Friday, 30 September 2011

Frustrating Thursday

I've had a lot on my mind recently. Yesterday was no help to me. Woke up in the morning to find that my Internet connection was lost. Before I go on further, I just want to mention that my Internet set-up comprises the telephone line to the adsl modem and from there, a cable to the wireless router. Another cable connects this wireless router to my desktop whereas the notebooks and netbooks connect by wireless.

As I said, I woke up yesterday to find the Internet connect lost. At first, I fiddled with the desktop and saw that although there was no problem with the desktop-router configuration, there was no outside connection to the Internet. So that ruled out any computer-related problem.

The problem was to figure out next what could be wrong with the equipment. Inbetween communicating with a friend in Kuala Lumpur and my own trial and error in Bukit Mertajam, I couldn't find any possible fault. Could it be a problem with the service provider then?

I contacted TMNet and asked them to check at their side and they said that they could see no technical problem at their end. They suggested that perhaps I should reinstal the modem router software. Tried this several times but always hit a snag. The modem router couldn't talk with the service provider at all.

Then last evening, something cleared up in my mind and I decided to hook up my secondary telephone line. Again, an explanation. I have two Internet lines at home. I applied for the second line more than a year ago only because I wanted to get a netbook for my son. I looked at it and saw that it was a good deal. But I also had to apply for a second telephone line as the terms of that netbook application would require a new Internet line as well. I had opted for the slowest (and cheapest) connection. All in, only about RM37 per month, which I can cancel after about 15 or 18 months. Just about now, actually. And in the past year or so, I believe that I had turned on the modem perhaps four or five times. All due to a downtime with the main connection.

So at least for last night, I had some slow connectivity on my netbook. I was able to clear my essential emails, my wife was able to clear some of her office emails as well. But it was frustratingly slow on the netbook.

This morning, after a good night's sleep, I awoke to an idea. Why not plug in the desktop cable into this secondary Internet connection? Would it work? Kept my fingers crossed. Yes, it did work. Then I tried it the other way round. I connected the modem router to the secondary telephone line. No, it didn't work this time. So I think my problem must be with this modem router. On its last leg already. Or as we used to say in the vernacular, kau tang already. It's time is up! Definitely! Looks like I'll have to make my way to the computer shop soon for a replacement....

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Remember.... (part 4)

Well, 48 hours have passed by and I still don't see any word from the Film Censorship Board with regards to the fate of the video clip, Undilah, that's supposed to create awareness to our citizens to cast their votes at the next general elections. That's efficiency for you!

But never mind, we don't have to depend on the mainstream broadcasters to show the video. It's available on YouTube:

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

NZ travelogue: Lake Tekapo

We could have easily missed Lake Tekapo as my GPS destination was set straight to Twizel. Although there were signs along the highway from Geraldine to Twizel that the junction to Lake Tekapo was coming up next, it's quite easy to be distracted by the sights and you forget to take the turning. It was only after I had passed by the junction that I had to turn the car around.

Eventually, we arrived at the landmark Church Of The Good Shepherd which sat at the edge of the lake. It was just past four o'clock in the afternoon, New Zealand time. Just our luck, we could see the custodian of the church locking the door and walk away. Therefore, no chance of going inside the small church. What else was there to do but to loiter around outside the building?

Seemed that a million other people had the same idea. Although the church was closed by the day, there were still lots of people walking around, taking snapshots of the building. The surrounds were not as empty and desolate as the tourist brochures would have us believe. If I had thought that the quaint building would be a good place for a photo opportunity, it was not to be. Too many people wandering around gave us no hope of privacy.

But at least, everybody was helpful enough to take pictures for other strangers. I took their photos (with their cameras, of course) and in turn, they took our photos (with our cameras, of course, too).

And as we were standing around the church, a tourist bus soon arrived to spill out another large group of tourists. Either Japanese or Koreans. I couldn't be sure, but within minutes they were swarming about us. Many wandered off to have their pictures taken at the alternative tourist spot, the statue of the shepherd dog, which was about 50 metres away. Thank goodness for that. I would have felt positively stifled with so many people around me!

So I told my wife, why not let's wander a bit closer to the lake. From afar, we could already see its magnificence. Snow-capped mountains in the distance. Surely, my wife would be thrilled to see real snow-capped mountains for the very first time, which she was.

