Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A musical dedication....

This is just a daffy song from 1972 by American songwriter, folk singer, humourist and actor Loudon Snowden Wainwright III but it's a darn suitable song for any occasion. I'm dedicating it to all the racist politicians. They know who they are. To them, I'd just like to say this: please listen carefully to the words.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Penang Hill funicular railway

I'm presently in my "Penang Hill" mode, getting real excited for the day when the new coaches are deployed on the new rail tracks on the Penang Hill funicular system. I just managed to dig out these old digital pictures. Rather precious and historical, by the way.

Penang Hill - Bottom Station

Penang Hill - Bottom loop

Penang Hill - Middle Station

Penang Hill - Top loop

Penang Hill - Viaduct

Penang Hill - Tunnel

Penang Hill - Top Station

Penang Hill - Tea kiosk

Penang Hill - Playground

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Self-strangulation 101

Malaysiakini has made an excerpt from the full video of the Teoh Beng Hock inquest, available at the Attorney-General's website, that shows the MACC lawyer making a fool of himself by demonstrating how to strangle oneself.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

He must suffer the consequences

The Star newspaper today reported the arrest of a man believed to be notorious international wildlife trader Anson Wong at the Kuala Lumpur international airport following the seizure of 95 snakes of various species.

Well, it is about time that local authorities go after Wong, if it is really him behind the snakes. It is a disgrace that Perhilitan (Wildlife and Natio­nal Parks Department) had refused to take action on him all these years because of a filmsy excuse that he had not broken any law in Malaysia, despite him being a wanted man in several countries around the world because of his illegal trade.

Well, Perhilitan cannot overlook him this time because he has been caught redhanded while attempting to smuggle out these protected snakes. The luggage broke at the airport and the snakes were discovered. Perhaps in a way, Wong has become careless because he could have just stayed put in Penang and let his underlings do all the dirty work of moving between countries. Or perhaps, he thought that he would be safe travelling within this region where almost all the countries are, one way or another, guilty of involvement in this business of endangering protected animal species to some extent.

People like Wong has no regard for the environment or conservation. To them, wildlife trading is just a way of making a living. I feel this is wrong because the resources of this planet is not infinite. Everything exists and co-exists in a perfect harmony -- Ed Stafford, the man who completed walking the length of the Amazon river in South America, will tell you this -- and when Man goes against Nature by unbalancing this balance, it will have irreversible consequences on our lives. We may not feel it immediately but not let our children suffer later.

But other than illegal wildlife trading, what's wrong is also the legal and illegal logging activities that go on in the jungles and on our hillslopes. Just because there is approval for trees to be chopped down doesn't make it a correct decision. By cutting down the trees and indiscriminately clearing the land of vegetation, we are stripping the earth of a natural cover and adding to the irreversible unbalancing of nature. This, again, must be stopped but unfortunately, some of the biggest culprits behind these activities are the governments themselves. And there's nothing that can be done to stop them.

In the meantime, here's an excellent expose in the National Geographic about Asia's wildlife trade. It's quite a recent story, published in January 2010, with Wong taking centre stage.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Oh no, not the annual Mars hoax again

Sayyy....did you somehow manage to see the planet Mars through your windows last night? I have a confession: I missed it. Despite having been told about it late last week, despite getting an email from a well-meaning friend -- no, wait, TWO email messages -- and despite receiving a text message on my mobile several hours ago. 

I'll spare you the details of the email messages as they were quite long but similar. However, the text message, here it is: "Planet Mars will be brightest in the night sky starting August. It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will cultivate (sic) on Aug 27 when Mars comes within 50km of Earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug 27 12.30am. It will look like the Earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Share this with your friends as no one alive today will ever see it again." And in order to give some sense of credibility to the message, it was signed off "authoritatively" by the "Dept of Surveying Science & Geomatics, UiTM Perlis."

Listen, people, this is a hoax that has been making its way round and around the Internet every July and August since 2003, seven years ago. It is such a silly story that refuses to go away. It has become quite tiresome to see it repeated ad nauseam every year at about this time.

