Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Bank Rakyat

This is an open letter. Please feel free to add your voice in support or opposition to my letter. Alternatively, you can help the environment and the world we live in by favouriting my blog or linking to it:

Dear Bank Rakyat,

I came into the Hotel Equatorial yesterday morning. When I was parking my car, I noticed that someone had stuck a poster on one of the walls in the parking lot.

I'm glad that your bank takes good care of your staff by organising activities such as this Treasure Hunt. I'm sure your staff had lots of fun driving from Kuala Lumpur to Penang on Saturday and then driving back on Sunday. Treasure Hunts promote team work, which is such an important ingredient in achieving results today. Where will we be if we don't have team work?

But I'm digressing. When I was parking my car, I noticed this mess in the car park. Don't you think it's a lovely mess? Discarded plastic bags, discarded styrofoam lunch boxes, discarded bottles, discarded what-have-you....

Of course, I'm not saying that your staff may have done this. I'm sure it's merely coincidental that they were around the hotel when the rubbish was dumped here on Sunday. But I'm hoping that during the Treasure Hunt activity, none of your over-zealous staff were rummaging through this dustbin and others to discover some undiscovered treasures inside them. That would reflect very badly on your organisers, wouldn't it? That would reflect very badly on your bank too, wouldn't it?

Glad that you agree with me. So I hope that anyone who is thinking of planning a fun trip in the future to my lovely pearl of an island will think hard about spoiling the environment again.

Regards and have a nice, clean day
SS Quah
Penang, Malaysia

Monday, 30 July 2007

St Anne's feast - Aftermath

I saw this solitary worker sweeping the road this morning. As you can see, there's rubbish strewn everywhere. And he was painstakingly trying to do his best. But he faced a daunting task if he were alone doing this.

FOR ONE MAN ALONE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO CLEAR ALL THE RUBBISH BY HIMSELF! When I turned into the Kulim Road this morning, I was appalled to see, literally, a sea of rubbish on both sides of the road for as far as my eyes could see.

You see, these were the rubbish left behind in the aftermath of the St Anne's Feast last weekend. These were the very rubbish left behind by the pilgrims and worshippers who visited the St Anne's Church.

I hope they are proud of the mess they left behind. Celebrate if they must, but where is their civic-mindedness? Is this their hallmark? Is it a tradition that they must dirty the place and leave it to the residents and the Council staff to clear up after them?? Don't be so irresponsible!

Even nearer to the church, the roadside was not spared. Can you imagine that traders could leave their make-shift stalls behind for others to dismantle and throw away? Sheesh!!

And in the mean time, this poor guy was left to do all the dirty work. I only hope his wheelbarrow was big enough to contain ALL THE RUBBISH from the weekend. I hope the pilgrims and worshippers - whoever they are and wherever they come from - are satisfied. I'm so disgusted with some of my fellow Malaysians!

FOOTNOTE: There is a night market every Friday along Cangkat Damai which is a stone's throw from where I stay. It is always very full of people. In sharp contrast to the rubbish along the Kulim Road, Cangkat Damai is always spotlessly clean on Saturday mornings.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Oh, fuck - but please read this!

I was at the Food Court of the Gurney Plaza three days ago, minding my business and having a quiet dinner when suddenly, I was distracted by a group of six secondary schoolboys - not in their school uniforms but dressed in their fashionable togs - sitting not more than 10 feet away from my table.

They were probably in the fourth or the fifth form and talking away quite loudly. Even if you don't want to eavesdrop on them, you really can't avoid the noise pollution from that direction.

What appalled me were the expletives they were uttering in Hokkien. At one time or another, we may have said "Oh, fuck!" softly in exasperation to describe a situation or a condition. Okay, fuck s not a refined word - I'm usually inclined to say screw, anyway - but we do accept this word in private use among more familiar people even if we are only on the listening end of the conversation. But we still normally don't shout it out for the world to hear.

But what made me uncomfortable was that these schoolboys were talking very loudly among themselves and every sentence they uttered were punctuated with the Hokkien equivalent of this word fuck. If you haven't heard the word kan before, I tell you, it's very rude and usually associated with someone else's mother!

I winced. I saw people around them - those Chinese who understand Hokkien, and Penang has plenty of them - feeling uncomfortable too.

