Thursday, 31 January 2008

I wasn't wrong

Transcript of the barrage of questions thrown at Anti-Corruption Agency officer Chuah Lay Choo by Americk Singh Sidhu, counsel of businessman Loh Mui Fah, at the Royal Commission of Inquiry on 30 Jan 2008 (taken from the Malaysian Bar website):

Americk: Did you instruct any of your team officers to locate Loh Mui Fah?

Chuah: Yes.

Americk: Out of 26 million Malaysians, why did you pick Loh Mui Fah?

Chuah: Because from investigations we found he was the person who appeared in the second part of the video.

Americk: Who pointed this out to you?

Chuah: Through investigations. (Stuttering)

Haidar: Ya. Who?

Chuah: It was information from VK Lingam.

Haidar: Then say so lah ... don’t hide.

Americk: When VK Lingam identified Loh Mui Fah as the other person in the video, did he at the same time identify himself as being in the clip?

Chuah: He say it appears like him and sounds like him.

Americk: Did he give you Loh Mui Fah’s particulars and was that how you traced him?

Chuah: Yes.

Hah! See what I meant here and here.

Chinese New Year cards

Finally, I'm all done with this year's Chinese New Year greeting cards. All 32 of them, including two which are going to relatives in Singapore. Funny, I took the cards to the Post Office in Bayan Baru, Penang in order to find out the cost of postage to Singapore and guess what? For the first card, the lady weighed it and told me RM1.30. My jaw almost dropped. Since when have the postage charges increased so much? Then she took the other card and put it on the weighing machine too. Hey, she said, this one's 90 sen. Huh? I asked her: shouldn't it be the same too? Same card inside. So she re-weighed the first card and then told me: "Very slight difference but never mind...this one can be 90 sen too."

Wahh, blimey, I thought to myself. Two identical cards, two identical envelopes, both going to the same destination. But different weight. Must be the addresses then. One is slightly longer than the other. More ink used, perhaps. 40 sen worth of extra ink on the other envelope.

So now you know. Tell your friends not to move into housing areas with extra long names. Or ask them how to shorten their addresses or their names. Drop the Mr or Mrs or Ms. Drop the surnames or, in the case of Malays and Indians, drop the part of their names after the bin/binti or al/ap. Maybe drop the postcode too. All these add up to extra w-e-i-g-h-t which adds up to extra costs.

I looked at the bright side. I saved a BIG 40 sen. Goo Chiar Lean (bullock cart wheel), my late mum would have told me! I would have looked up heavenwards (heaven's up there, isn't it?) and shrugged respectfully but indignantly: that's almost worth half a glass of barley (no sugar) at the coffee shops today, y'know.

Mmm...maybe I should've sent the Chinese New Year cards to my Singapore friends too. I would have saved enough for a plate of Sar Hor Fun! Perhaps it's still not too late to prepare them. Problem is, I can't recognise the Malay lady at the Post Office counter. For sure, she'll give me 90 sen again. But maybe, not if its another person at the counter.

Ahh...never mind. So to all my friends and relatives in Malaysia AND Singapore that do not receive a physical Chinese New Year greeting card from me, I still wish you Keong Hee Huat Chye from the bottom of my heart. I really do! And may the year rat on you!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008


These past three weeks had provided some distractions from work but somehow, I feel that it has been a complete waste of time. The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the VK Lingam video has taken on a very surreal feeling as it winds down.

At the back of my mind, the RCI has become a merry-go-round in a circus. It all started with this man who started the ball rolling with his selective forgetfulness. I don't remember this, I don't remember that. This coming from a man who reputedly has an elephant's memory.

Since his appearance before the RCI, almost everything else seems to have gone downhill. We've seen witnesses come and go, witnesses claiming their own brand of forgetfulness, witnesses making all sorts of denials, witnesses bragging and boasting, witnesses making all sorts of claims, smart aleck witnesses making snide comments at others and lawyers behaving, like, lawyers.

All at the expense of this man who so much wanted to be a witness. He started the ball rolling with the releases of Act I and Act II but at the very end, was told politely that he might not be needed as a witness at all. What a letdown for him. Almost pitiable. In desperation, he also released Act III but by then, people were questioning why these videos were being released in instalments.

At the centre of the inquiry, we have the star witness himself saying the man in the video looked like him and sounded like him but it may not be 100 percent him. He comes across as lacking credibility but does he worry?