The last time that Mars was at its closest to Earth in the last 60,000 years was on 27 Aug 2003 and even then, it was 55.7 million km away.

You have to understand just a smattering of astronomical science to know that Mars and Earth move around the sun at different rates (speed) in their own orbital planes. Sometimes, the planets are on the same side relative to the sun and sometimes, the planets are on different sides of the sun. So there are times when Earth and Mars are close together and there are times when the two planets are far apart. Their closest approaches occur approximately every 26 months (what this means is that for every revolution that Mars makes around the sun, Earth makes about two revolutions or thereabouts) and therefore, their relative close proximity is not a rare event; it will happen again in March 2012. It was just that in Year 2003, the two planets had been at their relative closest in the last 60,000 years.

Right now, Mars is so far away, a very distant 318 million km from Earth, that it's hardly visible in the night sky. In all probability, you'd need a pair of binoculars to see the planet before it sinks below the horizon....IF you know at all exactly where to look for it.

And why only at 12.30am? Why not 11.30pm or 1.30am? It's crazy, illogical and a stretch of the imagination. The common heavenly bodies are not something that appear suddenly in the night sky, like the way you switch on a light bulb in the dark. Because of the vast distance of space, they creep up on you very slowly. Provided that the sky is clear, you would have time to see them slowly appear and disappear over a period of years, months or days, never instantaneously.

Another astronomical nonsense: if Mars is meant to appear as large as the full moon, it needs to come as close as 766,000 km to us, which will never happen. To put this into perspective, that's about twice the average distance between Earth and our own Moon. In fact, if any space object of Mars' dimension (except our own Moon) were to come this near to Earth, whether it be 50 km or 755,000 km, it would be time for us to panic and not marvel at its close proximity.

Note: Wikipedia has an entry dedicated to this Mars hoax. Read it here.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Language blooper

Despite Singapore's very cosmopolitan and well developed society, it cannot hide from the colourful languages that its residents are wont to use sometimes. For example along Serangoon Road recently, I struggled a little when trying to get to terms with this menu along a restaurant's five-foot way. At least two items on the menu stood out. No prize for guessing them correctly.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Going legit

While driving through Sitiawan recently, it struck me that this could possibly be the only legitimate Ahh Long business in the country!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Working on a railroad

I found these pictures from yesterday's issue of The Star to be pretty irresistible, seeing how workmen are going about to replace the old rail tracks at the Penang Hill funicular railway in order to accommodate the new coaches that arrived last Thursday. I don't suppose it includes widening the track's rail gauge.

Full story here.

Yellow striped millipede

It was rather coincidental that just as I was telling Stephen about the common, black, seven-inch millipedes that one could find on Penang Hill or the Bukit Mertajam Hill, that we came across this uncommon yellow-striped millipede curled up on a tree trunk along the BM Hill track.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

New coaches for Penang Hill funicular railway

So it has finally been unveiled: the new coaches for the Penang Hill funicular railway. Quite a modern design, I should think, but I shall miss the old ones. And especially, the old world charm of a 30-minute trip that would take hill visitors from the bottom station to the top and vice versa, and the change of coaches at the middle station. All these will be gone when the new coaches are put into commission once the RM63mil upgrading work on the funicular system is completed in November this year. Full story here.

Well and good that the new coaches will add to Penang's attractions but the government -- whether the Ministry of Tourism or the Penang government -- must also look into improving the facilities and attractions up on the hill. Right now, apart from the train ride and the breath-taking view of George Town, what else is there for the average tourist to see, do or feel? The new coaches may carry 1,000 people up or down in an hour (compared to 250 previously) but what do tourists do once they get up there? I think at the very least there should be a well-maintained tourist information centre as well as decent places for people to dine and stay. That food court alone is not good enough and that Bellevue Hotel has too few rooms to cater to overnighting tourists. Finally, will our government be daring enough to learn from the Hong Kong government and see what they did with their Victoria Peak? No need to follow their style but whatever works for Hong Kong should be studied and maybe, adapted to work here too.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Singapore reunion

Had a swell time in Singapore last weekend touching base with many of my old schoolmates and classmates who are now residing there.

