Thursday, 30 June 2011

What's wrong with bersih?

The events of the past few weeks have left me rather confused. I've been hearing so much about the coming Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur on 9 July 2011 and how it is being opposed by certain segments of our society, mainly the federal government and certain extremist non-governmental organisations.

Now this is the part that is confusing me. Why is the federal government opposing Bersih? Don't Najib & Co believe in the ideals being promoted by Bersih?

According to what I know, Bersih's objectives are eight-fold but the primary one is to demand for a clean and fair election. Obviously, for Bersih to demand this means that this organisation has no confidence in the Election Commission to ever do a good job. So, Bersih says our electoral system has weaknesses and thus, is open to abuse. Why is the fedral government against closing up the weaknesses? This, I don't understand.

Bersih is also asking for voting rights for all overseas Malaysian citizens who are registered voters to cast their postal votes during the general elections. Presently, I believe this privilege is only available to the Police and armed forces as well as the Malaysian missions (correct me if I'm wrong) but if countries like Singapore and the United States can allow their citizens to vote while posted overseas, why can't this be implemented here too? Why is the federal government refusing to allow overseas Malaysian registered voters their right to cast their votes? this, I don't understand.

Bersih wants indelible ink to be used during the election process. Presumably, this will eliminate election fraud, such as, preventing any one person to vote several times in different constituencies. The Election Commission came so close to using indelible ink during the 2008 General Election but chose to withdraw its use at practically the last minute. Why did the Election Commission choose to foresake a practice that is accepted in democratic countries such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines? This, I don't understand.

Bersih's fourth point is they want the Election Commission to extend the campaign period to no less than 21 days in order that the candidates have more time to disseminate information and reach out to the voters in the rural areas. Granted that many of our constituencies are large and it may take days to reach their interiors, and the people living there are basically ignorant of their national rights, this seems to be a reasonable request. So why won't the Election Commission do this? This, I don't understand.

Then there is this issue of free and fair access to the media for all political parties. Seems to me that the parties in the ruling government have all sorts of unfair advantage when they get access to the mass media: the television stations, the radio stations and the newspapers. They highlight favourably everything that the ruling parties say. And everything that the opposition parties say are blanked out or given only a token mention. Anyone reading the mainstream media would think that everything is hunky dory with the world. There is little room for alternative viewpoints in the mass media, even when the opposition viewpoints may be balanced and are in the public interest. Why is the mass media's coverage so lob-sided? This, I don't understand.

Bersih asks for the public institutions to be independent. By public institutions, they mean the Judiciary, Attorney-General's Chambers, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC), Police and of course, the Election Commission. The public perception is that these institutions are not independent. Every decision they make are purposely skewed in the interests of the ruling federal government. Our civil law system is based on English legal system where the independence of the judicial system is jealously guarded. But it does not seem like that any more. Why has the third arm of government - the Judiciary - seems to have become less independent? This, I don't understand.

Bersih wants corruption to be arrested at all levels of society. Don't we all want to see that? Corruption is the cause of the unabated outflow of billions of ringgit from our shores. Corruption is turning the country into a laughing stock. According to Bersih, current efforts to eradicate corruption are mere tokens to appease public grouses. I agree. I'm already predicting that the ex-dentist with the palatial RM5 million house will get off lightly when his court case is through. Yes, I'm sure he will be found guilty but the fine will be a mere tuppence, not enough to even see him suspended from the Selangor state assembly. Mark my words, it will come to that. Why is the federal government so reluctant to weed out corruption from among its people? This, I don't understand.

And finally, Bersih is against dirty politics. I think we are all rather tired about the gutter politics that has the unspoken support of the federal government. The federal thinks that by dragging the opposition figures through the mud, they can humiliate them in the public eyes. But I believe that is wrong and very dishonourable. As a citizen and voter, I want to see a level playing field between any ruling party and opposition. Why is the federal government refusing to allow this? This, I don't understand.