Nooo..... He's a suave actor, all right. Very confident of himself, very cocksure of himself. He denied everything, boasted and bragged, bullshitted around, parried all the questions thrown at him and even made a startling suggestion about one of the lawyers at the RCI.

He said that he was only trying to impress his house guest but why would anyone go to all that extent to tell tall tales? Was it preplanned? What did he have to prove to his guest? Why? And if it really wasn't the former CJ at the other end of the line, who was it that played along with him, not for one minute but for eight minutes or more? I doubt we'll ever know the real answers. And I can bet you that the RCI will be equally stymied. Looking through so many negatives to find a positive. I wouldn't be surprised if, at the end, their findings will be inconclusive.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Do you feel rich?

I read in the news today that only 0.7 percent of the households in Malaysia are below the poverty line. Isn't that great?

I also read in the news today that in 2004, the households here that are below the poverty line was 1.2 percent. So there is a decrease from 1.2 percent to 0.7 percent in three years! If the trend continues, we'll eradicate poverty here in Malaysia by 2010. Isn't that fabulously great?

I also read further that 50 years ago, 60 percent of Malaysians were in the poor category. Mmm... So we have made much progress since Merdeka. Very impressive progress. We're not poor any more. Isn't that incredibly great?

To me, all these claims are simply BULLSHIT!

Who are all these people who play around with statistics? In the first place, amidst all the feel good revelations about the eradication of poverty, nothing is ever mentioned about how poverty is defined.

What is poverty and what is the poverty level? According to Aliran, the accepted measurement for poverty in the European Union is one half of the average household income. Here in Malaysia, the average household income is about RM3,200. By the European Union's definition, the poverty line would be RM1,600 per month.

But what is Malaysia's own definition of poverty? Would you believe that it is RM540? So if a household earns RM550 per month, the household is no longer classified as poor. Isn't that bullshit? It's a whole load of bumpkum. Can you really expect households to subsist on RM550 a month and yet not consider them as poor?

Again, I ask. Who are these people who play around with statistics? Who agreed that RM540 should be used as the yardstick to measure poverty here? I travel along the roads of Penang and I see vagrants in the streets, I see the beggars in the marketplace, I see homeless and sick people sleeping on discarded cardboard at nights in the inner city. I see these two dear old ladies who live out of plastic bags. How many more are there that I don't see?

It's pretty much irresponsible to say that we have managed to reduce poverty by so much without saying how we measure poverty. Those people who mouth such irresponsibilities do not live in the real world. In moving from one ivory tower to another, they are shielded from the real Malaysia.

But then of course, even if they see the extent of poverty in the inner cities or the rural areas, these people who play the political game are not bothered much. After all, people in poverty have much more to worry about daily. They worry about bringing food to their tables. They worry about feeding their families. They have much more pressing worries than to register themselves as a voter.

So you see, the politicians are not worried about the poor and destitute. After all, the poor don't vote and the politicians don't want the destitute to be counted at all. Bullshit, isn't it?

(This post is inspired by the topic discussion on Red FM this morning)

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Jungle lizard

The forest constantly throws up surprises for my wife and I. For example, we were trekking today and she happened to see a movement in the corner of her eyes. Immediately she asked me to look at a lizard by the side of the track. It was well camouflaged and I couldn't see it at first. Then, I saw it ... a five-inch lizard, motionless but betrayed by its eyes which were trained constantly on me. And because it was afraid to run away, it allowed me to move in closer and closer with my camera.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Football is for wimps!

After watching this video on YouTube, it only reinforces my belief that rugby football (short name: rugby) is for macho men while association football (short name: football or soccer) is played by wimpy boys. But why do more people watch football than rugby??? And why do people get outraged over soft fouls than the hard knocks?

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Mars madness

It was amazing. About a month ago, scientists were fidgeting excitedly in their seats because someone had detected a "small" asteroid that could possibly hit Mars at the end of January.

The asteroid, a 50-metre wide piece of rock codenamed 2007 WD5, was travelling somewhere between the earth and the red planet but it was hidden from earth's view because it was behind the moon at that time. This led to a lot of speculation, including people at NASA initially offering a one-in-75 chance of a collision.

Then, after the asteroid reappeared from behind the moon on 28 Dec 2007, someone recalculated the odds and shortened them to one-in-25. A week later, someone else said no, the odds were actually one-in-28. Never mind all that niggling over 25 or 28. Would we be seeing a collision on one of earth's nearest celestial neighbours?