Picture taken at the Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant at Turf City somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Don't blame me; I wouldn't know one end of Singapore from the other. Anyway, the food was fabulous. We started off with suckling pig and ended up with drunken prawns and crabs. In the picture: myself, Kok Chuan, Nai Kwang, Cynthia, Teik Kooi, Derek and Evelyn

From dinner, we proceeded to so-called supper. No heavy food - we couldn't eat any more - but there were plenty of drinks and snacks. In the picture: Teik Kooi, Nai Kwang, myself, Leong Teik, Kheng Hock, Derek, Evelyn, Anna and birthday boy Daryl.

Right, Paul is a proud...."Englishman"

I couldn't help laughing when I heard the news. It was about Paul the octopus. Remember this England-hatched cephalopod? He achieved world-wide fame by predicting all of Germany's 2010 World Cup results. Although Paul couldn't have cared less about all the fuss, he has now been slated in to help England's bid to stage the 2018 tournament.

"Paul has spent the last two years of his life in Germany, but he is definitely a proud Englishman and is therefore delighted to put his support behind England 2018," said a spokesman of the Weymouth Sea Life Centre where he will now be based. "With his predicting days behind him, Paul is now concentrating on a number of new projects and the England 2018 campaign is something we are sure he feels passionately about. Becoming an official ambassador for the bid is an honour for Paul."

It may be an honour for the octopus but I wonder whether the other notable characters in the England 2018 campaign team -- Prince William, Robbie Williams, Sting, Noel Gallagher, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button -- feel the same stirrings, seeing that that they are now chunked into the same aquarium as Paul.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Mastering self-strangulation

Yesterday morning, I sat at my computer at home (yes, the new desktop!) watching intensely the twitter reports that were coming in, courtesy of The Malaysian Insider, from the Teoh Beng Hock Inquest in Kuala Lumpur. Yesterday was the most significant day of the Inquest for a long, long time. Possibly the most significant day of all because it was the day that Thai pathologist Dr Porntip Rojanasunand finally took the stand to present her findings on the second autopsy of Teoh Beng Hock.

The twitter reports were informative enough but it could not convey satisfactorily the full drama that unfolded at the Inquest, especially her cross-examination by no other than the MACC's prosecutor. I did expect that Abdul Razak Musa would try all means to discredit Dr Porntip's testimony but I did not expect (1) his level of pathetic intelligence to show, (2) the levels that he was prepared to stoop, and (3) that he would make a complete fool of himself.

Here is the report from Malaysiakini that I've just read through and through. If it's not for the fact that someone is already dead, having fallen down from the MACC building more than a year ago, Abdul Razak's antics at the Inquest yesterday could well have been a comedic turn. As it turned out, it simply uncovered how shallow his mind is.

But before I get to the report itself, here is a little digression. The Successful Self-Strangulation Salesman. Gobind Singh Deo, the lawyer representing Teoh's family, was moved enough to twitter about Abdul Razak:
Now Dato Razak says that TBH strangled himself. Demonstrates in court!
Yes. Demonstrated in court! Had to stop him when he was trying to strangle himself. He is safe now.
Well, put left hand round front of neck. Then put right hand around back of neck. Then press hard. That's what he demonstrated. 
So there you have it. On record, a step-by-step demonstration on self-strangulation. It was all very knowledgeable indeed to me. I'm sure that the Coroner would have learnt something new today and Dr Porntip would have been equally impressed by Abdul Razak's knowledge too. Okay then, on to the main item on today's menu...ta dah, the Malaysiakini report with the very enticing title:

'Have you ever jumped off a building?'

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) prosecutor Abdul Razak Musa left lawyers and the public gallery alternately bemused and frustrated as he cross-examined a Thai forensics expert at the Teoh Beng Hock inquest today.

