between the slices too.

The prepared garlic bread was firmly wrapped with aluminium foil and popped into an oven preheated to about 200 Celsius for 15 minutes. Ding, ding, and what I got was soft, steaming hot garlic bread with gorgeously melted butter.

For the optional dip, it's just a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a dash of Italian herbs again. Family's verdict: two thumbs up and are we having it again next week? No, I'll wait for my daughter to return before trying again.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Tinkering with my hi-fi system

Quite a busy weekend for me. About two weeks ago, I got my hands on a pair of second-hand table-top Wharfedale 9.1 speakers from a hi-fi enthusiast in Bukit Mertajam. They were still in pristine condition and going for a very good price. Problem was, I didn't have any pair of decent speaker cables on hand. The existing cables for my Bose Acoustimass 5.1 speakers were all running behind my wall cabinet and it would be impossible to strip them out.

Rummaging through my box of cables uncovered only some black, nameless cables from the past. Ah, well, perhaps they'd do for the moment. Unfortunately, the Wharfes sounded truly horrible and terrible. So much so that I avoided playing my music through them. There was no choice but to source for some good speaker cables.

They finally arrived last Wednesday, six metres of the basic QED Micro speaker cables, but I was required to collect them from the local post office. WTF, I muttered to myself. As if the wait for the cables to arrive from England was not long enough, I now had to wait an extra day to collect the package. A friend in Kuala Lumpur, who ordered from the same online store two days after I did, received his package on the same day as me! But of course, he lives in KL and I live in the nation's backwaters known as Bukit Mertajam.

Anyhow, I managed to splice them up carefully and then connected the Wharfedale speakers to my old Technics SU-A900 amplifier with its output of 90 watts per channel, put a few of my regular compact discs through my old Arcam Alpha One CD player and a few records on my old Rega Planar 3 turntable, and turned up the volume. Yes, I know, all my hi-fi equipment are old stuff but I assure you, there is still life in them and they will give any new equipment a good run for the money! Boy, was I blown away with the new sonic experience. Admittedly, the in-your-face sound was different from the old, spatial Bose experience.

I'll tell you some of the CDs I was listening to: Dave Grusin's Mountain Dance, Weather Report's Birdland, Diana Krall's The Look Of Love, CSN's Helplessly Hoping, Noel Quinlan's Middle Kingdom, Harry Belafonte's Cu Cu Ru Cu Paloma, The Dave Brubeck Quartet's Take Five, The Three Tenors Concert of 1994, the Hongkong Welsh Male Voice Choir and Wynton Marsalis playing Haydn's Trumpet Concerto. Enough for me to salivate for more.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Friday, 23 October 2009

What were you doing at their age?

How old were the youngest players when they first became chess grandmasters? This list appeared on Susan Polgar's blog on 17 Oct 2009 and since then, has been picked up all over the world, the latest of which was by an old Filipino chess friend, Bobby Ang, who had it published in the Business World Online in the Philippines today.

Since the days of Bobby Fischer -- he became the world's youngest grandmaster in 1959 -- the ages of the youngest grandmasters have been tumbling. Here is the list, with my own additions:

