Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Family day at Bao Sheng Durian Farm

As my daughter was back from Kuala Lumpur during the Hari Raya holiday break, I planned a family day outing last Sunday.

Our first stop was at the Bao Sheng Durian Farm in Sungai Pinang on the island where we were treated to some of the best fruits at TS Chang's durian plantation. According to him, it was almost the end of the season already and there weren't many varieties left. Still, we were fortunate to be able to try the D15, D18 and the Ang Heh varieties.

One of them was still freshly dropped and my family could savour, for the very first time, the slightly numbing effect on their lips. Good experience for them since all the time, they could only hear of it from me without experiencing it at first hand.

Giving the high five sign with TS Chang and his wife.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

My mum's minced pork "bak" steak

A fortnight after cooking my second plate of chicken steak, I dived head-on into my kitchen again yesterday to attempt cooking from memory my mother's minced pork steak, which we would usually call bak steak around the house. Let me boast a bit: it was an unqualified success. And I'm happy with my effort. Wife's happy, children are happy, what more can I want? You can't see me, but I am clicking my heels.

I was at the market yesterday morning to buy about four ringgit's worth of minced pork from my favourite butcher. Came home, seasoned it with grounded white pepper, salt and a bit of light soya sauce, mixed in a few teaspoons of corn starch and then left the meat in the refrigerator for a few hours. In the meantime, I sliced up two potatoes and two big onions.

Coming cooking time, I shaped the season minced pork into small meat patties and fried them in hot oil, making sure they turned golden brown. I also did the same with the sliced potatoes: fried them in the same oil. After removing the excess oil from the wok, I threw in the sliced onions, stirred it around for some two or three minutes and added back the fried potato slices. Then I poured in about 200ml of water, added in the pork patties, salt to taste and left everything simmer for about five to 10 minutes. Before I removed the bak steak from the wok, I added in a bit of dissolved corn starch in order to thicken the gravy. And that's all, quite simple, right? My dear mum's bak steak!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Tecoma tree transformation

The tecoma tree outside my house that was causing so much havoc earlier this year when it bloomed so much has undergone so much changes in the past four months. From a tree full of pink tecoma flowers in late March, it became a tree with hardly any leaf left in April. Now, two months down the road, the tree has become so thick with new green leaves. The new foliage growth has been a gradual process and I only realised its new look this morning.

Full of flowers in March

One month later, devoid of flowers and leaves in April

Another three months later, now packed with new leaves in July

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Commonwealth Games' touching moments

I didn't realise that the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, had started at four o'clock this morning. I was still sleeping blissfully and was feeling a bit crestfallen when I found out. Opening ceremonies of these Games are always something special and I had missed this one! No other choice but for me to watch the replay of the opening ceremony.

It made me proud to be a Malaysian when I saw the Malaysian contingent come walking into the stadium. But what was this I noticed? First, the flag-bearer was carrying the Malaysian flag at half-mast in remembrance of our 43 brothers and sisters who died in the air crash in eastern Ukraine. Never before had I seen this happen. Second, as a tribute and solidarity behind Malaysian Airline, the contingent was led by seven Malaysian athletes wearing the airline's uniforms. And third, the rest of the contingent wore black armbands. In case the world has forgotten, it was our MAS Flight MH017 that crashed.

And later when the Commonwealth Games flag was brought into the stadium by six athletes, my heart skipped another beat when I noticed none other than Nicol David holding one of the flag's corners. There can only be one Nicol David and naturally, Penang is terribly proud of her achievements.

There was also a one-minute silence that the whole stadium, including the spectators, observed in memory of the 298 passengers and crew that had perished when MH017 was brought down by a BUK missile in Ukrainian airspace on 17 July 2014. God rest their souls.

A little ghost story...

On a large King-size bed in a huge master bedroom, a teenage older sister was playing with her four-year-old little sister. The older sister's back was facing the dark corridor that led to the room's entrance. Suddenly, she noticed that the toddler was staring past her shoulder in that direction.

 Without turning to look, she asked the little girl, "what are you looking at?"

The small girl said, "hantu."

Her big sister then asked, "Really? What do they look like?"

The small girl described what she was seeing as, "There are two: a man hantu and a woman hantu. They are tall, their heads almost touching the ceiling."

Big sister, now feeling creepy to say the least, asked further, "Is that all?"