At the same time, NONEThai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand stood her ground despite his incessant attacks on her expertise, observations and conclusions on the death of the DAP political aide in July last year.

Her unequivocal responses quickly prompted legal department head Abdul Razak to ask if she had come to “to attack the MACC".

Pornthip calmly said: "I am here to defend the rights of the dead. Not for the Selangor government or anyone."

The forensic expert received so many rounds of applause from those in the public gallery for her comebacks, that an announcement had to be made for those present to maintain decorum.

Pornthip was cross-examined after she told coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas she found no evidence to suggest suicide by Teoh.

Abdul Razak railed at her from the onset by raising doubts about her credibility as an expert witness.

"Did you know that the university that you graduated from is not recognised in Malaysia?" he asked, eliciting disgruntled murmurs from the gallery.

To that, Pornthip answered, "But it is in the top five in Asia."

Unsatisfied, ANONEbdul Razak (left) sought to discredit her by claiming that she had "moved the goalposts" because what she said this morning had 'contradicted' her earlier testimony.

(Her testimony today was based on observation of a second post-mortem, while her initial conclusions were based on a report on the first post-mortem.)

Pornthip refuted Abdul Razak, saying she had conclusively answered the possibilities raised in her first testimony through scientific evidence obtained in the second autopsy.

"The other doctors made a mistake," she said, noting that there were procedures which should have been made but were not undertaken during the first autopsy.

Absurd questions
Abdul Razak next had the gallery groaning in disbelief when he suggested that Teoh had strangled himself and was "depressive".

Interestingly, when asketeoh beng hock inquest 011009 gobind singhd by Gobind Singh Deo (right), who is representing Teoh's family, how someone can strangle himself, the MACC representative went as far as to demonstrate this on himself.

If that was not enough, Abdul Razak riled up those in the gallery further by suggesting to Pornthip that her report was "based on her imagination".

In an effort to make his point, he asked if Pornthip has any experience jumping off a building.

Exasperated by the barrage of provocative questions Malik Imtiaz Sarwar - representing Pornthip and the Selangor government - stood up to say: “With questions like these, we would all want to jump off a building.”

Abdul Razak also got his facts muddled, prompting Pornthip to repeatedly ask him to "remind (himself) of her report" and to "read the report".

But the lawyer was adamant, claiming he had "spent three days reading" the 11-page report.

His mix-ups led to representatives of the Bar Council and coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas to step in, to correct him.

Glaringly, the lawyazlaner quizzed Pornthip on why she said Teoh was dead when he fell off Level 14, (where the MACC office is located in Plaza Masalam) but alive when he hit the landing on Level 5.

"I accept that he was alive. I never said that he was dead," said Pornthip who has offered her services on a pro bono basis.

Visibly amused, the coroner stepped in to clarify that issue was whether Teoh was conscious or otherwise, not if he was dead or alive. This was to no avail as Abdul Razak remained bewildered.

He then puzzled the court when he stated, "If (Teoh) was unconscious, his body would be heavier."

Retorted the pathologist: "There would be no difference. Scientifically, how could weight loss happen according to consciousness?"

Tired of explaining to Abdul Razak, who accused her of having "already made up her mind (against suicide)", Pornthip finally answered that she disagrees with his comments.

The court's amusement turned into frustration towards the end of Abdul Razak's line of questioning.

Members of the public sighed loudly when he finally wrapped up - and one even bellowed "Thank you!".

Abdul Razak later left the court complex in a huff, slamming shut his car door when questioned by reporters.

As his driver moved the car forward, it 'nudged' a Teoh supporter twice, as he tried to prevent the vehicle from leaving.

However, Ho Mun Chong - a DAP member who has attended every inquest hearing - was not injured.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Long distance golfer

A little sketch by the late British comedian, Marty Feldman, and it's dedicated to all my friends who play golf:

Monday, 16 August 2010

A credit to Changi airport

The time was about 1.30pm today. I was at Changi Airport's Terminal One to catch my flight back to Penang. It has been donkey's years since I last stepped foot into here, so much so that I needed help from the Information Counter.