1. (GM 2002) Sergey Karjakin, 12 years, 7 months, 0 days
2. (GM 2006) Parimarjan Negi, 13 years, 4 months, 22 days
3. (GM 2004) Magnus Carlsen, 13 years, 4 months, 27 days
4. (GM 1999) Bu Xiangzhi, 13 years, 10 months, 13 days
5. (GM 2001) Teimour Radjabov, 14 years, 0 months, 14 days
6. (GM 1998) Ruslan Ponomariov, 14 years, 0 months, 17 days
7. (GM 2008) Wesley So, 14 years, 1 month, 28 days
8. (GM 1997) Etienne Bacrot, 14 years, 2 months, 0 days
9. (GM 2005) Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 14 years, 4 months
10. (GM 1994) Péter Lékó, 14 years, 4 months, 22 days
11. (GM 2009) Hou Yifan, 14 years, 6 months, 16 days
12. (GM 2009) Anish Giri, 14 years, 7 months, 2 days
13. (GM 2005) Yuriy Kuzubov, 14 years, 7 months, 12 days
14. (GM 2009) Dariusz Swiercz, 14 years, 7 months, 29 days
15. (GM 2004) Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, 14 years, 10 months
16. (GM 2009) Ray Robson, 14 Years, 11 Months, 15 days / 16 days
17. (GM 2007) Fabiano Caruana, 14 years, 11 months, 15 days / 20 days
18. (GM 2002) Humpy Koneru, 15 years, 1 month, 27 days
19. (GM 2003) Hikaru Nakamura, 15 years, 2 months, 19 days
20. (GM 2001) Pentala Harikrishna, 15 years, 3 months, 5 days
21. (GM 1991) Judit Polgar, 15 years, 4 months, 28 days
22. (GM 2004) Alejandro Ramirez, 15 years, 5 months, 14 days
23. (GM 1958) Bobby Fischer, 15 years, 6 months, 1 day

Hou Yifan, Humpy Koneru and Judit Polgar hold both the Grandmaster title (for all genders) and the Woman Grandmaster title.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

I'm lost

A very short post. Came across this appealing graphic while getting lost on the Internet....

Homicide, not suicide?

Homicide, not suicide? Suicide, not homicide?

Anyway, the Press went to town yesterday and had a field day at the Inquest on the death of Teoh Beng Hock when a Thai forensic expert shocked the nation by saying that Teoh's death had an 80 percent chance of being homicide and only 20 percent of suicide.

Teoh, political aide to Selangor Exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah, had died from a fall from the building of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office on the 14th floor of the Plaza Masalam building in Shah Alam on 16 July 2009. An Inquest had been called to determine the cause and circumstances leading to his death.

At the Inquest yesterday, renowned Thai forensic patho­logist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, the director-general of Thailand’s Ministry of Justices Central Institute of Forensic Science, was called in to give her expert opinion. She is well-known for her prowess in cracking open complicated homicide cases. Dr Porntip is the author of Investigation of Corpses, which sold 100,000 copies in Thailand, and she also led a group of international forensic scientists in 2004 to identify the remains of the Asian tsunami victims. More recently she was working on the death of Hollywood star David Carradine. Her life and work was narrated in the National Geographic documentary Crime Scene Bangkok in 2004.

A few stunning revelations pointed out by her:
  • Teoh suffered an anal tear caused by a "bottom-up" penetrative injury and not caused by a bone protrusion
  • There were abrasions on Teoh’s right upper thigh that looked like he had been beaten with a piece of wood
  • There was also an abrasion just below the chin which was consistent with manual strangulation
  • Teoh’s skull fracture was not typical of a transferred injury due to a fall but was more compatible with a blunt force trauma directly on the skull
  • Teoh was probably still alive when he hit the ground but might have been unconscious before the fall
As usual, there were feeble attempts at the Inquest to discredit her professional opinion. Chief among them was Tan Hock Chuan, acting for the Attorney-General's Office, who ruffled Dr Pornthip’s feathers when he suggested that she did not have the locus standi to arrive at her opinion.
Tan: “Since you did not conduct the post mortem or inspect the body or go to the scene of the incident and you are not furnished with all the reports and photos, is it appropriate to form an opinion on mathematical terms that suicide is 20% and homicide 80%?”

Dr Pornthip: I disagree. In my line of work, I care for the rights of the dead and to find out what happened. In this case, I did not know this was a political issue. I do not take sides. I am just here to tell you what my findings were. I need to do a second post-mortem (for a more conclusive finding).

Tan: Who told you this was a political issue?

Dr Pornthip: The Thai ambassador. I never wanted to attend court but I was invited to do this. You have to understand my limitations (of not having the opportunity to conduct the post-mortem).

When Tan rephrased his question to suggest that the limitations she faced could not have helped her arrive at her conclusion that it was 80% homicide and 20% suicide, Dr Pornthip replied: “It is my field, my work and I believe in that. It is more scientific.”