We were glad to have seen the lake. Wow, what a vast expanse of beauty. Quiet, natural beauty. At least, with very few people having the same idea as us, there were less human traffic around. Here's my last impression of the Church Of The Good Shepherd and the Lake Tekapo. Hope you have enjoyed the panoramic views of the last few pictures.

Remember.... (Part 3)

Well, 24 hours have passed by and I don't see any word from the super-efficient Film Censorship Board with regards to the fate of the video clip, Undilah, that's supposed to create awareness to our citizens to cast their votes at the next general elections.

Anyway, when I went to take a closer look at the video, I was pleasantly surprised to see my favourite Hainanese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur being used as a venue for the video shoot. Yes, the Yut Kee Restaurant in Jalan Dang Wangi. At first glance, I had thought that the place looked mighty familiar...

Monday, 26 September 2011

Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan Temple, Penang Hill

During my last trip up Penang Hill with friends, I took some time off to visit the Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan Temple which was about 100 to 150 metres from the funicular train's upper station. The temple, which was dedicated to Sri Bala Muruga, was located on a small mound at the summit and accessible by a short flight of steps.

The temple's quite compact and visitors could walk freely around the spacious compound. Except for some parts of the external walls where the paint was peeling off, I was quite surprised that the building and statues were well maintained. I did go inside the temple to look around but it was generally too dark even for the camera's tiny in-built flash to illuminate adequately. Besides, it didn't help that the day was beastly hazy. Normally, we'd be able to see George Town from the summit but on that day, even the most optimistic visitor would be frustrated. Well, we were.

So except for one composite shot of the protectors of the temple's arthamandapam (antechamber), which housed the statue of Sri Bala Muruga, the rest of the photos here were snapped outside the temple building.

This is the statue of Sri Bala Muruga outside the temple. He is normally identified by the vel (spear) that can be seen in this picture. The blue peacock, Maragatha Mayil, is also a common feature of this deity.

And finally, there is this magnificent sculpture at the temple grounds. It's more for decoration, like the rest of the statues and scultures adorning the sides of and atop the temple's building but I've known of people praying to it. To the uninitiated, this may only look like a group of Hindu deities but actually, this is a representation of Hinduism's First Family of Deities.

The largest statue in the centre is that of Sri Shiva, one of the three most important gods of the Trimurti (Hindu Trinity). Beside Shiva is his consort, Sri Parvati. Sitting on Parvati's lap is Sri Bala Muruga, identified by his vel, and the one of the left with an elephant's head and four arms is Sri Bala Ganesha. Both Muruga and Ganesha are the sons of Shiva and Parvati. How Ganesha acquired the head of an elephant is a long story best left to another time to tell. 

Remember .... (part 2)

Well, I've just seen this news report on The Malaysian Insider website. Already, you have a joker from the ruling party who says that the Undilah video clip, which was yanked from the local broadcasters on orders from the MCMC on the filmsy excuse that it hasn't been passed by the film censorship board, contained some subliminal messages detrimental to them.

Subliminal message? Of course, there are subliminal messages everywhere. It's only whether a party feels boxed in enough to think that the message is only about them. It's all in the personal perception, that all.

But coming back to this story, I'm sure this is a strong hint of what's to come next. Come Monday or Tuesday, what are the bets that the censorship board will say that the video clip cannot be aired at all? I'd like to see them prove me wrong.

Sunday, 25 September 2011


I call this post "Remember" so that I can remind you to do the right thing when the next general elections are announced. I am putting this short video up on my blog because I am upset that the MCMC has called for it to be pulled from any television station's broadcast.

The filmsy excuse given by the MCMC is that the film has yet to get through the censorship board. So now I am watching the situation closely to see how efficient the censorship board is. How many days will it take the board to approve this video? It's not as if this is a zillion-dollar foreign blockbuster movie. This is is just a short local video that was produced by some Malaysians.

But until then, I just want to remind everybody to "remember" your rights as a citizen of this land and do what's right come the next general elections!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Not disappointed!!

The satisfaction was in the sitting down in front of my computer with my wife on Thursday night to watch the first episode of the second season of the new Hawaii Five-0 series.

We watched the cliffhanger several months ago and had been waiting patiently for this new season to start. We weren't surprised with the general development of the story because after all, the foursome's reunion as a team was to be totally expected. But neither were we disappointed.

