Thursday, 28 February 2013

New York on my mind

Here's a little secret. Nothing important, but it was just a fleeting aspect of my life. More than 10 years ago, I almost ended up with an opportunity to work in New York. This chance came at a time when my working life was at a major crossroad.

My employment at that time was in transition. The company was being swallowed by another in what was being touted as a “friendly merger” but as we all came to realise eventually, mergers are anything but friendly.

So there I was, being transferred from the Head Office of a bank in Penang to one of its branch offices in Kedah. I remained there for about a year before deciding that enough was enough with looking after other people’s money.

So how did this opportunity arrive? Somehow, a friend hinted to me that there was a company that was looking for people who was willing to work in New York. Of course, my ears pricked up. Won’t yours? All sorts of ideas popped out of my head. But soon later, reality set in. Did I really have to go work in a strange land when my family is comfortable here and it was not impossible to get another job? After some hard thinking, the decision was rather easy to make: no, this adventure would not be suitable for me. Despite the turmoil, I was still contented here. Penang was, is and will be my home.

So holidaying in New York, yes, but not to work there on a long term.

You know, when I was much younger, I used to imagine how it would be like to be even there for a holiday. All those vivid images of New York’s attractions that had been playing in my mind, thanks of course to the countless movies which were set there, such as Saturday Night Fever, King Kong and many others. And memorable songs such as Frank Sinatra's New York, New York. That city is a place where excitement never ends.

I would presume that getting to New York would be easy enough although flying halfway around the world – and possibly changing flights as well – is a daunting thought and is not exactly something that I especially look forward to.

Then there are so many questions to ask. For example, after arriving there, where can you stay at a reasonable price? Where can you dine without blowing your budget? How would you get around New York when you are on holiday? What are the time-honoured tourist attractions for first-time visitors to this grand city? What is the best itinerary when time is at a premium. When is the best season to be there? Of course in this time and age, it only takes several clicks on a computer to find all the answers.

With information so very easy to obtain nowadays, perhaps one day I will still be able to find the opportunity to visit this remarkable city called New York. Provided, of course, I have a fairy godmother to take care of my expenses. Ha ha!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Investing in a RM90 rubber band

The filmsy plastic envelope had been lying almost forgotten in my cupboard since I acquired it a few days before the Chinese New Year. I never got round to seeing it again until yesterday. I opened the door and it just fell off the shelf. Really! Funny, it must have been calling out to me all this while.

Oh well, might as well get down to it. What I am referring to is this: a drive belt upgrade for my Rega Planar 3 turntable. Ever since I bought the turntable secondhand about a decade ago, I never thought of changing anything except for the magnetic cartridge. But lately, I had been giving the turntable a serious look-over. It still gives a very good service but boy, I would greatly love a new tonearm. However, it will definitely set me back by at least RM1,500. This is out of the question, out of my consideration, even in the medium term.

The next best alternative was the turntable belt. The original that came with the turntable was a black thin rubber belt. It had been there for so long, enduring all the abuses to the turntable, that I feared that it could snap at any time. A call went out to a friend in KL who knew a chap selling these Rega accessories. Hey, I told him, next trip back to Penang, please bring back a new drive belt for my turntable. He duly obliged.

This new belt was white. I must say that the first time I handled it, I was curious to see how different it was from the old one. But apart from the colour, I couldn't exactly see any difference. Oh, maybe, the black one looked slightly stretched but I couldn't tell with just a visual inspection. However, Rega had claimed that the improvement was in the rubber which was not only undyed but was also smoother and stronger. Hence, the inference was, it imparted improved motor control and performance.

I slipped the new white rubber band onto the base, replaced the glass platter and the felt mat, slipped on a record and then switched it on.

My first surprise: unlike with the old belt, the turntable started quickly and came up to speed almost immediately. My second surprise: yes, the music did seem tighter and delivered a slightly fuller sound.

Of course, I wouldn't expect the improvements to be utterly drastic and subtle though they were, I must admit that it was a good decision to replace the turntable belt.

Am I still looking for a new tonearm? Erm...

Friday, 22 February 2013

Downright embarrassing

I spoke too soon. Late last night, I decided to tinker with the router settings. Must have tinkered too much because I then screwed up my Unifi service without realising it. Maybe I should have suspected that something was not quite right when the broadband speed test on my ipad2 suddenly plummeted to about 2Mbps. But it was late at night, see, and I was just about to fall asleep.

The next morning, I tinkered with the router settings again and suddenly I realised that I could not even log into that piece of equipment. Tried resetting it not once but four or five times and failed at every attempt. I was aghast. Second day into my Unifi world and I was completely shafted. What to do but to contact the contractors that had come by yesterday.