Dr Pornthip also said she did not agree with some of Universiti Malaya Medical Centre’s Dr Prashant Samberkar’s opinions, in particular that Teoh’s death could have been a suicide. However, she said that she did not want to criticise the opinion of the other forensic pathologists and wanted the Press to know that her opinion was based on her years of experience and not aimed at contradicting the police or other medical professionals.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Penang Free School: 193 years of existence

Today marks the 193rd anniversary of the founding of the Penang Free School by the Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings. Therefore, it's only seven more years until my Alma Mater reaches its bicentenary, the first English school in South-East Asia to do so.

Penang Free School main building and porch (courtesy of Timothy Tim of

Last year, George Town became the centre of focus as it was accorded World Heritage city status by UNESCO. It was a proud moment for all Penangites. This year, however, the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture with its "infinite wisdom" decided that the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur should become a national heritage site, bypassing the Penang Free School. I treat it as an afront by the Ministry which had obviously not made a fair decision based on historical facts. After all, what is Heritage if it is not Historical?

Penang has always been at the forefront of education and the Penang Free School continues to lead in this field not only by virtue of it being the oldest English school in the country (founded on 21 Oct 1816) but also by the illustrious sons it had produced. Victoria Institution's tenure pales by comparison as it was founded only 77 years later. So this national heritage snub comes as a surprise to me and all others who are Old Boys of the school. It's wishful thinking, however, that the Ministry will put political considerations aside and accord the rightful status to the Penang Free School.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Do you remember the red poppies?

Do you remember the Red Poppy Day that was observed during your school days? We were always reminded of Red Poppy Day towards the end of the third term before the closure of the school year. Artificial red poppies would be sold to us who would then pin it to our collar lapels or shirt pockets. The reason for the school selling or the kids buying the red poppy was never properly explained to us or if it had, we were too young to understand it.

I wouldn't fault you if you don't know what this day is all about. After all, the tradition died out in Malaysia many decades ago. I would think that we last observed it in the early 1960s. That would be my primary school days.

Frankly, I had forgotten about Red Poppy Day until I saw this online news item. A drunken 19-year-old university student was photographed urinating on a war memorial in Sheffield recently. As can be seen from the picture, he was aiming at a bunch of red poppies It sparked public outrage across Britain. Disrespect for their fallen war heroes, etc etc...

Red Poppy Day arose because of an incident during the first World War. From what I know now, the soil of the Western Front contained thousands of dormant poppy seeds that were churned up so much that the poppies bloomed like never before.

In Britain, Red Poppy Day is also known as Remembrance Day, a special day in November for the country to remember their fallen war heroes. Other countries in the West call this special day by other names. For instance, the United States calls it Veterans Day while France uses Armistice Day. Wherever this special day is observed, it is taken very seriously with disrespect being avoided at all costs. Hence, the outrage in Britain over the weekend.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Advice for the modern world

I'm inviting you to read these 10 lines below in good faith: read them and see whether you'd agree with them. Let me just say at the onset too that this is a Charter of Free Inquiry which advises us not to accept any fact or lesson blindly without first seeking verification from the wise. Now, there 10 short points are:
  1. Do not strongly believe what you hear just because you have heard it for a long time.
  2. Do not follow tradition blindly merely because it has been practised in that way for many generations.
  3. Do not be quick to listen to rumours.
  4. Do not confirm anything just because it agrees with your scriptures.
  5. Do not foolishly make assumptions.
  6. Do not abruptly draw conclusions by what you see and hear.
  7. Do not be fooled by outward appearances.
  8. Do not hold on tightly to any view or idea just because you are comfortable with it.
  9. Do not accept as fact anything that you yourself find to be logical.
  10. Do not be convinced of anything out of respect and deference to your spiritual teachers.
I was deeply impressed to learn these 10 teachings last Saturday. Even without knowing that this is the Kalama Sutta - the Lord Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry - as expounded to the Kalamas people of Kesaputta in India, I could understand easily that His teachings were about that:

We should go beyond opinion and belief. We can rightly reject anything which when accepted, practised and perfected leads to more aversion, more craving and more delusion. They are not beneficial and are to be avoided. Conversely, we can rightly accept anything which when accepted and practised leads to unconditional love, contentment and wisdom. These things allow us time and space to develop a happy and peaceful mind. This should be our criterion on what is and what is not the Truth, on what should be and what should not be the spiritual practice.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Kathina at Lunas 2009

Some images from the Kathina ceremony at the Buddhist Hermitage in Lunas on Saturday, 17 Oct 2009. Based on the packages of food that had been prepared for the devotees, I would estimate that there were easily close to 800 people, People had come from both far and near just for Kathina. Bumped into an old chess friend who lives in the Hong Seng Estate, off Mount Erskine on the island. What time did you leave the house, I asked. Seven o'clock in the morning, he replied. He turned up at Lunas soon after my family had arrived at 7.45am.

The Kathina procession round the Hermitage's vast premises, led by an image of the Buddha.

Procession follows with the devotees in tow.

And this is the offering of robes to the monks

Beach ball party fun

Keep your eye on the ball, that's what they all say

Watch this lad's ball...

Sunderland's Darren Bent hits a shot towards the Liverpool goal

The same shot from another angle

The ball goes over Glen Johnson's boot and strikes the beach ball ...

Which one should Liverpool's Pepe Reina save?

Anti-"Anti-ISA" cowards strike at night

Now you see it, now you don't. Last Sunday, the Penang government unveiled an Anti-ISA billboard at the carpark opposite the Penang State Assembly building. By Thursday, some nameless, shitless cowards - but I can jolly well guess with a 99 percent certainty who they are - hiding behind the cloak of darkness had removed the billboard, leaving behind only the metal frame. They didn't dare to do it openly during broad daylight, so they struck during night time.

However, don't feel too outraged over the whole matter. Already, the Penang government had pledged to put back what had been removed. I suspect that it'll be a game to see who has the last say. Or who has the patience to play out this cat-and-mouse game.

But why? Why make the billboard so modestly small that the Penang government allows crooks to either deface or steal it? Why put up such a filmsy structure in the first place if the end result can be so easily anticipated? The billboard may cost only RM2,000 to put up but it's still tax-payer's money. Every time someone spends RM2,000 to replace the damage, that's tax-payer's money. And it'll not be amusing in the long run if the desired result was just to score a one-upmanship.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Firecrackers during Deepavali?

I am in awe of the New Malaysia. I mean, so much has happened in the last one year, hasn't it? No, make it the last seven months. So much has happened in the last seven months. Where the Indian Malaysians are concerned, their lot seemed to have improved tremendously in the last seven months. Who says the Indians in this country are lagging behind the Chinese and the Malays economically? Who says the Indians are poor?

I've just returned from paying a Deepavali visit to a friend in Simpang Ampat. He had invited us over for a Deepavali meal and over dinner, our conversation turned to the din that erupted at midnight when the clock struck 12 to herald the start of the Festival Of Lights.

Din? Sure. Even my Indian friend was surprised by the noise going on around him. Weren't you aware? Here at my house in Bukit Mertajam, I could hear firecrackers going off solidly in the distance for something like 20 minutes. And it wasn't in Bukit Mertajam alone. On facebook, people were writing that they were living a surreal firecrackers experience. Every where, they wrote, firecrackers were simply being let off. Someone living in Sunway, Subang Jaya estimated that firecrackers there were going off for about a half-hour. A friend's son travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Penang by bus said that he couldn't sleep as even on the bus, he could hear firecrackers.

Now, isn't it wonderful that the Indian Malaysians now have the money to burn on firecrackers? Who says they cannot afford to burn money? There you have it. They are rich, man, they are richer than the so-called economically rich Chinese and they are richer than the so-called politically rich Malays. So now there is no need for the political parties or any group of people, political or non-political, that claim to work for the rights of the Indians in this country. Who needs them? No, sirree, as of midnight, 17 Oct 2009, the Indians have been exposed as being far better off than previously suspected. Hah!