Really! Have these juveniles no shame to use this word aloud in public? They may think that using this word in their daily conversations makes them cool but they are mistaken. They are gravely mistaken. It makes them look dumb and stupid. It reflects poorly on themselves, their mentality, their maturity, their schooling and their up-bringing. Above all, it reflects on their families.

I'm sure their parents would have done a double-take if they had heard their children talk this way in public. It's nothing to be proud about. They are an embarrassment to our society. But unfortunately, society is generally very forgiving and because of this, society is partly to blame for not doing more to educate our youths properly.

Having heard this foul word rolled loudly off their tongues in public, as if it was second nature to them, made me realise that it was not an isolated case in itself. I had been told before that today's youngsters were starting to use this word in their daily conversations but I dismissed it. Now, I'm convinced after hearing it for myself.

If you are a youth in today's society reading this, remember, it's not cool to use this word. Leave it to the lancia lang (trishaw pedlars), the puay liew wah (uncouth gangster types), the boh kah si (disrespectful), the boh tak cheh (lowly educated) and the general rubbish in our society to use...unless you are them or think you are one of them.

If you are a parent with school-going children, remember, society is much bigger than the tempurong we live under. We have got to be more mindful of developments around us. Unfortunately, we can't cut off moral decay from our lives but we sure can try to reduce its influence on our own children.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Really no balls

Don't say I didn't tell you earlier.

Fifa, in side-stepping the Carlos Tevez issue and recommending instead that it should be brought before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, have confirmed that they have no stomach to make a decision.

Boo, hiss, pah! It's a shame, isn't it, that Fifa have no balls? No leadership when you needed them to show it most.


My fellow blogger, Xan, pointed to a performance by some prison inmates on YouTube. I was impressed that the prison had even allowed such liberties for the prisoners by granting them this freedom. The choreography was good. Maybe it is a good thing as a means of rehabilitating them.

I was inspired to search around YouTube for some similar stuff but instead, happened to stumble across this clip which was also adapted from Michael Jackson's Thriller. I think it is even more impressive. Imagine all the time and effort that went into animating those Lego figures. Chiak pah siaw eng!

Here, then, is the 13+ minutes of Michael Jackson's Thriller, performed by the Lego Blocks! Clap, clap, clap, clap.....

Man of integrity

This will be one of the very rare occasions that I skate close to making a personal political opinion and even then, it is just to reproduce the comments of a True Malaysian.

Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon is a Penang State Executive Councillor in charge of State Economic Planning, Education, Human Resource, Science, Technology and Innovations. I'm proud to say that I've known him personally for about a decade and worked with him on some non-governmental projects. He is an intellectual and a man of integrity, always daring to voice his dissenting opinion on far-ranging issues even though he is in Government. People say that he does so because he is not going to stand for re-election but I say this is not true. The elections have nothing to do with it. It's just his character and conviction. He didn't need to be a politician in the first place - a reluctant politician, if I may say so - but he entered political office after great persuasion from his friends at the Parti Gerakan Malaysia. He will exit or remain in politics on his own terms and not anybody else's, not least his political masters in Putrajaya. And I know that he will be sorely missed in Penang when he decides to leave. A True Malaysian at heart.

Here is his letter that was published by Malaysiakini on 24 July 2007:

Growing trend towards stifling dissent
Dr Toh Kin Woon

The recent arrest of Nathanniel Tan, a blogger and the call by Umno to the police to take action against ‘Malaysia Today’, a much visited blog by Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin, reflect the growing trend towards stifling dissent in our country.

Despite earlier promises of allowing freedom of the electronic media as part of the effort to promote the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the government has reneged on these promises by suppressing blog sites deemed to air views critical of the government.

The action against Tan and the call to take action against ‘Malaysia Today’ are the latest in a series of undemocratic moves by the government. Another recent action in this series of moves was the ban imposed on the mainstream media by the Internal Security Ministry on the publication of views challenging the statement by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak that Malaysia is an Islamic state.

The stand of many who question that Malaysia is not an Islamic state is not allowed to be carried, while those by the Deputy Prime Minister that Malaysia is already an Islamic state is permitted.

The MCA secretary-general, who rightly argued that Malaysia is a secular state, has even been warned by the education minister not to make any more such statements. Some films, whose messages differ from the official stand, have earlier been banned, while statements challenging official statistics on the bumiputera equity ownership have likewise been disallowed.