There were two ladies at the counter, seated maybe four feet apart. I walked up to the nearer one to enquire about the ticketing counter for my flight. "Excuse me..." I began but before I could continue further, both the ladies were already on their feet, looking brightly, smiling broadly and giving me their fullest undivided attention. I asked about my flight and had all my questions answered immediately. And never a moment did their beaming smiles leave their faces.

I was greatly impressed. Clearly, this is the BEST customer service that I've come across in a very long while. And take it from me: if I say that something is good, I really mean it.

Unfortunately in my haste to check in, I had failed to note the names of the two ladies. I can only hope that there is someone from Changi Airport reading this and taking note of my feedback. They are a great credit to Singapore! Others will do well to emulate them.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Best banana leaf rice restaurant in George Town

Prices may have gone up but in my opinion, this is still the best place to experience South Indian banana leaf rice in George Town. I've been going to this restaurant since the early 1980s which means....something close to 30 years?

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Monkeys are dangerous

I took this picture at the Penang Botanical Gardens about a year ago and had almost forgotten about it. Don't be fooled by all the talk that we are separated from monkeys by just a small strand of DNA. It doesn't mean anything! It doesn't mean that we can get up close and comfortable with them. At the end of the day, they are just wild animals.

It can be quite a shock when these animals turn vicious and it can happen in the twinkle of an eye. So, you just got to be careful when you are around these beasts. And it's important not to feed them or otherwise they become too familiar with humans.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Interim paint

I'm wondering whether "interim paint" is just a kind of "washable paint"?!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Spare arch for demolition practice

I visited the Penang Botanic Garden yesterday morning. Finally, work is in progress to bring down the two arches because this one nearest to the entrance into the Garden is the only one left standing. There was rubble all around but within the fenced up disaster area, no doubt the remains from the first arch.

 On Monday night, workers with their caterpillar crane had been busy demolishing the first arch. Actually, "busy" may not be the right term to use. The workers were hardly busy because after the initial jabs at the arch with a hydraulic breaker, the arch simply toppled over. This picture from Guang Ming was snapped at the critical moment that the arch came crashing down "almost in slow motion," according to witnesses. It was the last thing anyone expected to happen but it did, and it sent a shudder all around when the concrete smashed into the ground.

So much for Malaysia's famed feats of engineering when it was discovered that there was just three feet of concrete foundation. Three shallow feet to support tons of concrete rising 18 feet into the air raises questions about the planners and appointed contractors. No wonder the arch was leaning dangerously. I'm sure the other arch is also supported by only three feet of foundation. Why would it be any different? The sooner it is also brought down, the better.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Francis Light

Does anyone actually remember that today (11 Aug 2010) marks the 224th anniversary of Francis Light officially claiming Pulo Pinang as the first British settlement in the Far East??

Sight-seeing in Sitiawan

I was in Sitiawan for an overnight trip earlier this week, courtesy of my friend, Long Kin. He took me around several places, including visiting a mangrove park, the Sitiawan Settlement Museum and of course, the Lumut waterfront, where we peered across the river's mouth to Pangkor island in the distance. These are the three absolute "must visit" places in the Dinding river estuary.

Inevitably we stopped at this shop, one of several in the town, that sold Sitiawan's signature Hockchiew bisquits. Basically, it is tough dough filled with a mix of pork, onions and spices and then baked in a tandoori-like stove. All I can say about these bisquits is that I need jaws of iron to eat them. My teeth almost dropped off. Just imagine a cow chewing the cud and you will get the picture. Unless they are enjoyed fresh while piping hot and crispy, the cold bisquits are best given to your enemies as presents! Eh, just kidding, of course, because you should try to experience everything once in your lifetime. Even this.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Ed Stafford makes a statement

It's all about the environment, see? If you haven't heard about Ed Stafford, now is the time to know. He is making a big, big environmental statement with a feat of incredible human endurance.