However, there was one problem with all these calculations and odds. A one-in-25 odds is still, well, astronomical. The possibility of the event occurring is still remote. It's not like throwing a tennis ball at close range against the side of a house but more like scoring a goal with the tennis ball from across half a football field. Sorry...I don't know the odds for successfully getting the ball into the goal mouth but it must be equally ... astronomical.

By 10 Jan when people at NASA finally gave up drinking because the 12 days of Christmas were well and truly over, they said that their slide rule now offered the probability of a hit on the planet to be one-in-10,000. How disappointing it must've been for them and millions of people worldwide who thought they could see some fireworks on Mars.

Today, scientists have already given up all hope. Probability has been reduced to zero. The closest that the asteroid will be from Mars is 26,oookm, someone said. Duhh...26,000km. No more excitement. Let's get back to watching the stars. Maybe, they'll spy one more wayward asteroid soon, one with a one-in-25 odds, hurtling towards the earth. Now, that would be really exciting, wouldn't it?

Moon madness

I think I've been afflicted by the full moon but luckily, I haven't turned into any kind of werewolf. Since last Saturday, I've been out of doors to admire the waxing moon. Actually, it's all because of Mars because I wanted to see the planet in close proximity again with the moon.

This was what I saw at about 7pm on Saturday (19 Jan). The moon had already risen but it was still daylight:

Here is the moon, taken at about 10pm later in the evening. It's still waxing so part of the familiar surface is still in shadows. Note: all these close-up shots were taken with my Dimage Z5 with its digital zoom enabled.

On Sunday night (20 Jan), I took this wide-angled shot. The camera was on a tripod and I believe the shutter speed was set to 2.5 seconds. This must have accounted for the slight softness in the image because of the earth's rotation:

This next photo was taken at about 6.50pm on Monday (21 Jan) through my car's tinted windscreen as I stopped at the traffic lights. So there's a very slight yellow tinge in the picture, almost inperceptible but it's there, all right. The moon's almost round but still not quite:

And this next picture was snapped last night (22 Jan) at about 11.30pm. Full moon night. The moon was so bright that I dispensed with my tripod and handheld the camera. For stability, I propped myself against the wall. Shutter speed was about 1/250th of a second, aperture wide open, to capture the Moon Bunny:

Finally, seeing that the whole sky was so brightly lit up - the sky was a very deep blue black and there were clouds everywhere - I decided on taking this last photo with the camera set to wide angle and shutter speed set to about a second. The result was pretty dramatic:

Yup, it was really moon madness that hit me. By the way, if you will click on the pictures, you'll get to see them much bigger and clearer.

UPDATE: I woke up at 6.30am this morning to find the moonlight fltering into my room. It was still quite dark outside and the features on the setting moon were now upside down. This familiar sight was probably what our forefathers in China saw and they thought it was the Moon Lady.

By 7.25am, the sky was brightening up. Not quite totally daylight yet. Here's the moon over my neighbour's house. Handheld camera at a one-second shutter speed. The satellite dish aiming at the moon?

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Putting two and two and two and two together

I hope the Royal Commission of Inquiry took note of the possible discrepancies in VK Lingam's testimony yesterday, if the reports in the newspapers are true.

How could he be so evasive as to say: "It looks like me and it sounds like me" and yet almost in the same breath deny that it was former Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim on the other side of the line. Oh, I forgot to read deeper. They allegedly don't know one another.

But that's beside the point. Quick: does this man have an unknown identical twin brother or was this person in the video a product of a successful cloned job or a sting? Can his brother Thirunama Karasu confirm? Can he, can he?

Reminds me of a famous episode overseas: "I smoke but I didn't inhale". Remember who said that??

Monday, 21 January 2008

Tennis: Federer, who? Ferrer, who? Ferrero, who?

In case you are not a die-hard tennis fan - I'm not - it's easy to get confused. Firstly, the scoring system. I really can't understand why a player must score 15 points, followed by 30 points, then 40 points before the set is considered over.

Secondly, the players. Some names are so similar that you can easily mistaken one for another. Here's what I mean:

On the left is Roger FEDERER. Okay, the Fed is the world's Numero Uno player from Switzerland and if you cannot recognise him, shame on you. In the centre is David FERRER while on the right is Juan Carlos FERRERO. It's no shame if you don't know who these two other fellas are, but they are both from Spain. Federer, Ferrer, Ferrero ... that's who they are!