I'm far, far from being a TV addict but hey, if there's only one television series that I can watch regularly, this must be it. I know that Jimmy, one of my chess friends, has been telling me ever so often that the episodes from the last season were b-o-r-i-n-g but to me, watching the action on Hawaii Five-0 is just like watching the late, great Mikhail Tal playing chess! Totally exciting. Totally gripping.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Orchid blooms

So glad to see a few of the orchid plants blooming in that little corner of my front porch. And these are not the only ones. Others have come and gone in the past two weeks. I'm still waiting for one or two more to appear as I've noticed the flower spikes starting to push through. I guess the blooms owe a lot to the recent rainy weather and cold spells. Anyway, I'm truly enjoying the colours and the fragrance from some of them.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

FM movie soundtrack

I managed to buy this old, second-hand two-record set from Joe's Mac at the Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya when I was down there last month. I had been searching for the record for quite a while ever since I watched the movie a very long time ago. Of course, I was a little apprehensive about the sound quality but surprisingly there were very little pops and crackles. Besides, it looked like Joe Rozario, the shop's owner, had cleaned up the records quite a bit. My own cleaning process revealed very little dirt too. So it was a reasonably good buy.

What I liked about the record set was that it was something similar to one of those "Various Artists" sort of compilation: one song here from this band and one song there from this singer. A pick here, a pick there. That sort of thing. It was practically, well, a radio station! If anyone had watched the movie FM, they'd know what I meant.

Side One: FM (Steely Dan), Night Moves (Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band), Fly Like An Eagle (Steve Miller), Cold As Ice (Foreigner), Breakdown (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Bad Man (Randy Meisner)
Side Two: Tumbling Dice (Linda Ronstadt), Poor Poor Pitiful Me (Linda Ronstadt), Livingston Saturday Night (Jimmy Buffet), There's A Place In The World For A Gambler (Dan Fogelberg), Just The Way You Are (Billy Joel)
Side Three: Life In The Fast Lane (Eagles), Do It Again (Steely Dan), Lido Shuddle (Boz Scaggs), More Than A Feeling (Boston)
Side Four: It Keeps You Runnin' (Doobie Brothers), Your Smiling Face (James Taylor), Life's Been Good (Joe Walsh), We Will Rock You (Queen), FM-Reprise (Steely Dan)

Anyway, FM was one of those movies that tried to jump onto the music industry-related bandwagon. It was a movie all about a number one radio station, how the greedy station executives tried to sell more commercials for more profits (hello, what's new??), how the staff rebelled and went on strike and how the matter was finally resolved. The best parts of the movie were, of course, the live performances of Jimmy Buffet and Linda Ronstadt. Buffet sang two songs but only one appeared on the record; similarly, Ronstadt sang three songs and one went missing from the album too. Plus, bonus appearances by REO Speedwagon and Tom Petty, although they didn't perform live in the movie.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

NZ travelogue: Geraldine

The Ragitata Bridge is supposedly one of the awesome river crossings in the world, not only because it spans the Rangitata braided river system but also because it is about 1.1 kilometres long and wide enough for only two lanes of traffic. I've read somewhere that drivers can sometimes get nervous crossing this bridge because of its length and its width and the need to look out for on-coming vehicles, especially trucks, but to me who has been raised on Malaysian roads (hello, Malaysian drivers....), the warning is next to nothing!

After crossing the bridge, we turned right into the Rangitata-Orari Bridge Highway and this soon led us to the quaint town of Geraldine. We decided to stop here and take a quick look around. More so, my wife wanted to pick up some provisions that we had brought along. We pulled up just outside the Crown Hotel on Talbot Street.

One thing that struck me in New Zealand was that all these quaint towns we passed through were often quite laidback and quiet. We didn't get to see the hustle and bustle of their lives.

For example in Geraldine, we didn't see that many people around despite the town being supposedly home to gifted artists and artisans whose works were on sale in the shops along the main street. We stopped for about half an hour to pick up the provisions and then we were on our way.

Here are some images of the place, including an interesting wall grafitti that I found in a narrow alley just off the main street. Doubt whether many people would have noticed it....

Oh yes, and here's something that I cannot resist not showing. Make up your own caption, people. I drove past the junction, then decided to double back and take a photograph. Just then, an elderly couple crossed the road and started to walk towards the cemetery!


Monday, 19 September 2011

Getting confused?

Huh! You'd think that they were part of the Malaysian football team!
Wishful thinking because they're not, they're not!

Sign language

How many fingers have we?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Starwalk: not exactly time well spent

Woke up at 4am this morning because we were due to participate in this year's Penang Starwalk. It has been many years - six years, perhaps - that we last took part in this event. The last time we did so, the start and finish of the Starwalk were at the Esplanade. When the event was shifted to somewhere in the south-east of the island, we had not bothered with it at all.