Little sister replied, "They just started smiling. They have tiny sharp teeth."

Big sister, under considerable strain, told the sister, "Tell them to go do their prayers."

Little sister said, "I can't."

Big sister, really worried now, asked, "Why not?"

Little sister explained, "They've left. They are no longer there."

- Memories of a bungalow house in Petaling Jaya.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Shagged by China's food scandals

Just last month, I was writing about one of the latest food scandals to hit China: preserved so-called "century egg" that used industrial copper sulphate, a toxic chemical, to speed up production. This was just one reason why, if I knowingly am aware about it, I no longer wish to buy foodstuff that's imported from China.

Century eggs from China, canned foodstuff from China (how I loved the Ma Ling brand of luncheon meat when I was younger!), fresh vegetables from China, fruits from China, milk powder from China ... the list can go on and on.

Only today, I learnt from one stall owner at the Kampong Baharu market in Bukit Mertajam that he has stopped selling Indian red onions. "Many of my customers complain that they are too small," he told me.

Then, pointing to his new stock of big, round onions, he said that they originated from China. His customers preferred to buy big onions. "What to do," he shrugged when I protested feebly that I wanted back my Indian onions, "I've to sell what they want to buy." And me? I'm only a small-time customer, a minority, to him.

And these? I asked him, pointing to a basket brimful with white cloves of garlic. "They are imported from China too," he said. "China goods are everywhere," he added, "there is no avoiding them. They can produce anything under the sun."

Alamak, garlic and onions are the mainstays of our culinary heritage. How can we not use them in our cooking? If these are tainted as well, what alternatives do we have? If I can find garlic and onions that have been grown here in Malaysia, I will surely change my buying habits.

But really, even if there are local alternatives to China imports, what assurance do we have that the local farmers have not been tempted to overly-use fertilisers in their farms? What assurance do we have that slaughtered fresh meat in the markets do not come from animals that have been overly-fed with chemicals to fatten them up? We do not.

For now, I guess that I will just have to be more judicious with my selection of foodstuff. At least, my friendly stall owner had been honest and forthright with me!

Speaking of food scandals from China, I've been reading today that the latest health concern there is the sale of expired and tainted meat.

The companies in China most affected by this food safety scare are McDonald's and KFC. On Sunday, Dragon TV from Shanghai exposed a processed meat supplier that sold expired beef and chicken.

The television station said their undercover reporter with a hidden camera was able to film employees at Husi Food Co Ltd, a subsidiary company of OSI Group of Aurora, Illinois, United States, re-using meat that had fallen onto the factory floor, mixing "expired" meat with fresher cuts and also lying to inspectors from McDonald's.

It was claimed that Husi re-packaged the stale beef and chicken, and labelled them with new expiration dates before selling them to the McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurant chains. Both McDonald's and KFC said that they have immediately stopped using meat from this unscrupulous supplier.

So now you know... famous fast food chains, widely facing criticisms for hawking unhealthy and non-nutritious food, themselves becoming victims in food safety scandals, especially when suppliers see an opportunity to make more money! What more your neighbourhood restaurant and hawkers?!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Deep Purple's Made In Japan

I was at the Artist Gallery in Queensbay Mall just the other day. This music shop has started to stock more records on their shelves nowadays. Guess they also realise that vinyl records are undergoing a renaissance and there are still die-hard music lovers that haven't parted with their turntables. Moreover, there are also the newbies who are starting to discover the lure of vinyls.

So there I was in Artist Gallery, looking through their range of records. I noticed that two versions of Deep Purple's monumental Made In Japan were on display. One was the original double album set which had been remasters for reissue on 180g vinyl, while the other was a CD box set containing all their performances in Japan.

The band played in Osaka and Tokyo in 1972, but their albums were only released two years later in 1974. Therefore, 2014 would mark the 40th anniversary of the first release of their double album set. If I don't already have the Made In Japan music on compact disc (25th anniversary edition) or vinyl record (original 1974 edition), I would have considered picking them up but actually, I already have them in my collection.

Just yesterday, I removed my album from the shelves and played all four sides. Arguably, one of the best live recordings of a rock group. Played them loud, as the music of Deep Purple should be played. And the whole house reverberated with the sound of Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. That's Deep Purple Mark II for me!