I've been following the blog of this man for some time now. No one has ever tried what he is attempting, which is to walk the whole length of the mighty Amazon River, the longest river in the world.

As I write this, Britton Ed Stafford is just hours away from completing a two-and-a-half year trek from one of the sources of the Amazon River high in the mountains of Peru, hacking through and surviving the virgin jungles of South America, to an anticipated arrival at the river's mouth opening out to the Atlantic Ocean at Maruda in Brazil, where he'll jump into the sea as a symbol of journey's end.

Do try and read Stafford's blog from start to finish here.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Computer misadventures

I am so very the pissed off! Yesterday was a right royal day of misadventure. I've assembled a desktop computer before and I thought that it would be a breeze to do it a second time. If only I knew....

But first, I had to go to Butterworth to buy some computer component parts on Thursday: an Intel CPU, an Asus motherboard, a 2GB memory chip, a 1TB harddisk and a new casing to put everything together. DVD writer? LCD monitor? Mouse and keyboard? No problem, I intended to salvage them from the old broken-down desktop that I had loathe to throw away previously.

So I rolled up my sleeves yesterday morning and got down to putting them together. Everything went smoothly. Then I decided to go and pick up another 2GB of memory for the new beast. That done, I settled down to connect the peripherals and instal the new Windows 7.

That was when the problems started. The first sign of trouble....no beep tone from the computer when I switched it on. I peered down into its innards. The CPU fan was turning merrily. So was the chassis fan. But apart from these, nothing else happened.

I spent quite a long while pondering what to do next. And after dinner, I thought perhaps I should be checking the connections. Looked thoroughly but couldn't find anything wrong. I even removed the CPU fan and readjusted the Intel chip. Who knows, maybe it was misaligned. But it was okay. Yet, still no beep from the computer.

In desperation, I removed one of the memory cards. Hey presto, I now heard a beep tone. So it was the card after all. I replaced it in another slot and yes, the computer beeped again. Yes, the beast was gurgling along now. Oh, happiness at last, except that it was short-lived. Because, after I hooked the LCD monitor to the new computer, nothing showed up on the screen! I stared at it....

Shit, the monitor had finally died on me. It was already threatening to go kaput about a year ago but somehow, it managed to stay alive. But not now. Now it is dead. Stone dead. Just to make sure that it was well and truly dead, I decided to give the new beast a workout with an old CRT monitor that's fixed presently to a struggling second computer in the house.

Yah, now I see the light. After the initial beep, the computer went into the bios. I changed the setting to boot up from the DVD-drive. And here, I hit the other problem. Yes, the DVD-drive was dead as well. I couldn't believe my luck. The tray wouldn't open, and that put paid to all my efforts with the new beast.

But this was not the end of the story. When I fixed the monitor back on the old half-dead computer, now it was the old beast that refused to boot up. Kept freezing up at its bios boot-up and telling me that I've a keyboard error. "Press F1 to continue" but how the heck to press F1 when the keyboard cannot work?? To cut a very long story short, I finally managed to get it working again but this time, sans the audio card. That is now not working. I told my wife, that's enough tinkering for the day. The tinkerman's done. If she want to use the old computer, yes, she can use it....but not for playing music through it.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Around the Esplanade

I find that I've been spending too much time around the Esplanade lately. Not that I was there purposely but there were a few things that I had to do in the Beach Street and Pitt Street areas. Parking around Beach Street was out of the question. No point driving around and around just trying to find a parking lot. So, the next best solution was to park the car further away at the Esplanade and then go exercise the legs. Or as my son would tell me, take the Bus Number 11. These are just a few of my impressions:

If you need some free entertainment, do drop by Penang's Speaker's Corner on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. It's like a mini-state assembly meeting. A "no holds barred" type of kopi tiam session. And it's beneath a tree too, so Perak cannot claim to have the sole democracy tree in the country.