This year, The Star moved their Starwalk back to the city and termed it as their heritage walk, starting from the Penang Time Square building in Dato Kramat Road. The Star even billed it as a walk back in time.

"Discover 200 years of celebrated history as you walk along George Town's heritage trail," said The Star's catch line. Now you know that I've always had a soft spot for Penang's heritage. I needed no second persuasion. The moment I heard about this, I asked my wife whether she would want to take part in the Starwalk again. She said yes and that was that. The only other matter was to ask my friend, Long Kin, whether he wanted to come along too and he said yes.

So there was this six-kilometre route for non-competitors that took us through the maze of George Town's inner city; meant to enable the participants to discover and appreciate the cultural heritage of the city.

But it is debatable whether the newspaper's objective was actually fulfilled. My opinion was that there was too little effort for people to appreciate the history of the heritage sites.

Each one of us was required to have our little booklet (which the organisers called the Heritage Passport) stamped at each of the six heritage sites we passed by -- the City Hall, Fort Cornwallis, the St George's Church, the Guan Yin Temple, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple and the Kapitan Keling Mosque -- but everyone were concentrating more on getting their booklets stamped before continuing with their walk than even to look at the heritage sites at all, and that was the whole pity of the event.

Anyway, we were picked up at about 5am this morning and turned up at the Penang Time Square just before the shopping mall closed their multi-storey carpark. Then after we collected the yellow identification wristband, we met up with the rest of the Rockwills gang before the starter's gun set us off. The stroll itself was uneventful and we finished well within the two hours stipulated for the walk.

Then it was off for our brunch before gathering again at the square to await the lucky draws. Unsurprisingly, we had no luck at all and came away empty handed.

So would I consider today as time well spent? Yes and no. Yes, because I always enjoy walking through the heritage precinct of the city and more so when I can tell stories to people along the way. No, because the wait for the lucky draws is always monotonous and a waste of time, not to mention giving me a big strain on the backbone and knees when I am forced to remain standing on the same spot for hours. I'm sure many others felt the same.

Just for the record, the non-competitor's walk took us along Dato Kramat Road, Penang Road, Burmah Road, Transfer Road, Northam Road, Farquhar Street, Light Street, Esplanade Road, the Esplanade, Fort Road, Light Street again, Pitt Street, China Street, Queen Street, Chulia Street, Pitt Street again, Armenian Street, Acheen Street, Carnarvon Street, Magazine Road, Brick Kiln Road and Kampong Jawa Road.

If the participants had noticed closely, this walk would have taken them past several heritage sites of which I will only mention some of the visible ones along the route (not off the route) such as Birch House, the Nagarathar Sivan Temple, the Sri Kamatchi Amman Temple, the Ong Kongsi, the derilict Loke Thye Kee restaurant, the historical Indian-Muslim bakeries along Transfer Road, the former Shih Chung Branch School, the Leong Yin Kean mansion, the dilapidated Farquhar Street Mission School, the E&O Hotel, the St Xavier's Institution, the Church of the Assumption, the Convent Light Street, the Supreme Court building, the Logan Memorial, the Penang Town Hall, the Penang City Hall, the Cenotaph, the Esplanade field, Fort Cornwallis and its old lighthouse, Cheah Chen Eok's Queen Victoria memorial clock tower, the Legislative Assembly building, the Foo Tye Sin mansion, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce building, the Chung Siew Yin building, the St George's Church, the Guan Yin Temple, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple, the Kapitan Keling Mosque, the Yap Temple, the Dr Sun Yat Sen southern headquarters, the Penang Islamic Museum, the George Town World Heritage Incorporated building, the Soo Beng Dispensary and the old Hin Bus Company building.

If anyone had missed these sites, perhaps it will be useful to retrace the steps of the Penang Starwalk slowly and go soak in the historical atmosphere of old George Town. I'm sure there is something new to learn along the way.


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Penang hill thrill ride?

This is just my second trip up Penang Hill in the spiffy new coaches and this time, I made sure to be more aware of my surroundings. Went up there with some friends from Kuala Lumpur during a weekday and as luck would have it, we bumped in yet more friends up there. Small world indeed!

Was also mighty glad that I brought along my old Konica Minolta Dimage Z5 instead of the Panasonic DMC-FS15 because the pictures turned out sharper despite the lower number of pixels.