Saturday, 19 January 2008


This photo was taken at about 6pm today. We found a whole cluster of bees on the tree directly outside our house. According to a neighbour, the insects were already seen flying around the tree about a half hour earlier.

We were alarmed enough to call the fire department. Turned out that this station was in Butterworth, not Bukit Mertajam. The chap on the other end of the line assured us: not to worry ... yet. Chances are that these honey bees are in transit from one place to another and they could be resting for the night. Residential areas are not their natural habitat and they should fly off soon, possibly in a day or two. So unless we shake the tree to disturb them, there should be little concern. Really, ah? Easy for him to say. He's not staying here right below the cluster. Never mind ... we can still call the nearest fire department again tomorrow.

Here's a close-up shot of the bees. The queen is possibly buried deep within the big mass. But can you imagine the number of bees here? Possibly a few thousands.

UPDATE (9am): I think it is definitely a concern now. The cluster has grown even larger from overnight. We decided that the bees have to be chased away and we'll be calling the fire department to deal with it in a short while.

UPDATE (2.30pm): As mysteriously as they had appeared yesterday afternoon, the bees were gone by 2pm today. Not a trace of them. According to my wife, the cluster was still on the tree at about 12pm or 1pm. She had to call the fire department to cancel their appointment. The fire department was right. These transient honey bees are in search of a new home. The environment here was too noisy for them and they prefer the quiet of the forests.

We were both sad and glad to see the end of the bees. Glad, because there'd be no harm to us and the neighbourhood; sad, because this is the end of a natural phenomenon. While it lasted, it was a wondrous sight. I doubt we'd ever see this again anytime soon.

More on Bobby Fischer

(8.45am) Went to the market this morning to pick up a copy of the New Straits Times to see what they had printed about Bobby Fischer. Quite disappointed with the coverage.

Just a single column of syndicated news (left). Compare it with The Star (right) which gave far more prominence to the story.

(1.30pm) Went to do a Google search again. There are now 1,359 news articles on his death.

(1.50pm) At the time of his match with Spassky in 1972, the news wire services had a field day with this match. It was very symbolic. Here was Bobby Fischer, the darling of the Free, Democratic West and here was Boris Spassky too, the iconic representative of the Evil, Communist East. The Cold War was at its height and nothing could be more representative of the Cold War than a match between the best minds from the Free, Democratic West and the Evil, Communist East.

Actually, it was nothing of that sort. Fischer was only looking after his own self interests. He saw the opportunity to earn Big Bucks from the match and he made sure that he would be able to extract the most from it. The professional chess player that he was, he also pressed for the most perfect playing conditions from the World Chess Federation and the organisers, and he got them!

But the world Press, dominated by the Free, Democratic West continued to milk this match by proclaiming it as a defacto war between the West and the East.

(6.30pm) In Malaysia, Fischer-mania spawned a lot of interest in chess. Even non-chessplayers had heard of this great chess player even though they tended to misspell his name as Fisher. I remember that in 1973 or so, there was even a weekly programme on RTM1 to teach chess to beginners. The presenter was High Court Judge Dato' Annuar who was the president of the Perak Chess Association. And I also remember that I was so disappointed with the show because it was all kid's stuff that was covered. But I suppose for the utter beginner, it was a good start to understanding the game.

(8.40pm) Here are the books on Fischer that I have in my library. The very first one I bought was Fischer- Spassky, Reykjavik 1972 which appeared within weeks of the end of the match. All the drama leading to the match was covered as well as the 21 games played, all annotated.

The Games of Robert J Fischer was a fine collection of all his games played until the end of the match. I loved this book, partly because it was also an historical account of Fischer's progress as a chessplayer from his early Manhattan days at the Marshall Chess Club to his world championship title.

And of course, My 60 Memorable Games. It should be a must-have for any chessplayer. It's Fischer's own thought process that went into this book. An awesome book in the 1970s, it's still awesome by today's standard.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Bobby Fischer is dead

(10.20pm) It is with great shock that I am writing about the death of Bobby Fischer. He died yesterday in Reykjavik, Iceland from kidney failure. News reports said that he had been sick for quite a while but typically Fischer, he refused treatment because of his mistrust of Western medicine.

(10.30pm) I just came off the telephone with Hamid, the Malaysian Chess Federation's secretary. We agreed that while we could not agree with Fischer's politics, he was nevertheless a very colourful figure. The chess world has lost a chess giant. Even though he had not played a single competitive game since 1992, Fischer's shadow had continued to loom large in the chess world. Comparisons of present world chess champions to Fischer were almost always inevitable. I wouldn't expect this comparison to stop just because he is dead.

