Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Recovering, thank goodness.

This is the third day of my sore throat-infected influenza. Basically, body feels much better. That is, except for my throat. Voice has recovered somewhat but it's not a 100 percent recovery yet. If you ask me, I would say my noise level is improved to 50 percent of my usual.

However, the thick phlegm still reigns supreme. Coughing and hacking just to expel the darn gooey stuff. But at least, it's a pale yellow. The antibiotics that the clinic gave me must be working or otherwise it would be green. I'm sure nobody is interested to see it or want their meals upset and therefore, it is best that I do not post it here. Just be satisfied with this picture of all the medicine that I was asked to take.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Influenza season

I guess it had to happen: me succumbing to a big influenza attack again. I'm always susceptible to colds and influenza and every time it happens, usually I would end up with irritating phlegm in my throat. Once the initial flu attack ends, my phlegm would thicken until it starts off bouts of coughing fits and I'm put on a second round of antibiotics.

But today, for only the second time in my life, I lost my voice as well. Haven't been able to speak above a whisper. So I haven't been very communicative at all, save for text messages.

I had taken an anti-influenza injection before but it was so long ago. The jab quite effective and for a long while, I didn't have to endure the misery of a flu attack. At that time, the doctor had told me that the protection couldn't last forever. She said that because of new strains of the influenza virus appearing, it would be necessary to take the injection once a year. But I had been holding off partly due to procrastination and partly due to wanting to find out how long I could go before having another injection.

Well, I guess with today's brush with influenza, it is about time that I seriously think about getting another anti-influenza jab again.

I had to search through my archives on this blog to find out when exactly I had the first injection. Took me quite a while to go through the archives but I finally uncovered an entry dated in May 2008. Wow, that would be almost 4½ years ago. The protection had lasted so long. It was well worth the RM60 paid for me to remain relatively influenza-free all this time.

Let me recover from this latest bout and I'll definitely go and get covered again...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Tommy Emmanuel in Penang, again

Tommy Emmanuel gave his much anticipated concert at the PenangPAC auditorium on Tuesday night. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. Too bad that we weren't able to take more photographs during his performance.

And here we are, below, with fellow Old Free Ray Cheong who was one of the more impressive opening acts.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

PFS in the news

Two reports in yesterday's English language newspapers that recorded the annual tradition by the Penang Free School at the tomb of the Rev'd Robert Sparke Hutchings in the old Protestant Cemetery at Northam Road, George Town.

Though I'm not a Christian, it makes me proud to be an Old Free to see that this tradition in remembrance of the School's founder is still solemnly observed during these turbulent times of the 21st Century when racism still rears its ugly head to serve self-serving politicians!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Remembering Robert Sparke Hutchings

It was already at the end of the 89th annual dinner of The Old Frees' Association. My old schoolmate, Oon Hup, took one look at me and said that I looked tired. Why not, I told him, I was up since five o'clock this morning and it had been a very long day. And after I told him why, he had only two words for me: "You're mad."

Maybe. But my madness had some justification: I've now satisfied myself by seeing the final resting place of the Rev Robert Sparke Hutchings. As the founder of the Penang Free School in 1816, education in Malaysia has much to be grateful to this man. He was pivotal in laying down the vision that education in this country should be free of any racial or religious prejudices. That's why the school he founded was always to be known as the Free School.

For a very long already, I had been asking around whether the prefects of the Penang Free School do still make it a point to visit the tomb of Hutchings at the old Protestant Cemetery in Northam Road every year of Founder's Day. There was only one answer that I received every time: no.

Apparently, I have been asking the wrong people. I should be asking the school authorities, not just anyone who do not know the answer.

So last week when I received an invitation from the school to attend their Speech Day (or Founder's Day) on 21 Oct 2012, I grabbed the chance to accept it. I phoned the school. I spoke with their Senior Assistant in charge of co-curricular activities and she confirmed that yes, the school prefects and some teachers still make the visit to Hutchings' tomb every year. What time should I be there, I asked further. Seven o'clock in the morning. There'll be a simple service.