Side One: Highway star (Osaka 16 Aug 1972), Child in time (Osaka, 16 Aug 1972)
Side Two: Smoke on the water (Osaka, 15 Aug 1972), The mule (Tokyo, 17 Aug 1972)
Side Three: Strange kind of woman (Osaka, 16 Aug 1972), Lazy (Tokyo, 17 Aug 1972)
Side Four: Space truckin' (Osaka, 16 Aug 1972)

Friday, 18 July 2014

Feeling helpless: that numbing effect

I had a rather disturbed sleep last night and I woke up this morning feeling glum and mighty sad. I've never felt so sad over something about Malaysia before, not even when Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared in March this year. Now, almost five months later, another tragedy has befallen the country and Malaysia Airlines.

I read about MH017 before midnight, my eye having been caught on a breaking story on one of the webpages I was visiting. The story was about an airplane crash involving Malaysia Airlines. What, I thought with disbelieve, not another disaster involving our national airlines?

But true enough, the breaking news became a developing news story throughout the night. I was too tired to read the news from the Internet and retired to bed soon afterwards. I awoke at half past two and had a listless sleep after that.

This morning, the first thing I did was to check the news and yes, it was confirmed that MH017 had crashed in eastern Ukraine with no survivors from among the 298 passengers and crew.

The general mood here in Malaysia was one of devastation. Even before the authorities could get to the bottom of MH370, here comes another one. An aeroplane shot down from the sky by a surface-to-air missile. Why did it have to happen?

Okay, so we know that MH017 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and it was flying over Ukraine which is practically in the midst of a civil war with the Russian-backed separatists battling the Ukrainian armed forces.

By right, common sense would have told the airlines to avoid flying across conflict zones, regardless of whether the International Civil Aviation Organisation said it was safe or not.

I've been reading this morning that the corridor through Ukrainian airspace is the shortest distance from Europe to South-east Asia. For a financially distressed airline like Malaysia Airlines, it makes financial sense to use this route if there are savings to the fuel consumption. Many other airlines also fly along this corridor but they have now all stopped after the MH017 crash.

The fact remains that it is not worth taking this risk through Ukraine or any other conflict zones for that matter. Business organisations should not be taking such risks especially when lives are concerned. Here, the blame will surely lie squarely with Malaysia Airlines for not evaluating the risk factor properly when deciding that their aeroplanes can fly across and above conflict zones. And now, Malaysia Airlines are paying dearly for their ineptitude.

With this second international incident involving a Malaysian asset within five months, is it any wonder then that we Malaysians are feeling so numb and devastated today?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Penang Hill's elevated walkway

I read in the papers today that the new Penang Hill elevated walkway has finally been declared open officially by the Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng. Built at a cost of around RM1.5 million, the walkway connects the upper station of the funicular rail station to the refurbished food court. It took about 10 months for the project to finish but it seemed like two years to me!

When I was up at Penang Hill last month with a friend, we were commenting that this elevated walkway was preventing us from walking directly to the Tuanku Yahya Petra Road which was where we wanted to go as we wanted to look out to the city of George Town below. Instead, we were forced to take a long detour along the walkway to the open space outside the Penang Hill complex, and then double back along the road towards the upper station.

We did reach that vantage point eventually but along the way, we had to pause to take in many of the old and new attractions on the hill. But such is the lure of Penang Hill that I never get tired of looking at the same old attractions.

This is the lower station of the funicular rail service with its simple huge signboard proclaiming the year that the train service was launched. 

I remember that after the tracks were replaced and realigned in 2011 with funds from the Barisan Nasional federal government, they had openly claimed credit for the Penang Hill upgrade by erecting a signboard that proclaimed the project as "A National Front Ministry of Tourism Malaysian Government Project for the People of Penang" knowing fully well that the state was governed by the Pakatan Rakyat political party. I don't know when it was taken down; I hadn't really noticed it on my many trips up the hill. Only this time, I couldn't miss the red signboard that replaced it. Red sure has a way of attracting attention.

Ever since the four old red-and-white coaches were changed in that same year with two spanking new blue coaches, the trips to the upper station have become a breeze. While the old coaches were pulled by DC (direct current) motors, the new coaches are pulled by motors running on AC (alternate current). As a result, the 30-minute trips have now been shortened to a mere five minutes. That's how fast a one-way trip up or down the Penang Hill has become. Some people have commented that the faster trip has made the journey up the hill less meaningful as everything is a blur and it is more difficult to enjoy the slowly cooling atmosphere. Maybe so, but I do like the new coaches. They are much more comfortable and a thrill to ride, especially when the old middle station speeds by.