Very surprised to see that there's this spot of clean sand at the Esplanade. From young, I had always believed that there are just big rocks down there irrespective of the tide. This is a fresh perspective of the Esplanade waterfront.

And looking the other way, I saw the amateur anglers all out in full force. I had once asked them whether there is anything to catch at all over here. One of them just grinned and showed me a plastic bag filled with fishes, small fishes.

Quite unexpectedly, I came across these trees beside the old fort. My opinion is that this is the best spot along the Esplanade. The greenery is a surprise.

The Penang government makes it very clear that it doesn't support the ISA (Internal Security Act) and would like to have it repealed. I would like to see it repealed too because the Federal government shouldn't take the easy way out and detain people without charging them in court. Then of course, we have the nameless twits who go about in darkness to deface things that belong to the establishment. Okay, they may have made their point but it shows them up as cowards, big cowards.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Computer junk

At the back of my mind, I keep remembering the words "Let go, you must let go. You shouldn't have attachment, you must learn to let go." So today, I finally decided to let go of the state-of-the-art computer junk that I had been accumulating all these years. I cleared the old storeroom of the old, useless computer components parts including this set of memory cards: 512MB SDRAM, 256MB SDRAM, 64MB SDRAM and yes, even 32MB SDRAM. Anyone wants them before I finally chuck them away?

Not forgetting too two old CD-ROM drives and two so-called "high speed" dial-up modems. I would like to say "out, damn spots, out"but I've got to be very thankful to the dial-up modems. They practically saved my life when I moved to Bukit Mertajam from Seberang Jaya.

What happened, you may ask? More than five years ago when I was still staying in Seberang Jaya, I was already using TMNet's Streamyx service. But when we moved to Bukit Mertajam, I had a rude shock. There was no Streamyx service in my neighbourhood. So I had to fall back on dial-up while I kept pestering TMNet about their Steamyx.

This in itself is another story. The first time I contacted TMNet, they claimed that their equipment could not support Streamyx as the telephone lines in my neighbourhood were all running on new fibre-optic lines. I told them off. Nonsense, I said, don't tell me that a modern telecommunication company like TMNet just haven't got the technology for that? Fibre-optic lines are not something new; they have been around for ages. And why would TMNet want to lay fibre-optic lines when they cannot provide even their own simple Streamyx services?

Then they came clean. It's just that they haven't enough equipment at their exchange, they said. Not enough ports. So when are you bringing in the extra equipment, I asked. Soon, soon, that was all they were prepared to say. Give me a date, I told them. Give them a month, they said. Okay, I told them, I'll wait for a month; then they'll be hearing from me

The month came and went. Still no Streamyx service in my neighbourhood. Fuming mad, I tell you. Finally, I met one TMNet senior executive at a computer fair in Penang. Ho, just the right opportunity to complain to Someone who could do more than just give excuses. He listened to me and then gave an assurance that he'd be looking into the complaint. Sure enough, within a week, I had TMNet contact me and say that I could have my Streamyx service connected immediately. 

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Penang City Hall's planned facelift

I read earlier this week that the Penang government intends to spend about RM6 million over the next two years to give the stately City Hall building at the Esplanade a facelift: replacing and refurnishing old furniture, repairing the roof and toilet ceiling, and replacing the leaky gutters and damaged lamps, etc.

This is, of course, very welcomed news. However, I've got to add some hope and wishes. While the front of the building still looks very grand, the same cannot be said for its side or the back.

A walk around the two-storey masonry building, which was completed in 1903, shows up the external defects.

So I hope that the facelift will also include immediate repairs to these windows. They are eyesores and they say a lot about the present concern for the building (or the lack of it). It is a wonder that little has been done in the past few years to repair them.

By the way, I wonder what has become of the RM3.58 million that the Federal government had allocated to the previous state government about six or seven years ago for a restoration and refurbishment project. I read that the project would involve the restoration of building structures and elements, salt desalination and termite treatment, interior refurbishment of the Council Chamber, main lobby, councillors’ offices, mezzanine floor, dining hall and toilets.

