Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Sleep deprived

Aiyoh...I'm so very tired. On Sunday, I had driven about 400km to Kampar, Gua Tempurung and Batu Gajah. Today, it was another 300km to Alor Star, Gurun and Merbok. Please, I told my dear wife, no more long distance driving in the near foreseeable future. Very strenuous on my constitution. All I want to do now is sleep sleep sleep. Therefore, please excuse me while I make this post very short. I need my zzzzz...........

Marking his territory

I've been agonising over this for quite a while, undecided whether to speak my mind on this little matter. I'm bound to be stirring up a little storm in a tea cup but ... why does the Province Wellesley Municipal Council (a.k.a. Majlis Perbandaran Seberang Perai) close an eye on traders like him?

There are many like him but this chap is the boldest of the lot. He has his stall at the Kampung Baru market in Bukit Mertajam and I know he is only trying to do his business. However, he shouldn't be abusing his licence by encroaching into the common area. Left unchecked, he's been stacking up his baskets beyond his stall so that he can create extra shelf space for his vegetables. I feel it is not right when he takes away passage space that's meant for the people to walk. Worse, these traders do it openly under the watchful eyes of the council enforcement officers. Makes me wonder why nothing is being done to educate these stall holders while petty traders outside the market are chased away.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Lucky decision

My family was heading south yesterday morning. We were about to pass by the Taiping Utara exit on the North-South Expressway when my wife asked whether we could have an early lunch at Taiping. I gave it a momentary thought and said that the diversion into Taiping would cost us another hour and an half, something we could hardly afford, and we would be late arriving at our destination. So we gave Taiping a miss.

And what a lucky decision it turned out to be. We could have been caught in a horrendous traffic jam in the town due to it being nomination day for the Bukit Gantang by-election:

Photos borrowed from here. There are lots more impressive pictures from the Zorro Unmasked blog. I hope with this tremendous support shown for the Pakatan Rakyat candidate, Perak will be well on its way to recover its hijacked democracy.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Earth hour started early in Balik Pulau

Photo from blog.balikpulau.org

Most Malaysians might have had a personal choice to observe Earth Hour by turning off the lights at 8.30pm last night but for the people in Balik Pulau on the other side of Penang island, Earth Hour came early and it was enforced on all the residents there.

Mother Nature came to make sure that the residents of Balik Pulau would participate in this global event to turn off the lights in support against climate change and global warming. A late afternoon bout of thunder and lightning followed by heavy rainfall had knocked off the power supply to the town at about 7.15pm. Power was not restored until 9.25pm. Read the story here in the writer's own words.

Cheng Beng party 2009

Every year, my family undertakes a very quiet, uneventful Cheng Beng at about this time of the year. We went early yesterday morning, leaving the house at 6.20am and arriving at our first station of call, the Batu Lanchang Hokkien cemetery, at about 6.55am. Traffic was quite good and we found a good parking space just a stone's throw away from my maternal grandparents' tomb. Sky was still quite dark but my cousins from the Klang Valley were already at their parents' tomb a short distance away. I had been expecting them.

This was a scene from the Batu Lanchang cemetery. It's wide open space without trees or shade. We'd normally leave by 8am to avoid the full force of the sun. Afar, the apartments were washed in the sun's morning glow.

From Batu Lanchang, we moved to the almost forgotten Wat Pimbang Onn Siamese cemetery on Green Lane, across the road from the Caltex station. Here's where the ashes of my paternal grandparents were buried. This is an old cemetery. Normally, we wouldn't see many people but yesterday morning, there was an unusually larger crowd than normal.

There were tombs of almost every shape and design in this cemetery. From miniature versions of the traditional Chinese graves to cemented Thai versions with cement lotus flowers and mini-stupas. Unfortunately, the whole cemetery was in a mess with very little upkeep from the resident monks. About 10 years ago, a huge tree fell across the graves, damaging many of them but luckily, missing my grandparents'. It took the temple people about three years to remove all the wood finally.