This is the new elevated walkway, about a month before its official opening but already in use by visitors to the top of the hill.

A sign of new attractions to come at the hill station: an audio tour of Penang Hill. When I visited, only these signs were visible as the audio equipment had not been installed yet.

Don't just simply look left as one walks along the elevated walkway. Remember to look on the right-hand side too or else one will miss the sight of old train pulley wheels. These were used when the old coaches were still in service. the new blue coaches are now running on new pulley wheels.

Soon enough, the Penang Hill Complex loomed before me. This complex houses the food court (which is called the Cliff Cafe) and the Owl Museum. I didn't visit the museum and I do remember some comments from people that have done so that it is not worth the while to go in as there are no owls there but only owl-themed handicraft. But I'd like to keep an open mind on this. Perhaps one day, I'll go in and see for myself whether the museum is worth spending some money on. 

But I did go into the food court. I just had to try the ais kachang there. People seems to be enjoying this treat there, and I wasn't disappointed. Big bowl of shaved ice, generous amount of toppings, large dollop of creamy ice cream.

Emerging from the Cliff Cafe food court into the open. This is a recreational space that used to have a playground. It's now like an amphitheatre for functions and activities. 

One of the original wooden coaches is still on display at one side of the open space. Another one can be seen at the Penang Museum in downtown Farquhar Street, George Town.

Another iconic attraction at Penang Hill....the old Penang Hill police station. I think the staff here are leading a very slow and pleasant life. What can go wrong here up on the hill that will require their intervention? 

Need to know your bearings? This signpost will set anybody in the right direction.

These electrical buggies will bring visitors along the Tuanku Yahya Petra road.

I visited the rooftop of the Cliff Cafe, seeing that quite a number of visitors to Penang Hill were doing so as well. This observation deck gives one a breath-taking view of the south-eastern part of the island but unfortunately on the day I was there, the haze was thick and obliterated my view.

Once at the observation deck, there is no missing this big LOVE signage. Yes, this is Penang's version of the love lock concept found elsewhere around the world.

This is a section of the padlocks found on the 80-foot stretch of fencing on the LOVE deck. Fancy yourself padlocking up your declaration of love and then throwing the key away permanently? Then do it here.

Other attractions at Penang Hill include the nature walks, the wide varieties of flora, the mosque and Indian temple, the Bellevue Hotel and the various colonial bungalows. It's well worth it for anyone to spend time - a whole day, maybe - at this old hill station, Malaysia's oldest hill station.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Listening to the Wynners

Long before there was Gangnam style, long before there was K-pop, even long before there was J-pop, there was Canto-pop. Cantonese pop. And the godfather of all Canto-pop was a band known as The Wynners (溫拿).

The Wynners originated from Hong Kong...comprising Alan Tam (vocals), Kenny Bee (vocals), Anthony Chan (drums), Bennett Pang (guitar) and Danny Yip (bass).

In the 1970s, they were one of the most popular Chinese bands in this part of the world. Singing first English songs, they reverted to singing Cantonese tunes in the later part of their careers. This record, Listen To The Wynners, was their very first studio album and consisted of all English language songs. But too bad that L.O.V.E. Love wasn't one of them. Alan Tam and Kenny Bee later went on to pursue their respective careers as solo singers and actors. The band never disbanded officially and occasionally, they would re-unite to thrill their old and new fans.

I was feeling a bit nostalgic this evening and so decided to pull out a few old albums to clean and play on my turntable. Found this record which I hadn't spun for a very long time. Funnily enough, I had also forgotten that it existed. Such is my memory nowadays.

Side One: Sha-la-la-la-la, I'll never dance again, Waterloo, Seasons in the sun, Jesus is just alright, Happy birthday sweet sixteen
Side Two: Over and over, Ray of sunshine, Listen to the music, Remember, Sunshine lover, Would you laugh

Sunday, 13 July 2014

At last, the July full moon

I had thought that yesterday's post on the full moon in July would be my last thoughts on this subject but no. Something made me go out of the house at midnight last night. Perhaps it was curiosity. But anyhow, I was glad that I did go out to look at the full moon again. It was most certainly brighter and fuller than yesterday. And I was most surprised to see a rainbow halo around the moon which, together with the clouds, gave the whole scene a most ethereal look.