Here are some rather dramatic (in my opinion, anyway) pictures that I snapped as the coach approached the old middle station and started veering off left on the new tracks before approaching the new loop. As I had mentioned before, the two coaches were approaching one another at a relatively great speed of about 60 kilometres an hour.

But I don't understand is why the Penang Hill Authority -- I presume the PHA is the government authority that is running the funicular train service as well as looking after the developments on the Penang Hill -- allows their staff to ride in the open-air cargo compartment at the front of the coach. Is this a throw-back to the old days when the coaches were still slowly trundling up the tracks and the authorities were closing one eye (both both eyes) to such practices? By allowing it to continue today is simply dangerous and irresponsible. Well and good if there is no untoward incident but I can imagine all the hue and cry, including the legal implications, if some sort of accident were to happen and the two staff are injured.


Thursday, 15 September 2011


What's this curiosity that I found peeking out from beneath a leaf on one of my plants?

It's only a caterpillar. But what an odd caterpillar. First time I've ever seen one of this shape. I wonder what the mature insect looks like? Can only be a butterfly or a moth, this much I know.

In fact, there were two of them making a feast of my plant's leaves


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Ivanchuk's heartwrenching moment

Clearly, this is absolutely the most heartwrenching image to emerge from the Chess World Cup in the Russian town of Khanty-Mansiysk. It shows the Ukrainian grandmaster, Vassily Ivanchuk, walking away from the chessboard with his face buried in his hands.

Ivanchuk had been greatly distressed by his two-move blunder in the third game of the tie-break play-off match with Russia's Alexander Grischuk.

It was the semi-finals of the Chess World Cup. Both Ivanchuk and Grischuk had already progressed far in the tournament, which started as a series of mini knock-out matches with 128 players and had been whittled down to only four players at this late stage of the event.

The first two games of the semi-finals between these two players had ended drawn; so the match went into extra time. Grischuk won the first play-off game and then Ivanchuk struck back in the second play-off game. Then came this third play-off game.

Grischuk, who was in his customary time trouble, had allowed his clock to run down to the last three seconds before he executed his move. Ivanchuk thought that he was almost on the verge of winning and walked right into the trap that his opponent had laid for him. His first blunder was to lose a knight and then the second blunder was to lose his rook. All in consecutive moves.

When Grisc6huk captured the rook, Ivanchuk was so shocked and distressed that he resigned the game immediately and left the table with his face hidden by his hands. No, he wasn't trying to shield his face from the cameras. This was clearly a man in great shock.

What a heartwrenching image. And by the way, Ivanchuk is one of the strongest players in the world. Yet, he can succumb to nerves. What about you? Would you succumb to nerves too? I know that I will.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

NZ travelogue: Moving house, literally!

I have never believed anyone who tells me that he never plans for his holidays, that he would just go to his holiday destination and then allow fate to guide him along. In my opinion, such random trips will lead to a disastrous holiday sooner or later.

Me? I always make sure that I have an itinerary ready. I may not have everything down to the details but I will have an eye on the time and a general idea of what to do and where to go. But most importantly, I will have planned on my nightly accommodations. A "Plan A" supported by a "Plan B".

As a result, nothing should really spring a pleasant or nasty surprise on the traveller unless something happens that is totally unexpected. I am pretty glad that nothing unpleasant happened on our trip to New Zealand's South Island. Except for time constraints that prevented us from fulfilling all our objectives - don't we always want more time on our holidays to do this and to do that? - I would think that we achieved about 80 to 90 percent of what we set out to do.

But there was one incident that caught both my wife and I by surprise on our first day on the road. About 15 minutes after we passed through Ashburton, the traffic in front of us suddenly crawled to a halt. Cars were pulling up by the side of the road.

I was driving and I got puzzled. Why on earth would that be happening? The Malaysian driver instinct in me suddenly took over. Without realising it, I began overtaking all those cars. And then suddenly, I saw why all those cars had stopped. It was this:

A truck was approaching from the other direction of the highway and it was carrying a small house! Really. It looked like a prefabricated house but nevertheless, still a whole house. A whole house, that is, which had been uploaded onto the back of the truck. It was a sight to behold. I had thought that this could only happen among the kampungs in rural South-East Asia but I could hardly imagine seeing this in New Zealand.