So you see, these are the eight demands that Bersih is making, which are all rather simple and straightforward as far as I'm concerned. But why is the federal government so afraid of meeting Bersih squarely on these terms, if these are the demands any right-minded democratic society would make? Not unless there is really something to hide or fear.

They claim that the Bersih rally is supported by the opposition parties. So what? The federal government have had their chance to support Bersih when the rally was first mooted and they blew it. So don't complain when the opposition parties take up the cudgels instead. Why blame the opposition for what the federal government has failed to do?

Before I go, there is this opinion piece whch everyone should read. It's from a man I admire, a man with guts, a man with conscience.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

I missed it, and it missed me

Darn. I missed it. It seems that while I was in the midst of writing my chess article for The Star earlier this week, I was blissfully unaware that a small bus-sized space rock called the Asteroid 2011MD had whistled very close to the Earth, passing over the southern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Antartica, at 1.01am (GMT 17:01 hours) on Tuesday morning.

The asteriod was so close that it was nearer to us than the moon. It was so close that sky-viewers called it one of those frequent, pesky Near-Earth Objects that could bore, irritate, excite, alarm or panic us. At its closest approach, 2011MD was within 12,000km from the Earth. By comparison, the moon is about 380,000km away.

But those folks at NASA assured that the asteroid posed no real threat to me. Even if it had come hurtling down into the atmosphere, it would have disintegrated and only put up an impressive sky show, considering that it is now winter in the southern hemiphere where there is barely any daylight, if at all, over the Antartic continent.

When the asteroid was approaching Earth, there were many amateur astronomy enthusiasts that tried to capture snapshots of the flyby. For example, this picture above which I copied from the Internet. From what I know, this was a 10-second camera exposure and a lot of background noise was picked up in the process. Still, it's exciting to see the streak of light against the relatively stationery position of the stars in the background.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Columbo no more

I've just learnt that one of my favourite television detectives - no, make it my all-time favourite television detective - has passed away.

Peter Falk, who had been playing the shabbily dressed Columbo - trench coat wearing, cigar-welding, seemingly absent-minded, pesky and persistent fictional television detective since 1968 - died two days ago on 23 Jun 2011, aged 83.

In the last years of his life, Falk suffered from Alzheimer's disease and in 2009, his memory had been affected so much that he could no longer remember playing the television role that he was most famously associated with.

Falk's portrayal of Columbo, won him the Emmy Award four times. I had written my tribute to this TV show about four years ago. Click here to read it.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Self-centred old farts

Recently, I was moved enough to comment on my facebook that I don't like self-centred old farts. An old friend, Jimmy, then asked what was bugging me! Well, a lot bugs me nowadays. But the instance that I was referring to on facebook referred to the old farters on the OFA Penang mailing list.

Yes, the Old Frees' Association in Penang has a mailing list which was set up not so long ago. I've got well meaning friends who prefer to call us the Old Fuckers Association and now they would also probably call us the Old Farters Association. Doesn't matter to me that they are so jealous of our wonderful acronyms.

However, all these are only mentioned in passing as a "by the way." My original grouse was with the old farters who populate themselves in ANY mailing list (for short, I'm going to refer to this as a mailist from now on).

During my time with, I was one of the administrators of the HR Forum mailists that the company had set up for the human resource communities in Malaysia and the Philippines. These two forums were separately administered and had proven quite popular with the members and participants. And before that, I had already been running mailists mainly for the public chess-malaysia and the private oldfrees7072 groups.

But there were always inherent problems with mailists - all practical problems faced by mailist administrators anywhere - and I'd like to share some of them.

1) People joining mailists for no other reason than to spam the members. My only solution is to ban such people from the mailist. Or, right from the very start, keep the new member's mailist account moderated until he can prove to be a responsible member. The drawback is that when membership increases a lot, it becomes almost impossible to keep track of who's new and who's not. Moreover, I would prefer to take a hands-off approach and not moderate anyone's message. Being responsible for my own actions is bad enough, I shouldn't be responsible for other people's actions too.