(10.45pm) I've just sent two stories to my chess-malaysia mailing list at Yahoogroups. One was a news item from the BBC Online and the other was from AFP.

(11.30pm) Bobby Fischer had a great influence on the chess players of my generation. Malaysia may have been thousands of miles away from Reykjavik in 1972 but the chess players here were avid followers of his world chess championship match with Boris Spassky. Like the rest of the world, time stopped in Malaysia between July and September in 1972 whenever Fischer and Spassky played one of their chess games. He is credited with making chess popular with the masses.

During this match, I was tuning into the BBC World Service every day to listen to five-minute commentaries on their games, thanks to shortwave radio. And almost everyday, chess would feature on the front page of The Straits Times. Photos of Fischer and the back of Spassky filled the pages. The games - move-by-move - were closely followed and for once, I could proudly tell my friends that chess was a cool game. It was no longer the game of nerdy and geeky people. My involvement with the game, already four years in the making, now rages unabatedly, thanks to Fischer. What a love affair!

So you see, Fischer had an immense influence on chess in far-flung reaches of the globe. And that was even before the advent of the Internet.

(12.00am) To Fischer, chess was his life. During those years when he was an active player, he breathed chess. Every single minute of his life was dedicated to chess. There was nothing more than chess. He was that single-minded. Nothing mattered except chess.

Until he became the world champion. Apart from a few exhibition games on TV - for example, he famously played Bob Hope on TV - he did not play any further chess games until 1992 when he reappeared to play a repeat chess match with Spassky. His form was a shadow of Fischer at his best but so was Spassky's too. Nevertheless, he still believed himself to be the best player in the world.

He was born on 9 Mar 1943 and would have been 65 on his next birthday. So he was 64 when he died. Even his death is so intertwined with chess. His age was 64, so are the number of squares on the chessboard. Every square on the chess board rightly represents Fischer's age. What a befitting send-off for a man whose life was chess.

(7.43am, 19 Jan 2008) I was doing a Google search. I'm not surprised that Google reports 1,157 news stories have already appeared in the online versions of newspapers worldwide. Many of them were reproduced from the main wire services and there were many too that were obituaries or commentaries about Fischer's life.

I've even seen one comment by India's first international master, Manuel Aaron, whom I first met in Penang in 1977, that Fischer liked Indian clothes. Well, we are getting to learn more about the private Fischer. I'm sure there'll be more that we'll learn in the days to come.

More to follow...

Wily old fox

The wily old fox is just as sharp and evasive as ever and there's nobody who can compel him to be otherwise. When he appeared before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the VK Lingam videotape to take questions from the commissioners and lawyers, he demonstrated how memory could be selectively retained. Any whiff of a question that may lead to a sensitive answer that begs further lines of interrogation is answered with a "I can't remember" whereas safer questions are answered emphatically.

A disappointment was that the lawyers representing the other interested parties could not seem to pry more information from the old man. After all, he had already offered to answer any question that may be beyond the terms of reference of this inquiry. Or perhaps they had sensed the inevitable response of "I don't remember" if they probed any deeper?

What's interesting is his own choice of lawyers in the husband-and-wife legal team of Datuk Dr Ya'acob Hussein Merican and Datuk Tunku Sofiah Jewa. Tunku Sofiah was the favourite niece of the late Tunku Abdul Rahman but more pointedly, both she and Dr Yaakub are aligned to former Lord President Tun Dr Salleh Abas who had his own share of problems with the old man.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

MacBook Air

I was watching a recording of Apple CEO Steve Jobs give his keynote presentation at Macworld 2008 early this morning. The showman that he is, Steve Jobs really took his time to slowly display his latest toy, the MacBook Air, to the impatient crowd who were hanging on to his every word.

First, he teased the crowd with a picture of a large envelope on the projection screen:

Then, he slowly walked to the podium stand and held up a similar envelope. Could this really be it? The world's thinnest notebook? Inside the envelope?

You could hear the people in the audience going oohs and aahs when he unravelled the string and slowly brought out the MacBook Air:

It was really that thin. At its broadest, the MacBook Air is still thinner than the thinnest non-Apple notebook in the market today. Jobs was balancing it on the tips of his fingers. I was thinking to myself: he'd better not drop it, not in front of a big audience. Do you want one??