Hmm, seven o'clock. It would mean that I have to drag myself out of bed at five in the morning, get myself ready and drive the 30-odd kilometres from Bukit Mertajam to Northam Road. When I arrived at about 6.40a.m., the parking lots along the road were already almost full. Ahead of me, people were already walking towards the locked main gate into the cemetery. I recognised two PFS teachers in the small crowd. Everybody was waiting for the Penang Island Municipal Council people to come and open the gate.

Waiting in the dark outside the gates of the old Protestant Cemetery

Some of the teachers got impatient after a while. Together with Rev Ho Kong Meng, they climbed over the wall. I was debating with myself whether I should do so too, but I really didn't want to soil my clothes as I would then be going to the school for the Speech Day after this.

I took a closer look at the gate. There was a long metal chain and a lock. I thought to myself: if it was a chain, perhaps I could push the gate doors ajar slightly and squeeze through the gap. Better than climbing any wall. To my surprise, the chain was just wrapped around the gate doors. The lock wasn't even engaged. How long this has been so, I don't know. Anyhow, I called out to the other teachers and we all simply strolled in, the prefects following behind.

The simple and solemn service started at 7.10a.m. Rev Ho, the Minister from the Anglican Church, began: "We have come together to praise and thank God for the life and work of the Rev'd Robert S Hutchings, the founder of our School, Penang Free School. We remember with thanksgiving his services to the School; and for its continuing legacy in the development of our State and Nation through the countless students whose lives have been enriched."

There followed some Bible readings, then the laying of wreaths in remembrance and honour of Hutchings. Rev Ho concluded with a short prayer: "Almighty God our Father, we thank You for Your Servant Robert S Hutchings who served You as a missionary proclaiming the message of salvation in Your Son Jesus Christ at St George's Church, Penang, We thank You, especially this morning, for his pioneering work in education, in the founding of Penang Free School, the first public school in Malaysia, and the schools associated with it: Hutchings Primary and Hutchings Secondary Schools. Bless and inspire the Headmasters, teachers and staff of these schools; inspire them in the vital area of educating the young minds under their charge. Bless the students that they may fulfil the potential You have given each of them, that they may use their gifts and talents to serve their fellow citizens in Malaysia." By 7.20a.m. the service was over.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Belated seventh month horror story

The Chinese seventh lunar month may be well over but this story from today's online edition of Malaysiakini is guaranteed to send shivers down the spines of our corporate leaders. Thought it would be significant enough to reproduce the story here since this section of the Evidence Act 1950 impinges on all of us.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has expressed concern over the recent inclusion of Section 114A into the Evidence Act 1950 and its impact on businesses.

The new section could have an impact on businesses that extensively use online and social media platforms, FMM said in a press statement yesterday.

In view of this, FMM said, it would hold a seminar on the matter at its Kuala Lumpur headquarters on Oct 30 to educate the business community on the matter.

"The seminar will aim to cater to the needs of the business community that runs websites with forums, manages e-commerce sites, engages via social networks, provides free Wi-Fi in their premises and other areas that may expose them to the ‘risks' of Section 114A.

"While there may be concerns (real or perceived), it is important for the business community to have a clear understanding of Section 114A and its impact on their business operations.

"FMM would like to provide a neutral, business-oriented platform for businesses to understand and to be ready and protected," the FMM's ICT and multimedia committee head Yong Yoon Kit said in the statement.

Among the speakers at the seminar will Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee and the chief executive officer of Malaysian Insider Jahabar Sadiq.

Gov't unmoved

Legal experts believe that the new Section 114A of the Evidence Act will allow anybody, including the government, to initiate legal or criminal action against social network users, website owners, mobile device owners or WiFi network service providers over content posted by other individuals.

Led by advocacy group Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), a widely received campaign against the amendment was carried out in August, forcing Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to order cabinet to "discuss" the matter.

The cabinet did discuss the matter in Najib's absence, when he was abroad on official duty, and it decided against reviewing the amendment. This position was also taken by attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Dr Wu Lien-teh Society

I was debating with myself whether or not I should attend the inaugural meeting of the Dr Wu Lien-teh Society that had been called last Sunday by Anwar Fazal. Then I thought, what's the matter with me? I'm already in so deep in my quest to learn more about Wu Lien-teh that it would be wrong for me not to go and see what was going to happen at this meeting.