The outer fringes of the halo was reddish and a hint of this colour could be seen from the picture above. But of course, the brightness of the moon meant that I wouldn't have been able to see its surface features. For that, I had to change the settings on my camera. Still, with a 1/2000-second shutter speed and the exposure stopped down to the maximum -2EV, this picture below was the best I could get. Nevertheless, the moon's surface has shown up nicely.

Then this morning, I managed to see the moon setting behind my neighbour's house. The sky was already getting a bit bright and so, the silhouette of the rooftop and tree provided a nice contrast to the moon.

Farewell, my old friend

It's about time for me to say farewell to my old travelling companion. We have been together since November 2005 and I had so depended greatly on it on my commute to work, while I was still attached to JobStreet.com, and taking my family and I on holiday drives to Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Trengganu and Kelantan.

Nine years is a long time, and nine years it has been for me and my Avanza. During this time, the car had been very dependable, breaking down on me only twice.

The first time was when something went amiss with the automatic transmission and the Toyota service centre changed a completely new gear box for me as it was still within the warranty period (within the first 30,000 kilometres, I think). I was taken aback when I saw the bill for the new gear box which, if I remember correctly, came up to RM14,000 or it could be even more. It was a good thing that I wasn't paying for it! And the second time was that occasion when the car's ignition problem failed on me at a most critical time.

But it is now time for me to let the car go for various reasons, which i won't elaborate here. Nevertheless, I am truly sad to have to let it go because this was the first car that I had ever bought first-hand. There is a lot of attachment to it but unfortunately, the Avanza has served its purpose. So farewell, my old friend and trusted travelling companion. I shall miss you.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Moon in my face

Every once in a while, I am awoken by the bright moon shining directly into my face. This morning was one of those days. At about five o'clock in the morning, I became mindful that there was this bright light that was interfering with my sleep. Upon opening my eyes, there it was! Not wanting to waste a second of this splendid occasion, I jumped up to grab my camera and this was the result: the July full moon.

(But actually, it is not fully round yet. The occasion of the true full moon will occur in a few hours time. When I took this picture, the moon was still waxing. It can be seen that the upper edge of the disc in this picture isn't as bright or sharp as the lower edge. According to timeanddate.com, the illumination stands at 98.9 percent presently.)

Friday, 11 July 2014

Chicken steak, version 2.0

A few days ago, I had attempted to cook chicken steak for the very first time, relying only on some vague memory of my aunt cooking this dish before she passed away. The dish came out okay - personally, I would rate it maybe 7/10 - but the presentation was awful.

The reason, you see, was that I forgot to salt the gravy and I had already scooped all the gravy into the chicken. Therefore, I tried to rectify this oversight by emptying the plate of cooked chicken steak back the wok, threw in some salt and stirred the whole concoction together before scooping everything back onto the plate. That's why it looked so untidy.

Not satisfied with my first attempt three days ago, I tried cooking the dish again today. This time, I would know better. Or so I thought. Anyway, I started off by frying the quartered potatoes. The deboned chicken thigh and breast meat were first coated with a thin layer of flour and then dipped into a bowl of beaten eggs before transferring into the wok for frying.

For the gravy, I fried some cut onion rings, then added a bowl of water and the fried potatoes, allowing everything to simmer for two or three minutes before finally adding some corn starch to thicken the gravy. And here's where I under-estimated the amount of gravy required for my chicken steak. Too little. And by the time I had realised this during dinner, I had already washed and dried all the cooking utensils. So we had to make do with whatever little gravy that I had managed to pour over my chicken steak creation. My wife said that it was hai chooi koh, meaning low tide.

I was attempting to cook chicken steak the way my aunt had cooked it but although mine was a reasonable copy of her original, methinks visually my version was closer to Hainanese chicken chop, the type I'd see at places like Yut Kee Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur or the Hai Oan Restaurant in Penang. But taste-wise, I think that mine is "double thumbs up".

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Loving the fountain pen again

When I was in secondary school, one writing instrument that could be found in my schoolbag was a fountain pen. I can't speak for everyone in the 1960s and 1970s but the fountain pen featured prominently in my school life. Whenever I had to do my homework, it was always with the fountain pen unlike today, when the ball point pen has become the norm.