Either that, or....someone is secretly paying for and approving the firecrackers to be let off on Deepavali night. There must be a reason or a motive behind all this and I cannot for anything fathom it.

Which brings to mind another question. I wonder why the Police have not taken any action against the people who let off the firecrackers all around the country. Isn't the ban on firecrackers still in effect? If not, why was it lifted and when was it lifted? How come, all of a sudden, firecrackers had been successfully smuggled into the country if the ban had not been lifted? If the ban had not been lifted, has our Malaysian Customs failed in their duty to detect people importing the firecrackers?

(And right now, at 10.40pm on 17 Oct 2009, I still hear firecrackers going off non-stop in the distance. You'd think that this is Chinese New year but no, it's Deepavali. Firecrackers. Deepavali. Firecrackers. Deepavali. Money is being spent on firecrackers for no apparent reason or for reasons unknown to me. All very mysterious, indeed!)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Satisfaction guaranteed

Someone passed me this flyer yesterday. Apparently, it had been stuffed inside a letterbox. It made a very interesting read. In fact, it made my day!

Here's what it said:'s almost as good as a salesman who tried to promote one of his products to my wife recently as "cheaper than cheap"!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Firefly operating from the LCCT or what?

---- The information in this post is no longer applicable but is retained for archive purpose only ----

I've just received a very cryptic message from Firefly Airlines that from 15 Oct 2009, they will be at the LCCT. That was all it said, so it was very mysterious, actually.

Why should Firefly want to be at the LCCT? Fly from there? If so, then my opinion is that it is not a wise move. Firefly prides itself as a community airline and it is a success operating from the Subang airport. They already have a very big niche market in the country and they don't need to operate from the LCCT, if that's my interpretation of the Firefly message.

They don't need to compete with AirAsia on this point and if they do, I would foresee that they will lose a lot of goodwill and their present custom. People use Firefly because they are near to all points in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

Moreover, I find the journey from the LCCT to KL Sentral to be a big bore either by the shuttle buses or taxis. If people need to go to the LCCT, they may as well book themselves with Malaysia Airlines and travel with better comfort than AirAsia. If people can travel by Firefly, they can well afford Malaysia Airlines. There's not much difference in the fare.

But like I said, the message from Firefly is very cryptic. Maybe they'll still operate from the Subang terminal. Maybe their presence at the LCCT is limited to opening a ticketing office. Maybe there's nothing to be upset about with them. We'll just have to wait and see come three days' time.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Inviting the anti-"Anti-ISA" gangsters

I was heading down to the city centre yesterday afternoon to look at George Town's latest tourist attraction. I had heard quite a lot about it earlier in the day and was filled with enough excitement that I wanted to take a look at it as quickly as possible.

So at about 6pm yesterday, I passed by the State Assembly building in Light Street and looked across the road at the Fort Cornwallis carpark. There it was...."Tak Nak ISA", a billboard from the Penang state government.

Perfectly laudable move but my only concern is that it is not going to make any difference with the people sitting pretty on their bums in Putrajaya. Moreover, this billboard positively invites the anti-"Anti ISA" crowd in the state to make some noise and deface it.

I mean, it's so filmsy and modestly small that I wonder why it's put up in the first place. It's simply not bold enough to make a big statement. Small impact, yes, but it's hardly noticeable.'s too low for comfort. I wouldn't be surprised if some crooks and bully boys get to work on it in the middle of the night.

An afterthought: I was about to put the finishing touches to this post when suddenly, I thought how coincidental it was that the billboard was put up here just as the Bagan Pinang by-election was approaching its climax. Today, the people in this state constituency in Negeri Sembilan goes to the polls to elect their next representative. Coincidentally, the Barisan Nasional candidate is a certain Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, former Menteri Besar of the state, who had been found guilty of vote buying by his party in 2005 and was punished with a six-year suspension that was later cut in half. "Kesian, nya," I can almost hear them say, but I'm choking on their type of sentimentality. Will the voters of Bagan Pinang say "no" to Isa, just like the Penang state government says "no" to ISA?

Would you worry about money?