They arrived a few hours later, fiddled with their laptops and suddenly, my desktop computer was back online. Tested my various wireless connections and everything was all right too. Never tamper with the main Internet settings, the most Internet-savvy among the trio advised me. There are certain settings, he said, that are meant for Telekom's use only.

So what can I touch? Only the wireless settings, he said. Okay, only the wireless settings. I'll remember that. And the three of them left soon afterwards with oranges in their hands. It was still the Chinese New Year festival period, okay? Wouldn't want to be the impolite host.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Unified, finally!

It was sometime last month that my wife and I noticed a bunch of boys hanging out at a road junction in my neighbourhood. Saw that they were hawking Telekom Malaysia's Unifi service and so, we went over to talk with them. Had always been interested in Unifi ever since it was launched some three years ago. Couldn't believe that it took so long before it finally reached me!

Anyway, effective today, my house can be considered as officially Unified. The TM independent contractors came over in the morning to carry out the installation.

The Unifi service also carried a subscription to TM's HyppTV: television channels served through optical cables.

Initially, I was considering installing the Unifi equipment downstairs beside the television set but yesterday, I decided that I really didn't need HyppTV to clash with my Astro channels. Therefore, the installation went ahead upstairs in my present work area where I have my desktop computer. Perhaps I shouldn't term it as my work area because here's where my desktop's hooked up to my hifi system. This area upstairs has become a complete entertainment centre.

The contractors insisted that they had to instal HyppTV anyway, before I could sign off their work chit. But I don't have a TV set upstairs, I protested. No problem, they said. They'd just carry the TV set from downstairs temporarily. So I allowed them to carry up the old and humongously heavy television set from the living room downstairs just to test the signals before they carted the set down again. Well, even if I don't watch television much, at least I know that HyppTV works.

After they left, it was time for experimentation. First, I hooked up the HyppTV set box top to my little 19-inch computer monitor. I've heard that it could work, that it was possible to channel the video feed to a computer monitor, but a television doofus like me was totally in the dark. How to get it to work? Sweated buckets but eventually got it right - with the right cable. Next, I connected the audio cables to the hifi system. Wanted to "get the perfect sound" but later decided that it was a bit of a bother listening to audio that wasn't hitting me face on. So the next best alternative - which worked, luckily, because it was audio and not video - was to connect the audio cable to my desktop speakers which allowed for this sort of secondary input. So everything's all right now in the house...

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A streamlined shipping software solution

My wife works in the manufacturing industry.

No, wait. Let me rephrase it. My wife works in a trade organisation that represents the manufacturing industry. Yes, that's more like it.

To be more specific, the manufacturing industry in Penang. Which includes a lot of small medium-sized enterprises. Of which many are exporters of their OEM products not only to overseas but also to factories that are located in the free industrial zones. Some are doing entrepreneurial trade or trans-shipment of goods through the seaport or airport.

In her work, her organisation represents the manufacturing industry in liaison with the government bodies. Customs being one of them. But of course, there are other authorities too, such as the Penang Port. The organisation she works for is also an approved signatory for the Certificates of Origin. All related to trade or manufacturing.

So when I came across this particular website that claims to offer various transportation management software solutions for organisations of all sizes, big or small, my wife was the first person I shared this information with. Needless to say, she was intrigued with the various possibilities.

For small jobs that require urgent parcel deliveries anywhere across the globe, organisations can always turn to using eShipGlobal’s multi carrier shipping software. It’s quite nifty as users are able to make immediate comparisons of costs and convenience between carriers all on the same page. What can be quicker or easier than that?

Then there is eShipGlobal’s freight management software which they call The Solution. With this software, among jobs that the users can do are to analyse their freight spending and manage freight costs. Global, regional and local finance and transportation managers would be very satisfied with this as it will allow them to be proactive in managing embedded costs such as freight, inventory and accessorial charges in a financial supply chain.

But what really bowled over my wife was the shipping solution from eShipGlobal: a logistics management software which any large organisation should seriously consider implementing if they want to track and manage their expenditure.

This software provides a complete and clear insight into a company’s spending habits. With such versatility, the software itemises spending by department, group, line of business and category; analyses spending behaviours across the organisation; and identifies new opportunities for savings. Really, that’s a lot for one piece of software to do.

There are lots more possibilities from this company, eShipGlobal, and from the way my wife was so absorbed in clicking on this link and that link on the website, I knew that there must have something that had caught her interest. Who knows, perhaps something positive may come out from my random web surfing after all.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The eve before Chinese New Year

For better or for worse, I've been more involved with the pre-Chinese New Year preparations in my house this year. I had to do so because my aged aunt, now almost 80 years old, has been laid low since about six weeks ago with a back problem. It is now almost impossible for her to do any heavy work in the house and certainly, her morning walks to the market must come to an end.