For all its appeal, the Macbook Air compromises in several areas. From what I can see, there's no optical drive so if you want to watch movies on DVD, you'll have to go wireless to connect to an external DVD-ROM drive. Can be quite a hassle. There's also only one USB port.

But the new features include an oversized trackpad with multi-touch technology that allows you to swipe, pinch and rotate what you see on the screen. Impressive! Aesthetically thin with black keys on a backlit keyboard. So do you still want one??

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Nature's therapy

Our careers and lifestyles are so hectic that we tend to take many things for granted. Too many things. Once in a while, it is good to take a short break in your daily routine to recharge yourself. I'm not talking about a three-day holiday break. Not that. You'd tend to come back to the daily grind more exhausted than ever.

No, all you ever need is perhaps five minutes of your time every day. Just five minutes to rejuvenate yourself. You can try either these techniques that I've found quite helpful:

Appreciate the quiet around you. In the still of the night, with all your lights out, just listen to the emptiness out there. Perhaps you can pick up the sound of some nocturnal insects chirping. Or perhaps there's no sound at all. Just enjoy the silence...

Alternatively, if you are living or working amidst greenery, look at the trees from afar. The bigger the trees, the better the effect. What do you see? Just trees? Slow down and look carefully. Can you see the tree boughs as they sway gently in the wind? And listen to the gentle sigh of the leaves rustling in the wind. It's natural poetry out there, I tell you.

Ultraman returns

It's my turn to steal a picture from Jeffrey who had responded to my blog post on the missing Ultraman statues in Bukit Jambul on the far south-eastern part of Penang island. This sleuth uncovered a statue in the compound of a house in Tanjung Bungah, near where he stays. It looks like the same statue so I am very glad that Ultraman is still around to guard over the security of the state. Aren't Penangites lucky? Our very own resident super-hero?

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Vivaldi's Four Seasons

It has been a rather boring day for me being confined to the house on account of my red eyes. So I whipped out my copy of Nigel Kennedy's interpretation of Vivaldi's Four Seasons for a spin.

I haven't listened to this CD for a very long time so it was sort of like getting to know it again. I've always marvelled at the way that Nigel Kennedy and the English Chamber Orchestra (yes, the same orchestra that played Bach's Brandenburg Concertos under Benjamin Britten) attacked the Four Seasons. There's never a dull moment. Even the slower movements sounded exciting. And in this hot sultry weather we're having right now, Vivaldi's Summer really put me into the right mood!

I know that purists have panned Kennedy's version as not being faithful to the Vivaldi sound but what the heck. It's his own interpretation and if anyone doesn't like it, don't listen to it! That's all he would expect from you, anyway.

Perfect camouflage

When I was taking a walk at the BM Hill recently, I felt something flit down around me. At first, I saw only dried leaves among the stones and gravel on the ground but there was this green, broken leaf too. Mmm...I thought to myself, could this have been the something that floated down from above?

Then I realised that this wasn't a leaf at all. It was an insect that camouflaged itself to look like a leaf as a protection from predators. I tried to prod it away but it wouldn't budge. So out came my camera. I went in real close to snap a few photos of the insect before it really got tired of me and flew away. Was it a butterfly? I thought it was, but my wife thinks otherwise. There are no feelers, she said. Maybe she is right but we are still none the wiser.

Here are the results, from different perspectives:

Close one eye

I'm not a politician but I really believe I can do tons better than that bloody politician from Jasin of the "close one eye" infamy. His eye may be closed in a make-believe, fantasy world but I assure you, mine is all bona fide.

I woke up this morning and I went alamak! Omigosh... I couldn't open my left eye. The lids were stuck together. And my right eye? Blurry vision.

What I had dreaded came true. The whole of yesterday, my eyes had been itching madly and last night, they were redder than a slab of red beef. I tried some eye-drops and put some cold teabags on them. I had hoped that I would be alright by the morn. Apparently, not.

So what could I do but to tootle down to the doctor? Yes, she confirmed it. The 14-letter C word. C o n j u n c t i v i t i s

Monday, 14 January 2008

Daft robber

Let's say you are embarking on a new career. And you decided to be a robber. Would you do this?? Rob your own neighbour? And hope you won't be recognised?? What a daft robber! Alamak!!

Royal Commission: their work starts today

The Royal Commission set up to investigate into the VK Lingam conversation kicks off today with the calling of witnesses.