So at 10.45a.m. on Sunday, I stepped into the Penang Medical College in Sepoy Line and took the lift up to the top floor. It was early. The only ones there were Anwar Fazal and Alex Ooi. Alex is the president of the Old Frees' Association Singapore.

Hey, I called out to them, good morning. I think they were a bit surprised to see me but the moment passed quickly. "Are you representing anybody," Anwar Fazal inquired as we shook hands. "No, I'm representing myself," I replied. The question did not strike me as pertinent until much later when I saw the rest of the people trooping in.

Among them were representatives of the Penang Heritage Trust (Khoo Salma and Clement Liang), Penang Global Tourism (Ooi Geok Ling), the Penang Tourist Guides Association and what I believed to be the Penang Budget Hotels Associaton. Of course, there were also the representatives from the PMC itself, as they had graciously hosted the meeting, and The Old Frees' Association in the presence of MS Rajendren, the association's president. Only then did it strike me that the formation of this society might not exactly be meant for the general public's palate yet. But never mind, there were some other familiar faces who weren't representing any establishment too. I didn't consider myself intruding and I certainly wasn't alone. All in, there were about 20 people present.

At about 11.15a.m. the meeting was called to order by Anwar Fazal who went on to present the society's proposed constitution for discussion in detail and acceptance by consensus. That finished, the pro-tem committee was appointed.

Maybe I should point out here that those appointed to this committee were: Anwar Fazal (pro-tem president), Rajendren and Dr Abdul Rashid Khan (pro-tem vice-presidents), Dr Alex Ooi (pro-tem secretary-general), Khoo Soo Hay (pro-tem assistant secretary-general), Clement Liang (pro-tem treasurer) and for the five posts of pro-tem committee members, there were institutional representatives from the Penang Institute, Penang Global Tourism, Penang Medical College, and then there were Loke Gim Tay and I. The appointment was quite unexpected. I didn't expect to be in the committee and was surprised when Rajendren proposed my name. I think in the meantime, I'll prefer to hold this post on behalf of the OFA; they can fill in this seat at the first annual general meeting or earliest possible time.

Like I had mentioned earlier in facebook, there are five Old Frees in this pro-tem committee. This is only right seeing that Dr Wu Lien-teh was one of the Penang Free School's most illustrious sons. The Grand Old Lady has every reason to be proud of her alumni but among them, Wu Lien-teh (or Gnoh Lean Tuck as he was known during his schooldays) stood out as perhaps the most apolitical of them. As I pointed at the meeting, Wu Lien-teh was this country's one and only nominee for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1935. The country should be very proud of him but unfortunately, his achievements have all but been forgotten. It is appropriate to honour him properly now.

There was also time at the meeting to discuss some proposed activities for the society but it wouldn't be right for me to reveal them at this stage.

The pro-tem committee of the Dr Wu Lien-teh Society. Seated, left to right, Clement, Rashid, Anwar Fazal, Rajendren, Alex, Khoo; standing, left to right, Loke, Penang Tourist Guides Association representative, Penang Medical College representative, Ooi Geok Ling of Penang Global Tourism, myself, Dr Wong from Penang Institute and Arthur who represented the Penang Budget Hotels Association.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Dedicated educationist

You don't have to be a Xavierian to be aware of a man like the late Revd Brother Charles Levin. I considered it a great honour to have met this former Brother Director of the Saint Xavier's Institution at the Dewan Sri Pinang in July 2010 when he was made a Datuk at an investiture ceremony on the occasion of the official birthday of the Penang Governor. Getting to meet him was momentous enough for me to have this picture taken with him.

Yesterday morning (14 Oct 2012), I received a message that Brother Charles had passed away at the SXI grounds. According to the newspapers, he had been complaining of pain since last Friday but early yesterday morning, he was rushed to hospital but died soon afterwards.