These trends, if not stopped, will further erode the democratic space, which is already limited, in our country. All who are opposed to such undemocratic moves, whether within the ruling coalition or outside, must now unite in pursuit of the common goal to protect the right to dissent and the right to freedom of speech, both which are rights that must be highly valued.

As we move forward, the government cannot just be contented with promoting development to the neglect of promoting human rights. Civil and political rights such as the right to free speech, right to dissent and right to assemble are as important as economic rights such as the right to a job, to housing, to medical care and education.

Promoting economic growth while curbing civil and political freedom will not lead us to the achievement of a developed nation. This is not what most Malaysians want. What they desire is a nation that achieves material progress that is equitably distributed, while allowing a great deal of space for the exercise of political and civil rights, of which the right to start an electronic website or blog, even if this is critical of the government, is one.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

No balls

Cold feet, Fifa? For all your blathering and posturing – “you cannot do this, you cannot do that” – the world's governing football body now risk being exposed for their dithering when it comes to deciding what’s best for the football world.

Fifa, having met with representatives from the Premier League and the Football Association to determine the transfer fate of Argentine international Carlos Tevez, now says they are considering whether or not to get involved at all in the dispute.

Their excuse? “We may not have the authority to settle the matter.”

Common!! If you are the world football body that’s so keen to tell football federations and football clubs that you cannot do this and you cannot do that because this and that are against the rules, what’s to stop you from calling the shots here and decide on a dispute between clubs??

Don’t fight shy of doing your duty. When it comes to the crunch, where’s your authority? Thrown out the window together with the bath water? Don’t tell me that Fifa’s rule on third-party ownerships of players are less strict than the Premier League’s. I’m not impressed. It’s just a blustering excuse to side-step the sensitive issue.

Potentially, Fifa has no balls, I tell you.

Toys will be toys, boys will be boys

I was cleaning out the storeroom recently when I came across a small mysterious bag. Turned out that it contained my son's old, precious toys that he used to play with about five years ago. They had been long forgotten until I chanced upon them again. Needless to say, he was still delighted ... but only for a fleeting moment. The toys are back in the bag and kept away again.

Would he want to give them away, seeing that he has outgrown them? The answer was a resounding NO!!!!

Boys will be boys, right? Hardly able to part with their precious toys and gadgets no matter how old they are. Can you tell them apart? I mean, the Digimons from the Pokemons?

Sunday, 22 July 2007

It's All In The Planning!

In case you are wondering about my other blog, I have moved It's All In The Planning to its new home.

After I've had some unhappy experience with the people at Wordpress recently, I decided to buy some server space and host the blog at ssquah.activeknights.org

So if you want to read my thoughts and opinions on some financial planning aspects, careers and some chess, just head on to my other blog. You may find something interesting there to read as well!

75 million reasons

75 million fans world-wide, of which 40.7 million in Asia

"We consider ourselves a global brand, a club that is prepared to travel anywhere to promote our image and that of the game. Our hotel (in Seoul) has been crowded with our fans, which doesn't surprise me. It's incredible the support we have over here and it's a phenomena we can create in certain parts of the world. There is so much respect and affection for our club in the Far East, so it's important for us to embrace that and visit these places.

"We do not merely serve our own interests when we go on tour. Every second year we have a European Championship or World Cup, so we can’t come at any given moment. We have to come when the window is there for us. We were not trying to upstage the Asian Cup. Our fan-base is large enough already; we are giving them the chance to see us live and hopefully be entertained. That's what we do when we come out here."

St Anne's feast

Uh oh ... it's the start of the annual St Anne's Feast in my neighbourhood and traffic's going to be horrendous going in and out of my housing area. Luckily, there are alternatives to bypass the anticipated jam.

I took some time off this morning to visit the St Anne's Church in Bukit Mertajam well before the build-up of visitors and worshipers tonight and was mildly surprised to see this sign outside the church grounds:

And to think that the highlight of this year's festival will only be this Saturday. Crowds are already coming in steady droves early.

This is the original church. Building it on a small hillock makes it look grand but when you go inside, you'll find it rather small. Cosy but small.

That's why a few years ago, a new church was built on an adjacent piece of land to accommodate the worshippers that comes from as far away as Johor and southern Thailand. The new building is magnificent but it's way too modern for my liking.