If all these had been done properly, why has the overall condition of the building still suffered such deterioration that a facelift is now required? Methinks, the previous government had not put the taxpayers' money to good use by getting the best possible treatment with those funds. I hope the present government will do better to stretch the dollar!

Harry Enfield and Chums

I came across this video recently. Eh, before you read anything into it, just keep in mind that this is only a comedy sketch on the Harry Enfield and Chums television shows in the 1990s. I shall not be responsible for any outbreak of domestic violence after viewing this video.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

In defence of our Chinese dialects, again

Two months ago, I happened to write something in defence of the usage of our Chinese dialects at home. Here is an excerpt:
Mandarin may be the unifying tongue for the Chinese people in China and of course, it is important too that the Chinese Malaysians know the unifying language of their ancestors but for heaven's sake, learning this language should not be made at the expense of our own heritage here in Malaysia.

Our forefathers came to Malaya to make better lives for themselves. They toiled hard and while they assimilated well into this land, they never forgot or shed their own local dialects.

The dialects still have an important part in play in our Chinese Malaysian culture and is an integral part of our heritage. That's what makes it so rich and fascinating. That's what makes it so unique here too, a melting pot of dialects within such a small country. We should be proud of our ability to understand the dialects and never give them up.

Who would have known that the very essence of the use of dialect is creating turmoil in China itself? I have just learnt that hundreds of people, possibly thousands, have been protesting in Guangzhou for about two weeks already. In Hong Kong, about 200 demonstrators marched to the city's government headquarters.

Reason for these protests? A political advisory body in Beijing proposed that local television stations in Guangdong province switch from Cantonese to Mandarin for prime-time shows before Guangzhou hosts the Asian Games in November. This led to rumours that the Chinese government was planning to weaken or even abolish the Cantonese dialect.

With Cantonese being the mother tongue for an estimated 70 million people across Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province in China and widely spoken by overseas Chinese communities, this had raised grave concerns and suspicion, and forced the people there to protest over the need to protect their mother tongues.

I can only hope that the Chinese here in Malaysia can take the cue from what's happening in China to ensure that their own dialects are protected as well.

It is a big mistake if we think that Mandarin alone can unify the Chinese ethnicity here. Of course, we don't need to do like those people did by protesting or attending rallies. A simple act to propagate our cultural heritage and identity by using dialect at home and within our communities will be enough.

It will be an irreversible error to let the Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese, Hockchiew and other local dialects disappear from common usage. For the sake of our children, let's save our dialects. It will be a far richer experience for them.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Excuses, excuses...what a nerve!

I wonder how many households in the country have actually been visited by enumerators (census takers) during this latest Population and Housing Census that is being carried out by the Department of Statistics. The census exercise, which started on 6 July, is scheduled to end on 22 Aug. That means that there are only 20 days left.

Unfortunately right until today, nobody has come to my house. My aunt who is home most of the time drew a blank stare when I asked her a few minutes ago. Me? I haven't seen anyone either AND I'm usually home too. Besides, I'm told that if any household could not be contacted, the enumerator would leave the census form in the letter box and come back later to collect it. Well, there's nothing in my letter box except for letters and the advertisement flyers.

So I'm very much indignant to read in Sun2Surf today that "the Chinese’s response to the census exercise so far has not been encouraging" and the Statistics Department is seeking the help of the Hua Zong organisation to make it happen. Big bullshit.

And I'm also very incensed that the president of Hua Zong had taken the apologetic line and agreed with the Statistics Department that the Chinese community was cool to the census. What's more, he had the nerve to urge the Chinese to give their full cooperation to the enumerators. Big bullshit, again!

Just speak for yourself, Mr Hua Zong president. You don't have to apologise on my behalf. And whoever is in charge of the census exercise at the Department of Statistics, please tell your people - I need just one of them - to come see me this week and I will answer all their questions personally, willingly and gladly! Just come. Don't make excuses. Okay?