2) People talking off the subject, often touching on sensitive issues and provoking flame wars. This needs a deft hand from the administrator to douse the flames as soon as they appear. The problem is that no administrator can afford to spend all his time observing his mailists for wrongdoings. There's life outside the mailists, okay?

3) Members attaching confidential or copyrighted material with their email message. This is also a sticky problem for the administrator. First of all, how would the administrator know that the attachment is confidential or copyright? Second, once the message is sent, it remains sent. There's no feasible way to recall any message. Third, I've long suspected that a mailist host can be held responsible for the wrongdoing as the material has passed through the host server.

4) A well-meaning member who offers to send material directly to other people who could contact him privately but sooner or later, it just takes a kiasu member (he must want everything, see?) who, instead of writing directly to the original member, posts his "please send me a copy" follow-up to the entire mailist. His stupid action is then repeated by other kiasu members and eventually, everyone on the mailist gets inundated with thier "me, too" requests. Seems that there are many people who simply cannot follow simple instructions.

5) And the last big danger is a nightmare to any administrator. When you go on leave, do you set an "out of office" message to reply to in-coming emails? Many people do. However, such messages can be set erroneously to reply automatically to every in-coming email instead of stopping once it's detected that the next in-coming email is from the same source. Because of this mistake, the "out of office" message gets into a never-ending loop and every member's mailbox soon gets flooded with hundreds of messages from this one person before the administrator can ever be alerted to this happening. When I was with, I had to have my friend and co-administrator, Ted, go into the system and kill off the member's idiocy.

The main consequence of all these mailist problems is that there are self-centred old farters who are so full of their own self importance that they'll take any opportunity to scream "take me off the mailing list" directly through the mailist itself and, yes, the message gets distributed again to everyone. So, the rest gets the same idea to scream "unsubscribe me, unsubscribe me" and pretty soon, the administrator is up to his neck trying to overcome the looming threat of a soon-to-be empty mailist. It's not pretty, I tell you!

And recently, this started to happen to the OFA Penang mailist. Someone had erroneously looped his "out of office" reply and two or three old farters demanded to be removed from the mailist. Now, as an old retired mailist administrator myself, even though I was not involved with the OFA Penang mailist administration and will never want to be, thank goodness, I couldn't afford to see this happen and I immediately sent a message imploring some tolerance for the first-time offender and besides, nobody would lose more than the old farts themselves who would be left out of further useful exchanges through the mailist. I believe common sense eventually prevailed.

So you see, Jimmy, that was what's bugging me the other day. I do admit that I'm an Old Fucker and now an Old Fart but never will I be a self-centred one.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Durian season 2011

The 2011 durian season is in full swing. At the spur of the moment last Saturday, I decided to make an unplanned call on my old friend Chang Teik Seng (aka Durian Seng) and his wife, Yen Kim, at the Bao Sheng Durian Farm in Sungai Pinang. That's on the "other" side of the island, about 12 kilometers from Balik Pulau town. Long drive, but since I was already in George Town, I realised that it wouldn't be as bad as making a specific trip from Bukit Mertajam just to go there!

When I say the durian season is in full swing, I mean it. All the way from Teluk Bahang until his home, there must have been at least seven or eight orchards and roadside stalls selling the king of fruits. So tempted to stop at the larger ones but I knew that I would be spoiling my appetite.

As I expected, Durian Seng's home was swarming with people. All had arrived to savour the fruit from his farm. Full house, eh, I asked to him. Yah, he replied, but there was a bigger group that had just left. Obviously, the fame of his durian farm has spread far and wide. He wants me to help him create an advertisement on facebook but in my opinion, he doesn't need any more publicity for his durian. He already has his hands full by my reckoning.

I brought home three varieties that day. First one was the Green Skin Ang Bak. One of his helpers had just arrived at his home with a basketful of freshly dropped durians. He looked through the fruits and picked out one (the one he's holding in his right hand). This, he said, is specially for you. And yes, when he opened it, the fragrance and flavour were something really unforgetable. I had to help myself to some before packing the rest away.

