Saturday, 26 October 2019

Sound distortion

I saw this post on the Rega Turntables group on facebook, not because I like listening to Led Zeppelin myself but because of the technical issues that the writer was complaining about.

He was wondering why the vocals and drums in the louder moments of his Led Zeppelin and The Doors remastered vinyl records sounded harsh. Moreover, sound distortion was increasing towards the end of a side.

Some of the replies sounded convincing and interesting enough to me. For example, one opinion was that the latest records do not have the best dynamic and if the music had all been recorded very loud they might sound distorted. Often, they were also recorded close to or slightly above the limit (above zero decibel most of the time). This would then distort. Further more, if the last songs on each side were generally loud they could also have higher peak levels, dynamics that give distortion and aggressive highs. These were some disadvantages of buying remastered records, They are louder, they distort and they sound aggressive in the highs compared to the original pressing. Plus, the current remasters are made from decades-old master tapes. They were never going to sound quite as good as the original pressings.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

21st October 2019

I was in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend and had rushed back to Penang on Sunday night so that I could attend this day celebrating the 203rd anniversary of my alma mater, Penang Free School. Here are my selected pictures from an eventful day.

At the grave of Robert Sparke Hutchings with the representatives of Penang Free School at about 7.20am. The Hutchings Secondary School Prefects are at the back.

With Mahyidin Mustakin, President of  both the PFS Foundation and Old Frees' Association Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. He asked me who were behind the 10 educational videos and I told him that Siang Jin and I were from the Class of 1970. And he duly acknowledged us in his address at Speech Day.

With Goh Keat Jin, Chief Executive Officer of Maybank Asset Management in Singapore. He was the guest speaker representing the Old Frees at the Speech Day ceremony.

With my old schoolmate, Sukumaran. We came all the way from the mainland: me from Bukit Mertajam and Suku from Nibong Tebal.

The ever-present School Band started the day's proceedings with their rendition of the National and State anthems upon the arrival of the Governor, and then rounded up Speech Day with this version of the School Rally.

The question is who did better? Did the Free School boys and girls sing the School Rally better than the Old Frees at the OFA annual dinner? Who sand with greater gusto?

With some of the Penang Free School Prefects and members of the School Magazine Editorial Board: Afan, Krisada, myself, Dylan, Luvinaash, Yu Yan and Yan Tatt. (I've yet to see the magazine, though, despite holding up a copy.)

With my fellow chessmates Low Han Boon and Terry Ong

My wife and I with some of the remnants from our Ban Hin Lee Bank days: Quah Lean Hin and Ng Khye Wai. There were at least three more at the OFA annual dinner whom I totally forgot about. Sorry about that!

With my old Westlands Primary School schoolmates, Wong Chye Chye and Yeoh Oon Hup. Yes, we really do go back a long, long way.

With Loh Lean Kang, Aryan Singh and Tan Soo Choon

With some of the people that had attended our PFS student leadership workshops over the years: from left, Yu Yan, Yan Tatt, Adrian, Gautam, Nicholas, Tharswin, Aryan, Lean kang, myself, Soo Choon, Diviyha, Harish, Afan and Gokhulan

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Cherok Tokun hill damaged

Two years ago on 4 Nov 2017, we wife and I were in Kuala Lumpur when we heard that a heavy rainfall in Penang had flooded several low-lying areas on the mainland. We were due to return home on the next day but on the train, we learnt that the flood situation in Penang was actually very extensive.

We were concerned that even though we could arrive back at the Bukit Mertajam train station, it would be almost impossible to get home if the flood waters were preventing taxis from picking us up. In fact, a taxi driver we called told us then that it would depend on whether he could drive into the train station. Luckily for us, he could and we reached home safe and sound.

Although our house in Taman Jernih was not affected by any flood water, the people in Taman Sri Rambai probably had it the worst. Flood waters had risen about four feet into their homes and all their furniture, electrical appliances and motor vehicles were all spoilt or severely damaged.

For about four weeks now, it has been raining very heavily in the afternoons in this part of the country. It was a big relief when the rains started coming in the last week of September to clear away the thick haze that had enveloped the peninsula.

But the rains have not stopped. Nice, clear, brilliant mornings would give way to dark clouds by mid-afternoon and more often than not, the day would end with a heavy deluge.

The rain yesterday evening was particularly heavy too. We had driven to the Wembley St Giles Hotel on the island for The Old Frees' Association annual dinner and initially, we weren't too aware that the rain was coming down hard.

But it did come down hard and word started filtering in gradually that the roads around Bukit Mertajam were almost impassable to traffic. Along the busy Jalan Song Ban Kheng, we heard that the residents of Taman Sri Rambai were starting to move their cars to the road shoulder in anticipation of rising flood waters.

I checked Google Maps and indeed, the roads leading to my neighbourhood were all marked in deep red. Possibly, traffic could already be at a standstill. If we wanted to go home, yes, it was still possible but it would have to be a long diversion south.