Together with the fountain pen, I had to learn how to write cursive. I haven't written cursive for a very long time but if I'm asked to, I would dare say that I can still write a mean cursive handwriting. I used a fountain pen until the end of my schooldays. When I went to college, I decided to give up on it and changed to a ballpoint pen. Principally because I did not want to carry a bottle of ink with me.

My first fountain pen was a Hero, given to me by my uncle. I've also used a Parker and a Pilot before. I thought that I would still have them in my possession but when I rummaged through my storeroom a few weeks ago, I couldn't find them. In all likelihood, they could have been misplaced - or worse, thrown away - when my family moved from Seang Tek Road to Lorong Zoo Tiga and thence to Seberang Jaya. That was a very long time ago.

About a month ago when I went to a new shopping mall that had opened in Bukit Mertajam, I was somewhat drawn towards the fountain pen counter. While admiring the Parker and Sheaffer pens there, my eyes fell on some Lamy pens.

Lamy pens are actually German-made writing instruments and they have been around for decades. I picked up one of them and tried writing with it. The ink flowed very smoothly and I could also maintain a good grip on the pen's barrel. And guess what...I'm now the proud owner of the Lamy Studio fountain pen. And as can be seen, I'm starting to use it on my cheque books.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

52 minutes of the FIFA World Cup 2014

When the FIFA World Cup 2014 started in Brazil about a month back, I had promised myself that I wouldn't be forced to watch any of the games if I don't want to. 

At my age, it is very important that I give priority to getting enough sleep or else I wouldn't be able to function properly come the next day.

Once when I went to the Kampong Baharu market for my daily morning marketing, one of the stall keepers asked whether I had watched any of the football. He looked terrible, and he confessed that he had been up in the wee hours watching the games almost every day. I told him, no, I haven't been watching at all. Why, he asked incredulously, the World Cup comes only every four years and why wasn't I watching? My answer, as expected, was simple: sleep. I need my sleep. I need my glorious sleep. I need my, ahem, beauty sleep.

Thus, the preliminary stages came and went without me watching a single game. Really! Seriously! All I did in the mornings was to read about the scoreline from the online newspapers, and there were plenty enough to read. Similarly, the first and second rounds of the knock-out stages came and gone without me watching a single live game either.

Except for the Holland-Costa Rica quarter-final match last Sunday. I came downstairs at six o'clock and switched on the telly. It was the end of the second half. The game clock showed 89 minutes had been played and it was a deadlock on the field. No side had managed to score. Then four minutes was added to the game. I watched through till the whistle went. Scoreless, still. I switched off the television and went to change. Time for my wife and I to go out to the island for the Penang heritage talk on Folk Beliefs. Until Sunday, that was the only five minutes of the World Cup that I had watched live or otherwise.

This morning, I awoke at about 4.50a.m. Unable to sleep. Normally, I would just laze around in bed, listening to the sounds from outside the window. The rustling of the leaves, the chirping of insects, the singing of birds. Only difference this morning was that I decided to creep downstairs. Turned on the television. The commentators were talking about the first half of the Brazil-Germany match. I didn't catch much of what they said. Coming in at the tail-end of their commentary, it was mighty incomprehensible.

Then the television showed close-ups of the Brazil supporters in the stands. Sombre faces all round. No smiles, no joy. Just sad, gloomy, glum faces. With tears. Ooh, I thought to myself. Something must be up. Brazil trailing Germany, no doubt about it. But the telly and the commentators gave no hint away. Really frustrating, trying to find the reason and unable to find it. The long advertisements added to my impatience.

Then the second half started. Finally, I learnt the reason why. Germany had an impossible-to-fathom lead of 5-0 going into the second half of the game. Now I understood why the Brazil fans were so glum and gloomy. It would take a miracle for Brazil to win. I haven't heard of any team overcoming a five-goal difference to come and draw a football game.