From newspaper reports, one of the key persons involved in this controversy doesn't seem to be on the 16-person witness list although Royal Commission chairman, former chief judge of Malaya Haidar Mohamed Noor, had said that more witnesses may be subpoenaed.

I was reading Screenshots today and Jeff Ooi was relating at length how the originator of the video recording had been harassed by the Anti-Corruption Agency and how he feared for his life. There was this quote from Malaysiakini:
According to Loh, he did not know how the ACA knew that he was involved in the matter. “Maybe Lingam had told them that I and my son were at his house on that day,” he speculated.

If I may say so myself, isn't this what I had suspected all along, that:
  • The main actor himself would suspect who that recorder was;
  • After all, it was in his house;
  • Surely, he would know who were there on that night; and
  • Even if it was a group of people, he's not so stupid not to have narrowed down his suspicions and identified a few fellows."
Nothing illogical about this line of thought, Even a six-year-old kid can think of them, surely the authorities can do better.

Missing children: too late for regrets

Another girl goes missing in Kuala Lumpur and the whole country's in a right tiff again. It was only about five months ago in Aug 2007 that eight-year-old Nurin went missing in Wangsa Maju and her body discovered in a gristly fashion about four weeks later. Today, it is five-year-old Sharlinie. Tomorrow, who else?

What is common about these cases of missing children is that the parents had allowed their young charges out of the house on their own. Then, when someone abducts the child, a frantic manhunt ensues. We've had a tragic end to one of them. Let's hope the second case of a missing child does not end in a similar manner.

Why do the parents allow their children so much freedom at such young ages? It's such a perplexing question. Do they trust their children that much? Do they ever teach their children to be wary of strangers? Does it smack of irresponsibility? Or is it just the mentality and attitude that is the cause of these heartaches?

Personally, I've seen many Malay parents treat their children in a way that the Chinese will never do:
  • Allowing them freedom to play in the streets regardless of the traffic condition. I have been alarmed many times by small children suddenly jumping off the kerb, right in front of cars or motorbikes or bicycles.
  • Crossing roads without holding on to their children.
  • Sandwiching one or more children between the parents on a motorcycle. Only recently, the kid I saw was almost a newborn. How alarming.
  • Allowing their children to walk behind the parents without caring how far the children might have strayed behind them. As if they have eyes behind their heads.
  • Allowing their children to run off unattended in shopping malls.
  • Unwinding the car windows and letting their children put their heads out while the vehicle is moving.
  • Ignoring civic-consciousness by destroying public property and littering.

Very common bad habits, and the list goes on. Perhaps you can still do this in the kampungs but this is not the kampung. This is the modern world and modern living comes with modern risks. You cannot avoid not taking the extra precaution to safeguard the safety of your own person or the people around you that you love and cherish.

You stop doing this and you risk all the pain in your heart. It is very convenient to say that it is the will of God when a child goes missing and does not come back but it is parental responsibility to God to ensure that your child is safely taken care of in the first place.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Danger: Soil erosion at BM Hill

The soil erosion problem at the BM Hill forest part in Cherok To'Kun is getting from bad to worse. To read what I had documented earlier, click here.

Yesterday afternoon when I went to climb the hill, the situation was as expected. The forest ranger office was still blissfully unaware of the collapsed concrete slab. Here are two pictures taken from different angles:

This afternoon, a big gaping hole has appeared in the soil, evidence that even the earth was being washed away or settling fast. It's an accident waiting to happen to the unawares.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Shusi banana leaf restaurant

Here's a quick post. The Shusi banana leaf restaurant along Penang Street in Penang. Not Penang Road BUT Penang Street in the Little India district of George Town, in case you're confused.

I've known Jeya, the boss of this restaurant, for ... how long? At least 25 years. He and his wife cook one of the bestest (yah, I know there's no such word but I need a superlative of a superlative) banana leaf curries in the state.

When I wrote my original Penang Food Guide on the Internet way back in 1994 or 1995 (or it could even be earlier), the Shusi restaurant was one of the restaurants I had highlighted. Back then, while Internet connectivity was still in its relative infancy in Malaysia, the rest of the world was already rather well connected. Jeya used to tell me that he received quite a number of foreign visitors to his restaurant during those years. Word had gotten round and most probably, I had played a small part in making his restaurant so well known among world-wide travellers and backpackers.

Here's what I had on one of my recent trips: rice with curry fish and fried fish. Three choices of vegetables, an unending supply of papadom for me. That comes from knowing the boss well enough. We used to exchanged small talk about his son going through college. Well, he finished his Master program and Jeya is now even a proud grandfather!