I continued checking the Map constantly to see whether traffic was moving again. By 11.30pm when we left the hotel, traffic looked almost back to normal. I therefore took the chance to drive home on my usual route, and it was quite all right.

This afternoon, I received some pictures showing the extensive damage to the Cherok Tokun hill in Bukit Mertajam.

Same like two years ago, the rushing flood waters had severely damaged the tarred road as well as the many tracks around the recreation park. The road surface were almost destroyed while thick mud coated the car park. Worse, water was still gushing down the hill. This was also a repeat of 2017, coming some two years later.

From this point on, I think I shall let the pictures do the talking. They were taken this afternoon at the Cherok Tokun hill.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Remembering Robert Sparke Hutchings, 2019

The old historical Protestant cemetery in Northam Road this morning at about 7.34am. Now an heritage site, no longer seeing any burials. Good place for quiet reflection. Peaceful and calm, like all cemeteries and grave yards should be. Once in a long while, seeing some life with heritage bodies organising guided tours of the place. Never a regular thing.

But what's regular about this old cemetery in the midst of George Town is that on the 21st of October every year, at exactly 6.55am, the place is visited by about 20 to 30 people. It's an unbroken tradition that has taken place since 1948.

On this day every year, the Prefects from Penang Free School and Hutchings Secondary School come together to participate in a solemn thanksgiving memorial service at the grave of Robert Sparke Hutchings. They are normally joined by some teachers from the two schools, a few Old Frees and well-wishers from the nearby St George's Church.

Hutchings was the founder of Penang Free School on 21 Oct 1816 and when the Free School relocated to its present premises in Green Lane in 1928, a new school continued in the old school building in Farquhar Street. The Old Frees at that time then decided that the new school should be named as Hutchings School to perpetuate the memory of the founder.

After six continuous years of attending this service, I had to give last year's service a miss as my presence was required in Kuala Lumpur for something else. This year, now freed of my obligations in Kuala Lumpur, I decided to resume my attendance at Hutchings' grave.

So there I was outside the entrance at 6.45a.m. this morning. Nobody else was around but soon, the Prefects and other students from the Free School turned up with their Senior Assistant. Soon later, we were joined by several Old Frees, including the president of The Old Frees' Association, Fathers Ho and Avean who would be conducting the service, some Prefects from Hutchings Secondary School, and one or two church parishioners.

At seven o'clock, the service began with some Bible readings. As the morning grew brighter, a minute's silence was observed, wreaths were laid and then the singing of the Penang Free School and Hutchings School school songs followed. A very simple service which took up not more than 15 minutes but to me, it was very meaningful way of remembering the school's founder.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Money and banking in Malaysia

My wife was asking why did I buy this book, Money and Banking in Malaysia, as my banking days were already long behind me? Well, it is because I missed it. Back in the late 80s or early 90s, there were two copies of this book in the Ban Hin Lee Bank library. I had already found it a very fascinating book when I first saw them.

In recent weeks, I realised that I needed this book to do some research on my old banking days. But where was I to find this book except to look for it on the Internet? Thankfully, I could still find a second-hand copy from Wonder Book and Video, a book store in Maryland, in the United States. Although the facility looks big from this picture, the town, Frederick, is so obscure that I had to look it up on the map. I grabbed the chance to bring the book home for good. So here it is with me now, every bit of information still as interesting as before although a tad bit outdated by modern reckoning.

I was a book worm then in the good old days. Used to read a lot whilst in the ferry between Butterworth and George Town. And lately, I've been trying to re-cultivate the habit of reading but mostly failing time and time again, as my other equally absorbing habit of collecting vinyl records overshadows everything!

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Going going gone

This wasn't the famed Christie's auction rooms in London or New York. It was just a small private auction of art work at a a large private dinner function organised by Charis Hospice in Penang. At stake were several pieces of artwork by various amateur local painters and a cross-stitch enthusiast. I went to the dinner by invitation of Dr Oo Loo Chan, the founder and a director of the Hospice.

My wife and I arrived early. My wife went into the banquet hall at the Spice Convention Centre to check on the evening's programme and left me to wander around. Feeling a bit bored, I went to look at the paintings in the centre of the lobby. And suddenly, I froze in front of one of them. Mmm, I thought to myself, the subject in the painting looked familiar. I stared at it again. After a few minutes, it struck me. I couldn't believe my eyes. Out of all the random and anonymous buildings in George Town, the artist had chosen the facade of a property that belonged to the Swee Cheok Tong Quah Kongsi. The society that I belong to.

This was one of the paintings that was put up for auction. The organisers called it a silent auction because the bids would be done by writing down the bid amounts on a piece of paper. At the end of the dinner, the bids would close and the last-made bid would be declared winner.

Now, should I bid for this painting? My wife said that I should. After all, it was a painting of one of our properties. The Kongsi should have it. And have it hung proudly in the Kongsi House. If the property can catch the eyes of a painter and he could paint a scene so vibrant and alive, it must mean that there is aesthetic value in this property of ours.