The land behind the old church is perhaps the nicest bit. It's still the hillock but it's clean and well maintained. During the festival itself, there are people climbing a flight of steps to leave lit candles before the images of St Anne. In the daytime, you are able to appreciate the hillock better.

Last year, a group of worshippers travelling in a bus from Ipoh was involved in a nasty accident that left several of them dead or seriously injured. Hopefully, nothing of this sort will happen on the roads this year.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

BBC ambiguity

I'm not one to pick on anyone's language - not yet, anyway - but I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this example of ambiguity in no less than the mother of all English language websites, that of ... gasp! ... the BBC itself!

In Question 2 of their weekly quiz, the BBC asked: Who is being rewarded by Swiss police with large bars of chocolate?

Now, I'm inclined to wonder whether the large bars of chocolates are either:

a) rewards given by the Swiss police to their fellow citizens who drive well (the correct answer), or

b) not rewards, but just chocolates that the Swiss police would routinely carry on their persons.

Mmm ... I really don't know what to make of it. Note: You'll have to click on the picture to really see the details.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Penang Hill adventures

Apart from attending the Local, Global and Universe environment awareness programme, I had other objectives to go up Penang Hill.

I needed to rediscover the hill by myself. I needed the solitude to reconnect myself with nature. Largely, I wasn't disappointed, and I'll share the experience with you at another time.

But what contributed to helping me make by day atop Penang Hill were the unexpected guests that I met. I came across the first ones while walking along Summit Road, now less romantically renamed as Jalan Sultan Yahya Petra. Easily 20 to 30 of them. What they were doing was beyond me but one thing was for sure...they were communicating with one another by touching with their feelers.

Here are the giant ants of Penang Hill. Each measures about an inch long. And just look at the guy on the right. I wouldn't want to be at the receiving end of those mean pair of mandibles!

My other guest was spotted on the grounds of the Bellevue Hotel. This time, I had the presence of mind to place a 20 sen coin beside it for comparison or else few people will believe me! Isn't that pill millipede a beauty? It was about two inches long and 3/4-inch wide. When alarmed, it curled itself into a tight ball.

I didn't manage to snap this photo (below) of the millipede after it became bashful with all the attention trained on it, so I need to thank Divya for passing the image to me.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes

I am attracted to geodesic domes because of their design. Unless you see the dome for yourself and unless you go inside one, you will never understand how a dome that lacks supporting pillars can be so sturdy by itself. The geodesic dome at KOMTAR was a marvel of technology but it isn't the only dome in Penang.

At Penang Hill, you'll be able to see at least one similar structure. The Bellevue Hotel features a small, permanent dome in its aviary but if you want to gawk at it, it'll cost you RM5 to go in. It's worth your while to go and enjoy yourself.

The other dome at Penang Hill is at the back of the same hotel, in a clearing which provides you with a breath-taking view stretching from Tanjung Tokong and sweeping past George Town to the Penang Bridge and beyond to the mainland. This dome was built recently to accommodate the Local, Global and Universe environmental awareness and education programme on 13-15 July 2007. It's to be seen whether the structure will be removed now that the programme is over. I hope not.

All the geodesic domes in Penang were built as tributes to the late Richard Buckminster Fuller (nicknamed Bucky). Until his death in 1983, Bucky was the Specialist Consultant to the KOMTAR project, of which he was the key source of inspiration in its design and implementation.

Bucky will forever be associated with the geodesic dome. It's possibly his most famous invention. The concept was rather simple: that while a sphere encloses the most space with the least surface area, a tetrahedron encloses the least space with the most surface area and provides the greatest strength for the least volume (or weight). Calling it "invisible mathematics at work", he designed a spherical structure made up of tetrahedral shapes that actually became proportionately stronger and lighter as the dome's size increased. Thus was born the Geodesic Dome.

Since 1947, geodesic domes have been built for radar stations in the Arctic and Antarctica, factories, army shelters, dwellings, concert and exhibition halls, restaurants, auditoriums, banks, sports complexes, car assembly plant and recreational/educational complexes.

And this is me with Dato Seri Lim Chong Keat (the architect brother of Penang's former Chief Minister Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu). He organised the programme at his hotel as a tribute to his close friend, Buckminster Fuller.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Komtar from Penang Hill

I went to Penang Hill yesterday. The last time I was there, I was still lugging around my Nikon SLR. So, it was a refreshing change to carry something lighter (my Dimage Z5) for telephoto shoots.