I was looking through the pictures taken by my wife in Korea and this one stood out from amongst all the images in the camera. In fact, I would say that it was literally begging to be displayed on this blog. So, here it is:

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Dam at Bukit Mertajam hill

Here are two more photographs of the dam at the Bukit Mertajam hill in Ceruk Tokun. Ahh...such tranquility. I think they are much nicer than the first time when I took the photos with my mobile phone's camera.

Oh yes, I also caught sight of this peculiar-looking dragonfly. The colour itself is pretty unusual but what interested me was the shape of the wings, pointing slightly forward instead of sticking out sideways like most other dragonflies or damselflies.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Formalise the coalition, please!

It's about time and, in my opinion, it's the best logical step. The Pakatan Rakyat political parties must register as a formal coalition. Such a move will instil comfort and confidence in people that the coalition is serious and here to stay. No hedging.

Now, the question is: when will they do that?

Read the story from The Malaysian Insider.

Warning: Yahoo phishing scam

I've just received an email that's purportedly from Yahoo telling me that my email account with them would be closed officially from 12 Oct 2009 "due to congestion in the Yahoo system database and also termination of all unused Yahoo Account, both Premium and Free account service."

The email then went on to say that they were offering me "the opportunity to update your account information. You will need to take action before we close, after which any account both Premium and Free account remaining on Yahoo Database will be permanently deleted and no longer accessible."

And the action this email wanted was for me to provide them with information including my name, Yahoo ID, email address and password. Like bloody hell I will. Don't fall for this phishing scam to hijack your email account. If you are gullible enough to reply to this scam, you'll be sending your personal information to this mailbox: verifym.mail @

Now, just ask yourself why a big organisation like Yahoo with a market capitalisation worth USD24.67 billion would want to use a competitor's email services if this message was really true. Or go ask peelee567 @, the perpetrator of this pathetic scam. So be warned, don't be stupid!

Will the Circle be Unbroken

Okay....the weekend's upon us again. Actually, I tried my best to feel perkier at the beginning of the week but my mood couldn't improve after that little bitty about international roaming in Korea. With your Significant Other remaining out of touch for five days in a row, well, you can either mop about her absence or try to make the most out of it.

Obviously, as I'm not the one to wallow in any self-pity (yet) I tried the second approach, the best I could, and my best was to immerse myself with my brand of music which was any genre under the sun except perhaps rap. About 10 to 15 years ago, one of my ex-colleagues at BHL Bank, Wan Zailan, used to joke that the only rap music she ever learnt was to "wrap, wrap, wrap" the nasi lemak. That was our "Ah Lan Cheh" in the bank.

Anyway, about a month ago, I was listening to some bluegrass/country music and in particular, to this landmark album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. At that time, as the NGDB was trying to solidify their reputation as a country band, they travelled to Nashville, Tennessee to record the triple album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, with Nashville veterans such as Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Mother Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson and many others. The album's title came from the song, Can the Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye), and reflected the attempt to bridge the styles of two generations of musicians: long-haired boys from California and older members of the American country music establishment. They succeeded.

When 1989 came around and the NGDB returned to Nashville, they recorded the follow-up album Will the Circle Be Unbroken Volume Two. This time, the band members were already established musicians in their own right and no longer playing second fiddle (sic) to any of the old veterans. Returnees from the first Circle album included Scruggs, Acuff, Martin and Vassar Clements, while the personalities joining the Volume Two sessions included Johhny Cash and the Carter Family (notably his wife June and daughter Rosanne), Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm (formerly of The Band), John Denver, John Hiatt, Bruce Hornsby and both Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman (formerly of The Byrds).

I acquired this second-hand record quite recently and it came as a big jolt when I saw it. Someone had actually sold it off, not knowing its musical value. So now, it's safely kept together with the first volume. There's a Volume Three too, released in 2002, but I doubt it was ever released as a record. I may just decide to buy the compact disc, in order to complete the trilogy.