But the weakness in me wanted more durians. So into the container went a D11 variety. Ah, another special one for you, he said, and without even opening the fruit he guaranteed me that the seeds of this fruit would be very small and there'd be lots of pulp. And true enough, when I was enjoying the fruit with my family later, we found that the shrivelled seeds were indeed covered wih thick, delicious golden pulp.

And finally, the last variety I enjoyed was the Bak Eu. According to him, this variety would normally drop later so what I had was an early dropper. The Bak Eu, by the way, has a paler yellow pulp, very unlike the other two varieties which were bright orange. But don't let the colour deceive anyone. This variety is equally fabulous though it tasted a bit milder than the other two.

So how much longer will this year's season last, I wondered? At least one more month until the second half of July, he answered. So there you have it. This year's durian season has just started and it looks like a very fruitful year for him.

Click here for the Bao Sheng Durian Farm website.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Australian music nostalgia

Growing up in Penang during the late 60s and early 70s meant that I was constantly exposed to music from the Radio RAAF Butterworth which was run by the Royal Australian Air Force from their base in northern Butterworth. While the local radio station, broadcasting on the 1445KHz medium-wave band, was meant primarily as the source of entertainment for the Aussie troops and their families who were stationed here, it also had a very sizeable local audience.

At first, the station broadcast over very powerful transmitters and I heard that it could even be received as far south as the Pangkor island but later, the station was asked to reduce its transmitting power so that only its coverage was basically in Butterworth and across the northern Channel to Tanjong Bungah. But the radio signals were still strong enough to be received in George Town. By the time I moved to Ayer Itam, it became almost impossible to hear anything from the station at all.

So for those six or seven years that I could tune in to the station, they were the best musical years of my youth. Until then, the music over the Radio Malaysia's English Service and Redifusion were typical pop music. RAAF Radio brought a new dimension to my listening pleasure because the station also broadcast classical music, rock music and Australian pop music. The station also brought cricket into my living room and I spent countless hours listening in to the test matches between England and Australia. And that's how I got to learn about The Ashes.

I remember RAAF Radio best for their rock music and Aussie pop music. If not for this radio station, I wouldn't have been exposed to the likes of rock bands like Cream or Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin from an early age. But these bands were internationally renowned. Nowadays, it's still very easy to pick up their music from any CD shop in town.

Hunting for old Aussie pop music is, however, a big challenge because there's hardly a market outside Australia. When I was in Perth two years ago, never did I come across any music store that stocked up on Australian pop music of the 1960s or 1970s. Yes, the stores did carry stuff from the 1980s onwards but nothing earlier. I suppose it will take a lot of patience to track down such music.

I would consider myself lucky then to own some compilation compact discs of Australian oldies pop music, sent to me previously by some friends who used to live there but not anymore. For instance, I've CDs of Johnny Farnham, Russell Morris and Kamahl. I've also a vinyl record of Russell Morris that I picked up second-hand from a shop selling recycled goods. And that's about all.

So it was with much anticipation that this compact disc arrived at my doorstep last week. A compilation double compact disc called Australian Legends. Okay, so not all the music there were from the 1960s or 1970s, but it did contain music that I could remember: songs like Spicks And Specks (1968) by the Bee Gees before they became world famous, The Real Thing (1969) by Russell Morris, Turn Up Your Radio (1970) by Masters Apprentices, Howzat (1976) by Sherbet, A Little Ray Of Sunshine (1970) by Axiom and Jump In My Car (1974) by the Ted Mulry Gang. (But unfortunately, no Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool).

Not too many songs from my youth, actually, but still a completely enjoyable CD set because there were also Help Is On Its Way (1977) by the Little River Band, Are You Old Enough (1978) by Dragon which was basically a New Zealand outfit, Beds Are Burning (1987) by Midnight Oil, Don't Dream It's Over (1986) by Crowded House,To The Moon And Back (1997) by Savage Garden, Jessie's Girl (1981) by Rick Springfield after leaving his Zoot days behind, Live It Up (1984) by Mental As Anything, Down Under (1981) by Men At Work, You're The Voice (1986) by Johnny Farnham, Six Months In A Leaky Boat (1982) by Split Enz and Come Said The Boy (1983) by Mondo Rock. All totally recognisable tunes.