So what could I do but to join the other drivers and swerve myself out of the way of the on-coming truck? But of course, not before I grabbed the camera from my wife's grip - she was literally frozen with shock - and took this one precious picture...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Mid-Autumn festival

I didn't get many chances to buy or eat mooncakes this year. I could have shopped for them at the MidValley Megamall when I was there last month but I was too caught up with the chess tournament and gave a miss to all the stalls that had sprung up there.

Then after my return to Penang, I found a whole load of mooncakes being sold at the Pacific Megamall at Prai. Too many choices, in fact, which left me more determined not to succumb to the sweet temptation.

Well, today is the actual day of the festival itself. I went to the city this morning for the Mid-Autumn Festival prayers at the Swee Cheok Tong and came back with my share of this delicacy. A whole box of it, in fact. Four mooncakes. Didn't waste any time to slice up one of them to tuck in. Now I'm satisfied.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Ten Years After

Despite being exposed to songs like Love Like A Man and I'm Going Home, surprisingly this is the only Ten Years After compact disc in my collection. No records, just this one compact disc. Ten Years After is, of course, best known for their former frontman, Alvin Lee (real name Graham Barnes), the fastest and meanest rock guitarist I've ever heard.

Check out the energy of their live performance here:

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Wordpress blank screen of death!

Oh, bloody shit. My other blog, It's All In The Planning!, was hit by the Wordpress blank screen of yesterday.

How it happened was that whenever I logged into my blog, I would see a persistent message at the top of the screen that said my Wordpress version was out of date and I should upgrade to the latest version.

I can ignore the message once and I can ignore it twice; but I cannot ignore it if it appears for the umpteenth time. So I did the inevitable by downloading the latest version and used ftp to upload the new files up to the server. Then suddenly just as I returned to view the blog, all I saw was this darn blank screen.

Panic! What could have happened? Tried this and tried that, but nothing worked. In desperation, I telephoned my web hosting company. They sent me an email with suggestions and links to various Wordpress help sites, including the forums.

And I found out that I was not alone. There were zillions of other Wordpress users who had been affected by this now infamous Wordpress blank screen at one time or another. All sorts of questions asked on the forum but in my opinion, not one iota of useful information to resolve the problem. Of utter no help to me. I think all in, I must have spent something like 10 hours sweating over the loss of my blog.

At 11 o'clock, I sent off another email to my web hosting company saying that I've tried "everything I knew" but haven't been able to resolve it. Tired and resigned, I then switched off my machine.

This morning, I saw an email from my web hosting company asking me to check on my blog again. To my pleasant surprise, It's All In The Planning! is back on board. Whatever they did to get it back for me, I don't know but I know that I'm mighty grateful to them for getting the blog back for me.

In case you want to know who the web hosting company is, they are Exabytes.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Copycat Innovation workshop

With an acronym like YKK, you'd think that this story has everything to do with the ubiquitous zippers that you can find on almost every piece of clothing. But no, I'm not writing about zippers. YKK in this instance refers to the initials of an international speaker, trainer and innovation consultant who is not averse to calling himself a Chief Mind Unzipper. But more about this person later.

First, I've to ask whether you have heard about the term Copycat Innovation? This is about adapting a proven solution to come out with an innovation. By so doing, risks are minimised and success will be optimised. In short, Copycat Innovation is about taking what works best and then improving on it.

Copycat Innovation is not about a full-scale imitation. It should not even be confused with copyright or patent infringement. Rather, it takes advantage of the research and development already carried out earlier and involves the borrowing and developing of existing products and technologies to carve a competitive niche in the marketplace.

If any organisation is serious about growing its competitiveness and positioning itself strategically in the marketplace, Copycat Innovation offers one of the best approaches to your organisation. Why? Because:
  • It  has a low risk. You are adapting or refining a proven solution;
  • It is low-cost. The research and development work has already been done for you;
  • It  requires minimal resources. You do not need massive efforts and resources; and 
  • It is a short-route to commercialisation.
Still want to know more about this Copycat Innovation thingy? Then you should be interested to know that there will be a once-in-a-lifetime Copycat Innovation Workshop at the Eastin Hotel in Penang on 17 and 18 October 2011. This hotel is near the Queensbay Mall on the island.

The facilitator of this workshop is Dr Yew Kam Keong, a Malaysian who now stays in Australia. For your information, he prefers to be known as Dr YKK and he unabashedly terms himself as the Chief Mind Unzipper. YKK. Zipper. Unzipper. Get it? Now, if that isn't using a copycat idea to great innovative advantage, I don't know what is.