At last, I managed to capture the view of George Town that I've always wanted -- showing both the KOMTAR tower and the geodesic dome in their full phallic glory. Come to think of it, I used to be able to see the same structure from a different angle but the sight of the KOMTAR podium and the dome as you cross the North Channel by the ferry services had been blocked ever since the Prangin Mall was completed many years ago. What you see below is a magnified view from my original picture, so it's a bit off-colour and rather noisy.

I'll tell you later what I was doing up the hill but for the moment, enjoy the view of the city from up there.

By the way, don't you think this night scene (below) -- looking towards the Penang Bridge with Butterworth in the distance -- is gorgeous? I had almost forgotten how nice this part of Penang can be. It was taken at about 8.15pm as I walked back to the funicular train station. Unfortunately, the picture does not do even an iota of justice to the actual sight. You really have to be at the summit of Penang Hill to enjoy it.

Good laugh

I had such a good laugh this morning that I almost fell off my chair.

I was reading the Internet pages of the New Straits Times, Malaysia's one-time leading newspaper, when I came across a story with the headline: " Lawyer who saves women facing death by stoning in Nigeria ".

Cor...what an atrocious ambiguity but what a beauty. Who's facing death by stoning in Nigeria: the lawyer or the women? Groucho Marx would be very pleased to read this himself. No wonder the New Straits Times was a one-time leading newspaper in Malaysia.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Penang's geodesic dome

The founding fathers of modern Penang had a great sense of humour. Yes, indeed. In their quest to keep Penang in the forefront of development in Malaysia during the early 1970s, the former Chief Minister Dr Lim Chong Ee, and his architect brother, Lim Chong Keat, conceived the building of the Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak or KOMTAR in downtown George Town.

KOMTAR was meant to cover about 11 hectares of land with development carried out in stages. The pride of KOMTAR was the 65-storey Tower which caught fire during construction and was a sight to behold. Far away, especially from the mainland, it looked like a harmless bunsen burner but to the residents living around the structure, it was terrifying.

For a very short while, the KOMTAR Tower was the tallest building in Asia until it was surpassed by a building in South Korea. But never mind...it was still the tallest building in Malaysia until those pesky people at Maybank decided to build their Menara Maybank in Kuala Lumpur. Serves them right that the Petronas Twin Tower eventually overtook their pride.

But as I said, the two Lims had a great sense of humour. Not only did they want a tower at Komtar, they were equally inspired by Buckminster Fuller to build a geodesic dome beneath the tower.

Buckminster Fuller was a visionary and certainly an environmentalist. He dedicated his whole life to asking this question: "Does humanity have a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet Earth, and if so, how?" He died in 1983 at age 87 with this question still unanswered. Story has it that his wife was comatose in hospital and dying of cancer and while visiting her he suddenly exclaimed: "She is squeezing my hand!" He then stood up, suffered a heart attack and died an hour later. His wife died 36 hours later. Read about it here, as written by his daughter, Allegra Fuller Snyder.

Do you know what is a geodesic dome? It's a structure that looks like triangular pieces joined up into a giant golfball. It's reputedly the strongest man-made structure without any internal beams. Paradoxically, the bigger the geodesic dome, the stronger the structure is.

So where's the humour? Can you imagine a tower jutting straight up into the sky and a geodesic dome at its base? If KOMTAR's Tower-cum-Dome is not the world's largest phallic symbol, I don't know what is. Was it intentional or (pardon the pun) was it conceived by accident?

I've been searching through my photographs but unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a decent picture to show you. Here is what I have, below:

If you need a clearer picture of the dome, here's a picture stolen from Webshots:

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Old friends

My friends in Singapore really know how to kacau me. There I was, having dinner blissfully with my family at home in Bukit Mertajam when I was interrupted between mouthfuls by this call from Nai Kwang.

I thought what was the matter, but all he wanted to tell me was how much he was enjoying the food and the company of our old school mates, including one on transit through Singland back to Aussieland. But hey, I enjoyed talking to all my mates there. Nai Kwang's mobile was passed from one person to another so that I could have a few words with all of them. Felt like at the receiving end of a different kinda gang-rape, if you know what I mean.

Anyway...here are two pictures that I've just received. I promised Nai Kwang that I'd put them up on my blog so here they are.