Here are the tracks on this double album:

Side 1: Life's Railway to Heaven, Grandpa Was a Carpenter, When I Get My Rewards, Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan, Little Mountain Church House
Side 2: And So It Goes, When It's Gone, Mary Danced With Soldiers, Riding Alone, I'm Sitting on Top of the World
Side 3: Lovin' on the Side, Lost River, Bayou Jubilee, Blues Berry Hill, Turn of the Century
Side 4: One Step Over the Line, You Ain't Going Nowhere, The Valley Road, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Amazing Grace

Featuring prominently on Volume Two was Mark O'Connor who played the fiddle on many of the tracks. When he was younger, he was already acclaimed as a musical child prodigy and grew up being a virtuoso on the violin, guitar and mandolin. Unlike Clements who tended to be flamboyant on his fiddle and freer with his interpretations, O'Connor had a calmer and stiffer approach.

This is not the first time that I've come across O'Connor's music. Although he is known as a bluegrass and country fiddler, he is also well known as a classical music violinist. As an example, he had been collaborating with Edgar Meyer (bassist) and Yo-Yo Ma (cellist) on two occasions. Appalachian Journey is one of the compact discs in my collection. Truly inspirational stuff...just the three of them creating a whole new kind of classical music that was tinged with and influenced by the sounds and structures of America's own musical traditions. Music from the Appalachian mountains.

Observing Kathina

I was clearing a whole lot of old papers from my computer table at home when I came across an old leaflet explaining the significance of Wesak. I had forgotten about it but whilst browsing through it, it struck me that come this 17 Oct 2009, my family would be making our way to the Buddhist Hermitage at Lunas to celebrate the annual Kathina programme. Great! For me, at least, some new photo opportunities.

This is actually a two-day programme that starts on Friday evening but we'll be going only on Saturday morning. Kathina is the offering of robes to the monks. Different Buddhist centres will celebrate Kathina on different days. For example, while the Buddhist Hermitage in Lunas will do so on 16-17 Oct, the Buddhist retreat at the foothills of the BM Hill will be having theirs this Sunday.

Lest I misplace the leaflet again, it is best that I reproduce some of its salient points here....
What does Wesak Day commemorate? It commemorates the three important events in the life of the Buddha - His Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away. These events took place on the full moon day in the lunar month of Vesakha which falls between April and May in our conventional calendar. Officially, the first full moon in May is designated as Wesak Day in Malaysia. Amongst Buddhists, it is also known as Buddha Jayanti - the Birth of the Buddha.

Who is the Buddha? The Buddha is the greatest man ever born in the history of humanity. Born a prince in 623BC, He relinquished the luxuries of royalty and went forth in search of the true meaning of existence. After six years of intense striving, unaided and unguided by any supernatural power, and relying only on His strong conviction, nergetic effort and accumulated wisdom, He became a Buddha - a Self-Enlightened and Fully Awakened One. He has fully understood the unsatisfactory conditions in life and moreover, He knows the practical way out of this mass of suffering.

How did the Wesak holiday come about? In March 1885, Wesak was declared an official holiday in Ceylon by the British governor, Sir Arthur Gordon. The first Wesak full moon holiday fell on 28 Apr 1885. This declaration was made possible due to the sustained effort and persistence of Col HS Olcott, a visionary American Buddhist. Malaysia has been observing Wesak as a public holiday since 1962, in recognition of Buddhism being the religion with the second largest following in the country. In Year 2000, Wesak Day was recognised by the United Nations as the official Buddhist holiday internationally.

"The Buddha had exercised a profound influence on human civilisation, and His teachings and example had provided the ethical and moral underpinnings of many societies. His teachings were based on the law of release from suffering, leading to spiritual enlightenment."
- 54th Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, 2000

What did the Buddha do after His Enlightenment? After His Enlightenment, the Buddha wandered through many parts of India for 45 years, compassionately disseminating the message of peace without any discrimination as to whom his listeners were. Millions followed His teachings and realised their greatest potential as human beings - having attained that unshakable peace of mind and liberation from suffering.