Dr YKK will lead the participants through his Copycat Innovation process in a fun, participative and stimulating way, and will help you to bring out viable and practical innovation for your organisation. A word of warning though – you may never think the same way again after attending his workshop!

Dr YKK is acknowledged as a Distinguished Talent on Creativity & Innovation by the Australian Government. He is a best-selling author and masterful storyteller, and an international speaker, trainer, and innovation consultant to governments, multinational corporations and SMEs. His best-selling book, You Are Creative, has been reprinted 12 times and published in five languages. He was the only person from among the British Commonwealth countries selected to serve on the pioneer panel of eight international creativity expert advisers in Lego’s global project, The Next Generation Forum.

But actually, who should be the ones attending this workshop? According to the Penang Branch of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) which is bringing this programme to this part of the country, apart from company chief executive officers, managing directors and general managers, the workshop will be most relevant to managers who are in charge or involved with innovation, business development, new product development, marketing and branding.

For the Course Outline, please click here

The fees for the two-day workshop are RM750 per participant from an FMM-member company and RM900 per participant from non-FMM member companies. The fees are inclusive of programme materials, and lunch and tea breaks at the Eastin. Moreover, the workshop is 100% HRDF claimable under the SBL Scheme.

Are you still keen to find out more about the Copycat Innovation workshop? Then please drop an email to Kadaneswari, Owe Yean Roei or Lee Saw See at the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, Penang Branch. The closing date for registration is 30 Sep 2011.

To download the Registration Form, please click here.  

NZ travelogue: Day One

We had expected to leave Christchurch at nine o'clock in the morning and put in a leisurely seven hours of driving before arriving at Twizel before the day grew dark. But as it turned out, we woke up a bit later than expected. Must have been the four-hour time difference between Penang and Christchurch.

We only left the car rental company at about eleven in the morning. So two hours had passed by in a flash without us realising it. First things first: we checked the car to make sure that it's licence had not expired. Two years ago, I was a little nervous with our hired car in Perth because there wasn't a new road tax disc on the windscreen. Not that it hadn't been renewed; the lady at the rental company at the Perth airport told us that they hadn't received the new disc yet but assured us that it was completely all right.

Nevertheless in Christchurch, I had to make sure that the disc was on display prominently. Wouldn't want any policeman to stop us along the way, right? Of course, we also had to familiarise ourselves with the car's controls. A bit disappointed though that it did not feature a cruise control button. That would have been useful. And finally, getting my Garmin GPS unit to work. Thankfully, the New Zealand maps were freely available on the Internet and quite up to date.

So having gotten ourselves prepared, we finally set off towards Twizel. Our route took us through the Canterbury plains and after passing by Ashburton and the Rangitata river, we stopped briefly at Geraldine to walk down the town centre. Lunch was a very simple rush affair at Fairlie because we were a bit concerned about having lost so much time in Christchurch and Geraldine.

We would need to speed up a bit if we wanted to arrive at Twizel before dark. But our journey also took us through Lake Tekapo. Although it was already around 4.30pm, we had to make the slight detour from the highway to the lake. No way, I told my wife, that we should miss out on the Church of the Good Shepherd. It was supposed to be the iconic tourist spot in this part of the country.

Arriving at the church beside the lake, we weren't surprised that we weren't alone. There was still a good number of visitors milling around but soon a bus arrived with a full load of Japanese tourists which added to the difficulty of taking pictures without them getting in the way. I noticed the statue of the shepherd dog in the distance and decided to give it a miss. Seen enough photos of it. Nothing special about it and besides, why jostle with those other gaping people?

So we decided to go down to the beach instead and take in the mesmerising scenery. It was so much more worthwhile and breath-taking. Aoraki Mount Cook stood majestically in the far distance.

By the time we arrived at Twizel, it was almost dark. But luckily, the GPS did lead us to the Pinegrove Cottage along the North West Arch. Here, we would be staying for the night.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Just one look

Before CSN, there were the Hollies. If you appreciate the harmony of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash singing together, then you will also appreciate the equally tight harmony of the British group, the Hollies.

Nash is the common thread running through both groups. He started out in 1962 as a founding and integral member of the Hollies together with Allan Clarke. And the group was pretty successful till about 1968 or so, with one hit after another racing up the British pop charts and of course, here in Malaysia too.

