Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Eye drops and eye gels

I was supposed to go down to Kuala Lumpur in September but had to cancel my trip owing to conjunctivitis. Then after me, it was my wife's turn to come down with this eye ailment. Our bouts with conjunctivitis took a toll on us. We have lost count of the number of times that we had gone to the Penang General Hospital and the Bukit Mertajam Hospital to seek treatment. And in my wife's case, the Lohguanlye Specialist Hospital too.

The ophthalmologists there scraped our eyelids to remove the pseudo-membrane which were preventing the eye medication from being absorbed effectively. After each scraping, our eyelids would be so sore that we couldn't open our eyes. Luckily, we were affected at different times. After I had recovered, only then did my wife get infected. So we became drivers for one another.

Today, after almost two months, it is time for us to discard all the old eye-drops and eye gels. There are so many of them: bottles and tubes but they all have to go. Go, be gone! Don't need you any more! But thank you all the same.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Wonderfully fine day

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Fire, spice and edifice: Penang's early history

The E&O Hotel in Farquhar Street was the perfect colonial-type setting for the launch of Marcus Langdon's latest book -- Penang, the Fourth Presidency of India 1805-1830 Volume Two: Fire, Spice and Edifice -- which, appropriately enough, was all about Penang's early history. This was at a time just about 20 years after Captain Francis Light landed at the Esplanade and proclaimed the island as a British settlement.

Langdon's Volume Two (Volume One was published in 2013) is divided in seven chapters, or Books as he called them, with each chapter devoted to a different subject. Thus, his Book One was all about the Fort Cornwallis, Book Two all about the Fires in George Town, and so on and so forth. There are Books on the St George's Church, the Spice and Botanic Gardens, the Library and Battling the Sea. Oh yes, I've omitted mentioning one very important section: in Book Three, Langdon wrote about the early years of the Penang Free School, a subject now very close to my heart.

But I'm not going to disclose much about the topics covered; anyone wishing to delve into Penang's history should get a copy of this book from the bookstores. I can assure you that it is money well spent as it is a very good read.

All I want to say is that I had bought Langdon's Volume One back in 2014 at a time when I was already very interested in Penang's heritage. While reading it, I came across several references he made to the Penang Free School and in a footnote, he mentioned that a whole chapter would be written on the school in his Volume Two. Unfortunately, there was no knowing when it would be published because when I met him for the first time in late 2014 and posed the question to him, even he wasn't sure of its publication! But at least, I had established contact with him, a contact which I was certain would come in useful later.

Then in January this year I invited Langdon down to The Old Frees' Association and had a good chat with him. I told him that I was going to start a project on the Penang Free School and was sure that whatever information he had with him would be very helpful to me. Thus he agreed to give me a copy of his manuscript, the section that dealt with the Penang Free School, which turned out to be a goldmine indeed. It filled in a lot of blanks in the school's history. Of course, I was duty bound not to say anything about it to anybody then because Volume Two still had not seen the light of day, although he hoped that it would be available by June or July.

And now that Volume Two has been published and officially launched by the Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, on 7 November 2015, I will publicly thank Marcus Langdon here for sharing that pertinent, all-important chapter with me.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

A birthday concern

It was quite chilling this morning when I turned on the computer and the web browser loaded up the Google start page automatically. There, in front of my eyes was a graphic of birthday cakes. I so happened, accidentally, to move the pointer over the graphic and was surprised to find my name popping up on the monitor. Google was wishing me a happy birthday! It set me thinking what other personal information have I exposed on the Internet? If Google can pick up my birthday so easily, can other search engines do so too? And if search engines can find me, what more all those illegal Internet bots? Can my personal information be truly safe? Can your personal information be safe too? And what can we do to safeguard ourselves online?

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Next year's bicentenary dinner

It has been 13 days since I celebrated the 199th anniversary of our Alma Mater with some of my old schoolmates in Penang, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. I can't say much about the dinner occasions in KL or Singapore because I wasn't there, but I can certainly confirm that there was a huge buzz of excitement at the Penang dinner. For the first time, the Class of 7072 was able to fill 16 seats at two tables. Some of us brought our spouses while some others chose to be bachelors for the night. But we all had a good time and we are now all looking forward to 21 October 2016 when Penang Free School will be 200 years old! Will you be there for the grand celebration? I know that I will, and I hope to see as many of my mates as possible. 

From what I know, the Old Boys associations in Penang, KL and Singapore have been asked to forego their own annual dinners next year and come back to their roots, the Old School, for the bicentenary dinner which shall be arranged in the school field. Many of the Classes have already made concrete arrangements with the dinner's organising committee and booked or reserved multiple tables for the occasion. And here, I have some good news and some bad news.

Despite all the growing excitement among the Old Boys around the world, our own Class of 7072 has, so far, given lukewarm response to be part of next year's celebration. But I know that without anyone taking the initiative to round up the gang, a reunion will never happen. After seeking out the views of a few friends in Penang, KL and Singapore, we decided that there must be a reunion, come what may. 

Last week, I emailed the OFA office in Penang to ask them to reserve five tables for the Class of 7072. By the way, the OFA office was appointed by the Bicentenary Committee to coordinate next year's dinner. Yesterday, I spoke to the personnel in charge of bookings and she informed me that my reservations were confirmed. So that's the good news. We have five tables to share out among the Class of 7072. Casually, I asked her whether I could increase the reservations to eight tables. My contention was that if we could not fill all 80 seats, we could still surrender the unfilled tables back to the organisers. Bad news. All of the RM1,500 tables have been taken up. Reserved. Booked. Our five tables were among the last batches to be accepted. But she was very helpful. If we want, the RM3,000 and RM5,000 tables are still available. However, I don't think that will be what we want. The Class of 7072 will want to be together; no point separating us all up at a reunion. It defeats the purpose. 

So to my schoolmates in the Class of 7072, I wish to say again that because we have only five tables, our seats are very limited. There are only 50 places available and technically, there are a few hundreds of us. Even if all of us want to attend the bicentenary dinner, it is impossible. I have to offer them the seats at the five tables on a "first come, first served" basis. If anyone in the Class of 7072 is keen on coming to the bicentenary dinner, they should drop me a private email at I'm sure you know how to substitute the -at- with the @ sign. I shall then add him into the list until all the seats are taken up. However, if anyone prefers to register through the OFA KL-Selangor or OFA Singapore groups, this is quite okay with me. It is not a compulsion for my classmates to join the Penang gang. Email me and we shall talk further, okay?