A bit pricey this CD set, costing me USD35 from Amazon, but well worth it for the nostalgia.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sex and the eclipsed moon

Did you miss the lunar eclipse on Thursday morning? There had been so much publicity worldwide about this astronomical event that you would have been totally caged indoors not to have noticed it. Well, I've got news for you: I missed it. Yes, and in a funny sort of way, I was caged indoors.

You see, it would have been impossible for me to leave the house on Thursday morning. Or last Monday morning. Or Tuesday moring. In fact, Wednesday and Friday mornings too. My immediate neighbour was in mourning. Their grand old patriarch had passed away, so the road was completely blocked up with their visitors' cars, tables and whatever else. Yes, it would have been impossible for me to creep out of my house in the dead of  night (pardon the pun) just for a spot of moon spotting.

So yes, I missed the lunar eclipse. And as a punishment, I can only enjoy it by looking at this series of photographs from people who were lucky enough to have watched the whole 100 minutes of it. Darn, right?

Anyway, it's important for any would-be moon watcher to know that there are many very important advices connected with the lunar eclipse. They are advice that must be observed. They are so important that you should also understand that there may be dire consequences if you break them. They are so simple but important. And they are so important that they must be simple enough so that you don't break them. Too bad if you have; just don't break them again. Understand???

Of all the very important advices, one that could prove to be the most important is, during a lunar eclipse, DON'T HAVE SEX. That's right, an astrologer from Mumbai, Dr Soniyaa Bhagiyaa, said that in the Hindu scriptures, a lunar eclipse is considered to be an extremely inauspicious omen. He never did say what sort of bad luck would befall disbelievers but this Very Important Advice is in this list of dos and don'ts that he issued:
* Do not sleep, eat or drink in the entire duration between 12.53 am to 3.33 am.
* Do not indulge in any kind of togetherness, including sexual intimacy
* Do not make use of scissors, knives, and needles
* Do not touch images and idols of deities
* Take bath at the start and end of the eclipse
* Do not subject yourself to any kind of entertainment
* Pregnant women are advised to not even watch the eclipse
* Chanting mantras or prayers will guarantee success because of the positive aura at the time of the eclipse
* Deeds of charity will bear fruits
Good God, come to think of it, I had broken most of them!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Two Suns hoax!

Why are there so many gullible people around? I do believe that this is the product of the education system that people do not know how to distinguish between what's true and what's false.

This dreaded email message finally landed in my inbox. It's all about a star with the name of Aderoid (sounds more like Haemoroid to me) that's started putting in an appearance in our sky on 10 June. The email message claims that this star "will look as large as the sun from naked eye. This will culminate on 21 June when the star comes within 34.65M miles of the earth." And then it calls on people to watch the sky on that day at 12:30pm because it will look like the earth has two suns!!

What absolute balderdash. What utter nonsense! If there's anyone who's going to believe this absurdity, then Bob's my uncle!

This is just a hoax along the same line as the tiresome email messages circulating the globe around August every year that Mars will be just as bright at the moon.

It's all nonsense and I'll tell you why. First, there is no such star in the Universe. This can be easily confirmed from the NASA Star and Exoplanet Database (NStED). Second, considering the vastness of space, an astronomical object as large as a star would not suddenly appear in the sky at any particular hour of a given day and then, poof, be gone as quickly as it had appeared. It would creep up on us over an extended period of time.

Third, we should consider the relative distances between the planets in our own Solar system. Our Earth is about 93 million miles from our Sun; Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun is 36 million miles from the Sun's surface. If a star comparable to our Sun were to travel within "34.65 million miles" of the Earth, our planet would quickly become like Mercury: an arid, lifeless, deep-fried hunk of rock. I can assure you that we wouldn't be around to marvel at the sight.