What is the Buddha's message of peace? Greed, anger and ignorance are defilements that cause suffering in this world. Peace is attained when we purify our minds and successfully reduce and eliminate those defilements. One who thinks, speaks and acts without greed, anger and ignorance has peace in his mind, and helps promote peace in his family, community, country and the entire world.
What did the Buddha leave nehind after His Passing? The Buddha left behind a rich legacy of teachings - the Dhamma Vinaya. Over the last 25 centuries, people continue to look into His sublime teachings for solace, inspiration and guidance. Throughout history, the disciples of the Buddha - monks, nuns and lay people - have faithfully carried out the message of the Great Teacher, persistently and diligently serving the world with compassion. The contribution of Buddhism towards the spiritual and cultural advancement of humanity is indeed most valuable.

Wesak Observance. By knowing the Buddha's greatness and honourable personality, it is only befitting that we celebrate this Sacred Wesak Day mindfully. We make it an occasion to learn, practise and understand Buddhism's lofty ideals, which highlight our potential for the highest contentment, peace and happiness. It will be more meaningful if the Wesak Observance is motivated by selfless and altruistic thoughts. Sincere and genuine acts of kindness and compassion for the world are the best ways to honour the Englightened One. Hence let us encourage all to make the Buddha Jayanti a meaningful day, for the cultivation of amity and harmony, for the well-being and happiness of oneself and others.
I guess this is as far as I will go with this interesting post. Catch up with you in a few hours' time....

Thursday, 8 October 2009

International roaming

Today is Day Four that my wife has been away from the country. I should be enjoying my temporary bachelorhood but I'm not. She's almost totally incommunicado. I thought that I could still keep in touch with her by opening her mobile for international roaming.

I thought wrong. When she touched down at Incheon airport on Tuesday, she had to text me via her colleague's mobile that she couldn't use her own phone. Strange, isn't international roaming working there? I had even checked her stored essential numbers to ensure that they were valid. There was nothing wrong.

Feeling perplexed, I phoned the service provider yesterday. Yes, I was told that international roaming had been activated for her number. But no, it's only good if she's also using a 3G phone. Duh....

I was also told that Korea and Japan are the two countries in the world where international roaming can only be used with 3G phones. I guess that's the extent of their technology over there. They are so far advanced that they have fully embraced 3G technology all the way. Unlike Malaysia. Unlike the rest of the world.

However, I should still be glad that my own non-3G phone can be used every where else on the planet. As long as I don't go to Korea or Japan....


Achtung! Have I got your attention?

In 1939, this man delivered one simple message:

"Erste Deutschland, dann die Welt!!"
(First Germany, then the World!!)

In 2009, another politician held a similar delusion:

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Moon cake festival fun at BM Hill

It's been a long while since I chose to use the old hill track beside the stream to climb the Bukit Mertajam hill in Ceruk Tokun. Lately, it had either been on the tar road with my wife or going it alone up the other hill track beside the dam. Last Friday, I decided to use the first alternative again. After about a 50-minute of huffing and puffing, I emerged from the undergrowth to see several tables and stools neatly arranged at the tea house. People were busily unloading foodstuff and utensils from a lorry that had lumbered its way up the tar road.

The lorry had parked on the grass verge and I saw the driver trying to reverse the vehicle with no obvious success. You know how it's like: the wheel turned but the lorry won't move. Instead, the wheel just dug deeper into the mud made soggier and stickier from the rain of the past few days. The lorry's stuck and I don't know how they were going to release it later. Good luck to the driver and the others up the hill.

I had almost forgotten that Saturday was to be the 15th day of the eighth lunar month in the Chinese calendar. What else but the moon cake festival. Friday was, of course, the eve of the festival and the BM Tokun Hill Recreation Hill Hikers Club was having a function from 7pm onwards. Food, drinks, karaoke, merriment and the obvious howling at the full moon. Well, I would have loved to join in the fun but I didn't know anybody at the club. It would have been a good opportunity for me to know them but even 7pm would be too late for me to remain up the hill anyway. Well, maybe next year....

Yesterday's jam on Penang Bridge

Here are some pics taken from my stationery car as I waited out the jam on the Penang Bridge yesterday. This was how bad it was. It took me about two hours just to clear this mess.