So I sat down to watch the second half. Hopefully it would be interesting. But you know, there was also a danger that the second half would turn into a listless contest if one side simply stalled to keep their lead and frustrated all attempts by the other side. For much of the time, this happened. Germany absorbed everything that Brazil threw at them. Then on two breaks, Germany raced up field and scored two more goals. Seven for the Germans before Brazil managed to score a consolation goal in the dying minutes of the game. And that was that, the A Seleção being shafted by the Die Mannschaft. Humiliation, indeed, for the Brazil team and the Brazil fans, in front of a world-wide television audience and more so, in front of their home crowd. But that's football. It's round, and anything can happen on the field.

By the way, with the second half watched with time added at the end, my total viewing time to date for the FIFA World Cup now stands at 52 minutes. Would I watch tomorrow morning's game between Holland and Argentina? Well, only sleep will tell.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Folk beliefs in George Town

My weekends are normally very busy and I hardly have time to update my writings on this blog and elsewhere. For example, my wife and I spent much of the past weekend attending four feng shui workshops in Penang that dealt with face reading, Qi Men Dun Jia, Bazi and house feng shui. But I have to stress that I am no expert at all. I just have a passing interest in the general aspects of the Chinese art of geomancy, trying my best to implement recommendations as much as I can.

(A full house at the Han Jiang Association next to the Han Jiang ancestral temple as we waited for the English language talk to start.)

Between the workshops, we were at the George Town world heritage celebrations which kicked off on Sunday. The past Sunday morning found us parking our car in Beach Street at seven o'clock and walking to the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple in Chulia Street. The place was already bustling with people registering themselves for the 50-minute Folk Beliefs talk by Lim Gaik Siang, treasurer of the Penang Heritage Trust. The talk was followed by a two-hour walking guided tour around the city.

We found the talk to be very uplifting. It corrected some of the wrong beliefs that had been told to us since young, and reinforced some of the other beliefs that we had learnt as small kids and even as adults. For instance, who would have known that we could have been praying to the wrong deity when we open our main doors every morning and calling on the Thne Kong (天公) instead of the Thne Knua (天官). There's a subtle difference in the two, said Gaik Siang, and it can be confirmed simply by looking at the deity's tablet outside the house.

For the walking tour, we were taken to popular places like the Yap Temple (南阳堂叶氏宗祠) in Armenian Street, the Kong Hock Keong (Kuan Yin Temple) (廣福宮) in Pitt Street, the Arulmigu Sri Mahamariamman Temple (அருள்மிகு ஸ்ரீ மகா மாரியம்மன் கோவில்) in Queen Street (although we did not go inside as it was undergoing renovation) and of course, the Han Jiang Ancestral Temple (韩江家庙) itself.

Lesser known attractions like the Nin Yong Temple (武帝廟) and the Cantonese Thai Pak Koong Temple (大伯公街福德祠) both in King Street, the Ju Xian Temple (聚仙堂) which is a small Taoist temple in Queen Street and a small Datok Kong shrine in a backlane opposite the Lee Sih Chong Soo building in another area of King Street were also covered. Oh yes, we also visited the relatively new Teochew Puppet and Opera Museum in Armenian Street.

All in, despite the heat, it was a pretty interesting morning. Many thanks to Gaik Siang for organising the talk in conjunction with the Penang Heritage Day and also to our guides, Peter and Lena, for sharing their knowledge with everyone in the group.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Capital 101.7FM Perth

I have been listening to the TuneIn app on my iPad again in recent days. Found some new radio stations transmitting on the Internet; also discovered that some radio stations have been removed from my list of saved stations.

There was one such new station from Perth in Western Australia that I tuned in out of curiosity, calling itself Capital 101.7FM. It played music from the 1940s till the 1960s. Possibly the music went back earlier than the 1940s, but I'm not certain.

I love listening to this radio station. It brought back memories of listening to the old Radio RAAF Butterworth (RRB) station on the 1445kHz dial on the AM radio band in the 1960s to 1980s. Oldies music, but definitely clearer and devoid of radio static. But what made my day were the presenters' often flat delivery. Really, sometimes still so similar to RRB's bunch of amateur radio presenters back then. I guess many things still haven't changed despite the decades. Haha...

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Two faces of Penang

The Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, was in Hong Kong today to launch this promotional campaign for Penang Tourism on the sides of two of their famous tramcars. I hear that the campaign would last for a month and we should be able to see the tramcars rolling through the streets of Hong Kong island pretty soon. Neat.

(Picture by Chan Looi Tat)

(Picture by Jeffrey Chew)

(Picture by Joe Sidek)