So don't believe this silly hoax. It will just makes an ass out of you.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Stupidity runs the full gamut in the federal government

In the past few days, I was watching two events unfolding here with some disbelief. To say that they were two separate and unconnected events would be wrong. Somehow, they were inter-connected events and the common thread running through them must be the mishandled bureaucracy of government. I'm referring, of course, to the heavy-handed attempt by the federal government to impose censorship on the Internet and the sheer wastage of funds in the name of tourism.

There's a lot already being mentioned in the Internet about the blocking of the 10 websites and the award of a RM1.8 million contract to an advertising agency to promote some facebook pages, so what I'm going to say here isn't new. They are just my observations of developments.

And the first is, and I've mentioned it before, spending the RM1.8 million on the facebook pages is irresponsible and scandalous. According to James Dawos Mamit who is the deputy minister in the Ministry of Tourism, RM1,758,432 was spent on developing six facebook pages to promote Malaysia’s tourism. To people who uses social media websites, this is complete nonsense and to prove a point, someone set up a free Curi Curi Wang Malaysia facebook page to challenge the ministry's contention that it cost them RM293,072 to have set up their Cuti-Cuti 1 Malaysia facebook page in May.

A race then started between the two facebook pages to see which one could garner more "likes". The Cuti Cuti page had a 20,000 headstart but within 24 hours of Curi Curi Wang Malaysia's launch, the number of "likes" had already reached the 20,000 number. As I write, Curi Curi Wang Malaysia has attained more than 92,500 "likes" compared to Cuti Cuti 1 Malaysia's 35,900 "likes". (And as at 11pm, the number of "likes" has exceeded 100,000.)

Personally, I do not know how to interpret these numbers. On the surface, it indicates a wide dissatisfaction out there among Internet users to perceived sillyness and abuses of government funds. But I suspect many of the facebook users who had clicked on their "like" buttons were just jumping on the government-bashing bandwagon. Were they actually concerned over the issue or were they just simply clicking "like" because their friends on facebook were doing it? And how many of these people who clicked "like" are actually registered voters who will go out to vote in the next general elections? I wouldn't be surprised if more than half of them turn out to be ineligible to cast their votes!

So the question is, should the federal government be concerned over this facebook debacle? Of course, it made the Tourism Ministry looked like a complete dunce now. There are noises at the federal level but I believe they will just look back at this episode and say to hell with us, the actual people who showed concern over the continuing abuse of public money.

And regarding the blocking of the 10 Internet sites, I still hold the opinion that blocking them is tantamount to Internet censorship. Someone asked me whether it was wrong to block sites and I had answered: "Yes, it is wrong because it just shows that the MCMC, and by extension it also means the federal government, is taking the easy and lazy way out by penalising the legitimate users of these services. Instead, they should be taking action against the illegal violators. Should be easy to identify the violators since MCMC have all the resources at hand, unless they are so stupid that they don't understand ABC from XYZ." For good measure, I also want to say that there is no such concept as "violation of privacy" in this country. Our privacy has already been violated. Long time ago.

Anyhow, arising from this blocking - or censoring - of the 10 Internet sites from usage by Malaysians, a group of international vigilantes calling themselves Anonymous brought it upon themselves to hack into the Malaysian government's official websites, claiming that they wanted to teach the government a clear lesson. "We fear that if you make further decisions to take away human freedom, we are obligated to act fast and have no mercy," they announced. And what did "no mercy" mean to them? Bringing down at least 41 government and government-linked websites on Thursday (16 June) morning. That's all. They might just as well go tell it to my daddy!

But I'd just like to ask them one question: what good do they think that they have achieved by targetting the government websites? Do they really believe that the federal government would repent and lift the censorship on these 10 websites? Anonymous would be thoroughly naive if they believed that they had swayed the government's thinking. If at all, the only result from this sheer waste of their resources is to expose the Malaysian government websites' woeful lack of Internet security. The government wouldn't tell Anonymous in public but I'm sure privately, they are saying "thank you very much for teaching us where to close our computer loopholes." 