And finally, we made our way to the Triple Wisdom Temple on Pangkor Road where my parents' own ancestral tablets are located. That's where our usual, quietly reflective, uninteresting visit turned unusually boisterous this year. I hadn't expected so many of my aunts and cousins to come pay their respects to their own family elders too but yes, we bumped into them ... at least 13 of them. It was like a reunion party without the angpows. Never gladder to see them than today.

Three of my de Vosse cousins: Eddy, Edwin and Edgar. We are all still learning to pull in our stomachs together ... rather unsuccessfully, as you can see!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Earth hour self-portrait

(This post is written in two parts: one as a tongue-in-cheek humour and the other in all seriousness)

Note: I'm writing this in the dark with my monitor switched off. Are you taking part in Earth Hour? Shame on you if you are reading this before 9.30pm.

Here is a picture of me and my wife at home on the sofa, in front of the television set, me wearing my favourite collarless T-shirt and my wife in her house coat, taken not more than five minutes ago and uploaded to this blog. You can just make out my aunt's knee intruding into the picture at the lower left corner, where my name is. Told her to remove her knee from the camera's view but she purposely poked it out in front of her just as the camera's timer went off. Spoil sport.

So that's how my family observed Earth Hour today on 28 Mar 2009 at 8.30pm. How are you enjoying yours? Note: You can click on the picture to view a higher resolution. (My experience with Earth Hour continues below the picture.)

UPDATE at 9.35pm: But seriously, I am proud to say that there were households in my neighbourhood, Taman Jernih in Bukit Mertajam, that were aware of this campaign and had switched off most of their lights.

The street where I live. Lights off in my porch and the two houses across from me. This picture was taken with my Konica Minolta Dimage Z5 set at ISO 100, one-second shutter speed and an f-stop of 2.8

It's been raining quite consistently since this afternoon but minutes ago, I returned from a drive around my neighbourhood and noticed many houses with dimmed lights. Rough estimate? Maybe about 50 percent of households. Many of these houses were like mine, with the porch lights extinguished and unecessary lights turned off. I've seen houses - with cars parked fully in their compounds, meaning there were people at home - that were in complete darkness. My son had gone to his friend's birthday party in the housing estate across the road. I passed by the house and it was totally in the dark too. Also, I noticed that the St Anne's Church was in darkness. I tried visiting some websites and was pleasantly greeted by this message that popped up on TheStar Online. So yes, people are playing their parts to make a statement that we have had enough of global warming and we need tough action on carbon emissions and climate change. It starts with us.

Day One or Day Zero?

To us Chinese, the concept of zero does not exist in the traditional sense. This is my belief. What does zero mean anyway? It's intangible, it's nothing, nil, null, zilch... We say boh, méi, kosong, eleh, khang khang... Something either exist or it doesn't exist. If it does not exist, there is nothing to count. How can you count nothing? That's why numbers begin with One. It doesn't begin with zero. Zero does not exist. When we count something, it begins with One. We start with one, two, three, four, five.... For example, when a child is born, we say the child is already one year old.

So what am I leading to? Why this stupid, trivial discussion? Well, I'm trying to ascertain when exactly does the observance of Cheng Beng begin and when does it end? Elders tell me that we can go Cheng Beng our ancestors 10 days before the actual day. Well, the exact date for Cheng Beng is 5 Apr 2009. So before I start counting backwards, do I count 5 Apr 2009 as Day One or Day Zero?

If zero does not exist, then I've to use 5 Apr as Day One. Counting backwards, yesterday (27 Mar) would have been Day 10. On the other hand, if I consider 5 Apr as Day Zero, then Day 10 would have been 26 Mar. So which is correct? I think to be on the safe side and follow tradition, I will use 5 Apr 2009 as Day One....

Friday, 27 March 2009

Old Frees' Association revisited

I've been away from the Old Frees' Association for too long. Too long until I was surprised by the changes to the interior of the building when I stopped by for lunch today. Though the building still looked unchanged from the outside, a lot of internal renovation work had gone on.

This is the sitting area of the new lobby. The old reading room was here originally. The former OFA secretary. See Liang Teik, told me that the furniture had only arrived yesterday.