Brother Charles was German and his real name was Karl Henry Theodor Wolff.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Fidelis the newsletter

This is a sneak preview of the cover of the FIDELIS newsletter of The Old Frees' Association which shall be released to members at the OFA Annual Dinner on 21 October 2012. FIDELIS the newsletter builds on the goodwill of FIDELIS the commemorative book that was launched earlier this year. Of course, I had a hand in producing it. What's inside? All that I am prepared to reveal now is that the newsletter will bring everybody up to speed with the latest developments at the club. But what's really inside? Not saying more. Find out on the 21st of October itself.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Still learning about photography

I've still got a lot to learn about photographing forests and trees. My pictures generally turn out to be a mess of confusion. A whole mess of confusing greenery interspersed with brown. Like, for example, I went up the Bukit Mertajam Hill at Cerok Tokun this morning and couldn't come back with a decent nature scenery. Up on the hill, I gave up after a while and decided to concentrate on some close-up photography. That was much, much better.

This turned out to be the best of the scenery shots with the Fujifilm Finepix F500EXR. I slowed down the shutter speed to the maximum two seconds, propped the camera on a rock and allowed a two-second timer to take over. Still not completely satisfactory to me, though. It is such times that I wish to own a proper DSLR camera and a tripod.

Fiddled with the panorama feature on this camera. I wanted to capture the vast expense of destruction along the hill track beside the stream. I don't know how long ago that the trees fell down and blocked the path across the stream but it took some careful steps over the trunks and branches to get over to the other side. I wonder when will the forestry people do something to clean up the mess.

Sticking to close-up photography was more fun. At least, I could control what I snapped. And the following pictures showed how nice the greenery could be. I won't say much because they are all green leaves...

...and green leaves....

...and more green leaves....

...and yet more green leaves...

...except for this holey one...

...and this one too.

This is the bark on one of the trees.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Oh Cheng Chan

An interesting piece of news from 16 July 1897, as it had then appeared in The Straits Times:

It was just a one-paragraph story that went:
A death has been one of the immediate results of the late gang-robbery at Mr Cheah Chen Eok's house off the Waterfall Road. We regret to report that Mr Oh Cheng Chan, who fractured his thigh in jumping from the window on the occasion, and probably suffered other internal injuries, died on Wednesday morning. It is quite time the lash or rattan were applied to villains, whose practices cause such sad consequences.
By the way, Oh Cheng Chan was my great-great-grandfather on my mother's side, which means that I am the fifth generation living here in this country. That's how far I had managed to trace my roots. The manner of his tragic death notwithstanding, I'm mighty proud of and excited by this fact. Pretty chuffed by it, actually.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Jangan kelentong lagi, kita semua orang Malaysia

I want to make it clear that Kee Thuan Chye is my old classmate. We are just old friends who may share, if I may say so, some common ideals. Apart from that, we do not owe one another anything.

Having said that, I wish to congratulate him for getting his best-selling book, No More Bullshit, translated into Bahasa Melayu. It was a move that I had urged him to do and I am certain, others may have done as well. I did tell him that if he wanted to push his message to the kampongs and rural folks, he should get some of his more pertinent chapters translated into Bahasa.

I am glad that he has gone one step further and had the whole book translated. I'm only waiting for it to hit the bookstores.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Over the edge

I had just received a telephone call from one of the local banks' call centres about 15 minutes ago. Even as I identified myself to them, I already knew that the caller was going to offer me one of two things: a super-duper insurance policy or an incredibly attractive loan. That would be all that the banks would ever call me for.

This one turned out to be a loan. Incredibly attractive, as I mentioned. Interest rate of less than four percent per annum. And since I was a valued customer of the bank, they were offering me this loan specially for this month only. Wow.

The lady at the end thought that she was onto a good thing with me until I started lecturing her back - politely, I must first add - on the dangers of borrowing clean money from the bank with no supporting collateral. It was the surest way of pushing some people towards bankruptcy or near bankruptcy.

She tried to interrupt me but I just wouldn't let her go. I know you are only doing your job, I told her, but please keep in mind that there are some people that you are helping to push over the edge. Think about it, I added, it would be on your conscience. I haven't come across a tele-marketeer who tried that fast to end a conversation with a potential client.

I've come to understand that such tele-marketing conversations are routinely recorded at the bank's end. I hope that this one has been recorded. And I hope that this girl will have the presence of mind to alert her superiors and let them hear the exchange between the two of us.