See my mates? You can almost draw a line between them - those still with a head chockful of hair (black or otherwise) and those (almost) boh ta mor liao. Trust them to sit like that; gatai, inviting unwanted comments, if you ask me. They could have at least mixed around so that the Great Divide would not be so obvious. Hope to see you guys in Singapore!

A tale of two lions

Once upon a time not too long ago, there was a zoo in Gaza City. That's in the Palestine for all you geography-challenged readers.

Anyway, the zoo brought over a pair of three-month-old lion cubs from Egypt and named them Sakhar (strong) and Sabrina (patient).

As lion cubs often do, Sakhar and Sabrina loved to play with each other. They spent all their days at the zoo playing. I suppose they spent all their nights playing too.

One day in November 2005, four bad men with big, big guns raided the zoo and abducted Sabrina and two Arabic-speaking parrots.

What kind of masked gunmen would do this? The kind who will one day unleash a full-grown lion into a crowded street, with trained parrots delivering their message loudly. A lion that could kill or maim dozens of people in a very short time would be hard for authorities to stop and would definitely make news everywhere. Plus, you cannot arrest a bird for talking, no matter what it's saying.

Or maybe there's a simpler reason - the birds were witnesses to the abduction and the gunmen didn't want anyone or any bird to spill the beans.

Anyway, Sakhar was outraged and tried to save his sister. But being a small cub he was no match for the baddies with guns. However, he managed to scare them off, but not before they took Sabrina and the parrots away.

Now Sakhar was unhappy. He brooded a lot, roared inconsolably, pined for his little sister and refused to eat his meat. This went on for a while but time healed his pain. A great healer, time is.

Years passed... Suddenly, control of the Gaza strip passed from the hands of the Fatah movement to Hamas. In one of the gun battles around Gaza, the Hamas militia raided the hideout of a notorious drug ring and suddenly came across Sabrina.

Poor Sabrina. Poor malnourished, very tired and mistreated Sabrina. She was missing four teeth, claws and the end of her tail had been cut off to remove the black hair that symbolised the African lions. "She must have felt very humiliated," remarked the zoo's veterinarian.

But lucky Sabrina. I'm sure she now feels just as happy as BBC reporter Alan Johnston who was freed after 114 days in captivity in the Gaza strip.

So now, Sabrina's home in the zoo. And you know what? Sakhar immediately recognised his sister. The two playfully swatted each other in the face and chased each other. When a zoo guard tried to pet Sabrina, Sakher crouched as if ready to pounce.

Happy ending? You bet!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


Apart from the new vegetation on the hill slope and the fresh coat of paint on the unfinished house, did anyone notice anything different in the two photographs yesterday?

No? Well, there is something very different indeed. Let me first enlarge a part of the photo I took in August last year. A very ordinary bungalow indeed. Almost like a holiday villa set amidst a lush tropical forest setting.

In April this year, I took this photo of the same bungalow. Nothing seemed to have changed. Still the same, idyllic holiday villa to be admired from far and near.

But then, earlier this month, I noticed that something DID change. If you look closely at the compound of the bungalow, it looks as if there are some new, permanent occupants there.

Here's a tele-photo shot from the Equatorial Hotel. See what I mean??

Wazzat?? I was curious, especially so when one of these "new occupants' was blocked by the palm leaves. So, during one of my drives along this road, I stopped the car and crossed the road to peep into the compound. And what did I see?

Ta-dahh!! The ULTRAMAN statue must have been at least 10 feet tall. But why Ultraman and not some other super-hero role models to choose from? My only guess is that the owner of this bungalow, or maybe his children, is a BIG FAN of the Japanese super-hero, or what?

Murdered: Shearwey Ooi Ying Ying

This little girl's dead and her own mother has been arrested together with the mother's boy-friend.

What were in their minds when this dastardly act was carried out against an innocent, defenceless three-year-old girl? How can she live with the pain of knowing that her own child's body was burned in an oil-drum and her remains scattered around like rubbish? Will we ever learn the whole story? Will we?

Monday, 9 July 2007

Tattered flag

One more for the record. This one was taken along Jalan Sungai Rambai in Bukit Mertajam.

Potential danger

The Equatorial Hotel in Bukit Jambul, Penang, gives me a great opportunity to enjoy the breath-taking view of the south-eastern part of Penang island. I've taken a number of photographs from this vantage point and they have been glorious.