This leaves only me to go buy breakfast for her in the mornings and then at the same time, buy food for lunch and dinner as well. She's still well enough to potter around the house doing the less strenuous stuff, like cooking rice.

Of course, for the Chinese New Year, I have had to go marketing. Went there to pick up the foodstuff, especially for the CNY eve reunion dinner. One week ago, the ninth of February saw me there at the Kampung Baru market. Went there at six o'clock in the morning. Had been forewarned that people would already be there but I didn't expect the whole place to be bustling. In fact, if not for the fact that all of outside was still in pitch darkness, the activities looked completely normal to me. But the sky was still dark. And inside, everyone were milling around the traders, basked in only ceiling lights. Surprisingly though, nothing spooky about the feeling. The festival air was there.

So I moved from stall to stall, taking in the activities and sometimes, joining in too to pick up a few needed requirements. I had my camera with me to capture the scenes and despite not using the flash, some of the pictures did turn out quite decent. Such as these:

The above four pictures were taken of the main area of the wet market. Basically, the vegetable, fish and poultry sellers. Notice that outside the building, it was still pitch dark.

These two pictures were snapped at the separate building housing the pork sellers. There didn't seem to be any public lighting and the traders had either a generator set or chose to remain in the dark. And finally, there was this stall below which did a fantastically brisk business selling the Chinese New Year cakes.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

How the Malaysian mainstream media spins...

...and spins and spins.

Anyone reading only the mainstream media in Malaysia would think that the Prime Minister received a rapturous welcome at the Barisan Nasional Penang Chinese New Year function at the Han Chiang High School grounds on Monday (11 Feb 2013). Turning to the second page of the New Straits Times, this ludicrous message was the headline to grab anyone's attention:

Wow, everybody do love the PM, don't they? He could do no wrong. He had bowled over the people in Penang with his promises and pledges. However, all this was only a fairy tale. A fairy tale that exists only in the imagination of mainstream media. The reality painted a totally different picture: that of a very grim future not only for the Barisan Nasional in Penang but perhaps across the whole country. Because there was a revelation that the New Straits Times refused to report. And not only the NST but also the whole gamut of the other government-controlled Press. 

But suppression of the report in the print media does not mean that the real message cannot get out. By nightfall on Monday, news of the crowd's rejection of the Barisan Nasional had gone viral on the Internet. Prime Minister Najib Razak had become the laughing stock of all Malaysia... Here is the video: 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

CNY reunion dinner

We had everybody back for the annual Chinese New Year reunion dinner. As usual, steamboat. :-P We made a resolution not to have steamboat again next year if we can help it. We should keep it simple because we just cannot finish all the foodstuff. Of course, some traditionalists will say that we should have leftovers from the CNY reunion dinner to depict abundance but I really believe that too much leftovers are also not very good.

So anyway, this was us at the dinner table.

And this was the time that we finally finished dinner and started clearing away the table.

Time to prepare all the fruits and cakes - including the pink huat kueh - for the midnight prayers. As can be seen, we are still very much traditionalists in a way. It's not just simply sticking a band of red paper around every fruit; the paper band would have to be serrated. On the fruits, a round paper cut-out would be placed on top. A throw-back to the days of my nyonya grandparents, actually, just for Chinese New Year.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Political bribery in the name of Chinese New Year

Psy, do you realise that desperate people are making use of you - personally - in an attempt to cover up their own political inadequacies??

So this afternoon, I heard from various sources (for instance, here, here, here and here) that the South Korean entertainer, Psy, is coming to Penang on the second day of the Chinese New Year to reprise his Oppa Gangnam Style dance craze.

Psy is being brought in by the Penang Barisan Nasional which is hoping to attract the people of the state back to their fold for the next General Elections that are expected to be called very, very soon.

The way I see it, this is a very desperate measure by the Barisan Nasional but then, this are desperate times for them already. But do they really believe that the people in Penang can be bribed easily by this very shallow move? Do they? I am hardly impressed by this blatant attempt at bribing. And what's more, with our own taxpayers' money! [An update: word is now being bandied about that Psy will be paid an astronomical USD1 million to turn up! Where is the money coming from? Who is footing the bill?] What an insult to our intelligence! The Barisan Nasional can certainly do better by being more sincere.

By the way, if I were staying on the island, I would be trying my darnedest to attend the Barisan Nasional CNY open house on 11 Feb 2013 but dressed in my best Bersih tee-shirt. I would want to make my biggest statement to people like Najib Razak and Teng Chang Yeow.