This is the other side of the lobby. New plaques to denote the previous OFA presidents and trustees. They are quite impressive lists of names.

The OFA Tavern, which looks into the tennis courts. No hard liquor sold, though. But how I wish that they'd instal an air freshener because despite the place being closed (the Tavern opens daily from 6pm), the stale smell of cigarette smoke permeates the air.

Here's another look at the Tavern. Patrons can enjoy a show or two, or even a karaoke session. The best part? The sound is powered through a set of Bose speakers. Now, that's a class above the rest!

Oh yes, I also learnt today that the contract of the present cafeteria operator has been terminated. Thomas has been running the cafeteria for a good many years but he is moving on. Seems that he is also operating another cafeteria at the Bukit Jambul Country Club and that's where he will be concentrating his business from now on. So from the end of this month, the OFA Cafeteria will be closed for about two weeks to allow the new operator to renovate the place.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Wireless@Penang Free WiFi launched

Today is a red letter day for the much awaited Penang government-initiated Penang Free WiFi service provided by the Redtone-Hotgate consortium. At the Traders Hotel in KOMTAR this afternoon, the service was finally launched officially by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Initially, there are 26 hotspots under this initiative located at KOMTAR, Bukit Jambul, Mayang Mall, Chulia Street, Penang Road and Permatang Pauh. By March next year, the consortium says that there'll be another 300 hotspots in the state and by March 2011, another 450 will be rolled out.

Herbie Mann

It's almost six years since Herbie Mann died (16 Apr 1930 - 1 July 2003). His real name was Herbert Jay Solomon but as Herbie Mann, he was known the world over as an American jazz flautist and practitioner of world music.

Here are the three Herbie Mann records in my possession. It's a pity, though, that I do not own his Memphis Underground. I would have loved that one but I missed out on it...

BTW, this record is labelled as Side A and Side One. There's no Side B or Side Two

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Indian vegetarian lunch

This is not a food advertisement. Heck, this is not even any specific food post. It's just a photograph of my lunch yesterday in Bayan Baru, bought from a nameless South Indian food stall. But my point is, the vegetarian dishes looked so thoroughly appealing. For example, what I had were just three pieces of soya bean-based pseudo-chicken (some would call it vegetarian chicken), a dollop of vegetables and a piece of curried beancurd. And all for only RM3.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Malaysia's sports awards 2009

Penang's standing tall in sports again with Lee Chong Wei and Nicol David as this year's winners of the best national sportsman and sportswoman awards. Both are currently ranked as World Number One in their respective sports, badminton and squash.

UPDATE: And then he promptly went on to lose in the very first round of the Indian open in Hyderabad.

A new monkey for a friend

Going ga-ga over a baby. I'm dedicating this picture to a friend in government. We always have a good laugh about monkeys, big or small, fat or thin, tall or short, kurang ajar or not kurang ajar.

This particular one, as I understand it, is the non-native francois langur, a white side-burned black-leaf monkey found in Vietnam, central Laos and south-eastern China. This baby was abandoned by her mother soon after its birth at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, and was hand-raised by the zoo keepers. It has orange hair right now but the colour will turn black when the animal grows into adulthood.

Monday, 23 March 2009

We don't need tigers in Penang

Fancy a tiger park in Penang? I think it's a bad idea.

First, there are no tigers on the island. This can't be their natural habitat. By introducing a foreign predator into our territory, we risk displacing our local animal population which will come under threat from a new predator. We'll be creating a new ecological imbalance. History is full of such instances.

Second, we'll need lots of free space for tigers to roam. The island does not have this space and can ill afford to allocate one big enough for tigers. A 40-hectare plot called Pondok Durian Cap Kaki owned by the Penang Island Municipal Council has been identified for the park. Come on... one hectare is the size of a piece of square land measuring just 100 metres by 100 metres. One hundred metres is the distance covered by Usain Bolt in 9.69 seconds. Forty hectares is just 40 times the size of this small piece of land. How many tigers do you hope to have roaming in a park of this size? How much space does a tiger need?