I would tell Anonymous "bah, go get a real life." There must be more destructive things they can do than just hacking into websites. No wonder that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) just shrugged it away, claiming there was "little impact."

Nevertheless, I'm delighted that this episode has put the Information Minister up for public ridicule. I can't imagine anyone could be so confident that their computer systems were so secure. The day before the attack, he was quoted widely as saying that the government was taking the necessary cyber security measures to prevent hacking of the government's official website. Local cyber security officials, Rais Yatim said, referring to the MCMC, "were on the case." Yes, I'm sure he was also on the case.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Pocket's burnt

So finally, I've had the time to take my disabled Nokia C6 for repair. Went to the Pacific Megamall in Jalan Baru, Prai and spent well over an hour searching for the Nokia Care Centre. Turned out that I had arrrived too early at the Megamall when most of the shops were still not opened. Even those ubiquitous mobile phone stalls were unopened.

Might as well walk around and search for the Nokia centre, I thought to myself. It's been ages since I stepped into this huge building. However, time hasn't improved its outlook. The whole of the Pacific Megamall is still pathetic. As far as I am concerned, the place is a failure. All the businesses and activities are on the lower floors: the basement, ground, first and second floors. The upper floors - the third floor and above - remained empty. All the shoplots there were vacant and shuttered.

So I really wandered from the second floor down to the first floor and finally saw someone who could direct me to the Nokia care centre. It's on the ground floor, past the McDonald's and Maxis centre. Ta, I told him, and went downstairs. His direction was perfect. Nobody could miss the Nokia shop front. I walked in, told the front staff about my spoilt phone but before I could whip out the warranty card, he told me the bad news. Sorry but the LED screen is not covered by any warranty. I was aghast. Not covered by a warranty to get the screen replaced? That's right, he confirmed.

It happens all the time, he said. Many people tend to put their phones in their bags or their pockets with their keys and it is normally the keys that press on the screen and spoilt it. So it was with mixed feelings that I surrendered my phone to him. This was going to set me back by RM114. But the bright side was that at least I don't have to buy a new handset if this Nokia C6 can be repaired.

How long before I can get the phone back, I asked. He went to check. Good news, he chirped, come back in two hours and the phone should be ready by then.

I didn't have to wait two hours. In slightly more than an hour, I went to try my luck. Yes, the LED screen's been replaced and my phone is as good as new. So here I am, RM114 poorer but RM114 wiser. Ah, maybe I should add that I am poorer by an extra RM65. Spent that amount in the one hour at the Pacific Hyperstore within the Megamall....

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Unnecessary and utterly irresponsible spendings

I fear for the future of this country. This is where I was born and in all probability, where I'll die too. Why I'm voicing my fear is that the politicians in the federal government are hell-bent on bankrupting this country. Precious funds are being used or wasted on unnecessary projects. The beneficiaries? As laymen, I wouldn't know who are there but it doesn't take a moron to deduce that they are going into the pockets of people or corporations who are close to the people in power at Putrajaya.

And what may be these unnecessary - and, may I add, irresponsibile and scandalous - projects and spendings? Well, my memory's not so good nowadays but here are a few recent ones that comes to my mind:

A RM5 billion 100-storey mega-tower project that was proposed by Najib Razak in his 2011 budget. Wht would he want to build this tower is beyond me, when the money could be better spent on providing better education, health care and transportation for the people.

Then there is that stupid, highly publicised 1Malaysia email account that's supposed to improve on digital security and aid in communication between the government and the masses. But get this: the project is going to cost RM50 million to implement. But mind you, insisted the federal government, it is now a private sector initiative. But what was it before the backtracking began? And why do the government departments have to use this delivery channel subsequently and pay 50 sen per transaction to this private sector company? Waste of money to sustain what many believe to be a crony-related company!