But by 1968, Nash had become disillusioned with his stay in the Hollies. The final straw came when his bandmates wanted to record a selection of Bob Dylan songs - quite the fashion in those days - but he didn't want to. By this time, he had become firm friends with Crosby and Stills, with whom he found greater appreciation of his songs. So he left the Hollies and crossed the Atlantic to join up with them. The rest, as they say, is history.

To the credit of the Hollies, their musical career did not suffer without Nash. The group just simply carried on with other chart-topping hits. But it was this song, Just One Look, released in February 1964, that made me sit back and really appreciate the great harmony of the Hollies. It reached as high as Number Two on the British charts.

Exit, literally

It is normally the case that when someone resigns from his job, the company will hold an exit interview with the departing person.

When I was still with my old employment, we received this email one day from a resigning staff to inform us of his exit interview. We couldn't stop laughing: the joke being that there was a door marked EXIT located somewhere on the eighth floor of the building in Kuala Lumpur that opened out to ... nothing but a wide open exterior. Going up to the eighth floor for an exit (interview). What an idea!

And I had friends and colleagues alike who badgered me whether I had also been shown this mythical door when I was at the KL office in November two years ago for the handover duties. There were less than two months to go before it was my time to leave. Retiring, mind you, not resigning. Thankfully, I had to tell them, no. No such door existed.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Coping with Alzheimer's

We went to visit one of my wife's old neighbours yesterday. The lady of the house was okay but the husband was suffering from Alzheimer's. We've heard so much of Alzheimer's but unless one gets to know the people who are care-givers, it is almost impossible to understand the psychological stress and anguish they go through.

For one thing, the person with Alzheimer's needs a 24-hour care and frankly, nobody but a tender loving spouse will have the patience to look after the patient. There is almost no time for anything else but to keep a watchful eye and see that he inflicts no harm on himself.

"I also have to be very careful with the knives in the house," she told us. There was an occasion, she related, when he was eyeing a knife on the kitchen table just as she was doing some housework. She had heard some horror stories before, of how some people have had an Alzheimer's patient use a household utensil to threaten the care-giver. So she quickly removed the knife and locked it away.

Her husband, she said, had been suffering for several years already. She suspected that part of the reason for anyone to develop this disease was the mental and physical inactivity once a person reached retirement age and had nothing to do.

She was also wracked with some personal guilt, fearing that she could have contributed to the onset on this disease in her husband when she stopped him from smoking suddenly. "It was too drastic, I suppose, when I forced him to give up smoking completely. He had absolutely nothing to do after that."

So where had she been taking her husband for treatment, we asked. Initially, they went to the private hospitals but to spend something like RM900 monthly on medication quickly became very taxing on their resources. Then someone suggested the government hospital instead. Initially there was some trepidation but finally, they went. "The specialist at the government hospital was very patient with us," she recalled. And then she was greatly surprised that the medication proved to be the same as the ones given by the private hospitals. "We're thankful for the government hospital. All that specialist care for only RM5 per visit," she said.

I suppose Alzheimer's would affect each person differently. I have another friend who is similarly afflicted, but so far his wife tells me that only his memory is affected. His short-term memory is almost gone. Yet he wants to pick up a newspaper to read, only to put it down after a few seconds of staring at a page.

As for this present lady's husband, he would get pretty excitable and animated when too many friends come round to their house, and would try to go out. Even the presence of all their grown-up children together could prove too much for him and set off his confusion and aggression. The only remedy was to take him for a short drive around the neighbourhood, even at one o'clock in the middle of the night.

So it had been a rather sobering afternoon for us as we left that old couple. Although not proven, inactivity could be a cause of Alzheimer's. Inactivity could also be the cause for the onset of all kinds of health problems. The lesson, we realised, was that we must keep our minds actively working for as long as we were able. Perhaps, I should start playing more chess after all instead of keeping an arm's length from local chess competitions.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Nandaka Vihara

I just can't resist showing off these charming pictures that I took last month at the Nandaka Vihara, a secluded retreat centre at Kampung Teluk Bukit in Bukit Mertajam. It's an oasis of peace and calm. When I visited the place, there was hardly a soul in sight except for three or four volunteer workers. One can almost mistaken the place for a modern holiday villa, but I must stress that it is not. To get here, I had to travel on a long and narrow, but thankfully mostly tarred, lane that branched off from the road that led visitors to the entrance to the BM recreational park at Cheruk Tokun. Almost everyone can visit the Nandaka Vihara. Will post more pictures later...