Third, security. What's the assurance that the tigers do not stray outside the park and endanger human lives? They are not little cats, you know. They are BIG ONES. Fourth, expertise. I don't see any tiger taming experts in Penang, do you? If there is none, where are you going to employ them from? Advertise the post in the online recruitment companies? Be real. Fifth, money. Show me the money! Where's it coming from to support such an ambitious project? And last, if tigers are free to roam about within this enclosed park, how on earth are visitors going to see them, if they are meant to be for eco-tourism?

"Wow" factor? Yes, wow, what a lulu of an idea. Ranks on par with the aborted Kings Of Tennis fiasco at the Esplanade.

Lotus of life at Buddhist Hermitage Lunas

We were at the Buddhist Hermitage Lunas yesterday and happened to see one of their lotus plants, the Nelumbo nucifera, in various stages of flowering. Here's the first photograph I took: the evening of life. What remains after the bloom withers? The promise of a new dawn. The lotus pod is matured, dull and unattractive but you know that the lotus seeds will bring forth new growth for the lotus plant.

Second photo: the afternoon of life. The lotus flower in full bloom, at its most attractive... bright yellow carpel surrounded on all sides by the stamen. Can you imagine it looking like the sun, being the centre of attention?

And lastly, the morning of life. Behold the new, emerging lotus bud. Pure, unadulterated innocence. No wonder that the lotus flower is especially revered by eastern religions. In Buddhism, the flower is a symbol of purity of the body, speech and mind, as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Sorry imcompetence

For a man with his qualifications, he had a lot of potential to do wonderful things for the state but he wasted all the opportunities. What a pity.

Interlude: BM Hill

My wife and I went up the Bukit Mertajam Hill at Ceruk To'Kun yesterday. The place was unusually noisy. We went to investigate and discovered that about a hundred monkeys had invaded the pool.

They were having a good time and we were amused by their antics. But we had to move on. Up the track we went, passing by the missing broken bridge. Here's a picture of the missing bridge.

Oops, sorry, there's no bridge. It's still missing and thank goodness for it. Even if the eyesore wasn't missing - or broken - it would have been a bridge over nowhere, spanning nothing. With the structure gone, it gives people like me an additional path to use at the forest park. For instance, I can now walk across the gravel from one end to the other end of the missing broken bridge.

As we continued climbing, we reached the little hut. Wow, what a great vista opened up before us, a view unblocked by the missing bridge. A great emptiness:

By the way, still from the hut, looking the other direction would uncover this little waterfall. It's nothing spectacular but it was a nice diversion.

Saturday, 21 March 2009


The draws for the Champions League were made yesterday and the first legs of the quarter-finals will be played on 7-8 April with the return legs on the following week. Who will win these quarter-final encounters? My bets are on Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona going through. IMO, the most interesting matches should be Liverpool-Chelsea and Barcelona-Bayern Munchen.

Meanwhile, it's back to reality with the Fulham game coming up this weekend in the Premier League. I know the team are labouring under a cloud since last week's hiccup but I know they will prevail. Keeping my fingers crossed!


Gosh...yesterday morning, I noticed this Toyota Vios which was parked a short distance away from mine. It was at the open car park opposite the Mayang Mall in Bayan Baru. Most probably, the car had been there since the night before. Broken window pane on the passenger side. Pieces of glass everywhere - in the car and on the ground. Glove compartment ransacked and emptied.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Tecoma blooms

Well, after all the excitement in the local press about flowers blooming with wild abandonment in several parts of Penang, I can safely say that it's not an unusual phenomenon. My housing area in Bukit Mertajam has streets planted with the tecoma trees and we experience the blooms at least twice a year.

In fact, every time the tecoma blooms, my aunt would be the first person to grumble. Not that she is not appreciative of the beauty when the trees are filled with colours of pink, white or red. Rather, she grumbles because she considers sweeping the fallen flowers to be an endless chore for days without end.