Last August - that would be 11 months ago - I happened to take this picture. I was aghast at the clearing of the vegetation beside this partially-built house that was perched on the slope of the hill. I wondered whether the building's foundation was strong enough to support the whole structure. I was also concerned whether the bare hill slope would be affected by soil erosion. I wouldn't want to see a disaster and I did write in to The Star but nothing came out of it.

Earlier this month, I took another snapshot of the place. Vegetation has covered the slope but is it enough? I wonder. The house looks a bit more complete (there is a coat of paint) but has any improvement or reinforcement been made to its foundation? I don't know. I really don't know...

Anyway, I have another tale to tell about these two pictures but I shall leave it to tomorrow.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Hill rape (2)

More indiscriminate clearing of our hill slopes in name of development. This picture was taken yesterday. It's part of a quarry, located behind the TAR College campus in Tanjung Bungah, Penang. I've been told that the quarry's ear-shattering and ground-shaking blasts would interrupt classes at the college and the air would be filled with dust. Why the authorities allow this to happen is beyond my understanding.


I've been off-line the past few days because my daughter came back from Kuala Lumpur to attend her TAR College convocation at the Tanjung Bungah campus. It has been a thrill with her back home even for only two-and-a-half days.

So there we were, my wife and I, sitting cramped up in the hall shoulder-to-shoulder, soaking in all the boredom while the Deputy Finance Minister (I) Dato Dr Ng Yen Yen gave away the diplomas to the graduands, perking up only when it came to our daughter's turn.

When everything was over, we made our way out of the hall to be greeted by this sight. Eager parents, relatives and friends were waiting to snap photographs of the graduates. You'd think they were some sort of celebrities or something. Actually, they were...their own 15 minutes of fame.

Here is my daughter, flanked by you-know-who.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Still no permission to use this word

You know what this is? This is the world famous sugar with a name that cannot be uttered without permission! Imagine this conversation:

Me: You make cendol?
You: Yes, but it doesn't taste very nice.
Mr: That's because you haven't used enough santan and sugar.
You: What sugar?
Me: That sugar, lah! But I cannot tell you.
You: Why? Is it a state secret?
Me: Not exactly, but we are not allowed to use its name anymore.
You: Why?
Me: Because we have to get permission first.
You: From whom?
Me: From the Chief Minister of that state.
You: Why?
Mr: Because it is THE LAW, that's why...

(Picture stolen from virtualtourist.com)

No permission yet to use this word

I was thinking of taking my family to (no_permission_to_use_this_word) for a short holiday at the end of this year but it looks quite likely that I may have to change my plans.

You see, I do not want to catch the (no_permission_to_use_this_word) virus that was discovered by a group of Malaysian scientists. This virus was found in bats near the (no_permission_to_use_this_word) town of Bemban last year.

The scientists, in their professional enthusiasm, had decided to name it after the state where the virus was discovered but recently, the Chief Minister of (no_permission_to_use_this_word) protested, saying that naming it that way would put (no_permission_to_use_this_word) in a bad light.

Luckily, the Health Ministry has now decided to rename the (no_permission_to_use_this_word) virus.

But there is more to come. The Chief Minister in his executive enthusiasm has now declared that anyone who wishes to use the name (no_permission_to_use_this_word) in anything must first get the green light from the state government. He was quoted as saying that (no_permission_to_use_this_word)'s name is not something to "play around" with as (no_permission_to_use_this_word) is where Malaysia's history started.

When I wrote this piece for my blog, I was still unable to contact him and get permission to use (no_permission_to_use_this_word). In fact, I am only a lowly blogger who doesn't know how to contact the Chief Minister in the first place. So, you will have to excuse me if I do not use the word (no_permission_to_use_this_word) in this tale. I may be a bit hazy today but that doesn't mean I want to fall foul of the law.

UPDATE: Here is a snapshot of the write-up on 5 July 2007, in case you don't believe me:

Lazy, hazy days of July

The haze is back, so get ready for the expected not-too-sincere "we can't do anything" series of apologies from the Indonesian government!

This was the view from the Hotel Equatorial in Bukit Jambul, Penang yesterday morning. The Penang Bridge which you can normally see in the distance is completely shrouded. The view today is no different.