The reserve bid was set at RM2,300 and almost immediately, one person had raised the bid to RM3,500. This actually caused me a dilemma since this was unexpected. I began testing the water with a tentative RM3,550 bid. I walked back to my table at the other end of the banquet hall. When I returned to the painting later, that same person had written RM3,600 on the paper. I raised the bid to RM3,650 and walked away. When I returned to the painting again, the price had gone up to RM4,000.

Whoever it was, he was determined to get his hands on the painting and he wanted to scare me off. For whatever reason, I did not know.  Obviously, he no longer wanted to play along with me. On my part, I was beginning to have my doubts about continuing further but my wife said I should stand firm. It was something for the Kongsi and about the Kongsi. If I were to allow this picture of the Kongsi's property to fall into someone else's hands - someone detached and without any ties to the property - I would very much regret it, she said. On reflection, that was true. It must be more than a mere coincidence that I should attend a dinner function and see such a painting being put to auction.

So I raised the bid to RM4,050 and I stood back. Soon enough, I noticed a young man saunter up to the painting and write RM4,200 as his bid, again trying to discourage me. But I knew that it was almost time for the auction to end. I stood nearby and as the master of ceremony was announcing the closure of the bids, I wrote RM4,250 on the paper and handed it to the person in charge from Charis Hospice.

And that's how I ended up - or rather, how the Quah Kongsi ended up - with the painting of the Kongsi's property at the junction of Malay Street and Beach Street.

That's the artist, Khoo Cheang Jin, with us. He was mighty thrilled that his watercolour painting had fetched this good price at the auction. And actually, his was the only painting that saw some tussle among bidders.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Safira country club to close

This is the Safira Country Club in Seberang Jaya. It will be closing its doors for the last time on 31 Oct 2019, seven months ahead of the end of its 30-year lease from Penang Development Corporation. The PDC wants to take back the sprawling prime land from the operators of the club, presumably for some other more profitable business ventures. True, the PDC did suggest that a new lease could be negotiated but it would come at a rather steep increase that would hike up the monthly subscription fees that would make membership packages very exorbitant and unattractive.

The decision to close the club was made at an extraordinary general meeting last August. It was explained to the members that the PDC had already wanted to terminate the lease some nine years ago even before the lease would expire in May 2020. They claimed that Safira had failed to meet contractual obligations and demanded the club to vacate the land in six months. Safira spent RM150,000 to contest this in Court and finally, the PDC agreed to honour the lease until the term ended. Meanwhile, Safira still had 13 hectares of land that was undeveloped. The club submitted plans to build a banquet hall and 100 chalets but the proposal was rejected by the PDC. The PDC then offered a high rental amount to continue the lease after the completion of the 30 years.

However in the last three years, the membership at Safira had taken a severe beating. The poor business performance had seen the Club dig deeply into its reserves to continue functioning at standards expected of it. Bleeding money profusely, it had become impossible to sustain operations any more. Accordingly, the Safira board then proposed to close the club seven months before the lease ended.

At its height and popularity, Safira offered facilities like a restaurant, chalets, meeting rooms, TV room, karaoke room, futsal, tennis courts, golf driving range, swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna and a billiard room.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Abbey Road has arrived!

Well, finally, the parcel has arrived: the parcel that contained the three LPs that make up the Abbey Road 50th anniversary edition. The parcel arrived when I was out of the house but the postman called me, asked for my particulars, asked when I would be returning to the house and then said he would leave it within the compound. I just hope that he did not throw it over the gate. 😝

So when I did get back home, there it was flat on the ground. My precious parcel, flat on the ground. But it looked well packed and secure, thankfully insulated from any damage. I took the parcel upstairs, slowly opening it to discover another box within. Within it, the Abbey Road box set shrink-wrapped in plastic. And slowly, I ran the penknife round the shrink-wrap, opened the cover of the box set and ta-dah! My Abbey Road in my hands. Needless to say, the three vinyls have already received their virgin spins on my turntable.

Meanwhile, at, this little piece of information was noticed:
At the end of last month, the Beatles’ classic 1969 album Abbey Road was reissued as a deluxe box set to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
It went straight in at no.1 on the UK album charts – and it’s broken a record in the process.
Abbey Road spent a total of 17 weeks at the top of the UK charts after its release in September 1969 and by reaching the no.1 position once again after 49 years and 252 days, it’s been officially recognised by the Guinness World Records for the longest time for an album to return to the top spot in the UK.
On hearing the news, Paul McCartney tweeted: “It’s hard to believe that Abbey Road still holds up after all these years. But then again, it’s a bloody cool album.”

Sunday, 6 October 2019

A copy for Methodist Boys School

I know that it's better late than never but finally, I got to meet up with a fellow Old Free, Lau Chong Beng, yesterday morning to present the Methodist Boys School with a copy of Let the Aisles Proclaim. Chong Beng has been the headmaster at this school since 2015.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Video history of Penang Free School

I have moved this story to a separate page of its own on this blog as I feel it is important enough to stand on its own merit. To access the story, please click here.