But I can safely say that the flowers have all fallen. There are no more buds as I look at the tree outside my window. There are also no more blooms on the nearby trees. So the present tecoma flower season is over - at least here in Bukit Mertajam - and I now await the seed pods forming. Then they'll burst to scatter the seeds to the wind.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Spiral staircase

Until I visited the Penang Buddhist Association last Saturday, I had forgotten all about this elegant cast-iron spiral staircase. In fact, there are two within the premises: one in each room that flanked the lobby entrance into the main prayer hall: one spiralling clockwise, the other anti-clockwise.

When I looked at these staircases, only four other similar structures on the island came to my mind: the first is at The Sire Restaurant and Museum in downtown King Street (which used to be Yeap Chor Ee's first house in George Town), the second is at the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion in Leith Street, the third is at the rooftop of the Menara UMNO in MacAlister Road and the fourth was at a private dwelling house in Love Lane (which used to be occupied by my late uncle's family).

Spiral staircases are works of art, most probably a throwback to old colonial influences, but to people believing in fengshui, spiral staircases are bad because the spirals mean that you have a sharp, drilling structure that represents stabbing or plunging it into a body to kill or maim. It's particularly bad fengshui when the spiral staircase is located in the middle of a premises. Anyway, that's not my belief; just something that I read quite a long time ago.

I'm sure there are more hidden spiral staircase treasures in the city.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Simpang Pulai hills raped

The destruction of the hills, whether legal or illegal, should be condemned by every nature lover in the country. This series of photographs were snapped around Simpang Pulai on the way to the Cameron Highlands. I had not realised the extent of the damage due to quarrying until now. It just goes on and on. I guess the old Barisan Nasional government in Perak would have a lot to answer for.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Popping pills

Since yesterday afternoon, I have been under a cloud. It started with a mild headache which grew worse as the afternoon went on. But I survived through the night despite a raging neck ache and a pain that enveloped my back muscles. So this morning, I made my way to the doctor's and she loaded me with lots of medicine. Since returning from the clinic, I've been sleeping the whole time, waking up only for my lunch. At least now, I'm well enough to do some updating on the blog. I took a real close look at my intake of pills today and wasn't surprised to see:
1 light blue, beige capsule (ponstan),
1 pink tablet (paracetamol),
1 small white pill (motilium),
1 elongated white pill (dhatrin),
2 small elongated pink pills (dexchloramine),
1 small white pill (myonal),
1 small white pill (methylcobal),
2 dark yellow pills (vitamin C),
1 small white pill (plendil),
1 elongated orange pill (enervon),
1 translucent capsule (fish oil),
1 elongated white table (glucosamine),
1 blue, white capsule (consulf)
Not to mention too that I was given half a bottle of cough mixture to soothe my throat and allow me to continue warbling like a bird. And some of the pills, tablets, capsule ... I have to take them two or three times a day. All in, I'm full of medicine and supplements today. And to think that I'm not even a hypochondriac! With all these fortifications, I hope to be able to pull meself off the bed tomorrow morning.

Monday, 16 March 2009

BM Hill's broken bridge: gone!

Two weeks can make a lot of difference. When I used the track at the foothills of the Bukit Mertajam hill on 27 Feb 2009, this broken-down bridge was still standing as a monument to the State Forestry Department's indifference to their roles and responsibilities in maintaining the forest parks around Penang. This broken "bridge to no where" had spanned the forest park for at least five years by my estimation and nothing was ever done to repair it.

Last Friday when I used the hill track again - after a break of two weeks - I had a funny feeling that my view of the park was not the way it looked before. Somehow, the foothills looked much brighter. Then the reason became clear: the broken bridge was gone. All traces of it has been removed. Before me, I could see the little hut perched above. For such a gargantuan structure to be dismantled and the place left clean, I wonder who could have done it? The forestry department? Maybe. Some private sector initiative? Maybe too. But for the moment, I have no answer.

Regardless, I'm quite happy that the eye-sore has been removed. It could be a danger to people using the hill track too. I'll be quite satisfied if nothing new is built to replace the bridge. It's better to return the forest park to nature. But all the same, I'm only hoping that something will be done now to repair this dangerous broken-down footpath. This is equally dangerous: the footpath's already partially collapsed and close to collapse even further due to water erosion.