PS. Follow this link to find an update of my original Penang Food Guide on the Internet.

Climbing in the rain

As usual, the government departments are giving us more than enough reasons to say that they are inefficient. And every time we do, I'm sure that they'll have 1,001 excuses.

You know why I say this? Last Thursday afternoon 5pm, my wife and I climbed the BM Hill for our regular exercise regime. We decided to take the hill trail. I think my wife now rather enjoys going up this way as it's not as monotonous as the tar road.

Not more than 100 metres into our walk, we saw this collapsed concrete slab. I don't know when this had happened but as of last Saturday, the slab was still in position. Looks as if the soil beneath the slab was badly eroded. However, there wasn't a sign anywhere to warn hikers of the danger. Cross at your own risk, the BM Hill forest ranger's office seems to be saying.

Okay, maybe the slab had only just collapsed. And Thursday being a public holiday on account of the new Muslim year, maybe the forest ranger's office was still not aware of the danger. Fair enough. I hope they'll look into this on Friday. And let's see how long it'll take them to replace the slab and reinforce the soil.

But...there is certainly no excuse for not taking any further action on this bridge. It's a disgrace. The bridge is broken and half collapsed. You can't miss it if you take the hill trail. Judging from the vegetation, it must have been ages since the bridge collapsed and apart from the Danger sign at both ends, I guess no attempt had been made to repair the bridge. In fact, I would even surmise that the sign was erected by some civic-minded hill hiker to warn people off the bridge, not by the forest ranger's office. Lazy bums there. They can't even care less for the public's safety but they'll give lots of advice (or excuses) only after accidents happen during their watch.

Enough of my rant against the lazy government officials. We know they are good ... for nothing. Buta gaji, most of them.

So my wife and I started our climb. By a coincidence, we met one of our old friends, Long Kin. Or rather, he met us. Quite happy to see him. At least, some good company to talk to although with me huffing and puffing most of the time, I wasn't exactly a very good conversationalist. Pretty soon, we reached this area. There's a fork in the trail. Decision time. Do we want to exit left and continue along the tar road or do we want to attempt the climb further?

It didn't take us long to decide that we would follow him up the trail. Last Sunday, we had promised ourselves that we'd do it soon. Now's the time. Along the way, we passed by these huge boulders. Behind them is a Datuk Kong shrine and we would be crossing right in front of it. Of course, we have to pay some respects to the local deity first. Sorry, I decided not to take any photograph of the shrine. Wouldn't be right to do so.

After praying to the Datuk Kong, we continued our way uphill. But alamak, suddenly the sky opened and it poured. All wet but luckily, we were almost at the climb's end. Gratefully, we found ourselves beside the tea hut at the 1500-metre mark. It took us one hour to reach there but it could have been shorter if not for the many diversions.

Here's Long Kin, waiting with us for the rain to stop. There were many other people taking shelter but nobody bothered us. We left the tea hut in a drizzle at 6.25pm and found ourselves back at the car park at 7pm.

All in, a very interesting afternoon. We found our way to the tea hut through the hill trail. But I must say .... the second half of the climb was so much more challenging. I was forced to stop several times to catch my breath. But you can bet that we'd use this way again.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Word of the year

The Macquarie Dictionary is choosing a Word of the Year and here are some of the nominated words. If you want to vote for your Word of the Year, here is the place to do so. Go here to vote.

In the meantime, here are some of the more interesting words:
Butt bra - a garment worn as a support for the buttocks

Cyberathlete - a professional player of computer games

Globesity - the problem of rising obesity around the globe

Green shoe brigade - people who stand to profit from dubious practices conducted in the name of environmental protection

Kippers - adult children who fail to leave home

Lamestream - the traditional media providing news and entertainment, viewed as lacking the originality and daring of the blogosphere

Password fatigue - frustration from having too many different passwords to remember, resulting in an inability to remember even those most commonly used

Pod slurping - downloading large quantities of data to an MP3 player or memory stick from a computer

Man flu - minor cold contracted by a man who then exaggerates the symptoms

Salad dodger - an overweight person

Silent disco - a disco where everyone wears wireless headphones to hear the music, thus eliminating noise pollution

Tanorexic - an obsessive desire to have tanned skin

Tart fuel - alcoholic drinks that will lower a woman's resistance to sexual advances

Enough! If you want more, go visit the website!