And recently, the federal government held a party for "one million" youth in Putrajaya with the bill coming round to RM27 million. One million? I've been hearing that the number was closer to 20,000 youth. Then they said the funding came from private sector sponsorship. Who cares? If this is not an open, blatant attempt to fish their votes in the next general election, I don't know what is. Again, this is wasted money. Can we get the federal government to convince the private sector to spend their helping the coomon people in so many other concrete ways?

Finally, just two days ago, we learnt that the Ministry of Tourism spent RM1.8 million to create six facebook pages. Gosh, golly wow! I didn't know that it costs so much to create a facebook page. I thought it was free! Funny, despite having spent so much - and I wonder who helped the Ministry on this project - I am still in the dark about what has been achieved so far, apart from people's indignation.
[An update: From what I've read, the advertising agency behind the facebook pages is Impact Creations (M) Sdn Bhd which was established on 22 Apr 2011. Within a month, it bidded and was awarded this RM1.8 million project from the Ministry of Tourism.]
All these are the recent news stories that have come to light. Projects here, projects there; money flowing out here, money flowing out there; but who are the beneficiaries? Certainly not me. I don't need a 100-storey building anymore than I need a 1Malaysia email account or a RM27 million party. I don't need all these projects while I remain grappling with an increasing daily cost of living. RON95 petrol prices may not have gone up yet but I detest the fact that the federal government allowed the cost of electricity to increase. Stupid if they expect us to believe that this will have no impact on the common folks. Already, the cost of foodstuff has gone up. It's affecting my bottom line and I only wish all these show of extravagant spendings can be stopped and the money channelled to proper use, that is, to benefit we common folks!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Shitty MAXIS service, shitty Nokia phone too

My Nokia C6, which was purchased in September last year, was working fine until last Friday evening when it suddenly developed a serious technical problem. No amount of switching it off and on repeatedly, or removing the battery, could restore it back to working condition. It looked dead to me.

On Saturday, I phoned the MAXIS customer careline at 123, told them that my phone was on the blink and asked them for their recommendation. They suggested taking it to any of their MAXIS centres and said that their centre at the Northam Suite Hotel in Northam Road, Penang was still open until 1.30pm. Just bring your warranty card along, chirped the chap at the other end of the line.

Great, I thought to myself. I was just about to go out to the island anyway. Had an appointment at one o'clock and if I were to go out earlier I could kill two birds with one stone. So in high spirits, I made myself to the MAXIS centre only to be told, with nary a look at my poor phone, that I had to go to the Nokia service centre to get it repaired.

Needless to say, I was cheesed off and I made it known to them that they could have saved me a lot of bother if their staff manning their 123 careline had been trained better to give me the right information and not make me run around without a solution to my problem. That is the prerogative of the lousy civil service, not to be emulated or admired by the private sector corporations.

Today's Sunday. I have still to wait until tomorrow. So right now, I'm reduced to using my wife's old Samsung clam shell mobile phone temporarily. There are no bells or whistles on this phone; it's just a basic unit for making telephone calls and text messages. The worst part is that all my friends' telephone phones are now completely inaccessible. And how I miss the ability to check my emails on the spoilt Nokia C6.

Talking of Nokia, no matter how fast or how slow their service centre is going to repair my phone, or even if it can be repaired at all, I think this will be the last Nokia model that I'll be buying! Nokia's reliability seems to be gone and it's time to move on....

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Unfortunate driver

See this trailer hanging precariously over the edge of the road? How this accident happened is anyone's guess. But the sad reality is, it did happen yesterday at the North-South Expressway's flyover in Seberang Jaya, Penang. Needless to say, it created a huge traffic congestion from the north.

In case anyone's curious, no, I wasn't caught in the congestion. It so happened that I had used the slip round outside the Immigration office, so I managed to skirt around all the cars that had slowed down to look. Here's a closer look at the trailer.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Here's the News of the Day: Wayne Rooney, under suspension from the England team for one match of Euro 2012, underwent a STG10,000 hair transplant process at a London hair specialist clinic while his team mates slogged out to a draw with Switzerland at Wembley Stadium. Can we see the results quickly before the hair gel sets?